Spell it out

There have been website updates recently for a couple of organizations with which I am associated. In one case, the web person forgot to put the name of the organization on the main page. (Oops.)  It’s too soon to tell with the other as it has yet to launch, but I’m sure there will be something.

Why?  Certainly not because the person in charge of the site is slipping. It’s simply that these sites are so big, it’s hard to see the details when you’ve been slogging through them for weeks and months.

It is imperative, therefore, to have someone that isn’t you or your staff or your web person take a look at your site to see where you might have missed something. Case in point, I’m doing some research for MPOW involving higher education conferences. In my research I’ve come across a number of sites that are Exceedingly Acronym Happy. One of these EAH sites has an acronym for its name….and never says what the thing means. I have no idea, even after looking in the “About us” section and the “FAQ” section and the “Contact us” section.

There’s something about this that makes me suspicious.  Perhaps you’re trying to sell me something and you’re hiding your real identity for unknown reasons. (Perhaps I’ve been reading too many mysteries and thrillers.) In any case, if you have an acronym on your site, at some point early on you need to spell it out.  This is one of those times when having an outsider take a look at your website would be helpful, especially if they’re not in on the acronym game. The first time someone says, “What’s that?” you have a clue to something that needs to be clarified.

Rant over. Back to searching for swell higher ed conferences. And, by the way, if there’s a conference you’ve attended that you recommend, please let me know!

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Filed under Academia, Miscellaneous

Bereft

It has been a difficult summer in our household.

As you may remember, my mom passed away two years ago, in June 2012. My dad passed away in November of 2013.

My father-in-law has now passed away, the day after Father’s Day. That’s three parents in three years.

The DAY of my father-in-law’s funeral, DBF’s mom fell….and then she passed away a week later. Her funeral was a week ago today. Given that I’ve known DBF for many, many years, I feel the loss of her mom acutely. She was one of those people I just called “Mom.”

DBF and her husband, along with DH and I, are now in the unenviable position of being orphans. Granted, we’re at the age when this is not unusual. But there is a hollow place in my heart where my parents used to live.

The loss of so many so quickly has left me a bit bereft.

If your parents are still with you, call them. Better yet, visit them. Give them a kiss and a hug. Trust me, you won’t be sorry you did.

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Search and destroy

Ah, the perils of modern technology.

DBF, as I’ve shared, has written a wonderful novel. It’s in the final editing phase, where the manuscript is checked for printing errors, misspellings, dropped quotation marks, etc.

Jan has been unusually busy, and so I offered to help with a look at the manuscript. (Gave me a chance to read it again, too. It’s as good as I thought it was.)  I caught the usual stuff, but came across a word that I didn’t recognize: hapcedars.

I’ll let Jan tell you the rest. May everyone’s day be filled with hapcedars.

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Character rant

I have a weird name.

I have two first names, which is not unusual for a woman of an age with Catholic roots. “Mary” variations were very popular, and it wasn’t unusual for people with the first name of “Mary” to also be called by their first and middle names. (Mary Jo, Mary Ann, Mary Sue, etc.) I’m called by my first name and a variation of my middle name, Elizabeth. So, Mary Beth.

I married later in life and it felt odd to lose my maiden name altogether, so I chose to hyphenate. (Luckily, I didn’t marry someone with a long, unwieldy surname.) My last name is Sancomb-Moran.

I can not tell you how annoying it is to be told by various and sundry online forms that my name is wrong. Can’t have a space in the first name. Can’t have a hyphen in the last name. Grrr.

Now, I understand that the two-name-first-name thing is a bit passé, but it’s not that unusual. And more and more women (and, occasionally, their spouses) are choosing to hyphenate.

For the love of all that’s holy, online retailers and all those with forms, get with the program! Do not create your forms so that it kicks out characters other than letters.  It can be done; I’ve seen it.

I’ve chosen to register/sign up/ join your organization. Don’t make me regret having done so because you’ve decided my name isn’t valid.

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Books, books, everywhere

I am back from a magical weekend in New York.

I attended, for the first time, the Book Expo America at the absolutely enormous Javits Center. For those who haven’t attended this behemoth of a book conference, it’s All Things Book – publishers, sellers, and over 700 authors. Those authors were giving away copies of their books, and were signing copies for those interested.

There were a lot of people interested.

The conference is for book professionals, including librarians. The last day of the conference they open the doors to the general public, who can get tickets to come and see their favorite authors and get signed copies of books. (One of the “authors” was Grumpy Cat.  There was a huge line of people waiting for books and a chance to see the cat. Who knew.)

This thing is absolute book crack for people who love books; the day the conference opened to the general public 7,000 people bought tickets. It was crazy and exhilarating and great fun.

While I am a book lover and librarian, of course, I was not there in either of those roles. DBF has written a wonderful novel that’s being published and it was introduced at BEA. I was there as her entourage. It was wonderful to be there as my dear friend first saw piles of her books, saw the posters announcing her book, and signed her first autograph. We both shed a few tears of absolute joy.

I encourage you to check out her book and order a copy. Or five. You can find it on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

In any case, I was thinking about the weekend on the way home. In the last few years there have been a number of articles mourning the death of the book, of readers, of reading in general. Given what I saw this past weekend, I would beg to differ. The people who were there were from all walks of life (judging on appearances, granted) and were of all ages. They were giddy at the prospect of meeting and interacting with authors, and in discovering new books to read and cherish. The book, for them, is very much alive and well. To paraphrase Twain, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

I don’t think we’ll see the death of the book anytime soon. And I’m glad.

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Tweeting customer service

I’m impressed.

I stayed at the Washington Hilton recently while attending Computers in Libraries. I tweeted that I had checked in and got a response from the Hilton, welcoming me to DC. Nice touch.

When I got home and looked at my credit card bill, I realized there were two additional charges on my card that weren’t mine. I tried calling the hotel itself and getting it resolved, but not only do they have one of those über -annoying voice-mail menus, but I couldn’t get any help. Frustrated, I tweeted my annoyance.

Almost immediately, Hilton tweeted back. How could they help? They asked me to follow them so we could direct message. I did, and was contacted by Fran, who asked for details so she could resolve the problem.

This is serious customer service.

Twitter is sometimes dismissed as a fluffy venue for people to post about their lunch, or how much they want coffee, or complain about the weather.  Guilty as charged. However, it can be used as a terrific way to monitor your business reputation – or that of your library.  How wonderful would it be to be able to resolve a customer service issue for one of your library patrons?  If that patron is like me, they’ll be impressed and spread the word.

There are two great lessons to take away from this experience. The first was the welcome tweet. If you’re monitoring your library’s Twitter feed (and I’m assuming you are) you can respond to any patron who checks in, or mentions that they’ve visited. It’s a nice way to let them know you’re listening, and to appreciate them for their patronage.

The second is the customer service interaction. If a patron has a complaint, you can not only help to solve the problem, but you can keep the problem from escalating by dealing with it as soon as possible. The patron will be appreciative, and the resulting good will is priceless.

I must say, this has made me impressed enough with Hilton that I will go out of my way to stay at one of their hotels in the future. Good job!

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Filed under CILDC, Customer Service, Me and mine

Super Searcher Tips

Mary Ellen Bates

Motherpipe: search engine based on Bing, with servers in Germany.

Million short: remove top 100 to 1 million search.Long tail research.

Wikipedia different in different language versions.

Social-Searcher : search specific social media with different filters; analytics.

Twitter has improved its search function.

Hashtagify.me: find related hashtags on Twitter. Find top influencers, see popularity trends.

Use Pocket while searching. GetPocket.com. Browser extension. 1 Click saves pages, assign labels. Can push articles to phone.

Google Scholar Library: saves your cites in one place.  Can add labels to sort.

Searchonymous: anonymous Google while logged in. Firefox addon.

Find lists with Google: “top 10..30 tips” keyword.

Google maps gallery:  maps.google.com/gallery. Browse or search. World Bank, census, etc.

Google autcomplete: find alternatives to a product or service. something vs.

Google’s new site info card: learn more about the site before going to it.

Google images has added CC  filters.

Google media tools: google.com/get/mediatools

Google hack for job search, for jobs not listed outside their website.  site:taleo.net  intitle:career librarian Weird glitch: use (intitle:career OR intitle:careers)  gets many more hits.

Great presentation!

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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship

Conferencing

I’m in Washington DC attending the Computers in Libraries conference. It’s an interesting mix of librarians with little experience in techie things (I helped one get set on Twitter) and the super-geeks who can hack the world. I’ll be blogging and tweeting as the day goes along, so stay tuned.

For those of you who aren’t interested in library stuff, I apologize for the chatter. Feel free to tune out.

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April Fool

I hate April Fool’s Day.

I never was that much of a fan, either of pranking or being pranked. But my freshman year of college was the death knell for any joy I would get from the day.

On March 31st of that year, two college friends were in a fatal car accident. They both were movers and shakers in our small college campus; everyone knew them. One was the editor of the campus newspaper. They were both charming and funny and much, much too young to die.

I had the unfortunate timing to come across the accident just as the emergency medical crew was frantically working on one of them; he was pronounced dead on arrival. The other friend died two days later, on April 2nd.

We – the friends who had learned of Kirk and Pat’s accident and subsequent death – now had the unenviable task of relating the news to the rest of the campus. On April 1st.

Imagine telling someone news like that, only to have them chide you for trying to pull such an awful April Fool’s prank. And you reply no, it isn’t a prank. And they insist it is. And so on.

It made the awful job of relating such news that much more awful.

And so, while others share silly “news” stories with glee, I will be remembering Kirk and Pat.  I hate April Fool’s Day.

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Writing

I’m a voracious reader. Always have been; I’ve been reading whatever I could get my hands on for as long as I can remember. (I can actually distinctly remember the moment I realized that the symbols on the page were words.)  I’m a confirmed bibliophile, and have, at last count, nineteen bookcases at home.

Ironic that I’m the librarian at a virtual library.

I digress. As many voracious readers do, I imagine, I’ve often thought to myself that I could certainly write one of these things. I mean, I’ve read enough of them. How hard could it be?

*snort*

I have not written the great American novel. I haven’t written at all.  However, DBF has actually done so. She has written a terrific novel about friendship, and life in a small community, and how a woman can make a life for herself. And there’s a goat.

It really is a wonderful read, and it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be soon at Barnes & Noble.  Trust me.  You’re gonna love it.  In the meantime, visit her blog.  You’ll find some terrific writing there, too.

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