At the Ref Desk (4/25/17): Someone calls but when I pick up the phone all I get is background noise -- people talking, etc. Did he or she just sit on their smartphone and dial out accidentally? Interesting jumping off point for a work of fiction... [more...]
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Hub of Communication

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 7/24/10 (2:15pm)

Pretty accurate description of a librarians' activities at the reference desk from last month's Computers in Libraries:

...With a telephone receiver wedged between your shoulder and your ear, you are waiting patiently while the patron on the other end expresses his information need: "I am looking for a book; it is blue ..." Beep, beep -- a tone alerts you to the presence of a second caller. Just then, ding -- a little yellow envelope appears in the lower-right corner of your computer--a decade earlier, a voice would have kindly reminded you that, "you've got mail." Ding -- a new window pops into existence; an instant message. Amid all of this confusion, a patron walks up to the desk, crosses her arms, and taps her foot impatiently. You smile and hold up your index finder -- the universal signal for "one moment please." Ding -- something is flashing in the toolbar: your text messaging service. In a desperate attempt at triage, you are clicking away feverishly, minimizing and shuffling windows, each containing a separate application. Oh, and don't forget about your library's Facebook and Twitter accounts ... [Johnson, Benjamin E., "Google Voice", Computers in Libraries, (30, 5): June 2010]

Current Cites for June 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 7/5/10 (2:50pm)

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Current Cites for May 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 5/28/10 (6:08pm)

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Is Steve Jobs a Role Model for Librarians?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 5/1/10 (8:08pm)

steve-jobs-ipad-apple-ap.jpg I'm hijacking the title of an editorial in the latest issue of Journal of Academic Librarianship because I believe it illustrates a problem rather than a solution to our approach as librarians to technology.

In the piece, the author describes two approaches to meeting user needs:

...[To] wait for someone to tell you what they want (which assumes they know their needs and the solution possibilities clearly) or to know your customer and the solution possibilities well enough to provide a useful solution that would likely never have occurred to them.

So which, according to the author, should we pick? Why the latter, of course, which the author calls "opportunity-driven" and characteristic of Steve Jobs:

As trained information specialists who are also dealing daily, upfront and personal, with the changing information environment, I believe we are particularly well positioned to develop the insights and perspectives that allow us to see opportunities and possibilities that are not as clear or as obvious to our patrons.

The obvious, almost classic problem with this approach is that it moves the focus from our users to ourselves and while that might make for applause lines at library confabs where we're basically talking to ourselves, it risks ending up with solutions more suited (surprise, surprise) to our own needs rather than to those of our poor 'benighted' users.

The fact is, the library doesn't exist in a vacuum. Sure, we're in the information business but so are a lot of others. When our users come to us, they don't want a "19th-century library" as the author jokes. They want everything online and easy to find -- just like they've come to expect on every other site that seeks to attract their business.

To do this, we don't have to reinvent the experience. We don't need Steve Jobs even if we could afford him. All we need is to do our homework, to keep the focus always on our users, seeing what they prefer and how they prefer to work, melding our own wares to their requirements. Our users have already told us what they want. It's in the usage statistics of the most popular websites. Now all we need are librarians smart enough and sharp enough to listen to what they're saying.

Institution: 

Current Cites for April 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 4/20/10 (12:26pm)

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Current Cites for March 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/30/10 (3:15pm)

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Current Cites for February 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 2/28/10 (2:59pm)

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Current Cites for January 2010

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 2/2/10 (9:38am)

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I listed an article by two librarians at Univ. of Minnesota that explained their elaborate but ultimately successful decision-making process to improve library services.

Current Cites for November 2009

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 12/2/09 (1:01pm)

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Current Cites for October 2009

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 10/31/09 (12:18pm)

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