Director’s Brief-Google Voice

Piloting a Text Reference Program with Google Voice

During the past 25 years we have seen an evolution in the accepted forms of communication between faculty and students. Face-to-face discussions and handwritten notes were once the norm. Voicemail messages have always fallen into the domain of adult-to-adult communication. In the mid-1990’s email began gaining popularity and was even encouraged as a mode of communication between adults. Emails between students and teachers were not only discouraged, but forbidden in many schools until the advent of the 21st century. Today, students are encouraged to contact their teachers via email by parents, teachers, and school administrators. Attention must be given to the fact that some experts predict e-mail will become extinct (Shaughnessy & Huggins, 2011) and that texting is a prevalent form of communication among young people (Ling, Bertel, & Sundsoy, 2011; Purcell, Heaps, Buchanan, & Friedrich, 2013). Will educators wait until 2020 and beyond to overcome their fear of texting students? In this brief we will examine the use of Google Voice as a tool for increasing accessibility of library services by adding texting to reference option in K-12 schools where many students have cell phones.

Using Technology to Provide Customer Service
In Homework Help from the Library, Itner examines the need for libraries to provide virtual reference services in addition to in-person services. While Itner’s book focuses on chat reference as opposed to text reference service, the spirit of the service remains the same. Reference and User Services’ (RUSA) definition of virtual references services stresses the use of technology to enable real time interaction between patrons and library staff (Itner, 2011). Recognition of the evolving nature of technology devices requires library staff to continually adopt new technology. Google Voice enables libraries to make a cost-effective move toward updating library services.

Virtual library services with real time results are increasingly popular; teens are more likely to ask questions when they will get a quick response (Shaughnessy & Huggins, 2011; Itner, 2011; Solomon, 2013). While there are many options for providing real time text-reference, our focus will be on inexpensive options for piloting a text reference service in a K-12 library. The intent of this brief is to provide a text reference option in K-12 school where library staff has access to a desktop computer with Internet access and students have a cell phone. Text reference would be most suitable for students with smart phones.

Google Voice: Past and Present
Grand Central was the predecessor of Google Voice (Shapiro, 2009; Johnson, B. E., 2010). It was recognized as an inexpensive way for people to increase communication options. Google Voice is primarily marketed as a method transcribing voice messages, combining all a customer’s phone numbers into one access point, and an inexpensive way of making international telephone calls. Google Voice’s expanded options for integration of services between multiple phone lines and voicemail transcription (Elgan, 2009; Griffith, 2012; Johnson, B. E., 2010) are features irrelevant to the extent of this brief. Focus will be placed on expanding technology-based library services to meet the information literacy needs of K-12 students. A lesser known feature of Google Voice in the ability to send and receive text messages between a cell phone and another device with Internet access (Johnson, 2010). Figures 1 and 2 show images of Google Voice communications between a PC and a cell phone.

Figure 1. Screenshot of Google Voice displayed on desktop PC.


Figure 2. Screenshot of text notification sent from PC to cell phone using Google Voice.

Required Equipment
Components needed to setup a Google Voice account are as follows:

  • Gmail account
  • Device with an Internet connection (excluding Blackberry [Google, 2013])
  • Existing phone number: land or cell

Paying with Privacy
Concerns about students’ rights to privacy and educators’ responsibility to provide a safe environment are addressed in The Internet and Social Media: a Legal and Practical Guide for Catholic Educators (2011). Authors Shaughnessy and Huggins provide information about the legal obligations of educators to keep children free from harm resulting from school-provided Internet access in both public and private K-12 schools.  Examination of a school’s existing Internet safety policy must happen to assure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act [Pub. L. No. 106-554].

All schools should review their existing policies prior to Google Voice implementation. The hesitancy to adopt texting as a form of communication between students and educators may blind administrators to the benefits of Google Voice. Library staff should respond to student questions rather than initiate contact. This will avoid complaints that library staff is invading students’ personal space and causing unwanted texting charges.

While privacy is a concern, it is important to consider the fact that an overwhelming majority of the population already uses Google (ComScore, 2012), and all current Google users, have already surrendered their privacy. Google’s privacy policy explicitly states that Google mines all communication for data that Google and its advertisers find useful (Google, 2012). Before foregoing use of Google Voice due to privacy concerns, a comparative examination of the privacy policies of other online reference tools should be performed.

Implementation Process
I would not recommend setting up a Google Voice account without having existing access to the required equipment detailed above. The purpose of this brief is to explore options for increasing library services without purchasing additional equipment and service plans. The ultimate goal is to enable students with cell phones to text a library staff member.

Prior to Google Voice setup, a detailed plan for setup, training, maintenance, staffing, assessment, and evaluation must be constructed. Guidelines must be established for the desired level of formality of language used. The library website must share the phone number that students will use to text the library. Hours when a quick response is available from an online staff member should be advertised.


Benefits and Concerns
Adopting Google Voice as a reference tool enables library staff to teach and model acceptable communication interactions via texting. Encouraging cell phone use for academic purposes is supported by the high usage of students who use cell phones for information seeking behavior (Purcell, K., Heaps, A., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L., 2013).

School administrators are wary of messages sent to students’ cell phones by educators. Texting via Google Voice provides a level of transparency that face-to-face interactions and phone conversations lack. A significant strength of Google Voice as a reference tool is the automatic transcribed record with time stamping and  archive of all communication exchanged (Google, 2012; Elgan, 2009).

Aside from the benefit of increasing accessibility of library services, there are practical benefits of piloting a text reference program using Google Voice. Schools interested in exploring text reference should consider the following features of Google Voice:

  • No additional hardware is required
    • Web-based service: no installation or maintenance is needed
    • Use of full-size keyboard for library staff
    • Cost effectiveness
      • No need for library to purchase cell phone and service plan to provide text reference
      • No contract is required to initiate use of Google Voice
      • No need to train library users how to use new hardware

Concerns about selecting Google Voice as a vehicle for text reference include:

  • International restrictions on free service
    • Only free in United States and Canada (Google, 2012)
    • Need to train library staff how to use Google Voice
    • Need to have plan of action for possibility that Google Voice someday charge a fee

Emphasis should be placed upon providing library services that will improve the information literacy of library users with relevance to changing technology (Kvenild & Calkins, 2011; Johnson, M., 2010; Fourie & Dowell, 2004; Doucett, 2011; Itner, 2011; Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2013). School libraries must craft a plan for exploring options of providing real time text reference services as texting gains popularity and cell phone ownership increases (Ling et al., 2011; Madden et al., 2013). Google Voice offers school libraries the opportunity to test drive services. Encouraging students to use a device with which they are already comfortable using, enables youth librarians provide students with the help they need in navigating the Internet (Itner, 2011). Cell phones are known as devices traditionally used for social purposes among young people (Madden et al., 2013). However, as Johnson points out in This Book is Overdue!, (2010), librarians “have long understood that humans are social creatures and that interpersonal communications is an integral part of the knowledge building process.” Students will continue to use their cell phones in their quest for information. By connecting students with trained librarians who can provide a path to quality material, there will be progress in the pursuit of information literacy.


ComScore. (2012, November 16). ComScore releases October 2012 U. S. search engine rankings. ComScore: analytics for a digital world. Retrieved from

Doucett, E. (2011). What they don’t teach you in library school. Chicago: American Library Association.

Elgan, M. (2009, June 27). Why Google Voice is free. Computerworld. Retrieved from

Federal Communications Commission. (2013) Children’s Internet Protection Act. Retrieved from

Fourie, D. K., & Dowell, D. R. (2002). Libraries in the information age: an introduction and career exploration. Greenwood Village, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Google. (2013, March 13). A second spring cleaning [Blog post]. Google: official blog. Retrieved from

Google. (2012, July 27.) Policies and principles: privacy policy. Retrieved from

Griffith, E. (2012, July 9.) The best picks to replace Meebo. Retrieved from,2817,2406784,00.asp

Itner, C. F. (2011). Homework help from the library: in person and online. Chicago: American Library Association.

Johnson, B. E. (2010). Google voice. Computers in Libraries, 30(5), 20-24.

Johnson, M. (2010). This book is overdue! How librarians and cybrarians can save us all. New York: Harper Perennial.

Kvenild, C., & Calkins, K. (2011). Embedded librarians: moving beyond one-shot instruction. Chicago: American Library Association.

Ling, R., Bertel, T. F., & Sundsoy, P. R. (2011). The socio-demographics of texting: an analysis of traffic data. New Media & Society, 14(2), 281-298. Doi: 10.1177/1461444811412711

Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013, March 13). Teens and technology. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Pawlek, Sarah. (2012, July 2). Meebo going away, LibChat coming your way…see it at ALA! [Blog post]. Springshare Support Blog. Retrieved from

Purcell, K., Heaps, A., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L. (2013, February 28). How teachers are using technology at home and in their classrooms. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Shapiro, J. (2009, July 07). Why Google Voice reminds me of AT & T: and not for reasons you many think. AdAge. Retrieved from

Shaughnessy, M. A., & Huggins, M. L. (2011). The Internet and social media: a legal and practical guide for Catholic educators. Arlington: National Catholic Educational Association.

Solomon, L. (2013). The Librarian’s nitty-gritty guide to social media. Chicago: American Library Association.

Annotated Bibliography

Elgan, M. (2009, June 27). Why Google Voice is free. Computerworld. Retrieved from

Elgan is a Silicon Valley based columnist and blogger who blatantly expresses his opinion about Google’s aggressive tracking habits. In this article, Elgan provides ample data to support his stance that Google can provide excellent service because tracks all information input and output by its users and sells the data to advertisers. Initially it appears that Elgan is condemning Google’s tactics, but further Elgan give merit to his views by sharing the fact that Google is merely capitalizing on an emerging trend in marketing and advertising.

Itner, C. F. (2011). Homework help from the library: in person and online. Chicago: American Library Association.

Itner asserts the idea that students will visit the library for homework help: both in person and online. By detailing communication habits of K-12 students, Itner succeeds in illustrating how libraries can provide and advertise their services in ways that resonate with students.

Johnson, B. E. (2010). Google voice. Computers in Libraries, 30(5), 20-24.

Use of Google Voice as an inexpensive vehicle for expanding library services is examined. History, technical specifications, and uses of Google Voice are explained in Johnson’s article Johnson thoroughly explains benefits and concerns about using this application.

Purcell, K., Heaps, A., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L. (2013, February 28). How teachers are using technology at home and in their classrooms. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Information from an in-depth study is presented in three reports: teens’ research habits, teachers and technology, and the impact of technology on student’s writing skills. The report focuses on teachers, students, and technology in the United States. The impact of technology the way teachers teach and the way students learn is explored. Data is provided to permit comparisons of across multiple demographics including, but not limited to geographical area, income, age, and education. Pew Research Center presents authoritative information in an organized and authoritative manner.

Shaughnessy, M. A., & Huggins, M. L. (2011). The Internet and social media: a legal and practical guide for Catholic educators. Arlington: National Catholic Educational Association.

This guide includes information relevant to all K-12 schools and additional content specifically applicable to educators in Catholic schools. Authors provide names of real laws, court cases, and social media sites to support their assertions. Differences between rights of students and responsibilities or educators in public versus private schools are clarified.




Check out these bikes

You may have heard of academic libraries checking out bicycles to university students, now there are bike libraries in public places. OK, they are not exactly libraries, but rather automated bike rental locations. In Houston, I was intrigued by the B-cycle stations located around the city. Sadly, I did not check out a bike due to my conference schedule and the thunderstorms. (It was already starting to rain when I was taking these photos.) Maybe next time I can take advantage of the public bike rental facilities.

photo (7)photo (11) photo (2)photo (3)photo (5)

Signage: 1 fail, 1 win

These two signs are posted next to each other in my local urgent care facility:

signage fail

signage fail

On a more positive note, the high school library where I work is a busy and noisy campus hub that is full of activity. I need to create a quiet zone. I am thinking of imitating the Quiet Zone of Orange County Public Library’s Foothill Ranch Branch.


Quiet Room

Quiet Room Door Sign

Quiet Room2

Craving community

The Third Place
Work and home (or school and home) are the places where people spend the majority of their time. But, people crave a Third Place where they can fulfill the social need to connect with society. Where do you choose to hangout?

I was intrigued by the existence of places where books are the impetus for face-to-face social interaction in the digital age. People can use computers and smart phones to communicate from just about anywhere – so why do they choose to go to a physical place to be in the presence of real, live, people? Social media is a tool that enables people to connect virtually. But, people still desire the opportunity to connect in person. As discussed in The Library of the Future in Plain English (Stephens, 2013), people need a physical place for collaboration and communication. There is an attitude shift about the purpose and design of libraries. Gone are the days of shushing, libraries that evolve will survive.

Customer Service
Look at the successful service model of the Apple store – welcoming, no question is seen as stupid, staff members are experts about their product, customers can browse without pressure to purchase. What fascinates me most about the Apple store is the Genius Bar – a walk-up help desk.  Most of the people visiting the Genius Bar could get remote technical help for their computer problems, but they CHOOSE to visit the Apple store in person. Apple was smart enough to recognize their customers’ desire for face-to-face interaction. Several years later, Microsoft copied the Apple store’s customer service model. Libraries would be foolish to abandon the walk-up reference desk as they expand online library services.

Seeing triple?

Apple Store Genius Bar

Apple Store Genius Bar

Microsoft store

Microsoft Store

Reference Interview

Reference Interview-Archives of Ontario

Rebirth of Reading Rooms
There is a common misconception that as more library content becomes digitized, the number of people who visit physical libraries will decrease. In fact, library functions are now appearing in non-traditional venues. Today we are seeing an evolved version of traditional reading rooms. We need to feed our souls’ need for a sense of community.

Click here for Books and Bars video

Some examples of public places where people can relax, socialize and read are:

Beijing Bookworm

Beijing Bookworm

Witness the Beijing Bookworm – a library, bookstore, event venue, reading room, restaurant, and bar. I discovered the Bookworm online and was curious about the multi-purpose nature of this place. How do library and bookstore coexist? Are there trained librarians on staff?

I will be traveling to South Korea and China from March 6-17, 2013 for work. If time permits, I will visit some libraries and bookstores. Beijing Bookworm is not too far from the hotel where I will be staying in Beijing.  Wish me luck!

Community at the Bookworm

Community at the Bookworm

Archives of Ontario. (2013). What does an archivist do? [Image: reference interview]. Ontario Ministry of Government Services. Retrieved from

Books & bars: L.A.’s thirst for literature (and style) [Blog post]. (2011). Styleture. Retrieved from

Bookworm, The. (2013). [Website]. Retrieved from

Erikson, R., & Markuson, C. (2009). Designing a school library media center for the future. Chicago: American Library Association.

Haselton, Todd. (2012). Apple: Retail layoffs were a mistake, staff changes being reversed. TechnoBuffalo [Image from blog]. Retrieved from

Kamin, Jeff. (2013) Reinventing the book club as show [Blog post]. Books and Bars. Retrieved from

Nazaryan, A., Zaraick, K., & Santo, F. (2012). Drink a beer, open a book: the best bars for reading in New York [Blog post]. New York Daily News. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2013). The hyperlinked library model. LIBR 287-The Hyperlinked Library [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

All Aboard!


The Journey Begins
What if we dared to do something really creative…and succeeded? The United States is comprised of risk-takers, pioneers, and explorers. These are people who dared to board ships, trains, or wagons, and travel to unknown destinations. The willingness to venture into the unknown is in our blood. It is imperative that we stay true to our roots and board the Cluetrain.

How and why did I select The Cluetrain Manifesto as the text on which to base by book study? I am bit ashamed to admit that I started my book selection process by printing the recommended book list and searching library catalogs for a print copy of the book. Then I stopped and realized that I was ignoring the Cluetrain by limiting myself to print books. Part of my job as a high school librarian is to gain knowledge about transitioning from print to electronic school books. I have been attending conferences, reading articles, and participating in webinars to gain knowledge. In December 2012, I purchased a Kindle Fire for the purpose of gaining experience using eBooks; the next logical step was to purchase The Cluetrain Manifesto as a Kindle Book. All aboard!

Laptops and eBooks: A Romance
It is next to impossible for me to divorce the content of The Cluetrain Manifesto from the context with which I am most familiar – the private high school library where I work. The Cluetrain stops here often, but only some people get on board. The school community can be seen as a microcosm of the larger society in which we live.

People who have boarded the Cluetrain market by example, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I attend meetings where there are a variety of note-taking styles: listening, pencil and paper, electronic devices. In some of these same meetings, the agenda is about the desire to eliminate all print textbooks and to dramatically reduce copy costs by reducing print handouts. I bite my tongue to avoiding interjecting, “Why don’t we stop handing out print agendas at meetings? Instead, iPads will be used to deliver the agenda and all notes must be transcribed electronically. We will be able to experience exactly what we are expecting the students to do.” The current marketing trend in K-12 schools is to promote the adoption of electronic textbooks and transition to an electronic device ratio of 1:1 for students. School administrators covet the ability to use the terms “1:1” and “eBooks” in marketing campaigns, while simultaneously behaving like luddites. The school market consists of students and parents. The conversation needs to be – let students do what aids their individual learning styles. We have standards for learning, but have trouble remembering that true academic standards do not limit the formats used for exchanging information.

“At some point, you start paying more attention to the messages and conversations, and less to the differences in software and tools employed by the various electronic delivery channels (p126, Levine, et al.).”

Lines of Communication
The view that “markets are conversations” is central to The Cluetrain Manifesto. The key to success is accepting the reality of the way businesses are currently run. We must keep conversations active so that progress will happen and businesses will survive, maybe even flourish. The utopian part of me wants to believe that it is possible to completely change school administrators’ view before the change we are seeking becomes outmoded. Presently, schools encourage students and teachers to communicate via email. Students view email as something only used for communicating with adults (Hannan, 2011). In my experience as an educator, K-12 schools are about a decade late in adopting communication tools. At this rate, teachers will have school-issued Facebook and Twitter accounts after students have moved on to a new form of communication.

If I were a dystopian I would think that it does not really matter what we do because the economy and hackers will soon destroy any attempts at progress. I am neither a utopian, nor a dystopian – I am more of a realist with idealistic tendencies. Change will happen and it will be propelled by the financial health of businesses. In academics, the decision-makers have to be conscious of turning a profit while simultaneously adhering to educational standards. Without conservations breaching the walls of Fort Business (p190, Levine), we become isolated from the world in which our customers reside.

Here be dragons
Library staff who interact with library users have the ability to see real conversations in action. This knowledge makes them privy to the way people use and exchange information. Libraries could block all Internet sites that compete with their library resources, but “free customers are more valuable that captive ones (p15, Levine).” Given the freedom to use online library resources or search the World Wide Web, what do the library users choose? The library staff on the front lines know the answer without having to perform market research. They are qualified to be conductors of the Cluetrain.

We need to be concerned that the corporate walls are keeping the dragons in, and locking out true exchanges of information. In the quest to retain hierarchical control, businesses put fear of the unknown into the minds of their workers and some of their customers (p90-95, Levine). Of course, I see the need to keep dragons out of my high school library for the safety of the children. But, I am also in a key position to observe how the high school students with which I work communicate. Several years ago I was able to change the school policy that forbade the use of phones in any school building. Now students can use phones for academic purposes, with teacher permission. I observe students using social media on their smart phones for academic purposes. I also see that many prefer the option to use print books over the eBooks available in the library. I have let some dragons into the library, and it is a good thing.

Hannan, A. (2011). Communication 101: we have made contact with teens. Aplis, 24(1), 32-39. Retrieved from EBSCO: Academic Search Premier, February 24, 2013.

Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (2009). Cluetrain Manifesto [Kindle Edition].  The. New York: Basic Books.

Open Clipart Gallery. (2013). Train silhouette [Image]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2004). Technoplans vs. technolust. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Campground library

Doheny State Beach campground library, Dana Point, California

Doheny State Beach campground library, Dana Point, California

Doheny State Beach campground library in Dana Point, California.  Offerings include books, magazines, sand toys and other camping paraphernalia. This is run completely on the honor system –  take what you want, leave what you would like to share.

My family spent Presidents’ Day weekend camping at the beach. My daughters packed books for the trip, but forgot sand toys. They were thrilled that sand toys could be borrowed from the campground library.


Evolution of the Book

Evolution of the Book

          “It’s the Content Stupid,” has become my mantra.  It is the title of an article that appeared in American Libraries. I have stressed the idea that getting rid of some of the 30,000 physical books currently housed in Borchard Library (the high school library where I work) is not a bad thing. The idea of access versus ownership (CLA, 2010) is frightening to many people. Replacing some print resources with digital format resources does not mean Borchard Library will have “less.” We should not be married to formats that do not meet users’ needs. What if we still had carousels with slides, 8MM films, or eschewed print for scrolls or hand-written manuscripts chained to library tables? As the format of the content evolves, the manner of providing library services must likewise evolve. But, this should not be misinterpreted as implying that the goal of library services must change. It simply means that we must closely examine the manner in which we provide library services. There are many facets of library planning to which the concept of change can be applied. The current buzz seems to be about the format in which the content is delivered to information users.

                “Hoarding is not collection development,” is the tagline of the library blog Awful Library Books. Librarians need to let go of outdated formats and unused content. Clearing the clutter will make it easier to locate the information that users want and need. In “Redesigning Library Services,” Michael Buckland discusses the ‘”owning versus borrowing’ trade-off.” This led me to an “aha!” moment –  we have never “owned” the content of the print materials in libraries. Print books are merely physical containers for the information; we cannot claim ownership of the copyrighted material contained within.

Accepting the concept that the format of information has and will continue to change necessitates the integration of change into the library planning (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007).There is no finish line when we should be able to say a library is “done.” In the process to moving much of the content of Borchard library from print and analog format to digital format, I realized that container for the information will continue to change. Decades from now the librarian at Borchard Library will likely have to explain why the digital forms of information need to be replaced with a format that does not currently exist. Ideally, the director of Borchard Library will always keep the school library relevant by developing proactive rather than reactive changes in providing library services.  Casey and Savastinuk (Chapter 2, 2007) assert the importance of goal-driven change. As long as there is focus on a goal, the library will be able to achieve the larger mission of libraries: connecting users with the information they desire.  Absence of growth and change will result in a stagnant or dead library.

Buckland, M. (1992) Redesigning library services: a manifesto. Retrieved from

Casey, M. E. & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007) Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Kelly, M. & Hibner, H. (2012). Awful Library Books [Web log]. Retrieved from

SFBook Reviews. (2012). The evolution of the book [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Smith, S. E. & Mercer, H. (2010). It’s the content, Stupid: Librarians must help overcome resistance to research published online. American Libraries, 41(1-2).

Stephens, M. (2011). The hyperlinked library. Retrieved from