Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


Do libraries make people feel like this?

After months of trying to find a new phone that would meet my needs and not overwhelm me with more than I need,  I finally upgraded my phone, my life, my plan, to an LG Xenon. I waited with baited breathe for the UPS man, and after taking the package from his hands, and ripping it open, my excitement started leaking like a 3 day old helium balloon.

Nothing about this is fun.

Nothing about this makes me happy.

N0thing about this is remotely the way it should  be.

The phone arrived uncharged– a major deterrent to immediately diving in and playing around. The directions for authorizing the phone, for changing my phone number, for setting up my voicemail — none worked as described. I mean, the reps I spoke with were great, but I spoke with 4 of them. They were all also mystified about how to proceed with someone who only had the cell phone. Do most people do this from work?? I mean, landlines are scarce amongst the company I keep, are we really that abnormal?

Every step along the way has been ugly and unpleasant. Nothing has worked according to direction, and everything that seemed intuitive has caused a problem somewhere else down the line.

And while I am siting here, seething and pouting, in the back of mind I’m wondering:  is this the library user experience?

  • We  have sexy tools
  • They are far too complicated
  • Our help systems — vendor and librarian –do they meet the challenge? Do they assist with the actual problems our patrons encounter?
  • Are the help tools a poor match to the systems as the currently exist?
  • And, do we put way too much emphasis on assuming (requiring?) the user will come talk to us? Us, lovely, helpful, kind, librarians. But such a hassle to sidetrack from the task at hand to talk to, and too bound in procedures and checking the work to offset the waste of patron time having to ask represents.

Do we make out patrons feel the way AT&T and LG are making me feel right now? If the answer is yes, it’s unacceptable. How do we, how can I, start laying out an agenda towards developing better, more intuitive systems and implementing far better and less intrusive help?



What am I doing this summer?

There’s a meme gaining steam around teh interwebs and since it matches what’s been on my mind, I thought I’d chime in. What exactly does a librarian do in t he summer time? Well, this academic librarian has a few things on her plate!

  • Working on focus. I’ve gotten much better at limiting the continuous partial attention, but this summer offers a vast panorama of un-meeting-ed time, and I am developing exercises to force myself to focus for ever longer times without distraction
  • Work with my Undergraduate Research Methods Project team to analyze our data and get at least one article written
  • Immerse myself in the literature on learning commons, on the impacts of the interactive web on cognition and learning  styles, and learning spaces. Overly optimistically, on privacy, ethics & libraries too.
  • Frame  out an article, maybe even write one
  • Pull together a pilot personal librarian program with a couple of stakeholders
  • Get to know my new unit head, and start working towards the future
  • implementing the processes and technology pieces that will allow us  to turn our twitter stream interactive; develop the training for all the parts; train staff and GAs on the new processes
  • Figure out how to selectively tweet to our Facebook page. This is much more of a challenge than I ever would have guessed
  • Talk to stakeholders and develop three pilot proposals for e-book readers. This will include working out the pros and cons and capabilities of each of the readers. I’m really excited about this one, have a couple  of great ideas for the pilots projects
  • Read the One Book selection and develop a plan for physical and virtual discussion groups on the book for Fall semester, and on related themes (or books related by themes) for the Spring.
  • Reconnect with some of the Learning Commons partners that have fallen off my radar
  • Make sure that Learning Commons partnerships are on the minds of the new hires replacing the 2 partners who left to follow their bliss elsewhere.
  • Lay the groundwork with a stakeholder for a re-purposing of a particular space in the building
  • Now that the IT reorg has started to settle in, start building the relaitonships I need formore effective partnering with campus IT
  • Work with EdTech to start to resolve some of the technology training issues that have fallen through the cracks on campus
  • Work with stakeholders on integrating (or not) the workshop series I’m launching in the Fall with an existing workshop series aimed at a different audience
  • A handful of web page updates and a couple pf entirely new pages, including one that will involve creating a whole new communication process for a bunch of folks across campus
  • Do a better job at leading my working group, get the next phase rolling and the lib guide up
  • Visit (and photograph) each of the (40some?) libraries on campus to get a sense of the variety of spaces we call “library”
  • Make a point of having coffee or lunch with a librarian I would otherwise not interact much with at least every 2 weeks. These conversations are always rewarding and inspiring.
  • Deal with the logistics of the party a colleague & I are throwing for my friend and soon-to-be-former unit head to celebrate her election to ACRL vice-president/president elect.

Wow. That’s exhausting. I had actually been feeling like I didn’t have enough going on this summer, but maybe now I’ll be a bit more able to cut myself some slack!

How about you? What’s your summer look like?