What do Martha Stewart, hashish, laundry bags, and existential communists have in common?

reposted from an entry I authored on Infopeople’s blog, 10/5/2011

Social media – or more to the point – a snapshot of my life as portrayed on social media. I’ll try to explain that eclectic mix in a bit. I’ll be presenting an Infopeople course, Library Marketing and Promotion via Social Media, from mid October to mid November. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and learning from yours, even though the initial title of this blog entry might have you wondering “do I really want to take a workshop from this person?”

Toby Keith wrote the perfect social media anthem, “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Or at least that is the general perception and might be the reason some people literally “shy” away from social media. But as much as personal social media may be about “me,” social media by organizations puts the focus on “you” and “us.” Engaging the user is key and building a supportive, enthusiastic cadre of followers and fans is a goal. That’s the focus our course takes.

Enough about the course, let’s talk about me :) My mother-in-law, Nana, made the best Easter pizza, an Italian tradition. Unfortunately, we don’t have the recipe and definitely want that tradition to continue. I found a recipe that seemed pretty close from Martha Stewart, so I made it last Easter and tweeted the recipe, crediting Martha, tipping my hat to Nana, and providing a photo of the masterpiece – all within the 140 characters constraints of Twitter. Almost immediately @MarthaStewart retweeted me. It was amazing to witness the interaction and engagement the Martha Stewart Twitter team orchestrated.

That explains Martha, now the hashish. The hashish was a case of mistaken identity; isn’t that what they all say? I’m working with a colleague on introducing Twitter as a classroom tool for sharing insights, articles, and team-based communication. We had it all planned, but there was some confusion by the students. Using my “smart” phone, I responded, “are they using the hashtag we provided.” Oh my, much to my dismay right before I pressed send I noticed my message had been changed to “are they using the hashish we provided.” Some would say that explains the cost of higher education today.

These examples illustrate some key points that we will delve into during the course: engagement builds community and a loyal following, and human intelligence (not the technology) is the key success ingredient in effective communication.

I’ll save the laundry bags and existential communist stories for the course. Hope you join us!

LibraryAnywhere: Smart App needs more brains

LibraryAnywhere is one of my favorite iphone apps. It allows me to search a library catalog – preferably my own, but not yet. However, it does allow me to search a library within my library’s consortium. So, hey, I can easily search the catalog and place holds on books.

The closest library found when I browse for libraries nearby is less than 5 miles away from my home library. Extra bonus, I’m sitting in a coffee shop 3 blocks from that library and I have reciprocol borrowing privileges.

Seems like I should be able to locate the book I want, place a hold and pick it up on the way back. Let me search for that book and see if I can pick it up.

I search for the title, locate the book, and request that book.

Upon making the request, I enter my library card info and voila!, like rubbing the genie’s lamp, my wish has been granted.

Oops – not at all what I wanted. Looking at the message, it tells me that I will be notified when to pick up the book at Riverside. I wanted to just drop by LaGrange and pick it up. So, now, I realize I’ve inconvenienced people at two libraries who will have to process this request triggered by my love of technology and the convenience of accessing a library anywhere requesting materials.

When I requested that item and LibraryAnywhere (or more accurately, my SWAN catalog) had my patron information, at minimun, it should have asked, “Which action do you prefer?”

  • Pick this book up at LaGrange (by the way, the GPS locator shows that you are only 3 blocks away)
  • Request LaGrange staff find the book, send it through the delivery system for pick-up at your home library in Riverside

Since I work with libraries, I realize the implications of my actions and quickly try to put the genie back in the bottle. I go to “My Account” using the awkward web based access on my iphone to connect to the catalog. I remove that hold to avoid all this unnecessary work.

In all fairness, this really should not be considered a fault of LibraryAnywhere, rather a shortfall of my library’s consortium catalog. But the example illustrates how an eager patron can easily take advantage of all the services offered through smart apps, without a clue to the triggers and work involved behind the scenes. Consortiums need to coordinate registration/licensing of LibraryAnywhere throughout their membership. Otherwise the inadvertent increase of ILL requests marches on – and haven’t we all learned there is no such thing as a “free lunch” or “free delivery of a book.” Kudos to Lincoln Trail Libraries System’s LINC LibraryAnywhere which is coordinated through their consortium.

Not sure how we bridge this knowledge and technology gap. I do know as a library patron, I don’t want to waste valuable time and money having library staff and system delivery resources used to pull a book from the shelves, send it 10 miles in one direction, sort it into a bag to ship back 12 miles in the reverse direction, have a staff mark the book as received setting an automated email saying I can pick the book up. Hope that email didn’t get stuck in my spam.

The problem is really larger than this simple example. LibraryAnywhere is a web application too, so I can make the same exact mistake using my laptop or work computer, even without being in a hurry. I really like the fast, clean interface of LibraryAnywhere – think of the resource wastes if that becomes my default method of locating and receiving materials (in a nice stack at the circulation desk all bundled and waiting for me).

There is a difference between “customer service” and “customer being overserved.” Patron initiated holds are not the problem, uneducated patrons initiating holds is – how do we effectively share good practices?

Irony of all this work is that the title was sitting on a shelf at my home library and I could have gone there to check it out on my way home, rather than waste all these resources. Technology is great – but, too often it helps us make bad decisions faster.

My Year with a Kindle

About a year ago I purchased my first Kindle and was immediately impressed. I thought I’d found a new technology partner to take with me everywhere. The task of reading and holding the Kindle is quite enjoyable – easy on the eyes, easy to page forward through a book and lightweight.

But, I quickly discoverd I have some very definite preferences in reading material selection and how I use my books. Ok – now the confessions.

First, the reading material – I read lots of reference books, science and philosophy. Also, I’ve been doing research on social network analysis and the impact of social media in organizational development. Secondly, I have to admit that I am a note taker (in pencil, in the margins) - thinker – go back and review page turner - compare that with a previous passage flipper - turn down a corner kind of reader. I have a much more tactile engagement with books than I ever realized or analyzed before my Kindle adventure.

Although I’ve taken lots of self evaluations on learning style and know that I am a kinesthetic, visual learner, I never really thought about how that translates into “kindling.” I did take copious notes on the Kindle when reading reference books. It took so long that it really disrupted my thinking process. On several occassions I had to do an Internet search to find a table or graphic that just wasn’t up to snuff on the Kindle.

I do think I gave this a good workout in the past year. I read 6 books and subscribed to two newspapers via the Kindle. I purchased three eBooks for roughly $1/each. Although I wanted to try out the blog feeds, I had a real aversion to paying $1.99/monthly for those. Note to Amazon – if you really want this technology to become pervasive, you need to make as much content free as possible, especially content you can access free via other technologies. No one has to pay for free blog feeds on an iPad.

The purchased eBooks were a joke as I mentioned in a facebook post at the time:

Quote from article downloaded to my Kindle, which I paid $1 for
(the article that is): “In social networks, you don’t converse face-to-face,
as there is no contact directly on the face.” Really Amazon? Does anyone
read these articles before you make them available? So far 3 of 3 artcles/white
papers I’ve purchased for… the Kindle have been worse than high school
term papers.

More stellar commentary from this article: “Sometimes people get so addictive
with the sites that they may not like to go out and socialize. There are other[s]
who like flirting online and say lies to people. These are unfair practices and
make it a bit dirty.” I take it back, this article is worth $1 in entertainment alone.

As for the newspapers, they get a mixed review. First, monthly charges can really creep up on you. If I could not make it a daily habit, it had to be cut. My husband was thrilled when the Chicago Sun-Times became available on the Kindle. The plan was he would take the Kindle to work reading the paper on the train and I would get it at night. He suddenly realized that his two favorite parts of the paper were the comics and the sports box scores – neither of which were provided. If you can’t get the whole paper and have to buy the print version for those missing pieces, it doesn’t make much economic sense to get the Kindle edition.

So, based on my experience, I totally understand why “E-Book Readers Bomb on College Campuses.” I agree that one day students may be reading all their schoolbooks on some type of handheld device. But, those students will need to be introduced early so that they can build new habits of highlighting, folding and leafing through their books.

And, it fits right in with my other green technologies (at least their cases). Definitely a plus in my “book.”

I’m not giving up yet – I think the Kindle is perfect for fiction. And as one of my friends once told me “it really is ok to read for fun!”

Mindful of the Message

IT director, project manager, grant writer, teacher, mentor, tech support … mom. I take my job(s) seriously, especially the last one listed – mom. That is why I find the Clear.com commercials so offensive that I can’t ever imagine using their service or supporting their company. I have such a visceral disdain for the message those commercials portray of the busy working mom. I tweeted about this a couple of months ago, but today I saw that not only have these commercials persisted, they’ve added another vignette of the self-absorbed working mom.

Let me set the stage for the two people in the commercial:

Jeff – working dad racing to get to a meeting on a business trip away from home. His “lame” boss lost the presentation so Jeff connects to his work computer, downloads the file and is ready for the meeting. And, in the cab ride he has time to video chat with his young son. Isn’t Jeff a great guy and a great dad!

Wendy – sitting at home with her netbook, she’s booking a girl’s weekend away. She gets a reminder to pick up her daughter after band practice. She is clearly annoyed. She parks in front of the school and is checking out party dresses for the trip. Her excited daughter runs to greet her with tuba in tow. Mom rolls eyes – the online ordering got disrupted. So, what message is this sending to working women? I’m certainly not amused.

Now, fast forward a few months of seeing these offensive commercials and today an update. Wendy is searching for spas to attend with the girls. She states how happy she is not to be going to a water park. Well, Wendy you are a loser and so is Clear.com in my book. Any ad campaign that would run such offensive gender-based personality profiles hasn’t a clue about marketing.

Oh, how I’d love to be at a water park with my almost-21 year old daughter right now!

Reconnect – Reskin

Before & AfterMy college roommate was an artist and graphic designer, long before computers did that sort of thing. She moved to Colorado and we lost touch, because we didn’t have facebook, linkedin, twitter or classmates.com back then. This past summer we reconnected as I was determined to track her down and was successful.

She is the owner of two design firms and after we reconnected, we collaborated. And, I must say it was great to work with her staff, catch up with years of work and family stories, and forge a new partnership.

Watermark International partnered with BellCow, Inc. on a recent website reskin project for Prospect Heights Public Library. We were able to work together to minimize recoding of pages since the pages were based on site templates using include files and css.

Terry’s other firm, InTandem, specializes in target marketing through effective use of social media.

So if you are looking for a website face lift or a message make-over, we can provide the team to make it happen.

Life Lessons of Work

This has been a rough week for Illinois libraries. The North Suburban Library System, as all Illinois library systems, is in crisis – they have not received much of their funding for their fiscal year which ends in one month. We hear these stories in the news each night in our state, highlights of educational and social service organizations who face huge layoffs and reduction of services because our state is not able to fulfill its fiscal obligations.

No matter how many advocates our library community has, or how many politicians we urge to take action, or how many creative strategies we envision for reinventing our organizations and reduring reliance on state funding – we are stuck in the middle of a broken system.

It takes strong leaders to admit this reality and make hard decisioins that affect staff and members they serve. Those who refuse to compromise quality are commended.

The lessons: work hard, form partnerships, share expertise, and move on.

Best wishes to all my colleagues who will be contributing in new ventures soon – be proud of your legacy and start building the next.

Visit to Fountaindale

Rob Zschernitz from NSLS and I had a great visit with Paul Mills. Paul is the Technology Services Manager at Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, IL. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Paul for the past decade when he was at the Prairie Area Library System. It was great to visit a friend and see his excitement in leading technology initiatives at Fountaindale.

And, what networking manager wouldn’t be excited with the clean canvas in front of him. Fountaindale is building a new library and it promises to be quite a showcase. With great leadership and a supportive community, this library is already a showpiece of great Illinois libraries at work – can’t wait to revisit when the new building is open.

Nutritious Relationships

I have an article hanging on my bulletin board that I clipped from Western News, WIU’s alumni news about 5 years ago. It is turning yellow and the photo of author, Gordy Taylor (now retired – Associate Vice President for Alumni Programs) is faded. But the sentiment and thoughts Gordy shared in that article remind me daily of the importance of relationships.

Gordy was asked by a friend “You’ve had this job for 26 years, you still seem to be at the top of your game, and you’re still having fun – how have you done it?” His response – “I’ve managed to surround myself with quality people who care about me and have enriched my life in every conceivable way.”

Inspired by an article “Are Your Relationships Nutritious” by Lisa Mascuro, Gordy managed to put into perspective the importance of healthy relationships in all walks of life, not just personal.

Nutritious people are good listeners and they accept you for who you are, not what you can do for them. They help you achieve your goals, help you to be a better person, and provide encouragement. They are honest and truthful.

The article inspires me because it reinforces the impact we have on others. It makes me think about the positive impact nutritious people and relationships have on an organization. Related to network theory, it manifests as a virus spreading – a good virus. The more people working in an organization who are engaged in positive work and relationships, obviously the healthier the outcome.

Personally, I find no greater professional reward than mentoring others or helping solve a problem with someone. It is the collaborative exchange – the healthy give and take, sensing the spark (whether giving or receiving) that makes the shared end result that much more gratifying. Success for all is very heady stuff.

Healthy and nutritious professional relationships can shift the focus from the drain of office/organizational politics to the excitement of creative energy.

As I reflect on all my professional nutritious relationships, of which I am thankful there are many, I’m going to enjoy my chocolate candy bar. You know, nutrition doesn’t have to rule all aspects of your life :)

©2010 BellCow Inc.