Friday, April 18, 2008

manic monday

I'm going to be staffing the book mobile on Monday. I am, of course, very excited. I need a day away from the lovely customers of Forest Hills. I'm going to take a Flip camera with me. Apparently things are usually pretty slow, so I'm going to try and work my way through the teen summer reading list. I've only read a couple of titles.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

the wrong of right

Yesterday I was on the reference desk the last half hour of the day when a woman called to inquire about paying her fine. She wanted to confirm the library remained open until 8 p.m. and when I informed her we closed at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, she insisted the recorded hours stated we were open until 8 p.m. The proper customer service response would have been to assure her I'd look into it, perhaps even thank her for alerting me but I knew in my perfectionist heart that she was wrong.

I record the message, and each time I do so, I read from a script and then I listen to it at least once, more often two or three times, to make sure it's correct, clear, and paced well. I couldn't even fathom that folks had been listening to a bum recording since President's Day, so I said that I was sure it didn't list the library's hours incorrectly. It was the end of a long day, and I wasn't thinking clearly. We squabbled about the matter for a few moments and then she hung up on me to listen to the recording again. Then she called back to let me know she was right. I rushed downstairs to our recording device, listening to both messages, and it says very clearly Wednesdays 10-to-6.

She called back! To tell me she was right! But she wasn't!

Welcome to public libraries. Happy National Library Week!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tech Buddies: No Buddies (Week 4)

I haven't been posting about Tech Buddies because to do so would mean I'd have to admit failure. I've been trying to recruit the seniors through the computer classes we offer. They seem so excited, they take fliers and applications ... and then they don't show up. I've been joking about re-naming it "Tech Teens: No Buddies."

I know that it's a pilot program and that part of experimenting means accepting that failure sometimes comes before success. It was just such a great idea, one that filled two needs of the community: technology training and volunteer opportunities. Who knew that the seniors would be so unreliable? I've been thinking about ways to modify the program. If we do it in the summer, maybe I'll have it in the morning. (That's when the computer classes are.) It's obviously not an option when the teens are in school. Maybe I'll take the program to the senior center (outreach!).

The teens are great. During our last meeting we storyboarded for a video to highlight the summer reading program. This week my famous hacker friend is going to come and talk. I'm also going to show them the DVD of the Channel 7 news clip.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

on not doing the dumb stuff

Session: Reference In the Age of Google
Speaker: Joe Janes, Information School, University of Washington

(I think I'm just going to type out my notes and I might polish the entry later.--kk)

Reference saves the money of the individual.
Reference saves the time of the individual.

While we often make the argument for the first, we do not highlight the second.

Quote from the mid-40s about reference: "Ensures the possession of facts which by themselves they cannot obtain."

Google is good at searching for the specific; it is the "rough equivalent" of ready reference. Google gets 700-800 million hits a day. Google means, "You don't have to do the dumb stuff any more."

Google is "free, quick, easy, good enough." That is not what we are. We cannot be freer, quicker, easier ... so we have to be better.

Google is changing how people think about searching and how they are thinking about information. Thinking about information differently means people are thinking differently. This is turn changes the way people view the world.

Things Google does not do (well) (yet): gathering, evaluating, deciding, understanding, helping, and providing depth and accuracy. Google also does not offer a highly sophisticated search, nor is it part of a community.

Where do we fit?

The reference interview is done about 50 percent of the time. We should try asking:
  • Can you tell me more?
  • Was that what you wanted?
  • Are you looking for anything specific?
Janes quoted (to much laughter), "They will choke and die before telling you what they want."

He then pointed out some Google searching tricks:
  • OR
  • * (wild card)
  • inurl:
  • filetype:
  • view:timeline
  • GooFresh (added today)
We do a poor job of telling people what we can do. We need to simplify the language we use.

The average search time is 11 minutes.

When Janes said the following it really resonated with me, so much so, I'm going to type it more than once:

People ask you reference questions because they have failed.
People ask you reference questions because they have failed.
People ask you reference questions because they have failed.

We need to make ourselves (and the ref desk) less frightening.

People live in lots of different places at once. We've got to be there.

Janes said most of us got into this business for one of two roles: the social worker and the treasure hunter. I'm a little of both, but I probably am in it mostly to help folks. Whatever our reasons, he challenged us to re-energize and re-engage our reasons for becoming librarians.

Janes said, "We are made for better things." We provide quality, instruction, depth, literacy, and (unlike Google) we are based in our clientèle.

He added, "We can put all these things together better than anyone else." We connect them with information that can change their lives.

Our traditional strengths:
  • service
  • determining/understanding context
  • knowing when to stop
  • evaluation
We have to be better online. We need to extend the notion of the library. "The library has to be somewhere and everywhere."
I left the session wanting to provide reference. I'm going to try to make it my goal to ask "Can you tell me more? Was that what you wanted? Are you looking for anything specific?" when on the desk.