Category Archives: Conferences

Geolocation Games

At Internet Librarian this year, InfoToday mounted a couple of geolocation games. They invited attendees to check in with FourSquare, and also to log the QR codes scattered about the conference signboards to become eligible for prizes like an iPod Touch. 

Most cell phones today have the ability to “know” where they are, and to interact with those places and nearby objects. Some librarians are putting this to use by setting up their libraries as a “venue” in FourSquare, leaving “tips” for those who check in there , and offering prizes to those who check in often enough to become “mayors” of their library.

My library hasn’t gone that far yet, but I can see it happening within the next year.  It would be fun to create a geocache or some kind of recognition for “mayors” of the Central Library.  I promised Boss I’d work on the geocache with a colleague after the first of the year.

Internet Librarian 2010

I didn’t feel much like an Internet librarian this year – didn’t bring the Unix Dell Mini, and hand-wrote my notes in a spiral notebook with a pen.  Because of the collaborative presentation I was giving about Info Quest text reference, I felt I needed real PowerPoint and Windows, and my Windows laptop isn’t very portable.  Here’s a summary of the most important sessions I attended:

Search engines and Super-Searcher tips: 

Chris Sherman: Google now has real-time feeds from social network sites like Twitter. It also includes TV episodes, rich snippets (which provide additional info on mouseovers), and new filters for sites with images.   New search engines worth watching: Blekko, which allows you to create “slashtags” and thus a customized search tool; watch the demo video.  Factual – which looks for structured data in an unstructured format and builds a structure around it.  Semantifi searches pages in the 90% of the web that is invisible to major search engines – the “deep web”.

Mary Ellen Bates lined out some of her favorite web sites that should be known by anyone who uses the web for research.  The ones that I want to explore for my work are: Yahoo Correlator, a good way to get an overview of an unfamiliar topic; Google Public Data Explorer, which compiles public data that you can then manipulate, and Google Fusion Tables, where you can upload your own data table and create visualizations like maps, heatmaps, charts, or a timeline.

Other Conference Themes

The theme this year was “Insights, Imagination & Info Pros: Adding Value”.  So most of the other conference sessions I attended centered around innovative ideas for making library services visible, convenient, interactive and current.  They recommended ways to leverage social media, the new QR codes, geolocation tools (Foursquare and others) and games, and branding your online presence.  They stressed interactivity, such as touch screens, online meeting spaces, collaborative presentations, polls and using “cloud” services for storing and sharing documents and presentations.

The potential was made real at the presentation near the end of the conference about the DOK Library Concept Center in Delft, The Netherlands.  This library is not publicly funded, but charges a membership fee.  Its innovative concepts are tested here before being rolled out to other libraries and institutions.  In addition to shelving on wheels in the kids’ section (allows reconfiguration of space for programming), library signage is on the back sides of wii screens, which can be flipped over for gaming programs.  There are no rules, only one service desk (for signing up new members), music is playing, and roving staff is identified by the tool belts they wear.  The library is 100% self-service.  The latest innovations are music chairs ($10,000each) that allow kids to sit inside and listen to music as loud as they like without disturbing others in the library, and the Touch Table, which recognized your library card when you lay it down on the table’s touch surface and shows you historical photos from the city archives based on your address. The photos appear on the touch screen and are manipulable (zoom, reposition, rotate, etc.)

I have never attended an Internet Librarian conference without coming away with a profound respect for the people in my profession that have the vision and courage to take new ideas and put them to work making library services better!  For that reason, I avoided the “failure” track, which was touted in the keynote sessions as a place to feel better about ideas that didnt work – and what you could learn from them.  In the next year, I would like to use some of the cloud services and interactive tools to make delivery of “remote” library services more intuitive and effective.  This would include creating how-to documents for library users, hyperlinking catalog records to online services and help screens, and actively promoting our virtual services like Ask Now and Info Quest text reference to library staff so they can understand them and help market them.

Having training materials and help documents online would also make it easier for branch staff to use them for their own outreach projects.

Most presentations are available on the Info Today web site. I invite you to explore!

RefRen: Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha has become a standard feature of conferences.  It is a way for many presenters to share ideas and projects in one conference session without having to prepare a full-blown presentation.  Each presenter has 20 slides, which are advanced automatically every 20 seconds – so the entire presentation takes about 3 1/2 minutes.  Following are a couple of Pecha Kucha presentations I thought might be do-able at SPL:
Paraprofessionals in reference
Emily Chan, University Of the Pacific
Data show 3/4 of questions asked by patrons are fielded by paraprofessional staff.  To streamline, they put training materials on a wiki platform: materials are  freely accessible, archivable, web 2.0.   Assignments collated, available in multiple formats (video, docs).  Confidence scale is measured at beginning of training and at points throughout on survey monkey; there was an 84% confidence increase (sample size=2).  Challenges: the training is asynchronous; time-intensive; self-directed; there is a learning curve; requires staff buy-in. Recommendations: identify learning outcomes from the beginning; be strategic in terms of reference service; address staff and student perceptions as they vary from librarian perceptions.

Roving reference

Sarah Davidson (UC Merced)
Has never staffed a ref desk with librarians; students who need reference assistance make appointments, or use 24/7 chat.
The university tried roving reference because they were receiving conflicting info: stats show few questions asked, but also felt there was a need for reference assistance.  By instituting roving reference, they hoped to increase visibility. For 20 hrs/week staff wore red shirts with the infirmation “i” on the back; when not roving, would staff desk.  The service was publicized by student assistants already working in the library who had strong customer service skills; by table tents, signage, promotional video on web site; campus newspaper. Staff used a debrief form for stats: length, types of questions.  Roving averaged 2.7 q/hr and each question took less than 1 minute. Common questions involved printing issues, or finding a known item.  Challenges: marketing, approachability, and proactive vs patron privacy.  Overall: number and type of questions do not warrant a libn at the ref desk.  Recommencation: start small, evaluate from outset; give some thought to advertising and branding.

Chat/text ref
Ahniwa Ferrari
paid/free options; new: quora, hunch, own vs cooperative; several ways, one way.  AskHoratio: phone, email virtual study room: google tools; social tools – create as many access points as you can so you can reach as many as possible; nice thing about using all google tools is that you can use them all in one spot w/ gmail account; Google has ways to tag questions; google voice: can see transcripts; can push to ref desk or mobile phone. Google Talk allows librarian with a cell phone to rove. Elluminate: everyone can get a free room (3 users) video upload, chat, whiteboard, application sharing, transcripts; Facebook: too many users for lib to ignore; twitter: not as many as FB, goes mobile easily even on dumb phones.  Free is good; but need staff time for training; cooperation is great.

Danger ref libn! Danger! Admin Approaching!

Get your admin involved; they need to know what the front line does, help you secure new resources to make public service more efficient; teachable moments – let your admin see you houre using new tools to promote outreach that dont cost a lot of money.  Builds relationship and understanding each other on personal and professional levels..  thin opportunity.

Radical patron
Jean Costello
Current public library funding models are unsustainable. Staff are bogged down with the basics, creating and recreating the same wheels.  Public libraries don’t have staff or funding to hire or be top notch librarians and top notch IT professionals. One solution might be to create a national public library corporation like NPR or PBS funded by public donations and  fed support what do you get? We could leverage IT, generic content development; we should retain personal service, local content development.

Helping teachers overcome resistance to e-content
Student ideas:
explain what a pdf is
conduct reality check with faculty and students in the classroom at the same time? students are informed, just not using trad sources
EBSCO effective in providing access to 1000s of subscriptions
Do reality check about the next environment you’re going to

How to get what you want

… from electronic resource vendors.

Billie warren-king, head librarian, Archbidhop Mitty HS, San Jose; vp of BASL
Build personal relationships; have regular, effective meetings;
Know vendors, size, age, product lines beyond electronics, competition and their products; licensing, redistribution rights, pricing.
Know your community: population, budget; rank needs and want; know the total amount you are spending on that vendor in your organization (ex. textbooks vs e-resources); who else is negotiating for your groups.
Get your free trial – insist on 30 days. Look at content authority, how many users, easy to use?
Licensing models
User population – all have access
Simultaneous Users – limited #seats.
Pricing models:
Flat fee, tiered pricing (per size of school)
Price per student
Ask for what you want – longer contract for price reduction. Longevity counts, too.
Be creative. What works for you – and present it to the vendor.
Negotiating points:
Higher #schools=less$
distribution rights
admin support, customer service, training
Use goes up, price goes down
remote access
no auto renew;
offer to beta test products
prorate for partial year
annual increase – negotiate annually, but it won,t go higher than a firm percent.
ask for whatever you want
Don’t respond to things right away; don,t be pushed into something you’re not comfortable with. Let me thingk about this for a few days.
look at stats, poll users, market constantly.
Keep track of changes in the databases.

Gillian Harrison, Director, BCR Libray Netwok Cooperative
Do your homework: products and vendors; compare with similar products and vendors; use A’s pricing to get B to give you what you want.
Be familiar with your library’s policies and guidelines.
Document everything – notes of conversations, conversations over coffee; visits, phone calls, save e-mails; remember personnel often changes – both people and terms.
Negotiation – it’s a process. Give yourself time, drafts are good things, keep everyone informed of status. Be honest with the vendor when you’re not ready to make an immediate decision.
Push a little: it never hurts to ask; remember, you are the customer, and the customer is always right.
At the end of the day, you both want a deal; vendor wants to keep you happy; always ask for what you want; have the vendor tell you what the database costs; don,t indicate what you,re willing to pay. What’s your pricing structure – ask to see the whole structure.
Be well armed with info, questions, confidence
Your responsibiity is to get the best deal for your library.
Get addl info from: colleagues, consortia, vendors (who elst publishes stuff like that?”), publishers, attend conferences and webinars, talk to others.

RefRen: Embedded Librarians

I had the great good fortune of being able to attend the second Reference Renaissance conference in Denver earlier this month.  (The first was two years ago.) With just over 300 attendees, it was small by conference standards, but the energy among the participants was tangible, and the group as a whole was friendly and curious. And our library director, Rivkah Sass, was the co-chair!

Here’s a summary of the sessions I thought would be most interesting as possible applications for Sacramento Public Library.

Community Reference: Embedded Librarians
Douglas County Libraries

Elizabeth Kelsen-Huber, Colbe Galston,  Kathy Johnson and Amy Long

What: interacting with the community and demonstrating professional library skills outside the physical building. District initiative for the library – get out there and become engaged.  Different understandings led to different implementations in the various libraries.

One implementation is embedded librarians – this fulfills the need for a process for getting librarians out of the library. The participatory service model allows the librarian to become familiar with the group, and informs group of library services. The first project was to embed a librarian in a group of developers and business organizations for a specified time period.  She attended meetings, coordinated email lists, took minutes, did research, and helped the group achieve its goals.  It also raised the library’s visibility in the community, as the group’s members  took the experience back to their businesses and community organizations.

Challenges: scheduling and training.  Paraprofessionals staffed the reference desks more, to free the librarians to be out in the community.   Librarians attended meetings and advocated for the library – this put a name and a face to the library.  Now, embeddedness is an expectation, not a requirement.

Librarians communicate among each other internally via their Community Reference blog – this helps the district unify the community reference efforts; access is private, for library staff only. Librarians post about “hot” issues countywide, biographies of community leaders, minutes of community meetings. They look for common themes and issues they can then propose as a community reference project.

They measure the program’s effectiveness with statements librarians would find to be true, and by evidence that needs are being met on all sides. Organizations they work with are reluctant to see the end of their community reference project.

Comment from audience: by getting out, we are making sure the community knows the value of the library and will vote to continue funding.

Q: are organizations you work with recommending you to other organizations?  Yes. It’s hard to get out once you get in.

Reference Renaissance 2010

I’m in the mile-high city! I’m tired.  Thought I’d just be able to drop off my stuff in my room and hop on the light rail and go see Denver.

But after an early arrival at 2:05 p.m.,  I waited over an hour at the airport for the Supershuttle, the freeway was choked down to one lane due to construction, and by the time I checked into the hotel it was 4:30 and I was FAMISHED and out-of-sorts. (Last meal 8 hours ago.) Decided to forego exploration in favor of dinner and early bed.  Tomorrow I’ll go exploring.

Dinner at The Lift was superb! Pan-grilled salmon with green beens and fingerling potatoes in a butter and lime sause, along with a glass of specially-selected white wine. And an apple cobbler that was to DIE for, but that I was unable to finish.

Best surprise: although it’s not advertised, the wifi in the public areas reaches into my room, so I can blog into the wee hours!

The Rest of the Mobile Track

I know it’s way past IL2009, but I want to publish these last few notes.

The rest of the mobile/handheld track was like attending a MLM meeting.  All these presenters showed how YOU TOO can achieve mobile market penetration for your library services, and demonstrated some very slick applications.  Many were developed by academic libraries to entice students to use library services. We don’t have enough of that demographic group captured in the public library setting yet. And yet, I walked out of the sessions all pumped up with a MISSION to learn about mobile applications, CONVINCED that a mobile library world is inevitable, and that we’d better be READY with the supply when our public announces its demand.

Numbers were liberally sprinkled throughout the presentations, but basically showed that cell phone use is still a very small part of library service, ranging from 0.05% to 11% of patrons.  It is growing, though, and the trends indicate that in a few years, virtually everyone will have a smart-phone.

The general advice dispensed was to know how our patrons are using their phones, what they do on their phones, and then decide which library services should be adapted for mobile.

But the projects were prime! Shoutbomb works with your ILS (III’s Millennium was specifically mentioned, and that’s what we’re using) to send notifications via SMS to patrons’ cell phones.