A Wish List

make-a-wish

I’ve been thinking today about what I wish I and my students could have access to in the library.  Forget all the restrictions currently in place in the name of network security, student safety, legal protections and such—this is a list of favorite things I feel could enhance student learning if the school network and filter were to be unfettered.

[  ]  Access to more browsers: I have come to detest Internet Explorer in the last 12 months.   While I sometimes become frustrated by the slow load time and frequent updates of Firefox, their add-ons are unparalleled.  I love how much more efficiently and effectively  I can operate with the add-ons and Greasemonkey scripts I use to personalize and tweak my Firefox browser.  In addition, some cool new tools I’m playing with this early autumn, like Zotero, need Firefox to breathe.  In addition, I wish my students could have access to other browsers, like Google Chrome, to use when they are working with their Google apps—it’s really  true that many of my Google apps fly in Chrome.  I also find that the Safari browser is growing on me, too.    I can only wonder if my students could be somewhat more productive if our district would allow the installation of alternate browsers and for students to customize their browsers with educational add-ons.

[  ]  An Affordable SMS/Email Service That Will Work with My OPAC: so far, I am striking out on my search for a text messaging and email service that I can use to notify patrons of fines, holds, and general announcements.   So far, Follett Destiny, our district OPAC, does not offer any of these options other than to email the teacher (which seems a bit useless to me, honestly)—I want to communicate with the patrons directly.  Their cell phones are where they live—it makes sense that having the ability to text message patrons about their library accounts is the way to go, plus it would help us save paper while communicating more effectively with students.

[  ]  The Ability for Students to View Embedded Videos: while my primary wish would be for students to have access to YouTube for research, I would happily settle for them to be able to see the embedded videos I incorporate into the research pathfinder.   It is extremely frustrating to include these informative and helpful resources in the pathfinder but to have to tell kids, “Sorry—you’ll have to wait to you get home to view this.”   In addition, the inability to provide YouTube content only diminishes my library’s relevance as a place to go for information—why should students have to wait until they get home (and not all even have a computer or Internet at home) to see rich content from the CDC or a Google tool tutorial?   I know the content from Slide is viewable in embedded form even though the service/website itself is blocked, so I wonder why the same cannot done be done for YouTube.  I will continue to ask in hopes this wish will come true.

[  ]  Catalog/OPAC 2.0: I am normally a patient person, but I have very little left when it comes to this subject.   While some efforts have been made by Follett to make Destiny a more Web 2.0 kind of OPAC, these changes are mainly limited to students having the ability to rate an items and a hipper interface; there is the “suggested title” feature when searching for a book, but these changes really do not provide an “Amazon” type of search experience that is customized for each user.  In addition, I am finding that many services I covet, like Library Elf, a LibGuides custom search widget for your card catalog, and Library Thing for Libraries do not interface with Destiny because of its structure.  If open source OPACS and catalog overlays for searching and discovering like AquaBrowser can provide tag clouds, more relevant titles suggestions, bookmarking ability, and other custom features, why can’t Follett do this?  Why isn’t a text messaging feature built in?   While I appreciate that Follett welcomes customer “enhancements”, should I really have to wait for them do what open source OPACS are already doing?  Follett Destiny developers—I (and I am sure am not alone) am tired of waiting—we need you to be proactive and give us K-12 librarians a catalog interface that makes sense for today’s users.

[  ]  Moviemaking Software: MovieMaker is not cutting it.   Even with all the great support from our tech staff and students diligently following all instructions, MovieMaker often proves to be flaky.   In addition, the students who have the newer version for Windows Vista at home are up the creek if they finalize the movie at home and then want to show it at school.   I cannot tell you how frustrated students, teachers, tech staff, and I were by the problems we encountered this spring in spite of our best efforts to head off problems.     I need an affordable and easy to learn piece of movie creation software for advanced video projects that will support the CODEC for inexpensive cameras (like FLIP) as well as the limited number of more sophisticated video cameras we (and the ones our students bring) own.    Suggestions?

I know there are probably other latent wishes that aren’t on this list, but these are the most pressing wishes I have for now.

What is on your wish list?  What do you dream of?

18 thoughts on “A Wish List

  1. Our wish lists overlap. Finally, my school supports Firefox, but for some reason, flash isn’t working with Firefox at my school, so why would one use it? I am hoping our tech people can fix it. We also got some dual platform Macs, so a wish has been granted this summer.. I still haven’t found the perfect OPAC – but I will let you know when I do. Our consortium is working on it.

    On my wish list? I want the OPAC, LibGuides and some databases to have really great mobile device versions, so the quality sources and access are at the kid’s fingertips, in an easy to read format. Maybe some of them do have it – I am just starting to research it. NYTimes has a Mobile version. Some of our school’s website is now available in a Mobile format, but not the library. Think kids would do some research using their iPhones?

  2. It is so funny that different boards can have such different issues! Our new, shiny and beautiful lab has both Firefox and Google Chrome (the kids were thrilled when they checked it out) and youtube isn’t firewalled so we have that as well. I’m excited at the prospects of trying Zotero with my students this year!

    On the other hand, we don’t have an online library database at all – we are still using a product that has to be used within the school. And our new shiny lab has one problem? The library search program isn’t working in it! (ack!)

    I hope you get your wishes! I’m dreaming about a catalog online that allows for all kinds of web 2.0 applications! Once that wish is fulfilled I’m going to wish for even more!

    Here is hoping that all of our wishes come true!

  3. Buffy,

    I completely agree! We waste so much time and paper sending out notices, and we have to interrupt students in class when they have holds. We have yet to move over to Destiny because they haven’t provided a way to add obligations as required by my supervisor. I’m so sad to hear that Destiny is not akin to Amazon in its ability to search and suggest. I was excited by the demonstration (especially having review capability), so I am sad to hear that its mostly about looking “hipper” rather than helping librarians to reach our customers more easily. I guess it is better to realize now that Destiny will not be the answer.

    • I’m running Destiny and the ability to email student or their parents their overdue or hold notices or whatever is one of my favourite things about it! And they’re saying a mobile app is coming in Feb.

  4. I’ve found that there’s Destiny and then there’s Destiny. There is what the OPAC produces and then, there is what the schools will pay for. Destiny is out there to make a profit and they sell each feature to schools rather than providing them to make our lives simpler in a 2.0 world. I wish there was more accuracy in their reports and a greater way to pinpoint exactly what I want. My OPAC gives a Top Ten list, yet I still don’t know how they compute that because it’s never correct.

    Videos…have you tried TeacherTube? You can also use Downloaded on Firefox to download the Youtube video.

  5. Hi Buffy,

    Keep wishing – you are absolutely on target. I went to the Follett site, gave them the link to your wish list and asked that they follow your blog.

    Will it do any good? Who knows! It was worth trying.

    Speed of change has a cost that may require a different business model.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Buffy. I feel like my wish is more selfish. I WISH that the second unit allocated to the library by the state was actually IN the library (instead of the fieldhouse — how exactly does an assitant football coach fulfill the “technology librarian” role?) I go home exhausted every night from running a facility for more than 1300 patrons without any real help. But it is also making me realize that my district and school, in making this choice, have chosen to devalue my library program and libraries in general. Which is good to know, if not good in and of itself.

  7. Elisabeth—I love the idea of mobile apps for our databases! I think the kids who have smartphones would use them if that option was available. It would be nice, too, if our OPACS had the capability. I am with you—we need to tap into the power and possibilities of mobile computing!

  8. Dr. Zarinnia: thank you so much for your encouragement and for plugging my wish list with Follett! I am also going to send a copy to my rep this week. As you said, it cannot hurt!

    I agree that our vendors are going to need to find ways to be more responsive in a more timely manner. I am surprised that the open source market has not forced K-12 vendors to be more innovative, but then again, there seems to be less tech support for open source in the K-12 environment—do you think that trend may change?

  9. Hi Sue!

    Wow—that is so impressive that you have access to multiple browsers AND YouTube! I hope they get the computers in the lab to cooperate with your library search soon, though.

    I know we all have our challenges! I am grateful for the wishes that HAVE come true in my library setting, but we can continue to dream big, right? :-)

    Thank you for reading my blog!
    Buffy

  10. Hi Heather!

    I do applaud Follett for making the effort to go more Web 2.0, but most of the changes are cosmetic at this point. The review feature IS nice, but like you, I crave more! I guess when I see how the open source OPACS can incorporate the features I want, I feel a little impatient with the mainstream vendors.

    I will continue my efforts to vocalize and share them that these are things we’d like to see in the K-12 world. Maybe they just don’t realize it?

    Thank you for your input and for reading my blog!

    Best,
    Buffy

  11. Hi Edi!

    Yes, I feel frustrated with the reports, too. The other day I was looking for a report to see the top 10 books circulated for the last year, but it was not under the “reports” section!

    I use Zamzar to download the YouTube videos I want to show to the whole group, but it would be nice if the embedded ones were viewable so the students could watch them again while in the library instead of having to wait until they got home.

    Sometimes the TeacherTube videos show up, but sometimes they don’t. While they do have some of the videos I want to use, they just don’t have the wealth of what YouTube has to offer; however, it can be a good backup in a pinch!

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and for reading my blog! :-)

    Best,
    Buffy

  12. Wendy:

    Your wish is NOT selfish—there is nothing selfish about wanting what should be in place and wanting your library program to get the respect and value it deserves by the powers that be.

    I truly admire and respect how effective you are–it is even more remarkable given the less than ideal circumstances in which you model your exemplary practice that inspires people like me. This is even more awe-inspiring to me in light of the fact that you are working on your doctoral degree—it makes me sad that your talent and efforts are not appreciated as they should be.

    A few weeks ago when I was feeling a little discouraged, someone very wise said this on my FB page: “Sometimes our efforts are not respected by those in our own backyard”—I think many school librarians are feeling frustrated by barriers and obstacles to change. It is definitely disappointing when you give 150% and others don’t share your vision–I know from experience.

    Keep persevering—just try to remember that you are doing great things and providing your students learning experiences they would not have otherwise. One day they WILL realize how lucky they are to have a talent like you in their presence!

    Thank you for reading my blog—I aspire to one day have the kind of wisdom that you do!

    Best,
    Buffy

  13. The other day our senior district tech guy came in to help me with a few things, and asked me the same question — what would I have in my ideal library? What kinds of tools would help me do my job to help students learn? The purpose of his questions was to make sure we as librarians had a voice in the new district tech plan, as the school board examined it, determining how to present this to the community as a bond issue. I kept thinking about headsets with microphones for podcasting, flip video cameras, basic stuff that I don’t even have now to enable me to use some of the really cool tools out there. He understood that I needed this, but wanted me to think long term, big picture, about things like cloud computing, so we could all connect to our stuff anytime/anyplace to make learning ubiquitous. It was enlightening, particularly given your post. I’ll have to keep some of your thoughts in mind as well — particularly making it so our various systems are seamless (i.e. Destiny and other databases).

  14. I want to start by saying I am not in a media center this year and I looked at the Follett website and things have changed.

    However, I used InfoCentre Sagebrush by Follett and was able to email fine and overdue notices after the reports were generated. The option was made available only AFTER the reports were generated. This was nice, except for those students who did not have an email account on record and my inbox was quickly filled with the undeliverable emails.

    The program then generated a list of who received the emails and who did not. There was not a way to print the ‘received’ from the ‘did not receive’ list so paper was still wasted.

    I do wonder if it is a cost issue and that feature comes with more money?

  15. Hi Lynn!

    Thank you for the info! When our school opened in 2006, we had InfoCentre for the first year (we had been on Winnebago before). At that time, I wasn’t thinking along these lines, so I don’t know if that feature was available before Follett bought out Sagebrush.

    Even though it sounds like there were a few drawbacks/limitations, that is cool your version had the email version.

    To the best of my knowledge, the only email option we have with Destiny is to email notices to homeroom teachers. Perhaps with future upgrades more options will be available, though? You could be right in that costs are an issue; I don’t think an upgrade to get that feature is available as our district very generously purchased quite a few add-ons/bonuses/upgrades, but that it is definitely worth checking into—I will let you know what I find out!

    Thank you for taking time to share your insights and experiences. Keep your fingers crossed! :-)

  16. Could you do a status update on the compatibility of Destiny with Library Elf? I also wonder if Follett offers a similar notification app for the end user? I innocently wrote Library Elf and found that they can not connect with Destiny, but I am wondering if anyone has found a work around? It my be enough to prompt our board to look at upgrading our system to a better ILS.

    Dave Netz, Interim Director
    Orange City Public Library

    • Hi Dave! I’m not familiar with Library Elf (heard of it, but I have not used it firsthand). However, I know from many years of experience that Destiny/Follett are extremely proprietary and do not play well with third party services or platforms. I should also state that in the interest of full disclosure, I am NOT a fan of the Destiny OPAC. You can notify patrons of overdues or holds through Destiny via email, but I don’t find it very robust. Many of us had asked for the ability to text notices, but I don’t know if that is an option with Destiny right now–that area, while expedient and sensible, can get tricky for those of us in K12. Have you tried contacting Follett Customer Service? If not, let me know, and I can try and contact them to find out.

      Very best, Buffy

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