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Some recent Google stuff and Libraries

I visit too many libaries that have public workstations that are purposefully made dysfunctional (often by IT teams with good intentions but poor understanding of how these PC’s are tended to be used). Too many library public PC’s don’t have any productivity tools on them (word processing and spreadsheets for example), while some disable the USB ports or disallow IM, even e-mail!, etc. Some talk in their annual reports about their efforts to bridge the digital divide with public stations where these good intentions are somewhat negated by their actual implementations. One amusing story happened when I was in one library that let people print to hard copy at no charge (good) but patrons could not make an electronic copy and add it to their, document, bibliography or paper, etc. It was suggested that people could e-mail it to themselves and have an e-copy that way. I was met with blank stares when I asked how many of the people who were using library PC’s because they had no PC of their own would find that useful.
Anyway, some things are happening in this space that might be helpful. I regret that it involves using some of the new beta services from Google. I don’t deny that workarounds are sometimes the only way to do the right thing in some situations.
You can do word processing on the web using Writely which is now owned by Google. Folks can upload, input, edit, and store documents here. And SHARE too.
This week Google launched the beta of Google Spreadsheets. Same ting. It’s a web based tool for doing, ummm, spreadsheets. Take a tour here.
The neat thing about these is that actual teams of people can easily collaborate when these tools are web based.
Blogger can be built as a collaboration tool for book clubs, school classes, etc. It’s web-based too.
Do your folks need to clip items and make notes about what they find on the web. Try Google Notes.
And yes, if you need to avoid the storage problem and the USB issue, just use Google Base and Gmail and you’ve got your stuff. You can have gigabytes of free storage that you can share too.
Lastly, if your library blocks IM, show them Meebo. It works with most of the major IM clients. Be subversive. The digital divide doesn’t deserve less. It deserve the same – equal, equitable, whatever. Would we lend books that were disabled in some way – no covers?, no table of contents? Why do some provide substandard experiences?
Now, it’s probably not a great idea to get hooked on free services where the rules are controlled by comerce and advertisers. You also get what you pay for, but if we can’t deliver what’s needed, there’s always another way!
Maybe there needs to be one PC that does it all until the PC rule makers write up the justification for the specification that delivers these epxeriences.

Posted on: June 9, 2006, 9:48 am Category: Uncategorized

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