Friday, June 30, 2006
My arms are getting tired from lifting box after box of old, outdated World Book Encyclopedia volumes into the dumpster out front. We have no place to store these books. Please, go back and tell your colleagues and communities: we don't need any more books.
I agree with George about the best and the worst of our profession coming out for New Orleans. Librarians, myself included, can fall into a trap of assuming that they already know what their patrons need, purchasing/collecting it for them, and even organizing it neatly on adjustable shelves. The piles of unwanted books in New Orleans are a lesson to us all for our everyday practice in libraries. We must question our own assumptions and avoid the temptation that we already know what's good and right for our customers (and, as in this case, colleagues). We must ask our communities what they need and want. We must listen to their answers, and then enter a dialog about how we can meet needs (and create impact or change) together with them.
Although my volunteer day on Friday (at the Children's Resource Center) was a bit more positive in that we were moving books that the library actually needed and retained (the library was completely renovated over the course of the weekend and they reopened on Monday - pics to be posted on Flickr soon...), I came away from the experience and these stories extremely humbled, and with a renewed commitment to seek information before I make assumptions, form opinions, or take action.
Many thanks to the NOPL's at Leslie's reception whose experiences served as a catalyst for many of us in NO this weekend. I am hopeful that we can - all of us - carry this humility, and these lessons, into our library practice - even (or perhaps especially) when we do not face nearly as challenging a workday as our colleagues rebuilding there.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
This day helped me see the best and the worst of librarians.
The best? Hundreds and hundreds of yellow T-shirt clad librarians (and, in our case, at least one public library trustee and one library spouse) filling the atrium of the Morial Convention Center on a warm morning, waiting to head out to their assignments. They --- we --- were filled with a desire to be useful, to try to show that we cared enough to extend our stays by a day or skip some meetings or liquid lunches in order to help.
The worst? Well, keep reading...
Apparently, some time in late February or early March, a viral e-mail was set loose on the world, claiming that the library needed books, and to send everything you could. See this or this for examples. The donations poured in as if the book levee had been breached.
Having spent six hours in one of the places where these donations were stored, I can tell you that most of it was pretty sad stuff. Now please note that I am NOT criticizing the gifts that some of the vendors made. There were a number of boxes of clean, new materials from one large publisher, for example, that looked to be really good. (The publisher has not talked about this gift on its web site that I could find, so I'm not using its name here.)
And I'm not even criticizing the civilians (non-librarians) who may have honestly believed that the library and its clientele could use a 1960 edition of The Golden Encyclopedia, or marked up mid-1970s physics textbooks, or books on how to lose weight. They meant well, and were responding to what probably seemed like a logical request.
But there were also boxes of books that had been sent in by libraries, including some pretty well known libraries. And what was in those boxes was a disgrace. Outdated, dirty, abused, ugly, useless...basically trash. It was as if these libraries were afraid that someone was going to look into their trash bin and find out they were throwing away printed materials. So instead, they shoveled them into boxes and threw them at New Orleans.
What could they have been thinking? Instead of helping, this deluge of tripe used staff time that could have gone into restoring service.
I'm sure that some libraries and schools gave good, usable materials to New Orleans Public Library, and I know many groups raised money. But 99% of what we found in that cavernous building would not have made decent kindling.
I came away with one firm conclusion. I am changing my will so that my book collection gets sold as part of my estate instead of being donated to a library. I realized that I don't own anything that's really worth being contributed to a library, and like most libraries, they need my money a hell of a lot more than they need my used books!
Incidentally, the library has an FAQ on its site about donations now. But as one of the NOPL staff told us during the day, she expects that e-mail requesting donations to keep circulating on the web as long as that chestnut about the dying boy collecting the postcards.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
And it got me thinking (I won't spoil the article for you), what exotic animal training could we try out on our library users? Or Directors, Managers--are there tips to brainstorm in here to improve the behavior of library staff members?
Ort! Ort! (That's a sea lion sound, see?) Go read the article...
Monday, June 26, 2006
Here's the official announcement. What great news to come home to!
Other news: Got to see An Inconvenient Truth last night. Go see this movie. I promise it will entertain, inform and challenge your assumptions about global warming.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
One of his blogs (yes, he has more than two) TinkerX, is in no way affilitated with OCLC (I say this to make sure you know it's not an OCLC blog--it's his own personal one. You've got that? TinkerX is not us....I belabor this point just so you know) but his interests and IAG's overlap now and then. More now than then actually.
So, I point you at Andy's post on "Social Share" as he wrestles with (in a wordful way) the inadequacy of the phrases that we are using to talk about people doing more stuff in public digital spaces. Social networking and social computing leave me cold as I don't think these phrases capture the complexity of whatever is happening (Something, serendipitously, Jessamyn muses on). I'm not sure "social share" describes all facets of one's existence in the Big Network but Andy raises really good points, not the least of which is...
"If you build it, they will come…" That’s what the mysterious voice said in "Field of Dreams." A neat movie. I liked it a bunch. But at the end, when you see that whole line of cars all queued up to experience the mystery and drama of the baseball field in the middle of the corn… my only thought was, "Where are they going to go to the bathroom?" Once you get to a social destination… what do you do there?
This project has such a tone of optimism and certainty: I like the spirit. There's even the national library version of a of a St. Crispin's Day speech: a Declaration for it. It begins:
We subscribe to the vision of AlouetteCanada—that by its efforts Canadians will better know themselves, and the world will have the opportunity to know Canadians through equitable and enduring access to Canada’s digital documentary heritage.
It's nice to know that even in today's age of clamping down access in the name of national security, some countries are working to throw the doors even more open. Of course, we all love toast.
Here's a CBC story from December 2005 about the project. The newly-elected OCLC Members Council President, Vice Provost and chief librarian at the University of Alberta, and sometime-neighbour-of-Alane, Ernie Ingles had interesting things to say about the project in a Chronicle article this morning.
He compared Alouette Canada with Google 5 digitization projects at U.S. institutions, which tend to be guarded and secretive. "In some ways, it is the antithesis of a Google approach," he said.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I've never been to Minneapolis and have been looking forward to it. I had planned to visit the new downtown library this evening, but my flight was seriously delayed and so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have some time to get over there tomorrow. It's pretty here, much like Columbus in the springtime. Weather's not too bad either. A welcome change from the slightly chilly June-uary we're experiencing in Seattle. I'd best be keeping my mouth shut - give me a few days and I'll be very cranky about the heat. :) Still, looking forward to seeing many of you in New Orleans in a few days.
Monday, June 19, 2006
You may have read about the Mapparium in American Libraries' May 2003 issue. (Note: you must be an ALA member to access this content.) It was a beautiful cover and cover story by Leonard Kniffel.
The Mapparium is a 3-story stained glass globe. A glass footbridge cuts through the middle of the globe, so you can literally stand in the center of the earth and look around the world. Interesting to look along latitudes and see that Naples and New York are about the same. My three oceanography compatriots inform me that it's colder in New York because of the jet stream and ocean currents. There's also a cool "whisper across the room" acoustic effect, recently studied by W. Hartmann of Michigan State. USA TOday recently wrote about his efforts.
The Mapparium was built from 1932-1935 and reflects the political world of the day. It shows you how far we've come as a global society. But it also gave me an overwhelming sense of continuity. This map was from 70 years ago but countries, continents, oceans all still very recognizable and familiar. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose...
Mary Baker Eddy
The story of the Mapparium is also the story of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Monitor, among other things. I am not trying to talk religion here, but what impressed me the most was that Eddy was a strong advocate for herself, her beliefs and her society. She worked hard to change her world, in the face of insurmountable odds.
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
So we hear perhaps of this century's Mary Baker Eddy-figure, with the news that a woman, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has just been elected to lead the Episcopal Church, USA.
Speaking of strong women, our own Leslie Burger officially accepts duties this week. Check out the Emerging Leaders Initiative--this is something I would urge younger MLS-holders to consider participating in--so you can go on to become ever stronger women (and men) in your own right.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I have to be honest: I approached this report with a lot of trepidation. Reports that break the news that Americans love their libraries always make me a little nervous, because the reports too often stop there.
This one took it to a different level, though, by engaging community decision makers in the discussion. These leaders (the report calls them "community soldiers") are the people without whom it's impossible to get anything done on a civic level., Every community has them: they may not be elected officials, but they serve on various committees, boards, and task forces that support development of both governmental and nonprofit endeavors. The leaders themselves say that libraries have not tapped into this network, and it seems clear that we need to. This is part of the political and civic savvy that should be in every librarian's skill set.
The report indicates that libraries continue to do a poor job marketing, in both senses of that overused word. They both fail to understand what their communities want today, and they fail to tell them what they have to offer.
There's also a lot of probing thought in this report questioning how different we can afford libraries to be today. How can we mobilize a nationwide (or even statewide) campaign in support of libraries if we can't even say with unanimity what is we do?
Someone will earn a PhD in a few years by analyzing the effects that the ALA survey, the OCLC Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, and Long Overdue had on libraries. Were these reports a renaissance or a eulogy?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Three years ago, when WebJunction started offering these programs to supplement our Community Focus features, they were well attended (and the archives regularly accessed), but it felt like synchronous online programming was totally new to the library community - everyone was trying to figure it out. It required a ton of suport to get people connected and engaged. We had a to learn an awful lot ourselves. Although there are still logistics to handle on the production side, we're getting better at offering these things, and it's becoming easier, and perhaps more common, to login to a synchronous meeting space for group gatherings, presentations, and even conference presentations.
It's not quite "Web 2.0," but it's certainly worth mentioning our progress in terms of cultural shift around these tools. It seems we've turned a corner from foreign to (at least vaguely) familiar. Now, what to do to get to commonplace?
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
WebJunction's involvement is to get libraries to act as way stations or "conductors" for cyclists who will follow the route. This will encourage libraries to work with local history organizations, genealogy groups, health support groups, and other community agencies. We also see this being useful for libraries that are far away from the route as a source of information on this vital part of American and Canadian history.
I've been talking about this idea in several programs I've done on WebJunction and in small groups over the last few weeks and the reaction has been unanimously positive. I'm even hoping to cycle part of the Ohio section of this route myself next year!
Wednesday-Friday: Participating in the OCLC CAPCON Annual Meeting
Flickr photos here.
Friday-Sunday: Helping my friends get ready for their wedding in two weeks in West Virginia
Monday: Presenting at the Connecticut Library Consortium's 3rd Annual Meeting (there's even a slide show!)
I have a few reflections to gather up, sort out and make sense of. But that will take some percolation time, I think. I will leave you with two things to ponder.
First thing to ponder: a library stakeout swap
One is the idea of being able to see each other's blind spots. This idea came out at the OCLC CAPCON meeting, and I think it's quite powerful if we're brave enough to take each other up on it. One of the main ideas we talked about last Thursday was the idea of "walking the floor"--seeing what was actually going on in your library, from an anthropological point of view. That is, stake out a corner and watch people.
It's amazing what you observe after 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 15. Now, you have to watch with an unbaised, objective eye. Which is darn near impossible in your own library. I would have to fight the urge to say, "Hey--the cookbooks are over here!" instead of watching someone flounder with the OPAC or in desparation turn to the circ desk, who of course then shows them to reference...
So what if we volunteered to swap libraries? I'll come to yours with an unbiased eye, and you come to mine. We'll agree on the length of time and commitment (2 hours every other day for 1 week, say), and we'll share our observations over lunch. It's not hard, but it could open up some new thinking--you can see things that I can't. I'm too close.
Second thing to ponder: wabi sabi
Patricia Martin was the speaker at OCLC CAPCON. As we chatted and caught up from Midwinter, she mentioned that she was getting into Wabi-Sabi. There are multiple books about it--but the main idea is that things are imperfect, never finished and fleeting. And so with that sort of ethos, we are free to do the best we can at the time and consider it the best possible thing, right now. We'll improve over time.
Wabi Sabi gives us a new freedom to risk not hitting the perfect, first try, and not being too downtrodden about it. Does your library ever fear to do something, in that it might be too successful?
Monday, June 12, 2006
The irony in this is that I am speaking about planning.
My 20 minutes on the panel is a version of a talk I've done before--although this will be the shortest amount of time I've crammed too much information into. I am like many people...I find it easier to do a long talk than a short one. Being able to deliver an excellent short talk is the mark of an excellent speaker...the rest of us need time to tell the tale.
One of my slides is on the pitfalls of planning as it is usually done (in my experience and from observation and reading):
- extrapolates from the past and present
- focus is on the "industry" situation
- solving current problems
- no holistic view of external factors
The last bullet point is the rationale behind OCLC's environmental scan, and, indeed, behind any environmental scan but I must say I've not seen many (any?) other scans done in Libraryland. You might think, well, why should we do one, OCLC did it. True, but ours was done at a very high level and could not pick up on trends that might be particular to a region or a city. Clearly, demographic trends in Texas are going to different from those in New Hampshire from those in Ontario and they will surely impact expectations and needs people have of library services.
So, what's the opposite of myopic planning?
- focusing on creating a new future
- taking into consideration larger social issues and global trends and patterns
- focusing on emerging trends and patterns and on how the organization needs to grow and change
- seeking converging trends and seemingly innocuous interrelated factors
For example, is a good idea to spend a lot of money on an "Information Commons" in a university library? I'd say no, if the computers are "tethered" and the furniture fixed and wireless nonexistent. All sorts of trends point to the need for a very different sort of environment, based on device agnosticism and an expectation of barrier-free discovery to delivery information, all within an "architecture of participation."
I'll write about those trends over the next few weeks as I think out loud about the ramifications of an internet of things, in an architecture of participation.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
No, I'd rather point you at a 2-3 minute video that is brilliant and funny. NPR covered it. Two guys, 200 liters of Diet Coke and 500 Mentos mints. If this doesn't make you laugh, you need a vacation.
It did make me muse on something I've written about before: content chaos. Proliferating, hyperlinked, unmanageable, self-referential, unruly content that will never ever be wrangled into MARC records, and into OPACs.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Chronicle broke the World eBook Fair story (for me, at least...). There is a subscription requirement, so let me know in the comments if you can't get in but want to.
This post comes to you live and direct from Washington, DC. I'm here to take part in the OCLC CAPCON Annual Meeting tomorrow. Patricia Martin of OCLC Symposium fame [MP3 link] (among many other fames) is the keynote speaker.
Heather, a fellow marketeer, and I have just spent the better part of the evening setting up. The day is going to be fun: it's all organized around innovation and new ideas for library marketing. As Heather explained, "We want to inspire people to know that they don't need a lot of money to do relevant marketing activities in their library that will make a noticable difference."
So I should have a full report (and photos) tomorrow. Plus, I get to present some of the work we've done on a library merchandising project this spring!
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Like magic, Kelli Staley sends me this email about SirsiDynix's announcement on their 15 finalists for "Building Better Communities" awards (full press release). Congrats to Lansing (since Kelli sent me the link), but a big shout out also goes to the New Mexico State Library and Wichita Public Library - both affiliated with our Community Partner teams at WebJunction. Five of the fifteen finalists will get $10K cash award - and I have my fingers crossed that you'll all get the final award. In the meantime, of course, congrats on being one of the finalists! We're proud of you guys!!
While you all have been saved from my Flickr slideshow of various Estonian wonders, here's a shot of the National Library, just for good measure - it's the last achievement of Soviet architecture in Estonia, completed and opened in 1993. The building is so large I couldn't get a good shot of it - so here it is (up close, and from afar). Estonia, and their library, was lovely. But is is also good to be back. Enjoy!
Monday, June 05, 2006
While we were in Ottawa learning about The Original Maple Bat Company's baseball bats--made possible through the help of many Ottawa librarians and libraries--we also had the opportunity to see the newly-renovated Canadian Parliamentary library.
Some background on the renovation, courtesy of the CBC. Once cool thing: the library was the only part of Parliment that was saved from the fire of 1916. As the article says:
"A quick-thinking librarian closed the iron doors to the library as the fire burned through the Centre Block."
Check out the view from the library. Spectacular!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
This six-month pilot, intended to start next month, is a striking example of putting library services where your users are. Lori wants to determine how these services could be used in alternative realities.
Friday, June 02, 2006
As Bill says to his guests: "Welcome to the computer."
These are customers (patrons/users, in our world) who are so pleased with their experiences with your products and services that they choose to become evangelists for you, and in a Web 2.0 world participate in "citizen marketing" for you.
"If you're doing something and it's not worth talking about...either dump it or make it worth talking about."
Cathy De Rosa is quoted on the Perceptions report, and so is Jennifer Rice, one of our great speakers at the Extreme Makeover symposium at ALA Midwinter (MP3 files of the speakers are here). And there's a bibliography of links to resources on planning new library spaces. Good stuff.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Right at the parliament building, there is a never-ending flame in a fountain that is pretty darned cool.
We've been pretty busy with our business purpose for coming to Ottawa--a photoshoot for OCLC Canada's advocacy advertising program--but there's always time for cultural education of self.
Speaking of, I found out today that there is a cat house to the left of the parliament building where the people of Canada can take their stray cats and they will be cared for. What a cool country!
I'm honored to be in such company!
From the press release: "The report, the sequel to last year’s highly regarded Kids & CE I, is the only comprehensive source for information on the impact CE devices are having on kids, giving manufacturers and retailers the information they need to gain a better understanding of kids’ habits and preferences for these products, and to measure how this has changed since the initial study...
Overall household ownership shows desktop PCs, DVD players, non-portable televisions and cell phones dominating, with digital cameras, portable digital music players and laptop computers gaining ground. In terms of personal ownership, more than twice the amount of kids personally own portable digital music players and digital cameras this year versus 2005, while cell phone ownership is up by 50 percent.
'Any business that markets or sells products to kids needs to be aware of the role of these CE devices in their lives,' said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. 'Today’s kids are digital natives whose activities are fundamentally different than previous generations, making the information within this report critical for more effective product development and marketing strategies.'"
The report site is here, but darned if I can see a price or an order mechanism--just a form for more information. I'll update this if I discover how one gets the report.
UPDATE: The intrepid Larry O, head of OCLC's corporate library, was brave enough to submit his contact info to NPD for more information. The price tag? $8,000. Maybe we can borrow it from somewhere....!