Monthly Archives: January 2012

Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Alison Miller

Today’s Library Thought Leader is Alison Miller, Manager of the ipl2 Reference Services at Drexel University and the WISE Coordinator for Syracuse University.

As you know, the theme of this Q&A series is “Patron Relationship Management” or PRM. What areas of PRM are you seeing where libraries can benefit the most?
There is no one specific area, but rather several areas where libraries can benefit.   The relationship between libraries and users should include many things.  It should include responses and follow-up to questions, updates on new services or collections, information on events and programs, and more.  Users should be continuously engaged with the library and the idea of PRM is just that – a way for the library and users to form and continue a mutually beneficial relationship.

What is an example, technology-oriented or not, of how a library has done a great job with “customer/patron service” recently?
Makerspaces/hackerspaces!  Think of the possibilities of these spaces in libraries!  These spaces can really drive innovation in libraries.  The space is created based on common interests, whether it is technology, art, science, etc., with labs incorporating elements of studio or workshop type spaces and people can share resources and knowledge.  It is essentially limitless – ideas and creations from these spaces can lead to collection enhancements, new services and programs and new or renewed interest in libraries!

What roles can mobile technologies play in PRM?
Mobile technologies can and will increasingly play a very important role in cultivating relationships between libraries and users.  This technology is essential in all library environments:  public, academic, school and special.  We know that mobile use is huge, and this technology is used by the general public, college students, high school students and professionals.  People may not always have easy or quick access to a computer, but they always have their mobile device.  Those people that use text services are typically people that are texters – it makes perfect sense to add and enhance this service in libraries to increase communication and outreach with users.

What is the most innovative new technology you’ve seen or heard about? Is there a way libraries can and should utilize it?
I really like the hackerspaces that have been implemented in libraries.

Example:  The Fayetteville Free Library is installing a hackerspace/fablab with 3D printers, CNC routers and other equipment, available free to the public as a community space for making. The project is led by librarian Lauren Smedley, who is basically MADE OF AWESOME. Info: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/12/library-to-get-a-hackerspace.html

Many fear that libraries may become “techshops,” but I see this as an exciting way to not only provide users and the community with an area that meets many of their needs, but allows the users to shape part of their library.  I have worked in libraries where technology and services are essentially “locked down,” and the atmosphere in these libraries is not friendly or inviting.  Ideas and community involvement, like the fablab included above, are what will keep us growing – physically, intellectually and technologically!

What tips or resources do you have for libraries looking to improve patron experiences and service?
I think that libraries should use resources that best fit with user needs.  This may include a specific service, only applicable to a certain community (for instance, a law library), or a variety of services, including a mix that fits with the groups within the community (the public library – kids, teens, adults, older adults).  These services don’t have to be expensive or time consuming types of things. But they do have to be user-driven.   I think what is most important is continued communication, two way, that involves methods to share and gather information.  Users like to feel that they contribute to libraries, that their voices are heard.  The greatest way to do this is to build and continue relationships with our users.  We do not define our libraries, our users do.

Anything else you’d like to mention about PRM, patron relationships to the library, etc?
PRM is something that should be considered in every library.  The economy affects our libraries, environmental factors affect our libraries – a lot of things affect our libraries.  The biggest affect should come from our users, and this is most beneficial when users feel that they have good relationships with their libraries.

Thanks Alison, we appreciate your time and ideas!
Thanks!

About Alison:
Alison is the Manager of the ipl2 Reference Services at Drexel University and the WISE Coordinator for Syracuse University.  She is also an adjunct instructor for Drexel and Syracuse, teaching courses including Digital Reference Services, Reference and Information Literacy Services, Innovation in Public Libraries and Social Networking in Libraries.  Alison was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker for innovation in 2010.  She has worked in public, academic and special libraries for over 10 years.  She is passionate about librarianship and is always looking to improve practice, change misconceptions about libraries and librarians and spark innovation.  She is active in associations and is currently on the Board for the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

Contact:
Linkedin:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/millerlibrarian
Twitter: @millerlibrarian

160 characters is a lot more info than you’d think (Mosio lets you send 320 or more, just in case)

We get asked how much information can be shared via text message. Not surprisingly, many people don’t think it is much, even considering the average mobile user manages to share a lot of info with friends, family and co-workers texting from their mobile phones.

In 1984 when SMS (Text Messaging) was invented, Friedhelm Hillebrand decided on 160 characters because it was the average amount of characters that fit on a typical postcard in those he counted. The postcard above (written by Rush drummer Neil Peart in 1984, the very same year SMS was invented) is 254 characters including sign off and his name. If you haven’t seen one of Neil’s drum solos, they are truly amazing, but also a tad longer than your average rock drum solo and worth every second (scroll to the 6 minute mark in the video below if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing).

98.15 Characters (61.4%)

That is the average number of characters in an outbound response from our clients to their patrons, students and customers. The important thing to remember is that ultimately, users understand the medium they’re using. Text messaging is conversational and short, but plenty of information can be shared in a single text message.

So what does 160 characters look like?

Here’s my personal favorite quote (from Charles Kingsley), I try to live by it every day. 159 characters including the quotation marks:
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

For Text a Librarian customers who are less like Charles Kingsley and more like Neil Peart, we enabled you to send longer responses, automatically breaking them over several text messages when needed.

Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Lisa Carlucci Thomas


Today’s Library Thought Leader is Lisa Carlucci Thomas, Director of design think do.

We have been exploring the idea of “Patron Relationship Management” (PRM) and it is the theme of this Q&A series. What areas of PRM are you seeing where libraries can benefit the most? What roles can mobile technologies play?
Libraries employ a variety of methods to establish and maintain quality service relationships with customers. Defining a patron relationship management (PRM) strategy ensures that library services align with the vision and goals of the institution and sets the standard for service consistency. As emerging information technologies have driven demand for new library communication channels, we’ve seen increased interest in the use of mobile and social tools to promote interactivity, expand outreach, market programs, and enhance the library service experience across digital platforms, and in our physical spaces, too. PRM tools offer integrated solutions to help libraries identify needs and priorities, obtain and assess feedback, and strengthen customer relationships.

While all libraries strive to deliver timely, effective, and seamless service to their users, many operate with minimal staffing and limited financial resources, which inhibit opportunities to take even modestly innovative risks. When you factor in the steady technological advancements of the last five years alone, combined with the outstanding cultural shift taking place in the way we collectively communicate and interact with information, what’s needed now and what’s realistic for libraries to implement right way become very different conversations. Meanwhile, patron expectations continue to evolve, and mobile users seeking mobile access to library services and collections expect to find what they need readily available. What they’re actually finding ranges from splendidly concise library mobile websites and mobile searchable catalogs to advanced and complex apps; from straightforward SMS reference services to mobile-social communities via Facebook and Twitter; from value-added mobile services (QR codes, augmented reality, place-based digital collections, research guides, and more) to no mobile services at all. How do you prioritize services and engage users across the spectrum of mobile interest? Early adopters are now adept at navigating the mobile information experience, and fledgling users expect those delivering the information to anticipate their needs.

Patron relationship management via text messaging supports mobile users at all levels of engagement by promoting direct, responsive, communication, and allows libraries to address and assess mobile information needs of their unique customer base. Mobile PRM expands the SMS reference concept to combine marketing, outreach, and interactivity to meet a broader need for information services beyond the reference inquiry. A study of the Text a Librarian statistics at Southern Connecticut State University, where I implemented and managed SMS reference from 2010-2011, determined a 60/40 split between reference and non-reference mobile interactions. As more libraries provide mobile offerings, including patron self-service features, mobile payments, room reservations and program registrations, and access to ebooks and digital collections, expect non-reference communications from mobile users to increase.

Social media is such a hot button topic for libraries as well as companies in CRM (Customer Relationship Management). How do you respond to libraries that say “Ok, we have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. Now what?
Consider how these accounts support the communications and PRM strategy of the organization. Actually, this should be part of the first step, along with determining the name and brand that will be used to represent the organization. If you have the accounts already, make the time to have these discussions retrospectively. Document the organization’s social media objectives and priorities. Include a flexible structure and expect it to evolve. Train staff in social media norms and culture, functional use of the technology, and how and which channels to use for different types of content, and why. Staff the position like any public service. It’s not enough to simply monitor accounts; social media is proactive and interactive. Connect with others and build a network; this is your audience and community. Publish regular content, communicate with and respond to users, set goals, and track and assess progress. Who in the organization will be responsible for delivering timely, informed, interesting, valuable content on a regular basis? If multiple staff members will participate, who will manage the service and ensure consistency? Who will answer incoming questions across the organization’s social media channels and adequately and appropriately represent the organization’s vision and values? Who will manage analytics and report on statistics? Who will determine what content will be archived and how? Social media offers short-term, immediate engagement opportunities which can have long-term effect on consumer interest and loyalty. The advantages are high; the barrier to entry, generally, low. Libraries and organizations can work with partners, peers, and firms like design think do to establish an action plan for implementing and assessing communications, marketing, and PRM strategies via social media.

What is the most innovative new technology you’ve seen or heard about? Is there a way libraries can and should utilize it?
Mobile technologies, and related developments in the mobile-social information environment, are a driving force for innovation today. It’s difficult to pick just one aspect of mobile tech and call it “the most innovative” especially since we’re in a time of constant development, advancement, and growth, and mobile culture has widespread, cross-industry implications. Smart phones, such as iPhone and Android devices, multi-functional e-readers and tablet devices, such as the iPad, B&N Nook, and Kindle Fire are all being used to search, access, store, create, organize and interact with information. This is all still new technology to many of us; and even for the mobile-proficient, next generation devices and new applications with increased functionality and complexity continue to vex and inspire. Furthermore, expanding public interest in mobile services, including access to e-books and digital content, is fueling controversy related to digital publication, distribution, and licensing, for libraries, publishers, vendors, and organizations of all types. Libraries can and should utilize mobile technologies within the context of their organizational priorities and community needs. At minimum, librarians should actively learn about the changes that are taking place in the mobile sphere and consider how mobile technologies, social media, PRM and related innovations fit the goals and objectives of their libraries.

Thanks so much for your time! In closing, what are some great resources (along with contacting you, of course) for libraries looking to improve patron experiences and service?
Selected resources on mobile libraries, mobile culture, and patron self- service:

About Lisa:
Lisa Carlucci Thomas is a nationally recognized librarian and author known for her leadership, innovation, and research on mobile and social technologies. Her expertise includes ebooks, mobile libraries, social media, and technology trends and training. Lisa is the Director of design think do, providing custom creative services and innovation consulting for libraries and information organizations interested in mobile culture and services, ebook workflows and licensing, new media, and professional development programs. Lisa’s recent projects include the Library Journal Virtual Tech Summit: Power to the Patron: From Systems to Services and the Connecticut Library Consortium’s “Trendspotting 2011: eBooks: Collections at the Crossroads” symposium. Lisa is a 2010 Library Journal Mover & Shaker  and 2009 ALA Emerging Leader. She previously managed library systems and digital initiatives at Southern Connecticut State University, and access services and digital collections at the Yale University Library. She writes the Social Eyes column for the Journal of Web Librarianship.

Contact:
Lisa Carlucci Thomas
http://lisacarlucci.com
lisa@lisacarlucci.com
twitter: @lisacarlucci

Director, design think do
http://designthinkdo.org
http://www.facebook.com/designthinkdo
twitter: @designthinkdo

Do you know a library thought leader (maybe you?) who’d be great for our Q&A series? Contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.