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Preview: InfoCommuner's Info Harbor

InfoCommuner's Info Harbor



Like a mail boat from the days of yore, the InfoCommuner comes into harbor with questions and ideas about libraries, community information, and the related stuff that impacts us all.



Updated: 2012-04-15T21:13:07.357-04:00

 



Outreach

2008-12-16T21:59:41.426-05:00

So, I was talking to a colleague the other day and she mentioned the importance of providing outreach services to users to ensure that libraries are truly embedded in the psyche of their communities ... And that got me thinking about the last time I visited Best Buy ...

I was wandering through the aisles looking for nothing in particular and a guy who looked like he worked there (khakis, a polo, and a name tag) asked me if I needed help. I answered that I was killing time, and he chuckled and said he was too. I was a little surprised, as it was the Christmas season, and the joint was crawling with people. That's when I noticed that he wasn't wearing the obligatory yellow or blue polo -- his was white, and his name tag was emblazoned with the "EPSON." When I asked him, he told me that Epson sent folks out to assist shoppers during there time of need. He wasn't straight-out selling -- he was facilitating the shoppers decision-making process. Think about that ... from a reference/info services/readers' advisory standpoint -- that's what we do ... the problem is that we're still concentrating on in house delivery.

What if we worked with community places (retail, social service, other governmental, etc.) to provide on site services ... to facilitate decision-making.

Even if we go back to Best Buy ... How cool would it be if there was a librarian in Best Buy to help provide access to consumer product reviews so that users could make more informed decisions? Pretty cool ....



Frank Deford, Crazy Stats, and Success

2008-12-15T08:17:16.156-05:00

So, I was listening to WUNC Radio yesterday on my way to work. I'd managed to forgot the fact that it was Wednesday, until I heard Frank Deford lamenting the the current state of sport-related stats -- specifically those of baseball. While my first reaction was to wince and scoff, as I listened I realized how true it was ... and how - often while watching a sporting event on TV/web I found myself thinking that somebody in the production van in the parking lot of the stadium was feeding the announcers random bits of nonsense in order to fill dead air.

And then I realized that we do that in libraries (and probably every business) ... maybe not to fill dead air, but we create numbers and ratios and indicators to identify bits of success. Some of it might be valuable ... but many of them are just a distraction.

In his book, The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham talked about how (and I'm paraphrasing here) what we need is not more numbers, but laser focus on the one number that actually means something. Of course, depending on your business, your audience, or your context, that number (and how you measure it) changes.

NC LIVE - the organization for which I work is in the information delivery/usage business ... we provide online content and services to libraries and users of libraries that they can't or don't get elsewhere. When I first started here, I wanted to come up with an elegant analysis plan that would help identify the value and meaning of our existence ... sounds simple, eh? Yeah ... so, two years later we're no closer ...

In reality though, perhaps we've had it all along. Perhaps it isn't a new stat that we need -- a new and elaborate metric we must devise ... No, instead what we need to do is follow one number:


Cost per item viewed per user

We need to constantly measure it with an eye toward how the actions we take, i.e., products we launch, promotional campaigns initiated, widgets distributed, content pieces added, etc., impact that number. We need to set targets before we take action (during planning), and measure how close we get to the target and ask why we exceeded it or missed it. All of our priorities should be set based on the one number, and all team, personal, and organizational performance assessments should use the one number as our guide.

In the end ... Frank was right ... being distracted by the goofy stats will mean that we'll fail to achieve what we could ... and that we will surely lose value and meaning.



A little boost up from for the sake of time

2008-11-21T07:58:59.451-05:00

At the office yesterday we talked with the folks from CraftySpace.com who also front the YourLibrarySite.com and who've been talked about recently by David King, John Blyberg, and others. They build templated and custom Drupal sites for libraries and nonprofits, and by all accounts are pretty good at it.

In our shop, we've been lusting after a new web space / environment / experience for some time now, and although one of our member librarians described our current site as "making her nauseous," we haven't yet moved it up the rungs of the ladder of things to do. Yesterday, it began an upward climb.

Unlike some of the clients CraftySpace works with, we actually have very talented technical staff who are capable of creating / adapting a CMS driven site with modular functionality ... what we don't have enough of is time to do all of the projects on our ladder. In talking with the company, it became instantly obvious that we could work with them to create a site that will meet our short horizon needs, and we could do it quickly. We talked about hosting the site ourselves and being responsible for all maintenance and further development, but we also agreed that we want to maintain a sharing relationship with them (and/or others) to propagate creativity, time-efficiency, and yes ... craftiness!

No deals have been done yet and we may end up going a different direction ... life's like that. But I like the option of being able to lean on a group that is open to sharing in the open-source sense, and can deliver for a set fee.



Counting things ... that matter

2008-10-28T10:17:13.818-04:00


"Confusion fosters frustration, the sense that this stuff is just too complicated, which in tern leads to surrender ... "
-- From More Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

Oh yeah, baby ... ain't it the truth! -- You're preachin' to the choir, Brother Joel ...

We're in the process of putting together our quarterly statistical report for our board and I'm trying to figure out the best way to count stuff. We learn to count in (or before) kindergarten, and yet when it comes to reporting what we count, we suddenly get all twitchy about it.

Take e-Audio books (known by many names including "downloadable audiobooks") ... We can count the number of downloads ... that seems pretty straight forward ... until you think about the fact that there might be turn-aways (due to lack of "copies") ... so we count those too, and we then compute the average number of downloads per total requests for the title (downloads plus turn-aways) ... And of course, a number is relatively meaningless unless measured over time, so we have to collect these items ... Oh, and then, since we actually expend $$ for the titles, we have figure out the value of our acquisitions -- you know, calculating the cost per item downloaded, cost per turn-away, cost per request, and then all of that as a function time ...

But that's not the real story, exactly, because we also need to spin the numbers and look at it from the perspective "For every dollar we put into e-Audio, how many N does that dollar yield" where N is the number of ... well, whatever you decide it is.

You see how this leads to confusion ... and eventually, frustration ... right?! And so, we give up. Too often we simply give up. We never even get to the point where we actually use the numbers for anything -- that's right, believe it or not, just reporting them is meaningless ... if we don't use them to predict, drive, or measure our effectiveness in our field of expertise, we're really just spending a lot of time doing half the job.

You see, I don't want to know this stuff 'cause it gives me warm fuzzies; I want to know it so I can tell my suppliers "we're spending too much on your stuff - there's a negative ROI" or "we love your stuff, and want more of it because we see a correlation between our users using it and satisfaction with local library service, and that is good for communities (academic or geographic)because of " whatever ... And I think our suppliers want to know the numbers and what they mean too -- it helps them help us help our users, and that's just good business.

Oh, and to not pay attention ... to not measure and report and use the numbers to drive our decisions ... that's just negligent.



Apture ... My dream of Libraries

2008-07-12T11:23:47.182-04:00

Okay ... so I've always thought some sort of library virus would be a good idea ... it would bring the power of the truly linkable universe to everyone's information devise (read "brain", "computer", handheld", etc.,) ... it would be catchy and would feed off of the knowledge and links around it to make us all smarter (at least potentially -- let's face it ... it's only as good as the info out there!).

So then, I'm reading eWeek from July 7, 2008 and on page 28-9 they have this article on Apture, a start up that's producing something called the "Innovative Media Hub" which without any type of client-side anything (aside from a browser) gives users the ability to "Search and discover media online from such sources as Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, ESPN, Comedy Central, Flickr, and WashingtonPost.com. And the cool part is that it only take a piece of code that is then inserted in your site code to make your site Apture-enabled.

Wow, I'm thinking ... that's what we need in our online content offering ... the ability to instantly link to every other piece of online content we (and others) offer ... In stead of the jolting and sometimes randomness of federated searching, this goes beyond Google by moving discovery away from search and closer to find. Can you imagine needing to find information on Beethoven, going to a some sort of encyclopedia (whether it's Wikipedia or Britannica) and finding not just the background with links to other free stuff or content provided by the same publisher, but
everything you and/or your institution has access to ... scores, critiques, sound recordings, video of the Vienna Philharmonic, and even primary sources (digitized). Not only that, but anything that you want to upload yourself ... that's right ... libraries as collectors and curators and PUBLISHERS!

Anyhow ... it's not quite the library virus, but it's getting closer ...

The only downside ... libraries were not mentioned in the article ... not at all ... so ... it's up to us to not get lost in this discussion and implementation like we have with other discovery tools. I guess I just need to figure out how to make it work for NC LIVE!



File under things I think are funny ....

2008-06-24T08:49:23.247-04:00

So we use Mozilla Thunderbird for our email system ... I kinda hate it, but that's probably because I'm too brainwashed by Microsoft to think that anything but outlook is a cheap knock off ... Anyhow, I've noticed some funny occurrences with how spellcheck handles certain names.

Here are some funny (I think) examples -- the real name is listed first with the spellcheck suggestion following it:
  • Neuwirth -- Mirthful
  • Jowaisis -- Waistcoat
  • Suellentrop -- Repellent
  • Lauffer -- Chauffeur
  • Lexoria - Inexorable
  • Dykeman -- Brakeman
  • Guzzo -- Guzzler
  • Yurcaba -- Bifurcate
  • Beaubien -- Beautician
  • Mostafa -- Hemostat
  • Hondros -- Wondrous
  • Putze -- Deputize, and last, but not least ...
  • Carmack -- Carjack

Of course, every time I see or talk to our think about the folks these names belong to, I think about the spellcheck name ... and chuckle.




Superhero Job Titles

2008-08-13T09:41:10.461-04:00

One of my colleagues hates her job title. Well, I should rephrase that -- she doesn't hate it so much as she thinks it's bland, boring, and bears no resemblance to her job ... the title? -- Systems Librarian. I have to agree -- at least about it not coming close to describing her job.

We've come up with a couple new titles, but none really captures the excitement and joie de vivre she's looking for ... Customer Service Librarian may describe much of her work, but is fraught with the desperate fatigue that goes along with constantly facing other peoples problems: think about working the "Customer Service" desk at Wal-Mart or Microsoft!

A title we tossed around when I worked at Johnson County Library in suburban KC was Community Engagement Librarian. JCL was (and may still be) pretty committed to the idea of the library as a facilitator for community study and action -- not the library making choices for the community (though, doesn't that sound like a good idea!), but the library providing the tools and resources (including people!) so that community members could make decisions about the direction of future development. I always like that one ...

One of our current member libraries -- the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has recently restructure and has some cool job titles ... Director of Library Experiences, Director of Community Engagement, Director of Research, Innovation, and Strategy, etc., ... I like those a lot ... makes me think that I'd really go to work with a suped-up attitude!

Anyhow, the search for my colleague's title goes on ... something inspiring ... something descriptive and accurate ... something different, but with elements that ring true for our customers (we want a quizzical look of ... "Hmmm," not an eye-roll) ... In the end, what we're going for is a superhero name ... "The Flash," "Captain America," even "Batman" all inspire, describe, and ring true ...

Perhaps she should consider "Infocommuner" ... ?!?! ... Hmmm ... now I need to start working on a outfit design!



Gravy

2008-02-12T15:03:16.782-05:00

There's this line in Miller's Crossing that goes something like this ...

"Runnin' things ... it ain't all gravy!"

I used to write my blog as a vent ... a way of blowing off steam about what I thought should change in the organization in which I worked ... and then I changed jobs.

Now, I'm responsible for an organization ... and things have sort of shifted ... I can't just whine about how "those so-and-sos at the top need to change things" ... I'm the so-and-so, and I'm who my colleagues write about to blow off steam!

And so my blog has changed ... evolved ... it's now about the things we tried ... how they succeeded and failed, and what we learned from them. Hmmm ... I guess that's the equivalent of a blog in big-boy-pants ...

Maybe the quote should have been:

"Runnin' things ... it ain't about the gravy ... it's about how you spoon it on ..."



Decisions ... it's the business we're in

2008-02-11T21:05:40.913-05:00

So ... I was reading (well, to be honest, I was listening to) Seth Godin rant in "Small is the New Big" ... and I don't know why exactly, but I suddenly realized that we're not in the answers business ... we're not in the information business ... we're not even in the library business ...

Nope ... we're in the decisions business.

Because of that, our jobs, our missions, our people need to be focused -- not on the stuff that fills the shelves or hard drives or iPods or Blackberries -- but instead on the decisions that people make ... we need to be advocates and champions for decisions that people make to better themselves, their friends and families, and their communities.

We need to be able to measure our contribution to their decisions ... we need to be able to measure the impact of those decisions ... 'til we can do that, we're just making noise in the barnyard with a brick and a bucket.

So, how do you measure your own decisions?



"You may be commiting a crime ..."

2007-08-10T08:56:08.261-04:00

I was in a library a few days ago and ran across something I hadn't before ... and it scared me ...

In the front of each book was a small piece of paper ... neatly cut, perfectly centered on the flyleaf, and no more than two inches by two inches, the note addressed all potential readers with a stern and ominous message ... You may be committing a crime if you choose to write in this book ...

Back in November of '05, I wrote a post that dealt with writing in books and associated things ... here's a section of that :
How cool would it be to have access to a book with dog-eared pages and the
scribbles of 10, 50, or 100 years of readers/thinkers in the margins ...
ideas that move beyond those of Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species
and adding to them the opinions, questions, and feelings of a 17-year
old high school senior, a single mother of three who’s going back to
school, or a 72-year old Jesuit priest ... you ... me ...

... I want libraries to be the publishers and archivists and commentarians of content for, about, and by local folks ... I want not just to read the books, but all of the
ideas that my community-mates have left within the margins ...
Anyhow, while I did laugh a the note (how much time/money did the library spend putting them in?), at the same time it betells the issue facing us as a profession ... the fact that we want to protect the books and the ideas they embody instead of ensuring that the ideas live on and grow ...

I know, an over simplification, but what would a blog be without an oversimplified argument ... that's the best way to invite discussion, isn't it? ... Feel free to write in the margins ...




Privately developed public airports and library databases

2007-08-07T12:16:19.490-04:00

Long time since my last post (sounds like an entry that should begin with "Dear Diary") ... in the gap, I've taken a new job (awesome!) ... bought a new house (tons of work!) ... and stopped working out (bad idea!) ... maybe this post will help me turn around the last one ...

So I was listening to NPR on my way into work this morning and there was a story about how a private company is building a public airport in Branson, MO ... not too interesting? -- I beg to differ ...

Apparently, the development company is going to charge the town $8 per person they bring to town ... the town's good with it because they don't have to lay out any upfront cash to build the place, it's a simple pay-as-you-go model ... and if no one comes, they still don't pay.

This got me thinking (again) about out database payment models ... we always lay out our bucks right up front ... then we hope people come to use it ... we do a lousy job of partnering with (or better yet requiring) our vendors to help us promote and market the products ... and then we pay the annual increase despite the fact that usage (using whatever measure you want) barely goes up even proportional to population increases ...

I think the Branson Airport model isn't a bad one ... in fact, I think it's a great one! And I think we should be asking our vendors to "bring people to us" (or at least help) and paying them based on success (i.e., usage) ... that's is capitalism, and since folks are always asking government to be more like business, this approach would seem to move us in that direction.

There are holes in this approach, (like if usage does spike up, we might not be able to pay!), but we're smart ... we can figure out how to handle these issues, right?! I'd like to think that we'd be better off spending our time trying to resolve problems about over utilization rather than underutilization.

Enough for now ... I'll be keeping my eye on Branson ... as inspiration.



By any means ...

2007-01-18T22:35:45.073-05:00

I read a short article by in the Fast Company (embargoed until the next issue is out on newsstands) about a guy named Alfons Cornella ... He wrote a – no wait – he wrote THE first mathematics text written in Catalan ... that, by itself is enough for him to added to my Wall of Heroes ... Catalan, Basque, Irish ... I’m a sucker for all of the doomed languages ...

Anyhow, after his book tanked (imagine that ...?!), he decided that ...

“My mission would be to acquire ideas and diffuse them to society by any means.”

I love that ... probably because that’s exactly what I see as the mission of all libraries ... of all librarians ... to acquire ideas and diffuse them ... by any means ... and I guess that last part is my favorite ... by any means ... one more time, this time with feeling ...

... by ANY means!

It’s a great article ... you should really read it ... you’ll be glad you did ...



If you're interested, you can find out more about Alfons and his idea acquisition and diffusion at his site, Infonomia ... it's in Spanish, but I think it'd be worth learning!




Community strengthening, strategic plans, and the things we should do

2007-01-08T20:03:05.773-05:00

I had lunch with a friend of mine a couple of days ago ... it's amazing what you find out when you least expect it ... intermixed with the stories of his escapemanship travels through Prague and the Philippines after graduating from college, was talk of his "new" job ... He works in educational services for a public television station in the region, and mentioned that after a recent pow-wow with the station president and the board, his roll is to go out into the community and link up with representatives from public, community, educational, and other service organizations to develop strategies for helping them achieve their missions and visions using the station's broadcasting expertise ...

To me, that's what libraries should do ... instead of putting together a strategic plan that identifies how we should build collections, develop a programming calendar, and emphasize our reference/information services, we should focus on helping our constituents (patrons, public agencies, and private businesses) achieve their goals ... that'll bring way more value to a community than would focusing inwardly on traditional "library" stuff ...

Anyhow ... after he told me about his new focus, I bought his lunch ... and began to hope that I'd be able to do the same, very soon!



Theory of everything ... last Wednesday

2007-01-02T22:29:15.660-05:00

I was on vacation a few days ago ... an almost perfect day ... the kind of day that makes me believe in a unified theory of everything ... It started when I got up early (I love getting up early on days off!) ... I had a leisurely breakfast and went in to the library as soon as it opened ... yeah, I was on vacation, but I wanted to do some totally non-job-related (hah-hah) research about communites of content -- research I could have done at home, no doubt, but there is something wonderful about going to the library when you're not on-the-job ... With a cup of Scooter’s flavor-of-the-day in hand, I found a big window-side table, planted myself, and logged on to the library's public WiFi and found and read through gobs of stuff about communities of content across the world ... I'll write more of that at some time later ... I had my Creative Zen on shuffle, and listened to the likes of Style Council, Van Morrison, Cathie Ryan, Billy Taylor, and a holy host of others ... Four hours passed quickly ... and I didn’t really want to leave ... until I did ...Back in my car, I switched the radio on to serendipitously discover Steve Kraske’s interview of Dr. Michio Kaku on KCUR ... Dr. Kaku is a theoretical physicist at the City University of New York, and was apparently in town promoing his book Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos (now that’s a title!) ... I'm pretty much a social sciences/humanities kinda guy, but I've always found the artistry and mystery of science, and particularly physics, beautiful and inviting ... My favorite part of Dr. Kaku's talk was his likening of physics to music ... string theory as the harmonics of the universe and chemistry as the melodies created when these harmonies play together creating something with infinite layers of uniqueness ... Man, I just love that! I was also struck by something he said about simplicity ... if a theory on physics is too difficult to explain to a child, then it's not worth the explanation ... the theory of everything requires simplicity at its core and throughout its whole ... and that got me thinking that this should probably be true in libraries too ... A few hours later, I found myself standing in the halls of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I hadn’t been there for a while, and that was good ... you see, everything seemed somewhat new and different ... and my new favorites were the Chinese and Japanese scrolls and screens ... they told stories, elaborate stories without words ... they reminded me of being a kid and looking through Richard Scarry’s art ... while the style was completely different, the stories had a way of wrapping around me ... I'm a passive observer of art (just as I am with physics, I guess) ... I understand less than I wish, but appreciate more than I used to ... and my few hours at the Nelson made me happy ... I finished the day off at O'Dowd's Little Dublin, one of those staged Irish pubs that have sprung up all over ... I know that a lot of folks don’t care for these, but I have to say, the food was fantastic ... matched with live music (and hysterical conversation) with Eddie Delahunt, the night was a perfect topper. So ... here it is ... my theory of everything ... Happiness is time to consider, experience, and imagine the world and all its textures, tastes, smells, sounds, and sights ... most importantly, this happiness is only complete with someone with whom you can share it ...How cool is it that I had it all of this in one day ... and for the rest of my life I'll have it with me everyday.[...]



Continuing from yesterday ... Simplicity

2007-01-01T18:13:08.366-05:00

Here's a perfect example of what I mentioned yesterday ...

Maryland Share is a community information database (CID) put together by Maryland's public libraries ... while I applaud the concept of a library-based CID, instead of pushing the content out to the Internet to be searched via conventional search engines, it requires patrons first to find the Maryland Share ... maybe with a major marketing campaign that would be more likely.

So the trick is to gather, create, or repurpose content, and then make sure people can find it their way ...

Also, we have to stay away from systems that create barriers between the content and the user ... a perfect example of this is JCL's own Sirsi system ... using the browser's back button instead of the "Back" button provided within the catalog system causes all sorts of problems ... that to me is pretty easy to detect, and should be pretty high on the list of things to fix ... I don't mean to pick on Sirsi at all -- most of the vendor-based systems and home-grown databases have problems equally as ripe for resolution ... don't think I've ever had that problem with Amazon or Google ...

Oh, and a very Happy New Year!



Catalogs, databases, and searching ... Oh My!

2006-12-31T16:49:53.160-05:00

This post will be quick ...

A quick search of your favorite search engine or research database will tell you that there's been a lot written about how library catalogs and library databases should work, i.e., how they should search, display results, and give the searcher functionality that enables him/her to create something of value from the results ... many libraries have developed new systems or partnered with vendors to do so, and I think that's pretty cool ...

But when I think of really breaking through the information ceiling of our mass-market, globalized world, and making the resources of libraries a part of the mix, I think it will mean that we flatten out (not dilute) those resources to be findable through channels that real people are using ... Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Ask, Barnes & Noble, etc., ... whatever tool makes a person feel comfortable.

Dr. Michio Kaku, a physicist from City University of New York, talks quite a bit about the importance of simplicity ... I suppose that libraries and locating information through libraries should be viewed no differently ... simple is better ... and often, familiarity breeds simplicity ...

Right?



Three things at the end of another year

2006-12-24T15:55:32.096-05:00

So quickly these months go by ... more quickly, still, because of all that has been happening ... our boss retiring ... the Board's search for a new director ... wrapping up all things old (an impossible task, mind you) in prep for all things new ... All very interesting, all very exciting, and all very stressful for our staff ...

So ... three things from 2006 to keep eyes on in 2007 ...

  • I'm a booster of looking at online catalogs that people (not librarians) think are easy, say, Amazon, for instance, but NC State's project with Endeca has me rethinking things ... from the NCSU Libraries' site ...
"On January 12, 2006, the NCSU Libraries announced the first library deployment of a revolutionary new online catalog. Leveraging the advanced search and Guided Navigation® capabilities of the Endeca ProFind™ platform, the NCSU Libraries' new catalog provides the speed and flexibility of popular online search engines while capitalizing on existing catalog records. As a result, students, faculty, and researchers can now search and browse the NCSU Libraries' collection as quickly and easily as searching and browsing the Web, while taking advantage of rich content and cutting-edge capabilities that no Web search engine can match."
  • Although I've always hated closed stacks, with truly browsable catalogs, Chicago State University's RFID/robot materials retrieval system sounds pretty good ... from Wired ...
"Human librarians shelve post-1990 materials in the traditional stacks and drop older stuff into file-drawer-sized bins. From there, it’s all robots – tall, forklift-style machines that run on tracks and stow the materials in a three-story-high storage facility. No Dewey decimals? No problem. The computer knows where everything is and can hustle the correct bin to the circulation desk for checkout."
  • The last item is something that librarians talk about, but I still haven't see much of it ... libraries as authors, aggregators, and partners for community content ...
At Johnson County Library, we've done it with www.JoCoFamily.net, www.JoCo.Health.net and www.JoCoHistory.net, and in 2007 www.JoCoArts.net is going to make its appearance. Each of these partnerships combines the library's ability to get information to people in a format appropriate to their needs with the rich body of content that other government agencies, NPOs, civic service groups, educational institutions, and for profit businesses. To me, this is one of the most exciting things local libraries can do. In 2007, we need to do three things: 1) publish more content, 2) be more active in getting that content searchable through the major search channels -- local, national, and international, and work together with our content providers like EBSCO, Thompson-Gale, and Newsbank to ensure that they do the same -- get their content in the hands and heads of the people who can turn it into something valuable.


With that, I'm off to grill up some filets ... Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!



Seamless customer experience

2006-09-25T22:54:58.646-04:00

I was just reading Coreen Bailor’s article in the October 2006 issue of Customer Relations Management ... in it, she says ...


Naturally, good customer service often leads to customer expanding their
dealings with you. One way to begin: Ensure that frontline reps are well
trained, and equipped with access to a comprehensive knowledge base and to
customer history.


So, I started thinking ... how does this apply to libraries?

Most frontline library staff take one or two classes/training sessions per year ... and those tend to be policy or procedure based ... if we want to get serious about customer service, maybe we should offer customer-oriented service training ... the kind of stuff done by Disney, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carleton, and Southwest Airlines ... and of course it will mean we need to give staff time off the desk to learn, practice, and learn some more ...

In addition, we’ll need to update and improve our tools ... and not just add stuff like Ebsco’s NoveList, Thompson-Gale’s What Do I Read Next, or Books-in-Print ... that’s all good stuff, but we need to harness their individual strengths and integrate them with our ILSs, with Google and its ilk, coming-of-age social networking toys, and with our own locally created content ... that’s our knowledge base ...

And lastly, we need to be able to give staff access to systems that describe our patrons’ patterns of use of information and services ... with the training staff get, the use of these systems will ensure a tighter match between knowledge seeker and knowledge asset ... the main problem I anticipate here is that we’re scared to keep the information ... it might be discoverable ...

Okay ... I didn’t say it was easy or without potholes ...




Cool job title

2006-08-30T09:59:27.926-04:00

Like many ideas that come to me, this one was borne of a mistake ...

I don't know if it's because I scan-read before I really read, but I saw a job listing on a listserv the other day ... what I saw was :

Experience Cataloger

Of course what it really said was:

Experienced Cataloger

I've never been a cataloger and I probably never will be, but if I was going to catalog something, I think I'd focus on experiences ... I think that some think we do this already ... but I'm not convinced we have a way of rendering experiences so that we can find, match, and share them ... we're good with things and two-dimensional aspects of people (people are really just a collection of experiences, aren't they? -- like XTC said in The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul, we're just "a bag to keep life's souvenirs in") and even sort of okay with concepts, but experiences are too layered to catalog ... we need a multi-dimensional medium in which to do it ... I'm sure some one will mash something together shortly ... but for now, it remains nothing more than a cool job title ...



Age of the Spiritual Library ( ... Library 5.0 ...)

2006-05-21T22:24:49.656-04:00

I was looking over Ray Kurzweil's Age of the Spiritual Machines again today ... right at the end of the prologue (have I mentioned that introductions/forwards/prologues are my favorite part of almost every book?), he talks about being able to scan or download our entire consciousness to a machine ...

That got me thinking ... what would the library look like in an age where this type of activity is possible and even common place ... would the Library 5.0 cease to be a collection of books, dvds, even electronic media as we understand it today? .... Would it be a collection of scanned consciousnesses, where we not only have access to the authors' published works, but have - in fact - access to everything he/she ever thought, experienced, said, wondered, and beyond ...

Wow, now THAT would be a library ... of course the digital rights management would be a real bug-a-boo, not to mention a search mechanism that could parse emotions, experiences, and thoughts ... hmmm ... wonder if Google's already working on it?

Hope I'm around for Library 5.0 ...



Local music burnable (rippable and downloadable) at the Library

2006-04-15T21:27:01.430-04:00

Okay this is cool ...

There was a little snippet in Business 2.0 this month (from Hits & Misses, p 140, April 2006 -- sorry, couldn't find it online) ... It mentioned how Umpqua Bank based out of Oregon has set up kiosks inside about a third of the bank’s nearly 100 branches that allow customers to listen to the music of local bands and burn their own CDs for $8 or for free if they open a new account (you know, instead of a toaster or a coffee pot or a clock). They’re calling it the Discover Local Music Project, and apparently it’s a success ... the bank’s had a 20% increase in deposits and 48% increase in profits since the year before ...

To me this is a natural for us, and by “us” I mean libraries ... a kiosk or workstation or central server from which local music can be burned or ripped or downloaded or whatever is next ... I was never in a band, but the guys I knew who were local bands wanted exposure ... they never believed that they would make huge bucks on locally produced CDs ... they usually use them as cheapish marketing tools that will get them into the ears of more folks on the chance that one of those people will be someone who will break it open for them and make them famous.

Anyhow ... in the interest of locally relevant content and making it available and accessible to our patrons while also promoting locally creators of content ... this to me is a great idea and one that we can easily do ... you know, if we can manage the rights issues ... heh-heh-heh ...



What I love about where I work ... or Our Strategic Plan

2006-03-20T07:47:22.443-05:00

Okay ... this will sound weird ... the three things I'm going to talk about are from the preposed revisions of our strategic plan ... normally. that'd be enough to make anyone nod off, but do me a favor ... read on ... 'cause this is cool stuff ...

We started with the outcome ...

“People benefit from Johnson County Library’s role in the community.”

The first of three strategies was ...

"Proactively create a culture of engagement within the library."

As you can probably guess, this was our way of saying that engagement starts at home ... we need our staff, across all dimensions of the organization, to think of their work as community engagement ... to that end we need to go to “engagement school,” or as we’re planning on calling it, the Ambassador Coaching Institute. This staff development activity will better prep our people (who were probably hired to provide utterly different services 10+ years ago) to more easily and ably deal with the library’s challenges of today and tomorrow.

In addition to our informal approach to readying staff for engagement, we also said that we’d need to establish formal liaisons to other organizations, institutions, and community groups focusing on neighborhood and niche service development. We’ve kinda kicked that off already, as we’re hired a youth services librarian to liaise between the county’s school districts and us. She’s only been on staff for a few months, but her presence has already brought us closer to the schools. Formal liaisons to county agencies, NPOs, and even industries can only be a positive as we try to lock in engagement networks across subdivisions, neighborhoods, cities, and the county.

We recognized that this shift to engagement would mean a shifting of resources ... so we’ve stated that we really need to examine the needs we’d have with regard to people hours and skills to create this engagement stuff ... I can’t tell you for sure what it will look like when we’ve done it, but I can guarantee it’ll be different than what you see now ...

Isn’t that cool!?!?! .... more later on the next two strategies ...



Public Agenda online

2006-03-18T16:30:16.600-05:00

I imagine some are already aware of this site ... Public Agenda is an pollster site that (in their own words):

"has been providing unbiased and unparalleled research that bridges the gap
between American leaders and what the public really thinks about issues."

I didn't spend a ton of time on the site (I'm rooting on the Wichita Shockers right now!), but I did find this item about Internet Speech and Privacy ... it's kind of dated ... be interesting to see more recent info ...



Rewarding Our Users

2006-03-12T18:51:57.256-05:00

I wanted to comment on something I read recently in Red Herring magazine ... "Sites Reward Good Users" talked about companies that encourage “web users to contribute content in exchange for a stake in its success.” Basically, it works this way ... a site asks users to contribute content (photos, stories, music, video, ... you name it!), and then the users receive some percentage of revenue taken in for the sale or use of the content. To some extent, the site becomes the middleman or agent for the citizen content provider ... the sites (or service providers mentioned were:Gather.com (blogs)Newsvine.com (newsite)Wurldmedia.com (peerimpact.com – music/video)Revver.com (video)Scoopt.com (photos)Mentioned in the article is the fact that some of this is not new ... it was there before the so-called bubble burst at the turn of the century ... but according to Anil Dash (of Dashes.com), back in those days “there weren’t enough people online.” With the ubiquity of digital cameras, podcasting tools, and the willingness of people to share content, it seems to me this approach might find some legs this time around ... and of course, we’ve seen something like this before ... it’s called eBay ... it’s just that this time what’s for sale is digital content.I guess there are two things that I see as relevant to libraries ... the first is that we should be out there encouraging our patrons to contribute content to library-run sites so that we can serve it up back to them as part of the collective local experience. We can use the model talked about above by managing the digital rights for our patrons and paying them back for use based on certain types of usage. My second thought on this is that – whether our patrons choose to share their home-made content through our systems or through commercial providers – we need to figure out how to zero in on all those really cool local content chunks held disparately across the face of the earth and make them available to our users. That may seem pretty obvious, but we haven’t really done too much of it ... When was the last (or the first!) time you saw a library catalog or collect a list of locally created blogs? Now with the proliferation of locally relevant web pages, images, videos, audios, blogs, etc., we have more information about our patrons and their environs than ever before. The concept of citizen journalism is being extended to all aspects of life, and we can and should be the connection that brings the authors closer to their readers. Our role will be more than that of indexers and archivists ... we will be publishers ... promoters ... and connectors of people and their stories to others whose lives will be changed by our work.Because remember ... it’s all about ...... Answering the questions ...... Inspiring the next questions ...... Interacting to create understanding, and ...... Engaging to change lives and build communities.[...]



My Pirate Name

2006-03-11T17:55:54.790-05:00

I've heard that sailors are fickle, unreliable, and capricious ... well, according to this "scientfic" analysis brought to you by fidius.org, I might be an exception to that rule ...



My pirate name is:
Dread Pirate Read
(image)
Like the famous Dread Pirate Roberts, you have a keen head for how to make a profit. Even through many pirates have a reputation for not being the brightest souls on earth, you defy the sterotypes. You've got taste and education. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.