SLA, 7/18: Contributed Papers

I fully admit I am primarily attending this session to support fellow SLA Cuba Delegate Melanie Freimuth, but I anticipate learning much from the two other contributed papers in this session.

Paper 1:

Amy Spiegel and Barbara Wilson, now of Dow Chemical Company

Having attended UW-Madison, sitting in a presentation by Dow Chemical librarians gives me a flash of the 1960s protest era. Learning about the company’s information services will be neat. Dow bought the company for which these librarians work. They’re still in the process of integrating.

They use some six sigma methods. They want to improve how they utilize technology, deliver information where they’re working/within the context of their work, and partner with their IT department to remove as many barriers as possible, like extra passwords, levels of access, etc. People in chemical companies also often become very absorbed in what’s happening internally in their company. They want to find ways for people to stick their heads up to look outside the organization easier.

The focus of the paper is going to be on Market Tracker Indicators (MTI): graphical displays and visualizations of external economic indicators and charting of external indicators against internal financial results. This first module is in a series of tools comprising the Market Tracker Toolkit, is in SAP, and was developed with the help of the IT department. The screenshot shows a graph with labels on one side explaining which lines go with which economic indicators. The librarians learned through the production of this chart that many people within the company did not realize all of the various economic indicators that might play a role in the company’s success. The librarians realize this chart is not the answer to all of the questions, but it’s definitely been helpful to many people. As the business changes, they can change the chart. The charts are also customized for different sectors of Dow. Graphics like these charts tell stories more powerfully than giving a client a complicated spreadsheet.

This project has built credibility: people *know* the librarians can get the data, make it relevant, tap the technology to share it, etc.

Paper 2:

Listening to Our Users: Comparing Feedback & Insights from Multiple Surveys and Points of Contact
Michael Maciel and Leslie Reynolds of Texas A&M University

Any interaction with a student is an opportunity to gain feedback about what they want and how the 12 libraries are meeting their needs. Some of the techniques they use include: transaction surveys, total market surveys, mystery shopping reports, focus group interviews, employee field reporting, employee research, service reviews, advisory panels, and customer surveys.

Their principle listening device is LibQUAL, which is a barometer and harbinger of needs and expectations. It’s through the Association of Research Libraries.

A recent accreditation project involved 7 major areas and identified priorities: Library Web to locate info on my own, a comfortable and inviting location, info easily accessible for independent use, easy-to-use tools to find things, eResources accessible from home or office, and employees who are consistently courteous. Their successes include consistently courteous employees, a willingness to help users, and more. (Michael is going through the slides very quickly without addressing all the points on them.) Concerns include their priorities outlined above.

Michael explained how selected feedback methods work and some of what they’ve learned from them and the importance of using sustainable feedback tools. Sharing and documentation of the results is vital. If something isn’t working right, change it or get rid of it.

They invested in the Disney Institute’s customer service training and found it to be incredibly useful for their purposes. They can now offer a higher and more consistent level of customer service and have provided their staff with a complementary skill set.

Paper 3:

Tribulations and Triumphs of Cuban Librarians
Melanie Freimuth

Melanie opens with a quote from the National Library director about how librarians do what they can while being mindful of what they have. Like me, she says one of the biggest challenges is preserving materials in settings without climate controlled environments. Melanie did not notice many copiers or scanners or similar devices that are common in US institutions. She applauds our translator’s ability to quickly learn the jargon of our profession. Among her summary of our visit to the Ruben Martinez Villena Public Library, she tells about the outreach efforts of the librarians to get books to the sick or elderly.

When weeding old issues, the librarians do what we do by trying to find homes for the materials before trashing or recycling them. Cuban librarians are not allowed to accept books from Americans.

While highlighting the Cuban Book Institute visit, Melanie outlines the challenge of making money through publishing books in Cuba. Publishing houses must produce a minimum number of books to provide copies to all of the Cuban libraries and the National Library. Cuban bookstores throughout the country receive copies. If the books don’t sell after a long time period, they are donated to prisons or hospitals.

Melanie explained the sculpture at the technical university of a creature attacking a human figure waving a Cuban flag as the creature being the United States and the figure with the flag representing Cuba.

When discussing Internet limitations, Melanie discussed the challenges of not having enough bandwidth and how someone at INFOMED told us opening Google would be enough to crash their system. With limited bandwidth, they aren’t always able to access some of the major international Web sites because they might not be able to download graphics and such.

For the picture of passionate librarians, Melanie showed the librarian at the natural history museum we visited with whom we were all impressed because her enthusiasm and cheer filled the room.

The best part of Melanie’s presentation imho was her photos of various street signs, including one with a trumpet in a red circle with a red line through it and one with children with satchels running.

As always, it’s difficult to talk about the Cuba trip without getting into politics. An audience member’s question inspired delegation leader Cindy Romaine to begin talking about what we learned about the embargo/blockage and why keeping the blocks in Cuba might not be the best idea anymore.

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