26 January 2009

The 99 thing meme

Yes I'm a bit slow on this, but meh, y'all survived right? :) Saw in multiple places starting with David Lee King but also on these other fine folks blogs (which means you should go check them out! Seriously these guys are awesome at what they do!).


Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars. (I traveled cross country one summer, slept in a tent, but also slept in the back of my 4runner with the door open.)
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland/world.
8. Climbed a mountain. (Small ones up in Yellowstone)
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped. (No desire to ever do this, I hate heights)
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. (I've sorta taught myself how to cut mats--I had someone show me once, other than that I observed. I've also taught myself, again sorta of, how to paint watercolors. Not very good, but passable.)
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables. (We had a family garden plot that had tomatoes and I grew a sunflower once)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort. (Ummm...well it wasn't like what you see in books, but we called in a snow fort)
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. Watched multiple sunsets (helps that it sets early in the winter) and seen a few sunrises.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (umm...where is this? It depends on how far back I go for ancestors)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language. (HTML and CSS, working on others)
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke. (we shall never speak of it though, cause I'm really bad)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. (Cut the top of my head while at work one day)
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone. (A broken toe counts right?)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House. (seen the outside of it at least, never been inside)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous. (Met Brooks Robinson and Bob Feller at different baseball signings. If I could library bloggers I met a few at Computers in Libraries last year :)
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

Asking questions and when to say when

Wow..OK I started this post back in October with every intention of getting up, yet somehow things got away. So trying again.

Back in October 2008 I had the opportunity to speak with a recent MLIS graduate who just landed her first professional job. She had interned at our library over the summer and somehow she came away with the impression that I knew what I was talking about (not quite sure why...) and I of course was honored that she wanted to talk to me. So we sat and talked for over 2 hours on what type of things I did as a reference and instruction librarian. I shared various bits of advice that I had picked up and learned along the way.

I tried to make sure she knew other people did things differently than I did (which is a good thing we need diversity!) and I explained how I handled certain situations, such as giving instruction at the desk. Since I'm ILL/Circulation I sometimes take a different view of things and highlight different areas. For example, I try to make sure that folks know how ILL works and that generally they won't get their items the next day and that it probably won't help them for that paper that's due in 2 hours. As such, I tend (or at least try) to show resources that we have locally or that can be found online that might still have what they need. I also talked about how I conducted a reference interview, how I interacted with faculty, how I explained the library, conducted classes, etc. It was a good wide ranging discussion on all types of experiences, questions, and thoughts on the future of the library.

I shared two things that I wanted to pass on that I think are important for any librarian starting out.

The first was ask your colleagues questions. Get to know them, find out what their skills are and learn from them. Don't be afraid to ask them questions, because they want to help you succeed (or should!). They know the resources, they know whose who on campus, and are your best bet for navigating those first few months. And more importantly it will help you find out who to go to when you have something that you need a specific skill set to answer, such as using a certain science database. While it would be nice to be an expert in everything, it's just not possible to do so. So learn about the people around you, so you can go to them when you have a question or when you have a patron that has a question.

And the 2nd, was knowing when to say when when helping someone, whether patron or co-worker. We all want to do everything humanly possible to help our patrons. We'll go to the ends of the earth to find the information that they want or need. However, it sometimes seems like we don't know when to step back and say I've helped you all that I can and we need to try a different approach or you need to someone else for assistance. For example, when to let the person know that your chatting with on IM that their multi part research question can really be answered best in person or a phone call when you're not on the desk so that you can give them the help that they need. Or when to walk away from the patron that just won't stop talking about his new conspiracy on the government controlling the aliens from Mars. Librarians love helping their patrons. It's why we're here. But you can't always do everything they want and we need to know when to say when.

So what words of wisdom would you offer to those just starting out in library science?

15 January 2009

Customer service: the power of great people

Customer service is one of those things that no company can do without. You may not ever see it mentioned in their budget or in their service plan (although it should be) but they have to have it. It's what keeps folks coming back to their products or services.

A couple of weeks ago Meredith Farkas referenced an experience she had with Pottery Barn for Kids. In it she discusses how the lack of service will make her re-think her interactions with the company. Rachel, over at The Liminal Librarian, discusses her negative experience with Target, and again how their lack of customer service impacts her future experience with them. Strangely enough, you notice that no one from either of those stores left a comment on the blog. Maybe they contacted Rachel and Meredith separately, but again it would be such a simple process to monitor what is being said on the web and leave a note.

I also recently had a bad experience with a company. But, I'm not going to discuss them. Needless to say like Meredith and Rachel I won't be using them ever again, nor will I refer anyone to them. Instead, I'm going to share an outstanding experience that I had. A few weeks back I ordered a pizza from Papa Johns online. I've done it a few times and mostly I didn't feel like leaving the house and the Papa Johns location is atrocious to get in and out of. The e-mail that they sent indicated 50 minutes to an hour, which is pretty standard for them. Well an hour and twenty minutes went by and no pizza, which was not standard of them. By that point I was pretty hungry and called up to ask where my pizza was (I was also a bit peeved). I got ahold of the store pretty quickly and she quickly explained that they were short staffed, drives had called out, they had been slammed and the e-mail was supposed to say 1hr to 2hr. She said in fact my pizza had just left and it was being delivered by the assistant manager (who was apparently the only one around to drive at that point.) She very quickly and profusely apologized and by that point she had done a good job of convincing me that it was genuine accident. My pizza arrived about 20 minutes later (a bit cold), but I had decided that it was an accident and I had had good experiences before with that location so I wasn't going to go any farther. I didn't complain to anyone, didn't mention it, and never contacted head quarters because they were genuinely apologetic. Although this was pretty decent customer service, it's not exceptional. But that's not the end of the story. Two weeks later I received a coupon in the mail from Papa John's saying we understand that your recent experience didn't meet my standards. We'd like to offer you a free large pizza. How awesome is that? What it means to me is that someone at the local store took responsibility. They said we screwed up, let's make it up to him. That is the power of great people.

It also made me start thinking what can we, as libraries do, when someone has a bad experience. What can we do to get them to come back again?

14 January 2009

Tech Review--Screen sharing applicaton

One of my interests is keeping an eye out on new websites/services that can be utilized within the library, particularly if they are free. In fact I did a presentation on it a while back. Well I keep discovering new services since that presentation and thought I'd review a few, both good and bad, and share with you all. 1st up screen sharing!

When I was in library school it seemed like everyone was talking about screen sharing. It was the new "hot topic" that allowed us to better serve our patrons. It always seemed to me that it was clunky, hard to use, and required a download. Since I left library school it seems like screen sharing has faded into the background (just my general impression.) Well recently I stumbled across a site called Screen2.com.

It's a very basic website, without a whole lot of information. The interface is simple to use and it does have a tutorial on how to use the service. Here's how it works: You create a name, your friend creates a name, one of you invites the other one (after telling what your anme is through phone, im, etc), and your invited to screen share with your friend. A screen pops up and you can see what each other is doing. That's it! No downloads, all free, and the software follows you along to whever you go...to an extent. They only give you 6 websites to choose from and you can't really dig into the site to much (see my notes below.)

Here are the positives of the site:
  • It's free
  • No downloads
  • Relatively easy to use

  • Only searches selected sites for a list of 6 (Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, ESPN Sports Zone, YouTube, and eBay) These sites are not necessarily the American version. Google for example is Google.fi
  • You can't dig deeper than the base url. For example if you search for Jack Tarver Library in Google, you can get to the home page, but once you dig further into the site it stops screen sharing.
  • Seems a bit iffy on privacy. There's nothing indicating how long information is kept or what it's used for or if they keep it.
  • The username changes each time. For example if theres another Andrew signed on at that moment, the site adds other numbers to your name. This would seem to me to allow the possibility of connecting with the wrong user. It also means there is no way to personalize the site.
  • Because the username changes it means each time you want to use it, you have to contact the person you want to share with and let them know who you are.
While the site has it's benefits, such as showing someone how to navigate youtube and Wikipedia, the fact that you an't dig deeper into the links, such as those in Wikipedia, makes the service not very useful for libraries. The fact that's its also limited to just 6 sites means that you can't go very far into helping patrons. Of greater concern to me is that there is little to no information on who the group is, their purpose is, and what their privacy policy is. All of these reasons make me want to avoid utilizing this software beyond a simple tool to introduce screen sharing to folks.

06 January 2009

The locked effect

Over at Tame the Web there's a rather interesting blog post that I think will provoke a lot of discussion over aspects of social networking, this particular post looks at Twitter. A bit of background,Twitter, like many services, allows you the option of keeping your profile locked. This means that only those that you allow can follow you. This has both good and bad points like any service, but everyone chooses what works for them.

The post over on Tame the Web is simply an image from Flickr, the picture of a lock that you see on when someone has a locked profile on Twitter, and the description that was underneath the image. It's the words under the image that bother me:

"That is when I may consider following someone with protected updates.

Watchya hiding?

I don’t wanna know,

I ain’t interested.


To me it implies that there is something wrong with people having locked profiles. That because, people have choosen to not share part of their life with everyone in the world, that they are in effect, creating a proglem. The responses by Lee and Kyle, while offering good opinions, seem to want to place everyone in the same boat. If x doesn't work then clearly y is the alternative and thus everyone is happy, (Y in this case being have two separte accounts.) But it doesn't always work that way. Y isn't always the option, sometimes its z or zx or zy or so on. Everyone has different experiences that lead them to participate in Twitter and how they choose to set up their account and who they allow to follow them. There is no right or wrong answer to how you set up your profile, or how you participate in the conversation as long as you enjoy how you are participating.

But, there is a problem with trying to put everyone in the same boat and saying if you have a locked account, you aren't participating in the discussion. Everyone has different experiences that lead to how they make decisions. You may not always agree with them, but should at least seek to understand where they are coming from and in the case of locked social networking profiles, respect them for their decision.

02 January 2009

Barnes & Noble return policy

I'm surprised this didn't make more rounds amongst folks (at least as a head's up), but Barnes & Noble has changed their return policy.

There new return policy is now this: "All returns must be made within 14 days of purchase and accompanied with an original sales receipt. After 14 days or without an original sales receipt, returns will not be permitted (nor permitted to exchange)." (Link here.) Yes this is referencing a flyer that was passed out, but the same information is now on the back of the receipts. And here's the link to Barnes & Noble's return policy page (all the info is under B&N.com, but applies to store purchases as well.

They do give you longer if you have a gift receipt, but overall this seems to be a poor customer service policy. 14 days to return an item? What if you purchase it as a gift for someone, and didn't get a gift receipt? Some times I purchase books that sit for a few days before I put them away. Receipts get lost or misplaced. What if I get home and discover I already have the book (I've done that before), but don't get a chance to return it for a few days and the cats start playing with the receipts? To me this just strikes of poor customer service. There doesn't seem to be any give in the policy and in these touch economic times, why not give some leeway? Why not be a bit more lenient such as saying a month to return and if the book is in good condition taking it back without the receipt? Or just giving store credit? To me the policy seems to be poorly thought out and could have been made more customer friendly.

I still browse in Barnes & Nobles and do quick purchases from time to time, but frankly I prefer Amazon. Better prices, better customer service, and its easier to return and cancel orders.

01 January 2009

Interviewing--the awkard question

As I've mentioned in a couple of posts I've been looking for a new position, the next step in my career as it were. I'm not going to go into details on where I've interviewed or specifics, but I thought I'd share some thoughts on things that I've picked up on regarding the interview process in general. I've had experiences from both sides of the table so I think I see things a bit differently than some folks do. I'm planning on doing this over several parts so today is just the first.

When interviewing there are all kinds of bad questions to be asked. Some of them are illegal--such as asking for information about your personal life, others are ones that don't really ask the true question they merely look at the surface and never probe deeper. There are also those questions that are awkward to answer, because you want to give them the answer the interviewer is looking for, but you don't really mean it, but you know that if you don't give the "right" answer you won't get the job. I've never been asked illegal questions (thankfully), but I have been asked those questions that are surface dwelling or are just awkward to answer. And I've spent a lot of time thinking, how do I answer this question? There are countless advice books out there that will give tell you the perfect way to phrase your question, but I've found many of them really aren't good for those that work in libraries or education, or basically anything outside of business.

One question that seems to be a favorite of a lot of places is "Where do you want to be in three (or five) years?" On the surface this wouldn't appear to be a bad question to ask. You get to find out what the person wants to do, what their career path is, and it shows that they have given thought to their future and where they want to go. But here's why I think it doesn't really work as a good question. Figuring out where you want to be in five years is dependent upon far to many variables that most of the time you have no control over, such as family matters. I know when I encounter that question I can only answer it in the broadest sense, such as "I plan to still be working in the public services area. Its what interests me and there is such a wide variety of topics to work on with it." Sure its not a bad answer, but it doesn't really answer the question does it? The truth is I have a vague notion of where I want my career path to take me, but its dependent upon so many different factors that I can't outline where I want to be in 3 or 5 years. I like taking it on the smaller scale, year by year. That way I can assess where I am and what fits me. I still think long term and know that I want to be a librarian in Public Services, but as far as specifics, that might change tomorrow or the next day. I dislike this question for other reasons as well.

We've all had situations where we were working in "stop gap" jobs, such as at the local grocery store. Both parties know that you aren't going to stay, but if you come out and say I'm planning on getting my master's degree in X, it seems to be a big ole' don't hire me sign, cause I'll leave first chance I get. I've had this experience. Right when I started my MLIS I was looking for any job. I had to be honest that I wasn't planning on staying a sales associate for the next 5 years, and tell them that I was going to start a Master's program so the schedule could be planned. I'm sure I could have answered the question in different ways, but as soon as they heard Master's, it seemed to close the door on me being hired.

Or if your career path is to become an administrator it can provide some tension if the person your interviewing with, is in the type of position you want to be in. Sure there are ways to answer the question, but you never really know what that person is thinking or has experienced that will influence how they view you and your answer.

To be honest I've not really come up with a good way to answer that question. Instead I much prefer the question "How does this position fit in the career path that you've set for yourself?" Sure it retains some of the same connotations and asks you to think about your future, but it allows the interviewee to answer the question in a different way. Let's go back to the "stop gap" job. If they were to ask you that, now you can answer something along the lines of "I see this position allowing me to increase my experience in public services and selling items. It will help me to think about how to approach a customer in a different way. Since I intend to remain in public services in my career this will help me take the next step in improving my skills." Sure it's still vague, but now your no longer saying directly, I'm planning on working in X field. You've shown how your going to use the skills that you've learned in that position in your career path, and who knows maybe you'll end up staying with that "stop gap" job. It's possible that you could use this answer the with the 3 or 5 year question, but you wouldn't really be answering the question they asked. To me this question speaks more to the heart of what the interviewer is asking, why this position? How does it meet what you want to do? You've still asked the person to think long range, but you're not asking for them to set "I want to be here in 3 years."

I'm sure you all have had a different experience than I have in answering this question? What are your thoughts? What do you think?

Happy New Year's!

I hope that all of you had a joyous holiday season no matter your beliefs and that you all had a Happy New Year's! Here's to 2009, hoping that it will be a might better than 2008.

I am still posting and trying to get into the habit of updating more often. December was a bit hectic with a couple of phone interviews and one onsite interview and then the holidays. And there was other stuff thrown in there too like the normal drama of life.

I've been thinking about some of the things that I want to post on so here's what I've got so far:
Post on some of the drafts that have been sitting for far, far too long
A look back at 2008
Thoughts on the interview process (no one in particular just in general)
Looking at new technology to play with
My learning experience with the MacBook I just recently purchased
My learning experience with my BlackBerry (I've had it for a while, but need to do more with it)
And whatever else catches my eye :)

Looking forward to a great 2009 with everyone and hope it's off to a good start for everyone!