LIBR 246: Project Proposal (draft)

Our group, Liz Graham, Amanda Ottaway, and Carolyn Tucey, would like to implement an intranet, specifically MS SharePoint, in an academic library.

Description: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 makes it easier for people to work together through an intranet environment. Using this software, staff can set up basic websites using templates to share information, manage documents, and publish reports. This is a collaboration tool for companies and organizations.

Service Provided: Libraries can use SharePoint as a Knowledge Management System to manage their own organizational knowledge. This will allow the library to improve services and effectiveness by using information generated and stored about processes and services.

Benefits: SharePoint will increase productivity by empowering employees through the use of real-time access to shared documents and information, provide increased opportunities for collaboration, as well as supplying library staff with the capacity to access information about policies and procedures in an organized fashion.

Evidence: See the following articles-

Possible Roadblocks: As with any technology, one possible hurdle to overcome is proficiency with computers and technology. Other potential hurdles include the institutional culture (for example, how well the organization will respond to change), support of the technology, and finding the means to implement it (financially and physically).

Overcoming Roadblocks: Before implementing SharePoint, the library should designate several people as leads on learning and planning the library’s strategy for launching the software. These people will become the point of contact for training and troubleshooting. By having staff become well acquainted with the system before launch, they will have a better understanding of the software and how it will best be utilized within the organization.

Specific Software:  Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Enterprise

Ongoing Maintenance Plan: The staff who are most familiar and comfortable with the system, likely those who were designated as early adopters, will continue to monitor the system and offer training, support, and troubleshooting for staff. They will also be responsible for publishing clear documentation on how the intranet should be structured to allow for consistency within the system.

Assessment: Periodic staff feedback, particularly after the first six-months, and use statistics will be used to determine if the software is having the desired collaborative effect and impact on the library staff.

How-to: Create a WordPress Blog and a Post

WCPL Video Tutorial: Hit or Miss?

The Wake County Public Library system has a YouTube channel that includes some quick and dirty video tutorials. The most recent is this one, Downloading a library eBook on an Android tablet.

This is definitely a timely and relevant topic as eBooks are gaining momentum right now, and for a 2 minute tutorial, the video was quite adequate. It took you through the process, start to finish with some minor editing. It hit all of the major points for how to download an eBook through Overdrive.

A few things I would change:

  • The tutorial assumed people were intimately familiar with the Android tablet and skipped steps like how to find and download the Overdrive app in the marketplace.
  • There were a few screens of information that he had to hit the Close button on and he didn’t say a word about what those screens were.
  • He didn’t tell you how to search the Overdrive site for books. He said, “I’m going to quickly find an eBook that’s checked in so I can walk you through the download process.” And then… the video cut to the search results.
  • He glossed over authorizing the device with an Adobe ID in order to download from Overdrive. For less tech-savvy individuals (and yes, I know several who own tablets) this would be very confusing.
  • He did not explain if the eBook will automatically be “returned” after the checkout period is over, even though he explained how to manually return it.

Overall, the tutorial works for those who are familiar with the technology, just not this particular process. But if it’s meant to teach those who are less than comfortable with technology, it falls short.

Challenges to Building Community

Almost anyone with a website or blog seeks to build an active community. The challenge for these individuals and organizations is to build a place where readers and users will want to participate. This is not an easy task. There are so many online communities out there competing and clamoring for your attention that you can usually be very picky in who you choose to engage. This means that those who are creating these communities must find ways to stand out while being relevant.

A few things to consider:

  • Is this online community necessary? There are so many dead and defunct communities out there that simply did not meet a need and therefore never gathered active participation.
  • Do you have the time necessary to devote to generating new content as well as actively participating in other, similar, communities? One of the things I’ve learned from my own experiences blogging is that if I want to generate traffic to my own blog, I must comment, comment, comment on other blogs of the same genre to actively engage other people like myself. If you just create a web site or blog and don’t actively try to generate participation, no one will know it’s there.
  • Is there someone out there doing what you want to do, only better? If your target is a specific demographic that’s already being targeted, you have to make sure you’re doing something the other communities aren’t already doing – otherwise, what’s the incentive to engage with you?
These are only a few of the challenges one faces when building an online community, but they are big ones to overcome.

Is Yahoo! Answers a Threat?

At first glance, it does seem that collaborative answers web sites like Yahoo! Answers or Ask Metafilter could be a threat to the role a librarian plays in gathering and distributing information. Closer examination, however, reveals that they cannot take the place of a real reference librarian.

I have used Yahoo! Answers on several occasions when I haven’t been able to find the answers I need via Google. And each time, it was hit or miss with whether or not the question was actually answered. More often than not, internet trolls are looking to provide you with silly or degrading answers, rather than actually help you with your query. The user has to be discerning when choosing to accept answers. While sites like these provide you the opportunity to provide sources for the answer, more often than not there is either no source listed or the source is something akin to “my own brain”.

When a user is looking for actual, serious information – these just aren’t sources you would turn to. These sources can often provide wisdom in the form of life experiences and opinions, but they can’t provide credible resources. Wikipedia is more credible than these web sites – and we all know that we can’t use it as a scholarly source!

The Librarian in Black Goes on a Rant

Are Systems Librarians “Toast”?

According to Roy Tennant, they are!

When I, as just a moderately savvy librarian, can learn maybe five to ten very specific steps and be able to deploy any application I would likely want to deploy, why do I need to talk to my system administrator ever again? Let alone bring this person pizza or cookies to keep them happy? Just asking.

So here’s the thing — here’s why I have the title for this post that I do. Let’s just say you need a full-featured web site. If it’s possible that some existing piece of software, such as WordPress, or Drupal, or a variety of other applications are what you need, then you are only a few clicks away from being up and running in the cloud. You need to understand this, and this is why the job of system administrator is in jeopardy — at least in libraries.

I think his point about moving towards the cloud is a good one. But his conclusion is way off. This means that the focus of a Systems Librarian will change from hardware to development, but the job itself isn’t going anywhere any time soon – nor is the need for it.

I like the way one of his commenters put it:

One thing that the cloud offers is the opportunity to focus less on running network cable, figuring out power supplies, buying machines, plugging them in, setting up the host operating system … and more on configuring, customizing and creating applications that are of use in the library environment. I think we are seeing a transition of developer/sysadmin jobs into DevOps, where traditional roles of systems administrator and developer are blurred.

This is definitely the direction we’re going – and it’s not toast.

Barriers to Internal Collaboration

Internal collaboration is a beautiful thing, when everything works the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes it can feel like there needs to be an elaborate ritual during a planetary alignment to get everything sorted out properly. There are so many wonderful tools out there to make collaborating effortless and easy, but unfortunately these tools can’t fix most of the problems that get in the way of good collaboration. Those problems generally come from the human element in the equation, and no amount of technology is going to be able to change that.

Here are a few of the barriers to effective collaboration that I see on a near daily basis:

  • Your co-workers are less tech savvy than you are. This generation is coming up on the heels of the baby boomer generation, who are generally less knowledgeable about new technology. My office just switched from a desktop email client that had been in place for 20 years to Google Apps. This switch allows for easier collaboration via the technology, but too many of our employees are digging in their heels and choosing to complain about the new system rather than learn how to use it the way it’s meant to be used. Change is a hard pill to swallow, especially when it involves learning something new.
  • Office Politics. Yes, I am opening this can of worms. Office politics are present in every organization. And they often get in the way of productivity. Consider the case of two employees. One has worked in the office for 6 years while the other was hired last year. The two positions are supposed to be nearly identical in description. Yet, during the previous year many responsibilities were taken away from Employee 1 and given to Employee 2. While this may be a better move for the office, it creates a strain between the two employees that destroys  any collaborative environment.
  • Lack of Information and Communication. If we have not been able to effectively communicate with one another, it is quite likely that I will resist collaborating with you. If I can’t figure out how to do what you do (and vice versa), any attempt at collaborating will become a tangled jumble. Last year I was tasked with collaborating with a team of software developers from a well known company in order to tweak a new product in ways that would be useful for us. As much as I tried, I was never able to clearly communicate with them what exactly we needed from the product. My knowledge of our processes never jived with their perceived knowledge of what we needed. They never understood what we wanted and the whole project tanked (well, they spun it into positive PR, but as far as our office is concerned we got zero benefit from the project).

It doesn’t matter how many technology gadgets you have if the human element isn’t behind collaboration. Once the human element is on board, then you can go have fun with the technology…and find even more barriers!

Wake County Public Libraries: A Marketing Critique

Wake County Public Libraries, located in Wake County, North Carolina, has definitely attempted to embrace the idea of social media. They have a very definite online presence via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs found on their website.

What is the library doing to market themselves online?

The most basic online presence that the library has is the website. The website has the standard items you’d want to see – the ability to access your own account, the ability to search the library’s catalog, sections specific to interlibrary loan and digital media, as well as events and demographic-specific sections (ie kids, teens, or research). One thing I really like about the website is the “Ask WCPL” section – it’s a knowledgebase of questions that have been previously answered, but easily gives you a way to ask your own question if the answer you’re looking for isn’t found.

Part of the website is a “Blogs” page. The library maintains 5 blogs, and the main blogs page tells you who the intended audience is. One is for news, one is for kids to discuss what they’re reading for mock Newberry awards, and two are for teens. My favorite blog on the list is the last one – it’s a “Book-a-Day”. Library staff blog about a different book every single day.

The library also has a Facebook page. This page is updated every few days with news and events that are relevant or specific to the library. There is also a collection of photos that are primarily from the Summer Reading Kickoff. My favorite part of the Facebook page is the “Book News” section – it’s an archive of monthly newsletters that detail the new acquisitions of the library.

WCPL also uses Twitter. There aren’t always tweets posted daily, but they always have a purpose. Events and news items are posted, but the primary focus of the Twitter account seems to be book recommendations. WCPL also occasionally interacts with patrons using replies or retweets.

Finally, WCPL also has a YouTube page. The videos uploaded on this page fall into two categories – a series of patron interviews called “Why I Love My Library” and video tutorials for technology. The video tutorials cover topics like using Overdrive on a mobile device or how to download ebooks.

What are they doing right in their marketing efforts? Where are they falling short?

While I love that WCPL are embracing the idea of social media, the scarcity and inconsistency in posting lead me to believe that there is no focused effort or plan in place to manage these social media tools. The sheer fact that they have taken the time to get started is a step in the right direction. By using these tools, they are actively trying to be a part of the community that they serve. Where they fall short is the inconsistency in posting and the lapses in posting. The Facebook content is lacking – they have never used the events function, and there are often days between postings. One thing they do well is to respond to patrons who post on the Facebook Wall. Their efforts with Twitter are nominally better – I really like the book recommendations and links to news about e-readers (but why aren’t these same items found on their Facebook page?). Most of their blogs are frequently updated (especially the “Book-a-Day” one), except the two teen blogs haven’t had a new post in several weeks. This is something to be concerned about because when you stop posting new content, readers stop coming by.

What do you think of their branding efforts? Have they built a strong and consistent brand online?

I see no efforts at branding. The library system itself, as far as I can tell, has no logo or graphic representation. Both the website and the Twitter account exclusively use the Wake County logo. The Facebook page tried to be more original and tied to the library specifically, but it falls short – especially since it’s not something that’s seen anywhere else. Overall, there is nothing that screams Wake County Public Libraries when you see it.

If the library hired you as a social media marketing consultant, what would you suggest to them?

The first thing I would suggest is a plan. I would ask the library staff who their target audience is and what information they want to convey via social media. I would suggest that information be the primary goal of these accounts. Information comes in many forms, particularly in these mediums, so I would post news articles of interest and event information. I would also continue to post book recommendations, but I would post them on both accounts, not just Twitter. While it is true that there is overlap between the users of each, there are those who only use one account or the other.

I would also post the questions asked at the reference desk (real or virtual) – I may even suggest posting the answers, as if it were a Q&A session (this sort of thing works best in the Twitter format). It wouldn’t hurt to occasionally post an FAQ with a link directing back to the knowledgebase on the website. The goal of this would be two-fold: 1) to interact with the community at large and 2) to build trust within the community that the library really is there to help you find information.

While it’s nearly impossible to have a “Social Media Librarian” or one who is dedicated to running the social media of a library, someone should have the reins of these accounts and should find the time to actively use them every single day.

The Trouble with Tagging

Tagging content is a very useful tool so that you can keep information organized and easily find it later. I use a form of tagging in my email – Google calls these tags “labels.” I love it! That being said, I never really got into using del.icio.us – I think because I never truly understood what it should be used for. I use my own bookmarks bar to keep track of things that are important to me, I star items in Google Reader that I want to find later… so I couldn’t really wrap my head around the idea of using yet another external site to do this things for me.

After this week’s reading, I see that it could be a very powerful tool – even if it does still have a few weaknesses. The trouble with tagging is that you have to be consistent with your tags for them to work effectively. At my work, our database is capable of tagging records with keywords. It was decided on that we would use keywords to group sets of data together – for example, all agreements within fiscal year 2011 would get a corresponding keyword. While this idea worked in principle, it did not work in practice. I recently had to go in and clean up all of these keyword records because we had such variations in vocabulary as “FY2011”, “FY11”, “FY11 – Licenses”, “FY2011 – Licenses”, and so on and so forth. It was a mess! There was no central SOP in place for using keywords, so whenever people needed to group records, they did it on their own without consulting what may have already been in place. These keywords went back as far as 2006, and 5 years later it was impossible to tell which, if any, of the tags were correctly used.

This is, of course, a risk you take when you relinquish control. In a setting like my office, this control is not something that should have been given up because it effected the data in our database. In a library setting, when you’re using tags for shared content that doesn’t effect daily operations of the library, giving up that control is less risky, especially when considered in the context of the information that is gained.