The next #uklibchat is on a Thursday, 6 March 6.30-8.30pm GMT. We’ll be talking about digital libraries, focusing on born digital content like e-books, e-journals, audiovisual and web content.
To get you thinking, read our feature article by @SimonXIX: ‘What do we talk about when we talk about digital libraries‘?
If you’ve not joined #uklibchat before here’s our guide to joining in.
Modern information work is dominated by the digital. All libraries work with the masses of digital information that computer technology has made possible. ‘Digital libraries’ – the assigned topic of this blog post – is too big a topic to be covered adequately in a 750-1000 word blog post and so, rather than covering all of the issues involved in digital libraries and digital librarianship, the focus of this post is the definition of ‘digital library’. The aim is to be ‘thought-provoking’ rather than ‘comprehensive’. Caveats and excuses in place, let’s begin…
The term ‘digital library’ was once defined as “a focused collection of digital objects, including text, video, and audio, along with methods for access and retrieval, and for selection, organization, and maintenance of the collection.” (Witten, et al., 2010, p. 7) This definition – representative of other available definitions of ‘digital library’ – is so broad as to be meaningless. In philosophical parlance, the definition is necessary but not sufficient. Specifically, the use of the term ‘digital objects’ makes this definition applicable to too many things that intuitively we would not want to categorise as digital libraries: text strings encoded in HTML are digital objects and therefore a focused collection of those – a website – is a digital library; digital images are digital objects and therefore any mobile device with a camera contains a digital library; library OPACs and discovery platforms are digital libraries; each Amazon Kindle is a digital library; Wikipedia is a digital library.
Due in part to the ever-changing, ephemeral, and ethereal nature of digital information, any rigorous definition of ‘digital library’ will be insufficient. Digital libraries take too many disparate forms for any one definition to be meaningful. Accordingly, a list of real examples and extrapolation of their shared characteristics may be the best ‘definition’ possible. And so:
A stab at a non-exhaustive list of things that one might call a ‘digital library’ in a LIS work environment:
Collections of digitised content. Including but not limited to:
◦ Archive collections
- The British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership’s India Office Records component
◦ Manuscript collections
◦ Image content
◦ Audio content
◦ Video content
Born-digital collections. Including but not limited to:
◦ Institutional repositories
◦ Publisher sites for aggregated electronic content
◦ Commercial ebook vendor platforms
Bonus list of things that are pretty much digital libraries but aren’t considered as such in LIS for cultural and/or legal reasons:
- Streaming services for digital content
- Torrent sites (particularly those for ebooks)
- The Pirate Bay
Even if we were to be stricter and restrict the term ‘digital library’ to only those collections which contain books (a term which would itself require definition), then we still have a mass of diverse platforms offering a range of digital objects. Most people in a LIS environment will be working with one or more of these digital libraries and so understanding and appreciation of them and the issues raised in working with them is essential for modern LIS workers.
However, note how many of the platforms in the above list are out of the control of libraries or librarians. Publication databases are created by publishers and commercial entities; repositories are created by academics; websites and social networks are created by software developers and programmers. Digital libraries are, by and large, not managed by librarians. If librarians are not involved in the creation or curation of digital libraries, then in what sense are they ‘libraries’ at all?
Digital libraries provide a good example of the changing role of library and information workers in a culture of digital content. Since we do not manage these platforms, we instead become experts on them: guides through the steppes of digital information. The major issue with this is that while LIS workers are aware of how much they know about digital library platforms, their users are not necessarily aware of that. Why would they associate JSTOR, a shiny commercial platform, with the staff behind the big desk on the other side of the library? How would they know to ask a librarian about digital copyright or FOI requests or off-campus authentication or ebook file formats or etc.?
Even this new role is becoming reduced. User-focused design for digital platforms aims to make the experience easy for the user: to ensure that users can intuitively navigate a interface without asking anyone for help. Folksonomies and collaborative systems of organisation make top-down hierarchical organisation systems appear at best antiquated and at worst obfuscatory. Between these two strands of development for digital content, what role is there for information professionals? Libraries are left to point towards digital information – towards those who truly provide digital collections – like a person forlornly holding a sign pointing to a golf sale. We all know they could just be replaced by a signpost.
In a digital context, the word ‘library’ is as outmoded as the word ‘object’. Digital information is a paradigm shift and we are still in the process of modifying our language to accommodate it. Just as the digital things that we call ‘objects’ do not share the same properties as the physical things we call ‘objects’, digital libraries are unlike physical libraries. They are not contained. They are (often) not organised with any strict or logical system. They are (often) commercial for-profit enterprises. They (often) have restrictions on their use. They are not managed by librarians. Digital libraries are not libraries: they are information.
Witten, I., Bainbridge, D., & Nichols, D., 2010. How to build a digital library. Second Edition. Oxford: Elsevier.
‘screenshot3’ from Flickr user: Cambridge University. CC BY-NC 2.0.
‘Golf Sale man #2’ from Flickr user: Richard Cocks. CC BY 2.0.
Our next chat is coming up on Thursday 6 March and our topic will be digital libraries. As we’ve covered digitisation in a previous #uklibchat, and digital libraries is a huge topic, we’re going to focus on born digital collections. We’ll talk about what sorts of digital collections we work with, whether e-journals, e-books, audiovisual collections, or web based content. What are the issues in managing these collections? How do users view them and use them? What is a digital library and where do we draw the line between digital libraries, websites, and databases?
Look out for a feature blog post later this month on the topic. Our agenda will go up for you to contribute questions about a week before the chat. We’re looking forward to chatting with you on Thursday 6 March, 6:30 – 8:30pm!
A big thank you to everyone who have joined in and participated in #uklibchat in 2013, and for those who joined us last night for the New Year’s #uklibchat. We have a few announcements to make:
Sam (@libwig) is stepping down from the #uklibchat team, and going on to become the President-Elect of SLA Europe. Major congrats are in order, it’s been great to work with Sam, one of the original #uklibchat team, and we wish him all the best in all his future roles! We hope to recruit a new member to become a part of the #uklibchat team, we’ve made stellar choices so far!
We’re taking a one month break, and there will be no #uklibchat session in February, but we are sure to be back on the first Tuesday of March, and hope you will join us for it. More info about the session will be revealed nearer the time.
And for more fun news, we’re looking forward to our 3rd year anniversary in July and we’re thinking of inviting #uklibchatters to join us for a picnic in the park. Location is most likely to be in London, and we’re already excited by the idea of meeting everyone in real life.
See you all soon
The idea for this chat came out of a conversation between @agentk23 and @sarahcchilds. We wanted to do a chat on something to do with customer service, but didn’t want to only cover old ground on being polite to customers and smiling nicely. We agreed that with an increasing number of library users accessing material virtually as well as physically, customer service is not just about empathy and interpersonal skills. It’s also about UX, web design and learning from and acting on user feedback and research. We hope the tweets in the chat have made you think about customer service and libraries differently! Please find a summary below – a full archive of the tweets from the chat is available here:
1 What is unique about your library’s user-group? What are their characteristics?
Most respondents to this question were from public or academic libraries, although we also had a prison librarian (@crdolby), a school librarian (@mariamernagh) and a polar librarian (@senorcthulhu)!
Even those coming from the same sector often had quite different answers e.g.
- We are rural, right beside a river, mostly lower middle class, many seniors & job seekers @shelmick
- I’d say our user group was not unique in a general way, but is diverse as would be expected for an urban area. We have large Asian and Polish populations as well as significant populations of Afro-Carribbean and Somali. @poetryghost
- Our users are predominantly academic usually looking for something specific. Users are usually students, academics, support staff and we also get some traffic from the local community such as local business people who want access to print materials and individuals who want to photocopy and browse stock @jackoliver40
- High-fee paying students so high expectations @priestlib
- Mostly foreign students and academics looking for foreign language material. @ludiprice
- I work at an academic art college. Images are very important @donnagrundy
- Students and academics, with very varied experiences of libraries and expectations of what we can deliver. @bookishkirsten
2. Have you undertaken any surveys or focus groups of your users? If so, did you change anything as a result?
Many librarians collected feedback via surveys, meetings, focus groups and suggestion boxes.
Discussion then turned to the actions taken as a result of the feedback:
- National Student Survey and Course meeting result: – faculty specialised software available in library PCs, convenient for students after lab closed @uowkwani
- We listen and action what we can, depending on what it is of course! an e.g. of change as a result of feedback through a user forum was to trial a brighter lighting in a specific study area@jackoliver40
- We take the annual round of Public Library User Surveys. This year’s was on Children and Young People. The results do inform the manager’s plans and ideas, but I’m never sure quite how much. Especially when, as last year’s adult one, for one reason or another the results were not published to the public @poetryghost
- We do a nearly annual survey, and make some changes based on results e.g. more plug sockets for laptops. We ask in survey if there are any books the library should have and doesn’t, and generally buy them. but some suggestions from survey we will always ignore e.g. for coffee machine in the library! @bookishkirsten
- Feedback is never same as “marching orders. ” We went to a 24/5 schedule after survey via easels of our undergraduate students about what they wanted. They wrote 24/7!! @donnalanclos
Ways of dealing with low response and lack of enthusiasm in providing feedback were mentioned:
- Both refreshments and feedback (actions taken post meet) vital to focus group success. @priestlib
- We have tried but responses were quite low. We do a lot of informal surveying over tea and adjust services @senorcthulhu
3. Do you think staff customer service training is effective in improving things for users?
The main benefit of training given was ensuring a consistent approach. However, doubts were expressed as to how much could be achieved via training due to its blanket approach and the fact that some had inherently good customer service skills and some did not. More specific training (e.g. mental health awareness) was suggested to remedy this.
The book Success at the Enquiry Desk by Tim Buckley-Owen was suggested as a great training tool. (@donnagrundy)
4. In your experience, what are the barriers to putting the user first?
Common issues mentioned included budget; lack of strategic direction, lack of support from management; staff shortages; lack of knowledge of users; resistance to change from staff; bureaucratic restrictions; laziness; poor communication and lack of creativity.
This question also sparked the following interesting points/discussions:
- Sometimes we think we know what the users want and so design our services from that instead of the other way around @jackoliver40
- Also mired in “we are a service” mindset but unwilling to reevaluate what “service” means @donnalanclos
- Deftly put – & I find an unwilligness and/or inability for staff to put themselves in user shoes @priestlib
- I find that less than just a sort of disconnect from the current crop of users. @donnalanclos
- How is ‘user’ defined? Does it include non-users that are part of target population? i.e. are non-users surveyed? @lolinthelibrary
- I always think it’s an odd Q. For me more interesting Q is “how do we *want* to define users?” @benymlee
5. What do you think are the good and bad bits of your library’s online UX?
- @donnalanclos said they had an in-house UX shop at her university. They constantly keep on juggling web pages, to make it quicker for find content
- OPAC allows you to expand your search to our partner libraries. I also like that we are starting out in social media – meeting users where they are in the way they want. @poetryghost
- We’ve just moved to LibGuides, more flexible & options for social media @databyatt
- Erm…not really having an online UX? We have a website that needs dramatic improvement! @senorcthulhu
- Ours is very 1990′s. Current WIP is moving to open source Kuali OLE @ludiprice
6. What are the barriers to better online user experience?
- Time to review. Resource, both financial and staff. Working with the technology that is available @jackoliver40
- Lack of professional web design in libraries
- A crippling reluctance to free libraries from straitjacket of parent org and let them create what users need @MyWeeklyBook
- politics (small p) @ludiprice
- Imagination @priestlib
7.What are the alternatives to surveys to find out user experiences? (avoiding survey fatigue)
- Getting out and talking to users informally. Engaging with the user to listen to what the issues are @jackoliver40
- Ethnography – and using already done studies as a springboard for policy, don’t need to reinvent wheel @donnalanclos
- I did ethnography of amateur web repository I am admin of, it was a fascinating insight into how users tick @ludiprice
- Secret shoppers & focus groups perhaps, inaction on Facebook and Twitter @databyatt
- I try to chat informally to library users & non users in our organisation. It always elicits useful feedback @jothelibrarian
- There is a lot of possibility with the web – pop up chat boxes on web pages, rate this page, blog post comments, etc . @libraryweb
- I’ve looked at data and stats from wherever I could get them reliably to help target specialist services e.g. looking at age of population across area to target home library service (some call this housebound library service). I essentially compared and contrasted diff electoral wards on age percentages. Added in care homes and also sheltered accommodation, looked for day centres etc. to give a pic of where elderly stuck at home are @poetryghost
8. Have you tried an ethnographic approach to finding out more about your users?
- Surely HE libraries could use anthropology students to help them with library studies? Could be a good dissertation project… @sarahcchilds
- I employ MA students in Anthropology and other social sciences as my research assistants @donnalanclos
9. How do you deal with resistance from some staff to improve service?
- Performance appraisals and performance management, one to one meetings, reminders, emails. Anything but losing your temper. @donnagrundy
- I think you really need to massively sell the benefits and have a coherent co-ordinated message. you also have to be very clear about the aims and what you are trying to achieve not just “better customer service” + listen to people’s concerns @poetryghost
- I’m not a manager, but I try to lead by example. Fortunately I work with fab super-motivated colleagues! @jothelibrarian
- Be persistent. Use evidence from user feedback. Keep repeating the message. Take action if needed @jackoliver40
- The better the organisational culture, the more it supports people to develop and improve service.
I write about my work/experiences on our intranet: makes good learning material & encourage others to share @jothelibrarian
- Um… Be contagiously enthusiastic, bat your eyelids and smile a lot???? @ludiprice
Our chat on 1 October focused on advice and tips for those starting out in library and information work. It attracted quite a few participants doing graduate traineeships and working on library and information qualifications, as well as those who’ve been in the profession a bit longer and shared their perspectives. There was some interesting discussion about library qualifications, and what people valued the most and least in their experiences of them. Some of the other questions gave people a chance to talk about their training and development needs and what skills they thought were most important in their roles.
The full archive of tweets from this chat is available here.
In the week leading up to the chat and during it, we asked people to complete the sentence ‘When I started out in LIS, I never thought I’d…‘ . We got some interesting responses, and Ka Ming put them together here. I’d recommend having a look – it’s an offbeat insight into the work we do and a little bit inspirational.
Here’s a summary of the discussion:
Q1. If you’ve done an LIS qualification, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?
Some people mentioned specific skills they didn’t realise they would use so much in future jobs, including web design, cataloguing, teaching and event management. There was a lot of agreement with @lisaburscheidt that ‘doing it at a “good uni” doesn’t matter all that much, doing it so you get to know your peers does.’ Lots of participants thought it was important to make the most of opportunities for networking and getting to know people in different areas of the field.
Q2: If you’ve done a grad traineeship, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?
Some people wished they’d known more about the library school application process and deadlines when they started a traineeship. Some universities have early deadlines and you need to apply quite early in the traineeship year. Others said that it’s important to remember how short a year is, and to take all opportunities to get involved in different types of work and projects. Try to build an understanding of the profession as a whole and the different roles available.
Q3: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given relating to library and information work?
This one is difficult to summarise so I’ll just list a selection of tweets. I think this was an interesting question which brought out what was important to participants in their work and their career paths.
- @midcel: a good librarian (info professional) should be able to work in any subject area
- @spoontragedy: ’Each book needs to earn its place on the shelf’ – my 1st ever manager in libraries #uklibchat #ranganathan
- @CorBlastMe: ’Customers are your work, they are not an interruption to your work.’
- @thehearinglib: If you work in a big organisation, do workshadowing. Start a blog to develop professional stance and thinking.
- @preater: best general advice – theory should inform practise, but experience of practitioners should feed back to theory.
- @spoontragedy: In a careers sense, best advice ever was to be open minded about jobs & don’t fixate on only 1 sector/type of role #uklibchat
- @HelenKielt: Keep learning, value the opinions of others and think of users first, services second #uklibchat
- @AmyJoyHolvey: Best advice I was given was; take opportunities to develop skills, get involved and learn about wider professional issues
- @shinyshona: If you’re stuck for an answer twitter might know!
- @ErikaDelbecque: Say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, even if / particularly if it is a daunting one
Q4. What do you think should be taught in library school which is not currently?
The top things mentioned here were project management, web authoring and technical digital library management skills, teaching skills, customer service and information literacy. Copyright, database architecture, negotiation skills and more coverage of collection management were also mentioned. Some people felt that although management had been covered, they wanted more of an emphasis on people management. Voice training would help academic librarians get through induction week!
There was discussion about cataloguing and classification; a number of people agreed that this should be a core module in library school. Currently, some universities have it as a core module and some cover it only briefly. Several people said that they use cataloguing more in their work than they had expected to when they were in library school.
If we’d like to add all these things to library school, is there anything we should take out? @ErikaDelbecque had a good answer for this: don’t take anything out, just pick up the pace; currently too much time is spent on basic stuff.
Q5. What alternative routes into professional librarianship are there? (Less traditional ways into professional posts?)
Quite a few participants had colleagues in professional posts who had come into libraries sideways with other work experience and without library qualifications, or had done this themselves. Backgrounds which people had come from included IT workers moving into systems librarianship and people with teaching or nursery experience working in public libraries. Some people felt this sort of entry route had become more difficult in the past 10 years in academic libraries.
An alternative qualification route is CILIP certification followed by chartership, but no one was really sure how employers would view people who’d gone this route. One participant did know of people who had done CILIP chartership without having a librarianship degree or certification, but had substantial experience and an MA in another area.
Q6. What support would have been useful from your employer? (Support beyond cash!)
More flexible working and days off for study were the most popular answers for people who’d done part time and/or distance learning LIS courses. Many people would also have liked the opportunity to tie their dissertation in with a work project. Participants would also like more opportunities for work shadowing. Day release could be helpful for other purposes besides just studying for a course, like visiting other libraries or going to conferences or other professional events.
Q7. If you’ve done a qualification, what was the best part of your course?
Getting to know fellow students, learning about other areas of the profession, and getting a broad overview of library and information work were definitely the most popular answers here. Specific modules which participants valued included research methods and management. The dissertation got a large number of mentions here too – people had found it difficult but also really valuable as an opportunity to apply their learning, put theory into practice, or look into a subject more deeply. @preater said his answer to this question was a complex one about ‘being able to translate theory in practise, great amounts of accumulated book-learning, & ‘levelling up’.
Q8. Do recruiting managers prefer an MSc over an MA? Also- do you think having a PGDip instead of the Master’s (not doing dissertation) makes a difference to getting a job?
Most participants, including some who had recruiting experience, said no to both parts of this question. The important thing was not the name of the qualification or whether or not you had done the dissertation, but whether or not you had a professional qualification recognised by CILIP (or similar). The PGDip is the professional qualification recognised by CILIP; the dissertation which makes it into an MA/MSc is an academic element of the course. Most participants also thought it didn’t matter where you did your LIS degree – employers were just interested in the qualification.
Some people did feel that they’d gained project management experience, research experience, or subject knowledge from completing a dissertation that had helped them to get a particular job.
Another perspective was that the content of the course mattered more than the degree title, or whether you did a dissertation. Some thought that chartership could help you stand out as a candidate. The reflection and professional development required to complete chartership can also help with job applications.
The year is going going almost gone, but we’re already planning the first #uklibchat 2014!
Last January, we asked #uklibchatters to put down their 2013 New Years Resolutions in this document. January 2014 #uklibchat, will be a chance for everyone to reflect on the year past, and also look to the future.
We’re set up the 2014 New Years Resolution document, and do most cordially invite you to share your New Year’s Resolutions with us, whether professional resolutions for yourself or for your service.
Join us for #uklibchat on Tuesday 7th January 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm GMT.
To participate in the conversation use the #uklibchat hashtag. If you are a Twitter or #uklibchat novice, please visit this page for advice on joining our chats.
If you have any queries please consult the uklibchat team via Twitter (@uklibchat) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We look forward to chatting with you!
Thank you so much to those of you who participated in our first joint Twitter chat with #SLAtalk on Tuesday. We think our experiment went very well and led to a really lively discussion and a chance to network with overseas colleagues. We’d love to hear your feedback though of course!
We’ve summarised the discussion below, but the archive of all the tweets from the session can be found in this Google Drive spreadsheet. Alternatively, for those of you who prefer the Storify format, the tweets from the first hour of the session have been Storified on the SLA blog.
The first four questions had been set in advance by the SLA team, and questions 5-8 were posed by participants through our open agenda document
1. What tools or technologies do you use to assist you in today’s global workplace? Describe a success story and share the impact of the project.
Lots of tools were shared by participants, which fell broadly into a couple of categories:
- Online translation tools for informal/quick translations – including Babelfish, Google Translate, and Leo (German-English)
- Time zone tools – Time.is , timeanddate.com, and setting up multiple clocks in your desktop in Windows (In Windows 7 this is under Control Panel > Clock, Language & Region > Add clocks for multiple time zones)
- Currency converters – oanda.com and xe.com, and also searching Google e.g. searching “gbp 60.00 usd” to get answer. ($98.42)
- Video and telephone – GoToMeeting conference calls, Google Hangouts, Skype
- Collaboration and networking tools – Google groups, Google Drive, Dropbox (downsides – blocked at many institutions – DM @LibrarySherpa for some ways round this!), blogs, Twitter, Facebook
- News – Newseum
2. Have you successfully performed research using another country’s resources or researched in another language?
Lots of you have! Examples included:
- Library catalogues – e.g. Library of Congress, WorldCat, KVK
- Translation/transliteration tools – Yandex for Russian translation and Kurrentschrift.net for deciphering German script
- jobs resources from India, Ireland, UK, Australia and South Africa
- researching Chinese Records Management Law, using Chinese Gov Websites
- Subject specific glossaries
- Google site search (site:) to find embedded PDFs on foreign site with info I needed that was hard to find
- Used @ResearchGate to ask an academic in Spain about an article of theirs requested – and found an ILL on there too
- SLA’s transportation div list to help find US transport policies
- IFLA Facebook group
- getting translation help from a local professor for a Saudi equine legal question
3. Share a challenge caused by working beyond your own borders, and how you overcame it.
Common challenges included:
- language barriers – can be overcome by finding common ground such as pidgin French or Spanish. Difficulty understanding accents were overcome by listening more carefully and using visual clues. Email or other text can be easier to understand than spoken word.
- time differences – SLA committees often span 15-hour differences in time zones. Use Doodle to find a time that works best and take great notes for those who cannot be there. Use email, forums, Google Drive etc. so that people don’t need to be all in one place at one time.
- communication – simple things you’d usually mention in passing get missed because you don’t think of it in formal meetings!
- culture clash – “I learned (the hard way!) that conference customs are different in UK than in US. I made apologies, then adjusted.” Try to avoid using slang or other cultural terms which may not be well understood outside of your country.
4. What skills do you think make you more successful in working and collaborating in a multinational environment? How can you better network beyond your borders?
- sensitivity and openness knowing you’re dealing with different language & culture (even between US & Canada!)
- staying dedicated and open to embracing differences. Collaboration can convert differences into strengths!
- curiosity to learn new things.
- networking professionally through an association (e.g. SLA and IFLA) or through more informal networks such as #uklibchat.
- going outside your comfort zone and networking with a wide variety of people – not being afraid to approach people
- several people recommended going to international conferences, or a national conference that’s not in your country
5. How does your own culture affect how you work and communicate?
This is quite a tricky question to answer, and we also discussed what could be meant by ‘culture’.
- In UK and US we need to work harder to see international context. Need to be aware that most media is English-language centric.
- Living and working with non-English-speakers means a sense of empathy for those facing a language barrier, and a greater awareness of differences
- Countries don’t define cultures
- Digital divide and other differences in tech – it can be easy to forget how privileged we are
- Social media cultures – barriers between those on social media and those not, and also each media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has its own culture
- Differences in organisational structures – e.g. Finland have pretty flat organizational hierarchies, so not afraid to talk to anybody because of their status
- Cultural differences in communication exemplified?!
6. What are some ways to get involved in the international library/information community?
Lots of ideas were suggested (and many had come up elsewhere in the chat)
- through our own companies – colleagues, exchange programmes, interns from foreign countries
- join organizations that are international in scope and get involved – volunteer for active roles within the organisation
- social media – chats like this one, blogs, feeds
- exchange during studies – Erasmus can fund CPD trips to Europe for those in HE
- When you are travelling, try to have local colleagues take you out – send some emails/get in touch on social media in advance and see if anyone wants to hang out!
7. Which professional groups have a good international mix of members?
- IATUL (for academic/research STEM community)
- CILIP ILIG
- SLA – Although @SLAhq has many US members, they embrace the international community. 2014 President @KatefromUK is UK-based.
- IFLA – IFLA New Professionals group on Facebook: on.fb.me/1iwzfil
- SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals)
- “Librarians without Borders”
- Hashtag based communities such as #kidlit, #libraryschool tend to be international as well as of course #uklibchat
Groups from other professions that we might be able to learn from:
- IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police)
- IAWP (International Association of Women Police)
- International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals
- SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)
- SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing)
- The Wikipedia community
8. If you’ve visited a library or library organisation overseas, what were the differences that you noticed?(Particularly interested in non us/uk libraries)
Several people had visited libraries overseas, including:
- State library in Melbourne – a really buzzing place. Felt like a real hub for studies, and very open.
- Hong Kong public libraries were very well used. Students would queue up for study spaces
- Latvian libraries – a blog post by Ned Potter talks about what we can learn from them
- Toronto’s Lilian H. Smith Library – gorgeous statues at entrance and a well attended Teen reading group going on
- Libraries in the UK and in Santiago, Chile \- aside from the language (signs, etc.), there was no appreciable differences.
#SLAtalk and #UKlibchat are pleased to co-present a Twitter conversation like no other!
Beyond Borders: Connect and Collaborate Internationally
Using Twitter, our two groups will explore the challenges and opportunities when it comes to working as an info pro as well as networking with others in our profession across geographic and cultural boundaries.
Use both hashtags of #SLAtalk and #UKlibchat for our conversation.
Tuesday, 3 December from 18.30-20.30 GMT (1:30 pm – 3:30 pm EST)
What time is that where you are? http://time.is/compare
Important information unique to this session:
· The first hour (18.30-19.30 GMT) will be in the style of #SLAtalk, discussing the four questions below. Check out How to #SLAtalk and the latest #SLAtalk Roundups, as well as #SLAtalk explained via PowToon.
Q1 (18.30-18.45) What tools or technologies do you use to assist you in today’s global workplace? Describe a success story and share the impact of the project.
Q2 (18.45-19.00) Have you successfully performed research using another country’s resources or researched in another language?
Q3 (19.00-19.15) Share a challenge caused by working beyond your own borders, and how you overcame it.
Q4 (19.15-19.30) What skills do you think make you more successful in working and collaborating in a multinational environment? How can you better network beyond your borders?
The questions after 19.30 are up to you, head over to our agenda doc to tell us what you’d like to talk about!
In the lead up to our #uklibchat ‘Putting the User first’ on the 7th November we invited Andy Priestner and Matthew Borg to write for us.
Read on for article number 2 by Matthew Borg
Online user experience aspect of libraries
That doesn’t quite hit the word count though. OK;
It mostly sucks.
But for the sake of this article, it’s probably worth spending some time working out why this is the case.
The desire to help is built in to the profession. From Ranganathan’s Laws through to the reference interview, the drive to help the user has shaped the profession and our roles. It’s a part of our daily interactions. But it’s been a blessing and a curse. We used to have card catalogues, carefully and painstakinly written in Library Hand. Then someone said “Hey, let’s put this stuff on a computer, it’ll be way cool.” (Their exact words are lost to history, but it was definitely something like that.) That’s when “Help Creep” started.
Matt Reidsma (Web Services Librarian at Grand Valley State University) draws a neat parallel. He talks about Hewlett Packard, who started in a shed in California sometime in the 1930s. Their first products were highly technical devices such as oscilloscopes, and their motto was “design for the engineer at the next bench”. They were building expert tools, for other experts to use.
And that’s exactly what we did with the OPAC and subsequent online interfaces that we expect our users to engage with. They were designed by experts, with other experts in mind. This is where we start seeing “Help Creep”, which can be summed up neatly by this quote from Erin Bell;
“Libraries do design like this: “Include everything! Emphasize nothing! Add more advanced options! Fill up ALL the space!”
We can see this present in many current online library interfaces. “Help Creep” can be partially excused by the desire to help that I mentioned earlier. Far too many of our online interfaces include elements that are designed to serve as “just in case” help. An extra link to COPAC, just in case a PostGraduate student needs it. A link to FAQs (which are rarely “Fs” and sometimes not even “Qs”). A link to a long description of what a “journal” is… I’m not suggesting that these tools disappear totally. But do they really need to be on the front page of our interfaces? (Also I’m aware that “Help Creep” sounds like something one shouts when being attacked in the stacks, but I’m working on it.)
Good online user experience
We used to say to our first year students something like “Hi, welcome to university, now you need to start looking for information.” (Actually, we probably said something like “Bring your books back on time, or you’ll get fined. And no eating”, but then the information thing.)
The problem is that the students we are seeing now have been searching for information since they were old enough to hold a mouse. Google has essentially satiated their information needs. So showing them and expecting them to use complicated interfaces is not simply not acceptable.
We can explore User Experience (UX) design a bit to help us do this. UX design seems to be gaining traction in the library world as something we need to be aware of. It can help us work out how to present our online information. Here’s an interesting image from Influx (an organisation that tries to support library website design). Also, Venn diagram – yay!
Have a go at applying these three principles to your local public library or university library catalogue. How well did they do?
I am not for one moment suggesting that we completely exterminate the expert tools. Let’s keep them, and celebrate them for what they are – advanced tools. And let’s label them appropriately and accurately.
We have fantastic resources. Like, amazing stuff. Whether we’re based in academic libraries or public, we’ve got awesome things that people can use. The trick here is making sure that people can actually use them. (This is one of the reasons I’m convinced that Web-scale discovery can help with this. Tools like Summon, from Serials Solutions, are designed for students to use.)
We forget that the people that use our stuff are, well, people.
So let’s listen to them. One way we do this at Sheffield Hallam University is by carrying out regular usability testing. Every month, we sit down with between 4 and 6 students and get them to carry out simple tasks using the library website. Intuitions are fast, but they can often be wrong. Listening to the user enables us to make gradual, iterative changes to our interfaces. We concentrate on one thing that students are struggling with, and we make small changes to try and prevent it happening again. Then we test that same question the following month to ensure the fixes we’ve put in place are useful, usable and desirable.
So let’s try that opening paragraph again:
Online user experience aspect of libraries.
It doesn’t have to suck. Bad library online user experience is a focus on stuff. Excellent library online user experience is a focus on the people that use stuff.
About the writer blurb.
Matt J Borg is a librarian at Sheffield Hallam University. For half the week, he looks after some subjects in the Business School, for the other half he looks after the library website and online interactions. He’s also an associate lecturer. Variously been called “Troublemaker”, and most recently (to his dismay) “A Point of Energy”. Online at http://mattjb.org