14 January 2008


Editor Kathy Dempsey has done it again! The latest (January 2008) issue of Computers in Libraries is fantastic. The theme is “Finding Out What People Want From Library Technology.” Here is her editor’s notes, Why Assume When You Can Ask?

“In the library world, many processes are still done the way they were years ago. The old adage ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ still holds sway, and entangled layers of bureaucracy can make real change incredibly slow, if no impossible. But as I preach in keynotes and workshops while I’m wearing my other hat, as editor of the Marketing Library Services newsletter, what you’ve ‘always done’ doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve all heard that sermon before, but hearing it doesn’t really help. What you need is a place to start. How should you change? What should you change? What do people want you to do differently?
“That’s why I chose the theme Finding Out What People Want From Library Technology for this issue. It’s perfect for January; the month of changing and renewing and starting fresh. And I have the only logical answer about where to start the process. Start with your patrons. Your collections and services are all for them, so update them to match patron wants and needs.
“But what do these users want and need? Even more important, what do nonusers want and need that you’re not offering? You could read other people’s research, you could make assumptions, or you could guess. Or you could do the only sensible thing—just ask them!
“If this concept makes you picture in-depth focus groups and expensive market research, stop right there. That stuff is great, but you can do it on a more manageable level. This month’s features show you how. I can’t explain their simple brilliance without getting up on my marketing soapbox and orating exorbitantly, so I’ll let you explore them for yourselves. What I will do with my remaining space here is to implore you to take these concepts to heart, to share these articles with your manager, and to push the issue until you can start surveying patrons. Only then can you be sure you’re delivering what your constituents need. And isn’t that what your work is really all about?”

I absolutely could not have said it better!

To carry out this theme, Dempsey chose the following articles, columns and departments:
How We Surveyed Doctors to Learn What They Want from Computers and Technology (by three librarians at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital)
Building a Web-Based Laboratory so Users can Experiment with New Services (available for free at http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/jan08/Battles_Combs.shtml

Using Focus Groups to Learn about My Wiki


An Analytical Approach to Assessing the Effectiveness of Web-Based Resources, by Marshall Breeding

The Joy of Finding out What People Don’t Want, by Terence K. Huwe


Asking Users What They Want, by Janet Balas (other sources of information)

Data and Desires: What Users Really Want, by brand-new to CIL Jessamyn West

What more could anyone want? Get this issue and read it all!

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