I’ve had a pretty easy library school career. I’ve enjoyed or seen the value of most of my classes. I was one of those people who had an easy time getting a co-op position (some people never got one) at a place I really enjoyed (which some people did not, though they have very funny stories why not). I’ve had good experiences with different student groups. I have friends. But now I’m in a course that I’m not sure if it’s really for me.
It’s a class on data visualization and analytics: taking mounds of data and converting it into graphical forms people can play with. I love the idea of making this stuff, like Hans Rosling’s look at national life expectancy and income levels over the past 200 years.
I mean, seriously, you look at that and it’s pretty neat, right? The class assignments involve doing a project analyzing a dataset of my own choosing, and we get some training in some of the tools for making these things. I’d be able to do so much cool stuff with baseball stats with some of this expertise (though my project will probably involve analyzing independent publisher information I can get from Comic Book DB, since that’s a bit more applicable to libraries than baseball analysis).
The applicability of this in my career is the big issue. The course seems to be much more focused on hardcore academic analysis of research questions for PhD students in information science. That ain’t me. The very first class gave an impression that we’d be focused on splitting hairs and using the correct definitions for things rather than making cool shit.
The thing is that I don’t really need need to take this course. I’m going to have to take a course in the summer anyway and this is kind of my fifth one for this term (four plus a directed study that might end up being a lot of work). Doing another in the summer wouldn’t be overwhelming (assuming I can get into summer courses). And now I have the reading list for doing data visualization which could be most of what I’d need. Though I wouldn’t get training in the software tools if I drop the course. But I can usually teach myself software.
So yes, there we have it. This course would be neat and esoterically useful and provoke a bunch of good discussions, but it has a focus that isn’t really where I want to direct my energies. I think I’m probably going to drop it, but am willing to be talked out of it. If you have an opinion, please share in the comments. I have until January 16 to decide (that’s one more class session).
Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House is near-future science fiction set in Istanbul. There are tightly regulated nanobots and tweaked kids toy nanobots and interesting financial scams and terrorist attacks and mythical mummies, a split in half Koran and boats. It’s very good.
One of the things I liked about this one was how it was tied into what I’d almost think of as contemporary times. One of the viewpoint characters (and this being an Ian McDonald book there are a bunch of them) is an old former academic who was a young radical in the 1980s when something bad happened that’s haunted him for the last fifty years. It was a good connection to have.
This book also joins the list of sf about economics that are in fashion these days (I blame Freakonomics). There’s a lot of talk about markets and selling and money in The Dervish House, paralleling all the rest of these books about goldfarming and electronic heists and the way people make money in a new economy. Maybe fiction’s been full of this forever but I feel like I’m reading a lot more about it recently.
Librarianaut has been taken over by a school project (check the About page for details on the course). Each of the posts with twitterbrary in the title are trying to address issues of how different libraries use Twitter as part of their overall webpresences.
Here’s what I’m trying to address in each twitterbrary post:
A review of how easy/hard it is for patrons to locate the tool/service from the library’s homepage.
The overall usability of the chosen tools or services. How easy would it be for someone to use it if they had never used that tool/service before?
A review of how well the tool/service seems to fit in with the other tools/services offered by the library.
An evaluation of whether or not you would want to use this tool/service if you were a patron of the particular library.
Suggestions for how the tool/service could be improved for the particular library.
Other points as relevant.
I’ve looked at a mixture of public and academic libraries, but tried to stay with smaller schools or cities. My rationale is that these smaller places probably don’t have dedicated staff just for their social media, so they’ll have more modest presences. I figure that gives us a bit more scope for interesting comparisons. I’ve been finding most of my libraries through Lindy Brown‘s list of international Twittering libraries. Seven of the libraries are in Canada, one is from Australia and one is from Jamaica. Three of the libraries are academic libraries and the other six are public. It’s not a terribly scientific analysis or anything like that but there was an interesting range of Twitter integration into these websites.
Anyway, that’s the project. Enjoy.