Tuesday, June 29, 2004

BLOGBRARIES - Push Button Publishing for Libraries and Librarians

BLOGBRARIES - Push Button Publishing for Libraries and Librarians

I spotted this on the web site of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia (where my library degree is from)and thought it looked like a nice, short overview of blogging for librarians. If you read it, you'll note that the student who created this would put Alice, George and I are in the "slacker blogger" category because we're using plain vanilla Blogger for our blog. A true fact, I'm afraid, as we're learning to blog--and doing our day jobs as well! Here's some more links to thoughts and help on beginning blogs, from the University of Winnipeg; from a guy at Hewlett-Packard writing about the semantic web and blogging; from an SLA division; from MSDN; and an article on using blogging for reference service. There's lots of help and information on the web--I used "learning to blog" as a search term--now, if only I had time to read it all and become a better blogger!

Monday, June 28, 2004


The coolest thing about today's OCLC luncheon at the ALA conference (at least within the context of this blog) was when the audience broke into spontaneous applause after Jay Jordan mentioned that the Scan's authors had been awarded a special citation from the president of ALCTS, Brian Schottlaender, for its contributions to the field.

Thanks, President Scottlaender!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Urban Libraries and the Scan

Yesterday (Saturday) at the ALA Conference, I had a chance to talk with the Urban Libraries Council's (ULC) Forecasting Study Group about the future of libraries generally, and urban public libraries specifically. There are about a dozen people on the Study Group, and several other library directors showed up for the discussion. Joey Rodger, the soon to depart President of ULC, also participated in the discussion.

During the first hour of the conversation, I never mentioned the Scan. The Study Group had been involved in making recommendations to the ULC Board about how to think about the future in their environment. Andrew Blau had led a discussion with the ULC Board about scenario planning in the Global Business Network model.

The goal of scenario planning is not predict the future. Instead, the idea is to construct alternative views that are outside of your natural inclinations and ideas. What might the world be like if this trend continues, or if the current realities play out logically? What do the demographics tell us about the future? It has often been said that science fiction is never really about the future, it's about the present. In the same vein, scenario planning isn't about knowing the future, it's about understanding the present. Good scenario planning lets you see what's happening now a little differently.

Good scenario planning is also remarkably labor and cost intensive. So the ULC Board has been struggling with ways to create a futures-based planning process that can be broadly useful without breaking the bank.

A big part of the discussion before we talked about the Scan was centered on what the role of the public library would be in an age of information plentitude rather than information scarcity. Much discussion ensued about the role of the library in building community. The remarkable Herb Elish, director of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, talked about how public libraries make social engineering decision every time they decide where to place a branch library. Do you place the branch in the center of a culturally siloed (by nationality, race, income) community, or do you place it on the borders between different communities, to encourage people who might never meet otherwise to interact in this space?

Next, the directors talked about library staffs and what's happening on that front. Several noted that they have hired Generation X and Generation Y librarians, with resulting generational and culture clashes between these generations and the Boomers (in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a Boomer, due to turn 49 next week). One director related a story about a leadership program that she had been involved with in her home state. Those two masters of library leadership, John Shannon and Becky Schreiber, were leading a discussion about the changes in how people seek information. They related their own experiences in using libraries less as they seek answers on Google. The participants in the program, librarians who are expected to be the leaders of our profession in years to come, mostly people in their 30's and very early 40's, tried to tell John and Becky that they weren't really finding what they needed. Forcefully but diplomatically, Becky and John tried to convince these folks that, yes, indeed, they are finding what they need, thank you very much. The new leaders simply can't face the reality that traditional reference services are being eclipsed by Google and Yahoo.

Ginnie Cooper, director at Brooklyn Public Library and chair of the committee, talked about how most of the top companies in the US at the turn of the 20th century no longer existed at the turn of the 21st. The few that are still around have drastically changed their businesses. She specifically noted that GE made and sold light bulbs in 1900; today they still sell bulbs, but now, they outsource the manufacture and just put them in GE-branded boxes. Instead, GE makes its money on finance and medical imaging technologies, business models that didn't even exist in 1900. This made me think that the library of the future may have automated and hidden their finding services so completely and so effectively that the public face of the service will be utterly different.

Joey suggested that ULC might consider encouraging a skunkworks, maybe five libraries that would implement off-the-wall ideas as a testbed for new ideas. Herb said that this was a great idea, but in order for it to work, the libraries would need to bring in people from outside the profession as a reality check, to challenge preconceptions and prejudices. I reminded them of the old saw, "We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't a fish."

After an hour of stimulating discussion and a 20-minute break full of lots of smaller, equally intriguing conversations, I gave an overview of the Scan, focusing on the landscapes, the dominant trends (decrease in guided access to content, disaggregation, and collaboration and context), and the three themes (self-sufficiency, satisfaction, and seamlessness). I hit a couple of the major factors as they apply to public libraries: the "third place," the changes in the profession, the collections grid (Lorcan and Eric Childress would disavow the grid if they knew how quickly and shallowly I covered their brilliant concepts), and I wrapped up by saying that if we never ask the unaskable, if we refuse to think the unthinkable, we will never reach beyond our current reality. And the current reality will not hold.

Herb noted that we can't be a successful third place if all we offer is the sort of dry materials that frequently characterize the lower right hand quarter of the grid (sorry, Lorcan and Eric---it was my interpretation, not your ideas!) This kicked off a discussion of how important well-curated special collections are to furthering the mission of the public library. Several directors noted that the best exploitations of the special collection were being done by people who came from a museum or public relations background.

Joey and Herb stressed that a true leader needs to create a compelling vision of where she is leading people, rather than giving them reasons simply to tear away from the old stuff. Joey noted, in a phrase I am sure to steal in the future, Moses was able to get the Hebrews to follow him for forty years in the desert because he provided a vision of a Promised Land before them, he didn't reinforce the memory of Egypt behind them.

The next part of the fast-moving discussion centered on the changing roles of reference in the public library. One director noted that Adult Service in general is not adopting to the new world as effectively as Children's Service has. Reference librarians still consider themselves the "priestly class" in libraries, even if that opinion does not permeate the whole institution.

Barbara Gubbin, the director of the Houston Public Library and a member of the OCLC Board asked about the role of public libraries in the new wave of worldwide immigration. She and Dr. Wai-Fong Lee, a trustee of the King County (Washington) Library and a board member of ULC, noted that this is not a US phenomenon; as Eastern Europe has opened up and tried to integrate more with the EU, there are millions of people immigrating across that continent. There are Asians and Africans on the move within and outside their continents. Joey noted that Gary Strong (late of Queens Borough Public Library and now the dean of libraries at UCLA) said years ago that "Community information is now your locality and the country you came from." Through e-mail, online newspapers and radio broadcasts, and relatively inexpensive air fares, the isolation of the immigrant is a thing of the past, and many immigrants live with one foot in their current home and one in the home of the birth (or their parents' birth).

Patrick Losinski of the Columbus Metropolitan Library asked about the passage in the Scan that notes that there have not been demonstrable improvements in library productivity that are attributable to increased automation. I noted that it has only been in the last couple of years that the economy as a whole has been able to measure the productivity impact of automation in non-manufacturing industries. I offered the opinion (and that's ALL it is) that library operations have always been resistant to numerical assessment. It is possible to compare how many hours it took to build a Chevrolet Impala in 1958, and how many hours it takes to build a 2004 Impala, and to see how productivity has changed in those years. There is little baseline information to compare in libraries, especially in public services.

Finally, we talked about what "seamlessness" means in the context of the Scan. I talked about how I see this as being willing to let go of our traditional desire to get the customer in the door (whether that door is physical or virtual) and presenting our services where our putative clients are, allowing them to get to those services directly. I said that we might want to consider spending less time building library web sites and more time building connectivity with the web sites to which those clients already go.

I closed by suggesting that we need to change our dialogue in the profession. I said that we need to have a public debate with a "resolved" that might read, "RESOLVED, that libraries need to get out of the cataloging and reference business and move into the information and community businesses." I said that perhaps our cataloging services need to move from the front, the gateway between the user and the material, to the back, as the invisible guide to the information that user needs. Reference perhaps will be about collecting and organizing information in the background to ensure that within the proper context the user will find exactly what she wants without any apparent external intervention. Community building will be using our resources to create and support communities of interest, be they vocational, ethnic, national, political, or personal interest. The session effectively ended when someone asked me, "Does OCLC know you're talking like this?"

Saturday, June 26, 2004

OCLC Vice-President Cathy de Rosa summarizes the Environmental Scan discussions so far, at the OCLC Symposium for ALA Annual 2004. Orlando, Florida. Posted by Hello

"I wonder what our library is willing to give up, in order to be relevant in the new infosphere?" OCLC Symposium, ALA Annual 2004. Orlando, Florida. Posted by Hello

A large crowd came to discuss the infosphere at the OCLC Symposium. ALA Annual 2004. Orlando, Florida. Posted by Hello

Cindy Cunningham, explaining that cataloging is complex because the world is complex, at the OCLC Symposium, ALA Annual 2004. Orlando, Florida.
 Posted by Hello

Dan Chudnov, exploring how we can better understand user satisfaction from the user's perspective at the OCLC Symposium, ALA Annual 2004, Orlando, Florida. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 25, 2004

OCLC Symposium: The Discussion

This section details some of the discussion that followed the break at the OCLC Symposium today. Well, actually it was yesterday, since I'm writing this after midnight. When I went to conference in years past, if I was up at this hour it was because I was drinking and partying with friends. Now I'm blogging, and I wonder if this is an improvement. It's not even cheaper, since I'm paying $13 a day for high speed internet access in my hotel room, and that would buy me at least half a bottle of decent (if not single malt) Scotch.

For ease of reading, I've put similar questions and discussion together to smooth out the flow.

Anyway, after the break, Cathy De Rosa kicked off the Q & A session with a question to Cindy Cunningham, asking her to amplify her comments about what could unify the library profession. Cindy said that the idea of opening up and sharing our resources in a broader way is one basis of unity, and she pointed to the relationship between OCLC and Google (and Yahoo, although there aren't any good links about this one yet) as an example. She also cited the Library of Congress's new web-based cataloging records. She also reiterated that the search engines are in a desperate race for content, and guess who has the content?

Cathy asked Dan Chudnov why we should think of reference as an infosphere rather than as a transaction. Dan said that the reference interview is a powerful concept and not to be discounted. But the way librarians understand how a user is satisfied is incomplete. (For those who are interested in this concept, the Ohio State University and OCLC are embarked on a study of this.)

Someone from the audience asked the $64,000 question: Will cataloging be needed in the future? Cindy said that she had instructed the catalogers at Amazon not to catalog an item for what it is right now but for how it might be used in the future. The important thing is to try to understand how people will want to use the information in the cataloging record. And much of that information is very important. For example, she noted that people want to know about the binding type, whether a book has photos or illustrations or an index, how many pages it contains. In other words, some sort of description of the item will continue to be needed.

But an audience member noted that we are dealing with a whole generation of people who have never seen a card catalog, but who are expected to use our local systems that are built around this concept. This is not the way people search any more.

Cindy noted that the structure of how a catalog record works is the secret of the library profession. She described how book sellers had attempted to come up with a simple way of identifying materials for ease of finding on the shelf. When online booksellers came in they ended up adding additional subject fields until the record ended up more complicated than a MARC record. She said cataloging is complex because the world is complex. Perhaps there are ways we can map this information in new ways to make it more meaningful to those who seek simplicity, or develop systems where we seek more information from the user to help narrow down the search. Dan asked Cindy how we can improve search without losing serendipity (the more targeted the results, the less chance there is to find something related but not directly requested). Cindy conceded this was a possibility, but that many of the search engines could also provide the side trips by making suggestions about related topics.

Dan noted that we have crossed a line in the last few years, as more and more current material is available online and users find less need for the paper materials. The key for the library future is figuring out what value we add to the organization and retrieval of what the individual needs, while creating an organizational structure for that information that is open and accessible to all information providers so they can offer their materials.

Another audience member noted a sentence from the Scan that says that digitization is for access and not for preservation. If this is so, how does the librarian know what is worth preserving? Dan referred again to the OAIS Reference Model as a beginning of understanding in this area. He said this process led to such standard tools as DSpace and Fedora. And Cindy noted that librarians and archivists have proven over the years that they actually are pretty good at knowing what to keep. Cindy also noted that we keep moving collections from format to format, and that maybe we need to apply our skills in collaboration to the question of distributing responsibility for which institution will preserve what. Cindy brought up the case of Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive, which is attempting to preserve a record of the web. Cindy noted that this information is too important to lose but too expensive to save.

The final question was "What are we as a profession willing to give up in order to be relevant in the new infosphere?"

There was a long pause. Dan finally said, "No one has trusted me with this one yet." Despite his techie credentials, he noted that "Print's a great technology. We've grown up with it, we understand it." He remembered a time when he worked at an institution, which, he noted ruefully, "was still learning how to keep a network operating consistently." He said that he had proposed actually printing out and saving everything that they were getting from JSTOR, simply because print is totally reliable. Cindy said that she wanted to challenge the profession to think about the unthinkable, to consider such forbidden topics as fees for service, or changing the mission from being an intellectual organization to being a social one. She said she was not endorsing these ideas, but they and many others need to be considered as we try to build the future.

Cathy wrapped up the program with thanks to the speakers and to the audience for making it so successful. She asked the attendees to continue the discussion in their own institutions and---gasp!---in this blog. Yes, she gave the URL right out in public! So start adding comments and we will be delighted to keep this discussion going!

OCLC Symposium: Cindy Cunningham

Cindy Cunningham was the third speaker in the Symposium, after Cathy De Rosa's opening comments and brief overview of the Scan, and Dan Chudnov's comments on freedom and collaboration.

Cindy has been a very popular speaker in the library field over the years for several reasons. She's been at the heart of some of the most interesting projects in the infosphere, including being the metadata maven for Amazon for six years, and she is a terrific storyteller. Today she talked about the state of "search" in the minds of some of the big search engines. She talked about how companies like Amazon and Google have developed search strategies that are based on using past searches as the basis for predicting what future searchers will want, and by seeking similarities that use context to help determine what the searcher is really after.

She noted that the point of the new search engines is to make finding the information you need as simple as possible. You had to know something about the subject you were pursuing to use the bricks-and-mortar library, but search engines have removed this as a barrier. You can start from any keyword, and in many cases, even if you spell the keyword wrong, you'll get a running start. The search engines do this by impinging just a little on each user's privacy, and for the most part, the users don't mind. They appreciate the convenience, and aren't concerned that their search information is being amalgamated into the larger engine to refine searches for themselves and future users.

Cindy said that libraries have always appealed to diverse audiences with diverse collections, and the more we as librarians knew about our users, the better able we are to serve them. (Parenthetically, as a former reference librarian myself, I always felt this was why a face-to-face reference transaction was usually more successful that one over the phone. I could tell the approximate age of the person, I could tell by his or her body language if what I was saying made sense or if I was headed out to La-La Land, and if the person generally seemed pleased with what was being delivered. None of these cues came over the phone.) Search engines are trying to reproduce this "learning behavior," and they are even trying to build in some of the serendipity experience of browsing the stacks in a well-stocked library. ("If you like this information, maybe you'll like...)

The "search" business is changing constantly. Yahoo has just purchased an Indian search engine company. Amazon has spun off its home grown search capability into a separate company. All the companies in this space are striving to line up content.

The next step will be moving from trying to identify what the user wants to trying to deliver what the search engine wants the individual to want. She pointed up several examples from the commercial world where, all other things being equal, the engine will direct the user to the product which provides the engine with the best financial return. This seemed to surprise some in the audience, although, upon reflection, it's not hard to understand. (Another parenthetical note: When I shop at a supermarket, I know that the end displays aren't there because these are the best values. They are there because the supermarket manager has made a deal with the wholesaler or the producer to put them there. Sometimes these products are what I want, sometimes they aren't. In this way, the web store is no different from the bricks and mortar store. If I want unbiased information, I'll pull out my copy of Consumer Reports.) Cindy mentioned that one of the projects that the search engines are working on is being able to reconcile data from multiple sources to develop the most reliable information possible.

Cindy noted that the physical and virtual worlds are becoming more and more interrelated, and making the bridge between the two is also an ongoing area of concern. One forms a mental map of a virtual space, such as a library layout, and then must translate it to the physical world. This is a cognitive leap that has to be accommodated for users.

Finally, Cindy talked about how, in the first wave of technology, we tried to simply automate all the old library functions, without really thinking about how or if they should be automated, or if there might be a better way to do the services in the first place. For the most part, we've gotten over that.

Then we tried to imitate everything that the dot-com world was trying to do. We're still in that wave in a lot of ways, but we're getting a little better.

Now, as a profession we're starting to move into the sphere of realizing that there are certain things we do well, and that we should be capitalizing on those things to leverage and ensure our future. The knowledge and experience that the library profession have developed and honed over the years will be more valuable as information becomes even more pervasive.

She closed her remarks by quoting something she had heard Bill Clinton say at BookExpo in Chicago a few weeks ago. He'd said that he was optimistic for the United States despite the extreme polarization abroad in the land. He noted that at nearly every point in US history when the country has become severely polarized, it has chosen unity and international involvement as a way out. After the Revolution, after the Civil War, after the Great Depression and World War II, after Vietnam, we sought to unify and look outward. The sole exception was after World War I, and this had dire consequences.

Cindy noted that she thinks the library field will choose unity as well as we collaborate and cooperate to improve our profession.

In my final post on the symposium, to be done later tonight, I'll tell you about the discussion that closed the session. Good stuff there, too!

OCLC Symposium: Dan Chudnov

I hope you were at the OCLC Symposium at the ALA Conference today (June 25). If not, I hope you'll check out the tape when it gets up on our web site. Two of the brightest lights in our field, Cindy Cunningham (Director of Cataloging for Corbis) and Dan Chudnov a programmer and librarian at the Yale Center for Medical Informatics, used the Scan as a launching pad for speculating about the future of the library profession. Their remarks were a thoroughly refreshing way to start the conference.

Cathy De Rosa, the OCLC VP for Marketing and Library Services, set up the program by posing two questions: How do we satisfy today's information consumer, who is fairly indifferent to traditional library services? And how do we satisfy today's information consumer, who has a nearly insatiable appetite for our information resources, but who wants to control their use? She gave a quick overview of the Scan and updated some of the information it contained, introducing the executive summary. Copies of the summary were available for attendees and will be available from OCLC shortly.

Dan Chudnov began his remarks by calling the E-Scan an "electric document." He said it "gives me a lot of hope that our profession is thinking about the right things." He used two themes for his comments: freedom and collaboration.

He talked about freedom in the context of the Open Source Software movement, which he described as "a philosophy of freedom first, and a business and engineering model second." Dan placed this concept into the context of the Scan by discussing the collaborative nature of open source. He talked about how OSS looks at and analyzes problems, about how it works in conjunction with and in opposition or reaction to proprietary software, and how it overcomes the fear of business failure. (Even if the original developers of an open source piece of software drop it, the source code is out there for anyone to work with, develop, and perhaps revive.

Dan then described "Hackfest," a preconference for the annual Access conference in Canada. A group of technologists and librarians get together, make a big list of technology problems they are working on, select several of the more pressing ones, and break into small groups to work out solutions. For 24 hours, they pound away at the problems and frequently come up with good ideas, which are then shared by the community. Dan compared this to the "Anatomy of a Gamer" slide you may have seen in the Scan or in our presentations.

Finally, Dan talked about the way people use information today. Not to take anything away from the traditional reference interview, Dan noted that discussions with a reference librarian are only one part of the user's interaction with the infosphere. He said that the infosphere continually surrounds us today, we can never completely walk away from it. Librarians need to understand their role in this environment if we are to be successful in it.

In my next post, I'll talk about what Cindy Cunningham had to say.

Ready or not

Here we blog!
I'm so excited. I've been in Orlando 2 days now, helping set up for the 2004 ALA Annual conference--but today the conference-goers have finally started to arrive. Tomorrow it all gets started with the OCLC Symposium. Cindy Cunningham and Dan Chudnov...both excellent speakers.

Plan to blog from the Symposium floor--but this is a loaner laptop. Sometime the coolest technology is priced just out of reach of the average technorati's salary! But I don't need to tell you that, do I? :)

Is Orlando full of aliens?
Aliens--the space kind. Not the INS kind.
I've only seen hotel staff, wait staff and tourists so far. Does anyone really live here? Have the distinct feeling that no self-respecting Orlandonian would be seen here unless they worked here. True?

It reminds me of Waikiki, done mainland-style. With no beach and a lot less Japanese signage. (I used to live in Hawaii, so I could say that with all kama'aina aloha.)

Tune in tomorrow--maybe I'll find an alien hiding outside the exhibit hall!

Thursday, June 24, 2004


We're close to announcing this blog to our world, so now's a good time to say some things about what we still need to do with the blog, and tell you ways to talk to us.

We need to make it clearer who's 'speaking' by moving the name of the poster up in the entry. We need to make the Atom feed link appear. We need to darken the type face. We need to index the entries. We need to add a Technorati bubble (Tim Bray's blog shows this). And a bunch of other stuff. Bear with us as we eat our own cooking. In the environmental scan we clearly suggested it was time for libraries and contiguous organizations (OCLC, eg) to get outside of the building and connect with our communities--potential and current--with a more human voice.

So, we're diving into the blogosphere with the hope that the human voices at OCLC have a venue in which to talk and listen. There have always been wonderfully interesting people working at OCLC but we know too that OCLC is often thought of as the "9,000 pound gorilla"....a behemoth in the information jungle, cutting a wide swath as it lumbers on its way. Collectively, maybe that's the effect, but George and Alice and I are dedicated "librarianistas" (is George a "librarianisto"?)as keenly interested in a robust place for libraries in the "infosphere" as you are. And there's hundreds of OCLC employees who are too. We intend to have guest editors pop in to "It's all good" so you don't hear from us only.

You can post comments to this blog (although we'll remove really offensive ones...racial, sexual, etc etc comments won't be tolerated. And spam will go too).

You can email the editors directly. George's e-mail is needhamg@oclc.org and mine (Alane) is wilsona@oclc.org. I'd tell you Alice's too but haven't asked her yet if this is OK. She's somewhere here in Orlando for ALA too, but I haven't connected with her yet.

And in the car on the way to the airport (Port Columbus...go figure. Not a body of water for miles) I heard a cut from Patti Smith's new album, Trampin'. I haven't listened to her for years but it was really good! Literate and passionate and I think I have to get it. That, and Diana Krall's latest, The Girl in the Other Room.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Oxford, Ohio - The Mayor is a Librarian

Yes, really. Jerome Conley is the Head of Special Libraries at Miami University, but he is also serving his second term as Mayor of Oxford. You just never know who's in your audience....I was at the bit in the presentation about libraries as a third place and said, flippantly, "it's a good sound bite for politicians." Jerome is too nice a guy to take me to task for this.

Here's one thing that seemed to resonate with the Miami U librarians as it has with other audiences: perhaps there are two distinct service models looming in our future that reconcile the paradox of library as place seeming to be increasingly important to communities, and the need to disaggregate library content from the building and get it out to the open web where it can be found and used and valued. Looked at through the lens of current organizational structures in libraries, the challenge is extremely difficult. But, let's twist the kaleidoscope and look at the new pattern.

What if the physical library and its set of services was a separate organizational structure--different staff, different content, different services--from the virtual library? Of course, some libraries are not big enough to have completely different staff and content but the skill sets needed in these two "places" are different and getting more so. Is it really important to users of virtual library services to have to navigate a simulacrum of the physical library before they find (or not) the content? It is to the administrators of those physical spaces but I doubt it is to most people on the "SFO" (search, find, obtain) trail.

OK, this is one of my hobby horses. I'll get down now.

Detroit - Library as Third Place a winner!

Once again, the presentation of the scan trends changed a meeting. The TLN meeting (held in Novi, just outside of Detroit) was attended by around 70 public library directors, and library trustees, as well about 30 TLN staff and Board members, and the speakers. The order of the day was my presentation (preceded by a short welcome from Christie Brandau, the State Librarian) and a presentation by Kurt Metzger, a demographer from the Centre for Urban Studies at Wayne State University. After lunch, the group was to divide into discussion groups and wrestle with issues related to TLN's role for members of its cooperative.

With the trustees in mind, I tried to avoid industry jargon and acronyms in the presentation but didn't succeed. A trustee told me at lunch she'd really liked the presentation but had to write down all the terms she didn't know to check with her library director later. For the life of me, I couldn't think of what words I used that would be mysterious and unfortunately I didn't see her list. One of the TLN Board members said, "forgive me, but what does OCLC do?" And I realized I'd made a basic mistake: I had not told the group about OCLC. Sales presentation training 101: Me, my company. Tell them about you, tell them about your company. Oh well, at least no one in that group can complain about OCLC taking a bully pulpit.

So, after lunch Michael Deller, the TLN Director announced that a new discussion topic had been added at the request of attendees: the library as third place. Those of us making presentations on the scan (mostly Cathy De Rosa, George and me) have found this idea really resonating with librarians--not just public librarians. I had talked in the morning about the power of this phrase and idea, and suggested libraries could build marketing and advocacy programs around it. Not the least of its power is its brevity--something politicians would like!

I joined the discussion table for the third place--lots of discussion, lots of ideas, many related to advocacy that TLN could undertake on behalf of its members. And an interesting digression on the same topic that "Sam" told George at CLA: the need to expand the kind of people hired to work in libraries. One young library director said she'd love to be able to hire a social worker who could then handle and help the many people using public libraries who really need a social worker, not a librarian. Cool idea, I thought! What better place to help people navigate the thickets of social services than a welcoming, neutral information-rich environment?

Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC VP of Research and Chief Strategist, and also Cathy's and my co-author of the scan, gets the credit for including "the third place" in the chapter on Research and Learning. No wonder he's the Chief Strategist.

Victoria - "Where's the passion?"

On June 16th, I covered my Victoria, BC trip but didn't share any feedback I got. And on the 18th, I spoke to participants of the TLN planning meeting. On the 21st, I was at Miami University in Oxford, OH to speak to the library's staff. All told, I talked 'scan' to about 160 people.

I think I was luckier than George with the Canadian audience. I am not sure I was the top banana but I wasn't the peel. I followed Paul McCormick from Libraries and Archives Canada who was seeking opinions from the CARL Directors to contribute to the strategic planning for this new organization. LAC came into being on October 2, 2002 when the Government of Canada created the Library and Archives of Canada, a new agency that combined the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada.

The facilitator gamely tried to get the audience to participate in an information gathering exercise she had carefully crafted. Not easy to do with directors: "why do we have to do it that way?" "I'm just going to tell you what I think." I think the facilitator was the peel at this meeting.

I zipped through my presentation--I didn't have a lot of time and there wasn't an opportunity for much discussion then, but clearly, the wheels in brains were grinding. During the afternoon session which was to flesh out the goals of the CARL strategic plan, energy and participation sagged. Mike Ridley, from the University of Guelph (you'll see he's a savvy guy from his bio) piped up and said he cared about CARL, thought the exercise was important, but that he just didn't feel the passion he thought he should. What was wrong? Many in his peer group agreed, and one reason was that some thought the issues raised during my presentation of trends changed thinking and needed to be discussed more. So, in one sense, the process was derailed as the goal of the meeting was not met. On the other hand, a better plan will be the result.

Far from being gloomy, the CARL directors seem to be positive about their challenges. Mark Haslett (do follow this link...I love the last category in the sidebar: "Stuff, Other")from the University of Waterloo, said (I'm paraphrasing): "I think this is an incredibly exciting time to be working in libraries. It's like being in a playground with a bunch of new toys."

And then after a hard day of work, we all went to the Swan Suites Hotel for cocktails on the roof terrace of the penthouse suite, (fabulous, fabulous space) and then dinner in their restaurant, Wild Saffron. Don't you wish your university owned a hotel like this? The University of Victoria was willed the Swan, along with several other heritage buildings a few years back. Marnie Swanson, the University Librarian, thinks U Vic may be the only university that owns a brewpub. Prosit!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Third place books

You might be able to tell that I am catching up after 6 working days out of the office.

Here's the bib info for books that present the idea of the third place that we've talked about here, and in the Scan.
1. Better Together: restoring the American community by Robert Putnam and Lewis M. Feldstein, with Don Cohen (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003) This one has a chapter on the Chicago Public Library
"Better Together tells the stories of twelve different groups: from a community organization to a church, as well as a dance group and a web site, from a union to a branch library, a Fortune 500 corporation and a neighborhood group, to name a few. The stories hold in common the building up of community, of social capital. It is the best book of general interest that I have read in more than a year." (Amazon reviewer's comments)

2. Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities. by Ray Oldenburg (Marlowe & Company; January 9, 2002)

3. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. by Ray Oldenburg (Marlowe & Company; 3rd edition August 1, 1999)

To speak with a human voice

This is the quote from The Cluetrain Manifesto that Alice mentioned. Amazingly, this content was published in 1999 before blogs began. But isn't this an elegant way to describe the reason for business blogging?

"To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities. But first, they must belong to a community. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market. Human communities are based on discourse - on human speech about human concerns. The community of discourse is the market. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die."

In fact, it seems to me that one of the wonderful unexpected consequences of the Internet and a webby world is that the human voice is on the ascendancy. Blogs, for one, have introduced vivid personalities to the web. I read many blogs regularly and I know only a very few of the authors personally. But, I feel as if I know the others. Their voices are personal, credible, and part of my community. I value their presence. And soon, as we build the "It's all good" blog we'll add links to our favorite blogs.

Changing our name

Scanbloggers, it has come to our attention that Scanblog is not the catchiest name ever...so we pondered for at least a week and now the moment of inspiration came upon us:
It's all good
"We say that all the time!" I remark excitedly to Alane, sensing the moment has arrived.
So that's all to say: we like it. But you tell us--love it or hate it?

So who's bought how many copies of Bill Clinton's book for their libraries? Or are you waiting for the NetLibrary eBook of it?

I found Clinton & Me in WorldCat, but not My Life. Maybe it hasn't been loaded into the pilot yet?

Alane just clipped a piece from the Cluetrain Manifesto, a document the Web community has been living by for years. She's posting it soon.

For now, she's also come up with some talk story (as we say in Hawaii) about Macromedia and why they blog. Macromedia is one of those companies I've admired for years.

More to come
George, Alane and I are all headed to Orlando this week. We plan to blog from the OCLC Symposium, the exhibit show floor, membership meetings and more. Look for our daily dispatches!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Sometimes you get the banana, sometimes you get the peel

Today I had 20 minutes to talk about the E-Scan at the OCLC Update Luncheon at the Canadian Library Association. Today I learned that 20 minutes after lunch is not a good time to talk about the E-Scan. There wasn't time for the discussion that makes this thing so vital and interesting, and after a lunch (heavy on the carbs) many in the audience were flagging. The other speakers before me set me up fine, so it's not like there was some buzzkiller I can blame; it just didn't jell.

The interesting thing though, is that before the lunch, I had a wonderful conversation with the director of a large Canadian research library. I will call this person Sam to avoid any complications. Sam said that the University Library is in big transition. This Library has a number of backlogged projects, major retrocon work pending, a subject library that is classified in an idiosyncratic system, a new ILS system being installed, and a building project. Sam seemed tired just clicking them off the list.

But unbidden, Sam started talking about one of the findings of the study that has gotten less attention than others. Sam said that the library has had a number of retirements, and this has allowed the Library to employ new staff with experience and skills that aren't traditional "librarian" skills. Sam said, "We don't learn about how to run facilities in library school, why should we expect someone with an MLS to do this?" Sam talked about the need to focus on the core competencies the librarians do have, and work those competencies tirelessly to provide the best services possible. Then, hire PR people, fundraisers, and systems staff that can do those jobs well. Sam also said that even if there are certain jobs the library staff can do well, the library director today MUST consider if this is the best use of that person's time. "Sure, we COULD do this job," Sam said about a project a staff member had proposed, "But why SHOULD we? There are people who can do that for a lot less cost, and then we can use our staff to provide more direct service to our users."

One of the things I've always believed is that if we want other people to respect the MLS, we need to respect the skills and education others bring to their jobs. I don't want an MLS as my lawyer, my accountant, or my building manager. I also don't want a plumber covering the reference desk. This is why we specialize.

A picture's worth a thousand words

Photoblogging, here we come!
Now when we're on the road, you can see what we're seeing!
We're using Hello, the new free way to share photos.
Alane has promised to send some from her mobile phone...

George, Alice and Alice's husband Val, at a recent charity event held by OCLC. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

School Libraries

Today, I was in Mansfield, Ohio, for the annual INFOhio Planning Conference (which I mistakenly referred to as a "retreat" in an earlier post). INFOhio is Ohio's set of statewide resources for school libraries, a complement to OHIOLINK (for academic libraries) and OPLIN (for public libraries).

I took this speaking assignment with a little trepidation, because I wasn't sure how school librarians would react to the scan. I didn't need to worry. These folks were ON, and they were eager to talk.

First, it was like old home week. Terri Fredericka, the director of INFOhio, has been a friend for years. Joanna McNally, the president of OELMA, was in my groups at Library Leadership Ohio and Snowbird, and will be a major leader in libraries in years to come. Ellen Stepanian would be a good role model for Joanna; she's been a leader in school libraries on the local, state, and national level for years, and was a mentor with me at Library Leadership Ohio several years ago. I know I learned at least as much from her as the program participants did.

Several things really seemed to resonate with this group. The concept of getting to the "smallest publishable unit" seemed to carry, and they were amazed with some of the statistics about I-Tunes, and about Microsoft's Janus project.

But what really got things cooking was when I asked about the concept of IT professionals moving from the "T" to the "I" in their titles. There was a spirited discussion about the way IT staff are working with faculty to corner the market on classroom information delivery through services like Blackboard and WebCT, leaving librarians out of the process. So who's fault is this? (By the way, I had enough sense not to ask the question quite this blatantly---it came from an audience member!) Some of the people in the room said school librarians need to get out of their rooms and insinuate themselves in this process. Getting the library's website and information connections visible in the classroom systems should be a top priority for school librarians, they said.

After I finished speaking, a high school librarian came up to me and said she was thrilled that OCLC had seen some of the things she's been seeing in the environment. She said that she'd had her library remodeled this year, moving the books to compact shelving and putting the information technology front and center. She had convinced her board that the library had to reflect the way young people are learning now, not when we were in school. (I don't know about you, but my biggest obstacle in going to grade school was evading the dinosaurs.) Several librarians volunteered to participate in focus groups if OCLC wants to learn more about their segment of the market.

This was such an energizing event that I can't wait to get to Victoria tomorrow and take my turn talking to the Canadian Library Association. I wonder why Delta wouldn't let me print out my boarding pass tonight. Hope it's not a bad omen...

Beautiful British Columbia

Alane here, reporting in from sunny, fabulous Victoria, British Columbia. Victoria, for those unfamiliar with this part of Canada, is the provincial capital, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It's about a 3 hour ferry ride or an 40 minute plane ride from Vancouver or Seattle. The main part of the city is located on a big curved bay and I can see the ocean from my hotel window and the sea planes taking off and landing. If I go out on the balcony and crane my head a bit I can see the mountains, still snow-capped. The Parliament buildings are very close, and at night are outlined with 3,330 white lights. It's a very beautiful place.

Like George I have two scan presentations this week. As he mentioned, one was yesterday, to the CARL (Canadian Association of Research Libraries) directors, who are having their annual general meeting before CLA starts. In addition to the directors, Kjell Nilsson, the Deputy National Librarian of the Royal National Library of Sweden was attending, as was Jan Cellucci, the wife of the U.S. ambassador to Canada, former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci (actually his title is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Canada!), and my old classmate and friend, Deb Debruijn, the Executive Director of the Canadian National Site Licensing Program.

Jan Cellucci was working as a librarian at Boston College until her husband's appointment. When she moved to Ottawa she wanted to remain active in the profession. She visits libraries and archives around the country, and then, when the opportunity arises, she meets with provincial and federal politicians to talk about these institutions with them. What a great thing to be doing! This sort of advocacy is much needed. Thanks on behalf of Canadian librarians, Jan.

For me, coming to Canadian library events is always an opportunity to see many ex-colleagues and friends. Among the CARL directors are quite a few people I've worked with, and hung out with at conferences. The director I have known the longest is Carolynne Presser, University of Manitoba.

When I began as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo, 29 years ago, I began working in the library to supplement my puny student loan. It was then that I discovered that there were some pretty cool things happening in the library as I was part of the big crew working on switching from a punch card local system to a GEAC system that used bar codes! (Yes, I have been working in libraries long enough that I remember when bar codes on books were new technology.) Carolynne was then the head of the Engineering, Math and Science Library and I worked there for two summers. At that time, I had no idea I'd go to library school and end up standing in front of a bunch of research library directors that included Carolynne and others I've known for many years, being billed as a guru of the OCLC environmental scan! I am not sure if there's a collective noun for a group of research library directors but it should be something like, "a pride of directors" as being in a room full of them is akin, I fancy, to being in a room full of tigers. Nice pussycats most of the time but dangerous is provoked. They're just used to being in charge.

I'll be just outside Detroit on Friday, talking to the directors in TLN (The Library Network) at a meeting called Congruency: TLN Setting Goals and Creating a New Plan of Service. We've heard many libraries and some organizations are using the OCLC scan as a planning document, and Cathy De Rosa and I have both made presentations on the scan as part of a planning effort--which is always interesting and enlightening.

Happy Bloomsday!

"We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing." - R. D. Laing

Monday, June 14, 2004

Two Talks, Two Countries, Many Visions

This week, I have two speaking engagements to talk about the Scan.

On Wednesday, I'll talk to the annual INFOhio planning retreat in beautiful downtown Mansfield, Ohio. INFOhio provides databases to K-12 schools thoughout Ohio on a statewide basis. This group includes both IT staff and school librarians (are they still called school media specialists?) so it will be interesting to see how they react to the Scan's contention that the locus of IT is moving from the "T" (technology) to the "I" (information). The Ohio Educational Library Media Association underwrote a very interesting report on the role of school libraries in educational attainment, and I'll be weaving some of the results of the report into my comments.

Friday, I'll be at the Canadian Library Association meeting in Victoria, BC. I'll be part of the OCLC Update Luncheon there, and as always, it's a pleasure talking to people who are enjoying a free meal. But I'm really curious to see how the report resonates in Canada. Today, Alane Wilson (one of the Scan's gurus) is talking to the Canadian Association of Research Libraries annual meeting, also in Victoria, so we will compare notes when we're back here in Dublin.

Happy Flag Day!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Starbucks as 3rd place?

George ended his last post with a comment about libraries as the "third place."

What is the 3rd place?
By definition, it's somewhere that's Not Home, and Not Work/School: a literal "third place."

So I started to do a little research on "third place" areas. (Okay, it was all of a single Amazon.com search...) The editorial review (from Publishers Weekly, no less) for what came up --(Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities) -- instead of what I wanted (Better Together: Restoring the American Community) was enlightening:
What Oldenburg calls "the third place" is different from home and work (the first and second places respectively) it's somewhere people can relax in good company on a regular basis. In this collection of 19 essays, proprietors and patrons of those third places describe how their establishments came into being and what exactly gives them their appeal. These third places aren't just diners and coffeehouses: there are establishments as disparate as Annie's Gift and Garden Shop, in Amherst, Mass., whose witty and provocative billboards provide a jumping-off point for conversation within the community, and Old St. George, an espresso bar located within a church's sacristy in Cleveland, Ohio. There's also the "great good gym" and, perhaps most surprising, an essay claiming prison to be the third place for many disadvantaged in American society. These charming and often thought-provoking essays, each written in a voice distinct as the place discussed, provide food for thought into the isolation our modern conveniences bring and people's need to come together as a community. This book will strike a comforting chord for those questioning the status quo and desiring to live a more authentic and connected way of life.

The review mentions coffee shops, gyms, even sacristies of churches...but significantly does NOT mention libraries. Now why is that?

Starbucks rival?

The other piece that struck me was a piece by Howard Rheingold on the Cybercafe Society. Part of it is fascinating to me, from a brand perspective that he's linked Starbucks to FedEx and Kinko's as if it's the next logical move all 3 organizations!

Of course, anyone who knows me from me previous academic life, knows I studied "crowds in modern literature" in graduate school. So his description of our post-modern socio-knowledge cybernomadic mobs is interesting...if only for the language he uses. Do we have a mob mentality, when it comes to technological enhancements?

What say you, scanbloggers?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Public Librarians

California was great, but I really think they need me out there. The day I left, the levee broke near Stockton, and the following day, Ronald Reagan died. Coincidence? I think not...

Advisory Committee meeting

Anyway, back here in Dublin on Monday and Tuesday, we had a meeting of our Advisory Committee on Public Libraries. (You can see the committee roster, but Helen, Gary, and Jane weren't in attendance.) Now I'm a former public library worker (18 years in Buffalo NY, Charleston SC, and Lancaster OH) so I have a lot of respect and affection for public libraries and librarians, especially the group on this committee. Three presentations particularly seemed to catch fire with them.

Cathy De Rosa and Alane Wilson walked into the room, asked the Committee what they thought of the environmental scan, and then basically sat back for 75 minutes and listened to the committee members tell them where they thought public libraries were headed. It was a heady discussion, full of insights into the future of technology.

What they thought
This crew thinks that
1. public libraries aren't going to be able to claim the digital divide as a refuge much longer, as technology gets cheaper and more ubiquitous)
2. the descendents of cell phones are going to replace most of the technological arrows in our quiver soon, and we'd better to be ready to deliver services there
3. we still aren't doing a great job of snagging teenage users, although the libraries with dedicated teen space that's wide open and extremely lightly regulated have a better shot at keeping the 12 to 20 set.
4. Almost all of the group loves self-service everything, although Sheldon Kaye voiced his distaste for airline self-service machines. He took a lot of kidding for that over the next day and a half.

One interesting insight: if public libraries appeal broadly and specifically to the young, they run the risk of alienating the older users. Older users are currently the majority of library users. More importantly in this context, they are the majority of people who vote, as in voting for library levies. That'll slow down your more forward leaning thinking in a hurry.

Group Services
Then Doug Loynes came in and talked about group catalog services. I thought this one might be a throwaway on the agenda, but no---the committee saw exactly where this was going and had many questions and suggestions about the service. Jan Ison is from Illinois, which is implementing group services in a big way this year, and she explained a lot about what they are doing. She made some converts, too.

Open WorldCat pilot

The last big discussion came about the Open WorldCat pilot. Andy Boyer and Ericka McDonald had the committee dancing in the aisles (OK, a slight exaggeration) as they showed how Google and Yahoo have, each in their own way, harvested WorldCat records.
Dan Walters from Las Vegas-Clark County Public Library saw this as a long range replacement for the OPAC, which he said is a badly underused asset in most libraries. Everyone agreed that putting WorldCat records where internet searchers might actually find them, i.e., in the major search engines, was going to have a huge impact on libraries, and they didn't seem to think it could happen soon enough.

Public libraries as the 3rd place
Public librarians have long understood the role of library as a "third place," and this committee can make that case more clearly, and more knowledgably, and with more passion, than nearly any other assortment of people you're likely to meet.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Soul of the New Library

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm in northern California doing a few library visits. Today, we met with Bruce Miller and his colleagues at the library for the University of California at Merced.

What, you've never heard of UC Merced? At the moment, the university is pretty much a construction site, but on that campus, scheduled to open in September 2005, are the seeds of the future library. Bruce and his team have the opportunity that most librarians would trade at least one major organ for: to create a new library from scratch. And this is a university that will take its library VERY seriously.

A 21st century model
Bruce was the first academic hire at UC Merced, a position that indicates how strongly the university chancellor felt about the library. Bruce set out to build a facility, a collection, and, most important, a philosophy of service, that would reflect a 21st century model, rather than a 19th century one.

The first thing that surprised me: no OPAC terminals. Most students will be coming to campus with PCs or highly enhanced PDAs, and the entire building with be wireless enabled and have network connections for the tethered. If you don't have a PC, they'll check one out to you. All of a sudden, there is no heavy investment in PCs for an OPAC, no waiting lines for an internet PC, and no time when the investment is sitting there idle. You can actually use attractive furniture if you don't have to keep drilling holes to run wires through it!

There will be no paper journals. The current issues may be available in paper, but there won't be backstock on the shelves. That's what e-journals, JSTOR, and the extant UC journal collections are for. Circulating and reference books will be on the shelves together.

Special collections
Wait until you see the collections of Asian art that the library is digitizing in high quality TIFF files. But the library's web site won't be anything glorious. Instead, it will be highly functional. The goal will be to put links to the library on the sites the students are already using.

Designed for studying (with snacks!)
The heart of this new library will be a central tower for reading, discussion, studying. The library will share its building with the student affairs offices (like the bursar and the registrar), an arrangement Bruce strongly supported because it puts the library where the students are, instead of trying to dragoon them in. Oh, and by the way, food and drink will be permitted.

A physical embodiment of the Scan
It seemed to me, and to Pam Bailey and Karin Ford of OCLC Western Service Center who are guiding me on this trip, UC Merced embodies many of the ideas we gathered and shared in the environmental scan. Memphis, Denver, Seattle, and a few other major urban libraries constructed in the last decade have offered direction for public libraries for the future; UC Merced may provide a similar role for academic and research libraries. The whole focus of this institution is on meeting user needs, students and faculty alike, while stripping away the barriers that make library service inconvenient or unpleasant.



Hi, I'm George, and with the build up Alice gave me, I'm not sure what your expectations will be. But I'll give it my best shot.

As I write this post, I'm sitting in my room in a nice bed and breakfast a few blocks from the state capitol building in Sacramento. I've been on the road a lot lately, talking about the environmental scan OCLC released in January. I'm pretty much of a ham---the light goes on when I open the refrigerator, and I do 10 minutes. So getting up and speaking in public is no big deal for me. But I've never had such good material to work from. The scan has energized a lot of people, so my presentations are closer to dialogues.

Today, the staff at the State Library in California shared their experiences and their reactions to the scan, and to a meeting we'd held in Columbus of state librarians in March. One of the issues they raised was the need to help libraries make a better case for explaining the value they add in return for the public (or institutional) funding they receive. They wondered if we can build a consistent message for libraries.

Later, we visited the Sacramento Public Library. The director, Anne Marie Gold, and the deputy director, Mark Parker, talked about some of the plans they are developing for the long range future of the library. Despite the battering their budget has taken, they are planning bold steps for the future.

Pam Bailey, the director of the OCLC Western Services Center, made an astute observation. She said that she's been through too many economic recessions for libraries, but unlike the last recession in the 1990s, librarians seem more hopeful this time around, like there really is light at the end of the tunnel. The technology doesn't seem as overwhelming now. We're seeing technology as a tool, not as an end in itself, which means we can work with it instead of being dominated by it.

In other words, we have higher expectations that we've had in the past. Maybe we are excited by the fact that our users are learning to expect more from us, and we might even be able to deliver on those expectations.

Tomorrow, we visit the University of Merced and the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library. There's a great Western band called "The Sons of the San Joaquin," [Download their music] and that's about all I know about the area. I'm expecting to learn more!


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

More Voices

We have another voice joining us. Scanbloggers, meet George. He's quick to listen, quick to laugh and has been on the road lately, talking about the Scan and what it means to libraries.

He's going to share what insights he's heard...and push us to consider new interpretations of where we're going, as a community.

Of course, making your voice heard as a ScanBlogger is as easy as posting a comment. Anyone can post a comment.

So how about it? How has the Scan--or the topics we've covered here--influenced your library?