More Chat in the Catalog

Remember my post on TSCPL’s Meebo chat widget embedded in our library catalog? Since then, we have stopped using the Meebo Me widget. It was great – it helped us start our IM reference service, and it was easy to embed pretty much wherever we wanted. But we grew out of it!

We discovered a few shortcomings, like not being able to send hotlinks through it, and our public services staff really wanted the ability to send an IM to someone else. So now, we’re using Libraryh3lp for our IM reference service. Libraryh3lp gives us those added benefits and more.

And we’re doing a few different things with the catalog embed, too. Here’s a pic of the keyword, No Records Found search:

New version of the Chat Reference service in the catalog

We’re trying to make instructions clear, friendly and attractive. If you click the Ask Now button, you get a tiny IM widget pop-up page. Why pop-up? With our Meebo widget, we discovered that a lot of people would start asking a question, then click something … and they’d be gone, because they had clicked away from the page with the embedded IM widget. Bumer! With our new pop-up version, that problem is solved. Users can click away all they want … and still interact with us.

But even cooler than that – Michael, our web designer (one of his many hats) discovered a way to embed a similar thing on the Search Results page:

Search Results page - Chat added!

This provides more opportunities for patrons to ask questions when they get stuck on a search – even if they’re finding things. Basically, they have access to us ON EVERY SEARCH they do.

And not just IM access – that’s provided via the Ask Now button. But we also include our phone number and a link to our email Ask a Librarian form.

We’re excited about this – should be fun to see if we get more catalog-related questions.

Making Connections – the Institutional Version

Last post, I covered things I think about when making personal friend connections in a bunch of social networks I use. I also said “for MPOW, it’s slightly different – I might cover that in another post.” Here’s that other post.

As an institution, who should you friend? Why? This is pretty subjective of course, but here are some general guidelines to get you started:

Friend patrons/customers/members. Friend people living in your service area, or who are likely to use your services. Find them using tools like Twitter’s Find People search or any number of third party search services. Your goal is to share your stuff, your events, and yourselves with other people and organizations who can actually use and benefit your content in  a social network.

If someone friends you, check them out. Look at their posts, look at their bio, and where they’re from. If they live close by, friend them. Then start sharing.

Friend other local organizations. Again, the goal is to share your stuff with other organizations that can potentially partner with you, or otherwise send people your way.

Friend others who are interested in your stuff. Have a local history collection that focuses on a certain individual or era? Friend others who are interested in the same things. This should hold true especially on social networks that focus on multimedia, like Flickr and YouTube.

Other Considerations

Facebook Groups
– these can have a narrower focus, so you might be friending fewer people in a group, especially if it’s more of a niche group. For example, if you have a Facebook Group focused on teens, you’ll want to friend actual teens, rather than just anyone of any age.

YouTube – do your local news media outlets have YouTube accounts? Make sure to friend them, and favorite some of their videos.

Finally, be friend-neutral. Don’t agree with what the person says, or don’t like their content? Remind yourself that this isn’t your personal social network you’re developing, but your organization’s network. And most likeley, you take all shapes and sizes of friend connections.

Further reading: my set of posts on attracting friends, starting with Don’t Friend Me.

What am I missing? Any other groups it might be good to friend? Not to friend?

photo from sausyn

Making Connections

Social Media connections in my inboxIf you sign up and use social media tools, here’s what might happen to you: the image accompanying this post is my inbox. I recently visited my parents, and I only answered pressing emails … but didn’t really clear stuff out like normal.

Check out the pic – everyone wants to follow! Twitter follow requests … Facebook friend requests … new listeners … Friendfeed subscribers … Flickr contacts … even a request to do something from church (they’re using a cool 2.0-ish tool for worship team scheduling). Probably a couple of blog comments in there, too. There were 2 pages of this.

And some of you play with this stuff more than me … I can only imagine what YOUR inbox looks like!

Who to friend? Who to ignore? Who to respond to? And when? Here’s what I do:

  • Twitter: I get more of these than the others, so I’m a bit pickier here. I friend you if you sound interesting and don’t look like a spammer. I read your bio and a couple of tweets. Sometimes, I look at your follow-to-follower ratio. I usually don’t follow other libraries or people that sound too much like snakeoil salesmen (i.e, that mention SEO/make money online/I’ll make your life better stuff).
  • Also picky with Flickr – I’ll follow you if I know you, if I’ve met you, or if I might meet you professionally (i.e., if you’re a librarian or a social media type).
  • Facebook: I follow most people who follow me. I recently had a run of high school chums discover Facebook.
  • If you follow me as a listener, I’ll follow you back.
  • Friendfeed: Same – I follow back almost everyone who follows me.
  • In any of these, if you send me a message/tweet me/write on my wall, I’ll read it and usually respond if it makes sense to do so. Sometimes I read it, think “huh” and move on – no response needed.
  • Also – if I come across your blog, your book, or an interesting tweet/post, I might friend/follow you – so I can receive more interesting content from you!

When do I do this? Personally, I usually when I read it and/or when it’s convenient to do so (for MPOW, it’s slightly different – I might cover that in another post). I think of follow requests and comments/tweets/wall posts as introductions and conversation, so it makes sense to me to do it sooner rather than later. But then, I don’t have a ton of them, and find it’s simply easier to quickly deal with a follow request quickly and move on, rather than letting them pile up (unless I’m out of town or away from the web for a bit).

What do you do? Who do you friend? And when do you find the time? Stuff to think about…

Ford Flex – Final Thoughts

Some final thoughts on my Ford Flex experience (then back to normal for this blog):

  • Today’s video shows the “packability” of the car. A family of five fit in nicely, luggage included.
  • Just checked my gas mileage. From Branson back to Topeka, I surprisingly got 24 mpg, even though I drove through the Ozarks. That’s pretty decent for the Flex.
  • Hills – my parents live on the side of a small mountain (or a large hill – it IS the Ozarks, after all). The Flex, even when put in the “hill” setting, had to work to climb up those hills, even on the highways.
  • I’m tall – the headrest was never in the right place for me. I figured out how to get around it by adjusting the seatback so my head didn’t touch the headrest. Shorter people won’t have this problem, I’m thinking.
  • And just a thought – this is 2009. Ford built a new car. Why isn’t it a hybrid?

All that said, my family and I had fun driving the Flex! Thanks to Ford and the Social Media Group for the experience.