#3SkillsYEG, Edmonton Tool Library, LRT operators like pilots

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

3SkillsYEG – what three things will you learn?

Today the Edmonton Public Library launched a new City of Learners campaign called #3SkillsYEG:

“#3SkillsYEG invites Edmontonians to create their own version of Robinson’s adventure by learning, teaching and sharing three new things with each other in 2016. By declaring to learn a skill related to “Personal Growth & Well-Being” in February; “Creativity & Expression” in March; and “Making Our City Better” in April, and sharing it on social media, participants will be entered to win an iPad, $200 towards Metro Continuing Education and tickets to the Telus World of Science.”

You can learn more about #3SkillsYEG here. Participating is simple – just pick three skills you want to learn and commit to learning one each month. You don’t have to follow the monthly themes, but that’s potentially a good way to stay on track. There’s going to be events related to each one too. You can enter the contest by declaring the skills you’re going to learn here.

Making a Better Burger
Me learning to make a better burger at Farmfair back in November

I really like this initiative, so I agreed to be a Learning Champion. What that means is that I’ll be participating and sharing my progress and encouraging others to do so as well. My list of “things to learn” is far longer than I’m able to tackle, but I will pick three for #3SkillsYEG and will be writing about each one in the coming months.

Edmonton Tool Library

Here’s a great idea that’s long overdue that two Edmontonians are finally doing something about. Leslie Bush and Robyn Webb are starting the Edmonton Tool Library, which will let you borrow tools just like you can currently borrow books and other items from the public library. There are tool lending libraries all around the world, including in many Canadian cities. Here’s the news from CBC Edmonton:

“The plan is to open the new tool library downtown, where many residents don’t have the room to store many tools. The group doesn’t yet have a firm opening date in mind, but is hoping to be up and running later this year. Edmontonians who sign up for an annual membership will be able to borrow tools for limited periods of time.”

For now they have a Facebook page and an idea. Sometimes that’s good enough to get something going. If you want more information or to find out how to get involved, sign up for their mailing list here.

Vancouver Tool Library Est. 2011
Vancouver’s Tool Library launched in 2011, photo by Richard Eriksson

This idea has come up dozens of times in recent years, especially after Make Something Edmonton launched, but to my knowledge no one has actually tried to make it happen. There are some related initiatives that have been very successful in Edmonton, like ENTS which does provide access to a variety of tools including drills, saws, and more for use in their space. But to be able to borrow a power tool for use in your home, that’s pretty interesting.

The other obvious initiative that comes to mind is EPL’s Makerspace. Like ENTS, there are some tools there you can use on-site, including a couple of 3D printers. There’s no tool library though, at least not yet. With the revitalization of the Stanley Milner library downtown gearing up there’s a related effort called “Makerspace 2020” to determine how the Makerspace should evolve. I know for a fact that tools have come up in consultations on that project, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see EPL itself offer something in the near future.

The LRT driver who sounds like a pilot

If you’ve been a passenger on the LRT recently, you might have heard Jon Morgan. He’s an LRT operator who entertains passengers by giving them updates on connections, the weather, nearby attractions, and more. I heard him recently and was amused, and judging by the smiles, it seems my fellow passengers were too. Here’s what he told Global Edmonton:

“I love our city and I like to learn as much as I can about our city, relay it across to the people. I just like to brighten people’s days as much as possible.”

I’d say he’s doing a good job of that!

If this all seems oddly familiar, that’s because it is. Back in 2010, essentially the same story was written about Tim Mireault. And then again in 2012. Good stories are worth repeating, I guess!

TweetSharp for Twitter developers using .NET

Since January I’ve been using a library called TweetSharp in my various Twitter-related programming projects (including my monthly stats posts). Not only has it saved me from all of the effort that would have gone into writing my own Twitter library for .NET, but it has also taught me a few things about fluent interfaces, OAuth, and other topics. Here’s the description from the relatively new official website:

TweetSharp is a complete .NET library for microblogging platforms that allows you to write short and sweet expressions that convert automatically to web queries and fly to Twitter on your behalf.

Maybe this is a generalization but I often feel that .NET developers get the short end of the stick when the “cool kids” release sample code for their APIs. Or more accurately, C# developers get the short end of the stick (because you can run Python, Ruby, and other languages on .NET if you really want to). Thus I’m grateful that Dimebrain (Daniel Crenna) has developed such a useful library.

TweetSharp is open source and under active development (hosted on Google Code), with a growing base of users reporting and fixing issues (I helped with the Twitter Search functionality initially). If you’re writing any kind of software for Twitter using .NET, you should be using TweetSharp.

Edmonton Public Library & U of A Libraries at Facebook

Post ImageLast October I wrote a post about some radio ads the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) was running at the time. My argument was that the EPL’s advertising just wasn’t “with it” and that they should take a good long look at what would appeal to younger patrons. Here is what I wrote:

The goal is clearly to try and bring young people into the library. Instead of some hokey ad about an adventure, why not highlight the aspects of the library that appeal to young people? Things like public computers, excellent study and workspaces, a Second Cup built right in (for the downtown location at least), power outlets for your laptop, and wireless Internet (do they have this?).

I could have saved myself some characters if I had simply written “things like technology.” I wonder if someone at the EPL read my post, because they certainly got the hint. Tris Hussey (editor of the excellent blognation Canada) posted about the EPL’s new Facebook application this week:

…it looks like the Edmonton Public Library is the first public library to have a Facebook application! Taking a quick look at the EPL site, they seem to have “gotten” Web 2.0 . they have RSS feeds for events, you can add a catalogue search to you Google homepage, pretty darn cool.

That’s all true, but the main EPL site is still ugly as hell! I bet Jakob Nielsen likes it though.

Kudos to the EPL for diving into Facebook! Dickson remarked during lunch today that libraries don’t get enough credit for being technologically savvy, and I have to agree. And wouldn’t you know it, the University of Alberta Libraries has a Facebook application too. Very similar functionality to the EPL application.

I wonder how many other libraries have Facebook applications? What other kinds of organizations should create Facebook apps? I’d love to see a Starbucks app, where I can manage my card and fill up someone else’s card all within Facebook. As Tris said, “something that people can use. Something that is simple.”

Read: catech

No books in your new library!

As some of you probably know, I prefer bits and bytes to paper. So it should be no surprise that I rather like that the University of Texas at Austin has replaced the books in one of their libraries with a digital friendly study space:

By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library’s 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

Note that the books are not being removed completely, just moved to other library locations. There are many educators who will frown upon this decision by the University of Texas, but I think they are just unwilling to change their way of thinking. Does it really make sense to start with books? Books are definitely valuable resources, they have been for a long time, and will continue to be for a long time. However, searching through shelves of books or stacks of documents isn’t efficient. Start with the computer to get to the right book.

It should be noted too that many universities and their libraries are making books and other print material available in digital form. Combined with the transformation of certain libraries into digital centres, I think what we’re seeing is more of the “on demand” culture. Thanks to TiVo and similar services, you can get TV on demand. Thanks to podcasting, you can get audio on demand. There’s definitely a trend here, and all the University of Texas’ decision proves is that libraries and books are not immune.

“There’s a real transition going on,” said Sarah Thomas, past president of the Association of Research Libraries and the librarian at the Cornell University Library in Ithaca, N.Y. “This is not to say you don’t have paper or books. Of course, they’re sacred. But more and more we’re delivering material to the user as opposed to the user coming into the library to get it.”

What you want, when you want it, and where you want it. Welcome to the future of, well everything, it seems!

Read: New York Times

Librarians silently fume over Intel magazine bounty

A few days ago, Intel announced that they would pay up to $10,000 for a mint-condition copy of an April 19th, 1965 issue of the magazine that contained Gordon Moore’s now famed law about how the number of components on integrated circuits would double every year. Kind of amazing that Intel didn’t have a copy of the magazine, and apparently they thought so too, so they offered the bounty.

A day after the bounty was announced, a library at the University of Illinois noticed that one of their two copies of the magazine had disappeared:

There was a glaring space on the shelf where the bound volume containing the April 19, 1965, edition of Electronics Magazine sat for years, said Mary Schlembach, assistant engineering librarian at the Grainger Engineering Library at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Another librarian heard a student talking on a cell phone about the volume the same day, Schlembach said. Ordinarily, the magazine is not a popular item.

Librarians at other schools are mad too. Stanford, the University of Washington, and a bunch of others have expressed their frustration. Intel though, has apparently said they will only buy library copies from actual libraries, so the student who swiped one might have a hard time claiming the bounty.

Read: CNET News.com