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Magazines > Information Today > May 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 5 — May 2004

The Rating Game
By Lauree Padgett

It's May. Or as it's known throughout TV-dom, the regular-season-ending "sweeps" period. Sweeps, for those not in the know, happen four times a year: February, May, August, and November. May sweeps are particularly noteworthy because series that will return in September often show cliffhanger episodes. To date, the biggest cliffhanger has to be the 1980 Dallas finale that had fans wondering all summer long "Who shot J. R.?" (It was J. R.'s vixenish sister-in-law, Kristen.)

Here's another way to know it's sweeps season: If your favorite news program suddenly switches from serious reporting to more sensationalized, National Enquirer-esque stories ("Lose weight by painting your toenails. Details at 11!" "Woman abducted by identical mute triplets found safe at laundromat! Tune in to Channel 5 for her exclusive interview!"), it must be sweeps. Of course, within the pages of the many esteemed Information Today, Inc. publications, we never have to resort to gimmicky, eye-catching titles. Our readers know we always have interesting and useful articles, including the ones I'm "sweeping" over this month from Computers in Libraries, ONLINE, and Searcher.


When you see a coonskin cap—OK, so no one ever sees a coonskin cap anymore, but humor me—who do you think of? "Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier," of course. Back in the Golden Age of Television, a violin was associated with the beloved skinflint Jack Benny. In the 1980s, vanity license plates became the craze thanks to the aforementioned Ewing clan, whose Porsches could be easily IDed on or off the Southfork Ranch with their "EWING1," "EWING2," etc., tags.

These days, a green gecko represents an insurance company, a Chihuahua was the spokesdog for Taco Bell, and a duck that screams "Aflac" is the rumored reason behind the Bennifer breakup. What's the point of all this? Unless you're a hoofed animal, branding is a very good thing. Just ask Sejan Yun ("Branding Helped to Promote Our Library and Its Technology," Computers in Libraries, May 2004, p. 18). Her workplace, the Saint Paul Public Library, used a 2-year-long renovation project to raise the general awareness of the entire library system by creating an identity program and logo.

The program was broken down into two basic phases: the decision phase, in which the logo was created and finalized, and the implementation phase, in which the logo would then be incorporated into all library promotional materials. Along with four core groups involved in the program, all 200 library staff members were asked for input during the 5-month design process. The finalized logo, along with a brand-new Web site, was publicized through press releases and media packets. The logo was also featured on T-shirts and magnets.

In the end, was the 2-year, $30,000 branding effort worth it? Yes, according to Yun. Circulation and gate percentages are going up. "With our new identity in place, it's easier, more efficient, and more fun to project the library's image as that of a healthy, vital, community learning place."

Live from Your Library

You might not have original Saturday Night Live cast member Chevy Chase tripping down stairs or over golden retrievers to announce it, but has your library gone "live" by offering patrons online real-time access to a librarian? Or maybe your library's still in the looking-into-it stage. Either way, you'll want to check out the article "Facing Live Reference," by Joe Fernandez (ONLINE, May/June 2004, p. 37).

In isolated geographic areas, or when combined with other forms of library service, live reference (LR) is becoming an increasingly popular tool for handling off-site information queries. Through LR, librarians are able to chat online with clients, first helping them identify the
information that's needed, then helping them find it. Fernandez expounds upon the areas that are most crucial to the successful implementation of LR.

Learning the online ropes of virtual communication is especially critical. To create "virtual harmony," you need to strike a balance between making a machine-driven service more human and keeping online interactions professional and respectful. Fernandez suggests that LR librarians create their own Web portals of useful online resources. Having personalized portals will not only help a librarian stay on top of existing resources but will help him or her find them as quickly as possible. LR, Fernandez concludes, "is a dynamic vehicle for a community of information seekers and information providers struggling in cyberspace to find a partnership to fill information gaps."

Treasure Aisles

Do you remember a game show that had people racing out to an island to dig up buried treasure? Maybe it's time to go on a treasure hunt a little closer to home: your own institution. In her article "Institutional Repositories: Hidden Treasures" (Searcher, May 2004, p. 41), Miriam A. Drake discusses how to uncover valuable scientific, technical, cultural, artistic, and historic artifacts that may have all but been forgotten in the archives, basements, and attics of universities, museums, and government sites. "Why?" you might ask. "Who needs repositories?"

For starters, faculty members, researchers, and administrators want to archive these types of materials. This is why the development of institutional repositories has largely taken place within academia. And here's another reason: Repositories help universities showcase faculty and student research, public service projects, and other activities and collections.

If your institution is deciding whether to establish a repository, there are many things to contemplate, including the scope and sustainability of the repository, the accessibility and type of content it will contain, and the funding behind it. Legal considerations such as intellectual property rights cannot be overlooked. Drake stresses: "A repository cannot run by itself. It needs constant attention. Maintenance of content, software, and accessibility can change. IT staff and librarians need to know the consequences of changes ... and be able to adjust accordingly."

Flushed with Pride

If I were to be branded, it would probably be with a huge "P" placed prominently on my person. And no, it wouldn't stand for my last name. It would stand for "puns"—and not necessarily good ones. As for my logo, I think I'd "borrow" an idea from "Harvey in the Morning," my all-time favorite Philadelphia DJ who had a joke-of-the-day segment on which I was featured on more than one occasion. After telling my joke, I would always hear the distinct sound of a flushing toilet. This only goes to prove that comedy is a tankless job. Hey, I heard that!

Lauree Padgett is Information Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail address is
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