March 25, 2010

Needs Matter

A statistical breakdown of social networking sites and the supposed needs of each network's users. To summarize the findings:
... nearly half the traffic (47%) that Twitter generates falls into the news category. In fact, Twitter users’ interest in the news genre surpasses that of Facebook users by nearly 20%, which would appear to make it the number-one social network for newsies.

Another interesting tidbit is that MySpace users have no interest in news whatsoever. Instead that corner of the web splits its interests between video games (28%) and celebrity and entertainment content (23%).
No surprises here; however, I wonder what the "Other" category indicates. Most of the charts' Other categories are substantial. 26% in the case of Digg. I'm wondering if "Other" covers the topic of stalking. My point here is that other could stand for any number of variable uses that I don't see represented in the rest of the categories. For example, one apparent omission of the research is the fact that the Facebook chart has no segment for "Video Games" or "Gaming". I find it hard to believe that the "Other" category of the Facebook chart covers this area. Anyone with Facebook friends who play Farmville or Cafe World knows that gaming is a large part of what Facebook is used for. It doesn't make sense that the category is unaccounted for in the chart.

Overall, this study is helpful. I think it is necessary for social network administrators to be aware of these differences. Anyone using Facebook over the past year will have a heightened awareness of all the changes made when Twitter became the new kid on the block. It didn't make sense to me why Facebook made the changes. I always thought there were different uses for each social networking site. Perhaps it was my innate librarian sense to categorize them in different areas. Therefore, Facebook experiences substantial backlash whenever they make changes to keep up with Twitter. The underlying lesson here is that, no matter the business be it library, social networking site, or otherwise, they always need to be aware of the user community and its needs.

March 2, 2010

Audio Books and Digital Formats

My Reader's Advisory class introduced me to many forms and formats of literature that I never considered before. I previously mentioned my new love of graphic novels as a result of my R.A. course. Audio books are another joy that I discovered in Reader's Advisory. I have recently rekindled my love of audio books through the eLibrary at SFPL.

Although I do not really consider audio books to be reading in the traditional sense, I do love listening to them because they allow me to multi-task (one of my favorite pastimes). I am able to listen to audio books while: working out, driving, walking, riding the bus, and showering. These are all areas where reading was difficult to do before. As a result, I am able to catch up on a lot of "reading".

I really enjoy the experience of using the eLibrary. Digital collections allow libraries to engage with a larger community outside the walls of the library. It is also very convenient to use the library without visiting it physically. I haven't been to a branch of SFPL for quite some time. The last time I went to the building was to do some outreach for Stanford Health Library and apply for a job with human resources. I would probably visit the library more often if there was a closer branch, but I live in a neighborhood where there isn't one. As a result I am anxious about checking out materials for fear that I will not be able to return them on time. The eLibrary is the perfect solution for me.

I am very technologically oriented. Electronic formats are convenient for me. I am easily able to download audio and eBooks to my phone and go on my way. I feel that this is the direction that libraries should move in. That is, expanding online presence, increasing digital collections, and constantly evaluating progress through user experience research. At the same time, libraries need to maintain their paper collections, but should work to promote digital resources. There, I said it. If I was to make a prediction as to the future of libraries' digital collections I would have to say they will become more valuable when they become even more convenient. For instance, they may consider following the model of iTunes and making digital formats more accessible by instant download to your phone. Smart phones are taking over at an alarming pace. I know that if it's not on my phone, I won't use it as often.

Don't get me wrong: I still LOVE books, but I also love convenience. We live in a world where time is very valuable. Digital collections usually save the time of the library user. There are a few times when they can be a time suck. I.e.: If you are using a digital format for the first time and you are having trouble doing it. Or if there is a system problem. These are a couple of the reasons why User Experience Research is crucial. Might I even suggest that this will be the focus for many new and future librarians? I know I would love to make this a facet of my career.