Tuesday, January 31, 2006

new FirstGov search is way cool

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FirstGov, the portal to gub'ment information on the web, got its search engine a facelift. Now it looks like Google and acts like Clusty (not a bad combo). It's just a simple search box interface, but its search results are really super. (that use of a superlative, combined with "super cool" in my title have officially proven my nerdhood.)

I entered a search for "impeachment" (if only everyone in Congress was doing that search these days. Sigh.), and the results were interesting: on the left, you get clusters (ala Clusty, the metasearch engine also built by Vivismo, the folks who got the contract for this project) of topics (e.g., Representatives, House; Committee, History 109th; Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton, etc.) which can be exploded if your topic actually matches those more closely. In the main window, you get the top results from their database of over 40 million govt web pages, and if there's one there you like (say, from the Library of Congress), you can limit your search to just that site with one click. Plus, at the top of the search results, if there's a FAQ that matches your search term, it's there. In my search, it's "Where can I find general information on the federal process of impeachment?"

Considering how difficult it can be to track down the right government document when you need it, this new search design is incredible. More functional than Google Unclesam, and much more intuitive than the overwhelming home page for FirstGov.

Plus, this is probably the sole example in the last 6 years of government information being made MORE accessible. Hopefully my search for "impeachment" didn't just get me on the no-fly list.

I first read about this at Search Engine Watch. Then I saw it mentioned by Librarian in Black. Now it's my turn.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

USA Patriot Act call-in day

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The ALA is encouraging everyone to contact their representatives and senators about the Patriot Act extension, and to do it on the same day:

National PATRIOT Act Call-In Day - January 25, 2006.
On Wednesday, January 25th, please call both your Senators and your Representative and ask them to support the Senate language reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. The Senate bill better protects Americans' and library patrons' civil liberties -- without sacrificing any security.

When you call, ask Members of Congress to fight for:

  • The inclusion of language in Section 215 requiring a statement of fact linking the person whose records are sought to a terrorism investigation.
  • The inclusion of language allowing a Section 215 recipient to pose a meaningful challenge to a FISA Court order.

  • The inclusion of language allowing a Section 505 recipient to pose a meaningful challenge to National Security Letter.

They've put together a web site with talking points and a list of reps' and senators' phone numbers. Or call the Capitol Switchboard number at 202-224-3121. Or visit the House or the Senate on the web.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Are you a librarian? quiz

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I just took the "Are You A Librarian?" quiz and scored a 65%. My excuse is that, hey, I'm young & new to the profession. A lot of the questions were about library history, and I was guessing on all but the most obvious ones. I wish they told me the correct answers (or even which questions I got right!) so i can become a *real* librarian.

My results:
Assistant Librarian: You scored 65% on knowledge of librarianship.

You seem to be a librarian, but you are not as knowledgeable as your more devoted colleagues in some of the library lore, trivia, technical details and social knowledge that can give depth and perspective to ones professional identity; but your practical knowledge of your job may be quite excellent.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Teaching RSS Feeds Workshop

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In about 45 minutes, I'm going to be teaching a class on RSS feeds to faculty and staff at my college library. Last night, I imagined that there would be one or two people showing up for the class. It is still winter break, so the number of people on campus is limited. Plus, I have no idea how many people know what RSS is, or why they might want to know.

But when I came into work this morning, I saw the list of people who have signed up, and there are nine people. Hopefully there will be a few drop-ins too. This is really awesome.

It's funny that I'm teaching a class on a technology that I only really started to understand about 6 months ago. But it's promising - both for our library, which is trying to bridge the gap between us and the faculty, and for me, since I might become a better-known face on campus. Of course that might make it more difficult for me to surrupticiously run into the campus center for lunch and hide out with my ipod on. But then again, my ipod is yet again broken so I guess it's time to get more social on campus anyway.