unvocab debut

I made my debut on Uncontrolled Vocabulary the other evening. Everyone on the call were folks I had met at one point while at Computers in Libraries last week, and it kind of made my heart ache a little less to hear them all again. I called in on the ShoePhone, but it was glitchy, and I probably won’t use it again. Dunno if it was a TalkShoe problem or a ClearWire problem, but I think my cell phone would sound better.

So, go listen to the episode and revel in our memories of CiL!

reflections on CiL 2008

or… Nine Things From CiL That Are Made Of Awesome

9. Meeting a bunch of people I have admired from afar for many years but have never had a chance to talk to in person.

8. Having too many concurrent sessions to choose from.

7. According to the folks who attended the Pecha Kucha, it was an informative and entertaining presentation. I can avow the entertaining bit — at times the laughter and clapping coming from the other side of the divider overwhelmed the session I was attending. I will choose that session next time.

6. Thinking about gaming and libraries in a new way, and pondering how libraries can take ideas from gaming to make our resources more intuitive and rewarding for our users.

5. Learning about an overwhelming number of tools that can help me do my job better.

4. Being inspired to promote the library as a place to solve problems.

3. Learning about studies that contradict the commonly held belief that students go to online search engines first, rather than library resources, when doing research.

2. Getting inspired to un-suck my OPAC in the “Woepac to Wowpac” session.

1. Networking with my tweeps at the Brickskeller. “Best. CiL. Ever.”

CiL 2008: What’s Hot in RSS & Social Software

Speaker: Steven M. “I’m just sayin'” Cohen

[More links to cool stuff that I did not included can be found at the presentation wiki linked above.]

Google Reader is now more popular than Bloglines, which Cohen thinks has to do with the amount of money that Google can sink into it. Both have tools that tell you how many people are subscribed/reading it, which can be helpful in convincing administrators to support the use of RSS feeds from various sources. Offline feed readers don’t make much sense, since so often the things you are reading will direct you to other sources online.

If you’re not using Google Reader, do it now.

No, really. Steven says to do it.

Google + Feedburner = advertisements on your feeds, which means that they are now revenue generating, like the ads on your website. RSS is no longer sucking away your revenue source, so get over it and add feeds for your content! Plus, anyone using Page2RSS can scrape your content and turn it into a feed, so really, you should give them something that benefits you, too.

LibWorm is a site that indexes library-related blogs and news sources, and it provides RSS feeds, so use it for keeping current if you’re not already doing so.

Follow what is been twittered on your topic of choice using TweetScan. Follow all of your friends’ online activities at FriendFeed (notification once a day, which seems possibly even reasonably infrequent enough that I might actually use it).

Go check out his top ten eleven twelve favorite tools. They’re all really cool and worth playing with.

CiL 2008: Staff Tech Training

Speaker: Sarah Houghton-Jan

It’s important to invest in staff training to build staff skills and morale, in addition to improving customer service. It takes time and money, which are not often plentiful. Evaluate where you are and what you need to get to where you want to be: planning & brainstorming to creation to assessment to training to reassessment to planning & brainstorming, etc.

What does your staff need to know how to do with technology to do their jobs well? Using competencies creates equitable expectations for all staff, reveals training needs, accurate job descriptions, helps with performance evaluations, consistent customer service, and helps staff adjust and handle change. Work with your staff to brainstorm on what they want to learn, and be sure to reassure them that they don’t need to know everything right now.

Work with a well-represented taskforce to create competencies and get management buy-in. Oh, and don’t call them competencies! Call them technology skills or anything else with less negative connotations. Break competencies out by categories, and be sure to include a “staying current” category. Best practices: keep it core & task-based, be aware of the different needs of different positions, include competencies in job descriptions, and revise frequently as new technologies are adopted in your library.

Online survey tools are the easiest way to assess competencies, but take care with how the results are presented so that there is less of a negative impact. Self-assessment is best. Review the assessments to track trends and then work with supervisors to create training lists for specific employees.

Training techniques will be determined based on topic and need, and there are plenty of resources out there to help with that. Just make sure you have the budget to do whatever you decide to do. People like rewards, as was noted in this morning’s keynote, so include that in your training budget.

Reassess on a regular basis, and include rewards and consequences to be effective. Celebrate the success of your staff!


Speakers: Maurice Coleman & Annette Gaskins

They are at a public library system with a very diverse population. The library staff wanted to have a technology fair/petting zoo, and there was enough buy-in from administration and the resources to do it. Time was the most crucial factor in planning for this. The topics were picked based on the tools that public service staff would use on a regular basis, as well as hot 2.0 topics that attract patron participation.

If you are planning to do several sessions in one day, make sure you have plenty of trainers so that no one gets burnt out. Also, have people available to direct people traffic. Make sure the facilities you use are sufficient to meet the needs of the training and the attendees.


I found it difficult to find take-away things from this presentation. Houghton-Jan went over the concepts behind the process, and I was hoping that Coleman & Gaskins could go into the applied aspect, which they did, but at such a detailed level that I couldn’t find many things relevant to my own library. Most of what they had to say were basic event planning tips, which are useful, but not what I came into the session expecting to get. Maybe I should have read the description in more detail.

CiL 2008: Speed Searching

Speaker: Greg Notess

His talk summarizes points from his Computers in Libraries articles on the same topic, so go find them if you want more details than what I provide.

It takes time to find the right query/database, and to determine the best terminology to use in order to find what you are seeking. Keystroke economy makes searching faster, like the old OCLC FirstSearch 3-2-2-1 searching. Web searching relevancy is optimized by using only a few unique words rather than long queries. Do spell checking through a web search and then take that back into a reference database. Search suggestions on major search engines help with the spelling problem, and the suggestions are ranked based on the frequency with which they are searched, but they require you to type slowly to use them effectively and increase your search speed. Copy and paste can be enhanced through browser plugins or bookmarklets that allow for searching based on selected text.

The search terms matter. Depending on the source, average query length searches using unique terms perform better over common search terms or long queries. Use multiple databases because it’s fun, you’re a librarian, and there is a lack of overlap between data sources.

Search switching is not good for quick look-ups, but it can be helpful with hard to find answers that require in-depth query. We have a sense that federated searching should be able to do this, but some resources are better searched in their native interfaces in order to find relevant sources. There are several sites that make it easy to switch between web search engines using the same query, including a nifty site that will allow you to easily switch between the various satellite mapping sources for any location you choose.

I must install the Customize Google Firefox plugin. (It’s also available for IE7, but why would you want to use IE7, anyway?)

CiL 2008 Keynote: Libraries as Happiness Engines

Speaker: Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Rochester Institute of Technology

Libraries are an emotional center of a community that make people happy. The elements of happiness include: satisfying work to do, the experience of being good at something, time spent with people we like, and a chance to be a part of something bigger. Libraries will survive if we remain in the happiness business.

Virtuality is a way of beating an unhappy life. People go into virtual world to escape a lack of happiness in their real life. And, there is a blurring of the boundaries between virtual worlds and real worlds as players make connections in both that bleed over into the other.

“The grind” is a process that gamers go through in order to move forward or advance in levels. Players do tasks in game repeatedly until their goals are achieved. Lawley thinks of the grind as being a meditative activity, due in part to the repetitive nature of it. Why can’t we convey this to our potential readers? We can correlate the reward of working through a game to the reward of reading a book through to the end.

Tupperware parties are an example of real world games, with competition and rewards. Salespeople will work hard to move up levels and be recognized for their work. Another real world game that is popular in public libraries is Super Sleuth, which gives daily clues that kids research to find the answer every week. Summer reading programs are also like games, and they make reading a challenge that kids want to do in order to reach a point goal to win a prize.

Chore Wars is an online game that blurs the line between real and virtual worlds. Parents post job tasks with point values, and kids earn those points by doing the chores. In the business world, Seriosity’s Attent is a game that causes players to evaluate the value of email message sent and received. Social Genius takes casual game concepts and applies them to enterprise problems/solutions, basically by making players learn the names and faces of other people in their organization and forcing them to keep their online photos and bios up-to-date.

Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming gives points to players for visiting websites, among other things. Missions become annotated pathfinders that reward players for surfing websites that have some sort of relevancy to each other. It makes the process of going to websites fun instead of tedious.

Games can serve as gateway drugs, like Guitar Hero. [side note: I heard recently about someone modifying a real guitar to use the strum bar and buttons used on the Guitar Hero guitar.]

Online rebound is what happens when we go from virtual to real and back again, like LAN parties, Moo cards (“We love the web, but you can’t put it in your pocket.”), and Etsy (hand-crafted items sold online). Virtual does not take the tangible away. You want to retain a connection to the real world. Libraries are taking advantage of this online rebound by creating spaces where people can be together physically while also being online.

How does your library make people feel happy? How does it pull them into something bigger than themselves that makes them feel playful and productive at the same time?

CiL 2008: Catalog Effectiveness

Speaker: Rebekah Kilzer

The Ohio State University Libraries have used Google Analytics for assessing the use of the OPAC. It’s free for sites up to five million page views per month — OSU has 1-2 million page views per month. Libraries would want to use this because most integrated library systems offer little in the way of use statistics, and what they do have isn’t very… useful. You will need to add some code that will display on all OPAC pages.

Getting details about how users interact with your catalog can help with making decisions about enhancements. For example, knowing how many dial-up users interact with the site could determine whether or not you want to develop style sheets specifically for them, for example. You can also track what links are being followed, which can contribute to discussions on link real estate.

There are several libraries that are mashing up Google Analytics information with other Google tools.


Speakers: Cathy Weng and Jia Mi

The OPAC is a data-centered, card-catalog retrieval system that is good for finding known items, but not so good as an information discovery tool. It’s designed for librarians, not users. Librarian’s perceptions of users (forgetful, impatient) prevents librarians from recognizing changes in user behavior and ineffective OPAC design.

In order to see how current academic libraries represent and use OPAC systems, they studied 123 ARL libraries’ public interfaces and search capabilities as well as their bibliographic displays. In the search options, two-thirds of libraries use “keyword” as the default and the other third use “title.” The study also looked at whether or not the keyword search was a true keyword search with an automatic “and” or if the search was treated as a phrase. Few libraries used relevancy ranking as the default search results sorting.

There are some great disparities in OPAC quality. Search terms and search boxes are not retained on the results page, post-search limit functions are not always readily available, item status are not available on search results page, and the search keywords are not highlighted. These are things that the most popular non-library search engines do, which is what our users expect the library OPAC to do.

Display labels are MARC mapping, not intuitive. Some labels are suitable for certain types of materials but not all (proper name labels for items that are “authored” by conferences). They are potentially confusing (LCSH & MeSH) and occasionally inaccurate. The study found that there were varying levels of effort put to making the labels more user-friendly and not full of library jargon.

In addition to label displays, OPACs also suffer from the way the records are displayed. The order of bibliographic elements effect how users find relevant information to determine whether or not the item found is what they need.

There are three factors that contribute to the problem of the OPAC: system limitations, libraries not exploiting full functionality of ILS, and MARC standards are not well suited to online bibliographic display. We want a system that doesn’t need to be taught, that trusts users as co-developers, and we want to maximize and creatively utilize the system’s functionality.

The presentation gave great examples of why the OPAC sucks, but few concrete examples of solutions beyond the lipstick-on-a-pig catalog overlay products. I would have liked to have a list of suggestions for label names, record display, etc., since we were given examples of what doesn’t work or is confusing.

CiL 2008: Woepac to Wowpac

Moderator: Karen G. Schneider – “You’re going to go un-suck your OPACs, right?”


Speaker: Roy Tennant

Tennant spent the last ten years trying to kill off the term OPAC.

The ILS is your back end system, which is different from the discovery system (doesn’t replace the ILS). Both of these systems can be locally configured or hosted elsewhere. Worldcat Local is a particular kind of discovery system that Tenant will talk about if he has time.

Traditionally, users would search the ILS to locate items, but now the discovery system will search the ILS and other sources and present it to the user in a less “card catalog” way. Things to consider: Do you want to replace your ILS or just your public interface? Can you consider open source options (Koha, Evergreen, vuFind, LibraryFind etc.)? Do you have the technical expertise to set it up and maintain it? Are you willing to regularly harvest data from your catalog to power a separate user interface?


Speaker: Kate Sheehan

Speaking from her experience of being at the first library to implement LibraryThing for Libraries.

The OPAC sucks, so we look for something else, like LibraryThing. The users of LibraryThing want to be catalogers, which Sheehan finds amusing (and so did the audience) because so few librarians want to be catalogers. “It’s a bunch of really excited curators.”

LibraryThing for libraries takes the information available in LibraryThing (images, tags, etc.) and drops them into the OPAC (platform independent). The display includes other editions of books owned by the library, recommendations based on what people actually read, and a tag cloud. The tag cloud links to a tag browser that opens up on top of the catalog and allows users to explore other resources in the catalog based on natural language tags rather than just subject headings. Using a Greasmonkey script in your browser, you can also incorporate user reviews pulled from LibraryThing. Statistics show that the library is averaging around 30 tag clicks and 18 recommendations per day, which is pretty good for a library that size.

“Arson is fantastic. It keeps your libraries fresh.” — Sheehan joking about an unusual form of collection weeding (Danbury was burnt to the ground a few years ago)

Data doesn’t grow on trees. Getting a bunch of useful information dropped into the catalog saves staff time and energy. LibraryThing for Libraries didn’t ask for a lot from patrons, and it gave them a lot in return.


Speaker: Cindi Trainor

Are we there yet? No. We can buy products or use open source programs, but they still are not the solution.

Today’s websites are consist of content, community (interaction with other users), interactivity (single user customization), and interoperability (mashups). RSS feeds are the intersection of interactivity and content. There are a few websites that are in the sweet spot in the middle of all of these: Amazon (26/32)*, Flickr (26/32), Pandora (20/32), and Wikipedia (21/32) are a few examples.

Where are the next generation catalog enhancements? Each product has a varying degree of each element. Using a scoring system with 8 points for each of the four elements, these products were ranked: Encore (10/32), LibraryFind (12/32), Scriblio (14/32), and WorldCat Local (16/32). Trainor looked at whether the content lived in the system or elsewhere and the degree to which it pulled information from sources not in the catalog. Library products still have a long way to go – Voyager scored a 2/32.

*Trainor’s scoring system as described in paragraph three.


Speaker: John Blyberg

When we talk about OPACs, we tend to fetishize them. In theory, it’s not hard to create a Wowpac. The difficulty is in creating the system that lives behind it. We have lost touch with the ability to empower ourselves to fix the problems we have with integrated library systems and our online public access catalogs.

The OPAC is a reflection of the health of the system. The OPAC should be spilling out onto our website and beyond, mashing it up with other sites. The only way that can happen is with a rich API, which we don’t have.

The title of systems librarian is becoming redundant because we all have a responsibility and role in maintaining the health of library systems. In today’s information ecology, there is no destination — we’re online experiencing information everywhere.

There is no way to predict how the information ecology will change, so we need systems that will be flexible and can grow and change over time. (Sopac 2.0 will be released later this year for libraries who want to do something different with their OPACs.) Containers will fail. Containers are temporary. We cannot hang our hat on one specific format — we need systems that permit portability of data.

Nobody in libraries talks about “the enterprise” like they do in the corporate world. Design and development of the enterprise cannot be done by a committee, unless they are simply advisors.

The 21st century library remains un-designed – so let’s get going on it.

CiL 2008: Libraries A-Twitter and Using del.icio.us

Speakers: Aysegul Kapucu, Athena Hoeppner, and Doug Dunlop (University of Central Florida)

del.icio.us is a free social bookmarking tool that can be organized with tags and bundles. UCF wanted to see if they could increase access points for library resources with on-the-fly lists for classes and individuals.

They loaded all of their databases with EZProxy string pre-pended to the URL. Then they tagged them.

The del.icio.us browser buttons were installed on the reference desk. During the reference interview, they tagged resources, and at the end, they would give the user a link to all the resources that were tagged for them. For classes, they tag the bookmarks with the course short code and include the resources listed by the professor in their syllabus. Two topical accounts are being developed through a collaboration with faculty and graduate students in Art and Engineering.

They surveyed 300+ faculty and students and received 50 responses, most of which came from seniors and reflected the courses that were included in the tagging project. 70% of the respondents had not used del.icio.us prior to the library’s involvement, which is probably due to the relatively small number of users as compared to other social networking tools like Facebook.

I could see del.icio.us being used as a replacement for hand coded subject guides or commercial products that do the same. Since it’s easy to add or edit on the fly, the guides could be more relevant than static lists.


Speakers: Michael Sauers and Christa Burns

Twitter is microblogging, like status updates on MySpace and Facebook. It’s like instant messaging, but it is asynchronous. Twitter is experiential — you have to do it with people you know to get it.

All of the twitterers in the room were wetting themselves with the excitement of getting to twitter about a Twitter presentation.

Libraries can use Twitter to broadcast information about what is going on at the library. At the Nebraska Library Center, the reference librarians send out tweets of the questions they get (not the answers). A few cities have traffic and weather reports sent out via Twitter. “We can’t get enough information about weather. Especially catalogers who don’t have windows.”

Twitter is ephemeral.

7 Tips To a Good Twitter Experience from Meryl is a good resource for new twitterers.

They must put the “Twitter is like…” slide presentation somewhere everyone can see it.