More on The Web as Communication

I posted this yesterday, and received some good comments. So this post will focus on those comments:

Comment #1:
Add patience to that list 😉 From SkaGirlie (make sure to read her way-hip blog, by the way). Sorta tongue-in-cheek, sorta not. My three solutions for what to do with staff that don’t want to accept the web as communication focused on the staff members themselves. Skagirlie’s solution focused on… well… ME! Those of us who “get it” need to be extremely patient as we deal with those who don’t “get it.”

We also need to make sure we don’t lump those who don’t get it into one all-inclusive “don’t get it” category. That seemingly reluctant staff member might be awesome, say, at children’s outreach… and once your patience and continued explanations have sunk in, that person might take off with some new “so completely with it” focus that you’ll be blown away. It’s happened before.

Comment #2 [edited a tad]:
Where is the line drawn? … But if we are talking about communication – then what about providing Skype on a public terminal? Again, little additional expense (assuming that someone brings their own headset) or effort on behalf of the library … What about setting aside a semi-private space for videoconferencing? … just wondering what makes sense for a broad array of libraries and what tools / facilities they provide to their communities. From cj.

Good points! Why don’t libraries provide Skype to their customers… Wow. I can see it now: “Library provides free long distance service to community. Baby Bell is considering a lawsuit. News at 11.” But seriously…

Bottom line? Libraries need to find out how their customers want to communicate, and then do that. Is it IM? Then provide IM. Do you have a large customer base that has been asking for Skype? Then why not? Videoconferencing? My library has considered it – I won’t be surprised if we offer videoconferencing in the future (depending on funds, of course). Other libraries do offer videoconferencing. Here’s one from a small public library in Missouri. I’m sure there are others, too.

So again – focus on what your customers: 1. are doing. and 2. want (within reason, budget, and technical limitations).

Comment #3:
We don’t offer the IM clients here at the Missouri River Regional Library, because of patron privacy concerns. We are concerned about the fact that many patrons would set the client to remember their user/pass combo and then the next person to use the machine would have access to their “stuff”. The way we get around this is to provide links to a web-based service called e-messenger. This seems to work pretty well – so far! From Robin.

Good idea! e-Messenger is to the web what Trillian or Gaim is to client-based IM – it provides a way to chat via MSN, Yahoo!, and/or AIM. If you want just one flavor of web-based IM, try services like AIM Express, MSN Web Messenger, or Yahoo! Web Messenger.

The Web as Communication: A Response to The Shifted Librarian’s post, “We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here”

Jennny at The Shifted Librarian said this about libraries that don’t allow public IM:

“And guess what? Your library sounds the same way if you tell patrons (of any age) that they can’t IM from your library because that’s not a valid use of your public computers. You’re basically telling people that their choice of communication channel isn’t allowed and that they should go elsewhere because you won’t be serving them today.”

I agree with Jenny. I really do. But… and I don’t necessarily agree with the reasons I’m going to list… I can see reasons why a library would not allow IM’ing from a public PC. Here are the reasons I came up with (with some comments by me):

1. Don’t want to mess with the software. There could be a number of reasons for this: worries about malware, viruses, etc (viruses can be spread by IM applications – although they can also be prevented with virus protection software). There’s also training and support issues.

Answer: A few answers, really. Answer #1 – deal with it. Your customers most likely want to IM, and you should help them achieve this goal. Answer #2 – point customers to web-based IM solutions. Answer #3 – Install good virus protection software. Answer #4 – Bite the bullet and train your staff. Then train your customers (if they need it – most likely many of them won’t).

2. Have policies about email, IM, chat, etc. I have been to libraries that have policies against using email, chat, and even online shopping services! While I don’t agree with those policies… at least the libraries are following their own guidelines.

Answer: Change your policy. And see #3 below:

3. Don’t think of the web as communication. Traditionally, libraries haven’t had to deal with communication – they have dealt with the storage and findability of information (yeah, yeah – I know that the written word is a form of communication. Just hear me out). But with the advent of the web, that traditional role has been altered, and some librarians have yet to catch up with the change.

The web is information. Traditionally-minded librarians know how to deal with that, at least on some level. But… the web is also communication – through email, chat services, IM, discussion boards, blogs, etc. And librarians are new to this whole communication thing. We haven’t had to train customers to use the phone, turn on the radio or tv, or write letters (although we might have books that discuss this stuff). But now, we’re having to deal with it. I have taught Email Basics classes. Others I know teach about blogs, rss, chat, IM, etc.

It’s high time for libraries to figure this stuff out. Thankfully, many have. But my guess is that some libraries “out there” are still trying to figure out “what should be done about this whole web thing.” This post is really more for those libraries (although they probably aren’t reading my blog).

So, a solution… Hmm… that’s hard, because I “get it.” Here’s my attempt. For some, they’ll pick up on the “web-as-communication” idea through continued browsing of library-related articles, and through continued attendance at library conferences (and hopefully attending the right sessions). Others will pick it up over time, as more of their customers mention, complain, nag, and ask for these kinds of services.

But what about those that simply don’t want to understand? Those that don’t want to accept that the web is much more than a large, online version of a general article index, or just one of many other material types that a library “collects?” That the web is a new thing altogether, and libraries need to change policies along with the changing times?

Good question, and also hard to answer. I’d love to see other answers. Here are mine:
1. Some will quit, move on, or retire. Problem solved.
2. Some will need to be prodded by supervisors, administration, etc. Problem solved.
3. Some need extra hand holding: continued explanations, continued examples of how “new stuff” works, and more importantly how it helps customers, library staff, etc.

Am I leaving anything out?

Adobe and Macromedia are merging!

Just read about this on Mike Chambers blog (he’d a product manager at Macromedia).

Anyway – this is huge news! Adobe (acrobat, Go Live, Photoshop, etc) and Macromedia (Dreamweaver, Flash, ColdFusion) are merging, assuming that stockholders and “government regulators” approve the merger. Wow. Just thinking about the combination of products that could come from this merger hurts my head. Think about this:

Go Live and Dreamweaver…

Photoshop and Fireworks…

PDF and Flash…

This could make for some interesting times in the next couple of years!

Luddites have XML Feeds, too!

The Guy Who Calls Himself A Luddite but has a blog and complains about RSS and XML… something does not compute :-)

More than one blogger will be writing about this post today. Here are some thoughts from me:

“New technologies have certainly added something to libraries, but what the [beep] does RSS newsfeeds or XML [sic] metadat schemes have to do with serving patrons and getting people to read books?”

Well… could be that those patrons can now subscribe to a feed on a topic that interests them and be notified when new books about said topic arrive at the library… with a direct link into the catalog… so they can check it out… and read more.

“fire the webmasters, settle on the current version of the OCAT software”

OK. The newest “OCAT” (did you mean OPAC?) will most likely be web-based. So you need to rehire the webmaster you just fired.

“libraries should be tools for social change, especially when it comes to fighting ignorance and illiteracy.”

Have you looked around lately? “Social change” is taking place – we’re going through a HUGE technology revolution right now. Smartphones that connect to our catalogs. Wireless laptops and hotspots throughout our cities. Web-based news. Etc. By embracing technology, libraries ARE “tools for social change” and are “fighting ignorance and illiteracy.”

“These tech savvy librarians are also the ones responsible for the disappearance of books and other printed materials from our libraries.”

Two things here…

1. “tech savvy” librarians usually work in the IT department, and have no say in how the colleciton development librarians spend their budget line. If you want to complain about books disappearing, complain about the people who SET the budgets.

2. Printed books disappearing does not mean that books are disappearing. Books are slowly changing formats from print to digital, and we’re seeing this during our lifetimes. Books are now being formatted to be read on cell phones – and this is not something librarians are doing. For that matter, ColdPlay (the rock band) is releasing their newest single as a ringtone first.

Libraries SHOULD still focus on books and other materials that can be read – but formats are changing. Libraries need to be able to provide those formats.

Kansas City Public Library’s New Branch

Yet Another Corner ViewGrand OpeningKansas City Public Library will re-open our Plaza Branch library this weekend! We’re pretty excited. The story in a nutshell? We knocked down the old building, and built the new building on the same spot. We get the basement and the ground floor, and various corporations lease the upper floors.

PCs at the LibraryTechnology? We got it! About 50 PCs, all wireless, for the public. And anyone can walk in to the library with his/her laptop or handheld and sync up to our wireless network. How cool is that?

Go to my flickr page to see all the pictures (plus some of the Central Library’s cool parking garage, too). Hope you enjoy the pics!