Category Archives: TTW Guest Posts

Going to Google Apps: A TTW Guest Post

by: Robin Hastings

Information Technology Manager at the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, Missouri


This all started because the employees at the library at which I work, the Missouri River Regional Library, were complaining about all the spam in their email. As the Information Technology Manager, part of my job is managing the email server we had – which used to be a server in our server room running Exchange 2003 with Outlook Web Access enabled, so people could use both Outlook and web-based email, whichever they chose. Trying to keep spam out of an Exchange server is difficult and/or expensive – this was something we were really struggling with! As an option, I began looking at Google Apps For Domains, a service I use for one of my personal domains. Google’s spam controls are impressive, to say the least, and the service level has always been pretty impressive. The more I poked around in Google Apps, the more I liked it!

I started looking at the details of Google Apps and began working up a case to sell it to my director. I pretty quickly discovered that the library, since it is not an actual 501(c)3 entity, wasn’t eligible for the educational version of the service. Google offers 3 different versions, the free version (250 accounts, 6GB of email space, no service level guarantees, ads with your emails), the educational version (free, some ads on emails, 25GB of space, 99% uptime guarantee for email) and the premier version ($50/account/year, no ads, 25GB of space, 99% uptime guarantee, conference room/resource scheduling, postini email policy management and recovery, etc). The education edition is basically the same as the premier, except that it’s free and doesn’t include the Postini email stuff.

Google provides a handy chart ( detailing the differences between free and premier editions, one that I consulted frequently as I was working up my financial case to go to Google Apps. Once I realized we were going to have to pay for our version of Google Apps, I really hit that chart hard to make my business case for switching.

Since we were in a year that included a new email server and server software in the budget, I could show that Google would be just a few dollars ($80 or so) a year more expensive over a 3-year life span than Exchange 2007/Outlook with spam control software added on. After I made the budget/feature/begging case to my director, and he approved it, I started playing. I began by uploading all of our accounts to Google via a spreadsheet in CSV format. That was fun and got me started – until I realized that I couldn’t pay for all of our accounts at once because all they take are credit cards and all of our cards that are given to each manager have a $2000 limit. Our total bill was $3250. This meant that I had to delete about half of the accounts, pay for the ones I had still in the system and wait 5 days to pay for the rest of the accounts with another manager’s card and reupload them (after you delete an account name it can’t be recreated for at least 5 days). Big “oops” #1!

By July 24th all the accounts were paid for and all of the accounts were in place. I took a couple of days to get myself familiar with the system, create FAQs on our staff wiki and start working out the timeline for deployment. On July 25th, I invited staff to log into the system and start to “poke around” to get familiar as well. On July 28th I started face-to-face training sessions for staff to explain the system and answer questions – at least one every day. I scheduled 7 for the week of the 28th and one on Aug. 4th – the day we went live.

The staff were very receptive to the training – they showed up, they asked questions and they seemed to be very willing to change. I had one staff member who informed me that she didn’t like Outlook, but she didn’t like change, either. After the training session, however, she felt far more comfortable with the change and far more positive about it. Wiki-based FAQs and frequent emails updating staff on what is going on “behind the scenes” are critical – but nothing beats real-time, real-live training! In each session, I covered each of the Google services we’d be getting access to (Sites, Docs, Calendar, Email, Start Page and Chat) with a very quick tour of each of them. This took about a half-hour. After that, I opened the floor for questions about Google Apps, the process of the changeover or whatever else came up. Some of my sessions were 1/2 hour long – and that was it. One lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. Everyone had a chance to voice their objections and get answers to their concerns, though!

The actual changeover was fairly smooth – I used the feature that allowed me to use an administrator account that I sat up and then gave it read access to all the mailboxes. With that, I started the migration at 5:15pm on Saturday night, doing all of the full time folks first. When that finished (at 1am Sunday morning), I set the part time employee’s emails to go and went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, it was done. All of the email from all of the staff at MRRL was there… except for 3 staff members who were at the very end of the migration and hit up against the backup that I forgot to turn off for the night. This pretty much hosed the Exchange server and kept those 3 people from getting their emails immediately.

Monday morning, when I got to work, I sent my Computer Support guru, Nikki, over to the administration offices building to help folks who might need it and I started on a round of checking on staff in the main building. The changeover was pretty smooth. Most people chose to use the web-based email interface – very few required the Outlook program any more. Everyone logged on successfully and most people were very positive about the change. Since that first morning, I’ve spent some time sending out daily “tips & tricks” emails to the staff, uploading contacts and calendar data from Outlook to Google Apps and helping with contact management and other little issues that cropped up because of the differences between Gmail and Outlook. The responses from staff, however, have been very positive. I’ve had a couple of people tell me this was the smoothest technological change they’ve experienced (didn’t seem that smooth to me – 3 emails left off the migration and a few niggling issues with getting Outlook and Gmail to play nicely – but I suppose those were isolated incidents…) and almost everyone has mentioned how much easier Gmail is than Outlook to use and understand. The staff are enjoying the ability to chat with each other and are helping each other find new features and capabilities that are now available. And, of course, we are all enjoying the lack of spam in our inboxes!

Flinders University Graduate Trainee Librarian Program – Adelaide, South

I met Chris O’Malley in Australia. I was very interested to hear about the trainee program he’s in. I asked him to write a little bit about it for TTW:

Librarianship is a competitive profession to break into.  Getting that first professional role was a proud moment for me, which felt like the culmination of a lot of study, a lot of thought about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and even dealing with a little rejection along the way.  This seems to be a reasonably common experience.  Of course, now I have broken through that barrier, there are many more that I have faced and am yet to face.  Maybe another story for another time.

My chance to enter into the profession came through a program run by Flinders University Library (Adelaide, South Australia).  Officially titled the ‘Flinders University Graduate Trainee Librarian Program’, it has been running for about 15 years now, and is still going strong.  The traineeship is 3 years in length, and is specifically targeted at librarians who are newly qualified or who have yet to have their first opportunity at a qualified role.  I’m currently about 15 months into my 3 years, and have recently started my second placement in the library.  My first gig was in Cataloguing, and although at times it seems to be a maligned art, I must admit that I liked it.  It gives a good foundation for a whole realm of librarianship, and has influenced me even when weighing in to debates such as the merits of folksonomical and taxanomical classification.

Non-librarian friends don’t quite get as enthused at times about such things, funnily enough.

Part of the program is that each trainee changes roles at least once in order to gain a diversity of skills and understanding, but some do change more than once.  I am now about 2 months into my second role, which is a dual role in the Law Library and the Special Collections.    

The Law Library aspect has a large reference component to it, amoungst other duties.  The Special Collections is part library, part archive, and if I don’t mention it too much I’ll be able to lure the curious of you out there to check it out at: 

The learning curve again is steep, and the dual job both interesting and rewarding. I’ve found that the traineeship has been a great way for me to enter into the world of librarianship.  The following is the link to the pages which show the history, philosophy and objectives of the program, as well as some past and current trainee experiences.

There are a number of different ways for organisations to think about new librarians.  It will be interesting to see if this traineeship resonates as an option for anyone out there reading this.

Flinders University Library

Guest Post: Library 2.0: Pandemic or Panacea? by Anthony Andros

Anthony Andros wrote this paper for LIS701 at Dominican in Fall 2006. He agreed to post an shorter version here. 

Library 2.0: Pandemic or Panacea?

An Exploration of Old Wine in a New Bottle
by: Anthony Andros

T.S. Eliot said that, “Television…is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.” Technology has indeed found a way to influence civilization in both positive and negative ways. Why is it that twenty-first century Americans have innumerable technologies and novelties to conserve time and effort, yet we all seem to be rushing from place to place feeling one step behind? Today, the process of digitization can be found in such diverse functions as communication, medicine, warfare, transportation, arts and entertainment, cooking, etc. Of all the industries, fields, and institutions incorporating technology, one in particular has been one of the most resistant to embrace this new current – libraries.
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Txt a Librarian

As instant message reference freed patrons from having to come to the library, text messaging reference frees them from their desks or laptops. Yale Science Librarians offer a text messaging reference service to meet this preference for mobility: patrons can text a librarian from study halls, classes, laboratories, dorms, offices, or even from the stacks without having to approach a librarian.

To deliver this service, we use an Apple iPhone which allows us to simultaneously provide instant messaging, phone, and email reference service. Using the iPhone also enhances our social networking services; we use it to post directly to our Twitter and Facebook accounts via texting. Using a mobile device instead of SMS/email

Joe’s Head shot

conversion software allows librarians to benefit from the same mobility our patrons now enjoy: we can even answer questions from the stacks.

The lack of programmatic precedents required us to devise new policies for implementing and evaluating this service, as well as a sustainable and scalable management model to ensure its success. Evaluating this service

provides unique challenges/opportunities because most SMS devices can save but not export text messages. Pushing a survey URL over text message is not feasible considering most mobile devices don’t support hyperlinks, so our library links to a simple evaluation form on our website. We also gather information about patron categories (undergrad, grad student, faculty, staff) and their departments by asking patrons to include their email address.

Marketing is not as easy as branding a screen name for IM reference, but advertising Txt a Science Librarian for example and having patrons add the number to their quick-dial list might be quite effective. Plus, by being so new and different it tends to market itself.

Text messaging reference is a great complement to diffuse and traditional reference services, so let’s give patrons

an opportunity to Text a Librarian!

Joe Murphy
General Science Librarian & Instruction Coordinator.

Kline Science Library, Yale University
(203) 432-9519

Do You Trust your Staff? – A TTW Guest Post from Darien Library’s Alan Gray

Darien logoMaybe most libraries think about it differently, but Darien Library is sending more staff members to Los Angeles for BookExpo America, the majority of whom will be Circulation staff, two of them part-time, than to any other conference this year. It’s a major commitment on our part, but for nearly all our staff, this is the most important event of the year. They love it! Now I wouldn’t expect many east coast libraries to follow suit, but how many libraries out there will be sending part-time OR even full-time Circ staff to BookExpo, and when it comes east next year, how many from here will do that? Many libraries will say they can’t, don’t have the resources (though that’s just another way of saying they have different priorities) but nearly all of them will still be sending the same people to attend ALA again and sit in the same tired old meetings, where nothing gets done that has the LEAST amount of impact on the central core of what happens in a successful library: the in-the-moment, one-to-one relationship between an engaged staff member and a committed patron.

We need great people to make our library a success — we just don’t have any preconditions about who they are, or what degree they do or do not have, just what they stand for, and what they can do.

And we don’t limit them in what they can do. We trust our Circulation staff with the responsibility of buying all our adult fiction – they have the budget and it’s their choice. Who knows better what our patrons would like, or is in a better position to react to their needs than the people on the front lines? And who better to “hand sell” an item than someone who participated in the decision to acquire it?

The Library 2.0 question is “Do you trust your patron?” The Library Eternal question is, “Do you trust your staff – all of them?”

Alan Gray, Darien Library

A note from Michael: I’ve blogged about Darien Library a lot because I truly believe in the models they are creating. This guest post comes from some emailing Alan and I did these past few days while I’m prepping my Australia talks. I appreciate his candor, viewpoint and willingness to write this.

TTW Guest Post: Cell Phone Sign at Loyola

Dominican GSLS Student Katharine Johnson writes:

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining LISSA (Dominican University’s library student group) for a tour of Loyola University’s new Information Commons located on their Lake Shore Campus.  In short, the place is incredible.  A bookless extension of their library, whoa!  Three floors of computer terminals, many of which are located on long tables to encourage group study and/or spreading out all your books.  Tall ceilings, bright work spaces, fully wired, completely green, and a breathtaking frozen-lake view.

The first two floors encourage discussion among students, the third floor is considered the quiet floor and asks for all cell phones to be turned off.  I discovered this sign, which I found to be a bit avant-garde for any library, though it fit so well in context.

Loyola Sign

What story are you telling?

Hi, Pete Bromberg of Library Garden here, honored and pleased as punch to be guest-posting for Michael on TTW.
A few days ago the New York Times published a fascinating piece on the importance of telling our stories. Researchers have long known, and any parent or teacher will quickly confirm, that our brains are wired for storytelling, and we are much more likely to remember facts if they are presented in story, rather than given to us as a string or list of items.
The Times article focuses on a growing body of research that suggests that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves not only reveal who we are, but help shape and influence future behaviors and decisions. As Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, The Redemptive Self put it, “[W]e find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”
To simplify a bit: Research has found that individuals with “mood problems” may have happy memories, but these memories tend to marred by some darkness. Their personal narratives and anecdotes, however happy, tend to end with a note of disappointment. Conversely, individuals who are happier, more energetic, and more involved tend to see their stories ending positively. They do not deny the negative elements of their stories, they simply begin with the negative and end with the positive, thereby creating a redemptive narrative, framing the negative events in their life as obstacles that they overcame. They tell stories of victory.
Again, this is important because the research shows that how we tell our stories actually influences our future decisions. Dr McAdams reports that, “We find…when it comes to the big choices people make — should I marry this person? should I take this job? should I move across the country? — they draw on these stories implicitly, whether they know they are working from them or not,” (emphasis is mine)

Which all leads me to wonder whether these principles hold true for organizations, or even professions, as well as for individuals. And if these principles are transferable to organizations and professions — which I think they are to some extent — then what does this mean for libraries? What does it mean for librarianship? What are our stories, organizationally and professionally?
Of course, I’m oversimplifying the issue, but I think it’s useful in this case to think about the stories that we tell about our libraries, and the stories that we hear others in the profession tell. At the Mid-Atlantic Library Futures conference I recently attended I heard the most interesting mix of hope, despair, wild-eyed optimism, and doom. I heard other librarians talking about how vital and necessary we are to our customers and communities, and I heard stories about our increasing irrelevance. I also heard stories about how bad we are at telling our stories!
What’s this all mean? Dunno. Personally, I’ve tended to look at the setbacks in my own life as, “Well that’s the end of chapter 1 but I can’t wait to see what happens in chapter 2.”  This has served me well. If this gets posted before the weekend, I ask everyone to take a few moments between bites of burgers and notdogs to think about YOUR stories; the ones you’ve heard and the ones you tell.

Was that funding cut (1) the end of the book, or (2) the exciting cliff-hanger that lead to chapter two, “How we marshaled the support of the community and increased our funding…”?
Is the Internet (1)  the death of reference librarianship, or (2) the tool we’re using to re-establish ourselves as information experts and reconnect with our customers?
Has Borders (1) stolen our business with their fancy displays, pleasant reading nooks, caffeinated drinks, and children’s storytimes, or (2) re-energized us with new ideas on how to create welcoming spaces, merchandise our collection, and do a better job of putting books, cds and dvds in the hands of our customers?
If you answered (1) instead of (2) to these questions, remember: How we tell these stories not only reveals our perceptions, but may also influence our future decisions, and contribute (or detract) from the health of libraries, and our relevance in the lives of our customers.

Generation Jones

Hi Everyone, my name is Michael Colford, and I am the on the Senior Management Team of the Boston Public Library in charge of Regional Services.

When Michael asked me to guest blog on Tame the Web, I was both surprised and honored. I’ve done a fair bit of blogging, but not a whole lot in the library profession. That said, in my position at the BPL, I do a whole lot of talking up of using technology in the support of public service, and meeting users where they are using Social Networking and other Library 2.0 tools.

I thought for my first post here I’d share my musings on something that’s been on my mind for the past week orso. We all know about the Millennial Generation, and we’ve been hearing about their traits and how most libraries are failing to appeal to them. Most of them adapt to changing technology easily and are comfortable interacting socially online. We also know all about the Baby Boom Generation, many of whom are nearing retirement and who for the most part, shaped the library world into what it is today. The Baby Boomers aren’t known for a rapid embrace of the recent online social networks, but of course, there are exceptions.

My question revolves around the generation between, a whole lot of Generation Xers and the little heard-of Generation Jones, those of us born between the mid-1950′s and the mid 1960′s. What makes some of the people born in these generations embrace the recent developments in technology and online socialization, while others simply have no interest?

I am part of that elusive Generation Jones, and I have to say I’ve pretty strongly embraced the Web 2.0 concepts, and use them pretty regularly on a day-to-day basis. I dial my cell phone with my thumbs (a signifier of the digital native, which I am not) and I am an Omnivore according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (a group whose median age is 28 — I am 44). When I think about what makes me different from my contemporaries who do not, I can trace some behaviors back to some pre-Internet activities. As a younger person, I was into science fiction and fantasy, comic books, and alternative music. These were niches that tended to spawn fans groups. I was a member of several musicians’ fan clubs, and corresponded with other fans through letters. Similarly, if I wanted to interact with other like-minded comic book geeks, I either had to hang out in comic book stores, which weren’t the most welcoming places back then, or read the letter pages in the back of the books (and write letters, some of which would occassionally get published.) When the Internet arrived, I immediately found uses for Gopher, Archie and Vernoica becoming active in interest groups for such figures as Neil Gaiman and Kate Bush. Now I read Neil’s blog, and I am a member of a (astoundingly) old-fashioned e-mail discussion group called Ecto that revolves around female singer/songwriters.

I also run an independent film society, the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film that involves a nationwide group of indie film buffs. When these social networking tools started to pop up and be discussed in the library world, I took an interest because I knew I had an immediate use for them… with my film group. Becoming familiar and comfortable with them quickly translated to using them (or wanting to use them) at work. Hence, I have become a proponent of using these tools in the library. Many of my similarly-aged colleagues just don’t have the time to branch out or they find tangible media sufficient for their needs. They may even know that they need to be aware of newer web-based tools because a large part of their customer base uses them constantly.

So what do you think? Why do some people take to emerging technology trends and ways of interacting while others do not? Do you have any thoughts?

By the way, I am also the Conference Chair for the Massachusetts Library Association, and we were fortunate enough to have a whole host of library luminaries at our recent annual conference such as Jenny Levine, Stephen Abram, Jessamyn West, Karen Calhoun, Sean Stewart, and Nancy Pearl (to name a few). Check out the amazing conference blog to see what went on.

Library Books versus Gaming

A blog post describing a teacher’s personal reservations about allowing students certain types of technology use, on a blog site that promotes technology and libraries may seem paradoxical, but here it goes. By the way, my name is Michael Westfall and I’m a media information specialist in a Chicago public elementary school and a Dominican University LIS graduate student. A big thank you to Michael Stephens for allowing me to get my voice out there. So here is my issue: I don’t like kids playing games on the computers in my library because I feel it is at the expense of the reading of books.

I’m not anti-computer, a killjoy, or a raving modern-day Luddite. I will admit to a little technophobia, but I really do enjoy working with my students on computers. We’re very fortunate to have a fully functional computer lab within our school library, and this year we’ve learned to make Power Point presentations in fifth and sixth grades, used clip art and word art in documents starting in third grade, and have begun typing in first grade. This type of engaged time on a computer is different for me than playing games because working in Power Point, Word, and Excel produces tangible products, something I can view, enjoy, and assess. The tangible product doesn’t exist after playing a game. In the give-and-take spirit that pervades modern day teaching, I have begun to allow game playing as a reward in the last few minutes of library time. I don’t force kids to check out books, but encourage it as strongly as I can. But frequently those books still sit there, ignored and untouched (especially by those in fifth grade and up), waiting for the attention I so strongly feel they deserve.

At heart I am a book person. It’s why I chose to leave general classroom teaching and become my school’s librarian. I’ve worked hard to find and add to the collection books that kids request or show an interest in, and I have been heartened by the reactions of many students to this throughout the year. But beneath my game racism – my gamecism – is a fear. What frightens me is that many of my students have significant difficulty reading and comprehending text online, whether it’s a Wikipedia entry, an advertisement, or even detailed directions for a game. Many of them just don’t seem to get that to use the internet you have to read. To me, this is life skills reading that in importance resides alongside being able to read street signs, food labels, and directions for how to assemble furniture from IKEA or Target. I believe my personal conflict raises a serious question: how to fully use limited school library time on two very different activities – building reading comprehension skills through engagement with books, or fostering the strategizing, problem-solving, and collaborative skills that gaming is supposed to aide in developing.

Minds Turned Off

Who knew guest blogging could get the blood rushing so much? When I got Michael’s e-mail about a week ago I was, well, surprised but pumped. I’ve been chilling out over at my own blog, The Corkboard for a few months doing some random musings, reflections, and the occasional techy DIY posts that were typically non-library related. I’m a senior undergraduate at Elmhurst College studying English and secondary education and I’m currently student teaching at a west suburban school outside of Chicago. I’ll be attending Dominican University in the fall for my masters in library and information science.

Want to know more about me (or at least my virtual life)?
The Corkboard (Blog)
Also, check out the major Ning networks and I’m there as “thecorkboard”


In three short weeks I graduate. Wow. Time has flown by, my life has changed in different ways, and, more than halfway through my student teaching semester, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to teach high schoolers. Bless their little child hearts, I love ‘em, but they’re not for me. I’ve found that my passion is in the technology and, specifically, the ever emerging possibilities of this “small” little phenomenon we all call Web 2.0.

Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to spread the good word about RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, and their brethren to a broad range of individuals: my peers, grad students, and the occasional adult who will sit long enough to let me tell them how RSS feeds will absolutely change their life. So it was in these teaching experiences, classrooms and conferences, where I found that teaching tech seems to be my calling (and a bit of a focus over at my blog).

Through my professional metamorphosis I’ve realized that the public education system has me a bit perplexed in many ways that I won’t bore you with – except for one. Specifically speaking, I’m frustrated with public education’s views of technology; to them technology is simply a tool. A program. A box with wires. A gadget. Good luck Will Richardson and David Warlick, but you’re climbing an iced over Everest that needs national reformation.

You’ve heard it hear at TTW and in many other formats and venues that the way information is disseminated is shifting; and if information is shifting than no other discipline is affected more than that of your own – librarianship. The cool thing is – you get it. You understand that if information shifts, you must shift. And, if you don’t, your patrons will go elsewhere. Sadly, public education and the needs of its “patrons” has shifted, but public education has failed and will continue to because it fears change. My students arrive at my classroom door with iPod earbuds in and minds turned off because they know that the engagement they seek won’t be found in the classroom.

So I’ve come to join the happy throng of librarians who, I believe, know it’s time to adjust to the new digital world that we all live in. To you, the shifting librarians of the world, there are no castles in the sky, just plots of land on which you’ve begun to make dreams and theory into reality. And I salute you for this.