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Providing LibraryH3lp


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Providing LibraryH3lp …

Providing LibraryH3lp

Pam Sessoms, Undergraduate Librarian, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, LibraryH3lp

Libraryh3lp was created three years ago to solve technical problems associated with offering night-time collaborative chat and IM reference services between Duke, NCSU, and UNC-Chapel Hill. It is now a popular, low-cost virtual reference platform used by over 300 libraries around the world. Behind the scenes, Libraryh3lp was conceived of and continues to be provided by Eric Sessoms, President of Nub Games, Inc., with assistance from Pam Sessoms, a working librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill. Come learn more about the business and operational sides of Libraryh3lp, including the benefits and challenges involved with this unique model.

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  • Staff from your web browser, IM client, or phone.
  • Handle patrons using your website, sending text messages, or using IM accounts on services like AIM and Google Talk.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Providing Libraryh3lp
      Pam Sessoms
      UNC-Chapel Hill Undergraduate Librarian/and also Libraryh3lp
    • 2. Who runs this thing?
    • 3. What does Libraryh3lp do?
      Provides a flexible platform for building virtual reference services
    • 4.
    • 5.
    • 6. What does it do?
      Text msgs
      XMPP Server with IM Gateways
    • 7. History
    • 8. History, continued
      • Peer-to-peer: runs on PCs. No web server to pay for.
      • 9. Peer-to-peer architecture not scalable.
      • 10. Overall service successful but needed web-based architecture for growth.
      • 11. Great start, now re-do everything differently.
    • Sustainability for web-based system (Libraryh3lp)
      • Existing business entity: Nub Games, Inc. (LLC), from Eric’s contract programming work
      • 12. How are we going to pay for this?
      • 13. Ads?
      • 14. Sell the users’ data?
      • 15. Get a grant?
      • 16. Subscription
      • 17. Make it really affordable
      • 18. Architecture, efficient code
      • 19. Amazon S3, Cloudfront
      • 20. Stick to the core system; avoid unnecessary work
      • 21. Radical notion: create a good service and charge a fair price for it.
      • 22. Contract work for special features needed by large projects
      • 23. NCknows
      • 24. Support expectations…?
      • 25. Programmer does not have time for support
      • 26. Librarian has full-time librarian job
    • History, continued
    • 27. History, continued
    • 28.
    • 29.
    • 30.
    • 31. Basic stats
      Approximately 1,250 trials registered
      Many libraries registered more than one trial
      Approximately 300 active customers
      Primarily in the US and Canada
      Also Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, England, Germany, China, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Russia, Poland
      Conversion rate about 25%!
      286 paid accounts
      A few are freebies.
      Some still in trial.
      A few have not paid (alas).
      Top 75 account for 75% of traffic
    • 32. Libraryh3lp pricing per year
    • 33. How we save time(and so, keep Libraryh3lp inexpensive)
      Unmediated trial access
      Trial version is same as full version
      Live trial (using real patrons) expected
      Libraries know what they’re getting
      Programmer doesn’t have to spend time writing version with disabled features
      Default trial 90 days, can be extended
      Payment basically “honor system”
      We have started looking for freeloaders, but it takes time, and we don’t automatically disable their accounts.
      For better or worse, we don’t spend time marketing or having vendor tables.
      Support users helping users.
      Use third-party communication tools like Google Groups (support), User Voice (feature requests), Twitter (system status).
      Refchatter via Altarama: supported version (more expensive)
    • 34. More on saving time…
      Eric: wants to solve hard problems. He should focus on core, technical infrastructure growth.
      What is the weakest link?
      Sometimes overall efficiency is gained by writing non-core software.
      Simple tools so I can do more systems administration.
      (Threatens to replace me with a small shell script frequently.)
      As Libh3lp grew, accounting/billing needed attention.
      BBDB, custom, integrates with admin site.
      Quickbooks for generating invoices and tracking receipts.
      Payment: small plea @ bottom of blog post, next day, 7 libraries paid.
    • 35. Accounting integration
    • 36. …but efficiency starts with the code
      Presence: Online? Offline?
    • 37. Efficiency starts with the code
      Presence calls 20x more efficient (thus, cheaper) using comet long-polling over traditional polling. Comet long-poll provides real-time presence in most browsers.
      45 million presence requests in last 10 days.
      During busier times, there are 10,000 web pages simultaneously monitoring real-time presence.
      During busier times, there are 100-500 new presence requests per second.
      What is more efficient: making system 10x faster through better code, or adding 10x the servers?
      New system will handle thousands of presence requests per second.
    • 38. Great things about working on Libraryh3lp
      Can move quickly.
      Very low communications overhead on technical end.
      Interesting puzzles to solve.
      Mostly very happy, kind librarians.
    • 39. Challenges
      Billing expectations
      Purchase Orders
      By the way, we write ourselves a 2.5% discount on all POs.
      Faxing things
      Getting things notarized
      “We need to get you into our system“
      ie, fill out these 20 forms…
      Training/support requests
      Requests for demos
      Seem to be expecting a sales pitch
      Weird local problems requiring intense tech support
      Growth walls (remember, it’s unlimited)
      Sometimes needs attention at inconvenient times.
      We need to have pretty constant Internet access.
      Monitoring, paging, can fix crashes from iPhone.
      Yes, even during vacations. 
    • 40.
    • 41. Challenges: Delicate Balance
      Full-time job at UNC.
      Deflect Libh3p calls away from my work phone.
      Set low expectations among Libraryh3lp users for non-emergency support.
      In real emergency, take annual leave time.
    • 42. Typical Libraryh3lp Week (Pam)
      Friday evening? Date night!!!
    • 43. Future (the future is now)
      NCknows migration
      First Libraryh3lp state-wide collaborative.
      First backup staff experience on Libraryh3lp.
      My Customer Cloud
      Like Libraryh3lp, but flat rate per chat.
      Population size pricing model breaks down in private sector.
      New programming partner for Eric! (and she also does support)
      Unexpected finding: Libraries seem to be much more service-oriented than most organizations/businesses.
      Cheaper for lower chat volume libraries.
      Libraryh3lp costs at least $250/yr.
      Billing fully integrated into MCC architecture.
      Must be able to pay online with credit card.
      Most common question from libraries so far: “Will you invoice me for $20 of chats?”
      Summer release of Libraryh3lp upgrade