Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Congratulations to DR. HOLLY WEIMAR!

I am happy to share the good news that friend and colleague, Holly Weimar, is officially past the dreaded dissertation ordeal, having successfully defended today. I am not sure whether she still has formatting to be done, and that can be onerous, but the uncertainty and pressure are gone. I am especially happy since she is the newest tenure track member of our Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. Not only that, she was a student in the very first class I taught at SHSU, an introductory technology class, back in fall 2000. It was evident from the first day of that first class that she would be an outstanding student. She finished her studies, always excelling in her classes, and after a short break continued with her doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Houston. Of course I knew she would be fine today, but I remember all too well the anxiety that goes along with getting ready for the defense and then having the day finally come. To make her news even better, her committee at University of Houston likes her work so much that they want to submit it to IRA (International Reading Association). I am not sure if this is for a compilation or competition, but in any case it is clearly a wonderful honor. Her topic is professional reading, and what a great subject. She did qualitative research, interviewing teachers, librarians and administrators about their professional reading habits. I really do not know much more, but she will be sharing her findings via presentations and publications, so stay tuned! We will be presenting on this topic in April at TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference in Dallas. She and I have been presenting in the last year or so, addressing a number of topics related to technology, Internet use, Web 2.0, and ethics. I am looking forward to many more great shared presentations with her. If you would like to contact us about her topic or any others that we offer do let me know! The place to find all my Internet presences is at my wiki where I have a page of links just for that. The address is:

But this day is really all about Holly. She will continue to distinguish herself as a writer, presenter and scholar, and most of all as an inspiring professor. I am proud and lucky to with with her! KUDOS AND CONGRATULATIONS HOLLY!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Learning from my students again!

One of the best things about my job is grading papers. Yep, that's right, I enjoy it! Many times I get to know students better through their work, and I don't think I ever spend some time grading without learning something new. Today, with the weather gray and drippy outside, and sitting in the den with my dozing Dad and drowsy dog, I am happy to be occupied with grading. One of the best things I have read is that on student, after spending time exploring the ALA website, came to a better understanding of her role in matching readers with books. A first-year librarian, she is just beginning to enjoy this special part of her job, and she related a relationship she has formed with one particular student who started out by asking her the question we all get, "Where are the GOOD books." She was able to interest the girl in a book she had just finished, and now they are reading buddies. This is, of course, one of the greatest rewards of being a librarian.

Also, I picked up some new websites:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for librarians like Richie Partington

On this Thanksgiving morning I did not plan to do more than quickly glance at email. But the postings on LM_NET about the firing of Richie Partington of Richie's Picks ( call for immediate reaction. This outstanding librarian and advocate for right to read was fired, and of course it was over a book. If this had happened in my neck of the woods, where a guy showed up at the local public library with a woodchipper on a flatbed truck to destroy "bad" books, and where a replica of Michelangelo's David was given a fig leaf and moved to a rooftop, I would not have been surprised. But I guess I thought those folks out in California were freer thinkers. And I guess I was wrong. My faith will be restored if there is a public outcry. Then I will know it was just a wacko administrator. On this day I am thankful for people who raise their voices against oppression of our rights.

Go to Richie's page for a copy of the news article. I hope this article and others will raise such a hooraw that those who fired Richie will have heartburn resulting from that as well as today's turkey dinner. Here is a link to his page and article
And omigosh, he has a MySpace page! Of COURSE he got fired...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bragging! Yay ME!!!

I am working on the latest iteration of my column, "Belltones," for Multimedia&Internet@School. This one is about blogging, and one thing I am doing is highlighting great blogs, including of course Kathy Schrock's Kaffeklatsch. This got me to wondering just how long she has been online sharing her wisdom with teachers, students, librarians, and all interested in education. I emailed her and asked if she had somewhere a history of her work. She just emailed me back and said no, that she had not done this, but that she liked the idea. So she is going to work it up and send me the URL! I love the fact that online communication can make leaders like her so accessible! Needless to say, I will be sharing the address as soon as she provides it. The fact that I have HER an idea is a kick!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ahhh Chocolate...

OK this is off topic and clearly I am scattered today, but what will they think of next in the world of chocolate? How much technology went into this invention...and can you resist trying it??

Office 07...Good? Bad? Ugly? All of these???

Today I am working on an article that I need to submit for my next column, “Belltones,” which appears in Information Today’s journal, Multimedia&Internet@School. By the way, I am not just self promoting when I recommend this journal. The articles and columns in it never fail to disappoint me. They are always useful and enlightening and I feel honored to be included as a columnist. Anyway, I am using the increasingly ubiquitous Microsoft Office/Word, 2007. I am still getting to know Office 2007, and have to say that the adjustment is taking longer for me than did previous Office updates. Right now I want to do a word count. In the good old days I just clicked on Tools and found my option. NOW I have to click through the various options in the “ribbon” menu, and then find the tool. I am mildly irritated to have this additional step forced upon me. But here is what is worse. I don’t use word count all the time, and thus I am not sure where to find it. I am going to set my timer on my beloved new iPhone and see how long it takes me to find word count. Here goes….Oops first I have to find the phone…off for that! OK after I found my phone I started up my timer, one of the features I really like on my iPhone. Then I started looking across the top of the page at tool bars, seeking Word Count, my old friend. I tried Home…not there. Next I tried View…nope. Finally I went to Help, which by the way is a little bitty question mark in a circle up top and to the right. When I searched Help for Word Count, I learned something that did, I admit, make me feel a little stupid. WORD COUNT IS THERE ALL THE TIME!!! If you just look down to the bottom, left hand corner, you see word count busily keeping up with you as you type. But I did not know to look down there…I was used to looking up top, and old habits die hard. How much time did it take to “discover” what was hidden in plain view? The process cost me 3 minutes and 43 seconds of my life. What’s more, I NOW remember that I went through this same process a couple of months ago, and then forgot. As I said, old habits…and on top of everything else, the experience left me feeling like a doof, not something I need from my software.

But this is the thing about Office 07. The changes are many, and not always intuitive, in my opinion. I realize that the other side of the coin is many added features. But at what cost? Lots of people will never use these nifty bells and whistles! But they are going to have to acclimate to the new office suite, because it is likely to be foisted upon them at work or with newly purchased computers. So I ask…is Office 07 a good or bad thing? Wonder what other people think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cannot Resist Mentioning...

I got a letter to the editor in yesterday's Houston Chronicle. Every now and then I just feel moved to post in with them. I have about a 50% success rate for acceptance. Here is a link to the page, and mine is 3rd from the bottom. Incidentally this blog is not political, but on a patriotic day I think it feels OK to mention that we should all speak our minds about our beliefs and concerns. I don't know what the answer is to our immigration woes, but I do feel strongly that a wall is not the answer.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Top 'O My Head--Things Recalled from Internet Librarian/Internet@School

Here I am on the plane headed home after what has been an incredibly informative and stimulating Internet Librarian/Internet@School West Conference. Not only is this the ONE conference where I learn more than at all others combined, it also takes place in beautiful Monterey. I know, tough gig, but someone has to go. This year, not surprisingly, the buzz was all about Web 2.0. Another big theme was gaming, and this area has taken on new potential in my thinking. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to just put down some thoughts about the conference and what I learned, without looking back at any of my notes, the conference schedule, the book of presentations, or anything. The idea is to see what was compelling enough to rise to the top of the rich broth of ideas, impressions, tips, and other information that is bubbling in my creative cauldron after this intense week of learning and sharing with colleagues. So here are some things right off the top of my head. When I get home and have all my resources handy and time to go through them, I will post again and follow up on these and other things that I want to share that I learned this past week.

· You can podcast from your phone! There is a number you can call up and then when you talk into your phone, your comments will be recorded. Then you can send them as a .wav file to the location of your choice. I have not tried this and do not remember the URL or name of the service, but I am dying to try it out!

· This is another fun phone trick: You can use this Internet service to set up for yourself a free phone number in any area code in the US. So if you want to sound high-falutin and give yourself a ritzy code, you can. If you have clients/friends in that AC, they can thereby leave you messages without having to call long distance. Then you can call that phone from your other number(s) and check your voicemail. Another thing you can do is have THAT number call your “REAL” number at a certain time. That would be handy if you were headed for an event and wanted an excuse to leave. You could just answer the call from yourself and say with regret that you have been called away.

·’s new layout is cool. They call it the 3D display. There are three columns presented when you get search results, each offering a specialized type. I will talk about this more, but it does make a lot of sense as far as offering choices to the searcher.

· Layout in general is a theme I noticed with sites. The goal of many home page services, blog aggregators, and searching tools is to come up with cool and innovative ways to present information via layout. Google continues with its traditional list by and large, but is ranking results a bit differently in recognition of the fact that people are more and more interested in video as opposed to just text.

· Some searching trends include

o personalized searching

o blended searching

o social searching…more about these when I can refer to my notes and get online.

· again…this time maps. They have some very cool features

o Ask gives not only driving directions, but also WALKING DIRECTIONS. They are the only search engine to do this.

o In Ask, you have drawing tools at the bottom of a map. One thing you can do is use the circle tool to select a small specific area on a city map, maybe several square miles or less. You can then search within that area for locations such as restaurants, theaters, businesses, etc. So if you are in San Francisco and hungry for sushi, you can do a search of your immediate surroundings and find what is nearby.

· Wikipedia is here to stay. As librarians, we should join in, tending it like a garden. School librarians and administrators should keep an eye on entries for their schools. What, your school does not have an entry? Are you sure? Have you checked? Your little darlings may have put one up with all kinds of creative information. If you have one, and many schools and school libraries do, you need to check it frequently to see how your scholars have been tinkering with it.

· Gaming belongs in libraries. I am so out of the loop on this that I really did not know how may purely educational games there are out there that are beyond reproach. Furthermore, the creative teacher/librarian can use the more popular games as hooks to get students interested in their subjects or in the library and its services.

· RSS—you need to be informed about its value and use it to share your web presences and to gather what you want from the net.

· Right before I came out to this conference, I was a little worried because I feel that I am spread out all over the place on the Internet. I have information at Blogger, PBWiki, Flikr, Picasa, my university web pages, a domain that we bought for our department, several email addresses, Nancy Pearl’s BookLust wiki, the Librarians’ Ning, Twitter, and I am probably leaving something out. But this week it occurred to me that this is not necessarily a BAD thing. Being out there a lot is a way to communicate with lots of people. What I need to do is something I am proud to say I have already done. Just before I left for the conference, I made a page at my PBWiki site where I provided links to all the other places I am on the net. Regardless of whether other people use this, it will help me to keep up with everything and simply my life. Good for me!

· There are many more things, and likely more important things, that I need to call up and share. But my computer battery is on the way down, so I will save them for later.

Fun Things from Internet Librarian/Internet@School

In addition to this conference being wonderfully informative, it is always lots of fun. Here are some fun-stuff memories:

· The other night I was being shown to a table at a restaurant on Old Fisherman’s Wharf where I was going to dine alone. Someone called out “Mary Ann! Come sit with us!” To my amazement someone in a group of what I would call “younguns” recognized me from my presentation and they made me welcome at their table. It was great to visit with all these enthusiastic and savvy young librarians! On the way out, on of my new friends noticed my name tag and said “OH! I know YOU!” I had just signed on to follow her on Twitter a day or two earlier and she recognized my name! She was…Desert Librarian! Very fun and cool person and my new ftf Twitter buddy!

· Another night I enjoyed dining with a librarian I have known virtually for a long time, but had not met ftf. And of all things, she is a Texan. Carolyn Foote, Westlake High School Librarian, gave a great presentation about working with administrators to get them involved in Web 2.0 learning, both as a service to them and as a way to gain access for teachers and students. Her positive and constructive ideas are worth locating via her presentation online. I will look for that URL to share. We had a great time talking about our common interests and concerns regarding web access and the need to make it more reasonable for kids and teachers. It seems a little ironic that we had to travel to California to meet, when we have been in the same place many times at Texas for other conferences.

· Walking down to the harbor and watching the harbor seals is not to be missed. They look like big birds balancing on the rocks in the bay.

· The events that are part of the conference are wonderful. One night there was an exhibit to highlight the opening of exhibits, with delectable refreshments. Another night there was an evening presentation on gadgets and also featuring a really cool project that involves videotaping libraries and librarians across America. There was a 3rd evening event that I missed, but wish I had been around for. It was held at the local library and highlighted various libraries and what they are doing with Web 2.0.

· I did give myself a treat the last half of the last day. I drove back up the coast toward San Jose, where I met my flight today. I spent last night in the nearby town of Half Moon Bay, a little coastal village with wonderful shops and restaurants.

· Best of all, I am heading home feeling fine! Last year on the last day of the conference, I fell on a hiking path and broke my wrist. I flew home so high on painkillers that the plane may have been optional. By the time I got through the subsequent surgery, it was hard to remember the many things I had learned. THIS time I want to do justice to my experience by sharing my new found knowledge. I hope to do that soon, within the next three days, while my notes will make sense and my recollections will be accurate.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Crowded Cranium...Full of Stories!

I am jazzed after a full week of conferencing! I just got back from my all-time favorite conference, Internet Librarian/Internet@School West, held in Monterey, CA. I have tons to say about that but FIRST I need to talk about today's conference at my own university, the 2007 SHSU Annual Book Conference. This wonderful gathering never fails to offer first-rate author guests who entertain, enthrall, and most of all inspire us to do what librarians have always done best and always will do best, share our love of books with readers of all ages. I just want to say a few words about each session that I was lucky enough to attend:
    • We started off the day with two very sharp, classy ladies (I am using adjectives my mom always used as the highest possible accolades she could give). First Cynthia Leitich-Smith talked about her life and books. I have already been plugging her blog, Cynsations, at my wiki site, but learned she also has a 2nd blog which is more about the craft of writing and also about spooky stuff which of course ties in nicely with her latest book, Tantalize, which is of all things a vampire story set in AUSTIN, TEXAS! What's not to like about that? I cannot wait to start in on my copy. If you have not been to her sites, stop reading, go now, and then come back! I will give one URL: Once you go there, you can get to her other sites by the links provided. You will find all kinds of great information and fun for you as well as for your students!
    • Next we got to hear from Joan Bauer. I have been a Joan Bauer fan for as long as I can remember. Rules of the Road is one of those books you just cannot forget. And now there is a sequel! You probably know this but I did not, due to the extreme geekiness of my present life and job which focuses so much on tech and not so much on books. Anyway, she was such a memorable speaker. What presence! What a sense of humor! Hearing her was a huge treat for me! You can find her online at:
      • Next we went to breakout sessions and I was lucky enough to attend one on podcasting from a dear friend, Dr. Bobby Ezell, also of Sam Houston State University. He did not just talk about podcasting, he had us make one, in less than one hour! I sat with a former student and super librarian, Dean Boyd of Livingston, TX. We made an interview podcast about an upcoming silent auction to raise money for the senior class at his school, and HE IS GOING TO USE IT!!! How cool is that? If you would like Bobby's super easy handouts about how to use Audacity (freeware) to make a podcast and then how to easily save it as a web page just using MS Word, leave a comment or email me and I will send them. Bobby has a great knack for making things easy and his step by step comments will get you up and going in no time, as evidenced by the fact that everyone in the session left with a working podcast to upload. When I get the link for ours, I will share it!
      • After lunch I wandered around, thinking I might stop by my office and do a little catching up before the last author talk. But I ran into a great old friend, one of those people with whom you can get right back into a conversation as if you had seen each other yesterday when in actuality it has been several years. She is Lynn Morris, librarian extraordinaire of Frank Elementary in Klein, TX. She was going in to hear De Cee Cowin, storyteller, and I fell in behind her. WAS I GLAD I DID THAT! This man is a fantastic storyteller! He has the timeless ability of storytellers to cast a spell over his audience and take you away to another place, this time Osaka, Japan. Not only does he tell a great story, he then talks about the connections these stories have to all cultures and to the human condition. If I were still a school librarian, I would be contacting him ASAP to ask him to come to my school. We all left his presence a little bit wiser. Here is his website:
      • Finally the last session of the day came around. The morning session was for the ladies, with Cynthia Leitich-Smith and Joan Bauer speaking. In the afternoon session, the guys were front and center. First we heard from Cynthia's husband, Greg Leitich-Smith. He, too, is a writer, with several fiction books out for "tweens." He gave a delightful review of his past, and a cute little tyke he was, and also shared a great story of the evolution of the cover for his book, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. The final cover looks great, and thank goodness they did not stop with one of the earlier iterations. His site is:
      • Last but not least was Mo Willems, who did not disappoint! He was clever and soooo funny and even got some great audience involvement going where at one point attendees acted out an early reader book, and everyone learned how to draw a pigeon. Yes, even I can draw a pigeon now! He really made me see how the different elements of a picture book such as size, shape, page color, size of illustration, number of words on pages, and other details, are carefuly thought out to achive the desired creative expression. I am sure you know Knuffle Bunny and his other books, and here is his website (I love all the cartoon characters in the bar at the top of the page):
It is getting dark on this last day of daylight saving time, and I have not allowed myself supper or any other diversion before sitting down to blog about today. I will be coming in soon with some pictures to accompany the text, but hope I have captured a little of the magic of this special day. Any time you can hear an author or storyteller is a special day, so this one was a banner day for me!