Tag Archives: Social software

Remote RA work: Reaching Readers through Social Catalogues

In preparation for my upcoming audio conference, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about RA work.  More specifically, I’ve been examining how RA services can be performed when we take readers away from the face-to-face interview that has traditionally defined the service.  In particular, if and how library catalogues can enhance RA services. (I believe they can!)  I think it’s very important to stress the importance of the face-to-face interview, but to also accept that social software is redefining how our community views personal interaction – and the benefits social software has in enhancing our RA practices.   Our current RA services vary from good to great to exceptional, but there are also assumptions that RA work can only occur within the physical library, or by a select group of individuals.

Anyone who likes to read can share in the RA experience.  This includes all members of our community who enjoy reading.  To that extent, our library catalogues and the social, interactive community environment they are creating need to be explored as an avenue in furthering RA services and bringing reading suggestions to the reader – wherever they are.

I’ve found a handful of articles I thought I’d share with you that discuss the challenging and changing nature of RA services.  These are the articles that I have found extremely helpful in shaping my presentation.  I believe many of you who are trying to explore new ideas for enhancing RA services will also find these interesting as well as those who want an introduction into RA services outside of the traditional model we are currently using.

If any of you have other articles that discuss this topic, please share!

Improving the model for interactive readers’ advisory services by Neil Hollands. Reference & User Services Quarterly. 3/22/2006

LJ Series “Redefining RA”: 2.0 for Readers by Neal Wyatt. Library Journal 11/1/2007

LJ Series “Redefining RA”: Take the RA Talk Online by Neal Wyatt. Library Journal 2/15/2008

Stalking the wild appeal factor: readers’ advisory and social networking sites by Kaite Mediatore Stover. Reference & User Services Quarterly. 3/22/2009

LJ Series “Redefining RA”: The Ideal Tool by Neal Wyatt. Library Jounral 10/15/2009

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Top Digital Trends for 2010

An article of digital tech predictions for 2010 written by Nuri Djavit and Paul Newnes, starts like this:

In 2009, digital marketing experienced some major shifts in marketing opportunities, budgets and attitude. 2010 will see the hype calming around Facebook apps and Twitter campaigns and the development of ROI models around social media marketing.

I became excited about the “development of ROI models” bit. This is of special interest to me as we head in to the new year at my library, with the launch of a new social discovery tool, AquaBrowser, for our catalogue. One of the priorities at this time is how to market the launch, and social media marketing is certainly something we’re thinking about.

Reading through the list of trends, there are a few that can be applied directly to libraries and our continuing advancement in using technology to promote and enhance our services. They are:

Fewer registrations – one size fits all. I’m thinking of the single sign in feature that many libraries are implementing, as well as the single search box.

Mobile commerce – the promise that has never delivered yet. Related to this is our continued exploration of how to deliver library news, reading lists and sharing user-generated information via patrons’ mobile devices. While this has been sitting on the horizon for us, and I’m thinking specifically of announcing programs, newly catalogued books in a favourite genre or a text message letting a patron know their holds are in, I think we’ll start to see more progress in this area.

The continuing evolution of web-driven, open source DIY culture. The adoption of social catalogues, the encouragement of user-generated information in our catalogues, and even the growth and promotion of patron interaction and feedback in library blogs and reading lists provides examples that we are aware of this trend in libraries, and are seeking ways to create a collective body of knowledge, not just created and gathered by librarians, but by users.

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Cataloguing Potpourri

A couple of interesting items for discussion have come across various listservs lately. So, while many of you may have seen the following items, I thought I’d post them for those who haven’t.

Article of Interest
After losing users in catalogs, libraries find better search software
This is an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of High Education.
Here’s a sampling of what’s discussed:

The problem is that traditional online library catalogs don’t tend to order search results by ranked relevance, and they can befuddle users with clunky interfaces…

…That’s changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of universities are shelling out serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections more like the easy-to-filter experience you might find in an online Sears catalog.

Second, Virginia and several other colleges, including Villanova University and the University of Rochester, are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees.

A key feature of this software genre is that it helps you make sense of data through “faceted” searching, common when you shop online for a new jacket or a stereo system. Say you type in “Susan B. Anthony.” The new system will ask if you want books by her or about her, said Susan L. Gibbons, vice provost and dean of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries. Users can also sort by media type, language, and date.

Discussion Paper addressing the subject access treatment for cooking and cookbooks
This came across several listservs, but as they are asking for feedback, I’m reposting the announcement in its entirety.

In response to a long-standing and generally recognized need to modernize the subject headings treatment for cooking and cookbooks, the ABA Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress is in the initial planning stages of a project to revise the headings used in this area. A discussion paper has been posted. Tentative decisions have been made about some aspects of the project; for other aspects, various options are under consideration and no decisions have yet been made. PSD invites public comment on the plans described in the discussion paper.

In recognition of public interest in this topic and of the enormous number of subject heading revisions involved, as well as the volume of materials affected by this policy decision, comment is encouraged. Interested parties are invited to send comments on these plans to Libby Dechman at edec@loc.gov. The deadline for comment is December 1, 2009.

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Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, Social catalogue, Subject Headings, The Library Catalogue

Social Catalogues – Slides in a more compatible format

In my last blog post, I uploaded the Powerpoint slides in the .pptx format, which opens easily only if you have the latest Office 2007 package.  So, I’m posting them here in the 1997-2003 format for all to access. 

Social Cataloguing Site: Features and Implications for Cataloguing Practice and the Public Library Catalogue

Social Catalogues: The New Face of the Public Library Catalogue

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, In the Cataloguing Department, Social catalogue, The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

CLA – Final Thoughts

A couple of days have now passed since I gave my presentation.  With over 100 attendees, resulting in a standing room only audience, I was very excited to see the interest among other professionals in social catalogues.  I think it went really well and I enjoyed myself immensely.  The audience was attentive, no one was looking at their program or dozing off, and lots of people were looking on with interest, smiles and nods (while writing notes too!)

The drawback for me and Dr. Louise Spiteri, my co-presenter, was that we only had 1 hour to present.  As a result, we ran out of time to finish the presentation – a lesson on our part and unfortunate for our attendees, because we weren’t able to share all of our ideas about how to choose a social catalogue for their library or provide them with tools and ideas on how to introduce social features (mainly free features) into library catalogues.

The feedback and interest was overwhelmingly positive, so I will be posting my presentation as well as Dr. Spiteri’s on this blog shortly (I didn’t get home until 1:00 am this morning, but the slides are coming).  This will allow all of you, as well as those who attended, to view our slides and contact me and Louise with questions, ideas, or to share what you are doing in your library.

I have the opportunity to present this session again next Thursday, June 11th, at the APLA conference in Halifax.  Prior to giving this presentation, there are a few changes I will be making.

First, I think that I need to emphasize what we are doing right and what we excel at.  Talking with Louise, she stressed the importance of emphasizing what we do well while offering suggestions on improvements to our catalogue.  As always, we want to support these suggestions with evidence as to why we should even be considering putting the effort into these enhancements.  Louise’s research assists in this regard, as does OCLC’s new report: Online Catalogues: What Users and Librarians Want. Also, I will be trimming down my slides and presentation, focussing on ideas and examples so that I can finish in the scheduled time.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at CLA this year.  It was great to meet other professionals across Canada and listen to what is happening in libraries throughout the country.  I feel re-charged, full of energy and excitement to jump back into work and focus on projects in my library. 

Now that I have one major presentation under my belt, I hope to do more!

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Choosing a Discovery Tool

So, you’ve decided that you want a social catalogue, a discovery tool (and often referred to as a “solution” or “platform”).  How are you going to decide which one?  What if you don’t even know about them?

Like any software, discovery tools have their problems. You can find a number of articles discussing the technical difficulties or support issues that have been encountered for each solution. However, all discovery tools offer a package that many libraries can no longer afford to ignore. Especially if we want to compete with information giants such as Google, Amazon and LibraryThing.  Without switching to a new ILS, we can implement a “did you mean?” function, spelling recommendations, search results with no dead ends, social tagging, list making, review writing and user ratings. We can finally include tag clouds and federated searching in a single search box. Given the relative newness of this software, their features are continually being enhanced and expanded. And, unlike an ILS, you are not “stuck” with a solution if you want to change it.

If you’ve been playing with the idea of implementing a discovery tool in your library, here are some tips that I recommend:

1. Look at what our competitors are doing.  Check out other libraries, play with Amazon, LibraryThing, Facebook and other social catalogues, networks and software. What are they doing?  Has it been successful and why?

2. Research. At this time, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into looking at your options.  This research should be a bit broader.  What are people saying about social catalogues? Are their surveys available regarding the use of social catalogues and their features? Stories of successes and failures? What about lessons learned or blog posts of first-hand experiences? Even if you start researching with only a basic understanding of discovery tool, this process will introduce you to the software available, as well as studies, research, opinions and surveys available for review. Why reinvent the wheel?

3. Now that you’ve got a good foundation of knowledge on social catalogues, it’s time to consider the following:

Proprietary vs. Open Source Software
System Requirements (ie. What would you like the software to do? what does it have to do?)
Budget, staff resources and time-line

By this point, you’ve probably narrowed down your choices to a handful of options. Call those vendors or software developers to ask them about their product. Many times, they’ll even send you sample RFPs to assist you if you’re required to draft one.  If not, this will give you a good idea of what other libraries require of the software. This is a great time to ask about special customized features or to address concerns you have about something you’ve read. And, of coure, contact other libraries. Don’y be afraid to speak with colleagues at other libraries about their experiences or opinions.

For those of you who really want to learn more about discovery tool platforms, check out the following resources:

Dicovering the Library: Finding the Hidden Barriers to Success Using the Catalog

New Discovery Tools: Ranking Customer Results First

Discovery Tools blog by John Houser

OPAC: The Next Generation

MOBIUS ILS Task Force Report

Integrated Library Systems and Discovery Applications

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Our wiki celebrates it 1st anniversary

We celebrated the passing of our wiki’s  first anniversary by making it available to all Halifax Public Library staff.  We call the “public” side of our wiki, CataWiki. 

This has been a work in progress for over 8 months.  It began to take shape in my mind when our department continually received the same questions about the catalogue.  So, I began soliciting questions for a FAQ for our catalogue and our department.  For example, what constitutes a 3 day v. 7 day loan for feature DVDs? Why is there no item information in the public display of the catalogue but the staff side has the item information?  What items get what stickers? What do I do if I accidently delete an item from the catalogue? and so on. Rather than preparing a static document that would become outdated within weeks, I wanted a live document that could continue be used as a resource and always be in a constant state of improvement and growth.  And, as Oprah would say, that was my “Ahah” moment.  Why not put this FAQ on the wiki, where staff can bookmark it and refer to it.  They can even subscribe to an RSS feed on the wiki (this feature is forthcoming).

Of course, my immediate concern was security.  I have experience with a wiki on a public domain which was spammed beyond repair.  My concerns in that regard were put to rest at the inception of our wiki – which is housed on our local server and only available through the library’s intranet.  But what about keeping department information private and inaccessible to branch staff?  What about editing privileges?

So began my collaboration with our IT manager.  Brainstorming, we came up with the idea of two wikis – linked by providing a URL on each wiki.  The wiki with our department information, which includes minutes to meetings, project proposals and in-depth information on cataloguing practices, procedures and decisions was protected by a login page.  The login page prevents access to anyone who doesn’t have an approved account.  As the system operator of the wiki, I have final approval of the users and am able to block unwanted users or accounts from being created.  As a result, no one outside of our department can view or edit our department information. 

Once that security was in place and URLS were provided on each wiki for easy navigation between the two (for ease in editing for our department), I began protecting the “public” side of our wiki.  Again, while I wanted to make this information accessible to the branch staff, I didn’t want them to have editing privileges.  At this point, some of you may groan and say I’ve missed the point of the wiki.  Not at all.  I understanding the concept of collaborating and user-generated information.  But there are specific purposes for everything and in this case, our wiki is, in a way, a marketing tool to help us come out of the backroom.  It is a window into the cataloguing department which, I hope, will remove some of the mystique and negative attitudes often directed our way. 

Allowing all of the library staff access to our latest fiction genre headings, changes in subject heading usages and FAQ will provide staff with a glimpse into what cataloguers do.  It will also assist in providing staff with the knowledge to better use our catalogue, and as a result, better serve our patrons.  We’re also including access to lists that may be “hidden” in the catalogue when off season or if they’ve been popular in the past.  For instance, Best of lists, holiday lists or topical lists that we just don’t have room to feature on our catalogue will shortly become available for staff to view.  This will become an incredible resource for patrons because staff will be aware of lists that are generally forgotten about.  Each list will have a link directly into the catalogue so that staff can work directly with patrons to help them find items to borrow. 

Given that this launch only occured this past Monday, I’ll have more to report down the road.  However, the initial feedback has been incredibly positive.  I know there is still a long road (and perhaps a steep hill or two) to travel before this idea really takes off and the wiki is used to its full potential but, we have to start somewhere.


Filed under In the Cataloguing Department, The Cataloguer

Using Social Software to Build a Collection and Create a Community

Recently, a colleague of mine stumbled across North Cumberland Historical Society’s webpage while cataloguing.  Rather than a static website, they’ve decided to use Wetpaint, one of the many options for wikis.  I think this is a very clever idea.  What really grabbed my attention is that, right on the front page, they announce that this is a website that can be built together – by the community and the members of the historical society.

I’ve always been an active member in my local historical society, and I’ve found that while there is a plethora of knowledge among its members, there are others in the town who also have stories, knowledge and mementos that contribute to our town’s collective history.  By creating a website that allows the community to contribute to it, they have opened the historical society to the entire community.

Students can contribute while working on class projects, inviduals working on their family’s geneology, and citizens who remember the town as it was “back when” will have a venue for contributing to this website.

This is a terrific example of social software being used to build a community, and making it the community’s organization, rather than an organization for its members.  I applaud the historical society’s ability to let go of the reigns and loosen the control that many organizations have trouble with.

This same concept can easily be applied to our own library websites and catalogues.  And, I know that many of you are attempting to do just that.

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue