Category Archives: Ponder This!

Library Loyalty Programs – Worth Trying?

I was recently reading about Belly – an online service that helps small and medium sized businesses build customer loyalty programs.  There is a great article on Read, Write, Web about the services offered by Belly.

Are loyalty programs worth considering for libraries?  If so, what would the rewards be for library loyalty?  It may sound slightly far-fetched, but it’s something that we may need to consider.  What do you think?

Lift, Is Facebook Killing Reading?, and Library 2025

Just three interesting notes from the web:

An article about Lift, the newest project from the creators of Twitter – read the article on Read, Write, Web.

And from England – a study that kids are getting more exposure to the written word from the pages of Facebook rather than the pages of books.  I have to say that as an adult a good chunk of the time I may have previously spent reading books is now spent consuming web-based media.  Is this the end of reading or an inevitable cultural shift? Well, you read the article and be the judge.

Last up – chapters being accepted now for a book entitled Library 2025.  Find out more on Facebook.  (Gah!  It’s killing the time you could be spending reading!)

So, what do you think?

What do you think of Facebook Questions?

Any ideas on whether or not you’ll use it at your library?

I don’t have an opinion on it yet…but c’mon guys…I think we can leverage it somehow.  Or…maybe you want to avoid it all costs?


Nice is a cheap budget item

In my home state of Michigan yesterday, two public libraries in affluent neighborshoods were closed because their ballot items didn’t pass.  It was heartbreaking because it wasn’t so much a reflection of the libraries themselves, but a reflection of city politics and politicians who used the libraries as pawns in their minor battles. 

In many states, library budgets are being slashed on all levels.  Whole state libraries are being closed, entire library systems dismantled, and staff members are told that they are being let go.

This isn’t news to you, I know.  So yesterday, when I walked into my local library, I was irritated by their attitude.  We’re talking about a library that charges $1 if a patron doesn’t have their library card.  Not because they need the money, but because it’s an incovenience to the staff.   When I asked to have my items renewed, I looked at one of the titles and said out loud “Oh crap!!!” To which the clerk replied, “Did you LOSE one of the LIBRARY BOOKS?!?!”  What type of assumption is that?  I said “Oh crap” because I had left it on the coffee table at home and had made a mental note to bring it with me. 

My point?  Nice is a cheap budget item.  It doesn’t cost you anything.  And I will tell you this – congratulations if your budget is secure, your library well-stocked, your patrons all well behaved and friendly – but  our institutions are under threat and nice means a lot – now more than ever.  I could go through a list of “best practices” but you know what they are.  It’s the action and the doing that takes energy.  And if you have staff members who aren’t friendly or enforce necessary policy in a rude way, then you need to stand up to them.  You can stand up to them gently but you must stand up to them.  That is hard, but it is needed.  Nice is needed.

I hope that most of you escaped this election season intact and with political leaders who support your organizations.  Whether you did or didn’t, I hope that you’ll make the commitment that no matter what, your library and staff will be dedicated to a culture dedicated to “nice” and the limitation of unnecessary and rigid policies.

How Communities Grow…

Here is a video recently posted from Sir Ken Robinson about how education is broken.

What he says at 2:40 applies to libraries too – “Great teachers…[sic] create the conditions under which people will grow. Understanding talent, motivation and the need to feed peoples spirits and their energies.”

Great libraries do the same for their communities.  Great libraries serve as a gauge for the community and support talent, find talent, foster talent.  Finding your community’s talent, understanding what motivates your community (okay, not booze, but real stuff), and feeding spirits and energy is the key to success.  That Sir Robinson, he’s a goodie.

You’re killing me with Twitter

I love Twitter.  I really do.  I use it constantly and am almost always connected to it.  But it drives me crazy sometimes.  So here are my tips for using Twitter effectively at work and in your personal life.  Most of this is wisdom that’s already out there.  Don’t get pissy if you don’t like the rules – they are mere observations and suggestions – take them as you will. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.  (Oh, yes, I did just say that…)

Add people as friends so you can DM
If you manage your library’s Twitter account, make sure you friend your Tweeple when they friend you.  When you’re both all good and friendly, then they can Direct Message you.  And that means they can ask you questions without the whole world listening in.  And that works for us – we’re librarians, people need to ask us things. 

I just saw a great series of tweets in which a person tweeted a particular company saying “Will you please friend me so that I can DM you?  I’ve got a question.”  Really fantastic of them to ask!  And even better that the company did it!

If you can’t abbreviate well, don’t  do it all
Okay, maybe I’m old.  I haven’t taken the Pew Millennial Quiz yet, so maybe it’s a generational thing and I dont’ get it.  But there’s such a thing as too much abbreviation.  What more can I say?  If you need to abbreviate to the point of omitting all vowels and multi-syllables, then maybe your message needs a different outlet.

If you tweet more than three times a day, it better be awesome
Here’s the thing.  I follow a particular library that tweets, oh, 12 times a day?  The thing about that is that I don’t allow the tweets from that organization to make my phone go “ding”.  (That sounded dirty, eh?) I have a lot of tweets that do make my phone go ding – people who don’t tweet often but tweet with relevance.  Plus, I don’t need my phone dinging all the time (oh, this is just getting worse and worse…get your minds out of the gutter!)  So, basically, if you tweet to much, you’re annoying and you will be banned from the list of relevant tweeple that I want making my phone go “ding”.

If you can’t fit it in two tweets, then twitter isn’t your forum
I think that’s concise enough isn’t it?  Dude, you get 140 characters.  If you need more than that, you have a ton of other options.  You can always blog and then send the link via Twitter.  A good time to use two tweets?  Comedic timing.  Granted, I’m not that funny, but y’know – tweet one is the set up…a few seconds later, the punch line in tweet two.  @thepioneerwoman is really good at that.

Don’t just output – retweet, comment, respond
People say this again and again.  Why don’t others listen?  You are boring boring boring if you’re only talking about you.  Twitter is a conversation.  And you are a library professional.  Twitter provides great information – we have to move that info like a drug dealer!  Pass it on!  Share it!  Comment on it!  A great retweet from @tac_niso says it best: “RT @learnpublishing Twitter is like a dinner party – If all you talk about is yourself no one will want to talk to you @electriclit #toccon”

I’m such a freaking hypocrite!
I tell you not to share so much, then I tell you to share share share everything.  Here’s the thing.  We’re all smarty pants people here – you’re going to get a lot of word puke, but if you’re good at determining what’s actually not smelly grossness and is real content, then you’re doing good!  Kind of like when you get a reference question and you sort out the best materials for a patron and don’t just walk them to an entire section of the library.

Be mindful of what you tweet from conferences and meetings – we need some context.
You’re at a conference?  Listening to a great speaker?  That’s wonderful!  Oh they’re funny and saying brilliant things?  GREAT!  Here’s the thing…1) if you tweet too much, you’re breaking the three times a day rule and 2) often, the tweets are out of context for the rest of us.  To be fair, there are some people who tweet meetings and conferences very well, and to you, I say thank you.  It allows those of us not in attendance to learn. 

Use more than one platform to track your account –  Twitter, Hootsuite, Ubertwitter, Echofon…  I use both the regular Twitter page and Hootsuite to track my Twitter account.  Like anything else, different tools provide different perspectives and options – you can get a fresh look at what’s going on and maybe see things you’ve missed.  I love being able to search for key words using Hootsuite. 

Set up searches for you and your organization – Make sure you’re setting up searches for you and your organization name.  Hootsuite will display the search results (as will other similar sites) and you can track conversations occurring about you and your org.

After 24 hours it might not be worth responding  I have mixed feelings about this.  If someone tweets your library a question then you should respond even if you got it overnight.  But in terms of negative publicity, sometimes it might be best to let it just blow over.  If a grumpy 20-something tweets “The library stinks” and you don’t see it for 24 hours, you might just want to let it pass.  It’s not worth stirring the pot, so to speak.  However, if you feel you caught it as it happened or it is truly blasphemous, then you may want to direct message the person or politely respond publicly.

See how the Air Force assesses with social media issues here.

When you rant, rant with care.
It’s my job at work to approach those who tweet about my company.  If they rant, I quickly follow up.  It’s shocking how many people are surprised that we follow up on tweets – HELLLLLLO, it’s a public forum folks.  If you tweet something negative OR positive it will be seen and companies (and people) don’t like being dissed in public.  I’ve been known to see a negative tweet, help the person out, and then request that they re-tweet something positive.  Why yes, that does take balls. 

Link everything  If you blog or put something cool out on Facebook, then link to it via Twitter.  Use Twitter as your speakers and amp – your blog as your microphone.

Have people initial  If mulitple folks on your library staff are using the Twitter account, then have them use a two letter inital at the end.  It helps you keep track of who is tweeting what, and builds personality into the Twitter experience.

Speaking of personality If you are tweeting for your library, you might not want to have multiple people tweeting.  Develop and voice and style and stick with it.  Is your Twitter account purely informational?  Funny?  Educational?  People will begin to have a specific expectation of your account so find the voice that fits you and stick with it.  Remember your audience when making the decision as well – what’s funny to you and I may not be funny to Joe Patron.  Don’t piss off the tax payers. 

Don’t be so sensitive.
I recently watched a popular member of the Twitterverse launch an attack against another member of the Twitterverse when the person sent out a link on a sensitive topic.  Person A (the attacker) didn’t feel that Person B (the attacked) didn’t provide enough context for the article and felt that it was a negative and horrible thing to be tweeting.  Turns out Person B was horrified by the content of the article and wanted people to be informed.  Before slamming someone, maybe DM them and say “hey, what did you mean by that” or politely ask publicly what is up.  Hundreds of people ended up slamming person B, following in the footsteps of Person A.  Person B was quite upset and genuinely shocked – and I stopped following Person A.  (Did you catch all that A, B, A, B???)

So, there you go.  Glad I got that off my chest.  Hope I didn’t offend any of you.  If I did, please see my last point.

I’m interested in hearing your Twitter pet peeves.

I’m back…Here’s what’s on Deck

Hey All –

I’m all married and stuff now and ready to blog!  Sorry for the hiatus, but I think it’s appropriate to embrace underachievement at times. 

Here’s what’s coming up in the next few posts:
 – You’re killing me with the Twitter people…killing me!
 – Seth Godin – we got it all wrong
 – Welcome to Vendorville
 – I like you, you like me – are we networked happily?

Confused yet?  Don’t worry – I’ll explain in the posts!

Ten Hard Questions

Scott McLeod posted 10 Questions About Books, Libraries, Librarians, and Schools today on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant.  He has presented these questions at a few library conferences in the last month to varying reaction.

It seems that some have loved his comments, while others have scorned his questions saying he knows nothing about libraries and librarians. 

I recommend you click the link above and read the questions.  Here are my thoughts:

a) These are questions.  He’s playing devil’s advocate.  He’s pushing librarians and educators to move beyond their comfort zones and ask themselves hard questions. 

It seems to me that librarians approach the issue of technology and how it may or may not replace us in one of two ways.  The first is with “kid gloves”.  We approach the concept gently, not making eye contact, moving slowly.  We sit in committee meetings and we discuss and discuss and we shoot down progressive ideas that might make us increasingly relevant or, worse, we form a COMMITTEE that never sees the light of day again.  The second method of dealing with these tough questions is to get depressed, to go meetings and library conferences and sigh and say “Well, this is just the way it is” and whine. 

There is a group of young punks doing their best to push forward and get out of the box, but they face barriers.  Barriers including administrators, educators that just don’t understand or fellow librarians who don’t make an effort to help build on basic ideas and turn them into realities not just in one library, but in many.

b) One of the responses that Scott McLeod received said something about him not spending a lot of time with teacher librarians, because if he did, he would understand the profession more effectively.   To that I say, thank goodness he asked these questions.  Let’s assume Mr. McLeod doesn’t spend a lot of time with librarians and has only met one in his life and she was mean and had a bun in her hair and carried a yardstick.  If that’s the case, then these questions tell us that this is what our profession looks like to those on the outside.  This what educators think, this is what schools think, these are the questions parents are asking.

But even if Mr. McLeod was buddies with the Librarian of Congress and the President of YALSA and every information literacy instructor in the country, you have to admit he’s asking good questions.  Why?  Because he’s not a librarian.  He’s someone who, as an educator, interacts with librarians and uses the services they provide, but he asks good, hard, demanding questions that we either do not ask ourselves or do not ask ourselves in the right way or with the right perspective.

Read the questions.  Your gut reaction will probably be less than pleasant.  But then go back and read them again and don’t take it personally.  He’s not saying we’re talentless hacks, or being replaced by tech – he’s asking that if in the worst case scenario, how can librarians prove their value and work with old-school librarians to think in a more innovative way.

Should libraries take a clue from Ikea?

Saw this interesting tweet today: RT @ikeafans: haha! RT @Leask: Best Salon comment ever: “getting lost in the IKEA? … Christ, it’s more efficient than the library.”

So, that makes me think two things – the person who made the original comment just goes to a really crap library or maybe libraries should take a clue from Ikea about organization.

I hear you moaning now – geez Chris, first libraries want to become more like bookstores, now you’re saying libraries should be more like Ikea.  You’re killing us!  Killing us!

Calm yourself and read on.  I’m not advocating anything…I’m just pondering…

Now, I get lost in Ikea.  It drives me nuts sometimes – as crisp and supposedly efficient as the store is, I struggle to find things sometimes.  But, let’s play devil’s advocate and chat about what Ikea has that libraries should consider:

Food and Drink
Those  Ikea cafes rock and I’ve actually scheduled lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea.  Libraries are doing this of course, but I’m just saying.  (Having food, coffee and cafes I mean, not having lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea…)

Child Care
Attention public: Children’s librarians are NOT babysitters.  Nothing is worse than having people plunk their screaming child into the kids section and then wander off to go look at movies or something.  But what if libraries offered child care for adult patrons who want to attend a class at the library or pop in to use the computer?  I’m sure some library out there must have at least tried some sort of similar service at one point.

Signs, Signs, Signs
No one reads signs.  How often has your library put up signs and they just don’t work?  But Ikea puts up pretty large centralized signs – if you want to know where something is, you have to read down the list of arrows that point in many directions, thus providing a sense of layout and where things are.

Bright Colors and Lights
The lighting in Ikea is pretty good.  It’s bright and shows off the vibrant colors of the store.  It’s not so harsh though that it’s headache inducing – it makes you want to hang out and not leave until you’ve purchased hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. 

Yellow Shirts
You always know where the Ikea staff is.  Bright yellow shirts make them visible like a brightly lit buoy.  You can pick those folks out right away.  Are library staff members always so easily visible?  Some library people don’t even wear nametags – even if it says “Librarian” or “Circulation Clerk” then you’ve got something to show folks you work there!

Here’s a great example of how physical space increases purchases.  In order to get through Ikea, you have to walk through some areas to get to others.  You want to get to kitchen stuff, you have to walk through living room stuff.  You go in for a mixing bowl or a wok, but then you see a pretty pillow or picture frame and well, you may as well pick that up too, right? Oh Ikea, you vixen!  Same is true for libraries.  If you can get people to walk past certain collections to get to other collections, maybe they’ll see something they like, pick up one or two more things and bring those circ stats up, up, up!

At Ikea, you don’t often rely on a staff member to help you get your couch out of the warehouse.  They are very willing to help don’t get me wrong, but their model isn’t set up to help you with every little thing.  Unless you need a forklift, you and a buddy find the aisle, pick up the couch flat pack, load it, buy it, get it to the car.  Libraries are doing this more and more – letting patrons get their own holds and self scheduling for meeting rooms and such (shameless Evanced plug – we’ve got a room reservation software that will help patrons do that). 

Ikea is pretty whimsical and they aren’t afraid to build a community that expresses their whimsy.  They aren’t rude or silly, they’re just kind of sweet and fun loving.  Most libraries use their website, Facebook, blog, and Twitter accounts to provide very dry library information.  We are good at getting fans, making websites, and all that, but it’s okay to express the fun side of the culture of your library.  Featuring staff members on your website or giving library users an idea of the “back stage” of the library can be fun and interactive.

Mostly, libraries are doing the Ikea thing already, but I couldn’t help but write down my thoughts on it after reading that tweet.  140 characters can sure conjure up a lot of thoughts!


Hint Hint: Awesome Keynote Speaker

No, not me.  Though I am fahbulous. 

Mike Rowe from the show Dirty Jobs.  Apparently, he’s getting a lot of speaking jobs lately talking about “on the “changing face of the proletariat vis-à-vis the modern-day work ethic and the digital divide”, according to the New York Times and he has a website called Mike Rowe Works, which helps people find technical and trade jobs and education.

General Link:
Jobs Link:

It’s a well rounded site and like most truly funny people, Mike Rowe is an intelligent and thoughtful spokesperson for the cause of worker education and job seeking.  Well, from what I can tell from the article I’ve been reading.

Librarians help people find work, Mike Rowe helps people find work.  Librarians help provide training and tools for people to improve themselves with, so does Mike Rowe.  Mike Rowe is hot and really funny.  Librarians are…er…we’re sometimes hot and usually pretty funny.

Just my suggestion.  Please consider it if your state or national library organization needs a speaker.  There’s potential for great synergy I think.