Archive for the ‘libraries/librarianship’ Category.

US News and World Retort

So I’m on the plane back from CIL catching up on some old magazines that have piled up. The March USNWR contains this gem in an article on “Surviving the American Makeover” (on p16 if you’d like to play along at home):

Even some fields that often require advanced degrees — such as law, teaching, library science, [emphasis mine] and some medical-technology specialties — have relatively low income growth, because lots of people choose them and once you have the credentials, the work is fairly standardized. [emphasis again mine]

Care to discuss amongst yourselves?

Speaking of liminal

The other thing that always strikes me about smaller conferences like Computers in Libraries or Internet Librarian is the importance of the in-between places to the conference experience and vibe. Regular attendees know that the real action is sometimes less in the sessions than in doing lobbycon, and some local folks have been known to come in just to hang out there — why register? So my next question of the day in my own in-between space before the next conference commitment here: Is lobbycon something you can deliberately replicate with things like unconferences and camps, or does it need to grow organically?

The value of your web presence

While I’m at it, let me “liveblog” another one I took notes on yesterday:

Analyzing, eval, and communic the value of web presence. Amanda Clay Powers and Michael Porter

MP –

love libraries, hopeful for libraries, yet very concerned for libs. Don’t let “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “we’re too busy” kill our libs.

AP –

Acad ref. lib. lib 2.0 summit — ms state univ. gung ho since then. Emerging tech summit this yr.

mgs virt ref dept. how integrate social networking/tech. All abt building community.

MP -

ROI — what it is for libs and why you care and maybe why you don’t need to care. how attitude changed over last year even. Investing staff time and resources into tracking success of social media for your lib need to do well — ppl who do best are from bus world.

oliver blanchard Having a social media presence nowadays is equiv of in yellow pgs 10 yrs ago. Not enough just to be there.

Social media means to an end, so need to know the end. Create goals, what trying to accomplish. Need measurable obj, strategies to meet them, tactics to accomplish strat. Jason falls

Don’t have time for full ROI report. Hoping for easier soln. No easy way to do business quality wo heavy investment — not mean can’t prove story but means data may be more anecdotal. Over last year, value of tools bec more app, ways permeated culture and society not have to make case as much.

youtube — socialmedia roi — socialnomics — sources

just need to tell story/demonstrate value — not full-blown ROI.

Knew was worthwhile (webjunction) but didn’t have stats. Starting compiling what ppl said on FB, twitter, etc about wj and doing in summary on first page. Anecdotal ev.

Weren’t reading, so pared down to 4 pgs. then stopped a hwile. Now. Need simple data every months. NUmber fb fans, # tweets, etc. Pared way down bc value has been proven already. Just part of what we do.

AP –

Metrics are out there. “So much for the fluff.”

twitter guide — has tools for analyzing feeds. at mississippi state univ under libguides.

facebook insights — on fb page over group — gets data over time, can dl and manipulate.

Spike in traffic — rave in library. Got on it, took pics, posted, students engaged with. First ones to have photos up (was a 10 minute study break rave). So huge spike.

What’s your target? What are you trying to do with this info? No longer have to prove fb and twitter good idea — done deal. On every page lib/univ website etc. So what data good for?

About building relationships. building community. and listening. Never had this kind of contact with patrons before to know what they thinking about. Sometimes they’re thinking about us/libraries/ needing help. Not just linear stats.

Also — getting your resources noticed. Added new resources. Could see who tweeted, where they were, how many followers they had — could see how word getting out. Multiphase, multilayered process — blanchard. Peeling back payers of rich nonlinear exc. data never had before. Shows how bec. relevant.

No instant answers.

Are you being retweeted? Why did they retweet you? What gets liked? What provokes comment? Who is engaging w/ you? So what’s interesting, what not, and why.

What are you doing that’s sticky? What matters, what brings patrons in, what are they doing with it? Opp to listen.

Create own assessment tool bc every lib is different. Engagement is a very interesting stat.

I’m ba-ack — at CIL, that is

Um. Yeah. It’s been a while. Hi. So I’m at CIL 2010 and figured I’d try some mild conference blogging to ease back in. Mostly because my favorite name for a session ever is… “Black Ops Ninja Style Tech Projects.” This one’s Sarah Houghton-Jan, John Blyberg, and Amanda Etches-Johnson, so you know it’s going to be good — and here’s what my scattered notes summarize. I can’t call it liveblogging because this session was yesterday — it would have been liveblogging had I been able to get internet to work in that particular room. Nice touch: Taking ?s from twitter during the session.

Sarah Houghton-Jan

Exciting projects get thwarted early by barriers that sometimes don’t make sense. Hear no once, think no always be the answer. New tech mgr herself found ways to get around: Be a bully, be subversive, be sneaky, read the policy manuals and find huge examples of policy to quote.

John Blyberg

Things are done just because they are done. Asked mom: Why you do this thing with the pie crust — because my mother did it, because my grandmother did it, no reason.

how get into culture of libs and win hearts and minds?

Every lib has staff who are lead employees — take initiative to look at innov. things going on and want to implement. As mgr, embed these ppl different areas of lib so c/b change agents, give responsibility so they can spread those thoughts among staff. And give feedback what ppl thinking and real-world elements in play.

Amanda Etches-Johnson

manages tiny team, her and two dev, web dev, digital exp, emerging tech at her lib. High degree autonomy.

know your lib’s strategic plan and make sure your black ops fit in. Esp with tech projects — don’t implement just for sake of impl, but bc strategic, fits in w/ lib’s goals.

Ex: 2 yrs ago resp. website redesign project and dec. implement a CMS, retrospect, not good idea same time. Had some Drupal exp. for nonlib projects, wanted use. Not sold because this will be easy. Fits in with strategic plan: Free and open source.

Sarah H-J

Blending into env. and sneaking up on ppl last minute. Make chngs w/o ppl noticing. By the time they notice, been going a while, can say, hey, it’s been up for months with no problems. Ex: Catalog — added links so could ask circ desk for help. Thought won’t say yes to that, think will be overloaded. Didn’t realize in a month. Uptick 5-10% in traffic, but that’s another 5-10% ppl getting ?s answered and finding contact info they need. Also covertly introduce ideas through emails, little mentions at meetings. Start sending out notices. Ex: Want to start twitter? Start sending out notes: Stats on twitter, what this lib is doing w/ twitter, so when you introduce idea it’s familiar. If heard of idea before they’re much more apt to say yes when formally introduced bc it’s familiar, not foreign.

John B

SOPAC: Integrates w/ drupal, merges CMS with catalog for seamless UE. Back in 2004 — post content and solicit comments from users, very new and scary thing, let alone let users add metadata, reviews, etc. to records. Scared the crap out of librarians. Couldn’t understand diff between adding metadata held in separate repository but connected to record as opposed to changing record = FUD. Got it done — really we just did it. Said we were doing a website redesign. Very literal about it: Doing a CMS that allows the site to be more dynamic, didn’t provide a lot of info. If did, process would have been bogged down with what ifs, which wasn’t going to get the project done. As IT staff, were experts, didn’t want to have process hijacked by ppl not know what talking about. Went ahead and launched, = huge success. So bc huge success, very little pushback from staff, they got excited by prospect being content mgrs. Provide countervision for ppl to latch onto. easier to ask forgiveness.

Amanda E-J

Follow evidence based practice. Borrowed from evidenced based practice from medical field. Questioning approach to practice leads to scientific experimentation. Some ppl hide behind use as excuse not to innovate. EBL for her = innovation. Start with what do we do, lit search, not out there, turn to network. Ask colleagues for experiences. All of that = ev based practice. If no evidence, do anyway, but collect ev self as go along and share it part broaded body prof knowledge.

Not a lot at point — mechanics of drupal. How create subject guide, how use modules do spec things on website. Wrote blog posts about it, writing article for her intranet, etc.

Sarah H-J

Avoiding collateral damage. Someone gets excited and blazes ahead w/o talking someone else. Sometimes us or sometimes we exp. collat dam. Don’t step on toes power- or support- or staffing- or funding-wise. Move ahead in thoughtful way. Talk to write ppl, dept heads, make sure no unintended impact on them that will crash project and create sit they don’t trust you for future projects. Get ppl who going to be affected involved at early stages. Have help define goals and scope of project. Forget other ppl smart too and smart about things we may not know about.

John B

What if you’re wrong and the new thing not a success, not what ppl want? Twitter ?

When deploy things need to deploy like a fire jumper. Drop in and establish a foothold and stay there. Give it resource you need to succeed. Great successes built on a legacy of failure. If you are wrong, own up, apologize, put effort to analyze why not make it work. Was idea bad? or bc didn’t have enuf resources? or bc didn’t implement it well? APply lessons to next time.

Audience comment: Sometimes just too soon and if you try 6mos later will work. Timing is everything.

Amanda E-J

cb hard to recover from no. NO right now doesn’t nec. mean no 6 months from now. Keep pushing ideas forward.

Committees bad, project teams, good. b4 user exp. libn, was ref libn and chair of web team. Had resp but not auth. Typical webteam. 12 ppl. Bad, spent hours discussing color of input button. No real auth to make dec. When bc user exp libn got auth. No mandate, just “make website better.” Disbanded web team and assembled project team based on site redesign. Ppl not problem, structure problem — some same ppl from webteam came to project team. Project team lasted 6 months, had 4 tasks, based around redesign. Had 2-day retreat at student center next door. Built wireframes figured out top level nav. Needed project team to buy into process.

Sarah H-J

twitter ? — how decided when push forward w/o talking to ppl vs. getting stakeholders on board?

Judgment call. In circ. ex. knew from previous exp. that group of circ mgrs would present unrealistic fears and staffing impact expectations — knew would happen again this time. Instead letting fear get better of them, just blaze ahead and do it. Think about past exp. w stakeholders and likely repercussion if do it wo asking. If notice the next day, repercussions, admit wrong, back track, and go the other way.

trust and follow instincts. Have sense what serv will help users. User focused. If done research and looked topic in depth, trust instincts and move forward. Current web redesign horrible project. Paid graphic designer — they did 3 samples, crap. Did 2 new, crap. Admin said make it work cause we paid. Spent 9 months trying. New web libn — 2nd day mocked up a new design. She loved, but back of head oh we paid for old thing, did bunch of work need to undo. Slept on it, trusted instincts, went with what was better. Everyone thrilled. If brain and heart tells you to do, do it. yOu know what you’re doing, have conf. to convince others.

John B

Know when to quit. If you need to scrap work, then that’s the way to go.

? from audience — when good to implement a stupid idea when someone really attached. John: Do user prototyping stage internally and then open outwards if not sure.

Audience comment — think in terms of undermining trust in your work. But if going ot help someone work w/ you better if implement their idea and doesn’t undermine project/trust in long run, then worth it.

Ppl want stability, want to be able to do their jobs. Make sure keep basics running before push new. Move from culture of reaction to culture of innovation. Make sure your staff sees you at the person trying to make things work so when roll out new ideas they trust and know you have their best interests at heart, will support you. Take care of back end first.

Sarah H-J

? from audience — what if someone comes w/ you w/ untenable project, how say no.

Hold to same standards. What evidence do they have, what libs have done it and it worked, etc. Say let’s think about it and you tell me why you think it’s important. take it to x group or team and then come w/ ideas and concerns — sometimes other group says no for you.

john b – make sure they are personally invested in idea. If not invest own time or staff resources that tells him they’re not really serious. Will listen if they know what they’ll invest and do to make idea a success.

a e-j — usually rel to website. If not think will fly, paper prototype, test, let testing decide. Sometimes her instincts wrong.

Audience comment — don’t show all cards up front. Leave out things know people want so they give sugg thing you’re going to implement anyway.  Say we’re willing to do xyz if that will help you out.

Audience comment — say a positive no to build political capital.

RT — 10th thing — it’s all about the politics.

How not to promote your crappy self-published book

I’m getting more and more of these types of emails, and they’re really starting to irk me. So, here’s one from yesterday for your mocking pleasure:

I am a history professor and advisor to the local chapter of the Roman Historical Society. The Roman Historical Society is a society focused on preserving roman history by ways of education, living history, and research. I recently read a historical fiction that is detailed and painstakingly accurate regarding Roman genre. The book also details the only recorded gladiatorial fight in the Roman coliseum. I ask you to please make one or more copies of this book available in the library for the benefit of our members. The book is entitled “The Sea Kings of Rome – Champions of the Naumachia” – ISBN 978-0-9825823-2-9.
Thank you in advance,
Dr. Benito Lombardi

Uh huh. First of all, “Dr. Benito Lombardi,” I don’t work in “the library.” (You know — THE library.) In fact, I don’t work in any library. The fact that you can use Google and found my name associated with the word “library” somewhere doesn’t really count. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading “a historical fiction,” but here’s a current fiction: You aren’t “Dr. Benito Lombardi.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that your real name is Sterling Nixon, and that you enjoy writing repetitive 5-star reviews of your own book on Barnes & Noble. (Psst — try Amazon next; more people will see them there.)

And as for Black Rose Writing, there’s a classy vanity publisher. I can’t decide what I like better: The owner’s 5-star reviews of his own books and other Black Rose-related books on Amazon, or their fancy website full of grammatical errors and misspellings.

I’m pleased to see that no WorldCat libraries own this title yet. Here’s one for you, “Dr. Benito Lombardi” — no one buy this. This belongs in no libraries, partially because if it’s written as badly as this email (ooh! and the author’s blog!) it has no place in a library, and partially because liars shouldn’t be rewarded.

Smart swapping

Catching up further, I saw this on in AL Direct — this guy stretches his library’s tiny collection development budget with sites like Paperbackswap and BookMooch. Smart!

On the same day, Clark had packaged seven books to ship out — paying all the postage personally — though he said both the incoming and outgoing stacks were smaller than average. Web sites make it possible. Clark has 800 books listed on, 1,500 on and 2,500 on He keeps a wish list of items he’s looking for, as do librarians and individuals all over the world. Computers do the matching.

In an era when any publicly funded institution has to spend wisely, Clark manages to make a lot out of a little. His annual buying budget of $4,400 comes from donations, grants, and proceeds from the library’s endowment. His salary and other operating expenses are covered by contributions from the towns of Hartland, St. Albans and Palmyra.

While he said the library has enjoyed steady public funding in recent years, it still operates on a bare-bones budget. Clark is the only employee, paid for 34 hours a week. There are situations like that all over Maine, said Stephanie Zurinski, the Maine State Library’s central Maine liaison.

Why the heck not? Especially for a smaller library that needs to maintain a tight and very current collection — what a great way to make use of weeded items and donations. And check this out:

Since Clark took over at Hartland Public Library four years ago, the collection has grown from 16,000 to 24,000 items and the formerly meager DVD, audio book and music collections now fill numerous shelves, according to Clark. Circulation has tripled to about 75 books a day and the patron list has grown from 700 to about 1,250

I’m darn impressed that he pays for the postage himself out of that 34-hour-a-week salary, too. I don’t know what he’d call it, but I’d call this Library 2.0 in action.

Color me jealous

So I am catching up on the email that piled up while I was at Internet Librarian, and saw this in one of the LJ newsletters:

In an unusual partnership called “Borrow Anywhere, Return Anywhere,” all public, college, and university libraries in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, will lend all their materials to any library card-holder in the province, with no additional fees.

Now, that’s cool. Are there any programs like this in the U.S.?

Perhaps the best headline ever

Oak Brook man hates libraries, children, puppies. Here’s more about him in the Daily Herald.

Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.

“I used to go to the library knowing there were people there to help me find a book. Now there is no one to help me,” Sydney said solemnly. “It will never be the same without the people you fired.”

Sydney nestled back into her seat, but that didn’t stop 69-year-old criminal attorney Constantine “Connie” Xinos from boldly putting her in her place.

“Those who come up here with tears in their eyes talking about the library, put your money where your mouth is,” Xinos shot back. He told Sydney and others who spoke against the layoffs of the three full-time staffers (including the head librarian and children’s librarian) and two part-timers to stop “whining” and raise the money themselves.

“I don’t care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books,” Xinos told them.

“Don’t cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves,” Xinos smirked, apparently referencing the fired head librarian, who has advanced degrees and made $98,676 a year. He said Oak Brook had to “stop indulging people in their hobbies” and “their little, personal, private wants.”

Sydney was upset and “her little friend was in tears” after Xinos spoke at the meeting last week, says mom Hope Sabbagha.

I applied at this library once. Kind of glad I don’t work there now! Oy. What a classy guy — he’s like a Disney villain.

Swagbucks and satisficing

I started a “deals” blog at earlier this year, and have been fascinated by the search statistics. The top searches are generally all some variation on, mashupmom, mashup mom,, mash up mom, and so on. So I’d idly been wondering why, in 2009, people were still putting entire URLs into search boxes.

And then I started playing with Swag Bucks, and found out one reason. Swag Bucks will probably not make your librarian hearts happy. It’s a “search to win” search engine that proclaims that its results are “from Google & Ask” — but then when you delve deeper, you find that it shows only about 30 results for any given search, of which about 1/3 to 1/2 are sponsored. And no one really cares. I posted about it over at Mashup Mom, too, but here for instance are the top results from a search for “swine flu” in Swag Bucks:


And, here’s what the same search looks like in Google:


Hmm. That’s not the same. So why do people use it? Because it’s “good enough” — and, more importantly, because every time they search they get the chance to win “Swag Bucks,” which they can then redeem for PayPal cash, gift cards, or other prizes. Out of sheer curiosity, I’ve been playing with it for 3 days off and on for nonserious searches, posted the referral link they gave me on my other blog, and am pretty close to cashing out for a gift card already. So you start to see the appeal — and if you hang out in the deal blogosphere, you’ll see people hawking it all over. (MAKE MONEY FROM SEARCHING! FREE MONEY! SIGN UP NOW OR MISS OUT!)

Here are a couple of comments I got over on the other blog:

I’ve noticed that SB searches aren’t *quite* as good as regular searches, but it typically doesn’t make much of a difference. The best way that I earn SB’s is by “searching” for a website instead of just typing it into the address box. For example, when I wanted to come here just now I did a search for Mashup Mom instead of actually typing in It does always make me laugh though when the correct link is something like the 3rd one on the list. It is the EXACT address minus the W’s! How is that not 1st!? Overall, I like SwagBucks. I’ve only earned 142 SB’s so far, but hey, I’ll take it. I’m saving to get a Kindle from Amazon!

I also use my swagbucks when I’m searching for blogs… I type in mashupmom to get here or hip2save to get to her blog, etc. I still get swagbucks pretty quickly even though I do my “meaty” searches on Google. Very interesting post though. I wondered how the site makes its money! Good food for thought. Thanks!

So maybe the question isn’t about Google vs. librarians, but satisficing vs. librarians. It takes 45 “Swag Bucks” to get a $5.00 PayPal payment at the moment. I have done some light searching and am hitting just a couple of Swag Bucks a day — so there’s not a huge payout here. (I think people make more from referrals if they have a lot of “friends,” plus they play hidden extra code games sometimes.) But it’s like gambling: There’s always the chance that the next search will pay off big. Just one more! Maybe vendors should think about building something like this into their databases — there’s a way to increase usage! :)

Perception is key

I was catching up on email this week and saw yet another mention of a focus on the “survival” of libraries. Although the actual document they’re talking about is proactive and positive in talking about ways to transform and move forward, it re-emphasized how often we use words like “survival” and “endangered” and “uncertain” when talking about libraries and the future of our profession. When we come at it from that angle, it really does sound like we’re scrambling from survival, and not working from a position of strength. Reframing our language and our approach might help us come at these challenges from a different angle.

It also made me think about just how much perception is key, in anything. For instance: I run a resume posting service over at, for which I charge $10.00 for the first six months. (The only area of the site, btw, that incurs any fees.) Reactions to there being a fee at all generally run the gamut from:



  • Is it really only $10.00? That’s so reasonable. Thank you so much for this site.


  • You didn’t tell me there was a fee?!

(This last, apparently, from the non-reading type of librarian.)

Same service, same fee, but incredibly different reactions. Now, I’m wondering if there’s a way to tweak the language on the page so that I get a lot more of reaction number 2 — and a lot less of reaction number one (which, I’ll admit, is more rare). I already tweaked it a while back to avoid number 3, but this oddly hasn’t worked so well.