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July 31, 2007

collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session III

Should Virtual Reference Software Work? (A panel of vr software vendors)
Panelists: Susan McGlamery & Jeff Penka, OCLC QuestionPoint : Angela Pfeil & Sean Zinsley, Tutor.com

Facilitator: James Duncan, Colorado State Library

-looking at the disconnect between wants and needs
-what goes in to creating this technology

4 topics:
-authoring, programming, development
-supporting these products – real world demands
-forecasting, research, future developments – what’s on the horizon
-pricing – what is involved in establishing a pricing model for your product

What did it take for your company to reach today’s point in product software
Tutor: we purchased it from existing company, we saw a problem with reliability
-we wanted to take the existing product and put it on a new platform to make it more stable – took one yr, next yr tweak from customer info/complaints/wants

-number 1 goal to keep stability, keeping people connected and keep vr platform live

QP: 2 yrs ago 24/7 ref and qp came together, 24/7 ref coop initially used different software products
-QP represents 2 things, technology/platform & 24/7 coop
-how do we extend support at a local, national, international level
-looking at tools for adaptation
-reference management system – evolution #1
-combining 24/7 coop and qp
-building tools for coop, we’re our own software development - not a lot of vendors out there that fits that so we do it ourselves

What kinds of real world skills do you bring to this field?
Tutor: you have to hire people who know what it’s like
-we have tech savvy people in our support roles, good w people in understanding those needs
-there is a high burn out rate, keeping staff that understand your needs can be difficult
-it costs a lot of money to have all the servers and disc space and staff
-technology gets out of date fast – need to upgrade servers on a regular basis
-as we get more customers the problems/demands increase
-nature of the product – want multibrowser/multiplatform software… lot’s of questions/requests

QP: we benefit from having the oclc structure to tie into
-training, implementation, are things you think about – points of scale – have to adapt depending on how you’re approaching things
-administrative activity
-community management, community engagement, cooperative
-the coop is the way we provide 24/7 service – we have @ 1200 libraries, statewides, regional groups and individual libraries
-energize our participating libraries
-managing the 24/7 back up librarians - @60 in all different time zones
-engaging the wider community in promoting vr

forecasting/research – what’s in the horizon? How do you balance needs of today?
QP: the libraries that are currently using the product – QP user counsil – also have 24/7 ref coop advisory board
-meet the users at the point of need (mandate)
-where are our users now? – how can we serve their needs
-when we work w the users’ council – watch things like sustainability, work on end user experience
-trying things out – one of the trends we’re trying to do is “public preview” but make it scalable
-look at benefits and feasibility such as IM integration – working w outside vendors like AOL
-context – ref brings context – meaning to discovery – how do we make that piece happen
-point of need and set up – we’re trying to build qp that allows you to do those kinds of things like advertise in myspace, youtube…
-cobrowse – what its role

Tutor: we watch the same trends
-I’m a product manage for our product and I’m a librarian, we’re encouraged to participate in all the listservs, watching all the same things
-at tutor functions fall to different people
-we want to have a stable platform to build on – ease of use features don’t mean as much as stability
-make sure clients are aware of upcoming changes
-it’s important in developing software as it is as developing collections, we follow the same type of procedures of gathering info from our clients

Pricing – what is involved in establishing or refining pricing for your system or software product?
Tutor: out general pricing policy is to look at size of your patron pool
-estimate how much it will cost to serve that audience, to provide that service
-this isn’t a business that’s going to make you rich
-contract renewals, depends on how the service was used – need to find a balance for what being used and what you’re paying for

QP: we look at trends for adoption
-we’re confident now we have a pricing model we’re going to keep in the next few years
-the pricing model is preventing collaboration
-there’s a priced for the tools, and a price for participating
-our goal is to go after large states and the global arena
-we have regional partners, pricing models that have to adapt by regional

forgive me, this is where my laptop battery decided to end, notes went on paper at this point and I can barely read my own writing...

Questions from the Audience:
Q: Is IM the enemy?
T: No, it doesn't do everything we want it to do:
-no file share
-no scheduling
-doesn't allow multiple logins
-making bots & customizations only work for specific versions, have to update constantly

Q: IM is outpacing VR 3:1
T: you can not discount current software/companies for fads
-trend to drop VR for IM is that where we should be putting concentration? - it's a preference
-it comes down to $$ - eventually we'll have to pay for it in one way, shape or form

QP: everything in QP or Tutor was because someone needed it - you're trying to get that stuff in there
-co-browse has been redefined based on libraries needs
-if you're doing what you need to w/o us then we've done out job
-privacy and storage or transcripts - where is IM with these
-no transfers, no reports
-balancing act of needs

Q: Please detail the what extent your product is ADA compliant
T: we haven't done anything - we run it through screen readers, use 3 rd party
-but not there yet

QP: ADA compliant - InfoEyes - we worked w them to find out what is needed - what does usable & accessible look like?
-we're building a "universally" accessible interface for blind and everyone else

Q:Links to Ask A Librarian services in WorldCat.org, what does this entail?
QP: open to any library that subscribes to OCLC
-don't have to subscrive to QP
-can have Tutor or Docutek or email or just a contact web page linked there
-it's based on particular libraries not a specific service

Q: Do you offer pricing based on function? only email, only chat...
T: our pricing model based on staffing/service not by feature

QP: we tried tier differences but we've simplified things now - standardized
-complexity increases cost

Q: What kind of software training do you offer, how, is it priced differently?
T: I (Angela Pfiel) do all training based off of Buff Hirko's book
-part of 1st yr pricing cost/implementation
-documentation kept online and accessible to all clients
-they also do train-the-trainer
-after 1st yr they could do something special but encourage to go to online docs.

QP: part of 1st yr. implementation
-contact person, to make sure things are going smoothly
-can do in-person training, self-paced materials, train-the-trainer, coop. training
-quarterly updates

Q: Do you see VoIP in near future?
QP: did it, passed it, may come back to it
-it's not on our road map in the next 12 mos. but we'll keep watching it

T: no, we don't see a huge push for it - not on our near horizon
-need to bring in 3rd party - it would be 2 yrs out at least

Q: We're still shaping VR - What is the possible relationship between one librarian w multiple patrons and visa versa?
T: we do one-to-one communications
-we're in the business of connecting one patron to one librarian - that's what we do

QP: our current referral system kind of meets that
-we are looking at expanding that - we do have the ability to have multi-librarians to collaborate on one question but it is cumbersome
-not looking at one librarian to multiple patrons
-we do have e-learning environments in webjunction but can't fold it back into a transcript

Q: Interoperability of services between vendors
QP & T: haven't looked at it in the last couple of yrs.

Q: Is cobrowsing only important to academic libraries??
T: there's no standard definition of co-browsing
-in my experience it seems more important in academic area

QP: in our coop we found co-browsing very important in utilizing other libraries' pages
-co-browsing is poblematic
-I don't know if it's more important in academic but they like to show partons where resources are located

T: I agree w Susan (QP) - libraries like to describe what patrons need - it's important for us to ask our patrons if they need it
-why keep trying to put $$ into it if patrons don't want it?

QP: at ALA in the discussion group - most talked about thing was "fix co-browse"!
-it's valuable but how valuable?

Q: How do your products work w PDA's and mobile devices?
T: it's @ 10-20 mos. out
-it's definitely something we're interested in

QP: we do already have deployment through chat2 - next generation chat
-it's in our immediate work we're doing

August 8, 2006

New WorldCat Search Box

Hey, check it out. I just added the new WorldCat.org search box tool on this site. It's pretty neat. Give it a whirl.

August 7, 2006

WorldCat.org is released

OCLC announced today that it has released to the public WorldCat.org. Similar to Open WorldCat, WorldCat.org delivers WorldCat records to the general public. Open WorldCat embeds records into partners sites such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com and links through the Find in a Library web service. WorldCat.org delivers all WorldCat records to the public via OCLC's website. Offering the same record content we librarians see and work with on a daily basis.

Why am I talking about WorldCat.org on this Digital Reference blog? Because, like Open WorldCat, WorldCat.org offers the same features in the Find in a Library site such as linking to your library's Ask a Librarian service. It's another way of promoting your service using a free resource that is outside of your library's website. The more access points, the better!

July 25, 2006

Open WorldCat links to Ask a Librarian virtual reference services

You're first question may be "What is Open WorldCat?" before asking "How does Open WorldCat work with my libraries' virtual reference service?"

Open WorldCat is the integration of OCLC member library bibliographic records with commonly used search engines, such as Google, to boost the visibility of library collections to Web-based information seekers. From the Open WorldCat website :

Search engines with contractual relationships with OCLC are granted access to abbreviated WorldCat data, which is indexed within a search engine over time. Users' subject, title and other types of queries can lead to search results that include WorldCat records, prefixed with "Find in a Library:". Clicking one of these links takes the user to Open WorldCat's Find in a Library interface where he or she can enter a ZIP/postal code or other geographic information that results in a display of libraries holding the item related to their initial query.

Within the Find In a Library page users will not be lost. Users can submit questions electronically to the online reference service of an OCLC member library near them through "Ask a Librarian" links. Yes, OCLC supports the QuestionPoint plaform for virtual reference, however, nearly 150 other U.S. libraries that run virtual reference desks on other platforms and have provided links to OCLC will have their virtual reference service link displayed and advertised on the Find in a Library page. This means you will be able to connect with information seekers in your community, your current patrons, and new customers who discover your online services all via a new access point.

MINITEX Reference Services will be offering webinars on Open WorldCat delving deeper in how it works and the benefits for your library. Check the MINITEX Webinars Training & Conferences website soon for more details. Announcements will also be sent out via this blog and email listservs.