January 2006
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Month January 2006

libraries and trust

Perhaps it was because I was trusting the motorists as they whizzed by me and my bicycle, but on my afternoon ride I started thinking about the issue of trust in libraries. It really seems central to what we do. Here are some examples, and you all come up with more I’m sure.

In every reference transaction there is an exchange of trust. Asking questions of a reference librarian is an act of reliance. If a patron perceives a librarian as untrustworthy they’re simply not going to feel comfortable asking them questions. Would you? Good reference librarians connect with users as fellow humans and empathize with them. The most successful transactions are those in which this connection is realized and users trust that the librarian’s concern leads to accurate and useful information. Of course, this is rarely explicit and usually takes place through friendliness, attentiveness, verbal cues and body languge. I don’t think it can be faked.

“Every reader his or her book” is an exercise in trust. In this statement, librarians trust individuals to choose what is best. Ranganathan trusted library users, which was a change of pace from previous didactic ways.

The notion of trust manifests itself in the new focus we have with our presence on the web. Users trust us enough to care about, say, the bookmarks we store on del.icio.us, and we trust users to not leave inappropriate comments on our weblogs and wikis. This is the same type of trust that enables people to be interested in our print collections, and enables us to trust that they aren’t going to rip pages out of books. Or fill out the crossword puzzles. Or use a piece of pizza as a bookmark. Sure, bad choices are occasionally made and people misbehave but these incidents appear to be the exception rather than the rule.

This sharing of trust is an important connection and something that our users appreciate. Trust is the strong suit of successful libraries, and Libraries in general would benefit if it became part of our “brand.” More people would use libraries if our institutions were associated with comfort and trust.

Non-user-centered library policy corrodes the trust that we should be aiming to develop.
“No Drinks in the Library” equals “We don’t trust you to keep our library clean.” “You must give us your name to use our computers” equals “We think there’s a chance that you’re going to do something wrong or bad and we want to know how to find you.” The same case could me made about the fines we charge or overdue items.. Do they exist because we don’t trust our users to bring items back? Is this justified?

There are many barriers to the establishment of trust between a librarian and patron. Age, race, appearance, socioeconomic status, time of day, personality and more can affect people’s perceptions and prevent them from being comfortable around each other. However, we’re all human and we should all be in this together. Keep this in mind as you help people in the library this week. You’ll find that trusting the users of your library will improve your service and enhance your life.

gaming links roundup

Some days, items in my aggregator come together and beg to be posted here.

#1 – The Video Game Librarian has been circulating games for about a year and has a report. His write up is valuable because it details the positive aspects and the negative (some broken items, some stolen items).

#2 – Libraries aren’t the only educational institution getting hip to DDR. See W.Va. Schools Get Game to Fight Obesity. As usual, the comments on Digg are pretty entertaining.

#3 – The most popular video game in Japan isn’t really a game at all, but rather a Brain Training tool for the Nintendo DS handheld. From Cabel’s Blog LOL:

And what does Brain Training do? Well, you hold your Nintendo DS like a book (with left and right screens), and you basically use the touchscreen to undergo a wide variety of simple, cleanly-designed, interesting exercises intended to make you smarter. Or, at least, keep your brain sharp and fresh and delicious. At the end of your “fun”, the game eventually calculates and reports your “mental age” — often with painful/comedic effect — and tracks your progress over the weeks and months of self-education. And that’s about it.

It sounds quite simple and very addictive. Another interesting fact about the “game” is that it is being played by men, women, boys, girl, and even grandmothers. The funniest thing about this is that, at the end of your session, it grades you. It calculates your mental age. Hmm, people are voluntarily participating in learning type activities to get better grades…oh, sorry, I can’t type any more, I have to print out a bibliography for some students. They’ll read it, right?

library myspace account action

After my initial post about MySpace (check out the valuable comments left there if you haven’t), I’ve watched some invitations to become ‘MySpace friends’ roll into the library’s email box. Hennepin County and Lansing Public here in Illinois are two libraries now friends with Thomas Ford. I have the right mind to start a Libraries and Librarians group for all of us to join.

I can see the development of some different approaches for library content on MySpace. Libraries can either use it to refer back to the teen portions of their library website, take content from their library site and paste it into MySpace, create original content for MySpace, or a combination of both. Better yet, have active teen users of the library manage it. They’re bound to be better at it than we are. I won’t spoil it, but Brian Smith has a great idea in regards to that.

Wouldn’t it be great too if we had some leadership in this area? I guess if they can’t get an email newsletter right I shouldn’t hold my breath. I’d like to see ALA have a MySpace account with a library locator to connect MySpace users to their library. I’d also like for ALA to have someone participate in theAskMetafilter community and answer Reference type questions. Things like this would be good PR for libraries (and librarians) and reach a market that READ posters aren’t.

Car Talk RSS Feeds

After a nice Saturday morning of coffee and reading No Country for Old Men I turned on NPR and made some waffles. As we finished, so did Car Talk. They endedthe show with a “Subscribe to our RSS feeds” announcement and a nice explanation of how it works.

Hearing more and more about RSS from various places always seems a bit profound. Observing more outlets offering RSS and more people using it are little moments of, “Yeah, I guess it is all happening.” We’re not even close to seeing the early majority adopt the technology, but it is getting easier to see how it will happen.

If you like Car Talk, here are their feeds:
Car Talk Puzzler feed
Dear Tom and Ray – Cartalk Newspaper Column feed

reference librarian start page

Last month Tim Lauer at his site Education/Technology posted an interesting bit titled Inward / Outward Aggregating about personalized homepages (e.g. netvibes, google ig). In his post he takes the concept of the personal start page, collecting hand selected data from disparate sources (generally via RSS feeds) and displaying them in a useful format, and thinks of it as applied to being a school’s principal. He’d like to see “…content such as my school’s average daily attendance; a daily listing of absent and tardy students; GPS routing information for our school busses…” when he opens his browser. This resonated with me, and I’m interested to hear what pieces of information Reference, Readers’ Advisory and Circulation staff would like to see on their homepage. My job would be facilitated if I could see:

  • the day, week, and month’s most requested book, locally and system wide
  • the meeting room schedule for the day and week
  • important news from the library, community and the world
  • reference queries that have come in via email

Library web folk could benefit from a start page to monitor their web presence, bringing in:

  • web stats, highlighting pages that are popular
  • pages that have bad links
  • conversations going on about the library (blog searches, flickr comments, del.icio.us tags)

These things aren’t entirely impossible to aggregate. The most unrealistic thing for me, the ILS stuff, would be really simple if there was vendor support for XML.

whose space?

The more I think about it, the more I can’t believe I haven’t seen tons of blog posts about libraries and MySpace, the most successful (read: used) social networking site to date. Maybe I’m just not subscribed to the right blogs. First, if you’re not familiar with this internet trend (de jour?), here’s a blurb from wikipedia:

Due to the popularity of the website (over 45 million users)[are any of these , it has been suggested that a unique culture, mostly within the alternative scene, is developing within the MySpace network. It appeals to young adults, and because of the interactivity between users, many people also discover new groups of people or bands by looking through other people’s profiles and their lists of friends and contacts. Additionally, the easy communication and built-in focus on pictures has helped MySpace become a haven for the creation of new trends and the dissemination of current ones.[emphasis mine]

Clicking around the site for yourself will be a good introduction too. With all of the (awesome) talk going on about being where our users are, MySpace seems to be an elephant in our libraries. Kids are telling us right where they are. Can it get any more obvious than “This is my space?” Shouldn’t we be there?

I’m no prude, but I must say that not all is rosy with MySpace. Some kids are using it to be sexually provocative, and talk about things like their use drugs and alcohol. This is fairly typical stuff for teens to talk about, surely, but something about it being on the web for all to see, potentially forever, makes me wish there was some better judgment being used. This grey content might make many librarians want to stay far, far away from MySpace, but it might be all the more reason to get involved. Don’t young people need role models?

Here’s the MySpace page for the Thomas Ford Memorial Library. I haven’t done much with it yet, and haven’t promoted it at all. There’s just one blog post, and our contact information. Some people that work at the library have added us as their “friend” and vice-versa. I have a vision in which MySpace users from the community add the library as a “friend,” most likely because it will be funny to them. As a friend, the library will be able to send them announcements of events, and other news.. Another aspect to MySpace is the Instant Messaging going on within. I’m starting to hear of kids doing most of their IMming within MySpace. Hmm….

I could see a library program about starting a MySpace page to be a failure. The site isn’t difficult to use, and kids are more likely to just do it than go to a class about it. However, I wonder if an impromptu “Making your MySpace Awesome” session would work. More important than trying to force education about MySpace is to teach by example and be a responsible, and interesting user of the site.

press on games in library

The Park Ridge Public Library here in Illinois got a nice write up in their local paper. “Library to try lending video games” states that only one board member voted “no” on the idea. It’s interesting that the board had to approve this idea.

“Kids throughout Park Ridge kept coming up to me and asking why we didn’t have video games for circulation,” she said.

After awhile, Odlevak began asking herself the same question. She began conducting research and said she discovered that libraries around the country are starting to add video games to their collections.

Odlevak will actually purchase the video game titles based on what young adults are requesting. Games that involve sports, popular movies, history and education will make up the bulk of the collection.

Odlevak said she has not conducted a formal survey to determine what young adults want, but she has received feedback by working with them on a daily basis.

Just hanging out and listening to them has been my survey,” she said.[emphasis mine]

There are some funny and interesting comments on the digg thread discussing this, including info on libraries that are already doing this in Canada, and the UK.

…is this a good idea? And why couldn’t they do this when I was a kid?

Guess this person can’t use the library anymore as an adult?

This makes me wish I had a digg account so I could take part in this conversation about content in libraries.

lists are fun

I know a few librarians that are as compulsive in their list making as I am. Just a hunch, but maybe something to do with librarians’ love of order makes us prone. Ta-da Lists are nice, but I really like having lists written down on notecards and in my Moleskine. If you’ve ever made a list of lists you’d like to make, you might enjoy reading about some styles of list making. I really like the idea of using check boxes (to retain legibility) in place of crossing items out, tho I doubt ticking a box is as satisfying.

Sony Reader

Sarah is already all over it but I’m going to chime in about Sony’s release of an eInk/Paper device in the US. I’ve been interested in their Librie for some time, and think this product solves some of that devices issues (not being able to read PDFs, HTML, or text files, etc..) though I’m sure it doesn’t solve (read: eliminate) all of the lame DRM.

Sarah, and Bill Drew in her post’s comments are right: Sony’s Reader is a one-trick, non-converged pony. Sad little pony. If the Librie failed in gadget crazy Japan, does the Reader have a chance in the US? Seems doubtful. And are Americans as interested in reading books as they are listening to their iPods? Ha.

It is still something to get a bit excited about, however, because the availability of this device brings us one step closer to having eInk devices that actually do multiple things. In 1999 I heard Neil Gershenfeld on NPR talking about his book When Things Start to Think and read the book shortly thereafter. Seven years later (that’s quite a long time when it comes to computer technology) we’re starting to see his musings about ePaper come to fruition. Having the daily news downloaded into some ePaper that can be folded, stuffed into a briefcase, and read later is intriguing, especially if I don’t have to worry about battery life. Yeah, I can do these things with the NYT, but it isn’t interactive, and I can’t tell it to not include sections for which I don’t care. Also, the minimalist in my loves the (purely) theoretical possibility of being able to download any! book! into something the size of a Chick Tract. Of course, we might be seeing most of our ePaper in the grocery store…

Here’s an image of the Reader which doesn’t look half as neat as the Librie. The photos from Sony look a bit better.