Social Media at ETH-Bibliothek

It was my last presentation and article as a representative of ETH library. My presentation held at DGI Conference 2012 was published now as an article in, unfortunately not open access, so you can read it only if you or your library subscribes to the journal.

But for the readers of my blog I try to give a summary of the article. One main result of three years activities on social networks is the insight that it is really difficult to address directly to your target group. ETH-Bibliothek has quite a lot of fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter, but you don’t know which background they have. When creating a Facebook ad you can filter target groups. I tried to reduce the group to students at ETH that are also fans of the library – but the number was too small (less than 20, obviously). That doesn’t mean that there are only that few fans among the students, but only a smaller part indicates on Facebook that they study at ETH Zurich. I guess that most of the library’s fans are interested to libraries at all or they even are librarians…

One very interesting case was the discussion of the case publishers vs ETH-Bibliothek. At the end of 2011, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) lodged a complaint against the document delivery service of the ETH-Bibliothek at the Commercial Court of Zurich. At first the renowned Swiss newspaper NZZ wrote about it. Then Dr. Wolfram Neuauber, director of ETH-Bibliothek, published an article in ETHLife, the electronic news channel of ETH Zurich.  Now it was interesting to see, how the different social media took on the discussion.

At first there were some readers comments on the website of ETHLife. Then we published the article also on the library’s Facebook page. But there was nearly no feedback: only seven fans „liked“ the post. I guess that the content was too complex to be commented only with „I like“. And there was no discussion about the subject. The reaction on Twitter was more intense: our monitoring counted to 69 tweets or retweets. So the article was widely spread by our Twitter follower. But of course, there was no deeper discussion of the subject on Twitter. To my surprise Google+ turned out to be the social media platform with the most lively discussion: user „Joan Baez“ published his blog post about the case on Google+. Then there were 30 answers on this post with substantial content. Furthermore 104 persons shared this article and 149 gave it a +1. Finally I recognized how Google+ can serve as a powerful media to discuss also complex matters.

As a conclusion we can say that the library’s activities on social media are noticed by the public – not so much by the intended target groups, but by a broader public interested in libraries in general. And those activities contributed to create the image of a modern and innovative library within the university.

Mobile Internet Services and their implication on libraries

Today I had a presentation in Bad Hersfeld, at a library congress (Hessischer Bibliothekstag 2012) about mobiles and their implication on libraries. My presentation in German is published on Slideshare.

At first I lined out some trends that show how important mobile internet usage has become. And the way internet resources are used has changed basically with smartphones and tablets. The browser used to be the main way to get access to online information. Mobile apps and web apps use information on the internet in a direct way.  Mobile users want to get fast access to the information they need. That means for libraries that their websites should be optimized for mobile access. You have to ask, what users are interested in when they are on the way. Of course, they need a mobile version of the OPAC with access to their user account and the possibility to research for information and to order and loan books. Unfortunately services offered by publishers are difficult to be integrated into a mobile library webpage. You hardly find mobile friendly ebook services. Some publishers offer native apps, which have their own interface to search for information (mainly articles). There are also mobile web apps, but libraries can only link to these services from their mobile webpage. I don’t see how these resources could be integrated into a mobile library service at the moment.

I talked also about mobile internet services that have a great impact on user expectations. Libraries can adopt some of these methods, for example location aware services. You can register your library and its locations in Google Places and integrate Google Maps into the mobile website. So it’s possible to find the location of a branch library and get the information how to get there from the place you are at this moment.  Another interesting technology is QR-codes in order to link from a print information to the virtual world.

Creating a mobile version of the library’s homepage seems very important to me. If you create one you have to consider some special requirements. Reduce the information as much as possible. Mobile users don’t want to browse and scroll through a lot of background information. They are interested in opening hours, locations and maybe news from the library. At ETH-Bibliothek we added a list with mobile websites of publishers (mobile friendly resources) and mobile versions of its presence on social networks to these basic informations. And like mentioned above, the main function is that of a fully integrated mobile catalogue. See also my blog post in German.

Finally I also mentioned ebooks and how they can be used with mobile devices. In academic libraries where PDF is the format in which ebooks are offered, only tablets and notebooks can be recommended for mobile access. Tablets give also the opportunity to work with these documents (for example with GoodReader on the iPad). But on smartphones and e-reader documents in PDF format are not really user friendly. For these small screens you needed ebooks in EPUB format, but these are hardly available with academic content.

Innovation Management in Libraries

I published my presentation about innovation management in libraries – methods and trends on Slideshare. I held the presentation on May 9, 2012 at Kantonsbibliothek Chur in German. So the slides are also in German…

I can give a short abstract in English: The presentation dealt with different definitions of innovation. There are radical and incremental innovations. ETH-Bibliothek’s definition for innovation means a more incremental for (adaption of already established technologies). On the other hand the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is interested in radical innovations. An important task of innovation management is creating an innovation process. It is important to get as many ideas as possible, but to reduce them in several steps (stage-gate-process), so that only successful products are brought on the market. Another important element is the involvement of staff. One method is the introduction of internal channels to collect ideas (i.e. with an internal blog) or to create innovation circles, in which interested librarians can discuss new ideas. The main goal of the innovation process is to integrate these ideas and to define the responsibilities. At ETH-Bibliothek we tried to involve also the management team into all important decisions and milestones.

There are different models how innovation management can be organized in a library. ETH-Bibliothek created a new position of an innovation manager and a new department called Innovation and Marketing. There are other examples, where an assistant to the director is responsible for the coordination of innovation management.

I talked also about how libraries get new ideas. Of course there are a lot of creativity methods that can be adapted. But also reading trend reports (e.g. Horizon report) is an important source of new ideas.

As a summary we can say that innovation management is not only useful for big libraries. There are also simple forms (e.g. the innovation circle) that can be introduced with few resources also in smaller libraries.

Research Strategies

Today I worked on the new research strategy for our research field digital libraries at HTW Chur. This will be the future main focus of our activities in research in library science and also in HTW’s services for libraries. We are still discussing the details, but I am convinced that it will be a great step forward. Some of our topics are innovation in libraries, new ways of production and distribution of eBooks and their impact on libraries, semantic Web and linked open data, mobile usage of library services and much more. I’ve got the idea to develop an innovation check – a kind of maturity check for the degree of  adapting innovative tools, methods and technologies in libraries. And I didn’t forget our project technology radar…

I am also looking forward to cooperate with colleagues with different background and special know-how. And I hope that we will soon be able to publish some results.

Twitter as blog reader

Yesterday my opinion that one of Twitter’s most important functions is that of a blog reader was confirmed. My daughter mentioned that a friend of her said he would read my blog. First I thought he meant my official Blog Innovation@ETH-Bibliothek, but it was my new personal blog he was talking about. I wondered how he knew about this new blog with only two posts being published yet. And in my blog he read about my daughter’s blog as Mrs. Garlic Head (

And how did he know about these blogs? He is a follower of my Twitter account. And of course all our blogs are connected to Twitter. So he knew about my new blog instantly and there he read about my daughter’s blog. I guess now he knows her Twitter name and follows her on Twitter, too…

Even if I know that there are quite a lot of followers on Twitter, I am always surprised when somebody says he reads my blog. So I think that Twitter is really the most efficient blog reader. And as author of blogs you are able connect several RSS-feeds (from different blogs) to your Twitter account with Twitterfeed ( The only problem is if you follow too many Twitterfeeds and you don’t manage to read the new posts instantly. Then they get lost in the flood of news… So, it is important to clean from time to time your Twitter account from feeds you don’t need anymore.

And, by the way, the most beautiful way to read blogs and/or Twitterfeeds is reading them on Flipboard, one of my favorite apps for the iPad.

Mrs Garlic Head's blog on Flipboard

Shift from practice to theory

Today it’s my last day working in a library. Tomorrow will begin a new era for me, when I start working as a researcher and teacher in a university of applied sciences. Considering this shift from practical to more theoretical work I wonder what will be the difference and which elements will connect the two worlds. I think it is very important that these two worlds aren’t really separated: Libraries should be in close contact to the results of academic research. And research should also deal with issues that are relevant for the practical work in libraries. Therefore I’m looking forward to work in a university of applied sciences – it means that the content and the results of research should be applicable by libraries, archives and other institutions.

When I visited the conference informare! last year in Berlin, I noticed that our library is sometimes far away from the subjects that were presented by scientists. When I came back to ETH library, I wrote a report and suggested that our library should involve more into scientific research. A leading academic library should be part of applied research in its field. An academic library should support research about subjects that deal with providing academic information. There could and should be a fruitful cooperation between library science and libraries.

I promise here and now, that I will try to combine the two worlds in my future work. I’m looking forward to going deeper in my analysis of current phenomenons and trends than I could do that before, when the interests of our library had to be the focus of my work. And on the other hand I intend to prepare the findings in a way that they can be adopted by libraries. This will be a great challenge!

Written on my way from Chur (university of applied sciences) to ETH library, on my last „hybrid“ day between the worlds…

Visit my new homepage and blog

I’ve just published my new personal homepage with my blog. You may wonder why I didn’t do that before. The fact is that I’ll start a new job as professor of library science at HTW Chur next week (on May 1). And until now I had my blog (not a personal one, but run only by me) at ETH-Bibliothek: As I leave ETH I needed a new platform for my reports and comments.

And I think that it is quite important for a lecturer and scientist to have a homepage with his published works, his presentations, talks and lectures. So I’ve created this homepage on WordPress with some information about me, my publications, my presentations and my lectures. Maybe there will be more items in future.

And I want to make a statement concerning blogs: I think that blogs are (still) an important part of scholarly and popular communication. I’d prefer a personal blog for my thoughts and comments instead of a commercial social media service. Of course my contributions will be linked to many of these platforms, but my blog is my primary place where I want to publish my thoughts, my professional views and even results of my research.

And I decided to write my blog in English. Why? At first because I think that information science should be internationally linked and not limited to a German speaking public. I’m looking forward to exchange my ideas with colleagues all over the world. Second because it’s a good training – even if my English is far from being perfect. And third my daughter Lena encouraged me to try it, too. Because she set up her own blog as in English. It’s a great blog, by the way!

You can subscribe to my blog using the RSS-link and a RSS reader or following me on Twitter. For me, Blogs and Twitter just belong together, with Twitter as a fast and easy way to subscribe to blogs and to read the headlines. But the blog is the primary source, of course! I hope you will enjoy it!