Internet Librarian Conference 2014

By Casey Van Haren

Internet Librarian (IL) is a conference that you need to attend at least once in your professional career. IL is located in the beautiful costal town of Monterey, California, just a few yards from the ocean. The who’s who of the library world was in attendance, including Stephen Abram, Lee Rainie, David Lee King,Marshall Breeding and Michael Stephens to name a few. IL offers four simultaneous tracks for academic, public, and K-12 (Internet@Schools) libraries. This is the type of conference where you really don’t want to relax in the conference halls as you are too busy attending amazing sessions.

The opening keynote speaker was Brendan Howley, Chief Strategy Officer and Lead Content Designer for Yup! Howley is passionate about libraries and encourages libraries to tell their story. Some of the main reasons for this are that stories lead change and help to define your organization. They garner stakeholder support and build value. Libraries change lives, and we need to share the why and how of what we do. Sharing our stories through social media and other media outlets also assist in enhancing staff morale.

My first session of the day was with author and research entrepreneur, Mary Ellen Bates, presenting Super Searcher Tools and Tips. Bates explained that she is into Google Dorking, which refers to the practice of applying advance search techniques and specialized search engine parameters to discover confidential information form companies and individuals that wouldn’t typically show up during a normal search (Google.com). Bates shared some great tools, such as Millionshort.com that eliminates the top 100 to one million web results. She also told us how to find out what others are thinking about your service, via Yelp, Twitter and other social media avenues. Another site is Zanran.com, which looks for images that are graphs, tables or charts. This is a quick way to get statistics. Shothotspot.com searchers Flickr and shows you what others have taken pictures of and the GIS location. Along with that Bates briefly touched upon the Internet of Things by introducing Thingful.net, places where people have tagged information about objects, including energy, radiation, weather, aircraft, and animal trackers.

Another amazing keynote was Nina Simon, the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Simon shared the inspirational story of the museum and how she and her staff helped to transform this organization from no budget and on the verge of shutting down, to a vibrant and active museum that was supported fully by the community within two years. She was in crisis and stated, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” This was a learning opportunity that spurred her and the organization into action.

The World’s Strongest Librarian, Josh Hanagarne, was also a morning keynote, and I was very excited to hear him speak. He was very engaging and is a must see speaker if you ever get the chance.

One of my favorite sessions was Customer Service and Service Excellence with Moe Hossieni-Ada. Hossieni-Ada is the Director of Culture and Culture Services for the City of Markham in Ontario.  Hossieni-Ada was all about changing policies to improve the customer service experience. They looked at all their library policies and staff attitudes and began massive changes. He stated that change is actually a culture shift. They restructured the staffing model, i.e., library experience not necessary, changed reference to Information Services, and empowered staff to make changes and support recommendations. Hossieni-Ada shared an epiphany he had one day when he went through the Starbucks drive-thru and ordered a coffee and a sandwich.  He realized after he ordered that he forgot his wallet at work. He went to the window and told the employee what he had done and to cancel the order. The Starbucks employee said, “Don’t worry, it’s on us.” He thought, “How can we provide this amazing service?” He allowed staff to waive fines. Staff fought back with preconceived ideas that patrons will abuse this and the library will lose money.  He shot back, “Starbucks hasn’t gone out of business yet, so if we can offer this service then we’ll be just fine.”  Also, he suggested to look at your Code of Conduct or patron rules. Do you have signs that state, “no guns allowed?” If so, what are they saying about you? If a parent sees such a sign they make think your organization has a weapon issue. The most thoughtful statement from Hossieni-Ada was “Do we make things easier for ourselves or our patrons?” Why do you do the things you do? Markham Public Library also set up a customer service promise that all staff support and follow through with daily: “[MPL] Enriches, empowers and links the community through our resources and services. We proudly work to promote literacy, a lifelong love of learning and a culture of reading.” They also initiated a Fail Camp, and recognize the right of all staff to fail in the name of innovation with full support and without penalty. Another point Hossieni-Ada made was to be really honest with your staff and eventually everyone will be swimming in the same direction.

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