making headway

You might remember that I have started to make up little cards with a library IM address on it, in hopes of attracting YA patrons (and others) to use library services.

I’ve printed about 30 of them; most of them are gone. I noticed one YA using the backside of it to record a call number. A few questions have come so far, but no crazy critical mass where we have to hire someone to IM full time though. That comes later.

One intereting thing happened today. Someone accidently sent an IM to me. It happened to be someone that had never IMed me before. We’ve all done it, sent a message to person X that was totally out of context for person Y. He apologized, I replied that it wasn’t a problem, and that he should IM me if he had a question.

I was nearly in disbelief that this occured. He had added me to his buddy list, presumably as backup when he needs some help. Maybe he is just curious about how much we’re (I’m) on, or something to that effect, but I don’t really care. We’re on his buddy list.

Amazing, really.

drop, flop, pop

A librarian in Vermont sent me an email asking what boxes we’re using to circulate our Audible Otis players. They currently are using some tough (nylon?) bags that aren’t sturdy enough for the book drop, even a small one.

We use the Accessory Box from one of my favourites, the Container Store. They are 7.5” in depth, 6.6” in width ,and 3.625” high. Even though they would be sturdy enough for a book drop, the lip popping off is a concern, as would be the player flopping around. We’ve chosen to make it a “no book drop” item. $5 fine if the rule isn’t followed.

The library in Vermont has a slot-in-the-door type of return, so they need something slim. I don’t think these boxes will work. Any ideas?

printing from phones

Evidently uberchain drugstore CVS is now offering people the ability to make prints from their picturephones. People can beam pics via IR or bluetooth and have a print for $0.29.

Phones with advanced features are mainstream, libraries should respond. It wouldn’t take much for a library to get an inkjet printer with an IR port, and many of you already have them, I suspect. All that one would need to get a program going is some marketing. Okay, that’s often the most difficult part, I know. Somebody do this, please!

IM danger

Another interesting tidbit to come out of our meeting: people’s perceptions of IM. Someone asked if I was keeping transcripts of IM sessions between the library and patrons. The intention of this would be to protect the library (and me) against someone in the public claiming any kind of misappropriation. I had forgotten that IM has been slightly demonized in the past as a tool for people trying to lure children.

I’m not sure that there is anything special about IM that warrants this type of record keeping. We don’t feel the need to record our face-to-face transactions, or email transactions, and what, really, is different about IM? Certainly it is true that face-to-face or email reference transactions haven’t been used to harm children, and IM has, so this raises red flags. However, I’m sure that that email (not in a reference transaction) has been used for nefarious purposes, and there’s no concern for this method of communication. This leads me to believe that concern arises simply because IM is new and unfamiliar. When/if libraries get hip to IM, it will only be a matter of time before it is old hat.

The suggestion of keeping IM transcripts, ready to be displayed, must be seen as ironic when revealing the contents of a circ record or an in person reference transaction is something we fight to protect.


forward thinking

We had an Adult Services meeting today, and some very interesting thoughts about technology in libraries were raised. When I was giving an update about ListenIllinois someone inquired whether patrons could download books onto their own mp3 players. I replied that it wasn’t possible yet, but that it will (hopefully) be available soon, and that this would be ideal. Another staff member came back with, “Yeah, imagine if patrons had to check out a CD player every time they wanted to check out a CD!” That was exciting for me to hear.

pencil envy?

Thinking about various forms of computer technology in the library, I was amused to hear a request today about our pencil sharpener. Somebody loves it so much that they are going to go buy the exact same model!

Please take a moment and evaluate the pencil sharpening technology that you are offering your patrons.

leading libraries?

I’m very impressed with a many of the students in the LTA class I’m teaching. We had a wonderful discussion about technology in libraries that stemmed from our lesson on Virtual Reference.

I was impressed with one student who rightly tempered my enthusiasm with the mention of older library patrons probably not using things like VR or WiFi. Mention of the digital divide was natural after that. Forward thinking libraries work hard trying to accommodate all users.

Another student was interested in discussing the influence of libraries in a community. I stated in the conversation, just as I’ve written here, that commercial interests often familiarize technologies to people. Libraries must be ready to respond to patron demands after this happened. Of course I would really like to see libraries lead the way, but this is not currently happening. Librarians are, or should be, information experts, so it would be almost natural for a community to be guided by expert librarians. Any town that doesn’t have wireless in its coffee shops or eateries could be introduced to wireless by the library. Their perspecitive would be, “Oh, wow, look! The coffee shop has wireless now, but they’re charging for it!”

talking paper

One of the coolest things our library is doing now is circulating books on mp3 players. Through the collaberative program Listen Illinois we have access to many, many titles. Eventually 1800, I’m told. There are new books, fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, kids books, classics, and more. You can go to the site and browse for yourself.

Jenny did most of the hard work setting up this project, and the few member libraries that chose to participate are reaping the rewards. To get going, all I need to do was the following:

-attend an instructional session on how to load software on to computers, register the players, etc…

-get some small plastic boxes for the circulating package ($3 @ The Container Store)

-Make some promotional materials

-Get Tech Services to slap some stickers on the players

After that were were ready to go, except for that one small factor: staff. I had trained 2 people in the library way before we went live, and they had forgotten quite a bit. I made sure the docs I drew up were readily available and retrained them. Er, one of them. (I’d better get on that.)

We made an announcement on the website (still need something permanent), made an announcement in the newsletter, and got the local paper to write write a story. This is an exciting new offering, and they were happy to write a column about it. Whether it be my movie group, or this book on mp3 program, I’ve found getting a library service into the local paper is key. Besides this, I made a poster to be housed by the other audiobooks. I’m contented, for now, with the amount of attention that has come to the project. As I type this there are 6 holds on the players, and they’ve been in circulation to various patrons since the project went live. Every repeat user I’ve spoken with about the project has been tremendously excited about the program, and impressed with the library. These people will be the main users of the mp3 players. Maybe they will tell their friends, but the library might have to wait for the commercial sector to push the format more before more people become interested. I’m not happy about it, but I think the reality is that the private sector has more influence than us.

The overall reception amongst the staff was positive. Because it would be a fairly large scale effort, I have not yet trained Circ staff to do anything with the program. For now, this is handled by Reference, mainly me. If I could have two or three hours with the Circ and Reference people, they would have no problem learning. And as trite as it may seem, I think role playing might be very useful for them. I suppose I would first demonstrate downloading titles, and putting them on the players. Next they would be walked through the process, and lastly they would try it themselves. The problem is that there are many part timers who might not be asked to do this in a real situations for months. Would they be able to recall the process?

It is people who have already made mp3 players an integral part of their lives that libraries are most likely to lose to the world of fun, glitzy, and useful technology. We need to reel them back in to our world or rich content.

the disconnect

I’ve found the expectations of my virtual patrons to be just as high as patrons in the building. This being the case, if they aren’t satisfied with an answer, they tell me so. This is how reference works sometimes.

Their usual instance leads me to believe that when they do stop responding they are satisfied. If I hit the question spot on and give them a webpage that answers their question, I almost more often than not get a ”[user has disconnected]” message after asking them if they like the site.

Some may take this as an insult or a sign of dissatisfaction, but while it might not be the most polite move, I think in many cases it means we’ve done a fine job.