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Who manages a community these days?

08/18/2014 1 comment

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University libraries have a unique role in the landscape of higher education.  Once the stoic archives of ancient tomes and precious manuscripts; modern libraries offer more and more user services for both faculty and students alike.  Some of these services are adopted once the need is identified while others are introduced from other departments in the university hierarchy.  We spend countless hours and resources honing and manning these services but all too many of them remain just outside the scope of the target users’ awareness. I for one wish I had a penny for every time someone in a library planning meeting yearned for  “better communication with our community” or “improved outreach” or “increased awareness”.  If so I would have already been able to comfortably retire.

So why is there a gap in service and awareness in the library? One could argue that libraries have struggled to stay in the view of their users through traditional and not fully modern techniques.  The traditional methods are sometimes adapted as times and technologies changed but all too often relied on limited roles to manage these changes.  New monikers are often attached to already existing job titles, but this is not often enough to urge them into the correct mindset to properly create the connections and interest needed to facilitate the needs of the campus. What then is the role we should be asking them to fill? Instead of juggling these responsibilities between several people or committees, or heaping it upon someone with other responsibilities; should we not start allowing someone to manage the library persona as a full time job?  Can we treat our initiatives like marketing campaigns so that we can more effectively measure their impact as well as entice new or existing users to give them a try?  What should our voice be in the realm of social media and future media?  How will we know if the university community is aware of what we do? 

As a purveyor of video games and gaming culture, I recognized a role that exists in that industry; which I believe would fill this gap.  That role is a community manager.  Many companies and development teams utilize community managers to span the gaps in multiple processes and areas of the business cycle.  At the onset of a new project the community manager keeps their proverbial ear to the ground to see not only what the target audience is hoping for, but for what other companies and related sources see as their future trends to watch.  The community manager works to inform their colleagues on what possibilities they could include in their development.

Once the development process has started moving forward, the communication manager works to keep the vision of the project clear in the minds of the target community; as well as the stakeholders, developers, and media.  At the same time they collect and attune the feedback from each of these sources as to weigh positive and negative reactions to the message.  However; this is not to say that the sequence of communication is as archaic as in times gone by.  Community managers engage in conversations through social media, direct messages, conference attendance, and publicity events. As the development continues the community manager must cleverly gauge how often to update the public and internal audiences so as not to let the project slide away or become an annoyance via inconsequential reminders. 

Once the development of the product nears either testing or release, the community manager begins to entice an often select set of the public to become “informed experts” on what they have seen.  This allows for them to organically share their input within their own communication hubs.  This sort of organic advertisement is then buffered by key points that are echoed in advertisements and official communications.  This continues in even more venues than before; community forums, reddit, You Tube, etc. 

As the product releases the community manager maintains their role of feedback shepherd so that any immediate oversights can be corrected.  They also work to assure any long-term changes that have been built into the product will be properly understood with timing, cost, and impact effectively described. Depending on the frequency of the company’s release timetables, the community manager may have already begun to shift gears into the next project while still assisting in the marketing and management of the previous campaign.  At all points in the process the community manager gives a voice to the answers the public wants to hear.

Beyond the chess game that is marketing and communication, a community manager puts a face and voice to a constant stream of new ideas and strategic changes.  Not everyone follows what is new by checking an organization’s main webpage, but if they catch that tweet from the same company’s community manager; it just might peak their interests.  Did someone complain about a feature missing in a new service? A community manager’s direct message to them would be valued much higher than a redirect to a URL by a faceless customer service representative.  We all have many things that steal away our attention each day.  A community manager is the person that reminds you of the important facts and pays attention to the cacophony of feedback.  Their job is to provide your organization with attention, information, and conversation; to everyone you wish to reach.

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Video Gaming and Information Literacy

Here is a short presentation I put together to fill in for my absence during the information literacy workshop at the ULS.  I apologize immensely but hope that everyone takes something promising away.

Feel free to post any comments or questions to this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

**Note:  The embedded video isn’t working in WordPress for me at the moment.  Here is the direct link.  http://www.slideshare.net/johnfudrow/infolit-gaming

Gaming in Libraries gets press, sort of

 

Image used from Flickr.  CC ownership by j.c. westbrook.

Image used from Flickr. CC ownership by j.c. westbrook.

From a recent post on Game Couch, a Nebraska news team forgot to actually investigate their reporting and claimed that the public libraries in their towns were buying video gaming equipment and using them on taxpayer supported time. 

The reality was that the outreach program involving video games has been around for some time and is supported by those approving the library funding.

I would call them “gotcha” media, but it doesn’t work if the media reporter looks like the fool.

I believe that this may be their next teaser: 

Tomorrow on Action News, the libraries are using tax payer dollars to buy books on Socialism and then encouraging your kids to take them and read them for free. We’ll show you the reactions by Joe 6-pack right after our ongoing coverage of several, local, untamed bears defecating in a wooded area…

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.

Knowing who you are

05/08/2008 1 comment

While searching for information about new ways to log virtual reference chat sessions, I stumbled upon a new concept in user to service interactions. APML or Attention Profiling Markup Language, is a Web 2.0 driven standard meant to allow you as the user to “inform” the system you wish to use, of the types of things you would be interested in. (In theory.)

What if a library catalog supported this type of language? Imagine uploading your “profile” into the catalog search and being presented with related topics and collections of resources that you may find interesting. Yes this may rely more on the machine and preordained associations, but doesn’t the APML feel a bit like LCSH.  Maybe that is a jump, but as libraries search for ways to make their services adapt to the user while still maintaining some structure; is there a way for us to explore this new concept?

I Still Can’t Find the Any key!

05/01/2008 1 comment

Making the rounds on many blogs and dlists is the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “A Sociologist Says Students Aren’t So Web-Wise After All.”

Eszter Hargittai, the sociologist involved, asserts the claim made that just because students are of the younger generation it doesn’t justly follow that they will be more “Web-savvy.” According to Dr. Hargittai college freshmen are often unable to exhibit a  “basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing.”  She goes on to claim that such deficiencies could relate to students not realizing the volatility of such online tools as Wikipedia and how they are created and maintained.

For the most part, this statement seems to hinge on the assumption that being “Web-savvy” directly relates to the level of knowledge about “how” these systems work and not on “how” to make these systems complete the tasks they are designed to do.  The aspect of this issue that really needs more attention is the acceptance of technology in their tasks and rate of adaptability.  Sure they may not be able to speak WIki code just from looking at the published page, but would they understand the “document structure” in a faster time frame than the Baby-boomer generation?

I hope that this article, and the wave of “I told you so’s” from those questioning the skills of Gen-Y, won’t be used as ammo to  negate the development of advanced technology services.  We have an open road in front of us for sharing information with those who are “Web-savvy” and possibly even inspiring the next generation of web geniuses.  On the flip-side, I whole-heartedly support assessing student skill levels in technology competencies.  I would go so far as to start pushing for a standardized assessment tool to be rolled into our library instruction tools.  It would not only help instruct the students but their faculty and ourselves at the same time.

For those who missed it the first time, here is a post in which I talked about issues such as this in longer detail.

Where’s the Any key?

Social Responsibility Education

A short article by Paula Wasley in the Chronicle of Higher Education reminded me of something I had discussed with colleagues awhile ago. Paula was reporting on a survey done by the Association of American College and Universities, titled the Personal and Social Responsibility Institutional Inventory. The main points that were taken away focused on student and faculty views on how well their campuses were providing personal and social responsibility. This topic spans ethical practices, personal representation, and social activities.

Though the figures weren’t completely shocking, at least to me, the question lies as to who would be best suited for teaching such lessons? Granted, this question wouldn’t be appropriate for campuses who were willing to hire a specialist for such curricula, but smaller campuses may begin looking for an advocate.

To me there seems to be a connected path between some of the lessons we are teaching through Information Literacy. When we talk about authoritative sources and avoiding plagiarism, aren’t we instilling some small part of ethical behavior in the student?

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