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The New IT Librarian Application

In the past couple weeks, I’ve listened to a few librarians talk about the woes of their supposed IT specialists.

The problem? They are really good with buzzwords and not so great with applications. Some have complained that their IT specialist were generally unfamiliar with basic computer competencies. And while it is generally deemed okay for a ‘normal’ librarian to be unfamiliar with computer applications and some 2.0 technologies, this should be essential for a person who specialized in IT for their library. If not, we are then left with libraries that stagnate in their IT competencies and fall behind the tech-trend.

So, let’s lose the buzzword interviews. Let’s plan an application process that would really test the abilities of your IT specialist.

When the job is posted for a general IT position, require that the application and cover letter be sent via email in an attachment. If they can’t do this, which is largely considered a basic competency, then they are not qualified for the job. Require a cell phone number (more on this later).

If they are applying for a webmaster position, require them to post their resume online. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a site with resume and a link to download the resume as well… to show they have basic web-design skills.

If the person’s resume and cover letter meet your standards, TEXT their cell phone to set up an interview. Unorthodox? Perhaps, but part of the IT personality is embracing modern technology. Texting is one of the most popular means of communication with our younger population and, if we want to stay current with our patrons, then we need make sure our IT people are familiar with it as well.

Next, set up a time to talk meet your potential employee ONLINE. Nothing complicated, have them meet you on G-chat, Meebo, AIM or whatever. Once they get there, just hold a brief conversation about what the upcoming interview will entail, quick clarification questions, or see if they have any questions. Better yet, perhaps ask them, for the interview; to prepare a brief demonstration on their favorite 2.0 technology that they think would be useful or popular with the community. The importance is not the conversation itself but more that, once again, they are familiar with using this technology. Again, IM is a popular method of communication and your IT specialist should be comfortable with it.

By this time the interview comes, you will have a basic understanding of the applicant’s technological ability. If they needed instruction or familiarization with any of these things, that should be a warning flag. When they give their demonstration, you will also be able to see how well they can communicate the use of these technologies to other people and just how ambitious their Library 2.0 goals are.

Yes, I do realize there is a possible flaw in this method; it requires that someone on the interview team be familiar with technology as well. It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure. But, let’s look beyond that.

Oh, and if you want to have a little fun with them at the interview, put them in front of a computer with the machine on but the monitor off (or unplugged) and ask them to figure out the problem. Tell them you’ve tried hitting the machine but ‘nothing happened.” If they look at you, remark, “I just don’t think this machine likes me very much.” Then watch for a reaction.

May 15, 2008 at 10:02 am 16 comments

Friday Fun … the best band name for librarians

If you were in a band with a bunch of other librarians, what would you call it? Would you refer to your profession in the title?

Personally, if I were to be in a rock band with fellow librarians, I would go with:

The Dewey Decibel System

If it were an alternative band, I think it would favor:

Mending Potter’s Spine

So, let’s have a little fun this Friday; what are some great band names you can come up for the profession?

April 11, 2008 at 11:14 am 44 comments

Bamboo: Great tool for a great price

Check it out! Look what I can draw on my computer!
Well, yeah… I know it’s not Mona Lisa but, hey, it was my first try. It deserves some credit, right?
Bamboo is marketed as the affordable and ‘fun’ drawing tablet for the recreational artist. At $79, they were right on the money with affordable. As for fun, I am having trouble putting the pen down.
The learning curve for using Bamboo is pretty low. If you know how to hold a pen, and have a semi-steady hand, there really isn’t much else to learn.
Installation is a piece of cake as well, essentially a plug ‘n’ play device. The pen can double as a mouse and the tablet can be used in leiu of the primary mouse. Every button is customizable, which makes it very convenient to the user. As you can probably guess, I have the second button on the pen set to Control-Z in order to quickly erase those all-too-common slips of the hand.
The box also comes with Adobe Photoshop and Corel Ink. Both are solid quality image softwares that should appease most users.
If you are looking to provide a little ‘something more’ for your patrons’ computer resources, Bamboo might just be an ideal purchase. As for programs, it is a great addition for any graphic novel club, Photoshop instruction, and even handy if you wanted to create a digital signature.
You might want to come up with some check-out or anti-theft attachment for the pen and mouse though, both could easily walk.
That said, I know exactly what new tech toy I am going to be pushing at my library.

April 8, 2008 at 3:39 pm 1 comment

Making Good When You’ve Done Bad… A Guitar Hero Story

As great as the Guitar Hero III game is, it received some negatively publicity for the Wii version.
And deservedly so.

In a previous post I gave the game a glowing review. The controls were pretty good, I loved the addition of a pseudo-plot and the song selection was solid. The sound was always a bit off to me but, I figured that was because of my hearing loss.
Then I learned that it wasn’t just my wonky ears, Activision actually released the Wii version in mono sound. Yeah, it is kind of a cheap thing to do for any video game nowadays but not putting in minimal (and outdated) sound quality for a virtual rock and roll music game!?
Bad Activision, bad!
After enough publicity was generated, Activision started a replacement program for any Wii-GHIII owners who were feeling the sting, which I took part in. About a month ago, they sent a self addressed envelope with a very simple questionnaire and asked me to return my ‘faulty’ CD. Normally, I’d expect this type of mail-in thing to take 4-6 weeks for delivery.
Within 10 days I had a brand new and improved version of Guitar Hero III and, man, the sound was infinitely better. As a consumer I was pleased with the response time but still a little annoyed with Red Octane for trying to pull a fast one with its fanbase.
Two days later, a package arrived in the mail from Activision. I opened it and the enclosed letter read:
Dear value Activision/Red Octane Customer,
You recently received a Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock Wii replacement disc. To show our appreciation for your patience during the re-mastering and manufacturing phase of GHIII, enclosed is a complementary Guitar Hero Faceplate.”

Wow, really? My local gaming store hasn’t had a Wii faceplate in stock for a good two months. Now I don’t have to bother looking each time I go in!
Good move, Red Octane. You could’ve just given the remastered disc and left fans semi-satisfied that the company owned up to its mistake but, instead, you decided to try and win back a little support from the base by throwing in an extra gift. Sure the faceplate probably cost mere cents to make, but it costs consumers $15.
And as a result; will I remember the “The Other Red O Incident” as I’ve come to call it? Yes, but I’ll also remember the ending as well. Freebies and an extra $15 in my pocket.

April 3, 2008 at 9:26 am 1 comment

Friday Fun: Test Your Technology Type

PEW Internet and American Life Project has a quick 10 question test for people to see what kind of technology user they are.

When looking at the different types of users, I was pretty suprised to see that the American population was well dispersed between the 10 different categories.

My results pegged me as an Omnivore, which comprises 8% of the general population. The provided description was pretty accurate, the only big miss being that I do not own a Blackberry/iphone.

But I will…. oh yes, I will. bwahahahahahaha!

February 8, 2008 at 11:43 am 9 comments

‘Just give them the ichthyo-’ Lessons in customer service through the eyes of a fishmonger

Anyone who knew what ichthyo was without having to look it up wins a candy bar, on me.*

Scenario 1:

Can you imagine walking into a fish market, asking the fishmonger for a pound of cod and him responding, “Here, I’ll show you how to fish.”

That’s okay you assure him and say you would just prefer to get the fish from him.

“But if I show you how to fish, you wont have to ask me for it.” His demeanor is still pleasant but he is clearly showing that his time could be better spent doing other things than finding and weighing fish for you.

You assure the monger that you understand but, at this time, you would rather just get the fish. And besides, looking around the store, you wouldn’t even begin to know where the cod was located. Your response incurs a sigh of annoyance as the fishmonger proceeds to process your request.

As bizarre as the scenario sounds, it’s not uncommon to see this type of customer service in library staff.

We’ve been trained with the idea that we need to teach our patrons to use library resources. And while this can be beneficial for patron and staff alike, do we always have to turn an information request into a teachable moment?

What’s wrong with just giving them the fish?

What’s more bizarre is that we feel the need to institute this type of attitude but then get upset at patrons who do try to find their own information.

Scenario 2:

You decide to take the fishmongers offer and learn to fish. After a quick five-minute lesson on casting a line and setting the reel he let’s you on your way. When you finally catch a fish you bring it to the fishmonger he takes a quick look at it and snaps that the fish is no good. He cannot believe that you would even consider taking this fish from the pond and eating it.

You’re confused. You go into detail of how, like he instructed, you went to the pond, cast out the line and caught a fish on the end of the line. As far as you’re concerned, the trip was successful because A) you wanted a fish and B) you caught one.

“Yes, but you’re using the wrong pond! And look at the fish, it is not meaty, healthy or well fed. Don’t you know the difference between a good fish and a bad fish?”

Ummm, Isn’t that why you came to the fishmonger in the first place!?

Man, you can’t win! First, we hassle the patrons with insisting on them doing the research themselves but, once they do, we are annoyed by the resources they choose.

Sure, the difference between good and bad resources might be obvious to us, as well it should be. We went to school and got a Masters in Information Sciences for this very thing. Our patrons did not.

As much as we want to create independent researchers, we need to take our efforts a step further and teach our patrons how to find quality resources.

And don’t quality resources depend on what the information’s intended use is?

Scenario 3:

The fishmonger continues to chastise you for your fish.

“What could you possibly want to do with this fish!? The quality of this fish is certainly not acceptable for a four-star restaurant and I hardly find it passable for consumption in a household either.”

“Actually, I was going to stuff it and mount it on my wall” you say. “I didn’t think I needed to worry about it’s taste.”

“Ohhhhhh… well that’s different then.”

So, the fish is good enough because it meets the needs of the patron.

Sometimes, libraries get caught up in worrying about the quality of the information that they lose site of the information itself.

If all you are looking for movies your favorite actor stars in, isn’t Wikipedia be good enough? Do we really need to bother hunting down the latest Encyclopedia of film actors so the patron has the most legitimate resource?

Sometimes correctness is all that is needed of a resource. And sometimes, a quick and simple answer can suffice.

In the terms of the fisher and fishmonger, the fishmonger loses sight of what the customer’s needs are. He becomes more interested in what he feels to be important criteria, without ever knowing what the fish is being used for, and forgets what one of the most basic purposes of his job is; to sell fish to people who want it.

Personally, if I went to a fish market and was hassled about how to fish, where to fish, quality of fish, etc. I would eventually say to myself, “Screw fish, I’m gonna cook some burgers instead…” Thus, leaving the fishmonger to wonder where all his patrons went and why they can’t the public seem to see the value of his store.

So, what can we learn from the fishmonger?

1. Sometimes, it’s okay to just give them the damn fish

2. If they want to know, show them why it’s a good fish

3. Offer to teach them how to scale it, if they need to learn.

*Warning: candy may contain peanuts. To be eligible for reimbursement, entries must include proof of purchase and UPC code. All receipts must be notarized, time stamped and sent to your local archives office for a certificate of authenticity before submission. All candy must be approved by the FDA and meet all noted regulation requirements for Infant Formula, including lactose intolerance. Library Garden is not responsible for the freshness, satisfaction or effects of consumption. Offer void in 48 Mainland states.

January 28, 2008 at 10:13 am 2 comments

I am Napster’s B*tch

I feel like such a chump. I feel like I just went back into an unhealthy relationship and, despite my hopes that things will be better this time around, I know it will all be the same.

I went back to Napster. I’m giving them a second chance…

I know, I know what you are going to say to me. You left Napster eight months ago because of the way it treated you! They’re going to treat me the same as before. Napster is still going to put those programs into my computer and mp3 player. It is still going to pseudo-forbid me from using players b/c it likes to be controlling. It’s still going to make me link to it once a week, because Napster always wants to know what I am doing (it is jealous of me using other programs).
But, can’t you see that Napster was good to me price-wise?!

And I’ve tried to break the habit. I’ve used other music programs and, although friendly at first, all they really wanted to do was get deeper into my pockets. I even tried buying individual albums, but that only made me realize how much money I was spending and how much I was still missing out.

I’m sorry, but I had to go back for something that was going to offer me better financial stability. If not for me, for the children… Birthdays are coming up for crying out loud. Do you want me to get them nothing!?

So, okay Napster, you got me back. I hope you are happy. You will see me linking my mp3 player to you and letting watch who I’m listening to, but that doesn’t mean I love you!

January 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm 3 comments

Terry Pratchett’s Sad News

I don’t really like to read fantasy but I love Terry Pratchett. Those who have read any of the Discworld books probably understands how such a seemingly contradictory statement can be made.
True, Discworld series is built completely around a world of Elves, Goblins, Zombies, Golems, Vampires, Dwarfs, Trolls, and so forth which is pretty much the definition of Fantasy. These characters even play major/leading roles in the Discworld books but that is hardly the point of the series.
Pratchett’s world is all about satire. It’s about taking a look at our societal norms and beliefs then showing them for the utter ridiculousness they embody. From girl witches trying to get into an all-male wizard academy, the creation of post offices, the Trolls and Dwarves disdain for each other and, my personal favorite, the creation of a war for a few people’s personal gain… that one sound familiar?
With over 30 books in the Discworld series (and about a dozen others not part of Discworld) Pratchett has created a fantasy world so deep in characters and details that readers who do not normally find themselves fans of the genre get sucked in to spending the better part of a few months reading the entire collection of books. They learn the streets, the buildings, the people and immerse themselves into the crazy place that is Discworld.
Sad to say, despite the prolific nature of Pratchett, the possibility of only a few more Discworld books has become a harsh reality. Even though he is only 59 years old, Pratchett released a statementon his artist’s website stating that he has a rare form of Alzheimer’s.
Although Pratchett reminds us in the end of his letter that he is “not dead” and we should not be saddened by the news it is hard to feel optimistic. I have seen the effects of Alzheimer’s and the tolls it eventually takes on the afflicted and their family from watching my own grandmother suffer its fate. It is painful as all you can do is watch their world slip away.
And as the years pass by for Pratchett, the saddest thing his family and fans will see is not just one world slipping away, but two.

December 13, 2007 at 9:48 am 3 comments

Do we encourage our employees to leave?

If someone leaves your system for the same job in another (i.e. lateral move), that should get you thinking.

If the average new-employee retention is less two years before they move on to another position, you definitely want to take notice.

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.” It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.

Employee retention has always been difficult in our profession but, sometimes, we unknownngly encourage people to leave.

The list below is a compilation of reasons I’ve heard Librarians give for leaving their positions. If any of these sounds like a familiar complaint of former employees, you may want to consider it, especially from the employee’s perspective.

Pay- Bosses, Directors and Board Members tend to roll their eyes when this issue is brought up. However, this is going to be a key factor for applicants. If two positions are posted and one offers more money than the other it is no surprise which will get more applications. Furthermore, I know several people over the last two years who have earned up to ten thousand dollars a year difference in pay simply by moving, laterally, into another system. How much of a difference can that be? How about the difference of affording your own rent or having to live with someone else.

Vacation and/or Holidays- Some New Jersey Library systems offer 10 days of vacation a year while others offer 24+ days. This does not include federal, personal, floating holidays or sick time. If everything else is equal (pay, benefits, etc.) which system would you rather work for?

Hours and/or Nights- How many nights a week do you require your librarians to work? How many Saturdays and/or Sundays a month?
Yes, we are in public services but we are also highly educated professionals with families, friends and social needs. On the nights that I work I don’t get to see my children or wife. One night is tough enough but two nights a week would be nearly impossible and a bigger strain on my family as it means my wife would have to feed, bathe and put both kids to bed by herself. The effects of working multiple nights are further reaching than just the employee’s schedule.

Professional Investment- Some systems have a budget for training and others do not. Some systems encourage employees to pursue professional interests and others look for a homogeneous staff. Employees who feel invested tend to support their systems and be happier as they know they may not get the same treatment elsewhere. This can also be a big draw for new employees as it shows the system’s interest in professional development. And consider this; the more an employee can pursue their interest, the more they are noticed in the professional realm as an expert in that subject which, in turn, is good for the system’s noticability.

Advancement- A professor once told me that Librarians tend to have to promote themselves and that means they leave the system they are working in. Obviously, we cannot promote everyone as there are fewer positions the higher up we go. But, other than steady employment, what are we doing to encourage these people to stay?

If employees leave because of these reasons it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in a bad system but it should rasie a warning flag. As systems, we are in competition with each other to employ the best possible professionals. Although we may hire that professional, what are we doing to keep him/her?

December 7, 2007 at 11:03 am 16 comments

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

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