Friday, December 12, 2008

Is the Library a Bureaucratic Bargain Basement Behemoth?

The editor of my local paper, The Mille Lacs Messenger, recently wrote an editorial that was quite critical of the library "If I were a Friend of the Library" (Dec. 10, 2008) . Although part of the article was related to some local wrangling about where a possible satellite library should be located in Onamia, Mr. Brett Larson managed to throw a few bombs toward the library. Here are a few of my answers:

1) East Central Regional Library is not a "bureaucratic behemoth". It is the smallest, most modest system in the state. The offices of ECRL are in a basement and consist of a director and an assistant director. A board that meets monthly, consisting of citizens and county commissioners largely oversees the budget. This is a public institution and if there are to be more branches, then the counties and the board have to agree to set aside more budget money to pay for them.

2) "Books are a dime a dozen," Mr. Larson says. If you are looking for any old book, then you probably can find one for very cheap. But often people are looking for a specific book. They may want the newest book or a best seller. Or maybe they are looking for a book on how to build a shed or train a puppy or cook a souffle. They may have a health issue that they need up-to-date information about or they may even be looking for a classic they can't find in the used book store.

3) "It costs more to pay the fines than it does to buy a classic." I can only conclude that Mr. Larson has had a bad early experience with libraries. The fines at ECRL are 10 per day, per item. Notices are usually sent out within a week if you are late with an item. The maximum fine for an item is $6.00 for adults and $2.00 for children. Lost items are of course more. Fines may be a disincentive for some people to use the library, but most people can return their items in a timely fashion--three weeks is usually long enough to read a book.

4)"[with volunteers] you can keep it open more hours than the average ECRL branch." The Mille Lacs Lake Community Library--the smallest ECRL branch--is open 30 hours a week. Milaca is open 37 and Aitkin is open 48. Of course volunteers are great at the library and we appreciate ours, but to ask volunteers to commit that much time to keeping a facility open is unrealistic. It is also difficult to ask volunteers to do the myriad other jobs that librarians do, from organizing materials, and displays to planning programs.

5)"it'll be just as good or better than the bargain basement library the ECRL can afford". Mr. Larson may not understand that it is the city that builds and maintains the library. ECRL does not provide money for facilities. They only provide the staff and materials. The city of Onamia only suggested the Depot because it is a facility that they currently own. It is also handicapped accessible and has bathrooms. The city does not own or maintain the Ralph Olson Center--that is owned by District #480.

It is certainly unfortunate that the Tourism Council that is now in the Depot was not informed about the City Council's decision to allow the building to be used as a library also. But there is no reason that these two entities can't co-exist. A library does not spring fully formed from a "behemoth" like ECRL. It is built gradually over the years by a community. The Mille Lacs Branch was in a tiny old school house for 7 years before it moved to its new location in city hall.

I know that Mr. Larson was just trying to ruffle some feathers with his "outrageous" comments. I just can't quite believe that he would be such a bully to pick on such a humble organization as ECRL.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Storytime Volunteers

Mille Lacs Lake Community Library relies on volunteers to help out with storytime. They read the books, help with projects and interact with children and their parents. We've had some really good ones over the years, including Norma Thompson and Jack Overbaugh. Barb Stone has been a storytime volunteer for several years. She has a remarkable personality, the kind of person that you want to tell your life story to after knowing her for 5 minutes. This makes her great with kids who are often eager to have an adult listener. She always pauses to listen when a child has a story to tell. Carolyn Avaire has started volunteering this fall. She has some teaching experiences and it shows in how she handles the books. She always lets children know the author and illustrator of the book. She keeps children on track by involving them in the story through both pictures and language. These two volunteers have helped to create a very successful storytime season. We've had up to 11 children on occasion which is a lot for our small space. I really appreciate the skills, talent and time that the storytime volunteers put in at the library.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Second Graders visit the Library

The Nyquist Elementary second grade, along with their teachers Mrs. Exsted, Mrs. Perron and Mrs. Petty visited the Mille Lacs Lake Community Library on October 24th. To make the day doubly fun, the children visited the Isle Police Station which is also in the Isle City Center.

We were especially pleased to have the opportunity to share with the children all the joys and responsibilities that come with having a library card. I tried to impress upon them that the library is a place that everyone can go and everyone can find a book they like. I showed them some of the different kinds of books that are available. For the children that had filled out a form, they were able to pick up their library card.

We hope that the children will tell their parents about the library and that they will take the time to get to know the wonderful resources that the library has to offer. We gave each of the 37 children a bookmark and an hours card.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


My husband, Jim Johnson, and I just returned from a marvelous trip to Seattle. We took the train out, leaving St.Paul at around 10:30 p.m. and arriving at Glacier National Park in Montana at 8:30 the following evening. We had two beautiful days of hiking there before getting back on the train and heading for Seattle. We got on at 8:30 p.m. again and arrived in Seattle around 10:00 a.m. After a brief snafu related to car rental, we were in our PT Cruiser and on our way up to the ferry at Anacortes. We ferried out to Orcas Island--possibly the most beautiful place in America. After two luxurious days in a huge cabin, we ferried back to the mainland and then drove down to Mt. Rainier. We spent a few days there, hiking before returning our rental car in the city. We dropped off our bags at the Moore Hotel and then walked the city, stopping at the Seattle Art Museum and the public library. It really is a beautiful library, but the best part about it was the warm reception that I got from the librarians and workers there. We enjoyed the Pike's Place Market and the Music Experience in the rain the next day. Our final day, we took a bus to the Fremont area. We went to an Octoberfest there. Looking around we found ourselves to be the oldest looking people at the event Oh well, we old geezers can still have fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New, but not Improved

August 2006, East Central Regional Library of which Mille Lacs Lake is a branch, implemented a new automation system called "Horizon". It was said to be faster and have more features than the obsolete system the library was then using. Despite some problems such as software that wasn't completely operational, poor staff training and a system that overloaded easily, ECRL went ahead and implemented the new system. From the start it was a disaster--it could not do holds, the most basic function of a multi-branch system. It was much slower than the old system taking much longer to check in and out books and print receipts. Finally the system crashed the following October 2007. Six months worth of records, both patron and material were lost. After a month or so, ECRL began using the Unicorn computer system. Though this system works okay, ECRL patrons have had to adjust to poorer service in a number of different ways.

1) Holds come up to two days later than under the original system. Holds can only be received once a day and only Monday through Friday. The original system was able to generate a holds list several times a day. One Cambridge librarian always prided herself on running the holds list before she left work for the day.

2) Exchanges of materials used to be regular part of our routine. Every six weeks branches would exchange both print and nonprint items, such as videos and books on tape. Though we have had a few exchanges in the two years, this is no longer part of our service to our patrons.

3) Patron services brochures are no longer available. Because the software we are using is temporary, ECRL doesn't want to print up a new brochure. The old information is outdated, leaving librarians with nothing more than an hours card to give to new members.

4) Longer waits for new materials are also a problem. Initially this was due to having to catch up with all the lost records, but the time frame has not improved.
As a branch librarian, I try to give good service to the people who come in to the library. I know that people are often anxious to receive their materials. I wish I didn't have to keep blaming "the new system". I wish that this Dickensonian lawsuit with SirsiDynix was over and we could return to a system that could be modified to best meet the needs of ECRL clients. Maybe then we could return to our former level of service and Gosh, maybe even try to "improve" service!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Isle Days Parade 2008

The wind blew, the rain fell and Alan Ilstrup drove the library cart for the Isle Days parade July 12th. It was wonderful to have such great help including from Carolyn, Kizzy and the kids who made the float. They decorated the three layers of books with cotton balls, markers, stickers and jewels on freezer paper. On the top of the cake were candles which we made out of straws and shiny stars. It was meant to celebrate Minnesota's sesquicentennial.

Everyone brought something or someone to help make our parade a success. Carolyn brought her camera and her lovely daughter Saffron. Deb brought along her daughter and baby grandaughter, Vienna. Hannah brought her wagon and her sister Katie. Ann brought daughter Allison and cousin. Kizzy brought Isaac and I brought stickers, buttons, bookmarks and flyers.

My co-worker Deb , her husband Alan, daughter Katie and baby Vienna started out at 5:30 at city hall. We were hoping to drive the cake and cart down to the starting point, but things wouldn't fit in my little car, so we had to push the cart down Isle Street. Happily the wind did not tip over our cake or blow our signs away. After pushing for five blocks we saw a couple of fellows with neon green vests holding clip boards and directing traffic. We asked them where we should should be in the parade line-up. They didn't find our names on the clip board list. They sighed and put us at number 19 and 1/2--between the tractors and the Dairy Princesses. The dairy princesses admired our hats and asked where we got them (Rhode Island Novelty).

As we waited for the parade to start, our helpers started coming. First we saw Hannah and Katie in their decoarted wagon. Next came Carolyn and Saffron. Then there was Ann, Alison and her cousin and finally Kizzy and Isaac. I handed out hats, but some blew away and some people just didn't want to wear them. I handed out goodies, so everyone would have something to give away as we walked down the street. We also took a few pictures.
Unfortunately, after we finally got going the parade went way too fast. I started out trying to hand out a sticker to every child and a flyer to their parents. The flyers I soon notices were far too cumbersome so I quit offering those. I never even pulled out a button from my pocket until the very end when I ran out of stickers. I handed out as many stickers as I could, but would soon have to run to catch up with our cart.

The end was a flurry of activity as children rushed the cart to try to grab stickers, bookmarks, buttons or anything. We had to say, "sorry all out", just to keep moving. The rain started to fall as we took the alley behind the liquor store back to the library. I was with Alan, the cart, Carolyn, and Isaac. Deb, Ann, Allison, Saffron, the cousin, Hannah and Katie were on the otherside somewhat behind. Soon everyone met up on the library steps. We were all exhilerated with the odd flurry of our running and stickering. It went extremely fast--less than half an hour. I asked Isaac and he said he thought it was fun. I think Carolyn did too and Alan didn't seem to mind pushing the cart. Deb said she thought he liked that better than watching the parade. We'll just have to see if we ever do this event again

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Look What's Cookin'

This year’s summer reading theme is “Look What’s Cookin’ at your library.” It’s based on a wonderful children’s book by Debra Frasier entitled, A Birthday Cake is no Ordinary Cake. East Central Regional Library along with other Minnesota libraries have ordered reading records, bookmarks, stickers and other items with these colorful graphics for motivational prizes.
The Mille Lacs Lake program begins on Thursday, June 5 at 10:00 am. when Magician Matt Dunn dazzles with reading magic. After the show and throughout June and July, children can sign up for the reading program and get a free book bag and bookmark.
Prizes are earned by reading, either keeping track by the book or by the hour. It makes sense for older kids who read longer books to keep track of their time. Reading records are kept at the library. Check out the board at the library to see all the wonderful prizes.
Activities are also part of the fun. Two activity days have been scheduled—June 17 and July 8th both from 10:00 to 12 am. We’ll read books, do activities and have a snack. Come to the July 8th activity and we’ll make a cake with books that we can march behind in the Isle Days Parade.
Some of the activities can be done anytime you visit the library, like the Post-It Note Scavenger Hunt in June and Where’s the Chef? contest in July.
The closing program, as last year is sponsored by the Mille Lacs Driftskippers Snowmobile Club. Come and see Diane Gasch and her amazing gigantic puppets to help celebrate everyone’s reading accomplishments.
Remember that children who read over the summer actually show gains in reading skill over their classmates who do not. Help make sure that your child keeps their reading skills sharp.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hannah and Holly: Two Great Library Kids

Children—with their energy and enthusiasm—are some of the best friends a library can have. Mille Lacs Lake Community Library is lucky enough to have two young people who really care about the library.

This winter Hannah Hemen came to me with the idea of starting a book club for kids. We made a plan deciding what age groups we would target, when we would meet and how we could get kids to join. We decided on Tuesday afternoon. I asked Tarja Maunula, a sixteen-year old girl who is an avid reader, if she would be the group’s leader. She agreed.

The group has been meeting since February and there have been some challenges along the way, including finding a book that everyone wants to and is able to read. But there’s also been some fun. The group has talked about books, read books out loud, did activities about a certain topic and made posters. Probably the most fun and interesting thing the group has done is take a survey of their fellow classmate’s views and use of the library.

Holly Grap had this idea when she attended a Friends of the Library meeting with her mother and grandmother. She decided to do the project through the book club, since she and Hannah were the most active members. Holly, Hannah and Tarja wrote up a half a page survey with questions about what kids like about their library and what they think should be improved. They talked to classes and teachers. They received 104 responses from Nyquist Elementary Children in grades 4 through 6.

Some valuable things were learned from this survey, including that kids still like books, they’d like more library hours and computers and they’d like to get information about the library from school.

Thanks Hannah and Holly for your help in making the library a better place for kids.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Alice Johnson & Gene Iserman

My daughter Alice went to her high school prom a few weeks ago.  Here's a picture of her with her date.  She will graduate from Onamia High School in a another few weeks.

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Space

If you come in to the Mille Lacs Lake Community Library, look around. You'll notice that the shelves are pretty full. There's hardly room for any more videos or books on CD. The juvenille chapter books have spilled over to another shelf. Norma had to rearrange three shelves of nonfiction to fit one book back in. Fiction is getting equally filled.
We also are getting more demand for computers. The after school crowd nearly go to blows over computers. One more computer would ease the situation, but then we have to squeeze another computer into limited wall space.
Lately we are getting more people at our Friends of the Library and Book Discussion group and we just don't have enough chairs in the library. Storytime also sometimes has more children than we can accommodate.
We are a small library, the smallest in terms of circulation and square footage in the East Central Regional Library System.
More space would be welcome at our library, but I'm not sure what can be done. A library belongs to the public and they need to decide if they want to fund a larger building.
All I can do is let people know and see if they have any suggestions. Do you?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Can I have one of the Faster Computers?

This question is heard often at Mille Lacs Lake Community Library. We have three computers and one of them seems to me to work fine, but I guess if you want to play a game or do Facebook or You Tube, it just isn't good enough. As at many libraries the after school crowd starts pouring in around 3:15. The retirees who are checking their e-mail or vacation property in Florida get pushed off by the faster elementary kids. Webkinz doesn't work on the slow computer, so Tamara is pleased and tears off to feed her pet. Dalen calls on his cell phone. At this point he doesn't even identify himself--"3:20 Computer--one of the faster ones." Shortly after he arrives, flipping his cell phone up and down or talking on it to his mom. The teenage girls, Fonda, the blonde and Amanda, the brunette, come in next, indignant because they can't get "one of the faster computers." They sit down at the slow one with reluctance. Robert comes in next. He's the true regular. "What time can I get a computer? Can I get Dalen's computer? Give me a set of headphones--no not that set!! Have my books come in? Do you have anymore Dragonball Z books? Do you have any books on puberty? What time will Dalen be done with that computer?"
So next month, I'm going to ask the Friends of the Library, Can we get a faster computer?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Article about my husband

In Mille Lacs Messenger April 2, 2008

Ready for a grand adventure
Jim Johnson retires after 33 years of teaching

by Diane Gibas
Staff Writer

For 29 years, Jim Johnson has been going into room 116 from September through May.
It seems appropriate that Jim Johnson would quote a novelist. After all, he's been an English teacher for 33 years - 29 of them at Onamia High School.

"Aldous Huxley said in the 'Brave New World,' 'The secret of happiness is to like what you have to do,'" Johnson said.

From the looks of him, he's lived out that statement. He still has a big smile on his face and an easy laugh when he talks about his decades of teaching kids how to appreciate literature, construct a proper sentence and speak correct English.

After 29 years in room 116, teaching English to seventh graders and senior high students, Johnson is going to move on to a new phase in his life and retire at the end of the school year.

People ask him why he continues to teach seventh graders after all this time. "I like them," he said. "They've come up (from the elementary) with all their innocence."

Johnson's focus in teaching has been reading and writing. He likes composition and knows it can make or break a student in college. The ability to construct complete sentences and paragraphs is paramount in writing a paper.

"The beauty of my job is there's no established curriculum," he said. He has the freedom to choose the books his students will read and compositions are always a unique project.

Johnson told of his first teaching job where his boss told him his class could read one of several books. "The Outsiders" had a study guide with it so he chose that book. The study guide was also a teaching guide for him. During his first year of teaching it helped him become a better teacher. "That book saved my career," he said. On May 5, he will begin to lead his class through that book for the last time.

Johnson has heard plenty of improper language coming from his students over the years. "Me and my brother seen ..." is a popular one. He sometimes corrects his students and says, "My brother and I saw ..." but sometimes it's a losing battle, and it doesn't work to constantly correct everything. The students just start tuning him out.

"I tell my students, 'All good writing is correct, but not all correct writing is good,'" Johnson said. "Maybe we should say it's a living language."

He has seen many changes in education throughout the years. In the last few years, Onamia hasn't been able to hire replacement teachers for some who have left. "Education is in the crosshairs now," Johnson said. People say what's wrong, but they don't come up with a solution to the problems.

Enrollment is going down, but the number of staff is also going down. He misses the high school's full-time librarian, and now that the voters passed the referendum last November, he hopes the school board will be able to bring back a librarian and replace teachers who retire this year.

His career has been a good one, although he admits there are some down sides to teaching. "There's a lot of positives, but there's negatives too," Johnson said. "You have to look at the right side of the coin."

As a true educator at heart, he wants all of his students to be successful. But he said some kids require more than what he can give them - they are difficult to reach. And some don't value education as he would like them to. "But it's wonderful to be in a room with really bright kids," Johnson said.

He considers his years in room 116 a positive experience. "If I have any regrets, it would be I wish I wouldn't have lost my temper," he said.

Some of his students say to him, "Mr. Johnson, you can't retire until I graduate." But he said he knows not everyone will miss him. He recalled talking to one of his classes about his forthcoming retirement and a girl muttered, "He should have gone last year."

"Life is about making relationships. I've made so many friends - teachers and students." And he will have those relationships with him whether he is in room 119 or at home, having another cup of coffee in the morning.

Johnson said he won't have any trouble keeping busy after retirement. He and his wife, Kathy, are planning a train trip. He also plans on reading a lot of books, skiing, gardening and traveling. "I think it will be a grand adventure," Johnson said with his big smile and a hearty laugh.

Photo by Diane Gibas

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Online Evaluation Thing 23

In looking back over my blog, I realize that my favorite things are the pictures and graphics that I was able to put on my blog. It was fun to make up a slide show and find a you tube video.
I didn't end up connecting much with my fellow librarians. I read things that they wrote, but there wasn't much interaction. I did connect up with my daughter and her friend on Facebook.
I would say that the unexpected outcome for me was finding a way of incorporating images on a site that people might use to get information about the library. I could see doing pictures of storytime and putting them up or even, if I get more advanced, doing a reading of a book online--things like that.
I would say that a phrase that I have been using is "catch up with the Facebook generation". I have really felt left in the dust by new technology and this program helped me understand that all of these things are not so hard to figure out.
I do know that I need a faster internet connection at home if I am going to use them personally.

Staying Current Thing 22

My favorite part of this 23 Things on a Stick program has been writing a blog. I have not gotten that much response, but I do like to write and it could be a good way to get the word out about library programs and issues. The editor of the local paper put a link on the library blog from his website. I don't think it has been quite as expected (not as much library news), but in the future, when I'm done with "assignments", I'll be able to write about the library. So anyway, my goal is to write a weekly blog trying to include pictures and ideas of what is going on in the library. I might be able to use some of the articles for my newsletter.
I'm not sure if I have any recommendations for keeping current. What I seem to gravitate toward are local newssites, such as The Messenger, The Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio. I would say, keep up a relationship with local websites.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Social Networks Thing 21

Social networks are not quite the latest thing, but they are new to me and probably some of my fellow librarians. We have been fumbling around Facebook and Ning. There are a few photos, but not much video or music on the 23 Things site on Ning. I have newly joined the Craftster network as well as Facebook and Ning. Whether I find something of value on them will determine if I will visit them in the future. I also have been a member of Webjunction for the past 6 months or so. I guess I thought of webjunction differently than Facebook, but perhaps it is similar. I saw webjunction as a source of information about libraries and links to sites of interest to librarians. I have always been reluctant to post anything on that site because you have to dig so much to get to the interaction part. There's also no customized home page as in the other networks.
I do not find social networks extremely appealing. I think "social" is the key word. I don't feel a need for more social interactions. I interact plenty with my patrons and my co-worker. I have a husband, children and friends so am not lonesome. So anyway, unless there's more library related need, I probably won't be using social networking sites.
I joined Craftsters for support regarding knitting. I would like a place I could go to ask questions and get advice. The directions on many patterns are pretty vague. I don't know if this site is the best place to go, or just to look in a book or look at general on-line informational sites. Maybe there is a different knitting network. All these sites and badges and widgets can be overwhelming and time consuming.


Find more photos like this on 23 Things on a Stick



Ning Badge

Visit 23 Things on a Stick

Friday, March 28, 2008

Facebook Thing 20

Thing #20 is Facebook or My Space. I have been hearing about Facebook from my college-age daughter for some time now, but I always considered it off limits. I once had a My Space account (now abandoned), but I decided to sign up for facebook because I knew I'd have at least one friend--my daughter. I found another young friend--Leah Bardwell who was my IM pal a few weeks back, but no one my own age.
I did write on a couple of walls and joined the Library 2.0 group. I also started a group. This may not be exactly kosher because I used the CMLE office as the headquarters. They may not like this, but I thought it might be a good way to network with other 23 Things People. I haven't been reading too many other blogs, unfortunately, so that is my own fault.
Facebook has a lot to offer, including ways to contact people--write on their wall, poke them, give them gifts. I asked for my other daughter's e-mail address so I could add her as a friend. She said that I didn't need e-mail--just a name. Indeed she was right, so I added her. She was number one under "Alice Johnson". I could also add many pictures. My older daughter uses Facebook as a way to keep track of her photos. She has a very cute one on her page. Her name is Livia Johnson if anyone wants to look at it. My daughter cautioned me against getting addicted to Facebook. I can see how that can happen. It is a creative outlet, so you can advertise your ideas and pictures there, but it is also motivating when someone contacts you (okay, it hasn't happened yet, beyond two people who accepted me as friends), but I am curious to see if anyone else joins the 23 Things on a Stick group

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Podcast Thing 19

We are looking at Podcasts this week. These are like radio for the computer. In fact some of the best podcasts are from the public radio station. I listened to a few podcasts. A great library related one was an interview with a librarian from Upsula, Minnesota. She is librarian at the school and the public library. It seems like a lot to juggle. I also listened to some music through "the current" on Minnesota Public Radio. The podcast directories were not that great. I think it is best to just go to the site you are interested in and see if they have podcasts. If I had to recommend a directory, I would say "podcastalley" has many good graphics and suggestions as to popular podcasts. Yahoo just has a plain page with only a search engine box. I really didn't get very many good hits. None of these podcast sites has the appeal of You Tube. I could see that in the future, the ECRL website might have podcasts of different presentations and information about different topics of interest. I don't have much high tech stuff around my office so probably will not attempt my own podcast. The MP3 format is definitely the wave of the future. I can see that in the future, people may want to download books onto their ipod--more compact than tapes or CDs. Next I will attempt to add a podcast to this blog. I'll find a song--seems like the most fun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Tube - Thing 18

You tube is lots of fun. There are all kinds of witty things on this site. There's also the latest video news--Rev. Wright's rants about the oppression of black American. It looks like you can also watch serious lectures about various topics--I didn't have time for some of the 40 minute offerings.

I choose to put a video of Phoebe Snow singing "Poetry Man" on my blog. I was looking for things about books or reading, but everything was way too long. The video of the couple singing about "Reading on a Dream" in the library was cute, but that was already on the 23 Things Site. I tried the tag "books" and got a video of an author (James Born) shooting his rival's books. I thought it was funny, but I told a patron about it and she seemed offended, so I eliminated that idea. Next I tried "poetry"--that produced lots of "Def Poetry Slam" Dave Chappelle had a poem about how he gets followed around in Korean grocery stores. It was funny, but perhaps racially offensive. That is one thing--things on you tube are a little over the edge for us middle-aged folk. So perhaps that is why I choose a 20 year old video that can't offend anyone.

I liked the video tour of the Winona State Library. Maybe we could use it to take short videos of our book discussion or storytimes. Our library isn't really big enough to tour.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ELM Productivity Tools Thing 17

These ELM tools are fantastic! I can see showing patrons who are interested in a certain topic to get alerts for magazine articles about that topic. The web page composers seem like the perfect place to organize information for a paper or topic. I wasn't able to save my pages because I don't have a flash drive, but I e-mailed them to myself. This seems like a very useful function for people who don't want to make a lot of copies at the library. It can save money and energy. They can just e-mail themselves the articles. I really like the note-taking function in net library.

I wish I could say that I will be collaborating with colleagues with these tools, but a public library is a little different in regard to colleagues. I think these tools would work well for school librarians who are helping a colleague compile current research on certain topics. The proquest web page would be a good way to show your research to colleagues and help to save them time.

I think these enhanced tools should benefit students greatly. On the whole, the general public that I work with is not research oriented. It is fun to get students in who are doing serious research, but it really takes time to show people these tools and I am lucky if I can show people that we have these sites, let along showing them the enhanced features.

I would like to add that NetLibrary is about 8 years out of date. When I was teaching at the college level, this was a very new database and many books were added. Now it looks like there aren't too many current books available. I have used it for nonfiction, but the books were from around 2000.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Research Project Calculator Thing 16

Now this thing is great!! There was lots of good information on this site about writing a research paper, creating a thesis, looking for sources, evaluating sources, organizing ideas, organizing time. I certainly would use this if I were still teaching English Comp or even taking a class where I had to write a paper. I will recommend it to my 18-year old daughter. I have looked at the ELM resources and they don't have as much information as this site. I like the evaluation sheet at the end--seems like it would be very valuable info for teachers. I like that the site gives both student and teacher perspectives.
Though this site is great for school librarians, I'm not sure I'll use it much in the public library. I certainly will recommend it to students who tell me about a paper they are doing, but so far I haven't done many academic papers for my job.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Puzzle Pirates Thing 15

Have to say--hate interactive games. My interactions with my fellow pirates have ranged from no response to a friendly hello to repeated requests to "Get off my ship" and "walk the plank." First of all I did my level best to match up my little dots on the bilge game and also the sailing game, but in the hour or so I spent on them, did not master them. Often told "Ye Botched It". The sword and dueling games were much worse--my pirate name soon appeared on the bottom of the screen with a frowny face after I failed to match up the correct colors with the swords or whatever. I don't mind games--I wasted a whole summer once on Krystal Krazy, but these cruel interactions are what get me down. First of all you have to learn the lingo (who has the time), and secondly these people are hell bent on who knows what? I never really learned the point though saw signs about getting "booty" and dueling other ships. Seems like a whole world that wastes a lot of time. Real people would never be this mean.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Blog Prompts Thing 14

1. I can use Library Thing for making up lists of books as I've demonstrated in the previous blog. It also might be useful for checking dewey decimal numbers or putting things in order. I don't do cataloging so this is not something I usually have to worry about.

2. I share booklists with patrons in a number of ways. ECRL prints up lists, which I hand out, such as Star Wars books, or Librarians choose influential book of the 20th century. I also sometimes make a display of books such as "Minnesota mysteries" or "books about the civil war". I print up best sellers or sometimes lists such as "best books of 2007 (according to Washington Post). There are also catalogs beside the patron search terminal for patrons who want to look for new releases. Lastly Novelist offers lists of "read-alikes" that I can use if I have a specific request from a patron. It seems like Library Thing would be a way to do a sort of "read alike" by accessing other books from certain lists.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thing 13 Blog Prompts

Well, as can be attested, I was unable to make the calendar function work. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking at and using some of these on-line productivity tools.

1. I used the Google home page because I liked the graphic of the canoe (but I hated the little animals). Although I enjoyed looking at some recipes (I choose cooking as one of my interests), I probably will not make it my home page. I use my library home page and I am most comfortable with the links that it provides. I have the weather on my home page, but that's the only way it is personalized. The advertising and the "clutter" are what turn me off about these sites. If I had total control over my branch site, I would put in links to the local schools and newspapers--maybe DNR sites on fishing.

2. I did find the Backpack site to be useful. I liked the little training video about how it can be used. I think it would be good for planning the summer reading program. I could have links to the sites where we are buying items. I could write notes on the different activities we will be doing and the equipment needed for each day. I could also jot notes about who the entertainer will be and when they'll arrive (I always forget). I could keep track of participants and prizes so far. Maybe in the future, I can get participant's e-mail address so I can send out reminders and progress reports. Stikkit seems like it would be a useful site for keeping track of all those little details that can get lost in the shuffle. I know I end up with lots of little notes--mostly I remember to place holds or check on things that patrons ask me about, but I also tend to forget. It might be a good way of keeping track of some of the details of this job.

3. On-line calendars can be very useful. Sending out e-mail reminders of meetings would be great. If my Friends of the Library had computers, I wouldn't have to mail out the agenda. I'm sure many of the people in the book discussion have e-mail, so that would be good to have some contact with them. It also might be a good way to get the word out a little further if we have a visiting author. We have had some disappointing crowds for our authors. This would also go for the summer reading events, although usually we have a good showing for those.

4. Not sure if I need an on-line to do list. The one that I tried seemed a little cumbersome. There were separate pages for separate lists. The small one by my computer seems to work if I just want to remind myself to do some things.

5. I did try out Backpack (see #2).

6. I tried Spongecell. This seems like a good site for making a list of events. It also has a place to make e-mail contacts, so I may try this out for my book discussion group. Next time we meet, I'll ask if anyone wants an e-mail reminder and if they do, I'll put them in spongecell and see how that works. I tried Doodle, but my event seemed a little deadended. There didn't seem to be a place to send out e-mail. I also signed up for "Tadalist". This was the site that had separate pages for each list. I liked the Backpack site that seemed to have everything on one page.

All in all, Thing 13 was fun. It was very eye-opening in terms of resources available. I can see where these tools would be very useful for large projects.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Blogging Prompts

Of all the sites I looked at, Reddit had the most interesting articles. First of all there were more to choose from and secondly, they had more of a left-leaning slant. I read a few articles on each site, but the most compelling was on Reddit.
At this point, they detract from my productivity. If I am busy reading what the latest buzz on the web is, I'm less inclined to help my patrons or organize my books, make displays, plan activities etc. I know of one person who uses the StumbleUpon site and he is notoriously unproductive. I hate to be cynical. There are some great articles on these sites, but they don't relate directly to what I do.
I read a great article on the Reddit site (can't remember where it came from) that was about the 7 characteristics of a country about to undergo a revolution. The author successfully argued that the U.S. had all of the qualities of a country on the verge a major change. Heady stuff. Useful? Not sure.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mille Lacs Lake Comments

This is an experiment to see how Zoho writer works compared to Goggle docs.  So far they seem quite a bit alike--like using a word document on-line.  Although in the past, when I was writing for a medical facility this would have been perfect because there were a lot of editors involved with my story.  It would have made it easier to iron out differences and put together a document that everyone could live with.  Right now, I only do a newsletter for Mille Lacs Library and I am the only who who has to see the paper.

Comments on Blog Prompts

There certainly is potential in using as a research tool. As you mark sites for possible research, you can see what other sites are being used for people with common interests. If I were doing my Master's thesis today, instead of in the dark ages before computers, my research sources might be entirely different. I might have been able to contact people who were experts in my topic area (18th century English Lit) and get more perspective. I don't see a lot of academic research at the public library. Maybe in the future, the library will have more of an Internet presence, instead of just a card catalog. In that case, then sites for storytime or homeschoolers or tax information might be bookmarked for our library patrons.

Our library currently has "weblinks"--maybe in the future those links will be on a site instead of on ours. This might allow for more networking between patrons. Tagging is a useful way to track information but there are so many different contexts that a word can be used that it isn't always relevant. A search for "library" tags turned up many articles about the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 is a website that allows you to bookmark your favorite websites. You can then check to see what other people have bookmarked your favorite sites. It's sort of a network of websites. I have, for example, bookmarked as a website. Four other people have also bookmarked this site, including "bmisselt" (ECRL Director). By clicking on her name, I can see what other sites she has bookmarked. Her first five sites are SirsiDynix, Kananbec County Times, Internet, Chippewa Herald and Star Tribune. I only have four websites on my bookmark.
I haven't found a use yet for tagging--maybe it is like a shorthand way of finding a site if I have numerous. With four, I can keep track of where they are without a tag. I am tagging these blog postings though, for whoever evaluates them. I'm tagging each with their Thing number. Well, one more website with a log in. One more thing to occasionally check. It will be interesting to see which ones I keep up with.
I did finally get to do some IM the other day. A teenage girl said that she would be my Yahoo instant messenger friend. I was able to "message" with Leah so I consider that I have at least tried this type of communication. It was fun, but unless I can IM with someone about library business, I am probably wasting my time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Thing #10 of the 23 is about Wikis. My blog prompt is comment on the concept of Wikis. They are an excellent concept. If two heads are better than one, think how great all these heads on the Internet working together are! The best wiki for libraries is the one on Library Success. There were some excellent resources on reading advisory and book discussions. As a former teacher, I would consider a wiki to be a fairly weak source. I mean I would encourage students to use wikis to get an overview or to check general information, but I'm not sure how much depth is possible in such a short format. I only edited one wiki--the one of library blogs. I just added my blog to the list. Although most of the blogs I checked were "institutional", I did find one other blog that has a few personal things on it, so I guess mine is okay to add. I do have some library photos and book ideas on the blog. I am reluctant to edit a wiki (such as the 23 things one) because I don't have a lot of information to add.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Zoho vs. Google Docs

In comparing these two on-line publishing tools, I would have to say, I prefer Zoho. Both ask you to create an account--I am starting to keep a small notebook for all the sign-in passwords with this project. Zoho has a much more extensive toolbar--including spell check. There are also templates and a publisher-type tool that allows you to create a slide show. There is a tool to preview and show page view. Google Docs may have some of these features, but they aren't as clearly on the front page as on Zoho. One nice feature that Google Docs had was a place that shows how people were able to use "Google Docs". It seems that it is especially useful for collaborating on documents. I'm sure that Zoho could do the same thing, but reading how to use the tool gave me a little more insight

Friday, February 8, 2008

Why I'm Blogging

I just realized last night that this blog is actually getting read. I just assummed it was my own little wave, lost in the great ocean of the Internet. But if you are stumbling upon this, I am writing this blog as part of a way to learn how to use some new technological tools. Other library workers in Minnesota are also doing this self-paced program, called 23 Things on a Stick.

I have worked my way through 9 of the items, some without success, including Yahoo messenger, but I do like using on-line publishing tools like Zoho. I will let you know if I hear of any other cool tools.

Thanks for reading.

The Bad Girl

I just finished The Bad Girl  by Mario Llosa Vargas.  He once ran for President of Peru, but he is foremost an excellent writer.  Years ago I read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and enjoyed it thoroughly. 

This novel, published in 2006, but translated in 2007, tells the tale of a Peruvian man, Ricardo Somocurcio, whose main goal  is to live in Paris.  He succeeds in creating a life in Paris as a translator complete with an on-again, off-again romance with "the bad girl".  This gal's identity is as shifty as she is.  He had first met her as a young man in Peru when she claimed to be from Chile to give herself more glamour.  She continues in her evolution as she gradually assumes new identities and marriages and romantic alliances.  Through it all, Ricardo can't help but love the Bad Girl, despite her cool response.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sharing Slides

I had fun using the ZoHo Show to make a slide show of current fiction at my library. It was somewhat like using Publisher. I can't believe that it was so easy to publish to a blog.
If any of my patrons ever read this blog, they will find some new fiction and some ideas of what to read. I think in the future this may be a real possibility, give how much blogs are used by younger people.
I would recommend the ZoHo Show as an easy tool to make a slide show. All you do is choose a theme and then make your slides. I adjusted the font size on my slides, but I used a title and a few items under each title. I didn't use any graphics, but it looks like doing pictures could be fun, too.
I have never used a tool like this, including making a power point, so it was nice to see how easy it is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

E-mail and other 2.0 Communication Tools

E-mail is very handy for keeping in contact with other librarians and other libraries. I use it on a daily basis to get information from headquarters and also to respond to requests. I like it much better than a jangling phone, because I can answer the requests on my time. The communication of a written request is also something that I can remember better than a voice one. I can print up a copy. I can also think and plan my responses more carefully.

I'm not sure about the other 2.0 tools. I signed up for Yahoo messenger, but I have no one to talk to--I contacted Sharon in Milaca, but she hasn't reached that number of the 23 items. I don't have a cell phone, so I can't use IM. I listened to an archived Minitex podcast about, but in 11 minutes I was interrupted several times. I never did get the whole thing watched and I couldn't pause it. Many of the other podcasts are 40 to 50 minutes. That kind of time without interruptions is not possible in a small library like mine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another fun image

Visual Poetry -

This poem is from a facebook image maker. I can see where there could be many fun applications for these tools, including for making flyers and signs, which I seem to do a lot of lately--for summer reading, storytime, book discussion, author visits and Friends of the Library meetings. I also do a newsletter, so I could publish pictures on that also.

Flickr Fun

This is a picture of the back room of Mille Lacs Lake Community Library and our favorite patron, Mr. Bernard Hanson. He drives up in his white cadillac and shuffles into the library everyday to read the Star Tribune.

Flickr is a fun site. I made a photo of myself on the cover of Library Journal. That was too vain, so I did a puzzle of another picture to put up on my blog.


Here is a picture that Barbara Misselt, Director of East Central Regional Library took of me 11/2007. I was going to add a picture of the library from the outside, but I'll try that next time. I have tried to use a digital camera myself (today), but couldn't figure out how to move the images from the camera to the computer. At my home computer, we have "iphoto" but I don't think there is a photo program on this computer. Maybe I don't need one with Flickr. Anyway if this photo comes out, I'll feel like I'm doing a hard math problem and I got the correct answer but I don't know how. If it doesn't that's fine too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I'm having a little trouble figuring out this RSS stuff. I couldn't figure out where I would be getting this subscribed information, but it is through another website, called bloglines, according to Luke, our tech support person.

It seems like it would be a handy way to get lots of information about the topics that you're used to. I still haven't figured out how to add items to my blogline, but I'm sure that I will soon.

I think librarians could use the RSS's to keep up on what books are popular.

I have just been using the bloglines suggested by "bloglines" so far, but I could see going to a site I like, like the Star Tribune, and seeing the RSS icon and then adding that to my feedlines.

These terms are all new to me, but maybe as I use them, they'll start to make more sense.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Library 2.0

Library 2.0 is the idea that libraries in the future are going to interact more with people. One example is through being a link on a Facebook page. Another might be doing interactive reference. It could also be posting more pictures and making the library webpage more interactive, like with a blog.

Some people see this as a time issue. Certainly larger libraries have people that they can pay to manage an interactive site, but most small libraries have staff that are working hard just to keep up with the current demands of their patrons without adding new interactive ones. Being from an extremely small library, I do not have the volume of patrons, so I have found time to participate in 23 things.

So far I have enjoyed setting up a blog and was surprised at how easy it was to do that. I have pretty good Internet skills, having an e-mail account at both home and work. I have learned some of these skills from my daughter. She had a blog when she stayed in Scotland for a semester. It was nice to be able to see pictures of her and read about her travels.

I watched a video of Steve Abrahams of SirsiDynix. He was asked about what his favorite new technology was. He said "IM" because he can keep up with his children. It took me a few minutes to figure out that this was "instant messaging" or text messaging. Although this might be a great tool for keeping in touch with kids, I'm not sure it relates much to libraries. I think many of these interactive tools will be used by individuals, but system wide, I'm not sure it's going to happen.

Rick Anderson had an interesting point about how "collections" are becoming obsolete. That is one thing I see more of in the future--people browsing for a book on-line and then picking it up at the library. Even my senior citizens want me to order books for them.

Although I look forward to learning more about 2.0 technologies for personal use, I'm not sure how much I'll use these skills at the library.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cool Traveling Librarian

Yahoo! Avatars

Begin 23 Things on a Stick

Well, here is my first blog. I'm hoping to learn some new high tech things to try out so I can see if they would work at my library. I do not own a digital camera, but three members of my family do, so maybe they will help me to up load a picture or two. Hey wait a minute, I'm the one who bought each of those people a digital camera. I sense something deeply flawed in my personality.

Anyway, I am the Branch Librarian at Mille Lacs Lake Community Library in Isle, Minnesota. The population of the town is 770 and it is located on the southeast corner of Mille Lacs Lake. It is partly a tourist town, but there is a small amount of industry here also.

Setting up a blog is fairly easy. It is a cross between an e-mail address and a publication document. Anyway here is my blog. I don't know if I will have time to do all 23 of these things on a stick, but I have an hour until it gets busy around here (school is out then).