Posts filed under ‘Reference’

Complimentary Downloads from Salem Press Concerning Osama bin Laden & Terrorism

Posted by Robert J. Lackie

Milestone Documents in American History

Milestone Documents in American History

In an RSS feed I received today, Peter W. Tobey at Salem Press (ptobey@salempress.come) wrote that they were now providing free articles or chapters from published Salem reference books dealing with Osama bin Laden and terrorism. After reviewing them tonight while working the Reference Desk at Rider University Libraries (and missing the awards ceremony at the NJLA 2011 Conference for the first time in years!), I agree that many may find these free, quality resources of interest combined with other current resources within our databases, especially in light of current events. Mr. Tobey writes:

Milestone Documents in World History

Milestone Documents in World History

“Osama bin Laden’s death returns us to the subject of September 11, 2001 in a number of ways. But the events of that day, the personalities, frustrations, and cultural clashes involved are far from straightforward. And the repercussions are, of course, far-reaching. Salem Press has published a great deal on the history, biographies, religious and cultural backgrounds of terrorism. Perhaps most significantly, Salem has brought libraries two critical works by the Schlager Group covering the original source documents (plus analysis) of works by both George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. We’ve selected these and two other articles on this subject (from four different reference works) because we feel your patrons and students may find them informative. You may download them freely, print as many copies of these articles as you need, and distribute them any way you’d like:”

Salem Press logo

George W. Bush’s Address to the Nation on September 11, 2001: The Full Text & Analysis” (1,186 and 4,920 words) from Milestone Documents in American History

Osama bin Laden’s Declaration of Jihad against Americans: The Full Text & Analysis” (2,322 and 5,048 words) from Milestone Documents in World History

Great Lives from History: The 20th Century

Great Lives from History: The 20th Century

Salem also has published a brief, helpful biography of Osama bin Laden and an overview of the war on terrorism. See links to these articles below:

Osama bin Laden” (1,682 words) from Great Lives from History: The 20th Century

The War on Terror” (4,656 words) from Weapons & Warfare

Weapons and Warfare

Weapons and Warfare

By the way, these four reference book resources (PDFs) from 2008 and 2010, listed above, can also be downloaded from Salem Press’ Issues Today site, under the subheading: “May 3, 2011 – Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror” and are part of a new effort Salem is beginning where they will post free, relevant articles from their reference works on current topics in the news. I noticed on their Issues Today site that they also have four resources (PDFs) under the subheading of “March 30, 2011 – Nuclear Power” listed below the above items on their Issues Today site.

I thought this information and Salem Press’ new site might also be of use to others, and complete information on the reference books containing the articles above are provided at the end of each PDF.  Now, off to the NJLA 2011 Conference tomorrow, one of my favorite conferences of the year!

-Robert

Robert J. Lackie

Robert J. Lackie

May 3, 2011 at 8:32 pm 1 comment

Money Smart Week® @Your Library (April 2-9, 2011) and ID Theft Resources

Posted by Robert J. Lackie

American Library Association logo

American Library Association logo

The American Library Association (ALA), the Federal Reserve, and I hope that many librarians and their libraries are participating in the first ever national Money Smart Week® @Your Library this week, April 2-9, 2011! Money Smart Week (a registered service mark of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago) events are taking place now at member libraries across the country covering topics from learning how to apply for a mortgage to teaching young people about credit to ID theft protection, with many resources uploaded to the Money Smart Week® @Your Library official site, linked above. Visit this site for information on this initiative and for news and important links you can use this week, right now!Money Smart Week @ Your Library: April 2-9, 2011

Additionally, Rider University’s Center for Business Forensics (CBF) has hosted several free interactive panel presentations for the general public (students, staff, community members, etc.) and law enforcement personnel focusing on the major issues surrounding identity theft—including financial literacy—and providing insight into the widespread, varying, and serious nature of identity theft.

Rider University's Center for Business Forensics

Rider University's Center for Business Forensics

Dr. Drew Procaccino, a professor of computer information systems at Rider, has organized and led these Identity Theft: What You Need to Know sessions with panels of experts from law enforcement, banking, legal, library, IT, CIS, and health care organizations. As a panelist several times and as a new member of the American Library Association’s Academic MSW@Your Library Committee, I want to again provide everyone with some frequently repeated “best practices” from the panel experts for detection and protection, especially since this week (until April 9, 2011), we are officially celebrating the 10th year anniversary of Money Smart Week. Here are the 10 best practices/advice from our panel of experts at Rider’s CBF sessions:

1. Shred with a crosscut or micro shredder pieces of mail that contain any personal information before throwing them in the trash at home or at work.
2. Place outgoing mail and retrieve incoming mail via a locking mailbox or official Postal Service box.
3. Use a virtual credit card number (available through most banks) for online purchases, rather than your “real” credit card—connected to your card, the virtual number can be set up to only be used once, for that one online purchase (or for longer, but only if you wish).
4. Keep an eye on your credit card when you are paying for something—don’t allow it to disappear out of your sight (skimming of your card could occur).
5. Inventory/photocopy what is in your wallet/purse and place that photocopy (back and front of cards) in a locked cabinet—if your wallet/purse is stolen, you have all the info.
6. Never respond to an unsolicited email from your bank, medical organization, etc., and don’t unsubscribe—don’t even click on the link, just delete it.
7. Cover the ATM keypad from prying eyes and cameras with one hand while you enter your PIN.
8. Review your credit reports (you can get a free one each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, and if you stagger requests, you can get one every four months).
9. Clear private data from your browser (i.e., Firefox, IE, or Safari): delete temporary files, browsing history, cookies, cache, saved form information, and saved passwords, especially when using a public computer or kiosk at a library, hotel, airport, coffee shop, etc., and then shut down your browser.
10. Use different passwords for different sites—and try changing/updating your passwords to passphrases.

Last but least, my annually-updated free website, Personal Profiles and Other Publicly Available Information: An Internet Hotlist on Detecting and Protecting Your Digital Footprint, contains some of my favorite ID theft protection, privacy information, and financial assistance sites, among other things, found on experts’ sites on the free Web, including our Identity Theft: What You Need to Know seminar project’s 29-page handout from Rider University, available to all.

Remember, according to Terri Cullen, author of The Wall Street Journal Complete Identity Theft Guidebook: How to Protect Yourself from the Most Pervasive Crime in America, ( “…Identity theft covers several different specific crimes, and collectively,…is one of the easiest crimes to commit, one of the hardest to prosecute, and one that is drawing increasing attention from the media.” So, feel free to share this information with all of your patrons and students, especially because proactively protecting your digital footprint and your finances is much easier than dealing with them after the fact as a victim—being a victim can be a very emotional, time-consuming, and financially-unrewarding process. Again, prevent it from ever happening to you, and help others do the same.

Money Smart Week @ Your Library small icon/logo

Money Smart Week @ Your Library

Anyway, I hope this all helps you during Money Smart Week® @Your Library this week, April 2-9, 2011. Enjoy partnering with and/or sharing pertinent information from your community groups, financial institutions, government agencies, educational organizations, and other financial experts this week to help all of our consumers learn to better manage and protect their personal finances!

-Robert

Robert J. Lackie

Robert J. Lackie

April 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm 3 comments

“Happy Holidays!”: Important Travel Tips and Information to Help Ensure Happiness

Posted by Robert J. Lackie

Rider University Family Weekend 2010 image

Rider University Family Weekend 2010 image

As Rider University gets ready to close down at Noon today for our Christmas/Winter Break, many of our faculty and staff (the students are already gone!) are also getting ready to travel, as are many of the Library Garden team blog members. However, while working the Reference Desk yesterday and this morning at Moore Library, I fielded several interesting questions from faculty and community members about airline travel concerning checked baggage and travel with food/gifts (liquids & gels, in particular) that I thought would also be of interest to our blog readers.

Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) logo

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) logo

Besides the airline-provided information that our library patrons already possessed, I sent them both to particular sections of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration main site (http://www.tsa.gov/index.shtm). There we found answers to their particular questions, among many other important travel tips and information; for instance, there was a very helpful “Airport Checked Baggage Guidance” page, an interesting “Traveling with Food or Gifts” page about packing these items, and–my favorite–the “3-1-1 for Carry-Ons,” detailing info about carry-on liquids/gels during airline travel (see the graphic directly below). Lots of very good travel tips and information can be found at the main site (and within the TSA blog), so check out the TSA site before you pack and travel.

Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA): 311 for Carry-Ons/Air Travel graphic

Transportation Security Administration (TSA): 311 for Carry-Ons/Air Travel graphic

I hope this helps all of our Library Garden readers, and my esteemed LG colleagues, as much as it did our Moore Library patrons.

Everyone, please have a safe and happy holiday travel time–and I will “see” you all in our ‘garden’–next year!!

-Robert

Robert J. Lackie

Robert J. Lackie

December 23, 2010 at 11:58 am 1 comment

When in doubt, visit a library (or ask a librarian)

When in doubt, visit a library

When in doubt, visit a library

The message here is a simple one — if you need a clear answer, a library is a great place to start. Made in Inkscape, the premier open source design tool.

Thanks to Marie Radford’s suggestion, I’ve created another version that has a larger worldview. Thanks, Marie!

Ask a librarian

Ask a librarian

Posted by John LeMasney

May 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm 10 comments

Congrats to Dr. Marie Radford!

Photo by Victor Estrellado

What do these five people have in common?

  1. Marie Radford
  2. Joe Janes
  3. Anne  Lipow
  4. Jim Rettig
  5. Carole Leita

If  you guessed that they’ve all been honored for their distinguished contribution to reference librarianship by being selected for RUSA’s Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award you’d be right!

RUSA’s press release discussed why the awards committee selected Marie this year:

In selecting Radford for this honor, the committee cited her many accomplishments, including authorship of four books, among them “Conducting the Reference Interview (2nd ed.),”  “The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library” and “Web Research: Selecting, Evaluating, and Citing”; editorship of three other books, including “Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends”and “Academic Library Research”;numerous articles published in top library journals; and dozens of conference papers and presentations.

In addition to her publications, Radford brings high energy, deep passion and an interdisciplinary approach to the study of face-to-face and virtual reference.  She has provided inspirational leadership in professional organizations such as RUSA, ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). Radford is currently co-chair of the conference program for the Reference Renaissance 2010 and co-chair of contributed papers for ACRL’s 2011 National Conference. She will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming 2010 REFolution Conference.

Marie, a hearty congratulations from your fellow Library Garden bloggers on this well-deserved recognition.  It’s nice to see others in the profession noticing and celebrating what we in New Jersey have known for a long time — you are amazing!!

March 31, 2010 at 1:40 pm 4 comments

5 great tools and techniques for developing presentations

Hi, everyone! One of my favorite librarians and open source advocates (Nicole Engard) just Tweet DMed me and asked if I ever shared officially the tools I mentioned in a discussion session on Presentation Tools and Techniques at Pres4Lib at Princeton Public Library. I replied no, with regrets. I figured if she’s wondering about it, maybe you are too!

By the way, if you like our articles, please share them on Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else you like.

I use a pretty well structured, personally vetted workflow for developing presentations and blog posts that involves developing an outline, collecting images, preparing images, research and citations. Let me share some of the tools that I use to accomplish these tasks just about every time.

Google Docs
Image via Wikipedia

Google Docs Presentations

I stopped using Microsoft PowerPoint a few years ago and have not looked back. While I would consider using the open source alternative of OpenOffice.org’s presentation tool, by instead choosing a presentation tool in the cloud, I get the ability to edit and present anywhere where I’m connected, the ability to edit offline with Google Gears installed on Firefox, the common ability to add images, draw pictures, embed my slideshows (!), allow people to automatically see the latest greatest embedded versions of my presentations up to the second after I’ve updated them, allow for collaboration and co-viewing and if I absolutely must, export to a PDF for offline sharing and presentation disaster backup. I can even make a PPT for someone who insists on it.

I typically log in to Google Docs, create a title slide for my topic, and then immediately develop an agenda slide, which I then begin to outline with the topics (and slides) that I want to cover in my talk. My style emphasizes simple broad topics which I elaborate on in spontaneous ways. I try to keep the number of words on slides to an absolute minimum. I usually make a slide for each of my topics, and I then try to look for stories, photos, and illustrations that lead the people in the audience to start thinking about my topics before I introduce them verbally or textually.

Image representing Google Images as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Creative Commons vetting via Google Image Search

Google Image Search is far and away the best image search tool I’ve come across (with the ability to search for line art, faces, and by color, etc.), especially now, since the recent addition of the license search feature in the advanced image search tool, which allows me to search according to Creative Commons licenses applied by designers and photographers to their images all over the web. This is especially important for me because I don’t just want to just use other peoples’ images in my work without their consent. I want to respect the wishes of image creators. By using the license restrictions, I can quickly find images available for commercial use, images allowed to be modified, images that simply require attribution, and even images in the public domain.

When we respect the rights of creators and innovators, and celebrate others’ work properly, I believe we engage in modeling important aspects of information literacy, if not common humanity.

I’ll search for a topic keyword, often choosing CC-attribution licensing, which allows me the greatest flexibility with which to use the images, to modify them, use them in commercial situations, and promote creative commons licensing, while simply being required to include attributive references to the original image author. I will very often name the file locally with the name of the author of the image, in the format “by username.jpg” or “from nameofwebsitedotcom.jpg” so that I have a built in back-reference.

Image representing Picasa as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Picasa

Once I have the images I want to use in my presentation saved to my local hard drive in a project folder, I often need to tweak, categorize, combine, title, tag, and integrate the images. While I can do this in a myriad of different utilities, tools, and applications, none of them have quite the combination of speed, comprehensive toolset, ease of use, functions, smoothness, or slickness of Google’s Picasa. Once you have downloaded and installed this free tool, you can use a Google account to store images in free named online galleries and keep them synchronized for free. With the number and variety of images I work with in my design and presentation work, I am thrilled that I have Picasa to help me wrangle them all.

I use it to tag, group, move, geocode, describe, upload, tweak, collage, print, and watermark my images for presentations, design work, papers, and everything else. It is a free, versatile, and irreplaceable tool in my personal tool set.

An example of both Zotero and OpenURL referrer...

Image via Wikipedia

Zotero

Zotero is a Firefox extension that allows for the single click based collection, categorization, tagging, editing, and even full text storage of web based database entries, books, articles, presentations, images and other standard citable sources. The amazing thing it that it automatically recognizes and collects metadata when it is present in a form that Zotero understands. This might sound like a difficult thing for content providers to implement, but all I had to do to make my WordPress blogs compliant was to install a single metadata-providing plugin (COinS) that offers my name, the title of posts, the publication date and other automatically generated metadata in blogging to Zotero users. Other sources who provide the relevant metadata to Zotero include major scholarly databases like Ebsco, newspapers like the New York Times, online booksellers like Amazon, and blogs and wikis around the world.

If I haven’t hooked you in to using Zotero yet, did I mention that with two clicks, you get properly formatted bibliographies in APA, MLA, and other citation styles? After I’ve visited books on Amazon and collected their data, or after I’ve found articles on Google Scholar and collected their data, or after I’ve grabbed creative commons licensed images from Flickr and collected their data, I can simply select all of them in my Zotero database, right click, and choose “Make bibliography from selected sources” which I then choose to send to clipboard, then paste right into my final slide, reference area of my paper, or wherever else I need to respect copyright or usage license. It is also a phenomenal way to meet the requirements of CC Attribution.

QuoteURLText

Number 5, QuoteURLtext (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4292) is another Firefox Extension that does one thing, but does it exceptionally well. It copies the highlighted text on a page along with the date and time, URL, and page title to the clipboard so that you can easily paste some casual piece of information (such as a tasty tech tip, a quick statistic, a delicious quotation, or a little known fact) into a slide, paper, or post without having to go so far as to reference it in APA style. It’s like a casual little sister utility to the powerhouse that is Zotero.

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

<Jeopardy Daily Double Music> Bonus Tool: Zemanta: </Jeopardy Daily Double Music>

Finally, Zemanta (a play on semantic) is another Firefox extension that shows up in a sidebar when you are using supporting applications, such as Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, and other applications (check out their site for more). I desperately wish it worked with Google Docs Presentations, but nothing hints at that yet. Here’s why I care: All of the photos, captions, tags, post story articles, and even some of the links to referential sources were all suggested, generated and placed with a single click each using Zemanta. As I type, Zemanta autoscans sources with CC licensed imagery, content, and resources related semantically to my content. Let me reiterate: As I type.  All I need to do to add it to my post is simply to click. Clickety-clickety.

A pleasure to speak with you as always, I hope you learn to love these great free tools for developing your presentations just as much as I do.

John LeMasney

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

November 16, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

"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

‘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

Back to the Future: Phone Reference “OnCall OnDemand OnSite”

Gerry McKiernan of Iowa State University recently put a post on the dig_ref listserv (DIG_REF@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU) that dealt with a topic I have been talking about and thinking about for quite a while now, namely that:

NOW IS THE TIME TO PROMOTE PHONE REFERENCE SERVICES!!!

The ubiquitous nature of phones in everyone’s hands should make it a totally no brainer that we should definitely, absolutely, without question be actively marketing this underused service.

To quote Gerry: “Another Radical (but Conventional) Idea for OnCall, OnDemand, On Site Reference Service. Publicize the Library Hip Reference Help Phone Number… via Library Newsletter/Blog/Liaisons/Campus Groups/Table Tents/Billboards/TV Commercials/Facebook/etc. Why Chat When You Can Really Chat [:-)”

I agree with what most of Gerry is saying, although my research shows that people choose chat over phone reference for reasons of convenience (some love the transcript) and avoidance of awkward silences that occasionally happen on the phone (I’m not kidding about this, just ask any teenager).

His wake-up call to promote phone reference, however, is totally SPOT ON! All his ideas for marketing library phone reference are excellent. Table Tents are an especially good idea since many library users WILL NOT LEAVE or PACKUP their laptops (who can blame them?) in order to approach the reference desk if it is more than 12 feet away from where they are sitting! It would be nice if they saw the phone number on a table tent and could call for help instead of shrugging off their information need. Of course then we have to lift the ill-advised and impossible to enforce ban on cell phones in the library (and replace this policy with one that asks users to be respectful of others when using cell phones in public areas).

September is also the perfect time to do classroom marketing, what with students in Universities and schools undergoing bazillions (ok, thousands surely, maybe even tens of thousands?) library use instruction or orientation sessions!

Here’s my script for anyone doing one of these sessions:

“Greetings students! I am now about to ask you to do something that NONE of your other teachers/librarians have ever asked you to do…” (wait… for it….)

“TAKE OUT YOUR CELL PHONES AND TURN THEM ON” (amid gasps & nervous laughter from startled students, but they will do it eagerly!)

“Now, enter this library reference desk number into your phone BUDDY list…” (give ref desk number…)

“Next, here are the library hours when you can call this number for reference help” (now the students ACTUALLY have a reason to pay attention to the times when the library is open).

Here’s the clincher… “AND during the OTHER hours we are available by…” (chat, IM, e-mail, whatever you have!!)

Thus marketing chat, e-mail, etc. services along with the phone service. Wow, what an exciting old/new idea!

Wouldn’t it be great to see phone reference stats go through the roof? It’s high time to shake our fear of being overwhelmed at the ref desk.

Now is the time! Go for it!

September 25, 2007 at 6:30 pm 6 comments

Are We Getting Warmer? Query Clarification in Virtual Reference (ALA Redux Part 2)

At the Library Research Round Table at ALA in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2007, Lynn Silipigni Connaway of OCLC and I presented our latest findings on Query Clarification in VR (aka question negotiation or the reference interview).

We examined 600 chat transcripts randomly selected from QuestionPoint bank of almost 500,000 transcripts. Here are some of our findings (and an invitation below to the Seeking Synchronicity web site to see the PowerPoint slides and handouts from this presentation).

Do librarians clarify?
75% (in 434 of 581 usable transcripts) librarians did ask clarifying questions.

Did they ask the highly recommended follow-up question? (some version of “Does this completely answer your question?”)
50% (217) of the 434 librarians who clarified did ask the follow up question.

What types of questions were asked?
66% (554 of 838 questions asked by the librarians) were closed questions.
34% (282 of 838) were open.

What did librarians ask about?
Librarians asked users questions about: topic, background, search history, type of resource needed, extent/depth of information needed, if the user wanted a referral and more.

How about the virtual reference users?
Users offered information about: topic, background, extent/depth, and to correct the librarian’s misunderstanding.

Surprising finding! 2 different patterns of clarification!
Librarians clarified more often in the beginning of the interaction
Users clarified in the middle more often.

Most important finding! How to improve accuracy in chat reference?
For the 180 ready reference questions in our sample, we looked at accuracy (see my blog posting of July 10, 2007 for more on ready reference in chat).
Clarifying the query and asking the recommended follow-up question both boosted accuracy.

Bottom Line
Always ask clarifying questions, even if you think you understand the question (one user asked for diving instructions, but had made a typo and wanted driving instructions, early clarification would have saved the librarian much searching time!)

Always ask a version of the recommended follow-up question: “Does this completely answer your question?”

Interested in more detail on the above findings? Please click on the above links to see the PowerPoint slides and handouts.

This research is funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, and OCLC.
Special thanks to Susanna Sabolcsi-Boros of Rutgers, SCILS, and Patrick Confer of OCLC, for their help with this part of the project.

July 13, 2007 at 7:52 am

Older Posts


Creative Commons

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed on this blog are those of the authors and are not intended to reflect the views of our employers.

A Note on the history of posts

Please note that all Library Garden posts dated earlier than September 13,2009 originally appeared on our Blogger site. These posts have been imported to this site as a convenience when searching the entire site for content.

If you are interested in seeing the original post, with formatting and comments in tact, please bring up the original post at our old Blogger site.

Thanks for reading Library Garden!

wordpress
visitors

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers