Archive for July, 2006

DOPA Provides Too Little Guidance on Chat & Social Networking

Following up on Janie’s “DOPA Update” post and many others’ on the Web since the speedy approval of DOPA in the House, I want to emphasize again that final approval of DOPA could significantly affect an incredible amount of sites on the Web that allow author and personal profiles and lists, and this includes Amazon.com and many, many blogs. This is because the current version of the bill is too broad and does not define off-limit sites or provide definitions of “chat” or “social networking,” virtually (no pun intended) impacting far too many non-risky, safe sites for children, at least as it is written now. To get you up-to-date on this, again, read the summary article mentioned in Janie’s July 28 post, “Chat rooms could face expulsion,” from CNET News that mentions that this bill will affect at least two-thirds of all libraries. I am all for protecting our youth, as you can read from my July 15 “Social Networking and Online Safety” post, and as everyone is reading now, DOPA does expand on the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which requires libraries to filter sexually explicit material. But, unfortunately, at this time, DOPA leaves much to be desired and provides not much in guidance to the FCC, as you can see from the previously mentioned CNET summary article:

Defining off-limits sites
DOPA does not define “chat rooms” or “social networking sites” and leaves that up to the Federal Communications Commission. It does offer the FCC some guidance on defining social networking sites (though not chat rooms):
“In determining the definition of a social networking Web site, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a Web site–
(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
(ii) permits registered users to create an online profile that includes detailed personal information;
(iii) permits registered users to create an online journal and share such a journal with other users;
(iv) elicits highly personalized information from users; and
(v) enables communication among users.”

Again, I want to say that I am all for protecting our youth being a parent, university professor, and academic librarian myself. But as I have mentioned many times before, I will continually talk about the brighter, creative aspects and rewards of participating in and using social networking sites and many other types of Websites in all of my seminars and face-to-face and online workshops and courses. The current DOPA bill is not the answer, and it will not stop youth and college students from engaging in these attractive online environments. I still think that education is the key. I mentioned near the end of my previous blog article) on this topic several sites that offered practical help. Another I want to mention is the “The Virtual Mystery Tour: A Close Look at Teens, Sex, and the Internet” workshop and its blog. It does not sugar-coat the safety aspect or potential for danger for young Internet users. It does, however, help to assure concerned adults, especially parents, that if their kids have “common sense and they trust them in other ways, they’re probably going to be able to talk intelligently with parents about what they should and shouldn’t do online.”

Parents and other adults seem to be afraid of these social networking sites and tools because many know nothing about them. We as parents and educators need to understand that teenagers (and adults) feel much freer to express themselves online and our youth don’t necessarily understand the potential consequences of “over-sharing.” I think that we need to become more involved and aware of what our teens are doing online, asking them information and making sure that they don’t over-share personal info., letting them know that predators are visiting sites they communicate within, looking for victims.

DOPA is well-intentioned, but it seems flawed as it is now written, and I think that it will negatively affect too many Websites. Making sure that our youth understand the risks & how to avoid mistakes in communicating online, while letting them know that you also understand the positive benefits they reap from the social networking sites, will go a long, long way in building trust and understanding, and help ensure continued education.

July 30, 2006 at 4:12 pm

I Want you … to Drop DOPA!


I Want you … to Drop DOPA!
Originally uploaded by davidking.

Great!

[via http://www.tametheweb.com%5D

And, you can make your own about whatever you want here:
http://www.hetemeel.com/unclesamform.php

July 28, 2006 at 4:02 pm 2 comments

Great News: NJLA Job Hotline has an RSS FEED!

Some good news:

NJLA is now providing an RSS feed to the job hotline. For more information see here.

Whoo hoo! :-)

July 28, 2006 at 7:48 am 2 comments

DOPA Update

The results have been posted for today’s vote. I am not at all surprised by the outcome, but I am a little shocked at the final numbers on the vote. Only 15 Democratic representatives took a stand and said Nay while a whopping 410 gave it a resound Yea. This article posted a few hours ago on ZDNet sums it up better than I can at this late hour.

July 27, 2006 at 11:58 pm 2 comments

New on my blogroll


emdashes — ask the librarians
Originally uploaded by janielianne.

Too good not to share — interesting reading and a great way to promote the work done behind the scenes by special librarians in the publishing industry. Ask the Librarianshas the potential to be a great column on the always fascinating Emdashes blog!

July 27, 2006 at 9:31 am 1 comment

Moved to Action…..

Thanks to the inspiring workshop by Michael and Jenny at Princeton Public Library, I have been spurred to some action:

* I’VE DONE IT! I have started the conversation about ending the complete ban on cell phones in our library…. the conversation has begun and we’ll see where it goes (my Reference Department is so far in agreement that there is no need to completely, automatically ban cell phones and/or jump all over people just b/c they have a cell phone open or pressed against their heads! We will be governed by the general idea of ‘no disturbance of other patrons’ and general tolerance/intolerance of noice level, but not just b/c there is a cell phone)!

* I have also changed a policy about our Internet use to try to make it more user-friendly – it is in a trial phase and we’ll see how it goes! Normally, anyone who is a “second-time user” of the Internet has to wait until ALL “first-time users” get on. We are trying an approach which lets any user go on in the order in which they have signed up on our sheet. It is a little bit hard to explain, but hopefully this will eliminate unnecessary and unending waiting times.

* I blogged a bit more (both here at Library Garden and over at my other blog, Pimp My Library) and I started a new blog Life in an Urban Public Library, where I will blog about my personal professional experiences as a Librarian in an Urban Public Library. I need to remember that my blog need not be perfect or formal!

* I plan to start a flickr account for the Paterson Free Public Library, and will post pictures there. I have been using flickr for personal photos for a long time now, but not so far for the library!

* I have plans in place to start a “No Log” at the Reference Desk, to record the services we repeatedly say “no” to, so we can reconsider them (item number 1 – PUBLIC FAXING!). You can read a bit more about “No Logs and No Wikis” here.

* Next up: Working toward IM in the library and going back to try to restart the wiki and/or blog I would like to see us using here at the library.

* Tonight is the last night of the Passaic County Fair and our library computer consortium, PALSPlus, has had a tent there throughout the week. Tonight it is our library’s turn to “staff” it – I am going, alongwith my Director and Assistant Director and I think it will be a lot of fun. We have t-shirts to wear and we have trivia questions and games and prizes. From what I have heard back so far, the tent has been a very popular place and a big success! I am going to be sure to share photos afterward! What a great way to show that the libraries are truly a part of the community!!!! I’m really excited about being there tonight and will report back!

Thanks, Michael and Jenny for all the inspiration! :-)

July 22, 2006 at 9:32 am 3 comments

Library Garden gets Tamed and Shifted

Some of Library Garden got “Tamed and Shifted,” as Janie captioned this photo, along with many others, at the workshop held at The Princeton Public Library, on Tuesday, July 19th, 2006.

Jenny, Amy, Robert, Janie and Michael at the end of the day at Princeton Public Library.

July 20, 2006 at 4:42 pm

Shifted, Tamed and PUMPED!

A great, big, huge, grateful and very impressed thank you goes out to CJRLC and Princeton Public Library’s Leslie Berger (current ALA President!) and Janie Hermann for having Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine come to Princeton to present their workshop, “Conversation, Community, Collections, & Collaboration:Practical, New Technologies for User-Centered Services”!

Thanks Leslie for having the inspiration to invite Michael and Jenny to NJ and also thanks to Janie and CJRLC for all the hours you spent coordinating and making it happen.

This program was very well-attended and successful on so many levels!

I was very excited to meet Michael and Jenny for the first time in person, and to attend one of their workshops, and even all of my own building-up of these two and their “roadshow” didn’t result in any disappointment!

Michael and Jenny are fabulous presenters who share their information in measured, easy-to-understand ways, while managing to convey excitement and interest in the topics. Even though not everything in the presention was new to me, I was never bored or disinterested.

They managed to go over blogs and blogging, RSS (VERY important!), wiki, flickr and so much more! I think everyone was having a great time and learning so much, all while enjoying the comfort of the Princeton Public Library – and no, I’m not being paid by anyone to say these things! Though I did go out to a great lunch with Janie and Robert after the program! ;-)

The event was really well managed and seemed to come off without a hitch – the catered lunch was terrific and the room set up was accomodating, despite the full house! Even the technology didn’t seem to hit any snags! ;-) It was so great to see so many people come out and take advantage of this great program.

There are so many points that Michael and Jenny brought up that are so important – maybe I’ll just try to mention a very few here! I hope others will either add to this post or post comments about what great stuff they got out of this workshop! Share what you’ve done since attending the program! I know of at least one person who went back to her libray and started a flickr account, and posted on some blogs (yes, I’m talking about YOU, Mary!)!

While the actual technology teaching was very interesting and informative, it was the more intangible lessons that I personally got the most out of!

THESE ARE FREE PEOPLE! FREE!!!!!! AS IN, NO MONEY OUTPUT FROM YOU OR YOUR LIBRARY!!!! You can be a “hero” here – lots of excellent results for no investment of money!

- Blogging is informal and doens’t have to be perfect (in fact, I am leaving that typo in there on purpose to remind myself of this and to try to personally overcome my “perfectionism” problems!)

- It is important to put a “human face” on the library: this makes it much more difficult to cut funding for the library for one thing! ;-) And you can use many of these new technologies to do this, i.e., start a flickr photo sharing account for your library (it’s really easy I promise!) and post pictures of your programs, your patrons (who agree to it), your staff, etc.!

- Celebrate and share your successes! When/where have you shared positive feedback from your patrons with your community or even wider? You can do this on a blog! This also really helps to humanize the library.

- Consider your policies – are they more of barriers between patrons and services/staff than anything else? Do they just cause more work for library staff? Are they “librarian-centered” rather than “user-centered”? I know *I* will be reconsidering some of the policies in my library after the workshop!

- Start a blog! Just start one! Open a flickr account! Just try it! Play with these things!

- Check out what other libraries are doing and how they are using these technologies! For example, Ann Arbor District Library has a blog (in fact IS a blog – can you imagine!?) with OPEN COMMENTS on it (gasp! the horror! the fear!) Guess what!? Nothing bad has happened!

DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Onward!

P.S. You can read more about the workshop on the NJLA blog where Jessica Unger has a great post!

July 20, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Flickr’s "Tubes" are clogged!


I am sitting here have a good laugh — Flickr is currently down and they have decided to blame it on “clogged tubes“. Instead of just saying “we are down for maintenance”, they have chosen to do something that is both creative and funny for their users in order to make up for it. How cool is that? So, hurry over, print out the tubes and grab your crayons to enter the colouring contest! I would enter but I have zero artistic ability.

July 19, 2006 at 8:55 pm 4 comments

Is virtual reference successful? Part II (Hint: yes it is)

In Part II I’d like to respond specifically to two comments. The first is from Morgan Fielman. The second from Pascal Lupien, author the article I’m discussing.

RESPONDING TO FIELMAN

Commenter Morgan Fielman wrote, “The original poster seems to have missed the point of this article, which is primarily about software.”

No, I get that the point of the article is primarily about the software and not the customer experience. But the article is so broadly written and lacking in detail that it ends up saying nothing more specific than “VR software has problems.”

My questions, unanswered by the article are, What software? What problems? Two of the products Lupien writes about (Tutor.com’s and QuestionPoints’) recently underwent complete overhauls, in effect becoming completely new products. It is unclear from Lupien’s article which versions he’s writing about but my sense is he’s writing about the older versions. If that’s correct then most of the article is, at best, moot.

Granted, the larger issue of whether or not the software is effective is a valid issue that warrants exploration and discussion. Fielman goes on to ask, “but how can customers be satisfied when the software we use is so poor?” I say that’s the wrong question. The question is “Are customers satisfied?” The answer in our customers’ experience is yes, they are satisfied. We didn’t find this out by polling 20 libraries. We found this out by asking the customers. Another good question might be, “Do the problems with VR software affect the quality of the customer experience, and if so how and to what extent.” There are many people at collaborative VR services looking at a lot of data to answer that question. Lupien’s article suggests that problems with software affect the customer experience but offers no actual data to back it up. He mentions problems with popup windows, problems with Windows service pack 2, and problems with serving customers who use Macs, but he is not specific about which software products exhibit which problems and to what extent. And again, Lupien is not clear which version of Tutor and QuestionPoint he’s talking about. The newer versions of both products are compatible with Mac users, and have no problems with service pack 2 issues that I’m aware of.


Fielman concludes his comment by saying “original VR supporters have realized that this service just isn’t cutting it.” The fact is our service has been cutting it for almost 5 years, and we have the hard data and glowing customer comments to prove it. If your VR service isn’t cutting it, you need to ask why. Are your staff trained on the software? Are they enthusiastic? What are you customer service standards? Do your librarians give kick-ass customer service in f2f encounters? What quality control mechanisms do you have in place? Do you examine your transcripts for quality? Do you have regular and convenient service hours? Are you available 24/7? (going 24/7 made a huge difference in our usage, even though usage mostly grew during hours we were already open — go figure…) And finally, but certainly not last, do you consistently and effectively market your service to your customers? Do they know you exist???

If your service ain’t cutting it maybe you need to answer these questions first before blaming the software, which is an easy way out. Consider that here in New Jersey using standard VR software (currently QP, formerly Tutor/LSSI’s eGain-based software) we’re cutting it and then some. Other statewide collaboratives are doing quite well too. And we’re all working very diligently with our respective vendors to ensure that our VR platforms are stable and highly functional. While the current glitch here and there can be a real and undeniable pain in the ass, it hasn’t prevented us from delivering a high quality and slightly mind-blowing experience to our customers.


RESPONDING TO LUPIEN

First, I’d like to thank Pascal Lupien for taking the time to offer an extremely well-written and thoughtful comment in response to my first post. I’d like to assure him that contrary to his assertion, I’ve read his article through thoroughly a few times. I have no problem with bad news about VR. I just want accurate and somewhat substantiated news. I’m offering up the reality of my experience at QandANJ to counter the broad statements that Lupien makes. Now to some of his specific comments.

He writes, Perhaps these results aren’t what proponents of VR would prefer to hear, but they do represent a problem that needs to be discussed, for the sake of our users.

I do not consider myself a proponent of VR, I consider myself of proponent of libraries. It is my desire that libraries remain relevant to our customers by offering a suite of high quality services. Collaborative VR is one such service, offering our customers 24/7 access where and when they want it. I want to see libraries changing their customers’ perceptions about what libraries can offer them. I want libraries to blow customer expectations out of the water. I want libraries to be around in 50 years. It is not that I don’t want to hear bad news about VR software. I’m perfectly open to hearing about the problems with the current stable of VR software offerings. It’s just that I want to hear facts, not conjecture. And I want those facts to be couched in some meaningful context and always tied back, to whatever extent possible, to the impact on our customers. I didn’t get this from Lupien’s article.

Lupien writes, To respond to the person who claimed that software is the last thing that matters about VR, I say tell that to the user who is unable to log in because she uses a Mac, or because her computer has pop-up blockers. Tell that to the user who is “kicked off” in the middle of a session because the VR software does not function properly with the library’s licensed databases. These things happen regularly, and this article makes an attempt to discuss them.

I’m pleased to see Lupien talking directly about the impact on customers. Clearly we agree that it would be optimal if VR software worked across all platforms, had no problems with pop-up blockers, and worked 100% of the time so no user was ever “kicked off.” I am not suggesting that these problems don’t exist, I am asking to what extent do they exist, and to what extent do they impact the customer’s experience and satisfaction with VR service. Because Lupien fails to identify what versions of the various VR products he tested, and is repeatedly non-specific regarding his data, the article fails to answer these questions.

Lupien grants that, “many regular VR users appreciate the service,” and that he wasn’t contesting that fact. Our experience suggests that it is not “many” but most.

Lupien writes, “Shouldn’t we be thinking about these potential users as well, rather than focusing on those who already use and appreciate the service? Shouldn’t we be trying to determine if one software product could help us to improve the experience for all users, not merely the satisfied ones? Perhaps some would fear doing this, as it would reveal that their VR service isn’t as successful and user-friendly as they like to claim?

Yes, we should absolutely be thinking about our potential users, and we should always be shooting for a platform that will provide high quality service to everyone. Again, it’s a matter of facts and context. Lupien’s article disappoints me on both counts.

Lupien writes, “The point of this article is to focus on users who are unable to log in to begin with, who encounter technical problems during a transaction, or who choose not to use the service because they would be required to disable pop-up blockers or use a particular browser, etc. We’ll never know how these users feel about VR, because they don’t get far enough into a VR transaction to make…comments.

Actually, we have some way of knowing. We ask. Yes sir, right there on the front page of QandANJ we say, “Click here to give us feedback on how our new software is working for you.” Here’s a sample of what we find: Since May 1st (79 days), we have received 23 comments. 16 of them were specifically technical (some were positive, some were of the nature, “it wasn’t fast enough”.) One comment came from a Mac user, 3 came from customers accessing us through the AOL interface and browser. So Mr. Lupien, we do make an effort to compile and monitor such information, looking for problematic trends with an eye on improving the service.

Finally, Lupien suggests that I have not been keeping up with the VR literature and if I had “taken the time to consider some of the issues discussed in this article before jumping on that user-centric high horse” I would have “come away with a better understanding of what is happening beyond QandANJ.”

I can assure Mr. Lupien that I keep up quite well with VR literature thank you, and I’m familiar with Coffman and Arret’s article, which you can read here (right at the bottom of the page, after Brenda Bailey-Hainer’s reasoned response.) And if speaking from a place of fact and experience instead of conjecture and generality puts me on a high horse then what can I say? Giddyup.

In Part III (much shorter, I promise) I’ll address the VR software versus IM question.

Epilogue: Customer comment from today: “I am exceedingly impressed. First time in ages I felt like I was getting something positive for my tax dollars.” (Our funders sure hate to see this… Ha Ha )

July 18, 2006 at 9:58 pm 2 comments

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