Posts tagged ‘Uncategorized’

Follow-up on Food for Thought at R.I.T.

Jon Jiras was kind enough to send along the following information to post here at LG as a follow-up to the earlier Food for Thought interview. Congratulations to Jon and the entire Food for Thought team on a successful event and for providing a model for others to follow. The comments from participants definitely show the value of a campus library providing such a day — plus the fact that Jon says “steal this idea” with no attribution needed really rocks. I can hardly wait to see what 2009 bring for the FFT Team at R.I.T.!

Post-event update:

2008 Numbers:

Total number of session registrations: 578
Total number of people who registered online: 212
Total number of people who registered in person: 11

Total number of registrants: 223
Staff: 186 ; Faculty: 19 ; Students: 3 ; Other: 4 Unknown: 11

If you count every seat in every session (of our original room assignments) we were over 73% filled and seven of our sessions filled to at or near room capacity.

Three sessions (Create Your Own Website, Optimizing Outlook, and Facebook and RIT) each had over 50 registrants.

An analysis of first names, indicates that 80% of registrants are female.

Extra Helpings Area:
We took a 36″ x 28″ whiteboard on an easel and had one of our artistic staff members use dry erasable markers to mimic a deli menu with “specials of the day” complete with branding by the co-sponsors Online Learning and Information Technology Services. This area saw only limited use. Eighteen one-on-one appointments were made. The questions ranged from setting up access to the campus wide staff portals, resetting passwords, and how to accomplish specific tasks in MS PowerPoint, MS Word, and MS Outlook. rewarding for both the staff who manned the area and the individuals who came to it with questions. Next year, I think we will move this area to the first floor near the entrance and registration desk where it will get more visibility and we can talk it up during the registration process.

Lightning Talks:
We had five more requests to present a lightning talk than spots available, so we had to turn down some requests. We secured the use of a 30 inch Chinese gong to indicate when the 5 minutes were up. We set up a laptop with a countdown timer set to 5 minutes that someone in the front row displayed to the presenters. The talks included staff from the following departments across campus: Center for Professional Development, RIT Ombudsperson, RIT Public Safety, Online Learning, Academic Intervention and Mentoring Program, Institute Advising Office, Barnes and Noble @ RIT, Wellness Center, Office of the Registrar, and the Library. We will definitely be offering this again next year.

Since the original blog post there have been some questions asked in the comments and through other channels.

1) Is this available to “steal” with credit?

Sure, that’s why I have provided so much information about the planning and marketing. Help yourselves, no attribution necessary.

2) What were the session titles in 2007?

Social Networking with Second Life, MySpace, and Facebook
Planning and Marketing RIT Events
To Bid or Not To Bid: Auction Tips Online and Offline, or, Why Pay Retail?
New Features of Microsoft Office 2007
New Features of Microsoft Windows Vista (offered twice)
Advanced iPod
Introduction to RSS and Blogging
Introduction to Web 2.0
Origami for the Office
Image Resources to Jazz Up Presentations
Sharing Videos and Pictures on the Web
Organizing with MS Outlook: Calendaring, Contacts, Notes, and Tasks
Self-Publishing with
TechnoStress Relief 101
Art on Campus Walking Tour (offered twice)
Create Your Own Web Site
Optimizing Your Digital Photographs
Wildflowers and Weeds of Western New York
Become a Published Author with InDesign and Photoshop
Easy Creation of Online Tutorials with Adobe Captivate

3.) What was your budget for 2008?

The budget this year was still under $1,000. Several folks have suggested we apply for a grant from the Office of the President, or Staff Council, or some other campus entity to pay for boxed lunches. Which is probably something we will consider.

Here are some results of the 2008 post-event electronic survey:

90 of the 212 registered users filled out the survey.

82% said the Food For Thought website was very good or excellent.

96% said the registration process was very good or excellent.

92% said the variety of sessions offered was very good or excellent

94% either agreed or strongly agreed that the event timing (2nd week of summer quarter) was appropriate

97% said they are likely or very likely to attend again next year.

And here are some of the comments:

The hardest thing about attending Food for Thought was trying to decide what topics to select for the day. There was so much to choose from, great conference.

Excellent program as always. Food For Thought is simply wonderful.

Very successful, love the content, love the idea.

Thanks for another excellent Food for Thought program. It was very well organized and informative.

All the workshops I’ve attended – this year’s as well as last year’s, have been most worthwhile for me.

I know how difficult it is to pull together a day such as this and offer my congratulations for an extremely worthwhile event!!!! Great job.

I truly enjoyed the session on “Understanding RIT’s Students”. This is something that every person on this campus should be required to attend!

It’s a great day and I hope you continue offering it in years to come.

I learned SO much and I’ve used stuff I learned in several sessions already today (and it was only 3 hours ago that I finished the sessions). But it was SO much information in one shot!

Love it. Keep it going!

I am very impressed with all the library’s staff. Good job.

The 1 hour sessions were a bit short. The Lightning Sessions rocked.

More Lightning Talks!

It was very informative, I enjoyed the sessions and learned a lot.

More craft sessions.

Lightning sessions were a nice touch. Do this again.

More sessions offering RIT-specific information – there were several this year, as compared to last year. I think they are very useful.

I would like to see a continuation of topics on how RIT is embracing online communities and usage among our students. RIT & Facebook was an excellent session, I very much enjoyed attending. In general the variation of topics was great.

June 18, 2008 at 9:20 am

Food for Thought at R.I.T. : An Interview with Jon Jiras

Food for Thought, a unique day-long learning opportunity organized and hosted by R.I.T Libraries, came to my attention last week via a Facebook update status by my good friend Jon Jiras. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a campus library leading the way in providing training for all staff on campus in such an innovative format and sent Jon a message asking if he would agree to be interviewed via email for the LG.

Jon is currently Library Technologist at the Rochester Institute of Technology Libraries. I first met Jon in 1996 when we both began working at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva NY. We were both recent graduates in our first professional librarians positions. Jon was a cataloger while I was a reference/ILL librarian and we collaborated on many projects during our two years at HWS, including the creation of the library’s first web portal. We have kept in contact throughout our careers and it is my pleasure to be able to present this interview with Jon that highlights a program that I am absolutely positive others will want to replicate at their own library.

Janie: Can you tell me about the background behind Food for Thought? In particular: What is your role? How did the idea get started for such a day? What were the original goals of the program for the organizing committee?

Jon: The origins for Food For Thought (FFT) stem from two developments. First, a somewhat similar annual event for faculty has been sponsored for several years. The Faculty Institute on Teaching and Learning had been moving away from application specific training and more toward classroom pedagogy and educational innovation. Our library director had been attending and participating in this annual faculty event since its inception. She noticed that the shift away from technological training at this event created a opportunity to develop a day long event that focused on application training.

Secondly, as part of the Library’s strategic planning process, we identified university staff as a constituency for which additional library services could be developed. We noticed that most of the registrants coming to the library’s long standing series of technology training workshops were university staff. So we decided to leverage this success by creating a full day of learning events. No one had ever (to our knowledge) sponsored a complete day’s agenda of learning sessions directed at staff.

A small internal team was formed in Fall of 2006 (four full-time Library staffers) to conceptualize, plan, and promote the project. The team consisted of an array of staff from four different Library departments: Library Technology Services; Reference; Serials/Acquisitions; and Marketing/Communications. I was the representative of the Library Technology Services department and chaired the Food For Thought team. I was responsible for coordinating the efforts of the team, keeping them focused, and acting as liaison to library administration. Organizing and developing this program was so rewarding that I volunteered to chair the team again for 2008.

Some things the FFT team established within the planning process included:

  • We decided to format an entire day (9am – 4pm) with multiple “tracks” to allow for the most flexibility to accommodate people with limited free time.
  • We wanted to make it like a conference with registration, name tags, tracks, and simultaneous sessions.
  • We determined the optimal date to be June 14, 2007; for many reasons all tied to timing and the likelihood of having the most staff available on campus
  • We named the program “Food For Thought: A Day of Free Techie and Not-So-Techie Learning Sessions for RIT Staff”
  • We established available session venues within our building, spanning three floors.
  • We decided to spend the bulk of our limited budget on 3-ring binders to be given to every person who reserved a spot in any of our sessions.
  • We decided to spend the remaining budget on light refreshments.
  • We set out to brand the event and collaborated with a student employee and another library staff member to create the original graphic identity.
  • We involved the entire Library staff in not only sharing ideas, but in helping to shape the schedule. Most of the instructors of the sessions were Library staff.
  • We decided to offer “Brown Bag” Lunch-time sessions, to maximize our number of possible sessions and to accommodate those who might only be allowed release time during their lunch hour.
  • We decided NOT to invite a keynote speaker. There were some who felt a shared experience of a keynote address would be welcome. FFT team members decided against this as it conflicted with the “a la carte” nature of workshop sessions.
  • We knew that many staff could not take the entire day, so we wanted to provide a broad range of topics so they could pick and choose which sessions interested them the most.

The session topics were carefully chosen to provide a balance between application-specific instruction, technology trends, and fun diversions.

Presentations were solicited in three ways.

Individual presenters pitched specific sessions to the FFT team. (For example: Advanced iPod; Create your own website; and Origami for the Office).

The FFT Team invited library staff to brainstorm sessions at an open meeting. Several sessions resulted from this meeting. Technostress 101, The Web 2.0 series, and Organizing with MS Outlook were pitched to FFT team at this session.

In addition, the FFT team approached individual library staff and requested specific topics be covered (such as Windows Vista, MS Office 2007, Adobe Captivate, and the Art on Campus Walking Tour).

This mixture of presenters pitching ideas, the FFT team holding a staff-wide brainstorming session, and the FFT team soliciting specific presenters for specific topics produced a well rounded list of workshops.

We specifically asked that presenters not offer workshops that are already on the list of technology training sessions that the library offers as part of its technology training workshop series that runs throughout the year. Instead, we ask them to develop new workshops on new topics. This is their chance to present on a topic that might not normally be covered in our regular training series. Several of the 2007 FFT sessions became regular sessions in our workshop training schedule.

The Food For Thought team had a total operating budget of $1,000. Here’s a list of expenditures made in the first year:

2007 FFT Budget Expenditures:
3-holed paper: $ 35
3-ring Binders: $ 435
Name Tags: $ 3
Food: $ 200
Marketing: $ 200
Buttons: $ 50
Total: $ 920

The 2008 budget is not yet finalized, but we are planning to spend significantly more on food and to drop the binders in favor of simple paper folders. We will still keep the entire budget at under $1000.

Janie: How many attended last year and what was the response from those who attended? Did you get a good cross-section of employees who work at RIT attending? Is this program open to all RIT employees?

Jon: Food For Thought is directed at RIT staff. However, it is open to any member of the RIT community. RIT staff makes up largest group to attend the event – indicating that the target audience is being served.
2007 numbers:

Total number of people who registered online: 196 (plus 15 on-site day-of registrations) = 211

Total number of session registrations: 546

Staff: 169 ; Faculty: 21 ; Students: 5 ; Other: 1; Unknown: 15

Number of people registering for:
0 sessions: 11
1 session: 36
2 sessions: 46
3 sessions: 33
4 sessions: 31
5 sessions: 39

52% of registrants registered for 3 or more sessions – indicating that a majority attempted to devote most of their entire day to this event.

Several of the sessions had to be moved to larger venues. We took over a large lecture hall in an adjacent building that holds over 200 people and moved as many sessions there as possible.

If you count every available seat (in the original selections of rooms from 2007), we would end up with an event capacity of 790 seats. The event was 69% filled which is an extraordinarily high response rate.

2008 numbers — so far this year (with 10 days to go till registration closes) we have the following numbers:

Total number of people who registered: 167
Total number of session registrations: 497

Staff: 147 ; Faculty: 16 ; Students: 1 ; Other: 3

0 sessions: 6
1 session: 28
2 sessions: 35
3 sessions: 32
4 sessions: 27
5 sessions: 39

A post-event feedback survey was sent to registered users. We received 75 responses. Ratings for individual sessions were generally “Very Good” or “Excellent.” Ratings for the day as whole were generally “Very Good” or “Excellent.”

Comments from the feedback survey can be broken down into three general areas:

1) Comments about time: These included comments about breaks between sessions, session lengths, the timing of the event, and the number of sessions offered. One frequent comment was that a realistic lunch break should have been factored into the schedule. (That suggestion was incorporated into the 2008 event)

2) Ideas for next year: This category of comment was the most extensive and included these suggestions:

Movie Making Software
Help Grad Students Navigate Thesis Writing
Separate class on PhotoShop
More academic topics like surveys in different disciplines
More tours (printing facilities on campus, Hub, president’s office, dorms).
More fun topics for brown bag sessions (movie discussions, video game discussion etc..
More advanced coverage of In-Design and Creating a Web Site
Very basic class in computers for those who do not use them
Mac orientated sessions
Home computer maintenance

3) Criticisms and suggestions:
Binders were not necessary
Techie sessions seemed much too basic
More extensive handouts

In addition to the survey, the library staff has received many compliments behind the scenes. The Food For Thought Team was nominated for a campus –wide staff excellence award.

Janie: How have you modified Food for Thought this year?

Jon: We repeated only three 2007 sessions in 2008: Create Your Own Website, MS Office 2007, and MS Outlook. All three were highly attended in 2007 and continue to draw well in 2008.

Last year all sessions fell into one of three themes: application specific training, technology trends, or fun diversions. For 2008 we have developed a fourth theme: RIT-specific information. Several workshops were developed with this fourth theme in mind, such as Virtual Worlds: Touring the RIT Island in Second Life, Understanding the RIT Student, Basic Sign Language and Deaf Culture, and Lightning Talks.

Other sessions were consciously modified to incorporate specific aspects of this university’s setting. For example, a proposed “Facebook” session was broadened to become Facebook and RIT. No longer just an overview of Facebook, it will now include information about how Facebook is being used on this campus by various departments and student groups.

For 2008 we have added two new features:

1) We have added an “Extra Helpings” area in the computer lab on the second floor of the library. It is modeled along the lines of the Apple Genius Bar where folks can book one-on-one training sessions with technology staff to get personalized help with whatever technology, application, or other questions they may have. In this way, the content of the day gets to be driven by the registrants themselves. Instead of being limited to a select list of sessions, registrants can bring their issues and needs to the attention of training staff. We collaborated with other campus departments to arrange for additional staffing of this area for the day. Knowledgeable and helpful staff from the university’s central Information Technology Services group and Online Learning are partnering with the Library to staff this area the entire day.

2) Lightning Talks: This special session is modeled along the lines of unconferences and Barcamp where the content of the session is driven by the registrants. Staff from across the campus have agreed to give 5 minute micro presentations on technology they use, services they provide, or anything they think other RIT staff may find of interest. So far we have commitments for 9 (of the 10) 5 minute sessions, so we are confident that all of the micro sessions will fill up.

Both of these new initiatives involve a greater degree of cooperation and collaboration with other campus units. The “Extra Helpings” area has been a great opportunity to reach out to other campus units and get their buy-in with the day as a whole. The “Lightning Talks” in particular allow other campus units to present topics during the day. Limiting their presentations to 5 minute micro-presentations gives them the added advantage of not having to prepare too much for the sessions. To line up the Lightning Talks library staff approached their contacts across campus to pitch the idea. The mere process of approaching these outside departments, discussing the opportunity, and offering the possibility is a networking opportunity and creates awareness of the event and buy-in.

The 2007 Food For Thought event had a few sessions that were co-presented with other staff from across campus. For 2008 we encouraged presenters to collaborate with other campus departments. As a result, one in four sessions have co-presenters who are non-library staff. The “Lightning Talks” session and the additional staffing needed for the “Extra Helpings” area are convenient ways for non-library staff to participate in the event and are a direct result on the 2008 emphasis on encouraging collaboration.

Janie: What topics are proving to be most popular this year? Is this different from last year?

Jon: For both 2007 and 2008, workshops that list specific applications and/or websites in their titles tend to receive more registrations than workshops that do not mention them.

Overall registrations have been very good. We anticipate having over 250 individuals register
for 2008.

Janie: What obstacles (if any) did you have to overcome to get Food for Thought off the ground last year? How long is the planning process?

Jon: Here’s the event planning timeline for 2007:

Feb 20 – FFT team meeting prior to prepare for the Library staff brainstorming session
Feb 26 — hold library staff brainstorming session on possible sessions
Mar 23 — deadline for session presenters/commitments
Apr 13 — deadline for schedule/program confirmation, room reservations
May 15 — publicity kick-off and online registration begins
June 11 – presenter handouts due
June 12 — end registration
June 14 — hold event

A major deliverable for the event was the event website with registration and schedule selection capabilities. It’s a PHP / MySQL website developed in-house:

A staff view that shows the number of registrations for each sessions, the list of individuals registered for each session, and overall statistical information was created. All presenters were given the username and password to access this staff view of the FFT website.

As with any large event that involves multiple participants and large numbers of people – it’s the details and logistics that are the most challenging.

Janie: Is this a model that can be adapted elsewhere?

Jon: The Rochester Institute of Technology is a mid-sized, private, academic university with 1,900 staff, 1,300 faculty, and 16,000 students. This program may have to be scaled down (or up) for smaller (or larger) institutions. We have declared 200 registrations (just over 10% of staff) to be successful. The hardest part is lining up quality presentations that don’t compete with other staff development opportunities on campus and have presenters willing to present them. The RIT Libraries is fortunate for having a number of librarians and technical staff who not only have the ability to develop and present quality presentations, but more importantly, the eagerness and willingness to do so.

Janie: Is there any other information you wish to share?

A large part of the time and effort of the FFT team was spent on marketing and promotional materials. We used all of the following as promotional devices:

- PowerPoint displays (teasers) on our Plasma Screen.
- Bookmarks (handed out at Circ).
- Pins (tin buttons) in two different designs, worn by our entire staff for the weeks leading to the event.
- Full-color Posters (variety of graphics; in three sizes- tabloid, letter-size and a custom size).
- Electronic (email) messages sent on multiple dates leading to event.
- Created a customized website with original graphics, an interactive component and complete with online registration capabilities.
- Advertised on thermal Circulation Desk receipt printers (like a store imprints a message).
- Outdoor (exterior) Digital Message Boards (animated text) for three weeks prior.
- Promoted the event on the Library web site, including our scrolling News Ticker that highlights special events and services.
- Published an article and our Logo (branding) in campus newspaper News & Events one month before the event.
- Highlighted (advertised) the event on the Library’s “What’s New?” web page.
- Created custom Binder Covers (color) for each binder (200) we prepared.
- Created color Cover Sheets for each presenter’s section within each binder.
- Created and printed out a condensed complete Session Schedule as hand-outs.
- Created a Press Release, sent to University News.
- Designed and created PowerPoint Templates to assist presenters in creating their PowerPoint slides; ensured a consistent branding and a format that was uniform (optional if they wanted to use the templates).
- Created a Facebook event page and encouraged library staff to invite their RIT Staff Facebook friends to the event via Facebook.

A sample of our promotional materials is available here:

For both 2007 and 2008 we asked all library staff to reach out to their staff contacts across campus to get our promotional material into areas we don’t normally cover. Instead of merely placing posters in hallways and public areas, we devised a way to get our posters into staff break rooms, copy rooms, and other staff-only areas.

We requested all library staff to take a variety of posters, flyers, bookmarks, etc… and hand deliver them to their staff contacts across campus. We had library staff record where they dropped off this material and who they had contacted about it. As a result, our promotional material reached areas of the campus we have never previously covered and the mere act of reaching out and visiting other departments on campus drummed up interest.

Janie: I would like to thank Jon and the entire Food For Team at RIT for providing the readers of Library Garden with such a detailed overview of their highly successful program and for all the planning process information. Best wishes with all of your plans for June 10th and please keep us updated after the event with new statistics.


Jon Jiras has worked at the Rochester Institute of Technology Libraries since 1998. His interests include the support, maintenance, development, and integration of library technologies. For more information about this event please contact Jon at jjjwml at rit dot edu.

May 29, 2008 at 8:43 am 10 comments

A Friday Fun TwoFer

Have you had a chance to vote in the Doodle 4 Google contest? If not, it is not too late to view all the wonderful submissions that made it to the finals and then vote for your favorites by this Sunday, May 18.

Doodle 4 Google is a competition where K-12 students were invited to reinvent Google’s homepage logo around the theme of”What if…?” Thousands of doodles were submitted and 40 finalists have been selected. Each doodle also contains a caption that expands upon the “What if…” statement. For example:

What if everyone recycled? Would Earth have a chance for survival? If we start today imagine what can happen tomorrow.

What if the whole world rocked? I think that people can express themselves in a creative and energetic way with music. I think that the whole world would be happier if they rocked out to the music they love.

Great thoughts and great doodles galore! The votes will help select a national winner to replace the usual logo on the Google homepage on May 22, 2008.

Now for the TwoFer deal:

The manager of adult services at MPOW recently reactivated a long neglected blog that never quite got off the ground for its original purpose and turned it in to what we have started to call “The Reference Gong Show”. Check out PPL Reference, a blog where we are discussing each week an item from our reference collection and whether or not the librarians on staff vote to keep it or let it go. Budgets are tight and we are trying to determine the best use of our funds. The entries and work we are doing is serious, but the comments often stray to the humorous. (This perhaps could have gone under the heading of “steal this idea”, but I felt like it was twofer type of day).

May 16, 2008 at 11:21 am 1 comment

Lessons in customer service

Last week I had 2 really BAD customer service experiences. So awful that it made my staff and I send notes to 2 different organizations that have never been anything but pleasant and helpful. But I think that what I experienced is a good reminder for those of us that do customer service (and we all do!) on a regular or daily basis.

On Saturday, my Library held a Blood Drive through the American Red Cross. They were bringing the bus and asked us to have 45 donors sign up. At first we were having trouble getting donors. As an incentive, we decided to give away t-shirts to those that signed up and then arrived to donate on the day of the blood drive. We went through a local store to order the t-shirts, with the understanding that we could pick them up the day before the drive. Friday came and in the afternoon we got a phone call telling us that he was having trouble with one of the graphics. (UM . . . wait . . . aren’t the shirts supposed to be done already??) We scramble to make sure that we have something that he can do quickly (and the shirts did look good in the end) but when we arrived at the store, he was downright rude. As if this were all our problem, not his. We were shocked. I have never been treated so poorly in a store! He was even rude about the graphics and whether they were done by a professional graphic designer! I couldn’t believe it. I always try to do business in town, where possible. However, this really left a bad impression.

Conversely, one of my staff, after experiencing this, sent an email to Charlie at our local UPS Store, with whom the Library does lots of business! She just wanted to thank him for always going out of his way to accommodate us, even when we wait to the last minute.

My other negative experience was personal. I decided this year that I would take my tax refund and pay off my one remaining student loan from my undergrad degree that hasn’t been bought by Sallie Mae. I called a month ago, received the payoff amount and made the payment online through my bank. Last week I received a notice saying that I was delinquent! How was that possible?? I call and was told that maybe my bank made a mistake (in when the check was cashed), that the payment was late, and that I still owed them money! After being on hold for a considerable amount of time, he informs me that he will have to look into this and get back to me!

This experience prompted me to email my contact at the Credit Union that held my very first student loan to thank her again for always being courteous and friendly and helpful.

How often in the daily grind are we unaware of how our actions or tone of voice affect those we serve? Maybe we have had a bad day or are frustrated because we are really trying to help the customer or patron but are struggling to really be of assistance. I think the old saying that about a satisfied customer telling one person and a dissatisfied customer telling ten is probably true! Maybe we should all take the time to thank those that really do provide outstanding customer service! And remind ourselves how great it is to get that service when we are feeling like the customer service we are providing could use some improvement!

May 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm 6 comments

At least its not the roof . . .

I came home from Minneapolis with the thought that I was going to “reorg” my life. I have way too much going on and not enough time or energy to do it all. So I decided that I needed to start thinking about the things that were really important to me and what I really wanted to focus on.

In my effort to do this, I am posting my progress here to keep me honest. I’ve been back from Minneapolis for a little over 2 weeks and I haven’t gotten far. But I have started making lists of all the things I am currently involved in and what those obligations represent in time/ effort/ energy. The next step is to decide which of those I want to continue, which I can gracefully bow out of or fulfill my current obligation and those that I want to stop immediately if not sooner! And this isn’t just about work. It is about valuing my time. And learning to say no, which I traditionally have a hard time doing, especially if its something that I could be interested in or think I SHOULD be interested in.

What I realize is that this is about me being the most productive and useful in a handful of activities, committees, etc and not over-extending myself. As I start training for 3 sprint triathlons this summer, I don’t need obligations weighing me down!

Help keep me on track! If you have suggestions or want to follow the progress, I think I might try to revive my personal blog to keep track of the reorg as it goes.

(I actually started this post last night when I couldn’t sleep and I was trying to type it on my iphone. At 3:30 in the morning, when it was not working I thought that I couldn’t be more frustrated!! I realized, though, that at least what was keeping me up was this plan I had for reorganizing my life and not the roof at the library!)

April 16, 2008 at 2:49 pm 5 comments

You can never guess what will offend someone

While in Minneapolis for PLA I had an opportunity to visit the Minneapolis Public Library and I picked up one of their t-shirts. The back of the one that I bought reads: “If a public library is doing its job, it has something in it that offends every single person.”
What are the first things you think about when you think about “offending” someone in the library? Popular controversies are things like Harry Potter, comics and graphic novels in libraries, unfiltered internet access, etc. The usual intellectual freedom issues.
Each year we have a Dr. Seuss story time at the beginning of March, in conjunction with Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This year we had 2 elephant shaped pinatas, to go with our “Horton Hears A Who” theme. The kids had a great, if sometimes difficult, time getting into the darn things!
However, I recently heard from a board member that a parent who attended with their child mentioned that they were disturbed by the pinatas. Because we were
“teaching children that its ok to hit animals with sticks.”
Who knew that of all things in my library what would offend someone would be pinata?!?! Of course, I have the usual fears that I really did misstep with this one. I’m not a parent and I don’t think I would be offended by something like this. I talked to number of other parents who attended and they told me they were not offended, nor would have even thought about being offended. But I recognize that not everyone has the same outlook!
Its a great reminder that it isn’t always the most obvious thing that will offend your library users or the public you serve . . . it really can what you thought was the most innocuous thing. It could be a pinata!

April 6, 2008 at 11:46 am 6 comments

Return of the ‘Prodigal’ Blogger

I just wanted to write and thank my Library Garden fellow bloggers for taking me back! I always enjoyed and wanted to continue being a part of this great community but for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t the right time for me.
But I hope that this time will be different! And special thanks to Amy Kearns for twisting my arm to return!!
I’ll be posting again soon with some notes from Minneapolis!

Glad to be back and thanks again!

March 30, 2008 at 9:18 pm 1 comment

Happy Birthday Maryland AskUsNow! Statewide Virtual Reference Service

On Wednesday March 19th I traveled south to the newly built and beautiful Anne Arundel Public Library for the gala 5th birthday celebration of Maryland AskUsNow! This festivity brought together an impressive turnout of librarians, state government representatives, and dignitaries such as the Maryland Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries, Irene M. Padilla, and Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. Everyone came together to recognize the accomplishments of this highly successful and widely admired statewide live chat and e-mail reference consortium. I happily braved the traffic of the spring break holiday getaway mob heading south on highway 95 to give the keynote address, to facilitate a workshop on chat reference service excellence, and to share in this wonderful and historic event.

I first met Joe Thompson (click here and scroll down this page for a picture of the energetic and forward-looking Project Coordinator of Maryland AskUsNow!) at the Virtual Reference Desk conference in 2003 (btw, the forerunner of our highly anticipated Reference Renaissance conference) when I was just getting started in researching interpersonal communication in live chat reference. During my VRD presentation, I made a plea to the audience for some transcripts to analyze. Afterwards Joe approached me, introduced himself, and said “I have 10,000 transcripts, when do you want them?” A bit stunned, I replied, “Well, I don’t need all 10,000. How about pulling me a random sample of about 250-300 transcripts?” Thus began an incredibly cordial and productive collaboration which has resulted in shared conference presentations and panels, the publication of two journal articles on virtual reference (VR) in JASIST and Scan, with more to come, I’m sure.

Joe and his statewide VR team of librarians at Maryland AskUsNow! have worked incredibly hard to forge the service’s success with a total of over 200,000 reference questions answered and counting. They continually reach for the highest quality standards in VR, which I strongly admire and find inspirational. Joe’s willingness to allow an outsider (like me) to have access to transcripts (suitably made anonymous, of course, to protect user privacy) and to the AskUsNow! user population (assisting me in recruiting participants for focus groups, online surveys, and phone interviews) demonstrates his keen interest in research into user behaviors, and commitment to discovering how to make live chat a better experience for both users and librarians. He is ever open to new ideas and continual improvement. I was also very impressed by the number of AskUsNow! librarians who attended my afternoon workshop as well as by their positive attitude toward customer service.

I must also add that I am proud of the amazing Julie Strange, Maryland AskUsNow! Operations Supervisor, who was my student and research assistant at Rutgers, SCILS on our “Seeking Synchronicity” grant project. Tech savvy Julie also shares an incredibly strong and steadfast commitment to high quality service and a fearless Millennial approach to learning novel social software applications, embracing new ways of reaching library users, and especially to connecting with younger chat and IM aficionados.

So here’s to Maryland AskUsNow! 5 years on and looking forward to many many returns of the day!

March 24, 2008 at 9:59 pm 2 comments

Announcing “A Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends” Conference August 4-5, 2008 to be held in Denver CO

Exclusive scoop! Library Garden is pleased to proclaim this exciting news!

The Reference Renaissance conference website just went live and here’s the link to the call for participation with submissions due by April 4, 2008. I am honored to be chairing the conference program, and to be in on the ground swell (dare I say movement?) that is bringing this conference to life.

The Reference Renaissance is sponsored by BCR (Bibliographical Center for Research) and RUSA (Reference and User Services Association, ALA). BCR’s dynamic President and CEO, Brenda Bailey-Hainer is chairing the conference committee. The committee is a group of vibrant library professionals who recognized the vacuum that was created when the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) series of 7 conferences ended in 2005. The Reference Renaissance conference fully embraces and builds on the legacy of the expanded VRD mission to create a forum of LIS professionals, researchers, and students to explore all the facets of today’s reference service array, including traditional and virtual reference environments.

I believe that reference and information services are far from moribund and are undergoing an incredible, rapid, and revolutionary transformation. Our title “Reference Renaissance” was taken from an editorial by Diane Zabel, in RUSQ, in which she wrote of a “resurgence of interest in reference” and that “reference is experiencing a regeneration, a reference renaissance.”

I am thrilled (alright, downright ecstatic actually) that one of the inspirations for her editorial was the reference retreat I spoke at and helped to organize at the forward looking Penn State University Libraries last summer.

Mark your calendar and please think about attending and/or submitting a proposal for a paper, panel, workshop or demonstration! As noted above, all submissions are due to me by April 4! If you are interested in becoming involved in the conference planning activities, please e-mail me ASAP at We are eager to hear about how you and your library are embracing the Reference Renaissance!

By Monday, all your favorite listservs will be carrying e-mail announcements about the Reference Renaissance conference, but you (well-informed reader of the Library Garden Blog that you are) can say you already know about it ;) Please help us to spread the word!

March 1, 2008 at 1:24 pm 3 comments

Results on FaceBook U.S. Citizen Test

FaceBook Citizenship Test Results
Originally uploaded by janielianne

At some point in the future it is highly likely that I will take the test and become a U.S. citizen. So when I saw the U.S. Citizen Test on FaceBook yesterday I decided to take it just for some fun (and to see if I will need to study). What I really liked about this test (besides FaceBook telling me that I got 95% correct) is that it gives a nice little plug for “the local library” — a message that must go to everyone, whether you pass with flying colors or fail.

February 20, 2008 at 10:27 am 1 comment

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