What’s app at your library?

Libraries need to accept that mobile is here (and there) and NOW! This week’s lecture was reminiscent of Dr. Sandra Hirsh’s introductory keynote at Library 2.013: The Global Transformation of Libraries, LIS Education, and LIS professionals. In both we get the clear sense that our mobile society is moving forward and wants our libraries to come along. I would even argue that it would be preferred that libraries lead the charge into the next wave of information accessibility.

It is funny, in the tragic sense of the word, that we saw so many examples in our UX kindness audits of libraries failing to recognize the benefits of cell phones as information devices. With so many great examples of how we curate our experiences, libraries (as well as practically every organization) can benefit from having a connected clientele. For mobile users such as myself, we, sometimes a little too harshly, judge locations on their social media presence. Not just what the place in question itself has tweeted, posted, rated, etc., but by what others have tweeted, posted, rated, etc. Can you imagine someone wanting to visit your library and finding out that no one has checked in there? No one has Yelped it? No one has Tweeted about their visit? No one has Instagrammed a photo (Lo-Fi, X-Pro II, or otherwise)? When I worked in the retail coffee industry, it was common practice to “pad the stats”. Even if it wasn’t giving 5 star reviews, simply adding a check-in or a photo built exposure. Libraries need to be aware… let me change that, I’ve noticed I’ve been using the term “libraries” as if to put all the responsibility on the institutions rather than the individuals… LIBRARIANS need to be aware of what is or isn’t being appearing in their social media portfolio. Mobile devices need to be leveraged to build a better public awareness, and in turn, we need to provide users with the mobile content they want.

This weekend the Los Angeles Public Library held an App-A-Thon contest to create an app for their Summer reading program. THEY GET IT! I really don’t see it being very long before Reader Advisory becomes App Advisory. Librarians better be ready for that change and not caught up in the Techno-hesitation.

An aside:

After years of having an inactive Twitter account, I finally decided to get one and be (somewhat) active. https://twitter.com/YursRevenge

Before I even thought about libraries (and librarians) having an active mobile/social presence, I noticed the local library only had 33 followers on Twitter (the City Librarian was 2 of those followers, and I was number 33), so I wanted to see how long it would take me to get more followers (without soliciting). The answer 91 hours. Less than 4 full days. A couple lessons about Twitter that I’ve learned from this:

  1. it’s a lot about who you decide to follow. For me, most of my followers came from the fact that I followed @SLISConnect, @sjsuslis, @ALASC, @ALALibrary, @CalLibAssoc, and @SLASCC. The local library only follows 2 library-related users: @ALALibrary and @lompoclibrary (the neighboring library in the system)
  2. Don’t tweet to people who don’t need your tweets. It would be my guess that those few technical savvy people following the library are probably the ones who get a majority of their content remotely (and thus might likely choose to NOT visit the library). Tweeting invitations to them (and the library employees) about in-house events, is likely not going to bring them into the library. Which leads to
  3. Tweet interesting things. I’m still learning how to do this, and am probably on the losing end of it. However, I do understand that, especially as a librarian, you should be tweeting about things that show you are in touch with important things going on in the world. RTing great articles about information science, world events, from your peers, or from your favorite authors goes a long way in gaining a following. Simply tweeting an events calendar is, well, as boring as cornflakes.

 

Kindness Audit Adventures

I’ve got a Dungeon Master’s Guide/I’ve got a twelve-sided die*

You enter the keep from the East. Passing through a set of double glass doors, you enter the foyer. To your right, a peddler of gaudy trinkets, to your left you spy provisions. It has been a long journey, and will likely be a longer one–searching for the mysterious Librarian–so you decide to spend a gold coin on something to carry you through. A sign warns you that a million eyes are watching you, perhaps another warning that this quest will not be an easy one. As you approach the main set of doors, another sign: No Food or Drink Allowed. Quickly you down your +5 energy potion and make your way in.

no food or beveragesYou consult your map, and see the stairway exactly where it should be to your right. As you climb the winding flight, another warning. This time you must silence your +4G Device of Mobile Communication, or else suffer the wrath of the million watching eyes. Finally you reach the second floor and see a small group of guides waiting to assist anyone on their journeys. You sneak into the labyrinth of books to avoid their gaze (it’s okay, they were trying to avoid your gaze), and finally make your way to your destination: Administration. A single door, wood, with an etched glass pane that reads STAFF ONLY. Hoping the eyes are not watching you try the door. Locked. “Mellon!” you shout (okay, more of a whisper). Nothing. Then you realize it’s Saturday, and no one is there. You set up your laptop and begin doing your homework.

 

nacho cheeseDon’t steal the Nacho (with) Cheese! You Are Under Video Surveillance

The visit to my local library to do a Kindness Audit wasn’t quite the adventure as I made it out to be (there’s a reason I never was Dungeon Master). However, it make me really aware of my surroundings: things I have noticed before, and things that never caught my eye, all pertaining to User Experience.

First of all, the signage. It probably is nowhere near as severe as some of the examples in this week’s lecture on UX, but there is probably some room for improvement. The You Are Under Video Surveillance sign is accompanied by a happy face that looks straight out of my second-grade handwriting workbook. Really not a horrible sign, but the sign is posted in so many places throughout the library, pretty soon all I could see was second-grade happy face everywhere I looked. I was forced to relive the shame of not being able to write a capital Q in cursive, and barfing on the girl I had a crush on (second-grade memories are not ones this writer likes to conjure up). The other signage was not as traumatic. They attempted to mitigate the harshness of their messages with bright colors, jumbo-sized graphics, and the words “please” and “thank you”.

pamThe layout of the library is also a bit confounding. The entrance to the building is on the Northeast side of the first floor. However, the office of the City Librarian is in the Administration area in the Southwest corner of the second floor. It is practically the farthest point from where users enter. Probably not the most ideal for someone who is supposed to be visible. Administration is separated from the library space. It looms behind wood and glass, and, if you look at the map of the library, it has an elevator behind all the public space in which the librarian can get from floor to floor and never be seen. Worst of all, Administration  is guarded by a reception area that…well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Yes, let’s consider those checkout slips

penumbraThe checkout slip was something I hadn’t really thought about until I read the article by Schmidt (2012). It is very simple, yet not seriously offensive. However you will notice two things. First the library’s website:

www.ci.santa-maria.ca.us/210.shtml

That is a pain to type. But wait, do I go there or do I visit the site the check out slip says to visit to renew online:

www.blackgold.org ?

The problem I have with these is that nothing in either of these web addresses screams LIBRARY!!! (I would only hope that any computer instruction classes taught at this library would include an extensive module on how to CTRL-D). This is the problem with libraries that operate under the strict ruling of the municipalities they serve. The library page is merely a small portion of the city government pages (and hope you don’t mistype that number at the end: type a 2 instead of the 0 and you’ll be dealing with sewage and trash). Again, a growing number of users will be accessing library services remotely. The website should be a portal to the magical realm of the library and should present the users with a welcoming look, a user-friendly interface, and a logical URL.

Always room for improvement

Like I suggested earlier, this library is by no means bad when it comes to the Kindness Audit. Most of the major infractions (architecture and web design) are out of the library’s control. Personally, the signage could use a little adjustment; however it is obvious that administration (in their back offices) made a legitimate effort to convey policies in a friendly manner. I would like to see what further improvements will be made to UX in the near future.

*Cuomo, R. (1994). In the garage [Recorded by Weezer]. On Weezer (aka The blue album) [CD]. Santa Monica, CA: Geffen/DGC Records.

Schmidt, A. (2012, February 7). Consider the checkout slip [Web log post]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/02/opinion/aaron-schmidt/consider-the-checkout-slip-the-user-experience/

The Transparent Librarian vs. The Invisible Librarian

Cloak of InvisibilityCommunication

When discussing the idea of transparency in libraries, it seems to boil down to communication. Good communication is the fundamental element to transparency. Lack of communication, well, it can render a librarian invisible. While this might seem pretty cool, in the information business, being invisible could lead to being deemed inessential.

Internally, transparency can only be reached in an environment that welcomes honesty, exploration, and appreciation. Casey & Stephens (2007) provide an outline of what this might look like. These ideas include providing staff blogs, implementing multiple platforms for training and development, and encouraging staff to participate not only in the local communities but within the global library community as well. Appreciation for staff can come in any number of formats; however, I find public recognition, even if merely defining a person’s role, to be most effective. In the talk between @Michael and @kyle, the idea of people who don’t want to have their pictures or information posted was brought up. What sometimes happens is that people want to have this information shared, yet administrators, managers, etc. do not allow this recognition. In this Library Organizational Chart from the Santa Maria Public Library, we can see the titles of who is serving us, yet there is no identification of the professionals occupying each of these roles. This can be a problem in smaller communities where the library operates under strict guidance from the cities in which they operate. Libraries that are allowed a certain amount of autonomy to design and manage their own web presence can overcome this roadblock and have higher visibility in their communities and beyond.

STBS

That brings us to the idea of web presence. Again, we have to want to be visible. A library without web presence–whether it be a website, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed–is not being transparent to their communities. Failing to communicate to those who rely on social media is only inviting alienation of this (growing) demographic. And simply having a Facebook page or Twitter feed is not enough. Content of posts and tweets must be meaningful. They must include more than just events that have already been planned. They should inform the community what the library is thinking about planning, and should be include open invitations to the community to help in the planning process.

Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, December). A road map to transparency. Library Journal, 132(20), 37. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2007/12/15/a-road-map-to-transparency/

Santa Maria, City of (2013). Library organizational chart. Retrieved from http://www.cityofsantamaria.org/organizationalcharts/LibraryOrganizationalChart.pdf