Laura O Broin 'find not search' #asl2014
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'Find not search; delivering information services to parliamentarians' by Laura O Brion of the Library & Research service at the Houses of the Oireachtas. Case study presented at 'Information ...

'Find not search; delivering information services to parliamentarians' by Laura O Brion of the Library & Research service at the Houses of the Oireachtas. Case study presented at 'Information Innovators: Librarians evolving in the digital environment' the Academic & Special Libraries conference 2014.

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  • So, TDs and Senators! They are an interesting user group. You see here across-party assembly of them including Minister Joan Burton. On that occasion in November 2011, they joined forces to support the Pieta House Foundation. As you can see we have men and women, some young, some not so young, some in suits and some not. They are people from various backgrounds and in various walks of life. But the one thing they all have in common is that they are in a hurry. They need clear, reliable information on matters of current interest, and they need it fast. Because of the demands on their time and attention, they can’t afford to just search and browse for information. They have to find it. For this reason, our focus has always been on channeling as much relevant, reliable and current information directly to Members and their staff as we possibly can. This work is never done and we seek constantly to improve and update our services. But one recent area of significant improvement and success has been the implementation of a new, internal Library & Research Service website, powered by Wordpress. Like most success stories, it didn’t happen overnight. A significant team effort has been invested over the best part of three years to establish and refine the application to best serve our members needs. So I’ll start in 2011 at the beginning
  • We had a commitment under our Business Plan 2011 – 2012 to “Build on our innovative use of ICT by implementing and exploring new technologies.”Our project sponsors, John McDonough, Head of Collections and Maria Fitzsimons, Head of Research invited my colleague, Erin O ’Mahony and I to develop a project plan to achieve this. The plan consisted of two main phases with a third added after implementation.
  • As I said, Erin and I were asked to prepare a project plan and Phase 1 included three actions:First, an assessment of how various Web 2.0 tools,resources and applications can be used within a library and research service. I should say that at time we preferred the term Web 2.0 because as you can imagine, the term Social Media sounded not quite appropriate for a parliamentary service, but in fact, that is what we were considering. Second,Identification of the positive aspects of using these tools as well as the risks.And third, An evaluation of the potential of these tools/applications for the delivery of information to L&RS staff and to our end-users
  • Phase 1, in effect, constituted the Research and Learning Phase or the project, and was completed by April 2011. It included:Attendance at conferences and seminarsA literature reviewSetting up application trials And benefit/risk assessmentsAnd why was this phase so important? Well like many people back in 2011, we had a strong impression of the growing importance of Social Media in society, but we weren’t sure how exactly it worked in technological terms, how sustainable it would be, how suitable it was for professional use in an organisation such as ours, whether there were risks in terms of network and data security, privacy, reputation and so on.Before proceeding to select and implement a social media application, we needed to thoroughly understand what we were doing and to be in a position to make an accurate and reliable case to decision makers.
  • But why Social Media?Well of course it was big news at that time.We were aware that attitudes to information technology were changing in a number of ways:TDs and Senators were increasingly engaging with Social Media. Public Service organisations needed to maintain and develop services with reduced resources. ICT Network Managers were reconsidering some of the more rigid barriers to Social Media applications in the workplace. Finally and perhaps most importantly, Social Media technologies appeared to have real potential for librarians and researchers both as consumers and as producers of information.A very significant issue that we faced in considering Social Media however, was the serious and very necessary emphasis within the Oireachtas on network and data security.The risk of cyber attack on the parliament is constant and very real. I have heard jokes about data leaks revealing that Deputy Willy O’Dea prefers jam doughnuts to cream doughnuts with his elevenses, but jokes aside, there have been serious Distributed Denial of Service attacks on the Irish Government network amongst others and there will be more. Even though on the international stage, the Irish Parliament might seem unworthy of a hacking effort, the fact is that hackers, both criminal and political often Beta-test their plans on smaller organisations.The risk of virus infection via a Social Media site also, is 15 times higher than via email. There are ways around this, but not every organisation has the resources to do it. They believe, not unreasonably that they are better safe than sorry.So our Oireachtas network is as ring fenced as it can and must be, and finding a way to harness the power of Social Media within a very un-social network was certainly never going to be an easy task!
  • Despite this, we looked at our online presence in 2011 and wondered if there was more we could do!This is a screenshot of our then Home Page. It is provided as part of our Library Management system, Liberty. It was very restrictive in that it was just one page and was really intended to display fairly static information such as opening hours, contact details etc.In order to provide more detailed information, we had to set up an additional internal website using Dreamweaver. The links you see highlighted in red on this page went to pages in this internal website where detailed content was available. There are also links to our many subscription journals and databases such as the EBSCO A-Z ; the Financial Times and so on.This was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons:It was confusing for end users who weren’t sure which application they were in at any one time, and how to get back to the Home Page.The service was dependent on a very small number of staff to add new content and administer the site. Our Researchers work to very tight deadlines and need their research products to be published as soon as possible for Members to digest in advance of debate. Again the dependency on a small number of staff to be available to do this created an undesirable business risk.There was no built-in alerting facility to advise members of new content. We had to send alerts by email that often got lost in the tide of emails that members receive every day. Again the email couldn’t be sent out until the site had been updated, so Researchers in some senses had their hands tied.There was very little flexibility in terms of layout, navigation and graphic design.
  • I mentioned that we carried out application trials so which applications did we try?We looked at Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, LinkedIn, Yammer, Joomla, RSS, Wordpress, Blogspot and many moreFrom that list we developed a shortlist: Yammer Wordpress BloggerJoomlaYammer – an enterprise level social networking application –Very much our preferred option in terms of functionality and user friendliness but the financial cost was prohibitive at $5 per user per month.Blogger – very similar to Wordpress but less suitable in terms of graphic design and functionality.Joomla – an open source content management system that was very good but too similar to other applications currently available in the Houses of the Oireachtas Service particularly in terms of the training levels required.
  • Evaluation criteriaThese were the elements that we needed to improve and develop our services:Cost Ease of use – administrator/designer Ease of use – end user/authorsWidgets/plugins/themesLocal installationPrivacy and security Blogging element Posting by email/text User levelsSupport
  • And so we chose WordpressIt had many advantages and had the potential to meet all of our requirementsLocal installation possible - SECURITYFree of chargeTried and tested application - Well Established – at least 10 years old and with 11 million users worldwide. It is estimated that 20% of the Web is now powered by Wordpress. So many organisations are using it now, that a new wave of Wordpress themes for business is beginning to appear. We may well need to look at updating our own. It’s User-friendly at multiple levelsIt has ready to use ‘themes’ with built in functionality that we loved.There are many Widgets and plugins to easily improve and tailor the functionality of the site.Excellent online support networkExisting staff experience and expertise both within the section and in the ICT Unit.Above all, local installation meant that we could have all the security of an internally managed application with most of the functionality of a web-based one. Furthermore, it meant that we could have a completely private site, inaccessible by accident or otherwise without the need for usernames and passwords. Our experience has always been that if people have to remember user names and passwords, they are much less likely to use the application.Library staff of course use usernames and passwords to access the back end or Dashboard of the site where posts and pages are added.
  • So just to give you clear points of reference:Wordpress.comIs where you go to start up a web based blog. Its also very good for investigating and familiarising yourself with Wordpress before considering a locally-hosted version if that’s the option you need to take.Wordpress.orgWhere you will download Wordpress if this is a better option for you. You will need ICT support for this though.TIP Wordpress and in fact most Social Media applications identify you by your email address. Whether you are using .com or .org, remember to separate your role from your person. If you are using .com, set up a web-based email account such as gmail with a generic email address such as WordpressAdmin@the department.ie Similarly if your are using a locally hosted version, ask your ICT unit to set up an appropriate address, strictly for that purpose. This means that you can easily hand over admin rights to another person in the future and avoid the kind of confusion that can very easily develop between your personal and professional personas.I’ll discuss Wordpress in more depth later, but I want to complete the outline of the Project Plan first.
  • To say a little more about the implementation phase, Phase 2:It included Knowledge sharing April 2011Project development team May to September 2011Making a Business case for approval in principle October 2011 Consultation with our ICT Unit on an on-going basis throughout the project – very important!Staff User Training July 2012And the development of a Multi-site network in May – Oct 2012I’m happy to tell you that this phase of the project was completed by the Official Launch in October 2012
  • So - Knowledge Sharing with our colleagues, including our colleagues in the broader Library community, was essential to ensure on-going buy in and support for the project. It was very important to us to avoid any sense of the Social Media project being a purely ICT project and we wanted to reinforce the need for whole team involvement. I am convinced that without this, the project couldn’t have succeeded. It consisted of Reports to our Project Sponsors, including the final recommendation to use WordpressA formal presentation to our colleagues in the L&RS Team and an invitation to form a Wordpress Development TeamI also wrote an article for GLINT - the Journal of the Government Libraries Section of the LAI
  • Teamwork was also very important.In the end, the entire Library & Research Service was involved and continues to be involved regularly with the updating and management of the site. As I mentioned, we are fortunate in having the enthusiastic support of our ICT Unit who have never failed to provided the support and backup we need. I am quite sure that without the support of our sponsors and our colleagues the project would never have taken off. The involvement of the whole L&RS staff has been crucial to its success.
  • I mention the ICT Unit as part of the team and of course, we couldn’t do it without them!So early consultation was essential, as well as consultation throughout the project.Agreement in principle was made in October 2011,to download the Wordpress software.Thisallowed the Development Team to test the application locally, without publishing the site. We learned from our mistakes without suffering the consequences. Full agreement on foot of the test period was made later, in advance of publishing the site.And of course a formal Business case had to be prepared for final implementation.A Service Level Agreement was drawn up– addressing areas of responsibility, final authority, backups, upgrades etc. on an on-going basis. Contact person – it is far easier to have a named person who is responsible for receiving and managing your support queries. And we were lucky enough to have someone who actively enjoyed helping us!It must be said that a fairly high level of customisation was required to integrate the system with our email network as well as other tweaks to the code along the way and we are very grateful to our network managers for their support with this.
  • Another key factor for success was the emphasis on adequate training. This comprised Self learning through Wordpress.com HelpSelf learning by setting up a Wordpress.com test siteI also provided formal and informal training and support to the team based on my own learning and experience.Erin also arranged Formal Training from a professional trainer which was invaluable. They are not that easy to find these days, and I don’t know if our trainer is still working, but do contact me or Erin for information if you need it. I’ll provide our contact details at the end.
  • And finally, the Launch! Tah Dah! The launch was in fact fairly low key. We simply emailed Members a week in advance to say that unless they advised us otherwise, we would subscribe them automatically to the new blog. None of them did advise us otherwise, and I’m happy to tell you that only two members of the general office staff have ever asked to be removed from the list since October 2011.A second email was sent when the site went live providing the URL and a little background to the new blog.We made it our business to ensure that any immediately available content would be of particular interest to members. This was obviously to build whet their appetites and build confidence in the service.And finally we included online User Guides in both the email and the site itself.
  • So this is what our home page looks like now! Not much different you might say but it is!The interface is less crowded – the most visible element being the latest post(As you can see here Ann O’Sullivan is keeping Members informed of most important issues!)There are very effective search options.At the top right is the general site search box and there are also ‘search by tag’ and ‘search by category’ options. We use tags for informal, current subject headings such as Organ Donation whereas the corresponding category might be Health Policies or Health ServicesAnd we have the option of adding pages and sub-pages accessed via the tabs you see across the top of the page.The most important element is that Members no longer have to search. We anticipate their current interests and needs and now they just click on a link in an email and FIND what they need instantly!Of particular interest is the third tab from the left, the Bills Tracker site.
  • Here is an example of a Bills Tracker page on the Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill (2013)As you know one of the most important functions of the parliament is to propose, debate and enact Bills into law. But it is a complex business and it is a challenge for Members to keep abreast of the amount of legislation that passes through the parliament. Our Bills Tracker blog and our Bills Digest and Debate Pack publications provide the completely impartial background information they need.As you can see, we provide a synopsis of the Bill, the name of the researcher who is monitoring its progress, a copy of it and most importantly a link to any associated research products. You’ll notice that we have embedded a Factiva newsfeed widget on the page that feeds any news articles on the subject of the Bill on a daily basis.This was easily embedded in the HTML editing window for that page.Which brings me to the Dashboard, or back-end of the site
  • Here is the Main Site DashboardIt looks quite off-putting until you realise that all the relevant areas of the site are listed on the left hand menu.Posts, Pages, Appearance, Users, Setting and so on.Lets look more closely at a new post page for example
  • I’ll use the one on Social Media in Politics that you saw earlier on, added by Ann O’Sullivan.As you can see, the interface is very similar to email, with a subject line, the body of the post and the usual formatting options. You can add links to other pages and posts, or to documents and websites as you wish.In the right hand column, you will see the publication options and where Ann has added categories and below that tags, to her post. To publish instantly on the site, you just click Update in exactly the way you would click Send. As long as it is accurately done, it is easy for any of our staff to advise and inform Members of information and materials that they know will be of interest. Just to remind you of how that post looks live, lets have another look at the published version:
  • So again, you see Ann’s subject line as the TitleHer name and the categories she has assigned are underneath and this is followed by the main body of the text and an embedded link that you can’t actually see here, but it is there!
  • And this is what Member’s see!They can click on a link to read the full post in the blog.Or if possible, they can just click a link that directly opens the document in question.Most of them take the option to read the post, because of the context it provides and then the document.
  • I know, I know! You’re wondering – How many phases did this project have? But we’re nearly there!Phase 3 was an extension of the original plan to include1. Management Information – in other words - statistics2. An User Survey online - I’ll tell you more about that later3. The formation of a Wordpress Focus Group composed of users of the site, mainly the parliamentary assistants to members who would be best placed to provide the feedback we required.4. On-going redevelopment Restructuring of navigationNew pluginsMulti-site network
  • With the help of our ICT Unit, we downloaded the WassUp plugin and have been using it ever since to monitor site usage levels.It isn’t possible to search over a specific date range, but there are set ranges of the past 24hours; the past week; right through to the past year and all time (obviously from the beginning of the site rather than the beginning of time but that’s what they call it)You can filter out Registered Users – that is Library & Research Staff who log in, from ‘Public Users’ who are obviously people who use the front end of the site only – in other words - Members and staff.You can also identify rises in usage levels immediately following the publication of materials of particular interest - or not as the case may be.
  • User Consultation has consisted of An Online Survey using Survey Monkey to which we received 50 responses - which doesn’t allow for statistically valid conclusions - but does give a good indication of how Members are feeling about the site.Focus Group Meetings. This gave us an opportunity to investigate the survey results in more depth and to find our why users gave some of the responses that they did.Informal feedback. We always note observations from users at all levels and take them to the team for consideration.And improvements based on feedback. Making changes and improvements based on user feedback reassures users that it is worth the effort of giving it to us in the first place.
  • We asked our users how they felt about the number of email alerts they receive from the Wordpress blog.83% were happy with the number they received and 25% said they would be happy to receive more if they were relevant.In an organisation where Members are constantly bombarded with emails – that is a very good result!
  • Yes I admit it – we were fishing for compliments but the question could also have backfired badly. Fortunately for us, it didn’t and 87.5% of respondents said that they would miss the site. 2.1% bluntly said no, but you can’t win ‘em all!
  • Stats for the past year show 39,281 separate visits! I can tell you that 4,475 of those visits were from Library & Research Service staff, but staff are valid users and that still leaves 34,812 visits in the past year.Considering that there are only 166 TDS and 60 Senators, that’s not a bad hit rate at all!I have to mention too that there were almost a quarter of a million page views over the same period 232, 853 to be precise.So we are delighted but mainly relieved to tell you that the project has been a success and to invite any questions you have about it. Thank you!

Laura O Broin 'find not search' #asl2014 Laura O Broin 'find not search' #asl2014 Presentation Transcript

  • February 2014
  •  “Build on our innovative use of ICT by implementing and exploring new technologies.”
  •  An assessment of how various web 2.0 tools, resources and applications can be used within a library and research service.  Identification of the positive aspects of using these tools as well as the risks.  An evaluation of the potential of these tools/applications for the delivery of information to L&RS staff and to our endusers
  •  Conferences  Literature and seminars reviews  Application trials  Benefit/Risk assessment
  •  Members now using Social Media  Reduced resources  Less ICT Section resistance  Real potential for service provision
  •  Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, LinkedIn, Yammer, Joomla, RSS, Wordpress, Blogger Slideshare and many more  Shortlisted: • Yammer • Wordpress • Blogger • Joomla
  •  Privacy and security  Cost  Ease of use - admin  Ease of use – end user  Widgets/plugins/themes  Local installation  Blogging element  Posting by email/text  User levels  Support
  •  Local installation (security!)  Free of charge  Tried and tested application  User friendly at multiple levels  Widgets, plugins, themes.  User access options  Excellent blogging element  Excellent online support network  Existing staff experience and expertise
  •  www.wordpress.com to sign up for a web-based blog  www.wordpress.org to download locally hosted blog
  • Implementation (action 4)  Knowledge sharing  Project development team  Training  Business case  ICT Unit Consultation  Multi site network development  Launch Oct 2012
  •  Reports and recommendations  Presentation  GLINT article to L&RS Team
  •  Sponsors  Team leaders  Wordpress  ICT Unit Development Team
  •  Early consultation  Agreement  Business in principle case  Service Level Agreement  Contact person
  •  Self learning: Wordpress.com Help  Self learning: Wordpress.com test site  Cascade  Formal training training
  •  Members automatically subscribed  Announcement  Key by email content delivery  Online user guides
  • Post implementation actions  1. Management information (statistics)  2. User Survey online  3. Focus Group  On-going redevelopment
  •  Statistics plugin – WassUp
  •  Online Survey  Focus Group Meetings  Informal feedback  Improvements based on feedback
  • 39,281 visits over the past year and 232,853 pageviews!
  •  laura.obroin@oir.ie  erin.omahony@oir.ie  www.opac.oireachtas.ie  www.wordpress.com  www.wordpress.org