Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reference Evaluation

Well my post on websites (8/23/06) has resulted in the most comments (both posted to the blog, sent to me in e-mail, and mentioned to me in person) so far and I think we will return to that issue a bit later. Rollins is closed today as hurricane, not wait, tropical storm, no wait, depression Ernesto trundles our way so I am getting some much needed time to work on my diss.

In the meantime, here is a presentation I made at the ALA Conference in New Orleans in June on reference evaluation. It is best viewed with a recent version of IE.

Ongoing evaluation and assessment of library services is only going to become more important as colleges like Rollins continue to think about how to maximize their investment in resources that help them fulfill their educational mission.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Let's talk about websites

Specifically college library websites. What do you like about the Olin Library's website and what do you not like? Are there sites out there that you really like? Not because of the content of the site or the library, but because of how you navigate through the site, what you can do at the site, and the look and feel of the site?

Here are a few that I think are worth looking at, for either good or ill.

Middlebury College. I like the cool photos, the white space, and the san serif script (I am a sucker for san serif.) I really like the integration of IT and the library, but that is a topic for a different post. I like the navigation route thingy (I forget the technical term) that shows you what route you took to get here and enables you to get home or to any intermediate page easily. I like the quick links on the right. But the whole page has too many links. It is overwhelming.

Oberlin College. This is a sorry excuse for a website. Overstuffed with a weird mixture of services etc. and buttons with mixed fonts on the left. But hold on, what is this? A new and very definitely improved website. Changing images, the cool news blog, san serif and white space (of course), the integration of the catalog into the website, the quick links drop down menu. Perhaps still too many links (news and newspapers? Dictionaries? Do they really belong on the opening page?) I also had to scroll down to see the whole page, but overall, a huge improvement.

Smith College. It is fussy on the left hand side, but I like the menus that appear when your mouse floats over the, mercifully few, choices in the middle of the page.

Gustavus Adolphus College. I don't like the color scheme, but I rather like the Mondrianesque arrangement and the spare three column menu arrangement. Another OPAC search feature integrated into the home page, I like that.

Bowdoin College. Notice how it is integrated into the College home page via the top frame. The tabs in the middle are an interesting solution to the volume of information libraries have to convey. As well as my preferred elements that I have talked to death earlier in this list, I like the way your eyes are drawn to the center of the page where the real business links of the library are laid out.

Look, there are lots more. None are perfect. I don't think any college library website can fully satisfy all the needs of its constituents, but some do a better job than others. Which ones would you recommend? For even more fun, tell me which ones are truly appalling and why.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Book of Lost Books

I am reading Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read and thoroughly enjoying it. I am afraid we do not have a copy in the Olin Library, but it is at the Winter Park Public Library, though checked out at the moment. It consists of many short chapters, each one about an author who wrote at least one work that is lost, no copies are known to exist, was never written, or not finished . It is fascinating, funny, heart breaking, and thought provoking.

You can imagine what a horribly delicious read this is for a librarian.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Opening Libraries to the World

If you look to your left you will see a new feature of this blog. I have added some code (beta by the way) that enables anyone to search the WorldCat database (which includes at this writing more than 67 million bibliographic records and 1 billion individual holdings in 9,000 libraries around the world, including the Olin Library.)

One of the issues librarians have struggled with over the past decade is how to make their collections as visible to web users as openly accessible websites. WorldCat on the web is one way to do this. It enables you to search for an author, title, or topic and the use a ZIP code to find out if local libraries have what you want. Of course, you still have to be bona fide user of an owning library to be able to borrow something, but you can even buy a title if you prefer.

One thing that I think we in the Olin Library have to consider doing is finding more ways to take the library's collections, services, and professionals to the user, rather than waiting for the user to come to us. This means proactively getting out of the physical library, but it also means being proactive and taking the library to our users online, on the web, in Blackboard, in Facebook, throughout the Rollins website, and anywhere else our users might be when they want to use the library or have, what we call in the trade, an information need.

All you need is something to search for and a ZIP code. Give it a go and tell me what you think.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The world is full of surprises. The big question is how you react to them.

The title of this post comes from an article on today's New York Times ( "Get Out of That Rut and Into the Shower" by William C. Taylor. Business section, New York Times, August 13, 2006. From Rollins, you can find it here.)

It is all about unusual ways to collect information on how customers use products and services. For instance a hedge fund that invests in banks etc. spends a day using bank branches throughout Manhattan and gets a very different view of customer service and operations than the one it hears from the head office. Or an industrial design firm that films people taking showers instead of just asking them about how they shower. Taylor's conclusion -- and my title -- is a quote from Jana Eggers.

At the Olin Library, we certainly need to find a variety of ways to assess and evaluate our services, facilities, and resources as we develop a plan for the future, but what really matters is how we react to what we learn.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Presentation to Rollins

During my interview I was asked to make a presentation and chose to talk about the Role of the College Library in the Age of the Universal Library. So I load it here in case anyone who was not able to attend is interested. It is best viewed with recent versions of Internet Explorer.

Monday, August 07, 2006


One of the things that struck me when I interviewed here and that has been reinforced by the contact I have had with the Olin Library and Rollins College since then, including my first day here, is that this is a well run library that has the support of the Rollins community.

There is no big crisis that I need to come in quickly and fix. (If you disagree, please let me know!)

What this library does need is a new strategic plan. The present plan is dated 2003 and much of it has either been successfully completed or superseded.

President Duncan was right when he was asked what his immediate plans were, ""My plan is to listen. I'll listen and ask questions ... and actually those are two very different things." A wise librarian once advised me on becoming a new director, if at all possible, to listen for the first year and really get to know the campus community.

Listening to students and faculty, as part of a thorough environmental scan, should be the first stage of an good strategic planning process. This can be done through general surveys like LibQual, through focus groups, and also through personal meetings, either individually or in groups.

There is a lot more to successful strategic planning and I hope to write about that soon, but in the meantime, expect to see a lot of such listening and questioning this year.

If you want to jump the gun and tell me what you think now, be my guest. Send me an e-mail or post a comment to this blog.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Arriving on campus

I arrived on the Rollins campus today after a long but uneventful trip from Pittsburgh. I don't have much time to write today, but I did want to note a few things I noticed on arriving here. No, not the heat. I think it has been hotter in Pittsburgh that here for the last few days!

Facilities and Campus Security staff helped me get settled in the Sutton Place Apartments. Despite being very busy with preparations for the begining of term everyone was unfailingly polite, helpful and friendly and I dealt with individuals with names -- Sharon, Phil, Duane, Ken, Kim, Laura. This is a huge difference from a place like Pitt, where you rarely get to know someone's name and only deal with offices, not individual people.

Another difference: no forms. I am sure there will be some, but so far I haven't had to fill in a form. Lovely.

Finally, the campus is as beautiful as I remember it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Traveling to Orlando

I am going to be moving over the next few days so don't expect an entry until next week.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Congratulations to Yvonne Jones

Our own Yvonne Jones has just published her article "Oversized and underused: Size Matters in Academic Libraries" -- gotta love that title! -- in the July 2006 College & Research Libraries (you can find it here via Rollins.)

It is a useful study of how college libraries define and shelve oversized books, which are in my experience surprisingly vexing problems, and whether this impacts the overall level of use. She found that how the library handled these materials didn't make too much of a difference, probably because users are now often browsing and finding such books in the OPAC rather than by browsing the shelves.

College & Research Libraries is one of the top journals in academic librarianship, so congratulations to Yvonne.

Fred Kilgour 1914-2006

I learned that Fred Kilgour died yesterday. He was one of the great librarians of the 20th century. One of the first librarians to recognize how useful computing technologies could be to libraries, he founded a computerized system that enabled academic libraries in Ohio to share cataloging records called OCLC. Sharing online cataloging records meant that only one library had to originally catalog a book, all the others could simply link to that record and download the record to their own catalog. This was a huge saving in terms of labor. The system also improved how libraries found out what other libraries owned, and enabled libraries to borrow and lend those materials. This union catalog has grown into what we know today as WorldCat.

A great librarian; creative, effective, visionary. He will be sadly missed.