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Preconference wrapup: Building Communities in Your Library through Innovative Applications of Technology

July 11, 2009

This morning, I learned that when lightning strikes near downtown Chicago, and you have your hotel room window cracked open for the breeze, it’s LOUD.

I’ve learned a lot of other interesting things in Chicago this weekend, but what I want to blog about is the good information I took home from the preconference that I spoke at yesterday, “Building Library Communities through Innovative Applications of Technology”.

My presentation will be online at Slideshare and it will also be available on PLA’s website.

Someone asked me how I knew whether our videos were having any kind of effect on patrons; for example, as a result of the video, did more people sign up for a service I talked about or attend an event I mentioned?  How would we know?  This is a very good question, and I have not tried to find out.  I been curious, and I do get good feedback from librarians, but (not to be crass) what librarians think doesn’t really count–it’s our patrons whom the videos are directed towards.  I asked the audience how we could find out, and I got a couple of suggestions:

  • do a survey: how did you learn about this program?
  • hit count on the videos: this kind of number is interesting because people keep watching the videos long after the week they played

I think someone else mentioned another good idea but I don’t remember what it is right now.  If that person is reading this blog, I hope they write in a comment!

John Blyberg commented that sometimes it is difficult to know how effective a tool is if we look solely at numbers.  There are all kinds of qualitative measures that are hard to assess.  But these videos are only six months old, so we might be able to do a real analysis of what impact they made in another few months.  I would be interested in talking with anyone who might have an idea of how to measure it.

Another person asked if our videos go out to our public access channels.  Since we have two public access channels operating from our main library, I certainly hope so, but that is another avenue to pursue.

Next we heard from John Blyberg, Assistant Director, Innovation & User Experience, Darien (Conn.) Library.  He described his SOPAC and while it was very technical, it was fascinating.  I’m so glad that Sean is working on the SOPAC with Sean to adapt it for Sirsi users.

After lunch we heard from Meg Canada, senior librarian for Web Services and Training at Hennepin County Library.  Meg is a firecracker of a librarian who is very excited about social media in libraries.  She talked about tools librarians can use to make connections with patrons like Social Media Breakfast and Mashable.com.  She stressed that libraries need to have a communications strategy and a social media strategy.  Do we have either at ACPL?  Does you library have either?  Meg also talked about ways to monitor mentions of your library on social networks.  Some tools she uses are Twitter, SocialMention.com, and Backtype.com.

Meg showed us an interesting graphic from the Air Force called “Web Posting Response Assessment” which is a flow chart that helps you learn to respond to comments made about your service.  This is a fascinating chart and I need to look at this when I return to work.

Finally we heard from Sandy Farmer, Manager, Central Youth Services, Houston (Tex.) Public Library.  Sandy is a champion of gaming who created a fantastic space at her central library for open gaming.  Her patrons can check out game controllers and play in the library at any time the library is open.  Most libraries have gaming events, but at Houston kids are gaming all the time!  This was very inspiring.  She was also able to buy Webkins at a reduced rate which she then used to present a 4-session series on Webkins for kids.  She made an excellent point that the cost of a program like this or the cost of buying all the controllers is justified when you look at how much they are used.  A puppet show can cost a couple of hundred dollars and when it’s done it’s done; but controllers and Webkins are used many times over and the cost per person goes down each time.  I think this is pure genius!

We ended the day with an exercise led by Aaron Schmidt, Aaron Schmidt, Digital Initiatives Librarian, District of Columbia Public Library.  Called Appreciative Inquiry, he asked us first to talk about positive things our libraries have done–to celebrate.  We broke up into groups and I heard about some very cool projects, like the Express Branch at Houston where people basically walk in and download books and media–hardly any books are kept there.  Then we were asked to dream–to come up with pie in the sky ideas for what we want to see happening at our libraries.

Aaron said he was surprised that he hadn’t heard anyone talking about mobile devices, but I assured him it was on my mind.  I will be attending the Handheld Librarian Online Conference on July 30.  I hope you’ll get a chance to sign up for this–it sounds like it’s going to be a fun day.

It’s 6:40 a.m. now and it’s stopped storming, so I think I’ll go back to bed.  I’ll be back at work July 20, and I’ll have plenty of new things to investigate and to do.  I plan to check out Meg’s favorite social media tools, as well as contact Access Fort Wayne about posting the What’s Happening videos on TV, and firming up some more speaking engagements.  Until then, have fun at ALA everyone!  I had a great time and can’t wait till next year.

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