Archive for Tips and Tricks

Tips For A Successful Year of Managing Student Employees with LibStaffer

Very soon, the library will be abuzz. You will be standing before the bright, eager faces of your student employees. They will be looking to you and your colleagues to guide them through a year of what, everyone hopes, will be a productive, fun, learning experience as they assist you in the library. Some of them will be new. While others will be returning from last year. All of them will need your organizational skills to get the hive running smoothly.

We’ve come up with some excellent tips to help you use LibStaffer to tackle this influx of additional staff. Unless this is your first time having student assistants, you probably already have rules for managing student workers. What we’re offering is a short list of things to know about how LibStaffer is designed to make scheduling the staff as painless as possible as you get ready for the new school year.

#1 Sync Back and Relax

Perhaps you already knew that you can sync your LibStaffer with your Outlook/Exchange calendar. However, many students on campuses use Google Calendar — so why not sync LibStaffer up with it.  The Google Calendar sync will pull their LibStaffer schedule into their GCalendar so they can see their upcoming shifts without needing to log in to LibStaffer. Plus they can opt to sync busy times. Basically, a student will be marked as unavailable if s/he has time blocked off in the Google Calendar that overlaps with any given shifts. This way, they can add their class schedule, study times, family visits, club/sport meetings, and more to their GCalendar and have it push to LibStaffer so they won’t be booked for a shift when they’re unavailable. It’s always a good idea to connect to what the students are using every day as it yields a more complete picture of availability.

#2 Account for Changes

Student assistants are a great help but they do pose a specific set of challenges. Namely, their schedules can be very unpredictable. LibStaffer understands that a tool designed to organize people needs to be flexible or it just won’t work. Period. Fortunately, the system has options built-in that you can elect to enable or not based on your preferences. Consider allowing student workers to swap shifts, give up and pick up shifts and even split shifts. They’re all possibilities in LibStaffer. Changes to a schedule used to be one of the reasons staffing student workers was a maddening job. But once you not only account for changes but actually plan for them and put options in place that make it an organized piece of the puzzle, you’ll find it won’t require any ibuprofen after all.

#3 Streamline Your Communications

Communicating with your student workers is important. LibStaffer helps streamline the task by making it possible to email everyone assigned to a specific schedule. So, if you have a Reference Desk Schedule, you can send a note out to the whole team right from inside the system. Ask them to remember to put in their time off requests for the month or share a newly altered schedule with the team. You can do it from LibStaffer and you don’t have to email students who, for instance, don’t work the Reference Desk.

#4 Spell It Out

It’s really helpful for student assistants to know what is expected of them during a given shift. You may have tasks that you want to be performed that are particular to the opening or closing shifts. You may have projects that you want to be completed in the slow afternoons. Getting the most out of your student workers is possible when you keep everyone focused and informed.

#5 Make Things Easier On Yourself

You can always fill unfilled shifts, manually. There are all sorts of features in place to help you do that efficiently. However, don’t be afraid to take the even easier road by using the Auto Scheduler to assign student workers to shifts! You can select a date range. Perhaps you want to get the next 3 weeks scheduled because you are going to a conference and want it done before you go. You can set limits for the number of shifts per day that a staff member can work. You can ask the system to place all the favorited students first and, if you want, you can decide not to allow anyone to be scheduled in back-to-back shifts if that’s important to you. If you don’t know which shifts are preferred by student workers, you can allow them to favorite themselves. Then, click the submit button. The Auto Scheduler is going to do all the work for you taking into account all the information in the system. It won’t schedule a person who has the day off, has exceeded their maximum hours, or is scheduled at another desk already at that time. Voila!

#6 Reinvent Clocking In and Clocking Out

Springshare knows it’s essential for you to have a way for your student employees to be able to clock in and out for the day. We recommend that you set up a particular station designated for this. To help the Managers out, LibStaffer has a great little window where you can see — at a glance — who is currently clocked in. Imagine being able to have a quick look at any time of the day and being able to see that information. Plus, we all know that people slip up on occasion and forget to clock in or out. We’ve got you covered for those scenarios, too! You have an Admin button in that window that allows you to clock a student in or out on their behalf! LibStaffer is designed to make it so that you can manage your service point staffing with ease. And — with any luck — a productive, fun, learning experience can be had by all!

Learn More About LibStaffer

LibStaffer is chock-a-block full of features and has new exciting updates you should check out. To learn more about it, contact sales@springshare.com or drop into one of the special LibStaffer webinars we have scheduled soon. You’ll learn how LibStaffer makes organizing service point scheduling a breeze. Remember, if you can’t make it to the webinars, you can still go ahead and register and then click watch video to have a recording sent to you.

Tips for Promoting Internal Staff Communication, Collaboration, and Community

Are you engaged?

It’s funny to say, but people are always talking about communication. In every relationship dynamic, the secret…is always communication — with your child, with your clients, with pets, with other countries, with your barista. Are you communicating effectively? Even more to the point, how can you communicate better?

This has always been a trending topic and it’s even more of a challenge now. With so many ways to reach out and because the traditional work environment is morphing with flex hours and telecommuting, virtual possibilities, it helps to reboot the conversation.

The one thing you will learn quickly is that it’s all about engagement. You have to be engaged in the solutions you put forth or the team won’t be either. So, if you really care about boosting internal staff communication to improve collaboration and create a sense of community, then you’re already on the right track. You care. The sooner we stop talking about communication and make improving it a real priority, the sooner we will see the wonderful effect it has on team productivity and morale.

The leaders have to lead.

If you want to encourage active internal communication amongst the staff, you’ll want to get in the mix. There are teams all over the world who find themselves with new directives sprinkled with enthusiastic words about the new intranet tool that has been licensed — so the company can better connect. It improves efficiency, they’re told. And, while this may be true, so many of those sharing the new mandate will never be seen actively participating in the intranet. They say the best way to lead is by example. Well, whether you intend to or not, you’re always leading by example. So get in there and show them how it’s done!

LibGuides CMS has Groups functionality. Combine that with its Access Controls feature and you can create a locked down group and use it as a staff intranet! Many libraries are starting to do this as it’s super convenient.

  • Your internal group in LibGuides CMS can be a place where you get to know each other better. You can have each team member build a guide where s/he shares not just education and work experience, but also hobbies and interests, favorite TV shows and go-to Karaoke songs, photos of family or pets or a favorite vacation vista and more.
  • You can facilitate collaboration on projects that should be tackled next or get feedback on your latest instruction session idea by enabling Discussion Boards. You can engage with your team right in your site by encouraging open discussions or you can post specific questions. Remember, you can enable Discussion Boards on as many guides in your intranet group as you wish!

  • Cultivate a fun internal voice by using the blogging tool. Maybe your library organized a particularly successful event recently. Or, maybe you had excellent reviews on a recent class you offered. Have the folks in charge write a blog post about it. This gives staff a chance to share and shine!
  • It’s your intranet, what do you want to use it for? Ensuring an actively accessed intranet is about making it a “place” you’d want to hang out. Of course, you can build guides that hold documents and files and links and images pertaining to a current project. But alongside those, be creative about your guides. Perhaps the Director wants to build a guide about what’s on the horizon with tabs for each quarter? Give your retiring colleague an opportunity to build a farewell guide! Maybe you should start a staff book club or book review guide! Have fun! This is where communication leads to community.

The new water cooler.

Do offices even have the proverbial water cooler anymore? At Springshare, we’re chatting all the time, but from our desks or devices. Don’t curtail the chatting. Instead, foster it. It’s much faster than opening/sending/replying to emails. LibChat, a component of the LibAnswers Platform, not only helps you answer your patrons efficiently, it also allows you to chat amongst yourselves.

  • You can transfer questions from patrons to another operator. This is useful if there is someone better suited to answering the question online with you or in case you are about to go on your break and you need to start feeding questions to the next person on duty.
  • You can ask a colleague a question — behind the scenes — to help you answer the patron.
  • You can chat with all LibAnswers colleagues that are online at the time or initiate a chat with someone in particular.

A mixed bag is good. People will chat with each other about projects, ask for feedback, share an experience. But they’ll also send a birthday shout out and ask each other about playlists that move the day along. The important thing is that it’s a happy work environment. People who know and like each other want to collaborate.

Plus, the LibChat Operator Console was just updated with an entirely new interface making internal/staff-only chats that much easier.

Check in — so they don’t check out.

You can set up tools and you can implement strategies to improve communication in your workplace, but one of the best things you can do is frequently check in with the team. Use LibWizard to create an anonymous survey and ask folks if something is missing from the intranet. See if there’s a page they never use. Use the multi-select checkbox field to ask them which portions of the intranet they find most useful or interesting.

Not only will it help you improve by filling in the blanks or kicking out stuff that’s just taking up space, but it lets your team know you really do care about nurturing a productive and supportive and — dare we say — fun workplace.

Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing – Tip #3: Is Your Library Holi’Ready?

Avoid Holiday Stress

A big part of holiday planning is knowing where to be, and when. You’ve got dinner plans at your friend Tina’s house on the 24th at 6pm and latkes at your cousin Tim’s abode on the last day of Hannukkah. Coordinating all of those invitations and appearances requires a lot of planning and forethought. Will the train be packed at 5pm causing you to be late? Should you take 95N instead of 93N so you can swing by your favorite wine shop for a hostess gift? Can you fit your workplace New Year’s Eve party AND your family’s party on the same night?

Planning, Planning, Planning. Stress, Stress, Stress.

And just imagine, your library guests are under the same amount of pressure as you – plus they’re trying to find time to swing by the library as well! Maybe they’re trying to pick up some light reads to enjoy during the break, or studying for exams, or even attending your super awesome’sauce events! Whatever their reason for swinging by, you want to make sure you’re alleviating and not adding to their stress.

So the question is, is your library Holi’Ready?

Tip #3: Getting Your Library Holi’Ready

Getting your library Holi’ready doesn’t mean elaborate decorations, traveling snack-carts, or tons of holiday events. Good on you if you are (seriously, awesome job!), but even the smallest things can have a big impact and help to reduce the stress your library guests are already under.

Are Your Holiday Hours…. Everywhere?

LibCal-Hours

LibCal Hours Module: Today’s Hours Widget.

Your library hours are probably available on a hundred different webpages. And if you’re updating them to reflect your special holiday schedule, there’s a good chance you’ll miss a few places. And inevitably, a library patron will find that one webpage where the hours haven’t been updated and they’ll show up at your doors at 9pm – well past closed. They’re going to be peeved, upset, and frustrated.

And rightfully so! Most likely, their entire day is planned down to the minute – so if they found a webpage that says you’re going to be open, and then you’re not, that throws their entire day (and probably subsequent days) into the lurch.

A great way to ensure that you’re updating all your webpages to reflect your current library hours is to use the LibCal Hours ModuleThe Hours module let’s you define your standard hours, special holiday hours, and even one-off exceptions like “Aaaccck, we have to close early because a Snowa’caine is coming!”. Simply define all your hours, for all future dates and then grab an hours widget and embed that widget into those aforementioned webpages. As your hours update, day-by-day, the hours module will automagically update.

Say goodbye to outdated webpages showing inaccurate hours and say hello to happy patrons!

Text ‘Holidays’ to Get Library-Related Information

Back in 2011, about 73% of American adults and nearly almost all young adults (95%) send and receive text-messages according to a Pew Research Report. Fast-forward 6 years, and those numbers can only have increased. In fact, Forbes reported in 2015 that Millennials text more and talk less because they see phone calls “as overly intrusive, even presumptuous”.

Bottomline, if they want to communicate with your library – they’d prefer to do it as efficiently as possible and preferably over text-message.

If your library is using LibAnswers, be sure to take advantage of SMS Automatic Keywords. This way, your patrons can text a keyword, like ‘Holiday’, to your library’s SMS number and receive an auto-response with all the relevant information. Navigate to Admin > Queues > Select Your Queue > SMS Tab > SMS Automatic Keywords to set those up.

It’s fast and easy for them, and no staff monitoring of your library’s SMS service to boot. This 2010 interview with Johnson & Wales University Providence shows how their using SMS keywords in the library – it’s an oldie, but goodie!

Be sure to advertise your keywords inside the library and on your webpages too.

Pro-Tip: Update the automatic response periodically to entice your users to text again, and again – always getting new information with each one.

LibAnswers SMS Automatic Responses: Each Keyword gets up to two auto-responses = 300 characters.

Do Librarians Know All Relevant Holiday Information?

If you’re anything like most Americans, you suffer from inbox fatigue. You’re inundated with emails – whether it’s newsletters, marketing emails, SPAM, or internal communication that could have been done f2f, your inbox is exploding. In fact, 205 billion emails are sent every day. Yup, that’s billion…. with a B. 

Can you remember the last time you achieved inbox zero? For some folks, that day is yet to come.

So, if you’re trying to communicate important holiday information – try and give your colleagues a break and take it outside of email. Getting your library Holi’ready means getting your staff ready too.

1. Use Your Admin Alert Boxes!

Inside your LibGuides, LibAnswers, LibCal, and LibStaffer tools – you have access to an Admin Alert box. Head over to Admin > Admin Alert Box or System-Settings (depending on the tool).

This way, your colleagues can see custom alerts letting them know about important holiday information like hours, food drives, events, etc.

LibAnswers Admin Alert Box right on the Dashboard.

 

2. Discussion Boards in LibGuides (CMS Only)

For LibGuides CMS users, you have access to an internal discussion board. This is great for housing and storing internal discussions related to this holiday season – such as staffing schedules, holiday staff parties, and what types of events to throw at the library.

LibGuides CMS discussion boards are searchable and can be keyword tagged for sorting/filtering. So if you’re trying to remember, “What were our holiday hours last year?” you can simply login, filter on your keyword ‘Holiday’ and see the entire discussion thread and final resolution.

Remember, email was never intended to be a permanent archive – so if you’ve got saved emails in your inbox from 2008, it might be time to consider an alternative approach. 😛

LibGuides CMS Discussion Boards to Create an Internal/Searchable Staff Intranet

 

If you have any additional suggestions for getting your library holi’ready, comment below!

That’s all for this edition of ‘Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing tips’! Hopefully you enjoyed Tips #1 and #2 and tune in next year when we do it again!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing – Tip #2: Cultivating a Homemade Experience

Crafting

Nothing says the holidays more than homemade. Whether you’re baking rugelach, hand-crafting thoughtful gifts, or DIY’ing your decorations – you’re sending the message that your guests are special and deserving of homemade. Nothing beats homemade, but it can take a lot of effort, time, and work!

If you’re looking to bring that ‘homemade’ feeling to your library, you’re probably daunted by the idea of providing a homemade experience for each and every one of your patrons! How will you do it?! Well, a great way to offer a homemade experience is to provide tailored services. So while you’re not knitting individual items for each individual patron, you’re still providing a tailored experience just for them.

In fact, a 2016 article in Forbes magazine on 2017 technology trends predicted the ‘everything on-demand’ trend that definitely took off this year. Apps to deliver food, laundry, a ride, movie streaming, and more.

So, our next tip in our ‘Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing’ is all about delivering that tailored homemade and on-demand experience.

Tip #2: Cultivating a Homemade Experience

You might already be familar with creating LibGuides tailored-made for specific courses or assignments, but there are loads of other Springy tools you can use to bring that feeling of Hygge into your Library and for your users.

Create Holiday-Specific Mobile Micro Sites

The 2016 Pew Research Center Libraries Report showed that 49% of people accessed a public library website from their handheld mobile devices – smartphones and tablets. The 2017 Horizon Report highlights a 2016 StatCounter study which found that 51.3% of all web browsing worldwide took place on mobile phones and tablets, surpassing desktop web browsing for the first time. So, mobile access is important!

In case you didn’t know, LibGuides and LibGuides CMS subscribers have access to an optional add-on module called the mSite Builder. The mSite Builder allows you to create multiple mobile ‘micro’ sites for users to access on their smartphones.

There are tons of way you could use the mSite Builder. You could create a microsite for a walking tour of your library, or one showcasing upcoming library events, a fun scavenger hunt, or even a mobile conference site if you’re hosting!

But, what about creating a microsite focused on the library’s holiday events and activities?

Holiday Microsite: Getting Hygge With It!

Link to your special holiday microsite off of your regular mobile website to deliver a homemade, tailored, and on-demand experience to your patrons.

Plus, you can embed Font-Awesome icons on your mobile page menu to add a visual element.

Librarian On-Demand – Uber Reference Using LibAnswers SMS

If your library promotes roving reference, why not rebrand it as Uber reference? Everyone is calling themselves the ‘uber of something’ these days and it immediately brings to mind “they’re coming to me”. Plus, nothing says tailored library services than literally showing up at their library location with research goodies just for them.

Add signage throughout your library encouraging users to text-a-librarian for uber reference! If they text their location and what they need help with, you can reply back with an estimated arrival time of a librarian.

LibAnswers SMS

Uber Reference using LibAnswers SMS

 

Meet Me Under the My Scheduler

LibCal’s My Scheduler lets you set up your own personal schedule of availability so patrons can book time with you for one-on-one consultations. You can arrange My Schedulers by location, branch, or even by topic – so patrons don’t need to know who they’re meeting with, just that they need someone who’s great at setting up eReaders.

But what about patrons who can’t physically come to the library. It is the busy holiday season after all and in some parts of the northern hemisphere it’s brutally cold! How can you provide one-on-one tailored services to people who won’t, or physically can’t, come into the library for help?

Create a LibCal My Scheduler Category called ‘Online’ – and encourage patrons to make appointments with librarians, virtually! Using your library’s webinar technology tool or even something simple (and free!) like Join.Me.

Simply create a LibCal My Scheduler Group called ‘Online Appointments’ and assign librarians to it. Patrons can select that category when scheduling an appointment.

LibCal My Scheduler – Online Category for Providing Online-Only Assistance

 

Have fun exploring how these Springshare tools help you bring that homemade, tailored, library experience designed to make them feel like it’s all ‘just for them‘ into the library. If you can think of other ways your library can get Hygge with it, drop a note in the comments below!

That’s all for this edition of ‘Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing’ Tips! Come back next week for Tip #3!

Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing – Tip #1: Getting Emoji’tional

Emojis

While your library might be winding down from the hectic schedule of finals or if you’re experiencing the general slowdown of traffic and questions typical during this time period – here are some quick (and fun!) things you can do, right now.

We’ll be releasing our Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing as a blog series from now till Dec 22nd! So come back and check out our other Springy Tips.

Tip #1 – Getting Emoji’tional 😉

Emoji’s can be an effective way to communicate with patrons and coworkers. They’re fun, expressive, and most importantly – compact. Universally agreed upon emoji symbols can help us convey a sentiment, or emotion, without having to phrase it in a convoluted or ambiguous sentence. So, not only does it save you time, but it can help prevent confusion from indecipherable sentences. For example, if you write that you’re heading over to a reference desk meeting and I reply with an emoji thumbs-up 👍👍, you can ascertain that I understand and am confirming your message. All parties are on the same page! Time magazine recently reported a study by Harris Poll showing that 36% of millennials ages 18-34 who use “visual expressions” say that those images better communicate their thoughts and feelings than words do.

On the flip side, using emoji’s improperly can land you in some hot water if you’re not using emojis that everyone can understand or are universally accepted. For example, in the same example above, if I had replied to your message with a party popper 🎉🎉 – does that mean that I’m happy you’re leaving to go to this meeting? Or am I wishing you good luck? Sending a party popper to that message just doesn’t make sense. As the recipient to my ambiguous emoji reply, you’re justifiably confused.

So, like with any communication tool, it’s important to consider your message and how the recipient of your message will interpret it. When in doubt, don’t use any emojis at all.

Accessing Your Built-In Emoji Keyboard

You’re probably very familiar with your emoji keyboard built into your smartphone device. But, did you know that your desktop computer also has a built-in emoji keyboard? Well, it does! Here’s how you can access it!

Step One: Be sure your cursor is inside an editing/typing window – like LibAnswers SMS Ticket Reply, or LibCal Social Publishing Field.

Step Two: Keyboard Shortcuts for Accessing the Emoji Keyboard

Windows Users Mac Users
  • Windows Button + semicolon (;)
    or
  • Windows Button + period (.)
  • CMD + Control + Spacebar

Step Three: Double-click to select your emojis, choosing as many as you want. You’ll notice the emojis being added to your text-editor. When you’re done, click to close the emoji keyboard.

Mac Computer Emoji Keyboard

Using Emojis In Your Springshare Tools

Now that you know how you can access your emoji keyboard, let’s have fun exploring all the different ways you can use emojis in your Springshare tools.

1. LibAnswers

There are many places that you can use emojis when replying to patron inquires inside of LibAnswers. Three places that come to mind are the SMS/Text-Message Tickets, Social Media Management, and inside of LibChat.

Additionally, using emojis in more ‘informal’ communication like text-messages, and social media posts can help users feel more connected to your content. In that same Time Magazine article, they reported that “the majority of people across age groups also said they feel ‘more connected’ to people they frequently message when using emojis and GIFs.”

In Your SMS/Text-Message Replies

LibAnswers SMS ticketing functionality allows you to answer patron-initiated texts natively inside the LibAnswers platform. Bottom-line, if you can type…you can text.

While replying to a patron inquiry, consider adding an emoji! Remember, text-messaging was the original birthplace of emojis, so using emojis in your reply will appear natively in the patron’s smartphone messaging app.

Adding Emojis to your LibAnswers SMS/Text-Message Replies

 

In Your Social Media Posts/Replies

If emojis were born in text-message, they grew to adulthood on social media. In your LibAnswers Social Media Management Tool, consider adding emojis to your Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest Posts and Replies. Remember, users feel comfortable when communicating with people who use emojis. And from our recent social media post, it’s important to be authentic. Emojis in your social media posts are a great way to communicate with patrons in a casual, informal, and authentic manner.

Emojis in Twitter - LibAnswers Social Media Management Posting

In Your LibChat Messages

In case you didn’t know, LibAnswers’ LibChat comes with built-in emoji support – but it’s limited to just the smiley face emojis. Use your built-in emoji keyboard to add more visuals to your chat convos! 👍

Built-in Emoji Support in LibAnswers’ LibChat

 

2. LibCal

Your library’s calendar events are an ideal spot for integrating some emoji fun! Remember, context is important – so it’s probably not a good idea to add emojis in a calendar event advertising the library’s counseling services.

In Your LibCal Calendar Events

When advertising your LibCal calendar events, consider adding emojis to the built-in Social Media posting integration.

Social Media Integration built-in to LibCal Calendars.

 

3. LibWizard

When asking patrons to fill out Library feedback forms or surveys – consider adding emojis to the radio and checkbox options!

As a tip, don’t replace words entirely with emojis as some user’s browsers might not be able to display them. Always use them in ‘conjunction’ with text unless you’re 100% certain that the emojis you’re using are compliant across all apps.

Adding emojis to the LibWizard Choices Options Fields.

Have fun poking around your Springshare tools and explore all the ways you can use emojis! And remember to have fun! 🎊🎉🎈

 

That’s all for this edition of ‘Tis the Season for (spring)Sharing’ Tips! Come back later this week for Tip #2!

Tips for Designing LibGuides for Children

The look and design of your LibGuides will change depending on your audience. If you’re designing LibGuides for adults, graduate students, or advanced learners – you’ll focus more heavily on library resources, advanced searching techniques, and information literacy skill reinforcement.

When designing LibGuides for children, think bright, colorful, engaging, and entertaining.

No matter what children are doing online, whether its entertainment or education, they’re looking to have fun. Your LibGuide should be simple to use and exciting. If it’s not, you run the risk of them going elsewhere – to a webpage that can hold their short attention spans and fulfill their instant gratification needs.

So, when designing your LibGuide – dig deep and think back to when you were a child. Let’s cover a few tips for designing LibGuides for children.

1. Design for Appropriate Ages

Remember when you were 12 and someone gave you a gift meant for a 7 year old?! Gasp, the horror! You’re a pre-teen, not a baby!! Well, the same principle applies to your LibGuides. One size does not fit all, so consider creating different LibGuides for each age group. Furthermore, what holds the attention of a 7year old is going to be totally different than what attracts a 10year old. Create LibGuides CMS groups to customize the look & feel of each group of guides for each age group.

Example Guides Customized by Age Group

One great example that comes to mind is the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District LibGuides System. They’ve created different groups for PreK, K-5, and 6-12 age groups that all have a different look and feel.

Las Vegas County Public Library LibGuides

Las Vegas Clark County Public Library has different customizations for each age LibGuides CMS age group

2. Use Bright Colors & Images

Children respond to bright primary and secondary colors. Think red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange. Avoid muted colors and think bright saturated color schemes. Don’t skip over accessibility concerns, because if an adult can’t read purple text on a yellow background, then a child won’t be able to either.

3. Use Images to Create a Call to Action

Try to avoid lots of ‘copy’ and consider using images to create a call to action. There are loads of free tools you can use to create beautiful icons, and you don’t need to be a graphic designer to use them!

Examples:

Trinity Grammar School Uses Large Icons to guide Students

Canadian International School uses awesome icons to communicate library resources to students.

4. Incorporate Interactive Elements

Children want to play, plain and simple. Even when they’re learning, they learn better in a game’ified environment. Consider adding interactive polls, embedded videos, interactive widgets and activities to enrich their learning experience.

Moffat Library of Washingtonville adds interactive poll assets to every book asset to create a ‘Battle of the Books’ environment.

5. Consider ‘Characters’

Young children respond to characters and storylines. Creating a rich ‘story’ helps to create a connection between them, your content, and the learning outcomes. Consider using LibGuides blogs to create ongoing blog posts around a library character or story element.

The Harker School’s blog features the Harker Eagle, the school’s mascot.

6. HAVE FUN!

Above all, when creating a LibGuide designed for children – have fun with it! Unleash your inner child and think big, bold, bright, engaging, and entertaining.

Getting Ready for the Transition to LibGuides 2

LibGuides 2 is coming, and everyone’s eager to make the make it happen. The creation of beta sites — a key step in the process — will be getting started soon.  (Admin accounts: if you haven’t requested one yet look for the “Request LibGuides 2 beta site” button when you sign in to your current LibGuides site. Check out our blog post for more info.)

There’s another key step — an opportunity, really — that’s easy to overlook: getting a handle on your existing LibGuides content before making the transition to LibGuides 2.

It’s a simple idea, one that will save work during the transition and after. But how should you go about it?

Emily King, Kim Vasilliadis, and Chad Haefele User Experience Team, University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Emily King, Chad Haefele, and Kim Vasilliadis,  
User Experience Team, University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Librarians on the User Experience team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have a plan. It was developed not with LibGuides 2 in mind, but as part of an earlier transition to LibGuides from an older content system. (The UX team includes Kim Vasilliadis, Emily King and Chad Haefele.)

We thought a look at their process would be useful to other libraries as they prepare for LibGuides 2. Emily King, on behalf of the team, agreed to share with us — and with you — how they have gone about it. Here’s part of our conversation.

Q. Tell us a little about the background of library guides at UNC. What did you have before LibGuides and why did you decide to switch?

UNC Libraries have a long history with subject guides. Librarians started creating online pathfinders in the late 1990s. These early guides were basically online bibliographies and were mainly designed by librarians who felt comfortable writing in HTML and managing files on a server. As our web presence grew, so did our guides. In the early/mid 2000s,  we created an in-house database to manage our guides. Librarians would enter in the guide’s medadata (title, owner, creation date, subject area, etc). This database allowed us to automate where guides were linked on our website and it also sent a yearly email to the guide owners reminding them to  review their subject guides.

Around 2005, we noticed that many librarians were using these subject guides as instructional tools. The automated system did not provide an easy way to sync up the guides with the associated course. We then rebranded these instructional tools Course Pages and  built another database to hold the metadata about course pages. We created a HMTL templates for this new type of guide. We were able to tie this database into the campus learning management system (Blackboard and later Sakai), which helped to put the course pages at the most likely point of need.

We knew that before we moved to a new content management system that we needed to have a sound content management strategy in place.

Until we moved to LibGuides, both Subject Guides and our Course Pages were created in HTML. We created css/html based templates to brand each type of guide. We also had style guidelines and naming conventions to help the guides to look uniform. When subject guides were each initially published we did a technical review and a content review. Librarians were responsible for monitoring and  periodically updating the guide when prompted by a reminder email. It was also up to the librarian to remove the guide from the system when they thought it was no longer relevant.

Q. What prompted you to put a new management plan in place for LibGuides? What were some of the issues you were trying to address or anticipate?

We knew that before we moved to a new content management system that we needed to have a sound content management strategy in place. By the time we began to consider Libguides, we had been managing subject guides and course pages for over a decade and we were intimately aware of the issues. We had guides that no one knew existed or were thought to have been deleted years before.  We also had guides that had been created as a student project but no longer had a guide owner when the student graduated. We also didn’t have a defined strategy for how to deal with guides when the guide creator retired or left. In some cases the guide just languished on our servers for years. We also had a very busy staff who often felt crunched for time and just didn’t have the resources to go back and evaluate their guides.

Q. How did you go about evaluating what guides you should and shouldn’t have?

When we started this process, we wanted to make sure that our guides were well designed so that patrons would find them useful. We used three sources to help with shaping the goals:  general web design studies, usability studies that other academic libraries have done on their LibGuides, and the results of usability studies we had done on our own instructional web pages (subject guides, course pages, and other online learning objects).

Some of the findings were not that surprising; we did not want to have broken links, we wanted to use formatting to convey meaning when possible, we wanted to give good white space, and we wanted to have scannable content. Other findings were more interesting, how students viewed the pages. What content students were drawn to and what features were ignored. One of the most striking findings was that we needed to have a clear purpose for the pages and meet student expectations about what they would be getting. This purpose needed to make sense to patrons that came to our website. For example, for our course pages, students expected everything on the pages would be related specifically to their course work.

Going through this process does take time and a lot of discussion if you have a large number of guides, but once the time is invested patrons and librarians benefit from the results.

Q. Are guide authors given the opportunity to make the case for guides that might fall outside the parameters you’ve established?

Yes, in a way. We are a LibGuides CMS campus, so we have parameters for each group that we have in LibGuides. There is definition for each group that the guides in that group need to adhere to (http://guides.lib.unc.edu/usinglibguides).

If someone wants to create a guide outside of the set parameters  we meet to discuss the need they will be addressing and either create a new group to meet that need or determine an alternative solution. Our goal is not to restrict content creation, but to make sure that we are planning for the content we add.

Q. Who manages the process? How do you define the roles of the team managing the guides vs. those of the individual guide authors?

Currently the User Experience team for UNC Libraries manages this process, but librarians and department heads have ultimate say over the content as long as it adheres to our guidelines. They are the subject experts. That being said, the UX department worked closely with subject librarians to develop the guidelines we have. Our approach is very much a partnership to help librarians identify the goals of their subject guides and course pages and help them meet those goals.

I think that librarians feel better about the time that they choose to invest in their subject guides because they see how the guides fit into the strategic web presence of UNC Libraries.

Q. How have the guide authors/librarians responded to having rules and processes and procedures in place for their guides?

We have gotten this question a lot, and the answer seems to surprise people, but I don’t think it should. We have had really positive feedback from our librarians. I think it is because we are working together to meet the same goal: help our patrons connect to the resources they need. That is how the guidelines are presented and practiced. I don’t think any librarian wants a patron to come to a library web site and receive bad or out of date information. I think that librarians feel better about the time that they choose to invest in their subject guides because they see how the guides fit into the strategic web presence of UNC Libraries.

Q. You have a timeline for guide maintenance. Can you describe the different tasks it calls for at different times of year and how they are carried out?

We do. It is published as a LibGuide that all librarians can access (http://guides.lib.unc.edu/usinglibguides). Our major review happens over the summer because that is when the librarians at UNC have the most time to review their subject guides.

In April/May, we go through the guides and try to “measure” them to give librarians a sense of how long they will need to spend updating the guide and identifying specific problems that need to be fixed (broken links, display problems, etc.). Then when the spring semester finishes, we run the Google Analytics statistics for each page of the guide. We only pull two metrics, unique users and average time on page to give a snapshot of use. If librarians want to go more in depth with the metrics for a particular guide, they are able to look at the raw data in Google Analytics. We think it is important to include a maintenance time estimate with the usage statistics so subject librarians can see all their guides together and compare. Each librarian considers how much time they have to devote to guides and then sees which guides have the highest impact and spend their time on those.

We have found the most important pieces of this process is to define what user needs your guides are meeting and let those needs define the creation of guidelines and the review process and to plan for the whole lifecycle of the guide.

Q. Can you describe how you estimated the time it would take to update a guide based on the data you had on it?

To get our minimum time estimate to update the guide, we add together the following:

  • 20 minutes times the number of pages – We estimated this as the time it would take to look over the page as a page and ask questions like: Do I still want these boxes? Is this still the best way to organize the page? Are there any new resources that should be added? This estimate also includes time to fix any stylistic problems that were identified in the yearly review.
  • 3 minutes times the number of resources – Because a web page can be any size, we decided to count the number of books, databases, services, and other library resources that were listed on the page. It is going to take librarians the same amount of time to review 500 links no matter how many pages they are on.
  • 7 minutes times the number of unlinked resources – One of our web goals is to minimize repeated content on the web. To meet this end, we require all subject guides to link to the original digital material (if it is a digital item) or the official digital surrogate (for example, the catalog record for print items). Because librarians have to track down the correct link for this, we know that it will take a little longer than a simple review of a resource.
  • 15 minutes times the number of broken links – I think it goes without saying that we don’t want broken links on our pages. If there is a broken link, librarians need to either track down the right link, delete it the resource, or replace it. This investigation takes a bit of time, which is why we have 15 minutes for this.

Kim and I came up with the numbers based on our experience working with subject guides and course pages. We know that actual time may vary greatly, but this does help compare apples to apples when subject librarians are trying to figure out how to prioritize their guides.

Q. What did you use to gather usage reports with the old guides? Are you doing it differently now that you have LibGuides? How have the built-in statistics in LibGuides been useful?

We have used Google Analytics in the past for these reports. Because it took us a while to migrate all our existing content into LibGuides (we completed in February of last year), we wanted to make sure that the numbers were consistently generated for the guides in LibGuides and guides in HTML. Now that we have all our guides in LibGuides, we will explore if we can generate the stats we need with the LibGuides statistics. The most important stats for us are unique users and average time on page. It allows our subject librarians to see how much use the subject guides are getting and how much time people are spending on specific pieces of the guide.

Q. Your plan was developed to coincide with the change from your old guides to LibGuides? What advice would you have for libraries that already have LibGuides in place?

We have found the most important pieces of this process is to define what user needs your guides are meeting and let those needs define the creation of guidelines and the review process and to plan for the whole lifecycle of the guide. Ask questions like: “How will we know when we don’t need this anymore?” “How will we know when this is out of date?”, etc.

For our subject guides we have a thorough yearly review process because these are semi-permanent additions to our web site that anyone coming to our website could use. For our course pages that have a very specific user group for a specific length of time, we don’t do an annual review. It’s much simpler to just unpublish the guides when the user group doesn’t need them anymore.

This is definitely something that is easier to do when people have to rethink their guides anyway, but I think it can be done at any time. Going through this process does take time and a lot of discussion if you have a large number of guides, but once the time is invested patrons and librarians benefit from the results. It is almost like a library building renovation.

One happy side effect of this process is methodically reviewing guides exposes content that may have been created as a workaround for a problem elsewhere in the library. This is a way of identifying needs that are not being met in your other library tools. For example, if we have a page that explains a complicated policy or process in the library, every year when you review that guide you have a chance to think again if that process could be improved to eliminate the need for the guide. If you can, then you are improving the patron experience and taking extra work off of a subject librarians’  plate.

For more on the UNC plan for managing LibGuides, see the slides from Kim Vassiliadis’ presentation at Computers in Libraries 2013: “LibGuides: Sustaining & Embedding Strategies” 

Back to School Checklist

The telltale signs are starting to show. Campus orientation tours are rolling past office windows. Freshmen are enrolling in classes. The energy on campus is starting to build. These are all signs that school is about to start! It’s time to spruce up those guides, ready the study room sign-up, update the FAQ, and give a lift to the digital branch.  We’ve put together a quick check-list to help you get organized.

  • First things first: guide cleanup time!
    • Summer’s come to a close; time to unpublish LibGuides about summer programs and readings.
    • Update your student employee/volunteer LibGuide with this year’s shifts and policies. LibGuides CMS users: remind students and volunteers to sign up for email alerts, then send out alerts any time you update the guide.
  • It’s time to kick that E-Reserves program into high gear!
    • Remind teachers and faculty to send in their E-Reserves with our handy E-Reserves Request Form.
    • Get those E-Reserve items and courses loaded; check out our help guide for tips!
  • It’s a great time to freshen up LibAnswers, too!
    • Review any policy-related LibAnswers, to make sure they’re up-to-date.
    • It’s a great time to advertise your LibAnswers service! Post an ad in the student newspaper, create promotional materials, check out our session on Advertising LibAnswers, and grab more tips on Advertising your SMS service.
  • Get those dates and schedules in order with LibCal!
    • If you’re using the Room Booking tool, now’s a great time to post fresh QR codes outside available study spaces – they make booking with mobile devices super easy!
    • Make sure your personal scheduler is up to date & publicized – make it easy to consult the experts!
    • Create a calendar for special events, & publicize it – share the iCal subscription link, and anyone who subscribes will see newly added events automatically!
  • Make sure your LibAnalytics data collection is ready to go! Check out our Dataset Ideas for suggestions on what types of data to capture.

What are you doing to get ready for school? Share your suggestions and strategies in the comments!

A Two-Way Street

Good afternoon SpringyFans! It’s not a conversation unless you hear from us and we’re hearing from you. This post covers just that!

Hearing from Us:

Check out the latest edition of SpringyNews – Going for Gold. The 2012 Summer Olympics, but our opening ceremony featuring LibAnalytics will dazzle and impress anyone looking to solve their data dilemmas. Our Olympians, Jenica Rogers and Stephanie Rollins share their real-life stories of how they’re using LibAnalytics to improve and streamline their libraries. Also, be sure to check out fan favorites Springy Tips & Tricks and our latest Product Updates! Borrowing the Olympic motto, Springshare supports “Swifter Service, Higher Standards, Stronger Statistics!”

Read SpringyNews – Going for Gold!

Hearing From You:

SpringyCamp is back y’all and we’re looking for presenters for our November, 2012 Virtual Conference on Focusing on UX (User Experience): Understanding & Meeting the Needs of Users. So we want to know:

  • How are you using Springshare Products to:
    • Meet users where they are?
    • Understand their needs?
    • Provide an outlet for user-driven content/services/resources?
    • Capture user experiences or assess library success?
    • Reduce degrees of separation between the library and the user?
    • How are you making it easier/faster/efficient for library staff to meet user needs?
    • How are you able to streamline work for the library while still meeting the needs of the users?

Program Level: Designed for all Audiences

Note: Springshare understands that your time is precious. Therefore, selected presenters will receieve an honorarium for their time and effort. It’s our way of saying thanks!

Interested? Submit your proposal today!

Spring Is In The Air!

I’ll tell you a secret; Spring is my favorite time of year. It’s not the fresh-faced daffodils and tulips, or the Sparrow’s returning song, nor is it the return of reasonably priced berries in the grocery store. Hands down, the absolute best part of Spring is the super energizing phenomenon of Spring Cleaning. If you’re like me (giddy about cleaning and passionate about lists), read on for ideas on doing a bit of Spring Cleaning in your guides!

  • Are you using the same content over and over in your guides? Now’s a great time to come up with a Reusable Content Strategy for your links to resources, content boxes, and even entire pages.
    • Create a centralized “Storage“, or “Template” guide, and create “linked” versions of that content throughout your guides
    • Any future changes to your storage content will automatically update in all the “linked” versions across your site!
  • Thinking about a site redesign? Check out the Best Of Customizations for a bit of inspiration!
  • Been holding on to outdated, unpublished content? Spring is a great time for weeding and decluttering!
  • Looking for ideas on new goodies to embed in your guides? Check out Using Interactive Tools in your Guides for some fresh ideas!

Have more ideas for bringing the Spring Cleaning mindset to your guides? Share them in the comments!