Monday, November 22, 2010

Time to move from a reactive to proactive online reference service?

I've just read that the AskNow virtual reference service will close on the 17th December 2010.

Excerpt from the email notice from the State Library of Queensland:

As a consequence of declining demand and the need to respond to changing patterns of library use, the AskNow service will close on 17th of December 2010. This decision was made following an eighteen month review by the National Libraries of Australia and New Zealand, and state and territory libraries in Australia.

One of the key reasons for the closure is the change, since the launch of Ask Now in 2002, in the information landscape. In a Web2.0 environment the evidence is that people are engaging with libraries in new ways and they are taking advantage of different service opportunities.

While AskNow has had many satisfied customers over the years, chat is a resource intensive service and decisions about its continued operation have been made in the context of significantly declining usage over the past five years. It is also acknowledged that the collaborative approach to staffing the service has been confusing for those people who expect to be chatting with a librarian at their local library.

I wonder if this is a good opportunity for the AskNow partners and participants to consider the idea of a proactive online reference service for Australians, that takes into account the changes in online behaviour and information seeking that has led to the decline in use of AskNow.

In brief, online services like Facebook and Twitter, and specific answer services like Yahoo Answers are filled with people asking their friends, families and followers all sorts of questions. Some of these questions aren't appropriate for a response by a library, but many are.

At my place of work we have been playing around with Twitter as an online information service. While we now use it to push information, our original intent (and still a core practice) was to watch, listen and search Twitter for questions about our local area, or topics that we could answer. Our hunch that some people were asking their friends and followers questions that could easily be answered by a public library was quickly confirmed, and so we replied to their tweets with information and links.

I realise that this service model is entirely different to AskNow, and that different software, techniques, policies etc would be needed. But what AskNow seems to have been very successful at is the collaboration of some serious library muscle to share the task of answering questions. Perhaps that muscle could be re-engineered into a proactive online reference service for Australians who are making the most of the opportunities and connections afforded by social networking sites and mobile devices.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The future of library collections

Thanks to Jason Griffey for highlighting this talk by Eli Neiburger (@ulotrichous).

It one of the best talks I've seen recently, outlining the present and possible future of library collections by comparing the codex with other outmoded technologies. Well done Eli.

(The presentation was for Ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point, a virtual summit by Library Journal and School Library Journal).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Current Cites and Longevity

Roy Tennant’s recent Library Journal post (On Longevity) celebrates the upcoming 20th birthday of Current Cites (CC). In his post, Roy ponders out loud about longevity, and proposes some thoughts about what it has taken for CC to survive and thrive for 20 years.

One of the genuine highlights of my library career so far, is the privilege of being a CC contributor. Prompted by Roy’s post, here are some thoughts of what CC has meant to my career so far, along with an addition to his formula for longevity.

I think I first discovered CC around 1999 / 2000, at the time I finished my library degree and started work as a professional librarian. CC became a ‘must-read’ as I attempted to get up to speed with library-related technology issues. Each issue of CC provided at least one article worth reading, and sometimes every article mentioned was worth tracking down. CC became one of those emails I frequently forwarded to colleagues, along with a strong recommendation to subscribe themselves. CC became available via RSS around the same time I was discovering feed readers, and so the feed was one of the first I added to my new Bloglines account.

In August 2008, Roy sent a brief note to the Web4Lib email list, inviting people to become contributors to CC. At that time I had done some writing for work, and was managing a small collaborative library-related writing initiative. I had written and presented one or two conference papers, and so was bold enough to email Roy a sample citation. His simple reply to me was “Welcome to the team!”. You couldn’t wipe the smile from my face for days! Since then, I’ve managed to contribute a few more cites, and I enjoyed meeting Roy at the VALA conference in Melbourne earlier this year. We had a great conversation over a meal, where he also introduced me to the delights of skordalia :-)

So what has CC meant to me?

  • It gave me a wonderful introduction to library technology issues

  • It has provided an avenue for me to write outside of my current work duties (even if they are short citations)

  • It prompts me to scan the table of contents of peer-reviewed journals, reports and publications that I might otherwise skip over in my emails and RSS feeds

  • My fellow CC contributors continue to provide a stream of interesting articles and publications that I don’t discover any other way

On Longevity - Based on these experiences with CC, I’d like to add one more idea to Roy’s list of longevity factors: Involve and encourage others. The willingness of Roy and other CC editors to invite and encourage folks like me to contribute to a project can be a contributing factor in ensuring longevity. Sometimes it can be hard letting someone else work on your pet project, but sharing the load, inviting others to be involved, and encouraging and developing your collaborators can be worthwhile task to help ensure longevity.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Promoting our library's use of Twitter

Two weeks ago I noticed a tweet by our local ABC radio station:

So I replied, letting them know about Townsville library using Twitter to answer questions:

A few more tweets and emails resulted in me meeting with Nathalie Fernbach, a Cross Media Reporter with the ABC. We had a great chat about the changing environment in journalism and libraries, especially with technology, social media and user-generated content. Some of our conversation about the library was recorded and ended up as part of Nathalie's story on how local organisations are using social media.

Not just for kids
By Nathalie Fernbach
Townsville Lost and Found Pets set up their Facebook page in January and already have close to 700 followers. Why is it that social media are such a hit with North Queensland community groups

Friday, April 16, 2010

Libraries and Learning

Yesterday I had a play around with Google / YouTube SearchStories...

Digital Coordinator - ALIA Access 2010

A few weeks ago I accepted an invitation from the organising committee of ALIA Access 2010 conference (1-3 Sept. 2010, Brisbane, QLD), to be the 'digital coordinator' of the conference.

In brief, the role involves managing and giving advice on the web 2.0 component of the conference. There is a range of exciting things being discussed at the moment, so keep an eye on the twitter account for breaking news about ALIA Access 2010.