What can library managers learn from the WordPress official creed?

wordpress-logoAutomattic, the company that owns WordPress.com, is an interesting study in organizational culture, hierarchy, and work.  The Year Without Pants, a book I’m currently reading and learning a lot from, shows the inner workings of this very different (and very cool)  company. In the book’s pages, I picked up on the WordPress creed, which can also be found on Matt Mullenweg’s blog.  Looking at this from a library manager’s point of view, there’s a lot we can steal from those words.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

I will never stop learning.

  • We should cultivate a culture of continuous learning whereby employees have access to exploration and experimentation, readings, webinars, conferences, professional development, and lively discussion with colleagues.

I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me.

  • We should empower employees to work beyond their comfort zone and encourage work with colleagues outside their department.

I know there’s no such thing as a status quo.

  • We need to know that change is always on the horizon, and we should do our best to welcome (and encourage)  change, while also helping employees adapt to change.

I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers.

  • Libraries  have to be a customer-focused business in order to remain relevant.  Our strength these days is not necessarily in our resources, but in how we care about our communities.   The people who use our libraries are our biggest advocates, so we must be passionate about listening to our patrons to understand their needs.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

  • There actually is an “I” in Library, but still.  Good teams get things done.  Bad ones just get in the way.

I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.

  • Libraries are one of the most powerful ideas of any generation.  What we do is for the common good, to educate, to make the world a better place.  No one gets rich being a librarian,  but they reap their rewards in other ways.

I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.

  • Communication with colleagues, patrons, peers, neighbors, customers, vendors, IT support, library boards, politicians, stakeholders,  etc.  is an essential function of our profession.  We need to make sure our staff are good at talking and writing.

I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.

  • It’s not a sprint, but that doesn’t mean you should dawdle either.  Our profession continues to change rapidly, and if you aren’t at least moving, you’ll be left behind.

Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

  • In libraries, no problems are insurmountable given enough time, staff, or money. Unfortunately, we don’t often have enough of either, so we have to get good at improvising and solving problems with creative solutions.

Library database vendors need customer loyalty incentive programs

What's in your wallet?

What’s in your wallet?

When I shop at  Kroger  I get coupons toward future grocery items and points towards gasoline discounts.   When I buy with my American Express Card I get  airline mileage points for my purchases. When I visit a coffee shop, I get a stamp towards a free cup.  Gamestop gives me points towards my next video game purchases and extra discounts on used games.  All of these are ways that companies reward me for frequently doing business with them.  And it works.  It’s also the reason my wallet looks like George Costanza’s.

Why do companies do this?   They do this because in a highly competitive environment, it is important to hold onto your best and most loyal customers (this post won’t cover the information gathering of big customer data — another topic entirely).  If you’re not happy with the way the company is doing business, or another company has a better deal, then you can easily find another coffee shop, grocery store, or credit card.  As consumers, we have lots of choices, and companies who are successful reward their loyal customers.

In the library world, the major companies that we deal with are database vendors.  Unfortunately, most library database vendors reward loyalty by *only* increasing our subscriptions 5% instead of 10% each year. For non-library folks, library budgets generally increase at 0%.  I understand the vendors’ side of the argument that they need to keep up with inflation, they’re adding new content, designing new services, refreshing interfaces, etc., and all of that adds to the additional overhead.  In some cases they are providing good value to justify the price increase.  In other cases, the “added value” doesn’t match the cost of the increase. Regardless of our opinion of the increase, libraries only have two choices — pay up or cancel.

The problem is libraries can’t go to another coffee shop or do our grocery shopping somewhere else.  These database vendors have a corner on the market, and they know it. As such, they don’t really have to reward our loyalty because we likely have no other choice of who to do business with.  However, as budgets get tighter and prices get higher, libraries are going to need extra incentives to keep doing business with vendors.  They need to reward their most loyal customers in more creative ways than just giving us extra pens and tote bags.  (Side note:  Bring back the good, thick, nylon tote bags.  Ever since the green movement, tote bags have gotten very, very cheap, flimsy, and boring).

One suggestion is that database vendors offer discounts for years of longevity.  While many vendors have multi-year deals that are lower than the cost of their usual annual increases, many university budget offices will no longer permit paying up front for services.  These multi-year deals, if negotiated without an “out” option, may tie the library to a service they can’t afford when budgets go south.  Rather than require libraries to pay for these discounts up front, database vendors should reward us for staying with them for the long haul.  For example, if a library has been with the vendor for 3 years, a longevity discount of 2 percent could be deducted from the annual 7 percent increase.  Once the library reaches 5 years or another tier, the longevity discount could be increased.

Another suggestion is for vendors to give credits for additional purchases within the longevity program.  Many of our business research databases sell one-off reports, or have additional reports, ebooks, etc. within modules that aren’t included in our subscriptions.   After being a loyal subscriber for concurrent years, vendors should award libraries with bonus bucks. (I’m trademarking Ebsco Bucks, Ebrary Bucks, Ibisbucks, Gale Bucks, Mintel Bucks, and more,  shortly after writing this post 😉 )  Theses bonus bucks could be used to purchase reports, ebooks, or other content that aren’t included in the subscriptions (at a heavily discounted academic price, of course).  To take this one step further, vendors could really keep us as customers if these bonus bucks could roll over (AT&T anyone?) each fiscal year.  I do realize that this would create another level of accounting on their part, but I’m pretty sure my account reps – who with the exception of a handful (Sara, George, Steven, & Sean, thank you! ) I only hear from at renewal time anyway – could handle it.  If I knew I had additional bonus bucks tied up with a particular vendor, and my library was being continually rewarded for my loyal business, then I would be a lot more inclined to renew each year.  Those price increases would be a little bit easier to swallow as well.

The bonus bucks could also be tied to tiers of database usage as well.   Vendors love to tell you how much their content is used (especially when you threaten to cancel), and librarians are the ones who can drive database usage by pointing students, faculty, and patrons to the resource.  Librarians also have their favorite resources as well, and might be more inclined to point their patrons to a new favorite resource if it offered bonus bucks tied to usage.  As usage for a particular resource increases, libraries are less likely to cancel a resource, especially when faculty, students, and patrons learn to  depend heavily on that database.  On the other hand, when library budgets don’t keep up with the costs of annual subscription increases, the databases with the least amount of use often get cut first.

Our next fiscal year begins in a few months, and once again we’ll be asking the question “is it worth it to renew?” on a regular basis. I’d love to see vendors roll out some creative incentives to keep our library’s business.  How about you?

 

How to fix Closed Captioning on your YouTube videos

YouTube has a very cool featured whereby the big fancy YouTube computer will try to automagically perform closed captioning for your videos.  In my experiences in watching my own videos, and from viewing other videos, the closed captioning results from YouTube can be hit or miss.  In a pinch, most results are serviceable, allowing non-native speakers the ability to pick up on *some* of the works used in the audio.

I normally introduce myself in my videos as “Hey there, I’m Chad Boeninger, Business Librarian for Ohio University Libraries.”  In one of my recent videos, YouTube apparently didn’t pick up on my Southern accent or the spelling of my name.  The image below shows the result:

“hair I’m sad bond” ???!?

 

Fortunately, you can fix these results, and the process, while tedious, is not entirely painful.  All you have to do is go into the Edit menu in YouTube, and click on the Captions link.  This will take you to a page where you can change the wording of the captions, as shown in the image below:

Much better! (click for larger)

 

After you have edited your captions, it is a good idea to disable the YouTube automatic captions for that video to avoid confusing viewers with multiple closed captioned options.

Remember to disable duplicate captions

The end result, is much better:

Much better, with less “hair” 😉

Now that I’ve got the first 7 seconds fixed, now all I need to do is find time to work on the remaining 15:03.  Perhaps an easier option is to download the captions.sbv file from the video and edit in a text editor, as shown below.   You could then upload the modified sbv file to YouTube, remembering to disable other caption options.

Editing captions in a text editor may save time

I’ll edit the captions for an entire video soon, and report back on what I’ve learned.

How to make library instructional (or other educational) videos and screencasts

The video below is a follow-up to my previous post about how I make library instructional videos.

 

This video shows the basics of making library instructional (or other educational) videos and screencasts. The video discusses the inexpensive equipment and software needed, and shows how to make a video from start to finish. Discusses camera selection, how to use Screencast-o-matic.com, how to edit the video in Windows Live Moviemaker, and how to upload to YouTube. For a detailed write-up of the process, visit my post on how I make library instructional videos.