Tuesday, February 5, 2013

User Profiles (CDM-1.0.0)

While working on the next version of the library website I decided to actually create some user profiles so I could see if these users would be able to use the new design to achieve their goals. I am releasing these to the public under a CC license. The version number at the top is so it will be clear if I add new users or change a profile.

Rhonda the Reader

Rhonda sees herself as a voracious reader. She has a list of books she would like to read and as soon as she hears of a new book that sounds interesting she wants to place a request. Each day she’s interested in finding out what requests will be delivered that day and seeing if the library has a great new book she’s heard about.

Peter the Parent

Peter is a father who is very involved with raising his children and helping them to get all they need to develop. Peter is always looking for programs and events to help educate his children. In addition to searching for new experiences to educate and socialize his children, Peter has a list of books he wants to read to his children and that he wants the older ones to read for themselves. When he hears of a new book for child development, he looks to see if it is available.

Edith the eReader

Edith is an electronic maven. She has built her life around always-on, always-available services. Her schedule makes her best time to indulge herself at night when the library is closed. Because she’s a night-owl she consumes downloadable content almost exclusively. When she goes to the website she reads about some of the great speakers that come to the library, but she’s always too busy to be able to block out specific times to commit to attending programs.

Grandma Gertie

Gertie’s an older lady who has been retired for some time.  However, she’s determined to keep her mind sharp and maintain as active a lifestyle as her health allows. She loves reading non-fiction and plausible fiction particularly about the times she’s lived through.  She also attends many library events to give her a chance to get out of the house and socialize.

Busy Bob

Bob’s a very busy man. When he leaves work, he always has some errand or other to do on his way home. When he arrives home, he does his best to be a dutiful husband and father participating in family life. When everyone else goes to sleep, he finally has a little time for his own interests and hobbies before turning in for the night. Bob loves reading and the library in particular, so he manages to shove short visits into his schedule so that he can pick up a book every now and then, but mostly the library is closed before he has time to think about books beyond what he is reading now. The downloadable content alleviates this some, but every program Bob hears about has an 80% chance of being during his working schedule.

Charles and Charlotte the Children

Charles and Charlotte are children in elementary school. Like many children, they have grown up around computers and are capable of using the internet under their parents’ supervision. They love the escape reading provides and are always delighted to find new reading material that peaks their interest. Just as much as they love reading, they love spending time doing things. They are frequent story time visitors, and look forward to the Summer Reading Program each year because of all the fun activities the library provides.

Thomas and Tessa the Teens

Thomas and Tessa are in high school. They access the internet at home via laptops, and anywhere else through their phones. Unlike the younger children, using the internet for their school work is a real requirement. They enjoy using social media because it lets them feel like they are hanging out with their friends even while they are researching an incredibly boring assignment. Their reading assignments for school often take all the time they want to devote to reading, and sometimes make reading feel like too much of a chore for them to consider reading for entertainment. Because of the busy lifestyles of teenagers and their school schedules, physically visiting the library is relegated to weekends and only if they need particular help researching a topic. Thomas isn’t that great at communicating and sometimes it’s hard for him to ask the right questions to get the information he needs. They sometimes attend Teen activities at the library, if they look interesting, and may have joined the Teen Advisory Board to pad out their college applications.
Creative Commons License
User Profiles (CDM-1.0.0) by Chester Mealer Jr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update on a few of my ongoing projects

Just an update on a few of my projects.

I have decided to go with MODx Revolution for the new site. I looked at several CMSs but they just wouldn't be easy to do what I needed.

I have developed my new look for the site and begun work on the meeting room management system. This is being done with the xPDO php framework and ext.js 3.4. Those two were selected by virtue of being provided  as part of MODx and being the recommended way to create a custom module.

xPDO I love. It makes it very easy to interact with the database as opposed to writing custom php for every query and update. Later I may look at doing a little project using just xPDO without the MODx system, just for the chance to play with it more.

Ext.JS I'm less enthusiastic about. It's a javascript UI framework and it does produce some pretty results. However, after using it for a couple of months I'm still relatively in the dark about how it works. I can take an example and modify it enough to get the result I want, but it's still more like plugging in new values for a variable than programming.

We're starting our annual video series earlier this year which will grow to take up a large portion of my time I'm sure.

Also in the hopper, is a set of tutorial videos for our OverDrive service and software. I have most of my screen cast recorded, now I just have to go back and add captions and narrations. I'll post the videos here as I finish them, in addition to on the website at work.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can't See the Forest of Information for the Dead Trees on the Shelf

This was going to be a comment box response to David Lee King's article here ( http://www.davidleeking.com/2012/01/17/hey-milwaukee-youre-doing-it-wrong), but it took on a life of it's own so I'm posting it on my own blog.

Yes the signs are reading centered if not book centered. This does imply a judgement upon the activities suggested by the altered logos. Reading's primacy comes mostly from it being either the only way, or the only economical way information could be transported and archived. 

Is reading truly a better experience when online video/audio can accurately transmit audio or visual subtleties rather than relying on my imagination to be able to reconstruct them from a description? Will even the only semi-static text of an ePub or PDF (eBook file formats) help me connect with my friends unless they happen to be authors.

What I want to know is why aren't librarians at the forefront of indexing, categorizing and cataloging online videos, blog posts, and websites? Libraries already deal with subjective areas (e.g. humor) and controversial areas, and already try to sift signal from noise or information from conversation. If there's one group of people I could trust to put together a better tool than Google and Wikipedia combined, it's librarians. Is it time for libraries to invest in creating a digital collections department that focuses on more than eBooks and databases?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Upgrade Madness

One of my current tasks is to plan the next major upgrade to our website. It seems I have an unofficial 12-14 month policy on major overhauls.

Since the last major overhaul was to get us using a content management system (the 1.x tree of MODx) which has since release a 2.x build. My initial thought was to simply upgrade the software, redo custom code to fit the new framework and be done with it. Of course our online catalog was upgraded in the interim to a new look which really impressed me (and my boss). So the change to the backend quickly became a project to implement a new look as well. The new look will make the transition between our catalog and website less severe.

Somewhere along the line, I decided that I need to also evaluate at least one other cms and chose drupal as the primary person who recommended MODx said if they hadn't gone that route they would have used drupal. So now my project has morphed into choosing a cms upgrade, and developing the new front end for the website.

In following some web development blogs I also came across the idea of treating the website as an application and using an a framework (php since that's where my knowledge is) to basically custom code a new system since, for any given cms we would only be using a small fraction of the features.

Overall whatever we go with my requirements are:

  1. Easy to manage - both to make my job easier and because I still have delusions of getting other staff members on board as contributors to the public site and to help manage the intranet site (see #2)
  2. Allow different templates for different areas - our intranet site is still not on a content management system and I'm really hoping for a single administration interface for both our public and our staff site. 
  3. Allow or provide some mechanism to book meeting rooms - Our current system is a module I custom coded for the 1.x MODx system. Either way I'm looking at re-coding it, so my main goal is to be able to either have something pre-made that I can implement or where I can use most of my existing code as a model with a few modifications.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Overdrive search widget

just a quick post for libraries that use overdrive:

if you want a search box on your website that will do a title search on your overdrive titles you can use the following html:

<form action="http://YOUR_OVERDRIVE_URL/BANGSearch.dll" method="POST">
<label for="Title">Title</label><input type="text" name="Title" size="35" maxlength="100" style="width:288" width="288">

obviously you must replace the YOUR_OVERDRIVE_URL part with the correct information
It will produce the following

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Return and My Thoughts on Desert Island Sites.

First of all, yes I realize I have been failing on trying to maintain a blog. This post will hopefully begin my re-return and a new attempt at doing a blog properly.

On a recent episode of T is for Training (http://tisfortraining.wordpress.com/) part of the discussion centered on "What would make your library's website a must have site?" The idea being if you were stranded on a desert island and could only access five websites what would make your library's site be one of those. My response was that this ran counter to what I'm trying to do with the library site. As libraries continue to fight to be recognized as relevant, they seem to be trying to be all things (information, entertainment, social opportunities) to draw in all people. While this approach may be warranted with regard to the physical library as a community space, I believe it is not appropriate for the library's digital space.

While I do support the idea of the website as the digital branch of the library, it differs from a physical branch in a way that is particularly relevant to this topic: travel time. It can take less time to navigate from one website to another than it does to move even from one room to another making switching your digital location a comparatively trivial task. This can be good or bad for your website.

It can be bad in that it will make it difficult for your library's site to be one of the "desert island" sites. I doubt your library has the budget to create and maintain it's own social networking site, news aggregation service, e-mail service, etc. and even if it did, could it make them better and more compelling than existing products? If instead, you plug into existing sites and services (for example through Facebook's API), when users are forced to economize their access, do you really expect them to pick your "bolted on" social features over the wider range of social interaction they can get from a site that focuses on social networking?

The difficulty of competing in these areas is a good thing for your library's website. It allows you to focus your effort on the things your library does best such as circulate books to your customers, provide research resources, serve as a platform for ultra-local and niche information. Your site might not be on the desert island list, but it may come up when the patron wants primitive methods of building boats.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Facebook Class Outline

I have been very busy and unable to post lately. I have been asked to create a class on the basics of using Facebook for senior citizens. This is the outline of the class it will guide them from signing up through the basics of communicating. 

Facebook Class Outline

1.       Introduction
1.1.    You should already know this but there are some requirements if you’re going to benefit from this class.
1.1.1. You should know the basics of using a computer
1.1.2. You should know how to use an internet browser (such as internet explorer)
1.1.3. You should have an e-mail account that you can check from a website and you must know how to check it.
1.1.4. We do have other free classes that will teach them to you if you do not know them, but this class has been designed around you knowing these things already and there is not time to help you with them.
1.2.    Signposting
1.2.1. First I’m going to talk about what facebook is, and why we are teaching the basics of how to use it.
1.2.2. Then I’m going to cover how to get to the site and create an account
1.2.3. Next I’ll show you how to find people you know on facebook.
1.2.4. Then I’ll show you how you can send messages, with pictures or links to websites that you want to share.
1.2.5. Finally I’ll show you how you can use it to keep up with the little things in your friends lives and how to share even the little things with your friends.
1.3.    About Facebook
1.3.1. Facebook is what is known as a social networking site.
1.3.2. Social networking sites are basically a place for you to interact with people online. Especially people you might not see face to face on a daily basis. There are tools for meeting people, sending messages, sharing information, playing games together, and much more. All of this can be done without leaving your computer.
1.3.3. Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world.  On average fifty-million hours are spent on facebook each day. Surveys have shown it to be popular, for both social activity and professional networking
1.3.4. This class cannot teach you everything about using facebook. It is meant as an introduction so that you will be able to use the most basic parts of it, and to get comfortable with it so that later you can experiment using some of the other features.
2.       Getting to Facebook
2.1.    Open your Browser
2.2.    In the address bar type http://www.facebook.com
2.3.    Fill in the form
2.3.1. In the future you’ll just use the top two boxes for your e-mail address and password.
2.4.    Click sign up
2.5.    Fill in the security check
2.6.    You’ve now signed up for a facebook account. They are sending you an e-mail right now to verify the e-mail address you gave them.
3.       Verifying your address
3.1.    Go to the website where you check your e-mail
3.2.    You should see one from facebook. Open it
3.3.    Click the green button labeled “Get Started”
3.4.    Now they take you to your facebook page which asks you to do a lot of things. You can actually skip most of this for now.
4.       Finding people
4.1.    If you know a friend or family member who has a facebook page you can use the search box at the top of the screen. Just enter the name, and a list of people who have that name will come up.
4.2.    If you see the right one, you can click on their name and you’ll see some of their information so you can double check they are the person you want.
4.3.    If you’re sure, you can click the “Add as friend button at the top of the screen, and it will send them a message so they can add you as a friend next time they log in.
4.4.    You are only friends if you both agree. If they don’t agree, then they won’t show up in your friends list and you won’t be able to communicate with them over facebook.
5.       Sending a message
5.1.    Facebook actually has a messaging system that’s very much like e-mail
5.2.    To send a message click the message button at the top of the screen
5.3.    You’ll then see a list of recent messages that people have sent you, and you’ll see a link labeled “Send a New Message”
5.4.    When you click send a new message, a new window will pop up. You can see it looks like an e-mail
5.5.    In the “To:” box you can enter the names of people who are friends with you, and you can put e-mail addresses as well.
5.6.    The “Subject:” box works just the same as it does in e-mail
5.7.    The message field is where you can type whatever message you want to send.
5.8.    You also have three options to include something in the e-mail. If you look at the buttons at the bottom left of the little window, you can see buttons to attach a picture either one that’s on your computer already, or if you have a webcam attached to your computer it can use that, you can attach a video message if you have a webcam on your computer, or you can attach a link to another site.
5.8.1. Pictures
5.8.2. Video
5.8.3. Links
5.9.    Then when you’re finished, just click send.
6.       Status updates and News Feed
6.1.    Facebook also has another way to communicate. Facebook allows you to post short messages that will automatically display to all your friends (and other people depending on your privacy settings). These messages called statuses are designed for you to share what you are or will be doing, or what you have done. It’s a great way to keep up to date with people about the little details that you might forget to mention in a phone call or e-mail. Just like your statuses will be shared with others, their statuses will be shared with you.
6.2.    On the left hand side of the screen look for where it says “news feed” and click on that.
6.3.    This is probably empty right now. It will fill up as you add friends and they update their status messages.
6.4.    See the box that says “What’s on your mind?” click on that box and you can type a quick message in it. Then click share.
6.5.    You might get a pop up message about the post being visible to everyone. Facebook has many settings to control your privacy, but if you accidentally set them wrong, then your friends and family will not be able to add you as a friend or see what you post on facebook. So for now, click continue.
6.6.    Notice that your own status messages go into your newsfeed, and that it will show you how long ago the message is from. Also notice that under you status are two links one of them is labeled comment. The other is labeled like.
6.7.    You can click comment to post a short message that is associated with the original post. And when you click the comment button after that, it gets added.
6.8.    The link labeled “like” is a quick way to indicate you agree with or were entertained by what they posted. It does not require a message though you can certainly leave a comment by clicking the comment link also. The person who posted the status, and anyone else will be able to see the list of everyone who used the like link on what was posted.
7.       That covers the basics of how to communicate using facebook. There are a lot more options that you are encouraged to try on your own.  Some things you’ll want to learn about as you use Facebook more are:
7.1.    Privacy Settings
7.2.    Using applications and playing games online
7.3.    Other ways to share picture and videos