Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Interviews

Today is the day we post our interviews, and I am pleased to introduce Alex! She is a Librarian at Ottawa PL which is located in Canada. This was a fun, new experience for the RPL blog. I had a blast getting to know Alex as well as her Library. 

My Interview by Alex has been posted for those interested. 

Below you will find many Ottawa PL Websites, as well as Alex's personal "Only Connect" blog, which I am proud to say the RPL is now following. 

Alex, I love my mountains and Winter is the best season here yet!

What do you like about blogging?

I am really pleased that blogging has "forced" me to keep up with writing, on a regular basis. I wanted to be a writer from the age of 8 up to the end of my undergraduate degree. Although I became a librarian for many, many reasons (see below!) I confess I also had a momentary thought that I would be inspired as a librarian working around the great works of literature (and I might get spare time to write, too! How deluded was that?)

I also like the sense of community blogging encourages; it has been really great to hear from friends far and wide, and to make friends (here in Ottawa or in far-flung locations) because of something I have written on my blog.

Technology wise? Do you feel like your Library is ahead or right there with it?

I think we are trying very hard to stay "right there with it." I think in some ways we are ahead of the game, and in some ways we are on track. We were early adopters to Facebook and podcasting; we also experimented early on ith video, which we are now developing more. We also have an Emerging Technologies committee, which really creates a "think tank" environment, and demonstrates our commitment as a library to new technologies. Our Digital services team has had an epic year: new front-end catalogue (link: http://catalogue.biblioottawalibrary.ca/?locale=en-CA) (we are using BiblioCommons: http://www.bibliocommons.com/), a massive upgrade to our back-end ILS, and a new website (link: http://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/main/overview). We've also started our staff blog, Off the jacket (link: http://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/main/interest/read/suggest/blog), which includes readers' advisory and reference tips, as well as a blog for teens (link: http://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/main/interest/teens).

Technology moves at a breakneck speed these days - we do our best to hold on and enjoy the ride!

How did you wind up a Librarian?

The short answer is, I grew up in a house of readers: a house filled with people who loved to play with language and had an open-ness and curiosity that fostered learning and emphasised the importance of knowledge. The long answer is here: http://ottawapubliclibrarian.blogspot.com/2010/07/library-roots-and-routes.html  

What is your favorite book(s)? Which would you recommend?

It's possible I am biased towards my favourite books, so of course I would recommend all of them! As a good readers' advisor, though, I would have to include a caveat about what type of reader each book is appropriate for.

My all-time favourite books are A passage to India, by E. M. Forster, and White teeth, by Zadie Smith. Both of these focus heavily on questions about identity and friendship across cultural boundaries. The styles of the two novels are very different, though: beyond story line and frame, they have little in common for some readers: the tone and frame of the books are very different. Passage is a very modernist novel, caught in the Edwardian period of Victorian morals confronting social change. White teeth is decidedly post-colonial, and post-modern; the language, structure, and pacing of both books strongly reflects these differences. I love Passage because I love Forster's tone, and the novel breaks my heart; I love White teeth because there is so much in it I identify with, and I read it at a time when I needed its insights very much, .... and it also breaks my heart.

Honourable mentions would go to: Across the river and into the trees, buy Ernest Hemingway (bittersweet story about ageing), The robber bride by Margaret Atwood (how womens’ friendships can **** you up), and The history of Love by Nicole Krauss (love, loss, lies and a war).

I am curious myself, how many staff members are involved in blogging?

On our OPL staff blogs, we have a half-dozen regular bloggers, with a bunch of other semi-regular bloggers (of which I am one) floating around in the ether. Between my own blog, Only Connect, and several other blogging projects I am involved in (Digestive Librarian’s Digest - http://diglibdig.wordpress.com/ and The Activist Librarian - http://www.librarianactivist.org/), it is hard for me to find time to blog for work, even though I really enjoy it. Also, any "work blogging" I do is done on the Info desk at work, which makes it hard to concentrate. At least with Only Connect, I can blog in my pajamas.

Have you worked with HTML codes?  If yes what is your experience with them?

Ah, HTML. My MLIS involved taking a web design course, in which we had to design a website using HTML. I spent hours (sometimes full days) sitting in our basement computer lab at the library school, at McGill, toiling away with <> brackets. The only thing that got me through those (sometimes up to 10 hour) marathons were Making Fiends cartoon breaks (link: http://makingfiends.com/). I am so glad I now know the basics of HTML coding, even if Java and some CSS is beyond me.

In short, my experience was horrifying at the time, but with a payoff in the end, I suppose.

Did you find "Blogger" difficult or easy to use?

I found it really easy to use, actually, although I now kind of wish I had gone with Wordpress, since I am using that for other project and find it has some features I really like.

When was the OPL blog born?

In early 2010 - our first post was written in January 2010 but we had a "soft launch."

My own blog, Only Connect (http://ottawapubliclibrarian.blogspot.com/), was born in January 2009 (http://ottawapubliclibrarian.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html) as part of a "23 things" course at OPL (see the original "23 things" course here: http://plcmcl2-things.blogspot.com/). When the course finished, I didn't have the heart to pull the blog on the little blog, and it's been with me ever since.

I was saying to a colleague recently that I never thought I would be a blogger, because I think I had this notion that blogging was like journaling, and I just couldn't deal with that. I have tried to find a balance of personal and professional on Only Connect; I need my privacy (this sometimes frustrates people in my personal life!) and am naturally really shy, but, given the chance to be more outgoing on my own terms, I seem to have found a kind of balance that (I hope) works for readers as well.

What advice would you give Libraries who are just starting to blog?

Have plenty of people committed to the project (and make sure these people have dedicated time in their regular schedule to blog). Write a lot of posts before launching, to have a few good things up there already for your launch and a steady stream of content for the first little while. Stay on a regular schedule: post every day if possible, or at least on a regular basis (3 times a week, weekly, etc.) Do a soft launch at first, and then promote heavily through traditional and 2.0 mediums as much as possible. Train your front-line staff to mention the blog to customers.

Again I will use your question, How did you come up with your blog's name?

I am really, really bad at coming up with titles. I tend to actually con other people into coming up with titles for my articles or other writings (mostly my mom). My blog started out as "An Ottawa Public Librarian," which was woefully uninspired and also created confusion about whether it was my blog or an "official" Ottawa Public Library blog (for a long time, I had a disclaimer on the site about this; now it is on my profile: http://www.blogger.com/profile/13267343586937882369). When I finished the 23 things workshop that this blog was born out of, I re-named it "Only Connect," but alas, that Blogspot address was already taken. The explanation of why I chose the phrase, "Only Connect," is here: http://ottawapubliclibrarian.blogspot.com/2009/03/new-title.html