Tuesday, September 29, 2009
For SPL's initial foray into sites designed specifically for mobile devices, we really wanted to keep things simple. Because the variety of mobile platforms (and the physical size of their browsing windows) provide design challenges, our intention was to provide some basic but useful information for library users on the go. To see what I mean, check out the screen shot:
As you can see, the design is very bare bones; all that we've included on the front page are links to our catalog, our databases, and information linking to locations and hours (with mobile friendly Google maps) for all of our branches. There is also a link that dials the Library's centralized telephone reference service, a link adding that number to your phone's contacts, and a link that sends your reference question to our SMS reference service.
The aesthetic design is intentionally sparse as we desired to avoid as much as possible differences in how the site rendered on different phones. I think at this stage of mobile site evolution (with an exception for iPhone users), the expectation on the part of the user is more that functionality be optimized while visual design may not be of primary concern.
Based on feedback we got from our customers (on our Facebook fan page among other places), the ability to renew and place holds on materials was a service that we needed to include. For that reason, the decision was to link from our mobile to site to III's Encore platform rather than the "classic catalog". While neither search engine is optimal for use on mobile devices, Encore actually works much better in this regard. Either way, until we can launch a mobile app similar to what OCLC or DCPL has, this will have to suffice.
It should prove interesting to see what usage patterns look like after a few months of being live. For example, I wonder how many folks will actually choose to access our databases from their phones. However, the good news is that SPL is again responding actively to user demands and making an attempt to remain as relevant as possible in a changing environment. If we discover down the road that some features would be more popular than others on our home page, we can just tweak the design to be more responsive. My approach is that nothing we do is permanent but just the current iteration of an ever evolving product. If you take a look at our site and have any thoughts or suggestions, we would love to hear them. And thanks again to Michael and Megan for fitting this project in between all the other cool stuff you've got going on!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
As you can see, I didn't film the book actually being dispensed. After the customer chooses the desired title, it takes about 30 seconds for the book to be retrieved; that wouldn't have been a very interesting video. What the video does show, however, is the ease of use for the customer. Choosing between age groups and between genres is a breeze. And it even includes book covers!
SPL is pleased to be only the fourth library system in the country to offer this service and our partners on this project, the City of Sacramento, are so excited that they're already talking about a second GoLibrary in another community center getting ready for renovation. While I can't imagine a time when visiting a "real" library isn't an important part of any community experience, the GoLibrary is a great option for extending our service into neighborhoods without a branch.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Within 47 minutes of posing a question about the desirability of using text messages for library notifications, five library users weighed in with their opinion! The effort on the part of the Library to involve customers in decision-making is minimal but the return on that effort is great! We get feedback (almost instantly) from all over the county and we have the opportunity to educate customers on some aspects of our service about which they were unaware. And, best of all, this interaction takes place in a friendly, non-boring "library instruction" kind of setting.
With more than 350 fans getting Facebook updates from SPL already (and gaining a handful of new fans every day - check out the graph!),
the Library is reaching an audience that is wider than ever. What a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to the community that we need to hear their voices as we plan for new services!
Monday, September 14, 2009
SPL is just now ramping up our efforts at making use of Twitter as a part of our larger online presence. It is exciting and gratifying to see positive comments like the one above; it tells me we are on the right track and that we're making good use of our tools like our Facebook fan page and Twitter to meet our users where they are with the information they need!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Getting this to work as planned took a little bit of wrangling as the QR code generator I was using was creating codes that scanned well on the monitor but not when printed. I ended up using the generator at QRStuff and got a code that scans pretty well on my Blackjack II Of course, because I did not test QR readers (I prefer the reader from i-nigma) on other phones, I can't say that my business card will scan reliably in all or even most settings. I suppose that I'm acting as SPL's QR code guinea pig in this respect. If you're interested in trying this, too, just search for QR code vcard generators and you'll find several options available.
As we continue to develop ways in which we can use QR codes in the library, we will certainly need to test a variety of generators and readers on several different types of phones. For the time being, though, I'm excited to have added this level of interactivity to my otherwise very static business card.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Being a manager in a large public library system is a strange job and one that I still haven't gotten completely used to after almost three years in the position. The degree to which my job requires interaction with multiple library departments really exceeds anything required of the folks I supervise: the branch managers. Virtually everything I work on requires coordination with some combination of Finance, Facilities, IT, Communications, Collection Management, Human Resources, Community Services, the Foundation, Youth Services, and/or my two Branch Services peers. Learning to operate in this team-based environment is not necessarily something one learns working in branches. Of course it is true that branch staff are teams unto themselves; however, the level of complexity in management often feels several orders of magnitude higher due to dealing with personalities from such diverse disciplinary backgrounds.
Lately, I've felt this realization starkly. As I mentioned in a previous post, I experience cycles wherein my personal feeling of effectiveness waxes and wanes; I've felt myself on the downside of the cycle recently. Trying to understand what might be the environmental factors leading to my feeling less than effective lately has led me to make some personal connections with some professional reading I've been doing. Currently on my nightstand, among others, is a book titled, "Government Performance: Why Management Matters" by Ingraham, Joyce, and Donahue. In short, the book seeks to provide a model for the "black box" of management that exists between public resources and policy results. Taking a look at the model proffered by the authors and applying that framework to my personal actions, it follows, may be a step towards feeling a more positive energy about my workplace.
According to Ingraham, effective organizational management "is fundamentally dependent on the nature of its administrative infrastructure" (2003, 16). This is not revelatory. However, sketching the outline of a capable management system model and enumerating the characteristics of the structural components is useful. Management capacity, the authors assert, is highest when the system is fully integrated and operating with a results orientation.
Characteristics of integrative management activities include:
- Operational coherence
- Free communication
- Allocation of resources that fosters mutual support among departments
Managing with a results orientation requires:
- Clear identification of organizational objectives
- Performance measurement (short-term progress toward objectives)
- Performance monitoring (long-term progress toward objectives)
The management team that successfully embodies the characteristics above demonstrates:
- The ability to understand progress and change course when required
- The ability to strike the necessary balances in resource allocation
My view, personally, is that the management team of which I am a part has in place the basic systems to succeed; we have a solid administrative infrastructure. Where we've not succeeded thus far is in achieving truly integrative activities or in agreeing upon a clear "end state". In other words, what does success look like and how do we work together to get there?
Which leads me back to me. As I'm fond of saying, there is no such thing as "the organization" but only the people who comprise it. If I want to feel effective in my work, I need to be doing my part to foster an integrative and results oriented management team. That means approaching each project with an unambiguous definition of what we want to achieve, an open dialog about what each department brings to the project and how we can support one another in the challenges we each face, the establishment of clear measures by which to track our progress, and a long-term commitment to program evaluation.