Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BookLovers Wiki: We hardly Knew Ye!

Summer Reading Clubs are well under way at public libraries across the country, including MPOW. I have had several emails and even some phone calls inquiring about the BookLovers Wiki and why we have not updated it. I finally had time to update today, but my update was merely to announce that the BookLovers Wiki is on a hiatus for this summer. I hope we can bring it back again next summer, but that will depend on a variety of factors (some of which are out of my control).

We fully intended to revive the wiki for this summers edition of the adult reading club. In fact, we had hopes of moving it to MediaWiki so that we could fully realize our original plan of creating cross indexes to the reviews (much like the TabWiki). We wanted to categorize the reviews by genre, author, title, reviewer, etc. this year. Even if we didn't have time to migrate to MediaWiki, we were really excited to see if the addition of WYSIWYG editing to PBwiki would boost the number of reviews submitted by the public. Last year we had a few brave individuals who learned to submit reviews directly, but most (in the end) were still emailed to us and then entered by teen volunteers or staff -- many of our bibioliphiles just couldn't seem to grasp wiki code well enough to enter reviews on their own.

The BookLovers Wiki was a success in many ways, even if it had some shortcomings. We devised our plan to use a wiki for summer reading on a fairly short time frame, but it served its purpose amazingly well. It certainly raised awareness in the community about wikis in general and what they are (many atteneded classes about wikis, so even if they didn't feel comfortable with the code at least they understood how they worked). It was an experiment, and (as far as experiments go) it was a good one.

So, why no wiki this summer? The wiki's furlough status was made at the same time the decision was made to upgrade our III catalog to include ratings and reviews. Essentially, we want to get our community involved with adding reviews and ratings to our online catalog and, since we went live with the upgrade on June 1st, the summer reading club was the perfect vehicle to raise awareness about our catalogs newest features.

Also, we had been doing the BookLovers theme for a few years and we wanted a change of pace for the club. This year we have gone with a theme of "Read Around the World: Your Passport to Summer Reading" and it has been a hit. We have integrated our summer programming to the theme, have generated many interesting reading lists which we are now putting on our web site and will be having a Book Brunch at the end of the summer for participants.

I really do encourage other libraries to get involved with wiki projects for their communities, whether it is for book reviews or another program/project. The staff and patrons at PPL both learned much more than we anticipated from running the BookLovers Wiki and I am sure other communities would have a similar experience. I am always willing to talk about the project with those considering a wiki, so please do not hesitate to drop me a line or give me a call.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Precursors to the Universal Digital Library?--Maybe so.

Out of town for a few days, I got back and while reading my RSS feeds, I saw mentions of the Open Content Alliance and Open Library project and the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine from Search Engine Watch and the ResourceShelf posts. I was very interested and happy to see more people talk about what the Internet Archive has been and is currently doing in regard to their free digital library collections and their efforts with the Open Library initiative.

Back last year, I published an article within MultiMedia & Internet@Schools magazine entitled "The Changing Face of the Scholarly Web" about the free quality full text resources that were available to us then. I have since presented on the topic (mid-April 2007) and updated my Filamentality site on the topic, providing over 25 resources for full text articles, books, and other multimedia content, to include the IA and Open Content Alliance sites mentioned above. I hope you check these sites out (see excerpts from my article below), as well as others within my article and/or site and that you find these useful to explore and share.

* The Internet Archive (IA) [http://www.archive.org/]. The Internet Archive, mentioned several times earlier in this article, is widely known for its Wayback
Machine service, allowing us to "visit" older versions of Web sites by typing in a URL. However, IA offers so much more, such as moving images, live music, audio, and text archives. The site truly is "building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form." Like a paper library, the site provides "free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public." You really should take the time to browse this site, and fairly often—I love it!

* The Open Content Alliance [http://www.opencontentalliance.org/]. "The Open Content Alliance represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content. The OCA was conceived by the Internet Archive and Yahoo! in early 2005 as a way to offer broad, public access to a rich panorama of world culture." Right now, other partners include Adobe, HP, MSN, the European Archive, O'Reilly Media, RLG, the University of California, the University of Toronto, and many others—and the list keeps growing!
What is mentioned in my article, hinted at within my Filamentality site, is that we all need to stay alert to and share the results of the search leaders and digitization entrepreneurs who continually provide us with free digital materials and improved means of locating, storing, and sharing this info. My clear favorite is the Internet Archive, and I know that with them leading the efforts working behind the scenes, the Open Content Alliance will produce fruit. The Internet Archive site and the Open Content Alliance may even become the precursors to the universal digital library, freely available to all. Below is an except from my article's conclusion which I still believe holds true today:

In his May 18, 2006, SearchDay article "Building the Universal Library," Chris Sherman noted that "building a Universal Library is a huge undertaking, and not just because the physical effort of scanning tens of millions of books is in itself such a massive task. Once scanned, the books must be indexed and made searchable, all the while respecting the copyrights of books not yet in the public domain" (#1314). Obviously, we have a long way to go before we have anything even resembling a "universal library" of books, articles, and/or even multimedia content. However, Kelly quotes Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, who believes that "this is our chance to one-up the Greeks [i.e., Royal Library of Alexandria, 3rd century B.C.]! It is really possible with the technology of today, not tomorrow. We can provide all the works of humankind to all the people of the world. It will be an achievement remembered for all time, like putting a man on the moon."

I am thrilled, as you can see, with the efforts of the Internet Archive with its captured Webpage archive, as well as its moving images, live music, audio recordings, and full text documents archives. Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are on the right track. Check out the Archive and their initiatives--you will be amazed.

Technorati Tags: full text, Internet Archive, Library Garden, Open Content Alliance, Open Library, universal digital library

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wikipedia and Wikis--Content Creation and Analysis Leads to Learning

While presenting at and attending several teacher conferences and workshops recently, I noticed quite a bit of negativity surrounding the issues of wikis in general and, specifically, Wikipedia. Mostly, I believe from my conversations, it seems that many still do not understand much about wikis or enough about Wikipedia. Certainly, there has been a lot published about Wikipedia and comparing it to other encyclopedias, with the Searcher article from early 2006 often cited, but I am still surprised by the strong reactions I receive from teachers, professors, and school librarians when I talk about Wikipedia as a positive example of Web 2.0.

Yes, I understand the downsides of the Wikipedia model, but I also recognize the positive aspects. For instance, I have never seen my undergraduate or graduate students in courses I have taught at Rider University and Rutgers University work harder at ensuring that the information they were providing or revising on their class wikis and/or Wikipedia was extremely accurate, up-to-date, and thoroughly-cited with academic resources! See, they knew that they were authoring information and placing their content into a vehicle which would automatically receive criticisms/comments by many, not just from their professor. This is a good thing, as they knew they were creating or revising global content, seeing themselves as members in a community of learners. Not allowing the use of Wikipedia whatsoever, or evening totally blocking it at schools with blocking software, is not the answer to our problems with it.

In my quest to better learn about and educate others on Web 2.0 collaborative tools, including wikis and Wikipedia, I must say that I have enjoyed the conversations and even some of the strong debates about their usefulness and appropriateness. But since I have not been blogging about Wikipedia itself, I thought it was time to do so. In a very recent email to a conference participant, I mentioned several older and recent postings and publications about Wikipedia in general that I would like to share more widely.

My favorite, now, is the 7 things you should know about Wikipedia from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative that came out last month. I think anyone who wants to learn more about Wikipedia will find this 2-page article quite enlightening. EDUCAUSE provides an interesting scenario of a student using Wikipedia as a source for his paper, followed by a concise explanation of what Wikipedia is, who's using it, how it works, why it is significant, its downsides, its future, and, finally, a short paragraph on its implications for teaching and learning, which ends by stating that "some theorists contend that content creation and analysis is a necessary component of learning. Wikipedia can encourage students to analyze what they read, ask questions, and engage in reflective, creative learning." I wholeheartedly agree. Let's learn both sides of this issue, and please, take the time to read and distribute this in your schools and libraries. Other articles and links I have led questioners to besides those mentioned/linked to above are these:

1) Middlebury College post in Mar. 2007, with almost a dozen other links.
2) A Business Week article in Dec. 2005. Check out the question and paragraph dealing with students citing a Wikipedia article.
3) Wikipedia's own criticism article. Check out the references, as well as the critical article itself. Do a "Edit" and "Find on this page" search of "Wales" and you will see some of his comments here.

And you might also like Wikipedia's other articles on itself with links:
1) Researching with Wikipedia.
2) Why Wikipedia is not so great.
3) Why Wikipedia is so great.

I hope this helps everyone better understand Wikipedia, and I welcome your thoughts and contributions to this post.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Help Shape the Future of Libraries in NJ!

From an e-mail from Peggy Cadigan, Consultant for Innovation and Communication, at the New Jersey State Library. (I'm so happy to see this come out of the futures conference that was held - my app is already in!)

Subject: Participation in NJSL Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future - applications needed by August 15, 2007

Norma Blake, State Librarian, has instituted a "Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future" to continue the groundbreaking work begun by the Mid-Atlantic Library Futures Conference. The State Library recognizes that it is imperative to have input from the people who are shaping the future of New Jersey's libraries.

This is an open invitation to anyone currently working in a New Jersey library who has an interest in the future of libraries to apply for a possible appointment to the Task Force. The Task Force will comprise members from different types of libraries and from different job titles. Applications will be reviewed by a panel selected by the State Librarian and appointments made following the review process. The goal of the Task Force will be to make recommendations about how libraries can respond in the future to the information received at the conference and the challenges presented. How can local libraries and the State Library respond to projected demographic changes, growing diversity, an aging population, and technological advances?

We expect that this task force will require a short-term commitment. It is expected that the task force will meet once a month for six months, beginning September 2007, culminating in a report to the State Librarian by March 2008. The report will be presented at the April 2008 NJLA Conference.

If you are interested in serving on this panel, please complete page two of the application which can be found at https://mail01.palsplus.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.njstatelib.org/News/Blue%2520Ribbon%2520Panel.pdf and return it by August 15, 2007 to:

Peggy Cadigan
Consultant for Innovation and Communication
New Jersey State Library
185 West State Street
P.O. Box 520
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0520

You may send the application as a word document e-mail attachment or fax it to: 609-633-3963.
Contact Peggy Cadigan with any questions. 609-278-2640, Ext. 113 or 609-292-4161, pcadigan@njstatelib.org

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What the RIAA can learn from They Might Be Giants

I just picked up They Might Be Giants new album, The Else, and got a neat surprise, a bonus CD. The disc contained 23 songs they previously released on their podcast site, and almost all were never previously released on any of their other CDs.

And as excited as I was to receive more music than I anticipated from my favorite band, my initial reaction was “Finally, someone gets it!”

Suing fans is a bad incentive for buying the album, especially when the laws are somewhat contradictory, you can legally copy an analog tape but not on a digital CD. It’s no wonder that many people who get their music from p2p networks don’t believe they are doing anything terribly wrong. After all, how can copying be legal in one format and not another?

Y’know, I’ve always wondered how much money the actual artists get when the RIAA wins a lawsuit for pirating. If anyone has information on this, I would love to know.

They Might Be Giants tried a different approach (as are other musicians)… give the fans something in exchange for their support. A bonus CD of already recorded songs might have cost them a dollar a piece to manufacture but in doing so, they will start a buzz around the official CD and bonus tracks which will creates an interest for people to want to buy it. And even jump their sales a bit.

On a semi-tangent, some Nintendo products are trying the same approach. When I bought Pokemon’s Battle Revolution for Wii (please don’t judge me) a card fell out asking me to register the game. The reward for doing this was extra pictures, wallpapers and tips for the game. Imagine what more powerful systems like Xbox or PS3 could do with registration; give the registrants extra levels more characters, unique weapons, etc.

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Pimp Yourself

Please don't be offended or turned-off by the title.

I know there have been a few occasions where "pimp" this or that has been a problem, but just try to get past that for a moment and consider this ....

The other day I attended a wonderful workshop and one of the suggestions in that workshop was that as librarians we need to stop being so quiet and shy about ourselves and start boasting about ourselves, our libraries, our profession, etc.!

Well, I have heard this before and embrace it wholeheartedly!
However, the group attending this particular workshop seemed especially uncomfortable with this suggestion.

The specific suggestion made that really got them squirming was to "use your credentials on everything."

I personally LOVE this and started doing it as soon as I had heard it.
I put my MLIS on everything I can - in my e-mail signatures, when I sign things, on my business cards, etc.... Some may think it is even excessive, but I don't care! I paid for the MILS, I earned the MILS, I have an MLIS and it does mean something!
(I was in the first class of students who graduated from SCILS at Rutgers with the additional vowel "I" - it stands for Master of Library and INFORMATION Science - boy, do I LOVE having that extra "I"!)

Several attendees really seemed aghast about this and I was sort of surprised. I can understand that it may go "outside your comfort zone" to boast about yourself or your library, but adding a few letters to the end of your name!?

Other professions do it all the time and no one thinks anything of it! Or, they have a prefix to designate their qualifications and/or professionalism, i.e,. "Dr.", "Esq.", etc.

We as librarians need to do this as well!

Sometimes this suggestion is met with, "Well, no one knows what that stands for anyway!"

GREAT! That gives you the chance to TELL THEM what it stands for, what it means, why you have it and what it means YOU CAN DO!

C'mon, as far as "pimping things" goes, this really is one of the easier ones (and free too!)

I challenge everyone who doesn't use their credentials to make a commitment to doing so as a "first step" toward becoming more comfortable BOASTING about how awesome we are! (Cuz we are!)

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STEP ONE: STOP CALLING THEM DATABASES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A friend of mine has said many times that she believes we in libraryland need to stop calling databases databases, and I have always agreed, but I have not done anything about it. I haven't written about it, talked about it, blogged it, mentioned it, or thought about it any more than that.

When I hear the word "database," and if I didn't know what it was, it conjures up for me some really complicated spreadsheet system or, well, database, that is way too complicated for me to figure out and use, and that is TOTALLY BORING - not exciting or attractive to me in anyway, doesn't sound useful to me and doesn't make me want to use it or care to find out how to use it at all!

Well, yesterday this flew out of my mouth (or my fingers rather) in a twit over on twitter when someone mentioned they were changing their database descriptions to try to at least better reflect what they were to try to get their students to use them.... I put out my thought that if we really want to become more "2.0" and more valued and user-friendly, we need to stop calling databases, databases and do it now! More like do it yesterday!

This created a nice little chat discussion on twitter about what we SHOULD call them and that led to another nice little discussion about what they really are and what the users think they are and want to call them.

I want to thank Rochelle, KGS, Pete Bromberg, Library_Chic, cindi, wanderingeyre, awd, and everyone else for that twit yesterday. I am using the verb to twit as in a chat, to chat here ...

This was also a great example of a nice use of twitter.... a quick IM-like conversation between a few people that was captured in the twitter program for me to go back and look at today.

It wasn't an IM session - that in most cases would be between two people and wouldn't necessarily automatically have been captured for me to refer to today. It wasn't a chat room, it wasn't e-mails, it was a quick conversation among some professionals that was saved as it happened. We commented back and forth while doing other things on this topic - in the 140 character limits of twitter - so we had to be brief and concise - no waste! I thought it was great!

Today I could go back and refer to all the suggestions and thoughts and questions and compose this post over here on Blogger.

So, to get back to the issues of the databases.... Really now, what can we call them so that people

1. Want to use them
2. Get the idea of what they are
3. Don't be made to feel stupid (see the excellent post on this over at Tinfoil Racoon's blog)
4. Don't feel intimidated or turned-off by them
5. Find out the value of them

The twitter conversation went something like this:

Databases are mentioned.
I say we need to stop calling them that.
Someone says, then what do we call them? "...those article thingies?" *
We decide to "brainstorm" this

Someone says "Find good stuff with these search tools"
I say "yeah, search tools, electronic resources - still "eh" on those"
Someone adds, "search tools for [discipline(s)"]?

This causes me to start wondering if the databases are search tools or the resources within them? "but is the database the search tool or the gold in the mine!?"
Another adds, " "library resources"? "resources to use in your research"? "

Then, of course, we got a little silly with:
"crap that your professor wants you to use so just do it already"?

And then in response to "tool" vs. "gold mine" we got to
"The trick is the meta-search of multiple indexes and then cross-linking to the full text in their respective happy places "

Which resulted in
"tool to find happy place of needed articles" ;-)


"that's the problem. Catalog = search engine, inventory control, or lipstuck pig? Database = search or result or full-text?"

At one point, the brilliant KGS characteristically asked, "why don't we ask the user?" and
someone replied, "*has* anyone asked the user what to call it?"

Then a few "gasp! ask the user!? oh no!" comments and jokes twitted by and then we continued questioning "well what is the database TO THE USER, not TO US!?"

Someone comments that their kids say the databases are websites, "database, electronic resource, etc="website" "

Which gets a reaction of "knee-jerk reaction "no it's not!!"...but really, isn't a database just an iteration of a website? at least to the user? "

We get a little silly again:
"goldmines of knowledge" is suggested
"Goldmines of knowledge = databases, I love it. Is hilarious and descriptive"
"what to call databases: Stuff you need to convince your teacher you used more than wikipedia "

"Infopools, factipiles, report'o'calls" (some of my personal faves!)
and finally,
"Put on your hipboots, kids and wade into our authoritative, full-text Sludgepits o' Knowledge"

Okay, okay we were getting a little out-of-hand toward the end, but you get the idea....

So, c'mon everyone: What are we going to call these things that are expensive, incredibly powerful, valuable, under appreciated, under marketed and UNDERUSED!?

I KNOW we can do better than databases.

STEP 2: Get everyone on board calling them by their new name........

* I have decided to not cite who said what in case anyone wouldn't want their terrific twits shared with the world - I am not trying to withhold credit, but protecting against exposing anyone - if you want to claim any of those - go ahead - and/or tell me and I'll give you credit where credit is due! ;-)

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Are We Getting Warmer? Query Clarification in Virtual Reference (ALA Redux Part 2)

At the Library Research Round Table at ALA in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2007, Lynn Silipigni Connaway of OCLC and I presented our latest findings on Query Clarification in VR (aka question negotiation or the reference interview).

We examined 600 chat transcripts randomly selected from QuestionPoint bank of almost 500,000 transcripts. Here are some of our findings (and an invitation below to the Seeking Synchronicity web site to see the PowerPoint slides and handouts from this presentation).

Do librarians clarify?
75% (in 434 of 581 usable transcripts) librarians did ask clarifying questions.

Did they ask the highly recommended follow-up question? (some version of “Does this completely answer your question?”)
50% (217) of the 434 librarians who clarified did ask the follow up question.

What types of questions were asked?
66% (554 of 838 questions asked by the librarians) were closed questions.
34% (282 of 838) were open.

What did librarians ask about?
Librarians asked users questions about: topic, background, search history, type of resource needed, extent/depth of information needed, if the user wanted a referral and more.

How about the virtual reference users?
Users offered information about: topic, background, extent/depth, and to correct the librarian’s misunderstanding.

Surprising finding! 2 different patterns of clarification!
Librarians clarified more often in the beginning of the interaction
Users clarified in the middle more often.

Most important finding! How to improve accuracy in chat reference?
For the 180 ready reference questions in our sample, we looked at accuracy (see my blog posting of July 10, 2007 for more on ready reference in chat).
Clarifying the query and asking the recommended follow-up question both boosted accuracy.

Bottom Line
Always ask clarifying questions, even if you think you understand the question (one user asked for diving instructions, but had made a typo and wanted driving instructions, early clarification would have saved the librarian much searching time!)

Always ask a version of the recommended follow-up question: “Does this completely answer your question?”

Interested in more detail on the above findings? Please click on the above links to see the PowerPoint slides and handouts.
This research is funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, and OCLC.
Special thanks to Susanna Sabolcsi-Boros of Rutgers, SCILS, and Patrick Confer of OCLC, for their help with this part of the project.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Librarian 2.0- The new professional or the responsible one?

Reading the Librairan 2.0 Manifesto was both an inspiring and frustrating read. Inspiring because it iterates goals that make me love my profession. I love outreach, I love working online and I love sharing new web 2.0 finds with peers and patrons.

But frustating too because I was left wondering how we got to a point in our profession where some of the goals needed to be written. Take the following examples:

*I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent library services that users need.
*I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great.
*I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that libraries need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want.

These are new goals for our profession!? We actually had to put in goals that state we need to be open to efficiency, convenience and we need to provide resources our patrons need and want? As public servants in information resources, it would almost seem as if these goals were a mandatory. And yet, I can also see why we needed to specify these goals; there are quite a few among our profession that need to be reminded.

But how did we get to this stage? Why do we have professional librarians who refuse to keep up with the professional and technological requirements? How did we reach a point where the patrons’ needs were less important than the traditional way of doing things?

All along, the job of a reference librarian has been to find the information patrons need. We are in the business of connecting people to the information they require... so why care about the format that information is found in?

Although traditionalists' argue the Internet is 90% junk, it was originally built as a means to convey information and expedite the communication process between people. Even among the copious amounts of junk found on the web, legitimate information has rooted itself firmly in cyberspace as well. For some reason or another some in our profession dismissed this technology as non-important, despite the visibly growing applications and use among our patrons. And because of this lackadaisical and rejective approach we are left with professionals so far behind the curve that waiting for retirement is as an easier path than training.

And so I grow frustrated when I read the goals and responsibilities of the 2.0 Librarian, it should've been part of our profession all along.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Congrats to Amy!

An announcement from Connie Paul, Executive Director, Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative:
Amy Kearns, will begin as (CJRLC)Program Coordinator on July 30, 2007! Currently the head of reference for the Paterson PL, Amy is a blogger, a trainer, a techie, and a library enthusiast. She has been very active in the Highlands RLC... She is eager to get to know our members (she knows many of you already), and we are delighted to welcome her.
A huge and hearty congratulations Amy on this exciting new position. Looking forward to working with you on continuing education initiatives! - Pete

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ALA Redux - Ready Reference in Chat - Not Dead Yet! PLUS 1 Foolproof Way to Increase Accuracy in Chat Reference

"I'm not dead yet!"

I wanted to update the LG faithful on the 5 (5!) very different presentations I gave at ALA in Washington DC, based on the research we are doing on the Seeking Synchronicity IMLS grant studying live chat virtual reference at Rutgers University, SCILS and OCLC.

It was wonderful to speak to so many people at ALA who were eager (yes, actually eager) to hear about research in Virtual Reference! Feedback was amazingly positive and I plan to blog about each of these presentations, just to give some highlights, and to point you to the PowerPoint presentation and handouts if you want to get more information.

For the 13th RUSA New Reference Research Forum at ALA, Lynn Silipigni Connaway of OCLC and I presented “Not Dead Yet! Ready Reference in Live Chat Reference.” We had pulled a random sample from almost 500,000 QuestionPoint transcripts from 2004-2006 and done an analysis of the types of questions and an evaluation of accuracy in ready reference. We found that early reports of the death of ready reference (due to user’s ability to search Google and Wikipedia independently for factual type questions) are premature and that these types of questions surprisingly still comprise nearly 30% of chat questions. Here are some of our findings as a tease to invite you to go to the Seeking Synchronicity site for more detail:

What Types of Questions are Being Asked in Chat?

Of 915 total chat reference questions:

  • 243 (27%) were Ready Reference (short, factual, questions)
  • 293 (32%) were Subject Searches (largest group)
  • 10 (1%) were Inappropriate (comforting in such a low number)

What Types of Libraries/Consortia are Getting more Ready Reference Questions?

Of 162 chat transcripts:

  • 59% of the Ready Reference questions came from Public Libraries
  • 45% from Public & Academic Consortia
  • 35% from Adacemic and Law Libraries

How about Accuracy?

How accurate are chat librarians in answering ready reference questions? We used the Arnold & Kaske (2005) method to classify chat ready reference answers and found 78% (141 of 180) to be correct. 69% (125 of 180) meeting the gold standard of correct with citation.

Increase Accuracy! Our Most Important Finding!

For the 20% (35 of 180) incorrect questions, the most frequent reason was that the chat librarian sent only general information (usually a website on the topic). The general website did not contain the specific information requested.

So the “One Foolproof Way" to increase accuracy for ready reference chat questions is as follows: before you push a general information page, make sure it has the specific, exact answer to the user’s question.

Clidk here for the Not Dead Yet! PowerPoint presentation and here for the Not Dead Yet! handout that details coding procedures for type of question and accuracy.

Cited Reference: Arnold, J. & Kaske, N. (2005). Evaluating the quality of a chat cervice, portal: Libraries and the Academy, 5(2), 177-193.

Special thanks to Janet Torsney, an MLIS student at Rutgers University, SCILS, for her help in doing the accuracy analysis and Susanne Sabolcsi-Boros for intercoder check. Also thanks to Nick Belkin of SCILS for suggesting the accuracy analysis.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The "New" Librarian in the New York Times and The Sun

A couple of articles to share today, both similar, on the "new" librarians... one is in The New York Times, A Hipper Crowd of Shushers, and the other is in The Sun, For New-Look Librarians Head to Brooklyn.

What do YOU think of these takes on "us"?

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Friday, July 06, 2007

10 Principles of Improv and why you should care

I've been meaning to get to two posts for months now: A post about Toastmasters (the toast post) and a post about taking improv classes in Philly. Well, this is a (slightly modified) version of a Toastmasters speech I recently gave about my experience with improv. Two birds, and all that :-)

A few months ago I started taking Improv classes in Philadelphia on Monday nights. I signed up for improv not because I have a burning desire to be the next Will Ferrell or Mike Myers, nor any illusions that you’ll soon be seeing me on the big screen or on SNL. What inspired me to sign up for class was a small, remarkable book called Truth in Comedy, written by Charna Halpern, Kim Johnson, and Del Close (one of the most important influences in modern day comedy improv. Just look at the list of folks he mentored!)

The more I read about improv, the more I realized that the principles of good improv are also the principles of living a good, centered, happy, connected, and fulfilled life. So today I’d like to take a few minutes to share 10 improv principles with you, and tell you a little bit about my experience of the past eighteen weeks learning to doing improv.

First I think it’s useful to briefly address the question, "What is Improv?" Inevitably when I tell someone I’m learning to do improv, they say something like, "Oh standup comedy, I could see you doing that." So let’s clear this up right away: Improv is not stand up comedy. In many ways it is the antithesis of stand up. Stand up is generally written, memorized, practiced and polished. It's also (usually) a solitary activity. Improv is spontaneous, free-flowing and created on the spot. It's also (usually) a team sport.

Often it's the unscripted nature of improv that is most associated with the form, and for that reason many people say things like, "You’re doing improv—isn’t that hard? Isn’t that scary to work without a script? To have to make it up on the spot?" To which I can only reply with a scratch of my chin, "Hmmm… Having to make it all up on the spot… That sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before??? Oh yeah!!… it’s what we do every single day of our lives!"
Look, not only can anyone do improv, we are in fact, all of us, doing improv all the time.

Let me ask you: When you were born, were you handed a script that layed out all of your lines so you'd know just the right thing to say and do for the rest of your life? I don't think you got that script. I don't know anyone who got that script. I know I didn’t get that script. So we’re doing improv all the time. All the time. Every day. You. Me. Them. We're improv-ing baby!

And you may have noticed that IN our unscripted lives, sometimes, 'stuff' happens. And learning and practicing the principles of improv can help us deal with that stuff.


Principle 1: Be prepared (Warm up!)
In my improv class we don’t rehearse scenes, but we do practice. We do train to learn and internalize certain structures and methods the way jazz improvisers learn scales. Before getting into scene work, we activate our minds and bodies by playing games; games that will help ground us physically and emotionally to characters we create in scenes. Sometimes we play 2 or 3 games at once to help sharpen our awareness and listening skills and get us out of our heads. Props to the Boy Scouts on this one.

Principle 2: Willingness
Willingness to do what you ask? A lot. We have to be willing to fail, and fail spectacularly. Since we don’t know what’s coming next, we have to accept that we may get knocked off balance. Therefore we have to be willing to mess up –and mess up big time.

Being willing to fail spectacularly means being willing to take risks. Lack of success is not due to trying and failing; it’s due to not trying, often out of a fear of failure. Being willing to fail means being willing to look foolish. It’s been said that we wouldn’t care so much about what people thought about us if we realized how seldom they do. If we’re not willing to look foolish doing improv then we won’t risk, we won’t commit, and the scenes will lack energy and direction. Being willing to risk reconnects us with the zest and energy of life. When we risk, our senses our heightened, our adrenaline is flowing. It’s a rush.

Finally, we have to be willing to make mistakes. The point is not that there are no consequences. Rather, it’s accepting that if we are truly risking there is no question that we WILL make mistakes. But we also realize that others are there to help dig us out of our mistakes. And ultimately it’s our mistakes that lead us to growth and improvement. We learn to choose better next time.

Principle 3: Stay in the Moment
In improv what is happening NOW is the key to discovery. I was at a Library Futures conference recently and heard someone say, "I’m very interested in the future because that’s where most of my life will happen." That got a big laugh. Well I’m very interested in this moment, because that’s where ALL of my life has happened. And I’m pretty sure that’s where most of the action is. (Coincidentally, it was at the library futures conference that Mary Catherine Bateson suggested that the best way to prepare for the future is to take an improv class...)

Principle 4: Shut up and Listen
Good improvisers are not necessarily more clever, or more quick-witted. They just listen better… Improv is about hearing what others are offering, and building off it. It’s hard to do that when your gums are flappin’.

Principle 5. Action beats inaction
Don’t talk about doing it, do it. Be specific. In Improv there is a "bias for action". I’ve also seen the term "bias for action" listed as a common trait of effective leaders. Why? Because active choices move things forward. The more specific the choice the better. Specific choices are committed choices. Specific choices move things forward and allow others to respond to and build off of your offers.

Principle 6. Be honest
In improv we are taught to express whatever is coming up in us at that moment. To do that we have to learn not to censor or judge our own thoughts, which requires some major rewiring of the brain… The only value we bring to the scene is our honest response to what’s happening.

Principle 7: Let go of (your need to) control
The only thing we can control are our own choices. Realizing that we are not in control of anything else is the key to de-stressing and getting into the flow. And the flow is where we are creative. The flow is where we are productive. The flow is where we are connected to others. The flow is where we are happy. [an aside] Interestingly… What happens when we stop focusing energy on things that we can’t control? That energy gets focused on things that we can control, and ironically, we end up exerting more influence.

Principle 8. There are no mistakes
Earlier I said that we have to be willing to make mistakes. But moving beyond that, we learn to not see choices as mistakes. In improv, there are no mistakes or bad ideas, there are only interesting choices. We respect all the choices (aka offers) made by others, and find ways to build off of them, no matter how challenging they may be. There are no mistakes because everything can be built upon. Everything that happens is an opportunity.

Principle 9: Trust
Learning improv we learn to trust ourselves. We trust our impulses and our choices (which we can do because there are no mistakes, and we are not alone.) And we learn to trust in others (to "justify" our "interesting choices", build off them, and weave them into the fabric of the scene.) When learning to trust our ideas, it helps to remember that ideas are infinite. So no matter what strange hole it seems we’ve dug ourselves into in a scene, there are an infinite number of ideas that can help dig us out.

Principle 10. Teamwork (row, row, row)
We’re all in this together. No one person is responsible for the success or failure of a scene. It succeeds, or not, based on our ability to work together. This requires strong individuals making strong choices, who trust each other and themselves. As a group, we learn to focus on solutions. As individuals we learn to focus on getting results (i.e. moving the scene forward) instead of being right, or angling for attention or credit. We rise, or fall, as one.

The Uber Principle: "Yes, and..."
So there are the big 10 principles of improv as seen by an improv newbie. But I’d like to conclude by mentioning one final improv principle. It’s a principle that runs through all the others and infuses improv with it’s spirit. This is the principle of "Yes, and". "Yes, and" means that we accept everything that happens as an offer, as a gift. It is our job to bring our unique perspective to bear, and build off of whatever is given to us. "Yes and" implies acceptance, but not acquiescence. "Yes and" acknowledges the reality of the moment, but also inspires us to create the future.

In the end, "Yes and" is a powerful attitude of affirmation. It is an attitude that affirms ourselves, and therefore gives courage. It is an attitude that affirms others, and therefore inspires trust. And it is an attitude that affirms what is and therefore inspires hope and excitement for the possibilities of what may be as we join together to create our shared future.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Email Woes ... and the answer to my woes?

I have spent the better part of the last 5 days at work writing emails, responding to emails, trying to delete as much email as possible, organizing email, and so on. I used to absolutely love email when I first started using it 15 years or so ago. Now, not so much. In fact, I would have to say that at this very moment that email is my arch-nemesis.

I have long thought about declaring email bankruptcy, but I know that this is not really a viable option for a variety of reasons. Still, I dream about actually doing it one day and can imagine that it would feel very liberating.

In the not too distant past I had a rule of thumb for my inbox at work: No more than 100 messages at any given time and I was not allowed to leave on Friday until I was below my 100 quota. Messages either had to be answered, deleted or filed. The ones that remained were generally there for a good reason.

My current inbox is suffering from a severe case of bloat -- both in terms of the number of messages that it contains and the length of those messages. I generally have in excess of 1,000 messages in my inbox and at the current moment I am approaching 1,600 (largely due to the email that accumulated during annual in DC). This does not include my spam or junk folders, this is legitimate email. My email flood began last summer when I took over as Program Coordinator at MPOW. I never imagined that organizing programs for a library would require such intense email efforts (and I will leave my rant about voice mail for another day).

Since I feel unable to surrender to email bankruptcy, I am thinking that the Web Worker Daily has delivered my solution to me : Stop being "Nice". A light bulb went on as soon as I read the following:

We’re suffering from outdated rules and expectations about email that don’t work in our email-saturated world. Perhaps short emails without extra niceties are not just acceptable but preferable in our connected world on the web. Now that we have better ways of connecting on a human level (think IM, IRC, blogging) maybe we can put email back into its rightful place as merely a convenient way of communicating when we don’t have a real time connection..

... for getting work done on a daily basis, we could all benefit from an email etiquette that calls for short and to-the-point messages.

I admit that I am guilty of being "nice" in many of my email transactions and perhaps this is what is really slowing my productivity down. I am going to work on being a little less nice and a lot more to the point in my email from now on. Any tips on how I can accomplish this would be appreciated -- oh, and if anyone else wants to share the bloat of their inbox it might be interesting to see how many of us our caught in the flood.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

True Confession of a WOHM

I got home from the ALA conference in DC last Wednesday afternoon and I have yet to fully unpack my suitcase -- only the essentials have been removed and a few other items. In fact, it is unlikely that it will be fully unpacked until this coming Wednesday when I have the day off for the 4th of July. This was really bugging me this morning as I like to feel organized and on top of everything.

In my defense, I got off the train last Wednesday at 2 pm and was in the library by 5 pm to work the closing shift. I also chose to spend Thursday and Friday evening having fun with my son instead of doing laundry. What happened during the weekend you ask? We had a huge BBQ bash on Sunday in honour of Canada Day, so I spent Saturday cleaning house and grocery shopping (and having Alex help me make patriotic cookies and the special bouquet pictured here). Hence the suitcase got ignored once again.

As I dug around in my suitcase this morning trying to find my favourite black sandals (they were on the bottom, of course) I felt really down on myself for having been home nearly 5 days and still having an almost untouched suitcase on the bedroom floor... not to mention a tote bag full of flair in the family room that still needs sorting and distributing. But then I remembered the look of joy on Alex's face as he played with his friends at the BBQ yesterday and I felt a bit better about my state of disorganization this morning.

I am often asked how I "do it all", a question that I am never certain how to answer. Some days I feel like I really can do it all and other days I feel like I am an imposter only pretending to really have it all together. Today is an imposter day, so I am posting this as insight in to the fact that I don't always manage to do it all and sometimes I have to choose between having clean clothes and enjoying time with family and friends.

Note: I edited the title after the caffeine kicked in. My original title of "Working Mom" is not meant to implicate that SAHMs don't work hard, as I know many SAHMs that work very hard. WOHM is much better term.