Monday, April 7, 2008

Maryland AskUsNow Practice Session

(This is a test blog post to see how this would look on a staff e-learning page.)

Activity Title:
Maryland AskUsNow Practice Session

Intended Audience:
All BCPL Staff Members

CEU Information:
This activity is expected to take approximately 60 minutes. Participants will be awarded 0.1 CEUs.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this activity, participants will be familiar with the Maryland AskUsNow! service from a customer perspective. Participants will be able to describe the uses of the service, explain the log-in process to customers, and describe a session due to first-hand experience.


  1. Read the "Additional Resources or Information" section below.
  2. Read the "About this Service" and the "Privacy" sections on the site. Also, review the "Tips and Tricks" section to learn about the basic help and troubleshooting information that is available for customers.
  3. Log on to the Maryland AskUsNow! service using the link from the BCPL Home Page or the web site. Be sure to enter your email address so that you will be sent a transcript at the end of the session. You may identify yourself as a library staff member if you like. Remember that you are likely to be connected to a librarian from another Maryland library or possibly from a library elsewhere in the country.

    As a courtesy, please do not ask an exceptionally difficult or time-consuming question . The goal of the exercise is for you to learn about the service from a customer viewpoint, not to test the skills of a fellow library staff member!
  4. After your session has been completed, review the transcript that will be emailed to you.
  5. Complete the Evaluation Question Form. A description of the questions and a link to the form are posted at the bottom of this page.

Additional Resources or Information:
The Maryland AskUsNow! chat-based reference service began as a cooperative grant-based project of the Harford County Public Library and the Baltimore County Public Library. Due to its success, the the Maryland Department of Education Division of Library Development and Services (DLDS) chose to fund the project at a statewide level. The statewide service began officially on March 17, 2003 and recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Maryland AskUsNow! is staffed by librarians from public, academic and special libraries accross the state. A full list of participating libraries is available on the page. The Maryland group participates in a nationwide cooperative. We contribute some time to answer questions from library customers outside Maryland and receive off-hours and backup coverage from the cooperative in return. This allows us to offer the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The service uses the OCLC QuestionPoint software to allow communication between the librarian and the customer. The librarian and customer chat back and forth in one window on the screen. Another window is available to allow the librarian to "push" useful web pages to the customer's computer. If the question cannot be answered immediately, the librarian offers the customer the option of receiving a follow-up response. Librarians from the customer's home library system or from elsewhere in Maryland will work to find and answer to the customer's question and, using the QuestionPoint software, will respond to the customer via email. Since the service began in March, 2003, Maryland AskUsNow! has handled over 241,000 customer sessions.

Jim DeArmey - Information Services

April 7, 2008

Evaluation Questions:
Complete the Maryland AskUsNow! Practice Session Evaluation Form to answer the following questions:

  • What question did you ask in your practice session?
  • What was your impression of the interaction in chat?
  • List two situations where you feel you would be able to recommend the Maryland AskUsNow! service to customers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

CES #2

There are a bazillion cool things coming up at the CES event in Las Vegas. I'm only focusing on a couple that appeal to me. These will be either things that I'd like ot have or things that are so cool it's hard to skip over them. Here are two things I heard about yesterday that I thought were worth mention...

Sony OLED TV - "OLED" stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. This is a beautiful TV - not big (yet) that is only 3 millimeters thick at its thinnest part. The TV has a very high contrast ratio which gives a truly dazzling picture. $$$, though - at least for now.

Netgear NAS - "NAS" means Network Attached Storage. This is a device that can live on your network and provide shared storage for all users. While this probably has big uses in the business/enterprise world, it mostly seems like a cool addition to a home network with multiple PCs, laptops, media players, etc. The model I heard them talking about included a BitTorrent client so you could absorb your selected torrents directly to the device. I haevn't BitTorrent-ed yet but it seemed like a big plus for those who do.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Neato things from the Consumer Electronics Show

Since I went to CES a few years ago I've been interested in what comes out at the show each year. I heard about a couple of cool things yesterday.

One is the eye-fi card. It's an SD card that also has wireless network capability. You insert it into your digital camera and save images to it like any other SD card. However, you can also set it up so that it instantly transfers the images to your PC through your wireless network. Better than that, you can set it up so that the images can be instantly transferred out to social networking images sites like Flickr. Instant web posting of images as you take them. That's pretty snappy.

The other item is a GPS that includes a digital camera. The one I saw highlighted had only a two megapixel image size. Not ideal. Still, it stores the location information along with the images so you can do cool stuff like add your picutures as an overlay on Google Earth - showing the images and where they were taken. This could be VERY handy for those of us who have trouble, once some time has passed, in remembering where we were when we snapped a photo of that particular mountain view, beautiful church, or spectacular sunset.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

BCPL's 23 Things program drawing to a close

Wow, what a year it has been. I've worked my way through the 23 Things program and learned so much from it. Most of that was because I was one of the two people who were tracking the progress of everyone in our library system. That was a BIG motivator.

This has been a hugely positive experience and I've learned about a lot of things that I now use daily.

Before the end of the month, we'll be working to collect stats to report to the state about our participation. I'm very pleased at the number of people who worked through the program and by the number who finished all 23 of the exercises. It was challenging for us all at times and I'm proud to work with folks who saw the importance of this and spent the time to make it such a success!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bad news about me

I got some bad news recently. I have a lung carcinoid tumor. If you have to get cancer, the carcinoid type seems like one of the better ones to get. It has a very high cure success rate.

I don't have a set course of treatment scheduled yet. With luck it will involve only surgery. People have been very kind and many have asked to be kept up to date on my progress. I have thought about that a lot and have decided to blog it up. That way, anyone who is interested can check the blog. You can find that at: I'll post updates about new developments - and a lot of other things - there.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Vacation in Maine

I'm up in Maine this week freeloading on my friends Lynn and Bill. They tell me that it was hot and unpleasant last week but since I've been here it has been spectacular. Here are four photos that I took yesterday and this morning.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A really cool thing

Tonight I tuned in to the Yahoo home page. I've been sick at home for a week and at this point am nearly dead of boredom. Anyway. when the page came up I was astonished to see that someone I know was featured in the first Yahoo video feature on their home page. The daughter of a friend of mine had worked with a group to do a classical rendition of the music from The Legend of Zelda. Someone recorded the performance and it has been a big hit. I'm including an embedded link below. Cool, huh??!?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Week 9, Thing 23 - Tra la, I'm done!

Well, it looks like I've completed the program. I'm going to run through all the suggested questions that are part of Thing 23......

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?
I really enjoyed learning about RSS, sites where you can share word processing and spreadsheet files, and

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?
This can be overwhelming. It gives you the feeling that you can never keep up. I find that I'm more committed now to tracking at least a few sites/blogs/feeds that will keep me at least reasonably up to date on what's going on.

Were there any take-aways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
I find I'm using the collaborative shared file sites right away to work with people from other departments and organizations. Like my cool new GPS gizmo, it was one of those things that I didn't realize I could use until I actually experimented with it.

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
I'd put Thing 3 at the beginning. Setting up a blog is a landmark moment for participating in this program. I think it would be good to have that in place first thing. It's not difficult (at least it doesn't seem difficult now) and it would give folks an instant place to start recording progress.

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you again chose to participate?
You betcha!

How would you describe your learning experience in a few words or a few sentences, so we can share our successes and promote this program?
This program served three important functions for me....
  1. It made me familiar with things I'd only heard about. Taking the time to experiment has demystified terms like blog, rss, etc. so that I can now launch into discussions about them with confidence.
  2. It made me aware of things I had never heard about and now find completely essential. Shared file sites and are now part of my life.
  3. It allowed me to collaborate and celebrate these new technologies with others in and outside my library system. This was just the nudge I needed to launch out in this direction. Thanks!

Week 9, Thing 22 - Gutenberg & Downloadable Audiobooks

Finally, here's one where I aleady had lots of experience. I've downloaded audiobooks from both NetLibray and Overdrive. It takes a bit longer through Overdrive to download their media console but it's a handy piece of software to have. It helps manage the download and the digital rights stuff. I also like how Overdrive breaks their titles down into manageable size parts. That's a plus.

I have used Project Gutenberg lots of times to help customers find info. Once we had a customer who had a line that he thought was from Longfellow but couldn't say what poem. Of course, it wasn't the first line so it didn't turn up in any of the usual print indexes (this was a few years ago). We downloaded the complete works of Longfellow from Gutenberg and had the computer search the file for the line he remembered. He was IMPRESSED. So were we.

Week 9, Thing 21 - Podcasts

I have to admit that podcasts haven't impressed me so far. I haven't found anything that I want to chase after to that degree. I did check the Denver Public Library site and subscribed to their RSS feed of story time podcasts. That should be fun. It took me a while to figure out how to do it but it finally worked. At least it SEEMED to work. We'll see if anything feeds in!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Week 9, Thing 20 - YouTube

I have seen lots of YouTube videos and have even used it to answer questions when custoemers are looking for particular songs. It's amazing how many old music videos are on there. I've seen the popular favorites like Cat vs Turtle, Shopping Penguin, Charlie the Unicorn and (my favorite) OK Go on treadmills.

I recently bumbled across this one that really caught me. It would probably be a good science fair selection for someone. Fascinating patterns made from sound....

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Week 8, Thing 19 - Web 2.0 awards

Well, I browsed around on that award site for quite a while. It was interesting to see the variety of things that are available. That list is a good answer for people who ask "what is web 2.0".

I saw a variety of interesting stuff but didn't find anything that I really HAD to play with until I landed on Pandora ( That was really cool. I entered an assortment of song titles or groups and it came up with many similar selections. I don't have weird music taste but I don't know a lot of people who would make the same selections so this was a plus. I will no doubt spend much time here.