Saturday, January 29, 2011

Having fun with e-books

I do not have a dedicated e-book reader.  I use my computer and my phone to read and listen to e-books.  I am really happy with these options.  There are times a dedicated e-book reader would be nice, but so far, I have not been able to justify the purchase.   Last year I read the 2010 Hugo nominated novels and graphic novels on my computer and was very happy doing this.

This year I have started exploring different e-book reader options on my phone, and I am enjoying them all.  So far I have tried Kindle, Kobo, MegaReader, Bolinda audio and Overdrive.  The first three options have both free and fee title options (and are great ways to catch up on classics).  Overdrive and Bolinda are linked to libraries, in my case my local public library.  Overdrive has been the app which has caused the most problems, but the last update has fixed this.  I really was sympathetic with all the online comments I had been reading about how difficult it was to use, but now it is very easy to use, although because of the reader I am using I can't access adult audio books (but I can access children's and young adult titles).  With library based e-books there is also the question of is all the information in the catalogue or do I need to search by format rather than content (or could I have a choice).  I have noticed that some libraries are not putting their e-books in their catalogue, this may be a cost decision, but from a customer perspective, it would be nice if they were searchable in the one place (just like it would be nice to have all journal titles in databases were available in catalogues as well).  Bolinda works not as an app but as downloadable mp3 files.  This is a great way to catch up with Australian titles in audio format.

With Kindle, Kobo, MegaReader it was a matter of simply install then choose your titles.  I have not noticed significant differences in usability.  If you read a lot when walking MegaRead may be an option to consider a you can set it so that you can see the background through the text, so there may be some safety options to consider with this one.  

I would like it if I could have all my e-books in one space rather than stored by each specific reader.  There may be a tool I have not yet come across which can do this.

As my e-book reading has increased I have been discussing it with a range of people, partly to see who is reading in this way, and continue to be interested by the number of people who say ‘but don’t you miss the paper?’  My reading has always been more about the content than the format.  There are only a couple of categories of reading that it would be really challenging for me to move to e-books and I don’t need to move this reading over.   Not everything I want to read it available as an e-book and I do not want to be restricted by format so I am reading lots on paper as well.  It does mean that, provided I keep my phone charged, I never have to worry about running out of reading ever.  This is really exciting, as I always carry something to read just in case I have to wait.  Now I can carry less.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Library work as performance - without the applause

This blog is about exploring ideas in public.  They are ideas and thoughts in development and maybe a few rants as well.

In a recent episode of Dr Who, the doctor said
“In 900 years of travelling time and space I have never met anyone who isn’t important”. 
The doctor is right.  This idea is critical for how we treat our library customers.  Are they important?  Yes.  This should influence our behaviour, but it doesn’t always.  We may be having a bad day, they may seem annoying, there are many reasons we may be less than amazing in our customer service.  These factors should not matter because each person who uses our library space and resources, whether online or by coming through the doors, is important, and we need to show that we appreciate this.  It is something to aim for at least.

Staff at Cerritos Library refer to any time they are in the public area as “being on stage”. This terminology is helpful, as being in the public area is a public performance, and it really is any time they are in the space, not just when they are rostered to a service point.  You may not receive applause for a brilliantly assisted reference query, for amazing cataloguing, the creation and maintenance of an easy to use and fun website, great metadata, or for an incredible piece of technology assistance, but you are still performing.  You are on stage, but in a very flexible performance which continues to develop through improvisation – yours and others.  The performance is complex as part of it is how your library is accessible online, how and what items are selected and made accessible, and how public spaces and activities are managed.  Are they managed for the audience/the clients/patrons/readers or are they managed to suit the performers (the library staff)?  Some theatre companies manage their performances to suit the actors and the other workers on the production, and it shows.  The performances are not as interesting and the attitude to the audience is not very positive, you are just there to observe their brilliance (even if they are not being brilliant).  Other theatre companies work at making the audience experience the centre of the performance.   Much music performance also has this kind of approach which leads to a much more satisfactory experience of a performance. 

Even very famous actors, dancers and musicians can become complacent which delivers wooden performances (they look and sounds bored), and should be avoided.  These are warnings for us in our work in libraries.  We should be client focused so that our libraries can be client focused, and we should not be wooden in our delivery of the available services.  This includes in library design, collection management and access, online access and hours.

Next time you are any kind of performance (music, theatre, dance…and it may be interactive, you may the one singing or dancing) think about how it relates to your work in a library.  What elements of the performance were effective for you?  Which could have been improved?  Think about the whole experience including the bar staff.   If you had to hand you bag over to be minded, do they make you feel like a criminal or like they were being helpful?

What can you learn about this in terms of customer service for your library?  How can you stay enthusiastic all the time?  How can you help other library staff become and stay enthusiastic?