An Open Letter to the #c4l16 Program Committee

Thank you.

As I’ve begun the processing period of what a Code4Lib conference does to you, there has been but one thing that has remained the same, working with you all has been one of my best conference experiences. All the hours spent in analyzing proposals, drafting up many many potential programs setups, it was worth it.

Thank you for the support and willingness to try something new. I’ve been on a few conference committees and none of them, have made it feel like we could try something new, until now. Ideas were not shot down, they were taken into consideration. As an outsider looking in, this is a place where if I’m going to put in large quantities of energy, it would not be wasted. I’d willingly do it again.

Thank you for providing a space where I felt less intimidated to say something. For a space where, if I did decide to say something, you were listening to understand and not to respond. As someone who felt like they didn’t belong at Code4Lib — you’ve helped me find my place.

We tried something new, we did not fail, and in fact in my eyes we succeeded. The program was strong and broad reaching. This was something we wanted to happen and worried (given our excitement when the panel came together) that maybe we were overreaching, but what matters most is that we were given the power to try – that says something about the Code4Lib community in general. Thank you to those who helped in paving the pathway so we could do this.

I want to apologize for my falling short on delivering the lightning talk we all envisioned, but thank you for making it an opportunity to be delivered. For standing behind me, in person and by live stream, so I wasn’t up there alone. Thank you for the constant encouragement.

It’s been an honor to be a part of this but most importantly, it’s been a pleasure. Hard work is less hard when you’re on a supportive team and a team that carries the burden together. Because of my experience working with you all this year, you’ve secured my buy in to Code4Lib, for this I am grateful. Thank you for restoring my faith that we can actually be the change we want to see in an organization.

Sincerely,
Me, a very lucky volunteer.

PS Thank you Ben for the extra nudge to join the committee & for putting my name on the list and for your constant encouragement to speak up.

I’m a Librarian. Of tech, not books.

Post originally published on LITA Blog: http://litablog.org/2016/02/im-a-librarian-of-tech-not-books/


When someone finds out I’m a librarian, they automatically think I know everything there is to know about, well, books. The thing is, I don’t. I got into libraries because of the technology. My career in libraries started with the take off, a supposed library replacement, of ebooks. Factor in the Google “scare” and librar*s  were going to be done forever. Librar*s were frantic to debunk that they were no longer going to be useful, insert perfect time and opportunity to join libraries and technology.

I am a Systems Librarian and the most common and loaded question I get from non-librarians is (in 2 parts), “What does that mean? and What do you do?” Usually this resorts to a very simple response:
I maintain the system the library sits on, the one that gives you access to the collection from your computer in the comfort of your home. This tool, that lets you view the collection online and borrow books and access databases and all sorts of resources from your pajamas, my job is to make sure that keeps running the way we need it to so you have the access you want.
My response aims to give a physical picture about a technical thing. There is so much we do as systems librarians that if I were to get in-deep with what I do, we’d be there for a while. Between you and I, I don’t care to talk *that* much, but maybe I should.

There’s a lot more to being a Systems Librarian, much of which is unspoken and you don’t know about it until you’re in the throws of being a systems librarian. There was a Twitter conversation prompted when a Twitter’er asked for recommendations on things to teach or include in on the job training for someone who is interested in library systems. It got me thinking, because I knew little to nothing about being a Systems Librarian and just happened upon it (Systems Librarianship) because the job description sounded really interesting and I was already a little bit qualified. It also allowed me to build a skill set that provided me a gateway out of libraries if and when the time arrived. Looking back, I wonder what would I have wanted to know before going into Systems, and most importantly, would it have changed my decision to do so, or rather, to stay? So what is it to be a Systems Librarian?

The unique breed: A Systems Librarian:

  • makes sure users can virtually access a comprehensive list of the library’s collection
  • makes sure library staff can continue to maintain that ever-growing collection
  • makes sure that when things in the library system break, everything possible is done to repair it
  • needs to be able to accurately assess the problem presented by the frantic library staff member that cannot log into their ILS account
  • needs to be approachable while still being the person that may often say no
  • is an imperfect person that maintains an imperfect system so that multiple departments doing multiple tasks can do their daily work.
  • must combine the principles of librarianship with the abilities of computing technology
  • must be able to communicate the concerns and needs of the library to IT and communicate the concerns and needs of IT to the library

Things I would have wanted to know about Systems Librarianship: When you’re interested but naive about what it takes.

  • You need to be able to see the big and small pictures at once and how every piece fits into the puzzle
  • Systems Librarianship requires you to communicate, often and on difficult to explain topics. Take time to master this. You will be doing a lot of it and you want everyone involved to understand, because all parties will most likely be affected by the decision.
  • You don’t actually get to sit behind a computer all day every day just doing your thing.
  • You are the person to bridge the gap between IT and librarians. Take the time to understand the inner workings of both groups, especially as they relate to the library.
  • You’ll be expected to communicate between IT staff and Library staff why their request, no matter the intention, will or will not work AND if it will work, but would make things worse – why.
  • You will have a new problem to tackle almost every day. This is what makes the job so great
  • You need to understand the tasks of every department in the library. Take the time to get to know the staff of those departments as well – it will give insight to how people work.
  • You need to be able to say no to a request that should not or cannot be done, yes even to administration.
  • No one really knows all you do, so it’s important to take the time to explain your process when the time calls for it.
  • You’ll most likely inherit a system setup that is confusing at best. It’s your job to keep it going, make it better even.
  • You’ll be expected to make the “magic” happen, so you’ll need to be able to explain why things take time and don’t appear like a rabbit out of a hat.
  • You’ll benefit greatly from being open about how the system works and how one department’s requests can dramatically, or not so dramatically, affect another part of the system.
  • Be honest when you give timelines. If you think the job will take 2 weeks, give yourself 3.
  • You will spend a lot of time working with vendors. Don’t take their word for  “it,” whatever “it” happens to be.
  • This is important– you’re not alone. Ask questions on the email lists, chat groups, Twitter, etc..
  • You will be tempted to work on that problem after work, schedule time after work to work on it but do not let it take over your life, make sure you find your home/work life balance.

Being a systems librarian is hard work. It’s not always an appreciated job but it’s necessary and in the end, knowing everything I do,  I’d choose it again. Being a tech librarian is awesome and you don’t have to know everything about books to be good at it. I finally accepted this after months of ridicule from my trivia team for “failing” at librarianship because I didn’t know the answer to that obscure book reference from an author 65 years ago.

Also, those lists are not, by any means, complete — I’m curious, what would you add?


Possibly of interest, a bit dated (2011) but a comprehensive list of posts on systems librarianship: https://librarianmandikaye.wordpress.com/systems-librarian/

Being a Librarian

One of the hardest things with being a librarian is holding your tongue.

How often is it that we have a patron come talk to us. We ask how they are doing and show genuine interest in their day, as we often do with their questions. This often leads to the woes and life stories.

Many times it comes to stories that we may often disagree with, morally or politically or any other -ly.

What is our duty but to serve our patrons. We hope it is for research but sometimes the librarian becomes the therapist so to speak.

I do not complain about this because it means my patrons view me as a comfort and as someone they trust or a confidant. What do I do in return, I bite my tongue.

What do you do?

If you build it, will they come?

If a library were only able to offer one mobile based service, what do you think it should be and why?

If I was the director and had the final say in a mobile based service for the library I was choose a mobile website or webpage in terms of an academic library.

Why? The key to the success of a library is the patrons. What comes to mind is “if you build it they will come”, the famous lines from Field of the Dreams Our patrons can only use our services if they know about it.

With the World Wide Web being the main median to finding information it is important for a library to have a website to advertise their services.

It is implied that when you create a website you create a print version and now even more so a mobile version. In a survey published by Nielsen, they found that over 50% of US consumers use smartphones.

Taiwan Today published that 62% of smartphone users in the US access the web on their phone. By not providing a mobile website for the library it will be failing to serve its users to the best of their ability

There are many mobile based services a library could and should offer by you need to start with the basics, mobile website. The website is where you post information about the library, where you will soon post links to mobile reference services, to the Library OPAC, any many other services.

OPAC Tags

One of the best ways  libraries can enhance their catalogs are with tagging in the OPAC. The population we target understands tags. They used applications like Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Facebook, and many others.

Allowing the tags to be user-generated will bring a new light to what the students think of outside of the typical LCSH. Their tags will help us understand how to market our resources.

A disadvantage to employing user tagging is you may get tags that are not related to the title. It is always a risk letting other in to do a work you know so well but it is important that we tailor our marketing to our audience and OPAC tags are the perfect way. Not only with marketing but with the services we offer.

LibraryThing is a tagging system that OPACs that accepts HTML  you can add the tagging from Library Thing.

I encourage everyone to get a LibraryThing account, you can get a personal account and add 200 books for free. If you are like me and have over 200 books you can buy a lifetime account for $20.

UCSD

UCSD (University of California, San Diego) libraries have multiple collections on Flickr

Moments in time, Library exhibits and Library events. Along with organized and labeled collections they, UCSD, have a photo-stream that included over 1,400 images that have been taken and tagged and submitted about the UCSD library, great for browsing.

As I browsed through these collections I noticed each picture had at minimum the tag “UCSD libraries, brownie point of UCSD. Donna Ekart states as rule one in Tech Tips for Every Librarian, “First, tag, tag, and tag again” (2010, p46). By tagging photos with appropriate tags such as location, event, library name, popular acronyms, etc. the library’s photos will be discovered more easily and more often, bringing in a greater recognition to the library and hopefully more patrons to help.

 Fault: there is not enough tagging. Some photos only include the tags “UCSD libraries and UCSD”, they need more tags including: San Diego, California, library, education, architecture (when building pictures) and other descriptive tags about the photo, you can never have too many tags.

UCSD libraries do a great job and being consistent with adding to the Flickr, most recent photos are from Oct. 29, 2012.

I think UCSD is a great model for starting libraries who are looking into using Flickr. They show what a complete profile looks like, they have photo streaming, collections, sets and a gallery. However, I do not see them as a library that has itself mastered the use of Flickr.Still, they have a fun collections to browse through.

References:
Ekart, D. (2010). Tech tips for every librarian. Computers in libraries, 32(4).

Spartans Market Successfully

San Jose State University King Library

I selected the King Library as my marketing critique focus. The library has a well rounded presence on the web; outside of their website they market themselves through the following ways:
Twitter: @SJSU_kinglib
Facebook: SJSU King Library and
Google+: SJSU King Library
Bi-Annual Newsletter: SJSU King Library Newsletter

I will discuss how they engage themselves with these applications as well as address any improvements I see that might benefit the library. These points made are my observations only and do not included insight from the employees of the King Library.

I have a twitter feed, @nimblelibrarian, I started out following @SJSU_kinglib they have a small following of 240 twitters and within 30 minutes I was being followed back, this response time impressed me. Followed by this prompt new follower I browsed past tweets and gathered a feel of what exactly the King Library wanted its followers to know. They are supportive of other SJSU accounts, re-tweeting campus club announcements, local reference desk, local public libary, and the main SJSU feed. This past Friday I tweeted, “Its Friday, I want rain, soup and a good book”  @nimblelibrarian. I do not have a following, as I have just started developing my own brand, so you can imagine my excitement when I was re-tweeted by @SJSU_kinglib .

The impression made to me so far by the King Library was positive. Along with simple recognitions of their followers, they advertised upcoming events & exhibits taking place in the library.

The King Library also uses Facebook to expand their web presence. The Facebook page for the library was born, August 31, 2011. It is barely a year old, which surprised me as I thought they would have started using it earlier. The Facebook page did not impress me as much as the twitter feed did but it did not let me down either. The library uses images often with corresponding posts are which often about upcoming events or exhibits. Due to the nature of these posts it was difficult to see a “real” person behind them; they felt more like an automatic response you get when you apply to a job. That being said I came across one post that teased with personality, a post about the San Jose Falcons. (see post below)

 
This post encourages student to come to the library for non-library things instead of research, study, computers, etc. It is important to capture and include your target audience, in this case students, in your posts. This post had 3 likes and 3 comments, higher than most posts on the page.

Another concern was that the response time to student complaint posts was around a full day.   I saw to complaints, one directed at noisy patrons and the other directed at the Library Wi-Fi, response time for both around 24 hours. For the complaint directed towards noisy patrons the response was okay, because they requested information to report it. The complain directed to the library, “Please fix the Wifi connection. I really want to stay in the library to study. I can’t study at home!!!!!!!” needed to be addressed much earlier than 24 hours later because the student was studying and needed the Wi-Fi at that moment. I’d recommend tot he King Library to reduce the response time to posts like these, in order to be more helpful throughout their web presence. 

The Google+ account, created September 2011, is very much like the King Library Facebook page, posts are almost identical. On Nov. 4, 2011 one of the first posts to receive any follower response included the response from SJSU King Library thanking them for their support, +1 to their rapport. I critique this in their marketing because it is vital to acknowledge those who follow you, your “fans” as you will. However, this unfortunately fades in to the background after a couple more posts and the acknowledgment is no longer made.  It is important to keep it up, even if you only have a handful of fans, appreciate them. 

As I made my way through the main applications SJSU King Library uses to expand their online presence there are few things that I want need to address.  First, bravo to their consistent posting even with a mediocre following. Second, thank you for re-tweeting, just a small gesture that shows their acknowledgment of their followers.

They have a strong grasp of how to use these services to spread the word about what is happening in the library however they need to focus on expanding their following. SJSU has an enrollment of approximately 30,000 students, their followings hit around 300, that is 1% of the school.  I suggest they do this in multiple ways including:

1. Engage your followers – encourage comments in your posts and tweets. The more engaging you are the more interaction you will receive. Use posts for an opportunity to get survey responses from students, “Did you attend the Day of the Dead exhibit?”
2. Express personality beyond events and exhibit posting. Add to your newspaper a comic strip, for example talk about the employees and what they enjoy, make the library more personal.
3. Quicken your response time to posts. 24 hours for a response to  a wi-fi complaint is useless to the patron.  
4. Create a blog. Blogs are a great way to move above and beyond hours and event posts, of course I do not think I need to tell you that.

This being said, SJSU King Library markets their library services well, events, exhibits, hours, changes, etc. If their brand is “A library that keeps their students informed of events happening on campus” then they nailed it, no matter how boring that sounds. I recommend really exploiting the personality of the library, there are a great deal of employees their and I am sure they are not all boring.