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


Automate the Internet with If This Then That

   November 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog

ifttt logo - Put the internet to work for youThis has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but wanted to share it because I think it's neat.

The website http://ifttt.com, which stands for "If This Then That," allows you to makes things happen online as a result of something else happening. The If/Then is a reference to logical causality, and in this case basically means,"if this one thing happens on the internet, then do this other thing automatically."

They explain it very well on their "About" page (I put "About" in quotes because their actual URL made me laugh and is so much better than "/about").

Anyway, there already are some tools that offer consequence-action services (like Google Alerts, getting an email if someone comments on your flickr photos, using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet blog posts, etc). But this one seems the most versatile, because it isn't service-dependent, it does more than just notifications, and it lets you manage all your notifications from one service.

I'm hoping to use it to automate some of what the library does online (as seen in our Online Marketing Flowchart). There are lots of triggers and actions available, and it seems limited only by your imagination. But of course, like with any online tool, the more you use it, the bigger impact you'll feel if it suddenly goes away - which never stopped me before.

Also, like LibraryElf, this is a tool I think patrons can use on an individual basis - I say this because it offers notifications by text, phone, and email, and triggers can be calendar events, feeds, and more.



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More Policy Updating

   April 29th, 2008 Brian Herzog

cellphonebooth.jpgIn addition to updating our Circulation policy, we also recently revised a few different areas of our Library Use policy.

For the last ten months or so, we've had a trial period of not enforcing our "No Cell Phones" policy, to see how much of a problem it was. During that time, we learned two things:

  1. Cell phones aren't the problem: loud ringers and loud talking are
  2. People who do get a call are usually pretty good about removing themselves to a quieter area to speak, without us asking them to

Since two people sitting at a table having an overly-loud conversation is just as disruptive as someone having an overly-loud cell phone conversation, we wanted to reword our policy to permit non-disruptive use. Our goals were:

  • Promote behavior that is courteous to other patrons
  • Provide areas and circumstances where cell phone use is allowed
  • Use wording that does not target a specific technology, so it doesn't get outdated as technology evolves

So in the end, we went from this:

Cellular phones may not be used inside library buildings.

to this:

Mobile devices such as cellular phones and hand-held computers should be set to "silent" mode. Use of a mobile device in the library should be brief and quiet. Out of respect to other library patrons, prolonged conversations should be moved to a less public area, such as the foyer, the courtyard or the parking lot.

Wordier, I know, but hopefully clear and more in line with modern patron needs (though still a bit short of a cell phone lounge).

For our Food and Drink policy, we wanted to change it to permit drinks in covered containers, so we went from this:

Food and/or drink are not permitted.

to this:

Food is permitted only in the meeting room during special events and in the outdoor seating areas. Food is not permitted in any other public area of the library. Drinks are allowed throughout the building, but only in covered containers. Care must be taken to avoid spills, and patrons should notify staff if any spills occur. Beverages and waste should be disposed of properly and containers should be recycled whenever possible.

And we expanded our Smoking Policy from this:

Smoking is not allowed.

to this:

The use of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.

Funny how specific you have to be when writing policies. "The use of" was added at the last minute, because without it, we realized the policy forbid people from even having cigarettes in their purse, and Library staff is certainly not going to be checking bags.

We had input from our Board of Trustees on these changes, so although they won't be officially approved until their May meeting, we've already got them posted on our website.

A patron may never notice something like this, but hopefully it'll go a long way towards making everyone's (patrons and staff) library experience better.



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