Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thing Seven -- Is Anybody Out There?

[Word of warning -- don't know why, but as my post continues with each section, the words get bigger and bigger and bigger!]

My library has been using email for a very long time. Besides our own personal email accounts, various departments have departmental accounts -- reference questions go to a reference account, technical services questions go to a technical services account and so on. I can't comment on whether or not it has improved productivity, as email has been around as long as I have been here -- but does it get in the way of productivity? It certainly does at times. I always semi-dread coming in after a weekend, knowing that the first hour or so of my time will be spent answering emails, deleting emails or deferring emails. I have frequently read my work email at home, just so that I can delete all the spam and irrelevant emails before going to work.
On the other hand, using email has been a more effective way of contacting people, especially when playing telephone tag. It also gives you a chance to spend some time researching an answer, that often talking on the phone does not. The email we use for reference is monitored on a rotating basis by the reference librarians. The option is always there that the email can be forwarded to another, if the question asked is out of the current monitor's subject scope. Email also allows the librarians to put a personality behind the answer (just by signing a name) that phone contact doesn't always do. I have helped patrons that will come back directly to me up to a year later because they remembered me via email, or were able to search their email for contact information.

We have been using IM at the reference desk for a while now -- and we are not certain whether it is because we don't promote it enough, but it is seldom used by patrons. I believe it is because we have been hesitant enough about using it, that we did not give it a big enough push, or make it prominent enough on our web-page so that it would be noticed. It is actually used more by the staff instead of phoning to communicate more quickly for short answers. We are thinking of re-designing some of the web-pages to emphasize the IM capability more -- like adding Meebo widgets to resource pages. I liked the notion of calling it "Instant Librarian." Minor frustration level here -- I had created IM accounts when we first set up the service, and then never used them -- took awhile to figure what what I had and hadn't done before as services like Meebo wanted to know which of my IM accounts to add. One of my accounts, which will work on campus, but apparently not on Meebo is Jabber, as the University has set up its own Jabber account -- and the URL does not match the URL that Meebo has as a default (and I couldn't find a way to change it).

We don't have use staff cell phones at our library, so the whole text-messaging thing has not been explored at all. I had mentioned in an earlier post that the only time my cell phone is turned on is during emergencies, so I have never text-messaged. What else can I say?

Web Conferencing
I didn't have the time to attend any of the suggested webinars, however, I have participated in webinars before. I have attended staff meeting board meetings, vendor demonstrations and various types of training (usually on new library resources). The webinars have ranged from just the basic conference call/powerpoint demo to the type of webinar where the presenter takes over your pc remotely. For the most part, the webinars are very useful. Their biggest draw-back is usually the audio quality -- whether it is over the speaker phone or from the audio off the pc, I have yet to attend one where the sound was either loud enough, did not cut out every now and then or when it is part of a group and everyone is talking all at once.

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