Friday, December 14, 2012

STELLAService an independent online retailer evaluator

I came across this article on CBS Money Watch about STELLAService a sort-of secret shopper of online companies. They have quite a comprehensive list of online retailers, which is also broken into a directory of retail niches, such as Baby Care, Jewelry, and Office Supplies, so a searcher can compare online retailers by sector.

Retailers are evaluated based on their online shopping experience, their logistical monitoring, such as deliveries and on customer support. Retailers are given one of four designations: Elite, Excellent, Approved and Not Approved, and they can display their badges for Elite or Excellent on their website. Retailers may also be evaluated multiple times, which ensures the consistency and currency of the ratings system.

This is a useful for resource for someone researching the online retail marketplace if they are planning to open their own online niche retailer, or if a client has the jitters about buying online and you wanted to suggest reputable online retailers beyond the big names, like Amazon or Overstock, or if you needed ready-reference access to an online retailer's customer service line for a client.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tiny vending machine for toddler users

Ella's Kitchen makes a vending machine for toddlers, and this might be a design to keep an eye on if your library distributes books by vending machine.

Spied on Springwise

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding Self-Storage Auctions

Dave Hester, the famous YUUUUP! man of A&E's Storage Wars, has claimed that highly popular Storage Wars is faked, stating that some of the items found in the storage units are planted items. What this might mean is a renewed interest, or possibly skepticism, in buying good for resale from self-storage auctions.

Clients can find out about auctions in several ways: following the websites of local self-storage facilities, which usually announce the auctions on their websites or on the websites of their affiliated auctioneers. You can find self-storage facilities by searching on the state's self-storage facility association. StorageFront provides a directory of self-storage associations or you can conduct your own search on Google by searching with the name of the state and "self storage association" or "self-storage association". You can also look for individual storage facilities, which may not belong to an association, by searching on StorageFront.

In Canada, there is a national self-storage association, but the list of vendors downloads in an Excel spreadsheet, and the list seems fairly sparse for the entire country.

Your clients can also look at auctioneer websites to find out about upcoming auctions. The National Auctioneers Association provides a Find an Auctioneer directory. You can also search on their Find an Auction service, though these search results will include more auctions than self-storage auctions. There does not appear to be a national association in Canada, so you will have to search by province and "auctioneer association" on Google.

Auction participants usually have to pre-register to attend the auction, either on the auctioneer's website or on the self-storage website. Just showing up may mean that the wannabe storage warrior is turned away or shows up on auction day to find out that the person who was delinquent on paying for the locker has paid up and saved their stuff, so the auction was cancelled. Since an auction can be held for only one unit, showing up for a cancelled auction will waste time and mileage, so pre-registering and checking on the status of the auction the day before is a good idea.

If you win at auction, you usually win the entire contents of the locker--junk and all. The winner needs to be able to haul away all the materials, usually in a truck, as well as disposing of all of the garbage in the locker and most self-storage places won't let you use their garbage bins or brooms, so you need to bring garbage bags, bins and brooms with you, since you may need to sweep out the bin to consider it completely vacated and satisfy the terms of the auction. You will probably also need your own lock so you can secure the locker during the time that you have access to the locker. So not only do you have time and mileage costs, you may need to rent a truck and hire temporary labor to haul out all of the material in the locker. In the case of Dave Hester, he owns his own trucks and has his store crew to help with this part of the process.

What do people do with the stuff they buy at self-storage auctions? On Storage Wars, the participants usually resell their items in their second hand shops. Since they are in California, they need a reseller's license to avoid paying sales tax on the items they won at auction. Other people may resell their items on Ebay, or even on their own auction websites or on Craigslist or Kijiji. Usually items are not resold quickly for the price that the storage warrior needs to recoup their various costs, so if you don't have your own storefront, you may use your home or garage to store items for resale or even rent your own storage locker to hold the items until they can be sold locally or on Ebay.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Skills shortage a self inflicted wound?

For the past few weeks, you can't open a Canadian newspaper or business blog without at least one writer going bananas over the "skills shortage" paper released by the CIBC World Markets. However, Skills shortage a self inflicted wound from the Toronto Star asks some question about the role of employers in training workers to meet their labor needs, as well as a call to be less picky when selecting employees. Less picky does not mean giving up on essential character traits--reliability, conscientiousness, attention to detail--while tolerating and filling in some skills gaps--have HTML 5 but no PHP: we can deal with that--to find qualified employees.

Oddly enough, this month's HBR has an article called Who Can Fix the Middle-Skills Gap?* that calls on employers to step up to address this issue.

I also highly recommend Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It by Peter Cappelli which the author of the article also mentions.

*need subscription to see full article

Monday, December 10, 2012

Don't confuse children's/teen literature with teen/children's librarianship

Whenever I have someone tell me that they really want to be a children's librarian because they love children's literature, it tells me that they don't know much about actually being a children's librarian. Most librarians start eye-rolling when someone tells them it sure must be great to read books all day, and the children's lit/children's librarian confusion is a subset of that argument.

If you looked at actual job postings for children's and teen librarians you will notice that loving children's literature is not the sole job duty. In fact, if you stated that this was your only qualification for the position, I can guarantee that they would not make you a job offer.

This posting from Monroe, Washington says:
  • The successful candidate for this position will demonstrate knowledge of teen culture and technologies; 
  • judgment when using reference databases and print resources; 
  • flexibility in trying new approaches to customer service; 
  • and enthusiasm when promoting library programs and initiatives.
I think this means you better like technology, know about marketing, have some customer service background and at least read a book about "teen culture".

This posting from Rawlings, Wyoming says:
The 40 hours/week position involves working with the programming team to develop programs for all 8 library locations. The position also involves collection development for the teen and children’s collections. The position reports to the Public Support Services Manager. The job includes a variety of evening and weekend hours.
I'm sure you will not only have to be able to pick a teenager out of a line-up, but you will also be working on collection development, which actually means you need to know how to develop a teen collection, as well as programming for teens, which can include media literacy, study skills, life skills, college/vocational preparation, helping youth at risk, as well as bullying, sexual identity issues, suicide and basic literacy. Of course, you could touch on these issues through fiction--and you will--but knowing the culture and the needs of the community going to take up more of your day than preparing Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.

And this posting from Waukee Public Library
A master’s degree in Library and Information Science from an ALA-accredited institution, with coursework or experience in children’s services is preferred. Knowledge of literature for children and young adult, storytelling skills and programming experience are essential. May require travel to various locations for outreach programs.
Now, you have to know about children's and teen lit, but you also have to have presentation and programming (teaching and class planning) experience in addition to a knowledge of the literature. A driver's license will probably also be a must, not to mention a willingness to travel. 

Instead of reading your way exclusively through the VOYA booklists, I would recommend that you spend some time with real children and teens and learn about some of the issues that children and teens are facing and what their information needs are. So you have to meet some real children and teens in their natural habitats and even talk to them. It is not enough to have a firm grasp about what adult authors have composed for the edification and entertainment of children and teens.

If the library's hiring decisions come down to a choice like this:

Candidate ACandidate B
  • was a child once
  • briefly a teenager
  • knows what a Time Turner is
  • Team Gale
  • and an MLIS
One of the former:
  • teacher
  • social worker
  • youth counsellor of some type such as camp, school, addictions, etc.
  • juvenile detention center worker
  • or is a current literacy specialist
  • and holds an MLIS
I think the library's hiring committee is going to go with Candidate B, provided that the candidate expresses no disgust at spending more of their professional life in the company of children.

It is clear that loving children's lit is a must, but it is not a significant percentage of children or teen librarian's day. However, over-estimating just how much time is spent with books, as opposed to people is not solely a failing of wannabe youth librarians.