May 15, 2010

Notes from #LibOrg20 webinar

I attended an ALA Techsource webinar on Thursday (5/13) with John Blyberg and Meredith Farkas as presenters, Organization 2.0: Building the Participatory Library (to be archived and made available soon).

Since I took notes and also followed the hashtag discussion going on at Twitter, I thought I'd share what I gathered:

#LibOrg20 on Twitter

John Blyberg (Small public library in CT)
  • Embed organization into external culture
  • Crucial to have library staff members who can think in ways Twitter/ culture thinks
  • Individuals create highly personal info.networks (using around our specific interests. Need to expand that into libs.
  • Technology introduced needs to feel natural to users, as part of/in conjunction with library
  • Common mistake: apply 20th century values to 21st century systems, privacy/censorship diff today
  • User Experience: planned, positive, and desirable experience; should span all library departments
  • Ensure whatever we bring in from the outside fits into the library ecology and maintains efficiency
  • Plan what want to ultimately achieve by putting content online
  • (from @ghardin on Twitter) Branding + (containers + content) + great staff = a good library formula
  • As info professional, should be aware of all info going around town -- Twitter helps keep up with this, participating in local community (this might apply more to public libraries) - part of being an information professional is being aware of what technologies our users are using and being hyperlocal
  • Extra points of (virtual) contact can add enrichment to user experience
  • Twitter
    • Twitter re-visualization tool: (find tweets about your library: social monitoring, branding)
    • Darien lib used twitter during a power outage to alert customers the library was open so they could come in and be warm
  • Four Square
    • Library is most checked-into venue in town (although Darien is small town)
    • can create a to-do list for in the library
    • can post photos
  • Podcasts
    • Via iTunes: users can subscribe to feed
    • Public library CD collection available through iTunes (streaming)
    • User-contributed podcasts on library iTunes
  • Other info
    • Darien uses Innovative Interfaces
    • 4 person team working on user experience

Meredith Farkas (Small academic library in VT)
  • Continuous improvement cycle based on a culture of assessment -- in "perpetual beta"
  • Rapid change and innovation are the rule, not the exception (ex: tried having Amazon ship new books directly to user to save time and make it a better experience for the patron)
  • As environment/user needs change, we need to change as well
  • Creativity in thinking about how technology can solve problems (good when not a lot of money or time): instead of "cool, new tool let's try it," thinking will this be useful and how will users benefit (ex: wikis as subject guide tools)
  • Develop risk-tolerant culture, experimentation is good
  • When trying new things, calling "pilot project" can make it easier to give it a chance and possibly implement
  • Libraries need to think about how are we going to sustain (these projects)
  • May need to drop low return services in order to do new ones
  • (from @ilovemyanythink on Twitter) "We implement 'tiny mtgs' - no longer than five minutes and must be done standing up - and a decision must be made"
  • Students were using instant messaging the most for reference, so focused efforts more towards that
  • Ethnographic study (done at U of Rochester and MIT) looks at how users do research and how library can insert itself in process at key points to support users by making research easier for them
    • How many of users on Twitter, Facebook, Mobile devices?
    • How would they feel about library being in those spaces?
    • Study would look at what is important to users and not just how users feel about what is important to library

May 11, 2010

Week 2, day 2

There was quite a big gap in posting, but now that I'm all settled in TX and have started work, I think I'm more able to give some attention to my blog.

Today was week two, day two at my new job and I think I'm adjusting well. In case you missed my previous post, I took a position as a reference/instruction/collection development librarian at an urban community college in downtown Dallas. There is a lot to learn but my new supervisors and coworkers are understanding about information overload and being able to remember it all. I wanted to write about my initial perceptions and experiences at my first library job before I might forget, to reflect from the perspective of a recent graduate.

My paranoia was right: library school is not enough

(so I'm glad I went overboard in gaining hands-on experience outside of the classroom)

Library school certainly gave me enough theory and understanding of how to keep up with library news and topics so that I can have an intelligent conversation with other librarians and stay current professionally, but what is really helping me keep up right now in a live environment is my previous library work experience, as well as previous jobs in customer service. I honestly kiiiind of shrugged off how important my customer service experience in positions such as a lowly sales clerk would be, but it does make a big difference.

Every library school program has its pros and cons, and as happy as I am with what I took away from SIRLS, the reference class I had was very weak (and the instructor is no longer there if that says anything). It was 100% theory, with no practical experience, without even practicing on classmates. Because I had some previous experience in sales and virtual reference I feel a little better, but if I hadn't done an internship or had the position I had prior to my current job, I think I would have had more difficulties (and perhaps not gotten the job anyhow). However, whether a program has a great reference class or not, that work experience is invaluable! I highly urge current students to work or volunteer to get that background.

A Master's degree does not automatically equal expert

I'm glad I had spoken with others about how they felt on their first day at their first job, not just in LIS, but other fields; a common newbie misconception (and huge stressor) is believing just because one has a Master's that they should automatically be an expert and know everything. Every library is different, with different databases, OPACs, and procedures, so learning a lot on the job is necessary. When I don't know how to answer a student's question immediately, my first response is still to beat up on myself a little and get stressed, but I don't think it's possible for a new librarian to know how to do everything. When I shadow at the reference desk, it seems to be understood that there is a learning period, so I think I need to give myself a break (which I'm slowly learning to do better), and the more relaxed I am, the better customer service I can provide.

Watch and learn, do and learn

The best way to learn everything I need to get familiar with is to just watch others (shadowing) and then try it myself and learn from my mistakes. That was how I best remembered which supplement aids which ailment and is located in which section of the store when I worked in natural health, and it is how I'm best remembering how to help students find information in the library now. I've also taken a copy of every pathfinder and library guide created for our library so I can read them all over in my office when I have some down time. Practicing with the OPAC and various databases while it's slow at the desk is also very helpful. We have a binder of assignments instructors have shared with the library, so something else I'm going to do when I have more time is to try doing as many assignments on my own as I can so I know what the students will be going through (doing the just the research, not also writing the papers, of course).

I haven't started instruction yet (not until summer sessions), but I can say for reference, you just have to jump in and do it to learn. Making mistakes in front of students isn't fun, but it does at least show them you're human and gives you the chance to find out the answer for future questions.