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

NELA2010: Trends in Tech Services

   October 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I'm at the NELA 2010 annual conference Monday and Tuesday this week, albeit without wifi or open power outlets in the rooms. As a result, my postings will be few and far between, but this session was a good one:

NELA2010 - Trends Tech Services speakersTrends, Trends, Trends: Innovations in Technical Services, Collections and More

What is going on that is leading us to change the way we work “behind the scenes” in our libraries? The Academic Librarians Section (ALS) and the Association of College and Research Libraries/New England chapter (ACRL/NEC) sponsor Consultants Margaret Lourie and Stephen Spohn to examine issues and trends in technical services, cataloging, and the acquisition and maintenance of physical and virtual collections, e-resources and e-books. Explore the larger issues at work that bring new opportunities to provide more resources to users, make it easier for them to find information they need and do all this more effectively and efficiently.

The Past Environment

  • Libraries are warehouses of information (books/serials)
  • Monopoly on search - they have to come to us and do it our way
  • Information in discrete packaging - silos do not overlap
  • Low user expectation - they get what they needed, maybe, and go away
  • Big building, print collection owned, repository of physical artifacts, you have to come to us
  • Catalog is inventory of what you own (later also what we have access to, or lease)
  • All cataloging and reference work done in-house (sense that it was our duty to catalog the internet)
  • Plenty of staff to do the work
  • Sense of "we know what the patrons need" - relates to what was selected, how it was cataloged, where it was shelved

Work flow was like assembly line

  • must follow the rules in all aspects (TS, reference, circ, etc)
  • patron needs take backseat to process (fear of "doing it wrong" prevents "just doing it right" [according to patron's point of view])

We don't need to throw everything out, but we do need to question the rules to see what is holding us back.

Today's world

  • Information and tools are created on the fly by millions of people and is available instantly (gone is the idea of librarians cataloging the internet)
  • Mix of owned and leased, digital and physical, common and unique, print-on-demand (feeds into instant-info idea - don't need things on the shelf, just print when people want it), ebooks - libraries are going to own less and less of their materials (this is being driven by vendors and shifting business models) - focus must shift to community space
  • Others do search better than us, our job is to help filter, not find (search results are not good enough) - we try to compete, but we're losing
  • High user expectation - patrons want simple, complex choices24x7, personalized, all electronic, and easy
  • Disaggregation of discrete information packages - full-text articles available, aggregated databases and journal sources becoming less important (can buy individual articles, not just entire journal or entire database)
  • Buying books is easier for patrons, because they don't need to keep track of due dates and have library staff make them feel like bad people over $0.25 late fees (use Netflix model - patrons pay a few dollars a month and can keep things as long as they want)
  • Catalog should be directory of what you have access to (not inventory of owned materials)

Environmental factors

  • People are mobile and want to be social
  • Different devices have different capabilities and requirements
  • New role for libraries: foster learning and knowledge, collaboration with community and community service
  • We must constantly respond to changes and trends in technology
  • Bad economy means
    • we need to justify all spending (inherent value is no longer a given - we always try to shield patrons from budget cuts, so how do they know we're in trouble if they never see the blood?)
    • less money for resources
    • we have fewer staff with more work, so we need to maximize staff resources
      • we need to be more efficient
      • eliminate unnecessary tasks (ask yourself, "do anyone care about what I'm doing" for ever task you do)
      • accept "good enough" cataloging (only what patrons need to find information, not exhaustively complete records (for example, patrons/parents want books in a series, and MARC does not do series well - then we should bend the rules so we can provide this service)
    • move work out of the library
    • automate (self-check)
    • accept that we may have to DO LESS

How does all this affect TS

  • Avalanche of new content to deal with - not just owned print anymore, streaming, unique
  • Focus needs to be on user needs
  • multiple metadata schemes
  • Collaborating and contribution

What to call patrons?

  • users, patrons, clients, customers, members?
  • ask them, see what they say - it's all about the relationship

How would we organize libraries from scratch starting today?

  • we collect things - collection development, preservation, resource sharing
  • allow patrons to discover them - metadata (it's not just about us anymore) and discovery, reference and advisory, patron experience, borrowing
  • publish things - user-contributed content, local publications, digital repositories
  • transform - instruct patrons on how to move forward, recombining information

Look at what "summon" search can do (from Serial Solutions)- MARVEL does it. Its "preharvested" search results from designated sources - catalog, databases - better than federated search because it's fast and single search box ("Unified" search).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NELA 2009 Annual Conference

   October 15th, 2009 Brian Herzog

The 2009 annual conference of the New England Library Association starts this weekend in Hartford, CT.

I'll be there for just Sunday and Monday, but I'm not sure yet which sessions I'll attend. I'll be blogging again this year, along with other attendees, so check out our notes at http://nelib.wordpress.com. Also, look for Twitter updates with the #nela09 hashtag*.

If you'll be in Hartford, let me know or keep an eye out for me - I have no plans for Sunday evenings and always like meeting people.



*While searching Twitter to figure out what the hashtag would be, I happened to find @NELAsecrets - anyone know about this? It led to http://nelasecrets.wordpress.com and uses Twittermail for updates (a la @alasecrets and @alasecrets2009). I tried it, but it seems like Twittermail is down and unresponsive. Too bad - I'm full of secrets.

Also while searching, I found another NELA conference - but sadly, we just missed it.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

NELA-ITS Spring Workshop 2009 – CMS Day!

   June 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Website 2.0! slideToday's workshop is all about CMS - why use them, and what's available. I'll try to provide useful notes - also follow #nelaits09 and/or #nelaitson Twitter.

CMS Day: Building a Better Website with Content Management Systems
Drupal, Joomla, Plone, and WordPress

June 12th, 2009, Portsmouth (NH) Public Library

Keynote: Jessamyn West - Website 2.0!
--Slides & Links

  • Old style web maintenance: people give content to one person who updates the site (bottleneck) - relies on ftp and requires expertise
  • New style (with CMS): everyone can update all the time - quicker and more efficient, and doesn't require heavy-duty tech skills

Your website doesn't need to be special and unique, just useful to your patrons. Timesavers like CMS software, and good ideas that other libraries are already doing, are your friends. You can include a calendar, catalog, links and databases, programs, "about us" and local history, contact info - every has these things, and you can too.

Static v. Dynamic content (the C in CMS): dynamic content means websites are built on the fly by pulling information from multiple places

What is a CMS (content management system)

  • creation of content - lets the right people do it
  • management - easier to get info out (and remove it when old)
  • distribution - send out (or bring in) via rss
  • publishing - much easier, and more standards compliant
  • discovery - you learn, everyone learns

All cms share similar tools: themes, calendars, rss feeds, blogs, uploading images/files - don't get too hung up on these. All have online demos/versions to try out. There are also user communities that offer development and support.

Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Library Network

  • Using Drupal for staff intanet
  • Goals was to facilitate communication (which staff wanted), web 2.0 features (rss, comments, etc), calendar, printer-friendly versions (because it will be a source of documentation for member libraries)
  • Why Drupal? free, open-source, large community support, robust and room to grow
  • Install was kind of techy, so not completely smooth and flawless - but they managed with little knowledge + documentation
  • "Drupal is a very elegant and yet very hairy beast"

Getting it going:

  • Drupal Core contains a lot of core functions (do not hack core modules)
  • Also lots of contributed modules to extend capabilities - two good ones: Content Construction Kit (CCK - lets you define different kinds of content types [blog post, calendar event, etc]) and Views (allows tweaking of content output). Others in use are Calendar, Minutes module, Signup, Interest Groups
  • One challenge with Drupal is learning its terminology
  • Great thing is that menus are dropdown and easy to universally manage from one location
  • Themes: use standard, customized, or borrow one http://themegarden.org/drupal6
  • Lots of support online, plus O'Reilly books, Library Technology Report

Kate Sheehan, Dairen Public Library

  • Kate's not a coder - has used WordPress, but now specializes in content
  • Lots of thought when into architecture of Drupal site - used it to pull all sorts of library content (static pages, multiple blogs, etc) together into one place and organize it logically and usefully
  • Staff did struggle with terminology until they got away from using blog terminology
  • Community: patrons can contribute to website and catalog (using sopac, which is a Drupal module) - anyone can create an account to participate
  • Using tags to specify age range/reading levels for kids, which helps both patrons and staff
  • Website has content pulled in from other sources (flickr, et. al.) so policies had to be reviewed on licensing, citing and the technical how-to aspects - they try to use a lot of photos to make things more interesting
  • Found that using Google calendar for events was easier than Drupal module

Randy Robertshaw - Tyngsborough Public Library

  • Chose Joomla because it is very easy to learn and has a low learning curve
  • Randy is only librarian in his library, so he does all the maintenance himself
  • View website as real electronic branch - staff contributing to it is same as creating book displays or answering questions in the library
  • When considering Joomla, only look for v1.5-native components
  • Lots of for-pay modules, which can be $5-20, and are professional looking right out of the box, instead of spending time reinventing the wheel - http://extensions.joomla.org and http://joomlacode.org
  • Prefers Google calendar to events module - uses rss to feed events to homepage. Others are JcalPro and Eventlist - but prefers "outsourcing" tools like gcalendar and flickr (using iframe) to embed content back into library website
  • Joomla allows multiple themes, so children's site can look different from adult portion
  • One plugin is a PDF indexer - lots of others - some simple, some complex
  • Content can be timed, so it will automatically go up and come off - is also archived to use later use, and stats show on each post on the backend

More considerations

  • Remove copyrights for programs
  • Review the reviews of extensions before you choose them
  • Stay away from "beta" software (no release schedule)
  • Make sure to cache your website so you're not hitting the database every time
  • Is CMS search engine friendly? Always a problem with dynamic content
  • Security and backup of CMS and website and content
  • Use distributed content lets you share the work among staff but make things easy and centralized for patrons
  • Always keep an eye on development - Joomla is available now, but things always change


Rick Levine - C/W MARS
"Home on the Web" [pdf] project uses LSTA grant to enable small MA public libraries that currently have no website (or were part of the local government website). Goals were kept simple and cheap - single template, promote databases & local programs, forms-capable, "harvestable" calendar (for down-the-road state-wide zip code based calendar).

The Plinket program offers a lot features, and creating library websites is quick. The time investment comes in creating content - which is where time should be spent.

Backend input forms, content types, and management is very simple - does provide security levels to control what people can do and what html code they can use.

Examples: Bolton Public Library and East Brookfield Public Library and Thayer Memorial Library (uses fanciest features in iframes)

Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) Public Library
Chose WordPress because it was free, NOBLE offered some support, staff had some knowledge of it, large community base (easy to search for answers online), lots of free themes and plug-ins and widgets, easy to customize.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org - wp.com is hosted and has limitations, whereas wp.org is downloaded and installed on your server. .org offers more features and control, but you're responsible for backups and maintenance

Don't need a lot of tech background, but some html helps. It's easy to modify page templates to customize or use different theme for kid's page. WP lets you use hierarchy (using Parent and Child) to make website look like web pages and less bloggy.

Can use multiple blogs (news, events, book reviews, etc) and keep them separate. Posts can be automatically posted (but not deleted), and they use comment moderation to check before they go live - and people do expect answers.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bloggers Wanted for NELA 2008 Annual Conference

   October 14th, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA 2008 conference logoThe New England Library Association's 2008 Annual Conference starts this weekend, Oct. 19-21st. This year's conference is in Manchester, NH, and there is still time to register if you'd like to attend.

To supplement the conference sessions for people who can't attend, there will be a conference blog again this year. Last year, volunteers posted notes from the sessions they attended, and there were so many positive comments that NELA is doing it again. The blog is sponsored by Plymouth Rocket and is available at http://nelib.wordpress.com.

If you are interested in being a conference blogger, please contact Kathy Lussier at [email protected] with questions or to sign up. Here's a bit of an overview:

What do you need to be a conference blogger?

  • Bloggers need some degree of writing ability and must feel comfortable posting with an online form (posting to a blog is as easy as sending an e-mail)
  • You do not need your own blog, since NELA will be hosting the conference blog
  • Bloggers can post about conference sessions, meetings or events. You can post notes from a session or write about what you took away from the session. We do ask that you commit to a minimum of two posts for each day you are blogging
  • If you aren't a blogger, but prefer taking photos, we have also created a NELA group on Flickr where you can post your conference snapshots. The group is available at http://flickr.com/groups/nela

Even if you aren't going to blog, please do check it out and let us know what you think. The goal is to make this blog as useful as possible, and all comments and suggestions are appreciated.

And if you're going, I hope you enjoy the conference. It's always a great place to network with librarians, learning about what's happening in the library world (such as Work Like A Patron Day), or attend a panel discussion (such as Library 2.0 For You).

I'll be there, and if you see me, please say hi.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,