Archive for June, 2006
Been super busy lately. Superer and busier than usual even such that I haven’t found the time (ok, let me own this, haven’t made the time) to comment on some really amazing posts out in the blogosphere. Here’ s a sampling of what’s been blowing my mind lately, some old, some new. My intention is to write more fully on all of this soon. I’ve added these to a new “must read” section on the sidebar of the blog.
- Karen Schneider’s “The User is Not Broken”
The most significant help you can provide your users is to add value and meaning to the information experience, wherever it happens; defend their right to read; and then get out of the way.Your website is your ambassador to tomorrow’s taxpayers. They will meet the website long before they see your building, your physical resources, or your people.
- Darlene Fichter’s thoughts on “Radical Trust”
Radical trust is about trusting the community. We know that abuse can happen, but we trust (radically) that the community and participation will work. In the real world, we know that vandalism happens but we still put art and sculpture up in our parks. As an online community we come up with safeguards or mechanisms that help keep open contribution and participation working.
- Wandering Eyre’s “Why my OPAC Sucks”
3,11,15) It will not correct my bad spelling
8) If I do not type “U.S. News and World Reports” in exactly that fashion with the periods and spaces, my OPAC thinks we do not have this item
16) With all my practice and training, sometimes I can not find things I know we have, how can I expect my users to find anything?
- John Blyberg’s “ILS Customer Bill of Rights”
I envision a library Bill-of-Rights with four simple, but fundamental must-have’s from your ILS.
1) Open, read-only, direct access to the database.
2) A full-blown, W3C standards-based API to all read-write functions
3) The option to run the ILS on hardware of our choosing, on servers that we administer
4) High security standards
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 3: The Big Picture”
The fundamental problem with today’s library catalog is that it suffers from severe literalism. Even with a few bells and whistles, today’s OPAC is a doggedly faithful replica of the card catalog of yore. This isn’t a failure of any one vendor; by and large they’re delivering what librarians think they want. It’s a larger failure of vision.
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 2: The Checklist of Shame”
But think about your own catalog: are these features available? It may well be, as some users wrote me privately, that the OPAC (as separate software purchased by local libraries) is near death’s door. I think that’s very likely. But if so, anything else we use for a catalog—who’s betting on Open WorldCat?—will need good search functionality as well, or it too will suck, only more consistently and on a much larger scale. In the end, as uber-librarian and user champion Marvin Scilken told me many times, the bottom line is public service.
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 1: Relevance Rank (Or the Lack of It)”
The users who complain that your online catalog is hard to search aren’t stupid; they are simply pointing out the obvious. Relevance ranking is just one of many basic search-engine functionalities missing from online catalogs. NCSU worked around it by adding a search engine on top of its catalog database. But the interesting questions are: Why don’t online catalog vendors offer true search in the first place? and Why we don’t demand it? Save the time of the reader!
- Dan Russell’s “Getting People to Decide”
Here’s the bottom line: Be specific in your help and support. Be very clear. And get your users to decide to do something with your product. Don’t let it just lie there and go out of their attention—get your users engaged!
Princeton Public Library has teamed up with CJRLC to bring you an amazing deal — a 4.5 hour workshop that includes lunch all for a mere $20! Registration is limited to 50, so register early to save your spot.
Questions? contact me: jhermann at princetonlibrary dot org
From a cool conversation that took place at The Hyperlinked Society Conference put on by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Joho the Blog: [annenberg] Hyperlinking in Web 2.0: “Wikipedia is more highly read in Germany than in America, and [the German encyclopedia publisher] Brockhaus’ sales are up 30%. Maybe it’s because Wikipedia reminds people that encyclopedias are cool.” -Jimmy Wales
Here is a great example of thinking about technology and how it can be applied to libraries!
Kate Sherrill, Librarian at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana – Evansville, posted this on a listserv I am on (copied here with permission):
“I just signed up for PayPal Mobile, so then I was thinking, what is this good for? Here’s an idea: Your library has a PayPal account, a patron needs to check out materials, but has something he needs to pay. He doesn’t have enough cash on him, you don’t take credit/debit cards, and he doesn’t have his check book. He whips out his phone, PayPals you the money via text message, you instantly receive a confirmation email, the fine is paid, he gets his stuff and goes away happy. How awesome would that be?
Great thought process!
- New Technology
- What’s it good for? How does it help make our patrons’ lives easier?
- Everyone’s happy!
Of course, with this particular idea, there may be a few issues:
1) most libraries generally discouarge cell-phone use, so the patron may have to step outside
2) I believe PayPal has fees associated so the patron and/or library may sacrifice some payment for fees
BUT maybe the service and convenience is worth it!
This way of thinking is just what we need to be doing in the library world and reminds me of what Leslie Burger was saying this past April at the NJLA conference. She said that she is always thinking about the library. When she reads the paper or sees something in the news she asks herself, how could this apply to the library? Or, how will this impact library services and library users?
I really try to think this way and I think that Kate’s comment was a great example of this!
So, are any libraries currently using PayPal in any way – to collect payments, accept donations or other!?
Tonight I will be the featured speaker along with my colleague Bob Keith for PPL’s monthly Tuesday Technology Talk. We will be demonstrating and talking about several Web 2.0 applications in a program we call Fantastic Freebies for Everyone.
I recently started the Tuesday Technology Talks @ PPL blog to further promote this program, which has been a mainstay of our technology training program since October 2000.
Here is the real “shameless self-promotion”, U.S. 1 newspaper published a lengthy article, From the Internet: Great Free Stuff, that features interview with both Bob and myself. It looks like we should get a good turn out tonight!
Have you noticed that sometimes when you approach people at a service desk, you get the impression they don’t really want to be there or to help you? The words they say may be fine, but the “no” is in their body language. At the reference desk, we may not even notice that we do it — we fold our arms, roll our eyes, or lean to one side as if we’re waiting for a bus when someone asks a question, perhaps one we’ve heard hundreds of times. I believe that although it may be subconscious, and may even affect our users subconsciously, it still has an effect.
I’ve personally been witness to fast food counter clerks, department store return agents, and reference librarians who — when a patron approaches the desk — unconsciously says “no” as their first response to the person’s question. Sometimes they’ll also shake their heads side to side or squint. All of these actions, even if it’s subsequently the best reference transaction in the world, give off the wrong first impression. It even happens in virtual reference; this must be just a bad habit some of us have fallen into.
Now that I’ve noticed this, I’ve been trying to adapt. . .sometimes forcing myself to smile, nod, and even say “yes” or “sure” even as soon as the first few words of a question are uttered. I know I’m overcompensating here, but maybe it will level off with practice! When someone says “maybe you can help me. . .” I want to insure that I say something positive in response, quickly, and with appropriate body language that communicates the same. We can become masters of subliminal advertising!
Are you a “transformer”? Hint: we aren’t talking about the type of transformer depicted to the right. More importantly, has your library been transformed? If so, Leslie Burger wants to hear from YOU!! Here is the text of an email that she asked us to post on her behalf:
I would like to enlist your help for a very exciting and interactive project that will help transform libraries!
Libraries Transform Communities is the theme I have chosen for my presidential initiative. We know that when libraries are transformed either by new service programs, renovations, or new buildings that the communities they serve are in turn transformed. Part of the initiative is to create a Transformation Tool Kit, which will have tips and ideas for how to transform your library, and stories from libraries that have been transformed.
This is where I need your help, send in your transformation stories and photographs. Explain briefly how your library been changed? How have your library users and community been transformed? The stories and photographs that you submit will be featured on my website.
Send all materials to Romina Gutierrez at rgutierrez [at] princetonlibrary dot org as soon as possible.
I hope you share your transformation stories with me and with the library community!
Thank you in advance for your participation.