Thoughts on: Richard Watson “In praise of public libraries – and librarians”

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I came across this post on Richard Watson’s Top Trends blog today: In praise of public libraries – and librarians.

In it, Richard comments on the fact that he predicted the extinction of public libraries some time ago, “because, in an age of e-books and Google who needs them.” and since this prediction he has changed his mind.

“I got it totally wrong. Probably.

Whether or not we will want libraries in the future I cannot say, but I can categorically state we will need them, because libraries aren’t just about the books they contain. Moreover, it is a big mistake, in my view, to confuse the future of books or publishing with the future of public libraries. They are not the same thing.”

His blog post highlights why he believes public libraries will still be relevant in the future.

He emphasises the public library (and public library services) as…

  • A place that is “more than mere facts, information or ‘content’”
  • A social hub
  • An information resource that is accessible to all
  • An ideas hub where…
    • existing ideas are valued,  stored and made freely available to all
    • new ideas are created and developed
    • the right setting is provided to nurture ideas
    • librarians act as a catalyst in helping develop these ideas. They are “sifters, guides and co-creators of human connection.”
  • An information resource where personal/human interaction is an important part of the service
  • An influential method of delivering information – library services are still regarded as trustworthy information sources.

This quote about lack of use by younger generations really appealed to me:

“…admittedly many younger people still see no need to visit a library… But this could be because they still see libraries as spaces full of old books rather than places full of new ideas.”

And in summing up, Richard’s quote makes a clear point.

“There is a considerable amount of discussion at the moment about obesity. The idea that we should watch what we eat or we will end up prematurely dead. But where is the debate about the quality of what and where we read or write? Surely what we put inside our heads – where we create or consume information – is just as important as what we put inside our mouths.”

Thanks From A Public Librarian To Anyone Who Said No To Library Cuts #savelibraries

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This year has been a bit of a bummer in some ways in the world of public libraries, mostly caused by the threatened closure or handing over of libraries to volunteers, by local authorities. Lots of people have been working on fighting against the cuts.

Scores of friends of libraries and campaign groups have formed all over the country, taking on Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt’s roles as superintendents of their own local library services – standing up and saying “No!”, whilst Mr Hunt and Mr Vaizey (who both have some kind of Government responsibility for libraries) do very little.

Ed Vaizey's Unused Sheriff Badge

Ed Vaizey's Unused Sheriff Badge (c) ggstopflat/Flickr

People are fighting the cuts in so many ways…

  • As part of an organised campaign or friends group.
  • By signing the Women’s Institute libraries petition. (15,798 online signatures so far. Come on, we need more signatures than this!)
  • By signing local petitions.
  • Writing newspaper articles or blog posts to highlight what’s going on.
  • Commenting upon newspaper articles or blog posts about the cuts.
  • Responding to library consultations.
  • Local Councillors voting against decisions to cut in their areas.
  • Anyone who has spoken to friends, families or strangers to highlight what’s going on.
  • Anyone whose taken note of someone who’s spoken to them about UK public library cuts.
  • Sharing a web link or a news article about the cuts.
  • Running library events as a way to highlight the message.
  • New and existing library users who have found out that libraries are of more use to them than they realised and are making use of them in new ways.

Any of these actions make me realise that I (and other library service colleagues around the country) are valued. It’s a thought that gives me a smile, despite having to watch the battle between those who want hack away at library services and those who want to save them.

This post was triggered by a thought I had after reading the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries open letter addressed to Ed Vaizey. This letter  highlighted concerns about his inaction over the past year regarding public library cuts and asked for people to support and sign the letter too.

I looked at that letter yesterday to see who had signed it and, as a public librarian, I was genuinely touched by the number and wide range of people who had signed it and left comments in support of public libraries and their staff.

After reading that letter I realised that as a public librarian I hadn’t said thank you for a long time for the support people are giving public libraries during this tough time. I know some people are putting so much effort in that it’s basically like having a second job!

So… thank you to everyone and anyone, wherever you are, who has said “No” to public library cuts over the past year or so. It’s the nicest Christmas present you could have given me. 🙂 You really don’t know how much I appreciate it.

22 11 11 whodunnit indeed

22 11 11 whodunnit indeed (c) Kikishua/Flickr

Dapper.net: How To Make Feeds From Web Pages That Really Don’t Want You To

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If I ever want to put together a mashup or just tinker with data on the web my first port of call is Yahoo pipes. However, even though I really like pipes, it frustrates me a fair amount of the time too. Sometimes it behaves erratically and I get a sulk on with it. So, I decided to have a scout around  to look for other ways of achieving what I want.

My first great find is Dapper. I imagine this is old hat to some people, as it’s been around for a few years. It’s actually owned by Yahoo too. As the site itself says…

Dapper is a tool that enables users to create update feeds for their favorite sites and website owners to optimize and distribute their content in new ways.

It doesn’t do the same thing as Yahoo pipes, but is extremely handy for pulling out data from web pages where a feed doesn’t exist, and it provides the output in the following formats (if it’s relevant to the data on the page) – XML, RSS, HTML, Google Gadget, Google Map, Image Loop, iCalendar, ATOM, CSV, JSON, XSL, YAML. I’m not going to pretend that I know what all of the feeds are, but they seem like a fairly handy group of feeds to be able to use.

I thought I’d see if I could create an RSS feed for our library catalogue. I’ve always wanted an RSS for it (so we can feed stock information through to different places easily) and I’ve also wanted a way to produce alerts for new titles (so users can be informed about any new stock they may be interested in), but our library catalogue neither. But now, using Dapper, I can do both easily.

Dapp Factory screen capture

To achieve this Dapper asks you to:

  1. Provide URL’s of web pages your data appears in. You just need to provide sample pages here. I gave it URLs of catalogue search results pages.
  2. Highlight samples of the data on these pages that you want in your feed. I highlighted fields containing Title, Author, Format (eg Hardback, DVD, etc), Book cover, Number of copies and then told Dapper what to call these fields.
  3. Group together data fields – this effectively puts related data together in a single record. If you don’t do this you end up with a list of unrelated data items in your RSS feed, rather than a list of ready formed records.
  4. Identify any portion of the url that can be changed by the user to create a brand new search using that resource. For example, in my url I changed “_TitleResults.aspx?page=1&searchTerm=cake&searchType=99&searchTerm2=&media=&br” to “_TitleResults.aspx?page=1&searchTerm={Query}&searchType=99&searchTerm2=&media=&br”, so I could easily create a new feed for a search for any other keyword without having to go through the whole process again.
  5. Choose the output format of the feed eg RSS, ATOM, HTML, iCalendar, etc (as mentioned earlier). You can also say which fields you want to appear in the output feed.

In response to this Dapper gives you a unique URL for your feed.

From this stage you can also:

  1. Change the query text, as mentioned in (4) and get its own unique URL for this new feed.
  2. Set up a service using the feed you created. Here you can make it public and allow others to create their own searches by changing the query text. This is the service I created. I also created a Google Gadget and added it to my iGoogle page.
  3. Set up an email alert for your feed. So, if a new item is added to the feed (eg a new book comes in stock matching your search query) it will send you an email notification.

I’ve only been tinkering with it for a few hours, but it looks like it’s going to come in handy for pulling out and re-using data in web pages that has in the past been difficult for me to get at. 🙂

No More Access To Your Twapper Keeper Archives

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Yesterday I found out via a friend on Twitter that Hootsuite had acquired Twapper keeper in September.

If you don’t know, Twapper keeper is a service that allows you to archive tweets. I use this service quite a bit and paid for the upgrade, so that I could archive more than the free account would allow me to. It’s a great service and I’m pleased that Hootsuite has realised how useful it is too – it’s just a shame that the first time I’d heard that it had been bought was yesterday – there’s been no announcement on the Twapper keeper blog about this. The site does now include a message though…

“Dec 8th, 2011: Transition update

Twapper Keeper’s archiving is now available in HootSuite! As a result, we will be shutting down Twapper Keeper. Existing archives will be kept running until Jan 6, 2012, after which you will not be able to access your archives anymore.

Thanks for using TwapperKeeper – we look forward to seeing you at HootSuite.”

“Oh good! It’s available in Hootsuite,” I thought, but I also saw the “you will not be able to access your archives anymore.” bit too.

Panic stations! What will happen to my archives? Will they be deleted? Maybe they’ll be available in Hootsuite?

In an attempt to find out, I left a comment on the Hootsuite blog yesterday.

Comment on Hootsuite blog post “HootSuite Announces 3 Million in Financing, Strategic Acquisition and Executive Team Appointments”

As a frequent user of Twapperkeeper can you tell me:
1) How will this integration happen?
2) Will it be available for the free Hootsuite accounts?
3) What will happen to the archives I have created on the Twapperkeeper site? I don’t want to lose any of them. If I do lose them it would have been a total waste of time me setting them up, especially as I paid to do so.

The response pointed me to their feedback site asking for suggestions about integrating Twapper keeper with Hootsuite, so I left these 2 suggestions – one regarding access to existing Twapper keeper archives and another suggesting ideas for development on the service, as I really feel Hootsuite could do something with Twapper keeper’s original idea.
Maintain access to existing archives that have been created on Twapperkeeper.

Twapperkeeper is often used to archive tweets for conferences and events – the tweets are used to document the event/conference and are accessed not only around that time, but also at later dates.

Due to changes in Twitter’s terms of service, users have not been able to download these archives for some time and therefore the only way these archives can can be accessed and manipulated is via the Twapperkeeper sites RSS & HTML archive links.

Can Hootsuite provide access to these existing archives in some form, so that they can be read and shared with other non Hootsuite users?

Ideas for Twapper keeper integration.

1) Allow Twapper keeper archives to be made public or private.

2) Allow the sharing of Twapper keeper archives to a broad range of external services. eg Twitter; Facebook; G+; Delicious; Tumblr…

3) Provide each archive with an RSS/XML output feed containing details of individual tweets eg status text, twitter name, status id, date stamp, etc.

4) Update archives regularly ie once an hour – or allow users to define how often the archive should be updated.

5) Allow archives to be created from any search functionality that Twitter currently provides, including lists.

6) Make Twapper keeper archive functionality available for free Hootsuite accounts as well as paid.

7) Allow filtering of tweets in archive using similar criteria as existing filters in Twapper keeper’s “Search” function.

8) Expand archiving function to other services available in Hootsuite eg Facebook, Linkedin, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.

9) Re. 8 – allow archives from different services to be combined into a single archive if desired.

10) Provide capability to mark and share favourite tweets (or posts if option 8 exists) in an archive.

11) Add tags (hashtags?) to archive upon creation and allow them to be subsequently amended.

12) Add description of archive and allow it to be subesequently amended

13) Ability to cross reference archives, for example (a) if you click on a person whose tweet has been archived, display all of the other archives they are linked to ie anywhere their tweets have been archived – this might be useful to highlight expertise or interests of individual users. (b) If any of the tweets appears in any other archive too.

14) Allow capability to bundle together archives in themes.

That made me feel better…

but I’ve just seen this tweet – sent today from the Twapper keeper account.

TwapperKeeper fans: archiving services are now migrated to HootSuite.com and available to #HootSuite Pro customers c/@hootsuite_help

So the archives are available to those who will pay $5.99 a month! What about the money I and other people have paid to Twapper keeper to set up our original archives? If we can’t access these archives any more there was no point in them being set up in the first place.
My problem isn’t so much that I can’t archive anything any more, because there are alternatives (eg The Archivist), but those services don’t give me a live RSS output (which is my main method of accessing and reusing tweets from Twapper keeper) and those services won’t provide existing Twapper keeper users with a back-catalogue of our archives in a nice clean format.
Some clever techy person with better programming skills than me will no doubt be able to pull out and save their full archives in an elegant way, but I think I’m going to have to resort to doing a bit of Gary clunky tinkering to get mine and then see if I can reformat them at a later date.
In the long-term I will find a way around this, and I do appreciate the service Twapper keeper has provided me over the past couple of years – irrespective of whether I’ll be able to access my existing archives in future, or not, it has been extremely useful – and John (who created Twapper keeper) has been extremely helpful whenever I’ve had any questions or needed help.
However, it would have been nice to have known that this was happening sooner – and I don’t mean the two tweets that happened in September. Couldn’t it have been announced on the Twapper keeper blog at the same time? Hootsuite announced it on theirs… but if you’re not a Hootsuite user how would you have known?