Learning More From Our Patrons

August 31, 2006

Check out this post from Angel over at The Gypsy Librarian on getting to know our students and who needs to know them better. Angel writes “I guess here is what worries me. I can educate the students. I am comfortable with them, and they tend to be willing to at least give the crazy librarian a chance. I don’t think I can educate those administrators, and that worries me since they make the decisions with no idea of what the reality in the trenches is like.” I think that this is a problem at many schools – and may be one of the reasons why it is so difficult to institute postive change.

Library Cards & Distance Students

August 31, 2006

As a distance education student, a post yesterday from the LibrarianInBlack caught my eye – The importance of getting library cards to remote users. Sarah Houghton-Jan expands on a post by Laurie the Librarian and applies the same concepts about library cards to the public library. Laurie’s post, Why the highest priority to helping distance students should be getting them library cards, chronicles a bit about her adventure to facilitate an easy system of getting cards to distance students at a college library. I think that both Sarah and Laurie are trying to make the point that services need to be brought to distance students and/or remote users. Not only do we need to bring these services to our constituents, but we need to do it in a painless and way that is easy to understand and facilitate.

From my perspective as a student, these services don’t necessarily need to come from the library. I really want all of my ID numbers (whether I get a physical card or just the information) to come from one place – and really wouldn’t it be wonderful if I only needed one number??? Actually, I want all of my services to come from one spot. The library really isn’t a separate entity. In Laurie’s post, she talks about trying to get librarian presence in the online space that houses the distance classes – aka WebCT. I personally think this is where libraries need to be in order to better serve distance students. I don’t want to have to leave my class session, open a new browser window, and log into the library’s proxy server to get information. A link within the course place to the library catalog, to the electronic resources, etc. would be wonderful. It isn’t really about bringing the library card to the user, it is about bringing the library services to the patron.

I Didn’t Even Know It Was A Holiday

August 31, 2006

Happy BlogDay to all!!!!

I first heard of this from Angel at The Gypsy Librarian – and I thankfully she summed up the BlogDay information on her blog since the BlogDay site seems to be unavailable at the moment. From Angel’s post: “From the Blog Day website, “Blog Day was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On this day, every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. In this way, all Blog web surfers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.”

I thought that I would list some of my favorite blogs by fellow students. My five recommendations (in no particular order):

  • LIS: Michael Habib On Librarianship and the Information Sciences – Michael Habib is a MSLS student at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Michael has some great insights on Academic Library 2.0, including a great visual picture of the concept. I’m a little bit jealous (okay, I’m a whole lot jealous) that he is almost done with his degree.
  • Into the Stacks – kiki is a library student in Oklahoma. While she has had this blog since November of 2005, I have only recently discovered it. I enjoy her insights into academia.
  • Librarienne – A new student in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne’s library science program who started this blog back in March of 2006. She starts classes this fall. Librarienne’s personal stories add quite a bit of character to her blog – and make her blog very entertaining.
  • What I Learned Today – A blog by Nicole Engard – an MLIS student at Drexel University who has a great deal of technical knowledge. I’ve picked up many neat tricks and quite a bit of good information from Nicole’s blog.
  • Subject/Object – A blog by Steven Chabot, a masters student in Information Studies at the University of Toronto. This is another blog that I have discovered recently. Steven puts together some very insightful posts on a variety topics.

As for the questions about blogging, I will admit to not preparing in advance.

  • Why did you start blogging? The answer is really two fold. As the tech support person in my library, many questions about blogs, RSS feeds and other social software applications kept coming up. I find that actually using new software is the best way to learn it. At the same time, I had just finished applying to graduate school – and a blog seemed like the perfect way to document my progress through school.
  • What do you blog about mainly? I mainly blog about things that are related to library school. Sometimes, my topics may come from work-related events, thoughts or issues. Lately, I have felt the desire to incorporate more personal information, since school is really a very personal journey.
  • Do you blog in your first language or in another language? Why? I blog in English which is my first language. Although I did take six years of Spanish in high school, I wouldn’t call myself fluent. Hence, English it is.
  • What motivates you to keep blogging even if (like most bloggers) you are not paid much for it? I’m not paid at all for it. Oddly enough, I find blogging to be a very engaging process that keeps me thinking about issues that are important to libraries and to library students. I have been very suprised at how much I enjoy blogging and at how much I get out of it.
  • Is your audience mainly inside your own country or around the world? I would have to say the audience is probably mainly in the my own country. Several of my posts have been linked to by bloggers from other countries, however. I’m not overly sure exactly what my audience looks like.
  • What does your family and friends think about the fact that you a blogger? My husband thinks it is fun to murmur “blog, blog, blog, blog . . . ” when I am sitting in front of the tv with my laptop writing posts. I’m not entirely sure what that means. I would guess he isn’t really sure about what a blog is. My best friend isn’t really sure what to make of it – she kind of can’t believe it. Other than that, no one knows.
  • Does your boss know you have a blog? No, he does not. I struggle whether I should mention it to him or not. The place where I work does not have a blog policy in place – and that scares me a little.
  • What is the relationship between blogs in your country or region and the mainstream media? I’m not sure how to answer this one.
  • When you blog, how would you describe what you write? I think sometimes I rant, sometimes I use the blog as a sounding board, sometimes I ask questions, sometimes I try to write more thoughtful posts. It really all depends upon what is going on in my life at the moment. I don’t think blogs should be restricted to any particular type of writing.
  • Have blogs started to have in impact on politics in your country? Have they started to influence what stories get covered in your country’s media? Given the non-political nature of my blog, I’m not really sure how blogs may have begun to impact politics. I think it will be interesting to watch this over the upcoming presidential election.

Pretty lame answers, but really that’s all I’ve got time for right now.

Branding & Marketing

August 31, 2006

I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my head around the need for branding and marketing in a library. For most of my time working in a library, I have pretty much paid the concepts very little to no attention. Our library has been doing fine. Academic libraries are generally guaranteed a certain number of patrons given that kids keep coming to college. However, over the past couple of years, I have come to believe that branding and marketing may be the most important things libraries can do in order to combat stereotypical attitudes and to provide better service. Ok, really these are THE most important things because, let’s face it, it is all about the perception. The reality doesn’t really matter as much to the world at large. There is a great branding video on the show with zefrank (found via Louis Rosenfeld.com – Bloug). This video really gives a great explanation of branding – both positive and negative. What I get from thinking about this is that libraries need to have a better brand before they can successfully market themselves to the world at large.

Down for the Count

August 30, 2006

A combination of working too many hours last week, working too many days in row (including all of last weekend), stress from my summer session class and lack of grade along with lack of sleep due to worry over bats in my house has finally caught up with me. A summer cold or possibly allergies has totally kicked me in the posterior. I’ve pretty much been out of it for the past two days. Fortunately, I think I’m starting to get better. Additionally, we haven’t had any bats in the house since last week – so I’m sleeping easier.

On the postive side, Amazon has shipped the textbook for one of my fall classes. I was a little bit worried about how long it would take to actually receive, but I think I get it sometime next week. I think I’m off to nap a little bit more . . .

Signage Abounds

August 28, 2006

Signage in libraries has garnered a great deal of blog press of late. Michael Stephens often posts pictures of library signs that present a rather negative and off-putting stance to patrons. Ten Signs I Hope I Never See in Libraries Again is one of my favorites. On the opposite side, Steve Lawson posts some friendlier signs in his post, Shiny happy signs. Libraries have a long history of using signs like those posted by Stephens that start with “No . . .” I guess that I have started thinking about why this is. The signage parade often begins as the direct result of some type of bad behavior on the part of users (or behavior that other patrons complain about). Staff put up a sign that no one reads or follows. The signs get bigger and more direct – please don’t use cellphones in the building become NO CELLPHONES with a big red line on the sign. The most ironic thing about this penchant for signage is the fact that NO ONE EVER READS THEM – regardless of what they say. I saw this wonderfully funny piece on Candid Camera many years ago (the 1990s version – not the original) where the show placed a sign to warn people about a slippery, wet floor in a well-traveled bus station. The cameras caught people as they came through the station and their reactions to the sign. The bottom line was that during the entire process where hundreds of people came through the area, only one person ever took note of the sign. The crew enlarged the sign several times, moved the sign several times – and ended up putting the sign directly in the path of people when they entered the station. All of these changes made little difference. The interesting part was that the only person who read the sign was a young woman with a very young child – who read the sign and was obviously keen to protect the child from the slippery floor. I think this says quite a bit about the usefulness (or rather the lack thereof) of signs.

So, if signs don’t work why do we invest so much time in energy in them? Is there a better way? What is the best way to convey information to our patrons? Do we need signs if the majority of our library clientele don’t read them? What does these signs say about our policies? Is it important to have a sign that bans cell phone use? Wouldn’t it be better to simply ask someone who is disturbing other patrons to move to a less quiet area? Why do we make so many policies? I tend to think that libraries need to get rid of most of their signs – friendly or not. Patrons will only take in so much information, and we need to choose which information is most important for them to have (not what we think is most important, but what they would think is most important). And for those signs that we decide that we do actually need, we need to seriously think about how we word them. Christopher Harris some great suggestions for this over at Infomancy. Christopher writes “Even though I think copywriting could help develop better signs, what might be more important in a long-term sense is effective policy and procedure development.” Very well said. I learned quite a bit from this post and I agree with him about the relationship between signs and policies.

Other good posts about signage:

Fall Semester is Approaching

August 28, 2006

I spent some time today preparing for the fall semester. I have decided to keep the two classes that I have signed up for (ILS530 – Information Systems Analysis & Design & ILS565 – Library Management). There are not any viable classes that I can take in place in ILS530, so I will just hope for the best. I was able to successfully log into SCSU’s new WebCT system – they upgraded to Vista recently. Everything appears to be fairly intuitive and I don’t anticipate any problems with the new system. My professor has posted the syllabus for ILS565, and I’m excited about the class. I have taken a class with this professor – and so far, he has been the most effective teacher I have taken at SCSU in the online format. I was also happy to read that we do not have a reading assignment from our textbook until the week of September 17th. The required text is not one that Amazon.com had in stock, and I do not anticipate receiving the book until after the start of the semester (Books are such a frustrating issue in online classes – but I have complained about this issue before). I do need to send my other professor an email to ask about the books for ILS530 – these have not been posted yet. Despite this fact, everything seems to be on schedule. Classes start next week – so I plan to do nothing but relax during this upcoming, long weekend.

Taking a Stand for What You Believe In . . .

August 28, 2006

isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It is fairly easy to read something like Michael Noer’s recent article in Forbes magazine, be highly offended and feel the need to speak out. It was overtly sexist, since the author tried to make readers believe that marriages to a career-minded women are inherently doomed. Many people – men and women alike – reacted badly to the article so taking a stand was not risky. In a blog post entitled Confused thoughts on gender, libraries and tech, Meredith Farkas points out that it is really the subtle forms of sexism that take place every day that are much scarier and much harder to deal with. People tend not to stand up to these types of behaviors – sometimes you don’t even realize how inappropriate or hurtful they were until later when you replay events in your head. Meredith tells a story about how during an interview a library director told her that her husband had designed a nice web site for her when she had in fact done it herself. One has to wonder why anyone would assume that her husband had created the site (especially since Meredith has her technical qualifications listed on her resume). Her point, however, is that we women often react poorly to this type of sexist behavior, but may not immediately label it as sexist, don’t say anything, and end up feeling as if the entire incident was our own fault. This is where it becomes much harder to stand up and challenge the inappropriate comments or behaviors. I know that I have difficulty with this.

So much like Meredith, I find myself conflicted by the issue of gender and sexism. This was what I was trying to express is my post, The Gender Issue. I think that Meredith expresses the confusion better – and I find it comforting to know that other women find it difficult to deal with this issue too. Meanwhile, I’m trying to be better – to not let sexist behavior slide – to speak out against unfair and unjust behavior, but it is a hard thing to do.

Ultimately, I recommend not only Meredith’s article, but the thought-provoking comments on the post. I have to believe that all of these discussions are steps in the right direction.

A Bunch of Random Stuff

August 24, 2006

The following are blog posts that have caught my interest over the past several weeks:

  • Assumptions have a Sell By Date – from Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users. Kathy asks “Have some of your assumptions “gone off”? Kathy lists several ways to help combat the problem of assumptions. I especially like the suggestion to give suggestions a sell-by date.
  • What assumptions make. . . – from Remaining Relevant. A post about the need to challenge assumptions.
  • Trust in the Social Library – from T. Scott. A post which discusses trust in terms of the flow of information in the library as a workplace. T. Scott has some great points. He writes “What many managers fail to understand, however, is that you don’t ever actually control the flow of information — you only think that you do.  The more you try to keep things confidential, the more energy you give to the rumor mill.” I think this comment is right on target.
  • Five Types of Content on a Library Website– by David Lee King. A post in which the different types of content found on library websites is broken down into five categories: Traditional Content/”Stuff we Buy,” Original Content/”Stuff Librarians Create,” Attendable Content/”Things You Attend or Visit,” Collaborative Content/”Interacting with Patrons,” and Library/Librarians as Content/”Content About the Library.”

Responses to the Academic Library 2.0 Model

August 24, 2006

The Other Librarian has an interesting criticism of Michael Habib’s revised Academic Library 2.0 Model – that it is too library-centric. This is a good point. The Other Librarian writes that “If Library 2.0 is going to be a model for anything, it has to include the introspective account that “Library” is not even (and never will be) close to the centre of most people’s daily lives.” I think that this is a point that we must all remember. From a conceptual standpoint however, I think that we need to have the library in the middle of this model. Those of us trying to . . .

(Dramatic aside – In the middle of typing this post, a big, scary bat did a dive bomb at my head in my living room. I had to call my husband to come home and capture it. By the way, I get the all bugs and sometimes the mice and he gets the bats – quite equitable. This is the second bat in the house this week. You might be quite right if you think I’m not sleeping too well this week. – end of dramatic aside)

Those of us trying to apply the concepts of library 2.0 to our library services are starting from the library. The library is what we have to work with. So, the library is our center. But from there, we need to remember that it isn’t the center for our patrons.

In another post, Remaining Relevant wonders about how this model would look for public libraries. I agree that the model may be much more complex since public libraries generally have a more diverse and larger patron base.