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




New San Jose Public Library Website

   November 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Whoa - check out the new website for the San Jose Public Library:

San Jose Public Library website

Sarah goes into some detail about the features of the new website and their reasoning behind it, which is worth reading. Here's my two cents too:

  • I love that they've done away with organizing their website along library department lines (Reference, Childrens Teens, etc.)
  • The design is wonderful - so clean and simple, yet colorful, engaging and informative. It's so different it's shocking at first, but once your eyes and mind adjust to the new design, everything is just there
  • Actually, now that I think of it, the homepage reminds me of the app icons on a smartphone - which is an interface that increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with
  • I like embedding functionality, so two things I'd be curious to try to see if they'd work are:
    • In the New and Events block, instead of a picture to click on, embed a scrollable list of upcoming events to bring that info one step closer to the patron. Also include the link to drill down into the rest of that section
    • In the Locations block, again instead of a picture, it'd be neat to just embed the Google Map right there, and have each of the branch location markers include address, phone, email, and hours. That would put so much information right on the homepage, and of course again include a link to get into the rest of the section
    • But these might be overwhelming, so you'd have to try them to see

My library is planning to redesign our website, ahead of our migration to Evergreen. I'm definitely going to lobby to use SJPL's design as one of our models. Good job guys.



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Creating a Mobile Library Website

   October 28th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Mobile website mockup in testiphone.comYou're probably sick of hearing about things I picked up at NELA2010, but I'm not done yet.

In the very last session of the conference, Steve Butzel from the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library demonstrated the Online Newsstand he created to boost their online magazine usage. That was neat in itself, but what I really took away from his talk was that I needed to - and easily could - create a version of our website specifically designed for mobile phones.

He showed theirs (in beta), which is simple and awesome. It inspired me to give it a try.

I started on http://chelmsfordlibrary.org/mobile/ yesterday, and am still working on it yet (in fact, I haven't even told anyone at my library yet that I'm doing it - surprise!).

I don't have a cell phone and so haven't tested this on a smartphone yet. I have been using testiphone.com (an online tool Steve highlighted - there are other tools, too), so please give it a try and let me know how it works.

Steve's point was that it could be very simple - hours, directions, events, a contact link, and a purchase suggestion link for patrons who are in a bookstore (great for people with apps like RedLaser). Here's the logic of what to include:

  • Hours
  • Directions (right now it just links to Google Maps, but I need to also include a link for our branch library)
  • Ask a Librarian (haven't created this yet, but it will be a simple email form)
  • Purchase Suggestion (also not done, but will be a simple form)
  • Upcoming Events (our calendar was not at all mobile-friendly, so I just grabbed the rss feed and ran it through feed2js.org to create just a list of our upcoming events. There could be separate feeds for adult events, childrens events, etc., but that might be overkill)
  • Link to the catalog (I also embedded a catalog search, but that might be too much. And I found the catalog isn't entirely mobile-friendly either - we'll be moving to the Evergreen ILS soon, so I'll wait and see on this, otherwise I'd investigate LibAnywhere from LibraryThing, which Steve also mentioned)
  • Link back to the main library website for everything else

The next trick will be getting our regular homepage to automatically detect mobile devices and reroute them to the mobile website. I haven't even attempted this yet, but have done a little research.

Apparently, cell phones and smartphones aren't just a fad after all, so having a website that works well on these devices is just as important as a browser-based website - and this will only become more important as a way to serve our patrons on their terms. I was happy with how easy it was. Now I need to find out what my coworkers think.



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NELA2010: Easy Website Mashups

   October 19th, 2010 Brian Herzog

ChelmsfordHistory.org/Resources.html pageAs part of NELA2010, I'm doing a poster session on Quick and Easy Website Mashups - very simple ways to add more information and utility to library websites.

The image at right is an example of the Resources page on the ChelmsfordHistory.org website (a town-wide history project my library participates in). Embedded in the page are four different mashups, which makes it both more useful to researchers, and easier to maintain. Win-win.

If you're interested in seeing easy examples of adding more content to your website, check it out.



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Alikewise is for (Book) Lovers

   August 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Heart shadow in bookIt looks like Alikewise.com has been around all year, but I only heard about it this weekend - it's a dating website that matches people based on the books they like.

This is a great idea for a dating website - it seems a much better way to get at someone's true nature than filling out a profile by guessing what will make you attractive. I checked around the site a bit (without creating a profile), and wonder if there's a way to tie-in with sites like LibraryThing and Good Reads to capitalize on peoples' full libraries. LibraryThing sort of already does this, with their You and None Other meme.

But here's something funny: at my first library, we toyed with the idea of a "singles night" book group. We thought it'd be a perfect program for Friday nights, after work, to come and meet other single people interested in books. It never happened, but I always liked the idea. Maybe that'll eventually manifest in Alikewise meetups.

And wouldn't this be a heck of a social networking widget to add to a library catalog? "Like this book? Click here to meet other patrons that do, too."

via Burlington Free Press (thanks, Carney) and more at NPR



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Reference Question of the Week – 7/25/10

   July 31st, 2010 Brian Herzog

USPS logoThis question wasn't difficult at all, just surprising. One of our semi-regular patrons, an elderly woman, came over to the desk and asked for help at a computer.

When we got back to where she was working, she explained that she had moved from one end of her retirement complex to the other, and was on the Post Office's website trying to change her address. She was stuck on the first step - the difference between a "permanent" move and a "temporary" move. She felt, at her age (86), she wanted to get a second opinion on how "permanent" I thought her move was. I know she has a good sense of humor, but I honestly couldn't tell if she was kidding this time.

We got her through that step, and I went back to the desk. The whole process is only about five screens, but over the course of the next half-hour, she came back twice more to ask for help. It was a busy day so I wasn't able to stay with her, and usually she's very good on the computer.

However, the last question stumped us both: they required her type in her credit card number, and were going to charge her $1.00 to change her address.

Well, after a half an hour of frustration, that was the last straw. I know you can do change of addresses at the Post Office for free, so she said she was going to go right over to do it the old-fashioned way, and to give them a piece of her mind.

Initially, I thought this was another annoying example of an online place charging service fees or "internet surcharge" to use their website. I see this a lot buying tickets and things online, and to my mind, it seems like a pure scam - buying online should provide a discount, since it saves them effort.

After the patron left, I went back to the website to see if they mentioned this $1 fee earlier in the process. On the first page, I found a not-too-easy-to-read note at the bottom, saying a valid credit card was required - and that you have to change your address with the credit card company before you can change it with the Post Office. It reads:

Note: A valid credit card and a valid email address are required to complete the Online Change of Address process. For your security, the credit card billing address MUST match the address you are moving from or the address you are moving to (for business moves it must match the address you are moving from). If you are unable to use a credit card and a valid email address, you will have the option to print the Change of Address form and then mail or deliver the printed form to your local post office™.

From this, and from the page where you enter your credit card number, it seems like it's more of a security feature, to deter random people from changing the address of other people. However, you can still do it for free with no questions asked using the paper form. There has to be a better way to handle things like this, so that security doesn't impede convenience.

I've got to apply this logic the next time we revamp our library website.



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Library Events Calendar Roundup

   October 13th, 2009 Brian Herzog


library calendarAn important function of the library is communicating our upcoming events to the community. There are lots of ways to do this, one of which is by having an online calendar.

Of course, there are also lots of software for online calendars and for patrons to reserve meeting rooms. My library just switched calendars, and so did the Blue Hill (ME) Public Library. Since we each evaluated a number of different calendar options, Rich Boulet and I combined our notes, in the hopes of saving other libraries a bit of legwork when looking at calendars.

There are more calendars than what is listed here (in no particular order), and our pro/con notes reflect the needs, requirements and situations of our individual libraries. If you have questions about how we made our decisions, you can contact me through my contact form, and Rich through Blue Hill Library's staff page.

Library Insight     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Groton (MA) Public Library for example
  • Patrons can submit room requests online
  • Comes with 1200 images
  • Marquee of upcoming available for index page
  • SIP2 compliant
  • Will not disclose how many clients use product, but says they are "in 20 states"
  • $695/year plus $600 setup fee
  • Contact: Steve Bolduc / 978-808-1089
  • More info: http://libraryinsight.com/products/rmInsight.htm

Google Calendar     (Rich)

Evanced     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Chelmsford (MA) Public Library and Blue Hill (ME) Public Library (calendar, room reservation) for examples
  • Looks like most comprehensive product available
  • Used by Maine State Library, Web Junction and many public libraries
  • Allows user-initiated requests for room reservation
  • Allows attendee registration and cancellation
  • Somewhat pricey relative to others in market, but unlimited in number of listed events, and no module pricing (except credit card processing is extra)
  • Allows some design customization, to make it look like your website
  • Most powerful calendar search options
  • Locally-hosted installation requires Microsoft IIS 4.0 or higher and has more up-front costs, plus 18%/year maintenance fees
  • Remotely hosted solution carries ongoing subscription costs
  • Seamless integration between web calendar and room reservation software allows users to click off on room policy
  • Calendar allows events to be downloaded to Outlook
  • Offers customizable rss feeds based n search criteria
  • Can be used to track program stats
  • Contact: Claudia Hackworth / 317-352-2188 x109
  • More info & demos: http://evancedsolutions.com/demo.asp

Calandarix     (Rich)

  • See Rockport (ME) Public Library for example
  • Very attractive and very affordable web calendar
  • Does not apparently allow patron-initiated requesting of rooms
  • Compatible with Apache or IIS
  • No remote hosting option, requires local install
  • Cost: Advanced edition is $50 for non-profits; also comes in a
    free basic version
  • More info: http://www.calendarix.com

Eventkeeper     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Hingham (MA) Public Library for example
  • Seems to do everything that Evanced does, but in a very different style
  • Pricing is generally less than Evanced, but is somewhat variable based on modules and number of events
  • Can customize and brand calendar for additional one-time fee, integrate it more with the look and feel of the rest of your web site
  • Also "EK Feed" can can be rss feed marquee of upcoming events for library's homepage
  • Only available as remotely hosted product, no local installation
  • Currently have 1200 customers
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Can be used to track program statistics
  • No maintenance fees (other than annual hosting)
  • Eventkeeper: $275/year; EK Rooms: $250/year; EK Feed (marquee)
  • Contact: Jim Stewart / 508-942-4209
  • More info: http://www.eventkeeper.com

Meeting Room Manager     (Rich)

ConnectDaily     (Brian)

  • See San Bruno (CA) Library for example
  • Reasonably priced
  • Remotely hosted with varying contract lengths
  • Allows a great deal of design customization, to integrate with the look of your website
  • Serves as both a calendar and meeting room reservation system
  • A limitation is that it is designed as an "in-house" product (example, a school would use it for the teachers to reserve meeting rooms). It does have a public room reservation form, but take a little work to customize to be easy enough for the public to use
  • Allows for multiple calendars (Childrens, Adult, Teen, etc) all to be fed up into one master calendar
  • Events available in rss and iCal formats
  • More info: http://www.mhsoftware.com/connectdaily.htm

Calcium     (Brian)



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