or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


What I Learned at CIL2011

   March 29th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Computers in Libraries 2011 logoI had a great time at the Computers in Libraries 2011 conference last week - I met nice and smart people, attended good sessions (read my notes), learned a lot, and hopefully helped a few people by giving a workshop with Nicole Engard.

After a week of digesting, I wanted to share the three main points I took away from the conference. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Simplify your website
This was mentioned in multiple sessions (also good stuff here), and sadly it bears repeating - library websites should not be junk drawers, hanging on to everything everything everything just in case some might want it. They might, but it makes your site so cluttered that they'll never find it anyway.

Another related principle is Aaron Schmidt's idea gradual redesign - instead of just one day - boom - entirely changing everything, do things gradually. Consolidate content, reorganize navigation, etc, in stages - it's easier for users to adapt to a few things at a time, and staff get to see continual progress, rather than having to wait until the entire project is done. I want start implementing this approach for our redesign project.

2. Libraries are about the experience
You know how you hear something and read something again and again, and then you hear it one more time and you finally understand what it means? That happened to me at CiL with the idea of User Experience (UX). Again, Aaron Schmidt has been out in front on this for awhile, but I only every thought of it in the context of using websites.

What dawned on me is that, in the library, the patron experience is everything - to us and to them. People don't use libraries because they like the idea of libraries - people use libraries for the experience they can find there. Whether it is curling up a print book to experience a story, or attending a lecture, or a storytime, or using our free internet access, or idly chatting with the circ staff about new books, what people are after is the experience.

Perhaps this isn't too novel unless you think of it this way: libraries aren't about books, or information, or programming, or even community - libraries are about experience. Patrons can experience our community space or our content, but it's their emotional perception that is key. Of course, different patrons experience different services in different ways, but it's our job to make sure they are good experiences.

3. The only good DRM is no DRM
When I was babbling about the HarperCollins fiasco, I focused mostly on their ridiculous policy approach, and didn't talk much about DRM itself. It's the technology that makes self-destructing ebooks possible, sure, but I considered it just a tool - a misused one, but not the real root of the problem.

But the Librarian in Black's "dead technologies" talk changed my mind. I wish I recorded her to share here - everyone should see it. DRM is the main problem with ebooks - and not even in a technological way. The problem is that publishers who are afraid to let go of old models insist on using DRM to cripple the potential of ebooks. I love analogies, and here's a good one: does your refrigerator limit the kind of ice cream you can buy, or get rid of it after a certain amount of time? No, so why would we allow it with ebooks?

We should not stand to be treated like criminals - that's what DRM does. Any effective and robust ebook model cannot implement DRM. I am not remotely as passionate or as eloquent as Sarah, but now I'm just as motivated.

end drm logo


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CIL2011: Cool Tools – Measuring, Visualizing, and Analyzing What Libraries Do

   March 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Darlene Fichter, Research Services Librarian, University of Saskatchewan
Jeff Wisniewski, Web Services Librarian, University of Pittsburgh
Michael DeMars, California State University–Fullerton

 

Darlene - Counting is easy, knowing is hard

We must looks for signs of success, and places where we're falling down.

Good tools for detailed information:
Type in your library's name, and it searches the web to find comments posted about that you
it also shows trends/frequency of postings (be sure to use all phrases/names your patrons might call you)

Good tools for snapshot information:
Provides an overview of how many times you are mentioned on different sites

  • howsociable.com - gives raw numbers by social took
  • addictomatic.com - builds pages on the fly of the most recent results from various websites
  • socialmention.com - smaller userbase, so only really valuable for larger organizations, but it's one of the best. this also measures:
    • Strength: likelihood of being discussed
    • Passion: is there a fanbase that repeatedly talks about you
    • Sentiment: ration of positive mentions to negative ones

    Since we don't know what metrics they use, it's better to follow these as trends than as absolute numbers (if numbers change dramatically, something big must have happened - what?)

Also, just type your library's name (and variations) into Bing and Google and see what comes up - are people saying positive or negative things? What do your sites say about you?

 

Jeff - Tools for reviewing activity

Google Analytics In Page analytics

  • Available from content section
  • Visualizes activity by overlaying it on your webpage

Facebook Insights

  • Quantitative: fans, users, page views
  • Engagement: likes, comments

Klout

  • measurement of overall online influence
  • from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence
  • pulls data mainly from Facebook and Twitter and other large social sites

Mywebcareer

  • discover, evaluate and monitor your professional online brand
  • gives you a FICO-like career score (350-850) for your personal brand

twendz

  • tool that analyzes activity and sentiment using keywords on Twitter

Google Places

  • Activity: views, impressions
  • Actions: maps, driving directions, clicks to website
  • Be sure to officially claim your small business listing, to make sure it is correct

Hootsuite

  • social media dashboard - lets you post once to multiple social outlets (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
  • recently added analytics so you can track effects related to your updates (again, in one place, instead of having to go to all of them to check)
  • there is a pay and free, and even though a lot more is in the pay version, the free is pretty good

 

Mike - Using web metrics tools to inform web design decisions

Answering the question: who are they, where are they, and what are they thinking?

The website redesign project - use a formalized process with patrons as center stage, instead of just sitting around a room arguing about which font to use

Google Analytics - it's worth setting up

  • they give you a small bit of code that you past in your site, and instantly starts tracking activity
  • it gives you rich data on how your site is used - activity, times, locations, popular resources,
    this gives you actual numbers, so you don't need to rely on national standards which may not actually reflect the makeup of your community
  • gives you real data to make decisions, instead of basing everything on anecdotes (where people come from, what their connection is, how people are finding you [search engines, keywords], etc) - this gives a voice to the patrons you never see
  • having a short time-spent-on-site metric is a good thing, because it means people are coming to your website, finding the database/website/resource they need, and linking out to it
  • it will tell you what device people are using, and thus if you need a mobile website (and which devices to focus on)


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CIL2011: Usability Express – Recipe for Libraries

   March 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

CIL2011: Usability Express - Recipe for LibrariesBohyun Kim, Digital Access Librarian, &
Marissa Ball, Emerging Technologies Librarian, Florida International University

 

Why Usability?

  • Good information cannot make up for bad design
  • Give people what they want, not what you want:
    Venn diagram of things people want to see on a website versus things that are actually there
    http://www.xkcd.com/773

Users don't...

  • read content on a website
  • want to learn how to use their website
  • visit your site every day
  • return to sites that have failed them

But they are always on the move - design your website like a billboard that would appeal to commuters, because that's all the time you have to direct their attention

Designers Usability means "fit for use"

  • intuitive - you don't need to think about how to use a hammer
  • easy to recover from a mistake
  • conducive to users performing tasks
  • no need to learn to use it

Usability is difficult for libraries because we offer so much with so many options

  • but most of our information in separate silos
  • much of the terminology is jargon and foreign to users
  • information is segmented by departments that is confusing to patrons

What libraries get wrong

  • pre-conceived notions of important
  • lack of research on user behavior
  • belief that design can change user behavior
  • design based upon a committee - this is slow, design lacks unity, and represents insider opinion more than the users'
  • writing is unsuited to the web

 

Common usability problems and examples

1. Clutter/noise

  • promote all things - nothing stands out
  • user have no idea where to start/focus
  • information overload = stress

How to fix

  • improve by taking things out rather than adding
  • be aware of clutter creeping in
  • users are happy to click "as long as"
    • it is mindless ("3 click rule" isn't true as long as clicking doesn't require effort or thought)
    • they know they are getting closer

2. Dated look

  • lowers credibility of the site
  • users suspect outdated content

How to fix

  • replace old icons, images, typography
  • update a CSS file to give a new look
  • as long as the site architecture is sound, serves the same group, and has a clear task pathway that work, no need for redesign - make sure you know what work needs to be done

3. Too subtle design

  • users scan web pages like a billboard while driving at 60mph
  • subtly in web design often backfires
  • good web design is different than good print design, because people do things differently

How to fix

  • make visually clear what's most important, valuable, popular
  • provide a clear visual hierarchy on the page
  • break pages up into clearly defined areas

4. Unclear terms/Library jargon

  • test your site with new users

How to fix

  • replace all jargon with plain terms
  • do now use the product name or vendor names
  • use a short description if name is not clear

5. Redundant and unnecessary content

  • redundant content creeps in as time goes by (welcome, introduction, etc )
  • unnecessary content = small talk (users have no interest in small talk)
  • answer users' questions, not yours
  • serve content that users can grab and go

How to fix

  • remove small talk and explanations by using descriptive names
  • make a content inventory
  • review content by category & purpose
  • remove overlapping, redundant, unnecessary content

6. Bad writing

  • rewrite a page to be half of its length
  • then cut more!

How to fix

  • use clear headings
  • make paragraphs short
  • start with the key points
  • make content easy to scan

7. Design against convention

  • the best ally of usability is convention
  • anything that prompts a pause and thinking is bad
  • surprise, confusion, agony over choice (when there is no distinguishable difference), stress

How to fix

  • don't underestimate the value of convention
  • be creative without sacrificing usability
  • convention implies:
    • obvious and predictable
    • clear paths to goals

8. Unintuitive navigation

  • is it an information architecture an issue?
  • if so, use usability testing method to find out what navigation structure or organization of content makes sense to users

 

User testing - quick, cheap and easy

Profiling Methods

  • find out who your users are
  • focus groups, surveys, and analytics data can all help determine which users to focus on
  • it's best to test in small groups - three tests with five users is better than a single test with 15 users
  • you will learn who your users are, what they want, and how best to get it to them
  • you should use more than one, and make them simple

Focus Groups and User Surveys

  • best to conduct early one, because they gather background information and overall opinions and desires
  • sessions last 1-2 hours, and work best when combined with other methods

Card Sorting

  • put ideas on cards/post-its, and have users arrange them in a way that makes sense to them
  • also helps correct terminology, because users need to understand the words on the cards
  • sessions last 1-2 hours, can be done in groups or individually

Contextual Interviews and Intercepts

  • based on observations of users in their environment
  • ask questions, and be casual
  • this is one of the best methods to use

Paper Prototyping

  • easy, disposable, adaptable, affordable
  • allow your users to be creative
  • create screenshots of various screens of your site for users to interact with
  • easy to generate lots of ideas, because people are more willing to scrap ideas on paper than delete
  • files they have worked on


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CIL2011: Mobile Landscape and Location

   March 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

CIL2011: Mobile Landscape and LocationJoe Murphy, Science Librarian, Coordinator of Instruction & Technology, Yale University
Chanitra Bishop, Instruction & Emerging Technologies Librarian, Indiana University
Jason Clark, Head, Digital Access & Web Services, Montana State University

 

Foursquare and Libraries - Chanitra Bishop

Location-based mobile apps use your device's GPS data to locate information about what is going on around you. The advantage is the potential for targeted marketing to users in a specific geographic location
Examples: Foursquare, Brightkite, Yelp, Gowalla, Google Places

People like them because they are fun, almost like games, and can earn points and badges for their activity.

Foursquare allows you to

  • check in to different location
  • create a to-do list for locations
  • find out what frineds are doing
  • learn about events, restaurants, etc in a location

Notes of caution: you are broadcasting where you are, so people could follow up, or know where you are not (ie, your house)

Foursquare and Libraries

Libraries can claim your location and/or add new locations

  • give each feature of your library a location (cafe, DVD collection, reference desk, etc) to promote those services to people on Foursquare
  • gives you the opportunity to run promotions
  • engage with patrons, award the mayor
  • use tips, descriptions, photos, and tags to share information
  • update incorrect user-generated information

 

Where are You? Locations and Library Applications - Jason Clark

How does location matter for libraries?
Content isn't just enough anymore - now the context is also important (about 50% of Google searches have some geographic component). Neat mashup: Wildlife near you (plotting flickr photos on a map to show animals in your area)

Library applications

  • Mapping (give context in a snapshot)
  • Check-in like Foursquare - Darien Library gives a totebag to patrons who check in
  • Crowdsourcing geo information - maps.nypl.org allows people to overlay historical infomration on current city maps, and also allow people to correct errors
  • Local interest apps - San Jose WolfWalk historical walking tour of campus

Getting Started - Tools



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CIL2011: Ebook Update and Outlook

   March 22nd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Ebook Update and OutlookMODERATOR: Dick Kaser, VP Content, Information Today, Inc.
Leslie Lees, VP of Content Development, ebrary
Ken Breen, Director, eBook Products, EBSCO Publishing
Rick Rosy, VP & General Manager, Library Services, Ingram Content
Group, Inc.

Ebook publishers talk about the ebook models available from their companies - here are a few points I took away:

NetLibrary and EBSCO

  • 1997 ebooks - came on a CD with a 100+ print user guide
  • NetLibrary brand is going away
  • Ebooks are available for preview on EBSCOhost
  • 3 Users Models - Single User, Three User (Single User with lending), Unlimited
  • Patron model will have lease model - lend books for 1, 7, 14, or 28 days at a time, with payment made for every time a lease is done
  • EBSCO continues to listen and evolve

Ebrary and ProQuest

  • Subscription model - 50,000+ backlist titles available, instant digital library, unlimited access
  • Perpetual Access Archive - purchase and own many titles, many front-list titles, source through various vendors
  • Patron-Driven Acquisition - reduce cost, save selector time, and ensure titles get used (patrons choose what library buys) - model similar to Netlibrary
  • Short Term Loans - rent titles and mediate use (model similar to Netlibrary)
  • Future holds that ILS' will eventually stop being inventory control software, and more access control to a variety of formats

MyiLibrary and Ingram

  • Nashville is a nice place
  • Use model single owner, multiple owner, and patron-driven acquisition
  • Among large academic library, 43% have an ebook copy of the physical book they also own - shows ebooks and books coexist peacefully
  • Focusing on how to keep access to information (ebooks) safe and available no matter what - especially with academic libraries

Overdrive ("and their relationship with the devil")

  • There's been a lot of controversy lately, but the future of ebooks, and the current state of things, is extremely strong
  • Overdrive sees itself as a library advocate - to fight for library rights and provide a marketplace in which all types of libraries have access to econtent
  • Continually innovating - mobile apps already available for Apple products, soon coming to Blackberry, always updating Overdrive Media Console software, always adding new content (new titles and new publishers) to the library - it's all about providing options
  • You will see more and more DRM-free books - there will be more self-publishing options
  • Most Overdrive libraries are experiencing 600% circ growth - Jan-Apr 2011 will see more circs than total circs for 2010
  • If you can, attend Digipalooza - this is the best opportunity to sit down with Overdrive and publishers and have your voice heard and your opinions known

Questions & Answers

  • What's going on with DRM and ebooks? How does that mechanism work?
    Overdrive: More DRM-free is coming. Copyright is set by the publishers, not Overdrive (OD advocates for libraries). Adobe is the main mechanism to make download, transfer, and file expiration possible

    Ebrary: some publishers are more willing than others to loosen policies in some channels - we're pushing for more consistency across the board

    Ingram: Most publishers require DRM, but some large consortium have been able to negotiate reduced-DRM or DRM-free options - this shows that money talks

  • Could you please develop a standard so ebooks download to all devices easily?
    Adobe isn't actually very good, it was just the first one. Overdrive is working on direct-download options, and Adobe is working to improve. Each ebook supplier having their own proprietary software is a problem, and difficult for libraries to get full support. Vendors usually do this because of the standards they are trying to meet. Overdrive has a front-line tech support in beta with NYPL(?), and will be available soon - hopefully by ALA.
  • Do all of you work with the same publishers?
    There is probably differences between Overdrive (which focuses on public libraries) and those vendors that focus on academic libraries
  • Do you allow more than 10 pages to download/print before new charges?
    It is growing - standard options seems to be about one page, one chapter, or any 60 pages


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CIL2011: Innovative Marketing Tools and Strategies

   March 21st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Stacy Bruss and Nancy Allmang, NIST LibrariansStacy Bruss & Nancy Allmang, Reference Librarians, NIST

To help publicize the library and our services, we decided to create podcasts and dynamic presentations.

 

Creating Podcasts
Our first attempt was an audio podcast, with a voiceover reading a script using rotating images to provide a visual, saved in mpg4 format. Had trouble finding license-free music on a PC (Mac has Garageband, which has usage music installed). We used Sourceforge, but found that audio podcasts are okay, but people prefer video.

Next, we decided to go with video podcast.

We went with a video production company, but it ended up costing $5,000 and took 7 months. Plus, it didn't end up being a nice, short, informative podcasts - the production company ended up making it long, dry, and boring.

So NIST bought their own camera, microphone, and Macbook. They also built a camera dolly out of a bookcart so the picture was steady. NIST librarians took a free class at an Apple Store to find out how to do it, and then did it.

Tips for creating video podcasts

  • it's easiest to do audio voiceovers later, so focus on filming video
  • instersperse still images to make it interesting
  • limit videos to about 1 minute
  • save in two formats: .mov streaming, .mp4 for downloading

 

Creating Dynamic Presentations

PPTplex - plugin for powerpoint 2007/10 to allow "zooming presentations" - allows you to easily create moving and dynamic presentations, and repeat words and images without making it look like you're repeating yourself. Another tool for zooming presentations is Prezi.com

Ways to use digital presentations

  • Use this to make static presentations dynamic
  • Conference posters online - make them static and text-heavy, and people with interest will read them
  • Digital display - LCD display uses graphics and colors and attracts more attention, so much better than an LED board
  • Use video in new employee orientation - videos can show more than pictures or words can convey

Optimal length to display a slide is 7 seconds - that is how long it takes for someone to walk by the NIST display. Time yours so it flips during someone's walk-by, so they see that it changes.

NIST staff researched available displays, and chose one that would support PowerPoint, so staff didn't have to learn new proprietary software

 

Ideas for the future

Integrating looping video (showing a screencast on how to do something, because people understand how to follow a mouse, and don't require sound)

Marketing the same information using all your marketing channel - not every patron is exposed to every channel This allows you to repurpose your content.
You should also repeat marketing messages, because people forget

Another fun way to make video presentations is using Xtra Normal - all you do is type a script, and it creates the video for you - it's attention-grabbing because it's fun, and makes the information more noticeable (it's easy and fun)



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