July 31, 2008

txt ur lib

If your library wants to exper­i­ment with or start an SMS (text mes­sag­ing) –based ref­er­ence ser­vice, Toby Green­walt has done all of the research for you about the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Although infor­ma­tion will con­tinue to change, this mes­sage to the WEB4LIB mail­ing list is a great resource.

See also this follow-up from Luke Rosen­berger.

6:00 am Comments (1)

July 29, 2008

Swinging 236 Votes — Can Libraries Do It?

OCLC was kind enough to send me an advance copy of their lat­est report, From Aware­ness to Fund­ing: A study of library sup­port in Amer­ica, and I have to say that the results of their sur­vey are fas­ci­nat­ing. Thanks to a grant from the Gates Foun­da­tion, OCLC was able to part­ner with Leo Bur­nett (yes, that Leo Bur­nett) to sur­vey Amer­i­can vot­ers about their atti­tudes and sup­port for fund­ing pub­lic libraries.

If you’re in a pub­lic library, I can’t encour­age you enough to get a copy of this report and read it for your­self. You can down­load one big PDF, down­load indi­vid­ual chap­ters, or order a print copy (highly rec­om­mended for admin­is­tra­tors and trustees). The sur­vey iden­ti­fies four types of vot­ers — chronic non vot­ers, vot­ers with bar­ri­ers to sup­port (finan­cial, detached, “the web wins”), prob­a­ble sup­port­ers, and super sup­port­ers. The report exam­ines each one in depth based on sur­veys and focus group dis­cus­sions about fund­ing sup­port for libraries.

You really need to read the whole thing for your­self, but there are some key points I want to high­light here.

  1. Most res­i­dents don’t under­stand that their pub­lic library is funded by local taxes. This isn’t a big shock, but it is crit­i­cally impor­tant in the report’s con­clu­sion that vot­ers believe libraries are ade­quately funded and that if they need money, it will “come from some­where” so they don’t feel an urgency to vote in favor of fund­ing requests.
  2. “Super sup­port­ers” are a library’s best bet for “def­i­nitely” vot­ing yes, but even their sup­port is latent and they have an under­ly­ing fear that the library is becom­ing less rel­e­vant. Any fund­ing cam­paign has to acti­vate their love for the library and focus on sup­port, not usage, because it turns out that library users don’t vote for the library. It seems counter-intuitive, but try­ing to get the vote out among your users is the wrong strat­egy. Instead, “super” and “prob­a­ble” sup­port­ers use the library less but sup­port it finan­cially because of their belief in the power of the library based on their own child­hood mem­o­ries or per­sonal trans­for­ma­tional experiences.
  3. Res­i­dents who vote to increase taxes to sup­port the library believe in its power to trans­form peo­ples’ lives, not because they value the infor­ma­tion ser­vices we pro­vide. In fact, the more we try to hang our hat in the infor­ma­tion space, the more irrel­e­vant we will become in the eyes of those vot­ers. “The research indi­cates that trans­for­ma­tion, not infor­ma­tion, dri­ves finan­cial sup­port.” (p.4–12)
  4. Any sup­port cam­paign, whether local or national, would have to focus on increas­ing fund­ing for libraries, not on get­ting peo­ple to use our ser­vices more or mak­ing them more aware of the vari­ety of ser­vices we offer. Doing that just con­tin­ues to play into our own mis­con­cep­tion that library users vote yes with their wal­lets when it comes to bal­lot ini­tia­tives, and the sta­tis­tics show that’s just not true.

In the end, the report hypoth­e­sizes that in a town of 50,000 peo­ple, a library would need to swing 236 votes from the “prob­a­ble sup­port­ers” group in order to pass a ref­er­en­dum. On the one hand, that sounds rel­a­tively easy, but the key is to acti­vate the latent pas­sion for the library in prob­a­ble and super sup­port­ers who are com­mu­nity activists so that they will vis­i­bly sup­port the ini­tia­tive and recruit oth­ers to the cause based on that passion.

I find so many dif­fer­ent sta­tis­tics in this report fas­ci­nat­ing, but there’s one that isn’t explic­itly noted in the con­clu­sions that I want to high­light. In the sur­veys, six of the nine vot­ing groups said that the main library ser­vice they use is check­ing out non­fic­tion books. Of the three groups that didn’t cite that use first, two cited it as their sec­ond most heav­ily used service.

…Many described the abil­ity to expand their hori­zons as the heart of the library’s value.… (p.5–6)

Par­tic­i­pants recounted how they dis­cov­ered a pas­sion for a topic that formed the start of a new career or hobby and ulti­mately helped them achieve their poten­tial.… They cred­ited the library with help­ing form who they are and what they have achieved as adults. Many cred­ited poignant inter­ac­tions with their child­hood librar­i­ans as impact­ing the direc­tion of their lives. Some indi­cated that the library gave them the vision to do bet­ter and go fur­ther than they might oth­er­wise have been des­tined for.” (p.5–7)

from OCLC's latest report about public library funding

So as great as our fic­tion col­lec­tions and read­ers’ advi­sory skills are, the ser­vice that is cited the most by vot­ers is our non­fic­tion col­lec­tion, and the focus groups in this report cen­ter their pas­sion for the library on its trans­for­ma­tive power to make them bet­ter human beings. I can’t prove it, but I’m guess­ing these two facts are related, and the per­son I know who explains this the best is Michael Stephens. If you’re not read­ing his blog every day, you should be, but you already knew that.

I’ve had the plea­sure of watch­ing Michael present sev­eral times, and when he first started talk­ing about how “Library 2.0 encour­ages the heart” (and Librar­ian 2.0), I have to admit that I thought it was a lit­tle “new age-y.” But he’s con­tin­ued to build on his mes­sage, and I think this report con­firms what he’s been say­ing for the last few years, that the future of pub­lic libraries — both in terms of ser­vice and for gar­ner­ing fund­ing sup­port — is about pro­vid­ing that trans­for­ma­tional expe­ri­ence for peo­ple. Under­stand that I’m not say­ing fic­tion can’t or doesn’t do that. I just don’t think we’re going to swing 236 votes based on our fic­tion collections.

I have more to say about this report, and I hope to make time to con­tinue blog­ging about it, but this report deserves your own atten­tion if you’re a pub­lic librar­ian or if you care about pub­lic libraries, because it’s a roadmap for rel­e­vancy, fund­ing, and even greater growth. Although I wish ALA had run this sur­vey and issued this report, I give full credit to OCLC for this valu­able contribution.

8:51 pm Comments (3)

July 24, 2008

WoW Your Librarian Friends

Until a few years ago, the last time I had really played videogames was in col­lege, where I lost a cou­ple of months of my life (in a row) to Sim­C­ity on the Super Nin­tendo sys­tem. I learned my les­son from that and since then, I’ve stayed away from games that I know will suck in huge amounts of my time because I’ll prob­a­bly enjoy them so much. So instead, I stick mainly to casual (and usu­ally social) games, although I do keep a list of all of the ones I’m going to play some­day when I have more time, includ­ing The Sims, Myst, and World of Warcraft.

Which is why I love the fact that Michael Porter plays WoW and explains it in his pre­sen­ta­tions and some­times on his blog. He even started a Face­book group just for WoW librar­i­ans, but now he’s gone one bet­ter and cre­ated a WoW Guild just for libraries and librarians.

The Libraries and Librar­i­ans Guild in WoW –the Largest On-line MMORPG Game in the World

World of War­craft is the largest “Mas­sive Mul­ti­player Online Role Play­ing Game” in the world. It has 10 mil­lion plus sub­scribers and is, in addi­tion to being a blast and a lovely dis­trac­tion, glo­ri­ously fun and addic­tive to many. And now, finally, WE (Libraries and Librar­i­ans) have a guild. If you play WoW and work in, for, or with Library­land, you can now join the Libraries and Librar­i­ans Guild. We are new, but we already have a sub­stan­tial Guild web site com­plete with a forum (very good in Wow-land). And a bank. In fact, we have a bank with three tabs and daily pulls for repairs (that is also quite good in WoW-land). Heck we even have an optional free (to you) Guild tabard (sort of like a t-shirt you wear in the game).…

So join us! We’ll be there wait­ing to show you the ropes…and chat…and kill bad guys! Along the way, you’ll likely grok the whole online community/gaming/libraries thing just a lit­tle bit more, and have a blast while you’re at it. In fact, con­sider this your invi­ta­tion to do exactly that!

Note: If you want to join this guild you must be on the Aerie Peak –US server. If you are a new player be sure to pick that server! Also, if you are cre­at­ing a toon (new char­ac­ter) or trans­fer­ring an exist­ing char­ac­ter to join this guild, be sure you put it on this server (Aerie Peak — US)!!!” [Library­man]

Michael has already cre­ated a par­al­lel com­mu­nity in the new, forth­com­ing ver­sion of Web­Junc­tion, as well, which will make a nice com­ple­ment to the Games and Gam­ing group that will live in ALA­Con­nect. Gam­ing is all around us!

July 23, 2008

Bibliocommons Goes Live!

I blogged about Beth Jefferson’s Bib­lio­com­mons project last year, impressed with her goal of cre­at­ing a library cat­a­log inter­face from scratch that is focused on users and inte­grates com­mu­nity and social pieces around the con­tent, rather than tack­ing them on here and there. I also showed some screen­shots of the beta ver­sion in a pre­sen­ta­tion I did at Com­put­ers in Libraries this past spring in an attempt to high­light how things like reviews, tag­ging, and com­mu­nity could actu­ally work in a library cat­a­log if they weren’t an afterthought.

So it’s with great excite­ment that I read in Library Jour­nal that the first instal­la­tion of Bib­lio­com­mons is now live as the OPAC for the Oakville, Ontario, library in Canada. There is much to explore here, and I need to get in and see if any­thing has changed since the beta, but my favorite part is still the cat­a­log home page that shows actual users on it.

OPL Bibliocommons catalog home page

As I noted in my CiL talk, it’s refresh­ing just to see a cat­a­log I could log in to with a user­name instead of a bar­code — what a novel idea! Don’t even get me started on the fact that the inter­face includes terms like “con­nect,” “net­work,” and “trusted sources.” So much good stuff here, though — rat­ings, tags, lists, users, com­ments, rec­om­men­da­tions, faceted brows­ing, con­tex­tual help, nat­ural lan­guage (not jar­gon), user-based age rat­ings, “share with a friend” links, sim­i­lar titles, a shelf browser with cover images, and the abil­ity to get rewards for adding con­tent to the cat­a­log. I love that I didn’t have to dig deeply into the cat­a­log to start find­ing user-generated con­tent, as I often have to do in other OPACs when I need an example.

OPL Bibliocommons detailed record

There’s even a con­test right now to help them gather feed­back from users (with an awe­some twist on the prize), not that they need this based on the beta, where users con­tributed far more con­tent than anticipated.

OPL contest for feedback about the new Bibliocommons interface

There are more screen­shots avail­able here, but I can’t encour­age you strongly enough to just go play with this cat­a­log on your own to see just how dif­fer­ent it is from yours. Even bet­ter, this inter­face can run over any vendor’s sys­tem, so adop­tion isn’t lim­ited and libraries don’t have to start over from scratch.

I will def­i­nitely con­tinue fol­low­ing Bib­lio­com­mons closely, and I hope Beth will be able to give a few more talks or write more arti­cles about the project to keep us update to date on usage of this great new prod­uct. Con­grat­u­la­tions to Beth and her team for get­ting a solid prod­uct with lots of poten­tial out the door, and kudos to the Oakville Pub­lic Library folks for imple­ment­ing it. This is def­i­nitely one to watch, and I know I’ll be post­ing more about it in the future.

July 22, 2008

The Dead Ends Don’t Justify the Means

Last year, I noted how the Topeka and Shawnee County Pub­lic Library and oth­ers ana­lyzed the user expe­ri­ence in the cat­a­log and began using Mee­boMe as a way to pro­vide a path out of the “no results” dead end. Now we have another great exam­ple from the Allen County Pub­lic Library of re-examining dead ends in the catalog

Hi-Tech Hi-Touch: A Sirsi Patron Mate­r­ial Request Form

The point of need that inter­ested me was to make a mate­r­ial request form avail­able for the patron when they could not find their search item.…

The real meat of the pro­cess­ing is han­dled by the findit.php code. This is a reen­trant form that does all the val­i­da­tion and pro­cess­ing. If you would like a copy of the code just email and I will send it to you.” [ACPL’s Inno­va­tion through Tech­nol­ogy]

ACPL purchase request form in the catalog

So basi­cally, Sean Robin­son at ACPL added a pur­chase request form to the search results page of the cat­a­log so that if the Library doesn’t own the title the patron is look­ing for, she can imme­di­ately sub­mit a pur­chase request. It’s these seem­ingly minor improve­ments that pro­vide a more robust ser­vice in a place patrons don’t nor­mally find a librar­ian. Why our ven­dors can’t think of these things is beyond me, but it’s great to see librar­i­ans like Sean tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to imple­ment them.

9:53 pm Comments (8)

July 18, 2008

A Report from the Field from Rick Glady

gaming sign at the Civic Center Library in Scottsdale, AZ “We recently com­pleted a 6-month trial of Fam­ily Gam­ing at the Civic Cen­ter Library, City of Scotts­dale, Ari­zona. It began as an Adult Gam­ing pro­gram, but we didn’t seem to be able to draw in enough adults to make it worth­while to be strictly an adult program.

We did find out, how­ever, from the first pro­gram that we drew patrons of all ages and had an atten­dance fig­ure (based on an elec­tronic door counter) of 200–300. The nice thing was the diver­sity, not just in terms of race, but ages as well of the atten­dees. If ever asked about the Wii, you can pass on that I had one woman who was in a wheel­chair after 7 back surg­eries play­ing Wii with her grand­son, and I had one man who, although legally blind, was able to pitch an inning of base­ball. In the end, we had over 1,100 atten­dees for the program.

Just some basic facts: Scotts­dale Pub­lic Library has a pretty suc­cess­ful teem gam­ing pro­gram (begun by me 3 years ago), and is hold­ing gam­ing for kids 6–11 this sum­mer at 2 libraries. I had 5 gam­ing sys­tems: PS3 play­ing Rock Band, XBox 360 play­ing Viva Piñata, Wii play­ing Wii Sports, and 2 PS2’s play­ing Gui­tar Hero and DDR (the first month), and NickToons-the last five months.”

Thank you to Rick for let­ting me know about this. I can’t wait to hear how the sum­mer pro­gram goes.

7:30 am Comments (6)

July 17, 2008

Corrupting Young Minds (with Books) in the Library

So it turns out there are a cou­ple of poten­tially con­tro­ver­sial things about the cur­rent issue of The New Yorker, one of them being an arti­cle called “The Lion and the Mouse” by Jill Lep­ore. I’ve always agreed with the ethic and atti­tude of “Library 2.0,” even though I didn’t like the impli­ca­tion that libraries had never before in our his­tory evolved. For me, it sym­bol­izes the need to change again, in what may seem to some like rad­i­cal ways (online con­ver­sa­tions, user-generated con­tent, zoned phys­i­cal spaces, col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ships with users, etc.), but this arti­cle shows just one exam­ple of when this hap­pened in the past. Libraries responded then, as many are respond­ing now.

As a pro­po­nent of gam­ing in libraries, one of the crit­i­cisms I hear about the move­ment is that libraries are for books and the edi­fi­ca­tion of the mind. That we shouldn’t cor­rupt young minds with games, and that we shouldn’t use games as a ploy to get kids in the door. But libraries are vibrant places where quite a wide range of other things hap­pen besides just books, and I think it’s sad when patrons or librar­i­ans por­tray us as just ware­houses. Any build­ing can be a book ware­house — that’s not what makes us “libraries” and com­mu­nity cen­ters (regard­less of type of library), and librar­i­ans cer­tainly aren’t “book tellers,” just sit­ting behind a desk wait­ing to hand over a book in return for see­ing a library card.

I believe quite strongly that libraries are about con­tent, peo­ple, and com­mu­ni­ties. The peo­ple cre­ate com­mu­nity there, often around the con­tent, but not always, espe­cially in pub­lic libraries where we also serve a recre­ational role. All of this is why I believe gam­ing in libraries is a per­fect fit, and I cringe when I hear some­one con­jure up “the good old days” when all kids did was sit in the library and read. When I hear this, I won­der whose child­hood they’re remem­ber­ing, because while I cer­tainly loved the library and would often read there, a lot of my friends never went there, maybe even most of them. The truth is that a lot of the kids I grew up with weren’t spend­ing their days read­ing the clas­sics unless they were forced to by teach­ers, let alone enlight­en­ing their minds by just sit­ting qui­etly in the mid­dle of the library.

And if we go back far enough in “the good old days,” it turns out they couldn’t have done those things even if they’d wanted to, because chil­dren sim­ply weren’t allowed in the library, a point brought home in The New Yorker piece. While the author spends the major­ity of the arti­cle dis­cussing rival­ries between the early play­ers in the world of book reviews of children’s lit­er­a­ture, the back­ground his­tory is rel­e­vant to our own dis­cus­sions today.

At the time [1895], you had to be four­teen, and a boy, to get into the Astor Library, which opened in 1854, the same year as the Boston Pub­lic Library, the country’s first pub­licly funded city library, where you had to be six­teen. Even if you got inside, the librar­i­ans would shush you, carp­ing about how the ‘young fry’ read noth­ing but ‘the trashy’: Scott, Cooper, and Dick­ens (one century’s garbage being, as ever, another century’s Great Books). Samuel Tilden, who left $2.4 mil­lion to estab­lish a free library in New York, nearly changed his mind when he found out that ninety per­cent of the books checked out of the Boston Pub­lic Library were fic­tion. Mean­while, libraries were pop­ping up in Amer­i­can cities and towns like cro­cuses at first melt. Between 1881 and 1917, Andrew Carnegie under­wrote the con­struc­tion of more than six­teen hun­dred pub­lic libraries in the United States, build­ings from which chil­dren were rou­tinely turned away, because they needed to be pro­tected from morally cor­rupt­ing books, espe­cially nov­els. In 1894, at the annual meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, the Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Library’s Lutie Stearns read a ‘Report on the Read­ing of the Young.’ What if libraries were to set aside spe­cial books for chil­dren, Stearns won­dered, shelved in sep­a­rate rooms for chil­dren, staffed by librar­i­ans who actu­ally liked children?

Much of what [Anne Car­roll] Moore did in that room had never been done before, or half as well. She brought in sto­ry­tellers and, in her first year, orga­nized two hun­dred story hours (and ten times as many two years later). She com­piled a list of twenty-five hun­dred stan­dard titles in children’s lit­er­a­ture. She won the right to grant bor­row­ing priv­i­leges to chil­dren; by 1913, children’s books accounted for a third of all the vol­umes bor­rowed from New York’s branch libraries. Against the pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment of the day, she believed that her job was to give ‘to the child of for­eign parent­age a feel­ing of pride in the beau­ti­ful things of the coun­try his par­ents have left.…’ In each of the library’s branches, Moore abol­ished age restric­tions. Down came the ‘Silence’ signs, up went framed prints of the work of children’s-book illus­tra­tors. “Do not expect or demand per­fect quiet,” she instructed her staff. ‘The edu­ca­tion of chil­dren begins at the open shelves.’ In place of locked cab­i­nets, she pro­vided every library with a big black ledger; if you could sign your name, you could bor­row a book.” (Thanks, Richard!)

So when we talk about “the good old days,” let’s be sure to spec­ify which period we’re refer­ring to, because just over a hun­dred years ago, fic­tion was the great cor­rupter of young minds. A few decades later, it was E. B. White’s “Stu­art Little.”

But things change, and now it’s games in the libraries that are bad influ­ences or candy or inap­pro­pri­ate instead of books. What a dif­fer­ence a cen­tury makes! How much more pow­er­ful is it to look back on our his­tory and see how library ser­vices to all patrons have changed dur­ing the last hun­dred years? It’s some­thing to be proud of, even as we expe­ri­ence another tran­si­tional period and change again to serve new [and old] users in new ways.

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