Tag Archives: communication

Making informed decisions

This, yesterday from Unshelved. Says it all about libraries really. Not just the things in our collection, but the information we provide about research impact, copyright, collection management or just about anything else. We are about providing the information so that our user community (client? patron? customer?) can decide what’s best for them, in their situation. Everytime.

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Information policy

The video Did you know 4.0 highlights a number of trends in the way we use information that have implications for policy development within the library and information sector.

Some of the shifts and trends identified in this video include:

  • a significant (and climbing) increase in the use of mobile devices
  • the increase in digital publishing,
  • increased participation by ‘mainstream’ consumers of Web 2.0 technologies means that more people are getting their news and information from social networking sites and they are using cloud services for collaboration and instant feedback
  • the rise of social media usage in organisations has led to the need for new policies to cover activities that were not invented 6 years ago
  • the cost of technology such as smart phones and tablets continues to decrease while the power and capabilities of those devices continues to increase
What does all of this mean for those of us working in the information management space? We have new ways of connecting with our customer base and need to explore which of those ways we implement.
Our organisations must make our services more mobile friendly with specially designed websites or creation of ‘Apps’ for smart phones and tablets.  We need the flexibility to enable us to keep up with new technologies and be able to experiment with new ideas, find our where our customers are and whether we can meet them there in that space.
Making these decisions is easier within a policy framework that provides guidelines for staff venturing into new spaces. The challenge for policy makers is allowing enough flexibility to enable changes (Web 2.0 technologies are only a few years old and would not have been forseen when policy was being written in the early 2000’s) while still ensuring decisions and actions are in keeping with the organisation’s goals and philosophies.  A good policy can protect the organisation and its staff while also allowing room for some creativity and quick decision making in order to meet a customer need.
References:
Bryson, J. (2007). Managing information services: A transformational approach  Burlington. Ashgate e-book

Taking responsibility

We have a new team member starting at MPOW at the end of the month – suddenly I won’t be the new person anymore. This is a bit daunting as I find the I’m new here can you tell me how this works card quite useful. I know I’ve only been here a few months and can legitimately use this tactic for a few months more yet, but it brings it into perspective with the thought that there will be someone newer. Maybe I know more than I think I do? I guess I’ll find out when she says I’m new here can you tell me how this works?

I’ve written before about my amazement that other people seem to think I have something useful to say – and it’s happened to me again. I posted to twitter earlier this week:

getting incoming links to my blog from a moodle at monash… does this mean someone thinks I have something important to say? #yikes

Now, this post is not an attempt to have hundreds of people suddenly tell me I have useful things to say – it’s more a reflection on the responsibility to stand behind the stuff I publish online. I know all the rules of social media – don’t publish anything you don’t want made public, think before pressing send/publish/enter/tweet and I follow those rules. It’s more that as a student myself, I like reading the blogs of practitioners, finding out what they think, agreeing, disagreeing, commenting or writing a post in response. It just never occurs to me that others out there might be reading MY posts in that context.

A bit daunting.

Library 2.0 – really?

Trust is the Key to Web 2.0 by kid.mercury via flickr CC

Over the past year I have heard about the Arizona State University library’s (ASU) creative use of YouTube for their library minute initiative, but hadn’t had a look until today.  For the uninitiated, the library has put together about 30 short videos (they are literally a minute) on a range of topics – for instance, today I watched:

  • Using the Academic Search Premier database
  • Fun & games in the library
  • Meet your subject librarian
  • Top 5 resources for online students
  • Information about open access & why it is important to the library
All of these topics are presented by the same librarian and are a mash-up of live footage of the presenter, video footage, cartoons, photographs, animation and music.  They are very impressive – short and snappy, designed to be easy to watch and get a message across within the limited time a university student may be prepared to give to hearing about library services.  The current thinking in marketing academic library services is to meet the students where they are – and they are looking at YouTube (and Facebook, Foursquare & Twitter).
Now that I’m thinking about these issues from a learning perspective, I found this experience somewhat frustrating and raising more questions than it really answered. On the one hand, the ASU library minute videos and the other ‘library 2.0’ ways they have of communicating with their users and community certainly tick boxes.   Their facebook page in particular creates community, links back to the library website and/or blog and out to the YouTube channel and is a conversation, as library staff respond to comments left by (presumably?) students. In Groundswell, the authors stress throughout the entire book the importance of social media being a conversation.  The book is aimed at a commercial market, but there is much to learn in there for libraries.
On the other hand, while each of the five videos I looked at today have healthy statistics in terms of number of views (all over 1000, some over 3000 views) I can’t help wondering how many of those views might be other librarians from around the world checking out what ASU is doing in this area.  I’m sure the university itself has access to analytics that enable it to know where the ‘hits’ on the YouTube channel are coming from, but as an outsider, it’s hard to tell.
A quick and dirty search on both Google and in some scholarly databases failed to turn up much actual evidence that any of this library 2.0 marketing works. I found many blog posts that question the value of library 2.0, or its implementation, or whether the term itself is accurate. Most tellingly, over on Agnostic, maybe, Andy asked back in February 2010:
How much is Library 2.0 really driven by the user experience? I imagine the library-patron relationship less like a ‘horse and cart’ and more like a planet-moon relationship. (If information was the sun, patrons are the Earth and libraries are the Moon. We are roughly in sync with our patrons, sometimes ahead or behind, and sometimes in the way.) … [sometimes there is] little or no user feedback indicating such a tool or service was desired in the first place
In the case of the ASU videos, the university’s own evaluation of the library minute concept, presented as a poster at Educause 2010 reveals a large number of ‘other library’ users and the fact that 32% of undergraduate students at the university were aware of the videos. This would appear to confirm that the videos are meeting the needs of libraries and librarians but still leaves me wondering about the users. Do they even want to know this stuff?
I have blogged here before about the tendency of librarians (and I suspect, any given group of professionals) to talk amongst ourselves about our services, programs and ideas. Admittedly my ‘literature search’ was rough but I would really like to see some research into whether providing (great quality) videos, links and feedback on facebook has an impact on our users and their perception or use of the library services.
References
Ganster, L., & Schumacher, B. (2009). Expanding Beyond our Library Walls: Building an Active Online Community through Facebook. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3(2), 111-128. doi:10.1080/19322900902820929
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell : winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Harvard Business Press. Boston.

New shiny in the workplace

iCat not included with purchase of iPad from icanhazcheezeburger.com

We haz an iPad in our team and we are downloading your apps…

The Outreach teams at MPOW have been given an iPad to use in our work.  We have to share it, but it’s a pretty damn exciting piece of equipment to be allowed to play with, particularly as buying my own is not about to happen anytime soon.  It’s early days, no one has taken it out of the cupboard (except I suspect the team leaders have possibly been playing with it – just a bit) and while I’d love to make full use of it, I want my time with it to be productive and useful.

I can think of a dozen things straight away that I could use an iPad for in the workplace – but they mostly relate to the way I organise my day, do my job and communicate with people rather than the way the team might use it. The thing with an iPad or other mobile device is that they are designed to be personal – to provide you with access to the functionality you need to get on with the things you do. Figuring out how to share it and still have it be a productive and useful tool is important.

So, library peeps, I am crowdsourcing. Are you in an outreach/liaison position? It could be any type of library – doesn’t have to be an academic focus. Do you use an iPad as part of your work day? What apps do you find useful, what functionality is important, HOW do you use it in your work day?  Remembering that we can’t use it to keep track of email, tweet on the run or check the time of the next bus because we’re sharing it, what CAN we use it for?

Some of my ideas so far:

  • I do library tours with groups of international students – would be handy to have the iPad with me so I can also follow along with the virtual tour at the same time – point out that they can book rooms then show them immediately on the library website where they can book rooms
  • Collaborative work with another team member creating a document on the run in a meeting room or other space that is not our desktop
  • Note taking in a meeting with a School or academic
  • Access to cloud services such as dropbox when away from my desk
I’m sure there are lots of other things we could be doing with it – so far my list isn’t really anything I couldn’t do with a laptop – although taking a laptop on a library tour would be a bit tricky.
Any ideas shared in the comments would be gratefully accepted 🙂

Are you free for (another) meeting?

Fancy Calendar by oskay via flickr CC

I’m slowly getting used to using Outlook’s calendar function as a time management tool – I’ve used this functionality before but never to the degree that we use it here at MPOW.  We all share calendars, so it’s easy to see where people are, or what they have on for the day if they ring in sick.

At first, it feels strange putting in a meeting request for a ‘quick chat’ at someone’s desk, but I’m learning that it’s the only way around here to fit in around the seemingly endless meetings everyone goes to.  I’m learning to use the scheduler, which helps me see a time when everyone is free to attend, (even if it does still sometimes feel like ‘snooping’) whether for a quick chat or a more formal meeting.

I’m still a little Outlook-challenged, but getting there.

A quick post from the new front line

From Confusion Hill by Hitchster via flickr CC

It’s nearing the end of my third week at my new job, although because of all the public holidays I’m only up to about my 10th or 11th day (I can tell by the stamps on my coffee card – I get a free coffee today!).

First impressions? I’ve come from an organisation with about 25 staff in total (including teaching, admin, IT, library, marketing etc) to one with 160 library staff alone.  That’s a lot of people to meet, sort out in my mind and fit into the organisation chart and a lot of potential office politics to negotiate.  Fortunately, I’m an old public servant from way back so in many ways this is a very familiar environment.

My role is outreach – to academics, post graduate students and faculty generally.  I’ve got a few research centres to look after to start with, a project or two looming on the horizon and a supportive and welcoming team in which to work. I’m gradually getting a feel for the context of my role and working out how what I (will) do fits into the rest of the library service and with the university community as a whole.

I’ve been working so hard to concentrate and learn new things that I’ve temporarily dropped out of the blogosphere and twitterati – professional development is taking a back seat to learning the nuts and bolts of my job.

I’ll be back.

What’s in a name?

'Names' from Penningtron via flickr CC

What’s in a name? Well, everything really. Welcome to a short rant about one of my pet peeves – the inability of otherwise seemingly educated people to spell my name correctly.  I don’t have a particularly difficult first name to spell, in fact it’s a very common name.  However, there are quite a few variations of the spelling and it seems to me that when doing business with me, checking which version I use is probably a) polite and b) professional.  I can cope with my name being mispelled if its the first time I’ve heard from you, or if you have taken a guess having only ever heard it spoken (because I don’t use the most common spelling).

However, if I have sent you an email, with my name on it in AT LEAST 3 places, why, why, WHY would you reply with the wrong spelling? It makes you look a) slightly stupid b) unprofessional and c) completely uncaring.

To use my favourite phrase : It’s not rocket science.

/endrant

Death by training course

OK, so today wasn’t a highlight in my new career.  Training course in how to use the Libraries Australia database search functions, in a stuffy computer classroom – without access to Twitter!  I probably could have learned as much with a few hours, the database to myself to play around with and the work-it-out-as-I-go strategy, but you live and learn I guess.

However.  Tonight I wanted to revisit my theme of communication with a little essay on teleconferences.  As a member of ALIA’s NGAC, I’m getting quite used to teleconferences.  I’ve gone from zero to 100 in teleconference experience in just 6 short weeks.  It’s quite a knack, concentrating on the subject at hand, keeping track of who is speaking and trying to make intelligent comment while simultaneously doing one or all of the following (seriously, these have all happened to me in the very few teleconferences we’ve had so far):

  • shooing the cat off my lap
  • spilling my cup of tea all over my notes
  • indicating through sign language to teenage children that I am NOT currently available for consultation
  • checking out books to students
  • remembering to announce my name before speaking
  • remembering not to speak too much for fear of boring others, or too little for fear of boring others
  • indicating through sign language to other staff that I am NOT currently available for consultation

This week, we not only had a teleconference going, we had one member communicating via google chat because she couldn’t get onto the call and we were collaborating on a google docs doc as well. All at the same time! We’re very clever librarians 🙂

K.I.S.S.

Reading a post from  World’s Strongest Librarian this morning, I was struck by the issue of communication in all its forms.  Essentially, Josh (WSL) is cautioning us to listen to the question before we leap in to answer it, thinking that we know what they are asking.  Often our own prejudices, judgements and experiences combine to give us what we THINK is the context – which doesn’t allow room for the other person to set their own context. There is a technique in the psycotherapy and coaching world called Clean Language that attempts to address these issues and I do not pretend to know anything more about it than I have read on those few pages.

However, the concept of ‘clean language’ in the sense of being clear, unambiguous and therefore unlikely to cause confusion fascinates me.  As I posted yesterday, I am in the process of writing a glossary of library terms for the moodle course in information literacy at MPOW.  There are dozens of glossaries available on the interwebs (and I have freely adapted and cribbed from most of them), so why am I going to the trouble of writing my own?  Simply, the students at MPOW are all international students and most of the glossaries out there make assumptions about knowledge that I know my students don’t have.  Back to ‘clean language’ – the more I read and adapt for the student population here, the more aware I am of the jargon we use unthinkingly in libraryland.

Everyday I face the challenge of writing for and speaking to our students in a way that doesn’t set out to confuse them, yet is respectful of their intelligence, articulate-ness and well read backgrounds – just not in my language.  My motto is K.I.S.S.

image: communication by krossbow via flickr