Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I lied about the next one being last...

Thoughts on a Digital Familiarization Course and Feelings of Inadequacy

I could, Zorba-like, teach you to dance,
to take part in the parson’s laughter of the feet.

I could introduce you to turnout, posture, carriage, proper handing, and a bright social spirit.

I could teach you steps - starting with the right foot except for the exceptions:
beginning hands around deseal -
and figures -
mnemonics to keep you straight most of the time:
the skirts go up and the pants go down; otherwise known as second couple face down;
which way to start as odd person out in a reel of three.

I could impress upon you the horror of a two-beat pas de basque,
and traveling on the hop.

I could indicate the few dances you should know by heart, and how to remember them;
chase, set, chase, set, down, up, pou, sette;
which tunes go with only one dance, and which dances must start with a certain tune.

I could show you how to recognize which are antique dances,
and which, gym mistresses’ redactions;
which are well thought-out, and which require unspecified foot-fiddling;
which are delightful dolphin innovations, and which are pointless modern messes;;
which are the products of Bletchley Park,
and which issue from the mathematics department at the University of Aberdeen;
let’s roll up the carpet and I beg to differ.

I could tell you what makes a reel a hornpipe or when a jig might slip,
and why Cairn Edward is almost worse than taking five with Brubeck;
introduce you to the joys of singing along, buchtin’ time is near, my jo;
and the hazards of such singing, oh my mother’s name is Lily, she’s a…

I could mention weekends and weeks, Asilomar, Pinewoods, Pawling;
tours with Ken to castles or islands or the Mediterranean.

I could explain how to order from the late James Senior;
how to tie a bow that will never untie itself, yet release easily when you want it to;
tell you about innersoles and gel liners,
and why tying your shoelaces above your ankles makes you look like McDork.

I could show you how to drape and pin an evening sash in a number of becoming ways,
Juan Valdez’s serape not being one of them.

I could recommend that you shorten your ball dresses so you won’t step on the hem,
choose breathable fabrics, use makeup that won’t sweat off,
and hold back on the color and pattern to let the men show off.

I could copy you my pattern for kilt hose,
lend you some stocking needles, show you how to cable,
and how to kitchener a toe (not true, that story about the general).

I could summarize crotal dying, fual mordant, wauking;
the tartan myth and the Sobieski brothers.

I could introduce you to pleating to stripe, to sett;
box-pleating, and gathering to a belt laid on the floor;
warn you about pushing your high-waisted, custom-tailored garment down to Levi’s level
and wearing it dangling around your calves;
about pinning both aprons together, matching your tie, or your socks before six;
and about inappropriate times for going regimental
(and I could Google up Col. West and Lance Corporal Wotherspoon for you as well).

I could point you to necessary lyrics through and beyond Burns and Scott and Caroline, Baroness Nairne.

I could give you party pieces, ach where were you, McAllister,
and they had conquered millions frae the Tiber to the Forth, Hamlet, Hamlet, loved his mammy;
and campfire songs, half a pint of woad per man’ll, let us worship like the Druids,
I am an Anglican, and round and round and round and round…

I could tell you why Miss Nancy Frowns (it has to do with Mrs. Hepburn),
and give you peripheral book and movie selections by the dozens, possibly hundreds.

…but it would take more than an hour a week for nine weeks.

Last Week, Thing 23 - The Last Post

Well, here is the "Last Post" for all you bugle fans, and here's my last post for Maryland Libraries Learning 2.0. It has indeed been a long, long trail. I came into this program as a not especially technologically advanced "digital immigrant," using applications like search engines, word processing, and basic spreadsheets easily in my daily work, aware of some of the applications now used regularly by others - and I'm leaving knowing a bit more about a number of digital applications.However, I still don't own a computer, and am in no rush to get one; I prefer to live my life in other ways.
At the beginning, we were told that this program would take about an hour a week for nine weeks. Maybe this was true for some younger, more digitally savvy folk, but not for me. Ten of the staff members at my branch signed up, and I see that I will be the third to finish. Probably two more will complete the program, but I doubt if the others will; so we'll have a 50% dropout rate. I've heard that some branches had a much greater sign-up rate, and suspect that if this branch had had a "techie" on staff at this time, or even a different mix of personalities, we might have done better at signup and completion.
It was hard here to find time to work on this. We have lots of computers, but what with desk time and other responsibilities, setting aside a block of time was often impossible - and this work generally demanded blocks of time, not just a few minutes such as could be used to check ones e-mail (or, perish the thought, whip through a quick game of spider). It was best to use a computer in a little-used area, and announce that one was going to be working on "23 Things," so please limit interruptions - sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn't
Another difficulty, maybe only for us older, linear types, was the format of the exercises. Though there were lists of things to be accomplished, much of the information was presented in the form of links - multiple links, sometimes seeming to be a daunting glob of "stuff" in one big mass, with no orderly progression. I wasted a certain amount of time flipping from screen to screen, and finally ended up printing out many of the excercises for reference. I prefer the "classic view" of linear training to the "Aquabrowser" word cloud of items you might find interesting. Sometimes I wondered if I'd really done what was expected (and a few times I was pretty sure that I hadn't, though I felt that I had accomplished the goal of finding something new).
My posts have been pretty boring and free from exiting insight, but as far as I can tell, hardly anyone is reading them!
I would certainly be willing to try a similar familiarization or training program again, but my expectations about whipping right through would be moderated. I also look forward to BCPL using some of these applications in our work! It's been great.
But I still can't seem to figure out how to separate my paragraphs consistently! I've created a clumsy work-around for this post.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thing 22 - Downloadable Audiobooks

I've looked at BCPL's Overdrive e-audiobooks and Gutenberg's audiobooks, and now feel much more confident about explaining this service to customers. So far, though, I've found that most customers interested in e-audiobooks are pretty digitally savvy, and don't need much help beyond telling them that these are available and showing how to get to the page.

I do have a friend who often listens to audiobooks and was disappointed to find after she'd checked out her first e-audio (quite a while ago, now) that she couldn't use it on her Mac (this is now stated much more clearly on the BCPL site, I'm glad to say). She felt bad that she was depriving other borrowers when she couldn't "return" the download that she couldn't use immediately!

It's interesting to see that Overdrive lists the narrator in a way that implies co-authorship; but I suppose that users figure that oddity out quickly. I also was interested in Gutenberg's little "okay to burn a copy" icon. This would certainly be useful for listeners who for some reason want to listen from a CD rather than a computer.

I checked out an "always available" mystery title in Overdrive, but don't really have the equipment to listen to it (reminder, I'm the one with the rotary-dial phone nailed to my kitchen wall). That's why I chose an always available book - didn't want to hog a limited circulation for no purpose but training.

There certainly seems to be a wide range of titles out there for downloading - something for everyone, I'd say. It's almost enough to make me want to go out and buy a computer of my own!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Week 9, Thing 21 - Casting a Wide Pod

It seems to me that podcasting is now where web addresses were a few years ago. First, we started seeing those little www's attached to company advertisements, movies, and finally, just about everything ; now, we are reminded that we can listen to again, or hear expanded versions of, almost everything we hear
I've now found out much more than I knew before about podcasts; searched for, looked at, and listened to some library-related podcasts; and subscribed to LibVibe, the library news podcast.

Although sound-only podcasts are not my personal first choice for finding information and entertainment, I must say that I'm impressed with the uses people, especially library people, have put them to. How nifty is it for aural learners to hear how to use the catalog, get started on the Internet, or about any number of other how-to subjects? Story times available whenever parents are free to "attend" with their child? Well, you lose some interactivity, but maybe that's okay if you don't have to load Junior and Junioress into their snowsuits and boots and the van and get them to the library building. And Story Line is a perfect fit for podcasting - let's get busy on that one, Marketing and Youth Services!
Although I'm not eager to appear (audio or video!) telling a story on BCPL's future program podcast site, I'm sure that there are talented programmers in the system who would be delighted to do so; and podcasts of any special programs - author talks or "visiting expert" presentations - would be a boon to busy customers who can't get to the right branch at the right time, or who hear a rave review from a neighbor after the date has passed.
These are just some of the customer-focused uses we might find for library podcasting. I can think of staff training sessions that could be handled this way, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Week 9, Thing 20 - YouTube

I've seen a number of online video clips - in ALA's online weekly magazine, e-mailed by friends , etc., but I've never really searched any video sites until today. After locating a couple of favorites to view again, I enjoyed clicking on the related videos tossed up next to whatever is on the screen, and did some searching on YouTube, Yahoo, and Google; didn't really spend enough time there to notice any huge differences (I feel so guilty using up staff-only bandwidth in these public-MySpaceless days!). They were all easy to use.

I'm always up for clever fun, and there certainly seems to be no end to available spoofs (including, as far as I can see, spoofs of spoofs of spoofs) and people with wayyyyy too much time on their hands. The imagination and creativity of some amateurs is impressive. I have snickered over or admired commercials from around the world, movie trailers (real trailers, ones performed by Legos, and a Bollywood Superman riff), and holiday videos including The Nutcracker Suite with animated bicycle parts, music-synchronized Christmas lights on a house (saw that on Snopes.com last year), and a precis of It's a Wonderful Life with bunnies!

I'm not going to take the time and bandwidth to add it to this blog, but my favorite is SSgt. Roger Parr lipsynching a C&W song with his company of British soldiers in Iraq - "The Way to Armadillo" will get you there in a search. Watching this comforts me when I find myself worrying too much about my wonderful nephew and hating our dullard of a national leader too much; to me it says that there can be bits of fun even in bad situations. An added giggle is that this video crashed the British Ministry of Defense computer system when all those stiff-upper-lip types formerly played in movies by Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and David Niven started forwarding it to each other...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Week 8, Thing 19 - An Award-Winning Web Tool

I looked at SEOmoz's list of Web 2.0 awards, and my eye was naturally drawn to "books." I noticed that Library Thing, which is one of (cue the music, start twirling on the mountain in the dirndl) my favorite Things, was only third-place winner, so I spent a while checking out Lulu, the first-place winner in the books category.

Oh, no! Lulu is a vanity, oops, excuse me, self publishing service! Now it will be a snap for every idiot, oops, I mean every well-meaning person, who writes a book, to get it published. If I sound just a bit negative about this very smoothly-designed and well-presented "tool," it's because over the years I've dealt with a number of author wannabees, each convinced that their book is the next absolute best-seller. And I've handled quite a few slightly "off-looking" vanity press volumes which always seem to end up in my inbox when they are mailed to my branch (though they don't linger there long; they're off to Collection Development as soon as I see what they are). Although there are always going to be a few self-published books that make great reading, and sometimes get picked up by a standard publisher or talk-show host, most that I've seen are, well, of personal interest only.

On the other hand, Lulu would enable someone writing a family history to create a few professional-looking, relatively inexpensive copies for relatives; it would also be great for local history, or really for any book that is of such limited interest that a non-online (nonline? brick-and-mortar?) publisher wouldn't be interested. I wonder how Lulu's costs compare with those of the small local publishers who do this kind of thing now? The advantage of Lulu and similar online publishers is that they need not actually make any more copies than are requested at a given time; the book can lurk in cyberspace until another person asks for it.

Thing 18 - Online Productivity Tools

As quickly as possible after my horrible experience with the *&^%$#@! Sandbox Wiki, I moved on to the next thing - like climbing back on the horse after the stupid beast stops dead and pitches you over the rails and into the pond.

I'm really impressed with these online tools - they make communicating information electronically even easier, more efficient, and filled with possibilities. I added a Zoho Writer text to my blog - see previous post - and then went back and edited it! It's good to be able to integrate different "things" like this. I suppose that one reason this exercise was so much more satisfying than the last - apart from the fact that I was actually able to do it - was that it built on wordprocessing and spreadsheet skills I already have.

(I would also like to point out that St. Joyce was very kind helpful, along with St. Ellen, with Thing 17, and I apologize for my vulgar language to the former about the people who put the instructions for the *&^%$#@! Sandbox Wiki on the various sites!)