October 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog
Instead of a reference question this week, here's a good example of another question-of-the-week service:
The Seattle Public Library has a regular feature on the website of a local paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It's titled Shelf Talk, and in addition to general library content, it also features interesting reference questions (and their answers).
I think it's a great idea for libraries to have regular columns in the paper, in addition to events listings. It's not only entertaining and informative, but also promotes the library's reference service, subtly reminding people they can get help with tough questions at the library. And not surprisingly, Seattle is doing an excellent job of it.
September 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog
My cousin saw the ad below in the Las Vegas airport:
I like seeing a library with a sense of humor, but it's also a smart place for them to advertise (and it's big, too: 5' x 7'). Good job, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.
July 28th, 2009 Brian Herzog
I feel bad following up yesterday's fun Library Day in the Life project with a sort-of negative post, but I found the image below on another library's website and it bothered me:
The information is important, but the headline and image are very off-putting - and this message is prominently displayed on the library's homepage, above the fold.
Marketing is important to me, 1) because information and image are vital to an organization, and 2) it is something libraries have complete control over. There must be a way to convey Sunday hours to patrons with a positive spin, or at least a neutral one. "Never on Sunday" is a song, but probably not everyone gets that. And the red circle-slash on a book image should just never appear on a library website.
I know this sort of thing gets abused in the business and political worlds, but marketing isn't lying - it's telling people what you want them to know, and why it's important they know it. Libraries are all about serving the public, so almost everything we do is marketing - and since we depend on public perception for our survival, it is important to get it right.
June 30th, 2009 Brian Herzog
Update 7/13/09: Final state budget lightens hit to Ohio libraries
This post is unfortunately timely - by now you've heard of the cuts facing Ohio libraries.
I haven't said anything about this because it's been covered elsewhere, but it really worries me. I have friends and family that both work in and regularly use Ohio libraries. And I know how badly a 5% cut affected my library this year - I can't even imagine a 50% cut.
The value of libraries is difficult to illustrate (one might say immeasurable), which makes proposals like Gov. Strickland's possible. Libraries need to make a special effort to demonstrate our role and importance in our communities.
Two years ago I posted about the Library Use Value Calculator - a tool to let patrons calculate how much their library use is worth to them. I've been working with the ALA on version 2.0 of the library calculator (as part of their Tough Times Toolkit), and even though it's still in beta, I wanted to get it out there.
The new version looks and works the same, it's just easier for libraries to implement. Instead of having to muck around with coding, libraries can now embed it in their website web 2.0-style, just by copy/pasting a bit of code (like a YouTube video).
Please check out the new calculator, and add it to your library website - let me know if you need help. And if you are in a position to do so, please Support Ohio Libraries.
June 27th, 2009 Brian Herzog
This week's reference question is one of my own. I use Bloglines to read rss feeds, and a couple weeks ago they changed their interface.
I didn't like the changes, so I used their Contact Form to express this and ask if there was an option to change it back. This was two weeks ago, and I still haven't gotten a reply.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps Bloglines used Twitter, and maybe I could ask them that way. I found an @bloglines user, but even though he's using the Bloglines logo, he indicates it's not an official Bloglines account.
I asked him my question anyway (noticing he was fielding the exact same question a lot lately), and got a reply in 5 hours. And best of all, his suggestion worked perfectly, and now I'm back to using Bloglines happily, the way that suits me best.
But this experience got me thinking. It's easy for organizations to let email messages slide, because only that one person knows they sent it in. But Twitter is public, and if someone is questioning or complaining, ignoring it won't make it go away.
Unofficial or not, @bloglines did exactly what I would have expected an organization to do - respond quickly and helpfully.
This is what librarians do, and it reminded me of Kate's post about their library suggestion box. I like that she's publicly displaying suggestions and answers, because in this case, one-to-many communication seems better than one-to-one.
So I thought, why not encourage patrons to use Twitter as a suggestion box? Being public, the library has to address patrons' concerns, but it also means all patrons can benefit from the answer, rather than just one.
I know a public forum isn't appropriate for every issue, and anonymity can be necessary, so I think traditional suggestion boxes (whether physical or online form) are still useful. But I bet there are some libraries already doing this very thing. I know I came late to Twitter, but it really is turning out to be a very useful tool after all.
Tags: bloglines, box, customer service, libraries, Library, public, Reference Question, Service, suggestion, suggestions, twitter
April 23rd, 2009 Brian Herzog
I was reminded recently that situations are not always what they appear.
This photo is one of my favorite on the internet - it looks confused and incomprehensible at first, but then, from the right point of view, it takes on perfect and surprising clarity.
This shift is sort of the point that Seth
Rogin Godin is makes in the video below (recently on BoingBoing). Something might start out with the best of intentions, but in reality comes out horribly broken. This can happen for many reasons, but the end result is the same: it is no good.
It's difficult to play out potential scenarios beforehand, and trying to anticipate every possibility can paralyze something before it even begins. But it's worth some effort, and it's also important to build in flexibility and allow for mid-stream course corrections.
Of course, that's not always possible. When starting something new, try to work out who the users will be, and what their needs are, and then incorporate that into the available resources. And if things aren't working, start to stray, or just plain break, take some time to get input, reassess, and try to fix it. But don't be afraid to scrap the whole thing and start over - try something, learn from it, and try something else.