Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Professional Advantages of Being a Slacker and a Librarian

One quick clarification on that title, note that I did not say "slacker librarian", but slacker AND librarian. I liked the sound of the first one better, but I think when you stay late at work just to finish reading all your library 2.0 feeds, and are kept up late at night envisioning all the ways you can optimize web 2.0 concepts in library contexts, you nullify your eligibility for the slacker librarian title. Aaaaaaaanyway...

This past weekend I met up with some college friends in Vegas (you can check out my pics here, if you feel so inclined...), and they expressed their continuing disbelief that I am actually a librarian. My obsessions with organization and technology (which no one actually associates with librarianship anyway, much to my constant chagrin) not withstanding, I think I actually stepped foot in my undergraduate library four, maybe five times tops in my four years there.

Now, at first this dirty little secret brought me much shame (along with the fact that I never actually took a reference or cataloguing class in grad school, shhhh! Don't tell!!! There were just so many fun tech classes I wanted to take more...) But on further thought, I think my college library neglect actually makes me a better academic librarian. Now THAT is going out on a limb, right?

But seriously, how many librarians do you know insist on sticking their head in the sand about the reality of how libraries are actually perceived? I think one of the great things about the library 2.0 movement is that we are truly aiming to reinvent the traditional library, and to once again make it a thriving, relevant presence in the lives of our users.

I know how undergraduates think, because I was a very, very typical one, and not all that long ago. So instead of fighting the same old battle of pushing the traditional vision of the library on them, I can imagine what would have actually gotten me to notice and use the library, and take it from there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why My Library Should Invest in Overhauling Its Online Presence

How is it that, in today's technological atmosphere, where users expect to be able to access virtually everything online (no pun intended, but a good one nonetheless, haha...) it is such a struggle to get the administration to realize the importance of our website? Why am I practically begging for them to at least provide me some support in my effort to streamline and enhance our digital presence, and to see our website as a branch of the library, offering all services the physical branch offers?

My justification to them for such an expense? Here goes...

First and foremost, the library’s website is long overdue for an update, ideally including a redesign. Although the redesign of any website inherently carries some risks, probably the most notable of which is making major changes to a resource that is already familiar to its users, the ever-evolving nature of the internet and the emergence of web 2.0[1] concepts makes an update desirable, if not necessary. Website success can often be traced back to several important concepts, including simplicity in design, logical organization and navigation, media richness, and interactivity[2]. In that vein, the new site should be more intuitive to navigate, and organized to facilitate ease of finding information for all levels of user experience. There should be a focus on technologies enabling communication and interactivity throughout the site, and access to resources and services should be seamless[3].

The chief goals of the new site would be:

- Optimize space on homepage
- Improve navigation
- Integrate web 2.0 technology (interactability)
- Clean up content
- Improve access to resources and services

These changes would make the site more intuitive to navigate, and support users of varying levels of expertise:

- Guided navigation for new users (on homepage only)
- Logical hierarchical navigation for normal users (on left-hand side of each page)
- Quicklinks – direct to resources – for expert users (on top right of every page)

The site would also make better use of web 2.0 technology, featuring a news blog to relay important information about the library and information resources in general. The blog would be updated regularly and be featured on the library’s homepage.

A library blog can be a very useful tool for reaching all of the academic community, not just regular library users. It can be used to draw attention to information about library services and resources that might otherwise be buried in the library’s regular website content. It will also act as a witness to how active and necessary the library is, and can promote the role of the library as an information source and guide even to those not currently using “traditional” library services, by also focusing on general web resources, services and applications. In other words, the blog will seek to make the library visible to faculty and students who have “forgotten” about it.

To better reach the students, care must be taken to keep current on what technologies they are currently using, and to integrate those technologies into library services. For example, instant messaging (IM) could be for reference, and social networking software (such as Facebook and Myspace) can be used for outreach and promotion.

Some guiding questions for integrating technology into library services:

- What technologies are the students and professors already using? Let’s bring the library to them (without investing in new technology just because it’s “new and cool”)…
- Can we find a way for professors to create course/subject pages with important links, or a way for professors to contribute to our “resources by discipline” (since they are the subject-specialists)
- Is there some way to allow users in general to identify relevant resources?

Another important issue is online access to library resources and services. The library currently uses a proxy server to authenticate off-campus users, and users also have to register with the library (with their student ID number) to receive a PIN to access certain services. Ideally, they could log in with their username and password and that would provide seamless access to all library resources and services.

[1] McFedries, P. (2006). The Web, Take Two. IEEE Spectrum, 43(6), 68-68. Retrieved April 2007 from the IEEE database.

[2] Palmer, J. (2002). Web Site Usability, Design, and Performance Metrics. Information Systems Research, 13(2), 151-167. Retrieved April 2007 from the Business Source Premier database.

[3] See ACRLog: Formula for Academic Library Success (

For my super-awesome powerpoint presentation for this proposal click here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Designing for the New Web

Ok, I am officially going crazy. The other night I was up until 3am because I couldn't stop my brain... With my library's proposed website redesign (which I am somehow in charge of, simply because I suggested that perhaps an institute of technology should not have a library website that looked like it was done in 1993...) and also my obsession with optimizing web 2.0 concepts for the new site and for our library, I just couldn't make my damn internal voice shut up! Grrr... But thankfully, tonight I am heading off to Vegas for the weekend, and I am leaving all logical, library-related thought blissfully behind.

In my absense, I leave you this post from Ellyssa Kroski at InfoTangle on designing for the new web. It is from her CIL presentation on the topic, and it put into words a lot of what I have been considering for our new site design. I think I had been absorbing all that advice from playing with web 2.0 apps, but it's really great that she put it all down in words and organized it for me :) Anyway, I attended one of Ellyssa's workshops at METRO and I'm so glad I redescovered her blog through the Library2.0 network.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

cyber schizophrenia

Managing my online identities has been a bit of a challenge for me lately. With all these cool web 2.0 apps out there, I really am finding it hard to keep track of it all... I find that just keeping up on my rss feeds and checking out all my social networking profiles is eating up a more and more significant portion of my day.

And as if that's not enough, the other day I had a bit of drama that had me back-tracking my internet steps for about an hour. Now, being the forward-thinking librarian that I am, I try to maintain a "professional" presence online (through this blog, as well as Myspace and Facebook pages, among other things.) But I also have a personal life online, and I work with members of the general population who I do not want knowing everything about me on such a personal level as some of my online entities allow. I generally try very hard to make sure there are as few as possible linkages between my professional and personal online personas. (Obviously I realize that a savvy user can track me down if they really want to, but still, I do my best to maintain a distance between the two...)

So the other day I decided to start writing a new library-related blog (which would allow me to speak as myself, instead of being the "royal we" of my library's blog that I maintain). All was fine until I foolishly went into my Technorati account and claimed my new blog under my old username (which I had used to claim my [very] personal blog). Duh. Super-duh. Because you see, I had included a link in this new blog to my work blog. Now when you looked up my work blog in Technorati, it showed that this new blog linked to it, and when you clicked on the author of this new blog, you saw it was also the author of my [very] personal blog (wow, that was a mouthful, huh?). So I spent the next hour unclaiming and unfavoriting blogs in Technorati so as to destroy the chain of association. Oh yeah, and I had to go into and un-share all my personal links, because this blog links to my blogroll through

Is it me, or has my online life become incredibly more complicated than my real one?! I mean, I used to be one of those people who didn't really care that I was putting so much out there on the internet, because, really, who the heck was paying all that much attention to little old me? But then you read stories like this, and, little by little, paranoia starts to creep in.

At least I'm not the only one with web 2.0 fever... (And just in case YOU haven't caught it yet, check out The Cool Librarian's Social Software page, it's a great intro to some of the more popular 2.0 apps out there.) Oh, and speaking of cool web 2.0 stuff, if you haven't already seen this video, you NEED to check it out:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mom, Can I to Library Camp This Year? PLEASE?!

I told Stephen that i would post a link to Library Camp NYC, so here goes:

Looks pretty cool, I am def. planning on going as of now, at the very least I would love to spend some time shmoozing with other library tech geeks!!! (mmm... brains...)

If You Build It, Maybe They Will Come...

My library has heretofore been focusing on outreach, but my position is this, we need a user-friendly, intuitive product to promote, or all the awareness in the world is not going to help us. Users have been known to simply ignore software and apps that they find difficult to use. And facing such popular rivals as Google and Wikipedia, we can't afford to send our students elsewhere for their information.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I Dreamed a Dream...

My coworker and I were discussing online services the other day, and we decided to get all wacky, and describe the attributes of our dream academic library website. So, here goes...

1.) Authentication through username and password, NOT a proxy server that requires you to configure your browser or a VPN. I know this is not a crazy wish, just a little beyond our over-worked IT department right now (and by that I mean the university's IT dept., we don't have our own, so you can see why they're so over-worked). Once logged in, the users would not only have accesses to all online resources, but also all features of the OPAC, instead of needing a separate PIN number, like they do now.

2.) One interface. Uno. Un. Solamente. Dream big, right? The interface would be Ebscohost-like, for no other reason than I like that particular interface. Through this interface, students can access our books, books elsewhere, e-books, journals, journal articles, newspapers/articles, etc. etc. They would be able to customize their search through a series of checkboxes that allowed them to choose which databases they wanted to search, and/or what kind of results they wanted (what format/media, that is).

The results would be sorted not by database (unless they wanted them that way), but by format (I'm sure most users don't care what database the journal article is contained in, so why not put all the journal articles together in the results, thereby allowing for sorting across all of them, and eliminating duplication?)

This interface would also contain links or buttons that allowed students to immediately request an item through ILL/DDS directly from the record (like in WorldCat). For requests that require a fee, students would be given an option to immediately charge their student account (or credit card or whatever...) In the case of requested articles, once the fee is paid, the PDF is immediately e-mailed to the user (one of the complaints we get most often is from users wanting immediate access to articles... No big surprise there.)

You'll note here that I am not a propronent of a simple, Google-like interface that searches everything. I know that such an interface as I propose would be very complicated, and have a steep learning curve, but it would be so much easier to teach only one interface in our library instruction sessions than 5, or 12, or 20... and it would be so much more useful if the user had control over what they were searching in, what they were searching for, and how they wanted their results displayed/sorted.

I'm definitely not techie enough to know just how much of this is currently possible, but I am internet-obsessed enough to know that this is what users will come to expect, and hopefully the direction we are going in.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Well Hello There, You!

My love of all things web 2.0 and my desire to play in the biblioblogosphere has given birth to yet another blog. I currently have a (very) personal blog, and also maintain a blog for my library, but this one seeks to merge the two me's- personal and professional- into a well-integrated, well-balanced (haha) whole.

When, exactly, I plan on finding time to maintain this blog, I have no idea, seeing as keeping up on the myriad of library/technology/design-related feeds I try to keep current with is fast becoming a full-time job on its own, but alas, I will, at least, try.

My interests in the world of libraries lie mainly in academic libraries, library technology, library 2.0, site design and usability, and supporting the distance student. I currently work as an information services (read: reference, outreach and instructional) librarian in an academic (engineering school) library.