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11 Nov 2009 / Julie

Internet Librarian 2009

still a paper notes kind of girl, here are my full Internet Librarian 2009 notes (pdf). Some of which i’m going to expand on here…

The actual theme of the conference was “Net Initiatives for Tough Times: Digital Publishing, Preservation & Practices” making it sound that when tough times happen, we should go electronic. If you think about it, switching your perspective and getting back to what matters is what you should be doing when you are facing tough times. But electronic isn’t what our focus should be. What we should be focusing on are the themes that emerged from the presentations i went to and conversations i had with people-  Collaboration. Community. Connections. Libraries on the whole should always be focusing on our customers and solving problems for them but sometimes we get sidetracked into other things, like glitzy technology for instance. But taking a moment to get back to our customers and the connections we make with them, the friends we make, the word of mouth marketing, and the advocacy we develop will make all the difference.

I spoke on Monday afternoon and i’ll be honest, didn’t do much else before hand. Amy Kearns and I presented another version of our Tweet What? and shared the program time with David Lee King. We all spoke about (this one’s easy…) making connections with your customers. David specifically spoke about “user engagement nirvana:”

  1. say the stuff in your head. it puts a personal face on an otherwise potentially faceless organization. be human
  2. you have to give to get. the tech’s and engagements are only as good as what you make of them
  3. ask and ye shall receive. harness that hive mind, crowd source!
  4. listen (first). seek first to understand. then act.
  5. dangle a carrot. offer something. ask leading questions (and answers!)

In the “Sneaking the Social Web into your Library” program, I agree highly with one of the things that Bobbi Newman said; “stop talking about the tools. put your focus back on your customers.” If people have stopped listening to you when you speak of “all these new and wonderful tools we should be using” they’ve probably already learned to tune you out as soon as they hear one of those buzz words.

Clay Shirkey said it best, “Technologies don’t become socially interesting until they become technologically boring”  (which not so oddly enough came up in more than one session). Your focus isn’t to do ANOTHER WIKI or “Hey look! we’re blogging!” but rather to SOLVE PROBLEMS for you and your customers. These technologies and tools are only here to sit in your toolbox until the point at which they SOLVE PROBLEMS, not be done for the sake of doing. Although, i’ll be the first to admit that sometimes i do for the sake of doing… and sometimes that’s neccesary, but not when library resources are at a premium and service expectations are higher than ever.

If you are going to use these techs, and other people besides you are going to have to keep up with them, make them as easy as possible for people to use. And if people have taken time and effort to learn these things, reward them & make them feel good. Though, Lori Reed asked “when is learning going to be a reward in itself?” Amen.

Erin Downey piggybacked on that idea saying, “if people are having a problem and you can fix it with web 2.0, people may accept the technology easier.”

On Day 2 of the conference continued the theme of communication. As much as I wanted to see Paul Holdengraber speak again (such energy, that one!) i was mostly on my own dime and was TOTALLY taking the time to sleep in a little. My first session was “Making Virtual Reference Multidimensional” and i had high hopes for it. It kind of missed my expectations but i did come away with a few new tools i can introduce to help make the lack of verbal cues and f2f interaction better:

Linda Bedwell of Dalhousie University mentioned their use of the qwidget, the QuestionPoint widget and said that 40% of her students prefer it over the regular QP interface. Well no kidding, why would i want to talk to someone for whom i have to jump hoops (click links and fill out a form) when i can just walk right up to them and start talking? I hope we can start using the qwidget in MD… just as soon as it’s a 24/7 interface like the rest of it.

During the talk, a thought occurred to me… Is the technology getting in the way of our customer connections? Possibly. I don’t know yet how to solve that.

Next up was “Dreaming, Designing, and Using Mobile Library Platforms” well, the second half of it. From that session i got a lot of goodies (that you can read in my notes) but what stuck most was the idea of “monitoring behaviors, not technologies.” It can be summed up in one quote by Henry Ford:

“If I asked them what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse.”

Customers don’t always know what they want. Don’t ask them. Watch them.  Solve their problems. Figure out how you can do things differently.

After lunch was the Library Website Improvement Faceoff which gave me a ton of good ideas and reminders to take back with me for implementing as we move forth with our drupalization and redesign at work (for more, check out my notes.)

  • Be human and whimsical. The library isn’t something that can speak. But you can. and you’re human. your content should sound like it’s coming from a human, not a robot. phrase things carefully and be fun. use “grab and go chunks.”
  • when people are on your website, they have tasks to do, things they want to accomplish. don’t make it difficult.
  • leave breadcrumbs. give people the confidence to find content on their own and explore your site.
  • rephrase your Click Here’s. (ie, “You can get a library card.” versus “To get a library card, click here.”
  • personalize things. (Dopplr personalizes their logo for each user)

Check out:

Nancy Dowd, in her Mobile Marketing session, reminded me about partnerships (there’s that good ole community again!) and reminded me where to start (what do your customers need? what do you need? start there!). Grow your relationships (via text, in this case) and then get rid of your press releases and your posters. Nancy relayed a story about how at a huge showing at a teens program. When asked why they were all there they said, “you texted us!”

Day three was probably the most important for me. I started the day with the “Selling Tech to Power” session which was being co-presented by my grant’s former supervisor who’s now in California (lucky her). It’s always good to hear (again) from people in power how you should be approaching things. Here’s the basics:

  • Communicate. Every step of the way. To everyone. About everything.
  • Know the answers to potential questions. Explain how your idea fits into the greater strategy or other plans. Explain how you’re going to use existing resources.
  • Have performance measures… when/how will you know if you’re successful?
  • Show your passion! Invite people to join you!
  • There is no such thing as a “technology project.” I repeat. There is no such thing as a “technology project.” It’s a “business project” with technical components. (You’ve heard this before, haven’t you?) It’s not the technology, it’s the outcome.
  • You don’t always need more $. Make sure what you’re doing still does what it’s supposed to be doing.
  • Selling stuff to inside people is still MARKETING.
  • Have data! for before, during, and after your project!
  • Remember that people like having things done BY them, not TO them. Keep people involved along the way, don’t just spring things on them. Shared vision and all that.
  • look for things in the high return, low investment areas. Low hanging fruit. low return, high interest? kiss of death. avoid like the plague.

And that, in a very large nutshell, is my IL2009 reporting. For more information about the other sessions, i am happy to report that IL and CIL are one of the most blogged and tweeted library conferences i’ve been to so there won’t be a drought of information and opinions. :-)

If you’re interested in my photos, both conference and Monterey related, you can find them on flickr.

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