Communicating with Our Customers

new catalog signageDuring my library’s ILS (library catalog) migration project, we wanted to make sure our customers knew about it. It’s not usually a good thing to have your customers show up the day after we go live, thinking “what in the world happened here?”

Communicating with 170,000 people is no easy task! Here’s what we did:

Signs in the building: We had signs everywhere in the building (check out my Flickr set to see some of our signs), including:

  • huge banner in our entryway
  • images pointing out the new catalog was coming on our digital signs
  • small stand-up signs on tables and at the service desks
  • signs on all the catalog-only computers
  • a HUGE sign at the circulation desk

digital branch signageSigns on our digital branch: if you visited our website in the past month, you knew about our ILS migration! We used one of our big ads on the main page of our website to point to an article and video about the change. People actually read the article (judging by our Google Analytics numbers) and we received 38 comments on the article (some from me, answering questions).

We actually used that article and the big front-page ad as a countdown of sorts, too. Every day, we updated the ad (i.e., 3,2,1, it’s here! type stuff) and updated the article with a “tip of the day” for the new catalog.

Social Media: We shared about the project widely via social media. For us, that meant pointing to the article and answering questions about the project using Twitter and Facebook. We also made a video about the project, and dumped it into Youtube and on our website.

Traditional Media: we have a good relationship with local media, so we were able to tell customers about the new library catalog via a local TV station (they do a “Library Tuesdays” segment during their 4pm news show) and through an article in our local newspaper.

And now, the big question – did all that communication work? I think so. While I’m sure there are people showing up at the library or at our website, thinking “what the heck? Why does this look different all of the sudden?” I also know that customers knew about our project. Why? Because they told us. I had more than one person come up to me, find out I worked at the library, and said “how’s that new library catalog project coming along? We love the library!” Other staff told me they had a similar experience.

That says to me that our customers, for the most part, got the message. So – mischief managed!

Have you ever had to communicate with a large group of customers about a project? Did you do something I didn’t list? Let me know in the comments!

CIL2010: The Global Library Automation Scene

Notes from a talk I attended …

Speaker: Marshall Breeding

Current State of the Industry:

Check out Marshall’s Library Technology Guides ( – great info on who is using what ILS systems, what libraries switched ILS systems, etc.

Most used ILS software in the world: Isis ??? never heard of it! Marshall’s point – there’s a lot happening in the global ILS industry that we don’t really know about in the US

Horizon is next to last on the list of “how satisfied is your library with your current ILS system?” – Great – that’s what we have!

Marshall does say take those stats with a grain of salt – people on both ends of the spectrum respond, people int he middle don.t That said, he’s gotten over 2000 responses to his survey.

Observations from his 2009 Perceptions report:

– small libraries generally receive higher perception scores.
– Companies supporting proprietary ILS products receive higher satisfaction scores than companies involved with open source ILS systems

Discovery Platforms are mattering a lot more right now – that’s what our patrons see, so libraries want to spruce those up.

Library users in transition:
they don’t want help in the beginning anymore.

Tech in transition – web-based, cloud-based is the new thing. Client/server is the old thing. Local computing is shifting to cloud platforms.

Full spectrum of devices – mobile, web, tablet, etc…

Evolutionary Path: ILS systems are slowly evolving – they are wrapping their legacy code in APIs and Web services

Revolutionary Path: Ex Libris URM, Kuali OLE, WorldCat Management System

What does it mean to be open?

Interestingly, open source systems generally run behind proprietary systems in terms of customer-facing APIs… which makes sense. Smaller libraries are using the open source system, larger libraries with complex problems are using the proprietary systems.

Cool – he has a table showing what discovery layers work with what systems –

COSUGI Conference in March 2010

Sorry – had a hiccup there. In March, I’m speaking at the COSUGI Conference! OK – I asked the same thing…. “what in the world does COSUGI stand for?” It stands for “Customers of Sirsidynix User Group Inc.”

Anyway, I’m giving a keynote and a couple of executive track sessions – on digital experience design and on reaching out to customers through virtual services (this one with MPOW’s Library Director Gina Millsap).

Here’s the blurb for the conference:


Three action packed days. 100 informative sessions. 1,000 fellow SirsiDynix users.

Join us in warm, sunny Lake Buena Vista, Florida March 3rd, 4th and 5th for the 2010 version of the SirsiDynix COSUGI Executive Track Conference.  This comprehensive three day information and training extravaganza will have you pumped and ready for an outstanding year ahead.  You’ll get the latest news and product developments from SirsiDynix leaders, while industry movers and shakers share their knowledge and insight.

Find out:

* How SirsiDynix develops new product ideas
* How to get the most from your technology investments
* What makes a memorable digital experience for library patrons
* How to use market segmentation studies to get past the guesswork
* How to stay on strategy in tough economic times
* And much more!

You’ll also have the opportunity to socialize and network with your peers, and actually kick back and relax a bit, too.  And don’t miss the gala SirsiDynix shindig on Wednesday night.  Mark your calendar now, start packing your suitcase…and don’t forget the sunscreen.  We look forward to seeing you in Florida!

You don’t want to miss the chance to connect.  For the Full 2010 COSUGI Executive Track Schedule click here.

Register now for COSUGI 2010!

For more information about the entire conference, visit the conference home page.

March 3 – 5 | Walt Disney World Coronado Springs Resort



Next Generation Library Interfaces

ALCTS President’s Program: Breaking Down the Silos: Planning for Discovery in Library 2.0 – an ALCTS Midwinter Symposium

Marshall Breeding – title of his presentation: Next Generation Library Interfaces: Overview of concepts and a brief tour of commercial and open source products

My random notes from Marshall’s presentation:

Started with OCLC Perceptions stat – where do you start an info search? 89% search engines… library catalogs, 2%

usage of library websites is going down, everything else is going up … hmm…

aside – that makes a good case for sticking library content on blogs… users will find you that way

Crowded landscape of info providers on the web – google, amazon, us, etc…

Nobody has to go to a bibliographic instruction class to use Amazon… Nice.

Amazon is so easy to use – Marshall accidentally bought a book during a presentation, it’s so easy

Demand for compelling library interfaces:

urgent need for libraries to offer interfaces their users will like to use
move into the current millenium
search in line with how the current web works

inadequacy of ILS OPACs:

OPAC modules … failing to meet customer needs – it’s not really built for customers

Change is Underway! Lots of movement to break out of the current mold of library catalogs

Marshall hopes the back end will be redesigned, too, to be more modern

Next-Generation Interfaces:

redefinition of the library catalog – the word “catalog” is not a good one

more elegant presentation (think amazon)

more comprehensive info discovery environments
no longer enough to provide a catalog limited to print resources
digital resources cannot be an afterthought
systems designed for e-content only are also problematic
forcing users to use different interfaces depending on types of content becoming less tenable

federated search currently operates as a plug-in component of next-gen interfaces

web 2.0 flavorings:

strategic infrastructure + web 2.0
a more social and collaborative approach
web tools and tech that foster collaboration
integrated blogs, wiki, user reviews, etc
avoid 2.0 info silos – don’t have separate blogs, wikis, etc – make sure it’s integrated

2.0 supporting tech:

web services, xml apis, ajax, relevancy-based search engines, social networking tools and concepts

scope of the next gen library interface:
attempt to collapse silos or draw appropriately from each silo
unified user experience
single point of entry into everything
print + electronic
local + remote
locally created content

Functions and features:
Interface features/user experience:
simple point of entry – optional advanced search
relevancy ranked results
facets for narrowing and navigation
query enhancement – spell check, etc
suggested related results / recommendation service
enriched visual and textual content
single sign-on

Relevancy Ranking:
Endeca, Lucene do a good job
web users expect this! – the good stuff should be listed first
users tend not to delve deep into a result list
good relevancy requires a sophisticated approach

new paradigm for search and navigation:
users drill down through the result set and faceted browsing
faceted search – gives users clues about eh the number of hits, etc – it’s more like an online store’s faceted/guided navigation
more visual, has navigational bread crumbs

talking about boolean – walmart doesn’t teach their customers to do fancy boolean search to get to their products… we shouldn’t do this either!

Amazon doesn’t say “no results found.” Did you Mean and other features instead
validated spell check
have More Like This recommendation service
goal – make the query and the response to it better than the query provided

appropriate organizational structures:
LCSH vs FAST (faceted application of subject terminology)
full marc vs dublin core or MODS, or unstructured data
discipline-specific thesauri or ontologies

enriched content – book jacket, summaries, etc

personalization/single sign on

deep search:
entering post-metadata search era
web searches full text. Google print, google publisher, open content alliance, etc
high quality metadata will improve search precision
commercial search providers already offer search inside the book
library search doesn’t do this!!!

Beyond discovery to fulfillment / delivery: this is the harder part – harder than discovery

Enterprise integration:
ability to deliver content and services through non-library apps
courseware, portals, social networking environments, etc

Great Benefit, Great Cost

We’re WAY TOO SLOW. Time on the web moves quickly! We need to catch up.

ideas to buy/use:

Endeca – one of the first
Widely used in the commercial world
high-dollar approach


LibraryThing for Libraries:
Wow – they are now distributed exclusively by RR Bowker

Primo: tailored for academic libraries

Encore from Innovative Interfaces (Nashville Public Library uses it)

Worldcat Local

TLCs LS2 (Shanandoah Public Library)
good visual design

SirsiDynix Enterprise
not aware of anyone actually using it yet
it’s a hosted product
does relevancy wel
uses chilifresh for book reviews
Marshall’s example is very ugly! Sirsi really needs a visual designer!

Wordpress – looks great
Marshall’s not sure how it will scale
same stuff – faceted search, relevance, etc

production cat for the National Library of Australia – that’s pretty big.
open source, looks great

focuses on social networking
tag, review, comments, etc
oakville public library in ontario – in production.
Looks great!

serials solutions produst
eXtensibe Catalog

Polaris, Koha, Evergreen – doing well with providing next-gen features too


question/comment: we have a next-gen catalog, our faculty don’t get it – don’t understand faceted search, don’t know what a tag cloud is, etc – how do you get around that?

Answer: well, Amazon doesn’t seem to need to explain their faceted search, tag, etc stuff… ouch!

IL2008: Implementing a Next Gen OPAC

Speaker – Jeff Wisniewski

problem: old opacs weren’t designed for usability
– they were designed for the back-end of libraries
– designed to store data

Look at Jeff’s library’s OPAC – pittcat – much nicer looking than most other opacs (it’s still in beta)

they plan on keeping the more traditional-looking opac search for the forseeable future – eventually they’ll look at useage stats and go from there.

goals for new interface:
– does it have an intuitive interface?
– zero instruction needed, like amazon’s search interface
– no dumb error messages
– expose more of their collection (faceted search thing)
– integrate various silos (other databases they had, locally-created stuff, etc)
– get it up and running yesterday!

If you can, don’t do an RFP. It’s sorta backwards, hard to write, frequently states the obvious

instead, they made a features list
– must have
– highly desirable
– and a third category
– had to have the must have features

made a spreadsheet for the selection process with each vendor and their features listed.

Do this for your users – not your staff!!!
– boolean, advanced search, etc – your users DON’T CARE. So don’t offer it.
– resist the power search…

they renamed the old catalog the “classic” catalog – funny!

Do publicity on the new thing!

– call it what it is – map, not cartographic resource; music, not sound recording (that’s what the majority of them are)
– hyperlinks – you can put them practically everywhere

make sure it’s visual – use book jacket pics, etc

give your catalog legs:
– create facebook search widgets
– embed search widgets elsewhere, too

social stuff – do it even if you’re not quite ready yet

integration with other databases (federated search)
– some have them