I have survived my first OLA Super Conference as an official participant. I got to go as a student but we were only allowed to visit the exhibition hall and collect free pens.
I feel it was a very well run event and the sessions I attended provided a fair bit of useful information.
This session was on finding solutions to noise and conduct problems in academic libraries. A couple key points were made. The speakers from McMaster and Guelph both pointed out that their schools have thousands of more students now than there were when the libraries were built. This had led to student frustration that there is not enough space/facilities for them to do their work. And as you would expect, the more cramped people are, the more conduct and behaviour issues are going to crop up.
Going hand-in-hand with this spike in enrollment has been the growing reliance on electronic resources for nearly every aspect of student life. This has led to greater demand for computer access in libraries and speaking in our case, there are not enough computers (or enough space to put them) to meet student demand. Now students wanting a computer to do school work will monitor other students’ computer use for any recreational computer use. We will ask these students to log-off if they are not doing school work but it is not always easy to define what constituents school work. Speaking for myself, when I am at a computer I am multi-tasking (doing work, visiting humorous sites, checking email, etc.) When I go over to a student and ask them to log-off if they are not going to do school work, they can simply re-open a Word file and pretend to be working.
The speakers key message was to get student groups envolved in discussing issues like this and provide very clear signage and ensure all staff understand the policies and enforce them consistently.
Joan Frye Williams gave a very wide ranging talk on finding ways to improve the library user’s experience.
One point she made was that directional questions are failures. While a certain percentage of users will always ask these questions, I agree with her view that high-quality signage and layout can decrease the volume of these types of questions.
She also discussed the need for consistent and user-friendly nomenclature throughout the library. While it is necessary for us to know how to differentiate serials, magazines, journals etc. For the user, we should err on the side of using language they use every day. Hand-in-hand with simplified signage I think it is vital that this conversational terminology be used on our web sites as well.
She also mentioned that you need to keep an eye on what your school’s Wikipedia entry says about your library. I’m not sure if it is a good or bad thing, but we go unmentioned.
This was a talk from Yahoo!’s Tomi Poutanen. He talked about the company’s so-called social search efforts. He gave a general overview of their efforts with Flikr, del.icio.us, Yahoo! answers etc. I thought I heard some people heckling him with a “Google Rules, Yahoo! Drools” chant, but I’m not sure.
Uwe Stueckman from Lowe’s Canada discussed the concept of creating personalized communication streams. While I think most libraries are a long way from having professional customer relations management databases that can individualize the patron experience. He talked about the need to segment your audience. I have thought about how we could improve the user experience of our on-line students if they could access a personalized version of the library web page which was written and structured in a way that presented them with the type of information they need.
OCULA Annual Meeting
This was my first opportunity to experience an OCULA meeting and I must say it felt more like a comedy roast than a dry proceeding.
Report on my Friday at Super Conference to come.