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Creepy Treehouse?

08/26/2008 1 comment

From a wonderful post on Flexknowlogy, I was introduced to the term in education technology of “creepy tree house.” From their article the definition is:

n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids.

Example: “Kids … can see a [creepy tree house] a mile away and generally do a good job in avoiding them.” John Krutsch in Are You Building a Creepy Treehouse?”

n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.

(see article for remaining uses)

The main concept is a sound argument and one with which libraries struggle to find a safe distance from which to communicate with their main audience, the students. It may be difficult to let go of the notion that we need to be at arm’s reach for the students at every point along their day. Blackboard, as mentioned in the article, is a prime example of this notion.

I remember first using it as a student and laughing at the collaborative features. After using them for about 10 minutes, I asked the rest of my group whether they wanted to use Google Docs and Skype, as they were much more efficient and less buggy. I applaud Blackboard for trying to bridge the digital gap between students and faculty, but the amount of time spent using “BB only” applications will most certainly cause some students to grow weary of the labor.

Library systems are slowly entering into this realm as well, especially if we start to look at where the next-gen catalogs are going. Catalogs are now featuring clustered search results, personal item lists, and user submitted comments. Library web sites are consistently offering Instant Messaging and, to a smaller extent, text messaging reference services. These types of service methods move closer to the concept of “creepy tree house” as they mimic communication methods not normally associated with research or academic endeavors. There is also a slowly growing number of library promotional videos that pop up on YouTube, trying to ride the viral marketing wave.

I am not saying that these things are a bad move by any means, but it is important to be aware of what these movements might mean in the eyes of the new students. Will they accept librarians in their social spaces or will our presence be seen as a nuisance? I hope that students will catch on but not tune out.

In a sense the “creepy treehouse” metaphor could also be applied to the generational divide that exists when librarians or educators attempt to adopt cultural cues taken from their younger audience. Be wary of using such references if they may have a very short shelf-life, or small target audience. Once used you may not be able to regain that “respectable” status of intellectual librarian. But then again, what’s the fun in being serious all the time…

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User Feedback Model from Starbucks

java is good

Michael from Tame the Web posted his thoughts on the new Starbucks user driven idea site.  Basically users can share their ideas for more effective services and products, vote on other people’s ideas, and see the results made by the company.  This is done in one site, and seems to have a general turn around time of 1 week or less.

For those of us who have seen good ideas in libraries get swamped under the mountains of bureaucratic posturing, all to often found in libraries, wouldn’t it be nice to utilize a system such as this to gather external, expedient information?  The ability for the user to be a part of their own environment gathers their trust in the library and can then lead to a stronger connection for future needs. Though there is a growing concern for students having too much sway in their educational practices, I think implementing something like this could transform many stagnant areas of library services. (But not all, as I would hate to leave things such as collection development and circulation policies hinging primarily on student feedback alone.)

I may be putting this on my plate soon, as this is a form of assessment and planning.  We shall see.

Ranting on Berry’s Rants

flagpole

To get the full effect you may want to glance at this article first.

To be honest, I was hoping to see a punch line at the end of this article, so that the rather outlandish points delivered by the author could be accounted to blatant humor. Unfortunately it didn’t come and what lay before me was a piece of paranoid rhetoric that warned of the impending “end of days” for the professional librarian. True these are opinions but the knee-jerk reactions to the actions of new library leaders struggling to find a new voice for their libraries is shocking and without reason. Why wouldn’t we need to rethink our practices if the audience has changed its own vision for the library? In some libraries they constantly fight a battle to draw back their population from the migration to the “bookstore” or seclusion of the at home online experience. Even reference services are seeing a downturn in numbers, which could be a factor in their management’s decision to try something new and unexpected. What follows are my free flowing retorts to the article entitled “Blatant Berry: The Vanishing Librarians” published on LibraryJournal.com, 02/15/2008.

Click here to read the entire post.

The Librarian Song…funny.

02/12/2008 1 comment

Thanks for the link to this Cliff.

Managing to Stay Energized

batteries

After reading several recent blog posts on employee retention and management issues, I began to look at just what my feelings were towards the current state of library management trends.

This topic started with a post on Library Garden entitled Do we encourage our employees to leave? In this posting the author weighs the factors in the sometimes short turnover in staff and the self-promotional nature of librarianship. One wonderfully put statement was:

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.” It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.

Click here to read the entire post

Keeping Track of Stats

mouse and pencil

In any library, evaluating service is key to succeeding when under the scrutiny of the almighty budget line. One way to show off a library staff’s value is through effective and accurate service point data. But how can we keep track of statistics, without relying merely on tic-marks, and exhibit the depth of the value added services we provide?

One novel solution to evaluating reference transactions in a qualitative method, rather than quantitative, has been developed by Bella Karr Gerlich and Lynn Berard. Their method, called the READ (Reference Effort Assesment Data) Scale, is described as:

six-point scale tool for recording vital supplemental qualitative statistics gathered when reference librarians assist users with their inquiries or research-related activities by placing an emphasis on recording the skills, knowledge, techniques and tools utilized by the librarian during a reference transaction.

With this scale any library can begin to chart any trends in when they are getting their hardest questions or to find out which service point is getting the most directional questions. Though the scale’s measurements are largely subject to the judgment of the individuals reporting the stats, there are many interesting results which can be gleaned from its use.

So then this brings me to how you actually record these stats. Well the original project used traditional paper and pencil to record several service areas. They were then transcribed into an Excel spreadsheet and filtered from there. Though this process may be manageable, I found the reliance on multiple points to report in a timely manner often led to confusion as to the validity of the stats.

Using an online tool called Zoho Creator, I was able to quickly and easily create a reporting page. Through this interface, the many individuals reporting could enter data into one database and never have to worry about where the stat sheet was or if there weren’t at their desk when they reported a stat. Though the shared interface would need to be password protected on your site, as you wouldn’t want errant visitors to have a go at entering bogus stats, this is an easy solution to keeping track of your statistics.

To take a look at my test page which is still in the process of review and approval, please visit this page.

Tastes Great, Less Filing.

burgers

A recent LibraryJuice posting made an analogy targeted at undergrads suggesting why they should choose the library over Google. “Why eat at McDonald’s when you can eat for free at the five star restaurant of your choice?”

Several comments, including my own, critiqued this statement; but I kept thinking about the other ways this restaurant analogy could apply to libraries. Perhaps this is from watching Kitchen Nightmares too often, but I still wanted to explore this conceptual analogy.

Following the Kitchen Nightmares analogy, there seem to be things that commonly cause the featured restaurants to fail or at least struggle to bring in patrons.

  • The menus are too complex or unfamiliar
  • The restaurant isn’t aware of its environment or competition
  • The ambiance isn’t welcoming or comfortable
  • The staff is too disconnected or acting unprofessionally
  • The chef/owner isn’t thinking in business terms or is too personal in execution

It seems that these five issues are all too common in below average restaurants and once they are addressed, often turn a “rusty spoon” into “fine dining.” (Note that I still didn’t call them 5-star)
Click here to read the entire post