Category: 246

Greater than its parts

"Best trivia I learned while working on this: 'Man, Farmville is so huge! Do you realize it's the second-biggest browser-based-social-networking-centered farming game in the WORLD?' Then you wait for the listener to do a double-take"

Thank you xkcd for the image AND lovely alt-text

Once upon a time in 1998 there was an 18-year-old young adult and her 17-year-old best friend at college in Los Angeles. The best friend’s mom was fond of reading about what’s popular “on the other side of the pond” and mailed to the girls the first couple of books about a young wizard named Harry Potter. The girls devoured the books. It was all they could talk about.

To each other.

Because no one else around them had read them yet. And the girls were shunned by their peers because they became annoying as they moaned on and on about this Harry Potter fellow.

But then, Harry Potter caught on. And soon there were midnight parties and fanfiction and websites and candy and t-shirts and movies and no longer were the girls solitary dorks but they were only two dorks of a bazillion dorky people who painted lightening bolts on their foreheads and discussed what houses at Hogwarts they would be sorted into.

And now I totally forgot where I was going with this. Oh yeah, community! Community changed everything and made it all moonbeams and lollies and golden snitches.

My story, true as it is, is silly. But let’s trade Harry Potter fans for perhaps an LGBT teen (or even adult!) who doesn’t live in an area where they have physical access to community. Or a person who is restricted to their home for health reasons. Online communities can change, enhance, and maybe even save lives. I know I’m getting a little soap-boxy (Harry Potter does that to me), but I see online communities as an integral part of community services that should be offered by libraries. Not everyone can come to your book club or your Wii Bowling tournament, but they may have something to share with others in the community. Yes, running online communities is time consuming and sometimes tedious and slow to be gratifying; however, I think it’s worth the energy. If I had a choice between looking at a wiki of recipes, edited by library staff, or being able to trade recipes and talk with someone else about recipes, I’d vote for the latter. It’s one thing to give a person a book on being gay or African-American or disabled or Christian or anything else and another to give the opportunity and space for community.


And the crowd goes wild…

Image from Epic Win.

I have a little game I play that I call “Ask the Facebook Oracle.” I play this game when I am undecided on some non-life-threatening issue. For example, I’ll post, “What should I have for dinner?” as my Facebook status. A few of the people that see this status are most likely to be ones that I’ve shared a meal with and may be familiar with what I like and not like, and may make some great suggestions. There’s always a comedian, naming foods that I’m allergic to or don’t like (thanks, mom), but in general, it’s proved to be a pretty fun and low-effort way to make (or narrow down) decisions.

This week: What do you think of the move away from the wisdom of the expert and towards the wisdom of crowds? What are the pros and cons of tagging in library catalogs? Why do you think so few libraries are allowing patrons to add to library wikis?

No single person can think of everything nor know everything. I certainly can’t. I think the move away from the wisdom of the expert towards the wisdom of crowds can be beneficial for all parties when implemented in certain ways. I’ll still depend on experts for certain things such as medical or legal advice, of course, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go with the wisdom of experts in all subjects. We just need to be thoughtful about when and how we employ the wisdom of crowds. It works great for things like the Penny Jar Example (third paragraph down) and not so great when it comes to ethics and morals (see: Nazi Germany).

I think the pros vastly outweigh the cons of tagging in library catalogs. It’s highly unlikely that the majority of library users are going to be familiar with the controlled vocabulary used in cataloging items. Allowing tags, especially user-generated tags, is going to make things more findable for more people and really, that’s what we’re going for. Yes, it will take some human-power and precautionary measures against trolls and spammers for user-generated tagging to not turn into a circus, but I think it’s worth it.

I speculate that few libraries allow patrons to edit library wikis for different reasons. It takes human-power (which many libraries don’t have to spare) to ensure against malicious content. Only allowing staff to edit the wikis is a way to circumvent such occurrences. I also think that, with some librarians, there’s a bit of fear and a bit of selfishness going on. Fear of a lack of recognition, fear of loss of ownership, fear of being one-upped. I know it’s an elephant in the room, but sometimes the humanness and personalities of people gets in the way of their effectiveness. I’m not saying that this is happening in all libraries, I’m just saying that it seems possible.

Tag! You’re It!

Image from Unshelved

Homework Prompt: What are some of the weaknesses of tagging for making content more findable?

No, seriously: I did a semester of Cataloging and Classification and then a semester of ADVANCED Cataloging and Classification for this?! I have yet to get into tagging things. I think tagging can be really great for some things, especially images. Tagging uses the vernacular and you don’t need to go through all this just to change words and conform to a standard. But that’s the downside, too. What happens when terms change? Do people go through and re-tag everything on the internet that has been tagged already? Improbable. Perhaps even impossible.

Another weakness is British English spelling vs. American English spelling. Will my search for “humor” get me returns of things tagged “humour?” Unlikely (WordPress doesn’t even recognize the latter spelling). When I search for items by their tag, what I will get are the most popular (read: most viewed and most likely tagged) items. Nothing about the quality of the items is represented by the fact that they are tagged or not. Also, they may not be the most appropriate items, they just so happen to be the ones that people have taken the few seconds to tag. And of course, there’s the problem with a lack of controlled vocabulary which means that for the most part, I’ll only find things that are tagged using the same terms as my search terms and not necessarily things that are tagged using different words for the same item. Musicals vs. Showtunes vs. Broadway_musical vs. Musical_theatre vs. Musical_theater vs. Musical_comedy vs. Rock_opera vs. makeitstopalready! As I mentioned, tags can be very useful. I just wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket. Unless everyone tagging everything happens to be a librarian. Hey, I’m biased!

The University of Southern California is very well known for its athletic department and the hefty price tag of tuition. When I tell people I did my undergraduate courses at USC, they don’t ask what I studied. Instead they ask, “Did you go to the football games?” and “Whoa, how much money did that set you back?” I chose to do my library marketing critique on USC because I see these things as interesting obstacles for the libraries to overcome. As we will see, it is quite the challenge.

USC makes use of three social networking platforms:
Libwire, the USC Libraries Blog

Libwire has at least two blog postings per week; however, some of these posts show up in my RSS reader repeated two to four times. Many of these posts are about what is going on at the libraries: talks, changed hours, special collections, upcoming classes, etc. Sometimes there will be a blog post about something new and exciting that the library is doing, such as this post on the library’s new presence on Blackboard.

One very interesting thing USC Libraries are doing with their RSS feed is a series they call, “Inside the USC Libraries” where they take turns exploring one of the many subject libraries and/or special collections that are on campus. The one on the Music Library is especially intriguing, as it discusses the importance of physical holdings in a music library versus digital holdings that are taking over many of the other libraries.

A very clever thing that USC Libraries are doing with their RSS feed is something they call, “Twitter Tuesdays.” “Twitter Tuesday is a weekly feature that looks back at the USC Libraries’ conversations in the Twitterverse.” As you can see here, it is not simply a listing of USC Libraries tweets and @ mentions, but before the displayed conversations, the person (or persons) who write the blog give some sort of context for the Tweets. This is very helpful for those who don’t want to click around and try to follow strings of conversation as well as for people who don’t follow @USCLibraries on Twitter, but want to access the information. Twitter Tuesdays is a recap of things of note, not a list of all Tweets and ReTweets.

USCLibraries is fairly active on Twitter. The Twitter Tuesdays mentioned above wouldn’t be possible if staff weren’t so responsive on Twitter. I’m surprised that there are under 1,800 followers on Twitter, given that the undergraduate population is around 13,000 students. Then again, that seems to be quite a bit as USC Libraries only has a small box with the Twitter feed on the library website, a page which one needs to search for intentionally on the homepage. USC Libraries are also interactive with ReTweeting, not just sending out Tweets that link back to USC, but there are some ReTweets via @ALALibrary and @NatGeoSociety.

While USC Libraries seem to be doing good things with their Libwire blog and @USCLibraries on Twitter, they are coming up quite short on Facebook. There are only 127 people who “Like” USC Libraries and though they have their wall open for people to post, there are no posts by anyone except for USC Libraries. Many of the things posted on the Facebook are images and facts (e.g. “This day in history) that have been culled from one of USC Libraries archival collections. There are no attempts at interaction, no open questions posted to their fan base, and it seems as though there are one to two postings per day. To their defense, it looks as though there was no staff member or members responsible for the Facebook upkeep. There is a large void between April 2010 and August 2010. Perhaps they feel the summer school students and graduate students are uninterested? I’m sure they would get a lot more “Likes” on Facebook if there were a link from the library webpage; however, there are only links to the blog RSS feed and the Twitter feed. The Facebook seems like it is picking up steam, but it is definitely a work in progress.

I used Social Mention with the terms USC Libraries, USCLibraries (no space), and USC librar* (wildcard). The majority of returns on my queries have a neutral tone but then again, a majority of the returns on my queries are from USC Libraries themselves. As for their branding efforts, it’s very hard to separate USC the libraries from USC the school/athletic powerhouse. While I know firsthand the rich amount of resources to be found in the libraries, I think their online social networking outreach does not accurately represent all of the amazing things that are available.

If the library were to hire me as their social media marketing consultant, I would have a number of suggestions. First of all, it’s all about visibility. There need to be more links to the Twitter and Facebook. I would recommend having some specific people (perhaps even budgeting for a couple full-time staff members) assigned to handle posting to the social media and having a schedule that represents the minimum amount of posts per medium per week. I would have these same people start doing outreach. Start finding current students and alumni and suggest they “Like” USC Libraries on Facebook or that they follow the Twitter feed. I also have some suggestions for content. Though I really like some of what USC Libraries are doing, such as Twitter Tuesday, I find a lot of the postings to be conservative to the point of being uninteresting. I don’t think that transparency is appropriate for this type of library, but they have a wealth of creativity in their student body. If there are student organizations on social media, start looking at what they are doing and Repost or ReTweet with added links to how these things can connect to what is available from USC Libraries. Don’t just interact with people who mention USC Libraries first. Be more proactive. Also, use social media to receive feedback on collections and services. Post surveys and ask open questions. A majority of USC Libraries’ posts/Tweets are unidirectional and I believe they would only benefit from becoming more multi-directional as well as showing how multifaceted the USC Library services and collections truly are.

Exercise 2

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this exercise may be the most difficult bit of homework I’ve had during my SLIS career. Why? you ask. In reading all these blogs, it’s so easy to get derailed! Links beget links which beget more links and all of a sudden I’m on Twitter and not doing my homework at all. My head is swirling with blogalicious information, so bear with me.

In the Library With the Lead Pipe seems to have 2 postings a month which I’m a bit surprised at, given there are 6 authors. But hey, I’m not working at their library. This blog is rather philosophical about librarianship, at least, that’s a theme that pops up a lot.

The Librarian’s Commute is centered around an academic library. There’s a lot of information about what is going on at THAT library and less meta-information than other blogs I’ve read.

The Distant Librarian is authored by a Systems Librarian so guess what? It has a lot of really wonderful information that would be useful to…..Systems Librarians. Hidden in there are some gems for the rest of us.

Librarian by Day has been around since July 2007. The musings of Bobbi L. Newman are varied but most of the posts seem to have something to give. Ideas, links, hints, suggestions. It feels like it’s a blog that wants you to walk away with something when you read it.

David Lee King’s blog is similar to Bobbi L. Newman’s in the way that it strives to be useful and pertinent, going beyond just being “interesting.” Here lies a lot of info on social media in libraries.

I find that the posts I enjoy reading depend on what “mode” my brain is in. If I’m looking to read for fun, then I enjoy the posts that are more personally insightful or philosophical. More often than not, I’m in work/school mode and so I really like the posts that give me tools and links to useful things or tell me about new technologies OR new ways of using technologies that already exist.

And on to the 3 library blogs I subscribed to!

Libwire is the blog of the libraries of the University of Southern California (my alma mater. Fight on!). On the plus side hey, at least they’re using their blog, right? On the down side, I found it less interesting than reading the back of a box of cereal. It is informative about the collections at USC, but it is so dry and stoic. It felt like work to read it.

I had high hopes for the blog of the Marin County Free Library because it’s in an area of the San Francisco Bay Area where I would assume there are many people interested in reading blogs. I was disappointed. It’s little more than a glorified way of announcing what programs are going on in the brick and mortar.

And finally, the blog that has me so incredibly distracted is that of the Library of Congress. There is so much going on! It’s so exciting! Much of it, of course, is about what is going on at the LOC and LOC holdings, and even though there are a bazillion persons that work at the LOC, the blog has a bit of playful personality from its authors. I’d think that they’d go for the “boring and least offensive” approach, but I was pleasantly surprised.

High Hopes & Low Expectations

One of my friends in a land far far away (Philadelphia) sent me a card in the mail. Yes, a real card made from dead tree delivered to a little box that sits outside of my house. The artwork on the front of the card reads, “I’m more interesting on my blog.” I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have met these people. They ARE more interesting on their blogs.

I hope I am never that person (or library). This being said, there are a number of things that library staff should consider before committing to a blog because yes, it is a commitment.

Joe over at Junta42 has a general list of 10 things to consider before you start blogging. I’d like to discuss some of things in terms of YOUR library.

1. What community do you serve? Now that you’ve answered that, WHO in the community is going to read the blog? Who do you WANT to read the blog? Is there a possibility that your intended audience and actual audience are two different entities? Come up with some plans and some back-up plans for this.

2. Who is going to maintain the blog? It’s all really exciting at first, but after a few weeks, is staff interest going to wane? Is the blog going to all fall on the shoulders of the new (and enthusiastic) librarian? (Hint: bad idea.) There should be a plan of attack with a clear schedule of posting.

3. Do you have your Social Media Policy buttoned up? (Hint: Do it.)

4. What is the scope of the blog? Is it so broad and varied that you should think about breaking it up into a few different blogs and link to them through the library’s homepage?

5. Are your ideas of what your blog is going to be an accurate representation of your library? (See intro.)

6. Finally, how thick is your skin? Your staff is going to be putting themselves out there for cheerleaders and critics alike (assuming you get readers).

Blogs are dynamic. They’re about throwing things out there and seeing what sticks. Have plans, have goals, but realize that they may change as time goes on.

Exercise 1

I confess: I was madly in love with Pinup Girl Clothing (PUG) long before I discovered them on online social networking; however, once I found them on Facebook and Twitter, our love affair has jumped to a whole new level.

People LOVE PUG. On their Facebook page, there are just posts after posts of praise, and many include pictures of customers wearing what they bought from PUG. In fact, PUG employees encourage this. Whenever a customer has a complaint, the PUG fan-base is so large and so loyal, sometimes fans reply to the person even before PUG staff has a chance. This is not in a negative “I’m going to defend PUG with my life” kind of way, but more like, “When I’ve had this problem, I’ve checked my spam folder” or “It usually takes about 5-7 working days for exchanges to be processed.” Fans also help each other out with size suggestions and PUG has even set up a discussion board on their Facebook that allows customers to swap or sell items they’ve gotten from PUG clothing.

Customer-to-customer contact aside, the PUG staff is pretty quick to respond publicly to customer suggestions, comments, and complaints. There are often complaints about the models being unrealistic, so Laura, the PUG photographer, posted a lengthy discussion board post on the topic which was quite explanatory and humanistic. Still, another response from PUG staff was to photograph more plus-size models in the plus-sized clothing that is sold. I can only assume that this increased sales.

The clothing and models are gorgeous and glamorous, and the YouTube and Twitter posts really make PUG staff seem accessible and down to earth. There also seems to be a celebrity following of their products, and the Twitter often has links to who is wearing what and to where. The YouTube has videos of staff and models interviewing each other as well as videos of photo shoots, so that we can all see what goes on behind the scenes.

These more personal posts are interspersed with notifications of new products coming in, asking for customer feedback on potential new products, and the occasional sale or promotional code.

Also, most posts are signed by the staff member that makes them, so it’s obvious that their online social networking is a team effort. What PUG clothing has going on is a well-oiled machine. Pinup Girl Clothing Home

LIBR 246-06 About Me!

I always get a little bit of writers’ block when someone asks me to write a blurb about myself, while giving me little to no direction. It becomes an exercise in categorizing facts: What’s fun to know about me? What’s important to know about me? What important for me that this particular audience know about me? Oy.

So with no further a do, about me:

I’m in my final semester at SJSU SLIS and I’m applying for jobs with reckless abandon. It’s not that I don’t care what kind of library I’d work in, it’s just that I can find happiness in many different LIS positions. My reading tastes are eclectic, ranging from nonfiction to graphic novels to YA fiction. When I’m not at one of my two day jobs (doing photoshop or working at an animal clinic), I’m either doing homework, building websites, baking, or volunteering with my nonprofit where I train sex educators. I’m currently a Peer Mentor (think: Teaching Assistant) for this semester’s LIBR 203.

What I hope to get out of this class:

I run the online social networking for my nonprofit and I know I’ve only gotten a hold of the top of the iceberg when it comes to Web 2.0. I want to learn things that I can apply right away, as well as things to put in my pocket to take with me to wherever my degree takes me.

This Post is Overdue!

Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All is the recommended reading for LIBR 203. This bring about one of those not-so-rare-yet-wonderfully-satisfying moments where there is a correlation between what I read for school and what I would read for fun. And fun it was! It’s not a long book (272 pages) and offers only a few snapshots of the many things librarians are doing around the world. And not even around the world. The snapshots are mainly US-centered.

But of course, I’m not objective. Librarians are our own biggest cheerleaders and though I hate to say it, I see this book as a lot of preaching to the choir. Which isn’t bad, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of readership is comprised of librarians and library-fans. Those of us who know, know. And those who don’t know, will probably skip over this title and move on to a “bigger” title.

I still view libraries as the nation’s best kept secrets. Not on purpose, of course, but there is a lot of internal marketing compared to outreach. I have a Trader Joe’s near my house. 4 blocks down is a branch of the Oakland Public Library. Trader Joe’s has a board where people can post local events and classes. I never see any of the library programs posted on this board. Nor at the public transit station nearby.

I had a friend. Brilliant. Ph.D. in Physics from Yale. 37 years old. Had never been to a public library in his life until I took him a few months ago. (He’s totally converted.)

We’re very eager to share information once you get to us, but this wallflower act so many of us have going on isn’t leading too many people over. I dream of the day when I don’t need to defend my decision to get an MLIS.

Even if This Book is Overdue! doesn’t get the secular following I wish for, I hope that other LIS professionals find it as inspiring and morale-boosting as I did.

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All