Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best practices in Virtual Reference

If you're suffering a sense of deja-vu it's simply that I also just posted this to the RISG New Technologies blog ......

At the recent ALA Midwinter conference there were two innovative presentations exploring approaches to improving reference service for our users: building a better search engine using the knowledge of reference librarians, and building a multilingual, multinational reference service, followed by a Q&A session.

Take a look, the streaming video can be a bit a hesitant in places but the ideas being explored here are exciting, innovative, and possible.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Have a look at this blog post about 50 ways to foster a sustainable culture of innovation.

It is great because it is focusing on what is possible, or what has to be done to make an idea possible.

They are all interesting ideas. My favourites are:
3. Have more fun. If you're not having fun (or at least enjoying the process) something is off.

6. As far as the future is concerned, don't speculate on what might happen, but imagine what you can make happen.

9. Ask questions about everything. After asking questions, ask different questions. After asking different questions, ask them in a different way.

11. Encourage everyone to communicate. Provide user-friendly systems to make this happen.

15. Notice innovation efforts. Nurture them wherever they crop up. Reward them.

24. Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate again. Deliver each important message at least six times.

32. Avoid analysis paralysis. Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.

42. Give your people specific, compelling, and measurable innovation goals.

46. Reward collective, not only individual successes, but also maintain clear individual accountabilities and keep innovation heroes visible.

50. Drive authority downwards. Make decisions quickly at the lowest level possible.

Think about how some of these ideas could help change your service delivery for reference and information services.

You may want to write you ideas in the comments.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Information Online 2009 - Day 3 Wrap

Leaving aside Andy Hines' keynote (which I have written about previously) here's a snapshot of some of the presentations that I attended.

Lynette Lewis, formerly of Yarra Plenty Library in Melbourne described their bold, ambitious project to outreach their Learning 2.0 program to School libraries and Victorian teachers via the Department of Education. What a great idea! Taking the skills and knowledge learned to the public domain.

Librarians from Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet Library and Research Services talked about their successful use of blogs and the associated RSS feeds as a delivery mechanism for their current awareness service. Their success in getting public service staff to embrace these new technologies and their innovative use of RSS was fascinating.

Michael Ossipoff from Telstra was highly entertaining during his presentation on the impact that fast, readily available Internet access would have on our society. And according to Telstra, it's all coming sooner than you think!

I haven't forgotten Ellen, Ross and Cathy's presentation about Reference Excellence but I'm sure you've all read about that one already.

Anticipating the Future - Information Online Day 3 Keynote

The morning Keynote presentation on Day 3 of Information Online was certainly the highlight of the day for me. It was titled Anticipating the future of librarians: understanding trends and staying relevant in the digital age and was given by Andy Hines, a professional futurist. I don't think that means he reads the Tarot or has his own crystal ball, although I have no evidence to suggest he doesn't!

Rather, as he explained it, as a futurist he looks at trends along with generational changes through a number of lenses such as values, demography, lifestyle, work, education and technology to try to understand where organisations need to be to meet the demands of future clients. What I might call strategic planning. It was all interesting but I'm just going to pull out a few things that resonated with me. I encourage you to chase up the full paper through the Information Online web site when it's available though.

Firstly, he described the typical differences in values between poor, developing and high income societies, arguing that postmodern societies move beyond success as a primary goal toward self-actualisation. We're in a period where we ask ourselves, 'What does it all mean?' This is manifested in, amongst other things, a rejection of institutional authority for a greater emphasis on trust in personal relationships. Andy suggested that this could partly explain the rise of social networking and I would add that it is consistent with the rise in the use of Google for information searches at the expense of reference services.

Next Andy described the attributes of Gen-y, the future users of library services. The key point here for me was that this drive for self-actualisation is leading towards a desire for intense personalisation. Everyone has their own personal needs and your services better cater to those or your clients will satisfy them somewhere else. This makes it hard to differentiate your target audiences, let alone market to them. You can no longer expect to speak to a mass audience.

We must create personal relationships with our users and one way of helping this along is for libraries to focus on authenticity over perfection. This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately and has been explored by John Blyberg, Kate Sheehan, Seth Godin and others. We need to become transparent and let the community in.

What does this mean for libraries in terms of services?

Libraries need to focus on services that cater for personalisation and encourage co-creation. We need to move away from ownership toward sharing. We need to foster community connection and interaction through virtual and physical spaces...

Sounds like Library 2.0 to me.