MindMapping Software

I have started playing around with mind mapping software, and I have to say – it’s pretty cool! I was familiar with the concept on paper, but wanted to play with a software version. And I found one! It’s called FreeMind, and it’s FREE (I love open source!).

What can you do with FreeMind? Well, I’m currently working on rough drafts of outlines for my Computers in Libraries 2005 conference presentations, and I’m using FreeMind to do it. Once I get my presentationfigured out, I’ll transfer it over to something like Powerpoint. But for now, I’m really enjoying thinking in a non-linear way. I can see my whole range of ideas laid out before me, rather than having to page up and down in a linear outline.

Another idea with FreeMind – you know how “Real” web designers use pricey Visio to plan out databases and websites? Well, why not just use this free thing? Much cheaper, if nothing else!

freemind example

Comments on Twelve Techie Things for Librarians part two: Presence and Social Networks

Reading Michael’s section about presence and online social networks made me think… there are lots of new, cool online social types of stuff out there. And I know how to use them as an individual. But how can libraries use them? What would that actually look like?

Here’s one idea, sorta shooting off something my library already does. We have subject blogs that focus on local and library content. But what if we took that concept a little further? What if a library developed a localized online social network?”

For example, my library has a fiction Subject Guide, and we have book clubs that do the traditional book club stuff – meetings at our library, reading books and discussing them, and socializing in the process. But how about this as a new paradigm for an online book club: posting a list of books to read on the book club’s blog. Making comments about the books on the blog, or in the comments section of the blog post. Or wiki’ing the comments, and allowing book club “members” to change/add/edit comments. Blogging about the book, with comments on those blog posts. Using a wiki to plan physical social gatherings. Communicating via IM or SMS when some cool, inspiring thing hits you that’s related to your reading. Using Flickr to post actual author events and social gatherings.

Get the idea? Don’t be scared by the idea of some high-falutin’, formalized “Social Network” … It’s about connecting with each other, even when you can’t be physically present.

Comments welcome…

Comments on Twelve Techie Things for Librarians part one: User Centered Technology Planning

Michael just blogged a wonderful post on things techie librarians need to know about in 2005. It’s a great read, and I agree – definitely all stuff librarians should know about. I’m going to comment/piggyback off two of the points (’cause they made me think)…

So for the first one: User-Centered technology planning. Michael focused on making sure technolust does not guide technology planning at the library (very important point). Rather, we should find out what our users need/want, and try to provide that. But what about the flip side of that coin? I know libraries and librarians who’d say something like this: “I don’t want to blog/wiki/IM/etc, so I think we’ll not make that a priority this year.” Or “my staff aren’t there yet, so I think we’ll hold off on that one indefinitely.” Bad, bad librarian!

The goal should be user-centered technology planning. If, for example, your library serves a hip urban community of teens who IM and SMS all over the place, by all means… figure out a way to incorporate that into your library’s planning! Even if your library has never done it before. Don’t let “Techno Avoidance” or “Techno Huh?” drive your library. Instead, find out what your users are wanting to do (or already doing frequently), and try to provide that.

Another way to look at it – if your library has a website (and most do these days), don’t think this: “There. We set up our website. Now we can check that off our list and move on (unfortunately some libraries do this, too).” WRONG! Websites are living, breathing entities, and need to be “cleaned, bathed, hugged and loved” (to quote a favorite children’s story I read to my kids). Effective websites require constant updates and maintenance.

The point here? Well, how about three points:

  1. Dont’ be scared of the technology your customers use. Instead, figure out a way to make it work at the library.
  2. If you plan to do anything techie – then jump in with both feet and plan to be there for the long-haul.
  3. If your staff doesn’t know how to do some of this stuff – find training for them. In fact, make that a training priority in 2005 for staff. Most of this is pretty easy to grasp (or, maybe I’m showing my techno bias here), and training sessions on blogs and IM should be relatively easy to set up.

So put on your 2005 thinking cap and get started!

Social Software and Services in 2004

I think I’m becoming a web geek. Or just learning about a lot of new online services… your pick! But here’s a brief rundown of services I’ve signed up for and/or started using in 2004 that have an online, social networking type of vibe:

  • IM: I started using IM. Message me at squagmar (AIM), [email protected] (MSN), or daweedrex (Yahoo). As an aside, I’m using Trillian for IM – pretty cool product.
  • blogs: I started one (the one you’re reading).
  • blogs: I started reading blogs with an aggregator. I use Bloglines. Here’s my public blogroll (from Bloglines).
  • blogs: my library started using blogs to push information to library customers. Find them here – we call them Subject Guides.
  • RSS: my library started using RSS.
  • RSS: My blog has an Atom feed.
  • Images: I signed up for a Flickr account (that’s where the images below are coming from).
  • Images: A bit more personal – I created a photo feed in my tripod account to go along with an online “what my family was doing in 2004″ letter that we emailed to friends for Christmas.
  • Bookmarks Management: I finally understood the need for this (I got tired of sitting at home thinking “I wish I could get to my bookmarks at work”). I tried out del.icio.us (VERY cool url, by the way), and settled on Furl.
  • Cool games: I admit it. I was a game junky in the 80’s. So I tried out a few online games: Runescape and Utopia (technically, I tried Utopia out before 2004… just mentioning it for good measure). The Knightish-looking guy that’s waving in the image to the right is my “online double” when roaming around in Runescape. Both these games have a huge following (upwards of 50,000 people will be found playing the games at any one time), and have a social, chat function built in to the games. Jenny over at the Shifted Librarian just posted about her family’s experience with Runescape – good reading.
  • Online Music: I have some songs posted at Soundclick.

I also walked around Church of Fools during their pilot project last summer. Church of Fools is an online, interactive, 3-D church. It was a pilot project of the Methodist Church of Great Britain – they invited real preachers to step into the virtual pulpit and do their thing.To the left is what a “cartoon double” from Church of Fools might look like.

And I think that’s all I did… seems like a lot! So, for 2005… are there other cool online services librarians (or web geeks) should know about? Michael at Tame the Web just told me about skype – it’s a free, online phone thingie. Any others? Let me know!