Cheers to my ALA friends

A hand holding a coffee mug

ALA annual is just not my cup of tea — this year

This weekend, thousands of librarians will descend upon the city of New Orleans for the American Library Association annual conference. It’s a big deal in our profession, and for the first time in ages, I’m not there.    There’s a number of reasons I decided not to go, but they all boil down to just needing a break from the mega conference scene.   As a budding guitar player I’ll miss the music scene of New Orleans, but I won’t miss the late-June humidity and heat.  I’ll miss my business librarian buddies and the various BRASS functions, but I won’t miss the feeling of going on a camping trip (and I actually like camping)  every time I  leave my hotel for the conference center.   I’ll miss seeing some of my favorite vendors and giving them an earful of how to improve their products.  This year I’m spending my time and travel dollars at smaller conference venues, and I’m enjoying the change of pace.  For those going, I wish you a great conference.  I look forward to following your experiences via your tweets, blog posts, and pictures.

P.S.  If BRASS gives out coffee mugs for the 30-year anniversary this year, can someone snag me one?  The 2013 cup is my wife’s favorite!   😉

Uncommon Learning in the Information Commons

On Friday, August 12, I attended the Ohio Private Academic Libraries (OPAL) 2011 Annual Conference.  The theme was “Uncommon Learning in the Information Commons.”  This was my second time I’ve been invited to the OPAL conference, and I had a great time.  I found the sessions useful, and I enjoy learning from others about how they do things.  My notes for the conference are below.

Keynote

Design and Construction of an Information Commons —  Jack Hedge from the Design Group, Columbus, OH
Jack was the principal designer of our Learning Commons at Alden Library.  Jack went through a lot of reasons for changing our facilities to meet the needs of our users, and demonstrated through pictures and comment how he has put theory into action.  While he was talking, I was taking notes for our next session, where Jack and I led a discussion about Learning Commons issues.  My talking points and comments are in the next section.

Breakout Session 1

Information Commons Discussion — Chad Boeninger, Ohio University Libraries, and Jack Hedge, Design Group
Jack opened the session with a few slides depicting what the second floor used to look like before the Learning Commons renovation.  He showed how the Learning Commons fit into the Library Master plan and inside the “Zone of Immersion”  (floors 2-4 in Alden Library).  It would be nice if we had all the money in the world so that the plan could be fully realized.  I’m not retiring any time soon, so I guess we’ll see.   After his talk, I gave a brief run-through of Wanda’s 2009 “Day in the Life of the Learning Commons” study, which shows a one-day snapshot of how the floor is being used.  I followed that up with some comments based on Jack’s presentations:
  • Building/Designing around a culture :  Our desk, when built in 2004, was designed to have a Library Services (Reference) side of the desk, and a Technology Services (OIT) side of the desk.  Both services are now manged by the library, but we still have the huge, separate, bunker-like (Jack’s words) desk.  I wish we had a little more foresight to make our service desk more flexible.
  • Information Commons is not just about the building.  With the changing of the library environment, student expectations of service will change.  Patrons do not simply just ask librarians to find stuff anymore, but rather ask them Word and PowerPoint formatting questions, how to scan, and much more.
  • Jack mentioned that the Learning Commons is the place for students to see and be seen in a social, academic environment.  Likewise, it is a place for us as librarians to be seen as well.  In December 2010 we started wearing nametags to indicate that we were library employees (as opposed to faculty, janitorial services, etc).  Anecdotally, we have a lot more people stop to ask us questions now that they know we are “official”.  Sometimes it makes getting to the restroom a bit challenging.
  • Someone asked Jack about the noise level in Learning Commons environments.  I remarked that I find it noisier during the quieter times of the year.  That is, voices carry more when there are less people on the floor, so it seems noisier.  When the floor is packed with people, all of the voices together make a nice “hum” that drowns out individual voices pretty well.
  • What’s in a name?  When we first moved to the floor, we always answered the phone “Alden Library Learning Commons, this is (state your name) can I help you?”  However, we know that students do not call the floor “Learning Commons”;  they call it “The Library”.  As a result, we have changed how we answer the phone back to just “Alden Library”.  A lot of Learning Commons environments are created with donor money, so be careful how you call the space so you don’t get so stuck with a name that doesn’t mean anything to your users.
  • Patterns of users:  As I walk through our space on a daily basis, it is interesting to see certain patterns of use by individuals.  Sometimes the Learning Commons is just like church on Sunday in that people stake out a place and sit there religiously.  It’s these folks, our regular users, who I am more inclined to say “hi” to.
  • Food Policy:  We no longer have a food policy. Long story short, if you don’t have a food policy to enforce, then you can’t get in trouble with custodial services for not enforcing your food policy.  We got rid of ours and now spend our energies encouraging folks to clean up after themselves instead of simply saying “no”.
  • I voiced my concern that Learning Commons are still being designed around the desktop computing environment.  It is hard to tell where technology will go in the next 5-10 years, but I can guarantee it will get smaller, lighter, and more mobile.  We have to be looking for different ways to use the space, because the time will come when students won’t come to a Learning Commons simply for the computers.  How will we enhance our services?  What will we change that students will still find useful?

Breakout Session 2

Hiring and Training Student Workers:  Learners, Teachers, Innovators — Audra Hammond, Access Services Coordinator and Circulation Supervisor for Blufton College
Audra described her hiring and training process for student workers.  She is lucky in that she can bring her students in the week before school starts, so she can do training without the other distractions of the first week of school.  Audra gives each student and employment guide (in writing) and goes over this with each student.  The student then signs a legal document that says that the student went over the Employment Guide with the supervisor, and the student understands it.   I’d like to do something like this.  Our staff would need to be familiar with the Employment Guide as well, as that would allow all staff members to be more consistent in holding students accountable.  Audra also mentioned that she has a training dinner for all of the students.  That could be fun for our Reference/Technology students to all get together a couple of times a year.

Breakout Session 3

Using Site Scripter to Assess Circulation Student Worker Siklls —  Collette Knight, Circulation Coordinator for Defiance College
Collette demonstrated how she used Google Forms (not Site Scripter, as she was looking for “free”) to collect information about how students answered questions.  She uses the questions to understand more about her students, who needs to develop, how many times they are referring questions, etc.  She is using the data for develop interpersonal skills and problem-solving training for her students.  The form is very similar to Libstats, but it does ask additional information such as who did they refer the question to, how hard was the question, and more.  While she was presenting, I thought of a couple of ideas.
1.  What if we required students to ask at least one other person if they are unsure of an answer.  They should not be allowed to say “I don’t know”
2.  Collette showed a YouTube clip that was created with Xtranormal.  We could use Xtranormal to script movies depicting positive and negative customer service experiences.

CIL 2008: Virtual Reference Services

Virtual Reference:   Endless Possibilties

University of Waterloo
wanted to chat with minimal headaches

only staff chat from 12-4
that’s rather limited
University of Western Ontario now does it about 12 hours a day

Meebome has “non-life-threatening” issues
it requires flash
unfotunately, the univ of western ontario library machines does not have flash
patron won’t stand still

chats are anonymous with meebo

hab.la looks good.   keeps the chat box on top of the url that you push them
only 5 hab.la widgets will display simultaneously.   so not a viable solution for the OPAC
they are thinking about a pay option.

LibraryH3lp
http://libraryh3lp.blogspot.com
runs on javascript
does multiple monitors
currently lacking a wysiwyg
looking to make a fee-based version

there is no one-size fits all solution.

we need to stay flexible.   make the service important, not the technolog.

—————-
Virtual Reading Rooms

Derik Badman

We get all these journals, who is looking at them?

Browsing electronic journals is not fun.

RSS is good for getting information out.
We need to do a RSS class for notifications.

used Yahoo Pipes to mashup the RSS feeds.
The end result is one RSS feed for multiple RSS feeds from journal.
FeedBurner offers an email list for those who don’t use RSS.

Grazr
allows for one page of RSS feeds without subscribing

Derik found the library literature feed very useful.   Did not look at library literature before.   Now he is able to browse.

has about 20-30 subscribers to his library literature feed.   he’s not even sure it got out there.

Problems:   It’s a lot of work.   takes a lot of time to collect the rss feeds and to mash them up.