Find & Fix your Potholes

potholesDoes your website, your library, or your new service have “potholes?”

Here’s what I mean by potholes – on your website, if the navigation is unclear, or if that “what do I do next” thing doesn’t make sense, you have caused a customer to stumble. You have effectively placed a pothole in your customer’s path, making it harder for them to navigate towards whatever it is they wanted to do.

Not a good thing!

A physical library building can do that, too. Poor (or non-existing) signage in a building can make people stumble. Arranging your book collection in a “made sense at the time” way can cause people to stumble.

If a new library service is confusing, has too many rules and policies surrounding it, or if information about the new service is hard to find on the website – again, these things make our library customers stumble.

A great way to increase usability – and hopefully satisfaction for our customers – is to find and fix those potholes. How do you do that? Here are some suggestions:

  • do some usability testing for the website.
  • ask customers if they can easily find things in your building.
  • keep track of frequent questions at the reference desk (i.e., those “where’s the bathroom” questions could mean that you have a new customer, or it could mean your signage stinks. Or both).
  • Create a “No” list – keep track of every time staff have to say “no” to customers. Then see if those “no” answers can be turned into “yes” answers with some policy tweaking, etc.

Then fix those potholes, so your customers don’t stumble.

What makes your customers stumble?

Pothole pic by Andy Wilson

Answering some Questions about Social Media

Once in awhile, some of you guys ask me questions via email. Usually, I just answer back in another email. This time, I thought I’d also answer via a blog post – you might find something useful here, too.

The question was about social media – how does your library do it, how is it used, who manages it, etc. Here are the questions and my answers:

1. Should social media responsibilities fall within the scope of public relations and marketing? Who in your library has the responsibility?

In Topeka, our Digital Services Director (that’s me) has oversight of social media. He acts as our library’s digital branch manager. That said, social media is a shared responsibility. Usually, a social media push starts in our Creative Group – a team made up of web, marketing, and public services staff. This team gets a feel for a new service, sets some preliminary goals, and sets up the service for the library. The next step for us is to create a pilot project team made up of public services staff (and the digital services director and possibly a marketing staff member too).

Then we expand as needed. For example, our Facebook team includes 12-15 staff members, mostly public services staff.

2. Is your website managed within your IT department?

Our IT department is part of our digital branch. IT is under the direction of the digital services director. Our web developer and web designer are both part of the IT department, and also part of the Creative Group. They do all the back end development of the site. Most of the content on our website is developed and maintained by other staff in the library (usually public services staff). The digital services director sometimes edits content, and meets with staff to help provide general suggestions and direction for library content. Marketing also helps with this.

3. How do you use social media and your website to engage with your communities?

We use social media to connect with our community by sharing library stuff and staff. “Stuff” includes our materials, events, and services. “Staff” means just what it sounds like – our staff involved in social media work to engage our community. For example, on our Facebook Page, our Facebook team focuses on these areas: readers advisory, current events and trends, and library materials, events, and services. In every post, our goal is to connect and engage with customers (in Facebook, the more engagement you get, the more eyes see your post), to point back to the library, to answer questions as they occur, and to share the library with our online community.

4. How much control of message and brand is important, in contrast with community engagement on the part of many staff throughout your library system?

I can’t say this strongly enough – in social media, you simply cannot control the message. Your customers do. Most modern marketing books, websites, blogs, etc. say that social media is all about engagement. It is probably 90% customer engagement and conversation, and only 10% marketing. If you flip that ratio to 100% marketing, your followers will simply tune you out.

Think about social media like this – who sits at your reference desk? Who runs your programs, classes, and events? The marketing department, or front-line public services staff? Does your marketing department control and edit the conversations taking place at the reference desk? I’m guessing not.

Social media is the same – it’s customer conversations and engagement, just like in your physical buildings. It’s just happening in your “digital building” – on your website and in your social media accounts.

photo by Mixy

All my Notes from BlogWorld Expo #bweny #BEA #beabloggercon

New York CityFor those interested, here’s a list of all my notes from Blogworld Expo, BookExpo America, and the BEA Bloggers conference in one handy place.

There’s some really good stuff here – but it’s a LOT to go through, too. I know I will be going through these, sharing some at work, and pondering others for my own blog. Enjoy!

Blogworld sessions:

BEA Sessions:

BEA Blogger’s Conference sessions:

Our Communicating Customers

Big ad on our website for the new library catalogMy library’s in the process of switching ILS systems – we just moved from SirsiDynix Horizon to a Polaris system (to all you non library types out there, I’m talking about our Library Catalog).

We just went live with the new system on May 23, and as you can imagine, it’s taking a couple of days to bring everything up, and get all the parts and pieces working like they should. It’s a huge, complex software/hardware switch, and it’s been a very smooth move, all things considered (mainly because we have awesome, great staff – they rock!).

We have two primary ways that customers can talk to us about the new catalog (well, discounting actually visiting the library and talking to us, and using the phone): an email form and through social media.

We set up an email feedback form that you can see in the catalog, and our customers are using it. So far, we’ve had maybe 20 or so customers communicate their love of the new catalog, their dislike of the “new thing,” or a specific problem with their account. Useful stuff.

Social media has been quite interesting!

First, I wrote a blog post about the catalog, complete with a short video. This post has received about 35 comments so far. Customers asking questions, and me responding to them.

Via Twitter, we have received some nice praise and good comments, including:

  • “Awesome! I’ve been hoping for this a very long time!”
  • “Can’t wait!”
  • “Good luck with the migration1 Bet the new catalog will be awesome!”
  • “We’re excited about the new catalogue! Not surprised that there are some hiccups.”

Facebook has been interesting, because some conversations were started by our customers.

This morning, one of our customers posted this: “Has anyone gotten into the new catalog?” And two people had a conversation about the catalog, about some of the third party things connected to the catalog (like our DVD Dispenser), and what was working/not working.

Since I’m one of the admins of our Facebook Page, I saw those conversations, and was able to answer their questions.

We also instigated some conversations. Yesterday, we posted this: “Today’s upgrade day & most upgrades to the catalog have been made. A few kinks are still being worked out, but you can now explore catalog.tscpl.org – and tell a friend! (Same goes for Facebook. We know you can use your influence to get us a few “likes,” right?;)”

… and that got us 25 Likes :-). And a couple more questions, too – which I answered via Facebook.

Why mention this? I find it fascinating to see conversations about library catalogs taking place via social media. 10-12 years ago – last time I helped with an ILS switch – I don’t remember seeing much customer feedback (though I’m sure someone got an earful). We didn’t se up email feedback forms, and social media pretty much didn’t exist yet. This time around, customers are helping each other, asking questions and tagging us … and I’m able to see them. And help. And hear.

Amazing.

My Computers in Libraries 2012 Presentations

As usual, I had a great time at Computers in Libraries 2012 (#CILDC). I learned some interesting things, and met some really cool people too.

I also gave a few presentations (ok – five presentations). Here are a couple of my slidedecks and some notes people took during the presentations, so you can get a feel for my sessions. Enjoy!

1. Seven Essential Elements to an Awesome Library Website

Nicole Engard took some pretty thorough notes! This slidedeck made the main page of Slideshare, in the Featured and the Top Pro Content sections!).

2. Digital Hangouts: Reaching Outside the Building

Digital Hangouts: Reaching Outside the Building

View more presentations from David King
This slidedeck also made the main page of Slideshare, in the Top Pro Content section. Sweet!
3. The Next Big Thing – an interactive panel (Jill Hurst-Wahl’s notes).

4. Benchmark Study – Library Spending and Priorities 2012 (another panel – notes from Joanna’s Conference Reports blog).

5. Let’s Make Video! (a preconference workshop with Michael Porter. Notes from the Montana BTOP Technology Training blog).