Archive for October, 2007

"I Was Kind of Confused b4" – Audio of Radford on Chat Reference at Oregon VR Summit ’07


On June 7, 2007 I blogged about a keynote talk I gave on June 1, 2007 at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit 2007 organized by Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Oregon Statewide Digital Reference Services Coordinator for the L-net: Oregon Libraries Network consortium. The talk just became available as an audio file on the open web. (Thanks Caleb!) I promised to post to the blog when this happened, so am now able to make good on my promise.

If you’d like to listen to this presentation, click here: “I Was Kind of Confused b4” Interpersonal Communication Research in Virtual Reference.”

The talk focuses on the information-seeking and communication behaviors of the youngest Millennials – the Screenagers. I discuss their predilections and characteristics (multi-tasking, impatience, practicality, convenience, etc.) as well as their perceptions of librarians (“I don’t trust librarians, I trust Google”) and fear of cyber-predators in chat rooms that extends to chat librarians (“I don’t like to chat with strangers.”)

In addition, I comment on some recommendations for improving chat reference encounters with teens . These recommendations were derived from focus groups with screenagers and from in-depth chat reference transcript analysis as part of the IMLS grant project Seeking Synchronicity.

The keynote was about 50 minutes, followed by Q and A, so be forewarned that it is long. Hey, feel free (of course!) to check your e-mail while listening, or to multi-task with other activities ;)

I begin by talking about my background and how I got interested in studying chat reference, so if you want to get to the research results, fast forward through the first 15 mins. or so.

October 27, 2007 at 8:25 am

The Human Touch

The Human Touch (in which a crazy-bad “system” is made less bad by a live, caring human being)

In November I’m going to be staffing a booth at New Jersey’s annual teacher’s convention to help promote our statewide virtual reference service QandANJ. A few months ago I filled out the necessary forms to reserve booth space on the exhibit floor in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Soon after, I was sent the “exhibitor’s manual” which included another myriad of forms to fill out. So many options! Do we want a table? How many? What size? A table drape? What color? Carpet? Plush? Regular? Color? Chairs? How many? Wastebasket? Do you want the booth vacuumed? How often? Do you want electricity? What kind? (yup, there’s different kinds.) Internet Access? Telephone? Help setting up the booth? Taking it down? Will you be sending boxes of stuff? To the warehouse? To the booth? Etc. Etc.

I suppose choice is good, but the quality of the forms that would (hopefully) reflect my choices were not so good. Small type. Poor design. Lot’s of repetition. Yesterday I spent the better part of the morning attempting to fill out these many poorly-designed forms, all written in 6 pt type. There were eleven different forms. Eleven. And they had to be faxed to three different places! Each form asked for the same information: Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have gone to a single website, entered this information ONCE, then made my selections electronically? Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?

As it was, my morning was eaten up, my eyes were crossing, but there was a single saving grace: The exhibitor hotline. I had called the exhibitor hotline months ago when I first ordered the booth. In fact, I called it five times in one day (the initial forms I used to order the booth were no less confusing.) Each time I called, the phone was answered on the first ring by Kris. Kris was pleasant. Kris was helpful. Kris was friendly. When I called, I was feeling equal parts stressed, frustrated, and stupid. Kris talked to me like I wasn’t stupid. She comforted me and made it clear that I could call as often as I needed to. So I did.

Yesterday morning I renewed my contact with Kris. She was still there, picking up the phone after one ring with a friendly greeting, helping me figure out the forms and understand the ramifications of my choices. She even made a few phone calls to assure that I’d get the early-bird rate even though I was a few days past the deadline (“Oh, since this is your first time exhibiting…”)

So yes, the “system” sucked, and yes my eyes hurt, but in the end, to be honest, I felt fairly positive about the whole thing. Sure, I would have preferred a system that didn’t require me to interact with another human being (and I’m an extrovert). And I certainly would have preferred a system that didn’t take 3 hours of my time to communicate some relatively simple choices. But having a live person–a warm, caring, informed live person–available to help me gave a HUGE boost to my overall level of satisfaction.

So I ask: What happens when our customers need help? Whether it’s a reference question, a query about branch hours, or someone trying to find out what time storytime starts. Do they get a live person? Do they get an informed, warm, caring live person? Is the phone answered after one ring? Two rings? Five rings?

Kris was my escape valve. Ultimately it’s better to design our systems so we don’t need an escape valve. After all, what happens when Kris retires, or takes another job? Without her on the other end of the exhibitor hotline I would have been in hell. But even the best systems can only benefit from having an escape valve. A Kris who picks up after one ring. A human touch.

If asked to evaluate my experience as a prospective exhibitor at NJEA I’d give failing grades for convenience, but an A plus for the customer service I received from Kris. Overall, a solid B.

In my next post (on convenience) I’m going to describe a very different experience…

October 25, 2007 at 8:23 pm 2 comments

Reason #454 to Love Being a Librarian

Inspired by a post over at A Wandering Eyre, I have decided to post yet another reason to love being a librarian: you are sometimes lucky enough to be the muse for a poet!

I was reluctant to post this at first, but after telling Amy about this yesterday over snacks at Applebee’s (and seeing Michelle’s post today), I guess I will share. Here’s the back story…

Romina Gutierrez and I had a tour and lunch with the some of the staff at Princeton University Press a few weeks back. While at their offices we noticed that they had the newest biography on Garibaldi on display, it was hot off their presses and being released that week. We were able to get a freebie copy during the course of our conversation – but it was not for the PPL collection that we wanted the freebie. We wanted to get this for one of our favorite long-time customers, an elderly gentleman who takes a bus some distance and then walks several blocks to reach us so he can do research on Garibaldi at our library. He has been here on an almost daily for as long as I have worked here (9+ years). The staff all know him by name and we have literally purchased or done an ILL on every book and article every published about Garibaldi by this point.

When he was given his own copy of the new Garibaldi biography to keep, he was deeply moved – we knew he would be happy, but we had no idea how happy. Here is the poem he wrote and typed on his typewriter and mailed to administration to give his thanks. It brings a smile to my face to read it (I have it on my bulletin board next to my desk).

O Janie! O Romina!
Wish I knew a better way,
To let my heart (thank you) say,
For your generous book gift,
Giving my sagging spirit a lift.
Newest bio, I do not own,
On “Garibaldi” which I’m prone.
To some librarians, well known,
Thrives the noble gestures pull,
Into that zone of the wonderful.
Eye-ing graciousness hue
Embedded in Library’s two.
In parting, I will plead
Words are _______ next to the deed.
— A.C.

Anyone care to share Reason #455 to love being a librarian? Perhaps the making of a meme…

October 24, 2007 at 5:36 pm 1 comment

Participation in a 2.0 World–"Be the change you want to be"


“Participatory. Open. Playful. Transparent Make these part of your motto, your vision, and build services and staff with them in mind. My hat is off to the libraries that create teams—made up of employees from all levels—for planning, that allow staff members to blog about those plans, and that take time to experiment and play with new technologies and tell their users exactly what they are up to. We can’t control every little thing that happens in our libraries, and really, should we even want to?” -Michael Stephens’
(from 2007 LTR Introduction, see below)

I love reading about and reports by Michael Stephens related to teaching librarians and others about Web 2.0 technologies, especially since I, too, am a professor and librarian, excited about the impact that Web 2.0/social software is having on individuals, not to mention entire libraries and their communities. Michael Stephens’ Library Technology Report (LTR) from July/August 2006 (Vol. 42, Issue 4) on Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software (now considered Part 1, I guess!) was one of my favorite reads last year–full of practical tips, tools, and techniques on how to integrate these types of tools into our library world.

Well, Michael Stephens has gone and done it again, this time, with “Part 2.” Michael stated that he wanted to focus this time on the best practices associated with the tools and trends for libraries by providing a “bigger picture instead of a list of each specific tool.” I found this quite useful, and I highly recommend reading his current September/October 2007 Library Technology Report (Vol. 43, Issue 5 — available for purchase from ALA and available full text from several databases, such as Factiva and Academic Search Premier), entitled Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies. As he states in his recent blog post about these tools and technologies, knowing about all of this will be helpful for “planning, buy in and evaluation. So use these ideas as a guide to move forward with whatever tool you’re adding to your 2.0 cadre: a library blog, IM reference, or a wiki. Remember, Web 2.0 tools won’t solve all your problems, but you may find some solutions that will make your work-life easier.”

I just got back from a two-week leave, helping my son get established in his new life in the Army National Guard in Arkansas since returning from the Middle East a few weeks ago. I used several social software tools to stay in contact with him while he was gone. And although nothing can top my excitement of seeing him, in person, back safe in the U.S. after being gone for over a year, I think Michael’s new report was pretty high up on my list of favorites last week. I think you will love this report as much as I did/still do.

So, go on–”be the change you want to be.” (emphasis/bold mine)–I plan on doing just that, this time right at my own library, so get ready Rider University Libraries. And thanks again, Michael.
-Robert

Technorati Tags: Michael Stephens, collaboration, communication, Library Garden, library 2.0, social software, web 2.0

October 24, 2007 at 7:16 am 1 comment

David Lee King’s new video kills!

YAY!!

David Lee King has offered up a new song/video Social Digital Revolution. I love this tune! The poppiness. The playfulness. The great lyrics.

Enough of my blabbering, just go watch it: http://blip.tv/file/441515

October 23, 2007 at 11:28 am 1 comment

Gphone? Now we’re talking pure technology bliss!

If I get one of the new generation phones, I don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel.
No new calendar
No new photo program
No new notes
And please, no new desktop program that I have to upload to my computer and, possibly, have to constantly connect to in order to keep both phone and program in synch. Palm OS, I’m talking to you.
But what if Google made a phone and it was designed to work with all of my pre-existing apps, then we’d have something!
In a way, it is a backwards approach, creating the content before creating the hardware. Google already has all the applications in place along with millions of dedicated users. Creating a phone that will allow users to bring their pre-existing applications with them, without having to reset or rebuild, is an extremely enticing idea.
Just imagine, all of your mail, docs, notebooks, readers, photos, maps and videos readily available at a moment’s notice. Yeah, I know you are probably already telling me that iphone, Treo and all the other ones have the ability to link to the mobile versions of these programs but it is not the same.
I’m talking about a phone where I place in my one username and password and then all the applications are ready-to-go (think a mobile version of google desktop); ideally, they are just a simple click away from the phone’s desktop. No jumping to various websites and no downloads of new applications. Think plug’n’play, take’n’go w/ my phone.
The expectations for such a phone are huge, in fact, Gizmondo has already released their wishlist of apps they really want to see the phone contain.
The only thing I would add is that the “gphone” has an adequate harddrive right at the start… not a 4-8GB version that will become obsolete within the first 6 months of manufacturing.
Not mentioning anyone in particular, I’m just saying…

October 23, 2007 at 9:45 am 2 comments

Dont Be That Boss

Nowadays, I consider myself really lucky because I have an extremely level-headed boss. She might tell you her opinion and will definitely let you know when things need to improve but, in doing so, she never speaks in a way that I’ve construed as offensive. It’s always been direct but not demeaning and I have never left her office feeling like I just got pummeled.I haven’t always been so lucky though, I used to have one of the worst types of bosses imaginable: A Screamer.

On a near daily basis, I would hear my boss yelling at someone in her office. To put that in perspective: the distance from her office to my desk was through one room, then a hallway, up a flight stairs and then behind a solid oak door… a distance over 100 feet. To put this it in further perspective, I have a moderately severe hearing loss. If I could hear the screams just imagine what other employees and patrons actually heard her saying! I left the position almost exclusively because of her and took the first job offer that came my way… Fortunately, it lead me to my current boss.

But some of my friends aren’t so lucky. Just having to listen to the nightmare stories and thinking back on my own experiences I am dumbfounded as to how these people wind up in management positions. What quality did they possess which made the administrators willing to go with such a nasty and ineffective communication skill? And what possibly makes that boss think that their method of management is, if not effective, is constructive or pragmatic in the overall scheme of running business!? Furthermore, how do these screamers possibly think they are actually good bosses!? And yet, it seems that I always have at least one friend who is plagued by such a boss.

So, why is this being put up on our library’s blog? Because we are certainly not immune to such poor managerial practices and maybe some of us are active participants, and I have been offered a promotion to the Head of Youth Services in the Library where I work. As excited as I am, this had led me to really reflect on the poor bosses I’ve had in the past and my own managerial skills.

In hopes of being proactive against the habits of “poor bosses” I have compiled a list of, shall we say, ethical goals I would like to instill upon myself in hopes of becoming a quality supervisor. By all means, please add your own advice.

Do not panic: Even when things are at a panic stage, it is my job to present level-headedness, which leads to the second point…

Do not play into histrionics: Situations should emit their own sense of emotions and do not need my help.

Do be approachable: If staff and I cannot talk openly, then we are already on losing ground.

Do be pragmatic: When problems arise, find ways to ‘fix’ them.

Do be clear with expectations: Make sure that staff knows what is expected of them and their job details.

Do not micromanage or get bogged down in minutiae: nobody likes someone looking over their shoulder and critiquing their work to the very foundation.

Do not personalize: Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy and some times people will goad you… but do not let it sink in.

DO BE POSITIVE: Remember that your leadership will affect how the department runs.

October 15, 2007 at 9:34 am

Jim Trelease to speak in Princeton

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jim_trelease, originally uploaded by pplflickr.

Save the date and plan to attend this event that will be of interest to school librarians, youth services librarians, teachers, parents, grandparents… well, almost anyone! Jim Trelease will be retiring from the speaking circuit after January 2008 and this presentation will mark his final public speaking appearance in a NJ venue. As he announces on his site:

“January 2008 will be Jim Trelease’s last month of public seminars. After that his only programs will be for teachers through the Bureau of Educationand Research (BER) and a few isolated librarian conferences. Why retirement? Four grandchildren and a wife who has waited 23 years for him to “come in off the road” to travel with her. (Jim suspects there is an oxymoron in there somewhere.)”

The library has teamed up with several PTOs and the local school board to make this event happen. Trego-Biancosino Hall at Princeton High School seats 770, but arrive early as this free event is sure to draw a crowd.

More details can be found on PPL’s site:
http://www.princeton.lib.nj.us/children/

October 10, 2007 at 3:37 pm 1 comment

‘Predatory Reference’ an Interview with Bill Pardue about ‘Slam the Boards.’ Second Slam Coming Up on October 10, 2007!

Bill Pardue is the Virtual Services Librarian at the Arlington Heights (IL) Memorial Library. He worked previously at the Illinois Institute of Technology and received his MSLIS from the University of Illinois in 1992. Bill is also involved with the AskAway Illinois Advisory Committee and manages the website for the statewide VR service.

Bill initiated “Slam the Boards” by inviting librarians “to be bold and invade online answer sites such as Yahoo! Answers, Amazon’s Askville, and the Wikipedia Reference Desk” and to market libraries by “making it clear that this question was answered by a librarian/library professional/etc.”

Here’s my recent interview with Bill.

Marie: Bill, thanks so much for visiting Library Garden today. To get us started, tell me about “Slam the Boards” and especially how the idea occurred to you.

Bill: It was a very social process. I started playing around with Yahoo! Answers on my own and realized that it might be an opportunity for librarians to interact with users who don’t even realize that libraries have reference services. Paula Moore, our Coordinator for Public Services at Arlington Heights, commented that we ought to encourage lots of librarians to do the same. At the Collaborative Virtual Reference Symposium in Denver this past July, I mentioned it to Caleb Tucker-Raymond of the Multnomah County Library. He immediately said that instead of having some vague effort to get librarians more involved, a single day should be picked and promoted, in order to provide a real focal point. It was exactly the thought I needed to take action. Within a week I’d set up a Slam the Boards wiki and started putting the word out on listservs and anywhere else I could leave a comment. Then the viral part took over. In just over a month we had participants listed from the US, Europe, even New Zealand. It just seemed like the right idea at the right time…I just set up the wiki!

Marie: Caleb has such great ideas, I visited him on June 1st at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit.

What were you hoping to achieve with “Slam the Boards”?

Bill: Mostly awareness on both sides of the question/answer transaction. Awareness among librarians that there’s a large potential patron base that we’re missing and need to promote to, as well as an arena in which we can showcase our excellence. On the asker/patron side, I’d just like a few answer board users to be pleasantly surprised that librarians don’t only provide people with books and videos, but also provide reference service. What I certainly didn’t hope to achieve was a cessation of people using answer boards. It just won’t happen, and people get some very good answers there. But I want librarians to realize that answer boards aren’t “the enemy.”

Marie: I know that one interest you have is in evaluation of the event, and, as a researcher, I’m especially interested in looking at reference quality issues, but would you deem it to have been a success? Why?

Bill: At this point, I’m gaging success in terms of engagement. Of course, it’s great to have a reply chosen as “best answer” now and then, too! The main point, though, is that we were out there, we saw what kinds of questions people ask and we hopefully provided useful, sourced answers. Some folks have started archiving answer board responses in a special QuestionPoint account that will allow for analysis by anyone who’d care to look at them. Currently it’s at about 75 questions (too many of them mine!), but I’m hoping that number increases. Quality’s an interesting issue. In a voting environment like Yahoo! Answers, I ended up feeling extra pressure to give a really good, sourced answer. It even stung a little when someone else’s off-the-cuff reply (which may have said the exact same thing) was voted best. I’d be interested to see how a more thorough study of quality on answer boards is conducted and what kind of results come out of it. You’ve got your work cut out for you!

Marie: So, did Slam the Boards achieve what you had imagined?

Bill: I think it did, partly because it had such a simple goal…get librarians involved, get them to think beyond their library confines and get engaged in some “predatory reference.” We’re still just a drop in the bucket in terms of the total traffic on a site like Yahoo! Answers, so I have no illusions about having a measurable impact on library reference numbers or VR service statistics.

Marie: I’ve heard you talk about “predatory reference” before, and like this radical concept! Would you mind defining it for us at Library Garden?

Bill: I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a somewhat over-dramatic coinage for a fairly straightforward concept. Librarians need to start actively finding reference questions, rather than just waiting for them to come in. Don’t limit your presence to just the reference desk or the library’s IM or VR service. Instead, find out where the where the questions are and start providing answers unsolicited. Being a “virtual services librarian” I tend to think first of online options: looking for points of fact in local discussion forums, blogs, etc. Out of such activity at Arlington Heights, we’ve even worked out partnerships with two local discussion board that take questions from the community. One is the “What’s the Fact” column of the Daily Herald’s Beep Central site. The other is the “Ask an Arlington Heights Librarian” forum.

There are less virtual ways, to do this, too. One local library (and I apologize that I can’t remember which) has been having reference librarians participate as judges for a local bar’s weekly trivia night. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library regularly sends our librarians out to community events (festivals, senior center events, etc.) with a wireless connection that allows us to provide many of the same services that we would at the reference desk. The point is to start being a little…dare I say…pushy about showing off our skills, so that potential users will realize that libraries equal more than just books! I’m sure we could think of other ways to get involved. Show up at village council meetings and if a tough topic comes up, volunteer the library’s reference service to help find some background. When you’re with a group of people, listen for points at which you can mention/promote reference services. If you overhear a local business person talking about doing mailing lists, let them know that the library has tools like ReferenceUSA that can be of use (and that someone on your staff is willing to demonstrate it to them). The opportunities are out there, we just have to be looking for them.

Marie: Do you have any idea about the number of librarians who participated and/or number of questions answered, even if it is a rough guess?

Bill: Ultimately, it’s a tough call. My intuition is in the hundreds of librarians, with maybe a thousand questions…but I have absolutely no way of knowing. Some of the more enthusiastic participants put their names on the wiki.

I counted 98 names there on 10/5/07. If you figure that 2-3 times that many actually participated, and the average “load” was 5 questions (I picked up 25 myself, and I know several others had matched that number), I’d say that 1000 questions isn’t unrealistic.

Marie: This question is from Beth Cackowski of QandANJ “Were the majority of questions answered by librarians, research questions? In other words, were they questions that library customers might expect a librarian to answer, or were they questions that the general public might be surprised to see answered by a librarian, for example: automotive, sports, pop culture, medical, legal?”

Bill: The unfortunate part is that most users don’t have any expectation of what kind of questions a librarian might answer (beyond “do you have a book on…”). To keep things mixed up for myself, I bounced around from category to category, picking up homework help questions, business, arts & humanities, cooking & recipes, geography, etc. I expect others did the same. If you check the list of participants above, you can see that many have added links to their Yahoo! Answer lists, so you can check out how they moved through the categories.

Marie: I definitely agree that many people don’t have a clue as to what types of questions a librarian could answer. Our abilities are usually underestimated.

Here’s a question from Julie Strange of Maryland AskUsNow! “Do you have a sense of how librarians went to find questions? Did they sort through the subjects and go for ones they specialized in? Or did they take new questions as they came in?”

Bill: Cherry-picking is essential on the boards because so many questions aren’t really informational. “What’s your favorite shampoo?” “I really like this girl, but I’m afraid to ask her out. What should I do?” etc. So, after a little digging around, you see that certain categories in any board have a higher ratio of informational vs. social questions and you start to “hang out” there. It’s kind of like “working the room” until you find someone you want to talk to at a party! As far as specializing in a subject, I think that’s very much up to the individual librarian. I consciously tried to be a generalist, but I also picked up a couple of questions in the Science/Astronomy category because that’s my hobby.

Marie: That’s really interesting, I like your “working the room” comparison. Have you gotten any feedback from librarians about their experiences?

Bill: Most of the feedback has been very positive. A lot of librarians were a little taken by the social nature of a lot of the questions, but ultimately were able to find at least a few to answer. Finding out if you received a “best answer” can take several days, so there were numerous messages from librarians when they got word of their “wins.” I got some negative feedback beforehand from some folks who couldn’t see the point of it, but nothing from anyone who actually participated. Of course, there could be all kinds of biases that account for this!

Marie: Did the librarians get much feedback from the users of these services?

Bill: The user feedback is pretty much determined by the mechanisms in place by the answer board. After one question was chosen “best answer,” there was a “nice answer” comment from the user. I’ve received a few like that now. If you give a particularly good answer, you can get “star” ratings, up to five stars. Of course, there’s the voting, too. It can be done by the asker or other readers. It’s nice to see your count of “thumbs up,” but you get a “thumbs down” every now and then. You’ve got to have a thick skin! An interesting anecdote is that I actually had a fairly extensive post-question correspondence with a user who had a tough corporate question. I actually ended up making several phone calls, just as I would have done for my own library’s patron.

Marie: Sounds like you could have parlayed that corporate interplay into some consulting business if you wanted to be more entrepreneurial ;)

Finally, I see that you are encouraging librarians to repeat “Slam the Boards” for October 10th, tell me about your vision to keep it going.

Bill: I’m really hoping this takes on a life of its own. The success of something like this is that it ultimately shouldn’t need a specific set of individuals to keep it going. I’d like to know that there’s a spike in answer board activity each month on the 10th, as well as a baseline through the rest of the month. I’d like to see discussion of this initiative on the existing listservs (it’s a bit too insular to just have its own listserv, I think) and informal discussion groups at conferences. I’d love to hear about a dine-around at Internet Librarian this year! Unfortunately, I can’t make it myself, but that’s all the more reason for others to do this. The best thing is that this is a way to promote library reference service that costs very little money and has the potential over the long run to enhance our image with a user base that almost never thinks about us.

Marie: Nicely put Bill. Thanks so much for your candid answers! Good luck with this month’s “Slam the Boards” on October 10th. I’ll be away at the Library Research Seminar IV in London, Ontario, from Oct. 9-11th, but will see if I can find a wifi hotspot and join in some predatory reference!

October 7, 2007 at 2:23 pm 11 comments


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