Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Better World Books Funds Literacy

I got my first Quarterly Better World Books Libary Newsletter today. And yes, that is how they spelled library in the newsletter's name.

Humorous spelling error aside, check out the newsletter and scroll on down to some of the stats. For example, you can see how much they've sold some of the books for and how much they've given to libraries and various literacy initiatives. Those are some nice amounts. They also say they have "Saved over 5,250 Tons of books from landfills." Excellent! :)

Looking to buy a book? Contribute to various literacy programs by buying it through Better World Books.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leave a book and track its journey

What an interesting idea. The concept behind BookCrossing is that you leave a book you've read in some location. In it, you write its BookCrossing code. Then, you check the site occasionally to see who picked up the book. And you get to track it as it continues on its journey.

This is an international thing. The three biggest user countries are:
1. USA with 14,628 books "in the wild" currently
2. Germany with 6,938
3. UK with 5,068

In the US, the best states for locating these books "in the wild" are California, Colorado, and Washington.

For anyone in Columbus, Ohio, you've currently got 119 books "in the wild". Hmmm, it seems rather rude to release these to Half Price Books where you both make money from taking them there and force the receiver to have to buy the book - at least one of the Columbus people has done this.

Interesting concept. Sadly, no one in my city has participated. Surprise surprise, given that our biggest bookstore is Waldenbooks in the mall.

[Thanks to Brian for mentioning this in a recent post.]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Better World Books Rocks!

Within the past month, I have set up an account with Better World Books (BWB) for my library. They have this great program where libraries can send them their discards (age doesn't matter, but condition does - see the acceptance guidelines) at absolutely no cost except time. They pay the shipping, provide the boxes, it's incredibly easy!

And it's a great way to get rid of some of those deleted books. They do not take reference books, so we've had to find other homes for those (for those of you who may be curious, furniture stores will often take hardbacks - they use them to fill up the bookshelves that are for sale).

A few more details about what BWB does: they sell your unwanted books and recycle the ones they cannot sell. This is great for us, since book recycling does not seem to be available in our area. If your books are not "picked over" (put out for sale to patrons or offered up to other libraries), 5% of the profit made by BWB goes to a charity of your choice (well, they give you a list and you pick which one) and 15% comes back to your library on a quarterly basis! However, in our case, our books are picked over, so BWB makes all the money.

I first talked with the BWB guys at the ACRL Conference in Baltimore where they swiped my card and commenced contacting me shortly thereafter. They are very friendly and helpful. I have asked about a million questions via phone and email, and they patiently answered them all.

I highly recommend partnering with BWB. It's great to have a better way to get rid of our discards.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Spelling corrections... or not.

So, our online catalog (keeping with the OPAC posts, I guess), has recently added spelling suggestions for what it assumes are misspelled words. I am going through a bunch of Spanish language gift books and since the spellchecker must be limited with its foreign languages, I am getting some great suggestions.

For example, I look for "El Acoso". The OPAC asks me: "Did you mean el tacos?" Why no, I did not. Thank you for asking. Oh, and by the way, it would be "los tacos."

Library Taser Incident Revisited

Well, they finally concluded that the police officers "used excessive force and poor judgment" in the tasering incident I blogged about back in November. Read the Chronicle write up here. Barbara Fister also has a thorough post on the story on ACRLog.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Usability Testing of the OPAC

Recently, the User Services Advisory Committee of OPAL has been deciding on what changes to make to our Innovative Interfaces OPAC (online catalog - for now, the current version is here and the in-progress version is here). It has gotten me thinking about what our users want. Librarians can argue back and forth until they are blue in the face about which link to put where and how visible to make certain options, but our users never do things the way we want them to or the way we think is best.

Judging by a quick search of the library literature, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of usability testing conducted on OPACs. Perhaps this is because we, as libraries, only have a very minimal amount of control over the appearance and options. Most of the control rests in the hands of the companies charging us extraordinary amounts of money for OPACs that are always several steps behind what our users expect.

So maybe it's time to usability test the OPAC. It would be really interesting to see what our users find confusing and what they expect. Then, we can make those changes over which we have control so that they best meet our users' needs.

And actually, that brings up another question. What do the companies that create and maintain these OPACs do in terms of usability testing? Do they do much testing? Any? Because you know the search giants of the world must do an incredible amount, so shouldn't some be done for the catalog, too?