My Office Door is Now Slightly Infamous

My office door made it to YouTube! Check out this UNT student film, featuring the library mall and third floor of Willis (my door is the one near the clock).


Just to Tide You Over Through Thanksgiving...

Also... I've blogged about my trip to DC for the Federal Depository Library Conference over at my personal blog. There's not too much there that's business-related instead of personal stuff, but it's also got links to some photos from the trip. I'm also still in the process of putting my notes online, but the FDLP page has all the proceedings posted.


On My Way Out For the Weekend...


Untitled Randomness

It didn't win, but American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award! Woohoo! Of course, one step forward, one step back... there have been several recent challenges to graphic novels in libraries.

There's a second "Librarian" adventure/B-movie coming up in December. Yes, I'm a sucker for cheap Indiana Jones imitations--it's as good as I'm getting unless Lucas and Spielberg ever actually start Indy 4. (I'm not holding my breath, or I'd have turned blue about six years ago.)

I know you need some more wiki-goodness: here are some wiki resources from Meredith Farkas, a wiki video course, and best of all, a Homestar Runner wiki. (It makes my geeky little heart so happy!)

Looks like I missed the deadline for America's Next Top Librarian, darn.

Temporary Tattoos--for librarians! Put a little sass on your shushin' arm.

...Finally, some new features in Firefox 2.0. So far, I downloaded it and the only difference I'd noticed was the sheer volume of plug-ins available for it. But auto-spell-check in-browser and a thesaurus sound like great features to me!

Heather at Re:Generations ponders the difficulty in getting and effectively using a library mentor.

I finally found this memoir, Breaking Night, written by Liz Murray, the homeless girl who got herself through high school and into Harvard. I'd been trying to find it for awhile and it's proven surprisingly difficult to find (whereas the TV movie is linked everywhere).


Information in Three Dimensions

The top article explores some intruiging methods for visual navigation and organization of information, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. This takes the concepts of the Visual Thesaurus and AquaBrowser to another level. I particularly love the example of the 3D Vase Museum (the next two articles deal with it exclusively), where vases can be "walked" beside as arranged on one "wall" in a chronological timeline order, and on a second wall arranged according to their visual characteristics (red figures, black figures, etc.).

The usability results of this interface were impressive. Users using the 3D version of the Vase Museum performed pre-defined tasks 33% better and almost three times faster than those who used the traditional digital library version.

I love this. It only makes sense that using a 3D digital library environment in the same way you would walk through a physical museum is intuitive for users. And the arrangement of vases along two "walls" creates another level of information-relating on a more subtle, intuitive level by using physical space and images instead of gobs and gobs of text. This reminds me of how the Visual Thesaurus uses a similar concept of proximity to connote relationships between words, and how the Ambient Orb uses changing colors to visually convey information about the weather or stock prices.


His + Story = History

I was pondering about Wikipedia during my morning commute. It got me to thinking that when people complain about Wikipedia's lack of authoritativeness or reliability, they of course have a legitimate point... but when it comes right down to it, I'm reluctant to trust any source.

Of course, you can't help it if you're not an eyewitness to an event. But if I'm researching a controversial topic, perhaps something like the Vietnam Conflict, where do I really get good answers? I can presumably get some good facts from traditional encyclopedias. But when you want to get down to the why something happened, or analyzing how it turned out... do you really want to trust any single source? I wasn't born before Vietnam ended, so I have no way of forming my own opinion without relying on a secondary source for facts and opinions. I think that in such an analysis of controversial issues, Wikipedia--although quickly changeable, particularly on controversial topics--is a more reliable assessment of the general population than, say, Britannica.

I'm not saying I trust one more than the other--each source has their place. But I just want to get myself, and others, thinking about the fact that the old saying, "history is written by the winners," really applies to recent facts as well.

Going the Distance... Learning

I only got to hear the beginning this morning, but the Diane Rehm show on NPR was discussing online higher education (you can now listen to it online). Interesting stats: 1.2 million students in wholly-online programs (both undergrad and graduate-level), but that jumps to 3.2 million when you're counting at the course-level, including students who take both online and on-campus courses (like myself). By 2008, it's predicted that 1 out of 10 students will be taking online courses.

Which reminded me that this Wednesday, 11/15, at 2pm there will be an open house to celebrate UNT's new Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. I'm particularly excited about this, not only because of my personal experience with and interest in online education, but also because while working at UNT's Center for Distributed Learning, I helped research the CTLA project. It is directed by my former boss, Dr. Phil Turner, and the new associate director is Kelly McMichael, one of the talented faculty members on the original Blended Learning project.


...And the Results are In!

Check out yesterday's election results for the US and for Texas.
...And stay tuned for the outcome in the Senate race!


GovDoc Find of the Day: Whistler Etching

An Etching by James McNeill Whistler (aka, the guy with the mother)
(printer-friendly version)

It's no surprise to me that Whistler was dismissed from the cartographic section of the U.S. Coast Survey for "his unconventional work habits and his inability to conform to government routine." That Whistler, always a trouble-maker.

This is just a gorgeous survey he engraved while with the U.S. Coast Survey. I like that he thought the image was boring and added the seagulls for visual interest. And hey, it's the Santa Barabara Channel--near my birthplace!


Web Archiving & Book Mooching

The Web Curator Tool (WCT) was just released by the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ); it's a new resource for archiving websites (part of my job for the CyberCemetery and the NDIIPP Web-at-Risk project). I may be providing feedback on this project as part of my duties as a curator in the Web-at-Risk project. This news came shortly after I finished posting my first FDLP conference notes to my wiki on what topic but: Web Harvesting.

On a completely different track, I've been using Book Mooch for a few months now; I've sent three books (two more to send this week) for the lost MediaMail cost of $1-2.50 each, and in turn received two books, and have two more on the way! I highly recommend the service as a cheap, fun way to exchange books. It's particularly good for graphic novels, as these tend to be pricey at Half Price Books and the popular titles aren't usually available; Book Mooch has a bigger selection, and they cost only the media mail postage that you pay to send a book of your own to someone else.

Murphy's Law of Libraries

  • When I'm at the public service desk, patrons will be overly apologetic about "interrupting" me--even when I quickly look up and smile.
  • When I'm in my office with the door ever-so-slightly cracked, before the public service desk is staffed at 9am (while its lights are out), patrons will act snippy that no one's there to help them: will I help them find this book, or what?

Is it all about perception, or do rude people need help before 9am and polite people need help during our desk hours? (Or more likely, polite people also need help before 9am, but are too timid to knock at my office door. Sigh.)

I really do like working the public service desk, and I don't mind helping patrons when I'm in my office. I just fail to see the logic in this.

It also slightly irks me that people tend to clear their throats or say "excuse me" outside my office door to where I can't even see them, and then get huffy that I don't respond. The first two times this happened, I had no idea they were trying to get my attention, as 1) I was wrapped up in my work in my office, and 2) I didn't see anyone at or near my door. If they don't feel comfortable walking into my office, couldn't they at least stand in the doorway or knock, or something? They must suspect that I have superhuman abilities to determine that they are specifically requesting my help in the subtlest of ways.

I appreciate the vote for superhuman abilities and all, but the only superhuman quality I have is the ability to sniff out fellow geeks.