Librarian Avengers

Look it up.

Jan 25, 2005

Designing for hyper-attentive cyborg children

cy childI got this in my email today:

What children can teach us: Lessons learned from the trenches of digital libraries
"...developing digital libraries that support young people in querying, browsing, and reading scanned materials."

It all sounds very impressive until you click the link. Look at that thing! It's like getting stabbed in the eyeballs with suck! How can these people sleep at night?

This is a perfectly good children's resource that is absolutely hidden from children. What is the focal point of the page? The word "Advanced" fergodsake. Why are there four search options? Do they actually think children care enough to distinguish between different search criteria? Who are these children? Can I have one?

I can't even begin to list the mistakes they are making in this interface. Where is the content? I see three books. Why is there so much text? I don't want to read that badly-formatted crap, and I'm a grown-up. Why is 98% of the navigation dedicated to links that are of absolutely no interest to children? Executive Summary? Yeah, my kid's gonna click on that one. Why didn't they hire a professional web designer? They make a huge deal about how kids "designed" the site, but they didn't bother to honor those kids' contributions by hiring a decent web developer. They've got more than 5 million dollars, they can afford it. In the time it took to write their complete curatoral policy (conveniently linked on the FRONT PAGE) they could have at least changed the default link color.

Once you actually find the content (just click "Simple Search" and chase the badly-written JavaScript popup around the screen until it works! It's obvious! Cyborg children love to search!) the interface settles down a bit. The links related to the grant go away, and the library experiments with some innovative ways to find books, by color, length, etc. Good stuff. Except except except the graphics are so shitty and the labels are so poorly thought-out ("Real Animal Characters" rather than "Animals", "Imaginary Animal Characters" rather than "Pretend Animals") that it just all falls apart.

This site was designed for librarians, not for children.

another oneHumor me and compare it to (a favorite among the kids we researched in grad school). The big difference between the two is, on this site you can click absolutely anywhere and find something satisfying. You don't even need to click. Information is conveyed by rollover sounds and animations. I've personally witnessed kids fight with each other over headphones in order to hear these sounds.

Look, I know I'm being an ass, and this is a great resource and these are good people and I'm going to get hate mail, but somebody has to say it.

It's not enough that we are lovely librarians who care sooooo much about children. It's not enough that we put all of this great content up on the interweb. It's not enough that we are overworked researchers who will have to write tedious papers about the project to justify our tenure.

We need to run everything we do through a filter that asks: "If I click on this without an MLS, will it piss me off?" We need to acknowledge that design matters. We need to remove ourselves from our collections. We need to design websites that don't mock the resources they contain. We need to do these things because otherwise all of our efforts are worthless. We need to design websites that don't suck, because otherwise the kids that we care so much about are going to wander off and smoke crack. And it's going to be our fault.

Jan 24, 2005

Weekend update

Highlights included:
  • Driving up a hill forward, yet sliding backward
  • The cat chasing a German Shepherd
  • Hey! That's not yellow snow! That's coolant!
  • Nicole hitting everyone with the Stick of Self-Awareness
  • Painting injury
  • A newly apendixless dad
  • Two more friends getting married - A plague of affection!

Jan 21, 2005

Planned Parenthood bar crawl

I joined the Planned Parenthood drinking team last night, and attended their first ever pro-choice pub crawl.
Highlights included sliding condoms down the bar and engaging large construction workers on the topic of reproductive rights. Much fun was had by all, including the drunken gentlemen who thought we were rushing a sorority with our matching pink t-shirts. Alpha Gamma Roe, man.

For all you librarians out there, wow, what a way to raise the visibility of your infomation services. Why not start Librarian bar crawls throughout this land? I can see it now, schnockered crowds of library workers handing out community health and information flyers in our nation's drinking establishments. Wear something funny, matching and visible, get a drink at the bar, say something really loud like "Librarians need liquor!" and just start talking to folks.

Social conservatives may use churches to spread their hardline social agendas, but more people go to bars, baby. Let's take our librarianship to the streets. Let's put information about Black History Month, HTML workshops, book clubs, and storyhour in the hands of The People.

Plus, beer!

Jan 19, 2005

Mink, not a coat

In the spirit of wildlife adventures, I will now recount for you the sighting of a Mink on the pond outside our window at work. I say "on the pond" because the pond is frozen. The mink, who is not currently part of an elderly lady's coat, was jumping in and out of some holes on the bank. He then bounded across the ice with mink-like speed and disappeared.

Once more: I love my job. Bill, our fearless lead developer, spotted the mink outside the window. Then the whole development team crowded around vying for the binoculars. I'm telling you people, you do not get this level of rad working in the city. Nope. You've gotta come to Ithaca. And freeze your ass off.

Good morning cat

This morning I was getting ready for work and Chris said casually, "boy, that stuffed mouse you got Owl (the cat) sure is realistic".
All of Owl's toys are neon green or red.
This was not a toy.
Owl was very proud of himself.
He ran down the stairs and waited for me to throw it.
Owl got extra breakfast and petting.
Chris and I got to dispose of the mouse.

Jan 5, 2005

New Years Resolutions

  • Eat more stinky cheese.
  • Redesign the website. Get some content. Get the forums up. (whip cracking sounds)
  • Send more weird haiku-filled postcards.
  • Quit with the crushingly high self-expectations already.
  • Edit more of Chinamike's book. Be faster. Much faster.
  • More dancing.
  • Stop doing that Midwestern thing where I feel compelled to explain the motivation behind my every action. (New me: "I am going to watch this DVD." Old me: "I feel like I have done enough work today and my right knee is kind of hurting, so I think I will put this DVD in and watch it that is unless anyone minds?")
  • Get over it.
  • Take free Cornell classes. One per semester! Scottish literature! Hooray!
  • Stop eating stinky cheese in my small shared office.
  • Visit Erin and George in San Francisco.
  • Call my grandma at lunch at least once a week.
  • Stop negatively comparing myself to David Foster Wallace.
  • Get involved in local board of elections and make them change their shitty signs and poorly designed voting material.
  • When confronted with religious zelotry, aggressively sing showtunes

Jan 3, 2005

Primates and their tools.

oxygen sensorFellow library workers, let me engage you in a thought experiment.

Say you are changing the oxygen sensor in your aged vehicle with your good friend Brian, and it is getting dark and has started raining and in spite of your best efforts you can't get the old part off, as a librarian would you know enough NOT to stand in the rain and scrape your knuckles trying to remove the heat shield from your exhaust manifold?

As research professionals, I'm sure you would quickly wash your hands, search the web, and discover that the auto parts store sells a tool clearly labeled "Oxygen Sensor Socket Wrench" which will remove the old part posthaste.

At least this is what you would do if you were not me.