Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Overdrive will be IPOD Compatible!!!!!

This is exciting news, Overdrive will soon make mp3s available for download on library sites.

Read below from Library Journal!

OverDrive Breaks the iPod Barrier for Downloadable Audio - 3/19/2008 - Library Journal: "
* 3000 titles will be available
* No DRM means compatibility with iPods, iPhones
* Libraries will remind patrons of copyright

For years, librarians and patrons have complained that the most popular digital audio player, the iPod, was incompatible with the Windows Media Audio (WMA) files, the format for library downloadable audio. OverDrive now says it will offer at least 3000 titles—about 15 percent of its catalog—in MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM), which means compatibility with nearly every MP3 player and mobile phone, including iPods. OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will go on sale in May at and should be available to libraries by the end of June, to be followed with the release of OverDrive Media Console for the Mac.

OverDrive CEO Steve Potash said the policy change emerged from demand in the library market, OverDrive’s track record, and “some recent moves in the audiobook retail market,” including an announcement by Random House that it would make its audiobook titles available without DRM in the MP3 format. While Random titles are limited to retail sales, Potash said OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks would be provided by at least a dozen publishers. “Each publisher is reviewing their entire audiobook list to confirm each title/author"

Constant complaints from libraries drove this. How many times have libraries said, this is great, downloadable stuff! Only for the patron to ask, does it work with Ipods....mmmm no. (No matter how many times I announced this, it was the first question EVERY TIME!)

The library gods smile down upon us so that now we will make something available that makes sense. Now if we can get overdrive to do the same for E-books.....

Friday, March 14, 2008

French Concierge Customer Service

In the United States, you only see your landlord once a month, typically with an outstretched hand asking, "Where is my money?" You call the landlord to have something repaired, it takes forever, it doesn't get done correctly, and the landlord gives the appearance that he/she doesn't care.

This is the same disconnect many people feel about a library or any organization. The average patron wants to feel engaged about what is going on in their library. They want to feel like they are getting extra attention. It is much like the show Cheers, they want to feel like everybody knows their name. We provide that service. We find them books and materials that they like and then we buy more of it. We attempt to make our services quick and available to our public and we do it in a way that shows them pleases us, to please you.

To deter patrons who cause problems, it must be known that there is some consequence for their actions. We must demonstrate that bad behavior is not tolerated. We do this for the patrons who expect order . In both cases, there must be a feeling that they are being attended to.

We must assess what is going on in the library and identify people who need help and assist them as we can. In France, the role of the concierge is to meet the needs of their tenants, and bounce bad people off the premises. The highest dedication is to their charges. The same viewpoint must be taken in service industry (the library is always considered a service industry). You are in charge of the experience and care for those who visit you. You are in charge of their personal care and to make sure they have the best experience they can. This doesn't mean you let them break rules, but it does mean to treat people with kindness and respect. Treatment as you would like to be treated.

We must ensure that we are available for patrons to provide quick access and services. A greeting desk and greeter sets the tone. If you are the first person they see, it is your moment of truth that will determine if that patron has a good experience or a bad one. Roving reference plays a large role in what we do in providing good customer service. The purpose is to walk around, see how people are doing. Do they need help? Are there problems or problem people we need to take care of? Do we know who we are taking care of and introduce ourselves when they need assistance? It is the small personal touches that ensure good experience. Instead of saying, NO CELL PHONES IN HERE, you can simply state that the patron can please take their call into the lobby and thank you. It is difficult to continue to provide good service when patrons may be rude, and there may be many of them, but it is our job as a service to provide the best service we can.

We are here to take care of them and they have demanded our service by walking into our building, calling us on the phone, or sending us an email. Every experience is a reflection on the library and every experience must demonstrate that we care about our patrons. We do this and can continue to do this. It is important to remember this as we move forward as a service. Who do we serve and why? We must ask our purpose every day before we begin the day.

I will share this one from a library director's experience at a restaurant. February 12, 2007Making The Best Of A Bad Day

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When school students flunk reading, what do you do? Cut funding for the library of course!

I am not sure what to make of this. In the last post, I mentioned bad news in libraryland due to the recession. Arizona in particular will be hard hit because the economy relied so heavily on construction and the housing market. Arizona is notorious for underfunding education and the students having poor reading skills. In fact, Arizona ranks last in education (read the full report here

So of course, when the budget crisis hits home and there needs to be cuts in education, they of go after the library. Well-funded school and public libraries have resulted in increased test scores for students year affter year, but they are not protected by the state as mandatory. Here is a clip from the article:

Shrinking budgets mean fewer school librarians by Pat Kossan The Arizona Republic
Arizona's consistently low school funding is claiming another victim: the school library.

Many Arizona school districts are shedding librarians and cutting their hours. Like most other states, Arizona has no dedicated funding for libraries and no law requiring school libraries to exist. The fate of the libraries and librarians is up to district officials.

"Almost any district at any time facing a funding crisis can say, 'Here's an easy fix,' " said Sara Kelly Johns, president of the American Association of School Librarians. "They're looking at what programs are mandated instead of what programs are effective," Johns said.

Research shows that strong library programs improve student test scores. That has caused some states to maintain or even strengthen K-12 libraries. But Johns said more and more school libraries, especially in elementary and middle schools, are taking a hit, many in Western states.

Traditionally, school librarians have found books to inspire kids to read for the sheer joy of it and helped them to unravel the Dewey decimal system.

Now, librarians also build and maintain computer-based libraries, teach kids to sort fact from fiction on the Internet and help teachers find online training or videos for lesson plans. "The need for the librarian and the expert in the field hasn't changed; it has just multiplied," said Jaqie Gardner, the librarian at Fountain Hills High School. "We have the physical space to take care of, plus we have the virtual space."

I think this one is a vote for "librarians do MORE complex work." I liked the line from the librarian stating that, "We have the physical space to take care of, plus we have the virtual space." I find it quite amazing that educators don't place libraries, librarians, and education together. The impact of a good library is always long term. Anyone can view the results of a literate population, simply by the types of businesses that move in. Good libraries create a strong workforce that help attract great businesses to the area, and create a thriving economy. It is amazing what a few dollars of library service provides a community. The effects are felt far beyond the year to year. Good investments lead to strong communities. It is too bad that we have stuck with cutting the bottom line regardless of value, especially when we are dealing with our children's education.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mind the Gap or Turning a weakness into a strength

I have really enjoyed the rounds of "tech-nos" that have gone around numerous library blogs. It is always good to be honest about abilities. In contrast, I remember a discussion many months ago talking about a technology competency list for librarians.

This brought out a thought. On one hand, we are talking about our gaps in knowledge, and in the other, we are punishing each other for those gaps. Both of these conversations discuss technology gaps and technology needs. If we don't understand that our abilities are far in advance of our users, we may not realize that the technology applications (in the name of convenience) that we provide may be creating more barriers.

If I don't realize the gap between my ability and the ability of the public, it will result in having services that are too advanced for the average person. If I don't realize the gap between myself and staff, it can be even worse.

I was listening to LISTen Podcast this week and heard a very interesting piece about the average person in the United States and their interaction with technology. The host (Stephen) was speaking with Don Reisinger of the Digital Home Blog. Even as tech savvy as he is, when asked how many people are using applications like Facebook or Myspace, he said less than 10%. Furthermore, he goes on to say that the average John Q. Public is not on Facebook. Providing overdue notices or other interactions by libraries via facebook would not be an effective way to communicate with your users. It is easier for someone from the library to make a phone call about that overdue notice than to send an alert via facebook. Furthermore, it is difficult to predict this behavior. What is popular today in social networking won't be popular tomorrow. The key is not necessarily going where these users are, but just making it more convenient to use the existing services the library provides.

This brought up the question, am I making the library more convenient with technology. In some cases yes, the computer reservation system and self-check work well, but constant need for assistance at the public access computers or for the wireless internet is a constant grind. This necessitated training for staff.

I provided a six month training program for library basic training. I mentioned it over here. All of the surveys on technology competencies were the same. People needed to know how to operate the technology at the library. They understood Word the basics of computers, but they were not very interested beyond that. Teaching them how to use the computer reservation system, or to repair the self-check were more interesting.

So, at the brink of implementing a library 2.0 training program, I pulled back. Mostly from an aversion by staff to new technology items. They felt that they were at their limit. We had implemented many technology pieces, from self-check, to computer reservation, and wireless internet. We trained them on how to use all of it. (AND they remembered it because they have to do it as part of their jobs. ) However, too much technology can result in just as much work as having no technology. Furthermore, reliance on technology in place of people can result in catastrophe. If the technology breaks often, it is ineffective. As a result, we held off a bit on any technology push, even the advertisement of overdrive, so that staff could feel more comfortable moving forward. If staff aren't prepared for the technology that currently exists in libraries, they won't be able to handle new stuff thrown at them. For that matter, neither will our users.

The "Tech-no" conversation was a good conversation because it demonstrated our shortfalls. Many librarians would view themselves in this way, even though their general competencies are still well above the average person. We need to remember that and we also need to capitalize on the feeling we get when we run into our own technology gaps. If we remember all the times where we were stuck on something because we fell into our gaps when helping a patron, we will make that person more comfortable and more able to learn something new.

I can't follow directions very well. I even have trouble with the IKEA instructions and those don't even have words! I turned this learning gap into a strength because I now write instructions so that even I could understand it. That means that each step is very clearly defined, demonstrates indications that you are still on the right course, and what you should see when you are finished. When I worked reference, my guides were very detailed. When I try to describe how I did something, it is detailed to the point of painful. We should always remember our gaps and when we help people. Remember what it feels like to be stumped, and proceed as if we are helping ourselves. That's why these conversations are so important to me.