The Credits • 16 April 2013
Keeping the magic alive. This recap of a presentation titled "The Disney Institute's Approach to Quality Customer Service" reveals a couple of trade secrets (like pumping vanilla scent into the air along Main Street to boost nostalgia) but the real key to Disney success is anticipating customer needs and then going above and beyond to satisfy customer wants. Attention to detail and empowering employees is a good starting place for any organization that deals with the public.
One of the things that struck me is thinking about the image you want to have in library users' minds. When you think Disney, what vision comes to mind? When your patrons think of your library, what do you think they envision? What would you want them to envision? Help them build an emotional connection to their library by paying attention to what they value and serving them appropriately. One of the Disney approaches is to not necessarily answer the question they ask, but see that they get the information they need. That's a familiar tactic for reference librarians! (Erway)
Maisonneuve • 22 March 2013
Unhealthy. "Viral advertising" is often touted as a strategic path to brand recognition, but author Christopher Szabla points out that this synonym for a communicable disease is more appropriate than many people realize: "A virus tricks the body into copying viral RNA rather than its own; savvy propagandists promote their agenda by making sharing feel like a powerful act of self-expression . . . Sharers equate facilitating a virus' orders with their own voices; virality is confused with democracy." Szabla’s essay makes a good case for thinking before you click "forward."
Szabla generates quotable quotes with the aplomb of an experienced circus performer: "the illusion of empowerment through virality masks the reality of the virus' control"; "Competition for our concern leaves us addicted to originality"; "Virality tugs our tattered attention between the sensational and the superficial, between the bloodiest war crimes and the most infinitesimal political gaffe"; and finally, the most damning: "Curb your enthusiasm: virality can be as great an evil as the evils that go viral." We trust, however, that Szabla's suggested cure of "the banality of restraint" will not prevent you from forwarding notice of Above the Fold to your friends. You know you want to. (Tennant)
The Guardian • 17 April 2013
A is for avatar. Check out this brief list of technological catch-phrases for a fascinating tour through the historical origins of net-inspired neologisms, beginning with the Sanskrit-inspired avatara and ending with the Old French/English/Nordic roots of trolling.
This is a fun little sampling of the impact that the Internet has had on the English language, with amusing references to Monty Python, The Simpsons, and the in-house name that Bell Labs engineers used to describe the pound-symbol key on their new touch-tone phones in the 1960's ("octothorpe"). The author demonstrates his technical skill with a primer on how to use "meh" as an exclamation, adjective and noun; his tact with an exceedingly discreet definition of "Scunthorpe problems"; and his philosophical gravitas with a discussion of "LOL" use as performance art. Even the comments make for rewarding reading; I was delighted to stumble across a version of the linguist Max Weinreich's old chestnut, "A language is a dialect with an army and navy." Amusing and surprising, start to finish. (Massie)
New Republic • 26 April 2013
RIP. The blog is passé, says columnist Marc Tracy, citing The New York Times' decision to winnow its offerings as media consumers turn to Twitter and self-discovery for news and opinion. In Tracy's words, "Less and less do readers have the patience for a certain writer or even a certain subject matter. Instead, they use social media to efficiently pick exactly what they do and do not click on, rather than reading what a blogger or blog offers them." The issue here appears to be not whether we're reading blogs, post-blog-blogs or 140-character sound-burps, but whether anyone still has the ability to pay attention to important issues.
This article has a peculiar perspective. The evidence being offered to back up the claim that "the blog is dead" is demise of Google Reader and The New York Times weeding its blog offerings. Really? Newspapers are struggling to find revenue in an adjusted information economy, so twiddling the content knobs says little about the value of blogs, and more about content. And the fact that Google decided to phase out a very popular product to head in a different direction should not herald the end of the blog. What's going to replace the blog? According to this article, it's Twitter. This seems like false logic: what many 140 character strings do is link to something. Which could be a blog. People want reliable, interesting and informative channels. They may choose to follow someone on Twitter because they lead them to gold. The same is true with a blog, or any other source of information. Format matters little, ideas matter a lot. (Proffitt)
HBR Blog Network • 17 April 2013
Power in numbers. Harnessing the combined efforts of 28,000 volunteers has been instrumental in helping University of California and National Geographic research scientist Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin examine the vast landscape of Mongolia in a hunt for Genghis Khan's unmarked grave. This latest example of crowd-sourcing illustrates the power of individuals with a little extra time on their hands to make a huge difference in large-scale quests.
Is there a place for "citizen science" in library resource description? The well-documented success of the National Library of Australia's Trove, which enables individuals to correct the OCR'd full-text of digitized newspapers, provides a powerful demonstration of the impact crowd-sourcing can deliver when it taps into the creative capacity of an interested community of users. Since 2008, Trove has logged more than 93 million cumulative lines of corrected text and inspired other libraries to experiment with collaborative cataloging projects, including at least nine focused on annotating historical newspapers. OCLC Research has published a series of reports examining the opportunities of social metadata for libraries archives and museums that are essential reading for anyone interested in this topic. More recently, my intrepid colleagues have been experimenting with new approaches to integrating collaborative research and social games in an archival discovery system (TopicWeb), and prototyping a game-inspired interface for updating an internal registry service. I'm optimistic about what can be achieved in "multi-player" democratization of content creation and organization. I'm a fan of What's the Score, a Google-sponsored partnership between the Bodleian Libraries and the citizen science platform Zooniverse. But, as Clay Shirky recently observed in a keynote presentation at Cornell's Legal Information Institute, the participatory economy requires us to rethink fundamental questions about authority—something curators and catalogers feel pretty strongly about. Are libraries ready to play? (Malpas)
Above the Fold Quiz
According to an item in this week's News and Views section, where can you learn about the necessary changes that need to be made for the library to remain an effective and relevant partner in research and teaching?
Get the answer.