Computers in Libraries Book Club

I’m sure other years when I’ve attended Computers in Libraries conference there was talk of books or books inspired presentations.  How could it not being a library conference?  But for some reason this year I came away with a list of new (well new to me) titles to read.  Some were recommended to me by talking to colleagues (at lunch or right before a session) and some were recommended during presentations.   So I thought I’d pass them along.

Boy have I got a lot of books to read!


Conference Advice from “Grandma Beth”

My mind is still reeling (in a good way) after attending Computers in Libraries 2011.   So I wanted to get down some tips & tricks for conference attending since I’ve been dubbed “Grandma Beth” by a certain person who will remain nameless.  It is a fun, inside joke but I’m embracing it and hopefully I can pass along some wisdom.  To be honest I wish someone had told me some of this all those years ago when I attended my first CIL.  Some of these are especially important for those not staying in a hotel nearby but are commuting each day like I was.

  • Pack light. I didn’t heed my own advice this year.  I swear my backpack was at least 50 lbs.  Bring a netbook, tablet, or iPad instead of a laptop.
  • Bring a small digital point and shoot camera instead of a DSLR body, several lenses and flash.  That alone would have made what I was lugging around a lot less.
  • Charge your smartphone fully before you leave home.
  • Turn your smartphone off if you don’t get service in a certain room or during a certain session.  I found out that my phone was working overtime trying to reach the network and it drained the battery even faster than normal.  Once I learned this and turned my phone off in session where I didn’t have a good signal my phone lasted all day.
  • Bring your USB cord to charge the phone.  There is usually someone who will let you hook up to their laptop to charge your phone.
  • Introduce yourself.  I found that I was horrible and introducing people because I lost track of who knew who from Twitter, Facebook, etc.  To me it just felt like everyone already knew everyone but that wasn’t truly the case.
  • Get on Twitter! Even if you don’t use Twitter the rest of the year make sure you do at conferences.  Follow the main conference account because they will often tweet updates about wifi, room changes, speaker changes and more.
  • Setup a conference account if you are already on Twitter.  Don’t inundate your main stream (especially if people besides library folks follow you) instead tweet from there that they should follow your conference account to learn more about the conference.
  • Setup a search for the conference’s hashtag(s) in Twitter.  Take some time to read what others are tweeting.  You can’t attend every session and this is a great way to get a feel for what you are missing.
  • Get in as much as possible if this is your first time attending a conference but don’t over do it (see two bullet points above).
  • Read the program ahead of time to get an idea of what you think you might like to attend.  But be flexible and allow yourself to change your mind later.
  • Look at who is speaking.  The titles can be catchy and description can be deceiving.  I’ve found that if you know anything about the speaker it can help.
  • Talk to people if you don’t know anything about the speakers.  They can give you a feel for who is good, bad or indifferent.
  • Do Not hesitate to leave if you feel unsure about a session.  Also sit towards the back so it is easier to leave.  You are there to learn, to be inspired, to be provoked not to be bored or hear something that doesn’t pertain to you.
  • Do Not hesitate to leave even if you are sure about a session and it doesn’t turn out to be what you expected.  Slip into the back of another session, visit the exhibits or a cybertour.  Or take the time to let all the other great information you’ve heard process.
  • Lobby-con, bar-con, dinner-con or whatever you want to call it is one of the most important parts of any conference because of the networking that happens outside of the actual sessions.   These groups of like-minded people are invaluable.  You will learn a lot from these networking sessions so don’t hesitate to participate in them.  I can’t stress this one enough.

I’d love to hear from other “grandmas and grandpas” out there to see what other tips or tricks they would recommend.

CIL 2010 Where Did the Time Go?

Here I am on the last day of #CIL2010 wondering where did the time go?  I’ve managed only one other blog post other than this one, I’ve taken several photos but haven’t finished loading them on my pc let alone editing them and I haven’t even begun to upload them to Flickr or Facebook?  So what the heck have I been doing with all my time?

1.  Commuting.  Getting up at 4;30 or 5:00 so I can hopefully make it there in time for the keynote speakers takes a good chunk out of my day.  Trying to coordinate Marc train and metro schedules so I’m not stuck in VA then figuring out the best time to drive down or back to Northwest Baltimore County has convinced me that I could never work in DC/VA.  3 hours or more to get somewhere, work 8 hours there and then 3 hours back home – how do these people have lives?!

2.  Attending.  Been trying to get in as many sessions in as possible.  For some reason this year it seems like I’ve barely had a time between sessions to pack up my stuff and move to the next session let along blog.  Thankfully I’ve been able to Twitter some of the sessions (wifi has been spotty at best).  Several sessions I was able to Tweet the first speaker but then the wifi craps out so the second or more speakers only got notes taken which I haven’t had time to transfer to this blog.

3.  Networking.  One of the best parts of conferences but somewhat frowned upon by the folks who pay for it , is the networking opportunities that arise.  Be they table-con, lobby-con, exhibit-con, floor-con — all of these are important.  Having a chance to speak the same language with someone in your field, to learn new ideas, to challenge old ones or just simply make a new friend can’t be measured.  Those networks associations can blossom into speaking engagements, contacts, or resources that will help you in your job.  I even stayed late Tuesday night to participate in the T is for Training podcast.  It was a historical episode as it was the longest one we’ve recorded for 90 minutes.

So I’ve been a busy girl just haven’t had a moment to play catch up.  Problem is when I get back to work I’ll have to dive right back into Polaris training – here’s hoping I find a moment here and there to post some more or upload pics.

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Let The Social Web Document Your Next Training

social-web-researchWhile driving home from the Maryland Library Association conference I had several hours in the car alone to contemplate things.  At some point my mind wondered to those forms that we or at least folks in Maryland have to fill out to receive CEUs.

The form is boring.  The form can’t really capture what you may or may not have learned at a training or conference.  Why not allow the social web to document your next training or conference as an option.  Mind you I know not everyone blogs or Twitters or has a Flickr account but many of us do.

Submit your Twitter stream and the hashtags you used.  Give the URL of your Flickr set from the training/conference.  Set up a blog and live the sessions you attend.  All of these options would give your employer a much better idea of what you got out of a session than some form.

Tale of Two Customers Experiences

It was the best of customer experiences, it was the worst of customer experiences.  Odd that they both took place during the same conference.


I attended the 2009 Maryland Library Association conference held at the Clarion hotel in Ocean City, Maryland.  I left my home in Northwest Baltimore County to travel to Maryland’s Eastern Shore around 6:30 pm.  Believe it or not I’m not familiar with Ocean City despite being a Maryland native.  I’m more of a Rehoboth Beach, DE kinda of girl.  So I took my trusty GPS with me so I wouldn’t get lost.  Of course that is exactly what happened or at least it took me on a very round about way to the Clarion in OC.

For some reason the day before a large convention which had most of the hotel booked they decided to paint half of their parking lot.  So when I get there there was no parking on the same side of the street as the hotel.  I parked in front of the office area and walked in to see where I could park.  “Hi, I’m here to attend a convention and I’m staying the night.  Can you tell me where I can park, your lot is full.” “There is overflow parking across the street.” is what I heard back.  No, “Oh let me check you in first since you’ll need to place a tag on your car” or “Would you like to check in now and then park your car?”  Instead I get back in my car, drive down a couple lights to find a spot where I can do a U-turn and park my car.  Since I’ve heard horror stories of people being hit while crossing Coastal Highway, I decided to be a good pedisterian and crossed at the crosswalk, drag my bag on the sidewalk until I get back to the hotel.

When I get there I see four people working the desk, three of them talking to each other and one actually helping someone.  Finally one of the talkers looks up and asks me if I’d like to check in.  After I check in and get my key she then tells that I need to hang this tag on my car which is now unconviently parked across an eight lane highway.  It wasn’t that big a deal to walk over there it was just the topping on poor customer service.  Good customer service would have dictated that when I came in to find out where to park they should have offered to check me in and give me the tag then.

In this day and age with the economy depressed as it is and businesses failing left and right customer service, good customer service is MORE essential than ever.  Just because I am attending a conference in your hotel does not mean I have to book a room in your hotel.  I can assure you that next year if I attend MLA 2010 I won’t be staying at the Clarion.  I’ll find a place that actually understands what proper customer service looks like.


Thank goodness I was able to experience the opposite of the above customer service issue while I was still in Ocean City.  Thursday night I went to dinner with a good friend.  Since he is more familiar with Ocean City and what they have to offer I asked him to pick the place.  We drove up to Galaxy66 Bar and Grille.   As I walked through the door I realized that this was going to be a different dinning experience.  The decor, colors used, even the plates on the table set a tone.  Then from the moment we walked in the customer service and attention to detail was excellent.

I asked our waiters if they served Coke products.  Sounds a bit odd but I’ve made the mistake over the years of asking for a Diet Coke but they fail to tell me that it’s really Diet Pepsi.   I explained to the guys that I had gone all day without a Diet Coke and I was jonesing big time.  That was just the start.  They brought me a Diet Coke and before the last drop was finished there was another glass was brought to me.  Their attention was the right blend of anticipating what we needed, asking us and staying away so we could chat and dine.  The menu was unique.  The flavor combinations were different but they worked.  I was pleasantly surprised with my bokchoy salad – red curry aioli, scallion crepe, radiccio, yellow and orange peppers, crispy lo mein noodles and shoestring carrots.  I then followed that very generous portion of salad with the gnocchi – seasonal mushrooms, rocket, garlic truffle oil, aged Parmesan.  Dinner was accompanied by toasted bread with my favorite herb, rosemary.

103_1117It was a wonderful time to spend with an old friend and the restuarant only made it better.  I judge a restaurant not only by it’s customer service, food but also by it’s ladies room.  It doesn’t have to be fancy but just clean.  Well, Galaxy66 had both.  The funky decor continued into the ladies room and it was clean.  To me that means you care – if you care about that then I have faith that the kitchen has as much if not more care given to it.  The icing on the cake for me was the card that came with the bill.  Being the social web guru that I am I absolutely loved seeing that they were on Facebook.  When I visited their web site they are also listed as being on Twitter.  You know I just had to follow and friend them.  Thank you to our waiters, the chef and the manager of Galaxy66 for great customer service, a wonderful unique meal and making my short stay in Ocean City a lot better (especially after the Clarion’s boo-boo).

Reference Interview From Far Away

MLx, aka as the Gadabout Library Trainer, is attending the Alabama Library Association conference.  Now I’m here in Maryland yet I feel as if I’m getting the best out of this conference because she is using Twitter to share some real gems.  Currently she is in the Renewing Your Involvement in the Reference Interview presentation.  Reading her tweets have been great so I thought I’d post some here and include my two cents/my observations as someone who used to work the customer service desk for many years.

#alla09 Tweets from MLx in bold

(my 2 cents follow)

people don’t come to the ref desk because they are uncomfortable or consider the staff ‘unhelpful’

(As someone who worked the circulation [now called customer service desk] for many years I can’t tell you how many times a customer sounded very reluctant to “bother” the librarian – they appeared as busy because they were sitting behind a computer screen.  Found this interesting since the circulation staff stands behind a computer but since they had to come to us to checkout they were able to strike up conversations easier.)

when patrons ask ‘where are the encyclopedias’ they probably don’t need the encyclopedias

(Good point.  People in general use terminology that is comfortable to them or is an euphemism for what they really want.  This is why the interview process of asking open ended questions is vital in helping our customer get what they need.  This is the same no matter which desk you work (circ, children’s, info, etc.).)

Ask how much time the patron has for the ref interview. “Librarians like to look for things, patrons like to find things”

(This goes for the customer service desk as well.  When registering a new customer it is an opportunity to share with them what your library has to offer.  Offer to take them on a tour of your building or walk them to the information desk.  But only after finding out how much time they have.  Don’t assume because they are here they have all the time in the world.  They may only have a few moments before picking up Janie from ___ to get a card and a DVD. Offer them choices – don’t have a lot of time here let me get what you need quickly – have a bit more time let me give you a tour.)

Prof sent ‘secret shoppers’ who were MLS students to libraries in search of ref interviews that lived up to RUSA standards – overall they found many librarians approachable and interested, that they excelled in searching – secret students were exposed to ‘librarian’s disease’ during the ref interview (too much information)

(Again anything applied at the Information desk can be applied to any customer service desk.  Librarians aren’t the only ones to can give too much information.  I’ve seen Circulation staff do the same thing.  Listen to what the customer is saying, ask those probing questions before you respond. )

users believe that if they find the physical location of the type of information that they can find the actual info on their own

(Amen to that.  I’m very much like that.  If I can find the section in any store/business/library than I can usually find what I want.  If I can’t then I ask.)

avoid respond immediately and without clarification to the question unless you’re sure you’ve interpreted correctly

(Goes back to my previous comment Listen to what the customer is saying, ask those probing questions before you respond.)

don’t confuse the user with library jargon during the ref interview

(As a profession we are ALL guilty of this one no matter which desk we work.  Customers don’t know what Circulation is but use terms like checkout, returns, etc.  I love how some libraries are making sure their signage reflects this.  Reminds me of how I describe what tagging in the Web 2.0 world is about.)

The library homepage might be the first step in the ref interview.

(What a fabulous idea!  I really like this and want to explore it with our Public Relations team and our web programmer.)

The most difficult reference interview is when a parent tries to get the info for a child.

(I’ve witnessed this.  Fault can lie on both sides.  Parents mean well and that can leave staff unsure to whom they should direct their questions.  Parents need to butt out.  Library staff need to converse with the person (no matter what the age) that needs or is going to use the information.  Not an easy situation when some parents are very pushy.)

I’m sure this was a great session to attend in person but I got a lot out of it miles and miles away.  Thanks to Twitter and MLx!

Next Best Thing To Being There

I tweeted this morning that I was working on more photos from #CIL2009 (Computers in Libraries) and #JointSpringConference (Joint Spring Conference).  I got a reply to my tweet from @webmaster_ref asking to let him know when I had uploaded them.  He appreciated seeing all the tweets that were hashtagged #CIL2009 and the photos that were going up on Flickr.

I too have felt like the only one NOT attending a conference that my peers were attending.  Their blogs, tweets, YouTube videos and Flickr photos help to feel not totally out of the loop.  Of course nothing can replace the actual benefits of attending a conference (all the ideas you are exposed to, learns you learn to do and not to do regarding presenting, networking you do and friends you make).  One friend only Twittered during the conference and even setup a separate Twitter account so his other followers weren’t bombarded with #CIL2009 stuff.

What started as just a way to for me to record my experience at a conference, I’m now seeing in a different light.  With economic times hitting libraries hard these days I think it’s almost a duty of those who do attend to inform those of us who are left behind.  So if I can’t go to Internet Librarian 2009 I hope all my tweeps, freeps, fbookers and blog friends will do their best to make me like I’m there.

When Words Escape Me

My boss, Amy De Groff, suggested to me that I should submit a proposal to Computers in Libraries 2009.  She knows how much I’ve enjoyed attending this conference over the years.  She felt that the classes I’m offering this fall at Howard County Library for our customers on Web 2.0 would be something that perhaps CIL might be interested in.

I’ve been staff training at the Howard County Library for some time now.  My classes are always well attended (even when they aren’t mandatory trainings) and I’ve gotten good feedback such as “I speak in plain English not techie”.  So I thought I could move onto our customers and help them learn about the read/write web and maybe able to converse better with the techies in their lives (or at the very least go home and have the courage to play a bit more with the web).

I took my boss’s advice and tried to find someone to co-present with.  Good idea if you are new to presenting at CIL to have a more experienced co-presenter help you over the bumps and take you through the hoops.  I tapped my friend (almost)Baldgeekinmd to see if he’d be interested but alas he was unable to.  However, he had a fantastic idea and one that is very Web 2.x — throw the idea out to the community!

So off to FriendFeed I went.  Within a few minutes I had a Facebook email from Joshua Neff and several comments on my FriendFeed post from Michael Sauers.   Michael and I emailed back and forth a bit and he agreed to present with me (if we get selected mind  you).

Now the fun begins, writing the proposal.  Luckily the form only requires a paragraph for the session description but what is causing me to have writer’s block is the title.  I know from personal experience that catchy, descriptive titles also catch my eye when I’ll flipping through the CIL program guide.  So for once I am at a lost for words.

I’ve used Doodle to create a poll.  So, please feel free to vote there or comment here.