More on Walt and Blog Printing

Update: I just added the print css style to my blogger template, and it works just fine. Now Walt and others can print my blog in a much cleaner manner! Thanks to Bill Drew for some guidance on where to put the style tags, and to Walt for pointing Bill’s post out to me.

A few days ago, I commented on Walt Crawford’s post about the printability of blogs. Well, alot has happened in a few days! For starters, Walt left a good comment on my post – here’s what he had to say:

“I mostly print for #3–and, let’s face it, I’m just not as evolved as you are when it comes to computer use: The procedures you use leave me scratching my head. Besides that, I find that when I’m working on an essay or overview, contemplating the source material in print form, away from the computer, is frequently an important step. For me, not necessarily for you.”

Good point – people do things differently. One should definitely go with what works for him/her.

“Printing from the aggregator is OK if people provide full-text feeds (some don’t), although aggregators don’t do wonderful jobs either–but feeds with comments included along with full text are relatively rare, and sometimes that’s what I need.”

More good points. Aggregator printing is dandy IF there’s a full-text feed. Otherwise, you still have to visit the actual blog’s website. And the whole feeds-with-comments-and-fulltext thing – the only one I know of (if I’m thinking correctly) is Free Range Librarian. I like how her blog shows up in Bloglines – whenever someone leaves a comment, I get the updated post-with-comment. Very cool.

“I do use Bloglines email to get around printability problems sometimes…which is a pretty baroque way to get a simple listing!”

Emailing a blog post to yourself as a way to get around poor or no print options…

“Note that Bill Drew seems to have a simple fix for Blogger print problems. Inspired by that same essay. “

Wow! I’m going to give this one a shot. This is what I like about blogging – Walt posted thoughts, others commented, and POW! there’s now a solution (at least for blogger folks). Pretty fast, too.

Walt, Printing, and RSS

Walt Crawford recently wrote a very interesting article about the printability of blogs. Some of what he said I generally agree with, and some of what he said made me think (ultimately a good thing, too). Here’s what I’m thinking:

Thought #1: Reasons to print a blog post:

Walt gave four very valid reasons to print a blog post. Interestingly, when I read those reasons, I realized I do something very different than what was mentioned:

1. They want to read the content and it’s more than a few paragraphs long [possibly including comments on your entry].

I generally don’t print long blog posts – I read them online. But then, I also read ebooks on my PDA.

2. What you say is worth repeating. People want to save it to cite elsewhere.

and

3. What you say is valuable—interesting or lasting enough that people want to save it for future reference or rereading.

I sometimes print documents when I want to highlight sections, or save it for a work project (usually a Word document). And I have been known to print articles that I have found via the web (even short stories from time to time). But usually, if I want to remember something that I have read on the web, I will either: A. copy/paste the relevant text into a “remember this” file, or B. I will save it to my Furl account, complete with an electronic clipping of the relevant content. This way, I can access it anywhere, I don’t have to carry around paper, and if the page disappears, I still have my content clip.

4. They’ve been away from the blog for a while and would just as soon catch up in print form, reading a paper copy of recent entries.

Makes sense. Probably easier, too – especially if you’re away from a computer/handheld. And some people just prefer paper. But honestly, if I am playing catch-up with a blog I don’t aggregate, I just skim through the posts online. Doing that works for me, but not everyone!

Thought #2: My Blog or Your RSS Reader?

The other thought I had focuses on the RSS feed of a blog. I’d guess that most people reading my blog don’t actually visit my blog “in person.” Instead, an RSS spider visits my blog and takes my content back to their RSS Reader. At that point, the question of printability has left my blog and falls on their RSS Reader.

So Another question should be asked: “Do RSS Readers honor Walt’s printability challenge?” Honestly, I’m not sure. I use Bloglines to read blogs, and I don’t think it passes Walt’s test – everything prints in a skinny column on the right-hand side of the page. But then, that’s only one aggregator. Others (I’m guessing the desktop-based aggregators?) possibly have built-in controls like setting font size and style preferences, and end up printing more like a Word document prints.

Intermediate Search Engines Class

I previously blogged about the Basic Search Engines class I teach once in awhile. So, I thought I’d be thorough and also mention the Intermediate Search Engines class I do.

Both of these classes are taught for the Kansas City Metropolitan Library & Information Network (KCMLIN), a regional library training and resource sharing consortium for the Kansas City area. Library staff take the classes for CEU credits.

The intermediate search engines class goes deeper into digging information out of search engines. I update it in little bits here and there, but probably need to give it an overhaul. What do y’all think? Anyone have some suggestions for me? I’d sure love ’em!

Internet Activities and Changing Library Roles

I’m in the blogging mood today :-)

Go to this page from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and glance through the list of Internet Activities. This list includes 61 things America adults do online. It’s either terribly exciting or terribly terrifying, depending on your inclination to change and technology.

Here’s the exciting/terrifying part: most of these activities are things people used to do at libraries. Take another look at that list, removing the obvious “internet-only” and “non-library” activities, like send email, gamble online, buy groceries online, and participate in an online auction. What’s left? Here’s a modified version of some of the activities, with a translation to a traditional library setting included:

Pew Internet Activities Traditional Library Translation

See what I mean? Many of the things Americans once did at the library they now do on the web. Most likely using Google.

How should a librarian respond to this huge change? Quit her job? Continue at his library job, despairing all the while that said job will disappear when Google adds a “catalog this” button to their website? Or embrace change and figure out how to make the library work in the 21st century? Personally, I’d go with choice #3. here are some ideas for you to play around with:

  1. Training. I recently heard that 99% of all Google searches are extremely simple searches using 1-2 keywords (no boolean, not + or -, no quote marks for phrases, etc.). A little training on proper search technique goes a long way – it will help customers create better searches, thus making them happy. It will also show them “who’s boss” – they’ll realize that librarians aren’t searchers – librarians are Finders. And they will remember that, and use it. Often. And that makes librarians happy.
  2. Subject pages. I’ve been talking about the concept of Subject Pages a lot lately at conferences, in articles, and on this blog. And I won’t stop. If you create topic-driven content, that content will be found in search engines. Example – Go to Google, and do a search for Russell Stover (no quote marks). Russell Stover is a Kansas City-based candy-making business. The first result found is for the actual company, but look at the 5th result – that’s my library’s biography page on Clara and Russell Stover, the founders of the company. And people are finding that page using Google – 25 in March 2005, according to our web statistics software.
  3. RSS. On the above-mentioned Subject Guide pages, include an RSS feed of updated library content. This can push a range of information to potential library customers, like new book or video lists for that topic, events that are going to happen that relate to that topic, etc.

There are probably more things that could be listed here. The point is that librarians don’t have to sit back and watch Google, Microsoft, or Dogpile (just threw them in for kicks) take over our library world. Instead, we can use new tools for our benefit – to get information to our customers, and to rope in unsuspecting new customers.

Fun Way to Market IM Reference

From the Library Marketing blog – UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries is marketing their IM reference service in a fun way. They have created stickers with the library’s IM name that are passed out to students during new student orientations and instruction sessions.

Thay are seeing students stick these stickers on their notebooks and laptops – how cool is that? Thought I’d pass on an excellent idea!