A Library in Your Pocket (or purse)

book myne

Our library system recently adopted a new app to allow users to interact with their library accounts and our catalog on their mobile devices–BookMyne (iOS, Android). It was a bit odd to suddenly see it show up in the library system’s home page; we employees didn’t get any kind of notice or notification about it at all. In fact, we had asked several times over the last few years on our employee forum if we’d be getting an app and every time we were told that the mobile version of our regular catalog was sufficient; we didn’t need a separate app.

However, we recently got a new online catalog–and, since then, the new app. After seeing the notice on the public version of the library page, I grabbed my phone and pulled up the library’s home page–sure enough, the mobile version, which is usually the default when I’m on a mobile device, was a no-show. So I downloaded the app and started to play with it.

It was pretty easy to set up my account–find my library and enter my user information (library card number). Once you’re signed in, there are four options: search, my account, downloads, and about (or change library or change user, which I guess technically makes it six, but most of us probably aren’t going to use those two much, if at all).

The search feature is pretty bare bones–you can search by “all fields”, “title”, “author”, or “subject”. I did a few quick ones in each field. I did like that when you clicked on a title in your search results it told you right away if one was available in “your” library or not. If it was a title you had checked out already, the option to renew it was right there. I didn’t have anything that was up for (or eligible for) renewal at the time, so I didn’t use that feature, but it was nice to see it there. What I didn’t see were any digital versions of materials listed–odd, given the third option on the main menu, but more about that in a bit. A new option that the old mobile catalog didn’t have was a barcode scanner. I scanned a barcode for a Blu-Ray movie, found that my library had it, and was given the option on the item page to place a hold on it. That was a neat feature. I would also have liked to have seen an option to add the item to/make a list, but that didn’t show up anywhere. (A quick glance at the reviews in the Apple store indicated that this used to be a feature at one point, at least in the iOS version. A shame it went away.)

My account took me to a screen where I could choose to review my current checkouts, holds, fees, and profile (personal information). The menu screen showed me right away that 2 items in my checkouts might need to be looked at–one is overdue (and sadly not eligible for renewal) and another is due tomorrow–and that I had some fees. Clicking through to the detail page, I could quickly see which titles were overdue or due soon and how many if any renewals were left for each. The holds page showed any holds I currently had and gave me the option to edit, remove, or suspend them. The fees page said what fees I had and why–there was no option to pay them, but that could be because I didn’t have enough fees to pay online (our online catalog requires at least $5 in fines to pay online with a credit card). If–when–my fees get that high, I’ll recheck that part of the app. The profile page showed my name, address, phone, and email with no option to change them at all. Since I didn’t put that information into the app, I assume it’s populated from the personal information in my library user profile. I’ll note here as well that the checkouts and holds categories only showed the physical items on my account–the digital ones were not accounted for at all, and to be sure, I made sure my account had both a digital checkout and a digital hold before checking. Nada.

Which makes the download menu item that much more puzzling. The main menu tells me that I can open and delete downloads there, but nowhere else in the app can I even see digital items, so… Maybe our system isn’t compatible with digital items through this app (we use Overdrive)? Or we haven’t yet connected that part of the catalog, but will later? Reviews from the app stores show that others have used that part of the app just fine, so it (hopefully) isn’t an issue with the version on my phone. I haven’t talked to anyone else in the system yet who’s used it, so that is another item for the wait and see list. It’s particularly puzzling, though, because the new online version of our catalog finally integrated a user’s two accounts–their digital and their physical–into one. So it’s a bit odd that the mobile version of our catalog now deals with everything but digital versions of our materials.

The about section is pretty standard–there’s a help tab, the privacy policy, a link to give feedback, version information, and the app’s copyright information. It’s interesting to note that I clicked on the help tab to see if I could find out more information about downloads, digital items, and paying fines (it was standard information that assumed people could, with no details about why you might not be able to) and then I couldn’t leave the help section. Leaving the app and then selecting it from my phone’s home screen took me right back into help…finally I cleared the app from my active apps list and then was able to restart into the app itself again. A bit of a pain, I have to admit.

So…the jury’s still out on our library’s new app. I’ll have to keep playing around with it and see if/how it changes over time.

What about you? Does your library have an app and/or a mobile version of its catalog? What do you think of it?

 

 

 

MLIS Group Work and Our Social Media Site Presentation (Instagram)

As the culminating event of unit 5, we (small, student-created groups) had to turn in a written report and PowerPoint presentation about the social media platform of our choice.

I–like many of my program mates–have done the entire program online, which makes group work somewhat challenging, to say the least. Planning takes on a whole new level when one of your group members, for example, lives on a military base in Germany and the other two are in New York state! A challenge to be sure, but overall it’s been a positive experience. One definite positive is that having to “get together” with a variety of people who could be…well, anywhere…is that I’m starting to get really good at figuring out all the different ways to “meet” people virtually and collaborate on group projects.

Email is, of course, the easy way–we all have school emails and are supposed to be checking them once daily minimum. In my experience, though, it’s not the most satisfying way to communicate with your group, especially when you’re getting down to crunch time on your assignment. There’s often a delay, for one thing, between when a message is sent and when it’s received and/or responded to. Often all the members of your group aren’t on and responding to emails at the same time, and it can be frustrating if you have a specific amount of time in your day to devote to working on a project and no one else in your group is responding to your emails during that period of time.

What has worked best for my groups has been planning ahead for real-time collaboration through Skype and/or Google Drive.

Skype has been especially great for collaboration meetings. The bigger and/or more diverse your group is, the more challenging it is to find times that work for everyone, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Being able to chat live about your project is crucial for making sure everyone’s on the same page and knows what their and everyone else’s responsibilities are for the project. It’s so much easier to have a discussion (or debate!) when you’re actually listening to your other group members–often much is lost through mere written communication, where it’s often easy to take what someone has said the wrong way or out of context. Skype group meetings, in my opinion, have really helped to bind my groups together and resulted in much better projects.

Working on projects as much and as long as possible in Google Drive has really helped too. Having one document–a paper or a slide presentation, for example–that everyone can contribute to individually on their own schedules AND all at the same time has really helped to keep my groups on target. The comment feature, which lets you highlight a portion of the text and then have a conversation about it–either in real time or separately–allows you to make suggestions and have discussions before changes are made and also often results in better projects in the end because of greater collaboration. If two or more group members are on the same document at the same time, there is also a chat feature that also enhances collaboration. The only downside to using Google Drive is that when you have to convert your final product to a different medium (most of our projects need to be turned in as MS Office products) you lose a lot of the collaborative functions of the platform because it’s no longer a Google product. This makes the last few days with that project a bit trickier.

For our 503 project, my group decided to take a look at Instagram. I was pretty happy with the choice, because it was one platform I didn’t know much about already but one I was definitely interested in. The bulk of our collaboration this time was done through emails and Google Drive. I’m pretty pleased with the results, though I wish I’d been able to wait for my voice to be back 100% from my recent cold before having to record my parts–time and grad school assignments wait for no man (or woman!), however.

What platforms have you used for team collaboration, and how have they worked for you?

Gamifying Life?

Unit 5 had us watch two TED Talk videos about online gaming which were both interesting in their own way. The first one, except for the fact that the presenter is about fifteen years older and much more articulate than my son, could have been given by him. So many of the points he makes about online, social gaming I have witnessed by watching my oldest and he meets and interacts with people online through games. He’s been invited to weddings (in Germany–he didn’t go, because hello, he works at a supermarket and doesn’t make the kind of money that would let him travel the world…yet) and has shared in the real-world triumphs and challenges of people he’s only met virtually. He’s talked about so many of these people so much that I feel like I know them.

The second talk was a homeschooled boy (who again, is more articulate than my 19-year-old son, darn it) who gave a truly impressive talk about the connections he’s made through online gaming and what he’s learned about WWII through one. This second talk was the one that really got me thinking about the ways that gaming can and has been changing the ways things can be done in our increasingly online world…how life is being gamifyed.

I actually got in on the gamification of learning several years ago when I was a private school junior high teacher. Through a BOCES program and a grant, I and several other junior high teachers brought our students into the Islands of Enlightenment virtual environment space for education. The original program was one based on Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl in which students virtually explored and interacted with the building and neighborhood where Anne and her family were in hiding during the second world war.

Here’s a brief video introduction to the project, or you can visit the website here. I brought two classes with me to explore and learn in this virtual environment, and they had a great time.

The second stage of the project moved us into medieval Europe. I only was able to work with one group of students with this one, because our school closed shortly after its implementation. The following (much longer video) goes into more detail about the three OpenSim projects that the Islands of Enlightenment group went on to create. The third project pulled a local history aspect into the program, focusing in on the Darwin Martin House designed by Frank Llyod Wright right here in Western New York.

I have to admit that between this class and looking back at all that I did as part of this group, I am more than tempted to get into contact with the project coordinator and see how he feels about collaborating with libraries…

Another aspect of life that has been unexpectedly gamified has been writing. Again as a teacher I brought my students into the crazy world of NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program (there’s an adult one too here) where authors write mainly on their own but are part of a larger online community as they do so. Writers can be as social (or not) as they choose throughout the process; I have to say that the more involved in the community you are the more fun the whole process is. Writers can earn badges along the way, compete in Word Wars and writing sprints, and join in a worldwide race for the “win” at the end of the month. Libraries have already gotten into NaNo, by becoming “Come Write In” spaces and sponsoring programming based around it each November.

The online community Storium has taken the idea of social writing even further by making storytelling an online multiplayer game. There’s an online tutorial here that explains things much better than I ever could. Storium started as a Kickstarter campaign, at which point they discussed creating a more kid-friendly version for use in schools and libraries; other than a “playtest” for schools from 2015 here, though, I’m not sure where that idea stands at this point. I think that as it is right now it has potential for use with library teen groups, at the very least.

What do you think? Do you play video games? Have you found other fun ways to gamify things, for yourself or for your libraries? Tell us about it in the comments!

Library vs. Librarian Blogs: Is one Better than the other?

Blog concept

I did a Google search as part of a class discussion this weekend looking for “library blogs”. Nearly all of the sites that came up on the first page of results were for blogs run by individual librarians–or lists of “best” blogs that were mostly written by individual librarians–rather than blogs that were sponsored by entire library systems. In fact, in the first ten results, one link was for the blogs (yes, plural) of the New York Public Library system (hereafter, NYPL) and another was a list of mostly school library blogs with a few librarians and public libraries thrown in as well.

I haven’t yet had a chance to follow all of the links–most of the list posts had 20+ sites listed–but I did find some interesting ones that sparked some ideas for me.

hls

A collaborative project called HackLibrarySchool, which has twelve+ library school students contributing to it at any one time, caught my interest right away. (Right now it has three editors and twelve contributing writers, according to the site.) They talk about libraries, library programming, applying to library schools, “hacking” library school programs (both generally and specific schools), and just about books and life in general. They post a weekly round up of library-related news and posts that they’ve found, and they also have a brand new Twitter chat feature that just began last month. It’s a really neat example of a group of writers with similar yet different experiences coming together to write on a single platform, and it’s a great resource–one I wish I’d found three semesters ago!

nypl

If you’re going for a general feeling of OMG, can you imagine the manpower and coordination that would take? then you should check out the NYPL blog channels page. So. Many. Blogs. So. Many. Bloggers. There’s one for just about every aspect of the library you can think of, including one dedicated to Women’s History Month that is a “series of posts highlighting the many amazing women they’ve discovered through the print and online resources of The New York Public Library” (New York Public Library, 2017). Some years have a lot of posts (2015 had eleven) and others not so much (only one for 2014) but by and large they all look to be very interesting. My personal favorite, Wonder Woman, comes up at least twice. So far they haven’t posted anything new this year, but the month is still young! I’ve subscribed to their RSS feed, so I’ll know as soon as something is posted.

I found Mr.Library Dude‘s blog, who has a whole post on creating a “READ” business card holder using a makerspace 3D printer (and links to the files he created in making his own, that you can download and use for free! Must try out at the Launch Pad at the Central branch of my library system), and another on the library in the prison in the show Orange is the New Black. Okay, I totally wanted to read the book and watch the show before, but now I have to, just to see how it compares to my last job at the library in our county’s correctional facility (and yes, I was one of two individuals in the library at any given time who wasn’t wearing orange. Actually, I couldn’t wear orange to work…not that this was a hardship).

I also found Screwy Decimal, whose sense of humor is absolutely fantastic, as you can tell by her blog name. She just wrote her first picture book, Edward Gets Messy, which sounds absolutely adorable but that our library system doesn’t have (must. Fix. This.) and which–wait for it–the actual ELMO came to her library and read out loud with some patrons. (Really! You can see a picture here. Why aren’t I a librarian in Brooklyn, where Sesame Street characters can just wander in willy nilly off the street? Wait–do you think she works on Sesame Street???)

Going back to the topic of my last job for a moment, I also found a school library, the Castilleja School Library, that had a book drive for their local prison. I found this to be very.cool, and am seriously considering it in the future. We do, after all, have not one but two (county and state) prisons within my library’s zip code, not to mention an entire department (linked above) in our system that works with those and other institutional libraries. I already donate some of our dusty list/weeded books to the cause and may or may not snag some from our library’s used book sale stash on occasion, but trust me, they always need new books out there. Always. And you can’t go wrong with anything written by (or supposedly written by–don’t get me started on that topic) James Patterson.

As a book review blogger (my “other” blog can be found here) I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging as a librarian too–either on my regular blog, or on a new designated one–though not until grad school is (finally!) over. I’m still thinking about it, but these blogs and the others I’ve yet to discover are definitely inspirational. I think I’d be more comfortable blogging as me, the librarian, rather than doing a blog for my library. I’m more comfortable being me than having to be thinking about “being the library” for yet another social media format–I’m still hoping that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr (assuming I ever figure out those last two, and supposing nothing else is going to come along in the social media world in the meantime–yeah, I know, like that’s going to happen) will be enough for me to do as “the library”.

So…what about you? Any favorite library or librarian blogs? Do you or have you ever considered writing one yourself? Tell me about it!

Here’s the list (in many cases, it’s a list of lists) of what I found while researching “library blogs”:

Five Librarian Bloggers to Follow (Information Today, Inc.)

Top School Library Blogs (Teacher Certification Degrees)

5 Library Blogs to Follow (Library Science Degree)

Blogs by and for Librarians (Public Libraries Online)

Top 25 Librarian Bloggers (By the Numbers) (Open Education Database)

23 Great Library Blogs (The Edublogger)

NYPL blogs (New York Public Library)

NYPL. (2017). Women’s History Month | The New York Public Library. Retrieved from https://www.nypl.org/voices/blogs/blog-channels/womens-history