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Library School

There are those who say that library school is not rigorous enough and not teaching enough technological classes. While it may not be as rigorous as law school for example I believe that my time here at UW Madison has done a great deal to prepare me for a career at the top of the information food chain.

I purposely sought out tech classes because I realized how useful they would be right now as well as in the future. I now know how to: design and construct a database, build a website, and use the web in ways I never had even thought of before. I recently solved a problem I was having with a copy of “Sicko” that my dad burned for me.

The CD that I had would play the sound but not the actual video of the movie. I am subscribed to the blog LifeHacker, and one post on there was serendipitously for a piece of open source freeware called CodecInstaller. I learned all about codecs from my amazing “Digital Trends, Tools, and Debates” class with Dorothea Salo. I quickly realized that my problem was that I was missing a codec for the video. I downloaded the software and it automatically analyzed what codec I needed. I then chose it from a list in CodecInstaller and it automatically downloaded it for me. I was watching the movie within five minutes of downloading the software.

It is something as simple as this that shows how library school has actually put me at the top of the information food chain. Before going to library school I would have simply given up on the disc, deciding it was unplayable. Instead I used all new knowledge to solve an information related problem. I used an RSS feed to find free software, and because I knew about codecs I was able to understand why my disc would not play. I successfully wielded computer technology to solve a problem.

I know that I am not as technologically savvy as some of the real geeks out there, but I have the tools and training to quickly adapt, learn, and find solutions to any information problems that may arise. There may be some library school classes that are not as useful but I have found at least some value in every class I have taken. If I find I need to learn more though, I have the opportunities to do it. I have taken PowerPoint, Dreamweaver, and JavaScript classes through DoIt, the on campus I.T. people. I have also joined Toastmasters International to improve my public speaking skills. Library school may have its flaws but your education is simply what you make of it.

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The Technical Side of IM

Choosing the right technology for your library and what you want to accomplish is important. It could be the difference between success and failure. That is why it took multiple meetings and testings for Jonathan and I to decide which IM service to use in our library.

We finally decided on using Meebo because it has a number of excellent advantages. First, it is a cross-platform service and interacts with all the major IM providers including AIM, MSN, and Yahoo. Next, it is web based so users do not have to download any client software if they do not want to. Finally, it offers “Meebo Me” widgets, which are basically windows embedded into a browser page where you can type and get answers.

It is not without its problems though. It does not provide enough of an alert for monitoring it at the reference desk, unless all the librarians download Firefox (which they should have already, being Information Tyrannosaurs) and then download the Meebo add-on.

We were stumped on what to do for this until we came across a great blog post by Chad Boeninger. It shows you how to hack Meebo together with Pidgin, a piece of IM client software. Pidgin is pretty customizable and adaptable to your needs. It also has excellent options for monitoring IM conversations, so it seemed like the best option for us.

After creating all the IM accounts, testing, and working out all the bugs I think we are at a point where we can actually begin implementing it and rolling out a pilot project. We have a reference meeting after Thanksgiving where Jonathan and I will demonstrating how it works. I am excited to see the staff’s reactions to it.