David Lee King

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Equipment for my Library’s Makerspace

Tue, 2014-09-30 09:30

My library is putting the final touches on our fledgling makerspace/digital media lab. It opens December 8, assuming all the details fall into place! I thought it might be interesting to do a few posts on our plans – to share equipment ideas, policies and guidelines, and planning – in hopes that someone else will find it useful.

We are calling it the MakeIT Lab. Our goal is to allow customers to use computers and digital technology to make stuff, including:

  • edit and manipulate photos
  • create digital art
  • create and edit videos
  • record music, podcasts, and oral histories
  • transfer videos from old formats to newer ones
  • scan photos and documents
  • and make cool stuff with our 3D printer.

We’ll let customers do this inside the building in the lab, and outside the building by checking out a Media Bag. We’re placing the 3D printer in a very public area with signage about the MakeIT Lab in hopes that it promotes the rest of the makerspace just by … being cool (fingers crossed on that).

This is very much a pilot project for us. We have a starting list of equipment, procedures, trained staff (still working on that one), and a small room. If it goes well, we might need to expand services – more on that next year!

Here’s our starting list of equipment:

For the room:

  • Two Apple iMac computers
  • Alesis Elevate 3 studio monitors for the computers
  • flatbed scanner
  • Wacom digital drawing tablet
  • MakerBot 3D printer and filament
  • Canon Vixia camcorder
  • Elgato A/D converter
  • tripods and video lighting
  • M-Audio Oxygen 25 USB Keyboard controller
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio interface
  • Microphones (Audio Technica AT 2020 and Shure SM57 mics)
  • Microphone stands and cables

For the Media Bags. These are bags of stuff that you can check out. We do lots of “bag” things, including Travel Bags, Health Bags, and Book Group in a Bag. Each of the Media Bags will have some basic equipment and a Dummies Guide book in the bag. Bags include:

  • Video bag: Canon Vixia camcorder
  • Photography bag: Canon PowerShot digital camera
  • Field Recording bag (for podcasting, oral histories, etc): Zoom H1 digital recorder
  • Songwriters Bag: Tascam DR-40 Portable digital recorder, Audio Technica AT 2020 microphones (2 of them), mic stand and cables.

Software:

  • iLife suite (GarageBand, iMovie)
  • Google Sketchup
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • And probably some other software that I’m forgetting at the moment.

Should be a fun project!

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Make your Website UX Rock – my presentation from the SEFLIN Webinar

Thu, 2014-09-25 10:12

I recently gave a webinar session on website UX for libraries as part of the cool SEFLIN Virtual Conference that went on last week. Here are my slides from my session – enjoy!

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Video for Banned Books Week

Mon, 2014-09-22 10:00

It’s Banned Books Week this week. Check out this cool video my library’s Teen Advisory Board made (with some help from Rebecca, one of our teen librarians)! I thought the teens did a great job with the video. How often do you hear kids talking about censorship and intellectual freedom?

Please watch – thanks!

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Video Gear – Don’t Overdo it!

Thu, 2014-09-18 09:30

I’m working on a music video for my library right now, so lighting, audio, and video equipment is pretty fresh in my head at the moment (more on that video later).

If you make video of any type for your library (and you should be!), here’s something to remember: don’t overdo it.

Remember your end-goal. The goal really isn’t a professionally-polished video (although that’s nice). The goal isn’t to have crystal-clear, audiophile-quality sound (although that’s nice). The goal isn’t to have pristine lighting (although, again … that’s nice).

Your real goal is to be seen and heard – to communicate. Make the video, the lighting, and the audio good enough so that it doesn’t distract viewers from your real goal.

With that goal in mind:

  • Do you need a great set of wireless mics, or do you just need to scoot the camera closer to the person?
  • Do you need a great three-point video lighting system, or do you just need a sunny window?
  • Do you need a fancy DSLR camera, or do you just need to … learn the equipment you have first?

Definitely focus on making the best video you can. But also don’t lose track of the real goal.

Cool DSLR setup by Andy Ramdin

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Register for this UX Virtual Conference

Tue, 2014-09-16 09:30

Make sure to register!

I’m participating in a really cool virtual conference this Friday focused on UX for libraries. Here’s the info:

What: User Experience: Seeing Your Library through the User’s Eyes

When: Friday, September 19, 2014

Description: User Experience, or UX, is an increasingly important way of evaluating and informing library practices. UX focuses on knowing about our patrons and understanding their perspectives, then using that to inform everything that libraries do, from our websites to the services we provide to the physical layout of our buildings. Join five nationally recognized experts on user experience in libraries for this one-day, live online conference!

Speakers include: Michael Stephens, Aaron Schmidt, Kathryn Whitenton, Elliot Felix, and David Lee King

Make sure to register!

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Register for my Facebook Webinar with ALA Techsource

Thu, 2014-09-11 09:30

If you liked my last post about Facebook Reach, or just want to learn more about how to use Facebook in a library setting, you might like my upcoming webinar!

Here are the details:

Title: Facebook in the Library: Enhancing Services & Engaging Users

When: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 2:30pm Eastern/1:30pm Central/12:30pm Mountain/11:30am Pacific (90 minutes long)

What: Around 154 million Americans—51 percent of the population—are now using Facebook, according to a recent study by Edison Research. How effectively are you using this direct, free means of communication to reach out to your library’s patrons and users? Digital branch and social networking innovator David Lee King will share what he’s learned from years of experience and experiments with the Topeka and Shawnee County’s Facebook page. He will answer your questions and share time-saving tips on getting the most out of using Facebook.

Topics include:

  • Fundamentals for setting up and managing your Facebook page
  • Planning content for your library Facebook page
  • How to engage the library’s Facebook fans
  • How to market your library through a Facebook page

Hope to see you there!

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The Drop in Facebook Reach – Is it a Big Deal?

Tue, 2014-09-09 11:20

What’s the deal with Facebook’s recent drop in Reach? I’ve been reading about it and I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Read on to find out why!

What exactly IS Facebook Reach, and what happened to it? Facebook Reach is a number that reflects how many people saw your Facebook post. Facebook changed something in their algorithm, and Facebook Reach (more specifically, Organic Reach – reach not generated through Facebook Ads) seems to have dropped. Dramatically. Some Facebook Page owners have seen a 40% or more drop in Organic Reach.

Bummer!

Why is Facebook messing with Reach? Facebook is trying to keep their customers interested. To do that, they are constantly tweaking what can be seen on the Facebook News Feed. When you log into your Facebook account, you are dropped into your News Feed, and you see the Top Stories view (you can toggle to the Most Recent view, which provides all stories).

The Top Stories view automatically sorts through your News Feed, finds the stories that you would most likely be interested in, and presents those to you rather than showing you everything.

Here’s what Facebook says they’ve done (from Brian Boland, who leads the Ads Product Marketing team at Facebook):

Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.

Over the past year, we’ve made some key changes to improve how News Feed chooses content:

  • We’ve gotten better at showing high-quality content
  • And we’ve cleaned up News Feed spam

As a result of these changes, News Feed is becoming more engaging, even as the amount of content being shared on Facebook continues to grow.

Because of these changes, some Facebook Pages have experienced a drop in Engagement and Reach, because Facebook is effectively hiding posts from those Facebook Pages.

What does this mean for a library’s Facebook Page?

Should you stop using Facebook? Um, no. According to Pew Internet, 57% of American Adults are on Facebook. And that percentage is still growing. That’s still a majority of your community – your customers – on a social platform that you can use. For Free.

Should you just pay for ads? Advertising is a good thing if you do it well. Advertising on Facebook is cheap, and can have a quick response (i.e., people actually click over to your site from a Facebook ad – go figure). So yes – experiment with Facebook ads to see if it works for you. Just remember that ads aren’t the only way to use Facebook. It’s just one strategy.

Should I worry about the drop in Facebook Reach? No. Instead, focus on creating better content and making it into your Facebook Fan’s “top 300” posts on their News Feed. Because that’s the real problem. The reason some posts don’t make it into the News Feed is simple – Facebook users don’t find that content engaging, and ignore it. Then, Facebook helps them continue to ignore it.

If you don’t improve your content to make it into the top 300 posts, your Fans will ignore you (with Facebook’s help), and your content won’t appear in their News Feed.

Here’s a simple Facebook formula to remember: useful content = more engagement = better Reach.

Read more about the drop in Facebook Reach:

Image by Johanna

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Keeping up with my blog – how do I do it?

Thu, 2014-08-28 09:30

Awhile back, Ned Potter, who writes the fabulous blog at ned-potter.com (you ARE reading his blog, right?) posted What does an online identity REALLY need? (Or, Growing Up Online). I left a comment, because I could relate.

Then Ned commented back and asked me a couple of questions. Here’s my answer!

But first, here’s Ned’s comment (swiped from his post):

David what a great comment!

The thing that strikes me with you is the consistency – I don’t know how many subscribers your blog has now but last time I heard a figure it was huge, thousands, and dwarfed mine… And the main reason (if you don’t mind my analyzing your blog!) to my mind is that you consistently post really helpful things that we can all act on (plus other reasons too, to do with your reputation and books etc). There were a lot of bloggers when I hit my blogging stride who would write 1 or 2 posts per week every week, myself included, but we’ve almost all gradually fallen away to fewer than that…

But you manage to keep it up, and it doesn’t feel like you’re casting around for things to blog about – all the posts have a reason for being. So how do you keep that up? I’m interested, also, in whether it ever feels like a burden – essentially keeping up with the standard you’ve set yourself?

First of all – aww, shucks. Thanks! I’m glad people like reading my blog!

And now, on to the questions:

Question #1: How many blog subscribers? (Ned didn’t really ask this, but did mention it in passing, so I thought I’d answer):

That’s a hard one to figure out these days, since Feedburner stats have gone a bit wonky. For Feedburner, I have anywhere between 1800-5800 RSS subscribers, depending on the day (so I’d guess the actual number is a bit higher than the larger number). And a pretty consistent 2000 or so email subscribers. Last month, Google Analytics says I had 5600 sessions/4600 Users at the site.

Plus, there are a lot of people who don’t subscribe, but might watch my blog via Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin. Either way, that’s a lot of people! You guys – thanks for reading! Tell everyone you know to read

Question #2: So how do you keep that up?

A few years ago, I slowly transitioned how I thought about my blog. Before then, it was simply a place I posted to whenever I felt like it. But I eventually realized that instead of a personal blog, I was running:

  1. a publication with more subscribers than some rural newspapers and academic journals (ok, the really boring ones, but you get my point).
  2. my blog was the “hub” for my fledgling part-time consulting/speaking/writing business.

And if it’s a business … well then, I need to treat it like one. So I do three things to help me focus on my “business:”

  1. I schedule blog posts. My goal is to post every Tuesday and Thursday. Do I always hit that? Nope. But it’s a goal.
  2. I created a tagline – “social web, emerging trends, and libraries.” It’s on my blog, and helps me stay focused. If you read something I wrote or if you hear me speak, the content will most likely fall somewhere within that tagline.
  3. I try to write and speak about things in a very practical way. My goal after you read one of my blog posts or hear me speak is for you to be able to say “hey – I can use that next week at work!” When I achieve that, I think it’s pretty darn awesome.

I also get a lot of ideas from work. Part of my job is scanning the library/techie horizon, and bringing new cool things to the library. Guess what? That often serves double-duty on my blog (and vice versa). More often than not, when I write about something, it’s because I was thinking about it at work.

For example, my recent social media measurement series of blog posts originated from me trying to eek some meaning out of my library’s social media stats. At some point, I thought “hey! I should share this stuff!” And voila! A series of blog posts.

Question #3: I’m interested, also, in whether it ever feels like a burden – essentially keeping up with the standard you’ve set yourself?

Yep. Sometimes it does! Burnout happens. I get busy at my “real job,” I get busy at home (three teenagers – how the heck did that happen?). Instead of writing about library stuff, I want to write music (which I’m working on!). Or I just procrastinate – I’m a pro at that.

But honestly? I really like to write. I like sharing, and it helps me think. My goal of two posts a week? That was actually a way to limit myself, so I wasn’t posting 4-5 times a week. My reasoning was that too much davidleeking can be a bad thing

So there you go – three questions, three answers. How do you keep up something you enjoy doing when it gains some attention? Anyone else have some good tips to share?

Pic of Ned – from Ned’s Twitter account!

 

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Analytics for Social media – Summary

Tue, 2014-08-26 09:30

In this series of articles, I’ve been talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks.

Here’s what I covered:

What’s missing? What do you track that we don’t? I’d love to know – please share in the comments!

Pic by Scott Akerman

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Analytics for Social Media – ROI

Thu, 2014-08-21 09:30

In this series of articles, I’ve been talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks. We’ve already discussed Activity Metrics, Audience Metrics, Engagement Metrics, and Referral Metrics. Today we’ll cover ROI.

This is the best one (and the last, for now). People often ask for the ROI of social media. And true ROI for social media is often hard to show. Sometimes social media managers create a weird, complex “weekly engagement” metric that … well … doesn’t really do much. Why? Their metric tends to only show activity within that single social media tool.

Showing activity within a social media channel is ok. But is that getting more books checked out? Getting people to your programs? Getting people to your website? Nope.

I’ve been trying to get some useful ROI type stats out of all this social media I’ve been tracking. Here’s what I’ve discovered. If you have a better thing to count, please share!

I count two ROI trends:

1. Number of visits to the website per post created. For this number, I divide the total referrals for the month into the number of posts we create, to get the final number. For example, in May we had 865 total referrals and 204 total social media posts. So divide that (and round up), and you get 4. Which means for every social media post we created in May, we achieved four visits to the website.

Again, we’re talking trends here – it’s not an exact science. But still, this stat does show that when staff create social media posts, they drive traffic to our website. Bingo – ROI.

2. Number of interactions per post created. This is similar, but a bit more lightweight. Divide the monthly engagement metric total by the number of posts created for the month. For May, we ended up with 94 interactions per post created.

Lightweight, but tells a nice story. For every post we did in May, we got people to do something – click like, share, comment, favorite, retweet, or watch – 94 times.

Why’s this good? It means they’re interested enough in our content, and therefore the library, to remember it, to share it, to add their thoughts to it. To respond in some way to it. Not a bad thing at all – interest in the library is a good thing!

So – that’s what we’re doing at the moment. What are you tracking? Is it similar? Please share!

Pic from Simon Cunningham

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Analytics for Social Media – Referral Metrics

Tue, 2014-08-19 09:30

In this series of articles, I’ve been talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks. We’ve already discussed Activity Metrics, Audience Metrics and Engagement Metrics. Today we’ll cover Referral Metrics.

Time for referral metrics. What’s that? A referral is simply getting someone from one thing to another (i.e., you’ve “referred them”). For example, from Facebook to your website. Thankfully, Google Analytics now counts referrals.

To get there, open up Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition, then click Social, then Network Referrals.

There, you’ll find a handy-dandy report of website visitors that started off in a social media page, and ended up on your website. I count the Sessions number for each of the four social media channels that I’m tracking, and then add those together. For May, we had 865 referrals to our website from social media.

This is a pretty useful number, because it shows interest. Someone was interested enough in something you mentioned on one of your social media channels to actually click through to your website. Nice!

Pic by Stuart Pilbrow

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Analytics for Social Media – Engagement Metrics

Thu, 2014-08-14 09:30

In this series of articles, I’ve been talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks. We’ve already discussed Activity Metrics and Audience Metrics. Today we’ll cover Engagement Metrics.

Now for the geekier metrics… Engagement metrics! What’s engagement? I’m counting it as stuff people actually DO on your social media channel. That includes activities like: Liking, Sharing, clicking a link, repinning, watching the video, leaving a comment, replying, ReTweeting, etc.

Here’s what we track:

Facebook: Facebook, with their HUGE amounts of analytics, makes it difficult to count an accurate “here’s what people did” number. Their stats are more geared towards weekly trend reports, and not so much for reporting monthly numbers. But never fear – it can be done!

Here’s what I do (if there’s a better way to do it, please let me know!) – download the Excel version of Facebook Insights for the month. (As an aside, do this anyway and check out all the data Facebook provides. There is a TON of it). I use the stat for Daily Page Engaged Users, and just add up the daily numbers for the month. Daily Page Engaged Users reports “The number of people who engaged with your Page. Engagement includes any click or story created. (Unique Users)”. For May, we had 5478 people who engaged in some way with our Facebook Page.

Twitter: For Twitter, I get my number by downloading the monthly excel version of stats for Twitter, and then counting a bunch of activity and engagement columns, including:

  • retweets
  • replies
  • favorites
  • user profile clicks
  • URL clicks
  • hashtag clicks
  • detail expands
  • permalink clicks
  • embedded media clicks
  • app opens
  • app install attempts
  • follows
  • email tweet

831 for May total.

Youtube: No spreadsheet needed here (though you could download one if you wanted to!). Youtube’s analytics provides a handy month filter, and an engagement section on the main page of analytics. So I add up the Likes, Comments, Shares, and Favorites for the month. I also include the number of views. Pretty important for a video service!

So for May, we had 67 total engagement (favorites, comments, likes, and shares) and 12,565 views.

Pinterest: Excel spreadsheet time again. We count Repins and Clicks. So for May, we had 212 repins and clicks in Pinterest.

Then, like all the other stats, I schmush those number together to come up with Total Engagement for the month. For May, our total engagement was 19,153. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of stuff!

Button pic by Quinn Dombrowski

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Analytics for Social Media – Audience Metrics

Tue, 2014-08-12 09:30

In this series of articles, I’ve been talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks. We’ve already discussed Activity Metrics. Today we’ll cover Audience Metrics.

This is also an easy one! We monitor some really basic trends in audience growth by counting how many followers we have each month.

Again, this is an easy one to count. Simply go to each channel’s main page at the first of the month, and write down how many followers you have.

Then I do some simple math to figure out how many new followers we gained across all our social media channels.

So for example – in May, we had:

  • Facebook – 12,429 followers
  • Twitter – 4338 followers
  • Youtube – 384 subscribers
  • Pinterest – 1704 followers – on our main account page. Pinterest is weird, since they have followers for the whole Pinterest account, and followers for each individual board. We are only counting followers to the main page.

Then I look at last month’s numbers, do some more addition, and … we gained 130 social media followers in May.

Why track this?

  1. It shows growth over time. Not a bad thing. Sorta like a door count or basic use stats.
  2. It shows trends. If there’s a lot of growth, or a big drop-off, that’s a signal to find out more.

Are there other types of Audience Metrics that you track? Please share!

Image by Marc Cornelis

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Analytics for Social Media – Activity Metrics

Thu, 2014-08-07 09:30

In this series of articles, I’m talking about what types of social media analytics my library tracks. Today we’ll cover Activity Metrics.

Activity – this one’s easy. How many posts, pins, videos, etc have we made this month? I count each of them so I have a total for each month (most social media tools have a downloadable Excel spreadsheet report that makes counting easy).

For example, in May, here’s what my library did:

  • Facebook – 91 posts
  • Twitter – 93 tweets
  • Youtube – 5 videos
  • Pinterest – 15 pins.

Then I lump all of those together, so that I have a total Activity number for each month. In May, my library created a total of 204 social media posts.

Why do we count this? Two reasons:

  1. It’s important to see what staff are doing and where we’re spending time. If there’s a jump or a lag on an individual social media channel, we can easily see it through the monthly numbers. Then, we can figure out what happened (i.e., someone went on vacation, someone got excited about something, more customers asked questions so we posted more, etc.).
  2. For some special ROI stats that I will share later!

What do you count? I’d love to find out!

Image by Stephen Coles

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Analytics for Social Media

Tue, 2014-08-05 09:30

Ah, social media channels for organizations. Why are you spending time there again? Hopefully, you’re using social media to connect with your customers, to answer questions, and to just “be there” for your service area.

Do you know if your social media channel is successful? Are you meeting your library’s goals there?

These days, most social media channels have analytics or insights that will help you figure out if you’re meeting those goals.

But what should you track? My library tracks five areas: Activity Metrics, Engagement Metrics, Referral Metrics, Activity Metrics, and ROI.

In my next five posts, we’ll look at each of those.

Image by Search Engine People Blog

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Two sides to that “who’s the boss” coin

Thu, 2014-07-31 09:30

In my last post, I talked about how your technology department shouldn’t really be the one making system-wide decisions for the library.

There’s a couple other sides to that coin, I think. They include:

Sometimes, IT should make those decisions. For example:

  • They’re the technology experts, and probably know what will work the best for the library. Listen to them!
  • They know what they can and cannot support. Not to say they can’t learn new things – that’s what techie types do every day – but some things might not be within reach.
  • They can be highly creative people with great ideas. Make sure they’re part of the process.
  • Sometimes the answer has to be no. For example, in the kids department at my library, we can’t just put computers anywhere. The floor is a concrete slab, and requires lots of core drilling, routing concrete, and cabling runs that don’t exist. So the answer from us is: sure, if you want to spend $10-20,000 more on the project. Or – how about let’s rework that idea?

Sometimes, the rest of the library needs to make the decision (but isn’t). You might have this happening:

  • Admin/management is not tech-savvy, so IT has stepped in and is making decisions.
  • Admin/management is being passive, not great at leadership, not great at strategic planning etc … so IT stepped in.
  • There’s simply no strategic plan – so guess what? IT (and reference, and collections, and youth services, etc) will step in and create their own strategies. I’m guessing there’s a better way to do this!

If you’re one of those library staffers saying “IT won’t let me do this” – step back from that immediate problem, and ask yourself “why do they get to decide this?”

Then work on fixing that issue first.

Pic by Garrett Coakley

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IT is Not the Boss of Me

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:30

More than once (ok, actually quite often), I’ve heard librarians say “IT won’t let me do that,” or “IT said no, so I figured out how to go around them,” or simply “IT won’t support that product.”

And I always respond by asking why they’re allowing IT to control decisions?

IT guys and gals, please remember – we are in the library to:

  • support whatever the library wants to do, to the best of our ability
  • find better ways of doing things when possible
  • make sure the technology is easy to use, helps meet the library’s needs, and stays as out-of-the-way and transparent as possible, so staff don’t have to think about the tech (unless they want to)
  • And make sure nothing crashes and burns, backups are in place, the website works, etc.

We are NOT there to dictate what library staff can and cannot do.

Sure, there will be staff computer use policies in place. Sure, there are budgets to consider.

But we don’t have to say “no.” Instead, work on saying “yes.” Here are some examples:

  • Yes.
  • Yes, but give me a month. We need to work on other priorities first.
  • Yes. It needs to come from your supervisor, so talk to them first and have them email me.
  • Great idea! We didn’t budget for that this year. Let’s get a discussion started and see if we want to do it next year.

These are all positive, and a version of “yes.” The last two sound a bit like “no” – but (and I know this sounds sorta passive, but it’s really not) it puts the decision-making back where it belongs, with the employee’s supervisor, or with a larger group looking at options. It’s not just IT saying “no.”

Does your IT department say no? What do you do about that? Please share!

image by Berkeley Lab

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If it’s on Your website – is it your opinion?

Thu, 2014-07-24 09:30

In my last post, I purposefully title it “Forbes Wants to Close Libraries.” Why?

Well – I was critiquing an article on Forbes website.

The article is written by a “contributor.” Apparently, you can fill out a form (and probably do a lot more stuff) to be able to post as a contributor at Forbes.

And guess what? Forbes wants you to write for them, but doesn’t want to necessarily be associated with the content that contributors write.

Under the contributor’s names and photos is a tiny statement that says: “Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.”

Well yeah. It’s an opinion piece, after all.

Here’s my problem with that idea:

  1. It’s on Forbes website. Look at the image in this post – Even though Forbes wants to make sure you know that it’s not THEIR opinion that’s being expressed … it sure does look like it’s coming from Forbes to me!
  2. When the opinion piece gets cited … it will be cited as coming from Forbes.

Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck …

I know – magazines and newspapers have always had opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and love using that “opinions expressed are not held by the organization” statement.

I’m just not sure it works all that well in an online setting. Either own the content on your site (like Techcrunch, Mashable, etc do) or don’t post it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

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Forbes Wants to Close Libraries

Mon, 2014-07-21 10:57

I just read Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription, a Forbes article written by Tim Worstall. It’s a poorly-researched opinion piece about … well … what the title says. Getting rid of libraries and giving everyone a Kindle Unlimited subscription instead.

Yes, Forbes posted this. Thanks, Forbes!

Who is Tim Worstall? He’s a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, a UK-based think tank. Working at a think tank, you’d “think” that Tim would get his facts straight, or at least do a bit of research first… apparently  not the case, which makes me wonder about the quality of research done at the Adam Smith Institute. Tim also has a blog, where he apparently likes to cuss. Alot.

I left a comment on the Forbes article – here’s what I said:

Tim – you say that it’s “well known that only a small fraction of the population actually reads books at all.” Then you claim (but don’t cite) that only 8% of people buy more than one book a year.

Three things:

1. If you think no one reads, why would you want to shift tax payer dollars from a known, traditional institution (the local library) to a global corporation? That seems silly – you’re still paying tax dollars for something you don’t think anyone does.

2. I challenge your statistics. I’m not sure about UK stats, but I know American stats. According to Pew Research, in January 2014, 76% of American adults ages 18 and up read at least one book in the past year. So that trumps your “well known that only a small fraction of the population actually reads books at all” statement.

And the average number of books people read over the past year is 5. I do believe an average is larger than 8%, no?

3. The larger problem isn’t lending books though – you actually want to get RID of local libraries altogether. You say this – “Let’s just close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription.”

That argument, for starters, could also be said this way: let’s buy everyone garden hoses. Then we could get rid of the local fire department! Brilliant, right? Wrong. Because the local fire department also has quite a lot of knowledge about what they do – they are professionals.

The same goes for your local library. Yes, they still lend books – both print AND ebooks. They also work really hard to buy the BEST books for your community (having access to 600,000 ebooks from Amazon doesn’t mean they’re all readable books).

And the library does a lot more than that.

So – you mentioned that you have a local library. Instead of someone providing a plane ticket for you [he suggested in the comments that someone buy him a plane ticket so he could visit their library], why don’t you simply get in your car and visit your own local library for starters, and see what they do?

At least when you write your next opinion article, you’d actually know something about libraries

A couple of other things to point out from this very obviously uninformed article:

Tim says this – “The first being that paid subscriptions is exactly how lending libraries started out.” He mentions WH Smith as an example of a fee-based lending library.

WH Smith is a UK bookseller. They operated a circulating library service from 1860 to 1961, and even created ISBN numbers (who knew?) – got this from Wikipedia.

But Tim is missing a HUGE fact – libraries have been around for centuries, and … I know it’s hard to believe – weren’t actually created by good ole WH Smith. Again from Wikipedia – “The earliest reference to or use of the term “lending library” yet located in English correspondence dates from ca. 1586…” Most of those have NOT been subscription-based libraries.

Tim also says this: “ the stock of books available [from the Amazon Kindle thingie] is far larger than any physical library (other than copyright depositaries like the British Museum) has available to readers. 600,000 titles is, at a guess, some 550,000 greater than the library system of my native Bath and North East Somerset purchases with its share of my council tax (that is a guess by the way).”

Again, quite wrong. First of all, my library has 450,000 titles – already coming close to that number that Tim thinks is unreachable by all but the British Museum (I think he really meant the British Library).

The larger issue with the Kindle service is this – just because Amazon’s Kindle service is offering 600,000 ebooks doesn’t mean they’re all actually GOOD books.

Amazon’s service focuses heavily on classics, some popular series, and their self-published ebooks. Read more about it at the Washington Post.

Most libraries are much more choosy than that, and work really hard to buy the best books, and the books our customers actually want to read. Unlike Amazon.

So there you have it! Go read the article and see what you think!

 

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Categories: Library News

3D Printers and Libraries in the News

Thu, 2014-07-10 09:30

The Chicago Tribune recently interviewed me about 3D printers in libraries (they interviewed a bunch of other cool people too).

The newspaper seems to be making an issue of what you can/cannot/should not print in a library setting, and talked about printing guns, obscene objects, etc using a library’s 3D printer.

Here’s my take – let your customers print, and don’t worry (too much) about special 3D printing policies:

  • My guess – Your already existing customer behavior policy/guidelines probably covers everything you need. So I’m not sure you need an extra-special “3D printer policy.”
  • Printing bad/naughty/dangerous things – Your customers probably won’t be doing this. So stop worrying about those “what if” scenarios. When they do appear, see the above point about your customer behavior guidelines.
  • On the issue of printing 3D guns:
    • Your library probably already has books about making guns (under the subject heading of “gunsmithing”). What’s the difference?
    • A 3D printed gun is a multi-part project, requiring multiple 3D files. Unless the customer has named each file “nefarious gun part #1, 2 and 3″ … you’re not gonna know what they’re printing anyway.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

Photo by Gastev

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Categories: Library News