Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Librarians and Directors need to utilize their own services

It is difficult to be objective when looking at the services your own library provides. In any industry, an organization must look at their services and see it from the outsider's perspective. Is it easy to use? Does the service make sense?

For libraries, a problem that I see is the public computer stations. Do librarians actually sit down at one of these stations and try to do what they would do normally on them? Can you check your email? How fast does it go? Don't just rely on a speed test that the computer tells you. Sit down at the computer and try to do what you would normally do at home. Can you do them? Why not? Is it slow?

When we had computer slow-downs at my library I did a simple search on Google. The page itself took 30 seconds to load. At that point I realized we had a problem. The library only offers an hour to the patrons per day. In the study, we found that most patrons could barely check their email before their time was up due to the bandwidth strain. Thanks to e-rate funds, we were able to upgrade the service from 1.5 mbps to 6mbps. It's funny, on the first day of the new bandwidth, I could noticeably hear the clicking of mice (mouses?) and noticed that it was unusually fast. Blazing even. Many people will suffer through bad services since they have nowhere else to turn, but it shouldn't be so painfully poor. I read this post today and it made me laugh:

Tales from the "Liberry" 2.0: Gene FINALLY Poops: "Back when I had dial up at home, it used to be that going to work was my great escape from the slow speed at home. Now that I have amazingly reliable Verizon DSL at home, however, going to work is like sliding into a nice pool of tepid tar."

I think this is the next big issue for public libraries, bandwidth assurance. We need to start budgeting and paying for network upgrades for our t-1 lines. It is great that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave us computers in 2001, then replaced them in 2005, and they even upgrade libraries from dial-up to broadband. However, the next big push needs to be in sufficient bandwidth. The average library doesn't have enough pipe to make the service acceptable. The result is the post from above, it's terrible.

2 comments:

libraryadmin said...

Jeff,

You got this one completely right! If we don't know what the user experiences how can we ever make it better? I have heard(I hope it is urban legend) that some directors do not have a library card at their own libraries! I really hope that is just a vicious rumor, but it points up that at least there is some perception out there that administration doesn't really know what it is like on the front lines. We should all make every effort to use the libraries where we work. Our users and our staff will appreciate it.

Jeff Scott said...

It's isn't an urban legend. I actually mentioned this on David Lee King's blog about a year ago. I think it was right after the Computer In Libraries Conference. I have someone in a neighboring library who doesn't own a library card. I was shocked. She said this openly in a Library Federation Meeting. I think I bit my tongue off. You are right, if we don't look at it, we won't know if it is good or not. Thanks for the comment.