Friday, September 29, 2006

Nominations for Library Journal's Movers & Shakers

Marylaine Block asked me to let IAG readers know it's time for outstanding people in LibraryLand to be nominated for the sixth annual supplement to Library Journal's Movers and Shakers issue. Come on...I'll bet you do know at least one "mover and shaker."

"The editors of Library Journal need your help in identifying the emerging
leaders in the library world. The sixth annual Movers & Shakers supplement
will profile 50-plus up-and-coming individuals from across the United
States and Canada who are innovative, creative, and making a difference.
From librarians to vendors to others who work in the library field, Movers
& Shakers 2007 will celebrate the new professionals who are moving our
libraries ahead. The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2006.
You can use the online form at
<> [warning: print out
a copy before you submit, in case your submission fails and everything you
wrote vanishes]. Or, if you prefer, print out the PDF
<> and return it to Ann Kim at LJ, 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, or fax to 646-746-6734."

New report says public libraries can't keep up with online demand, need funding

FSU just released a study on Tuesday, Public Libraries and the Internet 2006, funded by ALA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that "99 percent of all U.S. public libraries provide free public access to computers wired to the Internet, compared to 25 percent 10 years ago.

Librarians overwhelmingly (71 percent) report that the most important impact of this service is providing Internet access to those who otherwise would not have it. This is the first time that impact has been quantified on a national scale."

The author of the report says that libraries are doing an incredible job serving people, but there is such a demand that it's very hard to keep up with computer upogrades, services and repairs. Here's a good story:

Appolonia Tovar, 17, does not have Internet access at home and relies on the computers at the Daniel Ruiz Branch of the Austin, Texas, Public Library.

"I spend most of my time each weekday at the library. My homework always consists of either research or typing an essay. Now that I'm a senior in high school, I am constantly online at the library researching colleges, scholarships, and even signing up for tests like the ACT,” Tovar said.

Austin Public Library’s Wired for Youth program provides computers and Internet access, classes, and mentorship for young people ages 8 - 17 from disadvantaged communities and teaches them how to use technology as a way of preparing for their future.

The Wired for Youth program is one example of how public libraries are thriving in the digital age. Yet nearly half (45 percent) of U.S. public libraries report no increase or a drop in program funding for 2006. With inflation, increased personnel and benefits costs, and a greater demand for technology enhancements, flat funding in many cases amounts to budget cuts which directly affect the quality of library services including the number of hours a library is open.

“If libraries can’t keep up with demand or make technological advancements, people who rely on the library for computer access will be increasingly disadvantaged and a new divide will emerge,” said Jill Nishi, manager of the U.S. Libraries initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s up to communities and library leaders to ensure that this inequity does not occur, and that libraries can provide quality technology services for generations to come.”

I have not read the report yet, but from the press release, it sounds like the findings confirm that libraries are doing their darndest to keep up with technology (you knew that), but they're not being adequately funded--publicly or privately--to meet the needs of many library users (you also suspected that).

It's great that public libraries are able to serve the people who do not have computer access at home, don't get me wrong. I just don't want us to also lose sight of the people who DO have computer access at home. Some of those people might be private's back to that age-old question: who do we build our library services for? The people we see every day or the people we WANT to see every day?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Museum Day on Saturday

Free admision to a whole lot of muesums around the US on Museum Day, thanks to TIAA-CREF (love the ads) and the Smithsonian Institution.
Go mingle with our cultural institution and museum colleagues. It will be a great day to see some art, observe how people may or may not act differently in a museum vs. a library, and then go out for ice cream, more ice cream, maybe some frozen yogurt, chocolate pot de creme or gelato because...
look at all the money you saved!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

community-based info architecture

One of the biggest problems we've had on our online community site at WebJunction is how to organize things. Funny, isn't it, since we're all a bunch of librarians in the first place? Well, when you're trying to "architect" a pretty hefty body of content, provide interactivity and participation around that content, and meet, quickly, the daily info needs of a wide variety of library staff all the while, organization & navigation turn out to be quite the challenges - librarians or not.

Luckily, we're hard at work with some of the folks at Forum One to resolve some of the confusion - and we're doing it with virtual input from the community at large. More than 200 WJ-ers have already filled out our virtual card sort and naming exercise - in aggregate we're creating new organization structures and naming conventions for everything at the site. (I think this will only be up for a few more days - so hurry if you'd like to try it out! It takes about 15 minutes or so...)

Cool, right? If you're having trouble with your library website, I'd strongly suggest this exercise, and this tool. It rocks - and I can't wait to share the results w/ everyone as soon as we have em. Stay tuned!!

Google Book Project gains Spanish partner

The "Google Six" became "Google Seven," with the addition of The Complutense University of Madrid. They're the first Spanish-language partner in the project, and I should mention they're also an OCLC participant. Symbol S9M, soon enough you'll be able to request digital materials from them for interlibrary loan.
Full story in today's Chronicle (registration may be required).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Report on libraries for publishers

New to me but published in August 2006: The Electronic Publishers Sservices (EPS) report on libraries.
It costs money but there is a free abstract.

Reminded again today how cool E41st street (a mashup with Amazon) is. Maybe I will see if he wants to do an interview here on It's All Good...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mikey likes it!

If you are too young to remember the Life cereal commercial, well...lucky you to be so hip.
If you haven't yet seen Tinfoil+Raccoon's post and then gone over to read Hullabaloo's post on Public Libraries--and more importantly, the comments on the post--go read it now. Mikey (and a whole lot of other people) like it!
48 people so far have chimed in.

While you're at it, go see TTW's Ray of Light on YouTube!


Hat tip to eContent Magazine about, billed to be the easiest place to buy or sell digital content.

My 2-second browse showed mixed results. But the reason I'm blogging it: They're selling microcontent--eBooks by the chapter. Now, there are only 8 eBooks here, that I can see. But nice that they chunked the content up--it delivers value to the user.

Thinking Ahead Conference

I attended a wonderful conference called "Thinking Ahead" at the Salt Lake City Public Library two weeks ago. If you ever find yourself in Salt Lake, or in Utah, or in the American West in general, don't miss the Salt Lake City Public Library. It's absolutely incredible. Anyway, I've been meaning to post some of the great quotes I heard there ever since, and today, I finally found a little time.

First, the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, welcomed us with a heartfelt address. The money quote: "This (the Library) is the place where democracy happens."

Leslie Burger, ALA President: "I believe that people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." (See Leslie's post on this conference on her blog.)

Gary Strong from UCLA called on us to create "a general delivery system of equality."

Marilynne Gardner, Seattle Public Library: "Politics is not just glad-handing --- it's relationships, it's credibility, it's information."

Thomas Frey, DaVinci Institute: "Our images of the future determine our actions today. The future creates the present."

Conferences that give you that much to think about are rare! Thanks to Nancy Tessman and the outstanding crew at the Salt Lake City Public Library for hosting and managing this excellent event.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Readers' Advisory...Where?

If you read our stuff regularly you know we infrequently go on about things happening in our personal lives (although maybe we'd beat Lorcan in the ratings if we did?) but here's a situation when my personal life crosses over into my professional one.

A very dear friend of mine, J, has a 13 year old child, O, who was just diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Besides being as distressed by this as you'd imagine any friend would be, I have a bigger interest. I had Hodgkins as well, at 20. This cancer is one with an excellent prognosis but the treatments are still onerous and debilitating often, stretching out over about a year.

I wasn't a librarian when I was treated but I was curious and I searched out whatever I could on my specific cancer as well as anything that would have helped me, as a young person, cope with being seriously ill. I looked, too, for information on what I could expect after I was well again. What effect would chemotherapy have on me over the long term? Radiation? There was nothing.

When J told family and friends about O, I went into librarian mode....what reading material could I find that O would find inspirational, informational and just helpful? I wasn't even looking for books that featured 13 year olds with Hodgkins....just about young ill people or young people facing stressful situations.

Maybe my searching skills are inadequate but I found little. Amazon has its recommended lists, contributed by readers, and it has ways of slicing and dicing its database. But nothing was really appropriate.

Now, I know that out there, in Libraryland, are a whole host of childrens' librarians and YA librarians who have some very good ideas and suggestions about good things for O to read. But where are they? Why, in a world where the "architecture of participation" has allowed for all sorts of constituencies to build ways to communicate with like minded souls am I cut off from my knowledgable colleagues?

I, unlike many people in the communities we serve, know darn well there are lots of librarians with deep knowledge of content areas. Perhaps that makes my frustration level more acute because I know this and know too that we as a profession are (at least publically) spending more time explaining why we're trying to beat Google, or why we're better than Google, than we are just building ways to surface the incredible knowledge and expertise we have as a professional community.

An example here in a whole issue of a journal devoted to "Google vs Us." (I am linking you to a blog post because the publisher site is impossible) about all those clever authors focus on ways to integrate library services into peoples' real lives, or on connecting me to librarian experts when I need to know what to recommend to a sick 13 year old?

Cranky? Yes, I am tonight. I talked to J this afternoon, and she was tired and sad, as you might expect. J and O live in a city with a fabulous library system, but, no surprise, going to the library is not on their "to do" list right now. I would have liked to have been able to tell her how she and O could look at recommendations on their computer from real librarians for good things to read, at home, but I can't. All the experts are locked up in boxes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Library on YouTube

I just read Alane's post. Yes!!! We've been talking internally about blogs and blog etiquette. I have been a big raving lunatic about the fact we (meaning libraries) should be even more on YouTube.

I went on today, to do a little research. Boy, was I suprised to see that there were 2908 entries on library. I watched more than a few giggling, shushing of each other by high school kids. I saw a skateboard video that took place outside the library (apparently the library had good skateboarding steps) and I saw one video that was of a high school library: the narrator pans the room and comments how empty it is.

Of course, I saw some inspiration YouTubers, too--can't wait to put heartfelt, entertaining video up about libraries. As Alane said to blogs, I say to videos! (and more!)

Random fact-find: The Starbucks Marketing scorecard

UPDATE (by Alane): And this video is an excellent, fun, professional example!!

Library Blogs

OK, I am starting with a joke because there is a dearth of humour in most library blogs.

Five surgeons are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on. The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."
The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color coded."
The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."
The fourth surgeon chimes in: "You know, I like construction workers...those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would."
But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, and no spine, and the head and butt are interchangeable."
(Found here)

I've spent some time rummaging around the wiki Amanda Etches-Johnson built that lists blogs by libraries and library directors. I did not look at every entry but I looked at lots. A few words sum up my impressions. Ernest, dry, not regularly updated, without personality. You get my drift. In fact, some aren't really blogs, in my opinion, because commenting is turned off.

Of course, there are some that stood out. Those that grab my eyeballs use "I", humour, pictures, non-library topics, are clean, well-lit places, and post regularly.

Kansas State U Libraries has lots of blogs--some are clearly used for internal library communication, and some are aimed at their users. Talking In The Library has only been going for three months, but I liked the light touch and real human voices. Others include Oberlin College Library (it's telling that a post about allowing coffee in the library, complete with pictures, attracted six comments...a large number for a library blog), Middle Tennessee State University library, Archdale (NC) Public Library, Worthington (OH) Libraries teen blog, West Palm Beach youth services blog, Johnson County (KS) Library, University Laboratory High School (Urbana, IL), National Library of Scotland (actually I liked this one primarily because of the August 24th post about Sean Connery visiting the lib, with pictures) @ the library (written by the Dean of Libraries at Colorado State U), and McMaster University Library.

There's no reason at all that library blogs have to be impersonal and dry. Think about your own favourite blogs to read and visit...I'll bet they are compelling and interesting not because of a steady (or not so steady stream) of facts but because they entertain as well as inform, and because there's a human voice.

Consider this anecdote from the voice behind the McMaster U Lib blog, University Librarian, Jeffery Trzeciak. He's writing about meeting a student who thanked him for blogging: "He encouraged me to write more frequently and I mentioned how I wanted to take the time to carefully consider each post. His response: just write about what you're doing--say something about a book you're reading. It doesn't always have to be 'big thoughts'. You know...he's right. People crave communication. It doesn't always have to be the 'big issues' but it should be heartfelt."

Ya gotta have heart if you blog...having a blog for your library that is boring and heartless is not good marketing. It suggests your library is too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Transforming Communities - A Contest

Here's an interesting contest that is open to anyone--individuals, businesses and organizations (that would include all of us in LibraryLand). This seems like a really great opportunity for the innovative and entrepreneurial among us.

The Knight Foundation has launched a "News Challenge" with $5 million to be given away in 2007. The website for the challenge says: "Show us how online news can help people improve their lives and shape their communities. Knight Foundation is seeking new ideas, pilot projects, commercial products and leadership initiatives that will improve the flow of information and news in the public interest."

There are five categories in which to compete:
  • "crystal ball" award is "for ideas that focus on the future of news and communities and that have the potential to be developed into pilot projects." This is an award just for an idea!
  • pilot project and field test for "real-life experiments designed to prove whether or not ideas work."
  • "The leadership award is designed to help shape, guide and organize many related ideas into a more powerful movement."
  • commercial products and investment: "We’re looking for great products that might not yield the return a venture capitalist is looking for, but that nonetheless are likely to be profitable and address a social need."
  • open: "The open category is here to make sure we don’t miss working with the next “Google guys,” just because an idea didn’t fit a category."

As Rafat Ali comments today at "Finally, someone had some sense to invest in entrepreneurs, instead of trying to do an ad campaign bragging about the reach of newspapers, magazines, etc." Hmmm, is there a role model here for organizations such as OCLC, ALA and others that invest in marketing the benefits of libraries?

Monday, September 18, 2006

What's Cool - Extending the Brand

An article on business travel in the latest (October) issue of Business 2.0 thinks the Seattle Public Library is a cool place for meetings: "Seattle's stunning new Central Library has become a popular place for casual meetings. Go to to reserve a conference room, but if they're all booked up, the main lobby is also business-friendly."
Yep, that's cool. And the whole article (which features 7 US cities) is headed up by a photo of two biz-types in the library.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jack Trout on Marketing and Branding

One last tidbit for today. Forbes has a good reminder article, "Minds Hate to Change" about how difficult it is to change people's minds about a brand or category of products. Pull out your Perceptions reports and insert "library" in the article, wherever he talks about strongly-entrenched brands, such as Western Union, Xerox, Coco-cola...

Now I'm not trying to be a doom-sayer here, quite the contrary! It's the reality check we have to have every once in awhile about the library brand. One of best ways we can move the brand forward--toward the perception of currency, toward the perception of trusted electronic information, toward the perception of comfortable, easy, accessible, hospitable--is to just do it. Show, don't tell, as one of my colleagues always used to say.

But Trout raises an interesting proposition: When it makes sense, in the context of our communities (public, academic, special, school), to change our name to signify a brand change in the user's mind?

The label "information center" leaves me cold, even though I like what it's trying to do.

Logo mash-up

Eric just sent me this post that takes a humorous look at Library 2.0, and I couldn't resist the Friday laugh!

First responder community breakfast

I've been meaning to blog this all week! Last weekend we went to a great event that brought together a community in a very cool way. It was a pancake breakfast:
*Put on by the local firefighters
*Sponsored by one of the university sororities
*Held at the community grade school
*To benefit the local public library
*It kicked off a community-wide tag sale of more than 700 families

As my best friend would say, "How many more of your favorite things can you put together in one place, Alice?"

Of course it helped that it was a beautiful sunny day of the crisp but still warm variety of early New England autumn. And you could say that only small New England towns of a certain size and character (town and gown, etc.) could come together to make this kind of event happen. What made it stand out in my mind, though, was the unlikely but quite natural fit of firefighters teaming up with librarians.

Both groups are first responders. Both groups are absolutely necessary to the community, but can be taken for granted as *always being there.* Both groups have a mission to educate and inform the citizenry. And both groups deal with the consequences of not being adequately funded.

Firefighters tend to visit schools to do education programs. They bring the firetruck, pass out hats, send home coloring books with all the kids. Can we do the same with our public libraries? Team up and bring the bookmobile, pass out good database search techniques and show how librarians also "first responders" --for knowledge!

Caught it!

Another pancake safe! The power of teamwork, eh? Posted by Picasa

Mid-air pancake toss

He tosses them! And you see our dedicated public library supporter here, ready to catch the pancake in mid-toss. Posted by Picasa

Blueberry pancakes

A dedicated firefighter, cooking blueberry pancakes to raise money for the Durham, NH public library. He has a special technique to get them off the griddle... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

IT systems (and their crummy pidgeon holes)

One of my favorite bloggers - Euan Semple at "The Obvious?" - speaks elloquently on the apparent disconnect between social networking and (IT) business as usual. From today's musings:

Much of corporate IT has been designed to replicate a heirarchical view of organisations which pidgeon holes people and bears little relation to the real world they work in.

Also most people are still pretty uninspired by computers and fail to make them work for them. They have given up a lot of their social interchanges in return for staring at computer screens and neatly lined up behind the view of them as meatware in a system.

If on the other hand they had been encouraged to grow up, take responsibility, and form relationships then the power to get things done would increase dramaticaly - as the ability to get things done relies heavily on relationship and communication - two things which conventional computing seems designed to limit.

Those of us engaged in building social software for librarians (to use themselves or with patrons) should take note, becasue I think we easily fall into the same unrealistic, role-based "holes". In a meeting today about potential design and systems updates for WebJunction, perhaps the most "social networky" of OCLC's current projects, we had a long conversation about whether or not we were (on the staff-side) getting too focused on the system (ours, and ultimately fitting people into it) and not enough on the actual working days and lives of the folks we aim to serve (in the alternative, their fitting the system into their daily activities).

Euan reminds me, as did other colleagues today, that if we stay focused on and committed to the relationships and communication required to "get things done" - we will be much better off in the long run.

Burger on Banned Books and Thomas Frey

Leslie Burger is a guest blogger on the Google Blog today. Coooool. She's hyping Banned Books week. Plenty of people have given Google the eyeroll because of Google's censorship issues in China, but on balance it's great to see Google and libraries sharing the same pulpit.

And banned books are great, don't get me wrong. There is even a bracelet. Whoah, I might have ordered it if I could find one with adult titles on it. Oh wait, different part of the site: here it is.

I might have liked to push the envelope a bit further on one of my personal soapboxes, the "your library has more than books" theme--but I'll settle for "your library is a little bit subversive in a really nice way" with the carnival theme. Not sure what the carnival theme has to do with banned books (the books are like snarling tigers?)...anyway.

The Google blog let me to The DaVinci Institute, which led me to Thomas Frey, which led me to his ideas about The Future of Libraries.

Some great ideas here. Ideas we've all been talking about for years now. Has anyone heard him speak on libraries? As a futurist, (as is our resident OCLC futurist, Alane) he can help us outline our possible future options in order to make smart present-day tactical decisions.

If there's one thing that was burned into my head from Good to Great, it's that Getting the Right People on the Bus in the Right Seats is Most Important in order to go from Good to Great as an organization (or an industry).

Thanks to Leslie for driving the bus this year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New WJ Report on E-Learning

The WebJunction Learning Team has just published a report called "Trends in E-Learning for Library Staff: A Summary of Research Findings." This report summarizes the information gathered in a 2005 survey of training and education in library organizations, and helped inform WebJunction's current work in developing online learning for library workers. It's available for free download at the link above.

Monday, September 11, 2006


On September 10, 2001 I flew to Columbus, Ohio from Edmonton, Alberta, on an early morning flight, through beautiful cloudless skies. I think the weather was fine all over the continent that week.

If you listen to NPR, you have probably heard at least one story from the Library of Congress and NPR oral history project, StoryCorps. NPR records and LC houses at the American Folklife Center. I don't think of myself as a sentimental person but I am moved, deeply, often, by the voices telling their stories. Today, the links were to stories from family members of people who died on September 11, 2001 in the several terrorist attacks. It goes without saying that these are stories that, even if they were mundane, would gather meaning from the place in the fabric of stories from which they come.

This evening I listened to the CD that came from Amazon today. I had heard The Transmigration of Souls by John Adams on NPR, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to honor those who died on 9/11/01, some time ago, before it was available as a recording. The text mostly consists of phrases from posters and memorials posted at the remains of the World
Trade Center buildings. Ordinary phrases perhaps except for the context in which they were made. Missing, missing, son, my sister, my grandmother.

And because I am like that, I started wondering, what is the role of libraries in a community, to that community? Or even more broadly, what is a library for? Do I value that my local public library has 27 or 89 or 250 copies of a best seller? Or does that just make it a free form of a Blockbuster? Libraries have generally not assumed the role of archivist to their communties but given the ephemerality of much of our culture is it one they should? What would it mean to community building to have libraries record oral histories of people in their communities, for example? Are these less important than published best sellers, whether academic or mainstream?

It's wonderful that NPR and Library of Congress and John Adams are capturing the zeitgeist. Are libraries? Should they? Rooted as they are in their communities, whether that's an academic community or a city, town or region, libraries could be permanent story-gathering sponges, rather than the dead letters department of our culture. I think I'd like to know the stories of people in my community. Call it the broken window approach.

"we will miss you...we all miss you...we all love you."
"I'll miss you, my brother, my loving brother."
"It was a beautiful day."
"You will never be forgotton."
"She looks so full of life in that picture."
"I see water and buildings."

(text from The Transmigration of Souls, John Adams)

Library Technology Reports

When I worked at ALA back in the mid-1990s, we used to be amazed that the only office in the building that didn't have a PC was the office of the editor of Library Technology Reports.

Obviously, times have changed at the ol' lemonade stand. Last week, I received a complimentary copy of the July/August LTR, and it is a full issue of articles by Michael Stephens (of Tame the Web and now Dominican's Graduate School of Library and Information Science fame) on Web 2.0 and Libraries. It's definitely worth checking out.

If your library does not subscribe, the cover letter that came with my comp issue says you can order from

Friday, September 08, 2006

Life Maps and Unraveled Launches

He comes undone.
Says he's lost the map his life was on,
Says everything is unraveling.
"Had a Dream" - Bird York [Web site ; myspace ; Wikipedia entry]

Bird York’s album, Wicked Little High, I discovered and purchased at Portland’s impressive Music Millennium store (home of great music and interesting t-shirts) during a trip to the Pacific Northwest some months ago (see IAG entry). The experience of being in the store and walking around Portland’s delightfully eclectic Nob Hill area pleasantly reminded me of my college days long past, a time when – as my teenage nieces believe – dinosaurs really ruled the Earth (well, I remember them mostly ruling the roads...).

Back in such primitive days, social networking was face-to-face at the record store, cafeteria, keg party, or, even, shudder, the library. The telephone was our electronic network. Ah, those vinyl disc, hardwired everything, halcyon 20th century days of low tech, high touch. I miss the parties, but I’m happy to have traded up from typewriters.

Today, it’s a portable device-enabled, networked, instantly, virtually social world where few college students are not on myspace or facebook or some other also-ran electronic social spot. Student’s lives and experiences meander seamlessly between the Net and the physical world, and their social networks ebb and flow at light speed. High tech, low touch, medium caffeine. And the world sees your party pictures.

So it comes as no surprise that when some critical platform in this en masse virtual life takes a wrong turn, angry voices rise swiftly...and virtually. Case in point: with little warning facebook (Wikipedia article) rolled out new show-my-activities-to-my-social-network features to all of their user’s accounts this week. The good folks at facebook stood back, waiting for the adulation of the masses for this upgrade (after all, every previous rollout got kudos), and instead, staggered in suprize from a great back blast as the roar of user discontent rolled over facebook and the Net. Users nicknamed facebook, “stalkerbook.” Protest groups were formed. Petitions were circulated. The blogs buzzed.

Facebook management initially was a bit defensive and tried to convince users they would really like the features with time. Wrong. Don’t trifle with digital natives on their home turf. Social space is sacred – spoil it and the natives will grow restless, and loud.

So it was not entirely surprising when I logged into facebook today to find an open letter from Mark Zuckerberg fessing up to a major mea culpa:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.

The open letter along with the rapid development and release of privacy options today – options which allow users to defang the new privacy-hostile features – makes facebook’s one of the faster recoveries I’ve seen. Fault them for the initial rollout, maybe, but not the ultimate response.

I have mixed reactions about the new features (I’ve turned most of them off), but I appreciate: 1. that facebook is philosophically disposed to social disclosure, and the new features were a logical progression for advancing disclosure, 2. they listened to their users, and 3. facebook did their best to respond to their users’ concerns smartly and swiftly. Still, one is left to wonder if this major disconnect with user preferences was readily avoidable – even minimal usability testing or focus group work previews surely would have surfaced harbingers of discontent to come.

So, gentle readers, unravel this: Is it better to release fast and recover swiftly, or do your homework and be a bit later out of the gate?

Long time for Short week

If you live in the U.S., you had a short week this week. At this point, at the end of the workday (on the East Coast), it feels like I've tried to cram 2 weeks into 4 days. Shew! Welcome to September.

Speaking of September, it's is National Library Card Sign-Up month. Eric sent me the link that George Lopez is heading up the ALA promotion. Cool.

It reminds me of Jennifer, our speaker from last January's Symposium. She asked us all why we made it so hard for her to sign up for a library card. Have we fixed it yet? Is it easier? I hope so!

Have a great weekend...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"The Quality of What We Do"

I am borrowing the title of the post from a graphic at Creating Passionate Users, as well as the graphic and a few of Kathy Sierra's words.

I hopped to CPU from The Shifted Librarian and Jenny Levine's remarks about her experiences with using Virtual Reference services. The comments show the spectrum of opinions among librarians (and why do people who disagree often have to be snarky??). So, seeing the graphic at CPU (below) was fitting. I am not singling out VR but I do agree with the CPU post that there's a disconnect between what "we" (and "we" are any companies with users, not just libraries) think of services we provide and what our users experience and think.

Kathy writes:
"When I hear comments like, 'You wasted all that space to say, "Care about your customers"', I wonder why we don't. Or rather, I wonder why we all say we care about them, yet our actions reflect a more selfish view. When it comes to our users/customers... I don't think they think what we think they think.
It's similar to all those other statistics you hear about, like that way more than 50% of the population rate themselves 'Above Average' in everything from looks to smarts. We think our customers generally love us, although of course we're not perfect, but then... who is? Sure we have a few issues, but we're working on it. And besides, we're so much better than the competition."

Read the rest of the post. And then discuss. Your 500 word essay is due September 15.

Digitizing Books & Completeness

Tim O'Reilly at O'Reilly Radar has an interesting guest post from Judith Sutherland of Distributed Proofreaders (a group of which I was unaware). DP is a group of volunteers who do the quality checking and correction for Project Gutenberg (which is a wiki

Judith writes:
"Something I've wondered about and haven't seen discussed anywhere is the need (or lack thereof) for quality, mostly in the sense of completeness, in the mass digitization programs. The volunteers at DP report many missing pages in the Google books, particularly near illustrations, as well as that none of the Google books make available color scans of any illustrations."

Considering the high amount of traffic recently on Web4Lib on this very topic I was interested that Tim and Judith, both not of LibraryLand, have not heard from librarians who share their concerns about completeness and quality in the various book digitization projects. What this suggests is that our opinions are not getting out into the larger community of people participating in various ways in such projects.

Why not? Do we talk only amongst ourselves? If this is the case, more of us need to be blogging, writing opinion pieces for newspapers, leaving comments on the blogs of non-LibraryLand people writing in areas of mutual interest, and attending and speaking at conferences outside of the usual ones. Don't we have expertise and ideas to share?

So, how about a little less kvetching in the family, and a little more effort made to being heard outside the compound?

Fines (Yet Again)

A quick tip of the hat to one of my favorite syndicated columnists, Chuck Shepherd, whose August 27 edition of "News of the Weird" noted that one of the items he can no longer list as "news" or "weird" is that "Some libraries do have policies to have patrons arrested for long-overdue library books." That library policies are so onerous and so ubiquitous that they no longer qualify as weird does not bode well for us.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Winning Online - A Manifesto"

By golly, this is an excellent article from Editor and Publisher, by Tom Mohr. First line: "Newspapers must win online, or face a future of painful contraction. " As I have often advised, read this through the libratry lens. What Tom Mohr writes about for newpapers is relevant for libraries. He goes on to say, "I believe newspapers’ social purpose—the building of civil society in cities and towns across America through the daily output of good journalism—is worth fighting for. Securing the future of the industry’s social purpose requires securing its financial future. And I have concluded that depends on an industry-wide understanding of seven key points."
The seven well-articulated points are:
  • Breakthrough online innovation won’t come from newspapers
  • “Local” is indefensible online
  • The big money is in vertical partnerships
  • Newspapers gain by moving onto common platforms (this point is especially interesting to me as our colleague blogger Lorcan Dempsey writes frequently about moving library services to the "network level")
  • Newspapers bring critical assets to the table
  • The window of opportunity is closing
  • It’s all about leadership

This last point brings a ruefully familiar metaphor from Mr Mohr, as he lists and comments on steps media companies are taking to move to the network level: "Pursued separately in loose consortiums, they are like trying to get a gaggle of geese to march in a parade. We need to think bigger and bolder. A strong Switzerland Inc. that brings together all of these initiatives maximizes integration and bargaining power."

A must read. Hat tip to unmediated for the link (and our colleague Andy H for pointing me to unmediated a while ago).

Friday, September 01, 2006

BlogDay 2006 - Alane's (Late) List

As others in the bilioblogosphere have noted, yesterday was BlogDay. So, here I am, one day late with my list of five blogs, picked somewhat randomly from my reader.

They aren't new at all, but they are outside of this space so perhaps will be new to you. It would be way too hard to list only five blogs from Libraryland so this was easier! Although Michael Stephens beat me to it and listed one of my favs, Church of the Customer Blog, requiring me to pick something else. That's what happens when you're late to the party.

apophenia. danah boyd is a Phd candidate in the UC Berkeley's SIMS (School of Information Management and Systems) as well as a social media researcher at Yahoo! You might have caught her at LITA 2005 when she gave a talk called "Blogging Outloud: Shifts in Public Voice". danah writes about things many of us are tracking: MySpace, other social networks, DOPA.

Cosmic Variance. Like this blog, a 5 author blog. Unlike this one, the writers are physicists and astrophysicists which might lead you to assume that the content would be way too esoteric and dry for non-scientists. Not. It's lively and topical--and informative.

BuzzMachine. Jeff Jarvis is a journalist and often writes about the challenges of traditional print media in a Web world. He's opinionated and isn't shy about sharing.

The End of Cyberspace. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a futurist, the Director of the Institute for the Future, and a historian of science. He contends that the notion of cyberspace is a vivid metaphor that has ended its usefulness: " a rapidly-emerging world of mobile, always-on information devices (and eventually cybernetic implants, prosthetics, and swarm intelligence), the rules that define the relationship between information, places, and daily life are going to be rewritten. As the Internet becomes more pervasive-- as it moves off desktops and screen and becomes embedded in things, spaces, and minds-- cyberspace will disappear."

Creating Passionate Users. Perhaps Kathy Sierra's blog isn't new to you because I link to it now and then, and I've noticed other library bloggers have as well. Great graphics and thoughtful and thought provoking posts about....customers, users, patrons.

For US and Canadian readers: Happy Labo(u)r Day weekend! Aptly named, as I will be labouring quite a bit around the homestead. But I am not whining...two weeks ago I was in the Highlands of Scotland with my sisters (and their families) for a family party. Cousins, uncles and aunts I've not seen for decades, It was lovely. I'd include a picture but I can't get blogger to go fetch one....