recommended reading: Tinfoil + Raccoon is back!

Rochelle Hartman, one of my favorite people in libraryland, has written a new blog post on Tinfoil + Raccoon, the blog she declared dead some time ago. If you’re thinking about buying an ereader and are drawn to the idea of being able to check out ebooks from your local public library, you should read this. If you’re a librarian who is getting lots of questions from patrons about checking out ebooks, you also should read this for some excellent tips and talking points.

Personally, although I have a Sony Reader and theoretically could be borrowing books from the library, the only library system in my area that has the appropriate Overdrive license is Chesterfield County, and I haven’t made it down there yet to get a library card. Having occasionally browsed their collection online, I’m not particularly motivated to do it anytime soon, either.

customer service

My car was broken into last week. After I got over the initial shock and disbelief, I focused on getting the window repaired and dealing with the cleanup. The thief stole my GPS (which I’d had for about three months) and the Sony eReader Touch that was sent to me to review over the next few months (which I’d had for about a week). Replacement costs for the stolen items is around $450. The window cost a bit more than the $250 deductible from my insurance. I’m still waiting on what the insurance company will do about the property loss.

When I let Sony’s PR folks know I wouldn’t be able to write the reviews, their immediate response was sympathy for my situation and an inquiry into whether they could send me a replacement. Several days later, I have received notification that I will indeed be getting a replacement from them. The cost of the reader is nominal for Sony compared to the publicity they’re likely to get by me writing about it, so it’s probably no skin off their nose to send another one, but it sure means a lot to me that they did.

This got me to thinking about libraryland and our customer service practices. Most libraries aren’t multinational companies with huge revenues, but the way we handle situations like this with our users can have an impact on our relationships with them. What would you do if one of your users came to you with a story of their car getting broken into and the library books they checked out were stolen? Would you believe them? Would your policies allow you to waive any fines or replacement costs for the lost books?

IL2009: Mobile Content Delivery in the Enterprise

Speakers: Britt Mueller

Often, there are more librarians who’s organizations loan ebook readers to their users than who own or use ebook readers themselves. Devices are driving all of the changes in the content, and we need to pay attention to that.

General Mills launched their ebook reader lending program in the fall of 2008 with six Kindles pre-loaded with content and attached to a purchasing card registered with each device. They’ve had over 120 loans over the past year with a wait list (two week loan periods).

Qualcomm launched a similar program at around the same time, but they went with four types of ereaders: Kindle, Sony 505, Bookeen Cybook, and Irex Iliad). They’ve had over 500 loans over the past year with a wait list, and they’ve updated the devices with the newer models as they were released.

One of the down sides to the devices is that there is no enterprise model. Users have to go through the vendor to get content, rather than getting the content directly from the library. Users liked the devices but wanted them to be as customized to their individual preferences and yet still shareable, much like borrowing other devices like laptops and netbooks from the library.

There is a uniform concern among publishers and vendors for how to track/control usage in order to pay royalties, which makes untethering the content problematic. There is a lack of standardization in format, which makes converting content to display on a wide range of devices problematic as well. And finally, the biggest stumbling block for libraries is a lack of an enterprise model for acquiring and sharing content on these devices.

Implications for the future: integration into the ILS, staff time to manage the program, cost, and eventually, moving away from lending devices and moving towards lending the content.

Learning 2009: Kindles, Sony Readers, iTouches, and iPhones

Presenters: Andy Morton, Olivia Reinauer, and Carol Wittig

The presenters brought three netbooks, three Kindle 2s, a Sony Reader, and an iTouch to pass around for attendees to handle. These are from the small collection recently purchased for experimenting with library and course use. They are hoping to get feedback or discussion about how the attendees think that they will impact classroom instruction.

While the Kindle is not likely to be very functional for traditional library services, rumors of the next version indicate that it will be more functional for textbook, newspaper, and media uses. This will definitely impact classroom activities. You can mark up text with notes, and it’s fully searchable, which could be handy for finding the notes you made to yourself.

Sony Reader uses the same kind of screen as the Kindle, but is smaller due to the lack of full keyboard. However, unlike the Kindle, it has a touch screen (and a stylus). There are expandable memory cards that can handle digital photos (in black & white) and audio. Like the Kindle, you can take notes on it. They’re also working with OCLC and Google Books to expand access to resources.

The iTouch and iPhone can make use of the Kindle software, and there are many other ebook apps as well. They are also useful for accessing internet applications on the fly. [Side note: I think I like this the best – one-handed touch-screen reading and much lighter than the dedicated ebook readers, but with a much larger screen than my old PDAs and brighter text.]

Netbooks are relatively inexpensive and easier to transport than full-size laptops. They’re certainly popular at conferences.

LITA 2008: Five-minute Madness

Call for presentations went out a few weeks ago, with the idea of gathering fresh content. Presenters have five minutes each.

Incorporating ICT into a New Vision for Caribbean Libraries
Presenter: Gracelyn Cassell

Delivers distance education for the West Indies — looked at the library situations in 15 countries. The libraries have inadequate budgets, limited facilities, small and dated collections, poor technology, under-trained staff, and inadequate services. However, the libraries are eager for dialogue, willing to listen to suggestions, strong interest in training, and the librarians are craving refresher courses.

The university has capacity for training, as well as tele- and video-conferences. Need to use the resources of the university to deliver training and services for the regional libraries.

How can LITA help? Provide on-site technical support (in the winter, of course).

 

Using Delicious to Select Teaching Materials Collaboratively
Presenter: Emily Molanphy

Sakai is their CMS (open source). Like it, but needed more multi-media and less PowerPoint. Asked library for help.

Wanted the links to the resources be easy to share, and to be able to annotate the links. Faceted using tag bundles, but the most important aspect is that the recipient can choose their access point.

Known issues: Need to share password for a single account. For:username is too limited because the tags and the description are stripped. Faceting is flawed because everything is listed alphabetically.

Good way to supplement personal meetings.

 

Help Systems Based on Solr
Presenter: Krista Wilde

Solr is an open-source software that serves as a front-end access point to a database that returns queries in XML. Created a Solr instance specifically for help, and then created webforms for adding and modifying web pages with details about what pages or topics the help document is related to.

Wanted to make the help searchable and dynamic, to allow non-technical staff members to update and modify the pages, and using their tools to support their tools (they use Solr quite a bit).

 

RFID Self Checkout User Interface Redesign
Presenter: Robert Keith

Were using a self-check machine before, but felt that six steps were too many and were frustrating. Interface was too busy, small text (and lots of it), distracting animations, and the public & staff did not like it.

Re-designed with larger (briefer) text, uses audio commands to prompt user, and automatically prints the receipt (and thus not resulting in hung patron records). The result is that they have increased self-check use by 10% for adults and 30% for children.

 

The Endeca Project at Triangle Research Libraries Network
Presenter: Derek Rodriguez

March 2008 – launched Serach TRLN, a union catalog for the network. In August, they launched local interfaces at three universities. Licensed Syndetics data, and are indexing the table of contents. Plan to tune the search and relevance ranking, add new indexes, shopping cart, and ingesting non-MARC data.

 

Handheld Project Scope at Penn State
Presenter: Emily Rimland

Impetus for the group: iPhone lust. Librarians thought that mobile devices could support roving reference. Necessary for a library made up of three buildings mashed together. Would also be useful in faculty liaison activity, and to test the accessibility of their web-based resources.

The team of librarians and IT staff mapped the uses to the requirements and the requirements to the mobile devices. As it turns out, none of the four that fit were the iPhone: Nokia N-810, Sony Vaio UX-490, Fujitsu Lifebook, and OQO. (Some they were able to borrow from IT staff.)

The testing showed that there was a learning curve to using each device. The best was the Fujitsu Lifebook.

 

Unmanned Technology Projects
Presenter: Mike McGuire & Suzi Cole

They had big plans & user expectations, and consortial pressure to be an equal partner, but their limited staff did not have time to do or learn more. And, ultimately, a lack of coordination which lead to frustration, stress, and potential burnout. Solution: Library Technology Working Group that includes key players (library and IT), monthly meetings, and a wiki that tracks projects, meeting minutes, timelines, and what’s new.

Communication has been great. They have clear priorities and resource needs and a place to organize and share documentation. The results have been unexpectedly positive.

 

Texting at the Reference Desk
Presenter: Keith Weimer

Single service desk for phone, email, and chat, as well as walk-up reference. Wanted to reach users at new points of need, so investigated SMS. Upside Wireless is a Canadian company that provides SMS-to-email and a local phone number. But, it’s expensive to develop and maintain.

Did a soft rollout, with a link on the web page and table tents. A few months later, did a hard rollout with larger promotion around campus, including posters. After the hard rollout, the use has spiked. Has been used mostly for short queries like circulation info and hours, but about a quarter of the use was for reference type questions.

May move to AIM Hack, which is cheaper.

 

Digital Past: Ten Years and Growing
Presenter: Katy Schlumpf

Local history digitization project focusing on Illinois records, but the scope may need to be widened to encompass other collections housed in the system. Struggling with what to do for the future, particularly with tight budgets.