ALA Part VI: WebJunction and MaintainIT Project

WebJunction Member Advisory-Advisory Breakfast

Monday morning started with a WebJunction member advisory-advisory breakfast. Participants included library staff who have collaborated with WebJunction previously and represented a variety of library sizes and types. It was a small group and allowed for informal discussion and brainstorming about how a member advisory committee should function.

WebJunction Members Advisory, Advisory Breakfast

Keeping Your Computers Up and Running — We Can Help!

The afternoon session I attended was “Keeping Your Computers Up and Running — We Can Help!” Speakers were Diane Neal, North Carolina Central University, Jennifer Peterson, WebJunction, and Brenda Hough, MaintainIT Project. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me on this subject in the months to come as I begin hosting MaintainIT Project webinars in the Southeast.

Later in the afternoon I took a walk around the exhibit hall again, ran into lots of biblioblogosphere friends, then headed back to my hotel to pack. I had a 10pm flight out of LAX and had hoped to sleep during the 5-hour flight home. Instead I was seated between some loud, intoxicated people who insisted on talking the entire flight home.

6am arrival in Charlotte and interestingly enough on the shuttle from the airport to the parking lot all 3 passengers were returning from ALA. The orange totes can probably be spotted from up in the air! But it was a nice way to find colleagues.

ALA Part IV: A Busy Saturday

The Stacks
Saturday after the Empowerment Breakfast I headed over to the vendor exhibits cleverly called “The Stacks” and arranged in Dewey order from 000s to 900s. I’ve heard that ALA Annual has the largest gathering of vendors in the world. If that’s not true it sure felt like it!

If you were there for the ribbon cutting and initial opening this is what you saw:


Exhibits Open uploaded by ALA

Luckily I waited a few hours and the crowds had gotten much smaller:

The Stacks uploaded by debrickb

Being an ALA first-timer the exhibit hall was slightly overwhelming. My advice to other first timers is to tear out the exhibit hall map ahead of time, go through the list of vendors and choose who you want to see, then highlight the vendors on the map so you can plan your time (and walking) accordingly.

I noticed that there seem to be two kinds of conference goers–those who want to collect as much stuff as possible and those who want to collect as little as possible. I was somewhere in the middle and only collected what is relevant to me. But there were a few with rolling carts overflowing with freebies. Conveniently there is an on site UPS facility where you can roll your cart over, package, and ship your items back to your library.

I ran into Meredith Farkas and her husband Adam in the exhibit hall. I can’t say it enough, but this is the great thing about the biblioblogosphere, even though I had never met Meredith before, it was like running into an old friend. She’s even nicer in person. :)

WebJunction Library 2.0 Café
Saturday afternoon I attended and hosted a table at the WebJunction Library 2.0 Café. The idea behind this comes from the World Café Model which is that we have as much (if not more) to learn from our participants as they do from us. Tables around the room were draped in flip chart paper with colored markers. Each table had a host to facilitate the discussion and every 10-minutes the participants changed tables. The question discussed was: How can your library apply 2.0 concepts and tools in a relevant way to engage your community?


Photos uploaded by the MaintainIT Project

We had some amazing discussions at each table. Now the really cool thing was that in addition to our participants in the room we had virtual participants from around the country as well. My good friend (who I’ve also never met in person) Stephanie Zimmerman, Training Coordinator for the Library System of Lancaster County (PA) hosted a virtual table using Wimba Classroom. There was even a webcam and microphone set up so Stephanie and the other virtual participants could see and hear the room in Anaheim.

WebJunction Library 2.0 Cafe

You can read some the ideas participants came up with during the session and join in the conversation about using 2.0 concepts to engage our communities over at the WebJunction Wiki. Feel free to join in the discussion!

ACRL Poster Session Learning Virtually: Online Professional Development for Library Workers with Tight Budgets and Full Schedules
Immediately after the Library 2.0 session I went to set up for the ACRL Poster Session Learning Virtually: Online Professional Development for Library Workers with Tight Budgets and Full Schedules. If you’ve never been to a poster session it is a lot like a science fair. There are literally huge posters that each participant has carefully designed, had printed, and transported to the convention center. Each participant is available to talk about the information being presented.
ACRL Poster Session on Distance Learning

This is a great time to meet and network with colleagues from around the country with similar interests as you.


Academic Library 2.0: Self-Paced Guided Training for Faculty and Staff by Colleen S. Harris, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Next Generation Professional Development: Survival of the Twittest. Using Social Networking Tools to Learn and Stay Current by Cindi Trainor, Eastern Kentucy University; Jezmynne Westcott, The Claremont Colleges

My Display -
…and my display LOL @ the Library (Live Online Learning @ PLCMC)

Saturday night staff from my library were treated to dinner by our director at Mr. Stox restaurant. The food was amazing and the atmosphere though formal was very relaxing.

As you can see it was a busy day (as they all were) which is why I did not get any blogging done during the actual conference.

ALA Part III: Customer Service Disney Style

Saturday morning I had the privilege to hear Bruce Kimbrell from the Disney Institute speak about customer service. Soft-spoken and pleasant mannered, Bruce has a great sense of humor that can liven yet put any audience at ease.

Some notes that I took during the session:

  • The front-line is the bottom line.
  • When you find out what a customer’s “wow” moment was, make sure to share that with other employees and celebrate it with the employee who provided it.
  • The most common comments Disney receives are not about how great the rides are, but how clean the parks are and how friendly the employees are.
  • The most common question from customers, “What time is the three o’clock parade?”
  • Customers can feel perfection even if they can’t see it (for example, eyelashes on the figures on a ride)
  • Disney 2.0 – “Pal Mickeys” interactive GPS Mickey dolls that kids can take around the park. They talk and give you tips about where to go, when to go, and what to do. If kids accidentally leave them at the hotel the maids pose the dolls in interesting places. Then kids started purposefully leaving them in the rooms to “have fun.” This costs nothing, but adds that extra special touch and helps to make it a magical experience.
  • A lot of what we sell is intangible – same in libraries
  • 18% turnover rate
  • At Disneyland there are 24 unions! Yikes!
  • One of the keys to customer service is holding staff accountable. Make them aware of what is expected prior to hiring and during orientation.
  • Separate on-stage presence from back-stage presence to maintain the setting. Snow White may smoke and fight with her boyfriend but not when she is “on-stage.”
  • Safety is not negotiable.
  • When you have to say no, turn it into a wow moment. At Disney if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough for the ride, he is presented with a certificate that allows him and his family to go immediately to the front of the line when he is tall enough. A potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment.
  • Every face to face interaction is a moment of truth. If a customer interacts with 60 cast members per day there are 60 moments of truth. If there are 59 great moments and 1 bad, which do you think the customer will remember? We need all moments of truth to be great.
  • First and last interaction at Disney is parking. Another three o’clock question, “Where did I park my car?” If a customer forgets where he or she parked the car Disney staff can locate it based on arrival time (stamped on ticket) they put the family on a golf car and locate and take the customer and family to the car. (Now this is process improvement!)
  • Continuously improve the process. Training/learning/improving never ends. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. :)

Going back to the “three o’clock question.” I think this is a key area for improving customer service within libraries. As Bruce pointed out, we all have three o’clock questions. Identify them. Then come up with a response or better solution. You are not going to stop the three o’clock questions so you need to find a way to handle them with finesse. Disney was not going to stop the question, “Dude where’s my car?” So instead they created a solution.

So what are some three o’clock questions in libraries?

  • Do you have any books?
  • Can I use the computer?
  • How do I get my print outs?
  • Why do I have these fines?
  • Where is the restroom?
  • What time do you close?

I remember when we first installed our PC Reservation and print management software. There were days when I felt like I could bang my head against the wall if one more patron asked me how to set up a print account. Yes it is tedious. Yes there are a lot of steps. Yes I must have went through the steps over 100 times a day for a few months (or at least it felt like that many). BUT…nearly each time it was the customer’s first interaction with the system. This was my chance to offer a “wow” moment to that customer.

We have to find a way to turn three o’clock questions into wow moments because the three o’clock questions are the easy ones. These are the questions we can prepare for.

After the session I introduced myself to Bruce and told him about one of my new roles in our library with leading a team that will create a standard for customer service and provide training. I asked Bruce if he had any book recommendations to get me started. He offered to send me the book Be Our Guest written by staff at the Disney Institute. My first day back from ALA guess what was waiting on my desk?

Waiting on my desk this morning...

A true Disney fan I also had to get a picture with Bruce. If you look closely can you see what kind of watch I’m wearing in the picture?

Me and Bruce from Disney Institute

I got that watch nine years ago on my honeymoon at Disney World. I still wear it nearly every day to remember the great time we had. The level of service Disney provides is something we should all aspire to. In the age of Google and Twitter the human touch we provide to our patrons/customers is where we can truly stand apart from the competition.

ALA Part II – Empowerment

Saturday morning started out with the ALA Empowerment Conference Welcome Breakfast. ALA has a “conference within a conference” for library “support staff.” From the ALA Conference site:

Designed specifically for library support staff and featuring a variety of programs with nationally known speakers like Warren Graham, Jenny Levine, and Michael Stephens, this is a conference not to be missed! Learn about work-life balance, customer service, career paths, ergonomics, safety and security, and more! Enjoy networking opportunities with colleagues from across the nation. Tour the world’s largest library exhibition. Get inspired at the opening breakfast, attend an always dynamic ALA opening general session, and gain valuable tips for making the most of your conference experience. You’ll come away rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to successfully navigate the choppy seas at home!

At first I was hesitant to register for the Empowerment Conference (it is included in the full ALA registration fee) because of my stance on the support staff/paraprofessional/non-professional issue. I still don’t get why there needs to be a separation within the conference. Why can’t everyone just go to the same conference?

So with trepidation I went to the breakfast. I wanted to see what this empowerment thing was all about. Bruce Kimbrell from the Disney Institute gave a fabulous presentation on customer service. The information from that session deserves its own post. I have to say that this was the best presentation I saw at ALA.

During the session I kept wondering, wouldn’t librarians benefit from this too? Why is this featured as a session for support staff? After the session I spoke with a member of the sponsoring roundtable, LSSIRT, to try and wrap my mind around the issue of separate sessions for support staff. We even had our own conference bags (which were very nice I might add).

ALA Empowerment Conference Bag

I didn’t get her name but the LSSIRT member explained to me that ALA can be overwhelming, especially to first-timers, and this was a way to feature sessions of interest to support staff and that anyone was free to go to any of the sessions. Librarians can attend Empowerment Sessions and support staff can attend other sessions.

But I wonder if other conference goers even looked at the sessions listed for support staff? Couldn’t librarians benefit from a customer service presentation? Aren’t we all capable of choosing what best suits us as individuals from among the plethora of sessions listed in the 226 page program guide? If the goal is to make ALA manageable for newcomers why not a separate conference within a conference for newcomers? Somehow I still felt singled out carrying this black and green tote around. Were people looking at me and thinking, she’s not a real librarian?

The truth is not a single person I talked with over my 5-days in Anaheim even knew about the Empowerment Conference, and instead of being judged by my tote people asked how I got such an awesome bag! When I described the Disney Institute session people wish they had known about it so they could have attended.

Because of other commitments I was not able to attend the other Empowerment sessions, but they all sounded amazing:

  • What I Really Meant To Say Was…(a.k.a Dealing with Difficult People)
  • Black Belt Librarians: How to Recognize & Respond To The Four Levels Of Emotion That Any Patron May Be In
  • When’s My Ship Going to Come In?: Global Trends Affecting Libraries
  • Are You Captain Bligh of the HMS Bounty or Julie McCoy, Cruise Director on the Pacific Princess? Dealing With Difference by Understanding Your People Style
  • “Can I Please Blow Up This Reference Desk?”
  • Preparing For Tomorrow By Looking Back at Yesterday
  • Would You Like an Umbrella With that Beach Blanket?: x-Treme Customer Service
  • Captain Your Own Destiny and See Where It Takes You
  • Ready, Set, Go! Racing Toward Excellent Public Service

I’m taking Paul’s advice about getting involved. I’m joining the LSSIRT. It seems like a good place to start to advocate for library staff and hopefully I can learn more about ALA and how support staff fit in with libraries and ALA.

ALA Part I: Thursday and Friday

It’s been nearly a week since I returned from ALA, and I am still exhausted. As I mentioned before this was my first library conference and I could not have picked a better conference or location.

ALA2008 ALA2008

I arrived in Anaheim Thursday afternoon, registered and received my orange tote, unpacked, ironed, and sorted out the 60lb box of handouts and presentation supplies that I had shipped to my hotel. Later that evening I had dinner with Helene Blowers and Melanie Huggins (both former PLCMC colleagues) in downtown Disney.

Friday morning I presented along Betha Gutsche, Catherine Vaughn, and Thomas Galante at the preconference session: Competencies For Your Staff: From Implementation to Integration. You can find links to all the handouts and presentation slides on the ALA Presentation Wiki.

It was a packed house! Lots of great questions and interaction between the participants. A big virtual round of applause to Janie Hermann for coordinating this session and Pat Taviss for moderating. When you have this many trainers facilitating a session you can be assured that it will be energizing and engaging with active participation.

Friday was my daughter’s first birthday and I tried not to think too much about it. I ran into another former PLCMC colleague Warren Graham and his wife. Ironically it was their son’s first birthday too.

Warren Graham and family

This made me miss my little one even more. But it wasn’t until my husband uploaded this video to Flickr that it really hit me! I have lots of thoughts on having a career and being a mom but that’s for another post.

Friday night Paul Signorelli organized an informal dinner for a group of fellow library trainers. We had some wonderful conversations about learning, the need to stop reinventing the wheel, and whether customer service can actually be taught in an online classroom. Interestingly enough I “met” Paul through a comment on this site back in February. Since then we’ve emailed and IM’d quite a bit. By the time I met Paul at dinner it was like seeing a familiar friend. There are stories like these throughout ALA and I’m sure other conferences. For me this example helps cement the value of online social networking. Especially when library “trainers” are so scattered throughout the field. It helps to stay connected with others who share the same day-to-day experiences as you.

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