It's been a long week already, and I'm still getting caught up. But for anyone interested, here are some of the highlights I took away from PLA2014 last week in Indianapolis. Well, besides that it was a great conference and I got to meet a lot of neat people.
Handout and slides for the programs are available on the conference website - search or scroll to find the program, and then they're available on the right in multiple formats.
- instead of doing one grand website redesign every five or so years, and keeping things frozen in between, use the iterative design process (like Amazon, Yahoo, etc): always be making little changes to improve the website. Don't make changes just to change things, but don't be afraid to make minor improvements any time, instead of waiting for years
- perform a content audit to identify your site's important content, organize it, and then build your site's navigation and design around that
- break up webpages and avoid big blocks of text - use headings, vary paragraph lengths, make bulleted lists, and use line-spacing of 1.5
- avoid passive voice, use "we/you/us," instead of "patrons" and "the library"
- 50% of the content on most websites is never used - focus on search, hours, locations, events, and contact information, and use newsletters to distribute other content
- When it comes to CMSs, ExpressionEngine, although not free, is definitely worth a look - it's powerful but can be made to be easy to use
Engaging Patrons and the Community
- look at the expertise of your staff (professional strengths and personal interests), and then grow that by sending them to outside groups - if you have someone interested in craft beers, have them join a craft beer group and have them be a resource/library liaison, and grow them into "community specialists"
- if you have a problem/opportunity in the library, use that as a hiring guideline for the future. For example, if your library has a problem with rowdy teens, seek out a YA librarian who is great at teen programming; if you have high mystery circulation, hire someone who can do great mystery readers advisory
- use technology to free up staff time - get self-checks to allow circ staff to spend more time helping
- train volunteers to run programs and offer services staff can't (tech drop-in times, in-depth genealogy research, etc)
- if you want to attract a certain demographic (20/30 year olds), tailor programming and marketing to them. Don't advertise a program as "for 20 and 30 year olds," just advertise it where they're likely to see it - flyers in pubs, gyms, coffee houses, day care centers, and engage them in social media. Also, focus on programs that would interest them and fit into their schedule: retro-movies or popular television marathons (Big Bang Theory) on Friday nights, adult craft time (like LifeHacker or MAKE Magazine - and even suggest they bring their own supplies), "intergenerational storytime" (having Darth Vader read to kids)
- reach out to the business community: go to chamber of commerce or business association meetings, give presentations on how they can benefit from databases, hold programs that support and highlight them
I spent a lot of time in the vendor hall this year, and learned about some neat new things:
- 3M self-checks can integrate with NoveList Select, which means you can print reading suggestions on receipts based on what patrons are checking out. This is awesome, and I wish it worked with our regular ILS receipts. Requirements are a 3M self-check (with a Windows 7 computer), NoveList Select subscription, they recommend a 19" monitor, and after the first year the integration costs $249 (from 3M)
- Envisionware LPT:One integrates with PrinterOn for print-from-anywhere service. We have both of these products, LPT:One for our public printing in the library and PrinterOn for allowing patrons to print to the library from home, but right now they are separate. This integration means print-from-home jobs can show up right in the normal print queue, so patrons don't have to have staff release their print jobs for them
- I know I've seen this before, but the idea of StackMap.com is great - putting a "Find It" button in your catalog next to the call number, and showing patrons a floor map to help them find their item in the building. This is something else I wish was just a natural part of library catalogs
- An update to people counter technology - at least to me - was SenSource, which has equipment cooler than just the electronic eye by the front door. They have that, but a few fancy twists I learned about were:
- a wifi-enabled sensor, which doesn't need to be hard-wired into the network. This will allow putting sensors just about anywhere your wifi network reaches, and also can be networked between different buildings, and can be monitored all from one central location
- a thermal sensor, which doesn't just count the number of times a beam is broken, but actually counts the heat signatures of people passing below it. Theoretically, this should be much more accurate
- an "active" sensor, which is really a video camera (pointed straight down from the ceiling). Their software can then detect and count shapes, and is even sensitive enough to differentiate tall from short people, to get a rough adults-to-kids ratio. Another feature is "audit" mode, which allows staff to go back and review the video, and count people manually, so verify the software's count is accurate. The salesman did say that since this camera is pointed straight down, it's really not useful as a security camera, but I thought it was pretty neat anyway
One negative about this conference was that so many of the sessions were packed-full, and people were getting locked-out of things they wanted to see. I know it's hard to anticipate what will be the big draw, but it's still frustrating not to go to something you really want to see.
Whew. It's hard to recap an entire conference, because many of the most valuable conversations were those in the hall between sessions, or over lunch, or even in the elevator. But I hope this is helpful - another tip is that Indianapolis is a really nice city.