Thursday, March 24, 2005

Happy Birthblogday Connie!!!

OK, just one more before I go. Congratulations Connie!

On Vacation! Over & Out (For a while...)

Just to let everyone know, I'm off for the next week or so (back Apr. 4th!).

And unlike many others, when I'm gone, I'm really gone man! ... no email, no phone, no access, no way!!!! :-) I love the connectivity of new technology, but my personal rule is - full shutdown. I'm plugged into a computer 9.5 hrs every day (+ a 2 hr commute), so when my vacation time comes, I take it seriously, and make myself available on an emergency only basis.

This is also what I would call a level one vacation, where I work on my garden, play at home with my kids, maybe re-aquascape my aquarium - basically, I'm in the area, so it is possible to find me if things go horribly wrong. A level two vacation, like say our planned trip to Pender Island in the summer, will involve no access at all. Perhaps it's my cheap nature, but if I'm paying to go somewhere, I don't want anything to ruin it. And let's get real here, I'm just not that important. Somebody else can figure it out. ;-)

OK, that's all I got. See you next Monday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Law Firm Library - Customers & Consumers

Who are your Law Firm Library's customers?

One of the most recent AALL press releases included a Strategy + Business article link, In Search of Overhead Heroes. And just as the AALL press release had suggested, it got me thinking about the many layers of satisfaction a law firm library must deliver.

As most law firm librarians will tell you, as well as any other non-fee earning manager in a law firm, we serve many masters. Effective delivery of our public product (research services) only scratches the surface when it comes time for our year end evaluation. Some 'other' items can include: cost recovery for research services, cost recovery for online databases, effective budget management, and delivering 'value added' projects (to name a few).

The reporting process to the higher-ups will likely focus on the cost effective administration of your services, and at times can seem devoid of measuring the delivery of quality service. In my mind this is fair, and expected if you consider their role. In a for profit business, librarians can't lose sight of their role as the budget gatekeeper. Ultimately the person you report to is responsible for cost control, and you are the only avenue they have to keep things in line (without micro-managing your every move). And because this individual or committee is ultimately writing the cheque, they should be seen as your customer.

Delivering quality service, on the other hand, is judged by your consumer - the legal researcher. Does this consumer care about the cost effective nature of your service? Optimistically I'd say 'Rarely', but when I snapped back to reality, I'd say 'No'. While I've heard rumblings about firm librarians who won't talk to you without a matter number in hand (which might force them to care), I'm convinced this is the exception rather than the rule, and really it's only an obstacle rather than forced caring. :-)

The truth is, legal researchers consume your service, they don't buy it. And they don't want to know how much it costs. The irony here, is that your COO (or whatever cost control reporting relationship you have) is interested in how much it costs, but is only marginally interested in quality delivery. So there you have it - your customers are not your consumers, and your consumers are not your customers. Is it getting tricky yet? (and please, don't look up customers or consumers in the dictionary - this is a blog for garsh sakes!)

In so many ways, the law firm library is all about bridging (or even just managing) this gap. If there is a secret to all this, I think it's recognizing that we're managing two different relationships. One group only sees the numbers, and one group only sees the service. There are very few individuals who ever see both sides of the coin. ... and if they are that 'well rounded', perhaps you have a future Library Partner or committee member on your hands! :-)

By waging your PR battle on two fronts, I find you begin to understand the balance required. If either side is seriously unhappy (and I don't mean sporadic complaints), chances are things need to be re-aligned. We all know that this business can be intensely political. And when things get really bad, more often than not, it's cultural issues - rather than library issues - that are to blame. Keep that in mind the next time you're stuck in the middle.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

My All Time Favourite Library Link!

I saw this about 4 or 5 years ago, but rediscovered it when Library Link of the Day featured it a few weeks back. No setup needed, it's just plain funny...

Friday, March 04, 2005

A New Canadian Law Librarian Blogger!

Thanks for forwarding Connie!

A big West Coast welcome to a new law librarian blogger out of Toronto ... Michel-Adrien Sheppard, AKA Library Boy. As noted in one of my recent postings, the more eyes and typing fingers (with our unique Canadian law library focus) we have, the better!

Michel-Adrien has the beginnings of a great blog. His posts include a nice mix of personal opinions and resources he's found.

Best of luck Michel-Adrien! I'm off to add your xml feed to my bloglines account. :-)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Eye Tracking Studies - Where Are You Positioning Important Webpage Content?

In terms of usability studies, there's nothing incredibly new about the links below. That said, they do serve as good examples of where to position web content where it will get the most attention (hint: top is good, left is good, and top left hand corner is really really good!).

Did-it, Enquiro, and Eyetools Uncover Google’s Golden Triangle

The Best of Eyetrack III:What We Saw When We Looked Through Their Eyes

Some Comments on My Design Strategies...

My personal recommendation is to place important brand information in this top-left side area - perhaps a logo, or an image that defines the page. Or as is often done, use this space for navigational elements.

The second most important area, in my experience, is the top-right side of the page. If more navigation features are required, this is a nice place for them. If not, perhaps an eye catching graphic which links off to an important content feature. The readers eyes will eventually pull back to the middle of the page, which is where most web designers will place the core text block.

But the biggest lesson in the above studies, and one that many web developers fail to heed, is to sell the page 'above the fold' - that is, that first presentation of the page the reader gets prior to scrolling. When a user links in, you have 3-5 seconds to persuade them to scroll down. It's a fine line between crowding the top of a webpage, and not placing enough content elements to capture them. And how can you tell if you've captured them? In terms of metrics, I use the ratio of page impressions to unique visitors. Above 3 pgs per visit, I'm doing ok. And below 2 pgs, I've got some real work to do. :-)