23 February, 2009

Reliance on technology

As I write this, our server is down, its been playing up for a week now, and finally we are getting moved over to another one. And the reliance we have on technology is highlighted. I am composing this post with pen and paper, an increasingly unusual way for me to write. Once we are back up I will type it into the blog and all will feel right again.

It is hard to imagine that ithas only been in the last 10 - 12 years that electronic communication was introduced into Australian workplaces. I have been fortunate to work in progressive organisations where the uptake was timely. Without access to email many people feel quite isolated (I most definitely include myself in this group!) I have a Blackberry that keeps me online most of my waking hours - and I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it's the way it is.

Belonging to the baby boomer generation I still phone my mum - but increasingly my communication with the rest of the family is via sms or facebook. I like this short, more frequent contact. The same happens with professional colleagues - quick emails to stay in touch, or to swap information and the use of real time chat. And now contact with our users is easier too, as they can quickly send us an email letting us know of issues they may be having or to compliment us on something. This blog is another way of communicating with borrowers and we love to get your comments.

So now the system is back up again - and life gets back to normal!

17 February, 2009

A week of shock and sadness

It has been a sombre week as the stories of the devastating fires became known and there has been a great outpouring from all around the country with offers of assistance and aid. The Relief Centres have been overwhelmed with the generosity of the community.

The Library has had some of our staff working at the Diamond Creek centre and there is an ongoing commitment to do whatever we can. We have a book drive happening at our branches, where people can donate books which we will distribute to individuals and schools, and those that are not directly distributed will be sold to raise funds for the Red Cross bushfire appeal. We are also participating in a co ordinated response to distribute books donated by publishers and the book industry.

Our mobile libraries are attending where they can, although access is still restricted to some sites. We particularly feel for our Murrindindi colleagues, who are amongst the worst affected. Their libraries are still standing and are being used as community centres.

As the rebuilding starts, we will be providing whatever services and support we are able to.

09 February, 2009

Horrifying bushfires

Here at Yarra Plenty we are shocked and horrified by the devastating bushfires that have ripped through Victoria. Parts of our region, especially in the Shire of Nillumbik, have been badly affected, and our partners at Murrindindi have had terrible losses and are still facing danger.

Our hearts go out to all those who have lost family, friends, pets, stock, houses. Those of you who were not in Victoria on Saturday could not have any comprehension of the appalling heat and wind - the temperature reached 47 and a hot northerly wind was gusting at over 50 km in the morning. I drove down to Gippsland in the morning and although there was not much smoke around then, by early afternoon it was obvious there were very serious fires in many places. The cool change that came through around 5.30 in Melbourne merely exacebated the fires as they swung around in a completely different direction. The change reached Maffra around 10pm - outside there was ash and black debris blowing in. Driving back to Melbourne yesterday I was fortunate that the highway had been opened by the time I got to Warragul. There was a lot of smoke, though not so much sign of fires from the highway.

The news keeps coming of more loss - it is hard to comprehend.

For those who have been affected, please let us know if we can do anything to help you. We are very conscious that the last thing you will want to be worrying about is your library books. If you would like to email us at ypmail@yprl.vic.gov.au , or call us on 9401 0750, or let your local branch know, we will manage that for you. We are intending that the Mobile Library will go out to those townships that it can get to - and will post that information on our website each day until the mobile is back to normal.

02 February, 2009

ebooks gaining favour

A report in the Salt Lake City Tribune describes the growing popularity of ebook readers

The high-tech gadgets are still a novelty, but they appear to be taking hold. Already, reading newspapers on a smart phone isn't such a big deal anymore, so these book readers appear to be the next logical step in how new technology can change our reading experiences. Driven by sales of the Kindle, the most iconic of the devices, these hand-held book readers are larger than an iPhone and, with adjustable font sizes, can make reading text easier. Made by Amazon and touted by Oprah Winfrey, the Kindle showed up on several holiday shopping guides and is one of the few products this season that appeared to be recession-proof. Demand for the $359 device has been high, and it is sold out until February.
I brought back a Rocket eReader from the US in June 2000 - they were very new then and I had rather more problems buying one than I had imagined. However they grabbed our imagination at Brisbane City Council, and we purchased 20 of them for the opening of the Toowong Branch in March 2001. They were certainly a great novelty, and easy enough to use, but we had a lot of problems getting the content for them. Yarra Plenty also bought one to familiarise staff with. However, the end came when the website we were downloading the titles from just disappeared.

The Kindle reader, the Iliad and Sony’s reader are some of the new offerings on the market. It was a pleasant surprise to experience the quality of the screen and the ease of using an Iliad, compared with the first generation e-book readers. The higher quality screens and print resolution make it a much more viable proposition. It seems that the ebook may indeed be taking off.

However, before we get too excited, we need to be aware that the Kindle is not available in Australia and is unlikely to be in the near future - this is from the Amazon site:

"At this time, we are unable to offer the Amazon Kindle and associated digitalcontent from the Kindle Store to our international customers due to import/export laws and other restrictions. When you place your order for an Amazon Kindle, both the billing address for the payment method and the shipping address for the delivery must be recognized by our systems as valid U.S. addresses. To successfully purchase digital content from the Amazon Kindle Store, the 1-Click payment method listed on the Manage Your Kindle page must be a credit or debit card issued by a U.S. Bank with a U.S. billing address. We value our international customers and hope to make Kindle available internationally in the future."
The library service does have a growing collection of audio books, music and videos including best sellers and new releases are able to be downloaded from the library's customised website. Some of the authors available are Garrison Keillor, Ian McEwan and Dean Koontz. Classical music, feature films, movie classics, concert videos and other popular materials are also available. Check it out!

Have you had any experience with ebooks? What do you think the future of them is? Let me know!