Archive for May, 2008

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

Keeping up with Internet Stats: Some of Robert Lackie’s Favorites—What are yours?

Last week, I did a quick presentation at my own Rider University Libraries for the CJRLC Tech Group May meeting attendees, and some of the sites I discussed and demonstrated were sites I subscribe to or visit regularly to keep up with various Internet statistics—that is, where to go to find out who’s hot, who’s not, and who’s got the search market cornered, so that I can invest big bucks. 😉

OK, seriously, I have no real $$ to invest, but I do invest a lot of time on the Web, and when I am interested in knowing more about specific or general U.S. or world Internet traffic and other stats, I consistently go to my favorite Web locations (or have them come to me—I just love RSS!). I continually poll those who attend my sessions to see who they think dominate certain subject or topic areas, including general search engines’ market share of searches. I also am somewhat surprised that many people that I talk to at workshops, conferences, and other librarian and teacher get-togethers do not know about these stat sites, or at least much about them. When I show them how I know what I do about some of this, most quickly jot down the URLs or efficiently add them to their bookmarks or RSS feed readers. And since I just answered three messages about this, I figured—sounds like this could be a good blog post before I head off on a long drive to Arkansas for my son’s wedding! So, here they are, in no particular order of preference:

Alexa – They have a lot to offer, but I love their Traffic Rankings section with it’s “Top 500 Sites” and “Movers & Shakers,” as well as their Directory with its “Popular Categories,” and I like their blog, too.

comScore – They also keep me coming back, and I really like their blog and Data Center, but it is their Press Releases section that I constantly review—I think you will really appreciate these.

Nielsen//NetRatings – Definitely in my top three, I like their Free Data and Rankings section, but I find myself constantly coming back to their Press Releases section (you can do a search or scroll down the page to find previous releases).

So, do you like these as much as I do? Do you have different favorites for keeping up with Internet stats that you would like to share? I am sure that everyone would love to hear from you!

P.S. If you are feeling somewhat nostalgic (life from 15 months ago), look at the current sites above and compare it to a Library Garden post I did on U.S. Web search traffic from Jan. 2007 from comScore.

-Robert Lackie

Technorati Tags: Internet statistics, search engines, site popularity, traffic ranking, Library Garden

May 20, 2008 at 7:56 pm 3 comments

Managing Voice Mail Effectively

When I was promoted to Program Coordinator for MPOW back in August 2006 my job changed in many ways, and one of them was the volume of voice mail I received grew exponentially almost overnight. I have never been a fan of voice mail, so to go from getting 3-4 messages per day at most to getting 15-20+ on most days made me unhappy (and somewhat disorganized) for several months. I struggled with how to keep track of all the messages and worried constantly that I had not returned a call or had left a task undone. I found I was constantly scribbling a message on a scrap of paper or on a post-it note then losing track of who I had called and when — or, worse still, misplacing the scrap of paper with the message and then wasting time looking for the scrap.

It is more than obvious if you have ever heard me speak that I am a big fan of 2.0 web tools and other online freebies to keep myself organized. I simply could not live without Jott to send myself reminder messages on the commute to work or without all the assorted lists for packing, Christmas shopping, house projects, etc that I have stored on Ta-da Lists. I am an avid user of Google Docs and Calendar and can’t imagine what I would do without sites like SlideShare and Doodle. Still, in all this 2.o goodness I could not find a simple and effective way to keep my voice mail under control.

Then I stumbled upon a simple office supply item that has been my savior for the last 15 months – the voice mail log. I know this is not rocket science and it is more than likely that many readers have been using VM logs for years, but I have shown mine to a few people lately who had not heard of them or used them and they are now proud and happy owners of their own log books.

Now, you don’t need to actually buy a VM log (a simple dedicated notebook could do), but the way the log is set out it really allows you to record every transaction in completion and it can even act as an archive for future reference. Also, for less than $4 the price is nothing to quibble over. The exact log that I use is pictured here and I have filled a few of them in the last year.

I have my own code that I have developed for detailing each transaction and I leave a notation for when I called back, action taken, decision made, etc. I also like that there is a check box for when I am done with a VM. I am a list maker and I like crossing items off my lists so the VM log satisfies this need.

I find that I also use it as a rolodex and impromptu phone book. I am constantly looking up numbers in my VM log as it sits right next to my phone and on more than one occasion I was able to sort out possible problems based upon the notes in my VM log. I can tell you exactly when an author first contacted me about speaking, I write down dates and times for programs as a back up to the shared programming calendar (which sometimes has entries go missing since more than a dozen people have access), and it also quantifies what I do with my day.

While I prefer to use chat/IM, I know that most of the people I work with to book programs prefer the telephone so I have to accept VM as a part of my job. It is highly unlikely that I will ever like communicating via voice mail, but at least I have found a way to make it manageable and I have even found unexpected benefits all because of my oh so 1.o VM log.

If anyone has a better solution for voice mail, I would be happy to hear about it. Also, I would be interested to hear what paper-based office solutions you just can’t live without.

May 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm 3 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

The New IT Librarian Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2008 at 10:02 am 16 comments

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

Passion Quilt Meme: Take Risks!


Last week Betha Gutsche tagged me for the “Passion Quilt” Meme. I am finally finding a few minutes to play along. The rules of the meme have already been posted by Pete in his contribution to the “quilt” and since this meme is really making the rounds in libraryland I shall not repost them.

Like others who have taken part, I had a really hard time narrowing this down. I waffled back and forth between wanting do something that expressed a concept related to risk-taking or else something on the importance of imagination and creativity in the workplace. Also, I really wanted to use one of several favorite quotations that I have filed on index cards in an old recipe box from my days of being a teacher (we would do the “Thought for the Day” first thing in the mornings and rifling through the recipe box yesterday for this meme was fun).

When I found the guinea pig photo, my decision was made. I don’t even particularly like guinea pigs, but this photo was too cute not to use — and I could also relate it to a favorite risk-taking quotation so it was perfect. My explanation of why I chose this particular picture and theme for the meme is really more personal than profound, but still worth sharing (I hope).

I am a risk taker who is not afraid of change. In fact, I thrive on it. If I had not been willing to take some pretty big risks in my life, I would not be where I am right now — which, for the record, is at a pretty darn good place. I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details, but here are a few of the facts in a nutshell:

I left a tenured teaching job where I was earning 40K+ back in the early 1990s to go to library school on what was almost a whim. When I graduated the job offerings for librarians in Canada were slim pickings at best, so I spent the last few dollars in my savings account to attend ALA Annual in NYC to find a job. I did not limit myself geographically and ended up with 5 offers as a result — all in the USA. I emigrated to upstate NY to become an academic librarian and then two years later I took another risk in moving to NJ to become a public librarian (even though I never thought I would leave academia).

I was single at the time and knew not a single living soul in either of these places, and it was scary — I almost quit several times to go home to family and friends in Canada. To ease the homesickness (and the boredom of knowing no one), I would take on big projects and just keep pushing myself with new challenges. I would often take on “more than I could chew”, but somehow it would eventually all get done. With each new risk and each new limit tested I finally found myself exactly where I want to be in life (at least for now). I know that there will more big decision in my future and I know that when that happens I will embrace the challenge of a new risk.

I honestly had several people question my sanity during some of my riskier moves — after all, who leaves the security of a permanent, well-paying teaching position to take a library job that pays less than 28K in a different country where you know no one? It took several years for me to regain parity with my previous salary, but the non-monetary rewards of my risks and of believing that libraries are the right place for me to work have more than compensated for any lost salary in my journey.

Risk-taking is not so scary once you start. In fact, it becomes addictive and opens your mind to greater possibilities. I encourage new grads and seasoned professionals alike to take a great big bite of something new this year and just keep chewing on it until you succeed.

Editing to add: I am feeling pretty sure that this meme has just about run its course so I am not going to tag anyone in particular. If you haven’t been tagged yet and want to play along, just saying that Janie from LG tagged you and then have at it.

May 5, 2008 at 10:13 am 3 comments

Friday Facebook Fun

Confession: I don’t get Facebook. I try to get it. Really I do. But my experience has been, well, kinda like this:

May 2, 2008 at 1:08 pm 5 comments

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