Kicking Users Out the Door

Goodbye.When you request a book using OCLC’s Worldcat service, here’s what happens after you complete a request – you are presented with this message: “Your resource sharing request was sent successfully. Goodbye.”

What was that again?

Goodbye.

Is that REALLY the message OCLC wants to send after someone has requested a book through their service? Goodbye? What if I had another request to make? Nope – Goodbye. That’s all you can do here. Please leave now.

In essence, that’s what OCLC is saying to customers using Worldcat. For that matter, what does “resource sharing request” even mean? Will that make sense to the average library user? Probably not.

Let’s help OCLC out. What message SHOULD they be sending to their visitors? What should this page say and do? Let’s have some brainstorming here!

Here’s my take: at the bare minimum, they should remove the word “goodbye” and make that “Return to Item Information” link up at the top of the page larger/more visible. Compare that to Amazon’s large orange buttons that give directional cues, like “Add to Shopping Cart.” They are highly visible and highly directional at the same time. I’d probably also put that reworded “Return to Item Information” link in the middle of the page.

So – other thoughts?

Has Elvis Left the Building?

Gee whiz. Every now and then, someone decides to share that some new-fangled “library 2.0” project didn’t work out … and others start claiming “After John Blyberg and others come out and say that library 2.0 didn’t work and neither did tagging, etc., the flood gates open.” Huh?

It might be good to remember two things:

  1. If one 2.0 project doesn’t work as expected, that doesn’t mean that “library 2.0 didn’t work” as a whole.
  2. Social 2.0 projects require “Elvis” to leave the building.

Here’s what I mean. For #1 above, realize this – not every blog, wiki, IM reference service, Second Life project, or podcast that your library creates will be a blazing success. Some will be dismal failures. And that’s great! Why? Because you learned something, and you can take that knowledge and move on to the next project.

John Blyberg might be correct when he says “SOPAC was by-and-large a success, but its use of user-contributed tags is a failure.” Why does he think it was a failure? Because it’s not used by that library’s community. He’s not saying tagging in catalogs is bad in general (at least, I don’t think he’s saying that). He’s saying that a particular library’s 2.0-ish experiment wasn’t successful (though I’m sure they learned something about building stuff – that’s always a good thing). Make sure to read the comments to that post – he goes on to say that larger-scale tagging that can be added to catalogs (i.e., LibraryThing for Libraries) is much more useful than the SOPAC’s localized version.

How about #2? Who’s this Elvis guy? Elvis is the librarian – has he left the building? Or is he still sitting behind the oak reference desk, waiting for patrons to visit? You cannot participate if you haven’t “left the building.” What does it take for librarians to be successful in the digital space? Well… we have to go there. Not just randomly peek in once in awhile, but actually be present and active in that space.

Here’s a lame example – lots of people read my blog. It’s taken four years for that to happen (well, and me not spewing forth stupidity too often – that also helps) – four years of me thinking, writing, reading, and participating on other librarian blogs. That was active participation rather than passive flirting on the 2.0 block.

When you start hanging out in a new social circle, what’s it take to be respected there? You have to actually DO some things, like hang out with them, share yourself with them, build them up, be authentic, etc – you have to spend a significant amount of time just “being” in that social circle in order to be accepted by the new group. Social networking tools are the same – because we’re NOT DEALING WITH TECHNOLOGY. We’re dealing with people.

If you want people to comment on your library’s blog post, to friend your MySpace page, or to watch your YouTube videos… you have to actually tell your community they exist. here are some examples:

“No one subscribes to our RSS feeds!” Well – have you told them what RSS is and what they can do with it?

“No one watches our YouTube videos on bibliographic instruction!” Well… have you embedded the video on your website (I’ve seen some libraries that don’t do this)? Have you introduced them to your videos at all? Are your videos extremely boring?

Have you left your library building to visit community groups to introduce them to your new offerings? Have you asked your community how they want to participate?

The title to this post is “Has Elvis Left the Building?” Has he?

The ReadWriteWeb needs Sexy Librarians

In December, the awesome blog ReadWriteWeb posted a couple of great articles about how librarians are needed (and even linked to Michael Porter’s flickr photo of Michael and yours truly battling it out on Guitar Hero). That’s all dandy!

But the ReadWriteWeb just posted Deconstructing Real Google Searches: Why Powerset Matters … I’d add “real BAD Google searches” to that title. Sure, the point of the article was to point out the perils of current search engine searches/results, and to show why a semantic-based or a natural language search engine would be better. And ultimately, that really might be the case.

But my librarian self kicked in as I was reading the post, because the author obviously needed the help of us sexy librarians! Here are the search examples given:

  1. what are movie spears made out of?
  2. car hit by bicycle
  3. Famous science fiction writers other than Isaac Asimov

Librarians… I ask you. Are these good Google queries? Hmm… I’m hearing a resounding “not.” :-)

And this is a great example of why we’re still needed. Yes – there’s the web. Yes – there’s Google. And yes – there are extremely smart people that write great blogs like the ReadWriteWeb. But does that mean everyone knows how to search? What happens if the semantic web or true natural language searching kicked in tomorrow – would that negate us? No – we’d still encounter people asking why they get 50 million hits when they type “I need to find stuff on cars” or whatever into search engines.

I’m thinking we can improve the ReadWriteWeb‘s search examples mentioned in the article – let’s have some fun and help them out (not that they’ll notice, but heck – we can try, can’t we?). So – here are my “better” suggestions on structuring the three search queries:

  1. what are movie spears made out of? Why not try zulu extras spears instead?
  2. car hit by bicycle – how about “bicycle accident” “hitting car” or car “hit by bicycle” or even “car damage” bicycle?
  3. Famous science fiction writers other than Isaac Asimov – hmm… why not try “science fiction author” famous -“isaac asimov” instead?

I found better results … but I don’t consider myself to be an expert searcher by any means. What do you think? How can we improve those searches? Librarians, show your awesome search skills! How would YOU do the three searches?

Video Coolness at My Library

Have you been thinking about diving into video? Confused about where to begin? Here are some ideas, taken from the highly creative people that work at my library.

First off, the William Allen White booktalks. What are they? From our Papercuts blog: “Traditionally, the Kansas William Allen White (WAW) book award nominee booktalks have been performed annually by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library staff in person at local area schools. Realizing that it is impossible to reach all students in the service area in person, Sandy Lane and Robin Clark collaborated with Topeka area gifted students to produce these highly creative videos on Youtube featuring book reviews of the current William Allen White nominees for 2007-2008. The videos include interviews from “The Dr. Dyl Show”, several inanimate object reviewers, masked anonymous book reviewers, and one with exceptional headgear.” (go read the whole post!).

Here are the videos:

Two other videos from my library to point out:

  • 90 second book review: Austenland – ”
    The Barbies are back, this time to act out scenes from the novel Austenland by Shannon Hale” (from the About This Video on the YouTube page).
  • World of Warcraft commercial parody – Belf Librarian – “Lysistrata is a Blood Elf Hunter. She is also a librarian. This video is a parody of the popular Mr T. and Shatner commercials, made by a Warcraft Blood Elf about her alternate life in the library.” (again, from the About This Video text). This is a cool video – and a great example of machinima, too.

You can find these videos and more on our YouTube channel. So… that’s what we’re doing with video… what are YOU doing with video?

Pew Internet & American Life Project’s New Report on Public Libraries

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has a new report out: Information searches that solve problems: How people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help.

It’s an interesting read… and I’m not quite sure how to take it! So… here’s a list of what I saw as some highlights in the report, with some yays and boos to go along with each (mainly taken from the executive summary part of the report):

Page v: “Faced with a problem in the past two years that they needed to address, about one in eight adults (13%) say they turned to their local public library for help and information.”

  • Yay! a goodly chunk of people used the library for real help – cool!
  • Boo! One in eight is dismal! How can we raise that number?

Page vi: “Major finding: 53% of American adults report going to a local public library in the past 12 months.”

  • Yay! 53%! That’s a majority of Americans! They love us!
  • Boo! Read the fine print – “in the past 12 months.” This says nothing about how many times they visited – only that they had visited at least once. Dave’s illogical translation: that could be one visit last year, to stop off at the bathroom or to pick up a child. that’s not a good indicator of library use!

Page viii: “Major finding: About a fifth of Americans with problems to address said they were concerned about privacy disclosures as they hunted for information.”

  • Yay! We’re all about privacy!
  • Boo! 4/5’s of Americans could care less about what librarians consider a major, huge issue. We’re spinning our wheels on the wrong road!

So… here’s what Pew concludes (from their website): “The survey results challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.”

But here’s what I saw:

  • only 1 in 8 adults use the library [when faced with a problem]
  • 53% of American adults visited the library… at least once.
  • 4/5’s of Americans aren’t as concerned about privacy as librarians are

I think we have some more work to do!