amvans's Blog

Musings from a confirmed "Technical Difficulty"

Adding my Blog Entries from BlogSpot

I decided to add all my posts from the now defunct Blogspot since it was sucked up by Google and I don’t use Google for anything except Google Earth. Most of my posts were done during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war and I don’t want them lost. This WordPress blog, started as an assignment in my MLIS program technology course seems the best place to put them. So all the following posts today will be those that I wrote in July-August of 2006 from Israel.

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Twitter my Facebook When You’ve Got my Book on the Hold-Shelf

Anyone who has spent enough time using social networking software like Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter knows how easy and fun it can be to stay “connected” to friends, family, colleagues, and even people they’ve never met. And, while I might not jump on the mobile bandwagon just yet, I believe all the predictions that it will not be long before we all trade in our laptops or net books for a smart phone. Libraries can not afford to ignore new social networking technologies. Too many people quickly adopt them and make them an integral part of their lives.

Stephens (2007) presents a credible argument for libraries to merge with and stay on the social networking highway or risk ending up on the cyberspace equivalent of Route 66, a place people visit out of nostalgia rather than for any real utility. Ok, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but at the very least, developing a cyberspace presence and making it easy for people to create relationships, share information, form groups of interest, and have conversations is a great way for libraries to remain a center of utility to the community. After all, that is what social networks are best at. Also, the library can be an important resource that permits people to learn and use new technologies, because many library patrons can not afford the technology that allows people to be connected 24/7.

There was one statement in the Stephens (2007) paper that made me pause to think. The idea that while more and more web users are opening up their private lives to the world via social networks, librarians continue to focus on protecting privacy. At face value, this seems like a contradiction, but I believe that is not the case. As a user, I still count on librarians to keep my information private. It is up to me to decide what and how much information I want to be public. And I think that social networking companies need to make sure that their users have easily understood control over the use and availability of their data. That said, I believe we can still protect our data and have the benefits of on-line social networking.

So this is where I started to think about the library as a social networking facilitator. What if you could set up a virtual library, something like the SLIS 2nd Life Island, and find your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and any other part of your on-line life within that space? You could have your own personal space within the Island, where you keep your private information, but you could walk to the library, find books, talk to a reference librarian, join a book discussion, and shop (using your account at Amazon, for example). What if the virtual environment knew your ID and pertinent data and could securely pass it to a trusted third-party? The biggest challenges here are the privacy and identity issues. Most of us have to deal with maintaining several accounts and keeping track of passwords and other data. Sometimes, we find ourselves inputting the same data into different sites. Indeed, wouldn’t it be great to have a secure “global profile”, perhaps with several sub-profiles (stored in the same place) for different applications? It would be the same ID and password for everything from your library card, Facebook, and Amazon accounts to even your Netflix account. Also, you could set up new accounts with trusted third-party sites using your global profile. Ko, Cheek, and Shehab (2010) discuss how this is possible using open authentication standards. OpenID is a standard that allows third-party sites to authenticate potential users using credentials supplied by trusted identity providers. Once the user is authenticated, the user can select what data the third-party can have access to. Meanwhile, the user has no idea what is going on under the hood, all they know is that they can access their Facebook from within another environment (such as the virtual library) and feel their data is secure.

At this point, I am not convinced we are ready to accomplish all this  (too many third-party vendors still use proprietary software) however, at the very least, libraries should establish a presence on the big sites, such as Facebook.  And they should be looking at adding the capabilities for users to access their social-networking accounts from library websites. They should also be open to the new technologies that appear on almost a daily basis. Stephens (2007) points out that many libraries are already incorporating the building blocks for creating a social library. It would be very interesting to see what impact these libraries are experiencing on their popularity….I’m guessing it’s a good one.

REFERENCES:

Ko, M. N., Cheek, G.P., & Shehab, M. (2010, August). Social-networks connect services. Computer, 43, 37-43.

Stephens, M. (2007). The ongoing web revolution. Library Technology Reports 43(5), 10-14.

Ground Rules, Goals, and Decision Processes are Key to Team Success

A lot of material was presented in the two webcasts and the self-assessment surveys presented in Lesson 5. In the interest of keeping this blog short and (hopefully) interesting, I will highlight the areas I found the most compelling.

Dr. Haycock presented some very interesting ideas on how to create a successful team. In my opinion, the most important was the establishment of ground rules. I know from personal experience that when there are no rules and expectations are not understood, misunderstandings can occur and lead to either the disintegration of the project and/or team. I also agree that it is very important to be able to clearly state the team goals as soon as possible after the formation of the team. This helps tremendously when evaluating interim progress and completion. In an environment where the team is very short-term, such as one put together for a semester only, ground rule establishment and goal setting seems critical to success.

One idea that was new to me from Dr. Haycock’s presentation was the notion of developing formal decision procedures. Most of the decision procedures I have come across have been ad-hoc, on-the-fly and they change frequently. What a great idea to come to a consensus at team formation on how decisions should be made. I think this could help tremendously in reducing unproductive conflict.

As long as the environment in which the team operates is actually supportive of the team, many of the dysfunctional behaviors discussed by Dr. Haycock will quickly appear, especially absence of trust, lack of commitment, and avoidance of accountability. For example, when it is clear that each individual on the team will be evaluated and ranked based on relative performance of their peers, competition amongst team members can lead to serious performance degradation of the team. In my opinion, as long as everyone is treated equally, contributes equally, plans carefully, and the team leader is more like a mentor than a dictator, the team will be successful.

I found Enid Irwin’s discussion extremely helpful in understanding what issues can arise in short-term, distributed team projects. I believe it is much easier to exhibit the “barriers to success” in such a configuration. For example, it is easier to not contribute when people are not staring you down. I’m thinking that in the future, if the program were to add Webcams to the list of required equipment, much of the problems created by remote conferencing would be solved.

In general, I agree with the speakers’ conclusions. I was impressed with the research used to back up the assertions. It is also very helpful to understand what issues can arise, how you can deal with them early on, and getting this information so early in our program.

Marie’s New Blog

I’m starting this blog as an assignment for my first course in the MLIS program at SJSU. I have had a blog in the past, on the now defunct “BlogSpot”, but I haven’t really blogged since 2006 when I was living in Northern Israel during the 2006 2nd Lebanon war.  I have since moved my blog to Facebook, but the layout makes it hard to find.

I am looking forward to working on my MLIS, but a little scared about the time commitment. I work full-time and have 3 grammar school-aged kids. Since they were all born in Israel and we only moved back a year ago, I spend a great deal of time working with them helping to get them up to speed in English. Arabic is their first language. On top of that, I don’t want them to lose their Arabic language abilities, so they get extra homework in Arabic. I also feel it’s important to stay connected at school, so I usually volunteer for each of their classes. The time management schedule for working moms posted on the SLIS Survival guide contains a schedule that would have me up at 4:00am and to bed at 11:00pm….I’m pretty sure I’d be a basket case after a week of that schedule!   Fortunately, I only signed up for one class this semester so I can see how much I can handle. I’m sure there are lots of other people in this program with similar or worse schedules, so I won’t complain too much.

Over the summer, I volunteered at our local library to help with the Summer Reading Program. That was a lot of fun. I was amazed at how many kids completed the program (and got their prizes) and how many supportive parents there were. I got to see what books kids were excited about and actually got a lot of good references for my own kids. I will definitely volunteer to help out next summer.