Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Mary-Carol Lindbloom (Executive Director South Central Regional Library Council)

Today’s library thought leader is Mary-Carol Lindbloom, the Executive Director for the South Central Regional Library Council in New York state.

When did you get started in reference, and more specifically virtual reference?

In the summer of 1999, when a group of us, including Tom Peters, Lori Bell, and Ginny McCoy, met in person at Eureka College (IL) to brainstorm a grant for an academic virtual reference collaborative. Eureka, indeed! Initially, as we thought about the grant, we planned to staff the virtual desk afternoons only. But it was a grant—why not experiment and use that opportunity to explore 24/7 virtual reference? Would students and others really use the service in the middle of the night? The grant application was successful, so we used that opportunity to find out. I was the project director for the grant and Bernie Sloan was the evaluator who analyzed such areas as time of day, days of week, questions, etc. I have only been involved with virtual reference in a collaborative environment—the service was planned, implemented, and delivered collaboratively. That project was called Ready for Reference; a year later we combined with a public library virtual reference service to form My Web Librarian; eventually MWL merged with AskAwayIllinois.

How did you come up with the idea for My Info Quest?

I personally didn’t! Many of us had been working with virtual reference for over a decade at that point, and Lori Bell, who worked at the Alliance Library System in Peoria in 2009, raised the question about SMS texting as a service platform for the 21st century. She was able to secure funding to test this; when the funding ended, the project continued as a library/library system-sustained program. SCRLC had been involved in MIQ from the get-go, so we took over some of the leadership after the Illinois library systems merged.

If you were to start it again, what would you do differently?

I would have a business plan from the get-go. Several virtual reference cooperatives have started with grant funding, and find it very challenging to move from grant funding to library-sustained. I might explore grant funding to study certain aspects of the service, but at the core, there has to be a committed group of libraries willing to pay for the service. There also has to be ample funding for a project coordinator/director and marketing—marketing to two difference audiences (librarians and library users).

What advice do you have to anyone looking to manage a cooperative?

This advice pertains to a virtual reference cooperative! Ensure you have adequate time and funding to devote to the process, including time to evaluate and analyze. If you do not have a general business plan or strategic plan, get with your group and develop one—include goals and objectives. As with all library positions in the 21st century (and all centuries, for that matter!), there are multiple components to manage within a virtual reference cooperative. Be comfortable with ambiguity and change—it is cliché but those are the constants—especially change. In addition to time spent on the actual desk answering questions, in MIQ there are scheduling, marketing, best practices, standards/policies, recruitment, training, and sustainability. Ensure that training is interactive, even at a distance. Sharon Kim, our current coordinator, has used Google Neighborhood and GoToMeeting to train librarians and students (we have student librarians in this service, as well). She developed practice questions that also lead trainees through the service’s best practices. Set up a Google Group to communicate (this is used to sent pointers, meeting notices, participants request temporary desk shift changes, other information, etc.). Try to meet virtually on a regular basis (we have monthly meetings for those who can tune in). Develop working groups, as needed—one wonderful aspect of being part of a collaborative service is that we don’t have to go it alone! MIQ has a culture where participants feel safe and comfortable in expressing and contributing their ideas.

What does virtual reference look like in the future?

Most libraries reachable to their users via virtual reference services! The number of libraries that are not reachable via virtual reference, i.e., SMS text and web-based chat, is amazing to me. In point-of-need service, which many of us try to provide, users/members/patrons must be able to walk in, phone, email, text, or chat up the reference desk. If I recall, according to one of the Pew studies, 31% of texters prefer texting to talking—and that was a study that included young adults but not teens. If we are to stay relevant to future users, we absolutely have to be reachable to users in all ways. I would like to see libraries rival the commercial chat services, e.g., ChaCha—to be the go-to service for questions that increasingly our smart phones can’t answer. And I do think that is a factor. We’re seeing less “ready reference” questions in our service and more library-related. With the increase in smart phone ownership, I think that those folks are finding their own quick answers. VR still enables us to be the human behind the machine! But…it could go the other way—with budget and time challenges, there could be fewer individual libraries offering their users this capability, and cooperatives could dissolve. Hopefully that only occurs in an anti-universe far, far away! My hope: All users are met at their point of need 24/7/365, by librarians—that our libraries are relevant, valued, and supported by our communities! I would also like to see VR become such a standard part of library service that there is no need for lists in the Wikipedia of libraries that offer virtual reference (or SMS text reference). When is the last time you saw a list of libraries that offer phone or email reference?

What is a current trend in libraries that interests you?

Just one? The effect of patron-driven-acquisitions on resource sharing and collection development; trends in texting for information; best practices for continuing education delivered via distance learning; assessment and the relationship between student outcomes and library services.

Ok, now ask us a question.

Where do you see Mosio for Libraries in five-years, including…..any plans for a back-up reference service?

About Mary-Carol Lindbloom: Mary-Carol is the Executive Director for the South Central Regional Library Council. SCRLC is a non-profit, multi-type library consortium, operating under charter by the New York State Board of Regents. It has member libraries located in the counties of Allegany, Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates. The members include academic, corporate, hospital, public, school, and non-profit libraries.

Facebook: South Central Regional Library Council
Twitter: SCRLC
LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mary-carol-lindbloom/6/a85/24a

Google Talk Workarounds for Mosio for Libraries Notifications (Not Using Hangouts)

Virtual Reference Software Tips - Web Chat / Instant Message / Mosio

A Public Library Mosio patron writes, ”We’ve been using Google Talk to notify us of new Text a Librarian questions. Now that Google Talk has been discontinued (and sort of replaced by Google Hangouts), we’re finding that Google Hangouts is not notifying us of new Text a Librarian messages. What do you recommend for a library in our predicament?”

To make sure you don’t miss out on any more of your Text A Librarian messages, we suggest the following workaround. Download a different chat client, such as either Pidgin or Trillian. We recommend Pidgin. When setting it up, enter your Google Talk email address in the section for accounts. Then use the client to view your messages.

4 Ways Text Messaging Can Improve Your Patron Communications

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A recent Pew study revealed that 80 percent of American cell phone owners use text messaging as a means of communication, sending or receiving an average of 41.5 text messages per day. For the 18-24 age group, 97 percent of cell phone owners text, sending or receiving an average of 109.5 texts per day.

One look at these numbers and you know instantly how to reach a majority of your current library patrons and an even greater majority of tomorrow’s library patrons: via text.

Text messaging is a fast and efficient means of communicating with your library patrons and there are many ways in which you can use text messaging to improve your patron communications. Here are just a few types of messages you can communicate to your patrons via text:

1. Circulation Notices Such as Holds and Overdues.

Emails today convey much less of a sense of urgency than they did a few years ago, especially to younger library patrons. To catch your users’ attention with important circulation notices, try sending them via text instead of email. This way, they can act on the notices immediately.

2. Promotional Polls and Contests

A great way to keep your patrons engaged is to link promotions to programming and other library events. Your library can have contests where you send out polls or questions via text for prizes such as first row seats to an upcoming speaker (ie. “The first three patrons to text us the author of Tender Is the Night win front row seats to our October Author Speaker Series Event”). You can also hold a text vote to choose between two programming possibilities for an upcoming date.

3. URLs to Newsletters or Other Library Publications

Does your library publish a monthly newsletter? A terrific way to get the newsletter into the hands of your patrons so they may have immediate access is to send them a short text with the URL right when it is published. Your patrons can be reading the newsletter that your staff worked so hard on literally within seconds of publication.

4. Programming Reminders

In today’s fast-paced and information-packed world, we need to be reminded of things. A great way to promote your library programs is to send your patrons text reminders of upcoming events, along with URLs linking to further information if available. This way, they can check their schedules on the go and even add the events directly from your text to their calendars.

Try these text messaging tips to improve communications at your library. We think your patrons will appreciate it.

Ideas for Improving Patron Service at Your Library, Regardless of Your Department

Customer Service

Self-Checkout Machines

Improving patron service doesn’t always mean providing the human touch; in fact sometimes it can mean giving the patron the option to forgo the human touch. One example of this is self-checkout machines.

There are many reasons why a patron might prefer to use a self-checkout machine. They may be in a real hurry and just want to pop in real quick, grab a certain title from the shelf, and dash back out. Or they may be checking out books on a subject that would make them uncomfortable to bring to the circulation desk for check out.

Providing this additional self-service checkout option improves service by giving these patrons exactly what they want – more convenience and improved patron privacy.

Staff Training and Cross-Training

There is perhaps no better way to improve patron service at your library than to ensure that the staff is well-trained on customer service strategies and able to handle any basic library function or patron request.

To ensure the first, regular customer service training should be an integral part of your library’s staff development programming. Repeated exposure to different types of strategies and techniques for improving patron service and tips on handling difficult patron situations with poise and tact will help foster a patron-centered environment.

Making sure that all staff members are cross-trained on the basic functions outside of their own departments will help ensure the second. When a patron stops a staff member to ask a question that falls outside of the staff members immediate duties and activities and that staff member is able to provide the needed assistance rather than having to go find the answer from another staff member, your patron service has stepped up to the next level.

Give Them What They Want

Finally, one of the best ways to improve patron service at your library is to provide opportunities for your patrons to tell you how you can improve service. This is easy because you don’t have to be creative; you just listen and then implement.

The old-fashioned suggestion box is still a terrific way to solicit this feedback from patrons. Add the modern incarnation to your library’s homepage – an online suggestion form – and you will have no shortage of projects to work on.

Improving patron service is an ongoing assignment. Use these techniques on a regular basis to ensure that excellent patron service in your library is no harder to find than the latest bestseller or local newspaper.

Mosio Partners with Tshwane University of Technology for its First Library Solution in South Africa

Mosio Partners with Tshwane University of Technology for its First Library Solution in South Africa

Leading virtual reference software for libraries, enabling two-way communications between staff and students via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook, now available in South Africa
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aug. 14, 2013PRETORIA, South AfricaMosio for Libraries, an all-in-one, multi-channel virtual reference software for libraries, announces its first solution implementation in South Africa. The company’s partnership with Tshwane University of Technology will enable library staff to interact with patrons and answer questions via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook.

“We are extremely excited to add Tshwane University of Technology’s Libraries to our client roster and have already established a great, collaborative relationship with their team,” said Noel Chandler, CEO and Co-Founder of Mosio. “As one of Africa’s leading universities of technology, we look forward to continuing our work to help them provide excellent information resources to students online or on-the-go.”

The Mosio for Libraries solution will launch in August, 2013, and will be rolled out to nine campuses, supporting approximately 56,000 students. The software features a secure, easy to use, web-based dashboard that can be utilized for two-way interactions with library patrons. Popular communication and efficiency tools include answer templates, customizable auto-responders and collaboration features. “The LIS is introducing major and exciting student service enhancements, including Mosio”, said Vivian Agyei, the Director for Library and Information Services.

“We are thrilled to become Mosio for Libraries’ first partner in South Africa,” said Nokuphiwa Kunene, Systems Librarian at Tshwane University of Technology. “Our priority is to implement a strong technology solution that allows us to better serve and interact with students, while also enabling us to maximize the use of resources by efficiently managing communications.
Mosio for Libraries is available in 21 countries, including the U.S., Canada, UK, Spain, Australia and South Africa. The software is cloud-based, so it is always up to date and does not require any hardware or software installation. The dashboard can be accessed on any web-enabled computer or device, regardless of physical location.

Mosio for Libraries integrates easily across websites, blogs and online databases through support tabs and widgets, and plugins and apps are available for Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress and Facebook.

About Mosio for Libraries
Mosio for Libraries is an all-in-one, multi-channel support software that enables libraries to receive and respond to patron questions via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook. Visit http://mosio.com/libraries to learn more, sign up for a free trial and be greeted at the front door with a 90-second video detailing Mosio’s technology solution to a problem faced by libraries all over the world.

About TUT
In its logo, the Tshwane University of Technology claims that “we empower people” thus committing itself to the concepts of Diversity, Ethics, Relevance, Entrepreneurship, Care, Partnerships, Professionalism and lastly, Quality. TUT awards qualifications from national diploma level through to bachelor of technology degrees. Students may also continue with postgraduate studies towards master’s degrees and doctorates.

Why choose a University of Technology?
One of the strong features of obtaining a qualification at a university of technology, is the specialization in a chosen field. Furthermore entrepreneurship carries a lot of weight in the students’ education, since they are taught new ways of thinking and approaching their careers to become job creators rather than job seekers in the market,

It is a fact that South Africa is still in dire need of people suitably qualified in science, engineering and technology, the so-called SET courses. TUT offers numerous courses in these fields. But apart from academic qualifications, the university also offers programmes to equip students with specific skills to prepare them for the world of work. Some of these programmes especially those aimed at improving communication, writing, reading and interpersonal skills, form part of their academic programme.

TUT is divided into seven faculties:
- Faculty of Economics and Finance
- Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment
- Faculty of Humanities
- Faculty of Information and Communication Technology
- Faculty of Management Sciences
- Faculty of Science
- Faculty of the Arts

At TUT the emphasis is on:
- Cutting edge technology
- Innovation through to commercialization
- Problem-solving skills
- Research and Innovation
- Partnerships and networks
- Technological incubators, technology stations, centres and institutes
- Community engagement

For more information visit http://www.tut.ac.za

10 Great Library Marketing Videos

Video

Librarians are known for their creativity and love of technology. And with today’s easy-to-use video-making apps and programs, librarians are using these twin passions to create some terrific marketing videos for their libraries. Below are 10 great library videos, everything from parody to patron endorsements to ghouls in the stacks.

1. The Research Games — Part One: You Learn or Die

This parody of the Hunger Games from Texas A & M Libraries draws you in immediately with its high production value and professional narrator. Throughout the story different aspects of the library are marketed, such as the reference librarians, the text-a-librarian service, the library’s holdings and the cafe.

2. Library Palooza: Innovative Library Marketing

This video details SUNY Albany’s Library Palooza, a welcome event held the day before classes in the fall semester. Librarians market the library using giveaways from their vendors, by partnering with other departments across the campus, and by creating a fun environment that includes photos with the school mascot.

3. Research Rescue | Episode 1 “Stuck”

This entertaining first episode of a multi-part series from the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has plot, drama, and, best of all, librarians as actors.

4. Effective Library Marketing: Think Out of the Box

These video details Southeastern Louisiana State Library’s “Learn to Love Books All Over Again” day, a Valentine’s Day-themed event to celebrate reading and eBooks. What is the key to a successful library marketing event? “You have to serve food!”

5. Marketing Your Library Preview

The importance of directing your message to specific audiences to better meet your goals is emphasized in this library marketing video, which advises to “create specific messages, deliver them, and then measure your success.”

6. Brand Launch by Richland County Libraray

A great video that accentuates the service orientation of the library staff with endorsements from library patrons. A satisfied customer is often the best marketing tool for your library products and services.

7. White Plains Public Library: Transforming Lives, Every Day

This simple but very well-done video has the patrons, through their personal stories of how they use the library and why the library is important to them, market the libraries services and holdings — from databases to computers, reference help, tools for managing stock portfolios, computer classes, job search resources, and English language classes, there is a patron and a personal story for practically every service the library offers.

8. University of Maryland Gangnam Style Parody

This terrific parody of the song takes place in the university’s library. While none of the library’s services are mentioned, a video like this makes the library cool and just makes people want to go there. With over 190,000 YouTube views and counting, this is a marketing effort that will reap results for years to come.

9. “My Library” — ARY Campaign

This short but very effective ad for the Cedar Rapids Public Library is incredibly creative and well done, with kids voices at the end each claiming the library to be “theirs.”


10. Libraries Will Survive

Central Rappahannock Public Library staff and patrons singing and dancing to their own version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive.” It goes something like this: “Come on now walk, in our door, find inspiration and knowledge — how-to-books to ancient lore…”

Bonus! The Haunted Library

From a branch of the New York Public Library comes this spooky marketing video with a terrific surprise ending.

With today’s video-making apps and your creativity, there is no limit to the number of ways you can market your library’s services with videos. We hope you find some inspiration from the above videos to take your library marketing campaign to the next level.

Free Trials of Mosio for Libraries

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Hello! We now offer free trials of Mosio for Libraries so you can try out the system and experience how powerful virtual reference software can be.

  • Receive and respond to patron questions via Live Chat, Text Messaging, Email and Facebook, all through a single, web-based interface.
  • We guarantee you’ll be more efficient in your patron communications.
  • Add an Ask a Librarian button to your Facebook Page with a few clicks.
  • Answer questions from widgets on your website, blogs or electronic resources.
  • Patrons can text questions from their mobile phones or chat from smartphones or tablets.

There’s no obligation and no credit card required. Sign up for your Mosio for Libraries free trial here.

Thanks and we look forward to working with you!

The Mosio for Libraries Team

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
http://mosio.com/libraries

Self-service at the Library

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According to a 2010 article in Library Journal, “85 percent of libraries offer some sort of self-service, and that percentage goes up with the size of the population served.” The variety of self-service options include: self checkout, book and DVD vending machines, automated computer booking and online account access. The article also found that overall libraries and patrons are happy with self-service options, but as with anything there are some possible drawbacks.

Whether or not to embrace self-service, and what kinds of self-services to offer, is an individual decision for each library. Smaller libraries simply may not be able to justify the cost of some self-service options, while larger libraries may find that they recoup the costs quickly by freeing up staff for other tasks. Moving beyond cost, the most important factor to consider is overall customer service and support.

Online tools, such as library card registration, renewals and holds are relatively easy to implement, and provide customers with increased service. While they often are still able to take care of these tasks in person, they are also able to take care of them outside of library hours on their own schedule. Similarly, book and DVD vending machines offer patrons access to popular materials at all hours, without altering access to library services during normal business hours.

A tool like automated computer books frees librarians from the odious task of monitoring computer use and referring disputes. It frees up the time and energy of staff, and prevents them from having to engage with the public in a negative way.

Self-checkout can also free up staff time and streamline library services, but it can have the disadvantage of limiting face to face time between staff and patrons. One potential way of addressing this issue is to have staff available in other ways, such as meeting and greeting patrons as they enter the library, triaging requests and helping direct them to the Reference desk or library catalog stations.

When considering any library self-service option, it is important to remember there will be a learning curve for patrons. Training and advertising are key elements to a successful role out. Staff should be available to assist patrons with the transition and answer questions. A customer feedback system can be used to monitor success.

5 Reasons You Should Have Ask-a-Librarian on Every Page of Your Website


To get the most value out of your library’s services and provide patrons with the highest level of service, it is important to make it as easy as possible for your patrons to connect with those services

The best way to connect patrons with your Ask-a-Librarian service is to have Ask-a-Librarian tabs, links or buttons on every page of your library’s website. Here are five ways that implementing such a strategy with your online reference will benefit your users:

1. All successful advertisers know that the key to getting a message across is through repetition and consistent branding. When your patrons interact with a consistent layout from page to page and see Ask-a-Librarian on every page, you have created the best possible ongoing marketing campaign for your service, with an important added bonus: It’s free.

2. While we can predict some user behavior, we never really know when and where on a website patrons are going to need assistance. A patron may be on a page where the information seems to be straight-forward to librarians, but to an uninitiated patron the information may leave questions. Likewise, a patron may be on one page but thinking ahead to another problem or the next step in his or her research process. Having Ask-a-Librarian immediately available from wherever the patron may be on the library’s website ensures that he or she will be able to connect to help when needed.

3. If a patron is interacting with the library’s website, encounters a problem, and then has to recall where to go to find the Ask-a-Librarian service, the library has not succeeded in making the most of the service’s primary benefit to users – the ability to connect them instantly with a library professional who can solve their problem.

4. Consistent placement of the Ask-a-Librarian tab on your library’s webpages makes marketing the service via social media or flyers much easier. When the Ask-a-Librarian tab is on every page of your library website, there is no need to place an easily forgotten URL (or URLs) on your marketing materials – simply state that the Ask-a-Librarian service is available from every page on the library website and where it is located (“look for our Ask-a-Librarian tab in the upper left-hand corner of any page on the library site”).

5. Each Ask-a-Librarian query that comes from a specific page can help you improve the overall content and design of that page. When you have an Ask-a-Librarian chat box on every page, and you are tracking which pages queries come in from, this gives you the great benefit of an ongoing focus group indirectly telling you what works and what doesn’t work on every page of your library’s site.

Responding quickly to queries will help you provide the top-notch customer service that will keep your library patrons satisfied and returning for more business. To make sure your patrons submit those queries whenever they need help on your library’s site, you should have ask-a-librarian tabs on every page.

 

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
http://mosio.com/libraries