Why you should judge a book by its cover

Everyone knows the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. In his two Ted Talks, book designer Chip Kidd, the associate art director at Knopf, gives us a compelling reason to do so. These talks will make you think, make you laugh, make you want to read, and finally will make you look at all design in an entirely different light.

In the 2012 talk titled Designing books is no laughing matter. Okay, it is, Kidd describes the thought process that goes into creating book covers. He focuses on the importance of imagery, first impressions, and how book cover design influences the way you as the reader will perceive the story.

With his 2015 talk The art of first impressions — in design and life, Kidd gives the listeners an important lesson. That first impressions matter and our design choices (even the ones most of us never even think to notice) have an impact on how we see the world around us. He shows us how good design can grab your attention and the wrong design can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Exploring Social Media (Libraries)

Recently, there was an interesting article on TheDigitalShift.com about South Carolina State Library’s launch of a Social Media Library and archive. Basically, the project will archive all tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube content generated by official accounts of South Carolina’s state agencies allowing public access through an online portal, scsocialmedialibrary.org. Take a look at it here!



You can quick search or perform an advanced search of different topics, and it provides all media sources including tweets, direct messages, wall posts, comments, messages, and photos.

This isn’t the first attempt at archiving social media. Notably, in 2010, the Library of Congress announced plans for the Twitter Archive, which would house every public tweet since 2006. Today, they have successfully acquired and preserved all tweets up to 2010—approximately 170 billion of them and growing! Yet, South Carolina’s Social Media Library, although similar, stands apart from the Library of Congress project in its public accessibility as well as its ability to record and show conversations taking place. Amanda Stone, SCSL Innovation and Digital Librarian, explained that social media has become a source of two-way communication between organization and citizen. She goes on to say that “Citizens [were asking state agencies] questions on Facebook, or they’ll reference events they went to on their Twitter accounts back to the agency. And that’s something that was being lost.”

So, whether Library of Congress Twitter Archive will eventually become open to the public remains a topic of much curiosity (400+ researchers have inquired with no such luck receiving access; therefore, the public, too, will have to wait—sigh) although the possibilities are certainly exciting.

But, what makes South Carolina’s project so important is what it is recognizing from social media and how it’s responding appropriately to its citizens.  Providing access to those communications and the two-way dialogue is an important evolution in archiving social media. And they aren’t alone in this endeavor to provide and simplify public access to social media archives. The State Archives of North Carolina launched a similar idea just a year ago.

And while probably not without future bumps and problems, I think this trend is an interesting one to follow and shows that social media is an integral part of our daily routine, serving as medium for our thoughts as well as connecting us with friends, coworkers, businesses, and organizations. The world gets smaller as our opportunity to connect grows. And of course, I enjoy stalking  following a few of my favorite bands and reality stars, keeping up with their daily life (go ahead, admit it too). But on a more serious note (although my stalking is serious), social media immediately informs the public of political issues as well issues of state and national security.

Also important to recognize is that not all social media platforms will exist forever and likewise, organizations might delete accounts or merge with another, but the content of these messages and posts remain important for reflection in the weeks, months, and years to come.


Blogging lessons from Bruce

I stumbled across a fun article today which proves two things:

  1. It’s good to think outside the box a bit when looking for ways to build your social media presence and make it successful, and
  2. I am not the only person in the world who can take any topic and find some way to relate it to Bruce Springsteen. 🙂

(It’s actually kind of a nice article that may get you thinking about your own social media content and how you frame it. Worth a glance anyway.)

12 Most Gnarly Blogging Lessons I Learned from Bruce Springsteen” by Jenny Kay Pollock

Bruce Springsteen sharing the mic with Stevie Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen & Stevie Van Zandt,
Louisville, 2012
photo by Anne Haines


Social Is As Social Does: What Libraries Can Learn from Cory Booker and Ben & Jerry’s

While DUX is not directly responsible for the Libraries’ social media presence (primarily Twitter and Facebook at this point), social media content is still content and as the Web Content Specialist, I definitely have some thoughts about it. I see a lot of libraries and other organizations trying to negotiate the brave new world of social media, and I see quite a few of them floundering. It’s useful to look at some organizations and even commercial brands that are using these channels effectively and try to learn from what they are doing.

I feel strongly that social media is, at its best, a conversation. Not a place to stick up a billboard and hope somebody happens to drive past and see it, but a way to actively engage your customers (patrons), learn more about them, find out what they want and need, and yes, share information with them. There are two huge requirements that must be met in order to do this:

  • You have to connect with your customers and engage them somehow (if they don’t know you’re there, there’s no point).
  • You have to find out what they want and need from you.

In some ways, this is not so different from what we do at the reference desk. We have to let people know that we’re here and give them some idea what kind of services we can offer them, and then when they show up, we have to find out what they want and need (which often involves helping them figure out what they really want and need). We have to offer this service in a way that is consistent with the mission of the Libraries, and that maintains the character and type of service that our customers expect from us – not too casual, not too stuffy, but “just right” for their needs.

I had a fun experience on Twitter on Valentine’s night with a couple of “brands” that seem to me to be negotiating these aspects of social media particularly well. I follow Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ, and watch him as he interacts with his constituents on a daily basis. He responds to questions and requests, fields complaints good-naturedly, and exhibits a great sense of humor without ever belittling the people who ask him questions. On the evening of Valentine’s Day, I noticed the following tweet (in this embed you will also see the tweet to which Booker was responding):

I had two responses to this in my head. One was “That’s really cute and funny” and the other was “wait, Ben & Jerry’s has a Twitter account! I love Ben & Jerry’s!” What did their social media person do right, here? First of all, they tweeted at Cory Booker – a high-profile tweeter with lots of followers and a strong history of interaction. They knew that he was likely to respond to a friendly, cute tweet, and that his thousands of followers (over 1.3 million at last count!) would see the response and perhaps investigate. Notice that Booker’s tweet was retweeted 39 times and favorited 54 times. That indicates that people were paying attention.

My next response? Well, I’m also pretty highly interactive on Twitter, and I do love me some ice cream, so I fired off a humorous tweet of my own:

Within moments, I had a response:


So what’s happening here? Ben & Jerry’s didn’t sell me anything directly. They didn’t advertise at me. They gave me a cute, humorous, quick, and very personalized response that, I’ll admit it, made me feel kind of special for a second. And yes, they put a smile on my face, and I immediately followed their Twitter account.

Does that translate into ice cream sales? Well, not immediately, no. I didn’t put on my shoes and run out to the grocery store or anything. But it made me think “I love Ben & Jerry’s! They’re so cool!” By following their Twitter account, I’ve given them the opportunity to send additional messages my way, in a way that is completely opt-in on my part – unlike traditional advertising.

And, by including a unique hashtag (#lovebenandjerrys), they’ve made it possible to track all their tweets throughout this campaign, as well as other tweets that quote or reference their campaign. Yes, “campaign” – they were on it all evening, tweeting and responding to people right and left, with a large number of graphics at the ready so that they weren’t just firing out the exact same tweet at everyone. You can tell it was an actual human being, not a bot, because they were responding to others’ tweets and their responses were completely contextual and relevant to what people were tweeting at them, and often included the first name of the person they were responding to.

In short, it was indeed an advertising campaign – one that stemmed directly from Ben & Jerry’s intention to position their brand as friendly, fun, sweet, a little flirtatious. Which is exactly what you want your ice cream to be, right? A funeral home would not have had good success with a similar campaign. A funeral home tweeting at me would probably creep me right out. (I can imagine a good use for Twitter for funeral homes – they could tweet out links to information about upcoming services and online condolence books – but they’d have to be really, really careful about following people, and probably only follow people who’d followed them first. Because ewww, creepy.)

So what lessons can a library draw from this? Like any publicity or outreach campaign, it’s important for the library to define the message it wants to convey and design its campaign to convey this message consistently. This message should be consistent with the mission of the library and with the “personality” that it wants to convey. I would venture to say that this personality should be welcoming, knowledgeable, trustworthy, and helpful.

Like Ben & Jerry’s, a library should be eager to reach out to its customers and potential customers, but not obnoxiously so; Ben & Jerry’s didn’t tweet me out of the blue, but when I showed an interest in their brand, they quickly capitalized on that interest. An academic library probably shouldn’t jump in and tweet at every student or faculty member it can identify, but it should pay attention to that community and jump in when it might be helpful to do so. Just like a librarian walking around the stacks, you don’t want to interrupt everybody and ask if they’re finding what they need, but if somebody looks lost, then you can do a lot of good by offering to help.

Also like the librarian walking around the stacks, you want to be easily findable and recognizable. For the librarian, this might mean walking around frequently and wearing a badge. For Ben & Jerry’s, this meant tweeting at Cory Booker. For the library’s Twitter account, this might mean following other university or community entities and interacting with them in such a way as to be visible to potential followers. The football team’s Twitter account posts the time of the upcoming major rivalry? Maybe the library offers a link to a web page featuring archives of news items about past games against the rival. The main account for the university tweets “good luck with your finals”? Perhaps the library piggybacks on that with information about extended hours and study carrels.

So what can libraries learn from Ben & Jerry’s?

  • Figure out where your potential customers might be lurking. Ben & Jerry’s made a very good call when they tweeted to Cory Booker, who has well over a million followers, many of whom like him because of his sense of humor and his high level of interactivity. Libraries can figure out who the Twitter leaders are in their own community, and interact with them.
  • Once you find your customers, listen to them! Give them what they want, even if they didn’t know they wanted it (I didn’t know I wanted to follow Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter, but apparently I did). Don’t just make announcements at them – engage with them. But don’t be creepy in the process.
  • Be respectful of your customers’ attention once you have it. Make them smile. Don’t give them a bunch of irrelevant information (I once unfollowed a local restaurant, even though I love that particular restaurant, because they were sending out dozens of tweets every day with nothing but silly jokes). Give them something they want, and then mostly get out of their way.

Have you had great interactions on Twitter that have led to an increased sense of brand loyalty, or that have told you something about a company or an organization that you didn’t already know about them? What’s the difference between being tweeted at by a commercial brand, and being spammed by them? Have you had good or awful experiences interacting with libraries via this medium? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Wolfram Alpha Analyzes Facebook

Wolfram Alpha is different than most other search engines because it is known as an answer engine — by computing answers from the inputted data, rather than providing lists of links to outside websites. Recently, the answer engine debuted a new feature that allows one to search and analyze their Facebook profile. To access this tool you will need to visit Wolfram Alpha, and type “facebook report” in the search box. You will then need to add the app to your Facebook account.

The “Facebook report” then returns an analysis of your profile — from the number of things you’ve “liked”, the top commenters on your wall, and the most frequent words you’ve used in status updates.

I was a little surprised to see how often I used certain words, like ‘now’ and ‘summer’.

This type of information is very similar to the analytics provided to users that run a Facebook page. Similarly, you can find out demographic information about your friends, such as relationship status:

In each category there is often a “more” button that breaks down the information ever further. In the basic personal information section, the “more” button revealed the weather at my birth, the moon phase, my zodiac sign and even a sky chart!

All of this information was surprising to me because I like to think I’m careful about oversharing on social networks. From this tool alone, a company could figure out my age, demographic background, job and extracurricular activities, and some key interests. You can also search the pages of your friends, but with a more limited analysis. I was still shocked at the amount of information revealed from just their Facebook profiles.

A company or any other organization looking to understand their customers will benefit from a feature like this because only a few clicks reveal a complete breakdown of a single identity. Like I mentioned previously, Facebook already provides analytic tools for Page owners, but using this tool on a Page could help the owner understand which status updates were most successful, which users utilized the page most, and a more detailed understanding of the user demographics of those who “like” the page.

Writing for the Web: Tip o’the Week – Twitter

Twitter logoEverybody’s tweeting these days! Libraries, university departments, local mom-and-pop businesses, mega-corporations, even actual human beings. Twitter can be a great tool for libraries to communicate with their patrons, but it can be (and often is) done very badly, doing more harm than good to the library’s public image.

I found a very good, brief slide presentation from The Library Marketing Toolkit: How Not To Tweet. The slides show some example tweets from a fictional library account and explain what’s wrong with them – for example, the fictional account is not making good use of the “bio” field, and some of their tweets are full of jargon. This quick 23-slide presentation is on-target and makes some excellent suggestions.

Minnesota librarian Emily Lloyd put together a useful and engaging “dos and don’ts” list for public libraries using Twitter – well worth reading for academic libraries too: Some Notes on Tweeting for Public Libraries. For example (and this is a mistake I’ve seen many, many times):

Importing a Facebook status, with no re-editing to make it work for Twitter, often results in ellipses followed by a link–and often what’s preceded the ellipses gives no real indication of what you’ll find by clicking the link (so why would you take time to do so?). Sometimes the ellipses come at a particularly awkward or embarrassing point, too, like the one I saw about an author visit that started out slowly describing the speaker: Name of Writer is from blah blah blah, where he was a son of a…[link] Sonofagun.

For those who are new to Twitter, this basic introduction from Mashable will explain some of the basic concepts and terminology: The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.

Do you follow @iulibraries – or any other library accounts – on Twitter? (If you’re still looking for tweeters to follow, check out my Twitter list of library, tech, and UX folks.) What seems to work best? What gets your attention? Even when you have only 140 characters to work with, it’s still writing – and a little strategy goes a long way!


Ask a Librarian to their Face(book)

Ask a Librarian, the Wells Library’s online reference service, has long graced the banner of every IU Libraries page. Last December, a widget for the chat service was integrated into EBSCO databases, allowing patrons to get help right when they need it. This proved a success, with traffic from the integrated widget accounting for 150 chats to-date; that’s approximately 5% of all library chats.

 In a continuing effort to reach patrons in their frequented online spaces, the latest incarnation of Ask a Librarian can be found on the Wells Library Facebook page (click on Ask a Librarian) and the Business/SPEA IC Facebook page (click on Research Help). It is “live” and available now! So be on the lookout for that handy chat box. Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook, and for other ways to follow your favorite libraries and collections check out the IU Libraries’ Follow, Tweet, Listen, Learn page.

Student technology use during crunch time

Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a long-term national research study based out of the University of Washington’s Information School.  The overarching goal of the study is to better understand how college students engage in information-seeking and research behaviors in the digital age.

Earlier this month PIL released their findings from a short-term technology study they completed during the spring of 2011.  For the study they interviewed 560 undergraduate students at 11 different libraries on 10 different campuses during “crunch time” to determine how students use technology during stressful times of the year.  “Crunch time” is defined as the two weeks preceding final exams.  For the interviews, they asked students what tasks they had been engaged in during the last hour and what devices, resources, and library services they had used to help them complete those tasks.  The purpose was to discover how students managed technology and how they defined their “individualized information space,” the array of applications and programs students had open on their devices that aided them in task-completion.

The researchers found that students largely engaged in a kind of restrained multi-tasking.  They would switch tasks frequently, but would have only a few devices or applications running simultaneously.   85% of students interviewed were classified by the researchers as “light” technology users.  In other words, they were using two or fewer devices and engaged in two or fewer primary activities. The students seemed to take a very focused approach to technology, conscientiously winnowing down the devices they used to match their information needs.

Only a small percentage of the students interviewed were using the library for its scholarly resources – such as print or e-books, online databases, or reference services.  Many students indicated that, more than anything, it was the communal scholarly atmosphere that drew them to the library during the final weeks of the semester.  The library offered these students a unique environment in which they could escape into their work, while still sharing in the collective experience of the finals crunch.

students studying in library

This study provides some surprising insights into how these digital natives manage technology during times of stress.  Rather than hopping distractedly from device to device, or website to website, they purposefully limited their technology use to support their current task.  Even though a large majority of students had “time-wasting” sites like Facebook or gossip sites up on their devices, they often used these to incentivize learning.  These sites provided a way for students to hit the mental refresh button.  They would use the “Facebook break” as a way of rewarding themselves for a job well done or refocusing their attention on studying.  Although the most common task students were engaged in was communication (via email, texting, Facebook, etc.), these students were not engaged only in communication.  It was seamlessly interspersed with their other activities.  They often used social networking sites or other means of communication as part of their coursework to schedule meetings or discuss issues with their instructors and peers.

In this study, students managed their learning spaces, both physical and digital, in a very similar manner.  They allowed themselves a taste of the outside world, while choosing technologies and spaces that would ultimately focus their attention back on scholarly pursuits.  This is something that resource and website developers ought to be mindful of when designing materials for college students.  They do not want to be inundated with information (at least not during times of high stress).  Rather, they want focused materials that have a clear connection to the task at hand.  On the other hand, the results of the PIL study also indicate that students want their resources to be integrated.  The students interviewed had little issue using the same technology for personal communication one moment and research the next.  Although it is best to use this kind of integration with caution (i.e. ask yourself if it appropriate for your resource to be linked to Facebook), the multi-purposing of technologies is clearly something that current college undergraduates are comfortable with.

For more information, see the full report, Balancing Act: How College Students Manage Technology While in the Library during Crunch Time, or watch this brief video highlighting the major findings.

A Tweeta’ at LITA: 13 Tips for Using Twitter to Enhance your Conference Experience

Twitter logoI recently attended the LITA National Forum in St. Louis, and found that my experience was much better because of Twitter. I’m a fairly shy person when it comes to chatting with people I don’t know, but introducing myself to someone I’ve been following on Twitter for a while seems easier. I’ve also been an active tweeter during virtual conferences, and find that restores some of the one-on-one networking/discussion possibilities that one might otherwise miss from an in-person gathering. Not everyone finds that the “twitterverse” adds a useful extra dimension to conferences, but I thought I’d share some helpful tips for those who think they might like to try it.

A bit of nomenclature for newbies: A hashtag is a short string of characters (a tag) preceded by the hash mark (#), appended to or included in individual tweets Twitter hashtag symbol and used to track a particular topic, meme, event, etc.  (Twitter’s version of metadata.) Ideally, conference organizers will declare an official hashtag well in advance of the event. For example, the LITA National Forum is #litaforum and the 2011 ALA National Conference was #ala11. Most Twitter apps will allow you to search for a specific hashtag and either save the search to quickly redo it (e.g. Seesmic), set up a column to follow the hashtag continuously (Tweetdeck), or some other means of tracking. Mashable has a pretty good introductory article about hashtags, and here’s a more specific article about how to “follow” them.

This post will focus on tweeting during in-person conferences like LITA, but many of the suggestions also apply if you’re tweeting a webinar or virtual conference. So without further ado, read on for my tips! Continue reading “A Tweeta’ at LITA: 13 Tips for Using Twitter to Enhance your Conference Experience”

Getting the word out: putting your slides online

Love it or hate it, sometimes you just have to crack open PowerPoint (or Keynote, for you Mac users) and put a slide deck together.  Even though Steven Bell opined on ACRLog a couple years ago that, as a profession, we might put too much pressure on ourselves about snappy presentations, I’m guessing most folks aren’t going to cast worry to the wind when it comes their turn to stand in front of the crowd. Frankly, I hope we don’t, because the consequences can be serious: don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the dreaded “death by PowerPoint.” I also enjoyed a recent column from Tweed (via the Chronicle of Higher Education), tweeted as: “When PowerPoint is outlawed, only outlaws will have the power to bore us.”

After you’ve spent all those hours preparing your talk, or workshop (or interview presentation), you might want to share it with the world, right? I’ve done some presentations and workshops in my time, and while there are many other venues available, my money is with SlideShare. (Actually – not my money, because SlideShare is free.) SlideShare lets you freely distribute your presentations to the world while at the same time choosing the Creative Commons copyright level you feel to be appropriate.  It also allows you to choose whether you’d like to enable downloading, which gave me the good feeling of having control over my content while still being able to share it. My PowerPoint files are very image heavy, but SlideShare handles the large file size without any problems and even lets you embed YouTube videos.

SlideShare also incorporates a number of social-networking features, so other SlideShare users can “favorite” your presentation or leave comments, for example. It displays related content next to your own slides, so you can view similar presentations. Best yet, as previously mentioned, it’s free to sign up for an account.

More features to consider:
●   Share the stable URL for your slides on Facebook and Twitter, embed your presentations directly into your LinkedIn profile, or install a blog widget.
●    Want to know how many times your presentation has been viewed? No problem! SlideShare keeps track of hits for you, as well as how many times it’s been embedded in blog, etc.

Other (free) options: Prezi, 280 Slides, Google Docs

Does your heart belong to some other online slide sharing service? Tell us all about it in the comments.