Monday, October 25, 2010

Defining the Virtual Librarian

Just what should a Virtual Librarian be?

The Virtual Librarian must have some experience (at least six months) providing either traditional reference research assistance or online reference assistance. This would include reference desk or other public desk service, one-on-one research assistance, or classroom instruction on library services.
The Virtual Librarian also must have some experience with the use of the computer as a reference and research tool. This would include work experience with online research databases; creating or managing online resources such as websites; or contributing to any online project or discussions such as Blogs, Instant messaging, or Web Chats.
The Virtual Librarian's skills and abilities need to cover: Working within a wholly electronic workplace; Providing effective and timely virtual service to students, teachers, and fellow professionals; Conducting effective online research using all available resources, and to evaluate and narrow the results to best likely resources for the client; Teaching such research skills to students and teachers to provide the skills needed for them to self-evaluate their own research; Sharing and coordinating with other Virtual Librarians any research methods and tips to aid their work, as well as working with fellow librarians on any large-scale projects; Working comfortably with computers, and with an online environment that requires independent and self-dedicated performance.

The Virtual Librarian must foremost have the knowledge of the Traditional Librarian: knowledge of references, of research methods, of tools of the trade. Such knowledge can be applied to the realm of the Virtual world with ease.
It is the knowledge of the Virtual world – the online, the Internet, the Web – that will matter. The Virtual Librarian must know what can be found online and must know how such information can be accessed, and must know a multitude of electronic-based sources and contents.
This requires that the Virtual Librarian stay apace with technological developments in the electronic, computer, library and communication worlds. The Virtual Librarian must maintain professionalism, knowledge, and skills relevant to librarianship at all times. The Virtual Librarian must be comfortable working in an environment of limited personal communication... and unlimited online communication.

The Virtual Librarian is pretty much a regular Reference Librarian... IN SPACE!  Well, cyberspace, but still, wanted to place a link to TV Tropes here.  ;-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Questions about the new epublication services like PubIt

One thing I've noticed about the advent of the ebook technology - the spread of ereaders like the Kindle, the Nook, the Sony, and a few others - has been the retailers' offer of direct ebook publication such as PubIt.  (Amazon's is CreateSpace by the looks of things although BookSurge is supposed to be a name for the service...)

What this means is that writers no longer have to go through an agent or a large (or even small independent) publisher like Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.  All they have to do is sign up for the epublisher program, sign over their firstborn child uh sign over a good-sized percentage of sales and viola you're a writer.  Screw you, Dean Koontz.

Of course, there are disadvantages.  Whereas a major publisher like Penguin et al can market your book across the globe, you the writer are responsible for marketing yourself... which can cost more out-of-pocket money.  Also, from my personal experiences and having met a few other would-be writers over the years... let me just say that for a creative bunch of people who can pound out a 500-page epic about cyborg ninjas battling zombie pandas we writers can be pretty horrible with advertising and public relations.  Selling ourselves is rarely a strong trait.

Another problem: the need for editing.  Trust me, a first draft of a novel is NOT perfect.  An agent and publishing firm usually helps in that they can point out flaws, make suggestions, and meddle (usually in positive ways).  It's their jobs, after all, since they're hoping to make money off the good idea that your novel can be.  You may notice that the established writers - Tom Clancy comes quick to mind - tend to write terrible and oversized novels further into their careers: this is because their names are so big that they can afford to ignore everybody about the poor grammar, overweighted plots, and overt messaging that the writer wants to hammer into everyone's anvils.  Now consider the poor first-time writer, who may not necessarily have the writing skill that the big-name writers had when they broke big, and the desire to rush that massive new epic straight into the ebook market without having their friends and fellow writers, um, check for spelling first.  There's a reason why the major publishers take only a handful of first-time novels: the thousands of submissions they get are absolutely horrible.  With the epublishing, that filter will be long gone.

Still, the advantages seem to outweigh the weaknesses.  The near-ease of direct publishing is too tempting a lure.  But with that I still have questions that need answering:

1) While epublishing books is a given, does PubIt and the other epublish services allow for something like short stories or novellas?  I've had an easier go of writing shorts than novels, and there's a pile of short stories I'd like to print straight to ebook format...

2) If I publish to PubIt, which is Barnes & Noble, can I market the ebook to other eReaders like Kindle or Sony or the others?  I may need to re-read the Terms of Agreement regarding copyright, ownership, and availability to other eReaders I suppose...

3) This may also be in the Terms of Agreement, but does the PubIt service extend to print publishing just in case there are non-eReader owners who'd like the book?  I'm a librarian by heart, I like the idea of multiple formats (and there are people who still like print books... just the simple feel of them).

4) What's the number of eReader downloads I need to aim for to be considered a best-seller writer?  (ego-stroking bhwhahahahaha)

Okay, answer those Questions Three, there to the other side ye see.  Wait, that's four q... AAAAAAAAHHHH (cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2010

It being the first full week of October, they've renewed the sign-ups for National Novel Writing Month, of course.

The deal remains the same: 50,000 words over 30 days of November.  While 50,000 words seem like a lot, it more often doesn't complete the story the novel ought to tell so most writers will need to go way past that.

My first successful trip to 50,000 was last year's NaNo.  Problem was, the novel was barely half-way completed, and without a full novel sitting there in my lap ready for editing and fine-tuning, I quickly lost interest in getting it truly done.

This time is different.  Because this is also the first time I had any genuine success with the earlier 3-Day Novel contest.  Wherein I got 30,000 words done in just three days.  10,000 words a day per average (it was more like 5,000 words each the first two days and then a massive 20,000 rush job on Day Three).  I know now the effort needed to get that much writing done in a single day.  And as long as I ascertain the distractions I'll face, I am pretty sure now I can get the NaNo's 50,000 word count with ease.

That means the REAL objective I have this NaNoWriMo is this: get a full novel completed, and well in time to be able to edit the rough draft.  Something to finally submit to a publisher.

The planning begins...