Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wiki-world

Also for the wonderful class that is forcing me to keep this blog and otherwise bringing me into the 21st century, I have been working on a wiki with some classmates. I have long been a fan of Wikipedia, that most controversial of "reference tools," but had never imagined doing a wiki of my own or even adding to anyone else's.

Well, that was before Adlibwiki (http://adlibwiki.pbwiki.com/) entered my life. Contained within this wonderful wiki is an overview of wikis, lots of links to library wikis, and an extensive bibliography.

Needless to say, I have realized how much cutting and pasting, e-mailing back and forth of documents, and general collaboration headaches this toll has saved my group collectively. I'm sold. Not only did it help us in the research and compiling information stages, but our findings are now published on the web for any interested info-head to use.

Since then, I have suggested two committees I serve on use wikis, to be shot down both times with "What's a wiki?" type questions and other evidence of the human side of the digital skills divide. But I'm yet to give up. . .

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More Digital Division

I've been doing some research on the digital divide for a class and specifically looking for articles that are mindful of the human aspects of it. There's not a whole lot out there, and it tends to be more anecdotal than "real research." I'm thinking this idea of multiple divides (computers, connections, skills, urban/rural, generational, etc.) has yet to make it to the center of the field's consciousness.

Denise Agosto's "The Digital Divide and Public Libraries: A first-hand view" from Summer '05 Progressive Librarian calls our attention to the differences that can exist between high and low-income library branches within a system. She raises the excellent point that the most and best computers are usually in the areas where most residents have computers at home and on the other side of the digital divide hardware is often lacking. Furthermore, limited resources mean limited access which makes having the technology skills needed to make tech time really count is even more necessary (and the training this would require even less likely).

In "The Multiple Dimensions of the Digital Divide: More than technology 'haves' and 'have nots'" (Government Information Quarterly, 2003), John Carlo Benet examines the special situation of rural areas. Often they lack the infrastructure (including telecommunication lines) for real connectivity to even be an option. These places which are physically isolated may also really benefit from virtual access to national and global communication and information. Along with this comes the need for information literacy training to enable the humans to get the most from the machines.

Finally, Andrew Blau in "Access Isn't Enough" from American Libraries June/July 2002 examines the difference between access and competence. He cautions against thinking that a shrinking gap is more a sign of approaching equality than the creation of an information underclass that is easier to ignore. Access must be for the community as a whole rather than individuals and must highlight the results that can be achieved through effective use.

All of this material has interesting implications for those of us who work with low income students, those that may not have the access of their more privileged peers but will need to compete in the same technological workforce and deserve to fully travel the communication and information pathways that technology has opened up. I think it means that we need to use it all in the schools, at least for the sake of exposure, and find the best ways to help our students really engage with it.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Teens, Technology, and Libraries

Does there seem to be a partnership more natural than that? I thought I would look around and see what kind of exciting stuff I could find on libraries' teen pages.

My benchmark site is already selected: Hennepin County Library(http://www.hclib.org/teens/). Surprise, surprise. It's interactive with multiple choice questions and select-a-color features. Every time you click, you get new pics of teens and a new teen title with a summary. Visually, once your color has been properly selected, it's a real bonanza. It has useful links to the usual: programming, resources, booklists, general library info.

Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library (http://www.clpgh.org/teens/fun/pgh.html) has a pretty cool site as well in terms of content. There are links to the usual events, booklists, resources, and the like, but some other links make it seem like this library is pretty in touch with its population. Zine resources abound, including tons of links to e-zines, lots of sports and technology resources, links to stuff to do around town, and gaming sites. A feature lets teens write reviews, which nearly 1200 had, and read those of peers. Sections on "Just for Fun" and "Homework" are separated from a big list of "Real Issues" resources. There seems to be a truly balanced representation on serious topics like suicide and drugs, among other topics. I appreciated the language of the site, which seemed teen centered, and way it appeared to be structured to account for the needs of teen patrons and the seriousness of those needs.

I thought the Phoenix Public Library (http://www.phoenixteencentral.org/index.jsp) had a really pleasing design and style. It has bright colors, clean lines, and great pictures of teens. There seems to be an active teen council at most branches, with each having their own website (the quality and design of these vary greatly - the true sign of self-managed products). A 'zine designed by teen council members is posted as a pdf. Unfortunately, it was a little hard to navigate. Here, the links of lists seemed a bit more general and less tailored to the population, with limited lists for "teen issues." The physical teen central space was amazing and looked sort of like a night club. The site claimed to have a Spanish version, but the link was dead, as were the reader's corner links. Overall: wow!

This is part 1 only. More will follow.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Generational Digital Divide

This is a great summary of research on the "born digital" generation with some additional resources on the topic:
http://clips.lis.uiuc.edu/2006_03.htm

The article annotations give a great overview of the research on serving this generation of library users in a wonderfully condensed package. The most commonly recurring themes across projects were:
  • Insistence on a streamlined research process
  • Need to evaluate information and sources
  • Visual learning style
  • Need to customize services
  • Comfort with a variety of technologies
  • High mobility
  • Social interaction in work and study
  • Need to provide input for effective services

Of course, as librarians we will all be dealing with this born digital generation for many years to come (and the subsequent generations, who will likely be even more tech savvy/dependent). All the trends emerging from the research point to using technology. The title of the site points to an interesting factor missing from the research: it will be a while until the born digitals are able to become librarians themselves, and until then it is up to a profession of digital immigrants to meet their needs. How can we do this? With enough training, and by actively pushing to integrate technology into other areas of our lives, can we become digital citizens able to communicate with the next generation using the language of technology? As librarians, we are going to need to do more than use these resources on a knowledge/comprehension level. We need to be able to do things like synthesize our own blogs and wikis, analyze effective websites, and evaluate which technologies will best accomplish our goals and reach our patrons.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Digital Divide: Human Factors

Recently a professor of mine (Jim Glazer, district media coordinator in St. Paul metro area somewhere) presented to our class on the digital divide - a familiar topic and one I always seem to be working "on the wrong side" of. I know that technology is the wave of the future, that we are raising a generation of addicts (for good or bad), and from here the usage possibilities seem endless, exciting and frightening in shifts. Because I hate being left behind in anything, I set a New Year's resolution to get with the program, so I keep my ears open for the digital divide presentation. What an interesting spin Jim put on the issue when he identified about eight separate divides, two of which seemed especially pertinent to me. One was the skills divide - having the technology but not being able to use it. This was certainly a factor when I taught on the border. Thanks to federal government funding and some smart grant writing, we had technology coming out of our ears - LCD projectors, laptop carts, smart boards, etc., etc. They all lived in the library, though, because so few teacher knew how to use them. The other area was a staffing digital divide - that staff come to schools with varying level of technological proficiency.

These facets of the divide seem so obvious, so important. Why haven't I head of them before? Slacking up on my digital divide reading, perhaps. . . To be on the safe side, I checked with the "experts." The authorities in the government (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn99/) seem as clueless as to the human factors as me. The authorities at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide) seem a bit more current. Surprise, surprise. Back to html, more on this later. . .

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How Many Ways Can a School Librarian Blog?

I was the lucky recipient of a rather lengthy list of school librarian blogs. After spending much more time than I should have, I was able to pick out some favorites.

Because of the meta thing I have going with this assignment (blogging about blogs), I wanted to pay special attention to the "why" behind my choices. Obviously, content was the major - anything middle school got my attention in a big way. Next most important to me was layout. I shied away from the blogs that had layers of sidebars, or even too many categories of posts. Simple was easier to follow, and things which I might expect from a website seemed like too much trouble for blogs that I am basically following recreationally. Some blogs were pretty single-minded, honing in on one aspect of the library world. The predictable content is nice, and it is great for specific information needs. I preferred blogs with fewer posts, shorter posts, and clear titles for ease of navigation. More than a couple rambling musings was enough to send me packing (ironic because I think my own blog is moving in this direction). Finally, though I didn't go for mile-long photo albums, I also didn't really go for the plain white page. Of course, a strong author's voice goes a long, long way. I never knew so much went into finding a good blog. . .

The end results, four new-additions to my bloglines feed, are as follows:

http://mullerinthemiddle.blogspot.com/
This guy might be trying to put Booklist out of business. TONS of book reviews.

http://www.schoolof.info/infomancy/
A technology-focused blog with great design (even with the white).

http://deepthinking.blogsome.com/
Another white blog along the more traditional lines (journal-y). Witty educator's perspective.

http://www.beiffert.net/wordpress/
Wow! Talk about middle school resources. Put this one in the reference section.

Project for School Media Blogs

Well, it's not everyday that an assignment just falls into my lap or inbox. Hence my excitement when that very thing happened to me regarding this blog.

I received an email via Queens College's MLIS department (where I took my intro. class). A librarian named Alice Yucht is compiling a list and doing some research on blogging school librarians, which she is breaking down by blog content/function. If this pertains to your blogging, please send her a link to your blog.

Her e-mail is aliceinfo.show@gmail.com