Dust Cover for Dog

18 04 2008

I learned how to search for patents in my “Searching Online Databases” class last night, and this is by far my favorite invention ever.

No more dusty dogs for me!


My HTML Web site

12 04 2008

I created a Teen Gaming Web site using HTML for my LIS753 class. The site includes a homepage with general information, a Gaming in the Library page, a Links to Online Games page, and a permission form (PDF).

I started off with a very simple page, and as the hours passed during lab time, I stole ideas from my friends and neighbors. My original idea was to put my links on the left side of the page, but when I started coding I wasn’t sure how to format a table within a table properly so I just put the links at the top. As I learned more about how tables work, I could have moved the links to the sidebar, but I decided I liked the look so I stuck with it. I think I ended up with something that looks sort of OK!

Some of the more interesting elements I used are a header from FlamingText (which includes what I consider to be a lovely shade of neon green), lots and lots of tables, and 35 breaks at the end of the page so that my anchors would actually take users someplace useful.

The number one thing this project has taught me is that I’m even more obsessive than I thought — once I start coding, it is possible, and in fact likely, that I will spend several hours hunched over the computer trying to figure out how to put my text in just the right place. Hmm, why can’t I feel my wrists? But the number two thing this project has taught me is knowing HTML code is like knowing a different language. Once you learn it, you can open other sites and understand how and why they work, and even speak the language to edit content when its necessary. Fun and useful!


Sorry LibraryThing

8 04 2008

I have to admit I feel pretty lame because after I wrote my previous post about LibraryThing charging a yearly fee, I decided to actually look into what this fee thing was all about (write first, ask questions later, that’s my motto). When I clicked on “upgrade” to find out more information and actually read about it, I found out you can get a lifetime membership for $25, and even then it seems like they’re asking for donations for a good cause rather than trying to foil me out of my money.

Sorry, LibraryThing. Sorry, Tim Spalding. I was wrong. It’s definitely worth getting the lifetime membership. I love LibraryThing, and I’m not opposed to paying it to love me back.

LibraryThing is tricky

6 04 2008

I just added my 200th book to LibraryThing. Yea, celebrate, party party. But now the fun is over. When I tried to add my 201st book, I was denied. A message informed me that free membership only includes 200 books. Only 200 books! I read 200 books in the last year and a half!

If I want to continue to add books, it will cost $10 for a yearly membership. They’ve got me good now (shakes fist angrily), because there’s no way I’m going to retype my 200 books into another program. You’ve foiled me again, Web 2.0!


If a problem comes along, you must ban it…

30 03 2008

Michael Stephens recently blogged about the Mishawaka Library’s ban on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. According to the post, “Fights, lewd language, and cars being blocked in the parking lot by teenagers” were cited as the reasons behind the ban.

The ban is controversial, and the comments left below the post reflect that. One anonymous commenter vehemently defended the ban, saying “Myspace and Facebook are NOTHING more than distractions to pollute the already sensory-overloaded psyche of the American youth. Would it kill these rude and foul mouthed kids to pick up a book every once and while?” Yikes.

I don’t know firsthand what Anonymous’ experiences have been with teens in the library; undoubtedly they haven’t been positive. But I think this type of bitterness toward teenagers reflects a much bigger problem in communities across the country — fear, distrust, and resentment of young people.

Banning resources isn’t a strategy for improving behavior; its an attempt to rid the library of pesky teenagers. I’ve found that in my own experience that banning a particular service or resource doesn’t solve discipline problems. The unwanted behavior continues, but in a different part of the library. Throwing things, vandalism, picking on other children, cursing at strangers — none of this requires that teens have access to MySpace.

What I’ve found does improve behavior is creating programming for teens, developing a relationship with them, and making sure they know the rules and are corrected when those rules are broken.

I don’t know the teens at this particular library, but I doubt that every one of them spells trouble. I also doubt that every one of them deserves to be punished on behalf of those who misbehave. What I don’t doubt is that every one of them will feel the affect of this ban, and will feel mistrusted, alienated, and undervalued because of it.

I just hope the ban solves Mishawaka’s parking lot problem. It would be a shame to alienate an entire demographic of people for no good reason.

Post #5 — Internet History

17 03 2008

It seems like the Web has always been around. But I do remember life during the before times, as I like to call them, when you looked in the phone book to find a phone number (what a pain!) and the only way to learn about Hank Aaron was to go to the biography section of the library. I also remember life just after the before times — using a clunky e-mail interface in the mid-90s to send messages to my friends before Instant Messaging was invented; checking the Internet to see if the colleges I applied to had Web pages (many of them didn’t). But the Web infiltrated so much of our lives so quickly that it still amazes me to think that all of this was going on less than 15 years ago. So I thought it would be fun to reflect on life just after the before times with the help of an article written when the Web was just becoming popular.

In 1995, Nancy Garman wrote the article “A New Online World” in ONLINE magazine to encourage people to embrace the Web. She said that “recently (in the past six to nine months) the World-Wide Web has become the hottest aspect of the Internet.” In the mid-90s, the Web was just starting to catch on. Businesses were offering home pages, used mostly for marketing. All the speed and reliability of a dial-up modem Internet connection could cost $30-$35 a month, and you couldn’t even use your phone at the same time (and lets not forget that cell phones were rare and as big as bricks). And sometimes, that money didn’t even get you full access to the Web — only access to an email server.

Garman also noted in the article that “the Web is anarchy right now, and the librarians among us will quickly learn there is no easy way to search the unruly masses of home pages and Internet information.” She predicted that an easy way to search the Web would be the next step, and would happen quickly. Was she right? Well, compared to what searching was like in 1995, she was. But we still have a long way to go (if ever) before the even larger “unruly masses of home pages and Internet information” are well-organized.

Garman was even more on target with her last prediction, which encouraged the public to keep up with the technology because “once you are fully connected, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” And how.


*The bibliographic information for the article quoted in this post is: Garman, Nancy. “A New Online World.” Online. 19. (1995): 6-7.

Web site review

15 03 2008

The Trinity College Raether Library’s and Georgia Tech Library and Information Center’s Web sites are both well-designed, user-friendly and professional. It’s not surprising then that they also both follow the 10 Principles of Effective Web design listed by Smashing Magazine, and are good examples of how Dominican can improve the Crown Library Web site. I think one of a Web page’s most important design elements is its scanability, which makes it possible for users to quickly find the information they need. Both sites use color, simplicity and grouping to achieve this effect.

The Effective Web Design article asserts that “users don’t read, they scan.” Both the Trinity College and Georgia Tech library Web pages are easy to scan because information is well-grouped and not overwhelming. At the Trinity site, the first thing users notice is two boxes in the middle of the page, which make it possible to immediately start looking for information. The boxes are large, color-coded, and easily noticeable, unlike some of the smaller search boxes tucked away in the corners of other library sites, yet they are not so large that they overwhelm users. It is clear from only a brief scan of the page that one box is for searching for books and the other is for searching journals. Although there are no search boxes on the home page of the Georgia Tech Library’s site, it is still easy to scan to find an appropriate link for searching. Your eye is immediately drawn to the center of the page because of the way links are grouped in a circular pattern around a central line. Color is used to make a visual link between the categories “Search and Find,” “Services,” “About the Library” and “News and Events.” Links provided under the categories are sparse and don’t overwhelm the user with options.

The Rebecca Crown Library’s Web site does a decent job of making information easy to scan, but could be improved by following some of the examples at the Trinity College and Georgia Tech library’s sites. The use of white space and bolding makes Crown Library’s page easy to scan; however, the category headings are the same color as the links below them, which makes the page less interesting and causes the information to run together. Putting the categories in color-coded boxes, like Trinity College, or simply putting lines between them and putting the categories in a different font or color, like Georgia Tech does, would make them more interesting to look at and even easier to scan. Crown library could also improve its site by adding a search option right from the home page, like Trinity College’s catalog search box.

Although no Web site is perfect, combining the effective design elements from the Trinity College, Georgia Tech, and Dominican University library Web sites would result in a page that is easy for users to scan and quickly find information.