I haven’t been writing much lately on my blog (in case you hadn’t noticed the utter lack of updates).  I took over as Acting Director for the San Rafael Public Library 15 months ago and as Director 9  months ago.  Before that time, I was averaging 20-30 posts a month.  In the last four months I’ve posted twice.  That makes me sad.

I still am active daily on Twitter and Facebook, but I have been so burned out by work and personal life stress that thinking about libraries after I get home is (sorry to say) the absolute last thing I want to do.  I’ve also cut way back on my speaking engagements–down from 44 in 2011 to 25 in 2012, and looking forward it looks to be around 10 for 2013.  Sorry kids–I’m tired from my day job and real life.  The limitless power source that was my professional engagement has apparently found its limit.

What motivated me to post today was someone asking about a follow-up to the stalker post that I wrote on Halloween 2011.    I was asked–Are things better? Have things changed? Are people less creepy now and leaving you alone?

Sadly, no.  Since I wrote that post I have received:

  • several more unwanted advances and “touches” at conferences (including a drunk librarian in underwear only knocking on my hotel room door), which is part of why I dialed back my speaking engagements – I’m so sick of this shit
  • a marriage proposal from a fellow librarian (who I don’t know from Adam) who started it off with the very romantic “Now that you’re finally divorced and everything…”
  • two hand-written mailed death threats at work
  • numerous anonymous bouquets of flowers on my home doorstep, some with creepy stalker-ish poetry, which I traced back to…
  • a local stalker who eventually revealed himself while I was on a break outside the library, physically assaulted me, and got slapped with a restraining order after I kicked him where it counts and grabbed his wallet and ID when he was on the ground to get identification

And frankly, there has been a lot of stress in my work life in the last year.  The inevitable personnel and budget challenges at work, a huge uptick in illegal behavior in the library resulting in a lot of banning, a small claims lawsuit filed against the library, a patron who said he’d “bury me in paper” and then did so through numerous FOIA requests, pests and mold in the library, the facility literally falling down around us, and in general feeling that this “trial by fire new director” thing is not the best way of learning things.

So between work being insane, creepy people still making themselves seen, and an emotionally taxing personal life…yeah, I’m not writing as much, I’m not presenting as much, and I’m not as active on library issues as I used to be.  I am hoping that spark will come back and I will want to start writing again.  I guess this is the first step toward that.

Year in Review

December 17, 2012 | Comments (9)

It’s the year in review! Below are my favorites from 2012, just because.  I did this last year too (2011’s version):

Book – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Movie – Iron Sky

Band – The Album Leaf

Song – “This is How It Ends” by Devotchka

Serious Technology – Nexus 7 tablet

Less Serious Technology – stainless steel pet water fountain

Conference – Internet Librarian in Monterey

Fan Girl Squee Moment – dancing with David J (from Bauhaus and Love and Rockets) at a club and having him ask me for book recommendations

New Service for Libraries – Geek the Library

Personal Accomplishment – finishing my ginormous, very black back tattoo without crying

Professional Accomplishment – being hired as Director for the San Rafael Public Library

Library Innovation – sea dragons (I don’t think any libraries actually have these, but I want sea dragons in my library so there)

Indoor Event – Ghost Ship

Outdoor Event – Folsom Street Fair

Support for a DRM-free Future – Humble Bundle eBooks

Bar – The Pint Size (San Rafael)

Treat – vegan peanut butter cups from Sjaak’s

Photo of me that you will never see – shoveling powdered-sugar-covered funnel cake in my face at the Marin County Fair

Meme – Grumpy Cat

Sadly, I only got a half dozen or so videos for the Shit Librarians Say contest.  We had a *ton* of comments left on the post with suggestions for content for video clips, but not enough people have sent stuff in yet to make it substantial enough.  So keep the submissions coming – and if you’re not sure what to say, hey–a bunch of your colleagues have some really cute ideas.  The videos should be short – 5-15 seconds on average.  Doesn’t take long, just make sure the audio quality is good please 🙂  We’ll see if we can get enough people to spout of ridiculousness to make this video happen!

Internet Librarian: Reinventing Spaces & Places

Erik Boekesteijn, Jaap Van de Geer, Jeff Wisniewski, Paul R. Pival

Do we let our spaces work hard enough for us? What are successful spaces doing? We don’t have any space…  And the successful spaces we see have similarities: flexibility, creation, collaboration, and tradition (maybe).

We cannot save libraries by doing more of what we have done before because the outcome will be the same.  What are the roots of librarianship? Supporting and encouraging creation.  In our spaces, then, we need to move away from spaces that are simply used to manage content to spaces that facilitate collaboration and creation.

Six years ago Erik & Jaap set out to build the most modern library in the world with DOK in Delft, Netherlands.  They drove across the U.S. collecting best practices from various libraries.  Jaap recommends a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad about financial education.  Don’t work for money – see if money can work for you.  We don’t let our spaces work for us – we work for them.  Apple is the rich dad; the library is the poor dad.   The Amsterdam Apple store is packed with people using services while the Amsterdam Public Library (a gorgeous, expensive new space) is largely devoid of people.

A start-up in the Netherlands, Viewsy, lets you measure and manage foot traffic. That might be an interesting thing to take a look at.  We have to be brave in a relentless focus on the user.

What are successful spaces doing?  The Library of 100 Talents in the North of Holland.  If we want to go after our future users, we need to talk to our teens.  They had the teens work with a designer and architect to design their own teen space.  The TFDL Digital Media Commons provides a creation space – 12 Mac Pros with full A/V editing suites, 4 soundproof editing suites with full AV capabilities, and a DJ Mixing Board, collaborative workrooms with TeamSpot group collaboration software.

The Fountaindale Public Library is establishing a 7,000 square foot digital media content creation space.

The Westport Connecticut Public Library MakerSpace is in the middle of the library.  They have an engineer in residence who works in the MakerSpace and helps folks design things on CAD, use the MakerBot, etc.

The University of Washington Research Commons provides collaborative working spaces where students can share ideas in public locations, promoting peer learning.

McMaster University Lyons Media Centre has a gaming room that supports 3 academic programs that study game creation and use.

Collaborative spaces need flexibility and be able to have multiple uses.

You can rent out spaces as well, as the Assen Public Library (Netherlands) has done.  They built a television studio and hired their own staff to record programs, and they rent the space out when it’s not in use by students.

The keys to success – You have to start by listening to your users and involving the community by making them a part of the library.  The DOK library is about fun – gathering stories, creating fun spaces.  Their “wall of screens” displays local stories that people can add their own content to through their library card and a special surface touch table.  DOK has some truly awesome stuff…everywhere you look there’s something different to see, to do, to experience. (Sarah’s note: It is my favorite library I’ve been to, and I’ve been to A LOT.)

The Arhus Library in Denmark (the UrbanMedia Space) has a design for the exterior of the space, but zero definitive plans for the inside space yet because they think if they plan now it will be outdated by the time it’s built.  The vision is to create a unique space for cooperation, a place for dialogue, knowledge, ideas, and inspiration, an open and informal learning space, and a unique place for children. People are the key.

We need flexible libraries and spaces, as well as flexible teams.

Flexible furniture: with casters, grommets, lightweight, collapsible, movable

We need some people with a smart plan on using the space well – filling it for events.

We also need more wifi than we can possibly imagine we will actually need.

Have raised floors if you’re building or renovating a space – power and network everywhere, no matter where the furniture ends up.  Our users want two things: network and power.

We need agile walls (example of University of North Texas). “De-mountable walls.”

iPads are replacing all of their children’s gaming desktop computers at the North Shore Public Library.  This freed up space and the iPads are much easier to manage than the computers were.  Plus, the games are cheaper on the iPads, and users love them more.

There is a product called the Media Surfer kiosk that you can configure to dispense a device with the swipe of a library card.  It wipes the iPad, requires no staff mediation (but doesn’t clean the screen—which would be nice :P).

We need to start thinking of our spaces as products and services that we can market.  The Stanford University Libraries lists their libraries, but have a “which library is open now” feature and advertise the library as a place to study…not just a place to go get a book.

Jeff highlighted a library in Washington that had created a scale of noise, and different levels of noise were allowed on different floors.

So if we have no space. 2/3 of library budgets are tied up in staff and rent.  We have to start thinking about how we can make the library work harder for us.  We need to reclaim space—take space away from things that aren’t working and aren’t being used.  For many libraries, that’s a big portion of your print collection.  You can also share space—Nova Southeastern University Library was building a shared facility with the Public Library.

The Amsterdam has a Library in the Airport with a focus on books and videos on the Netherlands. SO SMART.

We don’t work for books. We let the stories and the visitors work for us.  The Assen Library has a conveyer belt built into a recently returned bookshelf that you can target by subject (somehow, I’m not sure I understand how—that’s pretty cool though!).

The National Library of Singapore is collecting stories from their residents.  And that’s what libraries should be doing.

Collaborating to Demonstrate Value

Margaret Hazel, Louise Alcorn, Erik Bobilin

Margaret started by talking about her work with the City of Eugene as the Technology Manager for the City’s Library.  Their city’s budget goals and framework are based on three goals – getting to a sustainable budget, maintaining services to citizens, and not laying people off.  Brainstorming with the whole organization about what the City could do to work smarter.  Some ideas – stop serving food at city meetings, look for expertise in-house instead of contracting out, promote cooperation across departments and divisions.  The library intranet is City-facing.  It’s encouraged City staff to reach out to the library staff for information and help.  Their tag line is “What do you want to know today?”  They have links for library cards for employees, links to the library’s online resources and services, etc.  They did a dog and pony show for the different departments about how the library can help them with their work.  They discovered that departments had been paying for article access that the library could also provide to them for free (saving the other departments $ again).  Some of the research they’ve done for other departments – police funeral and mourning traditions, copyright permission info, commercial food waste programs, local aerial historical photos, search alerts for local mentions.  They’ve had 30 research questions of varying complexity come from the different departments over the last year.

Erik talked about his work at the Brooklyn Public Library.  Their budget went from great in 2007 to awful from 2008 on.  They focused in their budget discussions with the city on loss of programs, collections, etc.  They didn’t focus initially on how it would negatively affect other city departments’ abilities to do their jobs.  They hadn’t really taken an outcomes based approach before, and they had to think about how they were marketing themselves and offering meaningful experiences.  They worked on the diversity visa lottery in 2006 – a literacy program, computer basics classes, etc.  They did something called the Skills Training and Employment Project, part of WorkForce1—a mayoral initiative, kind of like a city-funded temp agency.  They started creating programs with FINRA, a group trying to help communities in Brooklyn that were hit by the recession really hard.  Lessons learned: own the content, and access is not enough anymore.  They’ve partnered with the city on additional jobs initiatives.  A big partnership is the MyLibraryNYC project – a partnership between the New York City Libraries (Queens, Brooklyn, & NYPL) and the Department of Education.  They’re going to have one unified interface to their catalogs now and allow for inter-library delivery of items between public and school libraries. Great stuff!  They’ve had much better budget discussions as a result of the additional partnerships they’ve had with the city.  Now they have tangible outcomes that connect library services with organizational values.

Louise closed off the panel by talking about a web design project for her city.  There were 13 city departments represented on the web committee, only one of whom had web experience (Louise, the librarian, of course).  She took the opportunity to project manage the entire web project, got everyone to agree on the design and color schemes, navigation, etc.  No shouting matches, no back room conniving, no back-stabbing.  Library staff were then perceived as a knowledge resource for future projects.  For example, she trained people on the city’s new help desk software system.

Speed Technology Dating

Patrick Sweeney, Toby Greenwalt, and Jeremy Snell

  • Trello – Web app and native app versions, project management and organization. Good tool for working collaboratively with others.
  • LogMeIn – remote desktop sharing tool, small little software download. Useful for remotely accessing your own computer or other people’s to do tech support, and can do on Android and iOS devices.
  • Library Box – a digital library in a box, open on a wifi network. Toby suggested it would be cool to put one of these in the little pop-up libraries that are sprouting up in libraries all over the place.
  • Tumblr site – The Kid Should See This – videos, demos, science, technology, art…good curated portal for interesting kid stuff
  • Air Video – iOS only, but if you’re running a video server on a network you can browse and view the videos on any iOS device.  The file formats that iOS doesn’t support luckily are converted by Air Video on the fly…that’s pretty nice!
  • Join Me Viewer – allows you to share your screens over the web. Get everybody looking at the same screen, up to 250 users seeing your screen. Good training tool.  Available on almost any device, including mobile. Free, with a paid version ($149) that lets you do a little bit more.
  • Every Block – Started as a crime map Google Maps mash-up in Chicago. Now has a ton more data. Community events, real estate transactions, message board, crime stats, inspection data, etc. Available in 19 different cities so far.
  • – Founded on the idea of fliers, websites that expire.  Can create a very simple print-friendly display for an event coming up.  Good for doing some good graphics and event pages for your library events.  Can sign up for a free account and customize your URLs, and set expiration dates on the pages too.
  • TurntableFM / RollingFM – you can upload music, select from music already provided, start your own DJ party in these little virtual rooms, avatars, can vote DJs up and down,
  •  Nextdoor – Another neighborhood tool. This site lets you define your own community’s boundaries, nothing pre-defined.  Community bulletin board, 36 cities so far, still in a beta phase.
  • Wallwisher – Can post name, links to images and webpages, kind of a “tell us what you think” feedback tool.  A good way to get community feedback on what you’re doing.  Many uses in education as well.  You can set it so you can pre-moderate the posts if you’re worried about naughty things showing up.
  • Sphero – Little rolly ball toy that you can control with your smartphone. You could roll one of these little things up to people you want to engage with—maybe an easier way to approach people than walking up to them.  Attracts attention, people want to talk and know about it.  A great way to break the ice with kids and teens.
  • – art info, fun to browse through, good for kids, can highlight connection between elements of a collection
  • Snaggy – Screen capture and annotation tool.  Take your screenshot, then go to and paste it in to the browser-based editing tool, edit it, and then save/share/send a link to it to others.  Way faster than desktop tools.
  • Liquid Space – Have patrons reserve space online (e.g. meeting rooms). Sends you, as the library, a notification that someone has reserved a room for a specific time.  Helps advertise that you have meeting rooms too.
  • Noon Pacific – An email newsletter.  Weekly at noon Pacific time you get a playlist of five songs they’ve chosen from music blogs in the last week.
  • – Diacritics and weird symbols you can copy and paste into your documents.  You can toggle between HTML and non-HTML.
  • Barnes & Noble Nooks – will train staff, let you circ one copy of one title on six devices simultaneously.
  • Oyster – a streaming eBook service that just started up, trying to launch by the end of the year.
  • The Noun Project – beautiful icons for just about anything you can think of.  (Sarah’s note: I LOVE THIS SITE! You can make custom t-shirts with icons you want too. I’ve done this as a gift and made one for myself – too fun!)
  • SifteoCubes – you get 6 cubes in a box, you can play games, early literacy teaching,
  • Raspberry Pi – a tiny little circuit board that is a full-fledged computer with a video port, an audio out, and USB connectors.  They’re cheap ($25-$35).  They’re designed by this non-profit to get kids learning how to program.
  • Patch – Different small towns and areas have Patch sites, local reporters who write about what’s going on nearby.  Users can comment, submit announcements, events, photos, etc.
  • Show Me – app for iPad or tablet that lets you record tutorials by just drawing on the screen and it will record your audio as well.   You can upload the video then to the Show Me website and share it with your library folks.
  • Makey Makey – circuit board that connects to your computer through USB and comes with a set of alligator clips. Maps keyboard commands to points on the card.  Can conduct electricity through it and basically turn anything into an input device for your computer.  $39.
  • – Tracking information about federal and state government legislation.  Much better than Thomas.  Screen-scrapes other government sites and mashes it all up together on one page, instead of a whole bunch of smaller pages and PDFs as you often find on other government info sites.
  • Tablets – Everybody has their own version of tablets and people are using these creatively in libraries.  Roaming reference, book review sharing in the stacks (Sarah’s additions: animated and rotating electronic signage, tablet storytimes.)
  • Lightt – iOS only, “Instagram for video.”  Each video is only allowed to be 10 seconds.  Not a lot of people on it right now.
  • – crowd-sourced fundraising tool like Kickstarter or Indigogo.  It does all the payment processing like the others do, but they do their own payment processing so it’s cheaper (4.5% flat).  Indigogo has two different pricing structures, both of which are higher.  Same with Kickstarter.  EveryLibrary is using this for their fundraising site.
  • LoudSauce – specifically to raise funding for advertising and marketing (interesting!)

50 Great Mobile Apps for Libraries

Richard Le and Tom Duffy

You can get a list of all of the apps from the presentation at the mobile page:

46% of American adults own smart phones.  By 2016, 10 billion will be in use worldwide.  By the year 2013 there will be 81.4 billion apps.  The average download of apps per device is 51.  The average time spent on apps per day is 81 minutes (HOLY MOTHER—THAT’S A LOT).  This changes the landscape of our information environment.  People are using their smart phones to check local weather, find local businesses, get information, check sports scores, get traffic info, coupons, and info about their local community.  Americans are working harder—but on their own time, taking their work home.  80% of people continue to work after leaving the office.  68% check email before 8am in the morning, and 50% of them check their work email while they’re still in bed (GUILTY AS CHARGED).  Apps have changed the way we search for and access information.  The mobile platform is the preferred way to access information on the go.  We can integrate information and add value to our work with better and richer content.  Most of the apps featured today are free. Richard recommends the Android apps.  Tom recommends the iOS apps.

iOS apps

  1. Wolfram Alpha – excellent for information and comparative data
  2. Reference USA (for iPad only)
  3. Farlex – pretty cool dictionary with audio pronunciation
  4. DuckDuckGo (browser that doesn’t track your history, no filter, awesome)
  5. Article Search – searches Google Scholar, JSTOR, etc.
  6. Job Search
  7. iReader
  8. Epicurious – recipes and shopping lists
  9. Cam-Dictionary – translates text on the fly from one language to another, also with audio pronunciation

10. Shazam – love this app for identifying music

11. RedLaser – owned by eBay, lets you scan a barcode and find the item online quickly with both places to buy it or check it out from the library (for reals, the library is listed—nice!)

12. TurboScan – $1.99

13. OverDrive – recommends it for audio books especially

14. Kindle – great user interface (yep)

15. Moo, Baa, La la la! – kids book with good animation

16. PopOut! Peter – can click the word and hear it spoken, or read it yourself.  Highlights the words as they’re read.

17. iTunes U – university level education for free. Yays!

18. Khan Academy – video tutoring that lets you browse by subject, app comes for the iPad too

19. Mango languages – ESL classes & other language classes

20. Biblion

21. GoodReads – just like the  website, in other words awesome

22. AppAdvice – recommended apps

23. Apps Gone Free – a list of apps that used to cost money but are free now

24. Library Books – hook it up to your library, works with a lot of library systems, shows you your loan history, checked out items, etc.

25. Nimbulist – simple note-taking app


Android apps

26. Merrian-Webster – does offer audio pronunciations

27. – shows popular and local trending searches, includes a thesaurus and spelling suggestion

28. Urban Dictionary – 6.5 million definitions

29. White & Yellow Pages

30. YP – also gives you local deals and events

31. AccessMyLibrary – Gale databases

32. Loclaicious – searching nearby business and points of interest with maps to the place

33. Merck PTE HD – periodic table of the elements

34. CamScanner – Turns your smart phone’s camera into a fax machine, copier, and scanner.  You can share what you scan.

35. Google Goggles – Search for stuff by taking a photo, works for artwork, barcodes, products, popular images, etc.  Also will translate text in French, Italian, and Spanish.  Also works really well on headshots of people—don’t know who someone is? Take their photo and Google Goggle stalk the crap out of them 🙂

36. Google Translate – translates text between 64 languages.  Can translate by speaking in 17 languages.

37. AllRecipes – can mix and match by what ingredients you have and limit by cooking time, has nutritional info as well

38. BigOven – Searches 250,000 recipes, and gives you ideas to use up leftovers

39. Holy Bible – Comprehensive database of all of the popular translations and versions, includes an audio version as well

40. TripAdvisor – quick city guide for travelers, works offline (yays!)

41. Congress – facts about lawmakers and bills, see how your local representatives vote

42. – product recalls, can scan product barcodes or search by name

43. FirstAid – from the American Red Cross with step by step instructions and training videos

44. WebMD – quick medical and health information, find local doctors and hospitals

45. Fooducate – can scan the barcode and see what ingredients are in it, highlighting both the good and the bad and giving you healthier alternatives

46. ShopSavvy – scan and find the best online and local prices.  Can use it for another way too—scan books and create reading lists you can email to yourself or your patrons.

47. Bloomberg – finance news and data, stock tracking, etc.

48. Relief Central – world facts about 266 countries including disaster guides, Medline citations, etc.

49. World Factbook – CIA World Factbook mobile style

50. SportsTab – assess scores, news, and team info

Richard and Tom also did an en masse Bump session at the end with any interested attendees – with one smart phone fist bump transferring all the apps from their session in one go to each person.  AWESOME IDEA.

Marketing on the Edge

Ben Bizzle and Meloney Dunlap

Ben is the Director of Technology & Meloney is the graphic designer for the Craigshead County Jonesboro Public Library in Arkansas.  They started the presentation by showing the video they did for the 50 state salute to banned books.

Ben spoke first.  They get asked a lot how they get away with the marketing they do.  It’s been a process of about four years where they started revolutionizing the whole library, when 4 new staff started at the same time.  The first year they worked on their physical infrastructure – electricity, network, etc.  Then they completely redesigned their library website, which was (admittedly) pretty darn bad.  They didn’t want to be perceived as a building with books in it anymore, but as an information gateway and a portal.  They had to change their metrics of success – just counting the people coming through the doors is not an accurate reflection of a library’s impact on the community.  We give stuff away for free, but people will still go somewhere else and pay for the same thing. Why?  We have a barrier to entry for most of our services.  That’s ridiculous.  At their library they don’t chase trends, they build platforms.  Then they started a comedy video series about a fictional library called the Crooked Valley Regional Library:  It’s quite hilarious – highly recommend it.  They pushed hard a couple of years back on mobile services.  The library then invested in a PR and Arts department, including Meloney as the graphic designer.

Meloney continued the presentation by talking about how they didn’t really have a brand or logo before the website.  Now, everything in their building and that leaves their building has their logo on it.  Tips on doing good graphic design.  Always plan ahead of time, even if it’s just a quick sketch.  Choose only 2-3 fonts for any piece.  White space is your friend.  Limit the number of colors you use.  Have consistency in everything you produce.  She recommends Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Photoshop Elements.  She hasn’t used LibraryAware yet, but says it’s worth looking at.  Sites to get stock images and fonts from: Shutterstock, Tuts+,, and istockphoto.

Ben then discussed their billboards that they’ve done in their community.  At the head of the recession they did a “Save money at your public library” campaign.  They thought they’d play off the credit card ads (your library card: what’s in your wallet).  The lawyers were concerned that they’d potentially end up in court over copyright infringement.  So they passed on that idea.  They have a creative team – with combative meetings.  “No, that sucks” is the most commonly used phrase at their meetings.  They threw out ideas for the billboards – 20 ideas per person.  Their “Spoiler Alert! Dumbledore dies on page 596.” billboard got some negative reaction, but also ended up on the front pages of reddit, imgur, icanhazcheezburger, etc. made a Photoshop thread of their billboard which people could remix and add their own messages to.  Hundreds were made.  They’ve also done some Facebook covers that went over well.  The one they did as a parody of Pulp Fiction had a printed copy that was signed by Samuel L Jackson.  Their Fight Club parody video (book club) got mentioned by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club.  They’ve done some events campaigns as well – all with the same someecards look and feel.  They also put a card at the end of every stack in the library, representative of the subject in that stack.  Example: “50 Shades of Bacon” for the cookbook section.  Results?  Overdrive checkouts increased by 150% from 2011 to 2012.  Freegal downloads increased by 73% with a 97% increase in patrons using the service.  There are 110% more visits to their mobile website by 102% more people.  100% increase in foot traffic in 4 years.  40% increase in library cards issued in 4 years.  Concert attendance doubled to 400 in one year.  There was also a 50% increase in Children’s Summer Reading Club registrations.  Stats validate their success.

People are not thinking about their public library.  They want to sell the sizzle, not the steak, but deliver a damn good steak.  They don’t promote specific resources in their campaigns—they keep them general to just make people think about the library.  Once they have their attention, then people will check out the library and figure out what’s useful for them.  People want to be entertained—don’t be a boring place.  They want one person talk to another person about the public library…word of mouth marketing.  They love what they do and have passion for their library.  You can change things in your community if you are willing to take a risk.

Advertising isn’t about making you agree.  It’s about making you never forget what you just saw.

Innovative, Awesome Services & Spaces

Tim Donahue, Jeroen de Boer, and Keimpe de Heer

De Boer and de Heer talked about a project in the Netherlands they’ve been working on.  The Stichting Bibliotheken Midden-Frysln and Extelligentsia developed a SocialMediaCaster interactive touchscreen kiosk with an RFID reader etc. that connects what’s in the library with students’ social content and social lives online.  Students can bring any library item up to the kiosk and it’s scanned and then other relevant resources, including social media content, comes up on the screen.  This is greatly helpful for research projects for the students.  They connected to the school’s curriculum and took assessment criteria into account for media literacy.  The SMC system connects catalogs of the local school library with other library catalogs nearby.  SMC also displays social media content.  They’re connected to Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, and many others.  Version 2 has a new data source adaptor to let them connect to the National Library in the Netherlands.  This enables searches through all the catalogs through all the libraries in the Netherlands.  They also developed ExplorApp, a mobile version.  They just launched The Library of Things which they’re looking for other libraries to collaborate on.  The ExplorApp demonstrates this concept – it’s meant for use both inside and outside the library.

Donahue talked about work that he’s done at Montana State University.  There is a diagram of the library building, with stacks of the libraries and read-outs of stacks and the subjects contained within.  You can mouse on different floors, and find the whole map of the library’s contents.  You can also search for a particular subject, and the library map will light up the stacks with the relevant books.  He used Flash, InDesign, and Adobe Illustrator.  He animated each stack as a button with basic mouse-over functionality (Sarah’s note: Flash…….noooooooooo!).  This helps you for library space planning and redesign, training new staff and student workers, familiarizing students with the extent of the library’s collections.  They can also show off “the library” virtually when at outreach events.  One of the issues is that collections shift and books move, and as that happens this would have to be redone.  They’ve also added QR codes to the endcaps of all of the stacks that gives a specific even further break-down of subjects in that stack.

Sensible Library Website Development

Amanda Etches

Why do we have library websites?  Teaching, posting things, a way to access resources and services, allowing access to the catalog and online resources, to help, etc.  Amanda says that while we are all unique little snowflakes, we aren’t that unique in our motivations for having websites.  How do those similar goals and motivations help us share and collaborate a little more for website design.


Scope refers to the parameters of a project.  Whether you’re building a brand new website or redesigning, you need to define the scope of the site.  It’s a mistake to assume that a redesigned site is going to include the same type and information as the existing site.  Most library websites are like junk drawers—everything you could possibly want to know about the library.  We put everything we can think of on the site just in case someone might need to know it.  Amanda is a fan of the smaller is better approach.  Less is less.  If you consider the signal:noise ratio of your website is important.  The pages people aren’t using are a whole lot of noise that detracts from the pages that people want and need to access.  How much of your content represents your needs vs. your library user’s needs?  It’s better for half of your website to be amazing than for your entire website to be bland.  Another way to think about it is like a pyramid.  The necessary information is the base of the pyramid.  As you move up you get to destination pages – things like library-created contact, basic interactivity.  Above that you see participatory activity, user-created content.  And at the top you see the library website as a community portal.  Amanda highlighted – a template for a single page library website.  Most of the high use content on a library website can fit onto one page.  You can download the code and play with it yourself.  J  Yays!  The notion of less is less – aiming for less content is a good thing, but how do you start scoping your site in this way?  The first is that you should really design for mobile devices first…not only because of the ubiquity of mobile devices, but if you design for mobile you have to work harder and pare back to what you and your users think of as essential functionality.  “If we wouldn’t put it on our mobile version, why would we put it on our regular website?”  Recommended book: Mobile First.  Focus on users’ critical tasks.  What are those critical tasks?  How do you determine your critical tasks? Ask your users through a survey – what are the top 3 reasons you visit the site? Use a heatmapping application on your homepage to see what the top things are that users click on.  Don’t ask staff – anecdotal evidence from staff does not equal real data.


The kind of reading that happens online is functional reading.  People skim and scan pages.  They don’t read top to bottom.  Being confronted with large amounts of text on a screen doesn’t work.  Remove unnecessary words.  Change the way you think about your website as an FAQ.  It shouldn’t be a junk drawer – but a place to find answers to the most frequently asked questions and desired tasks.  Think about your website as information not documents.  Adopt the inverted pyramid style for your website copy – People will look at the top and lose interest as they go down.  Bold text to make it stand out.  Break up text into chunks with headers.  Make your web copy conversational – build content with functional reading in mind that includes a conversational and personal tone.  Treat your website like a conversation between you and your users.  Don’t write in the passive voice.  Write in the active voice (fewer words result, too!).  If you write in the passive voice, you seem authoritative and stuffy and unfriendly.  If your library is supposed to be conversational, use the words we and you, not library and user.


Redesigning navigation is not an easy process.  Navigation can make or break a website.  Read Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think.  There are general practices in web design we can draw from.  Navigation needs to tell people the site name, page name, where on the site they are, where they can go next, and how they can search.  Salt Lake City Public Library’s website is a good example of excellent navigation.  Vancouver Public Library is another good example (Sarah’s note: I actually don’t dig on this website very much, but maybe it’s just me).  Airbnb is a site Amanda likes in terms of navigation and interaction design. also very easy to navigate.  Match up your labels to your page names.  Don’t disorient your users.  Your navigation is not your org chart.  Your users don’t care about your org chart. It’s not something they think about, so don’t design your site around your org chart.  It’s not intuitive to your users.  And finally – death to “click here.”  (Sarah’s note: HELL TO THE YES.)


Lack of information is at the root of all bad design decisions.  Make design decisions based on information and data.  It is an extremely enlightening experience.  The insights you gain from watching people use your site can’t be found any other way.  Usability testing in five words: watch people use your website.  You can gain more information and data on usability from watching people interact with it than you can from reading every usability textbook ever written.  We are not our patrons.  We are different than those who use our sites.  Don’t test your staff.  You do need to test with library users, not staff.  Five testers is enough for anything.  Once you go over five you start to see a lot of repetition.  There’s no such thing as a usability test that’s too small.  There is such a thing as one that’s too big.  Make a comprehensive list of all the things you want to test, and chunk it out into 3 things at a time, which you can test with different small groups.  Test early and test often.  Make iterative changes constantly instead of giant big website designs.  Script your usability testing – giving testers even slightly different instructions can affect the results dramatically.  A script allows you as the tester to concentrate on the test and the tester.  In the script: an introduction to you, your role, their role; be clear about the purpose of the test; provide testers an outline of what they’ll be doing and how long it will take; give them a printed copy of the tasks you’ll be asking them to do; ensure that the testers know that they’re not the ones being tested—it’s the site being tested.  Write your scenarios carefully.  If you’re testing your library databases page, don’t phrase it in library-ese.  Use common language that people would actually use, and that doesn’t give them the right path or answer in the question itself.