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musing on search behavior

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Posted to…oh gosh, I don’t remember, one of the many, many list servs I’m on, was a link to Truth be Told: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in a Digital Age. It is a fascinating study.  What struck me was that nothing much has actually changed.

OK, yes, students are seeking information online BUT their first resource is still family/friends. This has always been true. The “phone a friend” option has been popular since Hector was a pup (as an old friend used to say). If you look down to the core of the information seeking behavior, the root is the same. The places have changed but the way we start hasn’t. We ask someone we think will know and move along from there.

I remember when I first learned about Usenet and BITNET (remember them? Oh Lord, I am old).  I remember going to one of the computer science professors and asking for instructions on how to use them and being told “there is none”. What? There were no instructions on how to use this incredible resource? This was in the days before Mosiac, back when we used “archie” or “veronica” to “gopher” things. It was incomprehensible to me that no instructions or manual existed but it was true. It was trial and error and everyone learned on their own.

Did you notice? I went to a live person to try to find out how to use something…My information seeking was to find someone…

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Presenting online

Online training, online demos, online EVERYTHING! It is cheaper and more cost effective, very true. But the success of such an event really comes down to the following:

1. Presenter.

2. Material.

3. Audience.

All three need to work together in a weird sort of synchronicity. The most vibrate presentation can be ruined by a dull speaker. The best speaker can be stymied by bad materials.  The audience can ruin or enhance the whole experience.

Presenters – practice if you have never presented in an online environment (WebEx, Connect, GotoMeeting, etc). Heck, practice if you are using a different program than usual, each one has neato cool stuff with different ways to use them. Gather your friends and have them log in. Record and listen to yourself. Ensure you know the program – how do you import slides, go to live websites, type text for the audience to see, etc.  Become familiar with the tools and tricks of the world you will inhabit.

Material – evaluate both the type of presentation and the audience before developing your materials.  Are you training or giving a sales/marketing pitch? Different approaches and materials will be needed. Also, check your online environment to ensure a smooth use of whatever you wish to use – does the system interact well with Prezi or does it freeze? Is there a preferred browser for websites? Find out before you spent time creating your presentation.

Audience – the key to everything. Who is going to be there? What do they expect? Is it a really big group? Is there a”live audience” with an online audience? Let’s spend some time here, mmkay?

With a mixed audience (live and online), the presenter needs to aware of the invisible audience. That microphone the techies so lovingly setup for you? It is really necessary for the online audience to hear you – even if the live audience can hear you just fine when you walk 20 feet away from the microphone. Be sure to engage the online group as well as the live folk, check the chat, repeat questions given in the live event into the microphone for the online audience.

Do you use a laser pointer? Great! You do realize the online audience has no idea you are pointing to anything, right? They cannot see the fancy cat toy burning a hole into the screen, so use your words to explain what you are doing.

In an online-only environment, the non-reaction and non-feedback can befuddle a presenter used to hearing or seeing reactions.  The presenter is generally alone in front of a computer, speaking into a headset and hoping the audience is hearing and engaging but the only way to know is if the audience types in chat, uses the online environment tools to clap or raise hands – worse is not knowing until the session ends and the evaluations are read (be sure to read these, it will help you present better in the future).

A great way to throw the presenter off-stride and to ensure the wrath of the rest of the audience is to keep the audience microphones live – ensuring all ambient noises echo thru the headsets and computer speakers across the land. It is wonderful to be able to ask questions in an online event. It is great to be able to speak rather than type into chat (although chat is really my fav). However. The dogs barking, the doorbells ringing, the potato chip crunching, and the general static sound of several microphones will distract the audience from whatever the presenter is presenting. The best presenter with an awesome presentation will fail when the audience cannot hear.

Hands up – how many have attended a session online where one of the audience members puts the session on hold and everyone in the room is overcome with hold music? Please tell me that wasn’t you. BTW, Presenters, when someone puts you on hold they cannot hear you ask, repeatedly, “will whoever put us on hold please take us off hold”? But is it pretty funny that you say it so many times… it’s right up there with “If you can’t hear me, please let me know”. Both statements I have heard from multiple online presenters in a variety of sessions. It never gets old. No. Really. Never.

Be the best you can be – learn to mute, practice before, learn your environment as well as your material. Now, go succeed!

Aha at ALA MW

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

I had an “Aha” moment at ALA MW. There I was, sitting and listening to the Big Heads of Technical Services (no, really, that’s what it is called), when suddenly my brain began to function. Let’s see it if works in essay form.

I believe I have seen the future – the bigger picture – the reason for the seemingly meaningless changes. We are moving completely away from the traditional ILS (or the more hip acronym LMS), Discovery models, ERM, etc.  That, we are hoping to merge all these different systems all built for specific purposes into one system (with modules, scalability, etc. etc.). This makes perfect sense.

Copy cataloging began as a way to share so each library did not have to “reinvent the wheel“. We developed ILS to manage all (at the time) known aspects of the library: Cataloging, Acquisitions, Circulation, and the good ol’OPAC. This made life oh so much easier as we hooked all the areas together.

Along came CD-ROM and, eventually, online databases. Vendors have completely separate systems we learn to manage. Perhaps we added the acquisitions portion to our traditional ILS and maybe, just maybe, some added aspects to their catalog but in general, these are considered separate from ILS. We have separate Admin, separate search, separate statistics, etc. Oh yes, we piddled around with something called “federated search” to enable a user to search across all databases. It didn’t work too well and many felt burned by the experience (thus we now call the same concept “Discovery”).

As we began collecting more e-resources, we needed an easy way to provide access. It quickly became apparent the traditional ILS catalog would not suit – too much information too fast and rapidly changing. Thus began the, oh how to say without using proprietary product names? A product that allows a long alphabetic listing of e-resource specific titles. This product allows the user to click on a specific title to see the contents and read/print/email particular articles from the list of contents. This is yet another system to manage in the library.

As e-journals and packages began Big Deals, we added ERM to our arsenal of management tools. We needed somewhere to store things like license agreements, ILL information, title lists, etc.

Are you counting? We’re up to at least four different systems to use.  I may have skipped a few steps in our evolution – this is a blog, not a scholarly paper, I’m allowed.

Back to my aha moment…why are we fooling around with things like RDA and a new MARC (or, as Beecher Wiggins termed in the Big Heads meeting, Bibliographic Framework Transition) or the newly coined Web Scale Management? Well to merge all these varying systems together  – to have one place to put our acquisitions information and it share along appropriately. For one place to search, and it searches all appropriate areas. For one ‘catalog’ in which everything collected (physical or ephemeral) by the library is noted.

Awesome.

awesome techonology

May 22, 2011 1 comment

On and off I have been working on a post about technology.   I love new technology, am fascinated with the possibilities but at the same time I want to know how it will effect (and affect) things.

Remember the old PDA? The first run of these basically were just electronic address books – and the stylus was rather difficult to use (especially for those of us with less than stellar handwriting). I liked the idea but preferred my old handwritten, scribbled on, little black book.  I still do use that little black book (especially for physical addresses of friends/family) but I also my phone’s ability to retain phone numbers. Works for me but it does mean I can no longer remember phone numbers since I no longer dial from memory.

Then there is the downloadable music of today.  I’m told downloadable is replacing compact disc (which replaced the LP and cassettee…not entirely and not across the world).  This frustrates me. I love music and dislike the idea that I can only get some things by purchasing and downloading.  Well, except when you go to see live music of not-so-well-known bands. CD sales is where they can make their money, gigs don’t pay very much and CD (and tshirt and keychain, etc.) sales is where they can make some $$$. 

Oh! And books. Books are going away, d’ya know? Yes! It is said that no longer will we have paper, we will be a paperless society (I’ll pause here for your laughter as you look around your office).  Instead of purchasing a book or grabbing one from the library, you will purchase and download books to a device.  Seems very much like ‘renting’ to me – especially when Big Brother can reach across and delete from my device (referring to the Kindle/1984 phenomena – and ain’t it a kick what book that happened to?  Cue Rod Sterling).

I like owning a physical copy. Yes, it takes space but when my computer crashes and my hard drive backup is corrupt…I still have my CD and I can read by candlelight if power dies. I wish I had taken my own advice on physical copy when my phone decided I no longer needed to have any friends or contacts – which happened right after my computer decided to kick the bucket thus killing my phone backup.

 Then, of course, is the issue of access. I have ranted and ranted about this. NOT everyone can afford an MP3 player. What? They’re really cheap? Uh huh, so is milk but many still need food stamps or WIC. Oh! You’ll give everyone a player? Sweet. Now, how do they get the music to put on the ‘free’ player? Ah! Simply download it…on what? Can’t download in a public library. Can’t download when you do not own a computer OR have internet access. Oh and let’s not forget the  cost of electricity and/or batteries. It ain’t cheap.   Then there is the learning curve on how to do this…rant rant rant.

Wow – go off subject much? Yes. Yes I do. Point being technology is great, it really is but let us not forget everyone else. Let’s not build a society of information-rich and information-poor. Libraries can help fill this niche needed to provide all this wonderful technology to the masses.  And they do – quietly and without fanfare, libraries are out there helping people get what they need to succeed (as well as entertain).

*disclaimer, I do use downloads. I have downloaded music and books and all sorts of neato cool things. And I love it. But I do also love my physical copies for things I want to go over and over and over and over… I am not anti-technology. I am, though, pro-options.