38th Annual SUNYLA Conference
June 14-16, 2006
SUNY Geneseo
REF POD BLOG and ACTIVE DESK TOP
Step-by Step instructions
What the heck is a ...?
Ref Pod A pod is a "social group of cetaceans." We call the public workstations in our reference area "pods" because we have two rather large clusters of workstations: 16 PCs and 2 iMacs. Students tend to swarm to this area more than other areas of the Library.
Active Desktop

A feature of Microsoft Windows that allows a variety of file types to be displayed as the desktop wallpaper. Active Desktop supports web content, movies, and a range of graphical formats. Here is a snapshot of our Ref Pod desktop to give you a better idea.

Blog Also known as a "weblog" a blog is an easy-to-use website where non-techie "bloggers" can post news, journals, ideas and what ever to the web.
So What is a Ref Pod Blog and Active Desktop?
Crumb Library Ref Pod PCs are all imaged by our IT department using Ghost software. Any time we want to change the look of our desktop or any other system configuration of our Ref Pod PCs, we have to contact our IT department to submit a ticket to have the image changed. Although our IT staff are usually very responsive, we wanted a way to be able to update the desktop immediately rather than wait for our Help Desk ticket to rise to the top of the Help Desk queue.

We use the active desktop with a blog to post timely information directly to the desktops of the public PCs in our Reference area. Generally we post information about library and computer use policies and to promote library services. For certain news items, such as database problems and printer outages, we want to be able to update the desktop as quickly as possible (in addition to posting signs, and hollering across the reference desk). Using the active desktop with a blog, we can make changes to 16 PCs, simultaneously with one blog posting.

  • First we created a Ref Pod webpage, that includes a few do's and don'ts about using the computers in the Reference area. The Ref Pod webpage can be changed by our webmaster on our webserver anytime. However, we wanted more flexibility to change the desktop by any library staff member whenever it was needed (not just when the webmaster was available).
  • Then we created an active desktop which points to the Ref Pod web page. The active desktop was included as part of the Ghost image during initial configuration of the PCs.  The active desktop calls the Ref Pod webpage and displays it on the desktop of the PC. Sort of looks like a webpage-in-a-box on top of the blue wallpaper.
  • Next, we created a "Ref Pod Blog" at Blogger.com and invited all our Reference Librarians to be members.
  • Lastly, we used RSS feeds to populate the Ref Pod web page with the Ref Pod Blog postings.

The Ref Pod blog allows any librarian to post notices to the Ref Pod webpage without intervention of our webmaster or the IT department. Any librarian who has been invited to be a member of the Ref Pod Blog can post news and timely information to the Ref workstation desktops anytime, anywhere.

Wow, this looks really complicated. Something only a techie could do!
No not at all! Anybody can create an active desktop. Anybody can blog. Some of us may need help to create a web page (or you can ask your webmaster for help). The .RSS feeds were a little more complicated, but is actually just one line of java script code included in the web page.

Click here for step-by-step instructions!