Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Future of Music and Libraries

A few weeks ago I was contemplating visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. While checking out their website I came across a neat list of what the curators there consider the top 500 most important songs in the history of Rock and Roll. I created a new playlist in iTunes of the songs that I already had. It's a fantastic playlist to listen to. Every song is a "classic". I was missing a bunch of the songs however. I would like to download some of the particular songs and all of this got me thinking...

Libraries are WAY behind the times when it comes to how to deliver music to their patrons. CDs are more and more becoming a thing of the past. While this is a generalization, it seems that almost everyone under the age of 20 downloads music from the internet. Furthermore, more and more people are interested in single songs and not entire CDs. For eBooks and Video there are tools available to libraries like My Media Mall. But as far as I know there is no music delivery service available at this time for libraries.

In large part I blame the record industry. They literally have NO idea how to deal with the way the world is changing because of the internet. They are grasping at straws, trying to stay afloat with old ideas, and suing everyone left and right for copyright infringement.

In a perfect world libraries should be able to digitize their collections and make them available to their patrons. Patrons should be able to browse a list of full CDs and individual songs and listen to what they like. The record companies don't see it that way however.

Perhaps libraries could do something like "watermark" songs and CDs? When the song is almost over a message would play over the end of the song saying something like "this CD/song was made available to you by the Chicago Public Library". Maybe patrons could stream music from library servers but not be able to download the actual files? Even streaming seems to violate ASCAP-BMI public performance clauses.

If CDs disappear what are libraries going to do then?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The story of setting up our iPad

Techno lust won out in our house once again. My lovely wife Julia figured out a way through her work to purchase an new iPad through a payroll deduction of about $25 a paycheck. Her Windows based notebook had been giving her problems (battery didn't work anymore, hot, and heavy) and was ready for a change. We both have been dying to play with an iPad and it seems like a great thing for her to use in the evening and something I could play with during the day.

She came home last night with the box at around 6:30 and we were ready to play with our new toy! We opened the box and it seemed pretty easy. Just plug it into an existing Mac computer with iTunes and we would be ready to go. I've always loved how simple Apple products are.

Although the thought hit me right off the bat... hmmm.... I didn't know you had to own a Mac machine with iTunes to be able to use an iPad? It's not really a computer right out of the box like a notebook that you can just use.

We plugged it into our Mac mini and quickly discovered we had a problem on our hands. We were running an older version of iTunes and it was telling us we had to have a more recent version to install the iPad. ok... not a big deal. We had to upgrade iTunes and that might take a bit of time. But we would playing with the iPad soon!

We clicked on the buttons to install the update to iTunes and discovered our next problem. We needed 7.5GB of space to do the upgrade and we only had about 2.5GB free. Somehow we needed to find about 5GB of stuff to trash on our machine. oh no... this was going to take some time.

Meanwhile the iPad just sat there next to the computer. Dark and silent. Tempting us... Looking vaguely like the monolith in 2001. It was torture!

We started to look for files and apps and crap we could delete from our computer. In the meantime everyone was getting grumpy hungry because dinner hadn't been made so I started to make dinner while Julia started to delete files.

After a bit a light bulb went off in my head. Why not use my MacBook instead of the Mac mini? (we love our Macs in our house!) I knew I had to upgrade iTunes as well but I was pretty sure I had the room. I got my machine out and started to upgrade iTunes. I did have the room and I thought we were finally over the hump. It took about 10 minutes to finish all the software updates but I was ready to go. We would be playing with the iPad soon!

We plugged the iPad into the MacBook and found we had yet another problem! We got an error message telling us that we needed OS X 10.6 to install the iPad and my machine was still on 10.4. We paid the bucks to upgrade the Mac mini awhile back but we didn't bother to spend the money to upgrade the OS on the MacBook. gee wiz... so you not only need a Mac machine but a brand spanking new machine with all the very latest in software. They don't really say that in the ads do they?

So we were back to the drawing board. I made dinner while Julia deleted files. We took a break to eat and found a few more files to delete and we were finally ready to do the iTunes update at around 8. I was hoping it wouldn't take too long and we would finally be playing with our new toy soon.

But the iTunes update took forever... almost half an hour. It was a huge file and then it needed to rebuild my library and album art. I have a LOT of CDs in my iTunes collection so that took a long time also. It finally finished and we were ready to install the iPad!

One thing that was nice is that it took so long to do the updates and stuff it hit me at one point that almost certainly during the install process, we would be asked what we wanted to name the iPad. So we had a fun family discussion about what to name the iPad! We really wanted to think of a name that all of us would like. The name that won was... "Elvis" :-)

We hooked up the iPad and with the new version of iTunes finally installed it came to life! It looked super cool. We wanted to start playing with it but once again we got a message. Did we want to install the latest software/updates for our iPad? This was a tough call for me... I really wanted to play with it. It was 8:45 at this point. But the IT guy inside of me knew the "right thing to do" would be to install the updates before we used it. Plus I didn't think it would take that long to do the updates.

So I hit the install button in iTunes and the iPad turned dark again. In the iTunes window it started to say that the install would take 10 minutes, then 15, then it said 30, and finally settled on about 35 minutes. Crap! So we stared at the dark screen again and sighed... The kids needed to get to bed at 10. I was hoping they would get a chance to see it up and working. I wanted to get to sleep early myself and get a good night's sleep as well.

Finally at around 9:30 the iPad updates were done. We pulled the USB cable out of the Mac mini and turned the iPad on. Wow, it looked so cool! It was totally working and a lot of fun to play with. But the entire process took us about 3 hours. I'm guessing that even if we had our iTunes updated to start with the entire process would have taken at least an hour. Once it was up and running everything seemed fast and easy, but getting it set up wasn't easy for us.

I also wonder how many people out there will do things like buy an iPad for their kids as they go off to college. The kid gets in the dorm room, opens it up, and realized he can't use it without having a totally updated Mac PC in the room as well?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim

Sometimes I think I would make a great Young Adult librarian. A lot of my interests actually fall in that realm. Graphic Novels, music, film, technology...

Once again recently I've had the experience of seeing a film and reading the book at just about the same time. It's always interesting for me to compare books and movies and what worked in each medium. Almost always the book is better than the movie (the notable exception being Field Of Dreams).

This time around it's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I went through and read all six volumes of the graphic novel right before seeing the film that was just released. Like usual, the books are better.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed the film a lot. I thought it was great, a lot of fun, and very innovative with its mix of real live action and video game graphics mixed together. But as is often the case there was so much missing that was in the books.

I had my doubts going into the film as I wondered how they could possibly cram the contents of six graphic novels into a film that wasn't even two hours long. Well the answer is, they didn't. A lot was missing. I was upset that they didn't have the battle in Honest Ed's for instance. Envy Adams character really gets the short thrift. In the books she is much more 3D, complex, and comes off as sympathetic, in the film she's just a bitch. (Spoiler alert) In the books at the end we are surprised when Stephen Stills comes out of the closet. This doesn't happen in the film. In fact the guy who he falls for, who is a really cool minor character in the books, doesn't appear at all in the film. The entire sub plot of the band recording their album is completely missing. A huge plot element that is missing is the fact that Ramona disappears for several months leaving Scott to wonder what is going on.

One of the more interesting changes is how Knives Chau comes across. In the books she becomes a stalker and loves Scott till the end. In the film she ends up being a really cool character who we have a lot of sympathy for in the end. By the end of the film she almost seems like the most mature character in the film.

So go see the film. I highly recommend it for the young adult audience and those who are young at heart and still play video games. ;-)

but as always, do yourself a favor and read the book!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dealing with job rejection

When I was feeling a little down last week my wife sent me a few links to some sites about dealing with job rejection.

I thought this was one of the best ones.

I also took a look at some other sites and one of them mentioned that on average you should expect to get about one interview for every ten resumes you send out. If that's the case I'm right on target. I think the main thing going on right now is it's just a bad time to be trying to find a job as a librarian. It's a numbers game. There are just too many very qualified and experienced people out there looking for work right now. Gosh I hope the hiring freeze ends at CPL sometime soon...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My VisualCV is up

A friend told me about this site. I think it's a great resource for building an online resume/CV! They also have job postings that don't seem to appear in other places. Mine is still a work in progress but I think I'm off to a good start.


Please excuse me while I use this forum to rant for a bit. Sometimes I think just writing things out is good therapy. I know that potential employers may end up reading this someday but hey... I'm a human being and I have feelings. Is it OK that they know that?

so... on with the rant.

I got another rejection letter yesterday and once again I'm really upset. It was an ideal job for me. I know I was completely qualified and would have done a great job. It was a phone interview. I didn't even get to the next step of them inviting me for an in person interview. rejected again.

what is going on????

Before I went to grad school I did some career counseling and it all pointed towards me being a librarian. I got accepted into the best library school in the country. While I was in school my adviser and teachers all told me I had a bright future ahead given my previous job experience and skill set. I would be "in demand" once I graduated. I got straight A's while I was in school and was often one of the "leaders" in my classes. I felt like I was the big man on campus. While I was in school I got a part time job at a library as well as an awesome internship at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The day after I graduated Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers both announced they were in trouble and the subprime mortgage crisis was on. I'll admit however that even in those times I was cocky. I "knew" I wouldn't have any trouble finding a job. I felt like I was a golden boy in the library world. In a few years you would see me on the cover of Library Journal as one of the "Movers & Shakers".

Then the job search started in earnest. I was lucky and got a couple of interviews in the first few weeks after I graduated. One was for a job that in hindsight I still know I would have been great at. but I was rejected by both employers. This was really surprising to me to be honest. In the past I had always had great luck with job interviews. I like to think that I communicate well and have personality. Usually a good combination in an interview setting. In the past it seemed like if I got the interview I had at least a 50/50 chance of getting a job offer out of it. but I started off right out of the gate 0/2. It was the beginning of a trend.

Then things got worse. It seems like the job posting dried up. Weeks would go by with no postings for anything that I felt qualified for. Lots of library director jobs and department heads that asked for 5 years supervisory experience "in a library" and things like that. When a job would show up that I felt qualified for I would send off a resume and cover letter. I was soon shocked once again that my emails and letters would more often than not result in nothing. No interview. Often nothing at all. I was (and am still) amazed at how many institutions allow your attempts to apply for a job to go into a big black hole. From following up I found out that in many cases they would receive over a hundred resumes for the posting, but it's not that hard to at least set up a automated email reply. I think it's highly unprofessional and rude to not offer any sort of response to job applicants. I'm amazed at how many libraries do this.

I know this because in August it will be two years since I've graduated. I really should have kept better track of how many jobs I've applied for, how many responses I've gotten, how many actual rejection letters, and how many interviews I've gotten. I know it's at least 50 jobs applied for. Six interviews. The most important number is how many job offers have I received. That number is 0.

So what is going on? I think my resume needed some work for awhile but I've been consistently tweaking it and improving it. I've seen other people's resumes and I think mine is better than most.

Do my cover letters suck? Once again I've been working on that. I've had a number of people look at my cover letters and offer suggestions. It's not like I've been not following that advice.

With every rejection the whole search becomes harder and harder. It's not fun to consistently set yourself up for failure and rejection over and over again. Every rejection makes me less and less confident. Like something must be fundamentally "wrong" with me.

The rational side of me knows it's "the economy". There has been a hiring freeze at the Chicago Public Libraries for over two years now. This has had a profound effect on the "market" for librarians in the entire Chicago area. When suburban or academic libraries put up a job posting they are literally flooded with resumes. There are many many qualified applicants who have much more experience than me who have been laid off and are looking for jobs. Many of the jobs that are posted are going to be filled internally and the libraries don't even intend to interview outside applicants.

In the meantime I'm paying $265 a month for the next ten years in student loans for this library degree. I feel like I'm paying to be a member of an exclusive club but they won't give me the key to get in the door.

I still love this profession and I so want to make it part of my life and contribute to it. I still know deep inside my heart that I have so much to offer any library that hires me. I have so much enthusiasm, energy, ideas and such a great set of skills and experience.

Will someone please give me a chance? :-(

Friday, April 30, 2010

My other blog

btw... I haven't been as active as I would like on this blog. the big reason why is I started another blog with a very specific focus and it's been taking up a lot of my time. I put stuff up on there several times a week. Almost every day as a matter of fact. So if you're interested in "indie" rock check out my other blog and website.

The Pudge Song Of The Month Project

Web 2.0 at Libraries

The library I work at doesn't do much of anything with Web 2.0 stuff. It's sort of a shame because I would like to do so much more myself at the library I work at with social networking. It's one of the things I went to library school for. It's also a Catch 22 in my case because I'm looking for a full time library job. Almost every library at this point does Web 2.0 stuff and expects to see examples of your work. Unfortunately the management of my library is a little old fashioned and doesn't see the benefit of social networking.

Because of this I am planning on working on a document about how to use Web 2.0 technology in libraries. If nothing else I would like to do it for myself. I started an online CV and thought it would be a great piece to put up online. I think it would be pretty easy to show how to use Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr in a coordinated way to promote library services.

Then I'll go ahead and follow the protocols at my library. I'll submit my proposal to my department head. She'll decide to approve it, or not. If it is approved it will be sent to the correct committee. After several months it will come up for discussion, or not, depending on if there's any interest from management. My fingers are crossed...

Friday, April 23, 2010

I was wrong about Twitter

When I first started this blog one of my posts was about Twitter. I ragged on it to be honest and wrote that I couldn't think of a way that a library could use Twitter effectively.

I was wrong!

One of the things about me that I feel is a strength is to always try to keep an open mind about technology advances. I think it's always a good thing to keep an eye on things and reevaluate them over time. When I first saw twitter I saw it as a more superficial version of something like Facebook that limited itself to only texts of up to 140 characters. It seemed to me that it had limited potential for libraries.

As I said I was wrong. If I could have my way I would set up a Twitter account for the adult reference area of the library I work at. I would post tweets that look like this.

"Today is Earth Day. Come in and check out our display of Green books."

"Zeitoun is a fantastic non-fiction account of the days of hurricane Katrina. One of the best new non-fiction books in awhile. Check it out!"

and so on and so on...

I think the Teen area in particular could reach young people this way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Regarding the previous post

So I was thinking about my previous post and the impression it must have made on any readers who don't know me personally. Like usual I was being hard on myself. I was upset that I had let this particular CD slip through the cracks. I made it sound like I have no clue when it comes to music. The fact of the matter is that I have a collection of several thousand CDs and LPs. I know music VERY well.

What precipitated all of this was an excellent article I found online about the 50 Best CDs of the Decade.

I've been wanting to increase my collection of more current bands and find some new music. I discovered this list and while I had a bunch of the titles already there were a lot of things on the list that I had been meaning to check out. I ended up ordering about 20 of the titles through inter-library loan. So expect to see a bunch of CD reviews soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Review of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel

I have a "problem" in life that has been a recurring one.

My problem is that I often find out about great albums and bands after the fact. Once the band has broken up or is no longer "cool" is when I'll finally discover them. By then it's too late to see the band live in their prime or perhaps even see them at all.

The latest example of this is Wilco and the "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel" album. Sometimes the reason I don't listen to things when they first come out is because of the hype. There was a lot of hype about this album when it came out. The story behind its release is now an internet legend. I remember reading about it at the time and thinking, "how good could this album be?"

It's simply one of the best albums I've heard in years. I'm kicking myself that I denied myself the pleasure of listening to this album for the last 8 years! When will I ever learn that sometimes you should believe the hype?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Facebook and patrons and religion

So I've been having some "issues" with one of our regular patrons.

As a librarian one of my job duties is to talk to the lonely people who come into the library. After awhile you learn who the "regulars" are. Some of these people just want to be left alone and want peace and quite. Some of these people want to come and chat with you for a bit every single day.

Well, one of my groupies has asked me several times over the past year to become his friend on Facebook. I can tell that he's a lonely guy and he wants more friends. I've really thought about this and decided awhile ago that as a professional librarian I needed to make certain "rules" regarding my behavior in the Web 2.0 world. For instance, I try to never explicitly say where I work in my blog. I never try to talk about specific issues at my work. The wild and crazy internal politics that could, quite frankly, make this blog a LOT more interesting! but could also get me fired and/or make a bad impression on any potential employer.

One of my other "rules" I made for myself was that I would not accept friend requests from patrons. I dunno... it just seems to cross some sort of "line" for me. Of course all of this Web 2.0 stuff is new and it seems like the rules are still being worked out but I'm doing what I feel comfortable with. I have pictures of my kids up. Personal info about my work and school history. I have all of this set to private so only my friends can see the good stuff. It just doesn't seem right to me to open up this level of personal information to whoever walks in off the street into the library. Even if they do want to come up and chat with me each day.

This same patron recently asked me about a Facebook "issue" he was having and wanted my advice on. He had put up a series of questions that were all sort of philosophy/religion 101 sort of stuff. Most of them were quasi religious questions. He was upset because not a single one of his Facebook friends had bothered to put up a single answer/response to any of his questions. He first wanted me to become his Facebook friend so I could contribute some answers to his questions. I explained to him again that I have a "rule" about that. Then he wanted me to read his questions and let him know what I thought and why nobody was answering them. Where they bad questions? I read them and I thought there were somewhat thought provoking and I told him so. He really wanted to know why nobody had answered them. I didn't know what to say and really didn't want to be involved in this mess in the first place. Fortunately it was closing time so I got off the hook.

But his questions and concerns nagged at me when I got home. Why hadn't any of his friends answered his questions? Then it hit me. They were all about God and religion. I for one won't touch religion in Facebook. It's to personal, to controversial... If I see one of my friends post something of a religious matter in Facebook I don't post a comment on it. I think because I feel religion is so personal and controversial I would be worried about possibly offending one of my friends. Even if it wasn't intentional.

So I've been wanting to talk to this particular patron again about this. I feel in a funny way like things were left hanging the last time because we closed. Although I was glad about it because I was able to think about it all a little more and articulate my thoughts. I expect I'll see him soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Julie & Julia and Blogging

I just finished watching the film "Julie & Julia". It was an interesting film to watch given that I read the Julie Powell book several months ago. While I was watching it I thought about the whole blogging "thing". First of all, it's very clear to me that nobody reads my blog. So why should I bother? I've been told over and over that it's a good thing to do if I'm looking for a job. Some potential employer might be out there checking me out.


I'll try not to laugh to hard!

I suppose it could happen though... and I suppose more people would read this blog if I actually posted to it more frequently.

I can't think of a "theme" that I could right about every day however like Julie Powell that is interesting and will keep people coming back day after day. I would like to write about technical issues in libraries but it would hard for me to write about that every day.

So I've decided to write about what I know best. Music and movies. I always wanted to be a music or film critic. I'm also very interested in getting an adult reference job working with music and film. So why not go with what I know and love? If nothing else it should improve my writing skills. I'm going to try to start putting something up on the blog almost every day. We'll see how this goes.