April 2004
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Month April 2004

old hat?

Let’s face it. Many of us have been using blogs in libraries by now. Getting a bit bored with it? Read on.

I recently put up a wiki as a knowledge exchange for one of the Virtual Reference projects with which we’re invloved. Knowing that it was quite easy for me to throw up on the web (nice mental picture, that phrase) and that it is certainly easy to update, the head of Adult Services asked if there were any uses for wikis on our website. His initial thought was that it could be used for some sort of patron book review portion for the site. I was impressed with the forward thinking quesiton.

The ease at which wikis can be altered makes them not the ideal technology for public use, I think, but there must be some libraries, or at least one, that are using a wiki in some capacity. If our staff blog wasn’t as popular as it is, a wiki would be an interesting choice. Rick and I agreed that throwing technolgy at problems that aren’t there often leads to the creation of problems, but it is a good thing to ruminate about how technologies might be applied.

So please email me if you are using a wiki in some library capacity. I’d show you the one for the VR project, but then I’d have to kill you. 😉

instant urban legends

We adults are missing out. I’ve learned a good deal of how young people are using IM since I’ve opened up the library to them through the technology. Corny, perhaps bothersome emails, usually containing half truths, have migrated to IMs. I got this one today:

HeLLo my name is Josh…..i am 7 years old with black hair and red eyes. i have no nose or ears…. i am dead. if you do not send this 15 people in the next 5 minutes i will appear tonight by your bed with a knife and kill you.. this is no joke Something good will happen to u 2nite at 9:22. This is not a joke some1 will either call u or will talk to u online >and say that they love u. do not break this. No send back

I thought this way funny, and interesting in that it is probably very viral. A message like this could get scattered all across the country and read, well, in an instant.

wireless qua advertising

We’ve been without web stats for a while, so I was quite happy when today they were fixed. I was even happier to see that our site recieved 9 hits coming from from http://www.wififreespot.com/ during April. People had searched for free wireless connectivity in Illinois, and found the library. Nice.

As wireless becomes even more expected, I bet that this number will increase. Being tech current and relevant is sure to make your library stand out, and bring in people that might not otherwise come into the library.

word of mouth

A staff member here finally got her hands on one of our MP3 players after having to wait a few weeks. Upon checking it out she asked, “How long can I have this for? Two weeks?” She was concerned about finishing the book she had on the player. Funny thing is that I saw her the next day and she was nearly done with the book. She said it had made walking, gardening, and cleaning very enjoyable. I loaded another title on the player immediately. Who knows? She might listen to 5 (or more) books during her 2 week period.

With any luck she’ll mention her zeal for books on mp3 to the knitting club next thursday and they’ll all place holds. Getting staff acquainted with new technoligies and training them to use it is good for a number of reasons. Patron questions are more easily fielded, for one. Also, at smaller libraries, or any library where employees live in the community, staff are great marketers. If they are excited about books on mp3 or wireless in the library, they’ll spread the word to their friends and neighbors. Rick here (my own personal zen reference guru) saw two ‘evangelists’ speak at PLA (for MSFT and Real), so why can’t we have them too? Well, besides the fact that it is a creepy title.

I can see it now: I’ll be riding my bike through town, proclaming the joys of the library. I went to the library and I saw the light. I’ve been SAVED! No more will I be burdened by my T-Mobile iniquties at Starbucks, no longer will I fruitlessly caress my keyboard calling upon google, no more will I be enchained by 14 cassettes for an audiobook. I have been freed by the library!

print coverage

The local paper ran a page 3 article on library technologies today, and we were heavily featured. The focus of the article was ‘libraries are hip and tech savvy’ and illustrated how we’re using technology to make libraries convenient. During the interview I gave the reporter our AIM name, hoping to solicit some response but it was not included. I was looking forward to seeing if we got a deluge of IMs had it been in there.

While I appreciate the article and think it is good, it does present a false dichotomy between books and technology. Budgets are tight and choices have to be made, but just because a library chooses to implement a wireless network doesn’t mean that they don’t value books.

We’re lucky to get what I think is a decent amount of coverage in the two local papers. Make friends with some reporters; they can provide effective and free marketing.


It probably was a fluke, but yesterday I had more patrons contact me via IM than the telephone. The questions were great too. Not only were there requests for general information, there were requests for specific library information too. It had been quite some time since someone asked me about signing up for a NetLibrary account, but sure enough, someone did via IM yesterday. The patron got access to NetLibrary without having to step foot into the library. IM saves the time of the reader. Ranganathan would be proud, eh Jessa?

If you put the library out there with IM, patrons will use it. Maybe more than you’re prepared to handle. I’m looking forward to the time when patrons contacting me via IM reaches a critical mass and we are forced to alter our staffing patterns because of it.

help, computer!

Two girls were IMing at the reference web terminals, so I stepped over and handed them each one of my IM advert card each without saying anything. One’s response was, “What’d I do?” I found this entertaining. I told them to read the card, and explained why they might want to IM the library. They thought it was awesome, if not a bit funny. As I went back to my desk, 10 feet away, one girl asked the other, “Where should I put the library?” She was talking about her buddy list, and decided that the library would best fit under the “Computer” section. With IM bots. This must mean something.

musical chairs

this boy is having more fun than I am in the library today. spring fever is rough.

talking to youth

“I don’t know what I’d do without IM. I’d be, like, so bored.”

Yes, that’s an acutal quote. To spread the word about the library IMing, I’ve started to approach groups of kids, handing them the cards I’ve printed out, and asking them if they IM. The results of my informal polling have been interesting. Nearly all junior high respondants use IM while some highschooler respondants don’t. Many of the younger youth completely take IM for granted, like adults think of telephones; they’ve always been a tool for communication.

Also, and I can’t recall who mentioned this to me, I heard something interesting about buddy lists the other day. Having a buddy list chock-full of screen names is a status symbol in some circles. It must be a sign of popularity. How popular is your library?

update: michael told me about buddy lists being status symbols. I totally stole that. See his post, please.

reality check

Although the vast majority of comments about our books on mp3 program have been positive, we did get a negative one today. A patron thought the quality of sound coming from the Audible Otis wasn’t very good. My suspicion is that the volume on the player was set low, forcing the car radio’s volume to be high. I tested this out, and it indeed sounded poor.

There is a statement about this on the handout circulated in the package, but one mustn’t have made it in there for this circ.

I’m not sweating it. Can’t please everyone.