Category Archives: Social Software & Sites

The Underground Economy of Innovation – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson

There are costs to maintaining and fully supporting technologies. For every dollar of software or hardware that is purchased, there are additional dollars that must be committed to implementation and ongoing support. Most organizations have lists of “supported” technologies and much longer lists of “unsupported” technologies. Yet, we continue to innovate. We continue to utilize new tools to solve problems. I stumbled upon this blog post from Rosabeth Moss Kante about innovation in health care, which I think is applicable to innovation in general and libraries specifically:

“Innovations always sound good in retrospect, after they’ve worked, and in isolation, when all the surrounding barriers to change don’t have to be taken into account. Arguably, the main roadblock to innovation in health care is not the limits of human imagination and creativity; it is how a complex system has grown up in which most players have incentives for keeping their piece intact while hoping to seize a piece from someone else. Health establishments fight against germs and also against germs of ideas. It’s a classic change management problem…

“…Complex systems of multiple actors and interest groups rarely change by fiat; they are more likely to change because of the accumulation of many positive deviations from tradition that prove themselves and gain support. Each small innovation pushes at some aspect of the system and ends up triggering greater change…”   (Why Innovation Is So Hard in Health Care – and How to Do It Anyway by Rosabeth Moss Kante

When innovations take place, they do so because someone was willing to move beyond the roadblocks that exist. They were willing to break rules and operate in the underground economy of innovation.

In my research into the innovation and adaptation of blogs and Web 2.0 technologies, I have seen how the underground economy of ideas works. Single innovators can experiment, support, and diffuse ideas across organizations pushing the larger group in new directions.

It is not uncommon for pockets of innovations to exist that replicate all of the functions of an IT department offering trouble shooting support, implementation guidance, and even hardware maintenance. Of course, inefficiencies for the larger organization will start to arise as decentralized IT services pop up.

Organizational leaders have a delicate balancing act to perform as they seek to support both innovation and efficiency. Ideally, they should act to foster innovation, but also find ways to support it efficiently. At times, this is not an easy act to pull off. The currency for the underground economy of innovation is the informal recognition and satisfaction that comes with solving problems. Many courageous innovators thrive on stepping outside of the box and playing around. Administrators who do stamp out a new innovation because it is not officially supported risk doing far more damage to their organization than they may realize.

One thing that became clear to me in my research was that budget meetings were places where innovations went to die. The price tag is a significant factor in the diffusion of an idea. Since many Web 2.0 technologies are relatively cheap, they can easily fly below the radar as they move across organizations.

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.


Embracing Services to Teens 2011: Revisiting Mishawaka’s Ban on Social Networking

A new anonymous comment went up on this post from 2008 about my hometown library’s ban of social media access because of issues with teens:

No email address or URL was shared, so I thought I’d share the comment here so the person might get some useful feedback – including ideas to welcome everyone into the library without “stricter patron codes of conduct.” I would especially like to hear from teen librarians.

I am currently employed at a library in Kentucky and I must say that I disagree with your assessment that the primary goal of the library should be to just let these actions go on without any moves to correct them. While I do agree that the steps taken are a bit extensive, the fact remains that the primary purpose of a library should be that of a center of learning that is open to anyone who is interested in learning something or attempting to discover something. A library is not an internet café nor is it a place for individuals to gather to place their personal feelings on a social networking website. As librarians, we are taught how to best help patrons discover, use, and understand the items we have on our stacks and we take great pains to offer our services in a kindly manner.

However, the teens, at least at my particular branch of employment, have become the biggest thorns in our side. Despite offering special teen spaces, unique teen programs, and various other opportunities the problems that we started with have remained. In the case of our particular branch the problem had to do with particular teen patrons. These ‘problem’ patrons are often the source of either mischief or, in some cases, harm to others. While there are adult ‘problem’ patrons are most vocal and most confrontational are our teen ‘problem’ patrons. I personally feel that the solution to the problems experienced at your particular library, namely the parking issue among others, are the cause of individual teens who should be removed and I do agree that eliminating it for all is a bit much. Having said that, I completely understand the Library Director’s reasoning on this matter. Furthermore, it is easy to sit outside of a library system and question the judgements from the comforts of a classroom or a home, but when you work for the public on a regular basis you soon find that there are some individuals who complain about just anything and it is extremely likely that your particular Director had some nasty phone calls from irate older patrons who were inconvenienced by teens. In an effort to appease these patrons the Director took an option to cut the snake off at the head.

At my particular branch, there are those patrons who often do complain about the slightest transgressions, be they real or imagined, and they demand immediate responses. In these cases it is difficult for us to act because our hands are tied by a management tactic that attempts to make all parties happy; this flawed way of viewing public relations has created situations where the end result is often a massive over-reaction. The library staff, often eager to find a way to calm down overzealous patrons are often forced to cut off access to certain things in an effort to appease these individuals. This policy of appeasement, much like its earlier 20th century political equivalent, is highly controversial and flawed as you have now seen. The correct solution, in my opinion, is to institute more business like procedures within a library setting and to enforce stricter patron codes of conduct in an effort to ensure that these kind of incidents never occur, thus allowing the teens to peacefully coexist with the other patrons.

Full TTW coverage of the Mishawaka ban is here: The policy was reversed a year later. I would also  love to hear from the Mishawaka librarians – how is it going these days?


The Transparent Library: Embracing Services to Teens

Integrating Staff Personal Social Media Presence into Library Web Site = Human Touch

I’m updating some slides and prepping for spring classes today. I was pleased to find this wonderful staff directory page for the Todd Library at Waubonsee Community College:

Not only do I get a photo of the staff member, I also get access to their social media presence as well. Frankly, I’d like to see more libraries do this. Wouldn’t clicking through to a staff listing such as the one above paint a clearer picture of the PEOPLE running the library beyond just a name and email address? I understand if some individuals were not interested in participating, but I’d rather such a page be opt in for those who want to – with the understanding that their social media presence becomes part of the story the library is telling.

Speaking of marketing, isn’t this type of  endeavor – that glimpse into the social presence of those folks who you might see behind a service desk or those ordering/processing materials – is a million times more real than the latest crafted message from the PR department? Kudos to the folks at Todd Library!

TTW readers – do you have other staff bio pages to share like this one? Can you do such a thing at your library?

Study: Comparing Tools of Social Media

Please consider participating!

A study by Javier Velasco-Martin

The Study

I’m interested in how we are incorporating Social Media into our communication toolset; this research study will compare different computer-based interpersonal communication media. I’m particularly interested in whom we relate with through different tools, what types of information we share on these, and how we feel about different types of information. Your participation involves responding to an online survey. This process should take you about 15 to 20 minutes, and should involve no risk or harm to yourself. With your help, we’ll be extending our knowledge in this field, where most research to date has focused on single tools. You may gain from the learning about how you use these tools, and adjust your use as appropriate. You can also be eligible for a drawing of one of two $100 gift cards (details below).

This study compares the some Internet communication tools; the type of use we’ll be discussing here is described below:

  • Email: The basic use of email, messages between two people.
  • IM: The basic use of IM, conversations between two people.
  • Blog: Posting as a blog author, and commenting on other’s blogs. In case you manage multiple blogs, we’ll be discussing your personal blog only.
  • Facebook: Posting status and comments on friends’ status and photos. Not including private messages, groups, or events.
  • Twitter: General tweets, replies and re-tweets, not direct messages. In case you manage multiple twitter accounts, we’ll be discussing your personal one.

This study has been funded by the 2009 Progress Grant from the Information Architecture Institute.

The Participants

I’m looking for people who’ve been using these tools long enough to have found a stable place for them in their daily communication toolset; establishing a (rather) definitive strategy for their use. I’m trying to focus on people for whom these tools are no longer “the new toy”. In practical terms, you should have at least six months of experience in either running a blog, or using a Facebook or Twitter account.

The Researcher

I’m a PhD student of Information Science at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I’m interested in how technology is allowing us to communicate with our people in new ways, and how that is changing the way we relate with others. I believe Social Media marks a point where the Web has come of age, developing its own tools that are no longer remixed versions of what we’ve had before. I think that now is a great time to be studying these kinds of problems. I’m excited to be doing this kind of research, and I’m very thankful for your help. I also hope the results of this study will be useful to yourself and many others.

The Gift…

Participants who complete the survey will get a chance at winning one of two gift cards for $100 each. In order to participate in this drawing, I will have to collect your name and email address, but this data will be kept separate from the survey data and it will not be possible to associate your name with your responses. You need to answer 80% of the questions to be eligible for this drawing.

TTW Mailbox: Do you use DELICIOUS? Please take survey

From an email:

I am a graduate student in the Dept. of Library & Information Science, National Taiwan University. I am writing to you because I read your article and thus understand that you had researched before. I’m currently doing my thesis research on Delicious users’ social relations and tagging behaviors. I am now on the stage of collecting data from Delicious user. Would you please fill out my questionnaire if you are currently using Delicious? It may take you approximately 20-30 minutes to complete the questionnaire. I would highly appreciate if you could also forward this questionnaire to anyone you know who also use Delicious. Thank you very much for your help.

Here is the link:


Yi-Fan Chen, Graduate Student
Dept. of Library & Information Science
National Taiwan University

Chi-Shiou Lin, Assistant Professor (Thesis Advisor)
Dept. of Library & Information Science
National Taiwan University

Anytown Public Library’s Social Media Policy

APL Social Media Policy

This policy governs the publication of and commentary on social media by employees of Anytown Public Library and its related companies (“APL”). For the purposes of this policy, social media means any facility for online publication and commentary, including without limitation blogs, wiki’s, social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. This policy is in addition to and complements any existing or future policies regarding the use of technology, computers, e-mail and the internet.

APL employees are free to publish or comment via social media in accordance with this policy. APL employees are subject to this policy to the extent they identify themselves as a APL employee (other than as an incidental mention of place of employment in a personal blog on topics unrelated to APL).

Publication and commentary on social media carries similar obligations to any other kind of publication or commentary.

All uses of social media must follow the same ethical standards that APL employees must otherwise follow.

Setting up Social Media

Assistance in setting up social media accounts and their settings can be obtained from APL’s Social Media Librarian.

Don’t Tell Secrets

It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it’s not okay to publish confidential information. Confidential information includes things such as unpublished details about our software, details of current projects, future product ship dates, financial information, research, and trade secrets. We must respect the wishes of our corporate customers regarding the confidentiality of current projects. We must also be mindful of the competitiveness of our industry.

Protect your own privacy

Privacy settings on social media platforms should be set to allow anyone to see profile information similar to what would be on the APL website. Other privacy settings that might allow others to post information or see information that is personal should be set to limit access. Be mindful of posting information that you would not want the public to see.

Be Honest

Do not blog anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. We believe in transparency and honesty. Use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for APL. Nothing gains you notice in social media more than honesty – or dishonesty. Do not say anything that is dishonest, untrue, or misleading. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be cautious about disclosing personal details.

Respect copyright laws

It is critical that you show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use or fair dealing of copyrighted material owned by others, including APL own copyrights and brands. You should never quote more than short excerpts of someone else’s work, and always attribute such work to the original author/source. It is good general practice to link to others’ work rather than reproduce it.

Respect your audience, APL, and your coworkers

The public in general, and APL’s employees and customers, reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view. Don’t say anything contradictory or in conflict with the APL website. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, offensive comments, defamatory comments, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also proper consideration of privacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory – such as politics and religion. Use your best judgment and be sure to make it clear that the views and opinions expressed are yours alone and do not represent the official views of APL.

Protect APL customers, business partners and suppliers

Customers, partners or suppliers should not be cited or obviously referenced without their approval. Never identify a customer, partner or supplier by name without permission and never discuss confidential details of a customer engagement. It is acceptable to discuss general details about kinds of projects and to use non-identifying pseudonyms for a customer (e.g., Customer 123) so long as the information provided does not violate any non-disclosure agreements that may be in place with the customer or make it easy for someone to identify the customer. Your blog is not the place to “conduct business” with a customer.

Controversial Issues

If you see misrepresentations made about APL in the media, you may point that out. Always do so with respect and with the facts. If you speak about others, make sure what you say is factual and that it does not disparage that party. Avoid arguments. Brawls may earn traffic, but nobody wins in the end. Don’t try to settle scores or goad competitors or others into inflammatory debates. Make sure what you are saying is factually correct.

Be the first to respond to your own mistakes

If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier post, make it clear that you have done so. If someone accuses you of posting something improper (such as their copyrighted material or a defamatory comment about them), deal with it quickly – better to remove it immediately to lessen the possibility of a legal action.

Think About Consequences

For example, consider what might happen if a APL employee is in a meeting with a customer or prospect, and someone on the customer’s side pulls out a print-out of your blog and says “This person at APL says that product sucks.”

Saying “Product X needs to have an easier learning curve for the first-time user” is fine; saying “Product X sucks” is risky, unsubtle and amateurish.

Once again, it’s all about judgment: using your blog to trash or embarrass APL, our customers, or your co-workers, is dangerous and ill-advised.


Many social media users include a prominant disclaimer saying who they work for, but that they’re not speaking officially. This is good practice and is encouraged, but don’t count on it to avoid trouble – it may not have much legal effect.

Wherever practical, you must use a disclaimer saying that while you work for APL, anything you publish is your personal opinion, and not necessarily the opinions of APL.

Don’t forget your day job.

Make sure that blogging does not interfere with your job or commitments to customers.

Social Media Tips

The following tips are not mandatory, but will contribute to successful use of social media.

The best way to be interesting, stay out of trouble, and have fun is to write about what you know. There is a good chance of being embarrassed by a real expert, or of being boring if you write about topics you are not knowledgeable about.

Quality matters. Use a spell-checker. If you’re not design-oriented, ask someone who is whether your blog looks decent, and take their advice on how to improve it.

The speed of being able to publish your thoughts is both a great feature and a great downfall of social media. The time to edit or reflect must be self-imposed. If in doubt over a post, or if something does not feel right, either let it sit and look at it again before publishing it, or ask someone else to look at it first.


Policy violations will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination for cause.

Created at This intrigues me. I have an assignment in LIS768 where my students write a sample guidelines statement for a library of their choosing. This online tool crafts the language quickly via a 12 question instrument. I’d be very interested to hear from others that have experimented with this tool for their libraries or institutions.

foursquare @ Darien Library

foursquareCheck-ins, badges, and becoming mayor have nothing to do with libraries and everything to do with the geolocation game foursquare…. well it did until some of the librarians here at Darien began hijacking our own venue (Darien Library).  We began checking in every time we came into work, closely monitoring who among us was crowned Mayor of Darien Library.  Possibly making snide comments to our new ruler – of course in good fun.

Then it dawned on us: Why are we checking in all the time when we could offer up this service to our users?

We began looking a little closer at it, finding out how we could build a whimsical program out of it that, yes, would be a little silly, but also potentially informative and rewarding.  foursquare allows users to add to-do’s to venues for individual use and tips for others who check-in.  What tips could we offer?

To our benefit, our cadre of staff foursquare users represents pretty much every department in the library: User Experience (UX), Teens, Technology, Knowledge and Learning Services (KLS), and Children’s.  Together we thought of 3 to 5 tips we could each offer up from our department.  For example, Teens has video games, UX puts together some great programming, KLS has a fabulous Bloomberg Terminal, and so on.  So when we thought of ideas and potential hurdles we all funneled them into our Google Wave and then filtered the good ideas off to the venue as tips.

We were left wondering about incentives.  foursquare is like twitter was in the beginning, popular for early adopters but seemingly useless for the rest of the population.  We wanted to invite our users to try a new technology, to not worry about the “silliness” of it at the beginning.  To do this we needed our incentive.  Because we can track who becomes Mayor of Darien Library we thought it best to give out a prize:  a fancy tote bag (a $25 value!).  Become Mayor, get a tote bag.  It’s that simple.

We’re going to evaluate this program over a two month period and see how it increases check-ins to our venue.  If we see it’s popular we’re going to think of other incentives we can offer.  If it bombs, hey, that’s ok.  It’s quick to implement and low maintenance – and we tried something new.

This idea was thought up by these fine folks:

  • Alex Hylton, Teen and Technology Services
  • Sarah Ludwig, Teen and Technology Services and Knowledge and Learning Services
  • Gretchen Caserotti, Children’s Services
  • Erica Leone, Reader’s Advisory
  • and myself, Kyle Jones, Knowledge and Learning Services
Kyle Jones, TTW Contributor