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.
Your patrons speak many languages, and you can’t learn them all. But one thing you can do to improve service to your patrons is familiarize yourself with some of the more common terms and phrases in their languages of preference. If your patron is text-savvy enough to be texting his or her librarian, then one of his or her languages of preference is chat and chances are he or she is up on the latest text messaging acronyms.
A great way to enhance chat service for your patrons and maximize your efficient use of time is to become familiar with some of the most common and helpful text messaging acronyms. Speaking your users’ languages, especially in online communications, will help them feel more comfortable and give that personal touch so they don’t feel like they are talking to a robot.
There are thousands of text messaging acronyms, but we want to stick to the ones that can be used in a professional environment and that are not too obscure. These are the ones your users will likely be using, and these are the ones that you should be using as well. You will want to tailor your chat acronym use to each session, gauging each individual user’s chat acronym expertise level by the acronyms that he or she uses him- or herself.
Here is a list of 25 text messaging acronyms which you can add to your arsenal of reference tools.
AAP – Always a pleasure
BIF – Before I forget
BRB – Be right back
BTW – By the way
EOM – End of message
F2F – Face to face
GL – Good luck
HAND – Have a nice day
IANAL – I am not a lawyer
IMA – I might add
IMO – In my opinion
IOW – In other words
ISWYM – I see what you mean
JIC – Just in case
OIC – Oh, I see
OTOH – On the other hand
PD – Public domain
SOW – Speaking of which
THX – Thanks
TTBOMK – To the best of my knowledge
TYVM – Thank you very much
WB – Welcome back
WRT – With regard to
WTG – Way to go!
YW – You’re welcome
The patron texting a question is typically expecting a quick response and librarians need to be prepared to answer text-a-librarian questions promptly. Lots of chat acronyms, such as ROFL and L8R, are designed for close friends. Your users may employ such acronyms, but you will want to restrict your use to the more professional ones such as those in the list above.
And if your patron sends you a puzzling collection of letters and you have no idea what they mean, Mosio’s text speak translator will give you the help you need with its 800+ text messaging acronym definitions.
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.
As we gear up for another ALA Annual the company has had some interesting discussions on new announcements and our directions in the world of library software.
A couple of weeks ago I had a great meeting/conversation with one of our partners and the discussion of library customer service came up. At the end of our partner meeting, someone said “we can give patrons access to all of the data in the world, but if we aren’t there for them from a customer service standpoint, it won’t matter.” Very true. Andy Woodworth’s blog post “Why Closing More Public Libraries Might Be the Best Thing (…Right Now)” [link below] came up in an internal company meeting, specifically his two points about customer service and advocacy (from the comments it seems the post got a lot of people talking).
The idea of improved customer service, whether at libraries or businesses in general, will continue to be a significant function of an organization’s success in the information age. Aaron Tay’s recent blog post about regularly scanning Twitter and the web for feedback is great (he gives some tips on how to do so) [link below], obviously taking a page from what many companies are doing as part of their customer service: listening to social media mentions for good and bad comments. Neither are the first to talk about the ongoing need for pro-active/reactive customer service in libraries, but both are current and relevant.
So what does this mean for Mosio and Text a Librarian?
We’re still very new to libraries and we LOVE working with them. Frankly, we’re just getting started. While we have friends who are librarians and have a handful of amazing people advising us, we’re not librarians ourselves, nor have we ever pretended to be. In many ways we see this as a distinct advantage to building our product: we cast aside any preconceived ideas of how things should be done and focus instead on simplicity, usability and feedback from our customers. We also know the inner workings of mobile technologies, enabling us to offer reliable (and certified) mobile services to libraries. We recently made an announcement that Mosio’s Text a Librarian is being used by over 500 academic and public libraries. It’s something we’re very proud to have accomplished in such a short amount of time, but we could not have done it without listening to the people who matter most to our success, the librarians who use our software with the benefit of communicating with more patrons on-the-go. The combination of our expertise and passion about creating an amazing library service will continue to be the keys to our ongoing success.
Text Messaging: It’s Not Just for Reference Anymore
In the same announcement we also mentioned that Mosio is now offering our full list of mobile services to libraries. Text messaging can be used for so many things beyond virtual reference and we’re set up to offer additional services to the benefit of our customers. We’re thrilled to be able to continue working with new and existing customers in offering technology solutions that will help us fulfill our vision for our library software: Patron Relationship Management.
Patron Relationship Management
We truly believe this is going to be one of the key tools libraries will need in the future to maintain great patron relationships and relevance in the community. Two comments we hear often are “I wish we could answer all patron questions this way” and “I wish everything could be in one place.” One of those comments we take as a compliment, the other we are taking seriously as a wish list item. Our goal for Text a Librarian was always to start simply, create web-based software that’s easy to use, reliable and certified by the mobile carriers, then grow additional features, elements and uses to continue giving more patrons access to libraries on their mobile phones. You can expect to see more from us in the mobile technology space, but every new product or service we add will have patron communications and relationship management in mind.
We’ve added a simple, but very effective feature we call “Text for Instructions.”
Simply stated, it means your patrons only have to text your keyword to 66746 for instructions on how to use your service.
What happens next?
1. Your patrons get an auto-responder with instructions on saving your keyword and the number 66746 to their contacts for when they need to ask you a question. The instructions include a link to a mobile web page with detailed instructions in case they need them.
It acts like a registration system that gets them started with your service without having to have a pressing question or message on-the-spot. They save your info in their phones for later when they do.
2. The Mosio system assigns the phone number a PatronID associated with your account, so after that all they need to do is text their question to 66746.
Note: The old way of texting your keyword + their message to 66746 still works, no problem. But this way patrons can see your poster (example below) or promotional materials, text for instructions, then save everything in their contacts when they need it later.
If you’re a Mosio / Text a Librarian customer and want more specific information about it, like how you can customize/edit the instructions, it’s listed in the New Features section inside your account.
Google products are great and we use a handful of them at our office. But the question of using a “Google Voice SMS Gateway” for text messaging reference software has come up recently with regards to Mosio’s Text a Librarian, so we wanted to quickly explain why we don’t do it.
The answer is simple: it violates Google’s Terms of Service.
Google Violation, Part 1: Screen Scraping and Polling
Google Voice does not offer any sort of API (permitted) way of letting you piggy back your technology onto Google Voice, to receive text messages via your Google Voice number and then use them in other software. What that means is that anyone using Google Voice to piggy back on their text messaging function is doing so by automatically logging into the system, which is known as “screen scraping” or “polling.” Doing this is a direct violation of Google’s Terms of Service: “5.3 You agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services by any means other than through the interface that is provided by Google, unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate agreement with Google. You specifically agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services through any automated means (including use of scripts or web crawlers) and shall ensure that you comply with the instructions set out in any robots.txt file present on the Services.”
Google Violation, Part 2: Reselling Google’s Services
Google as a company is a wonderful contributor to the open source movement and offer APIs to many of their products. Google Voice, however, is not one of them. Currently there is no Google Voice API and depending on who you ask, the response is either hopeful or “there’s no way that will happen.” Regardless of which side you stand on, any organization or individual selling software that includes Google Voice hacks is again doing so in violation of Google’s terms of service: “5.5 Unless you have been specifically permitted to do so in a separate agreement with Google, you agree that you will not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade or resell the Services for any purpose.”
When Google releases APIs to their software and services, they are providing reliable access under an agreed upon set of circumstances (some involve commercial vs non-commercial rights, etc) and make product change decisions with APIs in mind. Simply put, when they make changes, they do so either without affecting the API or by giving those with API access appropriate information so adjustments can be made, ensuring the services will still work well. With no API, there’s no warning, no information on why code changes. If you’re accessing Google without an API and things begin not working, there is no recourse in getting things up and running again.
We hope this clears up any questions people have regarding Google Voice and why we don’t use it as an SMS gateway. We think Google Voice is pretty cool, but it’s not a legal, reliable way to offer text messaging software to libraries, companies or organizations, so we opt instead for legal, approved ways of giving our customers access to text messaging. As far as Google being a company the supports openness, we applaud them for being so, but also recognize that Google is open when it’s convenient for them. While it may not be “go to jail” illegal, it’s simply not a risk worth taking.
If you have any questions for us, please feel free to contact us.
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.
â€œHere 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.â€
- 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.
The Unquiet Librarian wrote a quick blog post called “netvibes recognizes itself as a virtual library/reference pathfinder” and there was a lot of excitement around the office when we saw her post. We actively read and discuss posts and “how to” pieces by Aaron Tay on his blog “Musings About Librarianship.” We’re fans, love how he shows as much (if not more) than he tells how to get crafty with technologies and try to follow the same educational elements in our blog as he does in his.
A Quick Note About RefStart
It’s no secret that we’re about to launch a beta version of RefStart, a project we’ve been working on since April, which is a standard feature within Text a Librarian giving librarians one-click access to reference tools, search, web 2.0 sites and popular social networks. We announced and actively showcased it at ALA Annual in Chicago last month and got an amazing response, there are two main reasons we think this is the case:
1. Budget cuts and layoffs are making everyone need to be more efficient.
2. There are new web 2.0 and social media services popping up all the time.
Why Start Pages?
The reason we love start pages and think they’re great reference tools is because they are versatile, customizable, can be accessed from anywhere and if a new social media or web 2.0 service pops up and your library is part of it, chances are you can add a widget, gadget or module to have quick access to it. Also, they can be made private (the 3 services we’re listing below default to private), giving you the ability to have your personal information there or share it with colleagues behind a user id/password. Need more info on how start pages can be used to be more productive? Check out the SlideShare presentation iGoogle for Productivity and Outreach by PF Anderson, April 2009 at the bottom of this post. It has some great screen shot examples and info on how iGoogle can be used to be more productive.
3 Start Pages You Can Use
Rather than do a point by point break down of each (here’s a break down of them from PC Magazine if you’re interested in that), I’ve simply pasted a screen shot with a quick description of each. Ultimately, it comes down to personal choice on what you want. In the efforts of guidance, I will say that a large number of people at Mosio/Text a Librarian use iGoogle, but we created reference start page templates in Netvibes and Pageflakes (some might say they are reference tool overkill, but it was sort of the point) as part of RefStart. The templates are public, so anyone can use or copy them. The screen shots for them are below as well as a link to them.
RefStart Template Use #1
If you really like our templates and want to use the reference resources inside as is, by all means please feel free to do so. They are for public use. You can bookmark your favorite template and use it without registering on Nitevibes or Pageflakes or having to create your own page.Â The limitation of this use is that you cannot move/add widgets or personalize it in any way (i.e. you can’t add/manage your social networks via one of our templates).
RefStart Template Use #2
If you like a lot of our widgets and resources, but you want to be able to add new widgets and personalize everything, we recommend signing up for the service of your choice. Once you have your own start page, you can go back to our templates and simply copy the modules/widgets from the template on to your page. This is really the best use as you are able to manage your own page.
Note: iGoogle does not allow public access of personal start pages (except for a few celebrities as of late).
iGoogle has thousands of “gadgets” that can be easily added and shared. The iGoogle page shown below features Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Gmail, Bookmarks and YouTube Gadgets. Click on the iGoogle title above to browse features and/or sign up.
Pageflakes is very easy to work with. The Pageflakes RefStart Template below features Facebook, Twitter, a handful of virtual reference search bookmarks/links, Google, Rollyo Search and a CNN RSS feed. The best thing about these start pages is the ability to copy pages or modules that you like. You can copy individual modules from our template or the whole page after you sign up to create your own Pageflakes page. Clicking on the image below will take you to the RefStart Pageflakes Template.
Update (11/12/09): Netvibes started “frame busting” so we can longer recommend them as a useful addition to RefStart. If you’re a die-hard Netvibes fan, we don’t blame you, it’s a cool service, but we recommend using either iGoogle or Pageflakes with RefStart for a better experience.
The Netvibes RefStart template below features Facebook, Twitter, a handful of virtual reference bookmarks/links, Myspace, Delicious, Flickr, Twitter Search, Google Calendar, YouTube search and an RSS feed from ALA TechSource. Like Pageflakes, you can copy any module/widget you like, so if you create your own Netvibes page, you can then come back to our RefStart Template and copy whatever parts you like and add them to yours, all in a few clicks. Clicking on the image below will take you to the RefStart Netvibes Template.
We have been experiencing some difficulties with the bookmarking widgets in Netvibes when using IE explorer. All seems to work fine with other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, etc.). We’ll continue to work on a solution. In the meantime, try a different browser if you’d like to view &/or copy the links to the reference sites/logins on Netvibes. Thanks.
So that’s about it, 3 start pages that can be created, copied, edited and are accessible anywhere. Start pages will continue to evolve as more developers create widgets and gadgets for them and don’t see them going away any time soon. The templates are only a part of the RefStart application soon to be released in Text a Librarian. If you are interested in signing up for a live demo of Text a Librarian to see how start pages integrate with RefStart, you may do that here.