Thursday, September 29, 2005

Williamsburg, VA

I am in "colonial Williamsburg", at the South Atlantic Regional Conference, which is the annual event for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Caribbean SLA Chapters.

Tomorrow I will be speaking to attendees about the disaggregation and unbundling of content from its traditional containers, and the changes to the channels in which content is available. This trend was one of the three overarching megatrends we identified in the Environmental Scan, and one we explored in more depth in the "2004 Information Format Trends" report (here).

And (foreshadowing drumroll, please) a trend whose bones we decided to put some flesh on. In the OCLC report (not published yet but soon, really soon) of the survey we commissioned one of the major areas we asked the 3300+ responders was about their familiarity with libaries' e-resources. When the report is released (late October we hope) you will see many questions probing for peoples' awareness and perceptions of, and usage of library-provided e-resources. But, here's a teaser: one question we asked was:

"Why haven’t you ever used the online library website?" (This was a follow-up to a question asking if people had used a library website...which is where most if not all libraries provide access to various e-resources). Here's the answers, by country of respondent....and I apologize that the x and y axes have somehow disappeared. This was grabbed from one of our drafts of the report and I have no idea why the format changed. But, for the purposes of making a point, I don't think the values are necessary--the 4 groups represent the geographic groupings, US, Canada, UK, and Asia, top to bottom. The data will be in the report.

Oh. My. Good. Grief. Yes, folks.....3348 Internet-savvy people in 6 countries do not know libraries even have web sites, can't find such an animal, or prefer other websites. Hmmm, and here in the United States ALA has been running the @your library campaign for a couple of years. It'll be interesting to see what before and after measurements ALA will use to determine the effectiveness of the campaign.

One of the open-ended questions we asked in the survey was: what is the first thing you think of when you think of the library? 3,785 comments were documented and the answers were varied but more than half (57%) included books in their response. Here's how one 41 year old Canadian responder put it.
"Books, books, books, rows and rows of books, stacks of books, tables filled with books, people holding books, people checking out books. Libraries are all about books. That is what I think and that is what I will always think.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Being Included is So Important

As long as it's on the right list.

Lists I am not happy to be included on:
1. Not-yet-included-in-our-service-area
2. Customer-prone-to-return-items
3. Fines for overdue materials

Lists I am happy about:
3. Newest customer for the local plumber (we can now use our gas stove!)
2. Sales of existing homes for September (bubble, schmubble)
1. IAG on Technorati Blog finder under "library" and "libraries" (okay, so I got the metadata wrong, but at least it demonstrates the absolute power of metadata!)

Whoo Hoo!
Plus, 288 links from 100 blogs.

Monday, September 26, 2005

At the NWILL Conference

Not a brilliant shot, I admit, but behind me were some floor to ceiling windows that made it impossible to take the picture from the preferred angle. The guy in the white shirt, sitting down, is Sam Sayre of OCLC Western and I hope he was talking to the fellow standing beside him about OCLC ILL services. I'm sure he was.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Managing the Small World

I can't manage Iran or Afghanistan. I can't even manage ARL or CNI. All I can manage is a pretty small sphere at OCLC. OK, a really small sphere.

What are our spheres of influence? Where can we effectively orchestrate change?

I think blunt answers to these questions are needed. There are many Really Big Issues related to librarianship but as I mull them over (pushed this way by debating with George over the digital divide) I am not sure how many we can operate in.

It seems clear that the message of what a public good the library can be has kinda sunk.....golly, folks would rather pay for the fire department?

So, where else can we live as public entities and how do we garner public support?

Alane's Back

I have been on a work trip and then on to a lovely vacation. But first...George, I never said the digital divide was not a big topic here, so I am not at all surprised it came up at your CA gig. It comes up at every single US presentation I do. In a nutshell, and hugely oversimplified, my opinion on the DD is that it is itself hugely oversimplified here in the US, that the DD is different outside the US, that libraries will not be able to "fix" the DD (because it has it roots in things libraries can do little about--they have no funding nor a mandate from voters) and that the whole discussion as it is currently constituted for us in librarianship is a waste of energy.

OK, on that combatative note...! I started my vacation week by going to Portland OR for a work trip. I was invited to close the Northwest ILL conference with my bud Stephen Abram, . He did the opening keynote and we mulled over what to do for a closer. We were fortunate to be "performing" in the theater at Portland Community College so the very efficient staff found us a bar, fake drinks and bar stools, and we called our talk "From the Bar Stool". Our premise was that most of the interesting conversations at conferences happen outside of the sessions, often in the bar. (Well, that's our experience)

We had fun. We decided we would riff off key points that were on our Powerpoint(less) slides and luckily, both of us are never at a loss for words nor are shy about leaping into the fray. It would not work for all. It's always a pleasure hanging with Stephen, and we also got to hang with some very bright people. Also a great pleasure.

Then, we (my husband and me, not Stephen and me) were off to Penticton for a week.

I read many things I was on the verge of blogging about during my time in "Napa North" but I gave myself the gift of disconnectedness. Which I really enjoyed.

Another disconnectedness observation. Canadian news was not 24/7 about Rita and Katrina. Not surprising at one level because the events were not in Canada. But regardless, here's my take. The much lower level of coverage (both in volume and VOLUME) was a relief. We flew from Vancouver to Chicago and as soon as we entered O'Hare were bombarded with TV images and thoughts about the latest weather event. I felt anxious after 3 minutes. Perhaps we don't need these minute by minute analyses. Perhaps we don't need every single minute filled with images of potential disaster accompanied by the Greek Chorus of newcasters telling us what we should be afraid--very afraid--of. I, for one, am very tired of any kind of media hype about disasters, natural or not. I don't think my quality of life is enhanced at all by a deluge of nothing about the latest Event.

Which reminds me of our own profession. We've been prone, I suggest, to the 24/7 disaster channel. There's a well established Greek Chorus. But, we haven't been very good at coming up with solutions to the flooding of our libraries with Hurricane Google.

And you know? The "Digital Divide" post-Katrina is about access to computers, the web and the Internet. Hasn't got a thing to do with the characteristics of communities that we normally ascribe to these.

Scan Season

To quote the ever-quotable Willie Nelson, I'm on the road again.

Thursday, we had a WebJunction Advisory Committee meeting at the archives of the State Library in Hartford, Connecticut. Part of the meeting was an abbreviated version of my scan presentation. Jim Welbourne, the director of the New Haven Free Public Library, related a very interesting point when we were discussing the concept of self-service. He said that the most frequent type of information sought at their unstaffed kiosk libraries is health information. Despite a consumer health information center in their main library, some people would rather seek information about health questions anonymously.

Friday, Joan Frye Williams and I did a presentation called "The Future of Libraries" at the San Francisco Public Library. We did a tag team presentation, throwing the lead back and forth as we covered the scan and many of Joan's intriguing ideas on the future of public services in libraries. Susan Hildreth, California's State Librarian, followed us, discussing what the State Library is doing in various areas to help build capacity in the libraries there. After lunch, the audience broke into three smaller groups. Joan, Susan and I moved among the groups for three separate but equally lively question and answer sessions. And I hate to tell you, Alane, but the digital divide was one of the hot topics in these small groups! We're repeating this presentation on November 16 in the Los Angeles area.

I'll also be doing scan presentation in October in Columbus (Ohio Library Council); Mesa, Arizona (Arizona Library Association); Williamsburg, Virginia (Virginia Library Association); and Hartford, Connecticut (Connecticut Library Consortium). If you happen to attend any of these events, stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chicken and Egg

Funny story happened to me the other night.

I told you we've moving house, right? So we're trying to get everything set up: the cable, the refrigerator delivery, the plumber to run the gas line for the gas stove (because yes I AM that impatient to wait for the electric stove to warm up), and the list goes on.

So there had been a Best Buy flier we'd seen, about a special on cable internet access. We go in, because I'm a sucker for specials. I order it. We're going along great until we hit the local phone number question.

Problem one: we don't have a local phone number yet at the house, because we want to do VoIP phone service--which requires an internet connection. Chicken.

So the Geek Squad guy (their name, not mine) behind the counter overrides it and we eventually get to the credit card payment part. I hand him the plastic, dreaming of my "blazing fast" connection.

Problem two: the billing address to my credit card doesn't match up to the service address where the cable is meant to be installed. Right, because we haven't moved in yet. Egg.

And then when I called to activate my account, once I was home, customer service had no record of my Best Buy interaction taking place!

Luckily, it is not nearly so hard to issue a library card. Or is it? Are there tales out there of distributed systems, when you had to send the would-be new cardholder on a mission to get 2 forms of ID and a letter from their neighbor down to the main library--because your branch couldn't process a special circumstance?

It couldn't be much more comical than my experience the other night!

Thursday, September 15, 2005


WebJunction has developed a pilot program for the Gates Foundation to help "train the trainers" in state libraries and other library agencies in how to serve Spanish-speaking library users. The pilot went so well that Gates has awarded a grant to WebJunction to spread the training to all 50 states.

The only problem with this project is its acronym. We refer to it as Spanish Language Outreach, SLO, but there's nothing slow about it. My friends at the State Library of Ohio have the same unfortunate combination of letters.

Laura Staley, who is managing the project, writes about the new grant and describes the project on WebJunction's BlogJunction.

¡Muchas gracias!

World Usability Day: Nov. 3

World Usability Day: "Making it Easy" November 3, 2005.

The goal of World Usability Day is to promote the fields of usability engineering and user-centered design.

There are more than 70 local World Usability Day events at local chapters across the globe. Hosting your own Usability Day soiree at your library could be a good vehicle to put your name out in the tech community. And they even have logos to promote the day on your site.

Or send a staff contingent out, to attend a local WUD event in your area. Either way, sounds like time well spent in Usability visibility.

I Insulted Them All

On this past Sunday afternoon, I flew to Toronto (on a Dash 8 turboprop that was completely full...although that doesn't take much.) to be the after dinner speaker for a meeting of OCUL directors (the Ontario Council of University Libraries). The setting was bucolic--Eaton Hall, the summer home of Sir John and Lady Flora Eaton in the late 30s and 40s. Eaton Hall is now part of Seneca College and Eaton's the department store is no more. That was a sad day in Canadian retailing when one of the two stalwart Canadian department stores closed (the other being the Hudson's Bay Company which has been operating for almost 400 years) and was bought by Sears.

So, how did I insult all these good people? The main focus of my talk was on generational differences and I began by saying, I am almost 49. Who is younger? No one was. But--as I went on to say--tender psyches or not--we have to figure out how we're going to engage people who inhabit a universe that lies very close to ours and who share many of our attributes, but who are sufficiently different from us that many of their pastimes are quite alien to us baby boomers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I just joined M5, Coca-cola and libraries

Coke just launched some cool work. Check out the M5 project, launched today.
They commissioned some high-end designers to wrap some old-school bottles in hip new designs, and then the new designs will only be available at exclusive clubs.

Now, I have to say, (with a straight face, I might add) I understand that I will be drinking the same old coke from a fancy-schmancy can. Yes. And I am willing to pay triple to have "the experience" of a hip lounge, fancy bottle, aura of coolness.

And I think there are a lot of other people who will, too.

Now, here's where it relates to libraries.
We all thought we knew Coke. I mean, Coca-cola is an uber-stable, globally known and understood brand, right?
Of course. But they've taken the nostalgia that a lot of us associate with coke: the curvy bottle and the color red, and given it a whole new raison d'etre.

Is it going to stop people from buying plain old coke in the grocery stores? Not at all. But is it going to encourage people to think of Coke as a viable alternative when they're out on the town, in the evening? Absolutely. Those bottles are cool, and design does matter.

So if Coke can make the inky-black fizzy stuff that we all know rots our teeth and our insides...and make us think about it in a whole new fresh way (i.e., change the category, for your marketing types)...can't we as library workers start to think of ways we can do the same for our libraries?

The other piece of the coke experience: I just joined M5, an organization that I willingly signed up for, so I would know what the cool clubs are--where they would have the hip bottles. It's a great push from both sides: It gets the clubs to ask if they can sell the product--and it gets the customers to ask to be notified when/where the product will appear. And coke is right in the middle, making the cool experience happen, bringing the people together.

Sounds eerily like one of the scenarios that has been floating in my head: a way for libraries to make the cool experience happen, to bring the people together.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Oracle agrees to buy Siebel

I tell you this because it's news, but also because WorldCat was one of the largest Oracle installations, if I recall correctly--and well worth it because now it can do Cool Things like FRBR views, a wiki in the works and more...

So one more giant tech merger. Scoop is on the Oracle site.

The Giant Tech Merger made personal: My AT&T Wireless phone, now owned by Cingular, has been giving me fits and the Cingular store representative told me my best bet was to wait the 227 more days until my contract expired. Ugh. Giant tech merger that someday result in better service for all of us.

In the meantime, I feel sidelined as a customer.

(Of course, I did hear that Cingular was scrambling to get temporary phone towers up after Katrina, so that people could call their families. So...I should cut them some slack.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Given the state of the States, one reason for the quietude here--at least from my point of view--is there's not much to be said that wouldn't be angry, sad, frustrated and disgusted. And because It's All Good operates loosely under the umbrella of OCLC, none of those personal reactions are appropriate. But, my goodness, what a mess.

Relevant to what we do here is to report that OCLC is working on a pretty comprehensive disaster plan for affected libraries--and I wish we could have been a bit faster in getting this done and publicized, but we haven't been able to--there's a lot of details to iron out.

And thanks to Karen Schneider's request for action, I can report that in about 2 hours flat, WebJunction put up a Jobs Needed open site (as in, no registration needed) in the general Katrina discussion area. It's here, and has a link to the Solinet Jobs site. These are intended to assist displaced library staff from the affected states in finding temp or premanent positions. Thank you, Karen, for the suggestion, and Betha and Chrystie at WJ, and Libbie at OCLC for working fast and getting this up.

And the WJ staff have gathered a bunch more useful links related to disasters.

One thing that emerges is that libraries have been "first responders" in a way...where else have displaced people known they could have access to computers to file FEMA applications? Or have access to their email to to try and reconnect with family? Electricity, health care, water and food are essentials. But what is very clear is that free access to information and the carriers of information are likewise crucial in emergencies.

Starving the infrastructure in the United States is not just about ignoring rebuilding levees. It is also about closing libraries.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

State Library of Louisiana Needs Computers

Here's a very real digital divide. People need access to computers and printers to do all manner of things...look for people, fill out applications and endless forms.

This was posted to the Solinet listserv and sent on to an internal OCLC one. Solinet is the network that serves libraries in all the Katrina-affected states.

The State library of Louisiana has sent out this call for computer equipment...
If you are interested and able to send computers, here is the request from the Louisiana State Librarian, Rebecca Hamilton.
"To all--we are in desperate need of computers/printers. We are being inundated with evacuees needing to file FEMA applications, unemployment, search for loved ones, etc. and are coming into our public libraries to use the computers. Our libraries have greatly extended their hours to accommodate the people but they need additional computers and printers.
If you can please put the word out that if anyone wants to help immediately, this is our greatest need."
The specs for the computers:
* Pentium 3
* Windows 2000, prefer XP
* Laser printers if you can still get toner for them

Computers may be sent to:
State Library of Louisiana
701 North 4th Street
Baton Rouge, La. 70802-5232

If you are able to assist them by sending computers, please let Rebecca know via email: Rebecca Hamilton [] just to help them plan. This will help her know what to expect and also help us to know (if necessary) when to stop sending them there. I am sure that we will hear from other states about similar needs."

24 countries

In our ever-shrinking, flat world, I should not be surprised by this figure. But of course I am. I was nosing around for statistics this week on the various projects we've been working on lately--OCLC Member reports, Advocacy Advertising efforts, the redesigned newsletter, the OCLC Symposiums--all of these, good things--but the statistic that stopped me in my tracks this morning?

Almost 4,000 people in 24 countries have acquired the Environmental Scan.

Okay, I admit it: I am easily impressed. But it makes me wonder now, almost two years out from the initial discussions about the document-->what bold decisions are being made in libraries today? What improvements? What trials? What tests?

Or is your library stuck in task force land? Consensus land? Pulled in too many directions and so can't get going in any one direction-land?

The Quorum of Two
It reminds me of the condo agreement my husband and I were reading last night. We're trying to buy 1/2 a big house that has been split in two condo units. So we were wading through the condo association agreements, covenants, bylaws and rules. Lots of important details about 10 business days of notice by registered mail of the annual meeting, etc.

And this is all for a condo association of essentially 2 parties: our half (we hope)and the other guy's half. Finally you read through the whole 14 pages of legalese to see, all decisions made will require a quorum of two. And then the whole thing seemed a bit silly.

I know, I know. It's important to have structure and process to guide an organization. But sometimes it makes just as much sense to knock on the other person's door (you do, after all, share the same house) and say hey, can we meet next week?

A small library, I would guess, is roughly the same: some things are important to have structure about, and some things you can be a little looser, a little freer about. (Is freer a word? Oh, Walt you'll have to correct me...)

How many of those 4,000 people in 24 countries are essentially operating with a quorum of two? Go knock on each other's doors...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Far Away

Last week I flew north to Regina, the provincial capital of Saskatchewan. It's a long way from New Orleans and any body of water of a significant size--although a river runs through it, the South Saskatchewan. It is place that many Canadians hate to drive across because of the sameness of the southern landscape and the straight Trans-Canada highway (one curve, I think). I've driven across the province several times and I find the landscape beautiful and the light, particularly at dawn and dusk, often pearly and luminous. The sky...there is a lot of it, even more than in Alberta, because there's little to obstruct the eye. Sometimes the view is so open you can see the curvature of the earth. The population density, according to Wikipedia, is 1.7 people per kilometre. It is the birthplace and home to the labour movement in Canada as well as the training school and museum for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ironic, no?

But this visit, I stayed in Regina, and visited at the Regina Public Library and the Education Centre of the Regina Public Schools, with my colleague Nigel Long of OCLC Canada. On Thursday I did "Libraries and Their Communities: digital immigrants and digital natives" for library staff at the U of Regina at the invitation of Bill Sgrazzutti, the AUL for Research, formerly a colleague of mine at the U of Calgary.

The library system at the University of Regina is one of the few I'm aware of headed up by a non-librarian. Bill Howard has been an English professor and administrator and now administrates the library. I was impressed by his grasp of the library world....among other things, I don't think I've ever heard the phrase "net lender" leave the lips of another library director.

So, on Dr. Howard's watch, the library is undertaking an extensive review of itself and its services. To assist in the review of service quality, it will participate in LibQual+(TM) under the guidance of Julie McKenna whose major responsibility is being the Queen of Assessment, like her colleague Pam Ryan at the University of Alberta. There was no such position when I worked in academic libraries, but this is a trend I celebrate wholeheartedly. When I used Yahoo! to search for the term "assessment librarian" most of the returned items on the first couple of pages were job ads. "Ongoing assessment of all library services" What a concept.

So I was out of the US for most of the awfulness unfolding in the South, particularly the 7th Circle of Hell that the Superdome and Convention Center quickly became in New Orleans. And I was also away shortly after September 11, 2001 when my husband and I were on one of the first international flights to leave Newark, bound for Italy. I must say the reactions from people were different--2001 there was a great deal of support and expressions of solidarity. This time, people were not at all complimentary about relief efforts by the official agencies and would ask me questions I couldn't answer about readiness and planning and race.

And if anyone knows where Mary Holt of the Tulane University's Rudolph Matas Medical Library is, I'd appreciate knowing she's OK. Mary was for many years involved in the now disbanded Health Sciences OCLC Users Group and is known to many OCLC staff.