Friday, October 27, 2006

The Garden of Forking Paths

Karen Schneider, in a comment on Alice's post below this one, asks for more possibly wacky ideas about what libraries might be. Actually, she didn't ask for wacky ideas....we just know some people will think they are. Well, I often have my own wacky ideas but I am wacked out from a month of packing up, packing and unpacking in a move from one part of Ohio to another (which is why I haven't been "here"...not that any of you noticed, I am sure!).

So, as a public service then, and so I can reappear here at IAG without much effort, and because it's a rainy Friday here in Ohio, I am expropriating/giving you a couple of ideas from a colleague--unnamed because he wasn't writing for you.

After came out with its story on the top earning dead celebrities (Kurt Cobain edged out Elvis Presley): How about "creating a page on a library's website that has links into content for each of the top earning dead celebs. Top Dead Celebs week at the library... I'm pretty sure it would generate some buzz, and probably get me fired."

Alice envisions library about libraries with no books? "The great thing about the books (and other media) that have NOT been written -- the ones that are users are working on and want to do something with in the future -- is that they don't require, at the time of their greatest need (the writing, editing, research, storage, reference, metatagging, etc), a physical library space.

Which is what will be going away as books get digitized. They need services to help their ideas move from their ephemeral, "mind-spaces" out into the world. Which is what librarians have always really been doing. It's just that they've been doing it in big, brick buildings, using paper and pens and carrels...I need help writing "The Book of Me?" Whether that's meant to be casual (a list of recipes because I cook; places I visit and itineraries; my genealogical quest; children's books I love that I want to keep track of for my niece; the best ways to fold paper; news stories related to the Armenian genocide), or formal (a PhD thesis I want to scrupulously bibliograph; a blog I want to use to market my business; my poetry online; a graphic novel) -- it's MY BOOK.

It's not in the library, yet. And it won't be, 99.5% of the time, because, right now... we only "library-ize" the books after they come out and an elite corps of post-production gurus give it a thumbs-up. But just like the printing press enabled about a million times more books to be "book-worthy" than were the case beforehand, so the Web and dirt-cheap server space makes MY BOOK, well... save-worthy, I guess. And if the library isn't going to help me catalog it and put it somewhere where I and others might get some benefit...
Google will."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Magic 8 Ball Musings

Last Friday we were having a round robin e-mail string about big ideas/what's next for libraries--I started calling it the Magic 8 Ball Idea of the Day.

George wondered if big nonfiction collections in medium-sized libraries was the next thing to go. That it is valuable space now devoted to dead shelving--and it could be used a community space.

ThenI chimed in:
I’d like to see mini-library outposts set up (whether it’s a part-time staffed laptop, kiosk or something else…) in pharmacies, hospital waiting rooms, day care centers, grocery stores, coffee shops (gasp), real estate agent offices, hardware stores….

Anywhere where a general time-crunched public might find additional value in having an information professional help them find materials not instantly available in Google. And then they could model good online seeking habits to the community. It drives awareness of the online options (and home delivery!) and invites people to re-envision the library space as vibrant community space instead of silent book space.

We’ll get there eventually--one positive interaction at a time!

From where I sit, it sounds like we don’t necessarily need more people using the library space necessary (usage is up overall, from what I understand)—but realizing the library has relevant online resources to a primarily middle-class, online-living folk…(who may be more likely to fund the public good….)

Doable? Crazy? Impractical? Uncomfortable? (Scary?)
Good. That means we should definitely do it.
What's your Magic 8 Ball Idea this Friday?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Community College Library of the Future

Community Colleges have been on my mind lately. We've been talking about eAudiobooks for academic libraries--what content 4 year urban institutions need, what content private suburban/rural colleges might need, and what community colleges might need.

Not surprisingly, we thought all three groups like the idea of eAudiobooks. (We surmised all of this, we did not particularly go hunting for quantitative/qualitative data yet.) Then the question of content came up--and we realized that Community Colleges might stand to be the biggest winner with eAudiobooks in academic libraries thus far.

To make a gross generalization, community colleges typically have a higher population of students who commute, who have full-time jobs/kids/families, and who may not speak English as their native tongue.

For this group, eAudiobooks seemed just about perfect: you can listen to them while you drive, you have have your kids listen to them with you while you cook dinner, maybe you can listen to them at your job! And community colleges, we wondered, may have a propensity to interact with the local community a bit more, too? Possibly.

Anyway, all this brainy thinking made yesterday's Chronicle blog post stand out, the Wired Campus, Community College Library of the Future. Plus it's set in Dayton, Ohio, which means that I could go visit at some point when I am back in Ohio. (Which is set for this week, in fact!)

Speaking of, everyone gearing up for Members Council? There is going to be a live Web cast of the Celebration of the Life of Fred Kilgour on Tuesday. If you're not coming to Dublin, you can still participate! Test your system now--no registration required.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

bottom-up site redesign

One of the highlights of my first day at Internet Librarian (il2006) was the session "Bottom-Up Web Redesign" kicked off by Jeff Wisnewski, Web Services Librarian, University of Pittsburgh. Jeff started off his presentation by saying something like:

Typical, typical...
Current Site + Committee + New Colors + Usability Testing = GREAT NEW SITE!!!

Sound familiar? I was very pleased, then, with our recent progress at WebJunction towards engaging our users, members and partners with our current site refresh project. In short, many hundreds of readers are following along with us as my colleagues and I blog about the process, hundreds of interested folks actually helped us reorganize the site through a virtual card sort, and a smaller number of them have commented on the contents of our homepage and secondary pages and site map. And, we've been able to do it all virtually.

As I listened to Jeff and his co-presenters run through the guiding principles of user-driven redesign, and to their selected tools for managing such a process, I actually felt quite proud of what we're doing in our online community - maybe it's even a model of sorts. So, I'm giving myself and everyone at WJ (all 22,000 of us, card-sorters or not) a moment of pause so we can pat ourselves on the back. I think we're doing a cool, maybe even radical thing here. Thanks to everyone who has participated with us - and when you're ready to put your library's website to the task of a redesign - consider engaging your users at the design & info-architecture phases - at the beginning and throughout your process. Although we're not quite finished yet, it's looking like we're all going to benefit from the wisdom of this crowd. And I'd love it if we could collect some more stories along these lines.

Oh, and one other tidbit from Jeff's presentation: the single most important factor for users in your site's credibility? Look and feel - by a long shot. Organization, usefulness, and even accuracy are all in there, but site design should not be skimped upon. Makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, we do it, so why wouldn't they?

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Starbucks Aesthetic

An article from the New York Times yesterday that chronicles the hip cultural-consumer attention of has solidified enough to be termed an aesthetic.

Here's the line that sent shivers up my spine:

"The book publishing industry could benefit from such a tastemaking force, said Laurence Kirshbaum, founder of the LJK Literary Management agency. 'One of the big problems in the book industry is that outside of Oprah, there’s no really widely accepted authority to recommend books,' Mr. Kirshbaum said."
(Emphasis mine. Note Kirshbaum wrote Is the Library Burning in 1969.)

No widely-accepted authority to recommend books? I know reader-advisories have been on the decline, but is anyone embarrassed by this quotation? Why isn't the library top of mind for him? Or do we want it to be? Hmmm...

Now, I can tell you that GenX and GenY may know Starbucks and identify the Starbucks aesthetic--but they're looking for something more authentic.

(Not that Starbucks is necessarily inauthentic but it is definitely a calculatedly authentic environment.) My point is, perhaps your library might be that more authentic place--even as you incorporate the smart thinking that has ushered in the age of the recognizable Starbucks aesthetic into your library.

Whew for all that Adorno reading ten years ago!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

DDR helps YA librarians promote active lifestyles

Have had a wonderful trip to Florida, Illinois and New York and am now back home. Have waded through the administrative parts of being gone (paying overdue bills, such fun) and happened on an article in Young Adult Library Services (the YALSA publication) from Beth Gallaway and Alissa Lauzon about DDR, which stands for Dance Dance Revolution.

I distantly knew there were mats involved in some games, thanks to Jenny Levine's photos periodically, but for some reason all the pieces of the puzzle hadn't clicked until today. See for yourself how it works on YouTube.

The other reason it seems so timely to me right now is I just heard about the Verb campaign, a multi-year campaign put on by the CDC to help reduce childhood obesity. A chilling statistic: this is the first generation of children that are not expected to outlive their parents. Scary...

Now there is hope, even after DDR, for these kids AND the environment AND your library. Just install an Energy-generating Dance Floor in the teen section and invite people to rock out. Of course, you may have to put a door on the YA area... think we'll see DDR Olympics in Seattle? (Thanks to Ambidextrous for the flooring tip.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

falling together

I have been running a mile a minute. It all started when I was down in Sonoma for the online community summit - catching up (along with my colleague Jasmine de Gaia) on the latest business, programming, and technology trends for online community building. I learned so much that I sort of feel like my head is about to burst, but the big take-aways for me were that we're on the brink of (1) business models that work and (2) technology that gets out of our way. Oh, and on a more personal note, I need to find some way to stay connected to the larger online community world - not just heads-down in library land all the time. On yet another personal note, while visiting Sonoma I had the chance to visit good friends in the Bay area. Though the trip brought extremely bad news for one good friend who learned (just the day before I arrived) that she has bonafide MS, I had a rockin' good time with her just the same, as well as with my old pal Brian Bannon (who's loving his new place at the San Francisco Public Library).

As if that isn't enough, I came home to (1) the first drafts of our WJ wireframes (they are so vastly improved from our current homepage that I just can't wait to show them off, soon), (2) three of our "WJ cousins" visiting Seattle from Dublin for the week - very fun, and (3) the extremely bad news (yet again) that my sister's meds haven't kicked in just yet (for those who may not know, she has breast cancer and is constantly switching meds around the keep the ugliness at bay). Non-emergent, but we're all sort of waiting with bated breath, literally.

Almost two weeks beyond the start of this post I'm busy following up with new and old pals from the summit, visiting with our visiting Rural Library Sustainability participants - what a joy to meet some of you for the first time outside of virtual space!, getting my thoughts together for internet librarian, and wading through a ton of applications for an open position at WebJunction. Too much?

It is quite a bit. But you know, it's exhilarating in many ways. To take so much in in so short a timeframe can certainly overwhelm, but it also leaves me feeling steeped in the wonder/balance that makes up who we are and what we call "life". Although it all could become a reason for falling apart, it seems rather an opportunity for falling together. Ultimately, I feel so lucky to have family, friends, and work that I love to such depth.

I'm reminded here of Alane's post a few months back - something like full brain, lazy post? Indeed. But I did want to's all good stuff.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thinking Outside the Borders

"Thinking Outside the Borders: Library Leadership in a World Community" is a conference to be held next February 18-20 in Phoenix, Arizona. As if Phoenix in February were not a big enough attraction for someone facing a Midwestern winter (i.e., me), the agenda looks pretty solid. In the words of the news release,

The project is designed to encourage librarians to think globally and act locally. Participants will:

* Learn cross-cultural communication strategies
* Develop an understanding of librarianship and the world community
* Focus on leadership issues affecting librarians regardless of country
* Build mutually-beneficial global professional relationships

Fifteen international participants will be accepted, so it will be important that interested persons apply early. Follow this link for program details including scholarship information and program expenses:

The conference also has an impeccable lineage. Again, in the words of the release, "THINKING OUTSIDE THE BORDERS: LIBRARY LEADERSHIP IN A WORLD COMMUNITY is a joint project of the Arizona State Library, the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois, and the Illinois State Library, USA, funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Library as Conversation

R. David Lankes (ol' Virtual Dave from the Virtual Reference Desk Conference days) is now working on a project for ALA called "Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation." You can read the draft report and make comments until October 25 to help formulate the final report.

And if you are interested in seeing the papers from the Virtual Reference Desk Conference, they are now mounted at WebJunction!


If you're looking for community support for libraries and you haven't read it yet, go read the Lawrence, Kansas editorial about why they don't need a new library downtown. Libraries are limited, obsolete.

Then read the loooooong string of comments. There are plenty of community members who are articulate and passionate about the value of libraries.

Now the question is: are these same people turning up at the voting booth? If not, why not? If they are, how can we as the library industry help support their passion and turn it into tangible action that elected officials see?

With my devil's advocate hat on, some of the same things the article writer talks about, I think would be good for the library to do "in addition" to being a solid community downtown institution.

Why not have a library kiosk at the pharmacy or hospital, right where someone might want to do some hardcore database research on medications, sympotoms, risks? (I know, I know--it's the money issue again...)

I'm off on an adventure for the next 5 days--

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Shout out to the WJ

I have been diligently avoiding my "flagged for follow up" e-mail/Web tasks. No good reason really...
But I had it marked to go check out the card-sorting exercise and other fun ideas that the team over at WebJunction was busy using to improve their interface/experience. I hadn't gotten to it yet and already a week has gone by!

So now I say: if anyone else has been as slack as I have, go check it out now! Is it too late, Joe? Are you already on to wireframes?

Speaking of user experiences, the marketer in me cannot resist pointing out a simply beautiful, well-thought-out-and-executed campaign for Shaw flooring. Sticky like nobody's business, interactive, personal, engaging, customer-focused. I love it!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Call for proposals on social networking

There's a special issue brewing in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication on Social Networking. 500 word abstracts due 28 November 2006.
All you libraries out there doing cool stuff, submit your projects!

Friday, October 06, 2006

"The Librarian"

Here's an entertaining and even enlightening bit of history from the vaults, a vocational film about becoming a librarian. This film was apparently made in 1947, and some of the points it makes are quite remarkable. It starts by saying that the two qualities a prospective librarian needs are liking books and liking people. (When did we drop that second requirement?) And it shows librarians using microfilm, phono records, and 16mm films. (New librarians, ask your grandparents about these last two.) The film runs about 10 minutes and you'll need QuickTime Player and a sound card to view it.

The dreadful parts: every librarian (and for that matter, just about every person shown in the movie) is white, and the only administrator shown is a middle aged guy. And the little girl who is being read to by the children's librarian doesn't seem very happy with the service.

Thanks to my friend Joanna McNally for pointing me to this!

Google and YouTube rumors

As seen on Techcrunch:
Google is in Talks to Buy YouTube (also seen on

Also funny in the TechCrunch post is that Google has told the engineers to stop being so brainy and limit the new products being launched.

Women gamers

Throwback to the Environmental Scan, Nielsen Entertainment did a study that routs out the myth of only young geeky boys as gamers:
Women account for 2/3 of Online Gamers

A straight lift from the article:
Fully 64 percent of online gamers are women, according to Nielsen. Online gamers overall account for 56 percent of the country's 117 million total active gamers--defined as people ages 13 and up who own and personally play games on a gaming device for at least one hour a week. Overall, when all video games are considered, male players still outnumber female by more than two-to-one, the research said.

Women who play games are taking such pursuits to mobile devices. Twenty-six percent of female gamers played mobile phone games, compared to 23 percent of male gamers.

I haven't read the study--but am curious about the demographics of these women mobile gamers. Are they soccer moms waiting in the van for practice to be over? Career women waiting for planes, clients? Doctors, musicians, postal carriers making some space in their busy days to hang with their kids for 20 minutes? Students before/after class?
All of the above.
How can we cater gaming in the library/through the library to fit these women's lives better?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Starbucks Book Break

Love 'em or hate 'em, Starbucks is doing more community activities that involve books. They've just launched a program, called Starbucks Book Break. Book Break is a Starbucks-hosted discussion group of For One More Day, planned for 25 locations and Mitch Albom (the writer) will attend 8 of them.
Press from Reuters. They've done social networking through

Sounds like Starbucks wants to move to the 3rd space to me!

And they've tapped into the idea of cause marketing, too, with the JumpStart tie-in. Cause marketing is big these days...especially with Gen Y.

If you're library is in one of these 25 areas

*Maybe you want to stock up on a few extra copies of the book.
*Maybe you'll contact your local Starbucks and see if you could put a poster up--promoting the idea that people can get copies of this book (and many others) at the library.
*Maybe you'll put a flyer up at your own library, do a display with Albom's other books, feature the audiobooks, and align yourself as a supporter of the Starbucks event. After all, people reading and getting together to talk about it is pretty central to the idea of the library!

If you're NOT a library in one of those 25 areas
--but you DO have a Starbucks in your community--
What if you contacted your local store to host your own Starbucks Book Break at the library? You can still have it Oct. 26.
If they'll supply the coffee and pastries, you'll supply the space and books! And you both can promote the event at your respective locations...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

creating context, learning, community...

"Many librarians today don't really know what they do best, so here they are concerned about competing in Google's space instead of choosing to compete in what we do best. That is creating context, learning, community, and improving the quality of the question." This is from Stephen Abram as quoted in Sept 15 LJ's Google is not the Net.

Stephen's last sentence. Is it an answer to the everlasting question about our library brand?

Leaf and Librarian peeping

"Leaf-peeping" is in full swing in New England. At least according to my independent foliage source, Polly's Pancakes. So get your game on and come peep out with some pancakes on the side.

I can't believe I just wrote "peep out."

But speaking of New England, a PhD-turned-academic-librarian from Yale, Dr. Todd Gilman, has written a very nice article in the Chronicle Careers "First Person" today. (May require registration.)
The article is aptly named, "Show your Librarian Some Love" and he makes some great points. Among them today:
"Your students need the library and the librarians in it. If your students didn't get enough exposure to research education before your course (and trust me, they didn't) you owe it to them to bring them in."
Yeah! He's written plenty of great articles in the past, too. His post today reminds me of the academic advocacy ad we put together and made available for download and customization.

Art imitates Life which imitates Art.
Rock on.

Monday, October 02, 2006

NetFlix contest

NetFlix is launching a contest to help improve their recommendation engine. How cool is that? Cool to the tune of $1 million?
Librarians, engineers, OCLC Researchers--here's a fun dataset to play around with and learn a thing or two about how recommendations/Long Tail/Pandora-type things might work. (Of course, there's nothing yet on their site about it...)

We The People Need Happiness

Children/YA Librarians already know this, I'm sure. For the rest of us, check it out: 2,000 libraries will get 15 free books as part of the "Pursuit of Happiness" grant, administered by ALA and NEH in the "We the People" series.

As spotted on The Daily Flap. Applications end Jan. 31, 2007--so there is time to gather your throughts, forget about it and then still get it done before the Christmas hub-bub begins.

YOU may get some promotion with these titles, too. Maybe Uncle Sam comes and rides a bike through your library!