Tag Archives: library 2.0

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

Library Customer Service: Online vs. In-Person (Ask a Librarian Software vs. Asking a Librarian in Real Life)

Library-Customer-Service-Mosio-for-Libraries

Libraries, and the folks who work in them, solve problems for patrons by connecting them with the resources and information that they need.

In today’s online world an ever-increasing amount of this help is taking place via the magic of the web and mobile technologies. Patrons are no longer face-to-face with the library staff who are helping them. Instead, they are communicating with the library from their homes, their offices, and on-the-go via their mobile devices.

Libraries today must be ready to deliver excellent customer service in this online environment. Top-notch customer service is something patrons have come to expect from libraries, and this service needs to extend to the growing world of virtual assistance.

Online customer service is applied in different ways than face-to-face customer service, but it adheres to the same two central precepts:

(1) Ensure the patron knows you are listening to his or her query and that you are committed to helping until his or her information problem is resolved; and

(2) Do it with a smile on your face.

Using Ask a Librarian Software you can achieve number one by frequently communicating with patrons so they know you have not left them. Remember, they cannot see you, so you must tell them exactly what you are doing. One minute of unexplained silence in a chat box can seem an eternity and is enough to lose a patron. If a search is taking longer than expected, give the patron frequent updates so he or she knows you are still with them.

To achieve number two, you must convey your smile with the language that you use. Phrases like, “It’s my pleasure to help you today,” “Have I answered all of your questions fully and completely,” and “Thank you for being so patient,” will go a long way towards conveying that smile and giving your patrons the warm, cared-for feeling they look forward to from a library interaction.

Michael English is an academic librarian and freelance writer/editor.

This article is provided by Mosio for Libraries. To receive these directly in your inbox, please register for our Patron Support Tips Newsletter.


Patron Support Simplified
www.mosio.com/libraries

Text a Librarian’s Post to Twitter Button and Why It’s Great: User Generated Marketing for Libraries

Post Your Library’s Questions and Answers to Twitter



A “Post to Twitter” button on websites isn’t a new functionality, but after giving it some thought, we decided to add it to Text a Librarian. The reason? It’s User Generated Content that engages patrons and markets your library services.

SEO + Social Marketing + Patron Engagement
People searching online often type out an entire question in the search box, rather than just a few keywords, to see what results come up. Tweets are indexed by search engines like Google, Bing and soon Yahoo and when an individual searches online by typing out a question, your reference Q&A can appear in search results (aka helpful service + free marketing).

Here’s an excellent example of how the New York Public Library’s AskNYPL tweet of the question “What is the wingspan of a swallow?” is now indexed on Google, marketing their reference services.

Tweeting user generated content of funny, interesting and helpful questions and answers also engages Twitter-following patrons (and their followers through re-tweets) and informs them about your library’s reference services. We’ve seen great uses of Twitter by libraries engaging patrons with reference trivia and daily fun facts.

Spreading Love for Your Library
Many libraries are using Text a Librarian beyond questions and answers as a virtual suggestion box and for patron ideas and opinions about library services (questions, comments and feedback). When a patron texts good ideas and positive feedback, you can use the post to Twitter button to spread the love.

How Do I Start Using It? (for existing Text a Librarian customers):
The Post to Twitter button is an optional function of your service, controlled by your library’s Admin. Please visit the New Features section of your Text a Librarian microboard for details on how to turn it on.

Using QR Codes in Libraries – Thoughts and a Free QR Code Generator

QR Codes – Mobile’s Secret Decoder Ring

There seems to be quite an interest about the use of QR codes in libraries lately. I personally have mixed feelings and am still wondering if it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on just yet.

Are they cool? Yes. They’re a cell phone’s version of a secret decoder ring. They definitely have a form factor. But are they worth taking the time to QR Code a whole bunch of text and urls, then work at getting patrons and customers excited about using them (of course, after they have discovered and downloaded an app that works for their particular phone)?

I’m simply not sure and am going to need a little bit more convincing before I get excited.

By the way, if you’re excited or just curious about them, here’s a great QR Code Generator from www.kaywa.com, no registration required.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Google’s Favorite Places QR Codes around San Francisco, yet recently read this post about a QR scanner reading the code wrong. Personally, I’ve had good and bad experiences with the reader, mostly using it to test them out (I have yet to see one in the real world compelling enough to break out my phone and use my BeeTagg iPhone App, but I’m ready for when I do). I’m not sure if it’s the reader or my aiming abilities, some times it has taken a few snaps to get it right.

Secret Decoder Ring
A Christmas Story is my favorite movie to watch during the holidays. It’s a classic that will always be watched by my family. There’s a scene where Ralphie has waited for his Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring with great anticipation, finally gets it and runs upstairs, closes the door to be alone, then begins to decode his secret message. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it turns out. Here it is in the form of a QR Code:

If you don’t remember the outcome: Ralphie is disappointed with the results.

One could argue that the problem isn’t the decoder ring, but the content that is disappointing, but let me pose a question: When you saw the QR Code above, did you pull out your phone to see what the code said? If so, great and thank you for participating! If not, I understand. This is my reasoning for the mixed feelings and I happen to LOVE mobile technologies.

The future of libraries and businesses is in mobile because it’s a device that is always with people. By being available to them everywhere, you increase your communication opportunities with more patrons and customers. That said, with so many different sub-technologies on mobile devices, at some point a choice has to be made on where you place your time, energy and money. Right now and for many years to come, text messaging is the most ubiquitous mobile technology outside of voice calls.

What’s Best About Them?
They’re free, they’re pretty cool and for those who have the software downloaded onto their phone, they can be quick and useful (although someone here with a Blackberry Curve disagrees about the quick).

Other Possibilities: Search Engine Optimization
I recently read on a search engine blog, a speculation that Google will read the codes and index the information in them (which is why we have one on our contact page). I’ll keep an eye out, but have yet to see any confirmation of this. This use, however, isn’t mobile.

My Pick for Coolest “Code” Library Mobile Technology: Red Laser
Red Laser is a barcode scanner (just like the ones at the check out). Why could it be great for libraries? Because patrons out in the world could scan books, DVDs, etc and instead of buying or renting them at the store, see if their library has it, then put it on hold. Definitely a bigger jump in programming on the library side of things, but very useful bridging the gap between the library and being out in the world. OCLC and Occipital have already caught on to this and partnered to build a WorldCat Local App.

Do you think QR Codes will be worth your time, energy and money? If so, how do you see them working best?

By the way, for those of you who didn’t pull out your phone to snap the QR Code, here’s the response (the same one Ralphie got in the movie):

Library Marketing Tips Using Google Buzz

Use the Buzz to Build One

Google’s new microblogging service, is getting a lot of, well, buzz. “Hello World!” has literally been replaced by “Buzz! Buzz!” by new people trying it out. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the best way to explain it:

It’s all of the elements that one could think of getting out of Twitter (more than 140 characters, the ability to post videos and photos) packed neatly into your gmail account. While there are still some kinks to work out (you get an email every time someone you’re following posts or comments, which could get really annoying fast), Gmail’s built-in active user base of 176 million users is making it a clear force to be reckoned with.

In comparison, Twitter claims to have 75 million users and about 25% of accounts are reported to be inactive. Foursquare, known by some as “The Twitter of 2010″ is similar in that you “check in” using GPS on your phone and has been building momentum in it’s growth. David Lee King recently had a great post about it called “Foursquare and Libraries – Definitely Something There!” And I would agree, but it seems Buzz might be hot on the trail as it has the same built-in GPS/Geo-Location features and it works directly with Google Maps. Granted, it’s currently missing the fun “Mayor” game element Foursquare has, but this is a numbers game and Google definitely has numbers.

Library Marketing Tips for Using Google Buzz

Get signed up, get started and tell some associates.
Either for yourself or for your library, sign up for a Gmail account (which will give you a Google Buzz account automatically). If you have a Gmail account, but haven’t logged in lately, you’ll be greeted by a note about Google Buzz and can get started right away.


Videos + Photos = Exposure
Let’s be honest, many status updates just really aren’t that interesting unless you know the person doing them. That said, there’s now an opportunity (that shows up in Google results), to put more of the content you’ve created out on the web. Seemingly one of the best things about Buzz right now is your ability to post videos, videos, links and more than 140 characters to promote your library and the services you offer. If you’re already posting to Twitter or Facebook, make sure you add Buzz to your list and some would argue it should go on top with these mult-media adding abilities.


Follow, Follow, Comment
It’s only been around for a few days, but one of the elements that grabbed me quickly was my contacts showing up as people I was following. We use Twitter with some success, but instantly being able to see my friends buzzing around (most who don’t use Twitter regularly), opened up my eyes to the bigger possibilities of Buzz. It can work for you too. It might take a little bit for more people to start posting, but commenting on someone’s buzz gets their attention.


For example, my first buzz was geo-tagged by our office. This guy randomly calls me a nerd, then gives me double points for having a photo of a cat, offers to buy me coffe? A little creepy? Sort of, but also pretty cool. He got my attention and guess what? I checked out his website after he commented.
Google Buzz, a great place for making friends?


Have fun with it!
I’m not going to tell you how to have fun, I just think marketing is a whole lot better when you’re having fun doing it.


Make sure you’re listed on Google Maps
When someone is using the GPS function (currently only available on iPhones and Android), it will choose locations closest to them. If they’re at or near your library (or you are), make sure your library is able to be found. It’s an extra touch point/impression for the library when someone is buzzing either in your building or near it.
The best way to see if you’re on google maps is to search for your library’s name and then the city. If you see it, you’re there. If you don’t, visit http://local.google.com/ and click “Put your business on Google Maps.” You should be there, but make sure anyway.


Read this other blog post
It was literally just IMd to me as I was typing this, it’s great, from Jeremiah Owyang: “Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010)” It breaks down all of the social networks into a matrix giving you various details and thoughts about each.

If you have any other ideas or thoughts, post them in the comments.

Happy Buzzing!

Update: Someone just Buzzed me this great post from AEXT.net entitled 12 Undocumented Tricks for Google Buzz, worth a read.

Word of Mouth Marketing in Libraries – Info and Articles

Then and Now…

Faberge Shampoo started it all with their famous commercial from the 1970s. Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace nail it in their new article, “The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing” in the November issue of American Libraries Magazine. We wrote a post called “Word of Mouth: The Best Form of Social Media” as part of our Library Marketing Tips series.

I definitely recommend reading the whole article, but here are short versions of their “Why WOMM?” bullets to get you started:
1. It’s real and immediate.
2. It’s personal.
3. It’s honest.
4. It’s catching.
5. It’s customer-driven.

More Info and Articles

1. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has a great educational section, WOMMA 101, giving some great initial information as well as their Best Practices Handbook (free in PDF).

2. A great blog post from Marketing Vox containing some stats (and charts and graphs), Real-Life WOM Beats Online by a Wide Margin.

3. About.com article Why Word-of-Mouth Marketing? by Laura Lake.

Shhhhh…don’t tell anybody.
;)

Progress As Promised – The Future Value of Software as a Service for Libraries

tree

“Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.”
- Andrew Carnegie

My favorite thing about working at Mosio is that every day we get to come into work and improve ourselves, our product and our relationships with customers. Aside from the positive attitude and action from those who work here, our business model, offering on-demand mobile reference software as a service for libraries, enables us to create, test, launch, listen and then improve upon our product in an ongoing fashion. Text a Librarian is better today than it was yesterday and it will always be better tomorrow.

What Does it Mean? Ongoing Improvements and Progress as Promised.

Since we launched in beta almost a year ago, we have added literally dozens of features and improvements to the service, all of it based on feedback from our customers and those who have commented or offered ideas for improvements. All have been taken into consideration in our ongoing development of the service. We welcome constructive criticism and feedback and in fact, we live for it. Ideas and feedback from librarians enable us to make at least 2 major feature updates per month plus a handful of user interface, usability and back end improvements to the system.

Ultimately what this means is that if you read or send a comment about our product, chances are we have too and are looking into it. Truthfully, not all ideas and suggestions are feasible: for example, we have heard “why can’t the page auto-refresh when a new question comes in?” In theory this suggestion sounds great, until you are in the middle of answering a question and the page refreshes, quickly making your answer box a moving target. Other improvements, such as RefStart, have been made based on listening to the wishes of librarians and coming up with our own solution.

Why We Do It

The simplest answer is “because we can.” Compared with any other options libraries have for mobile reference solutions, we strive for ours to be the best. Being the best means always improving, always making the system more secure, scalable, more collaboration-friendly, easier to set up, easier to use and more robust with reporting. What it means for you and your library is that by signing up for our service, you’ll always have a product that gets better and better, built by people who love hearing what you think as you use it. The biggest compliment we hear is “I wish we could answer all reference questions this way.” Our standard response: “We’re working on it.” =]

One that you can always bet on with Mosio/Text a Librarian is that in pursuit of our goal to be the best, we’ll always be looking to out-perform and out-service any other mobile reference solutions available to libraries. We’ll always be doing this through listening, taking great notes and offering a little bit of personality with our customer service. What this means for libraries is that in their pursuit of being the best, once they sign on with our technology, they get the benefit of ongoing updates and feature-adds to make their services more robust and user-friendly without having to buy or license additional services/software.

You can see a standard list of Text a Librarian features on our website, or if you are a current Text a Librarian customer, click on the New Features link inside your Quick Links module when you’re logged into the system.

Library Marketing Tips, Part 4: a Tool, a Trick and a How-To

Library Marketing Tips Part 4: Tools, Tricks and How Tos

There are enough topics around the subject of library marketing for an entire blog. In fact, Jill Stover posted to her blog, Library Marketing, Thinking Outside the Book, for 3 years and it has some amazing ideas. That said, we’re on the final week of Library Marketing Tips, so we’ve decided to throw in a few Tools, Tricks and How Tos to think about, try out and share. If you’re finding this post randomly, you might be interested in parts 1-3, linked below.
Library Marketing Tips, Part 1: Avoiding the Noise (Templates Inside)

Library Marketing Tips, Part 2: The Morning News, Videos and Slideshows

Library Marketing Tips, Part 3: Word of Mouth, the Best Form of Social Media

Tool – Google Analytics

This is one of our favorites. Google Analytics allows you to go extremely deep with information about your site, but what makes us love it in its simplest form is that it lets you see where people are coming from (other webistes and search terms), what they are doing on your site while they are there (which pages get the most clicks and traffic) and at what point they left (exit pages). It’s free to sign up with a Google account and requires you to paste some code into your website. This may take a “pretty please” to your webmaster or IT Manager, but it’s well worth it and once they enter the code, you have access to the information on your own, requiring nothing else from them (unless what you find out about your site should be changed to provide a better experience for visitors).

Here are two blog posts (The Huge Collection of Google Analytics Tips and Google Analytics Maximized: Deeper Analysis, Higher ROI & You) that give a little more detail on what you can do when you’re ready, but after getting the GA code on your site, here are a few things to get you started:

1. Traffic Sources – This lets you know how visitors found you, via websites and search terms. This one is great because it can help you see whether your Facebook page and/or Twitter Tweets are worth the effort (you’ll find they will be). One thing Google Analytics has helped us find out: People search for our name over a dozen different ways to get to our site, including misspellings (“text a libranian”).

2. Content – This one is great because it shows you where people are going on your site, the busiest pages. You can see how many patrons are visiting your “Ask Us” or “Ask a Librarian” page and if it’s not up to par with some other pages, find the one most visited and make sure there is a prominent link to that particular page to see how you can direct more traffic to encourage patrons to ask questions (or more specifically, how to utilize your new text message reference services).

3. Site Overlay - As a part of the Content section, Site Overlay is where things get really interesting. It puts an “overlay” (as the name suggests) on top of your site and then gives you %s on where people are clicking to when they’re on that page.
There are many other great tools that are part of the Google Analytics package, but these are a great place to start seeing how people are finding your site and what they’re doing once they get there.

Trick – The “Marketing Possibilities are Everywhere” Exercise

This isn’t so much a “trick” as in a magic trick, but more of an exercise in getting your mind to think about all of the places where marketing can take place. If you’re already a marketing oriented person, you may already do this, but if not, it’s a great exercise. For a whole week, challenge yourself each day to write down at least 1 unique way of marketing a service that isn’t already being used. It’s ok if you find out later that it already is, it’s the exercise that’s important.

Example: Every time I fly, I wear my Mosio T-Shirt. Why? Besides the fact that I love it and that it’s very soft, there are thousands of people at the airport, including a few hundred that will be on the plane with me. Those are all brand impressions, I literally see people looking down at the logo. Plus, in some cases, someone will ask “What is Mosio?” and I get an opportunity to talk about our company and what we do. Our shirts are intentionally simple. No huge letters or slogans, no website addresses, just the logo, making it the only thing the eyes can focus on. We offer Text a Librarian T-Shirts on a site called Spreadshirt. We don’t make any money from them, people pay what we pay, but this is another great opportunity to promote your service or strike up a conversation about the service.
Mosio T Shirt
(You always get a second chance to make a brand impression)

So what ideas can you think of? What places would be great to put a marketing message? Write them down, 1 or more a day, for a week and see how your thinking has changed. After finishing the exercise and thinking about marketing for a week, begin thinking about the areas and places where you could market your own library services. See what new comes to mind and how it can be done in your library or community.


How To – Manage Social Media Presence Multiple Places

So you have a presence on: Myspace, Facbook, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc, etc, etc, and managing them all can be a hassle. First, we’re not advocates of having an account on every social network on earth. In fact, we think it’s better to have fewer with focused strategies on how you’ll use them. Even adding 2-3, plus your own website, email newsletters, printed materials and anything else can be a full time job in and of itself. Luckily, there are several tools you can use to help you manage your social media output.

HelloTxt - Originally, I was going to post about how you can use the Facebook Twitter Application to post Tweets to your Library’s Facebook page, but with the sporatic reports of the Twitter App on Facebook not working I thought it best to write about another useful site called HelloTxt, that has been gaining steady growth since I first heard about it more than a year ago. It lets you post once and updates to any of 45 social networks through their APIs. If the last thing you want to do is join another “thing” (we can understand this), then we at least want to give you the link to the Twitter Facebook App that lets you post your Twitter tweets to your Facebook Page’s Wall.

Start Pages - We recently wrote a post about how you can use start pages as virtual reference tools, it included Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle, all of which can be also used as a way to manage multiple places at once. In fact, they are the absolute best way to do that. Each has varying options for widgets, gadgets, flakes, modules, etc (they differ in what they’re called based on the service, but all mean the same thing). They give you quick access to: Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, 43 Things, blogs and a handful of email programs.

So that’s all of them, Library Marketing Tips 1-4. We hope you learned some ideas on how you can better promote text messaging reference services to your community. Mobile messaging is growing at a rapid pace in the U.S., there is a lot of excitement around the mobile channel, so getting the word out to patrons and your community gives you an opportunity to extend your outreach by expanding the walls of your library on mobile devices.

Beyond 160 Characters in the Library – Text Messaging Reference Doesn't Need to Be Limiting

Many, many, many...

There seem to be varying stories about the history of SMS (Text Messaging) and why Friedhelm Hillebrand, the creator of SMS, decided on 160 as THE number. Some say it’s the amount of characters on a typical postcard, many other stories not that he just determined it while sitting at his type-writer in Germany, noting that most sentences do not require more than 160 letters. In many blog posts and mentions about using text messaging reference in the library, we see it noted that phones are limited to 160 characters. While this statement is mostly true, some phones and carriers let users extend their messages, this limitation only hinders your ability to respond to patron questions based on what method you are using to respond to them.

Without getting into the various ways you can respond to a patron inquiry to extend your response beyond 160 characters, suffice it to say each system has its own unique solution, most requiring more manual work on your part. Instead, let me explain how Text a Librarian solves that problem and makes it significantly easier for librarians: character counters and multi-message splitting.

Mosio's Text a Librarian enables you to send text message responses beyond 160 characters.

Mosio's Text a Librarian enables you to send text message responses beyond 160 characters.

Character Counts and Multi-Message Splitting
Text a Librarian has a real-time character counter and message view so you can see exactly what the patron’s text message is going to look like as you type it out in the answer box. If you type beyond 160 characters, the system shows you what the second message will look like and will send it as such, extending the space you have to send a thoughtful and well-formed response. It seems relatively simple and it was built to be that way, but it is a necessary functionality to make it easier for librarians to respond while offering patrons the most helpful and content-rich answer they can get on their mobile device.

Which is More Important: The Patron Experience or Librarian Experience?
Our answer? Both. In speaking with anyone on the Mosio team, you’ll often hear the phrase “patron experience” or “librarian experience” when it comes to our system and interaction design. Simply stated, we don’t see a reason to offer a reference service if it’s going to be difficult for patrons or librarians to use, no one is going to get excited about it. In fact, a handful of people ask “why don’t you have the page auto-refresh when a new question comes in?” It’s a valid question and we initially integrated it. Then we tried answering a question when another question came in. The page becomes a moving target and the assumed convenience of having a new question magically appear on the page becomes frustration at the inability to answer the question you’re working on.

The product team is working on a few additional features that will take mobile reference even further, providing a richer experience to both patrons and librarians, enabling both to get excited about its simplicity and ease of use. For the time being, this functionality is being well received by our libraries using the system, expanding the character limitations within the core technology.


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Mobilized: Text a Librarian on the iPhone / iPod Touch

We recently tested out Text a Librarian on the iPhone 3GS and had great success.

Love your iPhone? So do we. Mosio's Text a Librarian works perfectly.
Love your iPhone or iPod Touch? So do we. Mosio’s Text a Librarian works perfectly on both.

iPhone Screen Shot:

Mobile reference for librarians who enjoy being mobile.
Mobile reference for librarians who enjoy being mobile.

We don’t recommend using a mobile phone as your sole text messaging reference solution, researching and typing on a computer is always going to be faster than texting, but we understand the need for mobility in the library. Mosio’s Text a Librarian works very well on the iPhone / iPod Touch or you can set your notifications to “SMS/Text Message” to be notified on your phone of new questions if you need or just want to leave the reference desk. It’s mobile reference simplified.


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