I’m not able to be there at the session, but I’m sharing my top trends below. Please add your own thoughts in the comments section. Discussions often bring out the best in all of us!
- The Art of Web Presence Maintenance
- Plug-ins, Widgets, and Hacks, Oh My!
- My Kumpyootur Kan Has a Kloud
- Online Training Has Its Debutante Ball
- Less $ = Less eResources (a disturbing trend)
With libraries extending their web presences out beyond the borders of their own websites proper, the coordination and successful maintenance of these presences has become a skill in its own right. How to successfully leverage a Facebook page for your library? How to successfully use Wikipedia to promote your library’s services? On which sites should you be present? How to successfully use YouTube for library videocasts? The list goes on and on. The skills include the ability to creatively manage your different presences, updating them when appropriate, keeping information current, participating in new sites when warranted, and deleting outdated presences. More libraries are designating people other than their traditional website managers to manage these extended parts of their web presence. For many libraries it is a decentralized process, while for others it is all done by one person. Managing a library’s extended web presence truly has become an art, and an art that each library needs to (and seems to want to) learn about. I see the future bringing more and more libraries focusing on this aspect, and the real skills that these tasks require, such as customer service, web skills and knowledge, writing skills, etc.
Websites are no longer stand-alone entities. They are segmented bits of code, little pieces of functionality, all grouped together to make dynamic and interactive pages. The number of plug-ins, widgets, and hacks in the last year that can be used effectively on library websites has increased dramatically compared to previous years. This has a lot to do with services opening up their APIs, more people interested in creating technology that works for them when they can’t find an existing version. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for any library. Most of these services are free which has resulted in many, many libraries taking advantage of them. The number of libraries taking advantage of these will continue to grow, especially in times of difficult budgets when “free” is the only choice.
Cloud computing has been discussed a lot in the information community in the last few years. Libraries have taken advantage of this already by using services such as Google Docs to offer services or enhance communication. When cloud computing becomes the norm (which I and others think it will in the next few years), this will be a boon for library users. Their services, files, software permissions, etc. will all be stored remotely by their service providers. They can use our computers, which will likely have to be less robust (less software installed, as an example), to access their super-awesome services and get their personalized profile right there in the library. But what about those users who don’t have services? What will the library provide as a standard, and how? Cloud computing will be an amazing development in information access, but it probably won’t end the complains in public libraries about wanting the library to purchase or provide access to obscure services/software. Sorry :/
To date, most libraries (and by libraries I mean library managers and supervisors) treat online learning like it isn’t valid. Not in your library? No? Think of this: does your manager allow/encourage staff to go to in-person classes held by the library staff, your parent organization, etc.? Does your manager equally, if at all, allow/encourage staff to view webcasts, review online tutorials, look at online training materials, etc.? Most libraries that I have visited (a mix of public and academic) have little time for staff to go to training, and little funding at that. However, they will happily pay for an in-person class that also involves an hour of travel time for the attendee, but not give the same person time to watch a webcast on the same topic from his/her desk. It’s almost as though there is an unwritten rule: “If you’re at your desk, it’s not real training.” While as a trainer I completely agree that some topics require in-person classes, most topics can be covered through online screencasts, webcasts, written tutorials, and the like. Fortunately, in the last year I have seen more libraries opening up to online training as a valid training delivery method. I believe that this also has to do with budget difficulties. Less money = a need for creative training approaches. Incidentally, this applies for your users too. Create a screencast of your email basics class and point users to that. With increased demand for classes on email, resume writing, finding a job, etc., it pays to offer an alternative to the waiting list for the in-person class.
I conducted an informal survey of libraries in my area to see if their eResource budgets were being cut because of the bad budget year (and the many to follow in all likelihood). It seems that eResources (databases and eBooks) budgets are being cut more than the traditional collection budgets are. This could be a San Francisco Bay Area anomaly, but I’m guessing not. And I’m wondering why it became OK to consider eResources less essential than physical ones. Times are tough – which is precisely why eResources make more sense. They have a higher return on investment, examining cost vs. use, (up to 5 times as much in my studies). They are accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection, any time. And for the bulk of them, there is not a limit to the number of users who can access the information at any given time. Especially for periodicals, eResources make more sense than physical ones. And yet, this year, periodical budgets aren’t being cut but periodical database budgets are. This is disturbing to me as it shows an overall “second class” status for eResources, while in my opinion the return on investment for materials should be what counts most. I am distressed to think that now that we have finally climbed that mountain where most library staff accept the place of eResources in our libraries, we are sliding back and saying that they aren’t as important to us, or our users. And that’s why the trend is disturbing – did we ask the users? What do the users think about this? What would they prefer, if given all of the information?