Category Archives: Library Technology

New LTR: Collaboration 2.0 by Robin Hastings


I’m reading through Robin Hastings’ new Library Technology Report called “Collaboration 2.0.” This is one LTR not to miss! And don’t miss Dan Freeman’s interview with Robin at TechSource:

Dan Freeman: So your topic for this issue is Collaboration 2.0. Can you define this concept for us?
Robin Hastings: Collaboration 2.0 is the use of free, easy-to-use web 2.0 tools (think Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, etc.) to make teams who may not be in the same city, state or country work together seamlessly. Since the philosophy behind the 2.0 tools is one of user-created content, almost all of the 2.0 tools have ways to create and share content with other people – that makes collaboration on library projects, presentations, training programs or anything else that creative librarians can come up with really easy. Everything I profiled in the report, by the way, is freely available and easy enough to use that millions of people have already been using these tools without being forced to by their jobs!

Ten Ways to Encourage the Tribe*



Download the Virginia Beach Version of the Slides here.

The good folks at Virginia Beach Public Libraries asked me back this year to talk about building community with social tools.  This was perfect timing because I had just read Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging and I’ve been working on an article and interview about/with Seth Godin for Digital Bibliotek magazine. His book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us has figured prominently into my thinking and teaching so far this year.

I always appreciate this type of synchronicity. Jenny Levine introduced me to Peter Block’s book – a fascinating look at transforming communities. Based almost entirely on creating community in physical space, his definition speaks to what I see as an important building block of online community: “Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness.” 

Compare that with Howard Rheingold’s 1993 definition of virtual community: “Social aggregators that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” 

Many important keywords here: human… conversations… relatedness..relationships…

Godin simply states: “Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong.” 

Godin’s Tribes is full of insights and ahas for me – as is the crowd-sourced companion PDF at Download this one and give it a look after you read Tribes. It offers roadmap style planning points and loads of questions/answers for convening your tribe.

Combine all the above with these points from A List Apart’s post “The Wisdom of Community” that posits the ideas contained in The Wisdom of Crowds are amplified by the social web: “where they can reach their full potential.”

To enable online crowds to be wise, Derek Pozowak notes you need these things:

  • Simplicity
  • Interface
  • Aggregation
  • Participation
  • Selfishness
  • Explicit vs. implicit feedback

So, from all of this inspiration and these authors’ brilliant thinking, allow me to submit for your approval:

Ten Ways to Encourage the Tribe*

Connect around a cause, a community or a concept

Create your online group around a current issue, a user population or what libraries have a lot of: ideas. Focus on materials: reading, viewing, discussion. Focus on community: what’s happening around town? Focus on the current climate: what programs, services and revamped services might you offer in light of the economic downturn? How can the library help?

Ravelry is a smoking hot example of a focused community that works. A librarian shared with the group I was with in California last week that her daughter was publishing video via Ravelry of spinning techniques for people all of over the world.

Consider also Puget Sound Off  at The Digital Natives blog had this to say:

“The focus is to connect teens in the Puget Sound area that care about the same social issues so that they can create positive change in their communities.”

Take a look at Genre X from Oak Park Public Library at and read what Aaron Schmidt had to say about how they are building community here:

What cause, community or concept do you want to connect?

Use Stories

“Marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.”  Godin writes in Tribes

Can we say enough about the power of stories in libraries? The stories people share about libraries and how they use them – in person and online – are priceless for understanding the role we can play in people’s lives. I’m knocked out by 14 Days to have Your Say  as a way to get students involved and talking about library service. Public libraries could do this too – internally, with the community, as a strategic planning step.

Presenting the library’s story is another option. Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Annual Report at is a perfect example of sharing the library’s story in a human, playful way (driven by technology, but it’s not ABOUT the technology).

Be Transparent

Transparency leads to trust and buy-in. Secrets, deception, guarded details shared only as “need to know” demands hurts organizations. Give me an honest, open mechanism for sharing information and I’ll listen and react. 

Michael Casey and I have been exploring these topics for over two years at Library Journal and I still see other folks like Godin urging business and organizations to embrace the concept. It’s foundational to building a healthy community.

Leverage the Social Tools

Use the tools to extend the library into realms where people are connecting and talking. 

Godin notes in Tribes that “Internet companies have taken the original idea behind blogs and amplified it into a set of tools that anyone can use to tighten a tribe.” Facebook, Twitter and others allow interaction and information sharing – with replies built in. 

“The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one,” Godin writes in a recent blog post. 

Libraries – all shapes, sizes and types – can do this. We can take promotion online – make it viral. Recent online initiatives such as the New Jersey State Library’s campaign to share users’ video stories about the transformational qualities of libraries are ways to create low-cost, human, authentic marketing campaigns. 

A perfect first step: set aside one meeting – not six months of meetings (or heaven forbid a year or more) – to craft your library’s social media policy and plan. Use this as a starting point:

The Social Media Do’s Explained [31]

  1. Be Polite – Talk the way you would if you were doing a job interview. [72]
  2. Be Courteous – Be sure to listen & ask questions. [52]
  3. Be Helpful – Offering tips, tricks & how-to’s goes a long way. [65]
  4. Be Conversational – Don’t just be a PR twit. Chat as you would with a stranger at a bar. Be funny yet interesting. [117]
  5. Be Intelligent – Provide some value. Don’t talk down. Offer insight. [71]
  6. Be Non-confrontational – Don’t start a flame war, it can & will come back to haunt you. [90]
  7. Be Transparent – Disclose that you work for the company, be honest & truthful. [81]

Read more:

Remember the Mission

Have you looked at your library’s mission lately through the lens of social tools and conversational communities online? Checkout Evanston PL’s mission: 

The mission of the Evanston Public Library is to promote the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens through the provision of open access to cultural, intellectual, and informational resources.

Creating an online community like any of the Ning’s I’ve written about or similar certainly taps into what this sample mission states, just as enhancing the library catalog does.

Redwood City PL’s mission states: 

The Redwood City Public Library’s mission is to be “the learning center of our community and the place people turn to for the discovery of ideas, the joy of reading and the power of information.”

Discovering ideas and sharing within catalogs such as the community-focused SOPAC is a perfect example of fulfilling a mission like this in the 21st Century.

The Little Things count…a lot

Last December when I bought the new Subaru and tweeted about passing on the $250 Subaru charity donation promotion money to the ASPCA yielding a reply from said organization with minutes is a perfect example of a little connection, a little interaction, meaning a lot.

DKPublishing’s gift to me of a tour guide to Vancouver because of my tweet about their books or recent discussions about Oak park Public Library’s collection are further examples of how a tiny little expression of kindness or bit of feedback can go a long way.

What little things can you do with your users online? What little kindness can you extend?

Listen & Talk (like a human)

The Cluetrain said it best:

“Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.”

If you are going to participate in the conversations going on around your library and within your community, do so in a human way – authentic, real, emotional. Every chance I get, I echo the Cluetrain in my talks, saying: “People can smell PR speak a mile away and they do not respond well to it.”

I spoke recently with librarian who discovered unpleasant reviews of his branch on Yelp. He realized the best move he could make would be to respond to the reviews with thanks and insights about the feedback. I like this thinking.

An interesting example comes from the discussion I lead in Phoenix and Virginia Beach about library databases. In this transparent world, what would happen if the library actively put out there what is spent on electronic resources and encouraged the public to weigh in on what’s purchased. Would there be an uproar? User involvement? I think it would be a very open, honest thing to do: “Hey, library patrons, we spent $125,000 of your tax dollars last year on ________. How should we spend it this year?”  Has anyone out there  done this?

How could you listen and talk with your tribe?

Create a Culture of Caring

Through reading Tribes, the Tribes Q&A and Block’s book, I was struck by the emphasis on making real connections with people via caring and support. This speaks to my personal emphasis on “encouraging the heart” in everything we do. A quote by Darien Library’s Kate Sheehan from Cindi Trainor’s recent TechSource post about  Computers in Libraries 2009  sticks in my brain too:

In the time since I’ve been home from CIL, the moment that has bounced around in my head most often was a quote from fellow TechSource blogger Kate Sheehan. During her part of “Innovation, Services and Practices,” she remarked “The chief export of our libraries is kindness.” It seems so obvious, so nostalgic—and distinctly low-tech—for a librarian to announce that we are, above all, kind to our patrons. Yet many people in our service industry, well, aren’t. I once heard a reference librarian refer to her stone-cold demeanor as “business-like.” An otherwise merry librarian, she probably would have been horrified to know that students thought her “mean.” In this age of snark and snipe, anonymous and named, a little kindness goes a long way, and I’m taking this one to heart.

Amen. In our recent Cheers & Jeers column at LJ, Michael and I mentioned this as well:

Cheers to the folks using emerging tools to enhance conferences and learning opportunities, such as Skyping speaker, UStreaming a trends session, or tagging tweets, posts, pictures, and more with a common moniker.

Jeers, however, to some who criticize in the conference back channel. We’ve been disappointed with snarky chatter and lack of respect for speakers and conference attendees at some events.

Constructive feedback and disagreement fostering debate are wonderful things. But mean-spirited criticism does not have a place at conferences or inside your online community.

How can you encourage your tribe’s collective heart today? What little bit of kindness can you extend?

Trust them

“Faith is critical to all innovation.” Godin notes in Tribes on p. 80.

Faith and trust are building blocks for online social engagement. Until you get past worrying about how you’ll control your tribe and trust them, the results of your online community building might not fare the best. Open comments, ask for feedback, and trust the responses – the genuine ones will rise to the top, good and bad.

Trust your staff to post and interact with the public. And trust the public to do the same. A quick meeting of all of the minds involved will get everyone on the same page – mission, vision, guidelines for participating in the conversation — instead of having a year or two of meetings to hash out how it should all work with social media. See the policy above for inspiration. Hey libraries – post your social media policies so other libraries can adapt and use them. 

What can you do right now to trust your community? What changes can you make?

Value EVERY Member

Every member of the tribe you want to create should be valued: for participating, for lurking, for shaking things up, for calming things down and for simply contributing. NO ONE should be denied access if they are a part of the group. This goes for public tribes and for your staff tribe. 

Public tribes might include your young adults, your 20-30-somethings, etc. It might also include those folks you haven’t extended any services or outreach to as of yet. It certainly should include the groups you’ve marginalized for whatever reason.

Planning this talk, I checked in with John Blyberg from Darien Library. I’ve long used the “Front Desk” blog example in my talks as an example of involving and engaging all levels of staff. Via the new Darien Library site, all staff who want to can post to the fully-integrated Drupal-driven site, including folks from circulation:

“All staff are encouraged to post, no matter their position,” Blyberg told me. “We don’t moderate—posts just go up, but our User Experience team will work with staff on spelling and layout issues, etc if necessary.  We never criticize them on content, because that would discourage them, though we would intervene if something was inappropriate.  We have told our staff that their posts should not betray a political bias because the of the library’s non-profit status as well as our desire to be seen as an apolitical community resource.  I would say that 90% of our full time staff posts and maybe 50% of our part time staff.”

I urged the good folks at VBPL (and members of the city government who also attended my talks and workshops) to consider Godin’s Tribes carefully and to look for ways to blend his vision with what libraries do. It strikes me that gathering folks around ideas and letting them communicate is very much in line with what our mission should be.

I was glad to finish out the Cheers & Jeers column with this:

Cheers to marketing guru Seth Godin and his book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us (Portfolio)—a touchstone for us this year. We agree with Godin that the market will reward organizations and individuals who choose to lead while those stuck within archaic rules and outdated practice—or guided by fear—will not flourish.

Which will you be?


* at Your Library

Social Sites Blocked in Glasgow but City Council Uses Twitter!

Christine Rooney-Browne,  a PhD student based at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, wrote back in March about her experience at  The Mitchell Library in Glasgow “soaking up the atmosphere from the latest Aye Write Book Festival:”

I had thought it might be a good idea to tweet about the events I attended but when I tried to access Twitter on The Mitchell Library’s public access computers I was informed that Twitter was considered to be an ‘unacceptable website’. Surely not, I thought, so I tried again, on a different computer.  Same message again.   Made me wonder about what else would be blocked.  Attempted to login toFacebook and although the ‘unacceptable website’ message did not pop  up, a strange login screen did and when I attempted to type in my user name and password I realised that nothing was appearing on the screen. Seemed to be locked out of that one as well.  Tried MySpace, same thing! Okay, they’re blocking social networking websites I thought….but then something happened that made no sense whatsoever.  I was able to login to Bebo no problem.   I also tried to access Flickrand YouTube but they were inaccessible too.  Stranger still was what I found out later.   Glasgow City Council had been using Twitter to help promote the Aye Write festival, and there were buttons on the Aye Write website encouraging users to visit their profile on both Facebook and MySpace…  

Read the comments – it gets very interesting – including an exchange with the head of Marketing and Public Relations at Glasgow City Council. Christine wonders why Twitter is blocked when the GCC is using it for promotion:

Colin Edgar replies:

We’re having a look at that just now.

You’re throwing up another interesting question for Local Government: Do you get back to the customer with what information you have, thus ensuring that you give a quick, although not full, response? Or do you wait ’till you have all the facts before getting back, thus ensuring a full, but slower, response?

You’ll see I tend towards the former.

One other thing: we have a customer contact system which logs enquiries, complaints etc, and the responses and response times. I don’t know whether we’ve ever logged the message trail following a blog posting in this system, so this could be a, small but significant, first.

Best – C

This really speaks to the next barrier libraries are running up against with social networking: governing bodies above the library. These are the folks we need to be talking to – library folk are doing pretty darn well these days. I’m intrigued to hear what’s happened since this post. Are the sites unblocked?

Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies

Run don’t walk to check out this very important, very insightful report from Char Booth. I’ve been luck enough to share a few meals with Char and her take on the academic library student technology experience is well-grounded, innovative and, frankly, brilliant.

I’m lousy with anticipation, so I am extremely relieved to write that a giant piece of my workload/ brain energy has been officially lifted as of today. ACRL just released Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University, a book-length research report I’ve been working on for quite some time.

The report is a detailed case study of the student environmental scanning project I spearheaded at OU in 2008 with the help of many colleagues (see my Acknowledgements for the long list of names). In addition to reporting our findings, I discuss the importance of gaining research-based insight into local user cultures in order to inform service development and mitigate the temptation to make potentially off-the-mark generational assumptions about who students are and how they use technology and libraries, complete with a chapter on the practical trials and travails of homegrown research. You can think of it as a quantitative corollary to the University of Rochester Studying Students project – quite different methods of investigation, similar depth of insight. It’s one part presentation of survey results, one part analysis of the academic library emerging technology and assessment cultures that have developed over the last few years, and one part bon voyage/ homage (bon vomage?) to my former employer. The OU Libraries manage to do incredibly innovative and effective work not only on a shoestring, but with an ever-important a sense of humor. It shows in many, many ways, and for this they deserve to be recognized and emulated.

Informing Innovation is available in several forms. Free downloads: the full documentin PDF, another version packaged by separate chapters, and an updated and revised template library/technology survey instrument based on the one used in the original Ohio University study. For an introduction to and explanation of the scanning project itself, there is also a streaming dynamic webcast of my and Chris Guder’s 2009 ACRL presentation (no virtual conference login necessary) that summarizes survey findings and explores its practical applications at OU, voice and slides-style. You can also buy a hard copy of the report in book form from the ALA Store.

Screencasting Patron POVs, a TTW Guest Post by Mick Jacobsen

I am currently developing screencasts for an exciting new project mpowwill roll out in the near future.

While looking at a stupidly designed, but very useful database, I thought “Why would any patron watch a tutorial on how to navigate this mess?  They want an answer to a question, not a walk through of a resource.” This idea was quickly followed by “I am going to design screencasts that answer common, representative questions.”  For example, using LegalForms by Thomas Gale (not the database I referred to as stupidly designed) I can show how to find a customizable job application in one screencast and an easily adaptable home renovation construction contract in another.  These screencasts will demonstrate different means of finding valuable resources, but not be about using LegalForms… overtly.

Carrying the idea of what I call patron-point-of-view (PPOV) screencasts a step further, why not narrate from the patron’s viewpoint?  I rewrote the introduction from “Hi, I’m Mick Jacobsen an Adult Services blah, blah, blah,” to “Hi, I’m Mick, the owner of Mick’s Pizza and I want to get the word out about my great…”.

Lets go even further, why not use the question as the title?  Which video do you think would be viewed more: Learn How to Search LegalForms or Find a Customizable Contract for Your Business? I think the latter.

While multiple screencasts of each database will be necessary, I believe they will provide a better means of showing the real value of library resources.  An added benefit is PPOV screencasts will be short. The PPOV screencasts answer questions. They don’t plod through each and every nuance of a resource.  Seriously, what patron will sit down to watch a 10 minute demonstration of a database?  I try to keep mine at a max of 3 minutes and even that is pushing it.

The shift from a sage on the stage librarian teaching databases to the PPOV has changed everything in regards to my idea of screencasting.  Try it, I think you will find it liberating.

Here is a recent screencast:

How to Find New Businesses from Skokie Public Library on Vimeo.

Click on these links for some good library orientated resources on getting started with screencasting.

Creation, Management, and Assessment of Library Screencasts: The Regis Libraries Animated Tutorials Project by Paul Betty

Paul Pival speaking doing a podcast for the SirsiDynix Institute

Ellyssa Kronski writing for the School Library Journal

Mick Jacobsen is Adult Services Librarian at the Skokie Public Library.

Collaboration in the Classroom

So, if you’re an administrator, what are you doing to foster collaboration among your staff, and especially your teachers? And I’m talking more than just PLC’s, although that’s not a bad start. What are you really doing to fundamentally change the structure of your school(s) from one of isolation (close the door and teach), to one of sharing and collaboration (knock down the walls)? Is it unacceptable to share in your institution?

If you’re a teacher, what are you doing to foster collaboration among your students? And I’m talking more than putting them into groups of four and having the students create a PowerPoint presentation together. What are you really doing to fundamentally change the structure of your classroom from one of isolation (do your own work), to one of collaboration (work with others)? What are you doing to build their skills to succeed in a corporate environment that requires them to collaborate on a global scale?

Intended for K-12, this post speaks to me not only as a professor but as someone who thinks about libraries. I’d like to see more sharing in my classes and between classes in our program – this is something I need to build into syllabi. I’m also eager to see more opportunities  for collaboration between librarians and users – sharing virtually and in our spaces. This certainly impacts BI, the reference interview and user programming.

So much to think about.

Will Richardson Talks with Howard Rheingold

If you have some time, don’t miss this engaging chat between two of my favorite innovators in the technology/education world. Their discussion centers around social networks, learning and the future of education.

Lee LeBlanc on the future of federated search

Congrats to TTW Contributing writer Lee LeBlanc for his essay on the future of federated search. He is second runner up in the federated search blog’s writing contest. “The aim of the contest was to predict the future of federated search.”

Read his entire essay here.

The 2030’s versions of the iPhone and G1 project into space. Using a helioiPhone, the user enters the visual search world. Using light and air, users walk into their search worlds to see and haptically interact with the results. No longer will you be confined to a keyboard and screen. While the search may start in a simple box, virtually projected worlds from handheld devices are entered to explore the results. We walk about these “search terrascapes” our search agents created for us. When they bring the results back, much like Marco Polo from distant lands, they present us with our results. The network, the tools, and the user work together exploring deeper into the areas of search. Doing so helps a researcher find what may contain the ideas of future research. Virtual worlds are created to store and easily share from anywhere. All of these searches populate a virtual information universe.

Revisiting Ten Things to Stay Tech Current

I’m prepping classes and presentations right now and my eyes fell on this OLD link from walkingpaper:

Aaron lists some things libraries can do to improve techie stuff. How many have you done? How far have we come?

Here’s just a few of his ideas:

3. Have CD burning available for patrons at your workstations. Patrons with slow connectivity at home may want to download large files with fast library connections. Also, they may be working on large documents not easily fit on floppies. Cost = The hardware is not expensive and not too difficult to install. If you’re replacing computers soon the hardware will likely be standard.

4. Related to #3. No dumb computers. I’ve heard Steven Abram (does corporate policy prevent him from blogging? He’s the only vendor I enjoy hearing speak and I bet an Abram blog would be great) state this sentiment bluntly a few times. People have expectations about computers, and ours need to behave like theirs do, but better. Cost = Staff time to configure a protected but free situation. Ghosting software is cheap and a good start. Probably you’ll find a net gain in time.

5. Related to #4. Hassle free browsing. Make sure your users aren’t bombarded by pop-ups from spyware or update/renewal notices for your antivirus program. Allowing these intrusions confuse them. Cost = Perhaps an initial investment of time, but there will be a substantial gain when your users aren’t dependent upon you answering their questions about what to do when something pops up.

6. Answer patron emails quickly. Responding back in 48 or 24 hours isn’t cutting it. Cost = Staff time to answer more questions. If you’re responsive and market this service more people will start emailing you.

7. Use Instant Messaging. There are over 80 million Americans using IM. At least one of them is a patron of yours. Make the library available to them in a relavant way by signing up for a free screen name and marketing it. Make signing on to IM a RefDesk duty. Cost = A bit of staff training time.

Aaron and I advocated for IM like fiends in ’04 and ’05. Now, many libraries have a Meebo embedded librarian. Nice stuff!  I think I need to go back through the TTW posts from 2003 and 2004 and see what I was thinking about back then.