Archive for July, 2006

Social Networking and Online Safety–A Lot to Talk About

It’s been a very busy week, with new freshmen student orientations, library instructions, and all-day interviews for our new librarian position, but as I begin to relax and hit the blogs for some interesting reading, I notice a quick blurb on the July 14th Search Engine Forums Spotlight mentioning that MySpace has become (or least it was on Tuesday this week) the “No. 1 U.S. Web site last week, displacing Yahoo Inc.’s top-rated e-mail gateway and Google Inc.’s search site, Internet tracking firm Hitwise said on Tuesday.” This, of course, is not a huge surprise to me, as I have been following up on social networking sites a lot lately and will be presenting on them and personal information search engines at the Internet Librarian/Internet@Schools West Conference in Monterey later in October.

Whenever I do bring up MySpace, Facebook, and other social websites with my librarian, professor, and teacher colleagues, the conversations tend to lean toward online safety, lately. In case you have not read about the crackdown on social networking sites, especially regarding MySpace, you might be interested in browsing the MySpace may face legislative crackdown article by Declan McCullagh at CNET from July 11th. It discusses how politicians this week have attacked MySpace and other social networking sites for their inability to protect minors, and that legislators need to become involved.

“MySpace and other social-networking sites like and Facebook have come under increasing pressure from members of Congress hoping to appeal to voters before the November elections. The school and library filtering bill–called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA–is a centerpiece of a poll-driven Republican effort called the ‘Suburban Agenda’.”

I continually talk about the brighter, creative aspects and rewards of participating in and using social networking sites in my seminars and courses, and you have heard many others mentioning these as well, I am sure. In fact, I just read a column yesterday from the informative and entertaining Stephen Abram about this topic entitled, “What Can MySpace Teach us in School Libraries” that just came out in the July/August issue of (note: I subscribe to their free site for multimedia tools and resources for K-12+, and you can, too, or wait for the issue to become available fulltext in EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier or WilsonWeb’s Wilson Omnifile any day now). Abram asks quite a few questions about these special sites and believes, and I agree, that we can learn a lot from them–including what they are doing right “with respect to institutionalizing social networks” and in “their efforts to create ‘safe’ spaces.”

Well, let’s talk about online safety. If you have heard about the safety aspects surrounding MySpace and other related sites, and especially if you have read anything in the traditional news lately about this, you know that one serious suggestion or answer to the problem is to block access in the schools via filtering systems. Believe me, this will not work, as many savvy students will find ways around this even at school, not to mention at home. I don’t recommend that you rely on these if you do choose or must use them. I am not saying to do nothing, however, as I do believe in Internet safety education, especially since our youth (and university students) are extremely attracted to these online environments, inside and outside of school (Abram in his article states that one estimate of MySpace alone suggests that it could “account for 40% of Web traffic by the end of 2006”).

So, if you are like me and are looking for some additional help in that “safety and education” area, especially because you are a school library media specialist, librarian, or parent who does not want to wait for politicians, legislators, the library & education community, and the general public to finally agree on solutions that might actually work, I would suggest reading Nancy Willard’s second “Social Networking” article, also in the July/August MultiMedia & Internet@Schools magazine, for her update on the concerns and issues surrounding safe and responsible Internet use (Nancy is actually the Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use and also has a detailed, free “Briefing for Educators” article available online at her site as well.

You will notice, too, that MySpace itself is doing a lot more to help with safety issues, especially with all of the publicity it is getting. McCullagh’s CNET article mentioned earlier states that…

“For its part, MySpace–now owned by Rupert Murdock’s News Corp.–has taken steps this year to assuage concerns among parents and politicians. It has assigned some 100 employees, about one-third of its workforce, to deal with security and customer care, and hired Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam, a former Justice Department prosecutor, as chief security officer.”

I think that is a step in the right direction for them, and MySpace does have a Safety Tips link at the bottom of their main page that has recently added more material for youth and parents, including links to several suggested useful online safety resource and education sites. I think you will find the following to be useful:

Anyway, this blog is getting long, and I did not even get to talk about ALA’s stand on DOPA (they and many others believe that it needs serious refining), but I think I have given you a lot to read and talk about concerning social networking and online safety, right? Besides, it’s my wife’s birthday and I need to go celebrate it with her at the New Jersey Shore this weekend; in fact, we are leaving right now if you want to join us, Library Gardeners and visitors–yeah, I know, giving too much personal info on the Web can be dangerous, but I do live life in the fast lane. I am an infomaniac/librarian after all! 😉

July 15, 2006 at 7:56 am 1 comment

The Power of Online Community

Warning: This post is going to be a bit on the personal side. I know that many feel it good practice to keep posts of a personal nature in a separate personal blog (most notably Rory Litwin over at Library Juice) and I tend to actually fall in to this camp even though I blog a lot about MPOW. So, if this is too personal for a professional blog, you can all blame Karen Schneider. We had a great conversation at the Blogger’s Bash in NOLA and she encouraged me to share a bit more of myself on Library Garden and (in specific) this story. Since I can make this somewhat library-related I am posting it, albeit with some trepdiation.

Midnight Train to MoscowIt was two years ago today my husband and I stood before a judge in a Russian court and were declared to be the legal parents of the most precious nine-month old boy who was then living in an orphanage in the City of St. Petersburg. We were finally a family and it was the best moment of my life. As I sit here writing this I am misty-eyed at the memory. I am still in awe 2 years later that this amazing child is our son.

Where does the library connection come in? I have spoken at length with Chrystie Hill about the Libraries Build Comminites project she is doing with Steven Cohen and next week Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine will be in Princeton to deliver a 5 hour hours session to a standing room only audience of their popular 4C’s Roadshow — the C’s stand for Conversation, Community, Connection, and Collaboration”. The words community and connection being key here.

There is a buzz in the profession about libraries building and transforming communities and a part of the library 2.o movement extends that to creating connections online. But, there are still skeptics (I have met them and there are more than a few) who have yet to experience meaningful connection in an online community and have a hard time believing that the connections established virtually can be as meaningful as those established In Real Life (IRL).

I have a story to tell related to the adoption of our son and it is a story about the power of online community and of transforming that virtual connection in to something meaningful IRL. Perhaps my story will help convince the skeptics. I will try to keep this brief, but the story is long so forgive me.

In Jul 2003 my husband and I decided to make our dream of becoming a family a reality by adopting and after much soul-searching we felt that Russia was our destiny. One of the first things I did was sign up with several adoption-related virtual communities and online forums. I joined to seek information and in the end found the best support network that I have ever had in my life. If I had not joined these virtual communities and found suport during our long and arduous adoption process, I am not sure I would have made it — and I really mean it.

We received a referral for a beautiful baby boy in February 2004 and made our first trip to meet our son in early April. We were told we would be back in about 4 weeks for our court date. We got home and 2 days later, before we had unpacked, we got a call saying that we should come back in 10 days.

On April 19th we went to court and everything fell apart. The details are not relevant to this story, so lets just say that we got caught in the middle of a political struggle and our adoption proceeding was halted after one of the most confusing and agonizing hours of our lives. It was devastating and there was nothing we could do to it change before our visas expired, so we ended up spending our wedding anniversary flying away from Russia and every mile across the Atlantic was another mile between us and our son — a little boy whom with whom we had already bonded and who had a nursery waiting for for him back home in NJ.

It was then that I experienced the power of virtual community. My online friends, several of whom lived in NJ and had become IRL friends by this time, rallied behind us even though we had known them for but a few months. They understood in a way that no one else could what we were feeling. They knew the raw emotion of going to court in Russia where adoption proceedings can and often do go on for hours. They could understand like no one else the shock of despair at having the proceedings halted. They understood how this baby boy was already fully our son in our hearts if not our home.

Those that had made the journey to Russia or were in the middle of it understood the emotional and physical investment and were able to support us like no one else could. Our family, friends and colleagues tried their hardest and were a big help, but it was the online community that got me through some of my deepest moments of despair. Every single day without fail I got an IM, email or phone call from one of my “forum friends” — they made sure of this. When I was having a hard time functioning, they kept me going. One friend sent me the poem “Kisses in the Wind” and I ended up repeating that poem every night for it allowed me keep believing he would come home.

My husband and I did not give up, though some told us we should. We knew he was meant to be our son. We filed appeals, jumped through hoops, redid paperwork, and did everything else we could so that we would be allowed to go back for another court hearing. At times we were told he would never be ours, but we couldn’t give up. Finally, 10 weeks after we stood in court for the first time, we got “the call” that we had another hearing and a mere 9 days later we were on a plane to Russia for the third time.

Our 2nd court hearing was surreal and nothing like the first — it was like being in the twilight zone. I actually don’t remember much as I was just hoping I wouldn’t pass out from nerves, but I will always remember the moment when the judge returned after what seemed like an eternity from deliberations and declared us finally to be the parents to the child of our hearts. The sadness of our long months apart faded and only joy remained.

It is incredible to me that two years has gone by since that day — it seems like so long ago and just yesterday all at the same time. July 14th is a day we celebrate in our house as “family day” and it is now one of my favorite days of the year as we do something special as a family — just the three of us.

The friends that I made from a variety of virtual communities are some of my closest friends IRL to do this day. Many live in NJ and we get together frequently for special occasions and regular play dates. Two of the children in our group from NJ share an even closer connection with my son — all 3 were born within 3 weeks of each other and they all spent the first nine months of their lives in the same room at the same baby home. These 3 happy active toddlers were in a Russian orphanage together as infants and now they are growing up together in NJ thanks to the power of online community.

Okay, this is the longer than I thought it would be but I don’t how to shorten it and describe the impact that online community had on my life. I feel like I should draw some insightful conclusions, but at this point I want to mostly let this post stand as a tribute to power of community and connections — and to the little boy that I just kissed while he slept soundly in his crib… the same boy that I used to blow kisses to in the wind and whom I feel blessed every day to have in my life.

July 13, 2006 at 11:49 pm 5 comments

2.0 — Tiresome Already?

I have wondered how long it would be before we started seeing mainstream backlash against the 2.o meme. A few minutes ago I found Too tired of 2.o, a June 26th editorial by Steve Fox of InfoWorld in which he first declares:

First the “next wave” moniker was clever, then it was useful. Now it’s just plain annoying.

He later states:

Enough already. The label 2.0 has become so overused that it is now a tic, a reflex action, a device that gets trotted out because someone thinks it sounds both hip and techie. And it did — for a while. Now it’s tired.

Mr. Fox does clarify to say that he is okay with Web 2.0 as a term and in fact it is all the other 2.o talk that is making him tired.

I can’t say that I agree with him on all accounts (or even most), but I have been concerned that the overuse of 2.o would eventually lead to this type of reaction. Will Library 2.o as a term suffer the same overuse backlash from our profession? Just some food for thought from me during my lunch break.

July 13, 2006 at 2:10 pm

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

Pascal Lupien begins his recent article on virtual reference (Virtual Reference in the Age of Pop-Up Blockers, Firewalls, and Service Pack 2 , By: Lupien, Pascal, Online, Jul/Aug2006, Vol. 30, Issue 4) “by declaring that, “the evidence indicates that libraries are not satisfied with the service.” Say what? Aside from the fact that the statement is so overly broad as to be false on the face of it (which libraries? which services?), it’s not about whether the libraries are satisfied with the service, IT’S ABOUT WHETHER THE CUSTOMERS ARE SATISFIED WITH THE SERVICE.

The fact that Lupien goes on for nearly 3500 words with nary a mention of customer satisfaction epitomizes to me the worst of librarian-centric thinking at the expense of customer experience. 3500 words with:

  • No mention of how VR customers love and rave about the convenience of the service.
  • No mention of how VR customers love and rave about having a live person available to assist them with their information needs.
  • No mention of how VR has changed our customers’ perceptions of what libraries can offer them.
  • No mention of how VR has helped make libraries more relevant to our customers by meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations.

I am feeling weary after reading Lupien’s article. Weary because there is so much wrong with it that it almost demands a line-by-line critique in the spirit of Twain on Fenimore Cooper. Well Lupien isn’t Fenimore Cooper and I’m certainly not Twain, and besides I’m really, really tired.

So let me address a few errors, raise a few eyebrows (two, to be precise) and share some of my own experience – uh, make that our customers’ experience – with VR via QandANJ.

A moment to share my creds: I’ve been involved with QandANJ since it’s inception in 2001 (before that, actually,) helping to build, manage and promote the service. I’ve looked at thousands of transcripts and thousands of customer feedback forms. I know that our usage is through the roof. We handle as many “calls” as we can limited only by our ability to offer deeper staffing. I know that our customers tend to be very satisfied, and I know WHY our customers tend to be very satisfied. If you want to delve deeper into our stats and findings, take a look at this presentation from the VRD Conference in 2003. (there’s more here) The numbers may be a little dated, but the story they tell and the trends they point to remain just as true today.

I’m not making this stuff up… Here’s one of my favorite comments:

If you think this is cherry picking, it ain’t. We get our share of negative comments too (usually younger users, usually wanting “faster, faster, faster” service.) The reality is our customers are happy. Why? Here’s what they tell us:

We have hundreds of pages of single-spaced pages with thousands of comments that go on and on in these veins. There are many other successful collaborative VR projects like those in Maryland, Colorado, and Cleveland that could show you similar comments from their satisfied customers. The challenge isn’t attracting the customers, it’s managing to grow the staffing of the service to keep pace with the demand!

In part 2, I’ll get a bit more nit-picky with other elements of Lupien’s article.

July 12, 2006 at 10:25 pm 14 comments

Movin’ on Up

Nope, not to a deluxe apartment in the sky … but I did get a promotion today and feel the need to share my news. I am really excited about my new position and am looking forward to having some new challenges and projects to tackle. Here is the announcement that came from Leslie Burger to our staff this afternoon to make it official:

I am pleased to announce that Janie Hermann has been appointed as the library’s program coordinator. During the next few weeks Janie will be working side by side with Sue Roth to ensure that we make a smooth transition when Sue retires. Janie brings a great deal of experience to the programming position not only with the terrific work she has done here with the technology programming but also from her work in planning several NJLA conferences. Please join me in wishing Janie all the best in her new position.

I have some very big shoes to fill in accepting this position. Sue Roth has done an outstanding job as our program coordinator for the last 7 years and there are literally very few areas that Princeton Public Library has not yet covered in the breadth of our programming efforts under Sue’s guidance. She is a woman of endless ideas with the ability to transform her ideas to reality. As well as a good steady offering of traditional programs such as book discussion groups and author events, we have had everything from a “summer dance blast in the stacks” to opera performances — we even had a “librarypalooza” one year. I will miss working with Sue, she has been my unofficial mentor for the last several years, and I wish her all the best as she embraces new opportunities and roles in retirement.

I will still be supervising the technology training program in addition to my new responsibilities. My time at the reference desk will be cut significantly, but I will still be out on the floor at a public service desk connecting with the community for 8 hours per week. Exciting times ahead as I make this transition. Now I am just waiting on Leslie to post the Chief Innovator position so I can apply 😉

July 12, 2006 at 9:46 pm 5 comments

World Cup Final @ PPL

World Cup Final @ PPL
Originally uploaded by janielianne.

I have finally found the time to upload the photos from Sunday’s final game of the World Cup to my flickr account. It was an amazing afterrnoon with a capacity crowd , lots of loud cheers, collective groans and a sense of community.

I tried to do a few head counts, the numbers varied over the course of the afternoon. We had somewhere around 100 or slightly more for the better part of the game, but during the final 30 minutes later in the afternoon we had well over 150 if you count those watching the flat screens in the lobby.

I did some informal “investigative reporting” while I was at the game. I spoke with 10 people and 7 of the 10 were hoping for Italy to win (and this was likely indicative of the crowd given the big cheer at the end of the game).

1 older man told me he read about it in the newspaper and thought it sounded like a great place to watch the game.

2 younger men said they heard about it from a friend and came because their apartment didn’t have air conditioning.

1 woman said she came because her husband wanted to watch and she wanted to get out of the house. She floated in and out of the game with the kids (taking visits to the other parts of the library and downtown) and was mostly there to see the final winning moments.

The crowd was diverse in gender, ages and nationalities. It was a true slice of the community we serve.

After the game ended and the crowd was dispersing I watched to see what happened. About 1/3 left almost immediately, another 1/3 hung around, mingled and talked about the game, the final 1/3 went to check out materials, use the computers, or engage in some other library activity.

I am not a big soccer fan but I had a great time at this game. Maybe we should consider a Super Bowl party…

July 12, 2006 at 8:01 am 2 comments

Soccer + Serendipity = Success @ PPL

Princeton Public Library has recently discovered that the axiom “the best plan is no plan” can sometimes be applied to outreach and programming at public libraries. We have had a unique experience for the last several weeks surrounding the World Cup — it is a story of serendipity, an unintentional buzz campaign, and common sense — it also has elements of a smart mob and lots of use of the old-fashioned grapevine method of communication.

In the early June Chris Ducko, our building manager, had a request from a patron if they could watch the afternoon match of a World Cup game somewhere in the library. Our high-tech community room was not being used, so Chris turned it on for him. The next day he came back with a few friends and from there the crowd continued to grow through word of mouth around town. We had suddenly become THE place in town to watch soccer! In fact, by the time we reached the match between France and Brazil we had a large crowd of about 70 who had gathered to watch and cheer on their team.

We had done no marketing and we had no plan to do this … but it was making people happy, so why not do it? I was at the reference desk on Thursday afternoon on the 2nd floor and I could hear the cheers coming clearly from our first floor community room.

We have a great community room with a large movie size screen of about 16×16 feet, a state-of-the-art surround sound system, air-conditioning, clean bathrooms close by and a great library cafe that offers coffee, soda and scrumptious food that can be eaten while you watch. For many people, our “community living room” offers better ammenities than their own homes, plus you get the excitement of watching with others.

This afternoon is the finals between France and Italy and we are expecting it to be packed to capacity. Our word of mouth phenomenon even got some press this past friday in an article that appeared in the Princeton Packet — an article that also occured by serendipty. A reporter was in the library interviewing Leslie Burger for a different article, one about her upcoming term as president of ALA, and noticed the crowd watching the game. He talked to a few staff members and we got a front page story as a result.

To highlight a bit of the article:

“There’s a good distribution of genders, nationalities — it’s exactly what the World Cup is about,” Mr. Keith said. “It’s very indicative of the shift in libraries.” He said Princeton Public Library’s goal is for the library to embrace all forms of media. “Why preferentially treat one type of media?” he asked. Mr. Keith described the soccer tournament as “the world getting together” and, he added, “This is our little piece of it.” Reader Services and Programming Librarian Sue Roth said the spontaneous gathering for matches has been “amazing.” She added, “It really is a sense of watching it with the community.”

Princeton Public Library has been called a “programming machine”, we offer over 1,000 programs on an annual basis, and yet one of our bigger success stories of this summer is something that we did not plan… makes you stop and go “hmmmmm”.

I am off to the library in a few moments. I will take some pictures to share… and write the final update on soccer mania at the library.

p.s./ We have also been showing Wimbledon matches between soccer games recently and we may try to cover the Tour de France as well… stay tuned.

July 9, 2006 at 10:42 am 9 comments

International Live Chat Study finds 30% Ready Reference Questions

Although many folks have declared Ready Reference to be dead in this Googleized reference environment, our research reported preliminary results of a large international study that found 30% of the live chat questions to be of this type! Another interesting finding, users were inappropriate (rude, impatient, goofing off, inappropriate questions or language) in less than 1% of the transcripts!

Since returning from ALA in New Orleans I have been scrambling to get caught up (OY!) & have been wanting to post these finding and others reported in 2 presentations that Lynn Connaway(of OCLC) and I gave at the conference. The PowerPt. slides have just been posted to the “Seeking Synchronicity” grant website and can be viewed by clicking on the links below. Both presentations provide preliminary results from our 2 year grant project, supported by IMLS, which is now 3/4 through the 1st year of a 2 year study.

The 1st presentation was for the QuestionPoint User’s Group Meeting on 6/25/06 and was called “Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Transcripts”

This presentation discussed the results of our analysis of 256 live chat transcripts (selected randomly) from QuestionPoint and conduct of 7 focus groups (live chat reference users, non-users, and librarians). As can be seen in the ppt, we did the following analyses of the chat transcripts (& here’s a glimpse of some of our results, see ppt for more).

Geographical Distribution (the most questions were received by California, Maryland, and Australia; the most questions referred/answered were by California, Australia, and Maryland)

Type of Library Receiving Question (most by Consortium, Public, University, Medical, Law, State)

Type of Question Asked (using Katz/Kaske/Arnold categories) (Subject Search, 37%; Ready Reference 30%; Procedural, 25%; Inappropriate <1%)

Subject of Question (using Dewey Decimal Classification (Social Science, 42%; History & Geography 21%; Science 11%)

Service Duration (Mean 13 min. 53 sec.; Median 10 min. 37 sec.)

Interpersonal Communication (found dimensions that facilitators or were barriers to positive chat interactions, see ppt for more detail).

The 2nd presentation was for the Library Research Round Table forum on 6/24/06 and was called “Face-Work in Chat Reference Encounters.” We’ve analyzed an international sample of 226 live chat transcripts from QuestionPoint using a framework from the work of the great sociologist Erving Goffman (yes, Erving not Irving!). Results of this research provide us with a way to help understand how import ritual behavior (like greetings, closings, apologies, polite behavior, etc.) is in live chat as well as in face-to-face reference encounters.

Hope the above tantalizes you enough to take a look at the ppt slides. Handouts will also be available soon at the grant website!

July 8, 2006 at 8:23 pm 2 comments

Seeking Advice and Tips for Blogger Wannabes

I am preparing to teach a mini-course called Become a Blogger in PPL’s Technology Center in August. It will the first offering of this course and (if it is a success) it will be the cornerstone of a new Web 2.o category on our class calendar. In the last few months PPL has offered one-shot sessions on RSS, Wikipedia and “Fantastic Freebies“, but this our first concentrated effort to bring Web 2.0 to the masses in a meaningful and in-depth fashion. Next up is flickr and a repeat of the RSS session.

The course will be taught to the general public and I suspect that the students will have a wide-variety of skill levels and I also suspect (or should I say hope) that they will have an even wider variety of topics and interests that they will be using as the basis for new blogs.

I have much of the course outline prepared in terms of the technical aspects and am now working on “filling it out” to give it a more human touch. I was driving to work this morning and thought “Hey, it would be cool if I could include some advice from current bloggers to my class of blogger wannabes”. I want to create a collection of tips, quips, quotes that I can use to create a post for the Become a Blogger blog that I have set up to use as the course teaching tool.

I came across this great tip that I love, but I am sure I will have to tame it down a bit in order to include it in my class 😉 I also found this advice on How To Become An “A” List Blogger that was posted way back in 2003 on A Networked World that I will include on the class reading list. And of course I will include Eric Kintz’s recent article Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore — an article that I am sure brough a collective sigh of relief across much of the blogopshere.

Still, I would like to compile a comprehensive list of lessons learned, advice, tips, quips, … well, you get the idea. Reply to this post with your pearls of wisdom and I will compile them for my class — and give you and your blog full attribution and a bit of “link love”, of course!

July 6, 2006 at 9:59 am 5 comments

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