Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Article Note: On Academic Library 2.0 and conceptual model

Citation for the article:

Xu, Chen, Fenfei Ouyang, and Heting Chu, "The Academic Library Meets Web 2.0: Applications and Implications." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35.4 (July 2009): 324-331.

Read via Science Direct.

The article looks at a sampling of 81 academic libraries in New York State to see what Web 2.0 applications they have chosen to use and how they have applied them. On the basis, the authors then propose their conceptual model that revolves around the concepts of Librarian 2.0, User 2.0, and Information 2.0. I did not find this to be a ground-breaking article, but it does confirm some of what I have seen already or read out there in other librarian blogs.

Some small notes from the article I found interesting:

  • "Although Habib's Academic Library 2.0 model goes beyond the boundary of a library by including the social dimension of students' campus life, it does not cover research activities academic libraries strive to support" (325). The reference goes to Michael Habib's thesis from UNC-Chapel Hill, which you can find here. I may have to go and read the work itself, but this quote made me ponder a bit because I am indeed not seeing much on use of 2.0 in relation to an academic library's research activities, or, to better say it, the research activities an academic library is supposed to support. There is some work out there being done, but a lot of the coverage seems to be around the fun and games.
  • The survey revealed that the libraries sampled implemented 2.0 tools in a limited scale. I think this is fairly consistent with how most libraries probably do it. Contrary to what we see a lot in the librarian blogger sphere, which tends to be celebratory every time some library jumps on another 2.0 application, I tend to wonder about the ones that are doing things but are not writing about it. Or the ones who try things out, find out they do not work for them, but again, do not write about them. To be honest, those are the ones I would like to read about more. Also, the survey found that, in 34 of the sampled libraries, "there seems to be a great deal of variation among individual institutions with regard to actual utilization" (328). It seems to me that the libraries worked to adapt the tools to their needs.
  • The most adopted application in the sample was Instant Messenger (IM). This was followed by blogs. IM was usually used as part of reference services. Blogs were mostly used as news or announcement tools.
  • The authors mention that "one outstanding feature of the Web is its ability in handling multimedia" (328). When someone says that, I always wonder about the technological gap. My current residence is a good example where a significant number of the rural population have dial-up for their Internet access. Those folks are not going to be able to enjoy or use that "outstanding feature" of the Web any time soon. There is always the undercurrent in a lot of the LIS literature and information technology literature that people will simply move to the Web to do all they need to do. As long as access continues to be a serious issue and concern, that is not going to happen. Personally, I wish our profession would maybe advocate a bit more in favor of those facing a technological gap who are being left behind instead of focusing so much on the "technology haves" who pretty much will go to the Web no matter what.
  • Traits of the Librarian 2.0 in the conceptual model. Qualifications: creative, user-oriented, and active participation; roles: contributor, organizer, facilitator, coordinator (329).
Readers can go find the rest of the article for more details. This for me was mostly a summary of things I have seen before, but it could serve as discussion material in some library schools.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Article Note: On collaboration between library and marketing students

Citation for the article:

Duke, Lynda M., Jean B. MacDonald, and Carrie S. Trimble. "Collaboration Between Marketing Students and the Library: An Experiential Learning Project to Promote Reference Services." College and Research Libraries 70.2 (March 2009): 109-121.

Read via WilsonWeb.

One of my long term goals, assuming I can find the time between the various small interruptions, is to develop a marketing plan for our library here. I have been doing some reading on the topic here and there, and I came across this article. One of the ideas I had suggested early on was trying to get some of our business or marketing students involved to help us with our marketing efforts. So this article came at a very good moment for me. It made for some good reading, and it gave me some good ideas.

The authors provide an account of their collaboration with a marketing class on their campus. The idea was to get student input for the library's marketing efforts, specifically to market the library's reference services. The project started on the Spring of 2007. The benefit for the marketing students was gaining real world experience where they could apply the marketing principles they were learning in their class. The students were allowed to develop survey questions for marketing studies as part of their tasks; the advantage of this is that students have intimate knowledge of their peers and their habits.

Note that the surveys implemented were convenience surveys. Participants were drawn mostly from peers and acquaintances of the marketing students. However, the survey does confirm much of what the library literature says about the decline of desk reference services; also note the authors do review some of this literature in their literature review.

Among the findings, the survey found that campus students had a lack of knowledge of the services available, which is something we struggle with as well here. The library responded to the survey by implementing better signage, putting in place a new IM reference service using Meebo, and using some promotional techniques. I personally liked the idea of the whiteboards, but I know that I would not be able to afford a much larger number of the items (they bought about 2,000 boards; I don't think I could get away with that high a number, though it could make a very good premium promotional item here). Some of the things the authors did are similar to what we do now with our Welcome Tents every year. The authors also mention walk-in workshops, but they chose not to implement them. From experience, I have to say these types of workshops are not very efficient use of our time. I want to believe in the value of these, but we just do not get enough people to show up to make them worth it. I am still pondering this in the context of other articles on reference services I have read (here and here are two that came to mind, but there are others).

The authors also mention the importance of cultivating relationships with other campus organizations, something I have worked on, and that I have read about in other articles as well. For outreach, doing that is crucial. I also like the idea of chalking for library marketing. I would have to investigate if I could do that here (this is a very conservative campus. What works in other places does not always go well here due to image issues). But I think it could be a fun and quirky idea to get attention for the library, and right now, we can use a little extra attention and publicity.

In the end, the article is not only about a project, but also about learning to involve students in the conversations about our library services. The students need to know not just what we do, but what we can do for them (120). There are definitely some elements in here that I would like to replicate at some point.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Article Note: Short one on changing librarian career

Citation for the article:

Fontenot, Mitchell J., "The Ambidextrous Librarian, or 'You Can Teach a Middle-Aged Dog Some New Tricks!'" Reference and User Services Quarterly 48.1 (Fall 2008): 26-28.

Read via EBSCO.

This is a short article with tips and advice for "older" (read middle age) librarians who may want to change their career. The career path in question is from a specialized field in librarianship, law librarian, to more general academic reference and instruction. Only problem I had with the article is the promulgation of the eternal line that there are massive retirements coming and thus tons of new job openings. We have not seen that happen, and given current economic conditions, it will not be happening anytime soon. I wish people would stop doing a disservice and finally face some reality. The author was fortunate to turn a temporary position into a permanent one, but that is more the exception than the rule.

So, putting aside my minor objections, the author does provide some good tips. Since his new position is tenure-line, he discusses the responsibility of writing for publication, which I was happy he did so since this is not often discussed in the literature. He talks about how his first efforts were rejected, but he persevered until he got published. At the end of the day, the message for us readers is to keep an open mind, be flexible, and remember to keep on learning. These are things all librarians are (or should be) capable of doing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning from mistakes in business blogging: a short series of thoughts for library blogs, part three

I conclude my look at what libraries that blog can learn from the mistakes business blogs make. As I said before, this was inspired by Josh Catone's post in Mashable entitled "Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." Here are part one and part two.

"Making new content hard to discover" is the fourth item on Mr. Catone's list. I don't think that this is as a big a problem for libraries that blog. From what I have seen out there, and again I clarify that my observations are far from scientific, many libraries already link their blogs on their websites. Some do it more prominently than others. If your library is not linking to your library blog from your website, you need to do this. Odds are good that a lot of your readers will find your blog via your website rather than going directly to your blog's site. As Mr. Catone suggests, we use full feed for the library's blog at my library. I also have a subscription to the feed on a couple of readers so I can see how the blog looks on a feed reader. I am aware of the full versus partial feed debate (here is one take on it), much of it driven by a desire to get folks to your site so they see your ads as well. This should not be a concern for most libraries, or at least for nonprofit ones, so use the full feed and let people read your blog in the way they prefer. After all, you do want them to read your blog. Additionally, use tools like Facebook or Twitter to your advantage. For instance, our library's Facebook page is set up so it picks up our library's blog feed. Very often we get a response to a blog via Facebook rather than via the blog itself, and that's cool. This is a simple way of being where your patrons are.

Catone's last list item is "expecting too much, too soon." That's a mistake bosses in business and administrators in libraries commonly make. A new library blog is not going to suddenly become an Internet destination. You have to build readership with good, consistent content delivered regularly. You have to invite and nurture conversations. This process takes time, and even then, readership may be low according to raw metrics. However, your library should not be blogging just for the sake of the numbers. Let me blunt: if your director says to you, "let's set up a blog so more people visit our website" or a similar statement, just say no. A library blog is a tool and resource that should meet your library's needs, serve your patrons, and fall in place with your institutional mission and goals. If you choose to implement a library blog, work at it, and give it time. Success will not come overnight, but with some work and effort, it will come.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Learning from mistakes in business blogging: a short series of thoughts for library blogs, part two

We continue looking at what libraries that blog can learn from the mistakes business blogs make. This was prompted by Josh Catone's post in Mashable entitled "Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." You can find part one of my musings here.

Catone tells us that the second big mistake business bloggers make is "not blogging regularly." This is something I struggle with personally. Life, as the popular liblogger saying goes, trumps blogging. When it comes to the library blog, there is always something else, and I have written about the importance of making the time for your library blogging or the other online efforts your library may have. Others have likely said it better as well. You need to create good content, and you need to do so consistently. You need to find the time to write your own posts, and you need to treat your library blog seriously. It is not something the geeky librarian does on the side after all the other stuff is done, and let's be honest, the other stuff is never really done. The library blog is an extension of your library services and a tool for your educational mission. For it to be successful, you have to nurture it. This means posting regularly and consistently. Create good content. Plan writing ideas ahead of time. You don't have to post on a daily basis, but once a month or less is probably too little. Personally, I aim for one post per week on the library's blog. It has not always worked that way, so here is the next piece of advice: don't beat yourself over it. Missed a couple of weeks? Start blogging anew, just take off with it, and work your way up again. I know life happens and that administrators have a tendency to drop nonessential stuff on your lap that suddenly becomes urgent. It's the nature of our work, so if you missed some time, recommit and blog on, working to get your groove again to keep the blog alive.

Next, Catone tells us that "not enabling conversation" is a top mistake business blogs make. I think not enabling conversation is a mistake a lot of blogs make overall. I think less of a blogger if they do the following:
  • Does not enable comments at all. In rare cases, people may have a reason not to enable comments. Leaving those rare instances aside, I think that if you blog, you should have the guts to deal with any responses you may get. Otherwise, you just have a static web page where you are just dictating to people, not a blog.
  • Makes users register to comment. This is probably my number one pet peeve (or at least in the top three) for bloggers. If you do this, you are adding another obstacle to interaction and conversation. If you feel a need to deal with trolls, use comment moderation. Don't penalize me by making me register for yet another log-in that I may or not use later. Odds are good that if you ask me to register to comment, that I won't. And if I feel the need to reply, I'll take my piece of the conversation elsewhere, say writing it out in one of my blogs. And don't try to give me a guilt trip along the lines of "he is taking his ball away." You are the one who is closing off the playground.
A library blog meant for the public really should not have a reason to disable or close down conversations. Whether academic or public, you should enable and encourage comments from your community. You should be responsive as well. If someone comments constructively, you should respond thoughtfully. This is how you build a sense of community.

We'll wrap this short series in our next post.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was at the Candlelight Vigil last night

I bet my four readers at The Gypsy Librarian were expecting the next installment in my small series on blogging mistakes and library blogs (first installment here). I am taking a break today to highlight a very important issue as well as let my four readers know about some of the good work going on in my campus. Ok, this is kind of to let people know where I was last night too. The series will resume next Friday.

* * * * * * * * *

October has a few observances associated with it. One of those observances is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (link to President Obama's proclamation). Last night I attended a candlelight vigil held on our campus to recognize the issue of domestic violence and to educate people. The event took place at 7:00pm last night in the fourth floor meeting room of the library. They were going to do it outdoors, but the weather did not cooperate. Nevertheless the event was successful, and from a quick glance, I think we had about 50 people or so. We did get some representatives from our campus police, a very strong Greek presence (ladies and gents), and some students. I was the only representative of the library present. The room's lights were down, and the room was lit with candles. At the entrance, there was a display with educational materials.

The event started with an opening statement by Ms. Samantha Dwight, who among her many hats has done work for the Campus Assault Response Effort (CARE) and is an educator/facilitator/presenter extraordinaire on this and other gender issues. She does a bit of everything, so if she reads this I apologize in advance if I can't quite "put her in a slot." At any rate, she read a statement, including a recognition of the important role that law enforcement officers have in domestic violence prevention. Those men and women in uniform when they get a call never know what they may be walking into. So our thanks go to them.

Next, the ladies of Alpha Chi Omega took the stage and did a dramatic reading. Members of the sorority took turns reading statistics and facts related to domestic violence in the nation. This had a moving effect on the crowd, and we learned a thing or two in the process. The last member on stage sang a song.

The activity would come to an end as a prayer was said for the victims as well as those involved in caring for them as well as for us all. And silently the event closed.

Whenever possible, I think it is important for me to attend events like this. In my role as outreach librarian, this is another way for me to reach out to our campus community, another way for the library to say present and that we support the cause. Personally, I just think this is important and needs to be supported. We have a long way to go in educating people, and events like this are a way to do it.

I would like to wrap this up by offering some links and resources that I hope people will find useful. Please, if you happen to be a victim, or you know someone who is, know that there is help out there. Some of the links will include phone numbers and contacts. On our campus here, the folks at C.A.R.E. are one such resource. Need more information, and you are local, you can contact them, or you can contact me, and I will refer you to the right place or find you the information you may need.

The resources then:

  • The Domestic Violence Awareness Project. These are the folks who promote and maintain activities for the observance, which started as an awareness "Day of Unity" back in October of 1981. The Project is coordinated by the National Center on Domestic Violence. You can learn about campaigns, find educational materials, and get links, and phone numbers if you need help. Of course, if you are in imminent danger, dial 911.
  • The National Coalition on Against Domestic Violence. Among the things this organization does, "the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in conjunction with Ms. Magazine, started the Remember My Name project in 1994 to create a national registry of names of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. Since then, NCADV has continued to collect information on incidents of people who have been killed by an intimate partner and produces a poster each year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month listing the names of those submitted to the project. To date, over 7,753 people have been memorialized through the project." Names are added daily to the list, which you can view on the website.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has an Office on Violence Against Women. In addition to listing national hotlines, the site contains a lot of good information, including statistics.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a handbook on domestic violence awareness. This seems geared to employers so they can be supportive in the workplace. Provides some good information.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The number is 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Their contact form can also be used to get assistance if you prefer, though they encourage calling more. You can also find some information on the site.
  • The National Youth Violence Prevention Center also has resources related to the observance here. Yes, it is not just spouses or significant others; children and youths in families where an abusive situation exists suffer too.
  • The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is also a good resource.
  • In Texas, the Attorney General has some resources here. A bit more geared to sexual assault, but still good information.
  • There is also a Texas Council on Family Violence.
  • Locally, you have the good folks of the East Texas Crisis Center. If you need help locally, this is a place to go.
This small list is certainly not comprehensive. I have tried to put out some resources that I have looked over and seem to provide good information. Readers are invited to comment, respond, and if they have other suggestions for links, add in the comments as well.

And yes, I tagged the post under "celebrations and holidays." It is not because I think domestic violence is to be celebrated; it is not. But this is also about a monthly observance, which is what I use the tag for. Just to be clear.

This post will be crossposted at The Itinerant Librarian and at Alchemical Thoughts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Learning from mistakes in business blogging: a short series of thoughts for library blogs, part one

Blogging is a learning experience for me. Blogging for the library even more so given it has some challenges and issues I don't have to deal with in my own blogging. For instance, the issue of image or appearance is more important in an official library blog. Actually, that could be a post topic in the future, but I have something else in mind today.

Even though I am not advocate of running a library like a business, when it comes to blogging, businesses and libraries both worry about the image they convey to the world at large. In my case, I know that I can blog about a topic. I can say certain things about that topic in my blog that I could never say in the library blog. Same exact topic, two different takes. In the end, I may not be a fan of the "run libraries like businesses" crowd, but I know I can learn a thing or two from the business world. This brings me to this blog post by Josh Catone, writing for Mashable, on "Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." When I read it, I knew there were some lessons for libraries here. In some ways, you could replace the word "business" for "library," and a lot of the advice would be applicable. That's kind of what I did, and I would like to share it with my three readers.

The first mistake that Mr. Catone points out is "treating your blog like a press center." I am not sure how libraries can get away from this. A lot of library blogs I have seen, and I admit that my experience is not a scientific measure, are dedicated to library announcements. In fact, a lot of what I do fir my library's blog is event announcements. I do try to use a more casual voice in writing those posts, but you can only be so informal before your administrators, or worse, your campus information office, notices and decide to have a word with you. In other words, you have to find a balance for your voice and tone: not too casual, but casual enough to attract and keep readers. Catone also suggests that you "share your thoughts on your industry, share insights into the the day-to-day work life and processes at your company, and provide tips and tricks you have learned during your time in business." These are all really good ideas once you modify them slightly for libraries. For example:

  • Thoughts on your industry can be writing about librarianship, what we do, dispelling some of the stereotypes, so on.
  • Tips and tricks is good advice. In an academic library, providing students with research tips and ideas is always good. Another thing I have tried to do is highlight specific resources. For example, we have a semi-regular feature on my library's blog called the Reference Book of the Week.
  • Another idea is to seize on current events. I personally think that the library should serve as a resource to educate. For instance, we have done posts about Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the Honduran coup. Those posts are examples of topics of interest that we can, via our library blogs, provide good basic information about. I do enjoy doing those kind of posts, but sometimes they can take a bit of time to compile items for links, evaluate them, and write the post.
Time for me remains the common challenge when it comes to blogging, both personally and for work. This leads us to the next point, which we will discuss in the next post.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Article Note: On student preferences of librarian use of social software

Citation for the article:

Epperson, Annie and Jennifer L. Leffler, "Social Software Programs: Student Preferences of Librarian Use." New Library World 110.7/8 (2009): 466-372.

Read via Emerald.

I don't think that this article reveals anything terribly new. A lot of what is presented in this article is stuff that I have discussed on this blog and that others better than me have mentioned as well. We are talking about the idea that while academic librarians rush to embrace every nook and cranny of online social software most students either do not care about what the librarians do in that regard or do not like librarians doing it. I have pondered the topic in and out on this blog in places like here, here, and over here just to give some examples. What the Epperson and Leffler article does is validate some of the things I have been saying or restating things that have been said. The conclusion has been presented in other venues: students just do not want or have interest in using social software programs for library help (371). This is something that I find to be in sharp contrast with much of what the celebrity librarian blogger literature advocates. I am not saying that there are not success stories here and there of librarians who can make social software work for library service. I am saying that the hype is not justified given the low return on investment and overall audience interest. I say that on the basis of my own experiences as well as on what I have taken the time to read out there.

The literature review opens with the all too common statement: "the library literature suggests that librarians should be available to students via Instant Messaging, create accounts in Facebook and MySpace, and build avatars to populate Second Life" (366). I think librarians should do some exploring, but it should not be at the expense of other services in their libraries. They should not be doing it without thought because it is the cool and hip thing to do. The article's study sought to see if college students actually used the programs mentioned; the answer is they do, except for Second Life. And then to see is the students would like to interact with librarians in those programs; the answer was pretty much no, or the students were mostly indifferent. Part of this is because the programs mentioned are social programs, and the students want to keep them social. The article authors speculate why Second Life may not have widespread appeal to students; not a single respondent to their study mentioned using the virtual reality world. They speculate that it could be due to their small dataset, a cultural reflection, so on (370). I will suggest that it may be that they simply do not care about it or find it that appealing. Contrary to what some celebrity bloggers proclaim, Second Life is not ubiquitous and widely available. It is a heavy download. It requires a very good computer that can handle the program, and it can be time intensive. Libraries and librarians may be writing their theses on Second Life, and universities may be rushing to build virtual campuses and libraries, but most students pretty much could not care less. And while Second Life may be touting their horn that they are ahead of the pack (from PC World), in reality the numbers they are showing are questionable at best. This is one reason why I tend to take anything my brethren in the profession say about Second Life with a grain of salt. Overall, what the article authors find from looking at the literature is that college students use social software more than the general population, and that said students are not likely to use it for library services (367). The first part of that statement I can easily confirm from experience. At any given time here in our computer lab, students are visiting Facebook or MySpace. This is not surprising. Students' tuition and fees does include access to relatively well maintained computers with unfiltered Internet access, so checking on your Facebook or other social site is just natural. And yet we librarians persevere. I personally think there is some value in us learning how to use social networking, and I think to an extent, if you use it well, it can add a human element in our steps to reaching patrons. But it is not the panacea that the literature makes it out to be. As the authors write, "what works for some libraries will not work for others" (368). Again, it is something I have said before after learning it along the way.

The article's results come from a survey where the authors received 65 responses, with 60 viable responses. This does seem like a small sample, which the authors do admit is small, giving the usual statement about not being able to generalize results (370). As mentioned, the study found that no one uses Second Life. Well, no one in the sample, that is. The study concluded that the majority of respondents "would not care if a librarian participated in social software programs" (369). However, there is a little bit of positive news for librarians: "more participants would seek library help in IM as compared to Facebook and MySpace users" (370). However, as the authors state, one has to keep in mind that IM is more of a tool than an actual social networking site (as in the sense of online community), so the comparison may or not be fair.

The authors conclude by reminding librarians who want to create a presence on these sites to think about their goals for participation; this is if they are doing it in connection to their work like I do with some of my online activity. "Goals should be identified so that the success of the endeavor can be measured" (371). We probably should consider discussing specific measures for success as well, and we probably need to be flexible in those measures as well. Setting up a Facebook page for the library does not mean that all of a sudden every kid on campus will become a fan. Fan count may not be the best measure for success in this case. Maybe this is where the discussions need to be going next. Look at what we are learning and then reflect.