Sunday, October 16, 2011

Barnful of Quilts 2011 with some new friends

The Internet is an amazing thing.  Thanks to Google+, several art quilters from my area found me and sent me email.  Last Saturday, they invited me to join them on a trip to visit the Barnful of Quilts on the Fox Family Farm in a gorgeous horse barn near historic Waxhaw, North Carolina.  It was a perfect day and the barn and pastures were a perfect backdrop for the beautiful quilts.

This is the barn--lucky horses!

There were llamas to pet and photograph  and one of the vendors featured articles made from the wool, as well.

The quilts displayed along the fence were for sale to benefit Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization.

The horses vacated their stalls for the vendors.

The rafters were a great place from which to hang large quilts.

The exercise ring was the backdrop for some amazing quilts of the group called Fiber Art Options.  Several of these artists are also members of PAQA-South as are my new friends.

My friends are checking out some of the beautiful work.

After we enjoyed the quilt show, we had some lunch, and then they took me Mary Jo's Cloth Shop in Gastonia.  WOW!  It's overwhelming and the next time I go, I'm making a list.  This fantastic quilt and fabric journey also provided time for us to get acquainted.  It was a lovely Saturday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Virtual Dialogue with SLIS Students 2011

Last fall, my former IU professor, Dr. Larry Johnson invited me to be a virtual visiting professional for his  online  Library Media Specialist class.  This year he's invited me to participate again.  Since my helper, Sue and I have been making lots of physical changes to the library media center at my new elementary school, I thought I would take some more photographs to share for my introduction to Larry's students, but it's book fair time, so those will have to wait for two weeks.

Larry has started off the discussion with the question, "What is it that people don't get about your job?" Stop by the class blog and check out the discussion as it progresses in the comment area.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"I'm blogging this."

This is what I decided to do with the box of old catalog cards I've been saving.  A little rubber stamp action on the left and then I printed out the QR (quick response) code for the blog's URL on sticker paper and a new business card is born.  Old school meets 21st century!  Since everything I'm talking about during my session at the NCSLMA conference is on the last two blog posts, I'm going to give them out to the attendees.

My presentation was largely a disaster.  Not only was there no Internet connection, but I was assigned to a room that was right next door to the rapper with a microphone, big amplifier, and an electric guitar.  My little group moved upstairs and outside.  They were very sweet and attentive, but I was really disappointed.

I loved Gwyneth Jones' keynote and her presentation on QR codes in the library.  Heather Moorefield-Lang gave a great workshop on bringing the arts into the library.  Dr. Sue Kimmel did some excellent booktalks on multicultural books and I got some helpful information on Google Docs from the last workshop I attended.

Nancy and Joanne, two of my colleagues, held up a sign to gather Guilford Association of School Librarians to the lunch tables. We had a strong presence at the conference, but it helped that we are all less than an hour away and don't have to stay in a hotel overnight.  The economy definitely had a negative effect on attendance, but it was a valuable day for those who were able to attend.

Blogging Basics

A blog (a blended word for web log) is a virtual journal.  Starting a blog is very easy.  Maintaining it, not so much.  If you do want to create a blog, I recommend Blogger, which is free, well supported, and part of the Google platform of Web 2.0 tools.  There are lots of tutorials out there to help you and here's one I particularly like from that lets you look at the process before getting into Google.  Once you have a Google account, you can also use their embedded tutorials.

My blog combines my major avocation, quilting, with my vocation, school librarianship.  While it is weighted more on the side of my avocation and life out of school, you will find the occasional post dealing with books, technology, and school librarianship.  That's the primary plus of a blog for me--I get to control the content.

If you've made the decision to create a blog, the implication is that you want others to read it. A recent post on Mashable, Shane Snow provided seven suggestions for making a blog “stickier,” or more engaging to its readers. It provides a nice scaffold for discussing various features of blogging.

  • Tip one suggests making your blog content a combination of original, personal composition and curated links. Last year, I participated in a virtual class discussion for my former IU professor, Dr. Larry Johnson. His Library Media Specialist class asked me questions about being a working school librarian. In this post, I provided a personal introduction for his class that is a mix of stock (personal content) and flow (curated links).

  • Personalizing your blog is the second tip. While Shane is referring more to the type of personalization achieved by with their suggestions of things you might enjoy based on what you have purchased in the past, we smaller scale bloggers can still take this one to heart. This is certainly the feature that keeps me coming back to many of the blogs I read. I'm going to give you examples of two of the blogs I read that fall into my miscellaneous category. Attic 24 not only offers great photographs, but wonderful content about the life of its author, a young mother of three in the North of England. Tales of a Junkaholic is almost entirely a photo-chronicle, with little more than captions for the pictures, but Artemis Russell manages to tell the story of her very interesting life as a collector and young wife.

  • Repackaging your blog on other social media is tip number three. Facebook has an app called Networked Blogs in which you can register your blog to automatically appear in your status each time you publish a new post. I've learned from my Blog Tracker statistics that FB's Networked Blogs is usually one of my top three referrers.

Twitter has a similar feature that creates an automatic tweet with a tiny url  each time one makes a new post. Back in April of 2009, I posted about Twitter.

  • Series posts are Shane's fourth tip. When I blog about my quilting projects, it is often in the form of a series as the work takes weeks or months to complete. Here are a series of posts about making baby quilts and another about making several quilts in the Single Girl pattern. In addition to creating series posts, I often add a small tutorial aspect to these posts that many other quilters find helpful.

  • The fifth tip is emailing your blog out to your subscribers. I must confess to never having tried this. I do occasionally post a link to a blog post on a large listserv in which I participate called QuiltArt and that brings me a ton of visitors. I use it sparingly, though, and try to curate the link so that people will be curious about my post and follow the link.

  • I feel like the poster girl for tip number six which is linking back internally "like mad." This means providing links to older posts you have published in your current post to get readers to look back through your blog. Here's an example.

  • Shane's last tip is suggesting more content. I usually do this with internal linking, too, as you will notice from the examples above.  

I would like to add three suggestions of my own. First, be sure to title your posts because this is the first thing the aggregator picks up. I posted about this here. Labeling or tagging your post is also very important. Blogger provides you with a convenient little box. Labels make your blog more searchable. Secondly, I think tracking your blog is also extremely helpful. To track your blog, there are also several free tools.  I use Blog Tracker by Ice Rocket.  This is a post I did about why tracking is so important.  Finally, answer the people who take the time to leave a comment on your blog.  I have my g-mail account set up to copy me on any comment that's left.  I write an email in response and then copy it to the blog.  Blogger provides various levels of control over comments, too.

As Shane Snow tells us,  people look at blogs to find out information or because they seek entertainment.  Once you have found your voice as a blogger, done a little marketing, and established some consistency of publishing posts, your readers will find you and hopefully stick with you as your blog develops.

What is RSS?

RSS, which stands for Rich Site Summary and is also known as "really simple syndication," is "a format for delivering regularly changing web content." (OK, I know--in English.)  Simply put, RSS allows web sites, blogs, and news sources that update frequently to get that word out to the people who want to know.  (The symbol above appears on a blog or web site to let you know that an RSS feed is available.)  To make it easier for the people who want to know, aggregators (a web site or software that collects information from multiple online sources) or web feed readers came into being.  My reader of choice is Google Reader.

Google Reader is a free web feed reader.  There are others, but since it's the one I'm familiar with, I will use it as an example.  To get started, all you need is a Google account which is free.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'm going to refer you to a good series of tutorials on using it.  Google also offers their own tutorials as you make your way through their various products including Reader.

Having a feed reader means that you can see changing content in one place without having to navigate to lots of different sites on the chance that there might be something new to view.  THIS IS BIG and an incredible time saving device.

I have my feeds divided into interest areas.  With the news sources, I basically scan headlines and only go to the article if it's something I'm very interested in or something I might forward to one of my teachers at school.  Things of general interest, I post to my Facebook page.  The library topic area often provides articles or links that I send to the school librarians' listserv in our corporation.  The NCSMLA keynoter, Gwyneth Jones, has a great blog, The Daring Librarian, that I have followed since hearing her at AASL in Charlotte.  Speaking of AASL, they also maintain a blog that updates the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning list maintained by Heather Moorefield-Lang, another one of the presenters at NCSLMA.  I follow a non-fiction author blog called I.N.K. (Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids) and met Sue Macy at AASL in Charlotte because of a post she published on it.  Several library blogs I read review books.  One of the bloggers, Melissa Rabey of Librarian by Day,  asked for guest bloggers when she was going to be busy for a month. I contributed this post for her.  (Nerd alert.) I read a Harry Potter fan aggregator called The Leaky Cauldron and the blog for Jo Rowling's new site, Pottermore Insider.  Of course, I follow my son's blog and mine so I can see how it displays for others.  The other feeds I read are about quilting, fiber and domestic arts, and Playbill to get the theatre news.  I also have a miscellaneous category for those blogs that don't fit any other.

Google Reader also tells me, via a feed, if anyone backlinks to my blog.  This lets me know if the people who are reading my blog are sending their readers to me.  Google uses this data to determine the Page rank of a web site.  More on all of this in the next post.

Google Reader is a remarkable Web 2.0 tool and I leave you with a link to a post on Mashable, one of my favorite tech sites, called "HOW TO: Use Google Reader like a Rockstar."  Go, Google and be a rockstar.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference 2011

The North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) is meeting in Winston-Salem later this week for its annual conference.  I will be presenting at 11:15 on Friday during the second concurrent session on Blogging and RSS.  If you can't attend the conference, you will still be able to follow the action on Twitter using the hash tags #NCSLMA11.  NCSLMA also maintains a blog.

Our keynote address will be delivered by Gwyneth Jones, a middle school teacher librarian,  who blogs at The Daring Librarian. The line-up of authors and tech-savvy librarians is impressive.  I'm very excited to be a part of this gathering.