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collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session II

Funding and Sustainability: Managing Growth and Building Collaborations that Last

James Duncan, Peter Bromberg & Beth Cackowski, Michele Pye

Session Facilitator: Vince Mariner

James Duncan – Money is Only Part of the Answer: Virtual Reference at the Crossroads

VR Growth & Sustainability
3 factors
-money
-warm bodies
-belief in vr

Factor 1 – accepting vr as part of our future
What is working/not working with vr – should we even be doing vr?
-that’s what’s being asked – we’re a small portion of the library world
-we don’t have critical mass – we’re seen as offering fringe services – ex. ILL is considered a core service it would not be thought of to talk about dropping it
Environments & Tools
E: desk, reference area, stacks, classrooms
T: databases, print sources, subject specialists
-with vr it’s muddy and meshed
E & T: IM, search engines, hidden/deeper web, vendor products, databases, google answers, subject knowledge,referrals, second life, yahoo answers
-this is a new arena and new way of communicating – we should be seizing on this opportunity

Factor 2 - creating demand, then finding enough librarians to serve
-try to provide the best service possible
-getting librarian directors/managers to see this a viable service point
-this is our future

Factor 3 – money this year, but what about next year?
-look at 3 yrs out, 5 yrs out – federal $ won’t cut it
-soft $ won’t do it
-need to identify other sources

AskColorado – how they are dealing with these 3 factors
http://colorado.gov
where does askcolorado fit in – “live help” link on site
-80% of traffic coming through the site is handled by Colorado libs.
-use of that “live help” link has been skyrocketing – more agencies are using the site, more eyeballs seeing the link
-18% of overall usage is from Colorado.gov
-askcolorado is showing the usage, they are in a position of leverage and power, need to start paying their fair share

Potential strategies for sustainability
-identifying alternative funding sources and partnerships
-the only way to get alternative funding is by proving value – we’ve got to get into whole coop mindset that they are all of our patrons – anyone coming in to askcolorado is their patron – no distinctions

-understanding our target markets
-who are the audience members – market research – develop strategies to reach into those target markets – then campaign – bookmarks are not a one size fits all for market strategy, bookmarks are pr – find out “are bookmarks really reaching the kinds of people we’re trying to reach?”

-evangelizing for vr
-better exposure, better articulation of potential partners about the value of the service – we need to be getting in the face of our users – place our links everywhere

that’s where we start getting to the goal of making our service ubiquitous
why are we not pushing out our service where our students/patrons live?
Clear that path between the librarian and patron – we make users jump through hoops to get to us – we need to simplify that

Peter Bromberg & Beth Cackowski – What’s keeping us energized for the NEXT five years?
-handouts and presentation at http://www.qandanj.org/colorado

overview of service
sustainability – appreciate/energize
managing growth – innovate
demonstrating value

Overview of QandANJ
-live since 2001
-funded by lsta grant for 6th straight yr
-@300 trained libs. – 203 staff the service
-managers at each site
-fte project coordinator
-part of qp coop
-9am – 11pm staffed by nj libs everyday
-standard is 6 hrs/week commitment
-this is a volunteer service – don’t expect all libs. To show up on time all the time – sustainability of libs. Is hugs – they don’t employ the libs. – need to keep them motivated

3 point approach to motivate: appreciate, energize, innovate

Appreciate!
-balloon bouquets – balloons have QandANJ logo on them
-briefcase bags – “I’m a virtual librarian at…. QandANJ” - libs. Love these
-ribbons on their badges
-hats as 5 yr anniversary gift
-tshirts w ad – given to the freelancers, not all libs
-share customer comments – on their listserv “Midweek warm and fuzzies”
-freelancers – 14 paid libs. Throughout NJ
-opportunities to present
-recognition plaques – promoted on staff website
-grant money for reference – get @$1500 per library
-QandA libs. Get free pre-conferences, programs
-QandA libs get access to free databases specifically available to them

Energize
-group meetings held quarterly – talk, eat, share
-continually have new libraries coming on – new blood
-oclc sponsored users group meetings
-marketing – new posters/slogans – latest ad campaign borrowed from Oregon
-free marketing materials – pens, posters, bookmarks, balloons, stickers
-myspace page - @ a month old, @ 40 friends, going to do a “friend bomb” ad in august
-commercial to go on mtv in fall – specifically geared to teens – also putting on youtube – 30 sec. commercial cost $3000

Innovate
-putting up barriers to use QandANJ – need library card/barcode # to use the service – limits to NJ only – had @40% of business out of state – just started this last year – before didn’t care, wanted anyone to use it, growth was happening – had to decrease supply or decrease demand
-link up with online service to get a library card – give out temp 2 week access code until library card showed up
-barrier, but acceptable barrier
-stats went down @ 50% when they put that up
-just launched geolocation authentication – identified via ip authentication so won’t be prompted for barcode if in NJ – 80% accuracy
-goal – manageable usage levels
-now they can start marketing again
-next spring launching a youtube contest – teens you do a youtube commercial, put it up on youtube, we’ll judge and put up on mtv

Demonstrating value – in handout – out of time to talk

Michele Pye – Built to Last from the Start
British Columbia – AskAway – still new

Origins
-built on successes of individual services
-strategic planning processes of public library services branch and BC electronic library network
-formed a committee, created the service in parrellel with all participating libraries
-launched w/in one yr of initial planning

-launched in Oct 2006
-Service 2 queues – public lib and post-secondary (academic)
-staffing – 2 types
-funding – 2 ministries
-users – 5 target markets
-open 7 days/week – 70+ hrs

-share funding for resources
-pl side –got funding for $1 mil for 3 yrs
-hired a pro. Marketing consultant
-5 target markets – academic, teens, public, seniors, business
-giveaways – bookmarks, magnets, post-it notes

How do we collaborate?
-software negotiation, licensing, marketing

statistics
-academic – 6900 sessions
-pl – 29000 sessions
-reaching 1 in every 25 learners at both pl and academic

Sustainability
-leverage the local relationship
-be strategic – looked at doing both chat and email – too messy, focused on chat and then will look at email in next phase of growth
-build org. continuity
-extend collab. – between public and academic, chose things that were the same, now looking at differences, combining services into one (queue)
-share successes – need to tie leveraging local relationships to leg. “look what I did”
-transform communication –selling the concept to giving people info about continuing the service – show return on investment
-begin a continous improvement process
-start planning for year 4 now
-mash-ups bs build ups – put banner ad on board of trade website, other sites – what can we do on youtube – what can we do on whatevers next

Questions from audience:
Q: Geolocation – how much did it cost, is it like worldcat?
A: we use quova, set up fee @$13,000, different product from worldcat, a little more expensive, unlike worldcat we don’t have to do programming on our part

Q: are any of the services facing end of grant funding and looking at fees?
A: for BC AskAway on the academic side they may need to look at that, pl side is funded

Audience: private enterprises, we in Ontario, may turn to looking at getting funding from private sources, not sure you can do that in the US

Audience: in California – we are losing LSTA funding for the vr service next year, looking at many different options for funding, not just public funding

Audience: in Illinois, there’s a huge gap on service funding – how are we going to distribute costs fairly – looking at fee based for statewide

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