Mar 052008

Michael Stephens gave a rocking good workshop in Perth this morning.

He’s posted details of his Hyperlinked Library talk on Tame the Web, including the slides use in the Australian version of his presentation and LINKS from the presentation. Michelle McLean gave a great summary of the Melbourne session, The Hyperlinked Library – a presentation by Michael Stephens.

With such rich information already on the web, this post instead talks about a couple of questions raised by the audience, and a few of the take-homes I got from the presentation.

Two audience questions

Web presence and employment

Michael showed a job advertisement for a senior library position that asked for links to the candidate’s “online presence”. Lutie Sheridan from ECU raised the concern that cases like this may unfairly bring a candidate’s private life into their professional arena. We temporarily went off on an interesting tangent about the effect of an online presence on employment – including images/comments about someone published by third parties.

Being too seamlessly in the user’s space ?

After the presentation, Lucia Ravi from the State Library of Western Australia asked what would happen to our funding if we used Web 2.0 so well that we became invisible to our funding bodies. What if we go so far into the users’ space, and are so successful at making the experience user-centred, that the user doesn’t even notice that it is the library brokering the connections to the information they need? (I hope I paraphrased the question right ???)

I think the question is a really interesting one – and that the answer probably lies in promoting our reputation as a reliable, unbiased, easy to use resource …. so that when users are linked mysteriously to the information they need, they look to see whether Brand Library was involved.

“Take-homes” for me

Presentation style

Michael wasn’t frightened to simplify or go back to first principles. He had obviously worked very hard to strip his talk of jargon and any buzz words that would make people glaze over. He was able to build from simple ideas and then keep the audience with him as he elaborated. They trusted him and were prepared to listen because his choice of words and attitude made it clear that he wasn’t going to do anything to make them feel dumb.

Makes me realise that when I am presenting, I often miss out essential basic information because it feels like I am insulting the audience by presuming that they don’t know things. Unless I am very, very well rehearsed, I have a tendancy not to give enough background or explanation of an idea before I try to elaborate on it.

He also slipped in story telling and audience participation (“who here does x?”) in a very subtle and effective way.

Hivebrarian, Twitbrarian

When Michael go to the bit in his presentation where he asked “does anyone here twitter?”, I was actually twittering someone to tell her she had just been quoted in his talk….. continuous partial attention and all that …. Anyhow, I mentioned Amy Kearn’s great “in-the-shower” idea from a couple of days ago.

She’s exploring how to capitalise on the fact that there are librarians on twitter 24/7 , and maybe creating some kind of “the librarian is always on” volunteer reference service. If you want to find more information, it is here at Amy Kearns’ wiki . Various folk have been working on the idea via twitter, including playing with channels and XML feeds. Cindi, Joshua and Robin have all added to the discussion.

My final note
The last sentence on my notes of the session is:

Re-evaluate KPIs!!! Need to do this – re-evaluate KPIs!!!!

I guess I’ll be thinking about Key Performance Indicators and what constitutes meaningful and relevant evaluation of our services in 2008.

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  2 Responses to “Michael Stephens’ visit”

  1. “Michael showed a job advertisement for a senior library position that asked for links to the candidate’s “online presence”. Lutie Sheridan from ECU raised the concern that cases like this may unfairly bring a candidate’s private life into their professional arena.”

    It seems to me that asking for the candidate’s links helps with the privacy issue if (big IF) the employer sticks to those links instead of Googling the potential hire, which seems more likely to turn up random or unwanted links–or incorrect ones.

  2. Michael said something about it being against US employment law for potential employees to google someone before an interview – implying it was considered on par with asking questions about people’s marital status or private opinions.

    I don’t think we’ve had similar public discussions here in Australia.

    It seems like one of those unenforceable laws – which would have a practical application of “If you google someone, then it is illegal to ask them about what you find during a job interview”. Which would be similar practice here in Australia.

    Unethical as it sounds, as a potential employer I would google an employee. I’d do it with two things in mind:
    1. The potential employee who has really offensive stuff onlne that is likely to sway an employee against them is probably really naive about how the ‘net works, so wouldn’t be a good person to work in a library.
    2. Many, many of my employees probably have similar private lives that they are not living online, so I should adjust my own moral judgment accordingly. *I* would be pretty naive if I pre-judged what appeared in a private context as relevant to a professional interview. If they were obsessed with sports, had a different sexuality to me, used language I thought was juvenile or had extreme religious beliefs then *I* should get over that and judge them in professional context.

    I think that it would mitigate what I found online if the candidate had a professional online presence that demonstrated that they had qualities required for the job – for example that they were involved in professional events or understood issues affecting libraries. What wouldn’t mitigate would be a professional online presence that they had obviously set up just for job interviews that has little more than a pretty photo and the CV I had just read. Unless I could be sure that they did the work setting it up themselves, then they wouldn’t even get brownie points for being able to make the site.

What do you think? (Long comments lose "post" button :( )