Since early 2008, my library has been providing reference help though instant messaging. We set up IM accounts with a number of services, and connect to them all through the IM client, Pidgin. We also installed a MeeboMe widget on our ask a librarian page, so people can ask us a question without having an IM account. This is actually where the majority of our IM questions are coming from.
Recently though, because of some network connectivity issues, the Meebo widget has been displaying our status as being offline, even though the librarians were logged into IM. Not good.
To remedy the situation, I installed an AIM WIMZI widget on our site instead. The library already had an account through AIM, so this was an easy fix. The AIM widget also comes with a number of additional benefits.
That was 19 days I went without having internet access at home. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a week without some kind of online access since my days of connecting to computer bulletin board systems on my Atari 800XL computer. And talk about broadband, that was with a state-of-the-art, 300 baud modem. Yes, I am old.
Being without home internet access for so long made me realize how much it’s a part of my everyday activities: reading the online news in the morning with a cup of coffee, using it to find phone numbers, getting a quick map, listening to new music streams, and just keeping up with friends and family. I almost felt like I had lost one of my senses.
Crafting the User-Centered Library
presented by Cliff Landis
Why use emerging tech?
It’s not enough to shove your bad services (such as our crappy OPACs) into new things.
Don’t do it because everyone else is.
We don’t need things designed FOR the user, we need things designed BY the user.
Planning – it takes too long. Too man hoops to jump through, eventually good ideas can just fade away.
The committee approach – can take any good idea and destroy it. Exploits the negative aspects. To many times people ask “what if…” Cliff then showed us a funny YouTube video, Association Professionals Through the Ages, that illustrates how good ideas can be destroyed in such a manner.
But as recent news reports and studies have shown, these are not true. Millennials do use the technology, but in a simplified way. In general they are unaware of how powerful the tools they are using can be.
Many years ago, I had a film single lens reflex camera. SLRs are great for their flexibility, allowing you to change lenses, add filters, and manually adjust settings. For a while now, I’ve been wishing for some of that flexibility in a digital camera, and have been thinking about buying a digital SLR. Early last month, a local camera store was having a sale on the Nikon D40 — a deal I couldn’t pass up.
Today I returned home from the Computers in Libraries conference (more on that soon). I was away for a week, and what I missed most was my internet connection. I found myself very envious of the librarians who had their own notebook computers, and were taking advantage of the free wi-fi in the conference rooms.
I spend a great deal of my normal day (both working and off days) using a computer. Going without access while seeing others online almost made me feel like a junkie in need of a fix. Waiting in line to use one of the conference’s eight email stations for ten minutes did not cut it. I wanted to check out the cool things the librarians were talking about in their presentations. I wanted to be able to take notes more efficiently. And, I wanted to do some of the normal, daily things I do on the web.
I’ve been wanting to replace my old MP3 player for a while now. It’s a few years old, so the features and storage capacity are lacking compared to players on the market now. I decided to give in to my technolust and started shopping around.
Part of me was reluctant to go with an Apple iPod. My old player was from Sansa, and concerns about Apple’s proprietary software bothered me a bit. After reading some online reviews, I decided to try one of the new Sansa models. I was not impressed. The controls seemed clumsy and hard to get used to. I experimented with loading music from my computer onto the player, and that was a clumsy experience as well. So, I returned the Sansa player, and picked up a 4 GB Apple iPod Nano. Wow! What a nice device. Yes that’s right, I am now one of the Pod People.
Last Spring, my library signed on to AskAway, a virtual reference service. AskAway is the Wisconsin division of the QuestionPoint consortia, which provides virtual reference (via online chat) throughout the United States. That means our patrons can get reference help from a librarian, 24 hours a day, even on holidays. In turn, some of our librarians spend an hour or so per week answering virtual reference questions from patrons all over the country.
It’s been an interesting experience providing online reference help. When I first started, it was a little unnerving and overwhelming (much like the first few times I was working at the reference desk in the real world). But just like that other reference situation, those feelings fade with experience.