July 11th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Over the weekend, Stephanie tweeted:
I thought she was right on (sadly), so I retweeted it. The next day, @OverDriveLibs replied:
Good on them for paying attention and being open to ideas. Since they're listening, I put together the following list that I think would improve the Overdrive experience.
Granted, I know their web interface is somewhat customizable, so different libraries have different looks and slightly different experiences. And, I know they have a mobile interface, which I'm going to ignore for now. I also won't even talk about Overdrive Advantage, because I don't know how much just seems overly complicated to me due to my library being part of a consortium.
- Remove the bookbag entirely.
It doesn't seem like a whole lot of people shop for and then check out a bunch of books at once. In my experience, most people look for one book at a time, and then download it. This process becomes overly complicated by having to add that one book to the bookbag, review the bookbag, then proceed to checkout to download it. I think Overdrive would be so, so much easier to use if, instead of the "add to bookbag" link, people clicked a link that would take them right to the download process.
If you make downloading a book easy enough, and then return people back to where they were after downloading is complete, you don't need a bookbag anyway.
- Combine the loan-period selection screen with the download button screen.
Once someone chooses a book they want to check out, they should be taken to a single screen that lets them choose the loan period AND click a button to download right from that page. Combining these eliminates a step, which would go a long way to making Overdrive easier to use. The whole experience should be:
- search for book, then click the link to get the book
- choose loan period, click "Download" or "Get for Kindle" button
- struggle with DRM software*
- enjoy book
I see no reason why the process couldn't be this streamlined.
- Change "add to bookbag" link text.
With the bookbag gone, the "add to bookbag" link needs to be changed. One problem I've seen patrons have is making sure they choose the right format - because format is specified on the left of the screen, but the link they need to click is on the right.
It seems difficult to make a mistake, but I have watched more than one person do it - especially in this scenario: Someone has a Kindle, and they limit to show only available items. The Kindle item is checked out, but the EPUB line says "add to bookbag" - the person is thinking Kindle, and sees the "add to bookbag" link, so they click it. Likewise, I've also seen people download an ebook thinking they were getting an audiobook.
My suggestions for better link text is:
|add to bookbag
||Download Kindle Ebook
Download EPUB Ebook
Download WMA Audiobook
Download MP3 Audiobook
|place a hold
||Request Kindle Ebook
Request EPUB Ebook
Request WMA Audiobook
Request MP3 Audiobook
I actually go back and forth between "Download Kindle Ebook" and "Checkout Kindle Ebook" - Checkout has better library connotations, but Download is more evocative.
- If someone limits to a format, show only that format.
I hate that a patron can limit to see only Kindle books, and yet EPUBs will still display, if we have both formats for the same title. If someone limits to Kindle, then hide the EPUB line from the image above (and same for audiobooks).
And because format is so important, it should be easier to limit to format - for instance, provide a separate interface for each format that libraries can link to, like, "click here to search for EPUB ebooks." And then, all the patron would see are EPUB ebooks, without them having to further limit to format.
The advanced search format limiter box should include options for "all Ebooks" and "all Audiobooks" options, since someone with an iPad and a Kindle app can use either format. Also, when someone limits to format in advanced search, this should stick even if they click a "Browse by Genre" link too.
Patrons should be able to save their preferred format in their account settings, so they don't have to keep limiting every time they return.
- Change the search algorithm to AND and not OR.
If you search my consortium's Overdrive catalog for "vonnegut last" there are 42 results. However, a search for just "vonnegut" gets four results, and a search for just "last" gets 38. 4+38=42, which means there is no overlap between those search terms. Most people searching for more than one word except to find items containing BOTH of those words.
When our Overdrive catalog was new, and we didn't have a lot of items in the collection, using the OR operator seemed like a cheap trick to make it appear that we had a bigger collection than we did. We're past that now, and clogging up the search results with everything under the sun just adds to why Overdrive is difficult to use.
- Keyword searches should search title and author fields
This refers to the keyword search on the advanced search screen. "Keyword" seems like is should search everything, but it doesn't. Why not? If it's not actually a keyword search (like the basic search box on every page), then call it something else. Or better yet, just replace it with the actual keyword search.
- Add a direct link to the software download page.
The Overdrive Help pages are getting better, but the fact that they periodically change means that library staff even need to refamiliarize themselves with how to help patrons. The most common question that sends me to the Help pages is to download Overdrive Media Console or Adobe Digital Editions. However, none of the options on the Help screen mention downloading software, and I can never remember which one it's hidden behind. Just having a "Download Free Software" option on the Help screen, which leads to a device/OS selection, would be great.
I know this is beyond Overdrive, but getting things set up on an iPad can sometimes get trapped in a loop: in order to install the Overdrive app, you need to create an Adobe ID, but one of the Adobe webpages requires flash, which the iPad does not support, so you have to use a computer to actually accomplish everything. This doesn't happen every time, and I don't know why it does sometimes and not others, but I've seen patrons trapped in this loop more than once - and Overdrive gets the blame every time (justified or not), which just sours the patron on using Overdrive in the future.
I sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since Overdrive asked for input, please suggest what improvements you'd like to see in the comments below or tweet them to @OverDriveLibs.
*DRM is a much larger issue, and not entirely under Overdrive's control - so I won't even discuss it here, and instead just focus on their interface and things they can improve. But let's all enjoy The Brads Why DRM Doesn't Work
comic once again.
June 27th, 2012 Brian Herzog
At a meeting last week, a colleague from my consortium's central office showed off a free program he found called Fences. Its function is simple: group desktop icons together in labelled boxes.
Of course I like organization, so this appealed to me. This was the first time I'd seen something like this, but it wouldn't surprises me if a similar function was native to OS X or Windows 7 (Fences looks like it's Windows-only).
I don' t know that I'd actually use this on my personal computer, but I've been thinking about using this on my library's public workstations.
We deliberately limited the number of desktop icons on the public computers to keep things from being confusing and overwhelming. But, if we organize things with Fences, and label each group, we might be able to present more options while still keeping things understandable.
I could see Fences for Microsoft Office programs, Browse the Internet (with a variety of browsers to choose from), Local Websites (maybe the local news sites, Town Hall, the schools), and then perhaps also some to highlight library tools or pages on our website.
I obviously haven't finalized things yet, but I like that this got me thinking about a new way to do things. Thanks Tracy!
June 23rd, 2012 Brian Herzog
This reference question can be filed under, "no matter how much you know about something, there's still more to learn."
One afternoon this week, a patron called in and asked for me specifically. She had a question about Microsoft Word, and since I've always been able to solve her technology questions in the past, she knew I'd have an immediate answer this time. Her question was:
How do you make Word automatically indent the first line of every paragraph?
I thought for a minute, and then realized - I had no idea how to do this. Whenever I want to indent, I just hit the Tab key. But she wanted it to indent automatically - which I was sure Word probably did, I just didn't know where this was in the menus.
I figured it had to be a Paragraph format option though, so I clicked the little square in the bottom right corner of the Paragraph box on the Home ribbon in Word 2007. Nothing immediately stood out, so I did a quick web search for word indent first line of every paragraph, and the first result explained how to do it - turns out I was on the right track.
Once you get to the Paragraph format box, you need to select "First line" from the "Special" dropdown box in the middle of the page. Then you can also set how much to indent by.
Great. I found all this in a minute or so, making small talk with the patron while I searched. As I started guiding her through how to do it, we hit a snag: she's still using Word 2003, and I'm on Word 2007 (which is also what the online directions were for).
I use this Paragraph format box all the time, but for the life of me I could not remember how to get to it in the Word 2003 menus. So, it was another web search for word 2003 paragraph menu, and again it was the first result that gave me the answer: Paragraph was an option on the Format menu.
Now I can navigate the patron to the Paragraph box and explain how to set the auto-indent feature. It work, she was delighted, and I was able to maintain my perfect record for her tech support - even though I had never done this before in my life.
Which just goes to prove the reference librarian's motto: you don't need to know everything, you just need to know how to find everything.
Tags: 2003, 2007, indent, libraries, Library, microsoft, paragraph, public, Reference Question, tech support, word
June 6th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Aaron highlighted a great tool on Walking Paper - a single serving script that shows whether the library is open or not:
Great job Durham County Library for coming up with it, and thank you very much for making the code freely available.
This is definitely going on my library's website (when I get a chance) - but of course, with 24/7 Library Anytime, the answer is always YES!
May 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog
It's been a very slow week in the library (school winding down + beautiful weather), so this week's question isn't an actual reference question - but it is something I recently learned.
Did you know Wikipedia has a reference desk?
The Wikipedia reference desk works like a library reference desk. Users leave questions on the reference desk and Wikipedia volunteers work to help you find the information you need.
Questions/answers are broken up into categories, and are both interesting and sophisticated. I also like the format of crowdsourcing answers - even when someone had given what I thought was a great answer, subsequent responders added new information or aspects that were useful.
Actually, it reminded me of any other online forum, which I use all the time for answering questions (especially for coding problems or frustrating technology issues). No one response provides a complete answer, but putting all the bits and pieces together often solves the problem.
Not that using the internet as a big Help archive is anything new - I was just happy to find another source to search when I get a real stumper. But if nothing else, the Wikipedia Reference Desk Guidelines does make for interesting reading.
March 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog
It's funny how rapidly new web tools are developed and adopted - I've only been hearing about Pinterest for the last couple months, but already it seems to have spread far and wide in libraries.
For those who don't know (like me until yesterday), Pinterest is visual social bookmarking. It's similar to Delicious*, in that you create a set of bookmarks to interesting things online to basically create a curated web directory - but it has images, so it's extremely visual and engaging. Libraries love curated directories (or pathfinders, or bibliographies, or whatever), and I think people respond better to pictures than text (witness the Online Newsstand) - so of course this is something to look into.
I just created an test account and started playing yesterday. I think I get the jist, but I'm also sure there's more to it. For libraries, the obvious use is creating virtual bookshelves - staff picks, best sellers, series books, If You Liked... lists, etc. - with the nice book covers linking back into the catalog.
However, this proved to be more of a pain to accomplish than I would have expected. Because Pinterest focuses on images and videos, if there isn't a big image on the webpage, it can't easily be pinned. This is the case for our catalog - the cover images shown are often smaller than 100 x 100 pixels, which is too small for Pinterest to pick up (using their bookmarklet button).
So, the manual workaround is to pin the image you want (our catalog does link to a bigger version of the cover, so at least that's easy to get to), view the pin, click the Edit button, then paste in the URL for that book in your catalog - and then you've got it. Not prohibitive, but it does take a little extra effort.
And that's just one way to use Pinterest - there are plenty of other examples of things to do:
- Brookline (MA) Library on Pinterest
- Walker Memorial (Westbrook, ME) Library on Pinterest
- David Lee King on how the Topeka (KS) Library is using Pinterest
- A Tame The Web post giving a nice overview of Pinterest
- Onlinecolleges.net with a great list of library examples and ideas for Pinterest
- Something we're going to use it for is to pin videos of library programs: our local cable station records many of our programs, then posts them on their website. The tool they use doesn't have a nice "embed" feature (like YouTube or other sites), so getting them into our website has always been slightly difficult - I think Pinterest will make this much easier
- And don't forget the social nature of Pinterest - it also let you create little "Pin It" buttons to put on your website, to make it easy for other Pinterest users to pin your library's content (go to About > Pin It Button, and scroll to the Pin It Button for Web Sites section). Doing this for every item in the catalog isn't realistic, but it's worth considering for featured content
Also great is the Pin It bookmarklet I mentioned above - using this lets multiple computers (meaning, any staff or desk computer) pin website on the fly, so staff can easily add pins to your account whenever they stumble across something they'd like to share with patrons. To find it, click About > Pin It Button.
Something to always keep in mind is that Pinterest lets you use other peoples' images and videos in ways that might not be entirely consistent with copyright laws. So before you start pinning away, check out Pinterest, Copyright and the Library and How to Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law.
And like with most tools, the more you play with it, the ways you'll come up with to use it - so have fun and be creative. However, standard social media rules apply: there's no guarantee this tool will be there tomorrow, so be sure the library can degrade gracefully if the service changes or goes away.
*More on Delicious
, and also: it looks like Delicious
is getting visual, too.