Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Can't Live in the Library

Yesterday one of our regular community users was arrested and charged with "criminal trespassing" and "failure to control/comply" (both misdemeanors). Our janitor had noticed hair clippings in one of the men's bathrooms for several months until yesterday when he caught this man shaving and bathing in one of the sinks. Campus Public Safety was called and I guess the guy was taken out in cuffs. Previously, one of my coworkers had found an iron and a bag of belongings back in Government Documents and thought it was probably his. As she and Gwen noted... No one goes back in GovDocs so when people wander back there you have to wonder.

Anyway, I think he trespassed to other places on campus so that is why they took it so seriously. As you can probably tell, the only details I have are from my coworker Tom who saw the arrest and information from the county jail's website. Even though it's winter intercession, the library is still open and those of us who didn't take vacation days are still here. It's been nice to get writing done (all I hear is my space heater!) but when something like this happens it's nice to have 2 other people present in your department. I hope this man gets assistance because he never bothered or even approached anyone so I don't think his intentions are bad - he probably just needed a warm place to sleep and a computer to watch YouTube videos on (these are basic needs, people).

Related story from Laura about an NYU student (of course his major is creative writing) living in Bobst Library:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Customer Service: A Facebook Odyssey

I am sorely lacking beautiful screenshots like Laura's Twitter post, but we had kind of a nice library-related social media thing happen this week, so I stole her title.

Kool Kat Katy tweeted earlier this week about a site, oddly called Reasons to Hate (why?), that allows you to search Facebook status updates for strings of words. I searched our library's proper name and came up with a user who had said something like "come on, [Name of My Library], how can you not have [Name of a Fairly Standard Seeming Reference Book]."

I did a quick search and couldn't find it in our catalog either (or in all of WordCat), so I emailed half a dozen of our reference librarians to see if they could find it. I thought I wasn't doing a good search, or that the book was lost or something -- but it turned out that we really didn't have it, and the selector considered it a fairly major ordering oversight. I'm not exactly sure of this part of the story, but apparently the vendor hadn't notified us.... in any case, though, one of the awesome librarians ordered it immediately, found the FB commenter's name, and said he'd email him as soon as the book comes in.

I commented on the guy's FB page this morning, which is ever-so-slightly creepy, especially since I had to do it from my personal account because FB doesn't let me comment as the admin of the library's page. I also gave him the URLs of how to place a purchase request and how to chat with a librarian next time he can't find something that seems like it should be there. He said he was surprised and pleased, and a few of his friends who had commented on the initial status update liked the update. (After he asked, I told him how I'd found him, too... hopefully that takes some of the creepy fourth-wall feeling out of it.)

It would be vastly more helpful if the search could be refined to use boolean terms and -- even more helpful -- to search within particular networks. Most of our users wouldn't actually write our proper name out; they'd just say "the library" and their FB friends would know which library they meant. If it could be limited to networks, we'd really be able to do get a picture of what people are saying.

But anyway, this felt like a little victory -- to be able to help one patron with a reasonable request almost immediately, and surprise him and his friends and maybe make them see the library as a little more responsive. I don't do any direct service at my job at all, so this felt doubly nice. Woo!

Image from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Customer Service: A Twitter Odyssey

I'm still thinking about my institution's social media strategy and wanted to share a positive story about another organization that's Doing It Right. I recently signed up for a DC Public Library card. I tweeted about it, including an @ mention for the system's Twitter account @dcpl.

@dcpl quickly retweeted my message and replied:

I thought that was great, a quick acknowledgment of positive feedback and a reminder about what I needed to do next. Plus, an invitation to move from the internet world into the real world to interact more.

I placed a hold with my new temporary card number and went to my local DC branch a few days later to get my official library card. Side note--DCPL gives you a choice of different card designs, which I also loved. I got the one with the frog that says "Hop into Your Library."

All well and good, until today I noticed a problem. When I looked up that hold I placed earlier, the wrong branch was listed as the "Pickup Library." My book was apparently being shipped to a library across town that would take me over an hour to get to!

Normally in this situation I would search out the customer service number/email and contact the library that way. But, instead I thought, "hey, I know they check their Twitter account regularly, maybe that will be faster."

Within minutes, @dcpl added me as a follower and sent me a series of direct messages. The staff member on the other end looked up my library account and figured out that the problem was just a bug in their new online catalog software. S/he alerted their IT department and assured me that my book would be delivered to the correct branch. S/he also suggested that I change my pickup branch since my local library is going to be temporarily closed in a few weeks. (It's moving to a new building! Very exciting!)

All and all, a great service experience. Quick response, helped me solve my problem, and also helped me avoid another problem I didn't even know I had.

To follow up, I asked how DCPL manages their Twitter account, and got the answer "A few dcpl staff run the twitter collectively - from branch managers to library associates to marketing staff."

Lessons I'm Taking From This:
  1. Good customer service online is just like good customer service offline. It means being friendly, responding quickly, and solving problems.
  2. Responding to casual messages makes people much more likely to communicate with you in the future. If @dcpl hadn't responded to my first @ mention, I doubt I would have tried asking for help through Twitter. I would have assumed that they don't check their @ replies, as most institutions (like mine!) do not.
  3. If you make it apparent that you are available, people will send you questions, so you'd better be prepared to answer them. If you don't have time, you probably shouldn't be on Twitter in the first place.
  4. Empower staff to respond to questions and solve problems via Twitter.
  5. Have many people involved to lighten the burden and ensure good coverage. Alternately, one dedicated person with plenty of time or several people with set shifts could work.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Story time!

One of my colleagues cut her waist length hair to a cute little bob. The look really works on her - she no longer looks like a flower child from the sixties, and the bob complements her small features.

Recently, this same colleague asked our ILL person to mail a package, media mail, for her. The ILL person had no problem, as she frequently makes post office runs. Of course there was no postage, but our ILL person assumed that it was one of the many ILLs and didn't worry too much about it. It wasn't until a student worker was leaning on the ILL person's desk that we all realized what was in the package: "Oh. Locks for Love. Cool".

My newly shortened hair colleague wanted to mail her chopped off locks, media mail, with the university paying for it Locks of Love. Of course, there are a lot of things of wrong with this story: 1) hair is not media, 2)the university should not pay for your personal mail, 3) it is wrong to defraud the post office, 4) it is weird to mail your hair from work.

Luckily, our ILL person handled it pretty gracefully, pretending that my colleague had forgotten postage, and then reminding my colleague that it is a personal mail. But still. That's pretty weird.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not so sure about QR Codes

Have you sensed the new trend wave of QR codes? First they were on the November cover of ACRL News and now there's "QRapping paper" (yes, say that one out loud).It seems as though QR codes are catching on when it comes to marketing (especially in Japan where they originated) and now libraries are figuring out ways QR codes can work for them. What happened to ensuring access for everyone? It's my understanding that QR codes require a user to snap a picture with their camera phone to access a downloaded application to then view the intended website associated with the black and white square. So, what about the people that don't have Internet access on their phones? I would hate to design a program or instruction session activity involving QR codes without knowing everyone I am trying to reach has more than just a basic cell phone. The last thing I want is to exclude patrons by using QR codes just so I can participate in a new trend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Improving Web Statistics

I've been looking into ways to increase search ranking and web stats for my digital archive. One really helpful presentation I found:

"Search Engine Optimization for Digital Collections" by Kenning Arlitsch, Patrick OBrien
and Sandra McIntyre.

The authors discuss the unique problems of digital libraries and ways to solve them. They explain how to use Google Webmaster Tools to check for webcrawler errors (definitely worth checking out if you run your own website!) and various technical ways to improve indexing.

We've also been brainstorming ways to get more use out of our institution's Twitter and Facebook accounts. They're both pretty active, which is great, but we're mainly just posting "This Day in Cold War History" links. I'd like to get us interacting more with our users, in hopes that that will increase our followers/visibility, and thereby the number of people being redirected to our actual website.

Related Links: