Fishing for Answers
Library Technologies Specialist
Genesee Valley School Library System, Le Roy, NY
MLS, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2000
Runner-up 2011 Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award
Photo by Preferred Photography, Inc.
Though Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) died in 1991, long before the advent of Facebook, the revered cartoonist and author is today very much a social media maven. Well, at least on FameCity.org, a learning tool developed and grown by Andy Austin, a library technologies specialist for the Genesee Valley School Library System, which encompasses a swath of rural districts in the western portion of the Empire State.
Colleagues know Austin as an unassuming, quiet personality but also as an innovator who gets things done. He was lauded for his work in developing the award-winning FiveSystems.org, an open source Drupal-based platform connecting five regional library systems in the state, encompassing more than four million records. The interlibrary loan manager handled 16,000 loans last year, with 5300 in the opening two months of this school year alone.
Another Austin innovation is FishForInfo.org, the flagship library portal that lets librarians pull catalog materials for book suggestions or add resources to pathfinders.
“Andy Austin is the quiet force in the background behind all of the innovation and web development that comes out of our school library system,” says Christopher Harris, director at Genesee Valley School Library System and a 2008 Mover & Shaker.
FameCity got off the ground when a fellow librarian asked Austin to help brainstorm a new way to teach biographies with a fifth-grade class. Following some initial tinkering, Austin knew he was on to something promising; after all, every school kid knows about Facebook.
FameCity.org allows students to portray famous historical figures online, using the site to create social profiles, post biographical data, add photos, and interact with other noteworthy personalities. It’s a learning tool, so students must keep their facts straight. They can friend other famous folk, but “connection” requires a valid reason: some type of common historical thread. “I think one kid who was Genghis Khan had a hard time finding someone who wanted to be friends,” Austin says.
Whether fishing for info or venturing to FameCity, Austin seems to have all the right answers.
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