Saturday, July 28, 2007

Seth's Blog: Bobcasting (and Google Reader)

The right information to the right people is something I would love to accomplish. In Seth's Blog, he comments on how marketers should tailor the message to each individual user.


Seth's Blog: Bobcasting (and Google Reader): "I want to suggest something that takes no new technology but could have a big impact on the way you do business: Bobcasting.

I call it that because instead of reaching the masses, it's just about reaching Bob. Or Tiasha. Or any individual or small group.

The future of online communication is micro-pockets of people getting RSS feeds in their Google Reader or on their Google home page. Amazon updates? Bobcast em to me. Fogbugz summaries for the customer service manager? Bobcast her three times a day."

Right now, my library has dozens of RSS feeds, email subscriptions, and a twitter account. However, it is just a bunch of noise unless I can filter it to the individual user. I know I have lost a few people on my twitter feed because it is much too noisy. Here is a perfect example from Siegel's Droppings, Too Much Twittering :
They provide nice links to the catalog records for the material. But they blast out way too many tweets. Just this morning they updated 17 times. I'm going to remove them as it is making it difficult to follow my librarian friends.

It is just like every reader his or her book, but instead, every reader his or her feed. I am working with feedburner to set up individual feeds that have categories for people, parents, adults, children, the techs. Having those options are great if someone takes the initiative to create their own piece out of the mess, but if I can spoon feed it, then I have Bobcasting.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bookpushing and Harry Potter

Seth's Blog: Keeping a secret: "The interesting thing for me is how the Net changes what it means for something to be a secret. Five hundred year old technology (books) is just too slow for the Net. The act of printing, storing and shipping millions of books takes too long for a secret to ever be in a book again.

My solution? A hybrid. Publish the first edition of the book without the last three chapters. Take your time, save the $20 million. Every purchaser then gets access (hey, everyone gets access) to the last three chapters on launch day.

Books are souvenirs. No one is going to read Potter online, even if it's free. Holding and owning the book, remembering when and how you got it... that's what you're paying for. Books are great at holding memories. They're lousy at keeping secrets."

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Steal this book? Don't bother | CNET

Great article, kudos to Gary Price for getting libraries out there.

Steal this book? Don't bother CNET "Steal this book? Don't bother
When it comes to outsmarting the content establishment, your library may be your best accomplice.

Libraries are offering more free search services, database access, articles, photos, eBooks, audiobooks, music and museum passes than ever. Chances are you are buying, subscribing to, or stealing something you can get for free with a library card."

And the big problem with libraries:

he U.S. library system is based on local libraries, consortiums of local libraries, or a state library with services restricted to residents. While it may not seem like a barrier to entry, people do have to make a slight effort by going to a library and showing proof of residency in order to get a library card. But that, too, is changing.

Many libraries, such as the New York Public Library, allow you to apply for your branch library card online and use a temporary password until it arrives by mail.

Several state library systems are waving the library card requirement altogether and using other means to verify residency.

Connecticut and Indiana use a computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address to determine if you qualify as a resident. The site will grant access to any computer that registers as coming from a server within the state. If your IP address is provided outside the state via a service like AOL, the library allows you to enter identifying information to gain a temporary password and then mails you a permanent one.

In Michigan, you can use your driver's license number or state identification number to gain access. Children can use the info of their parent or guardian.

"I think we're going to see more and more of this kind of content available. It's really just a matter of time before it becomes integrated in the way people use and seek information," said Burger.


This is the most frustrating for users. Most users today get services online, in a universal way. However, to use libraries, it is a very localized service. They are tax supported and the service is for very small areas. Many state libraries are going towards access using a universal card or a driver's license. We had a conference in-state to discuss this issue and the best they could come up with was a universal ILL. We need to find a way to make it easier to have access to library services. A change in tax supported services and integrated library systems are needed.

Playing Games can help make you an effective leader

In honor of the first annual Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium will be held in Chicago on July 22-24, 2007, going on right now.

How to Be an Effective Leader: "Where to Practice Leadership Skills

Granted, most of you probably don’t lead a work team (yet!).

So, how would you practice leadership skills if you don’t have the opportunities to do so?

Exploit any opportunity where you can train your leadership expertise.

Some examples include:

* Coaching youth basketball.
* Leading an online multiplayer team (e.g. Warcraft!).
* Leading a ________ club.
* Setting up some event.

According to a study by IBM, multi-player games such as Warcraft rock leadership skills:

Gamers learn collaboration, self-organization, risk-taking, openness, influence and how to earn incentives when involved in a [multiplayer online role-playing game]."

Debunking Leaders

Slow Leadership Debunking today’s mythology of leadership
“Without a vision, the people perish.” These biblical words sum it up. What we should be doing is seeking out leaders with imagination: people who can think and produce fresh visions for others to follow. Naturally, such people will need time and space to do their thinking. You can’t expect anyone to come up with strong strategic viewpoints if their days are filled with pointless meetings and administrative trivia. Nor if they’re exhausted by crippling work schedules and constant traveling.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Leadership, openness, and pirates

Three articles today about leadership and transparency. The first one from Fast Company cites a story about Proenza, former director of the National Hurricane Center. The lesson here is openness and building trust:

Leadership: Mutiny Before the Hurricane: "Proenza, according to a report on NPR’s All Things Considered , is a highly experienced and competent forecaster who has worked for the National Weather Service for many years. His appointment was endorsed by Mayfield, the well-respected head of the NHC who retired at the end of last year. Courtly and avuncular Mayfield led by consensus. His management style was the exact opposite of Proenza who keeps his own counsel and sometimes “shoots from the hip.” So it seems that when Proenza got into trouble over his remarks, there was no one on his staff to back him up. Proenza had burned his bridges. So what can we learn from the Proenza firing?

Survey the territory. Know the terrain upon which you are treading. If you are following a legend, pay homage to the leader by acknowledging his style and strengths. Defer to his legacy until you establish your own.

Ask for input. Make certain you introduce yourself to everyone. Meet one on one with your key staff. The first meeting, or subsequent meetings, should be spent asking questions and listening. Make it known you want straight talk.

Ask for ideas. New leaders need to ensure the loyalty of staff. They can expect it, but they must earn the trust. You earn it by your example. Asking for ideas and suggestions about how things are

Be your own person. Is this a contradiction? No. You are the leader now. It is appropriate to develop (or continue) the vision and insist on alignment. State your priorities. Allow comment on them but you can, and often should, be firm in what you want to accomplish.

Evaluate the situation. If your new ideas are not met with overwhelming support, find out why. Again, be open to suggestions. You may hold to your mission, but you can allow individuals and teams to set their own strategies and tactics."


Everybody is working toward the common goal. They need to trust that their leader will make the right decision based on the information. People need to be eased into your style and know that you consider their opinion.

The Open Door Director from Library Journal, Michael Stephens and Michael Casey

Today's library director can facilitate transparency by building openness within the organization and using the power of communication to reach out to the community. Open organizations, where staff and public feel free (and safe) to contribute new ideas and suggestions and to play a role in their implementation and evaluation, will win more long-term proponents than closed organizations that hide failures and weaknesses.
This is one of my goals. Have everything open where staff feel comfortable to contribute and understand the problems with the organization.

Then, one of my favorites is Execupundit. Here is referring to a New Yorker article about The Pirate's Code:

The most powerful check on captains and quartermasters was that they did not hold their positions by natural right or blood or success in combat; the crew elected them and could depose them. And when questions arose about the rules that governed behavior on board, interpretation was left not to the captain but to a jury of crewmen.

This is the more modern management style. Nobody wants to make all the decisions, they prefer to let someone else do it, but make too many mistakes and walk the plan matey ;)

Lastly, a very comprehensive list, 99 Ways to Become a Better Leader:

My favorites:

54. As a responsible leader, you must always be aware of what you’re saying.

55. Create responsible employees, but also be responsible for their actions.

56. Assume responsibility, even if something is not your fault.


63. Keep a leadership blog to document your learning.


I read many leadership blogs as you can see in the sidebar. My favorite management/leadership blogs are:
Slow Leadership
Reminds me that Rome wasn't built in a day. In order to get from here to there balance must exist. There is even an eightfold path:

1. Right Tempo

2. Right Attention

3. Right Balance

4. Right Perspective

5. Right Direction

6. Right Relationships

7. Right Enjoyment

8. Right Gratitude

Fast Company
Always insightful, it brings lessons from every day situations, sports, business, and more. Posts are quick blasts, memorable, and to the point.

He provides wonderful insights on management, the workplace, and more. The thing I learned the most from him was about getting a coach instead of a mentor. Posts are short, concise, and too the point.

I am always looking to improve my skills and do right by my employees and our patrons. Striving towards that will always lead in the right direction.

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The future of libraries or getting them what they want

Of all the technology initiatives that go through, the only ones that are noticed are those that are most dear to the users.

Libraries, overall, are still centers for books, information, and internet access points. The top reasons someone doesn't use a library is lack of time, money, or interest.

The first is having the library open at convenient hours. 24 hours sounds great, but not feasible.

The second relates to fines, once accrued, blocks users. The last relates to those who simply don't want to use the library. It could mean that they are not big readers, or that they prefer to buy their books. It is usually the former.

Therefore, there will always be a set population that won't enter the library even with free incentives. I liked the Unshelved strip that stated going after non-readers is like trying to turn someone into a sports fan.

So for the others, just extend hours and get the stuff they want. Isn't that simple enough?

Let's look at several reports and news clips talking about the future of libraries and the future of the book. The first is one already mentioned at Jessmyn's, Do Users Care about our New Initiatives. In it she provides an excellent examination of a new study by the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium
and examines the conclusion that states it is not the technology that fails, but lack of marketing.

"Do they realy think that the solution to getting more people to perceive value from the libraries technology initiatives is to just find a more effective way to market them? Aren’t there questions they could have asked about the services that would have helped nail this down more effectively such as “Are you aare that the library offers downloadable audio books?” “Do you use this service, why or why not?”

As I’ve said before, I think that before we can fully immerse ourselves in a 2.0 initiative as librarians, we have to make sure we’re counting the right things. If you only collect internal statistics on reference interactions that happen in-person or on the phone, it’s no wonder that IM reference seems like a “flavor of the month” thing for the library to do. And, after the fact, if you can’t show that people are really using the new techie things that you do provide it’s harder to stress that those things that should be part of what your library is and does. Many of these things are countable — website stats, flickr photostream views, IM interactions — the question is: are we counting them?


I provided a review of my library's 2.0 stats here. They are certainly not off the charts for technology usage. I could incorporate these stats into my monthly report, but it would just be another stat that my funders would ignore. Impact is from action, not necessarily from usage of technology. Performance based budgeting is all the rage and if it doesn't show up in a strategic plan, then no one cares.

I would say this report confirms that many of these technology tricks are not going anywhere. Even marketing won't work. I have had a twitter feed from the library for some time, but I only have one user that is actually from the city. There is no way to hit this crowd or go to them since online, they are invisible. Too often, a library puts out a great website that uses social networking sites, only to have other librarians say how great and progressive it is. However, most people who are resistant to 2.0 say, "Does this initiative help check-out a book, or increase a core stat?" Usually, the answer is no. I have had more success in getting non-users by expanding the print sources of the library's news. The best way to get users in the library is word of mouth. They can come once to find bad service and never come back. If you have fantastic service, enough for people to talk about, then you don't need any marketing for that.

Here is a snippet from the Report:


P. 16
Section Four: New Initiatives
In the 2003 survey, the new initiatives targeted very specific technology projects (i.e. netLibrary), and had a very low response rate. The goal of the current new initiatives section is to examine more general ideas or potential initiatives of interest to public libraries. The following table examines these new initiatives in terms of library users and non-users.
p 17
Section Five: What Would Increase Library Use?
The previous section of the report suggests that technology may not be a way to increase library use, but is there anything else that could?

What is particularly interesting about this table is that non-library users more readily agree that they would use the library more if it were easier to get to than users do. This item is the only one where non-users agreed more than users did, though both groups still somewhat disagree with the statement.

The general trend is that no item appears to be a strong indicator to increase use among users or non-users. The means for all cases are tending negatively, suggesting little interest from both users and non-users in the proposed initiatives. The only initiative with a positive reaction is wireless Internet access, and even this response is effectively neutral for library users. Library users are more moderate in their degree of disinterest with the proposed initiatives, but are still disinterested in most initiatives.


In my community, a recent study showed the two of the top three things our citizens love is the library's collection and hours of availability. So in reality, I can create a myspace page for the library, but ordering the right books, being open the right hours are the real key to get users and non-users. That's it, no magic bullet.

The funny thing about 2.0 is that it reinvents the wheel. Libraries have always been focused on getting what the users want. We listen to recommendations for books and services and adjust. It isn't totally user controlled, but in most libraries, it practically is. Users build the collection, if a library is paying attention, it is totally in the hands of users since they vote with their library card. Watch the stats and react.

But long term, what's in store?

In the future, the library may no longer house books, they may create access points. In the O'reilly blog, it talks states If Libraries had shareholders, would they be making an about face much like the newspaper industry. Here is an example from that:

Undergraduates entering universities in the United States use the library as a study space, a socializing space, but to a shocking and frightening extent, they do not use library services or library materials. [...] We're losing clientele; students may come in the library to study, to socialize, to hit the newly installed cafe designed to lure them in, but they're not using library materials, or library services, at anything like the rate they did even ten years ago.

So the library is being used, but not in its traditional way. It is a space issue and the future of libraries are two fold, a space to be that is non-directed, and advanced information and collections that can go to the user whenever they want them. Ironically, one could see a library that is used for its public space, but its collections used from home. Interesting phenomenon.

As books become more digital, their access online can mimic a book. As mentioned in If:Book:

Imagine a library that collected all the world's information about all the world's books and made it available for everyone to view and update. We're building that library.

The official opening of Open Library isn't scheduled till October, but they've put out the demo now to prove this is more than vaporware and to solicit feedback and rally support. If all goes well, it's conceivable that this could become the main destination on the Web for people looking for information in and about books: a Wikipedia for libraries. On presentation of public domain texts, they already have Google beat, even with recent upgrades to the GBS system including a plain text viewing option. The Open Library provides TXT, PDF, DjVu (a high-res visual document browser), and its own custom-built Book Viewer tool, a digital page-flip interface that presents scanned public domain books in facing pages that the reader can leaf through, search and (eventually) magnify.

Page turning interfaces have been something of a fad recently, appearing first in the British Library's Turning the Pages manuscript preservation program (specifically cited as inspiration for the OL Book Viewer) and later proliferating across all manner of digital magazines, comics and brochures (often through companies that you can pay to convert a PDF into a sexy virtual object complete with drag-able page corners that writhe when tickled with a mouse, and a paper-like rustling sound every time a page is turned).

This sort of reenactment of paper functionality is perhaps too literal, opting for imitation rather than innovation, but it does offer some advantages.

The last paper book will probably die in a library. People will still have their private collections, but libraries will be the last to hold them. Over time, libraries will become access points to basic services such as the internet, information, and reading, but these will be available online. The users will use the library for its space, but also use it at home for its access. The dual nature of libraries.

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HarperCollins, MySpace to solicit teen writing | Tech news blog - CNET

Finally, the book industry is looking to harness talent in creative ways using social networking. I would bet there is some other organization doing this and maybe doing it better. However, this way these talented writers can sign a book deal. There is a lot of talent out there, even though a lot of writing isn't very good, the good stuff is VERY good.


HarperCollins, MySpace to solicit teen writing | Tech news blog - CNET

One way HarperCollins plans to tackle this challenge is to team up with MySpace, according to Naughton. In the fall, the social network plans to build and launch a new "create and share" writing tool in partnership with HarperCollins, Naughton said in an interview at Mashup. Teens and college kids on the site can write prose and then share it with friends on MySpace. People can then vote on the best writing, she said.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reading is a lifelong skill and it must be maintained

Article from a Canadian paper outlining the decline of literacy with age. People need to continue to read full length books and be able to comprehend and discuss them to increase one's quality of life.


Halifax, The Daily News: News | Literacy skills decline with age: (from Margaret Eaton, president of the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation) "She notes that people think of literacy as simply the ability to read words, but it's about a broader ability to read a document and understand its complexity, vocabulary and significance.

'In a global economy, Canada needs to be able to compete and its workforce needs to be able to compete at a high level,' Eaton says. 'Literacy can become a trade advantage.'

On an individual level, there's a connection between literacy skills and standard of living, community involvement, health and workplace safety, she says."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doing it without Dewey: A Perry Branch Library Tour

The Back Story

The Perry branch library of the Maricopa County Library District, is a joint-use facility with the Chandler Unified School District and is located in the Town of Gilbert. This arrangement alone, for joint-use libraries, is a first to have three different government entities run one library.

The library has its grand opening on Tuesday July 10, 2007, but has been open since June 7th. It received a great deal of attention from the Arizona Republic article on May 30th that highlighted the change. Library Journal followed up with an article providing more detail, as well as School Library Journal. NPR followed up with an interview with Marshall Shore, adult services coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District. It began a maelstrom of comments from bloggers and on publib.

Some Stats

The library is open 10am to 8pm Monday through Thursday, and 10-5 on Friday and Saturday. They are open to the school from 7am to 10am only.

Maricopa County Library District uses Polaris ILS and PAMS Computer Time Management Software from 3M.

Joint-use library explanation
This is the second joint-use library in the Maricopa County Library District, the first being the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Public Libraries are increasingly using this technique in order to keep up with demand. There is no mandate for a county or city to build a new library because they have reached a certain population threshold, a school does. A public library can be built faster and cheaper using this model using an IGA(Intergovernmental Agreement).

The IGA dictates how everyone gets along and who does what. It also determines what happens if the joint-use is dissolved. Who gets what books? who gets the computers? Sort of what happens in a divorce and the IGA is the prenuptial agreement. The school often builds the library and costs are split 50/50 with the library agency. Operations are performed entirely by public library staff with often a school liaison that ensures school rules are enforced on library property.

Often the crux of the issue with this relationship is one of responsibility. The school acts as the parent while the child is in school, the library has no such responsibility. This is where policies collide since one needs to restrict and one wants to provide access.

The best articles on Joint-use Libraries are available here:

ALA's site

And the Wisconsin Check-list

Library Staff
Librarians (MLS)
1 branch manager
1 youth librarian
1 teen librarian (acts as school liaison and school librarian)
1 Adult Reference Librarian
Librarians (Non-MLS)
1 circulation supervisor
1 librarian
Library Support Staff
2 Library Assistants
5 library Pages
13 library staff in all (I may have made errors, but I believe I have this information correct)

The New Classification System

The library will categorize all of its materials like a bookstore, using the BISAC system (Book Industry Study Group) Subject headings. There are 50 different categories, of which, each is broken down into several different sub-categories:


Each subject area has almost 100 sub-genres each. This system, in a sense, can provide just as much detail as the Dewey Decimal System with the full book industry making decisions on how books are categorized rather than a librarian system. Also, all the non-fiction is interfiled so Young Adult and Juvenile are with the general non-fiction. Young Adult is indicated by a big Y on the spine label and Juvenile is indicated by a big J on the spine label.

Our Tour guides

Jennifer Miele, the branch manager, was kind enough to provide a tour for myself and my library staff. We appreciated her taking the time to visit with us in lieu of her very busy schedule. School starts up in Chandler on July 23rd. We also were fortunate enough to meet with Marshall Shore himself, who was there checking on how things were going.

Our library is opening a new branch library that is joint-use. We are not planning to go without Dewey, but many of the concepts this branch is adopting can be used for any library.

The Tour

The first thing we noticed in the tour was how open the library was. The Perry branch has the exact layout of the Basha Branch of the Chandler Public Library System.

First impression

When you first walk in(left picture is straight ahead, the right picture show part of the children's section)

Service Spaces
Five 3M self-check stations, the service desk sits equidistant from the public entrance and the school entrance, near the school entrance sits a row of 40 computers for access)

(the far left picture shows how open the section is, most of the shelving is on wheels, the top row of all shelves have books that face out, all the DVDs face out)

The shelves state the Book Industry subject on the side, my understanding is that the signs will be on the top of each shelf. You can see the big FICTION sign all the way across the building.

You can see from one end of the library to the other from any part of the library. Center picture shows children's section and 100 person community room through the double doors. Self-check units being used on the right.

Cool Tech Toys

A tablet PC provided by Polaris. It's called the inventory manager and has the full Polaris ILS on it. You can check-out, check-in, and check inventory. The far right picture shows the self-check-in station, again a 3m product. Set-back here is that you can only return one book at a time. The book is placed on the conveyer belt, checked-in, and pushed to the "Willy Wonka" machine.

A table displays best-sellers and new books. A plasma tv screen displays library news and program updates.

On the left, the periodical room with four study rooms on the far left. They won't have many periodicals until January because Ebsco only cycles the magazines January to December. New subscriptions are not sent out until January. The middle pictures shows the large bank of computers. The far right shows the service desk. (almost hidden)

The Teen room, six computers, comfy chairs, and a very cool (but didn't appear to be too functional) bookshelf.

How books are shelved

This is the fun part. All the spine labels for non-fiction only indicate the subject area that they go in. So if it is a Psychology book, the spine says Psychology. The books are then shelved by title order. So a page would take the book, go to the psychology section and shelve the book where the title is.
The money shot

(if you want to see all of the pictures, click here)
Analysis: What works and doesn't work for this system

What works

The 50 subject headings work for a small popular collection library. The Perry library houses 27,000 items and their capacity is 30,000. Therefore, they are not planning to get any bigger. Furthermore, the non-fiction collection is also relatively small. As Marshall Shore states in his interview, on a small scale this works, for a bigger collection, it requires more fine tuning. That fine tuning would be housed in the many sub-genres provided by the BISAC (as stated there are about 100 for each category, leaving a possible 5,000 possible categories). The emphasis at this library was to keep the big 50 and to not touch it. I can tell from the tour that many of the librarians were itching to sub-genre, but were instructed not to. This is a smart move as I think the patron reaction to it is very critical to the success of this plan. The point of it is to make it intuitive, History is History not 979, no system is required of patrons. The best line during our visit came from a grandmother there with her grandson:

Grandmother: "What's Dewey?"

Staff Member: "It is the category system most libraries use to organize their books."

Grandmother (looking puzzled): "Oh, why do they do that?"

For a patron, they just want to find a book, in a small collection, the 50 subject headings work. However, if you need the exact book, you need to know the title to find it. In the back room, there is a possible lightening of the load as the dewey decimal number is removed, instead, the book industry decides where it goes and it is displayed on the spine label and in the MARC record. MARC accuracy needs to be maintained, but with bigger subject headings, less definition is required. The bigger the collection, the more sub-genres, the more complicated things become.

What doesn't work

Some set-backs would be the collection size. For a smaller collection, 50 subject headings work, but a library would have to break it down if they decided to change course and provide a strength in a particular collection, or if they became bigger.

For instance, if I wanted to find the book The Civil War by Geffrey C. Ward I would look in History and look for titles beginning with C. What if I wanted to find all the books on the Civil War library had? I would have to go over to the catalog, search for Civil War books, then scan the entire History section to find three or four books. If I wanted Civil War books in a Dewey Library, I could find all of them in 973.7. If I wanted to find them in a BISAC library, I would go over to history then search by title.

By contrast, Brady's Civil War , A new birth of freedom : Abraham Lincoln and the coming of the Civil War, The whirlwind of war : voices of the storm, 1861-1865, and April 1865 : the month that saved America, would all be in 973.7, the same section. In a BISAC library, I would have to walk over the entire length of the section to retrieve the books. Furthermore, serendipity is lost since the same books are not in the same section. This patron may not find Lincoln's men : how President Lincoln became father to an army and a nation, when looking for the books. In a dewey library, they would see it right away.

However, a patron who doesn't know Dewey, wouldn't be able to find the dewey section. They would have to learn the system first, then they could go right over. Often I will take a patron to a section of Dewey if they are looking for books in general on the topic to the section since I know Dewey.

Furthermore, if the BISAC library had that section sub-genred, they would find Civil War books in the Civil War section. I don't know a bookstore that doesn't have it sub-genred. So a BISAC library would have to unfurl the sub-genred section after a certain threshold. How many books are too many to scan in one section? That is what Perry Library will find out.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How to pick book winner? Ask the experts, the readers!

From the New Yorker, the experiment of Simon and Schuster of picking the next big book, ask the public.

They are planning to shop the manuscript around and have the readers vote on what books should be published. Will this lead to better books? Or will it further homogenize our reading culture? Libraries depend highly on publishers to get good books their public wants to read and publishers are often failing to produce good books. The article even states that book production can be losing venture.

"Yet even the idea’s critics recognized that it was a response to a real problem: most books today are not economically successful, which means that much of the time and money that publishers invest in projects is wasted."

I remember when James Patterson's Big Bad Wolf came out. We expected to have multiple holds for it, however, once they came in, they didn't move. Furthermore, we received more donations of that book than any book we have ever had. All the signs that no one liked the book.

The Science of Success: Financial Page: The New Yorker:

"The collective intelligence of consumers isn’t perfect—it’s just better than other forecasting tools. The catch is that to get good answers from consumers you need to ask the right kinds of questions; asking the market to predict how many copies a book will sell, which requires predicting how a wide readership will behave, is better than asking the market to predict which manuscript will get a book deal, which requires predicting the decisions of a small number of editors. (The Simon & Schuster experiment with MediaPredict, unfortunately, focuses more on the latter.) And you need a critical mass of people to participate. It’ll take a while to work out the kinks, but in the long run these markets are tools that few media companies can afford to ignore. Nobody knows anything. But everybody, it turns out, may know something."

Library patrons are often the best critics of the latest books. I wonder if libraries could use their patron base to make an idea like this work?

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Technology Pledge

A great discussion is ongoing in the blogging world regarding technology competencies for librarians. Fortunately, much of this information on what library staff should or shouldn't know is available through resources such as TechAtlas, Webjunction, and other sites.

What I didn't like about the discussion was the "beat you over the head approach" to anyone who is not technology savvy. I commented on a few blogs stating that we need to be patient with the non-techie people so that they will learn. Furthermore, library staff will not remember any training unless they are using it in their day to day jobs. They can be trained and require a competency, but if it is not something that comes up regularly, that information will not be retained. We need to be more patient and more clear in our training and how we provide assistance. Otherwise, many technology experts can look like some IT jerk who thinks everyone is stupid unless they know what they know. What is basic to someone that is familiar with technology is definitely not basic to everyone. Therefore, I make a plege:

"I pledge that I will help those who do not possess the knowledge of our changing world, and help them navigate it in the way that they are comfortable with. I pledge to remember times, in which, I did not know how to do something, yet someone took the time to teach me. I understand that everyone is different and each person's learning style requires something different of me. It is my responsibility to teach them and if a student does not learn that I take responsibility for that."

A library should have a technology plan in place to deal with new technology, staff training, and sustainability. TechAtlas has full host of services for free so that libraries can do this. Send out surveys to staff and develop a training schedule accordingly. Training staff on technology that they will actually use and that the library will implement is very key. If they don't use it, they will lose it.

Here are some sample questions with the results from my staff. It covers familiarity with Word, HTML, tech plans, Public Access Computers, and sustainability.

(Don't worry, it's anonymous) Keep in mind that I run a rural library that serves a population of 38,000 people.

Red means basic, not a great indication depending on who you are asking. I included everyone from librarians to pages in the survey. When I train staff on technology, it is only the technology that is necessary for their jobs. I am introducing new concepts that are more advanced, but only to those who have an interest in the exploration. Staff cannot be forced if it is not necessary.
Here's our six month plan based on information from the survey and recommendations from TechAtlas:

Enhance Training Resources
· Provide all employees with email accounts
· Develop a staff technology-training plan
· Document and maintain a staff technology-training plan
· Create simple, non-technical computer troubleshooting procedures
· Develop anti-phishing materials for training of library staff
· Increase staff awareness and command of computer anti-virus skills and resources
· Create a centralized collection of documentation for the most frequently used library software applications (POLARIS)

Formalize the Training Program
· Make the library a learning organization by supporting on-going and peer learning
· Design and communicate a clear procedure for training requests
· Identify training needs via staff technology skill assessment
· Maintain up-to-date records of library staff technology skillsets
· Develop competencies and learning goals based on each staff member's role
· Proactively market training opportunities to the library staff
· Develop a procedure for evaluating the success of training.

Emphasize Continuous Learning
· Plan for the design and delivery of training
· Support library staff in self-assessing their learning styles
· Support multiple learning styles to increase staff learning success.
· Allow library staff to participate in training events 'on the clock'
· Provide recognition for library staff members who achieve learning goals.
We need to convince libraries to implement technology plans to ensure technology is created and sustainable and that staff are trained appropriately. Without that, all this talk goes nowhere. For some good ways to convince your boss, the Librarian in Black provides some excellent suggestions.