“My Librarian Thinks I’m a Criminal.”

February 27, 2013

“Librarians at this university take their job way to seriously, we’re students not convicts.”

My Librarian Thinks I'm a Criminal

This comment kind of reminds me of the famous video, Give ‘Em the Pickle.

The moment that I am thinking of comes in another part of the full training video (not found on YouTube that I know of) where  Bob Farrell talks about an experience going to a bank. There at the bank they have those pens that are attached to the counter with a chain. Farrell says the message you are sending to the customer with those types of attached pens is, “You are a thief and we know it.”

30-October-2009 - Pen on a leash

What are some of the messages we are sending our patrons without really realizing it?

Several years ago at my local library I returned a book to the main desk. The clerk, in an effort to be helpful, told me that I could return my books at the front of the library in the future. I don’t think she realized that she also told me this, “Next time don’t bring this here. Take it to the front instead of bugging me.” She didn’t mean this at all but that was the message I heard.

We need to be very careful how we help our patrons. We may be sending a message we don’t intend.

photo originally uploaded by I Am Rob


Library Value Proposition

June 15, 2012
Disney Characters: Pluto, Donald and Mickey

from flickr user armadillo444

We recently had a marketing faculty member come to the library to discuss marketing libraries. At one point in the presentation he displayed a simple evaluation sheet that we have at one of our reference desks with essentially these four questions:

  1. Was our service cheerful?
  2. Was our service efficient and timely?
  3. Was our environment conducive to research?
  4. How important was our resources to your research?

In each of these four cases we discussed who our competitors were. Some of them we were expending a significant amount of effort to ensure when they will not necessarily get users to use our resources. Others our competitors are so far ahead of us that it makes no sense to try to keep up. We should be putting resources elsewhere. Here is a breakdown:

Cheerful and considerate service

Value proposition: we give cheerful service.

Why? Because if we don’t, they won’t come back. Okay true.

But will it get them in the library? If they want cheerful service, will they automatically think, “Hey, I should go to the library?”

Competitor: Amusement parks, entertainment venues, etc

No. They will go to Disneyland if all they want is cheerfulness.

Efficiency and speed

Value proposition: we give fast and efficient service.

How long does a typical reference transaction take? Several minutes. But you get the answer so that is great.

Competitor: Google

Compare this with Google. Searches take less than a second. We have lost the speed and efficiency war. We will never find something faster than the web. Who has a better value proposition based on speed? Google.

Space conducive to research

Value proposition: we are a great place to study.

Competitors: dorms, student centers, study halls

Here is where we could really shine. We are not promoting our space as much as we could. Examining twitter posts about the library one quickly realizes how many people prefer quiet study space over group study space. Dorms and student centers are loud. Libraries (our users are saying) shouldn’t be–or at least they should only be in designated areas.

Relevant resources

Value proposition: we house high-quality resources.

Competitor: Google Books

Again, Google has more books than most libraries and they are getting bigger.


Not sure if I agree with everything that was said but his point about speed was certainly well-taken. To illustrate his point he tried to use our library federated search to find an article he wrote. He searched using his name and two key words from the title. The first screen was irrelevant. He used the facet for author and limited results just to him. He still could not find it. This took a few minutes.

“Oh, well, forget it. You know what…” and he did the same search in Google Scholar and it was the second hit in the results. This took a few seconds.

Our best value proposition from that informal survey is our space, something that is very disconcerting. When our library becomes nothing more than a nice computer lab, what does that mean for our profession?

Our discussion led us to a realization that one of our other value propositions which we don’t capitalize on, but which we have a much smaller list of competitors:

Personal contact

Value proposition: we provide interaction with the user in which we validate them and encourage them in the research process.

Competitors: Family, friends, colleagues

Google does not tell them they can do it. It does not say, “that is an interesting topic.” It does not acknowledge that they are frustrated in the search process. We could be promoting our users to themselves–and then they will come to us more to feel better about their efforts.

My question: is this really a good enough reason to keep libraries as they are presently constituted?

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“My Librarian is a Hypocrite.”

January 6, 2012

It is essential that whatever rules we have in libraries for our patrons we don’t break them ourselves in front of them. Sure I realize that eating happens in libraries all the time but it should be in the staff break room if food is prohibited in the library.

“I Can’t Understand My Librarian.”

October 8, 2009

Twitter user: chrisdude: “I was in the library and I went TO ‘the stacks,’ and I still don’t know what that means.”

For those who have heard this idiom used by librarians but have never learned what the phrase means, ‘the stacks’ refers to the open shelves that any library user can browse through (i.e., anywhere you can find a book, pick it up, and read it/check it out.).

Librarians have a lot of common terminology that can be confusing to anyone unfamiliar to it, just like any subculture. Yes, librarians have their own subculture just like skaters, tweeps, Twilight fans, and bloggers. I was a part-time employee for months before I learned what other librarians meant when they would tell me to “go look in the stacks.”

Some other terms we use that spaz our users (and ourselves):

  • monograph
  • patron
  • reference
  • information literacy
  • resource sharing
  • collection
  • OPAC :: Library catalog :: “The catalog”

“Library Catalogs are Broken.”

October 1, 2009

“I hate the library!! Why are you telling me you have things when I can’t find them 😦 stupid system!” twitter user: andrewmoore24

OPACs continue to be obstacles to finding. Sometimes I wonder if our users wouldn’t just be better served by searching in WorldCat or Google and having a “Get at My Library” link which sends them back to the local catalog. I have written before about Bookburro. BB really does this well (for books only) from any site with an ISBN then uses WorldCat to point to local libraries. As a librarian I may be stoned for saying this but sometimes it is just plain easier and faster and yes, even more effective and scholarly (i.e., I find better materials) to not use our OPAC but start at Amazoogle for books. Until recently I had a similar sentiment for bypassing databases and going to GoogleScholar for citations but it has become so bogged down with unscholarly material (a pdf, ANY pdf, makes the cut) or books when I want articles that I am not as impressed as I used to be.

I feel sorry for our patrons.

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“I Can’t Find a Librarian.”

April 30, 2009

Aside from helping with computers, the “anything else” could be anything from directions to the bathroom to a twenty-minute research transaction. Some libraries try to solve this issue by “roving” or “roaming” librarians but it is still sad when we work so hard to promote ourselves and how eager we are to help…but then we aren’t around to do it. I have written before about doing a service well, if we claim to do it well. As a service profession, we really need to ensure that we are giving the best possible assistance to our patrons.

Picture Books on the Kindle

March 31, 2009

As more and more traditional print publications begin to discard the print model and publish digitally, it seems that the last type of publication purely in an analog format will likely be the picture book.

Holding up a large book with bright illustrations and the touch of the pages as you turn them. The sound of the simple words as you read them out loud. The feeling of the child in you lap leaning forward to take in the whole scene depicted, eyes wide and intent. These are essential parts of the picture book experience.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the parts that ebooks and ebook readers cannot duplicate. Color is not so much an issue anymore now that the flepia has come out (undoubtedly other readers will follow suit).

Today, Amazon is advertising Curious George books for the Kindle so I thought I would share some pics of how it looks.

split title page02

split title page01

There is something missing when you have to page over to see a picture that is meant to be viewed as one combined image.

this book belongs to

This is possibly the most jarring example of how picture book conversion to ebook format is problematic. How does your four-year old scrawl her name on the line?