Monthly Archives: March 2011

Week 10: Cloud Computing : useful but does accessibility trump privacy?

Once upon a time, I had an assignment due the next day. I had worked all day on the assignment and had thought it saved to my flashdrive. As I attempted to access the document from home I found that it was lost. After much frustration (and I admit, quite a few profanities) I trekked it at midnight to NCB (aka the batcave) to access it from my UWO U drive. This situation could have been fixed if I had merely saved it in “The Cloud.”

The ephemeral title of “The Cloud” refers to the internet and its capability to store information on it instead of backing up data on your computer or a flashdrive.  In this manner, the information is accessible from any internet connection and this portability is a benefit of the cloud. Instead of storing files on your hardrive and being restricted to accessing them from that one location, when files are in the cloud, you can access your files from any computer. When I save files by emailing them as attachments, I am using the cloud.

An example of using the cloud in libraries is the web-based citation management software RefWorks. I use this software at work when doing literature searches. Once I find references for clients I export them from the databases to the clients’ RefWorks account. The client is able to view the references I found from any computer connection. This accessibility is why the library I work at switched to a site licence to this software from the previous hardrive-specific RefMan.

Another example of using the cloud by libraries is how Bibliocommons (catalogue system) allows users to store a “wish list” or “on my shelf.” When I see a title on the catalogue I want to borrow someday, but not presently order, I add it to my wish list and can place holds from this list at a later date. I effectively have a list of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. that I will order someday and which is accessible from any computer.

The accessibility that the cloud provides comes along with some distinct disadvantages. The issue of consistency is important to note. What happens when you do not have a dependable internet connection? There are many areas in Canada where there is extremely limited internet connectivity, or no availability at all. This issue is exacerbated in developing countries. How can the cloud be useful to users in Cambodia when they don’t even have internet access? Also, will the site you are storing your information on exist in a year? Many internet companies go under fairly quickly—will your information be lost?

The issue of privacy is also a huge downside. When you upload pictures to Facebook for example, you effectively give Facebook ownership. (Check out this fb group). When you upload files to a website are you giving ownership to that company? Also, sensitive material may be susceptible to hackers. Do we want libraries storing patron files in the cloud where hackers may be able to access our borrowing records?

Although the cloud offers some useful applications to libraries we must weigh these against the inherent disadvantages. Policies should be established to evaluate cloud uses by libraries to ensure that the risk is worth it.

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Week 9: Gay pulp fiction : pushing the boundaries with a folksonomy at the Pride Library at UWO

The Pride Library at Western is located inside Weldon Library. Their growing collection is unique in academic libraries in North America. One aspect of the collection that sets it apart from other queer collections is “The Closet Collection.” This collection, donated by the family of a closet gay man of London, includes postcards, records, periodicals, and pulp fiction novels. I have been volunteering for the project to create bibliographic records in order to integrate the pulp novels into Western’s OPAC.

An important aspect of this project is to create subject headings so researchers can have access to important themes. As the subject headings in LCC are seriously outdated and no more specific than “gay fiction,” our team has been creating a folksonomy to remedy the situation. There is no other comparable collection from which to “copy catalogue” the specific titles as in many cases the books do not officially exist.

We read the books in order to identify important themes. Once a master list has been created we will apply specific subject headings from our folksonomy to specific books so that they are accessible through an online catalogue. We also hope to allow for tagging, so that users can apply their own tags to the books. This will increase accessibility and usability.

As this project pushes the boundaries of library collections and taxonomies, it provides the opportunity for community-centred cataloguing. This allows for better access as there are more ways to search for information. There is always room for volunteer readers, so please contact me if you are interested in helping out.


Week 8: Chirp chirp….wrong bird sound. Tweet tweeting on Twitter

I had resisted getting Twitter for a long time, but I finally caved last October the week before co-op applications were due. This was absolutely a coincidence. Since then, I haven’t really used it as I did not see much point in maintaining a presence since I hate the banal Facebook updates such as “I just went to the gym…here is an itinerary of my day…I had a pb&j for lunch” and I assumed Twitter would be this to the extreme.

To some extent, I was correct in my assumptions. I follow a few people who constantly tweet as if their life depended on it. The resulting noise on my timeline is frustrating, but there are others who I follow that I find quite useful: @cbcnews, @cbcradio3, @libgig_jobs, @libraryjournal, @londonlibrary, @fims_grc. These Twitter accounts provide relevant information in a quantity that I find informative rather than overwhelming.

With this in mind, I find Twitter a good resource for providing quick updates from corporations. I have recommended that clients at work follow certain Twitter accounts or hashtags in order to broaden out an environmental scan of a topic. When policy analysts are looking to become informed on an issue, following Twitter can help fill in that picture. I also started following my department’s account when I first started co-op, which was helpful in letting me know what kinds of work the department did.

A compelling argument is that since only about 10% of American internet users use Twitter, what point is there in a library having an account? This is quite true with respect to putting a lot of time and effort into a Twitter account, but perhaps it is more cost efficient to merely copy and paste the library’s Facebook status (if it has a fb account.) For a minimal amount of effort, it may be worth it to reach some better than none. This is especially true for a public library which has inclusiveness as its raison d’etre.

During this week’s lesson I have also started following some new people and organizations on Twitter. I also downloaded the app on my iPhone, which I find convenient since I can check it when I have time and can become updated quite easily. I hope to start being more active on my account, and on that note:  follow me @heatherlavallee.


Week 7: Creeping: mastering the social network

It is a given that social networking is increasing in popularity. As Web 2.0 tools are expanding and reaching a wider audience, it really hit home the day my mother friend requested me on Facebook. It was a day like any other. A bright, sunny, blue sky kind of day. I logged on and immediately got that rush of excitement as I was notified of a friend request. Instead of the usual new acquaintance or long lost childhood sweetheart, I got my mother. This, as you may well imagine, was a very difficult decision to make: “accept” to allow her to keep in contact with my life (the online redemption of my absence at the Sunday dinner) or “decline” to protect my privacy but possibly hurt her feelings. The paper by the Library of Parliament shows us that use of the internet in Canada has been increasing in all age categories. Seeing this is was no wonder that the baby boomer generation to which my mother belongs is a large proportion of the new Facebook community, and explains how she was able to creep me on fb.

Social networking tools allow people to not only keep in contact with those they know in real life, but to make new connections with those they have something in common with. Whether that be similar tastes in youtube channels or a love of all things in the bibliosphere (such as on Shelfari), there will be a way to connect online.  In response to the Malcolm Gladwell article that Dr. Neal mentioned, he also discusses the idea of connectors in The Tipping Point Ch. 2 which I just finished reading. For an interesting diversion take the test here to see if you are a connector or not. Gladwell defines a connector as someone who knows a lot of people and are involved with many different social circles and brings people from those circles together.

Social networking can be used by libraries in two main ways: the library has a presence on a  site directly intended for the purpose of social networking (such as Facebook or Twitter) or it can employ these tools to allow for networking on the library’s own site (such as allowing tagging of the OPAC). I find that the LPL has a great Twitter account by informing followers of upcoming events but it also allows for patrons to connect with each other. The Ottawa Public Library lets users tag items in the OPAC and also allow other users to see books they’ve read. There is also the option to contact another user, say if you enjoy similar books or are looking for suggestions.

In response to Dr. Neal’s request to sign up for a social networking site we have not used before, I decided to go with Shelfari: a way to create a virtual bookshelf and connect with other users to discuss said bookshelf. It’s owned by Amazon to allow for easy marketing and consumerism, I mean ability to purchase books. You can add books onto your bookshelf you’ve read, are reading, or want to read. You can rate these books, provide reviews, and add tags. This site also allows you to have “friends” and see what is on their bookshelves. I can appreciate the usability of a site like this, and hope to maintain it. It will be interesting to see if libraries adopt this sort of functionality on their own catalogues.

Social networking has many forms and uses, and no one can deny that it is increasing in use. Libraries can adopt these tools to allow for increased connectivity between users. Connections exist in physical relationships, and now these Web 2.0 tools are allowing for them in the online world. Oh, and in case you were wondering I did add my mother as a friend.