Internet Librarian: day three

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.
  • For outreach.
  • 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.

The Evolving Library ? this is where we’re headed. Rather than go through a million steps only to see it fail at the end, try assess reflect, try assess reflect, repeat.

  • Try – Yoda was wrong when he said there is no try.
  • Be fast – You can do a pilot project within three months, then you’ll have enough data to assess.
  • Be human, be real, be patient. You aren’t going to get it right the first time.
  • Don’t over plan. Librarians love to plan, don’t we?
  • Assess ? you can’t measure progress without actually measuring. Write assessment into your plans.
  • Get user feedback (and use it).
  • Reflect.
  • Be willing to fail. If you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly. Not every idea will succeed.

Think back to your most amazing user experience. What made it special? Your users will usually remember their worst experience and their best. Use that information.

Gathering the Tools to Assess

  • Surveys – Many cheap online options available.
  • Focus goups – You only need a few people and a few questions. Get someone else to moderate.
  • User observations – can be enlightening and disheartening, but well worth it. Again get someone else to moderate. Screen capture software (like Camtasia) can be great.
  • Heat maps.
  • Conversation. While data can be important, conversations with your users will be the most valuable.

Drawing Users In

  • Have something to offer.
  • Get OUT of the library. You want to reach users that don’t necessarily come to the library.
  • Remember everyone loves to give their opinion.
  • Swag-tastic! Is it shiny, Is it branded? Give them to your volunteers.


  • Something will go wrong.
  • Get the boss’ buy-in. Data and stories are the most useful for this.
  • Even if it’s a tiny pilot project, you will get valuable information for future projects.

Cliff recommended the book, “The Practice of Social Research” by Earl Babbie. He said it’s an excellent source for information on reliability, validity, methodology, etc.

Go ahead and do it half-assed. Don’t wait. You need the data. You can always refine and redo. Every time you do it, it’ll be a little bit better.

Final Thoughts

  • Be user-centric.
  • Be willing to do the work (don’t just come up with the idea).
  • Evolution will take care of the bad ideas. Failure will usually not be a giant explosion. Most of the time ideas that don’t work will just fade out.
  • Create a culture of innovation. Don’t be a naysayer, and don’t let others be naysayers.

As an aside, I thought this was an excellent, inspirational session. It was the best one I attended throughout the whole conference.

Web 2.0 Tools for Online CM Workflow and Intranets
presented by Patrick Griffis and Michael Yunkin (UNLV)

This presentation focused on democratizing a staff intranet by turning it into a wiki, and standardizing the format of the information.

The library staff at UNLV relied on a shared network drive for sharing documents which had grown unwieldy. College intranet was difficult ? only one user at a time, limited editing, and no information architecture.

Staff decided to look at their needs, and examined various of content management systems. This was in 2004 (when wikis were still a bit unknown) and they decided to use a static web site. The big problem was only the web developers could update the site. During 2005-2006 they converted the site to a wiki format. Staff wanted a balance between democratizing the information, but keep it within a standardized format (naming conventions, categorizing entries, etc.).


A training wiki was set up as a sandbox for experimentation. A training manual was created and placed on the staff wiki to serve as a learning aid. Training workshops were provided, which included hands-on editing exercises.

They found after the training sessions, there was a big jump in staff contributions to the intranet. Follow up training was done for advanced functions and new employees. For training, a wiki policy and FAQ pages were created.

No real problems after that, and the wiki is still functioning (two years later).

What They Did Right

  • Started with come content ? a blank slate is too intimidating.
  • Got the key content in place before anyone sees it, so it’s useful from the start.
  • Use a real world, practical training exercise, rather than just “Here’s how to make a bullet point…”

Lessons Learned

  • Don’t be afraid of other people’s fear of technology.
  • Allow the web developers to give up control.
  • Don’t overwhelm the new editors with training.
  • Provide enough basic training to install confidence in new editors so they can start editing.
  • Specific training need can be identified by monitoring the wiki.

What’s Hot with RSS
presented by Steven Cohen

Steven LOVES RSS, has a fun presentation style, and he showed us a lot of great tools. They’re all posted on his What’s Hot with RSS presentation page. Here are a few I thought were interesting. While you don’t necessarily have to use the RSS features on these sites, they all include RSS.

  • LibWorm ? Library focused search engine. Searches library blogs, websites and other sites in the library profession. You can set up RSS feeds to be alerted to search terms.
  • TwitterSearch ? Search engine for Twitter. Find out who is posting tweets about your library or ?
  • OpenCongress ? Can see what representatives are up to, latest votes, any other updates. You can also search specific issues.
  • Page2RSS ? If the website you like doesn’t have an RSS feed, with this free service you can set up a feed to alert you the website has been updated.
  • – Get misspellings of eBay items. Enter a search term, and it will find all the items on eBay with that item misspelled. Then you can get it cheap because no one else knows about it.

One of the big things Steven uses RSS feeds for is to keep his clients/patrons up-to-date. He said you should know who your FOL (Friends of the Library) are. Set up feeds for yourself in their interested areas, and email them when you see an article they might be interested in. Who’s the hero? You are. The Librarian. The patron will also know you’re there to help with other things if needed, and they’ll be more likely to give you good support at budget time, etc.

Technical / Tangible / Social
presented by Elizabeth Lawley (Rochester Institute of Technology)

“Liz” started talking about social proprioception ? the perception of one’s place and/or orientation in the social world. Many of the social networking websites (Twitter, Facebook, blogs) give us this sense of social proprioception.

With mobile devices getting smarter (like the iPhone, with geo-location, etc.) this kind of thing will become more and more important. While the technical is important, we shouldn’t forget the tangible. People want things they can touch, things that can connect the technical and social spheres.

Other gadgets are going to keep coming out (and we’ll probably have some serious technolust for them).

Chumby ? “an interactive media player that streams your favorite parts of the internet in an always on, always fresh state.” (I’ve heard about these before, and I seriously want one.)

Mir:ror ? an RFID tag reader with USB port, where you can tell it do things based on what the object sees. Company will sell this reader for cheap, and then sell the RFID tags,

Botanicals ? sensors you plug into the soil of a plant. When it gets low it can call your phone, or post to Twitter “water me!”

Arduino ? a USB circuit board that is open source, totally programmable, and a has big user forum.

The below two magazines are the Popular Mechanics of this century. Should be required for ANY library (public or academic).

  • Make ? technology stuff, links, etc.
  • Craft ? craft things but in a modern and cool way. Knitting can be a connection to a tangible thing, while still being engaged in other things. Not always true with technology.

Etsy ? website that sells beautiful, handcrafted items, directly from the person who made it. ? Customized cards you can create. Again ? tangible stuff, connecting the technical and social worlds.

Lulu ? Publish your own books.

These sites all allow you to make things, have a sense of ownership, customize gifts, etc.

Social Hardware ? A small power strip that Karen Schneider wrote about. (I actually bought one of these when I read Karen’s post a few months ago, it’s small and compact, and oh so useful.)

People talk about online networking ? libraries should also focus on public networking. At Liz’s library they removed a lot of the computer labs there, and set up space with power strips and WiFi (because students use laptops a lot more). The result was, many more students are using the library than when the huge banks of desktop workstations were there. Other libraries are setting up cafes inside the library, which makes the library the most popular place to meet. Liz then talked about the cafe, Java Wally’s which is inside the RIT library. That it’s “the place to be.” Faculty are scheduling office hours there, and as students are already in the library (are are very comfortable being there), they’re much more receptive to getting help from a librarian.

In order for libraries to succeed they need the technology, the tangible, and the social.

Liz set up links to everything in her talk on