Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mobile reference and paging for help

Some restaurants are implementing systems where you can easily and quickly page the table staff – from table based pagers. Wouldn’t it be great if you were doing research in a library and had a question and could page a librarian to come and help you? Or from the perspective of a librarian if you could know exactly where someone was with a question without the enquirer having to leave their place at a computer or at the shelves.

It would build on, or complement, the roving reference model being effectively used by several libraries including Orange County Library Service and their mobile gamma,King County Library System (Pitney, Barbara and Nancy Slote, The KCLS roving reference model, Public Libraries, Chicago, Jan/Feb 2007, Iss 1 p 54 – 68) and and Salem-South Lyon District Library (Hibner, Holly The Wireless Librarian: Using Tablet PCs for Ultimate Reference and Customer Service: A Case Study, Library Hi Tech News. Bradford: Jun 2005. Vol. 22, Iss. 5; p. 19 – 23).

Friday, December 7, 2007

RISG meeting in February

Don’t forget the first Reference and Information Services Group Meeting of 2008 will be at the Whitlam Library, Cabramatta, 21 February 2008 2 – 4pm.

We will be discussing the ref- ex wiki, how we learn the new technologies, slam the boards, what are people doing for reference collection development – balance from print and online and much more. More details will be available close to the meeting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What happened to the Ebook revolution?

Everyday at lunch I sit in my local cafe and read an Ebook from my PDA (personal digital assistant). I purchased a PDA in the vain hope that I could better organise my life; it was only several months later that I discovered I could also use the device for reading Ebooks. I must admit that I was sceptical from the onset; I anticipated that reading a book from a relatively small screen would be frustrating. I thought the ultimate test would be Tolstoy's War and Peace (yes I am crazy), within minutes I found an E-book format of the book online and purchased a copy for $3.00 dollars. To my surprise I found reading for extended periods of time was no problem at all. Indeed I managed to finish War and Peace (confirmation that I’m crazy) and have since read numerous other Ebooks on my PDA. I love the idea that on a 128 megabyte SD card I can carry several hundred books in my pocket should I so desire. Two years on from my tentative trial and I can say that I prefer to read books in electronic format. This however does create a degree of inner turmoil for me as I ponder what the implications are for the Library profession and in particular the future of Public Libraries. Will Ebooks be the end of Libraries or just another exciting development to occur in one of the oldest professions on earth?

Well before I get too carried away I should point out that whilst Ebooks have been around for some time they have not captured the attention of the mainstream readers; or at least in the US, UK and Australia. A recent article by David Adam’s* asked the question what happened to the Ebook revolution? Ebooks have for many years been an emerging technology and Adam’s acknowledges that libraries have been an active participant in trialing this technology. Yet more than a decade since Ebooks were touted as the print book format killer they represent only a minute percentage of the billion dollar global book trade.

So why have E-books failed to capture the general public’s interest and hard earned cash?Adam’s suggests two pertinent reasons; the lack of a killer device and too many competing Ebook formats. With regards to an Ebook reader it is interesting to note that in the last two weeks Amazon and locally Dymocks have outlined plans to sell a dedicated Ereader. Both retailers also sell Ebooks via their online stores. Obviously retailers and publishers still believe that the Ebook revolution will occur; it's just a matter of time. With regards to format there are still a variety on the market. This has been a problem for dedicated Ereaders as publishers tend to produce content for only a handful of formats and most dedicated Ereaders only support one format. This is not as big a concern for PDA's as it is possible to install a variety of Ereader software on these devices; such as Adobe Ereader, Microsoft Reader, Palm Reader & Mobi Reader. My device uses Adobe Ereader; should I change my PDA and Ereader software I can logon to the ebook vendors site that I originally purchased my Ebooks from and download all the books again in the new format at no further cost. My one complaint is that the range of books published in Ebooks is still rather limited.

Whilst Ebooks are still a marginal format in most markets Japan is the one exception where Ebooks now outsell print novels. The Ebook novels are specifically designed for cellphones and the format has now become mainstream. I guess Japan's enthusiasm for Ebooks comes as no surprise as the land of the rising sun has a reputation for being an early adopter of new technology. I'm certain that in my lifetime Ebooks will become one of the major formats in the publishing industry. Will they kill the paper book; probably not, but they may out sell the paper format. For those belonging to the generation that has grown up with computers the transition to Ebooks will be a natural step; the only thing hindering this reading paradigm shift is a device that captures the imagination of the consumer and has the necessary street creed similar to that of the IPod. At present such a device does not exist.

The million dollar question; how will the mass uptake of Ebooks by consumers effect public libraries? Fundamentally I believe that our core role of providing free community access to fiction/non-fiction works will not change. Obviously the mode of access may change as patrons download titles direct from our catalogues or wirelessly within our libraries. We will also have more space within our buildings which I suspect will be a welcome outcome for many libraries who struggle to meet the demands for study areas, computer labs and lounge areas. As always interesting times ahead!

Article by Ross Balharrie
Views expressed in this article are the authors and do not represent the views of the Reference & Information Services Group.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Information R/evolution

The latest video from mike Wesch, maker of the Machine is Us/ing Us.

This one explores how information is organised in the digital world. I think it has even more relevance to libraries than his previous video. have a look at it and see what you think.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World

OCLC has just released the report 'Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World' . The reort is the third in a series of reports that scan the information landscape to provide data, analyses and opinions about users’ behaviors and expectations in today’s networked world.

The report, examines four primary areas:

  1. Web user practices and preferences on their favorite social sites
  2. User attitudes about sharing and receiving information on social spaces, commercial sites and library sites
  3. Information privacy; what matters and what doesn’t
  4. U.S. librarian social networking practices and preferences; their views on privacy, policy and social networks for libraries

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Emerging trends in technology

In Kansas some library staff have started an emerging trends discussion group. The discussion takes place on a blog because they are not in the one location. The first book they are discussing is The long tail by Chris Anderson.

Have a look at the blog Library intersections to see more. Would you be interested in doing something similar across NSW? What book title would you suggest we start with?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Planning for the future

During the recent LIANZA conference the National Library of New Zealand used the opportunity to find out what visions people had for 2017.

The ideas are available from flickr under the heading In 2017 libraries will be…

This idea has inspired a suggestion from Michael Stephens (Tame the web blog) that this method be used to collect visions from your community.

How do you see reference and information services in 2012 and in 2017? What are we doing, do we still have a role? What are the new areas of engagement with the community? How has our capacity to provide reference and information services been enhanced? How has it been eroded?

I think we have a hopeful future, but we need to plan for it, rather than react so I would be interested to know how you see the answers to the above questions.

What tools need to be developed to help libraries lead? There are many great tools out there – but what would help you provide a better service to your customers. What is the next tool like a wiki or a blog?

What else are we talking about that we need to develop? What actions do we need to take to move these ideas into being?

Monday, September 24, 2007

New NSW public Library blogs!!!

The Readers Advisory group and the Community Information group have both recently created weblogs to facilitate the exhange of ideas relating to their areas of interest.

http://cilgg.blogspot.com/ - Community Information

http://readersadvisory.wetpaint.com/ Readers advisory

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reference desks - part 3

The renovations in the central library in Orlando, headquarters of the Orange County Library System removed large service desks and replaced them with much smaller desks to encourage staff to walk around serving clients. The provides assistance to people who do not always approach reference desks because the desks can look forbidding and like they have been designed as barriers rather than for places for people to come who would like some help. If you have not refined the details of your question it is easier not to approach a desk, but instead to be approached by a library staff member seeking to provide assistance to you. This way you don't have to decide if you need help, but can just ask the librarian who is talking with you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reference desks - part 2

This reference desk is part of the new central library at Santa Monica, California.

It is designed so that clients have confidentiality when they are asking questions or seeking assistance. These desks (there are two of them) are also designed so it is easy for staff to walk away from them to help clients. They offer privacy to the clients as they can not be easily overheard by other staff on desk, or by other clients.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Reference desks - part 1

As part of the trend for reference and information staff to be more mobile within a library the service desks are becoming smaller.

This example from King County Library System in Washington State shows an ergonomic reference and information desk. It can be raised or lowered depending on the staff member on duty, or the clients needs for example it can be low enough for people to sit at. It is easy to approach and very easy for a staff member to be able to walk away from it to help someone. The desk does not present a barrier, but gives opportunities from staff to help the public.

King County has done a lot of work about changing service models – see Barbara Pitney and Nancy Slote’s article Going mobile: the KCLS roving reference model, Public Libraries. Chicago: Jan/Feb 2007. Vol. 46, Iss. 1; p. 54 (15 pages)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The future of reference and information services

Many of you would have heard Helene Blowers speak during the last couple of weeks. Her presentations are available from her LibraryBytes blog.

How are you positioning your library for the future of reference and information services? How have your services changed in the last 1 -2 years? How are you preparing for the changes of the next 1 – 2 years (and even further into the future)? How are you imagining the future of reference and information services? What will remain the same? What will change?

To Blog or not to Blog: the Sutherland Shire Libraries Story

In this post I would like to share with you the motivation behind the introduction of a blog as part of Sutherland Shire Libraries web presence, with the view that it may provide some insight to other libraries who are considering introducing one or more web 2.0 services to their online portfolio. From the outset I would like to state that this is the story of the process a single public library went through and it is peculiar to our situation. Even so, our story may inform your library service in some way and maybe answer some questions you have about moving down the library 2.0 path.

The genesis of the Sutherland Shire Libraries News blog involved a particular issue I was facing with our main web site. I am responsible for the bulk of the Sutherland Shire Libraries web site and I wanted to use the home page to highlight particular aspects of our library service - events, news, services, tips, etc. There is no doubt that I could have done this using the existing Content Management System (CMS) we use to maintain our site, however, I felt this would be a clunky way to do it. Our CMS is not the most productive tool going around and there would be a lot of work manually adding and archiving the various news items, which I expected would change at least every couple of days.

Around the same time I had been doing some reading about Library 2.0 (from some L2 evangelists such as John Blyberg, David Lee King, Michael Casey, Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine) and investigating what some other public libraries (eg. aadl.org) were doing with blogs and other web 2.0 tools. It occurred to me that a blog was the ideal solution to the problem I was facing. Blogging software/tools are essentially a CMS with the exact requirements I needed for this part of the web site. A blog could solve all the problems I was wrestling with in trying to introduce a rolling news archive on our home page.

A blog to the rescue!

So how did a blog fit in with what I was trying to achieve?
  • A blog is simply a web site that consists of a number of pages (or entries, posts, items) arranged in reverse chronological order. This is exactly what I wanted on our home page, to highlight the most recent library news. Every time I added a new item it would appear at the top of the list and the oldest one would drop off.
  • Blogs can accommodate multiple authors and those authors do not need any technical skill to contribute to them apart from using a standard web browser. No problem for any self respecting 21st century librarian. I figured that the staff with the most knowledge about each event or item could write a post for the blog. Our CMS handles distributed authoring but each author needs to come to grips with a sometimes confusing interface and workflow, which involves training and practice.
  • Blogs provide an automatic archive of past news stories. Anything that was added to the blog would be archived and access is managed automatically by the blog software, which creates a list of entries by date. Trying to achieve this on our CMS would have been extremely time-consuming.
  • Blogs allow a different writing style to traditional web writing. Ordinarily when writing for the web you try to be brief as most people scan the page quickly rather than reading every word from right to left, top to bottom. Blogs, on the other hand, lend themselves to more in depth description and allowing comments often promotes discussion among readers and writers.

One last problem

The blog idea fitted so nicely with what I was trying to achieve but it still left me with one last problem. How was I going to get the content from the blog into the home page of the main web site?

Blogs provide an RSS feed – a version of their content that can be understood and exchanged by machines. Ordinarily, RSS feeds are consumed in an aggregator but it seemed to me that there was no reason that a web site couldn’t be set up to display an RSS feed from a different web site. Indeed, I had seen this happening all over the web. This part actually proved one of the bigger stumbling blocks but I discovered a service called Feedburner which, among other things, allowed me to republish a feed as html using something called buzzboost. There are other sites that allow you to achieve the same thing, Feed2Javascript for instance.

Asking Permission

OK, I was now quite satisfied that setting up a blog and using that as the basis for a sort of running news service on the home page of our web site was technically feasible and would actually make the process of maintaining the news quite straightforward. It was time to suggest the idea to the Library managers.

Before I approached management with my idea I took one step back and asked myself, ‘do I really want to do this?’. You see, I had a fair idea of the response I would get and it sounded something like – ‘OK, you can do it as long as you maintain it and make sure the quality is maintained’.

Starting a blog is a commitment. You need to commit to regular updates; otherwise your readers will quickly lose patience. I didn’t necessarily want to be the only one in our entire Library service that was adding things to our blog. I already filled my days with my existing duties. How was I going to find time to keep adding new stuff to the blog?

This and some other management challenges formed the basis of some discussion with my management about whether we should go ahead with the idea. Obviously, in the end we decided to go ahead and introduce the blog. However, these are some things we had to consider before establishing our blog.

Management challenges

  • How do you get the balance right between maintaining quality and workload? Giving a single person responsibility for a blog provides consistency but it also imparts a significant workload. Multiple authors spread the workload around and allow the most knowledgeable staff to contribute their expertise; however, not everyone is a capable or natural writer. In the wash up we decided that all staff should be encouraged to contribute but rather than posting directly to the blog they would send their contributions to me and I would add them to the blog, thus maintaining consistency. This also meant that I could control which stories went on to the main site and when they appeared.
  • Is cost an issue? Blogging services or software is actually incredibly cheap. We use Blogger, which is free! There are many blogging tools and other web 2.0 services that are also free and where they aren’t free the cost is usually fairly insignificant. However, staff time costs and this may be an issue for you.
  • How important to you, your manager, your Council or other funding body is branding? Do you want your blog to look like the rest of your web site? Do you have access to staff with the technical skills to alter the default templates of your chosen service to match the rest of your online presence? Can you afford to pay someone else to do this for you? Are you happy with simply adding your logo to the corner of your blog? These are important questions to consider but keep in mind that these tools are designed for Joe Public to use and you can often do a lot without being an expert. It does take time though and the less technically adept you are the more time it is likely to take (see staff cost above!).

Unexpected Benefits

The upshot is that at Sutherland Shire Libraries we decided to implement a blog because it solved a particular problem we were facing. It wasn’t until we had established the blog that we started to see some unexpected benefits.

RSS technology wasn’t a very important part of the reason that the blog works for us. It is the glue that binds our blog and our web site. We were using the blog to improve our web site but the RSS feed also allows our customers - our community - to consume our content wherever and whenever suits them best. They no longer need to actually visit our site to see what’s happening.
In addition, allowing comments on our blog opens up a communication channel between us and our customers. Direct feedback from customers is something that you get surprisingly little of from people who visit the library in person. We hope that comments will allow people a little anonymity and make them a little more comfortable in telling us how they really think we’re doing. We haven’t been greatly successful in eliciting comments on our blog but I don’t think that is particularly surprising. Australia is still a long way behind some other countries in embracing the blogosphere but if we look at what is happening in the US I think it is only a matter of time until we start to get some really good feedback through this channel.

The moral of the story is…

The message I hope that you take out of our story is not that I think that you should all immediately go out and start a blog. That is not what Library 2.0 is about. What I hope you take from this is the benefits there are to be gained from many of the web 2.0 services that are available. Make time to keep up to date with what is happening in the online world because there just might be some service that solves a problem you are facing. Using these tools may open your service up to your community and get them involved in your library more cheaply and easily than you otherwise could.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

First release 2006 Census Statistics out now!

ABS has released the first statistics from the 2006 census. A quick look at the ABS site indicates a vast improvement in usability.

There are currently three online tools provided for retrieving data sets:

QuickStats - A summary of key Census data for a chosen area, bench marked against Australia.

MapStats - A series of thematic maps showing the distribution of Census data for a chosen location.

Census Tables - Individual tables of Census data, available on a range of topics, for a chosen location.
The Next Release will be August 2007 -1st Release Community Profiles (Basic, Indigenous and Time Series).


Friday, June 8, 2007

Taking the Mountain to Mohammed: Reaching Out with Web 2.0

When I spoke at the recent Reference @ the Metcalfe Seminar about Sutherland Shire Libraries use of blogging my aim was to firstly, point out the benefits that blogs can bring to library services and secondly, to encourage people who are unfamiliar with the technology to get in a have a go. Remember, these social networking tools such as blogger, flickr, myspace and YouTube are designed to allow anyone to participate in creating content for the web. There are no special technical skills required to start using these tools, which partly explains their explosion in popularity.

I will try to post more about the benefits of web 2.0 tools on this blog in the future but for today I wanted to focus on a key theme that I thought arose from the Reference Seminar, and the way that social networking tools can help.

I believe that, as libraries, we need to start to engage with our customers in their space. I don't think that we can expect them to always come to our place, whether that be our physical libraries or our virtual spaces - our web sites. This concept came up several times from different speakers throughout the seminar, including Brett Poole from Yahoo! 7 when he talked about their Answers service.

Web based tools are by no means the only way of achieving this goal, however, social networking tools allow libraries to become part of the (virtual) communities that (at least some) of our customers frequent. A library that has blogs, a myspace account, posts its photos to flickr, etc. is engaging with people that may not normally think about coming to the library or using the library web site as an information source.

The fact that many of these web 2.0 tools provide RSS feeds means that we can reuse that online content in our own web sites, letting us have our cake and eat it too! Let me give you an example based on what we're doing at Sutherland Shire Libraries.

In addition to our main Library web site we have established a blog, in which we post the latest news and other bits and pieces about the Library. Then, using the blog's RSS feed, we populate the home page of our main web site with the latest posts from the blog. When something is added to the blog the web site is updated with the latest news automatically.

list of recent posts on Sutherland Library Blog news list on Sutherland Library web site
The recent posts on our blog (left) are republished on our main site (right) using RSS.

Alternatively, the RSS feed also provides our customers an opportunity to consume Sutherland Shire Libraries news in their preffered news reader.

Sutherland Library Blog content viewed in Google Reader
The Sutherland Library blog content as viewed in Google Reader.

We know from many studies that libraries as institutions have a high level of trust in the community. Trust is a highly valued commodity in an online world that houses so much stuff, where the biggest problem is not finding information but sorting the good from the bad. Let's use these new tools and technologies to capitalise on that trust and reach out to potential new customers by engaging in their spaces.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Encyclpedia Of Holidays and Celebrations

In the age of the Internet it's all to easy to forget the important role of the traditional print reference resource in today's reference collection. Often it can be easier to walk the client to the reference shelf and grab a tried and true title than to book them on a PC, show them how to use a database interface and print the information. This will certainly be the case if you have a copy of the Encyclopedia of Holidays and Celebrations; A country by Country Guide on the shelf.

The easy to use three volume set provides a country by country overview of the major holidays, festivals, and rights of passage in 206 countries. The entries for each country include a general overview and subsections on holidays, religious holidays, regional holidays, and rites of passage; origins and rituals; and further reading. There are also numerous photographs and side bar entries with interesting cultural facts supplementing every country entry. The first two volumes are organized alphabetically by country whilst the third volume provides in depth articles on religious festivals and a listing of holidays by country. This title caters specifically to secondary students and general interest enquiries and is highly recommended for the Public Library sector.
The Encyclopedia of Holidays and Festivals is published by Facts on File, (2006) isbn 0-8160-6235-8.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reference Seminar group discussions: E-Government

Results of small group discussion on E-government
* E-government brings a new audience to the library, often these clients are not library members so it provides an opportunity for libraries to show their relevance by satisfying the client's e-government enquiry.
* There is an opportunity for new and improved government partnerships with state and federal bodies.
* There is an opportunity for lobbying for federal government funding.
* There is an opportunity to standardize public library internet access policies throughout the state, if not the nation, particularly by addressing some of the charging anomalies that presently exist.
* Government departments are increasingly directing their clients to the internet instead of providing face to face customer service, this gives us an opportunity for public libraries to prove their relevance to state and federal government departments.
* Government departments could use public libraries as a way of collecting feedback on their website and the information provided, eg what are the most frequently asked questions? How long did it take you find the relevant information? Etc. We would of course charge the relevant departments for providing this service, which is just another reason why we should receive federal funding as well as additional state funding.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reference seminar Q.6 Making "E" visible!

Q.6 Making "E" visible - how do we make our online services known? What should vendors' roles in this be?

Libraries make our "E" services visible to existing library users and those who use our website by various means:

- Highlighting services via our websites
-Screensavers on PCs within the library
-In-house literature
-Making resources known to clients as we use them to answer queries at the Ref Desk or over the phone/email (a type of user education)
-Through user education programs, internet classes etc.
-Promoting "E" services to new members as part of the joining process
-Promotion to client groups i.e. schools (students and teachers), local businesses, local history groups, seniors, youth, book groups.
-Promote to "internal users" - council staff - via Corporate Librarians, intranets, induction programs
-A number of libraries have looked at Federated Searching (as used at many academic libraries) but found that software was prohibitively expensive.

-There is a need to make our "E" services visible to non-library user groups - those who don't physically or electronically pass our doors, we need to address the Web 2.0 communities in some way

Vendors roles

-Vendors of Federated Search software could address expense issue.
-Database vendors could rethink they way they present their databases i.e. consider allowing partial access to searches before password is required (more of a lure for users).
-Database vendors could make themselves and their products more visible in the Web 2.0 world, promote the "More than Google" idea (would redirect users back to libraries)

Seminar Group 3: Transition from print to electronic

3. Transition from print to electronic - how do we manage our budgets in relation to competing demands from the younger "electronic resource"generation and the older "print resource" generation?

Budget: most libraries are increasing budgets for electronic versions of reference resources In Richmond-Tweed Regional Library, 9 branches have access to electronic subscriptions Access is an issue in some branches (not enough PCs, no Reference only PCs) Some users prefer print resources Reference budget at Hurstville Library: 1/4 for printed, 3/4 for electronic resources Remote access from home is essential for databases Less hardcopy standing orders will be required in the future Issues of equity of access for everyone

Monday, May 14, 2007

Topic 4 as discussed at the Reference @ Metcalfe Seminar

4. Public libraries and school students – shifts to “enquiry based learning” over the last 2 decades have greatly increased demands on libraries from students at all levels. How much to we try to meet this need?

Yes this is occurring.

Have noticed that both students and parents don’t always understand what is being asked of them. The Reference Interview is an essential tool, rather than just accepting the piece of paper being handed over to the library staff! Library staff are spending extra time ascertaining the student’s needs, and for them to understand the question.

Library staff resist answering the question for the student, or taking on the responsibility for the “right” answer.

Staff are spending time locating different sources and types of material. Students however think that one book will have the answer they need.

Some students are reluctant to do their own research or have information literacy difficulties.
Often it is these students who come to the library, as those who can research do so by themselves.

Often library staff have to explain how to use a book such as contents page, index etc. Or what a primary or secondary source is.

More assistance is being asked of library staff as people are coming back from the web. They are not finding things on the internet, or teachers want them to use other resources.

Libraries are providing good sites to use on the internet, and using this opportunity to promote our online databases “beyond the web”. Students are happy to explore these once they have been shown.

Home Work / Subject Guides / Bookmarks are popular for students also.

Parents who visit on behalf of their children also need to be shown that there are more resources than just a book. Staff are showing them how to do research, and giving them brochures about online databases.

Reference libraries – we have great resources, especially when all the lending copies are out. But students and parents must be aware most items are not for loan. To deal with frustrated students and parents, library staff encourage photocopying and note taking, and coming to the library sooner when the assignment is first received.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Reference @ the Metcalfe seminar; presentation links.

The following list of URL's are derived from the Reference at the Metcalfe Seminar presentations.

Brett Poole of Yahoo!7
My web

will talk about social search including myweb and Yahoo!7 Answers

Ellen Forsyth
Web 2.0 the machine is us/ing us

Ambient librarian
Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Friends : social networking sites for engaged library services
New technology

Ross Balharrie, Manly

Martin Boyce, Sutherland


Bernard de Broglio Mosman
http://www.mosman.nsw.gov.au/library/localstudies.html (scroll down the screen for the links)

Philippa Armfield Reader Services

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reference at the Metcalfe; 8 May 2007

Make sure you are are booked to attend Reference @ the Metcalfe 8 May this year.

Find out what is happening with Library 2.0 and reference and information services in New South Wales public libraries. This includes blogs for reference services: see what is happening at Campbelltown, Manly and Sutherland. Find out how Mosman is using flickr and podcasts

Brett Poole of Yahoo!7 will talk about social search including myweb and Yahoo!7 Answers. Is this an areas libraries should be engaging with?

Discuss key concerns of reference and information services with colleagues from all over New South Wales.

As well there will be a summary of current research on challenges facing reference services. My favourite reference items will again feature as will Philippa Armfield from Reader Services at the State Library on databases.

Check out the Event Program!

To book contact Jan Witcombe on jwitcombe@sl.nsw.gov.au

The seminar is free. Morning and afternoon tea are provided. There are many nearby places where lunch can be purchased.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Google Custom Search

Wow, talk about rapid innovation. I'm not sure if you keep an eye on all the tools that the Google tech lab creates, one thing I can say is that they are obviously a busy bunch of caffeine fuelled tech heads.

One of the latest tools to be unleashed is Google Custom search. This new technology provides individuals with the option to create a subject specific search interface that is populated with websites selected by the creator.

The first thing that came to mind when reading about this technology was it's potential application in creating subject guides for library users. Instead of creating lists of site URLs, Librarian's now have the option to create a subject specific web search portal. The text box can be embedded into the web page. For an example of the Google Custom Search please check out the Western Australian Governments website.

I do not know of any library service that has created a subject specific search portal using this application and whilst I intend to tinker with this technology I have not had an opportunity to do so as yet.

So for those intrepid souls amongst us uncharted water beckons! I would love to here any feed back regarding Google Custom Search; please forward any comments/stories to your-stories@nsw-risg.org

Friday, March 23, 2007

NSW.net Statewide Database Selection 2007/08

A reminder that polling for the 2007/08 NSW.net Statewide Database Selection is underway and all votes must be sent to your respective zone representatives by the 5th of April 2007.

Voting forms and contextual information has been forwarded to Library managers and designated contacts. If you have any questions refarding this process please contact your NSW.net content evaluation zone representatives

Monday, March 19, 2007

Minutes of RISG meeting

The minutes of the Reference and Information Services Group meeting held at Strathfield Public Library on the 15 March 2007; are available for viewing at the NSW RISG website (http://nsw.risg.googlepages.com/home, under the meetings/minutes section).

The next meeting will be late July - could the people who were checking on room availability please contact Ellen Forsyth.

Plus put 8th May in your diary for the annual reference seminar. It will include Library 2.0 topics of interest to reference and information services

Post by Ross Balharrie

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reference Information Services Group Meeting

Don't forget to rsvp for the Reference and Information Services Group meeting at Strathfield Library, 65-67 Rochester Street, Homebush on 15 March 2007, 2.00pm to 4.00pm, to discuss how people are training their staff in reference and information services and how the @your library reference related promotions are going.

This will be a great opportunity for reference and information services staff to network, brainstorm and share ideas with people who are doing similar work. We hope that everyone will come away with something that can be implemented in your own library.

Strathfield Library is located in 65 Rochester St, (corner of Abbotsford Road,) Homebush. It’s two blocks away from Homebush Station, (five minutes walking distance), on Homebush Public School side. Bus 408 stops in front of the library. Car park is available next to the library, entrance is on Abbotsford Road, as well as street parking around the area.
Please rsvp to Yan Zhang on yan.zhang @ strathfield.nsw.gov.au by 12 March



@ your library – what have you used to promote reference and information services – success stories since November

@ your library May to December (May Reduce, reuse and recycle, June Drug info, July Holiday fun, Good sports, August Escape, September Find the past (treasures/records), October Holiday fun, Just ask, November Read)

How are people training their staff in reference and information services?

How are people providing un/structured training for their communities?

Beyond Google – what are libraries doing?

What is part of reference and information services and collections at your library? What is reference and what is loan? Are there other specialist services we should be providing – for example local studies, LIAC, ABS, HSC collections, drug info, literacy?

Evaluation for the content group – what are the current databases and how to look at them

General business

Subjects for discussion at the next meeting. Date and location for next meeting.

Favourite/least favourite reference tool

Post by Ross Balharrie

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Library Success Wiki

Yes, another wiki! The Library Success Wiki aims to facilitate the exchange of cutting edge initiatives that are being developed/deployed in Libraries around the world. The creator Meredith Farkas invites Library professionals to use the site as a one stop shop for identifying new service initiatives.

At the recent Information Online Conference a presenter from the Catholic University outlined how they had created an online internal policy/procedure manual using the Wiki software. Is anyone in NSW using a Wiki for in-house purposes? If so we would love to hear from you! Please forward any details of Wiki related projects to your-stories@nsw-risg.org

Post by Ross Balharrie

Friday, February 23, 2007

Webjunction; worth a look!

Webjunction is an online community for Library Staff. The site is a US initiative however; many of the resources are applicable to the Australian context. In the resources section of this site you will find useful guides on a range of subjects including; patron services, library management and technology planning.

You also have the option of becoming a member which affords you greater access to the various resources on offer.

Post by Ross Balharrie

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Google Maps Australia

Google has recently launched a product called Google Maps Australia. Based on the existing Google earth platform the new service provides excellent street maps for metropolitan and rural areas. The user has the option of viewing maps and/or aerial photos. Additional functionality includes; driving directions, city guides, address and business search and reportedly the product will operate on mobile devices such as BlackBerries and Palm PDA’s.

In trialling this product I was impressed by the breadth of detail in the maps. I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Daylesford in Victoria that to this day has no street signage; yet Google maps listed all the street names even for obscure dirt roads.

Considering the above functionality and the simplicity of the interface this should be a very useful reference tool.


Ross Balharrie

Monday, January 8, 2007


Welcome to the NSW Reference and Information Services Groups (RISG) Weblog!

Who are we? The RISG was formed in 2004 primarily to promote the delivery and development of public library information services throughout NSW.

The aim of this weblog:
We hope to report on the latest referenece initiatives and technologies that may impact on reference services.

Interested in Contributing?
We would love to receive contributions from public library reference staff. If you are involved in an exciting initiative or would like to discuss an issue relating to reference services then please contact the RISG steering Committee: isc@nsw-risg.org

Weblog Administration:
The Weblog design and hosting has been arranged by Ross Balharrie on behalf of the RISG Steering Committee. A new RISG website is under constuction and will be online soon. All site related questions can be directed to webdesign@nsw-risg.org.