When talking to librarians about ebooks and econtent, I often hear things like this: “we can’t do anything – we’re just a small public library going up against Amazon/Apple/Barnes & Noble/fill in the blank.” Or “we don’t have the right connections” or maybe “we don’t have the resources we’d need to do something.” Etc.
I think we CAN do something. Many somethings. From my library alone, here’s what we’re currently doing:
- Our Ebooks for Libraries campaign – going for 10,000 signatures on a petition that will be mailed to the big six publishers, asking for books in all formats for libraries.
- Our community novel project – our community is writing a serialized novel, and we plan to publish the finished novel in print and in ebook formats. This is a small step in teaching our community that they can “do it themselves.”
- We have two staff members on the Library Renewal board – we’re giving time and expertise to organizations that are trying to make a difference.
- We have staff members on ALA boards – this one is indirectly related, but it gives us a say at the table when ebook-related issues get raised. And again, it’s giving time and expertise to organizations that have the potential to make a difference for libraries.
Other libraries and organizations that are trying to make a difference?
- Douglas County Libraries – you might have read about they are purchasing ebooks directly from publishers, and serving them back out to customers? Here’s an article with more info on that.
- Califa, a California-based library consortium, is doing a similar thing.
And those are just six examples – I’m guessing there are many others out there (and please – if I missed a major one, share the details in the comments!). My point? You CAN do something about it. Whatever “it” is to you and your organization, there are definitely ways to start successfully tackling the issue.
Why tackle this particular issue? Read Jason Griffey’s recent post about Amazon’s Lending Library. Amazon wants your customers to borrow from THEM. For free (well, after the purchase of a Kindle and an Amazon Prime subscription, anyway).
Sound like a challenge to you? Let’s meet that challenge head-on, folks!
ebook pic by nikkorsnapper
Wow – there have been lots of comments on the MeeboMe widget. Great! Some other libraries are trying it out – check the comments on my original post and on Jenny Levine’s post titled Mashing on the Library, Part I to find them. Others have been emailing me, asking for details.
Now, let’s take this one further – where else can you embed this thing? For example, Edward had a great idea (left it in my comments). He said “Very cool. I think I might go ahead and add this to our log-in failed page for EzProxy.” Great idea, Edward!
And that made me think… I’ll bet there are other good places to embed something like this. For example, my library’s looking into other places to drop it in the catalog, like on the search results page (idea swiped from Paul Pival).
Think about it like this – where do your patrons get hung up? What stops them… confuses them… makes them click away? Maybe that’s a good place to embed a MeeboMe widget (or something similar). Don’t think “well, I put a link to a Help file there, so that’s good enough.” Come on – do YOU click that Help link? That’s like removing the Information Desk and replacing it with a bin of tipsheets on using the Dewey Decimal System!
Finally, a couple of commenters have mentioned being wary of embedding an IM widget in the catalog because it’s not a 24/7 service. My thoughts:
- Well… it CAN be a 24/7 service, if you’re willing to not sleep
- I think the focus is off – you’re concerned with what is most likely a very small minority of patrons searching the catalog at 2am. Instead, focus on helping the majority of your patrons… and add text stating your IM hours.
- Most 24/7 virtual chat reference services (the only thing I can think of providing 24/7 live help) have people in other libraries answering those 2 am questions… do you really want someone at another library answering a question about YOUR library catalog? Maybe yes, maybe no…
Are you planning to embed a meeboMe widget in your catalog? Leave a comment!
Update: I’m getting some questions on how we did this, so… We have a Horizon system – look for the searchinput.xsl page in your XSL folder. Then find the appropriate chunk of code where the “nothing found” message and table appears, and add the meebome widget there.
And if you have more questions, feel free to email me (davidleeking at gmail dot com) – and I’ll put you in touch with our Web Administrator.
I was reading Helene’s post about online chat, and remembered I had wanted to try something in my library’s catalog… and we just went live with it.
What did we do? We added a Meebo widget to unsuccessful keyword searches in our library catalog. This way, when a customer searches our catalog and doesn’t find anything, they can contact us via IM and ask for help (we also display our phone number if they want to call).
SO – should be interesting to see what we get from this (since we just turned it on maybe 15 minutes ago). If nothing else, it’s a solid attempt at “humanizing” the OPAC!
Michael Porter made a Meebo chat room for Internet Librarian 2007 – let’s see if I can embed it in this blog post…