June 11, 2008

Giving Good Airport

While on my flight home from NASIG last week, I used my iPod Touch to watch a New Yorker conference session called Deconstructing the Airport. Paco Underhill, founder of market research and consulting company Envirosell, talks about how to remake air travel for the twenty-first century. Underhill has written books on the Science of Shopping and the Call of the Mall (subtitled "the geography of shopping"), and now turns his attention to airports. If I may translate what he does into library / IT language, he talks about usability / user interaction assessments of people as they use airports.

For instance, he says that people's perception of time spent waiting while in a security or check-in line is usually longer than the reality -- up to 50%, in fact! Underhill suggests that the entire airport needs to be completely redone, in part for functionality, and in part to reduce our perception of this long wait time. He gives many examples of functionality, but here are two I liked: the "body bubble" is different in airports than it is in other areas of our lives -- we have only one hand free (if that) and we are pulling / carrying a suitcase, and possibly also a backpack. So our peripersonal space is totally different - but that is not taken into consideration when designing the airport. Another ha! moment: "the filthiest place in the first world is the bathroom in the economy section of an airplane."

As I watched all this, I started thinking that there are a lot of similarities between how Underhill describes the problems with airports and the difficulties some of our patrons face in libraries.

Underhill says: "... we live in a world that is owned by men, designed by men, managed by men, and yet we expect women to participate in it." Amen, brother! (but I digress) Except ... I'm not really digressing. What if we modify that phrase like this:

"... we create a library that is owned by librarians, designed by librarians, managed by librarians, and yet we expect novice library patrons to participate in it." (changed words italicized) It's a slight modification, but all of a sudden some of us might have a better understanding of what the library is like for our patrons. D'oh!

Underhill gives some great ideas on how airports could be "reinvented:"
  • Free WiFi everywhere, among other suggestions to improve incessant travel waiting. again I say, Amen, brother! (and also: thank you! to my local airport, BDL, which does offer free WiFi)
  • Offer different lines at security, for families, registered travelers, etc.
  • Offer healthy food choices! halal, vegetarian ...
  • Shopping (and other services) that reflect a one-handed customer. He suggests offering a wand-style checkout like the Exxon/Mobil Speedpass to reduce physical difficulties paying for items in an airport.
  • Rocking chairs like at the Charlotte airport, and other kinds of movable seating (his demonstration of the rocking movement is charming).
Sounds like it could be called Airport 2.0. Let's hope airports and libraries can both redesign themselves (quickly) to be usable, and functional for real users.

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June 07, 2008

Presentation on Marketing the Library

I'm just finishing up my attendance at NASIG 2008 (that's the North American Serials Interest Group) on the collaboration between vendors and libraries to market (or promote, if you prefer a softer touch) library databases to patrons.

We broke the session into three groups: Brie Betz, Account Development Manager at Elsevier spoke about the program from the vendor's perspective, and how it's been a great success at the University of Connecticut and other places at increasing usage. I spoke about managing the program from the librarian's perspective and Deb Barberi, one of my GSLIS students and Student Ambassador for the 2007-2008 academic year, talked about teaching the program and working with the UConn graduate students.

The conference folks have created a NetVibes page (Add to Netvibes) for the conference - they're pulling in Flickr photos, blog posts, and other material tagged with nasig2008. Check out all the activity, and see if you can find the photo of me at David Lee King's presentation on Emerging Trends & Web 2.0 on Flickr, or on David's blog.

June 02, 2008

PrimateLit -- free database!

One of my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin has worked on an impressive database called PrimateLit. This database
provides bibliographic access to the scientific literature on nonhuman primates for the research and educational communities. Coverage of the database spans 1940 to present and includes all publication categories (articles, books, abstracts, technical reports, dissertations, book chapters, etc.) and many subject areas (behavior, colony management, ecology, reproduction, field studies, disease models, veterinary science, psychology, physiology, pharmacology, evolution, taxonomy, developmental and molecular biology, genetics and zoogeography).
I did a search for mirror neurons, and found over 200 results -- plus a subject heading for mirror neurons. The metadata is impressive: you can search or browse by taxonomy (macaca), diseases (depression) anatomy (frontal cortex), behavior (theory of mind), disciplines (experimental psychology), and much more!

A cool feature of PrimateLit is that it
... attempts to identify each user's institutional affiliation and automatically provide links to that institution's online journals and other content from within search results. If PrimateLit can't automatically identify the proper institution, the user is prompted to manually set the preference through a simple form.
For librarians, this means that it takes advantage of OpenURL technology, and if you've registered your OpenURL resolver with WorldCat.org, it will automatically display your OpenURL resolver of choice. For researchers, if your library has done this behind-the-scenes magic, it means that if your library has the full-text of an article cited in PrimateLit, you will be able to get to it easily. Click on the "Institutional Affiliation" button on the search page to see if your institution is participating.

Here's what it looks like at UConn:
Where clicking on "UCONN Links" will ultimately lead you to the full-text of the article, if UConn has it online.

Quite impressive!