Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There Will be Much Mistletoing and SEO Bashing

I'm listening to Christmas music... I'll pause a minute to let that sink in.

Earlier today I was killing time before I saw my weekly Tuesday movie (sounds silly, but you all need to go see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs NOW!) and, behold, Christmas decorations are out and available to purchase. It was rather entertaining to be picking through ornaments and lights while a real autumn tempest raged outside.

Then I got to work and things went south - how come IT can make me feel like an idiot with five words, "Next time check the FAQ," and ruin my whole day? For the love of Pete! Of course I checked the FAQ! The reason I emailed you was because it didn't help, which I made clear in my first email! Argh! Look at that - I'm turning red just thinking about it!

Thankfully Bing Crosby and David Bowie are here to save me, as always. With the brisk air and the cooling temperatures, this sort of music is exactly what the doctor ordered. It makes me feel as though there is a whole, beautiful world outside my anger at IT.

Another interesting diversion today was a post (via BoingBoing) from Derek Powazek about SEOs (Search Engine Optimizers) and their vial, black hearts that ruin the true meaning of the Internet... sorry, turning the Christmas music off now...

Three things struck me about this particular post:

1) Librarians wont admit this, but we Google things all of the time. And those charlatans who think that swindling Google into giving them high rankings quite mistake the matter! Lately it seems as though I automatically ignore the first 10 results, focusing on those on the second or third page of my search. This is not cool, not cool at all. I was getting angry at Google, but I should have spread my net wider - SEOs!

2) I think Derek is wonderfully glib about the creation of the Internet and what a massive nebulous thing it once was. Immediately I thought of Dewey and his fight to organize everything into a system.

Our Library Director, for an orientation video we created this summer, monologued about the early travails of library organization. First there were places that called themselves Libraries, then they organized books by height/color/date of purchase, and then, after frustration and headaches and complaining long enough, an organizational system developed that made sense. Perfect? Of course not, but it worked.

That is exactly what can be said of Google. There was this thing they called the Internet with all of this information, then they had to organize all of the information. Google filled that need, the need for an organizational system. Sure, it has some issues, but the basic principles are there.

The chicken sometimes comes before the egg.

Goodness! Can you imagine if there were SEOs out there for libraries that finagle their books' call numbers? How much money for a spot next to Harry Potter?

3) The moral of Derek's tale: "Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again."

That is not just something that should be applied to what you put out onto the web, but in all aspects of your lives! In the library our web presence is becoming more and more important to establishing a following, a loyal patron base. If our system technology is hard to use, cumbersome, or not geared to our target audience (college students, grad students, seminary students, and all of their professors) then what are we doing with our time?

The most recent upgrade to our online catalog added many new features that put us light years ahead of other academic libraries our size. My personal favorite: My Lists. It is a place to organize and store searches so that you can walk into the library, get the books you need, and walk out. Amazing! I can see that our Systems Librarian is carrying Derek's banner because each update is better than the last.

And, that has a precipitous effect on everyone in the workplace... much like Christmas music. Alright, that was far fetched, but it did lighten my mood!

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