Thursday, June 26, 2008

ILS599 Final Project

The final project for ILS599 is to devise a Web 2.0 plan for a library. The Duxbury Free Library is currently in the process of upgrading its services to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies that our patrons could benefit from most. As reference librarian and “accidental techist”, I have been responsible for identifying needs and planning the implementation for these new services. The plan presented here is an actual representation of what is currently happening at the DFL.

Duxbury, Massachusetts is a town that expects a lot from local services. For the most part, members of this community are affluent, college educated, professional, liberal, and forward-thinking. They take an active part in community development and planning. Library usage is high. The children in this community are active in sports and artistic endeavors and perform well in school. The library is located on the public school campus, which also has playing fields, an indoor swimming and diving pool, and a recreation center. Historically our patrons are on the cutting edge of technology; they have the expendable income to purchase the latest gadgets. Our goal is to raise the technology level of the library to meet our patron’s need and desires by adding IM Reference service and two Flickr accounts.

IM Reference is an instant messaging service that will allow patrons real time internet access to the reference staff. A widget, or tool, will be put on the DFL webpage and patrons simply type their question in the text box, hit enter, and the message will show up on the screen at the reference desk at the library. Communication will continue in this way, with the librarian answering back from an instant messaging account set up for this purpose.

Flickr is a photo sharing application that puts pictures that the library chooses on the internet. Pictures, taken with a digital camera and downloaded onto a computer, are then uploaded into the Flickr account. After they are organized and labeled they are able to be viewed by the public from a link on the DFL webpage.

The duties of the full time reference librarian include the research and implementation of new technology for the library. Any staff time spent on these endeavors is therefore “free” of additional charge to the library.

Reference statistics prove that our patrons are using the electronic databases frequently with an average of 10,000 searches a year; in person visits average over 30,000 a year. Although the DFL already has a large user-ship for its current reference services, the addition of IM reference will open the door for a new form of communication. Many patrons are already using IM daily; the DFL hopes to capture this audience in addition to our walk-in, phone, and email patrons.

Personal Meebo accounts have already been set up by the director and the reference librarian. Over the next few weeks each of the seven regular reference staff members will be instructed to set up their own account in order to practice instant messaging in house. An open discussion will be held at the July reference meeting to review best practices and troubleshoot any problems. After the staff becomes familiar with the process “dummy” reference questions will be directed to a Meebo account set up at the reference desk. This way the staff will gain practice answering questions of a varied nature.

A week before the start of the school year, a Meebo widget will be put on the library’s webpage. The reference staff member on desk duty will handle the IM questions; no additional staffing will be required.

After the initial launch a PR campaign including buttons and bookmarks will begin. The library owns a button maker and bookmarks can be printed in house. Cost will be minimal. Flyers will go out to the schools on a staggered basis so as not to get too much IM activity at once. The goal is to build users gradually, giving the staff time to get used to this new service.

(Timeline for Meebo)


In order to increase patron interest in the DFL’s online presence two Flickr accounts are being set up – one for adults, one for children. The adult account will include sets titled “Programming”, “Staff”, and “Building”. The children’s account will have sets titled “Programs”, “Displays”, and “Summer”. There is no charge for the Flickr accounts, the library already owns a digital camera, and the reference librarian will be responsible for maintaining the accounts, so there will be no cost to the library for this application.

(Timeline for Flickr)


The Duxbury Free Library is very excited to be enhancing its services to patrons with Web 2.0 technology. For the second year the DFL will offer a free “Tech Talk” series to the public. This series will include four 1 ½ hour long presentations on the fourth Thursday of the month, starting in October and running until February, with the exception of December. The tentative line-up includes “What’s New at the DFL” by the reference librarian, “Gadget Petting Zoo” by local retailers, “Digital Photography” (presenter has not yet been booked), and “Social Networking for Grown-ups” by Jessamyn West.

Our hope is to continue this series annually as long as there is public interest in technology. The staff is dedicated to offering the best service possible, keeping ourselves abreast of the current trends, and anticipating the needs of our patrons. This series, combined with the addition of the above mention web 2.0 applications, puts us closer to the leading edge of technology.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Now what? Redux

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called "Now What?". My life since then has been almost all web 2.0 all the time. Work, school, free time – it has all been spent either learning about web 2.0 applications, trying to figure out how to use them most efficiently, and of course, keeping up with my Scrabulous games!

So, what do I feel about this "stuff" now?Flickr is still one of my favorite web 2.0 applications. I've spent the past few weeks playing around with an account for the library. This afternoon I sat with one of the children's librarians and showed her how to set up an account for their department too. I think, after we link from the library's webpage to the Flickr accounts, our pictures will be seen and enjoyed by more people. I know the pictures I've posted on my personal account have been looked at over and over again. I only have one complaint about Flickr : I'm a librarian, and I've already admitted to being a little fussy about things…I'd like to see deeper levels of organization available.

I'm coming around a little to Facebook, but still have a hard time seeing it used in any practical way in my current position. I know a lot of libraries have a presence on Facebook, but it doesn't feel like a good fit for the DFL right now. Our YA librarian is using it and just the other day was experiencing a great surge of interest from “her kids” after tagging some photos she uploaded on her page. As a personal social networking tool, I'm still a little bit on the fence. One of the things I find most fascinating about it is that even though I see my Facebook "friends" from work almost every day, and I'm involved in a Scrabulous game with almost all of them, we hardly ever mention our Facebook "relationships". I'm also still hoping for more meaningful professional connections, more network and a little less social. With that in mind, I'd love for my classmates to add me as a friend to their Facebook accounts so we can keep in touch while we continue down this path of higher education! I’d be especially interested in hearing how you apply the concepts we’ve been discussing in this class to your jobs.

One thing I am very excited about is IM Reference at the DFL. I just got the official go-ahead from the director to get the ball rolling on this project. (For my SCSU mates, there will me more detail in my Final Project on this at the end of the week.) We're going to go slowly with the staff and plan on doing the launch with the public for the start of the school year in September. I like IM; I wish I used it more. Today at lunch I was talking with a member of the circulation staff and she expressed an interest in using it in-house as well, so maybe there's some hope of adding another form of communication for the staff here.

I have no experience with Twitter but have been keeping an eye on it. I found a great example of a library using it as an event push and can finally see where we might be able to add this to our growing arsenal of technology. Nothing solid in the works yet, but I will definitely keep watching Twitter developments.

So, do I still feel like a Wallflower 2.0? Not exactly. But all of this immersion into web 2.0 applications, admittedly doubly concentrated because of this class, has made me wonder if I'm leaving real people and real relationships behind. I think a balance is what's needed, personally and professionally. Half of my day is spent at the reference desk assisting patrons. I love this part of my job just as much as I love playing with the tech stuff. I think if my entire day had to be spent on either of those, ie, all public service or all technology, I would not be a happy librarian. After this class is over I'm going to try to make sure at least half of my social interactions are done in person, or at least without a keyboard.

Friday, June 20, 2008

IM in the library

It's finally Friday and I'm heading to the cape for some restorative camping. But before I go I have some SCSU housekeeping to take care of…

My class has been talking about blogs, wikis, IM, basically all the things that I'm completely immersed in at my job. It's been fun and, of course, educational. We're talking a lot about how these and other web 2.0 applications work, and how and why libraries should use them, but I'd still like to hear some testimonials, if you will, from librarians who are currently using these tools in their libraries. I know here in Duxbury the reference wiki I set up has been a tremendous success. It met our expectations and even had a few bonuses that we were not expecting. I've started to archive previous months reference questions, mainly because I'm a little funny that way (I won't use the "A" word), and also because even though we didn't keep the paper version of the reference questions list I feel like at some point I'll be able to turn this electronic version into another kind of tool for us.

Back to the class…one of our assignments for this week was to get some experience using IM. We used the Meebo IM aggregater, one of the more popular IM tools. I already had a Meebo account set up (dmbgarvin, in case you want to add me to your friends list), thanks to a workshop I attended at SEMLS a few months ago. Lately I've been trying to get a few other staff members on board with the concept in preparation for our launch of IM Reference, hopefully by the start of the schools year.

For anyone who doesn't know what Meebo is, it's basically a single IM account that you set up one time with any and all IM screen names you have. It will allow you to talk with anyone else with a Meebo account, even if you are an AIM person and your friend is a Yahoo person. Great tool, really; it pulls the IM community together and enlarges the circle of communication.

So, the class was supposed to "check in" via IM with Rebecca, the distance education librarian at SCSU and one of the instructors for the class. Then, she wanted us to join the ILL599 chat room she set up on Meebo specifically for the class. I popped in three or four times and every time I was the only one there. Which wasn't really surprising to me, it's a fairly small class and there were no designated hours. I have group chatted before and find it to be a little hard to follow.

Where do I see IM in libraries…..reference definitely, circulation maybe, YA librarians probably, although it could be distracting. IM chat rooms, not really. What I don't like about the rooms are the questions and comments that hang without being answered, or conversation threads that are overlapping numerous other conversation threads. I'm way too linear for that! I think if a bunch of people (I'm thinking young people here) are just "hanging out" it can be fun, but if it's a tool to share information I'd rather see a one on one situation. The name is very fitting – Chat Room – it's a great place to chat, but not to have any kind of serious or meaningful interaction.

So those are my thoughts of the day on instant messaging. Have a wonderful weekend everyone, I'm off to pitch a tent, roll out my sleeping bag, and catch up on some reading!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Common sense tech ideas

Yesterday I spent six hours at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI for NELA’s program on IT in the library. It was billed as a training session for IT trainers. Gary McCone and Grace Sines from the National Agricultural Library were the presenters. The session was loaded with information, too much to recap in one blogging session so I’ll stick to my two favorite ideas. First, have a list of core competencies for the entire staff. Second, have a staff IT wiki. Actually their idea is to have a Tech Talk page on their intranet, but my library does not have an intranet, so I thought a wiki would work just as well, maybe even better because of the collaboration possible with wikis.

Having core competencies just makes good sense. Each department could come up with a list of what computer skills are necessary to perform the job well and to be able to troubleshoot minor computer issues. Things like changing the printer and scanner ink cartridges, knowing that re-booting is frequently the answer to a problem, and resetting the wireless modem could be taught to the employees in the departments that have to deal with these issues. Gary and Grace suggested some kind of incentive to get staff to get excited about learning these skills. Rewards for completing the training could include small prizes or a staff party. Obviously some libraries will have a more difficult time than others getting staff to want to learn these skills. I’m lucky to work in a library without much technophobia. For the most part, the staff is, if not proficient, at least willing to learn.

The second idea is very exciting to me and I wonder why it isn’t more widely used. Setting up a staff wiki for tech tips would be easy to do and would be an excellent resource. When a computer issue comes up the problem and solution could be recorded on the wiki. Tech tips could also be periodically posted, or the wiki could even be used as a manual of sorts. Employees could add comments or questions to the wiki. Through the use of tagging, it could be searchable. It seems like it would be a good first resource for computer problems, especially for those times when the IT contact people are unavailable.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Library 2.0 - are we there yet?

An interesting question was posted on the discussion board for my class this week….where does your library stand between 1.0 and 2.0? It is a worthy question for everyone.

Here is what the DFL currently offers in terms of technology: wireless internet for public access, a docking station for laptops, online databases and catalog that are remotely accessible, a wiki for the reference department, on-line readers advisory service with a link to the catalog, external drive for floppy discs, semi-regular classes for email training, Book A Librarian program for one on one computer instruction, e-mail reference service, and possibly a few other things I’m forgetting.

This is what is in the planning stages: Flickr accounts for the adult, YA & children’s departments, IM reference, and revamping the webpage to make it more dynamic.

And then my wish list: digitizing the vertical file and archives and linking them to our webpage, a library Facebook account, text reference, and adding a scanner for public use (we get a lot of requests).

I’ve always thought our library was on the progressive side. We are fortunate to have a director that is forward thinking and willing to take chances. But even though we are offering quite a bit of the newer technology to our patrons I still feel like we could be doing more. At the MLA conference last month I sat in on Marshall Keys’ talk. He ended with an example of a library that is as 2.0 as any library can get. What struck me as odd and sad was that the audience laughed. I think there is still a general view that this “stuff” is trendy and will go away. This is the wall we have to get past. We can play catch up and answer our patrons’ requests, or we can be a step ahead of them and put ourselves in the position of teaching the latest and greatest innovations. Isn’t that where we should be?