a lesson from puma

[Puma Anjan 2 by bobafred]

In my SirsiDynix Institute talk with the Librarian in Black this morning I mentioned that putting our users in control is a good idea. Sarah gave the concrete example of how power-enabled teen advisors can invigorate a YA department. We weren’t advocating letting the inmates run the asylum (or maybe a better phrase would be “vacationers steer the cruise ship” – let’s not compare our patrons with inmates – behave!), but rather being as user-centered as possible when appropriate.

Then I came upon this article from Fast Company: The Catalyst: How open-source design (and a big shot of fashion) saved Puma, and invented an industry . There are a few good ideas for libraries in the article that echo our sentiments from the morning.

Puma has since become the fourth-largest athletic apparel company in the world, a transformation that testifies to Zeitz’s vision and willingness to roll the dice. After spending several years kicking the company’s bad habits…he decided to put an unrestrained 21-year-old skateboarder named Antonio Bertone in charge of a new division.

When Bertone was put in charge he was probably more like the demographic that Puma was hoping to reach than a retail exec. I’m sure it took some trust for Zeitz to put him into place, just like it takes trust and for us to open up our institutions to contributions from patrons. As Puma did, libraries benefit from it.

the learning community

One text for my Admin of the School Media Center class this quarter is Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning which is put out by ALA. The opening chapter forwards the idea of creating a “learning community” in schools:

“This new learning community is not limited by time, place, age, occupation, or disciplinary borders but instead is linked by interest, need, and a growing array of telecommunications technology” (p. 2)

Isn’t that a nice notion? Because there can’t be community without interaction, this concept provides a useful framework for thinking about school libraries in the age of the two-way web. It even expressly states that people are linked by technology. This should provide some evidence for school librarians trying to utilize social software to engage their students. It also presents a non-hierarchical view of student-teacher relationships. Inspiring!

extending device life

As we try to port library services to mobile devices, or actually try to create new services for mobile devices, we should be encouraged by news of increased battery life. Hybrio rechargables allegedly last 4 times longer than regular alkaline batteries and can be charged 500 times. According to some MIT micro-jocks, batteries might soon be a thing of the past. See the article “Engine on a chip promises to best the battery”. I can’t really get my head around the idea of having a fuel burning engine inside of my laptop, but if it gets me 10 times the life of a charge, I’m all for it.

Meanwhile, how are teens using their cellulars? They’re not using them to tunnel in to Unix servers or even watch live doppler radar loops. A study by online cell provider LetsTalk says that teens are all about texting. No surprise, really. Think there’s a service opportunity there? [hint: yes]

school libraries and myspace

We’re all aware that some academic and public libraries have been using MySpace (see Jenny’s post about the recent US News article too!) to remain relevant and market themselves, but what about school libraries?

It being a hot-button issue and certainly blocked in 99.999% of schools, I imagine school librarians would have a heck of a time getting any sort of admin approval for this. I can hear the conversation. “If we have a MySpace, that’ll *condone* kids visiting the site and it will connect them with molesters!” Right. Because they’re not using it anyways. God forbid there’s any positive influence or education by example going on.

But I digress. Please let me know if you know of any school libraries (or schools in general) with a MySpace account. Thanks!

amazing library site for teens: My Own Cafe

I may have simply missed the train on this one, but maybe you did too. Alternative Teen Services posted about it in December, VOYA had an article about it but I only recently learned about My Own Cafe.

What it is? My Own Cafe is a MySpace type website hosted and moderated by the Southeastern Massachusetts Library System, and holy smokes it is amazing. It is a great example of libraries providing an online community for its young patrons, and doing so without being librarianish. At the same time, it manages to be a great spot for kids to learn about healthy ways to be online. Here’s a page titled safety tips.

People don’t visit My Own Cafe for the safety tips though, they visit it for the message boards about sports, music, movies, politics and more, lists of communty events, and MP3s from local bands. I’m sure the librarians hope they visit for the homework help and links into library resources. You’ll see below that their My Own Cafe login automatically logs them in to the library system’s databases. Nice. I think My Own Cafe is the best library site for teens around. It is a great example of libraries translating something that they do well in their physical branches to their online branches: community.

I got in touch with two SEMLS employees, Kathy Lussier, Assistant Administrator for Technology and Vickie Beene-Beavers Assistant Administrator for Youth Services [thanks Beth], to ask them some questions about the site. Emphasis in their answers is from me

Who are you, what do you do and what role did you play in the creation of MOC?

We wrote the LSTA grant that provided the initial seed money for the project, worked with the initial advisory group of teens and librarians and the web developers during the site’s development, and are now providing the funding for the continued maintenance of the site. We also provide the training to librarians to administer the site.

The SEMLS is a state-funded, multi-type library system providing services to libraries in Southeastern Massachusetts. We provide delivery in this part of the state, provide access to online databases, offer continuing education programs, administer ILL and regional reference assistance, among many other things.

Do you know how many MOC accounts have been created? How many posts to the message boards?

We now have 189 users under the age of 20 who have registered for accounts. However, we’re in the midst of an iPod giveaway, so I’m hoping to see that number increase by the end of August. We have had 5,971 posts to the boards since October 7, 2005, which is when we first launched the site in pilot mode.

MOC takes the idea of a YA section of a library website – something that many libraries haven’t even attempted yet – to a whole new level. It is fantastic that teens can have an online identity there. Was that an idea you had early on?

I think our idea early on was that most library web sites are fairly static and unlikely to attract the interest of most teens. We knew from the beginning that to engage teens, we would need a site where the content changed daily and the would incorporate some kind of interaction. We know that teens are primarily using the Internet to interact, and we didn’t think the site would be successful without some component that would support interaction. In our initial brainstorming session with the advisory group, we talked about the possibility of using private IM, private e-mail, blogs, and chat. We ultimately decided to go with the messageboards.

How many librarians have a presence on MOC? How much work is it for them? Do you have any teens working on the site?

We have trained staff from 52 libraries on how to customize My Own Cafe for their own libraries. Most are from public libraries, but we have also trained staff from a handful of high school libraries as well. We have approximately 75 staff members from these libraries who have administrative capabilities on the site. It’s hard to see this from the Guest account, but when a teen from a “real” library logs into My Own Cafe, their library’s name shows up underneath the logo in place of where you see “Southeastern Massachusetts Library System.” Everything on the My Community page is specific to that particular library. It shows the library’s contact information, highlights the events going on in that particular community, and will eventually feature job postings from that town. The teens may also have additional databases available to them in the info center if their library has their own subscriptions.

We designed the site with the intention that it would work for a library even if they could not devote much time to maintaining it. Some libraries haven’t done much to customize the site since their initial training, but at the least they have been able to customize the site enough so that it is a viable portal for the teens in their communities. These libraries are not as likely to have high participation from their teens, but some do find the site and become active participants. Other libraries spend more time recruiting teens and training them how to update the site. We’ve found that libraries with active YA librarians and programs are more likely to be the ones to spend more time on the site, but they are really incorporating it into their existing YA activities rather than adding it on.

We are currently organizing meetings with the site’s library administrators to see how we can get them more actively involved in helping out with some of the monitoring of the site.

We do have various administrative levels set up for the teens so that they can help administrate the site, and several libraries have chosen to work with their teens on keeping the content on the site fresh. The various jobs available to teens are moderating a messageboard (by far the most popular choice), adding events for the library, reviewing music from local bands to decide whether it should be posted to the site, and creating polls for the site. All of the boards are monitored by teens, although we try to check in everyone once in a while to see how things are going.

As if having kids hang out at the digital branch of the library isn’t enough, the site is also set up to connect them with library materials, and it does this without being (lame and) pushy. Once logged in, they can seamlessly connect to library databases. Do you know if they’re doing this?

Of course, you know this whole website was an elaborate way to get teens to use these resources. We don’t make it easy for patrons to use our databases, and we really tried our best to improve this situation in My Own Cafe. Ideally, we would love to use federated search so that we can Google-ize our online databases, but we don’t have the funds for federated search right now, and I’m not sure there is a product out there yet that really makes database searching as easy as Google.

In the interim, we have designed the site so that teens enter their library card once when they create their accounts. As long as they are logged in, they do not need to enter their barcode again. We provide a search box that automatically brings them to an InfoTrac Powersearch search. They also get one-click access to all of our other databases (although we never actually use the word database on the site). We have also recently given libraries the ability to add their own individual subscriptions to the site so that teens do not need to go to four different places to use a library’s resources. When writing the grant, we had looked at brarydog from Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and followed their example in making database access a little easier.

But you asked the question about whether they are actually using these resources? Well, we know the info center will not be the thing that brings teens to the web site. We’re relying on the messageboards and music center to be the draw. But our hope is that as they use the site, they start to discover other resources available to them and begin using them because they are easily accessible. I’m looking at our stats, and use of the info center and the find library materials page was fairly low during the early months of the web site. The info center was the fourth most-visited page in April when we were doing a special iPod giveaway. Users could be entered into a drawing for an iPod if they answered 10 questions using resources in the info center. The questions were difficult, but the info center also includes access to MassAnswers – our 24/7 chat reference service – and we were encouraging the teens to use MassAnswers for the stumpers. In May, the info center sunk to the tenth-most visited page, but there were still quite a few more requests than in months previous to April. There hasn’t been much activity on those pages during the summer, which isn’t surprising. We’re planning a similar iPod giveaway in the fall when teens are settling back into school.

During the last iPod giveaway, I noticed a user had posted to the board about an article she had found in eLibrary, one of our online databases. You can read the post here. She was one of the users who participated in the giveaway, and it gave some evidence that the promotion got at least one teen to use a database for personal use.

Kids have a reputation for not behaving themselves online. What has your experience been with MOC? Have there been many posts to delete? I think that online communities can be self-policing, and I’ve seen some examples of this on MOC. One person gets testy, and others say, “Stop it” or simply ignore the comment.

We’ve also grown accustomed to hearing about kids acting inappropriate, i.e. bullying, foul language, so far our experience has been quite the opposite. The incidents of improper behavior on My Own Cafe have been VERY low. With teen moderators monitoring and editing content, we’ve found that our volunteers have been very careful and considerate in allowing other teens to speak freely and to maintain a sense of respectfulness and an atmosphere where teens can feel comfortable expressing their opinion. So yes, self—policing will and has happened on MOC. Via the net, teens are challenged to articulate their opinions and ideas among peers and it is inevitable that teens will interpret a post as a personal attack. It’s no different from adults conversing. But even when posts are heated, this is an opportunity for teens to practice their moderating skills; some are learning to present their arguments with facts, while others are learning to listen to both sides of a debate. Yet even at this date, we haven’t had to delete a post that our moderators thought was malicious.

The fact that MOC allows for teens to have an identy is crucial because of what they want to do online: connect with others. I noticed that the forums and message boards are one of the most popular sections of the site, one teen having just under 500 posts.

Isn’t that the reason that we post messages online? To connect and meet with new people who share our interests. It’s no different from going to a dance, hanging out at the mall or meeting other gamers. It’s pretty cool to see the types of conversations that go on with teens and even cooler to see how intense some of these conversations evolve.

Another reason I really like MOC is because it is teaching kids appropriate online behavior. This is an important part of information literacy, and I see it as more important than them memorizing that the atomic number for titanium is 22.

A recent George Washington University Study sanctioned to evaluate the effectiveness of the Netsmartz Program in Maine indicated that a teen’s internet safety awareness rose dramatically. Whether or not a teen has participated in a formal internet safety program, any teen will tell you that they have been drilled ad nausea by both teachers and parents on what or what not to share online. Hopefully we effectively added to that dialogue by posting our guidelines to continue practice safety and appropriate online behavior in our Newbies section. However we know that it is still an individual decision as to whether or a teen will abide to the guidelines. But most teens will choose to communicate or opt not to participate if they are not comfortable.

However we are finding that our teen moderators are much more stricter than we are when it comes to appropriate behavior-and even grammar for that matter (laugh). If a situation arises where teens do not feel comfortable, we’ve asked that they contact us via email after hours and of course by phone. Without an opportunity for them to make a decision without an adult present, how else will they learn to be safe?

Although I noticed that many people have YouTube videos embedded, I don’t see many photos on the site. Intentional? This is very different than, say, MySpace where many teens post photos as comments.

As we continue to offer training workshops to our SE members we are encouraging both our school and public librarians to ask teens to use avatars rather than personal photos in their profiles. We’ve had some teens to post photos of themselves (at least we assumed it was them) but it looks like they opted to switch to an avatar instead. But in all honestly, teachers and school media specialists have been discussing safety with teens in classroom settings for a number of semesters and I think teens are finding other ways to express themselves creatively while satisfying the wishes of concerned adults.

If you had unlimited time and funds, what would you do to improve MOC?

What we would really love is to expand our Poetry section to include all things related to art. In this Creativity Center we could house digital artwork and photography, short stories, podcasts, you name it. It is ripe with the possibilities with the proper funding. We just haven’t had the time to seek money outside of our local resources but it is due time. Got any suggestions? 😎

Many thanks for Kathy and Vickie for this great project, and sharing their thoughts with us.

International Survery on DDR

For those of you in libraries that might need some research and numbers to start gaming events in your institution, here’s a paper titled “International survey on the Dance Dance Revolution game”. Print it and wave it all around, maybe in the general direction of any wet blanket in your building. The full text pdf is free.

An online questionnaire was used to study various factors related to Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) gaming. In total, 556 respondents from 22 countries of ages 12 to 50 filled in a questionnaire which examined the players’ gaming background, playing styles and skills, motivational and user experience factors, social issues, and physical effects of dance gaming, and taking part in dance-gaming related activities. The results show that playing DDR has a positive effect on the social life and physical health of players, as it improves endurance, muscle strength and sense of rhythm, and creates a setting where new friends can be found.[em mine]

How great is it to think of your library as a place where new friends can connect? hint: amazingly great!


our libraries need to be brighter and noisier

I’m in Eagle, Idaho for the awesome “Evolving Library Services for Digital Natives” mini-conference put on by the Idaho Commission for Libraries. Last night we got to hear Stephen Abram talk, this morning we heard Alane Wilson talk about the OCLC Perceptions study, and in the early afternoon we heard from a panel of real life Digital Natives! And we just listened. Then Sarah Houghton, Stephen and I were moderated (ha!) by Alane while we had what was essentially a nearly three hour Q&A/show and tell session with the amazing audience. Tomorrow we get to workshop in the morning, and help groups plan services for Digital Natives. This has been a top-notch event! The librarians of Idaho should be thanking Gina Persichini and State Librarian Ann Joslin (and I’m sure others) for putting this on.

Kris and Jen have been blogging about the conference at Russet Vixen, so check that out, but I want to include my notes on the panel of Millenials. Stephen did a bang-up job asking them questions, which I’ll include right here so you can copy, paste, and ask these to a group of teenagers in your library.

What was the last song you listened to?
How do you listen to music?
Should the poor have access to college education or should it be only parents money?
Agree or disagree: It is better to be seen as a peer group than too smart by the group.
When did you last exercise, what did you do?
When was the last time you volunteered outside of school?
Will the world be better or worse in 10 years?
What will your standard of living be like? Same, better or worse than your parents?
How many friends are of a different ethnicity?
How many close friends do you stay in constant contact with?
What brand of jeans do you like?
Do you play an instrument?
Have you put content on the web?
Do you IM?
How much text messaging do you do?
Do you have a MySpace? Tell me about it.
Do you play videogames?
When did you last visit a public/school library?
When was the last time you were in a big bookstore?
Do you believe that gay marriage should be legal?
What is your career goal?
If you had money to spend on parks, libraries or schools, where would you put it?
Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat or independent?

Sarah did a great job writing some prose about the questions, so here’s the notes I took. After the ones Stephen asked, there are a few that were asked by the audience. In case you don’t read that far, let me pull out a few things:

  • Even though some of these kids have grown out of IM (for the time being I suspect), and even though they are NOT library users, they unanimously thought that being able to contact the library via IM was a great idea.
  • The number one things they’d change about the library teen spaces is the color. They want something very bright. So bright that you’d think it was totally gross.
  • Every participant was very enthusiastic for gaming events in libraries.

Ok, here’s how they answered the questions.

radio – rock/pop
MP3 – can’t remember song
delilah (local woman)
wicked musical
delilah, not by choice!
lincoln park

how do you listen to music?
split between radio and ipod. no CDs

what brand of jeans?
american eagle
BKE – the buckle
american eagle/aeropostle
whatever fits
don’t wear jeans, i like cargo pants
old navy
don’t care

how many close friends do you stay in constant contact w/?
phone a lot
3-4 local friends
3-4, with them a lot
groups, 10-12
10, around the state, everyday, phone
(girls have more)

how many friends are of a different ethnicity
not many
small minority

what will your standard of living be like? same better or worse than parents
aiming for better
same, but better
better, prolly the same
better, same is ok
better, prolly the same

will the world be better than 10 years?
same, prolly better
same, or worse
some aspects better (tech), but worse because more poverty
maybe better because of tech! environmental concerns

when was the last time you volunteered outside of school? – 100% of the crowd!
every fall, church related
church, carwash
carwash, church
church, family friends

when did you exercise, what did you do?
this morning, weights, running
this morning, pilates
skateboarding is not excercise
this morning
two days ago

it is better to be seen as a peer group than too smart by the group – agree?
that’s the way things are
i agree, you’ll be left out otherwise
really better to be smarter
i get picked on for being smarter
good to be smart, but don’t be cocky, friends shouldn’t care
what he said
better to be part of a peer group, if you’re smarter, you might be seen as making people stupid
people should accept you

should the poor have access to college education (government) or should it be parents money?
if they’ve worked hard, social status shouldn’t matter at all
same thing, if you work hard you should be rewarded
agreed, not your fault if you are poor
the government should help
agree. everyone should be able to do it. money does not equal smart
the rich should have to pay, the poor should not

do you believe that gay marriage should be law?
boy – nope, should not be law
boy – nope, it is not right in my beliefs
girl = it SHOULD be law
girl – shouldn’t be illegal
girl – can’t control it, called something different
girl – yes, ppl should be able to do what they want
boy – marriage no, being together okay
boy – gay marriage i disagree totally
boy – marriage no, being together okay

when was the last time you were in a big bookstore? (nothing w/in walking)
month ago
2 weeks
quite a while ago
quite a while ago
long time ago
i don’t read unless it is assigned, don’t visit them
when harry potter 6 came out
winter to buy books

when did you visit a public/school library?
really really long time/school often
couple months for big projects/constantly!
quite a while/don’t go in there much
couple weeks/not for a while
when i was 9/school year
when i need to get a study book or project, couple days ago/regularly
only been there once, a month in a half ago, didn’t have da vinci/for projects
winter/last day of school

do you play videogames?
yes, xbox and ps2 – tony hawk
no, sometimes like DDR
quite often – king of hearts 2
yes, mario, gameboy
few weeks ago, xbox motorcycle, computer
ps2, don’t play often, role playing games
daily, war games, call of duty, madden, xbox
this morning, the sims
late last night, xbox, all the games that i owned, halo. i was bored. i played a while ago, yesterday

do you have myspace, tell me about it
2 accounts, one real, one test, i talk to friends that way
don’t do it too much anymore, switching to facebook
don’t use it too much any more, i got over it
don’t have one, my friends do
trying to get it canceled
don’t have it, don’t get it
don’t have it, don’t get it
my parents hate it, think it is unsafe, won’t get it
don’t have it, made one up for fun

text messaging? how much
unlimited! all the time
all the time, 3000/month
don’t have a phone
no phone
would have to pay for it, no
don’t have phone
no phone and i don’t see why not. i want one!

MSN, Yahoo, and AIM, but I use myspace. used to be obsessed w/IM
in middle school i IMed all the time
yahoo, msn, aim, don’t use it much anymore
don’t have IM, parents won’t let me (has secret one)
msn, AIM, yes
msn, aim, yes
used to use it when i was younger (boy is 16), homework help
parents won’t let me
no accounts, my sister has three accounts, on it constantly

have you put content on the web?
yes, friends set up site for homework help
yes, video

yes, tried things

republican, democrat, independent?
republican, but some dems are okay
no idea
whoever i agree with
democrat (my mom might kill me otherwise)

what would make you go the library!?
group collaboration!
sweet computers, flatscreens – sexy!
plan ahead of time for research
talk and make noise
an area where you can have bigger groups
faster computers, way to find the books easier
easier way to find books
(boy thinks his library doesn’t have internet, window 98 is getting SLOW)
faster computers, easier to find books

parks, libraries or schools?
schools, parks
(their concerns are better equipment)

what is your career goal?
physical therapist
graphic designer
marine biologist
medical field, physical therapy
undecided, medical
computer programmer
football player, navy pilot

would you go to the library if there was gaming?
of course
my friends would, tons of people would
if it was closer

what would your space in the library be?
barnes and noble, sit and read
bright colors, contemporary, sunken in floor
trendy colors
more colors, couches
food stand
music playing, headphones
comfortable seats

do you know any librarians as friends
my grandma

what would be in the library?
magazines and books
girls magazines
game rental, play it there and take it home
big TV, game nights like the library

what would you need in a study space?
3-5 people, 2 computers or big monitor
2 computers, doing different things (multitasking)
wireless keyboard/mouse

IM reference?
yes (willing to pay!)
easier to drive,
never phoned the ref desk

we have this stuff. how should we let you know?
something on the internet
video announcements

how do you FEEL about the library?
they are not so nice, eagle library is nice tho. depends
the library is a friendsly place (the homeless scare me), i’ll get what i need
depends on library and librarian, for the most part, good
always willing to help
i don’t know enough to know
they are nice for the most part
they want to help
it is a friendly place

have a favorite search engine? do you have a strategy?
dogpile, gives you the least amount to go through
google, spell correction
google, yahoo ads suck
google, the first i used
google, yahoo
google, used it first, i’m learning how to use it well

has anyone heard of lili databases (local stuff) 2/9 🙁

funny stuff

A few people have emailed me asking about my absence, so here’s a quick note saying hello to everyone. I’ve been off doing fun things, usually involving riding one of my bikes fast, far, or both. For some content, here’s a great comment I found on the MySpace of one of the TFML’s MySpace friends:

omfg! take ur town off of myspace! people could molest you!!!!! jk jk jk. lol. jus got back from my aunt &uncles crawfish thingy. fun fun. okay. laterr.

The library had a slew of 6th grade classes come in to hear about the summer reading program today. Their eyes popped when we told them about the library’s efforts with books on iPod, IM, video games and MySpace. Some of them were so shocked you’d have thought we showed them a married bachelor or a three sided square. I didn’t know our image issue was *that* bad.