ALA 2014, Las Vegas

Republished from the EdLab Blog

Greetings from the American Library Association Annual Conference in sunny Las Vegas! I got in last night and have been having many adventures. Here are my daily highlights!

Zappos:
This morning I toured the Zappos headquarters in downtown Vegas. Zappos moved into a new location last year in the former Vegas city hall and their building cuts boldly into the skyline of the low-lying downtown and surrounding desert. Activity on the campus is centered around this municipal-chic pavilion:
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Their campus is set up around team-based open plan office areas and a variety of move spaces like coffee shops, patios, and private rooms. (To book these spaces, Zappos even has a Roomer-esque iPad reservation platform!)

The tour really centered around the ways they support their famous customer service ethos on the backend, through slow hiring and a very deliberate reward system to scaffold employee growth. Zappos requires all new hires to attend a four-week customer service training program regardless of their eventual placement in the company. This serves to introduce new employees to their most central ideal of “delivering happiness” and, more practically, to ensure that during the busy holiday period, everyone at the company (including CEO Tony Hsieh) can work the phones.

While they give employees a lot of freedom to make decisions (one customer services rep told us about her full replacement and refund of an $800 order to a customer that had lost her home in a fire), there is a very established assessment protocol to evaluate employees and this evaluation is done extremely frequently. Evaluation uses a points scale and employees are rated on a few radical things (like how many friends they have from other departments) in addition to more established measures of growth.

The team also puts together a culture yearbook every year to share what the experience of working at Zappos means to them. They give this book to new employees and visitors, so it’ll be up in the EdLab if you want to take a peek. Reading all the nice team things made me pretty lab-wistful. It was my dream to take a selfie with the famous McCarran Airport loneliness turtle, but I landed in a different terminal, so you’ll have to settle for this moving walkway of loneliness:

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Ebooks!:
Today I also had the chance to attend an update on Michael Levine-Clark’s research with Ebrary and EBL ebook usage data. He has more robust information about page turns per session and time spent in each session and is working to evaluate patterns of usage based on LC subject area. So far it looks like education titles are a particularly good buy for libraries if we’re looking at things like percentage use in subject collection, length of session, and page turns. This session had a very strong Proquest presence and it made me think about how this data is going to inform ebook pricing in the future. Pricing for ebooks seems still to be based on analog measures of quality like publisher and length, but perhaps someday we’ll evaluate our titles based on cost per page turn. I’m looking forward to reading the paper, which should be out in August.

I’m just wrapping up my last day here in Vegas. I present in a little over an hour and the Ignite sessions have been really well attended! I’ll try to tweet a pic from the podium 🙂 Here’s a report from my weekend:

Saturday:
In the morning I attended a session aimed at technical services leaders in academic libraries, the focus was primarily on developing cataloging standards in the age of web searching, but it was great to get a chance to discuss common issues and compare notes with the crowd.

I then headed over to the conference center to give my Roomer talk. There were about 60 people there and I was one of nine short presentations. There was only time for four questions at the end, but three of them were about Roomer!

After that I went to a session sponsored by Innovative Interfaces (our integrated library systems vendor) to hear about their upcoming product developments. Not too much to report here, they have recently merged with two other companies but nothing much should change for us on the front end. After that I attended a panel discussion on copyright developments that had an awesomely rowdy librarian audience. There was quite a bit of hissing.

Sunday:
I was invited to a small OCLC discussion group in the morning and we talked very deeply about the directions of professional development for librarians. In the afternoon I attended a session sponsored by the Association for Collections and Technical Services and a very intriguing panel discussion about discovery services. A couple of the panelists had done some work analyzing Summon data and it gave me a lot of ideas!

After my presentation today I’ll probably stop by a session focusing on articles on demand and one about library data before heading out to the airport. Vegas was a lot of fun, but I’m excited to get back to work tomorrow! Miss you all!