Designing my ideal ILS

Posted on February 29, 2008. Filed under: access, catalog, customers focus, ideas, ILS, library |

Today in our management meeting, our Executive Director, Gina Millsap, made the comment to the effect that much of the talk with open source systems is just using that tool to replicate existing ILS practices. This thought ties into my recent post about the inter-relation between library catalogs and other sources such as bookstores.  All of this makes me think that we should really talk about what we want our ILS to do for us.  What would it look like? I’m going to pretend that I don’t know anything about BI or catalogs or any of that library stuff.  I actually had pretty good BI as a kid, thank you to my school librarians, but I’m pretending a dream system here! When I want to find something – I put whatever comes to my mind into the computer and it tells me where I can find it.  A map of the library pops up on the screen and it leads me to the correct shelf and shows me what the book looks like and exactly where it is.  If the “book” comes in an audiobook format or as a movie it needs to show me those options as well, even if they are not located next to each other.  I don’t want a big list of things.  I somehow want it to understand what I’m looking for and make the necessary decisions to provide that for me.  I’m not a techie person, so have no idea how this would actually happen.  A big Google-like list of things is not helpful in this case.  I want the system to do the work for me. It would provide me the options of finding something else or if what it found was not correct, it would provide some options for me to pursue.  It would also give me connections to other similar items; the “if you like this, you might like..” concept. What do you want to see in a system like this?

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Customer Service definition

Posted on November 8, 2007. Filed under: customers focus, library, service |

So much of our focus is on customer service.  Tom recently commented about the term servant leadership and how that spoke to him.   I just finished the book, “Service Included: Four-star secrets of an Evesdropping waiter” by Phoebe Damrosch.  I like to read about the food industry and my son did a stint as a waiter in a fancy New York bistro, so this book was particularly interesting to me.  I found that Phoebe did a really good job of describing service from her perspective.  On page 74 she starts the chapter “Four-star mistress” with this paragraph: The secret to service is not servitude, but anticipating desire.  This had nothing to do with obeying the commands of the sort of demanding customer who snaps his fingers from across the room.  Garçon! Miss! This was about the art of careful observation and the intimacy of knowing what someone wants before he does. I did omit the middle of the paragraph because it dealt very specific restaurant details.   While we, as librarians, have the information of the world as our menu and a restaurant is much more proscribed, I still think there is an underlying similarity.   We will never be able to completely know what someone wants before they ask us, but the idea that we are hyper-sensitive to their expressions, nuances in their questions, etc., is something that I enjoy and strive for.  I have seen a number of librarians who are excellent at this and really enjoy watching them work.  They seem to effortlessly flow with the customer and anticipate directions that the questions might go and offer up information and suggestions before they are asked.  The delight on the customers’ face is a joy to behold as they leave with more than they even thought they wanted.  It can often be a simple as getting a customer started on a computer and then slipping a piece of scrap paper and a pencil next to them so they can take notes or noticing that they have several items just going due and offering to renew them before they ask. For me, this kind of thing can make a dreary day a success.

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Barriers to new ideas

Posted on August 18, 2007. Filed under: administration, barriers, ideas, library |

September 18th, Gina Millsap, Executive Director of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and I will be presenting a SirsiDynix Webinar titled, “Dump the Org Chart – Get ‘er Done!”  My part of this presentation is to look at barriers to implementing new ideas and to offer some suggestions about how to work around those barriers.  I would really like to hear from others about their experiences in this area.  What barriers have you faced as you put forth new ideas, or what problems do you face when new ideas are presented to you?  Your personal stories will help make this a realistic presentation.  I will not share names or institutions, but may use some of the problems as I prepare my presentation.  If you don’t want to blog them, please send them to me at  Thank you for your help.

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A new perspective for me

Posted on August 2, 2007. Filed under: administration, library, Library 2.0 |

I’ve been commenting on a post on Library Geek Woes.  The original topic is interesting, but what I’ve found most revealing is something that emerged during the string.  One of the needs for Laura was the opportunity to have the social experience and to validate or confirm experiences or opinions with peers. 


I found this aspect very interesting, because I would not have considered the social experience as a part of feedback or communicating with the public.  I would have just considered this on an individual basis. 


This is an interesting change in thought, which I doubt if the average administrator will intuitively understand as a need.  It has not been part of our typically worldview.  I would appreciate hearing from others about this. 

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Recent reading

Posted on July 31, 2007. Filed under: access, administration, collections, library, Library 2.0, Web 2.0 |

I just finished reading “The Starfish and the Spider: The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations” by Ori Brafmans and Rod Beckstrom.  I highly recommend this book.  It’s a fairly quick read and the thesis is supported by multiple examples.   

Assuming their thesis is correct, it has a number of implications for libraries, but the one that struck me first was in relation to our collections and their availability. 

The first point is that record companies will eventually be overwhelmed by the “Napster/Kazaa” type of organizations.  Based upon the perspective of my 20 something children this may well be correct.   

How does that impact libraries?  Our media collection, including music CD’s, is one of our highest percentages of circulation.   Assuming the standard CD format goes away, which will probably happen as a result of technology anyway, how do we continue to provide access to music in a cost effective manner?  I can see the possibility of download stations, but it dramatically impacts our collection development procedures since we will probably be selecting individual tracks rather than complete, pre-packaged albums.  Or will we pay a fee to an aggregator, something similar to itunes, which provides our customers with access to a broad range of selections? I don’t see the demand from our customers dissipating anytime soon.  We still have too many people that cannot afford the bandwidth and item costs to consider accessing this music at home in this new manner. 

To take this a step further, what if publishing becomes more of a de-centralized activity like “Napster” and our traditional sources for books change dramatically?  Technology is making this an increasing possibility.  I’m not viewing this as the end of books, but more the end of a supply chain. 

To put this on a personal level:  I’m a professional musician in my other life.  I’ve long thought that going to a music store, ordering music and waiting for it to arrive – sometimes several days later, is frustrating and unnecessary.   Why not have all music in a massive database and then print on demand?  At first, I thought it could be printed at the music store which would have the appropriate sized paper and printers to do the job, but home printers have gotten so much better in the last few years, it probably could be done at home.  I’d be willing to pay the same price, or may a little less since I’m providing the paper and ink, as I was charged before.   

Back to books, I know there are a few print-on-demand stations, but from what I’ve heard they are not ready for mass usage yet.  Assuming this becomes the norm and we are downloading content, packaging can be determined by the end user: print, computer file, etc., do we remain in the supply chain to the customer?  As above, we probably will have a number of customers who cannot afford to do this at home.  How do we stay relevant in this process?  Recently,Jill Norgren, author of “Belva Lockwood stated on a BookTV broadcast that she was thinking about what format she would use on her next book, indicating that the Internet provided other options than just the traditional book.   

I have additional thoughts on this, but would really like to hear what you think.

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Welcome to my blog

Posted on July 30, 2007. Filed under: administration, library, Library 2.0, Web 2.0 |

I am intrigued and often excited about the possibilities of new technologies and trends, frequently referred to as Web 2.0 and/or Library 2.0.  Many people do a great job of commenting on these issues and I do not want or need to duplicate their efforts.  However, I have not found a regular discussion of those trends from a library administrator’s point of view.   Hopefully, this blog can provide a place for people to look at these technologies and trends and comment on the possible hopes and fears related to implementing them in our libraries.   I also hope this can be a place where everyone can exchange perspectives and ideas. I have the great good fortune to work with David King  He pushes me by just challenging my mind and my biases and he has encouraged me to start this blog.  This can be very exciting and sometimes frustrating because I don’t have enough time to play with the new stuff.  I usually find the new stuff fun, but don’t always see a direct application at our library.  We all fight the budget battle and the space and time challenges.  I hope we can discuss these issues and maybe find new perspectives that will help everyone. My PlanI plan to post regularly based upon my readings and experience as the Deputy Director of Operations at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.  This is my personal blog and does not represent the official position of my employer.  If you have questions, ideas, or thoughts that you think would fit into this concept, I would enjoy putting them out for response.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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