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


Cloud of Survey Comments from Library Patrons

   September 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog

A few months ago, my library conducted a survey of our patrons. We wanted it to be short+useful, so we called it the "60 Second Survey" and limited it to five questions, on things like which services people liked/used, best way to contact them about programs and events, etc.

Of course, the last question was the open-ended "Tell us what you think" question. 255 people provided comments, which made for very interesting reading.

Last week while a coworker was talking about the Wordle cover letter cloud, we got the idea to do a cloud based on the survey comments. Here it is (larger version to see smaller words):

Library Patron Survey Comments cloud

We had read the comments so we knew it was generally positive, but the visual impact of seeing things like this made us feel pretty good. A cloud is so much more concise than 255 individual comments, and we were very happy to see things like "friendly" and "helpful" rise to the top since those are areas we strive to emphasize.

Anyway, I don't mean this as a "We're #1" gloaty post - I just wanted to share because it was so positive. And, it's also a great visual, so we're going to include it in the Town Annual Report, as well as create a poster to display in the library, post on Facebook, etc. A t-shirt might be going too far, but we'll see. I like t-shirts.

I know I'm late to the Wordle game, but now I can't help trying to come up with other things to convert to clouds.



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Displaying Circulation History in the Catalog

   May 19th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Catalog card with commentsMy last post and peoples' comments got me thinking about displaying the circulation history of items, and how it might make items more interesting.

I don't know how many library patrons consider the fact that other people have used an item before them (unless, of course, they find some evidence of that use). But if we started showing the cost-per-circ, it might prompt some people to wonder about the X number of people who also were interested in the same thing as them.

Obviously, libraries couldn't cross any privacy lines, but I do think there are ways to highlight the "shared resources" aspect of the library, and to emphasize a sense of community among our patrons.

Some ideas for what could be shown:

  • Detailed stats on cost-per-circ (including a breakdown on the library's cost for that item - price we paid for it, processing cost, etc) - and, as Walt said, this would be particularly interesting for databases
  • Number of local checkouts vs. ILLs and network transfers (along with current number of holds)
  • Along with number of checkouts, calculate the popularity ranking vs. total library items checkouts
  • Date the item was added to the collection, and date of last checkout (and check-in)
  • Some catalogs by default have an opt-in reading history for patrons; they should also have an opt-in way to make their checkout history public, on an item-by-item basis
  • Some catalogs, and some third-party plugins (like ChiliFresh and LibraryThing for Libraries), allow patrons to include their review and rating for items right in the catalog record
  • Ebook readers should be able to leave comments and notes in the ebook, which subsequent patrons could either turn on or off depending on if they wanted to see them

Some of this information is available in our staff view, and I use it all the time - why not make it available to the public, too?

One drawback to making this kind of item information available is that we might get a lot more "weeding suggestions" from patrons, on items they don't feel have provided enough value to the library (or that have been used too much). Of course, I get this to some degree already, so it's just a matter of having - and employing - a good collection development policy.

Does anyone's catalog include features like these? How do patrons like them?



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Comment Spam

   August 18th, 2009 Brian Herzog

F on essayAfter reading Jessamyn's post about the spam and scams she gets through her website, I started actually reading the spam comments that come in here.

Most are caught by the filters and I just delete them. But reading them can be interesting, in a forensic sort of way. And some, like this one, were just downright entertaining:

It’s not so simply to bring a good written essay, essentially if you are concerned. I advise you to notice buy your essays and to be devoid from distrust that your work will be done by essays writers

Irony: it linked back to "quality essay dot com." I didn't visit the site, but the domain was registered through an ISP in California although the IP traced to The Netherlands.

Spam amazes me. If people didn't fall for it, spam might not be so prevalent. But you'd have to be pretty desperate to fall for an essay-writing scam with such poor grammar.



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Flickr Spam

   June 5th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Flickr Spam imageIf there's the least glimmer of money to be made, I suppose anything is susceptible to being corrupted. I recently got a spam comment on one of my flickr pictures.

I've heard of IM spam before, and get spam comments here all the time, but this is the first time I've seen it on flickr.

I deleted the comment (preserved in screencapture form) and won't link to the flickr user or his website. I wonder if this is automated or just someone commenting on any photo that mentioned "web designer" just to promote his business.

Oh well - just life on the internet, I suppose.



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