Selling Myself. Literally. Part III

I am  overdue for an update on ongoing experiment. This screenshot is a good starting point for it.

Click to embiggen

This is a snapshot of the advertising performance from the beginning up to today. With the change of the audience targeting on December 9th, everything changes. The number of social impressions (ads that run with “X likes this” where X is a friend), the number of clicks (self explanatory), and the number of conversions (people who end up choosing to ‘like’) have risen significantly. So, for the same number of ads, there is a distinctive difference in the results across the board. In focusing on people who ‘like’ the American Library Association, it looks like I’m reaching a more receptive audience.

Now, even with this improvement, the numbers are still relatively small. It’s nice to see a positive change but it’s not very compelling for a continued campaign. However, as this is just a way to test it out and for my own curiosity, it’s still a pretty cheap expense for some hands on experience.

I may fiddle with the ad once more to see if I can improve the numbers. I don’t know if I would change the target interest or like but maybe try to tighten the wording on the ad itself or change the picture. If anything, I think this will be my middle ongoing post about it. The next post will be a complete rundown of the results plus all the data I’ve gotten from it.

Reference Je Ne Sais Quoi

There was a thread on the Library Society of the World Friendfeed today that got me thinking this evening while I was driving around the area. Molly Westerman was asking for materials in regards to reference and instruction for her new job. (By the way, congratulations on getting the job, Molly!) While I stand by my initial answer to her about going into an environment ‘Bear Grylls style’ with only your training and thus avoiding certain predetermined expectations as to what to expect from the reference desk, my second thoughts on her question have lead me in a different direction.

It is my belief that one of the aspects that separates a good reference librarian from a great reference librarian is the ability to make the patron feel like they have the librarian’s undivided attention. It’s the sense that they have the full focus and engagement of the librarian at that particular point in time. I’d relate it to a first date; you want to know that the person across the table is in the present with you, not checking out other people, more interested in the menu than your small talk, or otherwise thinking about work or things they need to buy on the way home that night. It’s the ability to convey this social focus from one person to the next, whether they are asking whether a book or movie is checked in or trying to get help on a complicated genealogy or educational assignment.

A simplistic explanation would be to make the person feel special in the interaction, but I feel that it sidesteps the purpose of encounter which is to make that brief yet total social connection with the patron. I realize that there are limiting factors to such an aspect (not all question require such intense engagement nor is it always feasible when balancing a busy reference desk), but I believe that as a service occupation it represents one of the best qualities of a reference librarian.

People come to the library for all sorts of assistance. This reference je ne sais quoi is what turns a good reference interaction into a great one by giving the person what they hope for: full and undivided attention for the inquiry that they bring. It is this type of engagement between the staff and patrons that foster the relationships that will bolster the library in the coming years. I wouldn’t say that someone couldn’t learn to do it, but for some it would take more effort than others. However, I’d say it is a highly recommended skill to acquire for anyone at the reference desk.

Best Book Prognostication EVER

From Terribleminds:

You know what the future of publishing is? The book. The motherfucking book. With pages and words and shit. And no, I don’t mean the e-book. I mean the kind of book that you can use to pound a nail, hit a bear, break a window. The physical object.

The book is never going away.

The book is an icon. The book is a treasured object. It is equal parts totem, fetish, decoration, and hand-me-down. It is a container of permanent wisdom and knowledge (or, in the case of some books, a container of permanent bullshit, but hey, that can be just as awesome).

I said it before and I’ll say it again: the fact that anybody still wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol.

Books are magic. Books are love. Books are infinity times two.

I’m not saying the audiences won’t shrink. I’m not suggesting that publishing won’t be changing its models. I’m not saying that publishing books will remain the most stable industry.

But the book, she ain’t going nowhere. Because the book is a thing. I don’t mean “thing as physical object,” I mean, “thing as thing, as cultural bulwark, as obelisk and idol.”

I was introduced to author Chuck Wendig by my brother who has written some guest posts for his blog. Remarkably insightful and delightfully profane, Mr. Wendig rarely disappoints in his posts about life as a writer, the writing process, and the rollercoaster that is the life of a freelancer. In taking on the current constant hand wringing regarding the future of the book and the e-book, he serves a fresh reminder as to the place of the book in regards to culture and society, both as a physical object and as a container for the contents within. It’s probably one of the best takes I’ve read on the future of books and not just because I was giggling through most of it.

If your work filters can tolerate it, go and read the whole thing right now. Bask in the unholy glory of one author’s take on the future of publishing.

Streaming Killed the DVD Star (or, maybe not)

Over on Stephen’s Lighthouse, Stephen Abrams has a link to a story on a survey charting the rise of time spent going online now equaling television viewing. From this number, a conclusion is drawn that it means that Net TV (aka internet television) is a sure thing. From that, Mr. Abrams offers his own conclusion:

Sooooo, Net TV means more nails in the coffin for the DVD format. Library circ stats beware..

I can’t really address the first conclusion since I’m not privy to the entire contents of the survey. I desperately hope that they didn’t simply compare the numbers and draw a conclusion on the basis of time spent. I would hope that there is something that is not mentioned in the story but is mentioned in the survey that would convey such a fact. Other than that, all I can think is that the numbers supporting online viewership of popular television shows is somehow reason enough to develop Net TV.

When it comes to Mr. Abram’s statement, I find a lot wanting in that conclusion.

First, why does the rise of Net TV mean the demise of the DVD format? Why can’t streaming be a supplemental format to DVD/Blu Ray? You can say it is a matter of convenience, but the picture quality of a streaming movie generally doesn’t match up to DVDs or, for that matter, Blu Ray. Nor does the streaming option give the same bonus options of a DVD/Blu Ray disc, as far as I am aware. At least with a physical disc, you are not subject to the whims of internet traffic. Speaking of which…

Second, where is the infrastructure for supporting this level of streaming? It simply doesn’t exist at the moment. And there isn’t a corporate will to make it so; in fact, there is resistance to this kind of high volume traffic. (Net neutrality, anyone?) Nevermind the internet infrastructure that exists in the rural areas of the United States (or lack thereof), but you can make the same case even for populated areas of the world. It simply doesn’t exist. DVD/Blu Ray circulation statistics may go down for areas in which the populations can (1) afford the streaming service, (2) afford the internet service to support this, and (3) afford the computers/equipment required to run all this, but it’s going to be slow going for the less affluent areas. While I would concede that the demise of the DVD might be prolonged, I can see the emergence of an ‘entertainment divide’ between those that can afford such equipment and services and those who can afford lesser versions.

Third, and for the sake of ‘library traditionalists’, why would the demise of the DVD/Blu Ray necessarily a bad thing? It gets libraries out of the so-called ‘infotainment’ business and re-allocates those resources back towards promoting literacies and information evaluation instruction. You can easily annex the argument that libraries shouldn’t be in the entertainment business as justification for the difference in circulation statistics due to falling DVD borrowing. Call it an experiment, call it a phase, or whatever you want, declare it over, and then move on to working to promote literacy, education, or other core value you want to subscribe to.

(That is, of course, unless we can find a way to act as a middleman to stream video to library users ourselves. But I digress.)

The author of the Fast Company article says that Net TV is coming as if it was marching down the street right now waiting for you to run to the curb to greet it. While I am certain it is going to be developed, it is a combined matter of timing and implementation that requires a number of people (read: corporations) to come to the table. It is not impossible, but like one of the cryptic Magic 8 Balls answers, this one seems to be coming up as “Ask Again Later”. Personally, I think it will be with us in the next five years, but on a limited by bandwidth basis. I hope I’m wrong, but under the current conditions, it looks like a bit grim.

This might be more nails for the DVD coffin, but it looks like the coffin is awfully big.

As the Wikileaks Turns… Ctd.

From The Atlantic:

Corporate control over speech is nothing new. Authors and journalists in the pre-digital age were dependent on publishers willing to disseminate their work — without publishing support, they were mere street corner pamphleteers. As free speech advocates might have said a quarter-century ago, "Offline Speech is Only as Strong as the Weakest Intermediary;" and, in fact, media critics have been writing about the dangers of marketplace censorship and media conglomeration for years. Still, recent demonstrations of corporate power over WikiLeaks seemed to resonate with the force of revelation, mocking any lingering illusions of the Internet as a frontier free from corporate as well as state control.

The author, Wendy Kaminer, goes on to make some excellent points about the power of corporations in influencing online speech. From being able to offer powerhouse platforms for writers to their interconnectedness with government to acting on their own corporate interests, free expression on the internet has more than governments to contend with when it comes to online speech. It’s not simply a matter of finding a free expression country, but always contending with corporations who own webspace or network nodes being supportive of free expression as well.

It’s a quick read, but well worth the time.

Blatant Berry Bloviating

In this month’s Library Journal, John Berry’s latest editorial speaks about the role of ALA in the issues of society. Specifically, the now somewhat infamous ALA Council email list discussion regarding the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and the new body scan devices. The short version is a member contacted a Council member regarding the new regulations and if ALA had an opinion on the matter. From there, the situation evolved into one in which there were people on Council who are wondering why ALA is talking about this topic and there are people on Council who are, well, talking about this topic. From the closing of Mr. Berry’s piece:

I [was] ready to run out and do battle with ALA’s conservatives who would tightly bind the ALA agenda to issues they define as “directly related to libraries.” This debate resurfaces frequently.

Most issues fit the description. Consider the billions we are spending on a war in Afghanistan, billions more in Iraq, billions to bail out Wall Street, the auto industry, and to build infrastructure. You can’t tell me that there wouldn’t be more for libraries if those costs of government were lower. You can’t tell me that libraries and librarians will not be safer if we can make our country more secure. You can’t tell me that one candidate for local, state, or federal office would not be better for libraries than another. Despite that fatuous debate over TSA scanning, I still believe, as I have since I first joined ALA, that every issue is a library issue.

(Emphasis mine.)

I would ask a reconciliation between the first sentence and the last sentence of that highlighted paragraph, for one sentiment would appear to usurp the other. And in lieu of a long winded post about what constitutes a library issue, I’d rather embrace the latter sentiment and encourage the ALA councilors who read my blog (I know who some of you are!) to take up a list of issues I have compiled off the top of my head.

  • Arsenic based life forms (how should libraries deal with life forms that have substituted some basic elements for other kinds?)
  • Pluto as a planet (as the ALA represents catalogers, I think it is only fair to the profession that we get this sucker properly classified)
  • The BP oil spill (just like emerging information technologies, no one knows what the long term impact will be but seem to agree that it will be bad)
  • Mine regulation in the United States (because libraries and mining companies have one thing in common: we both have heavy interests in search technology)
  • LeBron James joining the Miami Heat (it’s just like Ranganathan said: ‘every reader his book’. Just substitute the word ‘reader’ with ‘basketball franchise player’ and the word ‘book’ with ‘multi-million dollar sports contract.)
  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (a military policy that is commonly confused with the approach many libraries have to advocacy and marketing)

I eagerly await discussions and resolutions on all of these issues. I’d mention Wikileaks and the global digital information distribution, net neutrality as it relates to the Netflix v. Comcast debacle, and pretty much anything that has to do with ebooks, but I don’t want to fill up the Council’s agenda with too many “library issues”.

Uncle Dewey Needs You!

From the ALA legislative action alerts:

MLSA VOTE TOMORROW! Call Now to Support the Museum and Library Services Act!

Good news! The U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a vote on the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) for Tuesday. Your phone calls to Congress are especially important now as your representatives will be making a decision on how they plan to vote on this bill.
Please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your representative’s office. Tell their staffs that passing MLSA is imperative to ensuring libraries can continue providing critical resources and services to their constituents, particularly in this tough economy. Specifically highlighting programs or resources your library provides to the member’s constituents will make your message stronger.

MLSA will ensure that all library programs under the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), are authorized, therefore equipping IMLS to lead America’s libraries. This bill received bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats when it passed the Senate late week, and it will need the same bipartisan support to pass the House. To access the full text of this bill, click here.
Your calls are urgently needed TODAY! If the House fails to pass this legislation when it is on the floor tomorrow, the whole reauthorization process will have to start over after the first of the year. We cannot let that happen.

Click here to find your representatives (if you were sure who they are), get on the phone or email or whatever, and kick some ass on behalf of your community!

And then get the people around you to help out too!