Monday, March 31, 2008

PLA: A Long Summary

Joey Rodger, the former Executive Director of the Public Library Association and President of the Urban Libraries Council, used to refer to library conferences as being like Brigadoon. All of a sudden, a whole community appears out of nowhere, flourishes for a few golden days, and then disappears back into the mists. This year's PLA National Conference was a perfect example of her wonderful simile.

The conference attracted nearly 10,000 people to a cold but sunny Minneapolis, and for the most part, I think nearly all of them went away pleased by their experience. There was a well-crafted selection of breakout sessions, a large and varied exhibit hall, and simply the best wrap-up speaker I've ever heard in my career. Just a few examples:

Thursday morning, I attended "The Game Studio: 21st Century Technologies for 21st Century Teens." The Minneapolis Public Library created a Teen Tech Squad, a cadre of young people, age 14 or so, who were carefully trained in helping people (adults as well as peers) learn about technology. According to Christy Mulligan, the Teen Central Librarian, the program was about "broadening the spectrum of build skills and assets that are going to make (participants) contributors to our community." The Tech Squad Members then worked in the Game Studio, helping their peers create and share their own online games. The best part of the program was the contribution made by the three Teen Squad Members who spoke; these are funny, well-spoken, and knowledgeable people who would do credit to any library. (Full disclosure: I serve on an advisory panel for the Minneapolis Public Library in an IMLS grant proposal to take the Game Studio program nationwide as a means of improving 21st century skills.)

On Friday afternoon, there was a good presentation on the new approaches to reference service that the Columbus Metropolitan Library is taking. The title alone tells you what they have in mind: "Off Your Seat and On Your Feet!" The idea is to get staff people circulating in their branch facilities, to help where the people are, instead of sitting back and waiting for the customers (their word) to come to a service desk. Jodi Lee is a delightful and engaging presenter, and she and her co-presenter, a somewhat more laid back Christopher Korenowsky, handled the many questions with aplomb. Most of the questions, unfortunately, seemed to fall into the category of "here's why we couldn't do this at our place," but Jodi and Christopher never missed a beat, nor did they back down. Well done!

Saturday, I got to hear WebJunction's own Michael Porter talk on a panel with two other speakers about coping with new technologies. Since Michael seems to be adept at every technology from Model T Fords to the next generation of robotics, he was a good choice. His bright, self-deprecating manner and his excellent graphics choices show why he's an in-demand speaker on the library circuit. Kudos to the other speakers, Janie Hermann and Stephanie Gerding, for matching Michael stride for stride.

I promised not to do any more shameless huckstering for the program I did with Joan Frye Williams, but why not? There were 300+ people in the room (at 8:30 on Saturday morning), there were a ton of questions in the Q-and-A, and I'll be posting the revised slides to the PLA web site shortly.

There were hundreds of exhibitors. I was especially impressed by two exhibitors that I probably can't mention by name here. One showed an amazing new microfilm to computer file converter. It can move 25 images a minute from roll film to jpg, pdf, or other image formats. The other exhibitor is a not-for-profit group that is creating online training programs to help elders (their term) learn how to use computers.

The WebJunction reception has been written about over at Blog Junction, so I won't go into that here, except to say that it's always great to see so many of my WJ friends and colleagues in one big room.

Paula Poundstone was the closing speaker for the conference. I don't know why she got to substitute for the announced speaker, but the gods of conference planning were certainly smiling upon us when this substitution was made. (Think of Lou Gehrig coming in to replace Wally Pipp in the Yankees line up in 1925, and you get the idea.) Paula came out and asked what seemed to be an innocuous question about the PLA conference, and just like that she was on her way. From the eliteness of having a "public" library conference ("I'm sorry, but you can't come in here. This is for the public."), to why we have to meet so often ("Librarians meet? Why? And you have to have minutes? Oh, my God..."), to the deeply puzzling reasons behind our ambivalence about the Dewey Decimal System ("You love the books, but you hate the way they're organized. Life must be hell for you!"), she skewered sacred cows with the abandon of a four year old. For years, the late, lamented Molly Ivins was my ultimate conference speaker; now, I gleefully award the crown to Paula Poundstone!

National Library Week in South Africa

Meant to post about this a couple of weeks ago (ahem!) but better late than never. I was so cheered to hear that OCLC's latest advocacy ad subject, Neal Petersen, was picked up and used in South Africa for National Library Week 2008. I was looking around quickly for other national library week celebrations from other countries...anyone know where a good list might be?

Friday, March 28, 2008

In like a lion, out like a polar bear

Isn't that the saying for the month of March? Seems like it should be, up here. It's been snowing on and off all day. But yesterday all the high school kids were out in shorts, running for the track team. "Spring" is a relative term, I guess.

I've been away in lovely North Carolina. We visited friends and basically enjoyed ourselves for a full week. And before that, had my mother-in-law up for a visit. Lesson learned: give yourself a day or two between having guests visit you and leaving to go be a guest yourself. All those little things like laundry and packing and eating up all the perishable food can be a real pain when you're trying to entertain. (Even though my mother-in-law is about as easy-going as anyone I've ever met...she was a good sport about all of it.)

We visited the Davidson, NC library. Very cute. Little. Beautifully windowed, light and airy. Nestled in the middle of the town green, right across from a hipster coffee shop and a soda fountain that is vintage 1950's Americana, it's now a branch of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County system. Very cool. Everyone in Davidson was watching the NCAA Tournament, it seems. That or waiting for the Easter bunny.

On an unrelated note--I saw that there's a company doing a road show for their downloadable audiobooks. It sounds like they're basically tricking out a big truck and driving around to cities, to help make sure people know how to use the online resources the libraries have purchased for their communities. This is a great idea! The library gets some free publicity about how up-to-date they are, users gain a better understanding of the new technology, and staff can basically enjoy the circus (or so it sounds...). Someone in one of those cities, you'll have to let us know how it goes! (OR someone get the scoop at PLA.)

Speaking of PLA...did anyone see John Wood? Was he as awesome as I would expect?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"It Ain't Necessarily So:" The Trailer!

If you want to get a sense of what Joan Frye Williams and I will be presenting at the PLA conference next Saturday, March 29, from 8:30 to 9:45 am in room M101 of the Minneapolis Convention Center, you can find an abbreviated set of our slides on the PLA handouts page.

And I promise this is the last shameless plug for our program!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WebJunction Welcomes Bloggers to PLA Reception

Hey, library bloggers---

If you're attending the PLA Conference in Minneapolis next week, please consider yourself invited to the WebJunction Member Reception on Thursday, March 27, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency.

I hope to see you there, and maybe even at my program with Joan Frye Williams, "It Ain't Necessarily So: Challenging the Assumptions of Legacy Librarianship" on Saturday morning at 8:30 am (gulp) in room M101 of the convention center.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hulu is here

If you're a TV, movie or a YouTube junkie, now there's a new place for video content:

There's not a *ton* of content here yet--but scanning through I saw enough Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and House clips to make for some fun doodling over the weekend. Not to mention the smattering of full-length movies.

I wonder if you could write a little script to capture the metadata for each episode and list it (like a journal article) in WorldCat or your local catalog, so the user could find it, click and get right to the content. It doesn't sound that hard.

That usually means it's next to impossible...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rewire your Life Day

But whoops, we already missed it. Rewire your Life Day was yesterday, according to a Michigan State University professor, Ellen Ernst Kossek.

But contrary to what it sounds like (take a day to sort through all the old chargers, USB cables, hard drive folders, and straighten out your iTunes to mobile phone synch, once and for all...), she's saying to take a break from your iLife and switch everything off.

Go to lunch with a friend, talk face to face, etc.

Maybe I have the crackberry addition, because it feels almost the equivalent of saying, "This is a pencil free day," because your hand needs a break from all this writing it does.

Almost, but not quite. And looking through Kossek's Work-Life Web site, I am drawn in. The CEO of Me sounds appealing. Okay, I am changing my mind about this crazy person who is proposing I stop blogging e-mailing chatting texting powerpointing videoing for a day....

Now, can I get that title in an eBook, so I can read sections of it to my lunch friend?

Setting aside the fact that it would promote the wrong brand message for your library (a connected, totally wired space for the future)...what do you think of Rewire Your Life Day, as a personal empowerment strategy?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Our hearts go out to Jerusalem mourners

[Note: this is not a political post.]

I am reminded of the bit in the Charles Stanford work (sorry Dr. Delcamp--I don't remember which one!), "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem."

The news yesterday would have been a passing blip on the radio, had they not included that the shootings happened in the library. For some reason, that factoid reverberated right down to the pit of my stomach.

I will not urge you to beef up security. I will not urge you to create an emergency evacuation plan. (Although both of those things would probably be smart undertakings.)

I urge you to set aside time today to reflect on how much we all take the sanctity of the library for granted. As if somehow, whether we have vast expanses of steel and glass, quiet nooks of burnished copper and dark-stained wood, or simply plastic chairs and some makeshift computer tables--somehow, being in the library makes us immune to danger.

And then pray for peace throughout troubled lands.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Trendspotting and PLA

The round of spring conferences is starting to gear up.

A week from Friday, March 14, I'll be speaking at the Connecticut Library Consortium's third Trendspotting conference at the University of Hartford. My title is "Unlocking the Walled Garden," and will focus on how libraries can move content into the public sphere more effectively, including through the use of open source software.

Joan Frye Williams and I will present "It Ain't Necessarily So: Challenging the Assumptions of Legacy Librarianship" at the Public Library Association conference. This program will begin at 8:30 am on Saturday, March 29 in room M101 of the Minneapolis Convention Center. (Believe me, we didn't pick the time!)

I hope to see you at one of these events, or at one of the four programs that I'm speaking at during April.

Long weekend

There was sunshine on the beach, too...but still in our snowboots. Hello March and bring on the spring fever.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Unscrew America

A cool site my friend Joel sent me:
Unscrew America
Apologies to all the non-U.S. readers that we here in the States need nifty Web sites like this one to remind us what conservational-type techniques we should be employing...when your governments simply mandate things like recycling or green power sources. Or your culture is more conservation-minded in general.

Well, enjoy the site because I am groovin' on it--even if it's just for the fun music.