SLA Seminar

As expected, Stephen Abram’s talk today was informative and stimulating. He’s an extremely dynamic speaker and a guy who has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in libraries, sciences, and society in general. He’s very sharp, quite good at predicting trends, knows where his research needs to be, and has a great sense of humor.

Here are a couple of the interesting pieces from my notes…

An important statistic to keep in mind: 80% of librarians are text-based learners; 20% of the general population are text-based learners. What does this mean? Rethink your website, for one thing. Convey information with images. An example provided: take a look at USA Today’s (printed) weather page. What’s more useful? The long list of cities and their temperatures? Or the map that shows where it’s hot or cold based on color? Can your patrons find the information you’re providing with a quick glance? Or do they need to read long paragraphs to find it? Visual constructs are powerful.

Another key take-away: Google is very good at finding facts. But the How and Why questions require human interaction. The “Purple Cow” of the library is it’s people and the personal relationships one builds with it’s users. Information is easy to obtain. Use the library to support learning.

Take the time to research user needs. They are not the same as librarian needs.

Millenials differ from their parents’ cohort. On average, their IQ is 20 points higher than the average Boomer IQ. Do not expect their needs to be anything like yours. They seek information differently and use it differently. They’ve been taught to work in groups to solve problems, rather than to memorize facts and take a test.  They’re skeptical. They also have no problem asking questions — not only will they walk up to a librarian and state their needs, they also fully expect to engage in online interaction with politicians before deciding how they will vote. In other words, they know what they want and are assertive about getting it.

Lastly, for both fun and customer service, get yourself and your co-workers some librarian trading cards! They’re fun to share with colleagues, but they’re also a useful tool to hand out to patrons. Let them get to know you on a personal level by listing your hobbies, interests, and special knowledge you might have. Creating community is important, and this is a fun way to do it. (See examples of what others are doing here.)

There was a LOT more to this conference, but it’s late so I’ve only pulled out a few of the highlights. More info coming. Stay tuned…

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SLA Dinner

I attended a pre-conference dinner tonight at the Rochester Hyatt. Tomorrow the Special Libraries Association will present a talk given by Stephen Abram on Library 2.0. I heard him speak last October and my entire outlook on my job as library IT person was changed. I’m very excited about the direction libraries are headed.

Tonight’s dinner was terrific — really good food and great conversation with people I have not met before. As a public library employee, I enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the special libraries — science, academic, government, etc. — and to hear what goes on there.

Our guest of honor arrived late, due to plane issues in Pittsburgh. He arrived just as I was getting ready to leave so I stayed a bit longer. A handful of us had a glass of wine and an informal chat. We talked quite a bit about Second Life. One of the issues I’ve been grappling with is how to decide on what information my SL library will provide. Obviously, I can’t duplicate our real life library. That would be monumental and would also be unnecessary. Stephen didn’t give me the answer. What he did was give me what I needed to make that decision. His statement created one of those “Aha!” moments with it’s simplicity: Do one thing, and do it very well.

Of course I knew this. But like so many things, I had to hear it to realize I knew it.

Putting Social Networking to Good Use

While I’m on the topic of social networking, I’d like to point out something I just found out about from some colleagues in Second Life. NetSquared is “Remixing the web for social change.” NetSquared is a project of TechSoup, which is giving out the NetSquared Innovation Award for websites that are using social networking to increase the visibility of social benefit organizations.

From their website:

“The NetSquared Conference (N2Y2) will center on 20 social change projects, and aim to bring together funders, developers, NTAPs, and other people and organizations that can bring these projects to the next level. We are creating a Technology Innovation Fund to provide direct cash support to projects selected by the NetSquared Community. Vote for your favorites this week only!”

You need to register to vote, but it only takes a second and they really just need to know your name and email address (presumably to ensure that results are not skewed by overvoting.)

The list of organizations involved is impressive. Categories include: arts & culture, community improvement, human rights, education, environment, health, housing & shelter, safety & disaster, public & social benefit, youth, and other.

I scrolled through the list and discovered that there is a lot going on that I know nothing about. I have not voted yet, but will be taking a look at many of the websites on the list. I’m interested in seeing how these organizations are using the social networking tools, and will be sure to mention those uses here — after I’ve had a chance to browse through the list. Stay tuned…

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It’s Like MySpace, but for Old People!

I did a presentation on social networking last night for RRLC. We had some good conversation, which made this particular class a lot of fun.

Last week as I was preparing for the class I was poking around on the internet, bookmarking useful sites that I wanted to be sure to point out. My usual mode of doing this sort of thing consists of me sitting on the couch with my laptop while watching tv. (I’m a two-screen person, almost always.)

I was listening to one of the news channels — I don’t recall if it was local or national news — and heard them talking about a new social networking site. As it turns out, this new site was created by a young man (he looked to be college-age) who decided to build something similar to myspace, but which would be easy for people his parents’ age to use. What he came up with is If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a quick look. All the buttons have mouseover definitions so that you know exactly what that button leads to. The site has a clean look that won’t drive you crazy the way MySpace will, with it’s “too easy to be ultra-creative” benefits. (Kids love to put purple text on black backgrounds, barely-readable text on way-too-busy backgrounds, and animations everywhere.) Your profile can be either public or private. You can find other people with similar interests. (Reading brought up a lot of people. Caving brought up zero. Must be an age thing.)

It’ll be interesting to see if this site catches on with the “mature” generation the way MySpace did with the kids.

Social Networking at RRLC

Tonight I’ll be giving a presentation for Rochester Regional Library Council on social networking. I’m really looking forward to this, as there is so much potential for creating new ways to reach library patrons. Static websites are great for storing information, but as tools progress we need to use them to improve communication and interaction with our users.