Monday 13 August 2012

Beyond readers advisory

Hi there,
Just last week I finally completed my first lot of training in readers advisory.
Various circumstances have prevented me from ever completing this training throughout my career and I had found myself relying on just four resources whenever things got tricky at the lending desk: the library's reading lists,, the librarian's bible (Who else writes like...) and finally the shelves themselves for a quick search of ideas to offer people.

Well, my mind has been expanded since the training and I've discovered some new sites, some new authors and genres and what questions I could ask to make it easier to get to the bottom of the borrowers wants and needs.

I have also just recently begun using the Xbox Zune service at home (which is subscription based) which allows me to stream the music of just about any artist I care to listen to. I love it, but the only problem I have with it is that when faced with the possibility of listening to absolutely anything I want, I often draw a complete blank and forget the long list I have running in my head of bands I need to hear.

I guess I kind of feel like a lot of borrowers must in the library who come in, see a huge collection of options and just don't know where to start. So I started thinking, wouldn't it be great if there was somewhere I could go to have a 'listeners advisory' service. I investigated further and found that such services are out there!

I've discovered which can provide recommendations on not just music, but movies, tv shows, books, and games. All you need to do is put an assortment of say, bands that you really dig into the engine and voila, a cloud of bands that people are telling you you should listen to and bands that you forgot you liked appears like magic. There's also a list on the page of things that 'seem to be kind of popular' if you just want to follow trends or keep up with the conversation at a party ;)

I tried it with books and included authors as far reaching in my tastes as I could think of and included Carson Mccullers, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Donna Tartt, Douglas Adams, Charles Bukowski and Margaret Atwood.
I got a great mix of 30 authors, some of which I'd read and enjoyed, which means the engine was on the right track and others I was yet to. If you're into it, you can then create a taste profile by liking or disliking or 'meh-ing' the suggestions put forward. I haven't gone that far yet, but think it's another great tool for suggesting new things to people.

Does anyone else have any great tools that they use for readers advisory or for just discovering new things? What do you turn to when people ask you about music in the library, or movies, or games or how about apps?

Can't wait to hear back!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Social media and libraries

It’s been a busy year- I can’t believe it’s already August. Where has the year gone?
The ALIA Sydney group has been busy organising our next event, which will be a special free event to celebrate the National Year of Reading, put on in conjunction with the City of Sydney Library. We’ll hear from a variety of guest speakers on their thoughts on the future of reading and the event will be chaired by Mal Booth, the University Librarian at UTS Library. We hope to see you there! For more details, and how to register, see here. Update (13/8/12): Due to poplular demand, this event is now fully booked.
What else has been happening? Well, I just presented a session earlier this week at an interactive study day in Melbourne, put on by the Ark group on ‘Next Generation Libraries’ and as mentioned in my last blog post, I presented at the ALIA Biennial conference last month, so I’ve been pretty busy!
It was my first time presenting at a conference- while nerve-wracking, it was an incredible experience. It was a fantastic way to round off all of the hard work that went into my research (although I sense that this is just the beginning!) It was wonderful to see so many people in attendance. My research focussed on social media roles in Australian libraries, and I reported on the results of a survey that people working in Australian libraries were invited to complete.
I hypothesised that many Australian libraries have a social media presence, and that many people who work in Australian libraries are doing work-related social media tasks, but that social media tasks aren’t necessarily formally recognised in organisation-wide structures such as strategic plans and communication plans or in employee-level structures such as annual performance reviews, job advertisement descriptions or in duty statements.
The results of my survey demonstrated that some libraries already include social media into their strategic plans and communications plans, while other libraries do not. The same goes for recognising social media roles in performance reviews, duty statements and job advertisement descriptions. In fact, many people who completed the survey said that they don’t have social media tasks formally recognised in these three ways, despite the fact that they are doing social media tasks at work (it seems as though some people have collected it as a duty, and it’s been absorbed into their day-to-day tasks, without this formal recognition.)
So my argument would be for libraries to start thinking about how much they value the use of social media, and whether it should be worthy of inclusion into these structures. I think social media is extremely valuable, and that it should be included into formal library structures (but which particular structures and how social media is used, does depend on each individual library.)
There are many ways in which social media can be introduced. For example, if your library chooses not to use social media to interact with your client groups, social media could be used as a great professional development tool for library and information professionals to build their professional learning networks (PLNs).
Social media is now a mainstream way of communication, and to quote Phil Bradley, who is the current president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in the UK: ‘Social media is enormously important… social media is not a ‘nice bolt-on’ or something that we can put off learning until tomorrow. It’s not an added burden: it’s the future for the library profession-without a shadow of doubt’ (from the January 2012 CILIP Update newsletter).
Of course, there are still many organisations that may be constrained by policies that don’t enable them to use social media in work-related contexts, even if they’d like to implement it. For people who find themselves in this situation, I suggest to try and try again. Do your research and put forward a strong argument for different models of social media use and point out the many advantages of using social media. I sense that with the increasing socialisation of the internet and the way in which social networking tools are increasingly becoming more popular in the workplace, it’s only going to be a matter of time that organisations see the value of social media. (Just look at the increasing popularity of social networking sites for professional contexts, such as LinkedIn or Yammer. Incidentally Yammer was recently acquired by Microsoft, so I wouldn’t be surprised if social networking becomes part of the next rollout of Office.)
 What do you think? Is social media something that you think library and information professionals should be using? How have you argued the case for doing work-related social media tasks at your library?
If you’re interested in reading more about my research, you can download the paper here.
- Crystal
Crystal is the convenor of the ALIA Sydney Group and is a Faculty Liaison Librarian at the University of Sydney Library. She tweets @crystalibrary.
All opinions expressed are her own.