Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Last Lecture

My step-mother tuned me into this lecture by the now-famous Carnegie Mellon professor, Randy Pausch. I was reminded of it again yesterday, when the Chronicle reported he is doing well.

Be warned, if you haven't yet watched it--there is not an single shred of self-sympathy in his presentation, but I still got choked up at times.

An earlier reporting from the Chronicle.

What does this have to do with libraries? It's inspiration, pure and simple.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

LJ up for sale?

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the LJ Academic Newswire this afternoon. Here's the brief paragraph, to save you a click:

Library Journal for Sale as Reed Elsevier Says It Will Divest B2B Publishing Business

Reed Elsevier today announced plans to sell Reed Business Information (RBI), the parent company of Library Journal and sister publications Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Críticas. In a statement, Reed Elsevier CEO Crispin Davis said that the company was divesting its advertising-based business-to-business publishing unit and moving more aggressively into a "risk management business," fueled by a $4 billion acquisition of ChoicePoint, a company that provides data and analytics to the insurance industry. Davis did not identify potential buyers for RBI, and had no timeline for the sale, but expected "a strong level" of interest in RBI from both "strategic and private equity buyers."

I wonder who those buyers might be. (NB! Do not read anything into this. I know nothing!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total lunar eclipse tonight

From the NASA site...
A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the night of Wednesday, February 20/21, 2008. The entire event is visible from South America and most of North America (on Feb. 20) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on Feb. 21). During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray.

An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

WorldCat blog

At long last, I am very happy to welcome the WorldCat blog into the family. Many of you met Jasmine at the last Blog Salon, and if you haven't yet--you might have seen her on the road talking about social networking and WorldCat.

She just made her inaugural post to the WorldCat blog (full disclosure--I am on the WorldCat blog team, too.) with a classic Sesame Street YouTube video of Cookie Monster in the library. I love it!
(And after you watch it, you'll no longer marvel at why the library brand=books!)

Eat, Pray, Love

Along with everyone else in America, I just finished Eat, Pray, Love. I know, you read it years ago. Still a fun, inspiring story.

It's snowing, but the sun's out. Strange.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why We Need Libraries ("Oh, My God" Division, part 2)

Susan Jacoby has written a new book, The Age of American Unreason. The book is, according to her web site, "a disturbing portrait of a mutant strain of public ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism that has developed over the past four decades and now threatens the future of American democracy." According to an article in today's The New York Times, Jacoby was inspired to write her book by a conversation she heard in New York City on September 11, 2001:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

Any comparison between this conversation and John Belushi's Henry V-style "rally the troops" speech in Animal House (remember: Animal House was rated R for language!) is purely coincidental.

Is Borders Becoming a For-Profit Public Library?

Check out this article in today's USA Today and consider. They are mixing books, digital downloads and their inevitable coffee shops in a single concept store. A quote from the article:

...follow the table of books snaking off to the right, and you'll come face-to-face with Borders' newest retail strategy: a digital center where you can download music or books, burn CDs, research family histories, print pictures and order leather-bound books crammed with family photos — with help from clerks who know how to do those sorts of things and won't embarrass you if you don't.

That description sounds chillingly familiar, doesn't it?

Worthington's "World Café"

Last Friday, I spoke at the Worthington (Ohio) Libraries' Board, Staff, and Community Retreat session. Worthington is a wonderfully progressive suburban library system Library Journal's 2007 Library of the Year, in fact), and the director, Meribah Mansfield, has put together a young, enthusiastic leadership team that seems to effervesce with new ideas. (Full disclosure: Meribah and I go way back as friends and colleagues. I live in her library district, and she serves on OCLC's Members Council.) I was delighted to speak in Worthington for another reason---I love any speaking engagement I can drive to.

The point of this post, though, is to talk about the structure the organizers of the meeting used to get the discussion moving. They called this session a "World Café," which has no relationship to the NPR radio show of the same name.

There were about seven tables of eight people each at this event. Lisa Fuller and Kristin Shelley, the organizers of the discussion, had four questions they wanted discussed. They gave us the first question, then asked us to spend about eight minutes discussing it. At the end of the eight minutes, Lisa and Kristin raised their hands to end the discussion, and then they told us all to change tables and sit with a different mix of people for the second question. We worked through this for all four questions, changing tables and getting to meet new people each time. There were no assigned recorders or discussion leaders.

When all the questions had been discussed, they asked us for key "Ah-Ha!" moments at each table. So in about 45 minutes, we had a terrific discussion, and the board had several flip chart pages full of good ideas to take into the second day of their deliberations.

If you are running a meeting seeking broad based input, this could be a good model.

Incidentally, for years, I've been saying in my talks that library web sites can be called many things, but they can rarely be called fun. Here is an exception.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pecha Kucha Night at your Library?

My always-on source of interesting, relevant material just sent me another tidbit of fascinating culture:
Pecha Kucha Night
Basically, it's a way for up-and-coming architects and visual designers to show their hot new ideas off, but not get bogged down in the nitty-gritty. Each person gets 20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide.

This could be a great way to draw creatives and artistically-inclined cultural mavens into your library on a biweekly (fortnightly) or monthly basis.

I say fortnightly because I've been at Members Council the past 2 days and am feeling quite global. Or wishing I could express myself less U.S.-centrically...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Jenny Levine and Web 2.0

Okay okay, I am guilty of name-dropping. But Jenny's work on Web 2.0 stuff (gaming in particular) is fantastic and I wanted to make sure everyone had heard about the event going on in Virginia next month.

It's called Changing the Way Libraries Do Business: Meeting the Challenges of the Web 2.0 World, and of course the title alone was enough to pique my interest (oh she that loves change for change's sake!). But on top of that, Jenny is the keynote. And there's a raft of additional interesting people slated to speak, too:
*Kate Sheehan from Darien Public Library
*Jamie Coniglio from George Mason University
*Jennifer Howell from Western Maryland Public Libraries
*Karen Calhoun from OCLC

So it's going to be a good session. I wish they were videocasting it. I can't go, because we've already booked our tickets to go see friends for a long Easter weekend. But take the Maundy Thursday (I know it can be really dead on academic campuses right before Easter) and give your brain an infusion of fresh new and fun ideas.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hollywood does Libraries

Eric just sent me a link to the Hollywood Reporter:
Estevez goes 'Public'
Here's a clip from the press release:

Estevez is prepping "The Public," a social drama set in a public library that he wrote and will direct as his follow-up to "Bobby."

The story is loosely based on a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece written by Chip Ward, a retiring librarian in Salt Lake City, which discussed the epidemic issue of libraries becoming de facto shelters for the homeless and the mentally ill in light of many social program cuts.

I am sure it will be more in-depth (and less stereotypical) than The Librarian!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Things that don't suck

According to Wired magazine...Public libraries! (Right between "heated seats" and "remote control.")

I would have put ice cream higher up on the list. But maybe placement on the list does not indicate its rank of nonsuckiness.

Also check out the list of things that do suck. (According to Wired.) What's cool is, they've gathered scientific reasons for the suckiness.

(Spotted by Andy!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Better Than Free"

Bruce Newell, late of the Montana Library Network and now a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees directed our attention to a fascinating post by Kevin Kelly on The Technium called "Better Than Free," which sets forth the premise, "When copies (basically everything on the Web) are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied."

Kelly then lists eight attributes he believes can be sold in this market, including personalization, interpretation, and findability. He calls these attributes "generatives," because they are attributed which must be grown from scratch, cultivated and nurtured over time. They can't be faked or cloned. In other words, it's not enough to say you provide immediacy, you have to do it, over and over again, over a long period of time without screwing it up.

If we put this into a library context, what can libraries do to add value to their offerings to make them useful in an era when, as we are so often reminded, "everything is on the Web"? It seems to me that using these generatives as criteria, we could begin to think about how to bring our services into the 21st century. How do we improve findability, for example, an area we have claimed as our own but which doesn't seem to measure up to the benchmarks of the new environment?

Also, could we begin to build a reputation in some of these areas? For example, what can we do to improve the personalization of library services? Can we assist in interpretation in ways we have not before?

Kelly is the first person I have read without a vested interest in the current structure to boldly state that aggregators will continue to have a role, reason enough for librarians to want to know more about his ideas!

Monday, February 04, 2008

New England in mourning

I realize no one in libraryland watches football except us marketing types and advertising affectionados, but I can't help but comment on the game last night. Who would have predicted it?

Just goes to show--it ain't over until it's over (unless there's only 1 second left on the clock...). Remember the Giants when you're in a tough funding situation, hiring situation, or new board members who are flexing their board member-right to question everything.

Most of us here woke up still dumb-founded!

Moore's Law

Moore's Law continues to prevail. Intel has just announced a chip that's packed with 2 billion transistors.

Still care to argue over Wikipedia?

Friday, February 01, 2008

simple matters

It's day four of my sitting back at my desk after having been away for several weeks to spend important time with friends and family. All the same bright stars are here - more of them, actually - doing incredibly diligent, insightful work with and for libraries and library staff. Through their work they create and support change for our profession, and it's good change too: another librarian signed up for their first RSS feed; another library with a completed technology plan.

Having been away, I admit that I find myself somewhat disconnected from some parts of the overall effort. Sure, I'm floating about, making various remarks, each accompanied by a CRH jest, smirk, or toss of the hair. Honestly, it hasn't been too terribly difficult to dive back into projects and conversations, do what I do, what some like to call "be Chrystie Hill." But behind all that - it's as if I'm watching myself from above - I feel as if I'm about to cross a new threshold, but I don't know what's exactly I'm crossing over into. (I can hear George,and Marilyn, and Clayton, and others saying as they read this "Don't do it Chrystie - walk away from the light!")

Not to worry. I'm not leaving library land, nor what I still claim to be the best job in library land. On the contrary, the threshold involves some new ... let's call it perspective, but that's not the right word ... clarity? ... about "what's important," and it really is very simple: at the end of the day we all should be able to say that we are working to change libraries so that they matter more. (Don't say we already matter. We don't matter enough.) As a profession, we should be of single mind on this (or something like it) and all of our efforts should map to a vision - call me Utopian - where all libraries are relevant and thriving.

At the very least, I know that's why I care about my job, and that's why I come to work every day. Being away reminded me of the simplicity of it, really, and I'm hoping I can stay clear on this as I immerse myself back into the details and the complexities of our work. (Ever the optimist; I know, I know.)

Hello Libraryland. It is great to be back.

OMG tech division

Microsoft makes a bid for Yahoo! ($45 billion U.S.)
Amazon to acquire Audible.com! ($300 million U.S.)

Is this the market recession we keep hearing so much about?

Why We Need Libraries ("Oh, My God" Division)

Why We Need Libraries:

LONDON (Reuters) - A shopping chain has withdrawn the sale of beds named Lolita and designed for six-year-old girls after furious parents pointed out that the name was synonymous with sexually active preteens.

Woolworths said staff who administer the website selling the beds were not aware of the connection.

In "Lolita", a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, the narrator becomes sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter -- but Woolworths staff had not heard of the classic novel or two subsequent films based on it.