Comrades in Arms

Yesterday we had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with 7 of our colleagues from the Eastern Shore Regional Libraries.  As comrades in the Open Source it was great to hear what they have done (Zimbra, Evergreen) and share our stories as well (DeskNow, Koha, Groovix).  We also had a conference call with Michael Pardee, creator of Open-Sense Solutions, so they could speak with him about our PAC desktop and staff desktop.  It was really great to see what we had in common besides our interest in open source.  Libraries no matter what the size or demographic of their customers still experience some basic commonality.

My boss, Amy De Groff, suggested a wonderful idea – that our two groups meet quarterly.  Let’s interact, let’s collaborate, let’s exchange ideas and help each other.  Very much what open source is based on.  Kismet that 2 ladies from ESRL as well as my boss and our web programmer will be presenting at Computers in Libraries 2009 (back to back presentations).  We look forward to forging this new partnership with our fellow open sourcers on the Eastern Shore (whether or not we can come over during crab season or not).

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Give Me Libraries or Give me Amazon

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Be they right, wrong or somewhere in between. Only caveat I would recommend is when you air an opinion you make sure that you stop and think it through. Recently someone using the username Freemarket commented on a post by Amy De Groff on Open Source – Library Life on the Bleeding Edge. I will agree with this person partially as it is true that commercial sites like Amazon have been able to provide features that library ILS or catalogs haven’t yet been able to do. However, I would like to point out that Amazon, and other commercial sites, have very different goals, missions and visions than libraries.

However, this person’s statement “I would much rather have lower taxes and no libraries than have the government steal my money and purchase books that I don’t even want. Compared to Amazon, libraries are a joke.” just didn’t sit right with me. Last time I checked the library wasn’t for one person but for all. I understand that their taxes are going to buy items perhaps that tthey don’t like, want or deem worthy. However, I’m would say there has to be at least 1 item in 262,600 titles that they care about. No one ever said that 100% of your taxes would be spent solely on programs, initiatives or things that you value. If so, then my taxes wouldn’t have gone to fund the War in Iraq and many other things that I don’t approve.

You have the right to spend your money as you see fit (purchase). You also have the right to have your taxes spent as you see fit by voting into office the people who feel as you do. You even have the right to air your opinions. However, you do not have the right to expect that 100% of your taxes will be spent on 100% of the areas that mean the most to you.

Libraries provide a lot more good to the community than Amazon does. When is the last time Amazon educated a child? helped someone recently laid off to find a job? helped a teen with homework? provide free access to all information? or many other wonderful services the library provides?

No Woman is an Island

Forgive me John Donne (1572-1631) for taking poetic license.

I’ve been training staff members over the last 3-4 years (maybe more my memory ain’t what it used to be). It was something I stumbled into and found that I not only enjoyed but actually good at (or at least according to comments and evaluations). With each class that I taught, I’ve gained some insight. I love the give and take of training, the flow of not only energy but information. I believe that training should be a two-way street. It isn’t all about ME passing on information. I can learn a lot as well. I can learn what does or doesn’t work for a particular curriculum or for a particular learning style. I can sometimes learn a new way or shortcut of doing something even thought I thought I knew them all. To me it’s important to keep on learning as I help others to learn.

Recently I gave my first training for the public. What a great unknown that was for me. How computer savvy would they be? How do you create a training not knowing the skill level of your auidence? It was a good thing because I had gotten comfortable with training the staff and sometimes comfort can equate to being stale. The last thing I want to be is stale.

Most importantly this series of Web 2.0 classes wasn’t all about me. I wasn’t alone. No woman is an island or at least this woman wasn’t. So far the series has been pretty much a big success. I’ve been encouraged to offer this to staff and again to the public since we had such good turn out. But I could not have done this alone. So taking a nod from the Oscars….

I’d like to thank the academy:

  • Luis Salazar for diligently working to get me a viewsonic that gave a clear picture and worked with our Ubuntu laptop (at one point we had tried Ubuntu, Windows and Mac before we realized it was the viewsonic not the laptop)
  • Donna Metcalf for her support (attending a class) and helping Luis w/viewsonic issue.
  • Dennis Wood for being my AV man. He not only got me setup correctly on the sound portion but also tried to get the viewsonic working for another instructor in the Web 2.0 series.
  • Amy de Groff for allowing and encouraging me to do this. Also for her flexibility with my schedule (being boss and all).
  • Ruth Vargas and Danny Bouman for also being flexible and allowing me to switch my morning duties so I could present these classes at night.
  • Kim Ha for willing taking on a class on wikis (her passion) by herself.
  • Katie George for an outstanding job during our social networking class. I honestly couldn’t have done a better job and she was a hard act to follow.
  • Brian Auger for being willing to share our mutual passion of music and help me with tonight’s class on music social networking.
  • Fritzi Newton, photographer extraordinaire, for sharing her passion of photography and allowing me to sneak in a few moments about YouTube and Veho during Tuesday’s class.
  • my hubby for dealing with the dogs and dinner without me there – yes, dear we are a team
  • and most importantly the public for embracing this series so far

If I left anyone out it is not intentional.  I thank you all for helping me with this endeavor and I’ve learned a lot from each one of you.

Tips for Those Going Through an ILS Migration

I suddenly feel lighter than I have in weeks. All thanks to Debra Denault of Liblime for coming to Howard County Library and helping those of us involved in our migration from SirsiDynix‘s Horizon to Koha to get a grasp on things.

This is not the first migration I’ve been a part of but certainly this one was a lot different. Last time we basically changed from one product offered by a vendor to another product. This time we were going with an open source ILS and support would come from many places (our data migration company – Liblime and the whole Koha community). I often wasn’t sure if I should submit something to the community, chat with the developers in IRC or just what was my first step. I was not only learning how Koha worked (I am creating content for the testing or discovery phase as well as helping with creating the training for staff) but I was learning a completely different way of getting answers or help.

Change can be scary for most folks but I’ve often found it interesting. Change gives me something new to focus on, play with, explore. This time, however, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit scared. This time it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. At one point this week I Twittered that I knew there was a lesson in here somewhere for me to learn but it wasn’t revealing itself to me just yet.

But that has all changed. Something clicked. Something stopped being scary. Something lightened my load. I think it was having someone, Debra, who knew the product inside and out be here to walk us through things. Debra’s calm nature (although she swears there is a Type A personality underneath), her depth of knowledge, her ability to get answers immediately from folks at Liblime was the perfect mix to calm nerves, soothe the worried SysAdmin in all of us.

Debra along with Darrell Ulm of Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, another Koha library, helped me not only get my head around things but helped me put things in perspective.

So I’d like to pass along to you some tips for getting through a migration:

  • “That’s a bug!” is a good thing. Both Debra and my boss, Amy De Groff, have helped me to see this one. At first I felt like “Oh great, another problem.” But now I can see what they see “Oh great, we can fix it!” Lesson being that the first step to fixing any problem is recognizing what it is. Once you can do that fixing is easy.
  • Collaboration eases any burden. Many of the things we had grown to expect from previous software weren’t part of Koha. Nice thing is since it is open source anyone can contribute to the success of Koha. Better yet, find another library (or 2) that want the same functionality as you and share the cost. Collaborating not only is a great way to give back to the community (as well as have another set of eyes give you a different perspective) but it eases the burden of cost.
  • Ask, don’t assume. We all know the old adage “Don’t assume because you make an ass out of U and Me”. Ask about everything, don’t assume you know the answer or that someone will think you silly for asking. Nothing is too small or too large. If we hadn’t asked some of the questions we did we may have never figured out some of our problems were caused by us.
  • Take your time. An old boss of mine used to drill into our heads “With accuracy, comes speed”. That is true with migrating as well. Don’t hesitate to say this is going too fast. Don’t hesitate to say you want to do it right and being rushed only stresses everyone. Stressed staff make more mistakes. By stepping back and examining things we slowed down and we now feel when we roll this out it will be a really great product instead of something we just rushed out. This will be a ILS system we can be proud of.
  • Reach out. Whether you have the benefit of the open source community or a list of other libraries using your vendor – reach out to them. This one didn’t come easy to me at first. I’ve exchanged several emails with the aforementioned Darrell Ulm. He has pointed out somethings. All the experts in the world are great but talking to someone who uses the product is invaluable. He also reminded me of the next tip.
  • Stay calm. This wasn’t always easy but Darrell was right, panic never helps anything. He shared that he had his share of panic about his migration and it actually set him back at times. He said that Liblime pulled through their migration quite well. Staying calm helps to keep things in perspective. So if you need help, follow my next tip.
  • Step back every so often. I found myself getting so wrapped up in Koha that I couldn’t focus on much else. I was coming home exhausted, going to bed early and arriving the next morning no more rested than I had been the night before. I insisted one night that my husband and I turn off the tv, unplug the computer and sit outside in front of a roaring fire in our chimenea. It recharged my batteries and gave me a clear head to face things the next day. Do what you need to do to step back and recharge.

So if you are going through a migration, I hope my tips have helped. I’d love to hear some more tips that helped or are helping you to get through.

In a Perfect World…

we can put an end to Word attachments, an article written by Richard Stallman. Mr. Stallman was featured in the movie Revolution OS and is the (according to Wikipedia entry) is an American software freedom activist, hacker (programmer), and software developer. He seems to be a man of strong convictions and at times can come off a bit extreme. But one can not fault him for being passionate.

My boss, Amy De Groff Director of IT, forwarded me his article on ending Word attachments. As someone that uses OpenOffice.org products which can open most Microsoft Word docs it never fails to frustrate me that someone assumes that I am using Microsoft products. Or that I want my inbox filled with attachments that take up room. But I just shrug my shoulders, grin and bear it and move on.

In a perfect world people would do just what Mr. Stallman suggests in his article – send as plain text, HTML (love that idea) or PDF. I don’t know how Mr. Stallman feels about this but why not use something like Google Docs or Zoho? All I would get in my email (if you must communicate that way) is a hyperlink. I like his ideas for many reasons – reduce the amount of space taken up by documents as attachments and not using proprietary software products. But lets take it one step further – use collaborative software such as Google Docs or Zoho. This keeps not only everyone’s inbox smaller but 20 people don’t need to download the document to read it, forgetting to delete it and then junking up their hard drive space.

I love to use things like Google Docs, Doodle (when I want to take a poll of many different people) because all anyone needs is a web browser (hopefully Firefox but that’s another battle) and Internet access. They don’t need specific software to view or edit the attachment.

I wish Mr. Stallman luck in his crusade. I think it is a noble one and one that will happen albeit slowly.

What if…

What if?

A new wiki was born out of a presentation given at PLA by Rivkah Sass, Deirdre Routt, Brian Auger, Amy de Groff, Stacey Aldrich. What If Libraries… stems from the presentation Dangerous Ideas What If Libraries… and ask some rather thought provoking and (probably for some) scary questions.

My hats off to those 4 that got us thinking and questioning the status quo. I love it when people question the norm, think for themselves and don’t just “cut the end of the roast off because Grandmother always did it that way”.

Some of my favorite posts have been:

  • What if we required library staff to have technology expertise?
  • What if we dumped the MLS?
  • What if we stopped making excuses and accepted responsibility? (one of my posts)
  • What if we accepted open source software…

So What If… you shared some of your what if’s with me?