A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation on our ERMS implementation at the annual meeting of the Potomac Technical & Processing Librarians. It was a great honor to be asked to present along with a panel of other librarians talking about their ERMS. It was also the longest I’ve been asked to speak, and while a completely nerve-wracking experience internally, it seemed to have been well-received. If you are interested, my notes and slides are now available on SlideShare.
Moderator: Donna Scheeder
Speakers: Marshall Breeding, Nicole C. Engard, Scott Brown, Cecily Walker, & Renee Chalut
Cecily thinks that among some people that there is a perception that if you are a techie, you aren’t a “real” librarian, and that bothers her. Regardless of her title, first and foremost, she’s a librarian and advocate for libraries. Whatever you think a librarian is, you’re wrong.
Marshall says that there are a lot of folks who do work in libraries at a lot of levels who don’t have library degrees, and there aught to be many ways to grow up in the profession and contribute as you can.
Audience member says that a lot of her relatives think she’s not a librarian because she doesn’t work in a public library.
Nicole says that the distinction between those who have a library degree and those who don’t does nothing but cause a rift.
Are library schools up to teaching the skill set needed to deal with constant change? Cecily says no, and that they should open up the curriculum so students can learn from other programs/schools. Audience member says that it’s a class issue kind of thing, and some people are uncomfortable with the title “librarian.”
Another audience member says she’s proud to be a librarian and proud to have an MLS, but thinks that you don’t need one to work in a library. She shared an anecdote of an excellent and skilled staff member who was not admitted to a MLS graduate program because of her 30 year old undergraduate GPA.
Scott sees the MLIS as an overlay on the skills he has already. You can’t teach the soft stuff in graduate school. Students need to learn how to think strategically. Renee thinks we need to have courage.
Nicole thinks we need a desire to keep learning, and in three years she hopes she will be doing more of the same, and getting to see libraries becoming more one in the same as she travels. Marshall says you need to think about what is coming in three years and start becoming an expert on it. Cecily says that flexibility has served her best, and although she has no idea where she’ll be in three years, she thinks she’ll be ready for it.
Audience member says she didn’t learn much in library school as far as skills, but she learned attitudes about working with users that is transferable to any kind of library. She says her job is to be a change agent, to be supportive, and to have a professional network that is broad and wide.
What would be your advice to young professionals graduating from library school? Nicole says you didn’t learn it all, so take an internship. You can’t learn it all in school; you have to see what a real job is like. She also recommends finding a mentor.
Michael Sauers says he’s a mentor, but he doesn’t think that he does it in a way that the mentees know they are being mentored.
Cecily says that recent grads should be a special snowflake — find something that you can do that nobody else is doing and let the world know you are doing it. Marshall agrees, continuing on his earlier recommendation of finding a niche. Renee says that if you get hired in a place without a lot of innovation happening, it’s okay to be a little pushy and bring the organization along with you.
“That homeless person who hits you with their socks… that doesn’t happen in library school.” Audience member’s point on how library programs don’t teach the real world.
Audience member says that mentoring today is much easier with technology. Another audience member agrees.
Marshall says there’s the career in your organization and then there’s your career beyond it. The organization might not be able to support your ambitions for your broader career. So do what you can and the pay-off will be in your next job.
Nicole says that if you can’t make your passion your career, find a way to do it anyway.
Asked some folks on Twitter why their library has a website. A few of the responses: to link to online resources, to allow access to the catalog, to support research needs, to provide access to resources & services, to teach, to help, to provide access to account function, to post events, to post policies & hours, it’s the primary way our patrons interact with us, and as a two-way communication tool between the library and the community they serve. Audience member noted that marketing your library is missing.
While we are all unique little snowflakes, we aren’t all that unique in our motivations for having a library website. So, how can we learn from each other?
Website planning needs to have a clear understanding of scope. Since most of us have a website, this talk will focus more on redesign than from building from scratch. Most people tend to skip the scoping step when doing a redesign because we assume that it will cover the same stuff we already have.
Sadly, most libraries are like a big, messy junk drawer of stuff. We tend to take a “just in case” approach to designing sites. Less is not more, less is actually less, and that’s a good thing. Consider the signal to noise ratio of your website. What users don’t need is too much noise drowning out the signal. Pay attention to how much you are putting on the site that meets your needs rather than your user’s needs. It’s better for half of your website to be amazing than all of it to be bland.
Think about your website like a pyramid, where the bottom half is the basics, followed by destination information, then participatory components, and finally a community portal. Think of it like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — the basic stuff has to be good or you can’t get to the participatory level.
Etches and some colleagues created a website experiment that is an entire library site on one page called the One-Pager. Freehold Public Library has taken this and ran with it, if you want to see it working in the real world.
Designing for mobility requires you to pare back to what you consider to be essential functionality, and a great way to help scope your website. If you wouldn’t put it on your mobile version, think about why you should put it on your desktop website. Recommend the book Mobile First as an inspiration for scope.
How do you determine critical tasks of a website? As your users. A simple one-page survey, interviews, focus groups, and heat maps. Asking staff is the least useful way to do it.
Web users don’t read content, they skim/scan it. People don’t want to read your website; they want to find information on it. When writing copy for your website, pare it down, and then pare it down again. Your website should be your FAQ, not your junk drawer. Think about your website as bite-sized chunks of information, not documentation. Adopt the inverted pyramid style for writing copy. If you have a lot of text, bold key concepts to catch skimming eyes. Eye-catching headers work well in conjunction with the inverted pyramid and bolded key concepts.
Treat your website like a conversation between you and your users/audience. Pages not be written by passive voiced writers. Write in the active voice, all of the time, every time. Library = we; User = you
It is not easy to redo the navigation on a website. Bad navigation makes you think, good navigation is virtually invisible. Navigation needs to serve the purposes of telling the user: site name, page name, where they are, whey they can go, and how they can search. Salt Lake City Public Library and Vancouver Public Library do this very well, if you want some real-world examples.
It’s very important to match navigation labels to page names. Also keep in mind that your navigation is not your org chart, so don’t design navigation along that. Do not, ever (and I’m surprised we still have to talk about this 15 years after I learned it), use “click here”. Links should be descriptive.
Why test websites at all? A lack of information is at the root of all bad design decisions. Usability testing runs the gamut from short & easy to long & hard. Watch people use your site. It can take just five minutes to do that.
We are not our patrons, so don’t test librarians and library staff. They are also not your primary user group and not the ones you need to worry about the most. Five testers are usually enough for any given test, more than that and you’ll get repetition. No test is too small; don’t test more than three things at once. Make iterative changes as you go along. Test early and often. The best websites do iterative changes over time based on constant testing.
Have a script when you are testing. You want to ensure that all testers receive the same instructions and makes it a little more comfortable for the test giver. Provide testers with an outline of what they will be doing, and also give them a paper list of tasks they will be doing. Remind them that they aren’t the ones being tested, the website is. Don’t tell them where to go and what to do (i.e. “search a library database for an article on x topic”).
From Q&A section:
All of your navigation items should be in one place and consistent across the site.
What do you do when use and usability says that you should remove a page a librarian is keen to keep? One suggestion is to put it in a LibGuide. Then LibGuides become the junk drawer. One way to keep that from happening is to standardizing the look and feel of LibGuides.
For policies, you could put a summary on the website and then link to the full document.
They used a Lazer Tag like system to set up “Hunger Games” nights in the library. They also used a bunch of interactive tech toys for different kinds of game nights.
They’re mounting tables as shelf labels that show the range in sleep mode, but when activated will display reviews and other information about books in the range, as well as other interactive multimedia.
Speaker: Sarah Houghton
Cutting stuff. Cutting lots of things out of the budget, services, etc. All of these things we learn about take time and money, and we can’t do all of them. She’s making everyone in her library earn their pet program. It has to show some sort of ROI (not specifically financial). Make business decisions about what we do and why.
Q: What did you cut that you didn’t want to?
A: Magnatune deal — really wanted to do it, but didn’t have the staff time and a negative amount of money to dedicate to anything.
Speaker: Ben Bizzle
We are doing a really poor job of marketing ourselves to our communities, and we’re wasting money on old methods and tools to do it. There are more cost-effective ways to do this, particularly for public libraries. Facebook is a really cost-effective way to market to your community over and over again, and running ads to get people in your community to like your Facebook page has been shown to be very effective. Be part of the stream without being disruptive. Facebook events invitations are disruptive and ineffective.
Next big things from the audience:
Would like to have a better way to provide remote authentication for users from anywhere, regardless of the speed of the connection (i.e. 3G mobile phone or a hotel wireless connection).
Focusing on programming that brings the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities together.
Integrating local self-published creators’ content within the rest of the library’s electronic content.
Trying to find better metrics to measure success for ROI.
Developing community investors from FOL and active volunteers.
Giving up paper flyers/posters and moving to digital.
Moving social media effort to marketing department.
Looking at duplicate efforts and winnowing them down.
Learning how to code.
Hiring part-time and hiring non-librarians.
FRBR. RDA. Say no more.
Advocacy. Facetime with politicians and other sources of funding.
Would like to hear more from public libraries on ‘bring your own device’ initiatives that could be applied in the academic library setting.
Gamification of library resources and services.
Wikipedia – we should be creating more content there.
Better relationships with publishers.
The next level of life-long learning like Coursera and making the library a hub for it.
Downloadble database of music by local musicians.
Copyright, curations, folksonomies, and other issues of creating communities.
Digitization projects that engage specific communities.
Keeping my head above water. Migrating to a more self-service model while maintaining a high level of service.
Moving to a new ILS. Proprietary or open source?
Reaching out to atypical non-users. Running ads in local for sale magazines.
The Gang of Four: Google, Apple, Amazon, & Facebook
Google tends to acquire companies to grow the capabilities of it. We all know about Apple. Amazon sells more ebooks than print books now. Facebook is… yeah. That.
And then we jump to selecting a discovery service. You would do that in order to make the best use of the licensed content. This guy’s library did a soft launch in the past year of the discovery service they chose, and it’s had an impact on the instruction and tools (i.e. search boxes) he uses.
And I kind of lost track of what he was talking about, in part because he jumped from one thing to the next, without much of a transition or connection. I think there was something about usability studies after they implemented it, although they seemed to focus on more than just the discovery service.
Speaker: Alison Steinberg Gurganus
Why choose a discovery system? You probably already know. Students lack search skills, but they know how to search, so we need to give them something that will help them navigate the proprietary stuff we offer out on the web.
The problem with the discovery systems is that they are very proprietary. They don’t quite play fairly or nicely with competitor’s content yet.
Our users need to be able to evaluate, but they also need to find the stuff in the first place. A great discovery service should be self-explanatory, but we don’t have that yet.
We have students who understand Google, which connects them to all the information and media they want. We need something like that for our library resources.
When they were implementing the discovery tool, they wanted to make incremental changes to the website to direct users to it. They went from two columns, with the left column being text links to categories of library resources and services, to three columns, with the discover search box in the middle column.
When they were customizing the look of the discovery search results, they changed the titles of items to red (from blue). She notes that users tend to ignore the outside columns because that’s where Google puts advertisements, so they are looking at ways to make that information more visible.
I also get the impression that she doesn’t really understand how a discovery service works or what it’s supposed to do.
Speaker: Athena Hoeppner
Hypothesis: discovery includes sufficient content of high enough quality, with full text, and …. (didn’t type fast enough).
Looked at final papers from a PhD level course (34), specifically the methodology section and bibliography. Searched for each item in the discovery search as well as one general aggregator database and two subject-specific databases. The works cited were predominately articles, with a significant number of web sources that were not available through library resources. She was able to find more citations in the discovery search than in Google Scholar or any of the other library databases.
Clearly the discovery search was sufficient for finding the content they needed. Then they used a satisfaction survey of the same students that covered familiarity and frequency of use for the subject indexes, discovery search, and Google Scholar. Ultimately, it came down that the students were satisfied and happy with the subject indexes, and too few respondents to get a sense of satisfaction with the discovery search or Google Scholar.
Conclusions: Students are unfamiliar with the discovery system, but it could support their research needs. However, we don’t know if they can find the things they are looking for in it (search skills), nor do we know if they will ultimately be happy with it.
Crowdsourcing without a purpose is like unleashing a horde of zombies.
There are three things you need to do to engage staff with crowdsourcing: give them a goal, let them choose their own weapons (technology and methods used to accomplish the goal; group organizational structure), and celebrate both their successes and failures.
The easiest way to get staff engaged is to involve them in the process, and listen/respond to the input they provide.
Keep in mind that this only works if your organization is not so wedded to hierarchy that they can’t set that aside to get the work done. A way to handle that kind of work environment is to have a moderator to keep those staff involved, or remove from the group the managers that cause the problem.
Speaker: Lisa Hardy
About four years ago, they put together a team of eight to plan for leadership development, board engagement & strategic planning, and staff engagement. One of the keys to the group’s success was that it had closure — it was not an ongoing committee, but rather a task force with a specific goal and timeframe.
One of the outcomes was a “Future Action Think Tank,” which was not mandatory for all staff, unlike other events of that nature. The staff had to submit an application/essay explaining why they wanted to attend, and almost all attended. If they didn’t submit an expression of interest, they were turned away.
They started the day with a futurist faire, where staff talked about the things they were doing in a poster session style setting. The biggest part of the day was the field trip. They had several different location options around the city, and each of the places visited talked about their particular challenges and what they were doing to meet them (university digital library, zoo, science center, immigrant serving agencies, youth serving agencies, volunteer agencies, etc.).
There were other events that happened after it, and the second one actually came directly from administration. They had staff come and pitch their ideas to the administrators, and one was given funding to go ahead. Kind of like an entrepreneur TV show in Canada.
20% of staff are always open to change, and are willing to follow/lead anywhere; 20% of staff will stand in the way of change; and 60% will go either way. Where will you focus your energies?
Audience member suggested using Belbin for assessing potential roles when forming a group, and this may help avoid some of the issues of organizational hierarchy impeding staff involvement.
Background: Ebooks and ebook readers (and tablets) are increasing in use in the US. E-only publishers are giving authors a much larger percent of sales than the traditional print publishers, and the percentage is (of course) even higher for self-published authors. How can libraries manage these types of ebooks? DCL is seeing a decline in circulation in all categories except for digital downloads.
Overdrive is a solutions, but it has problems. We lose ownership of the books. We lose discounts on list prices. We lose the integration of systems for discovering and accessing books. We lose used books and ILL rights.
We have no control over what we don’t own. While libraries directly promote the publisher’s bottom line, we are still treated by publishers as a loss in sales, with ebooks priced accordingly.
The DCL model uses their own Adobe Content Server that assigns DRM so that only one user can check out an ebook at a time. They have an HTML5-based online ebook reader that works across most devices, as well as an eReader app for iOS and Android. They use VuFind as a discovery layer for their collection, including their home-grown ebook platform.
They’ve added links to local and online booksellers for patrons who don’t want to wait on a book’s availability. They’re also experimenting with demand-driven acquisition. They also use the Strands Recommender, with those recommendations appearing in various places in the user’s experience (checkout, my account, etc.).
Much like the display of new or featured books, they wanted to have something like that for their ebooks. They created similar power wall kiosks near the physical items using touch screen interfaces.
They’ve learned that talking directly to publishers produces better results, and they can incorporate publisher concerns in their system design. Independent publishers are very interested in participating. They’ve streamlined their eContent acquisition and management processes. They’re still missing an acquisitions system, a Kindle solution, and the big 6 publishers, but they have hope that these problems will solve themselves by the success of their ebook program.
Background: Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) member libraries serve 70% of the Canadian population, and 98% of the circulation of materials. eBound is the Canadian eContent distribution arm for more than 100 Canadian publishers.
Publishers really needed a purchase model, not a licensing model, because their contracts with authors talked about sales. Libraries, on the other hand, preferred a license model. There was also some concern from the publishers that rights would be implemented in the way they were intended. And, they needed a third party partner to find a vendor who could handle the responsibility of housing and mediating the circulation of the ebooks, which is where eBound came in.
The purchase model seems a bit complex, and focuses primarily on the publisher’s back catalog at a very low rate per title ($10) sold in large blocks to the entire system. This addresses the publisher’s concern that the midlist authors aren’t getting exposure in libraries. And, if the circulation is low, the price drops after a period of time. The titles have a “worn out” rate of approximately 40 circulations. Some titles can be purchased at a higher rate for preservation purposes and would be DRM-free.
They expect to roll out the vendor side systems next spring, and once that is settled, then it would be rolled out to CULC members.
When you are thinking about ebooks as digital, you are reproducing the limitations of print books in that they are disconnected media. It’s not just the commercial enterprises that approach it that way, libraries do it too in the way we digitize our materials.
The revolution isn’t in digitizing, it’s in the networking of content.
Libraries as platform provide some unifying framework for thinking about ___.
Libraries as platform enable us to take social networks seriously.
Libraries as platform increases the perceived and real values of the library.
A platform is not a portal. They allow networks to arise, beyond the simple portal-based access to resources.
Internet-style knowledge networks are really, really big. There is no known limit, and they are highly interconnected (linked).
The traditional-style knowledge networks has been paper, books, and libraries. We have accepted the inherent limitations of this model, and the filters (selection) that come with it. For example, footnotes are stopping points and a hassle to follow-up on. Peer review doesn’t scale.
Knowledge now lives in the network, in the connections.
If you go on the ‘net for more than a few minutes, you will discover that we don’t agree about anything. It should be concerning to us that the knowledge we have now is based on disagreement. On the positive side, we are discovering ways to disagree fruitfully, such as the way that linked data allows scientists to talk about the platypus without dissolving into arguments about whether it is a fish or a mammal.
Software developers now live in the fastest, most effective and efficient ecosystem for learning ever.
The power of iteration is that we can’t comprehend scale, so with small changes we get to scale without having to think the whole process through first. This system only works with humility and generosity, and holding back is sometimes considered to be an act of aggression. Public learning is also an important component of this.
We think of the Internet as this incredibly diverse space, but in reality, we humans tend to group together with like individuals. This can result in an echo chamber environment, which can make us more confirmed and stronger in our beliefs. There are flaws in the echo chamber argument, but it is something we need to be aware of. For libraries, this means we should also steer people to the resources that argue with what we consider to be the most authoritative.
Reddit, for example, is an echo chamber. It is atheistic (assumes all rational people are atheistic). It loves Neil Degrasse Tyson. It loves cute animal pictures. It loves altruism. It has it’s own language and memes. These are tests of whether you are part of the community. However, there is a function of Reddit that allows for a respectful engagement of different perspectives (IAMA), and this can only happen because the community has figured out how to open some windows within the echo chamber.
The range of services libraries provide is HUGE. These are things that we can develop as networked platforms.
Successful social networks are successful because they allow people to connect through social objects. The best example of this is a puppy on a leash — walk around with one of those and you will form social networks.
Open innovation allows us to create tools and services for our users.
The data & metadata distinction doesn’t work very well anymore. For example, if you know the name of the author and can’t remember the book title, then the author name becomes the metadata used to find the book. Metadata is the thing that you know, data is the thing that you are looking for.
Define your back-end systems to support the needs of the users. If you don’t know what that will be, open it up. Share your work. And this means we need to rethink privacy (balance risk & benefit).
Some suggested edits for Ranganathan:
Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader. Every book its network. ImproveSave the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.