Reference Question of the Week – 2/18/15

•February 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

miami-beach-regional-libraryEvery once in a while, I get a reference question that proves to be a worthy challenge for my library reference skills. The picture above is the library branch that I am working at – Miami Beach Regional Library. A patron came in and began to tell me how he came from the Bass Museum, which was across the street, and spoke to a woman who swore there was no building in front of the Bass Museum which was the Miami Beach Public Library back in the 60’s.

bass museum

The picture above is of the Bass Museum – my library is off camera right. My library from what I’ve been told is about 10+ years old and was at one time the Bass Museum. However, today’s reference question contradicts what I know about my branch as well as the women in question at the Bass Museum. For all that I know, this was patron was wrong or simply misremembered about the library being in front of the museum. As a librarian, I know I could not be simply dismissive towards the patron because I did not know first hand nor did I have anyone at that time that could help answer this question and even then, I would still want to give evidence to prove what I knew was true. So now the quest begins to either prove or disprove the patrons reference question.

Looking for photographic evidence is not as easy as looking up a book title or an author. In my cataloging class, one of the interesting lessons I learned is that cataloging non book material is tough. You and I can look at the same picture but when as for a brief description, our answers would not be the same. Luckily for us, since our Main Library was consolidating some of their collection, my branch was fortunate enough to get their Miami Beach collection. I directed the patron to look through the collection while I use the internet to find what ever information I could on my end. All my searches online were not coming up with the results that I could show to the patron. I decided, between patrons, to look through the stack as well.

The first thing I came across was the Miami Beach Bulletin which looked more like a newsletter but it started with an issue from the last 60’s and worked backwards till the last 50’s. The patron commented that he thought about looking through it but did want to bother because it was so big. Still, I perused through the binder hoping that something would come popping out. I did admit that it was a shame that we didn’t the content of the binder to make it truly useful as a resource material. I went then into the 900’s of the Dewey system to find from architecture or history books with picture of Miami Beach from the 60’s.collins libraryI did find some interesting books but the jackpot was a book called Miami Then and Now by Arva Moore Parks and Carolyn Klepser. On page 134, I came across this picture of the Bass Museum or rather the Collins Library in 1931. So there was a library there in that place but not the Miami Beach Public Library. On the next page, we see the Bass Museum, the same as above, with the expansion wings on both sides of the main entrance. Underneath the picture we get this note, “The Collins Library was rededicated as the Bass Museum of Art in 1964.” So where was this library located then?

Finding answers to reference questions is not as simple as finding an X on a map. There are clues that lead you down a path of discovery or dead ends. The trick here is to not give up even if the patron has decided to give up on finding the answer. Luckily, this patron wanted to know. I went back to search once more with various combination of words and phrases and then I came across this video.

Right from the beginning, this was watch I was looking for and despite it being silent it spoke volume to me. I called over the patron to look at the video. At the 21 second mark of the video, the camera does a left to right pan which shows the building being constructed. The patron did say that this building went end to end for the entire length of the block. At the 34 second mark you see a roundish building in front of the building. This is the current water fountain-ish rotunda structure that is at the end of the block of Collins Park. bass-museum-collins-park-photoAs thus, this confirms that the Miami Beach Public Library was constructed in the 60’s and was in front of the Bass Museum. I did a screen capture of the shot at the 34 second mark and then put it in a word document and well as the YouTube link for the patron. Now, that was a reference question.

Ms. Information is bringing me down.

•February 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I think the mark of a great library, in an ideal world, is when you can not tell the difference between a library professional and a para-professional. By this I mean, a patron should to be able to receive the same high level customer service whether they are on the phone, online, in the stacks or in the various departments like Circulation, Reference/Information and Childrens. Having said this, my strength in the library is everything except Childrens but still I can still do a decent job. With someone else, it could be a weakness in Reference but even with these gaps, as a whole, the branch staff should be a complete vision of customer service. However, sometimes it takes just one person to bring it all down.

The library is a destination for various reasons but the majority is to find out not just information but the right information. Having said this, today’s incident highlights a simple problem – misinformation. A patron came to me looking for information on bus tours from Miami to New Orleans. After I search online for a bit, I was able to find some information for the patron to follow up on her end. She thanked me and then proceeded to ask me a question. She had asked me which state New Orleans was in? I remarked with Louisiana. The patron told me that someone at the Circulation desk said Mississippi. The patron agreed with what I said and added a comment about the quality of people did we hired at the branch. I didn’t have an answer other than to apologize for the error.

I will be the first to say that if I don’t know something, I know how to go about finding the correct information. This source could be as easy as using the Internet or calling up one of my co-workers. Everyone needs to have a sense of intellectual humility. However, there is an expectation at the library that we are resourceful. There was an incident where I visited a PBS store called The Knowledge Shop and asked the clerk what time the store closed. He didn’t know and had to ask another clerk; so much for the knowledge part of the store. But going back to today’s incident, this appears to be a pattern and not just a one time occurrence. The person I suspect is new to our library system. On several occasions, I have overheard from other staff members complain that wrong information is being given out to the patrons about various library services. In fairness, there is a lot information to easily overwhelm newbies but the Mississippi answer just added a nail to the coffin. So much for that ideal world.

 

Coming in 2015, Page 49 the Podcast.

•December 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Cover_of_Pyongyang_by_Guy_Delisle

Having neglected my library blog for some time, I want to make more contributions as well as do more reading. One of the ways to meet this goal is to create a podcast along with this blog. This podcast will be mainly done by me and on my lunch break when I am not running. The run time should be less than 30 minutes and the topics will vary. For example, the first one will talk about the Sony hack and The Interview. I’ll be reviewing The Interview movie as well as the Pyongyang graphic novel. This graphic novel, which the library owns, was going to be made into a movie with Steve Carell in 2015. However, since Sony decided not to show The Interview and then later reversed their decision, the Pyongyang adaptation was cancelled in light of the Sony hacking scandal. All future podcast will tie in to the library somehow as a resource or as a starting off point in the topic. Also, I’ll be talking about my upcoming library comic con event as well as my writing projects using Lynda.com; which is another library resource. By doing this podcast, I can be just as creative professionally as well as personally.

Here’s to wishing a bright and fulfilling 2015.

Chromecast Review

•October 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Being the techie nut that I am, I’ve tried to piece back things that I have given up since I was laid off a couple of years ago. Only a few months ago, I just got back internet to my home. I relied on internet service from my work, in-laws, and apps iPhone and iPad to take care of my entertainment needs. This was a limiting option that I dealt with but still manage to have enough get me by. For my birthday, I got an Xbox One which was great to have since this model was wireless and did not have the restriction of the Xbox Gold membership to tie up my streaming movie/tv apps. I love this system but for just watching movies and such, especially late night, the system stays on though it should turn off after inactivity. The Google Chromecast was something I had my eye on for sometime to help with this problem.

Before I go into the setup, I had bought the high-end Roku system for about $99 for my mom a few years back. Cost was not the issue but rather ease of use for her. The setup was easy but I had to login to each account and have it setup for her. The handy remote is convenient but not so when typing in your user name/password one letter at a time on the virtual keyboard. The Chromecast has a lower cost and the setup is a bit easier though confusing.

When you get a device that has little to no user manual, I would like to think this very user-centric and intuitive product. Take the product out, plug it into you HDMI port and in my case, there was no USB plug on my tv so I used the external power cord. There is no remote other than using your devices and in my case, my iPhone and iPad. Just like the Xbox One, the second glass control from my devices are way cool and I can control the Chromecast the same way but make sure you have enough power in your devices. Unlike the Roku remote, you can change the batteries and you’re off and running because charging a dead device can take some time.

Let’s say you are good to go with power on your devices, the Chromecast tells you where to go to begin the process. When I went to my Chrome browser, I was directed to download the Chromecast app. When the process was done, I went to the Discover Apps section; this is when the confusion came in. There was Hulu Plus, Netflix and the others so I picked one and then I get sent to the iTunes Store and this would not get resolved. The little spinning loading logo appeared and stayed spinning for sometime. This went on longer than I expected as I soon discovered, I did not need to do this at all. I already had the apps installed on my device but I thought the Chromecast app was going to be the single destination and had to re-download what I had. So now, I have saved you some time.

Now, I opened Netflix on my device and there was the Chromecast icon on the top of the app. Once I touched that icon, voilà, it worked. I tried again and Hulu Plus and voilà, that was so cool. I tried to open my Amazon Prime and there was a problem. I tried Flixster and there was a problem. I had movies I’ve download through iTunes and other apps and there were problems. This morning, I added the Chromecast extension to my Chrome browser so I believe many of the problems I am experiencing will be resolved. However, to have access to this I would need my laptop. While my Chrome browser is link on every device and computer I use, the extension are not available with I use the Chrome app on my devices.

Overall, aside from the bit of confusion on the setup, it’s fairly quick and straightforward. The price is better than the Roku plus you don’t need a separate device to control your desired programming. I’ll need to update this entry after I get these kinks out but so far Google Chromecast is a big winner.

Makerspace. We’re Kinda Getting One.

•September 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

To catch up from the last entry, the my library is safe for another year. There is no age of extinction for the library. We have a budget that will allow us to stay intact plus a few extra bells and whistles. In addition, I was able to get my transcripts from my school which I needed to keep my position. For the most part, the worst is behind me on both fronts and can look forward new adventures as a librarian.

During the Blue Ribbon Panel discussion, which the Mayor put together before making his new budget, there was talk about Makerspace. It’s not a new buzzword to me but for others, what the hell is a makerspace?

“Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.”

From http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/a-librarians-guide-to-makerspaces/

Since creating a makerspace can be pretty much anything you want it to be, our library is gearing to get 3 3D printers. Back in July, I attended and presented at the SEFLIN conference and there was one was a Makerspace presentation from the Broward library system I had to attend. There I was both pleased and envious of what Broward had achieved with their makerspace. At the end, the presenters offered tour of their space and since my name was attached to the 3D printers, I had to jump quickly to get a sense of what we were getting ourselves into.

IMG_1910As we begin, we see this sign outside the area. The graphics are indeed eye catching and best of all, when you step off the elevator and head towards the entrance of the library, there is no way you can miss the space. Note the high tech design graphic is also repeated on the glass behind. The next pics carries that same design on the inside.

IMG_1915IMG_1916

As you see, there are prints on the wall that carry the same theme. The monitor in the first picture has a sensor that allows you to manipulate the image in the screen. Not on the screen, our host was showing us a 3D spider and with a few hand gestures the spider could seen at every imaginable angle. This is one of the tools patrons can use when designing their 3D objects. The second picture is a simple waiting area for those to want to use the 3D printer.

IMG_1922This is their 3D printer. The MakerBot sign is also the printing platform. The thing above the platform is the real printer itself. The platform starts high and slowly goes to the bottom as the printer lays down a very thin layer of melted filament like the size of a human hair.

IMG_1909

These are the different colored 3D filaments. Costs can run in the $20+ range.

IMG_1918

As you see here in this picture, the filament is fed through this tube on top of the printer. The printers can have 2 of these tubes, have different colors but can only print one color at a time. The next series of pictures will be of the finished 3D products patrons created.

IMG_1911IMG_1912IMG_1917IMG_1913IMG_1914As you can see, there are some amazing 3D objects that were created. Again, all the colors are single colored objects. The slight exceptions are the Eiffel Tower, the Olympic Rings, and the linked chained in which, they started printing in one color, pause – changed to another color – print that section, pause again – change to another color – print that section and so forth. Our host mentioned that where are some higher end printers that can print using dual colors but don’t expect the colors to be blended. (We are only in the early stages of 3D printing)

IMG_1923

Now, this picture is important to note. This model give you a print progress report but show how much time is left to print the object.

IMG_1921

This is the same printer from above and it’s printing 16 chess pieces. At the end of 8+ hours, the pieces will be created and ready to use immediately.

IMG_1924

In the background, you can see the other chess pieces already done. So, if chess has 64 pieces, printer does a batch of 16 pieces every 8+ hours, roughly in 35 hours, you will have you your own complete chess pieces. So, now that we’ve seen the wow factor of a 3D printer, where do we do go from here?

Towards the end of the tour, I was worried about how would we use this new printer? Outreach would greatly benefit from having a demonstration of a 3D printer. Take this puppy to a high school so we could wow the kids or maybe when we have another table at next year’s Florida Supercon we can engage those attendees in a very interactive way. I like this idea but honestly, the printing of these objects does take a long time unlike the replicators on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Our host had also mentioned that their printers run into issues when the printing goes over 50 hours straight.

This leads to the next question, we are not open 24 hours a day. These printers have to left on to finish the job. Just like sending a document to the printer, if you turn off the printer, there is no way of continuing where the printing was left off. Another point of consideration, who is going to be in charge of it? Granted my name was thrown in the ring but when happens on my day off or if I’m sick, on vacation or if I get transferred, our host made it clear that the 3D printing program should be self sufficient. Sure, once the printer has the object in it’s memory, the rest is just waiting… waiting for the object to get printed. Still we need a training program.

Which leads me to another question, are we going to just print stuff for patrons? The 3D printer does have great potential to have a real impact on our patrons. There was a situation our host had mention about 3D printing a thumb for one of their patrons. I forget the details on how it happened but the 3D prosthetic thumb gave this patron the full use of her hand rather for free rather than having to pay the cost of one. What else can we do?

Business start-ups and innovators looking to create prototype objects can use the library’s 3D printer rather than having to pay someone else for the cost and printing when they can do this themselves. Problem for us, we don’t have autocad on our public computers due to cost and demand. There are free programs like Sketchup but are we going to allow this on our computers? Unlikely but the plus side, 3D files can be put on to the thumb drive and then get put into the 3D printer itself. The host had mention there are wireless option to transmit the from the computer to the printer but if the wifi is down, there goes the transfer. What else?

Our host talked about a direct benefit for a patron and a service we can sell to businesses, what about schools? He talked about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had helped libraries with grants sustain and to have quality public access to computers for their patrons; the 3rd printer is just another level of computer access. Skills learned on this machine are used for personal, business and school needs. 3D printing needs to part of the digital literacy and the library must include this in our practices and need to educate the communities they serve. Yes, we can print up a pink TARDIS if you want but there are some real educational application we should look into. The MakerBot had this entry on a site called Thingiverse.

“With the intent of making the 3D printing ecosystem more accessible to educators, MakerBot Academy has selected Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics that align with our 3D printed content. Our goal is to lower the barrier to 3D printing in the classroom by directing teachers to standards-aligned resources. We hope to make the process of incorporating 3D printing technology into the curricula more seamless for teachers and students alike.”

from http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:464195

There is no way we can take care of the needs of the public with just 3 printers right off the bat but rather, we should use treat these printers in a way to demonstrate the potential of 3D printing; a la Tech Mobile, outreach and partnerships. As we develop more interests, we can then start think about making a dedicate spaces for business and teens like they do in Broward but we need to learn how to crawl before we get to walk or run.

Libraries – Age of Extinction

•July 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

libraries age of extinction

Much has happened to me since my last blog post; professionally speaking. Back in May, I was able to do our first Free Comic Book Day at the Library event. Over the course of the day, I think I gave out about 30 comics which does not sound like a lot but for a fist time event and on the beach; this was consider a success. On June 28, I had our first Comic Con at the Library event. We had about 80 people for this event which again, first time event and on the beach,  this was consider an even bigger success. The following week, July 3-6, the library had a table at the Florida Supercon. me at the conI was able do this out reach with 5 other librarians over the 4 days reached about 5% of total attendance for this event or to put it more concrete terms we spoke to over 1700 people. I even did a cheapy cosplay which if you are a Doctor Who fan, I did something on the Silence or if you are a Batman fan, I was the villian Victor Azsasz. Two-fer cosplay!!!! And still to come, I will be doing a short presentation at this year’s SEFLIN conference on how to create comics in the library in a couple of weeks. Yet, for all these great professional achievements, the library is on the eve of a total devastation.

Tomorrow, the County Commissioners of Miami Dade County will vote of the millage rate for the library. If the millage rate remains flat, no change from last year, we will only be able to generate about $30 million dollars. While this may sound like a great deal of money it’s not. The reality is the $30 million dollars alone is just enough to take care of the staff salary and nothing else. We escaped this doomsday scenario last year buy raiding the last of the reserves which was about $20 million. This year, there are no reserves to speak of and yet even if the millage was raised to $54 million dollars, we are still looking at layoffs. Take a look at the last blog entry and you can see that the news will not be pretty. This begs the question, did we do enough to raise awareness and library advocacy? I want to remain optimistic but we could very well see our libraries in an age of extinction.

What me worry???

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Once more, what does the fates have stored for me and my colleagues? If you look below, there are three different budget scenarios which highlights what can be accomplished and the consequences.

THE WORST

The worst case scenario: If things remain the same as in no increases in the millage rate (which we get our funding from) we are beyond shit creek. We are already in the hole by $20 million from raiding last year’s reserves. Today, there are no reserves to tap into. Aside from the reduction in hours, staff will be severely impacted. The budget alone for staffing this year is already around $30 million. We can not operate a library system this way.

Still Bad

The not as worse but as not great scenario: The increase in millage is helpful in many areas. Yet, staff will be reduced almost 25%.

I'm still screwed

The you have got to be shitting me scenario: Even with the increase in the millage, which some commissioners are advocating, there are still going to be layoffs of 91 full time employees. As in the past, I will count myself as I still and will never have enough seniority in my position to keep it.

So, regardless of the any of these scenarios, I’m fucked.

Thank you very much.

 

 

 
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