Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Props to a couple of our partner OCLC sites for major redesigns they've launched recently.

The OCLC Community site, which was mentioned earlier today as the source of audio files for the symposium as Midwinter, has been completely overhauled. It now provides easier access to information and tools you can use, such as our advocacy materials and OCLC reports. Previous features like discussion space and news from the rest of OCLC are still available as well.

And WebJunction has just freshened both its search functions and its home page. The new home page is much more graphical and it's easier to navigate. (For example, a direct link to "I'm Curious, George" is available right from the home page!)

Either or both of these will reward frequent visitors with tangible benefits they can apply to their work, and some pleasant diversion.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Brokeback Mountain and Amusing Ourselves to Death. What does the Oscar-nominated movie and Neil Postman's seminal 20 year old book have in common? Perhaps for you, not much. But as I was driving to work I was listening to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) on satellite radio and the news announcer reported the Oscar-nominated films for best picture, among which was Brokeback Mountain and Capote. She pointed out that the former was filmed in Alberta and the latter in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Not surprising perhaps, as many Hollywood movies have been filmed in Canada, and many which require mountains, sweeping views of sky and plains and space are filmed near Calgary where I lived for 12 years.

So, it was serendipity then to come across this USA Today article from yesterday reporting that Brokeback Mountain is boosting tourism inquiries about....Wyoming. Now, of course, this is where the events of the movie happen...in fiction. In reality, the landscape people are admiring and desiring in the movie is in...Alberta. But never mind reality!

I came across the reference to Neil Postman's book at Jay Rosen's blog Press Think. He's posted an essay by Postman's son Andrew which is the introduction to a new edition of Amusing...
The subtitle of Postman's book is Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. And this was pre-Jon Stewart, pre-Tivo, pre-Google remember. His premise was that in the "age of show business" everything--tsunamis, judges' appointments, hurricanes, highway chases, elections, missing white girls--has become entertainment. Never mind reality.

And how does this relate to the library nature of this blog? I suspect that chasm between entertainment and reality (whatever this is in a "stringy" universe) will have to be addressed by us all as we ponder the meanings of the data from the OCLC Perceptions report, from discussions about what is constituted by "Library 2.0" and what services and content libraries offer their communities. Will it be "Wyoming" or Alberta?

Symposium Audio Available

The MP3 files (one for each speaker) of the Extreme Makeover Symposium are available here on the OCLC Community site. The links are in the middle of the page. The AV version will be available soon.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Walt Crawford on Perceptions

Walt Crawford offers a thorough and balanced analysis of the OCLC report Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources in the new edition of Cites & Insights.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Living the Future 6

Marda Johnson, late of the OCLC staff and currently the Team Leader for the Technical Services and Archival Processing Team at the University of Arizona Library, brought my attention to a conference that looks like it will be very interesting. Living the Future 6 is, according to its web site, "a conference for collaborative thinking about the future. ... Participants will hear from those directly involved in planning, challenging, and living the future --- nationally known experts and creative thinkers as well as working library staff who are experimenting and innovating. The conference combines excellent weather, a celebratory, low cost venue, and a group of lively participants as the container for imaginative thinking. Join the conversations! Let us hear your voice!"

The schedule features a number of fascinating topics (including one of my favorites, disruptive technology and the library), and the closing keynote speaker is John Perry Barlow.

Combine that kind of a line up with the weather in Arizona in April, and this looks like a winner. Thanks for the tip, Marda!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Pew: The Strength of Internet Ties

From the announcement:
The Pew Internet & American Life Project today [Jan25] released a report describing how the internet improves Americans' capacity to maintain their social networks and how they gain a big payoff when they use the internet to activate those networks to solicit help.

The report is based on two surveys and finds that the internet and email expand and strengthen the social ties that people maintain in the offline world. The surveys show that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into their quest for information and advice as they seek help and make decisions.

Disputing concerns that heavy use of the internet might diminish people's social relations, the report finds that the internet fits seamlessly with Americans' in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live close to them.
The report, "The Strength of Internet Ties," highlights how email supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with others in their network.

The full report is available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/172/report_display.asp

See some Scan trends here? Seamlessness, life online, collaboration, an " and/and" world, not "and/or." Here's a commentary on the report from Mark Federman's blog in which he suggests this report refutes Putnam's in Bowling Alone.

Hill Country

While everyone else has made it home already from ALA, I am actually on vacation this week in the Hill Country. It means that all the wonderful Stephen photos of ALA MW 06 Blog Salon WILL get posted...eventually. For now, my main goal is to absorb all the sunshine and salsa possible, and hang out with my Dad a lot.

See you next week.

The Rise of the "User Class"

A couple of items on this theme of the shift of power from producers/distributors to users--something all librarians should be paying attention to.

Esther Dyson is a futurist and writer (daughter of Freeman Dyson, physicist and Verena Huber-Dyson, mathematician and philosopher, and also sister to George Dyson, whom I know of best for his expertise on baidarka). She hosts an annual think-tank kind of conference called PC Forum. The theme this year is Erosion of Power: Users in Charge and is most relevant to issues librarians are wrestling with. Esther's description of the theme (emphasis is mine):

"At this year's PC Forum, we'll examine the subtle but pervasive shift in control that's making these things possible. It's not - as some people think - that Google and search are taking over the world. Google's and others' tools are enabling me - and millions of other me's - to take over their own worlds.
In the end, I don't just want information; I want actions based on the right information. I want flights booked, appointments made, supplies ordered, inventories managed on the basis of information that is structured and actionable (and that reflects my own personal preferences)."

This might be a conference to attend to stretch the little grey cells. It's March 12-14 at La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, CA.

Related to this (and noted in today's issue of paidContent) is BBC Chairman Michael Grade's keynote speech at the NATPE conference (National Association of Television Program Executives) titled On Demand is the Future. Staci Kramer from paidContent interviewed him afterwards and provides this clip from Grade (the whole interview is available as a link from the post-- and my emphasis again):

"I also happen to believe, in the end, if we've learned nothing out of the last 20 years it's that the public don't want to be trapped by one piece of proprietary this or proprietary that. They're going to invest a lot of money in new kit as it comes along ... and they want to be sure that what buy, they can get whatever they want from whoever... In the end, consumers will tell the industry that's the way they want it to go."

I believe this is true for libraries too. Users and consumers will tell us where they want library services to go either passively, by disappearing from our libraries, or actively, because we've asked them.

And an hommage to Winston Churchill for ending two sentences in prepositions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Lost Post

Hmmm, I wonder what happened to the post that Alice opened at the beginning of the Blog Salon? I suspect we may have had some "technical difficulties" with our connections--the one to the Internet and the one between people and the computer. We all got sidetracked--or didn't. Last blog salon we had the laptop in the middle of the room so it was easy for people to get to. This time it was in a corner and quickly got obscured by people.
Thanks to everyone who dropped by the Salon. We loved meeting you or getting reacquainted.

That's (L-R) "Jane Eyre", Walt Crawford and Andrea Mercado.

See you next time. Oh, and consider a vote for Heidi Dolamore, a student from my alma mater who's running for ALA Council. Having spent time talking to Heidi this Salon and the previous one, I'd vote for her if I was an ALA member still. I didn't take a picture of Heidi, unfortunately.

But here's three more.

Lorcan Dempsey and Suzanne Pilsk of the Smithsonian Institute Libraries. Suzanne is not a blogger but she works at a really cool place and is an old friend who helped us with a piece of theater we did pre-blogging days at ALA MW 2002, in New Orleans, a "playlette" called "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" about a cataloger and a reference librarian on the verge of divorce. It was an allegory--with light bulb jokes.

George Needham, wearing his BlogPerson band, and Rochelle Hartman (who is a delightful dinner companion.)
Eric Childress, Alice Sneary and Tim McCormick of OCLC Openly Informatics.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blog Salon in 18 minutes

Get ready blogsphere...the Blog Salon is about to get started in the OCLC Red Suite, 30th floor of the Marriott River Center.

Spotted by the ALA MW 2006 Library Fashion police

Eric has been wearing unusually interesting ties this conference. This one, I believe, was given to him by the National Library of Sweden. Posted by Picasa

OCLC Openly Informatics

Tim McCormick and Eric Hellman of the newly created division, OCLC Openly Informatics. (formerly Openly Informatics.) Posted by Picasa

Strong leadership in a time of transition

OCLC President and CEO Jay Jordan addresses the gathered OCLC cooperative at the Update Breakfast this morning, especially about the recent mergers and acquisitions of Fretwell Downing by OCLC PICA (the European arm of the cooperative), and Openly Informatics by OCLC (as a whole).  Posted by Picasa

Good things come to those who get up early...

Blueberry muffins were one of the many good things at the OCLC Update Breakfast. Posted by Picasa

Update Breakfast, set and ready

WebJunction table awaits its OCLC Update Breakfast participants. Each table features a unique aspect of the cooperative, and members come for breakfast to discuss topics relevant to the community on that unique aspect. Posted by Picasa

"Power corrupts, Powerpoint corrupts absolutely."

A peek into the pre-Symposium warm-up: Omar Wasow and Alane Wilson run through the opening remarks together. Posted by Picasa

Post-Symposium dinner and discussion

OCLC Symposium speakers continue the dialogue at dinner that night. L-R is Omar Wasow, Alice Sneary and Patricia Martin. Far left (in the mirror) you see another speaker, Antony Brewerton. And Jennifer Rice, our 4th panelist, is also here...she's the photographer! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 21, 2006

OCLC Red Suite - 3040

The Blog Salon will be in suite 3040 the OCLC Red Suite in the Marriott Rivercenter.

And thanks to Alice for taking notes during the Symposium yesterday. I could see her across the room industriously transcribing, while I was watching the clock, keeping track of speakers' time.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Symposium questions

Questions for the panel:
How can we balance complexity and quality?
*Antony thinks it's an issue of segmentation...
*Jennifer says that people love to give back...how can we set up forums for people--connecting experts with learners. You don't have to do everything yourself!
*Patricia says check out the McKinsey report--transactional to tacit (You'll have to register...)

*Another question here that I totally didn't catch...*
Omar says go for the quick-wins first.
Patricia wonders if libraries and small businesses can do more work together?

Can we cut through the spreadsheets and go for gut responses from our stakeholders?

Thanks for coming! The audio will be podcast (we hope...just not from my laptop!)

Antony Brewerton

How I became an Outgoing Librarian.

Changing perceptions of libraries and information resources...
"Wear lipstick, have a tattoo, belly-dance, then Get Naked. The making of a Virtual Librarian.

The new Breed Librarian.

Example with railways: Railways declined because they thought they were in the Railway business--instead of the transportation business.

[Antony going over questions raised/users comments from the Perceptions report.]

3 big messages:
1. We're a community resources--but customers primarily think of us a buildings of books.
2. Customers have more positive than negative associations--but those are on traditional products
3. Opportunities to diversify and remove barriers to use but first must promote the riches we already offer.

We need to decide what our brand is...and market it.

Clicker question: Who has, in their institution?
35% A member of staff responsible for marketing the library
24% A group responsible
13% Both
28% Nobody

Oxford Brooks University
How they did it:
They formed Functional groups, Marketing being a central one.
The Marketing Group makes a strategic plan each year and an annual report.
Their budget is 600 Pounds Stirling. (About US $1,000)

First, start with the customer. Listen to them!

Clicker question: Who has
7% A regular customer satisfaction survey
5% focus groups
58% feedback forms
19% various of the above

What they did: hung tags that used LPs with Blondie and Meatleaf
They revamped their logo...

Revlon quotation: "In teh factory we make cosmetics, in the drug store we sell hope." Charles Revlon, Revlon Cosmetics.

Freshers Fair (College Freshman/1st years) Drinks campaign:
Had drinks posters with great headlines
Beer mats (coasters)
Gave out bottled water

They send ambassadors outside the library...with t-shirts that say "How can I help you?"
Do you regularly go outside your library to promote your library?
55% Yes
45% No

They revamped their Web site, significantly rearchitecting around the students' experience.

Next year Freshers Fair: "Inspiration, available now from the library." The apple was particularly difficult to photograph...
Used stickers with URL, apple, "be inspired"
Gave out apples...

Web hits show the proof: marketing works
From October 2000, they have 65,192 hits to their site
By January 2002, they had 228,201 hits.
Promotional campaigns and hits demonstrate that you can rebrand your library, you can reinvigorate.

They used their success stories and did a lot of PR around it, both inside and outside the library circles...

Patricia Martin

"Defending the Brand"
Disruptive Competition Drives Innovation.

3 Questions:
1. Is there a market out there?
2. Do we have something special for them?
3. How do we tell them?

Is there a market out there?
Behold the rise of the RenGen: Information Superhighway...Knowledge economy...Knowledge society. (Renaissance Generation)

66.3% of Americans list "reading for pleasure" as their #1 leisure activity.
Ellen De Generes" "I have TBS--too busy syndrome."

Renaissance Generation gets a lot of their information from pictures and stories.

In 2003, 23% of mall shoppers browsed, compared to 37% in 2002. {The threshold for browsing library shelves is now about 10 minutes...)

Psychographic: The Beautiful Mind
The brain gets a rush from being exercised--drives a sense of well being.
Being well-informed is social currency...these people are avatars of culture. Imaginative, Inner Directive, Creative.

Market size:
65% of the people in this country are pre-disposed toward libraries.

Do we have someting special for them?
We have
Superior Price point (so what)

You cannot defend a brand by promoting features.
What's the true benefit? Get emotional.
Example: FedEx. FedEx changes their tactic--they're not in the shipping business, they're in the peace of mind business.
FedEx delivery guys wash their hands before they deliver a package....because it's part of the brand. Clean hands--maniacal devotion to customer service.

Does the "peace of mind" positioning match your FedEx experience
67% Yes
33% No

How do we tell them?
Brand is a relationship--carry that message forward.
To the RenGen: "Come on in, we have everything." (A closet full of clothes, everywhere, scattered.

RenGen: Go extreme or authentic. Collaborate or Die.

Target (the store) is not in the retail business. They are in the business to delight. So they did their fashion show down the side of a building!

Libraries are in the Knowledge Leisure business.

Valentine's Idea: Love at the Library
Do a romantic novel slam session, invite local florist, jewelers to sponsor

3 simple acts:
1. A friendly frontline (Starbucks)
2. Work the floor (Home Depot)
3. Improve Physical Presence (P & G)

RenGen spottings: Tell us your story
green room pass code:
user name: library
password: library

Break in the Symposium

Okay, now we're on a break. This is fantastically heady stuff to a library marketer!

But as a podcaster, I have just learned a valuable lesson: my laptop does not have enough working memory to store 3 hours worth of audio files...while running all the necessary programs...so it's a good thing I have back-up audio going. The podcasts should all still work though, no fear. I was just hoping to publish up right now. Oh well, live and learn. We'll get better at this, as we keep trying new technological adventures in real time!

Jennifer Rice

Keeping our business relevant.

Clicker question: What business are you in?
2% Books
48% Information
3% Free access
36% Learning
11% Something else

Your business is more than information.
Google is the 800 pound gorilla for libraries?

Clicker question
: What is a Brand?
Name and logo
Something a bunch of marketers dreamed up
4% An ad message
77% Reputation

A Brand is Distinctive, Deliverable, Desirable.
What unmet need, can you deliver on?

6 major consumer trends that impact everyone...including libraries:
1. Convenience (Fast food, Delivery, Concierge services)
2. Community ("I want to belong." grassroots, collaborative economy. Bowling Alone Maslow's hierarchy.)
3. Control ("I want to learn it and do it myself." The era of empowerment.) Empowering brands: Nike, Google, Home Depot "You can do it, we can help."
4. Choice ("I've got to have options." Age of abundance...Choice maximizers." The Paradox of Choice
Choice-maximizing brands: Google, eBay, Amazon, Netflix
Convenience and Choice are things that people are willing to pay for.
They'll tell you Free is important--but when push comes to shove, I'm willing to pay.
5. Experience ("Wow me." Word of Mouth marketing--you'll listen to your friends, but not to advertising. Your actions are your marketing. Commoditization--The internet has commoditized information--but it cannot commoditize an experience: taste, touch, smell, sight, service. The senses in your library...put a fountain in?
Experiential brands: Starbucks, Dave & Busters, Niketown, Borders (Edu-tainment)
6. "Trendy." Great brands are trendy.

Clicker question: Where is the opportunity for libraries?
12% Convenience
36% Community
2% Control
12% Choices
38% Experience

Where should libraries start?
Start with the Sense of Community and the Experience. Build on your strengths.
Then fill in the blanks, with teamwork (like Google). Google's not an enemy--it's just a tool that sits on a computer.

Online library card? How can you make your patron's life easier?

One idea: Rather than being in the "information business," think of libraries as being in the "community learning experience" business.

Omar Wasow

He's a groupie, this is his 6th or 7th library audience.
"Power corrupts, Powerpoint corrupts absoutely."

Thesis: Libraries must both inform and transform.
*The experience of being in a library can be as important as the information available.
*Libraries must recommit to their core values and emphasize their distinct qualities as places to learn critical thinking and research skills, for communities to come together, and for individuals to reflect.

He used the words, "Sacred space," which is pretty cool!
Omar shared his personal history of using libraries--which was not so much about books and database access--but the actual space itself. That libraries for him have represented a place to think, to learn, to write.

Clicker question for Symposium attendees: My library is beautiful.
Yes 58%
No 42%

"Part of the magic of libraries has nothing to do with technology...it has to do with the experience."
It's not about trying to compete with Google, it's about building on our unique place as an experience.

Omar himself went from being an Atari player (passive experience) to building programs (active participation with technology)....and libraries' transformation parallels that same trajectory.

Service to transformation?
A personal story: Omar used libraries as a place to write, a place to think. There is something very powerful about libraries that is an elevated, noble space. Anecdote about Rockefeller libraries all have staircases--literally elevating the patrons as they enter the experience.

The Experience Economy
is a great book he recommends.
Key points from this book:
From Agriculture to Industry
From Industry to Service
From Service to Experience
From Experience to Transformation
(The product you're selling is a changed person.)

Sack of coffee beans is a commodity
Tin of Folgers is example of industry
Cup at a diner is a service
Starbucks/Barista Brava is an experience
Tasting class is a transformation

How does a library transform?
For libraries, schoools, churches, gymns, etc. the product is a changed person. Can we communicate "why you should come here" for a library....the 3rd space. (My words, not his.)

Clicker question: My library is a wonderful place to read, write, think and reflect?
Yes 69%
No 31%

Clicker question
: My library offers a popular lecture series?
Yes 38%
No 62%

Technology transforms real estate.
ATMs hollowed out banks--opportunities for restaurants
Deindustrialization enabled loft-living

"It's like a public park for your brain."

Access is not enough--you have to offer transformative experiences to keep people conncted.

OCLC Symposium: live from San Antonio, TX

Cathy DeRosa kicks off the Symposium, "Extreme Makeover: Rebranding an Industry."
She's introducing the panelist speakers, and explaining what what's going to think together about today...

Is a library makeover extreme or expected?

One cool new thing for this Symposium, we're doing Interactive polling, with immediate results. The first question is, "What would be your top pick for an "extreme" Saturday evening?
Dinner and a Movie wins with 38%.

The agenda:
Imagine an "extreme makeover" of Library Marketing and Services

Q: Top criterion used by users, to choose an electronic information source?
Symposium attendees say "Ease of use" by 44%.
Users said "Worthwhile information" at 77%.

Q. How do your users judge if electronic information is trustworthy?
Symposium attendees say "Personal knowledge" by 24%.
Users said "Personal knowledge" by 86%.

Q. What is the first thing your users think of, when they think of a library?
Symposium attendees say "Books" 72%
Users said "Books" at 69%.

So the gap between "user perceptions" and "librarians perceptions about users" is evident--even in our gathering today.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lone Star State of Mind

"But here I sit alone in Denver,
Sipp'n the California wine.
And I've got all night to remember you,
I'm in a lone star state of mind." (“Lone Star State of Mind” -- Nanci Griffith)

A memorable song from one of my favorite Texans. To see her in concert is one of the finest musical experiences to be had – she’s a musician’s musician, a writer’s writer, and one of the best storytellers to ever come out of Texas (which is saying somethin’!).

All four IAGers are either in San Antonio or soon to be there (a morning flight for me on Friday – straight to Texas, not direct to San Antonio, mind you, but through Dallas). We’re looking forward to seeing one another (George, Alane, and I see one another reasonably often, but Alice rarely – she’s not living in Ohio anymore), our good friends from Amigos, other colleagues, and many-times-many friends (old acquaintance and yet-to-be-met – one of the pleasant anticipations of ALA – you’ll always get to meet new wonderful people). And, of course, we’ll enjoy just being in San Antonio – what a great town!

For those of you who’ll keep the home fires burning -- and especially those of you pulling extra duty to cover for colleagues attending ALA -- a genuine thanks. Been there, done that – it’s not always the appreciated role it should be. We hope you’ll enjoy the conference vicariously through the postings of various bloggers, and that your grateful colleagues will return with great ideas and even better conference chatckes.

Welcome to San Antonio! My view of the river... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Web 2.0 in Use

All four of your IAG bloggers are heading to San Antonio for ALA MW so we'll be blogging--I hope--from there. I still have not read all of Walt Crawford's essay on Library 2.0 and "Library 2.0" so plan on doing that on the plane tomorrow. I have read this short article "Web 2.0: 'a read and write mechanism'" published in SiliconValley.com. Seems to me that some of the hype-y writing about Web 2.0 has settled. The article profiles Michael Arrington, who writes TechCrunch, a blog that covers "so-called Web 2.0 companies that seek to use the Internet in ways that are more interactive than the previous generation of Internet companies. "

Arrington says he started TechCrunch as a way of tracking start-up companies because "[e]veryone was building companies with their heads down, and weren't bothering to locate all of the competition out there." Is Library 2.0 guilty of this too? How is Libraryland keeping track of all the "start-ups"?

And TechCrunch would seem to be an excellent place for Library 2.0ers to stop by and get a smell of what's cooking on the Web 2.0 stove...maybe bright people will get bright ideas.

Echoes of My Mind

Everybody's talking at me,
I don't hear a word they're saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.” (“Everybody’s TalkinHarry Nilsson)

If adware, malware, and spyware are bad, can myware (spyware you use to track your own path through the electronic universe) be good? An interesting piece on Business2blog discusses the potential value of conveniently tracking your own surfing history, listening habits, etc. electronically so you -- or your social network or other third party you authorize -- can exploit your trail in the future. B2B’s conclusion is worth quoting:

“We are going to be seeing a lot more companies that help you do creative things with your clickstream (the history of your online behavior). Some will give you complete control over how your data is used. Others will entice you with a cool service to capture that data so that they can then resell it.”

The ultimate currency in this e-trails economy is called by some “personomies,” defined as “digital manifestations of an individual. Personomies combine identity (who you are), activity (what you do) and sociality (who you know). They include emails, contacts, blog posts, comments, purchases, page views, forms filled, bookmarks, ads clicked, chats, feeds subscribed and more,” and some interesting aspects of personomies can be found on a blog of the same name (the blog is also the source of the definition quoted above).

Storing and sharing personal information necessarily invites addressing the issue of trustworthiness. The individual needs to trust that they control their personal information, and that they can rely on the assurances of privacy, etc. of any third parties the individual explicitly authorizes to access their history. Likewise third parties want authentic information – real users, real usage patterns.

Librarians traditionally have been very mindful of privacy and anonymity, and have sought to aggressively guard our users’ history of information seeking -- typically by routinely erasing transactions from our systems. History and present circumstances give ample credence to our fears of intrusive government interest in the reading habits of individual users. And there are more than a few cautionary tales from the Web (see for example a very interesting, even frightening item entitled “Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists,” describing the ease with which Amazon wish lists potentially could be exploited to discover individual reading interests).

Still, it may be argued that in pursuit of privacy libraries do their users some disservice – an individual’s information-seeking/reading habits could be leveraged to improve personalization, significantly enhance library-based recommendation systems, and help libraries optimize acquisition, collection development, and other aspects of library services in ways that gross circulation statistics, numbers of libraries that hold the item in WorldCat, etc. – useful as these may be -- cannot.

Are we striking the right balance of privacy vs. making data work harder? Are there options as yet not fully explored that would allow us to protect privacy but leverage user information more fully?

Are You a Librarian?

Over on PUBLIB, there has been a discussion of a quiz called, "Are You a Librarian?" After more than three decades in the profession, I scored a 72%, good enough for their ranking of "Assistant Librarian." I quote from my results:

"You seem to be a librarian, but you are not as knowledgeable as your more devoted colleagues in some of the library lore, trivia, technical details and social knowledge that can give depth and perspective to ones professional identity; but your practical knowledge of your job may be quite excellent."

On the other hand, I outscored 99% of the other quiz takers of my age and gender.

One drawback is that you don't find out which questions you answered wrong. Otherwise, this is a fun way to waste fifteen minutes or so. Twenty, if you blog about it afterwards!

Bridging the Chasm

Betsy Barefoot has an article in the online Chronicle Review, titled "Bridging the Chasm: First-Year Students and the Library." (May be password protected...let me know if you can't get in and I'll repost the full story.) In it, she champions the library as essential to first-year students' success, and she essentially takes up the tune we've been singing with our very small academic advocacy work.

Here's an excerpt:
The most effective way to ensure that first-year students become information literate is making library instruction an integral part of courses across the curriculum. That integration requires continuing and creative collaboration between librarians and professors. The good news is that a variety of institutions — public and private, large and small — are taking library instruction increasingly seriously. Members of the Association of College and Research Libraries are working with the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina to produce a monograph about information-literacy instruction in the first year that will provide models for including library use in courses throughout the curriculum.

My boldface added. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here...but I am tickled pink to know that we (as the library industry/profession) are not the only ones yakking about how the library is so important--while everyone else in our respective communities quietly keeps on, keepin' on. Other people (at least one) have started the yak!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Outside Looking In - David Weinberger on the NCSU Catalog

David Weinburger is perhaps the original "superpatron". He has long taken an interest in library matters, particularly classification. In this post at his blog, Joho the Blog, he walks you through the Endeca-enabled presentation of the North Carolina State University library's catalog that so many in our community have blogged about (including Lorcan and Superpatron Edward Velmetti.)

It's always interesting to read outsiders' takes on library innovation, particularly if the outsiders are thoughtful as David and Edward are.

Name badges from our gig last Friday: Posted by Picasa

Connecticut Roadshow

Alane and I were fortunate enough to meet a few of the community college librarians in Connecticut last Friday.

We were part of a panel to explore the topic of "Our Roles, They are A-Changin': The Future of Community College Libraries." In addition to Alane and I, panelists included:
Leslie Burger, the ALA President Elect for 2006-2007
Christine Bradley, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Library Consortium
George Cigale, Chairman and CEO of Tutor.com

Broad viewpoints, all. The main theme (to my ears, anyway) was the idea of shifting from a library-or even university-centric outlook to a user-centered one. And to understand that it means doing things differently! (branding, having online tutors available 24/7, working with the larger community context and making sure we actually act rather than committee-ify.)
We must have hit a chord somewhere...we were asked back for February!

For all of you ready for things within the profession to shake-up (aka ALA)...watch for good things from Leslie!

Monday, January 16, 2006

OCLC Symposium - the Gentlemen Panelists

It's so long since I posted about the female panelists at the upcoming OCLC Symposium at ALA MW that you are forgiven if you've forgotten who they are: Jennifer Rice and Patricia Martin. The post is here. Jennifer has posted on her own blog about preparing for her presentation: "Have you really thought about what would happen to libraries in the Google Age? I bet you (like me) haven't thought about libraries at all. What an interesting challenge; how do we rebrand and reinvent libraries to maintain their relevance? "

So, we are very pleased to have two additional panelists: Antony Brewerton and Omar Wasow. Antony will likely be new to most attendees because he's from the UK. Omar may be familiar to you either because you've heard him on NPR, or because you've heard him at a library event. George heard him speak here in Ohio last year and really enjoyed Omar's talk. Come to think of it, George heard Antony speak in England and spoke highly of his talk, and that's why we asked Antony. So, clearly, if you don't like the presentations, it's George's fault. Conversely, if you love them, then I guess George gets the credit.

Antony is the is Subject Team Leader for Arts, Social Sciences & Hospitality at Oxford Brookes University Library in the UK. Yes, it's in Oxford. No, it's not that Oxford U. He was previously at the University of Reading where he co-ordinated Library PR and compiled the Library’s successful entry in the Library Association/TC Farris Publicity and Marketing Awards. He has written and lectured on the image of librarians and the marketing of library services. His image-busting article “Wear lipstick, have a tattoo, belly-dance, then get naked: the making of a virtual librarian” won the UK Career Development Group’s Martin Award.

George's post about Omar Wasow's presentation at the Ohio Library Council conference is here, and I think it will give you a good indication of Omar's groove on libraries. Omar is pursuing a doctorate in African American studies and political science at Harvard. In addition to his graduate work, Omar is the co-founder of BlackPlanet.com and an on-air technology analyst. Under Omar’s leadership BlackPlanet.com became the leading site for African Americans. . As a result of his active participation in a number of social issues, particularly the charter school movement, Omar was selected to be a fellow in the Rockefeller Foundation's Next Generation Leadership program.

Now, we've never had to turn people away from a symposium, but registration is inching up! If you like to sit at a table rather than on the floor, come on time!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Best Jobs of 2006?

According to US News and World Report, quoted on Yahoo! Finance, librarianship is one of the 16 best jobs to have in 2006.

As much as I've loved this career, US News may have a hard time convincing the freshly-minted MLS's who are detailing their struggles to find meaningful work on the nextgenlib or newlib listservs.

Thanks to Wei Bender of OCLC Marketing for passing this news item to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gerald Hodges

Gerald Hodges, a friend of many years standing, passed away yesterday. As Linda Loman once said, "Attention must be paid."

Gerald was the Associate Executive Director for Communications and Marketing at the American Library Association. Before that, he was the Association's director of Membership Services and Chapter Relations, the role in which I met him when I held a similar job for the Ohio Library Association. Gerald helped me understand the way ALA and state chapters work together on government relations, advocacy, and library promotion. He helped me get into the media training that ALA launched in the early '90s to organize a cadre of librarians who could work effectively with the media. This was some of the best training I've ever had.

When the job of PLA Executive Director came open, Gerald encouraged me to apply and even helped me prep for the interview. I promised him that if I got the job, I'd take him to dinner at his favorite restaurant. We had a boozy, enjoyable dinner several months later, and the friendship was sealed.

Working with Gerald was a pleasure. His approach to work and life were marked by his sense of humor, encyclopedic knowledge of the field, and an apparently bottomless reservoir of patience. He took great and constant delight in his work, his partner Charles, frequent trips to Vegas, and, as his obit on the American Libraries site notes, all things Spanish. He was one of the nattiest dressers in the profession. Gerald in a tux at the ALA President's Inaugural Dinner was a GQ photo spread come to life.

After I left ALA for Michigan, our contacts were less frequent, but when we did see each other, at an ALA conference, or at state association conferences, or at a meeting at ALA about WebJunction a couple of years ago, it was as if we'd never been apart.

What I'll remember most fondly about Gerald is the way his eyes would twinkle when he was about to tell a funny story. He knew that as important as libraries are, life is more important. He had perspective.

The best way to memorialize Gerald will be to go to San Antonio for Midwinter and skip a meeting. Instead, go out and have a few laughs with friends that you don't see often enough.

More on Newspapers - Fishwrap?

If you visit here often, you'll know that I keep an eye on what is written about newspapers. I do so because newspapers require readers, because they are a 19th century innovation (at least in terms of mass production and adoption) struggling into the 21st, and because both those challenges seem to me to have relevance to libraries. "People will always read print books" is a mantra we all hear, but increasingly, at least for the sister media of newspapers, that is not assumed.

In a longish essay called "Are Newspapers Doomed," (published in Commentary), the author Joseph Epstein suggests some reasons that print newspapers--at least as we know them--may not continue much longer. He links the change in appetite for print newspapers to, among other things, the blogosphere:
[T]he young are hardly alone in turning away from newspapers. Nor are they alone responsible for the dizzying growth of the so-called blogosphere, said to be increasing by 70,000 sites a day (according to the search portal technorati.com). In the first half of this year alone, the number of new blogs grew from 7.8 to 14.2 million. And if the numbers are dizzying, the sheer amount of information floating around is enoughto give a person a serious case of Newsheimers.
Astonishing results are reported when news is passed from one blog to another: scores if not hundreds of thousands of hits, and, on sites that post readers’ reactions, responses that can often be more impressive in research and reasoning than anything likely to turn up in print. Newspaper journalists themselves often get their stories from blogs, and bloggers have been extremely useful in verifying or refuting the erroneous reportage of mainstream journalists.
But this isn't an essay on journalism versus blogging. It's much broader and perhaps, a lament for the glory days of newpaper journalism: "About our newspapers as they now stand, little more can be said in their favor than that they do not require batteries to operate, you can swat flies with them, and they can still be used to wrap fish."

Well worth reading.

The day passes

“Le jour se passe, les jours se lassent.”
(“Les ciels de traîne” – Autour de Lucie)
[English translation of the lyrics: “The day passes, the days grow weary.”]

I note with sadness that after two years the blog BiblioAcid will cease – for various reasons including a sense by the authors that the blog’s scope and nature was of a time, and the blog and authors needed to transition. While admittedly my mediocre French leaves some details of certain postings beyond my ready grasp, Marlène Delhaye’s & Nicolas Morin’s insightful coverage of topics of interest in both the Anglo- & Franco-library and IT spheres was unique and frequently alerted me to things I’d missed or was not likely to have come upon. Reading BiblioAcid also gave me a chance to refresh and expand my limited repertoire of IT and library-related technical French.

In their final post the authors reflect on BiblioAcid’s role in facilitating the emergence of blogging by librarians, and its impact on Marlène’s & Nicolas’s own “brand” as professionals. I’m pleased that the BiblioAcid posts will be archived, and that each author will continue to blog on their own – marlene’s corner and morinn.

Marlène & Nicolas, merci et bonne chance!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The (Fine) Killer Strikes Again!

My post about library fines has sparked more interest than anything on this blog in a long time. Talk about a good news/bad news situation. I love the action, but I wish it could be about some new and challenging service, or a discussion of Library 2.0 as thoughtful and well-reasoned as Walt Crawford's, or anything as intellectually stimulating as Lorcan seems to be able to so effortlessly toss off. Nope, we're down here in nickel and dime land. *sigh*

OK, let me respond to several of the comments that have been made on my piece, and, with her permission, on Alane's follow-up.

First, my comments were about public libraries. I know that academic and public libraries work in very different ways, and the need for a piece of information in demand by everyone registered in one class might require a more sophisticated system of sanctions to function.

Second, I have no problem with sending a notice to Patron A that Patron B has put a hold on an item, and could you please return it?

But that's as far as I'm willing to back off. Yes, I do sincerely think that fines should go. In fact, when I was a library director in Ohio back in the 1980s, and times were relatively flush, I proposed just such a scheme to my board. And I got shot down almost immediately, for most of the reasons cited by the commentators on my post.

Fines seem to bring out our most evangelical fervor. Look at the language people use to describe why we can't dump fines:
  • "Inducing a sense of responsibility."
  • "How about encouraging a little personal responsibility on the part of the patrons instead of blaming the libraries for following their policies?"
  • "Users have the obligation to share library resources with others in the community, and to exercise good judgment in the use of library resources."
I don't believe that libraries should be in the business of teaching personal responsibility. I don't believe that anyone other than librarians believes that there is a social contract between the user and the library that represents some sort of Platonic ideal of the republic. I don't believe that libraries help their case in the court of public opinion when they charge a six year old for accidentally kicking the copy of Dr. Seuss under the couch and forgetting it for a month.

I do sincerely believe that anything that creates a perception of a barrier between the user and the library needs to come down. And one of the things that people repeatedly cite as a reason not to use libraries is overdue fines. Sure, more parking, longer hours, and an unlimited supply of the latest best sellers and videos wouldn't hurt either. But one thing at a time, OK?

Google Bookstore?

From BBC News, reporting from the just-over Consumer Electronic Show (flash stuff on this page)

"Google has suggested it may consider setting up an online book store. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that this would depend on permission from copyright holders...Sony is also trying to invigorate demand for e-books. At CES, it launched a new portable device to read e-books and announced deals with major publishers to sell them online. Asked if Google would consider doing something similar, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: "Subject to permission from the copyright holder, yes. I want to be clear on that."


Monday, January 09, 2006

When You Put It That Way....

"But it is hard to believe that there will be room in the economy for delivering news by the Rube Goldberg process described above."

Slate writer Michael Kinsley has an amusing description of the "Rube Goldberg process" whereby print newspapers end up on our breakfast tables, in a recent article, "Extra! Extra! The Future of Newspapers." But it is a slightly discomfiting amusement because the process and end product, as he describes it, does now seem a bit absurd, as if we did it this way because we couldn't think of a better way to do it. Will print book publishing seem this way too?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fines Redux

Wading into the fray to support George's opinion...I am not sure how best to provide incentive to borrowers to return material but I am 100% in agreement with George that fines are a lousy way to do it. Tell me all the costs to collect material from delinquent users...less or more than replacement? Most librarians will not be able to answer this.

What do we think we are? The highway patrol? Drivers all know what the rules of the road are, and what the speed limits are. Yet, most of us (even librarians) break some of these rules and limits every single day. When we get caught, do we love our captors? No, I doubt it. Although we know that police officers are upholding laws designed for the common good, we don't feel bathed in the light of this common good when we are pulled over for doing 60 in a 40 zone, do we? We are contrite, and we yet feel anxiety often on spotting police cars. I think anxiety is a very bad state to associate with library use.

Police departments rely heavily on the revenue generated by such fines, but for the love of St. Jerome, do libraries really want to put themselves in the same civic category as police departments? My dad, one of my sisters, and one of my cousins were/are police officers so I have a great deal of respect for this work but I know that in their world there's good guys and bad guys. Nothing in between.

This might be flip, but I do not put never returning a book by Barbara Taylor Bradford into the same category of offense as speeding in a school zone.

I agree with George. Fines have to go. Libraries need to find another way to replace that income even if it means going to the Board and detailing what cannot be done without these funds. The cost of fines to the library's image far outweighs the income generated.

Come on, be truthful...this is really a moral issue, isn't it? People should return material......

Friday, January 06, 2006

Killing Off Fines Is Long Overdue

There's a very interesting discussion going on over at Librarian in Black about a Wall Street Journal article on library fines (and other government fees). I'll just let you go over and read that discussion, then come on back here for my comments. No, it's fine...I can wait.

(musical interlude)

OK, here goes my rant...

I hate library fines. They represent and embody all of the librarian stereotypes I have loathed for the 34-1/2 years I've been working in and for libraries.

I wish some daring library director or board would try the NetFlix model. You know: you can keep these things as long as you want, but you don't get any more until these come back. Set a limit of 25 books and three videos and five CDs (or whatever seems a reasonable number in your setting), and when the user hits that limit, his or her card is blocked from taking out anything else. But no more overdue fines, no fees, no "retribution" at all. Bring back some of the items, you can take some more.

This kind of publicity hurts us, and it hurts us over and over again. We want to see ourselves as the guardians of the public good, but we end up looking like nitpicking gremlins.

And by the way, despite what one of the respondents on LIB said, when I worked in the Buffalo and Erie County Library in the 1970s, whole families could be (and were) barred from borrowing anything from the library because of one miscreant in the household. And don't think that the circ clerk in my branch didn't enforce that rule like an avenging angel. No skip tracer ever born was better at identifying who lived where than Dorothy Childers.

Even if this is no longer the policy anywhere, people remember this from their youth, and the stigma continues to apply to us all.

Blog Salon & Symposium at ALA MW

Just a reminder: the Blog Salon will be in the OCLC Red Suite on Sunday January 22, beginning at 6pm. The OCLC Red Suite (and our moving it from the Blue Suite to the Red has nothing to do with political affiliations) will be at the Marriot Rivercenter. And, as Walt Crawford rightly pointed out in a comment on Alice's post about the Salon: we can't tell you the number of the suite until mere days before the event. The 3 OCLC suites are not assigned until our intrepid suite organizer, Suzanne Lauer, checks in.

We will post the suite number here at IAG but you can drop by the OCLC booth, 1454, and ask for the suite number, or ask the front desk staff at the Rivercenter.

And aside from the lovely orange OCLC totebags, there will be an additional little momento for you--Alice's idea.

As well as your four IAG hosts, I think Jay Jordan and Cathy De Rosa will be attending for at least part of the gathering. And some of our WebJunction colleagues will be there too.

Finally, if you have the time open in your schedule, please come to the Extreme Makeover OCLC Symposium on Friday, 1:30 - 4:30 pm, Marriott Rivercenter, Salon G-H. I've posted about two of the presenters here, and will post about Omar and Antony, our other two speakers, soon. Registration for the event (and all the other official OCLC events at ALA) is here.

Considering how many librarians regard the words "marketing" and "brand" as inimical to librarianship, it could be a lively session. We'll be trying out a polling system during the symposium...200 lucky attendees will get a "clicker" and so will be able to participate in instant voting on questions posed by the panelists.

We won't be streaming the symposium live, but we will video it and make it available after the conference. But, as Alice has mentioned, we're hoping she'll be podcasting the symposium. And if there are bloggers attending--as I know there are--there maybe blog reports.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Islands passed by

A warning sign.
It came back to haunt me, and I realised,
That you were an island, and I passed you by.” (“Warning Sign” – Coldplay)

I was turned on to Coldplay by my youngest niece when I saw her over the holidays. I drove, and she organized the music in the rental car – a fair division of labor, I’d say. Some last minute shopping and a trip to see the delightful Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe made up for the not so pleasant job of navigating Christmas traffic.

Coldplay is a British Pop group with the added bonus of Hollywood celebrity (Gwenyth Paltrow is married to a band member). On my return from the holidays, I thought nothing of doing discovery about the band via the Web, sampling tunes from various albums at an online store, buying an album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, online. And, yes, I could have borrowed a copy from my local library, but I wanted a copy of my very own.

The album’s been great background music as I read/scan my copy of Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. There’s a lot of insightful, confirming and at times a bit puzzling reveals in the report. Alane and George have walked through some pieces, and now I’d like to explore a thread myself, the online face of libraries.

Let me start by saying that arguably public access computing (i.e. providing personal computing and general Internet access to users) has been one of the library world’s better deeds (just ask our colleagues at WebJunction and the marvelous community they support). What I’m talking about is surfacing library services/systems and online resources in the users experiences on the Web. The data in the Perceptions report makes it clear that the online resources libraries offer suffer visibility problems.

To that point, here are some illuminating stats from the report (page references in brackets):

Fuzzy knowledge:
  • Of total respondents, 61% know their library has a Web site, 6% don’t think their library has one, and 33% are unsure [2-7]

  • Roughly similar responses are offered for whether users know the library has an online catalog or offers online reference materials. [2-7]

Mostly not a clue:
  • For e-audiobooks, e-magazines/e-journals, e-books, and virtual reference services, the responses are even more dismal placing the “no” or “not sure” responses combined above 60% (above 70% for virtual reference) for total respondents. The vast majority (50% or higher depending on the resource type) are not sure. [2-7]

  • When asked why users did not use their library Web site, for total respondents, 55% don’t know or don’t think their library has Web site, 4% can’t find it, and 25% could find it, but thought other Web sites were superior. [5-3]

For the poor visibility, there are some interesting indications that the users who actually find their library’s online Web site/online resources are getting some value:

  • Users who use their library’s Web site to keep up-to-date on library resources [2-28]: Total respondents (3rd highest ranked choice – 25% of users); College students, all regions (1st highest ranked choice – 49%)

  • Starting at a Web engine and then finding information via the library Web site: College students, all regions – "Have you ever started your search for information using a search engine and ended up at a library Web site?" Yes: 48%; "If yes, did you use the library Web site?" Yes: 41%, No: 7%; "If yes, did the library Web site fulfill your information needs?" Yes: 37% (10% -- library resources alone, 27% library plus additional resources) No: 4% [2-17]

And lastly, I’m still working through the report, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emphasis by the users on interfaces, web site organization, or similar quality issues that many of us in the profession complain about. Responses to an open-ended question that asks users to advise their library on potential service improvements reveal that 1% of users would suggest making the local library catalog better. [4-7]

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this – are library online resources reasonably useful, but simply not a resource our users consider first (or even last)? Or are library online offerings suffering from interface, integration, restriction, indexing, or other systemic issues that if addressed would significantly increase the likelihood of discovery and use?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I love to take a photograph

“I got a Nikon camera,
I love to take a photograph” (from “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon)

Well I didn’t want to let the day pass with less than 100% of IAGers posting given our dearth of posts last week. During the last two weeks I spent time with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, captured some of those moments digitally, and for the last two evenings I spent some time uploading pictures to my account on flickr, adding metadata & tags to same, and alerting family members (including several who couldn’t join us) the photos were up.

Compared to more traditional methods, the ease, speed, and low-cost of digital images are hard to beat. And it’s really easy to share the images with folks far and wide. My pics aren’t professional quality, but they’re on par with the pics I’ve taken with fairly expensive film equipment (suggesting sadly that the variable is the lack of a good photographer, not a shortcoming in the equipment). I haven’t used a traditional film camera in two years.

My habits and experiences are apparently not unique. An item in the Business 2.0 blog reports statistics gleaned from a new report by Merrill Lynch:
• Nearly half of all households now own a digital camera
• People are printing more digital photos than ever before (7.7B in 2005 vs. 400K in 2000)
• Retail printing of digital photos is gaining market share from home printing
• Traditional film printing is spiraling downward rapidly (down about 10B units in 5 years)
• The rise in digital printing doesn't offset the fall in traditional -- overall total photo printing has dropped about 5B units in 5 years

The author of the B2B blog piece opines that lowering prices for digital photo printing will stimulate demand, and I won’t disagree, but I think the fundamental problem may be a shift in tastes – standard physical prints may no longer be of strong interest. Amateur photography has probably always been more about sharing than holding. I think the more promising business space, however, is probably helping people manage their digital photos (flickr, Picasa, etc.), enhance the photos (e.g. Adobe Photoshop), and make novel use of them (for example, Qoop allows you to create posters, photobooks, apparel, many people choose personal photos as wallpaper on their computers, cell phones, etc.).

For libraries, the shift to the dominance of the digital photo presents some challenging new preservation issues, and raises issues the digital versions of any resources do – storage, retrieval, rights management, etc. What I admit I don’t know is whether there’s a role for libraries in helping users enjoy and share personal photography (film or digital). Like gaming, it seems like there could be. Any thoughts? Are libraries actively supporting the shutterbugs in their communities?

Empowering or empowered?

"If the likes of Google (through search and other online analytics) and Apple (through portable devices) taught us anything in 2005 it is that empowering consumers is very good business."

This quote is from an interesting article, "New media to take full control in 2006" published in yesterday's The HollywoodReporter.com Empowering consumers, empowering users...now, there's an idea.

We have here in my corner of the Kilgour building at OCLC, a small collection of promotional stuff libraries do: newspaper ads and mailed material, mostly. And one mailer card Cathy De Rosa and I were looking at recently was created to encourage people to renew their library cards. In person. As the only option. Not even by Pony Express.

Isn't this just a tad nineteenth century? Well, perhaps, but maybe this library system is waiting for a better way to empower their users.

Ok, how about renewing books? The mailer card says one of the benefits from renewing library cards is being able to renew books by phone. As the only option. Now, I happen to know that it is possible--and has been for some time--to renew material on the web site of this library. So, why the heck wouldn't this promotional piece of paper say so??! Was there an assumption that most people receiving the mailer wouldn't have a clue what the web was? Who knows? But all in all, the mailer was not a testament to an institution serious about empowering users.

"Empowering users..." It's a quaint phrase anyway. Our users hardly need to be empowered by us. They come that way, empowered by technologies outside of our domain, and empowered by all the various motives that drive people to do things for themselves, rather than seeking out "the experts." What we need to do is empower our systems and services so that they are attractive to users of all kinds. Wait! How about before we do all that empowering we all have a big think about what those services and systems should be and who they're designed for?

Here's the library services and systems Private Citizen Alane uses:
- Circulation to check out, holds and renew (my preference is to do this without humans)
- Look stuff up (a pain always because of either way too many steps or because of the indexing)

That's it.

Establish a "Signage Czar"

And other good insights into how to make your physical library space more user-oriented. Of course, this Library Journal online article "Power Users" champions the approach we've all been soapboxing for years now--but it's good to see it filter into mainstream library conscience.

Is it "dumbing down" the system?
Will it make the system more accessible for people who do not want to learn the secret library codes--but really just want to find some information on a certain subject?

Paco Underhill
and so much more. Read the piece as a warm-up to the OCLC Symposium...which I am meant to be figuring out how we can podcast live from San Antonio...

Okay, let's hear it. Read the article and then weigh in here--on the very provocative subhead in the article: WAS Dewey the Anti-Christ?
Why or Why not?

"Public Use of the Library and Other Sources of Information"

Alane's post below reminded me of two things: first, I made a conscious effort not to write anything beyond thank you notes while I was off for the holidays, and I make no apologies for that!

Second, there is another report of the same vintage as the Public Library Inquiry that reinforces the report Alane references. Public Use of the Library and Other Sources of Information, by Angus Campbell and Charles A. Metzner (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, 1950) "presents the major findings of a survey undertaken by the Survey Research Council for the Public Library Inquiry." The field work was done in 1947, and was delivered to the Public Library Inquiry in 1948.

However, I see the differences between the two reports as indicating some important strides libraries have made in the past half century. Two key examples: The 1947 results indicated that about one fifth of adults in the US had a library card. Compare that to the 75% of US respondents to the Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources survey who say they have library cards. In the OCLC report, 73% of the respondents said that had visited a public library in the previous year; in 1947, only 18% reported that they had done so. The 1947 report also said that library use was "highly concentrated among a small percentage of the population," that percentage being the highly educated book readers. Obviously, libraries have broadened their nets to draw in more users.

There is considerable discussion in the OCLC report of the library brand equaling "books." No great surprise there, despite our best efforts to become more relevant. (Ladle on as much irony as you'd care to here.) The interesting thing to me is that the 1947 report, like the OCLC report, asked people to make suggestions about what libraries could do to make themselves more attractive. In several cases, the answers given in both surveys are exactly the same: advertise more; have more current materials; be open longer/more convenient hours. But in several cases, the 1947 report pointed directly to changes that librarians have made. In 1947, people wanted to be able to view and rent movies at the library. They wanted to be able to borrow records. They wanted to have study groups, and group meeting space in the library. Over the last decades, public libraries have added all these services, and the results can be seen in the expanded participation numbers in the OCLC report.

The biggest consistency has been in people failing to see libraries as a primary information source. Librarians have not been able to make the leap from being a storehouse of recorded information (books, magazines, videos, audios) to being an active partner in the information gathering and evaluating process. The ubiquity of the web is making it even less likely that a formal institution like the library, with all our rules, service policies, limited hours, and other historical baggage, is ever going to change that.

The best use of the Perceptions report is to use a triage approach. Look at what respondents have said they want, and then figure out: a.) what you already offer but that you need to be more "in your face" about advertising; b.) what you could do by realigning resources, eliminating redundancies, or changing legacy policies; and c.) pipedreams. Just make sure not to confuse what you can't do (pipedreams) with what you don't want to do (because it's always been done this way)!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Funny--I was just composing a post when Alane published hers.
Yes friends, today is the day when we celebrate the fact that my parents were brave enough to risk the great unknown, ["a 2nd child! How can the second ever live up to the wonderful-ness of the first?"] and that I have lived to tell the tale thus far. Birthdays are so fun. Too bad American culture does not also celebrate Name Days, like they do other places.

Had planned to give you a morsel of the Perceptions report that has stuck in my craw over the holidays...perhaps it will stick in yours, too, and together we can figure out what to make of it. It lines up with one of the quotations Alane posted:

"61% of all respondents learn about electronic information sources from friends."
[page 1-19 Perceptions report]

FRIENDS! Friends as an authoritative source for all knowledge? I never would have pegged myself as relying on friends instead of *real* sources. But then again, I started to think about my own information-seeking habits.

In fact, I do rely on friends for most things. Heck, I ask my friends questions on
* medical advice [starve a fever, feed a cold?]
* home decorating [do you know how hard it is to make your own insulated drapes?]
* technology [how can I transfer MY iTunes downloads to YOUR computer?]
* entertainment [is that movie worth seeing? Yes for Walk the Line.]
* DIY [how exactly do I seal the ductwork that is within the walls?]
* and especially matters-of-the-heart/relationship questions [no comment]...

It dawns on me--these are all the types of questions that I have turned to my local public library for, for answers. But yes, it's usually only after I have nosed around with family/friends for initial opinions!

The Librarian was ranked lowest, at 8%, as a source of info about electronic resources. Ouch!

Alane's Back....

So, I leave for a little break and what do I see on my return? No posts since December 21....an eon in blogtime. Since I have not seen (in person) or "seen" (on email) any of my blogging colleagues, I will assume they were all doing real world things over the holiday period and, in keeping with the season, chastise them not. Besides, it's Alice's birthday today and that means she can do as she pleases.

Actually she just emailed me, confessing she was the secret Santa who sent me The Romance of Libraries, the brainchild of my friend Madeleine Lefebvre, who heads up the library at St Mary's U in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Madeleine edited this compilation of accounts of love in and of libraries, and I read it on the Chicago-Vancouver leg of my outbound holiday flight. And I left that copy with a retired librarian friend on New Year's Eve, after swanky drinks and snacks in the Fairmont Hotel at the Vancouver airport. So, I was thrilled to get another copy and I mean to get it autographed by Madeleine at ALA Midwinter.

One of the books I read in the early part of December is called The Library's Public. It was published in 1949, and is one of several volumes written about the results of The Public Library Inquiry, a national (US) survey conducted by the Social Science Research Council of the University of Michigan, at the request of ALA. This particular volume includes not only the results of the national survey mentioned above, but also the results of an analysis of all the studies of library use and users published since 1930.

And I'll not leave you in suspense. Nothing, but nothing has changed. Oh, technology has changed. The media collected by libraries and used by people has changed. But, the attitudes? The use of collections? The place--or not--of libraries in peoples' lives? Hardly a wiggle in the health-o-meter. What this means in a big sense I have yet to wrap my head around...it does suggest that We (that's the collective "we") have been barking up the same trees, tilting at the same windmills, denouncing the same media and communication innovations for decades. And that We know as little about our publics as We did 50+ years ago, and that presented with data that tells us about the people We apparently serve, many chose and choose to disbelieve. The author, Dr. Bernard Berelson (the then-Dean of the Library School at the U of Chicago) comments:

In addition, there is one general deficiency in the literature which this review has made strikingly apparent; that is, the concentration of the studies upon which certain kinds of problems, but not others, and mainly upon those dealing with the characteristics of the library's clientele. This has given rise in library circles to some deprecation of what are called quantitative results. Many conscientious and responsible librarians have disparaged research of the kind reported here because of its "quantitative" nature, asserting that book reading and library service are too subtle and too "subjective" to warrant such treatment. [p113 in the Columbia U Press edition]

So, if you've dipped into the OCLC Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources report and been surprised by the data, then I suggest you read Berelson's report. You'll be even more surprised. A few quotes--remember this research was done before 1949:

- "Of the five major public media of communication, [books, magazines, newspapers, movies, radio] book reading is the most limited in terms of total population...book reading is not an activity of the majority of Americans today."

- "Yet, not all people turn to formal media when they need information on various topics. In fact, the majority of a national sample of the population indicated that they would try other sources of information--usually friends or experts--rather than any of the mass media if they needed to know something about four selected subjects. The public library was specifically mentioned as a source by only a small minority of those questioned, and the following conclusion was drawn: The library appears to be lacking in salience to many people--it wouldn't occur to them to go there."

- "The young use the library more than the old, the better educated more than the lesser eductaed, and women a little more than, and differently from, men. The public library serves the middle class, defined either by occupation or by economic status, more than either the upper or the lower classes."

- "Only a relatively few people use the card catalogue with any regularity or rely on the librarian for reading guidance."

- "To a greater extent than ever before, people read newspapers and magazines, see films, and listen to the radio. These media provide recreation, information, and education to a greater or lesser degree; and they thus represent, in a special sense, competitors of the public library. "

- "There is no single public of library users; there are several publics. This is not simply a nice semantic distinction. It is central to the problem of the values and the objectives of public library service; it is the key to the 'philosophy of public librarianship'...Librarians have the problem of designating the library's publics to whom more or less consideration will be given. It is a matter of ranking the library's actual and potential publics in a value hierarchy."

And it was this last quote that made the reins from several hobby horses come together for me, because is it not this professional devotion to the philosophy of all publics are served that makes it impossible for any public library to serve adequately any public? The idea of ranking services and publics in a "value hierarchy" will be as repugnant to many librarians now as it likely was in 1950. But there it is...in the words of David Byrne of Talking Heads: Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was... "These studies [writes Dr Berelson] also indicate that the general public has little knowledge about the public library and its services and seems to regard the public library as a fine thing for a community to have--for other people to use."