November 4, 2007

Designing an OPAC for Web 2.0

Posted in IL, il2007 tagged at 5:47 pm by Robin

Oh. My. God. Can I just say wow! Casey Bisson talked about the advantages of an OPAC with Web 2.0 capabilities (comments, tags, etc.) and then demonstrated how easy it can be to get one! First, he talked about the challenges to our current catalogs – the usability, findability and remixability of our content is pretty limited. He also said that we’ve learned a few things from the Web 2.0 phenomenon – we have one chance to prove we aren’t stupid – if someone comes in looking for books on the sociology of education, and we offer books on watersheds, they are going to think we are stupid (and he showed an example of just that happening on a traditional catalog search), search boxes are for asking questions and links are citations. As for usability and remixability of our data – we should be offering users ways to reuse our content they way they want to use it (easy-link to our catalog, etc.). He also made the point that sites that allow comments value their users. Control isn’t so important when you think of commenting in that way. Also – your website isn’t a marketing tool, it’s a service point. This point was repeated a couple of times in the conference!

The last 11 and 1/2 minutes of the presentation were taken up with the installation and configuration of Casey’s “next-gen opac”, scriblio. He actually did it in real time (with very little prep work done prior to the session) and showed how quick and easy this OPAC is. As he was demoing it at the end, I thought it looked an awful lot like III’s Encore product – but without the hefty price tag and with a tiny bit more upkeep required (automated updates done twice a day would just about do it).


Content Management Systems (CMSs)

Posted in il2007, presentations tagged at 5:39 pm by Robin

Ruth Kneale started off this talk with a run-down of her library’s search for a content management system that would work for their needs. While we already have one in place for our Intranet, the main website’s CMS isn’t written in stone yet, so I wanted to see what process she used and what conclusion she reached. The upshot is that Drupal (the CMS that runs our Intranet) was the best supported, most feature-rich and least likely to create a learning curve for staff that she saw. There were some Joomla/Mambo fans in the audience who challenged some of her assumptions, but for what she wanted to do, Drupal was clearly the best choice (not that I’m biased or anything…). It was a really interesting look at what they plan to do with their CMS and how they chose it. They are planning to go live with it on Jan 1 of ’08.

Social Catalogs

Posted in il2007, presentations tagged at 5:13 pm by Robin

This session began with two of the people responsible for Hennepin County library system’s awesome site (Glenn Peterson, Web Administrator, & Marilyn Turner, Manager, Web Services & Training). Marilyn started it off with an overview of the goals for their reader’s advisory website (the site). She wanted to bring together all the resources for readers that they had scattered throughout the site into one place and allow both librarians and patrons to contribute even more content to the site than they already had. They did this by assigning a “bookspace coordinator” position that had a bookspace workgroup (of about 5 people) and bookspace contributors (about 30 people) helping to create the content of the site. The one thing I found really interesting was that these 35 folks were not volunteers – they were required to post to the genre blog that they managed at least once a month as well as create and maintain book lists in their genre and part of their performance evaluation included this work. Even so, the participants generally found that they only spent 1 to 2 hours a month working on their part of the site.

Glen then got up and discussed the underpinnings of the site. It is very social, it allows patrons to contribute and share their knowledge on the site. Some of the coolest features it offers are blog comments and book lists (created by users, staff and auto-generated from the catalog). It also lets people know that others are contributing to the site – showing that the site is alive – by featuring the “current activity”, what’s going on right now, and by highlighting the most active contributors/commenters. The site is based on a database-driven model, with RSS everywhere and it uses ColdFusion as it’s scripting language. The “takeaways” from this presentation (Glen wanted to be sure to include these, because each speaker with takeaways got to run their hands through Michael Stephens’ hair…) were:

  • Draw on library staff
  • Empower your users
  • Create opportunities for serendipity
  • Let users interact

The slides will be up at (they say they are there now, but the link is bad) with lots more information than what I was able to write down!

October 31, 2007

Library Redesign

Posted in IL, il2007, presentations tagged at 9:21 am by Robin

Bennett Ponsford and Christina Hoffman Gola from the Texas A&M libraries discussed what they did (surveys, focus groups, etc.) to get information from students on their redesign project. The process of getting respondents was pretty interesting – they used email, facebook group bulletins and discussion forums to try to get users in for focus groups and surveys. Email was, by far, the most effective way to get folks to help them out. The rest of the presentation was focused on what they learned and was pretty much focused on the academic library and how undergrads, grads and faculty use the site differently. Not a lot for public libraries there.

The next presenter, though, had a great idea! Erica Reynolds, from the Johnson County Library,  got frustrated with her redesign process and decided to take the web group out of the library and on a field trip. They headed to the Nelson museum of Art in Kansas City and used the concepts from the 4000 years of art collected there to recharge their batteries and get ideas for their redesign process.

  1. Have a backup plan – they kept the old site available via a link so that if something didn’t get moved to the new site, they could still get to the information
  2. Be bold. Be dynamic. Be human – use pictures of staff, patrons and guests who provide programs at the library.
  3. When you paint to sell, you paint people – again, use pictures of both staff and patrons to get users interested
  4. Enliven your collection through reorganization and presentation (uses Novelist to populate “need a story?” feature)
  5. Technology changes everything – “if a director’s not blogging, we’re like – ‘what are you doing?'”
  6. Experiment with small studies and prototypes
  7. A desire for beauty and serenity endures
  8. We like surprises. Anticipating surprises is even more delicious.
  9.  A good guide enhances the experience exponentially
  10. Destruction and creation are forever linked
  11. Never stop innovating
  12. We can be both prestigious and playful.

I will definitely link to the last presenter’s slides – they were gorgeous and there was a lot more info on them… I just couldn’t write that fast to get it all!

Putting Evidence-based practice to work

Posted in IL, il2007, presentations tagged at 9:02 am by Robin

Frank Cervone started this presentation with an overview of what “evidence-based practice” is – it’s essentially the rigorous use of data from various sources to drive web feature/application/design decisions. He listed the fundamental ideas of evidence-based practice as studying a particular problem using focus groups, surveys and direct observation usability studies, contrasting your results with other studies and then combining results to better understand the problem and, hopefully, the solution. He went through a discussion of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) principles and discussed levels of evidence, from the peer reviewed, rigorous studies in the literature to the casual anecdotal evidence from the public services staff. The “big issue” from his work with all of this is that we should be designing for a world where our users don’t have to come to the library site – because they won’t. We’ll have to be where our users are!

Amanda Hollister did the last bit of the presentation on her academic library’s use of breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a way to track what pages you have visited in your visit to a site. We have breadcrumbs at the top of our staffweb pages. They used a dynamic, page-based system from Yasure media that they then customized to keep the path data (the route visitors took to get to various pages on the site) so that they could analyze it and streamline their site in response.  The methods – and results – were really pretty interesting. It seemed to provide a LOT more information then the standard web log analyzing software.

Planning & Implementation of Library 2.0

Posted in IL, il2007, presentations tagged at 8:42 am by Robin

David King, the web branch manager for the Shawnee county library in Topeka, KS, gave an awesome presentation about how to go about using Web 2.0 tools in libraries. He started off with some unfortunate implementations (private MySpace profiles, blogs that hadn’t been updated since 2005, etc.) and basically talked about how to manage these new tools to serve patrons. His main theme was to think through the goals for your library’s use of MySpace, blogs or whatever it is you are using. He also said to think about the services you provide physically and start offering them digitally (virtual reference, blogs to recreate or replace the newsletter, etc.). He also went through the process of deciding the content. His advice – ask for participation, whether you ask actively (hey – will you all leave your suggestions in the comments?) or passively (use action-oriented titles – like “were you here?” on flickr sets of events to encourage users to comment and say what they thought of the program). He also discussed the “best practices” for social tools – such as leaving comments open and editing them as needed and answering all comments quickly to keep the conversation flowing. He also enumerated the many decisions that have to be made when rolling out a Web 2.0 service – who creates (staff, customers, both)? Who manages the content – posting, editing comments, etc.? He ended with a rundown of the specific decisions that need to be made with each popular 2.0 service – who, what and why, mostly.

Good food and excellent company

Posted in IL, il2007 tagged at 12:33 am by Robin

Tonight I went to eat Greek food with Renee (the librarian from Canada) and Eric (the librarian from Illinois) and Chad (who is from Ohio). We had a lovely evening, but we ended up staying at the restaurant until 10, so I begged off of the karaoke fun and came back to the room to type this stuff up and rest. So, with no further ado, I’m going to type up my notes now!

October 30, 2007


Posted in il2007, presentations tagged at 6:57 pm by Robin

This was another entertaining keynote/opening of the conference speech. The CEO of Information Today got up and gave us the stats on the conference – 1600 total attendees from 48 states and 11 countries. This is the largest IL conference yet! He was followed by Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life project who gave us a breakdown of the ways in which people use technology these days. He finished his talk with a breakdown of the 8 “types” of tech users and gave a link to the quiz
so you can find out what kind of tech user you are. I’m an omnivore – but almost half of our users are in one of the “low-tech” groups – that sort of information makes you think about not only what kinds of services we should offer via technology, but whether to offer many of the services I’m all excited about at all. One snippet that struck me was the very low penetration of podcasting. The percentage of people who consume podcasts are in the low teens (12% or 13% – I don’t remember right off the top of my head), so this is something that – while it would be cool, isn’t really going to make a big difference to our patrons. Second life – while still not really popular at 20%, was used by more people than podcasts! That was surprising.  After the keynote, we split up and started heading to our first official sessions, but it’s time to be social again, so I’ll write those up later!

October 29, 2007

And the conference starts…

Posted in IL, il2007, schedule tagged at 9:29 am by Robin

I have been a bit sketchy in my comments from the preconferences, simply because they are long and exhausting and contain so much information that I’m not sure what to write for you all. I’ll do better about the shorter ones… I’ll also probably put a full write-up about the AJAX stuff up on my “other” blog (shh – don’t let it know I’m cheating on it!!), because that sort of techy info is just what my readers (Tab and Margaret, mostly…) expect from me!

Today the conference starts! The keynote this morning is titled “2.0 and the Internet World” and it should be interesting! The next sessions are all about incorporating 2.0 tech in your library and encouraging information literacy and managing a web site redesign. All fun stuff! I’ll write more later…

October 28, 2007

Project Management and Gaming

Posted in IL, il2007 tagged at 10:54 pm by Robin

I took it pretty easy this morning, just caught up on some ‘net stuff and wandered – while window shopping and stopping to people watch – down to my only session of the day. That one was on Project Management for Libraries and was interesting in that it gave a “library” slant to basic project management concepts. Our exercise was to start basic planning for a project to expand a Public Computer Center in a fictional library. It was a pretty good session, but the day was beautiful and it was hard to focus… After that session, however, I managed to focus without a problem. I went to the open gaming night and managed to get my butt walloped by Jenny Levine while playing Guitar Hero. Besides that bit of fun, however, I also met a BUNCH of the folks that I know via twitter and found some new folks to follow on my twitter friends list.
Bobbi and I met up again after the gaming night was over and went to the Crown and Anchor Pub for dinner. We just got back from all that and we are both about to drop – and the conference doesn’t technically start until tomorrow!! Fun, fun, fun!!!

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