ALA Midwinter Conference: Communicating with Library Members and Guests

While Infopeople continued responding to new requests for sessions of Cheryl Gould’s “Fully Engaged Customer Service” workshop in libraries throughout California, attendees at the American Library Association (ALA) 2009 Midwinter Conference in Denver earlier this week were talking about a different aspect of reaching library members and guests: through increasingly sophisticated online tools. Halfway between what we commonly refer to as Web 2.0 tools and what earlier in the conference were called Web 3.0 offerings, the more advanced of these innovations might leave us feeling as if they sense our information needs and are ready to meet them without formal prompting.
A rapid-fire and broad update on creative ways of reaching library members and guests was at the heart of OCLC’s 90-minute “Communicating with Your Users in Their Space” session Sunday morning, beginning with Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Digital Branch & Services Manager David Lee King’s summary of how libraries are using what he called “outposts” (Facebook pages, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and others)—those places where libraries go beyond their own web pages to reach their current and prospective customers. Those interested in viewing King’s examples will find his presentation on SlideShare.
Cindi Trainor, Coordinator for Library Technology and Data Services at Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, continued the session with an introduction to LibX, a free browser plug in which leaves us feeling as if the tool knows what we want even before we do—and proceeds to nudge us toward finding it much more quickly than we otherwise would. Of particular interest are the LibX “context menu,” “browser cues,” and “magic button,” which help users find resources they might otherwise miss both within their library and through offsite providers.
WebJunction Senior Manager, Partner Services Rachel Van Noord brought us back to customer service basics through her “Engage Your Community: Five Principles for Developing Online Learning Communities” presentation (accessible from a link on the right-hand side of a WebJunction documents page). And Slide #18 in the presentation—a “continuum of engagement” chart which illustrates the levels of participation through which we pass (exploring, connecting, responding, personalizing, consuming, contributing, collaborating, facilitating, and leading) offer a great overview of how we move from working as individuals to serving as part of a collective to “help others get the job done.” It also might serve as a useful tool for any of us wondering how engaged our members and guests really are. And what we might do to engage them more fully.

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