What ALA and SXSWi Could Have in Common

I read two things today (well, really lots more than that, but I digress) that come from extremely different areas of my scope, yet are related:

  1. Karen Schneider’s ALA: What is to be done post;
  2. The SXSWorld magazine’s announcement that SXSWi panel proposals will be accepted starting June 1.

So how are those two things related? One of Karen’s points was to “Make conferences greener and more lithe.” She made some good points about ALA conferences and changes that could be made to make them better.

And then, when reading the SXSWi panel application thing, here’s what they do: “As with the 2007 event, much of the 2008 programming will come directly from ideas from the SXSW Interactive community.” For the 2007 conference, SXSW collected ideas for programs, and then let visitors to the SXSW site vote on which programs they found worthy… and the conference was made up primarily of those user-chosen panels.

Generally, I think ALA programs are chosen by individual program committees (of which there are many, if I’m not mistaken). Why not ask ALA members what they want to see?

that’s just one way among decidedly many … other ideas?

I Just Updated My WordPress Theme

New Theme at davidleeking.comI just followed through on my threat and updated my blog. So I’m now using WordPress 2.2, and I’m now using widgets (way cool easy way to move stuff around in my two sidebars). And I have a new visual design (thanks to a WordPress theme this time).

I’ve been wanting to move to two sidebars for awhile now, so this was the perfect opportunity. This allows me to easily display things like recent flickr photos, recent videoblog posts, recent comments and posts, etc., etc., etc. – basically whatever I want!

I’m toying around with Google’s adsense, too. Just in my sidebar – not anywhere else (certainly not within blog posts!).

So – let me know if anything suddenly seems extremely odd (with the blog – not with me :-), and don’t be surprised if I continue to make updates (cause I most likely will).

Thanks for reading!

Four Things to Consider When Changing the Unchangeable

I have wanted to sort through the comments from my post “How Can We Change the Unchangeable, or David’s Rant” for awhile now, in hopes of gleaning a few tidbits of wisdom from you guys (my readers). So here we go!

Looks like there are approximately four things to consider when hoping to implement new technology (at least, these four things came out of your comments). They are:

1. Management problems
2. Finding champions
3. Creating a Vision
4. training Administrators

1. Management Problems: You guys mentioned some interesting problems, including budget constraints, no follow-through on an already-created strategic plan, the organization being slow to adapt to anything, and the “too much work too little time” mantra.

I see these problems as poor management. The “too mch work too little time” thing can be dealt with by changing job descriptions, responsibilities, etc. But this needs to be done in conjunction with a new direction (see Creating a Vision below).

Same with budget constraints – most emerging technology doesn’t cost any actual money (just time and staff resources), so budget isn’t really an issue.

2. Finding Champions: This was mentioned twice – finding the right team will ensure success, and finding a high-level champion will help as well. I believe both are mandatory for a new project to succeed. The team will build out the project, while the high-level champion can push for the project at the management level.

3. Creating a Vision: This is important! Please don’t start a bunch of technology projects without a true plan or any goals in mind. That will quickly kill the project. Having a plan, and having your plan match up with an organizational vision, will ensure the project’s continuation and the support of management.

4. Training Administrators: This was mentioned alot. Important things to do were to: show rather than tell, creating a plan (not just he product), and providing evidence that shows why the project is needed.

Here are the summarized versions of the comments from my post:

Jeff: Also a usage issue. Many managers don’t get involved in how their library works. Mentioned some library directors that don’t have library cards. Get those managers to see what the new thing is, how it works, and how it can benefit the library.

Kelley: break things to managers slowly. Most don’t seem to know much about emerging trends. Teach them about new technologies.

Helene: there should be a conference track on this!

Christie: The good old days are not coming back! There is no excuse for a library to not use these newer technologies. Staff should continue to press/teach/share about emerging trends. I especially liked this – “Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your administrator will say no. And even if they do say no, they are one conversation, one meeting or one conference away from hearing about Library 2.0…. after which they will probably seek you out to say “tell me about that again?””

Mike: brief story of how his library “saw the light” at the board level. Awesome.

Christina: believes management wants to do the right thing, and needs to see a bit more planning put into new ideas (fair enough).

Patricia: “delayed implementation is not denied implementation.” Also claimed the lack of money was a deciding factor in not adopting new technologies. I don’t buy that (since most of them are free).

Mita: Comments on dealing with naysayers by claiming that early adapters are also active in the community are are probably bibliophiles. Interesting…

Tired: One year after a new strategic plan, there is only a committee to show for it. I have seen that before (well, minus the committee – we didn’t get that far).

Sarah: Show a product rather than discuss a product when talking with administrators. Excellent idea.

Steven: He knows administrators who are open to new ideas. Thanks administrators might have reasons to refuse new technologies, like budget constraints or not matching up with a strategic plan.

Karen: “The right people working together will get somewhere.”

Carolyn: A vision committee was effective – discussing how to prepare for the graduate of 2020.

Grumpator: organization as a lumbering behemoth.

Linda: Need a high-level champion to implement new stuff.

Terry: too much work and not enough time.

Bad United Airlines Customer Experience

This post starts out describing a bad customer service experience I had, then turns my whining into five things you should think about in your library.

First, for the story:
I spoke at New York Public Library a few weeks ago. After my presentation, I decided to show up early at the airport, so I could work on some writing projects (as in a book – stay tuned for more on that one).

At the United Airlines ticket counter, I went to the self-service EASY CHECK-IN counter. One would think that by advertising the counter as EASY CHECK-IN, that it would, in fact, be EASY CHECK-IN. That was not the case.

I received my plane tickets just fine – that part actually WAS easy. But I was there 4 1/2 hours early, and the EASY CHECK-IN machine apparently didn’t like that – it wasn’t set up to check bags that far ahead. Unfortunately for me, the person behind the counter wasn’t much better than the EASY CHECK-IN machine!

I explained my problem (I wanted to check my bags early). Pretty clear, right? Instead of addressing my problem, the Counter Guy simply pointed me to the REALLY LONG LINE for normal ticketing, and said “go stand in that line, and see if they can get you on an earlier flight.” WHAT??? That’s not what I needed! So I re-explained that I already HAD my tickets (I showed him) and said again “I just need to check in my bag… ” In a “most patient” tone (you know, that “you must really be a dumb customer but I’m still supposed to be nice to you so I’ll talk louder and slower” tone), the Counter Guy restated that I needed to get in the REALLY LONG LINE to see if they could put me on an earlier flight, and that was all he could do for me!


So I headed over to the REALLY LONG LINE. 45 minutes later, when I finally reached the Counter Lady at the end of the REALLY LONG LINE, I explained my problem again (I just want to check my bag). In a very helpful voice, the Counter Lady said “you know, you didn’t need to stand in this line for that.”  (admittedly, I knew she’d say that, but by this time I realized I wanted to blog about the stupid process I had to go through, so I held out).

I told her that the Counter Guy at the EASY CHECK-IN counter said I had to stand in this line to get my bag checked in early. So what did the Counter Lady do? She simply rolled her eyes in the general direction of the Counter Guy, and then helped me with my real problem (someone finally took my bag – yay!).

And now for the library part. What’s the moral of this story? I have a couple:

1. Labels are useless if they don’t match functionality. In this case, the EASY CHECK-OUT line wasn’t easy. What are your labels? What do you call your library’s self-check-out machines? How about labels on your website – do they match functionality? Ex – Advanced Search… is it really more advanced, or does it just have more options? How about “Named Areas” of your library? Do you have a reading room, or “The Nathan B. Rezznick Room for Discovery?”

2. Train your employees (or, don’t be Counter Guy)! In United’s case, two employees standing within 15 feet of each other handled one pretty standard problem two different ways. Do your reference desk staff and your circulation staff do this? How about your IT staff vs public service staff? You should all be on the same page.

3. Do something about the problem.
At United, when they realize there’s a problem, they roll their eyes at each other. Hopefully, later on someone chatted with the Counter Guy about customer service, procedures, etc. At your library, when a public computer doesn’t work right… do you roll your eyes at the PC Technician, or do you work with him/her to fix the problem?

4. Make sure staff and customers use the same thing. I’ll hazard a guess that the upper management at United have never actually had to stand in their own ticket line for 45 minutes (or even used the EASY CHECK-IN counter). When customers need a book, and ask your reference staff for help, do they use the the same front-end public catalog the customer uses, or do they use the staff, back-end version? Certainly the staff version provides more options and possibly more information. But how will staff really understand the customer search experience if they don’t use what the customer uses?

5. Be the best library in the world.
Seriously. Make being the best library in the world your goal, and then figure out how you can achieve that goal within your time, budget, and community. With that mindset you can’t NOT improve something, and who knows? You just might achieve it!

Spring Cleaning at davidleeking.com

meJust a little fyi for those of you who frequent my blog via the website rather than the RSS feed…

I plan on playing around with some different themes, so my old green/yellow theme will be going bye-bye. I’ll most likely use a “pre-made” theme this time around, and tweak as needed. Much easier (since I now have no time since I’m now doing amazing cool things :-), and more importantly, my current theme doesn’t play well with the newest version of WordPress.

I’m also wanting to move to a three-column design and experiment with sidebar add-ons, and so I’m picking a theme that already has that built-in (along with WordPress Widgets).

So – what does that really change? Not much. The look will change and morph. The content? Still the same ole’ Dave.