IL 2010: Failcamp

speakers: Krista Godfrey, Char Booth, & Jan Dawson (moderated by Amy Buckland)

Buckland: Librarians seem to like reinventing the wheel. We only share our successes and not our failures (so that others may avoid them).

Dawson

AskON is an online chat reference service created by Knowledge Ontario. They wanted to integrate VOIP into their chat service so that they could add in vocal cues to clarify/focus the reference interview. They first used LivePerson, but the click-to-chat call button didn’t work, so they looked into Skype. When they were looking at feedback, they found that the data gathering portion was incomplete (forgotten or misused). However, they were able to follow-up on the feedback and found that staff preferred the workflow of text to vocal chat. Also, often both staff and users didn’t have proper equipment for vocal chat.

Godfrey

Fell into SecondLife and it snowballed from there. This snowballing is often the source of some fails. She was offered a chance to be on a panel talking about SL and then also some free space within it. So, her library began to explore how they could use the space in SL.

At one point they had six librarians covering shifts in SL, but after a while, participation dropped due to increases in traditional reference services and busy schedules. Fewer and fewer students were already active users, and they weren’t likely to start using it for reference services. They still have the island and hope to do something with it someday, but have stopped trying to do reference services there.

Booth

Don’t focus so much on the cause of failure. Figure out your contingency plan, then implement it if necessary.

Her library created a kiosk with a live image of a librarian’s face. The idea was to create a virtual reference space, but no one used it that way. In the end, they found it was more of a humorous PR tool.

Fake it like you’re making it. You can have self-doubt, but don’t show it. Your success will be more likely.

Audience

Are there any library initiatives to record and share failures? Not yet, but Kendra Levine offered to start one.

Library wanted to have a subject guide as a wiki, but it failed. How do you deal with a failure that you really wanted to work?

How do you process the failure as a group? If something does fail, assess it. It’s easier to walk away and ignore it, but you can’t learn from that.

Sometimes failures can turn out to be wild successes, but not in the way it had been originally designed. Tweak with purpose. And stop trying to control the user – learn what they need and how they want it, and you’ll have more success.

You need to know what resources you have from admin. You can’t go in to fix something if you don’t have the tools you need to fix any problems.

nasig part three

The Friday vision session was given by Marshall Keys. He spoke about the chaotic transitions brought on by technology. He said that the “future of libraries depends on their ability to meet the emerging needs of users” and that we need to first understand what those needs are. None of us know what tools we will be using in libraries in the future, but we should keep aware of trends and try to anticipate them.

Keys talked about the “blog mentality” of the younger generation of library users:

  • What I think is important
  • What I think is important to other people
  • Something is important because I think it is important (“Whatever” corrolary: If I don’t think it is important… whatever.)
  • Privacy is unimportant
  • Community is important

The last two aspects of the “blog mentality” are particularly relevant to library technology. Emerging users want community, personalization, and portable technology, and they are willing to have it all at the expense of a loss of privacy. For example, they want to know what their peers are interested in, and they can get that kind of information from places like Amazon, Netflix, and Friendster, but not from the library catalog.

Another point on technology that Keys made about our emerging users is that the phone is their primary information appliance, and as the sales of ringtones indicate, these users are willing to pay for the ability to customize their tools. One not-so-emerging proponent of a phone as a primary information appliance is the Shifted Librarian herself, Jenny Levine, and her treasured Treo. She and Marshall Keys would make for an interesting pair.

Side note: I am writing this in the SeaTac airport while waiting for my shuttle back to Ellensburg. At a nearby table is a ten year old girl and her little sister along with her father. Just now, he was having trouble with something on his cell phone, and she took it and showed him how to do what he wanted to do. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that someone so young would know more about how to use the phone than the person who owns it, but I am anyway.

The point that Keys was trying to make was that if emerging users consider their phones to be primary sources of information, then we need to be developing reference tools that acknowledge that reality. There are text message services that answer questions quickly for a nominal fee, and if our users are more inclined to pay for that service rather than come to us through traditional methods, then we need to consider ways to implement similar services. We also need to face the reality that a majority of library functions can be outsourced off-shore, including technical services and reference services. If we aren’t preparing for this eventuality, then it will be even more difficult once it happens.

Keys stated that, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” If we aren’t prepared to provide accurate information quickly to our users in the formats they prefer, then we will become irrelevant.