On Ireland, library data, and humanities research

Brian Lavoie

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St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us, and our thoughts turn to Ireland and the Irish …

… and to the new OCLC Research report, An Exploration of the Irish Presence in the Published Record, in which we use library data to identify and explore materials by Irish authors, about Ireland, and/or published in Ireland. In this report, we map out the features of the Irish landscape in WorldCat, including the most popular Irish author, as measured by library holdings (Jonathan Swift); the most popular work by an Irish author (Gulliver’s Travels); and the most translated Irish author (Oscar Wilde). Did you know that Northern Ireland-born Eve Bunting is the most popular Irish author in 29 US states? Or that toddler favorite Guess How Much I Love You is the 13th most popular work by an Irish author (Sam McBratney)?

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The remarkable acceleration of shared print

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Ten years ago, on February 22, 2008, fresh from a consulting project at a very crowded Davidson College Library, I drafted a first description of a “selective withdrawal system” for libraries. Back then I envisioned “an automated decision-support tool that assists libraries in weeding their print book collections intelligently and efficiently” and also noted that “deselection must be pursued with care, to assure that future scholars will have access to the scholarly and cultural record.”

If you had told me then that within ten short years, shared print programs would encompass more than 40 million long-term monograph retention commitments, I’d have doubted your sanity. There’s no way anyone could have predicted how quickly these programs would grow.

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Get closer to “customer first” in seven days

Cathy King

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Over the past year or so, I’ve started to see new ‘customer experience’ job titles (like Chief Customer Experience Officer and Deputy Director of Customer Experience) pop up in libraries that have been present in the consumer space for some time. Makes sense. Having someone focus on how people use your products and services across the entire range of your organization and throughout their life with you is such an important part of doing business today.

And while developing a truly user-centric strategy may sound like a big, strategic move, you can start to plan small changes that inspire broader transformation in just a week.

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Make the first move: three ways to initiate relationship-building conversations

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Over the past few years, I’ve seen discussions of customer service shift from measurements of individual interactions to programs that track and analyze all of a customer’s activities. That is, rather than focusing on what makes for a good sale or a good complaint follow-up, the trend is toward examining the entire “customer experience.” I’ve seen dozens of programs and hundreds of articles that aim to help us capture every tweet, post, like, click, thumbs-up, visit, and phone call in an attempt to “know the whole picture” for a customer.

That’s a good step forward. No one interaction happens in a vacuum. But I think it also misses the mark when it comes to library services. What we do is still incredibly hands-on and, for many library users, very personal and creates an experience that’s more than the sum of our analytics.

A recent conversation with Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library Chief Executive Officer Gina Millsap brought that message home to me. For her library, they’ve moved beyond customer service and customer experience into a relationship-focused strategy.

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To keep people happy … keep some books

Saskia Leferink

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At the 2017 Dutch Contact Day last October, we heard how staff at the library of the Free University of Amsterdam is going to renovate their library space. One request students made? Surprisingly (perhaps), they wanted books around them. Not just because of the information that physical books provide, but because of the atmosphere and comfort they provide. So, the library kept the books as part of their renovation.

This may seem counterintuitive in our digital world as more and more of our experiences happen online. And it raises a few questions: What role does the physical library play in a digital world? And what makes people still want to come to this place?

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Three tools for building better bridges

Katie Birch

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The theme for our upcoming Resource Sharing Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, is “Bridging Communities.” I think that’s a great way to describe the work that resource sharing librarians do in an inspiring way—we create paths to get people to the information they need, often crossing obstacles and boundaries that are otherwise impassable. In many cases, we build those bridges using unique information literacy talents that librarians bring to the table.

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Three cures for the “Humdrum ILL Blues”

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A few years ago, two colleagues and I co-led the popular workshop, “Keep the ILL Motivational Fires Burning!” at the Midwest ILL Conference. The point was to openly acknowledge that—like many jobs—resource sharing librarianship can become routine and draining. We tried to answer the question: how can you do a job with many necessary, detailed, repetitious job functions while still maintaining energy, enthusiasm, and drive?

While everyone’s answer is going to be slightly different, I think we uncovered a few ways that might help you maintain your LOVE for a job that many of us got into in the first place because of a passion for helping library users.

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Progress and patience: Increasing female participation in technical conferences

Karen Coombs

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The Code4Lib Conference is an informal group of library technologists that attracts international participation. While it’s an awesome learning and professional community, it also has had the same gender diversity challenges and opportunities as many other technology events and groups. When the Code4Lib Conference first started in 2006, I was one of five women out of 80 attendees, and of the 17 presenters that year, only one was female.

Now the nearly 450 attendees at the event are much more equally divided by gender. Around 40% of our community identifies as female, and at the 2017 conference, 43% of the speakers were female.

I’m proud of the improvements we’ve made, and I think if we continue to focus on a few key activities, we’ll see even more progress.

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Four ways your library can use RIM to advance your institution

Rebecca Bryant, Ph.D.

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Familiar roles, new opportunities

Research Information Management—RIM—is the aggregation, curation, and utilization of information about research. These activities already intersect with many aspects of your library’s services. But, as OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey wrote in a 2014 blog post on the subject, only recently have we been treating RIM:

[As] a new service category … the integrated management of information about the research life cycle, and about the entities which are party to it.

As such, OCLC has been researching and writing about the ways that libraries are becoming leaders in this important trend. Our position paper, Research Information Management: Defining RIM and the Library’s Role, is a good place to start if you want the “big picture” about RIM and libraries.

The publication helps libraries and other institutional stakeholders better understand how institutions are adopting research information management practices, driven by many different uses, such as support for expertise in discovery, open access policies and compliance, faculty activity reporting workflows, and research assessment activities. In it we identify four major ways in which libraries can add value to this complex ecosystem:

  • Publications and scholarship expertise
  • Discoverability, access, and reputational support
  • Stewardship of the institutional record
  • Training and support

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Dr. Carla D. Hayden on the need for constant change in libraries

Skip Prichard

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, for our inaugural meeting of the Americas Regional Council. Nearly 200 attendees from 120 institutions and 36 US states came together to discuss technology trends in libraries.

It seems that everything is changing at a rapid clip. Even our vacuums are texting us and our fitness regimens have become virtual. Not a day goes by when we don’t read about developments that will rock our world—from flying cars to containers that sense they’re nearing empty and order a refill.

Our conference attendees discussed the impact of these changes in society and specifically on libraries. Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress for the United States, opened our conference with an inspiring keynote. If you know Dr. Hayden, you know that I was in the unfortunate situation of having to follow her on the stage.

It was after our presentations that we had a chance to speak about the impact of change on our organizations.

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