Monday, December 31, 2007

A Library Director's Resolutions for 2008

Contemplating work and the future at the turning of the year, it's a good time to remember core values -- education, access to ideas, sharing information -- and think about how to live them. It's a good time to remember the "habits of highly effective librarians": Openness, Responsiveness, Collaboration, Communication.

Resolutions for the next year:

  1. Lead, but abide the process
    Balance a good sense of direction with a lack of prejudice. Articulate vision and plans and work to make them happen, but remember I don't have all the answers or a lock on truth.

  2. "The kids are alright"
    Seek ways to continue nurturing our library's staff, at all levels, through supporting training & innovative ideas. Support scholarship programs for future librarians.

  3. Think long range
    Remember it's not about getting things done on any arbitrary timetable, it's getting the right things done for long-term best interests. Events have their own timetable, but...

  4. "Go forth boldly in the direction of your dreams" or "Toujours l'audace"
    Remember that library advocacy starts by having the courage of convictions and being willing to speak up.

  5. Open door, open mind
    Keep cultivating radical transparency and be accessible, as well as demonstrably willing to change, when warranted, based on what I hear.

  6. Be open to creative partnerships in the community.
    There are people out there that would be happy to work with the library. We just have to tell them our story and listen to their needs.

  7. Have fun and keep learning
    'Nuff said.

  8. Get out of the box, literally
    Get out of the library, think about things other than work. Opportunities and ideas are out there. Spending more time with family wouldn't be bad, either.
Happy New Year!

Shipra Seefeldt column: Resolve next year to live your core values

Post Crescent Dec. 30, 2007

As we say goodbye to one year and look ahead to the next, it is natural to reflect back on what happened within the past year in different areas of our lives, including our businesses. It also is a natural thing to think to the upcoming year and make plans and set goals for our work and personal lives.

In looking ahead to 2008, I would encourage all businesses to revisit what their core values stand for, and to try to make a commitment to really "live" them throughout the coming year. The following are some organizational values that I see clients focusing on in their businesses, and the ones I believe would be important for all businesses to encourage in terms of the behaviors of their employees: integrity, trust, communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Integrity: What does it mean to "live" the value of integrity at the workplace? Webster's dictionary describes integrity as an "adherence to a code of moral values." Businesses need to define what is important to them regarding their code of moral values and to then give messages throughout the organization about their expectations of employee behaviors.

Trust: Trust is the foundation of any human relationship, and it is no different for organizations. It is very important for businesses to give the message that employees need to make the development of trust a priority, not only in customer relationships but also within work teams.

Communication: The value of good communication can't be overemphasized because it is an essential tool which can ensure success both internally and externally. It is important for businesses to create cultures that reinforce open communication at all levels so that there are efficiencies in goal setting, decision making, problem solving and resolving conflicts.

Teamwork: What is the message regarding teamwork that your organization gives to employees? Once again, this is an area that is critical to organizational success in that it can establish criteria for team functioning and team performance whether it is on management teams, departmental teams or project teams.

Leadership: It is very critical for the formal leadership within businesses to articulate a clear and a unified vision of the future. It is equally important for leaders to model the behaviors that they want to encourage within their culture and to provide both encouragement and accountability regarding the company's vision and values. Finally, leaders need to provide consistency in their messages and behaviors and at the same time encourage creativity and innovation throughout the organization.

As you look to 2008, make a commitment to revisit your values, pay attention to the messages as you continue to develop your organizational culture, and provide your employees with the training, which can give them the tools to be successful to truly "live" your core values.

--
Shipra Seefeldt is president of Strategic Solutions Consulting, an Appleton-based management consulting firm. She can be reached at 920-730-2705 or sseefeldt@new.rr.com. [Shipra also recently completed a term on our Library Foundation Board -- TD]

Friday, December 28, 2007

Reimagining the public library

It's not just about books, but it will always be about knowledge.
Philadelphia Inquirer Dec. 25, 2007

By Elliot L. Shelkrot

Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie told us "there is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library." Libraries have always been central to our lives. After 41 years as a librarian, people ask me if libraries are still relevant in the age of the Internet. They forget the Internet - for all its power - is just the latest, fastest way to access information invented so far. It is a tool made even more powerful by librarians.

Libraries and librarians are the original information brokers. The dissemination of knowledge is our business, whether the data is contained in books, DVDs or megabytes. In the age of the Internet, librarians are more necessary than ever.

The information explosion, now driven by technology, continues to expand exponentially the facts, statistics, research, ideas and sources available. The overwhelmed user soon realizes that the quantity of available information on the net bears no relationship to its quality or reliability. The real challenge is finding the right information quickly. That is precisely where librarians' skills always shine. According to Craig Silverstein, director of technology for Google.com, it may be "300 years before computers are as good as your local reference library."

Across the country, libraries of the future are becoming magnets for community activity and economic development. More and more they are gathering places for collaborative learning, with idea- and information-rich children's and teen centers and centers for content creation. The sound "shhhhhhh" will seldom be heard in these halls.

The planned expansion of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Central Library on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will make it the city's main laboratory for personal learning, discovery and development. Within the sparkling glass walls of Central's new addition and the restored majesty of the Beaux Arts building, the environment of engagement and collaboration already bubbling in the library will thrive.

Energetic entrepreneurs come to research and launch business plans; the world's top authors make this a "must" stop on the lecture circuit; students come for help in preparing for SATs; job seekers attend workshops on resume preparation. Book lovers (yes, we are still around) can check out their favorite novel or biography. The digital generation can download to their MP3 players books and music that "self destruct" on their due date. Students can create PowerPoint and other digital presentations for class projects. And the library will continue to be a learning rich, safe haven after school.

The Free Library is the largest provider of free Internet services in the region. And now anyone with a library card can access exclusive databases 24/7 from home or come into any library branch for free wireless connections with a new Internet Café opening at the Central Library in just a few weeks.

Libraries must see themselves as cornerstones of the knowledge economy. Today's librarians are high tech information hunters, some of the most tech-savvy employees in the knowledge industry.

As I leave the Free Library system, a new and diverse generation of young librarians is bringing enthusiasm and creativity to the task of serving our customers and reaching new audiences. They are holding gaming nights at the branches to attract the new generation of youngsters. Research is beginning to demonstrate the power of computer games in the learning process. I daresay librarians are "hip"; librarians were dubbed one of this year's hottest occupations by U.S. News and World Report.

The Central Library, at 80, is one of the greatest information disseminators in America. We are more than halfway to the goal of our capital campaign that will give Philadelphia the world class, 21st-century, multimedia, technology-driven information treasure it deserves. Go to the library; see what a difference a century has made. It's not only about books anymore, but it will always be about the ideas, information and inspiration they contain.
===
Elliot L. Shelkrot is president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top ten of 2007 ... at APL

This is the time of year for looking back and reflecting. Here's one take on the top ten items for our library:

  1. Our Long Range Plan was a lynch-pin for many other activities throughout the year, and right from the start featured involvement by the Outagamie Waupaca Library System, engagement by staff and road representation of community stakeholders. The process that gave us some clear direction and energy.
  2. Increasing community support was manifested in many ways: increases in circulation, volunteer hours, donations to our Foundation, and the political support from the Mayor, Council, media and citizens in our recent budget process.
  3. Project Promise was a wonderful collaboration with many agencies, companies and individuals to take a multifaceted look at poverty in our community. I'm proud of the key role our library was able to play, hosting and sponsoring events and providing information supporting citizens and partners.
  4. Library staff involvement in decisions: broad active participation in our staff policy task force and staff long range planning committee proved extremely valuable. These groups both gave vital input to administration and the Library Board. A staff survey brought out many productive ideas for updating our Intranet. Later in the year, there was good involvement in revising our technology plan. And other staff groups continue ongoing good work including the Training Task Force and Kudos & Kares.
  5. Library 2.0 activities & collaborations were many, including this blog, the OWLS-sponsored Project Play and several other staff blogs, blog feeds in the Intranet, wikis for planning and task force projects, del.icio.us for a tag cloud of links on our teen page, SurveyMonkey for staff and public surveys and lots of meetings set via Doodle.
  6. All-staff training was a key recommendation of our long range plan. For the first time, we developed a mandatory training curriculum that included everyone. Broad involvement in establishing the priorities and presenting material was critical -- this was not just a top-down exercise, but a real effort to give everyone useful information. It was a success and we learned things to make it better next year.
  7. We're going forward with a Building Study, after asking for several years. An RFP has been sent out to consulting firms, and we expect the study to be as much a focus of 2008 as our long range plan was in 2007.
  8. Fox Cities Reads was a first, after a successful "Appleton Reads" a couple years ago. We worked with several other public libraries and had a wonderful author visit from Barbara Ehrenreich, enjoying good media attention and synergy from Project Promise. This paved the way for future community reads beyond our own boundaries.
  9. Increased budget for materials, training after years of flat materials budgets and decreasing training budgets. The long range plan and community support helped us clarify these priorities and get them supported through the city budget process. Library staff found ways of trimming in other areas to achieve these increases while keeping the bottom line small.
  10. Patron pick-up of holds & increased use of self-checks - along with volunteers helping with the shelving, this has helped us keep our heads above water despite unrelenting increases in circulation and holds.

Monday, December 17, 2007

RFP ... and after

Well, we sent out our Request for Proposals. Just getting to the point of putting this document in the mail was a two-and-a-half year process. And I don't imagine that evaluating or acting on the resulting study will be much faster. But this is a small watershed.

After the Library Board approved the RFP, we sent it to a list of 45 possible respondents, a mix of architects with some specialty in public libraries and library building consultants. We developed the list from a variety of sources:

  • firms that have done work for us in the past
  • exhibitors at this year's state library conference
  • recommendations from other Wisconsin libraries
  • firms requesting to be included
  • relevant names from lists published by Library Journal and the Library Administration & Management Association
The RFP is published on our library website -- it's a public document adopted by the Board, and we want the community to be able to oversee how we're doing this process. Accountability and openness are important.

What next? We'll field questions as they arise, and plan a process to evaluate responses. They RFP includes the criteria we'll use to evaluate any proposals, so we'll need to agree on a scoring system and timetable. Since responses are due by Feb. 1, we want to have a recommendation for the February meeting of the Library Board. What comes after that is a contracted agreement, then the study, and then ... it will depend on the results & recommendations!

In the meantime, realtors and property developers are calling me. Not that we're in a position to buy nor likely to be anytime soon, but it's good to discuss options.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You should read this

Last week, Doris lessing was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. In her acceptance speech, she had a number of observations that librarians and library users should consider.

We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women who have had years of education, to know nothing about the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers. ...

Very recently, anyone even mildly educated would respect learning, education, and owe respect to our great store of literature. Of course we all know that when this happy state was with us, people would pretend to read, would pretend respect for learning, but it is on record that working men and women longed for books, and this is evidenced by the working men's libraries, institutes, colleges of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Reading, books, used to be part of a general education.

Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education it was, reading, because the young ones know so much less. And if children cannot read, it is because they have not read. ...

Writing, writers, do not come out of houses without books.

There is the gap. There is the difficulty. ...

In order to write, in order to make literature, there must be a close connection with libraries, books, the Tradition. ...

We are a jaded lot, we in our world – our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency.

We have a treasure-house – a treasure – of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come on it. A treasure. Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.

We own a legacy of languages, poems, histories, and it is not one that will ever be exhausted. It is there, always.

We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.

Lessing speaks movingly about the way books and education are cherished by those people in want of them, but taken for granted and increasingly abandoned in developed Western society. She seems to blame the Internet & TV, but her bottom line is the need to cherish books and learning. That's hard to argue with.

Blogs in Plain English

Found this one on the Project Play blog -- it's a great intro to the whys & wherefores of blogging!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fox Cities Book Festival kicks off!

Fox Cities Book Festival planned for April 17-19

First-ever event to feature national, state and local authors

APPLETON (Dec. 6, 2007) — Three noted national authors are among the first writers to confirm their attendance at the first-ever Fox Cities Book Festival, which is planned for April 17-19, 2008, at several venues throughout the Fox Cities.

“I am so excited that the Fox Cities is hosting a book festival. Books are vitally important to all of us. Reading not only gives us pleasure, it also brings the outside world to us,” said Ellen Kort, Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate from 2000-04 and book festival co-chair, during the announcement this morning at the Paper Discovery Center. “Our goal is to connect readers and writers and celebrate the pure joy of reading.”

The three national authors who have already committed to participating in the Fox Cities Book Festival are:

  • Billy Collins, one of America’s best-selling poets, who served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-03

  • Naomi Shihab Nye, internationally-known poet and author of books foradults, young adults and children

  • Charles Baxter, author of the award-winning “The Feast of Love” and other noted works
“We selected our authors carefully. We want to make sure we have a good mix,” Kort said. “There is always a sense of excitement when readers have the opportunity to meet and talk with authors and we want to tap into that.”

Kort said other well-known authors – national and regional – will be added to the event’s line-up in the coming weeks.

Besides the national authors, state and local authors will also be featured at the Fox Cities Book Festival. The events will be held at various locations throughout the Fox Cities, including schools, libraries, colleges, coffeehouses and other open-to-the-public venues. A book fair featuring numerous publishers will also be held April 19 at City Center Plaza in Downtown Appleton.

“While serving as Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, one of my goals was to create a book festival for the Fox Cities, but I had to put it on the back burner because of time constraints. I am delighted that the seed has blossomed into this amazing book festival,” Kort said. “It’s a community wide event for everyone.”

Books connect people together, said Leota Ester, who is co-chair of the book festival committee. “The Fox Cities Book Festival’s purpose is to remind everyone how much fun it is to read a good book. It will be a time to appreciate the authors who write them as we listen to them tell their stories, ask them questions about how they write them and have a chance to talk with them,” she said. “Books are the way we tell our stories, the way we have new and different experiences and are an important way we learn. The festival will celebrate books, their writers and their readers.”

A recent study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts reported Americans are reading less, and reading less well. The Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence Study found that less than one-third of 13-year-olds read on a daily basis – that is 14 percent lower than two decades ago. In addition, the study discovered reading among 17-year-olds has dropped by half in the past two decades.

“Literacy is essential to our lives. We have done a great job in the Fox Cities where literacy can play an important role,” Kort said. “The book festival will promote the importance of reading and writing.”

Val Wylie, president of the Fox Cities Book Festival Board of Directors and director of the Paper Discovery Center, said the key to getting the festival off the ground was bringing the right group of people together.

“As the planning for the event grew, we kept pulling in more and more people. It is truly a community collaboration,” she said.

In addition to the Fox Cities, other Wisconsin cities hosting book festivals include Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Edgerton and Madison.

The Fox Cities Book Festival is made possible by a number of public and private donors, including: Lawrence University, the Appleton Education Foundation, the Fox Valley Library Council, a project grant from unrestricted funds within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a project grant from the Ellen Kort Literary Arts Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a project grant from the Frank C. Shattuck Community Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

For more information on the Fox Cities Book Festival, please visit www.foxcitiesbookfestival.org.

Buildings and budgets -- continued

Our Library Board's Building and Equipment Committee met this week and reviewed our draft RFP for consulting services. We wrote the first draft of this document almost three years ago, and did a major revision the following year, when we hoped our Foundation might fund the study. Most of the writing was done by Tony Wieczorek, our Library Business Manager, along with Dean Gazza, the City Facilities Manager and me. The committee gave us some fine tuning suggestions.

Once the Board approves the RFP, we'll send it out to anyone we think might be interested. We've already heard from several consultants and architects who have at least a tentative interest.

Elements of the RFP include:

  • Overview
  • Background
  • The Building
  • Future Developments
  • Deliverables
  • RFP Proposal Submittal
  • Submittal, Evaluation & Award Process
  • Site/Building Tour
  • Questions
We're hoping to hire a consulting firm by February and have a report back in June. The report should help us evaluate our alternatives, with pros & cons as well as approximate costs. Alternatives to be considered will include:
  • remodel / expand our building
  • relocate to a new or different building
  • build or establish a branch or branches
This will be a lot of work, but it's important, worthwhile and exciting. One important concern will be to do the job well. Doing it right is more important than doing it quickly. We think four months will be a good time frame for the study, but when we get the recommendation, there will be many other decisions.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The future of reading?

"The vision is that you should be able to get any book—not just any book in print, but any book that's ever been in print—on this device in less than a minute"
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Oh yeah. There's a vision...but sorting out the implications will take awhile. What does this mean for libraries? for newspapers? for bookstores?

The device in question is, of course, the Kindle, the latest and far away the greatest thing in ebook technology. It represents a quantum leap forward, marrying convenience in use with convenience in purchasing.

Simply put, take the best ebook device yet marketed and virtually hardwire it into the world's largest bookstore and you have an unprecedented knowledge distribution tool. Questions of how electronic books will affect library services are not new. But they just became a bit more real and pressing, because at first blush, the Kindle is that good.

After a quick straw poll of library staff, I decided we needed to purchase, and play with, a Kindle of our own. After a couple days of using it, I'm reluctant to pass it on. While some things are still clunky -- this is an imperfect technology -- the core experience of reading a book sure works well for me.

Quick and dirty reactions:

positive...
  • ability to quickly purchase from the Amazon store, using search and browse features -- 88,000 titles does not include everything I'd like but it's a lot -- the time from wanting a book to having & reading it is very short
  • the screen -- easy to read electronic paper
  • the user interface -- big "next page", "previous page", and "back" buttons, and a pretty intuitive and fairly sophisticated click-wheel menu system for most other things
  • light and easy to hold
  • you're online all the time, via a cellphone not wifi, connection
  • Amazon answers reference questions, and not too badly, via their nownow service
  • battery life - quite decent and charges pretty quickly
  • automatic daily delivery of newspapers
not-so-positive...
  • newspapers are awkward to read, with the click-wheel menu feeling more intrusive & less intuitive
  • annoying screen flash when you turn a page
  • no backlight
  • grey scale is 4-bit -- photos look like poor photocopies
  • menus & content manager system are a bit clunky & non-intuitive
  • more difficult to share information with others (from the bookseller's viewpoint, this might be a positive)
  • $399 is steep (but they said iPods were too expensive to succeed in the mass market, too)
It's too early to understand all the technological, economic and educational implications and impacts, but the Kindle deserves our attention. Now I've got to stop writing about it and let somebody else try it. More later!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Of books, bytes, buildings & budgets

As we approach the turning of the year, we celebrate many things and have just kicked off the holiday season with Thanksgiving. As always, I’m thankful for the community support our library receives. This year that support was manifest in our City budget for next year.

We’re a part of the City of Appleton. Although the financial support provided by our Foundation and Friends group is critical, although the reimbursement from counties and the support of the system are essential, and although the work of our volunteers is indispensable in keeping our heads above water, the City budget is still our fiscal core. A vast majority of our funding comes from City property taxes, so the budget process and decision loom large for us every year.

This year the City Council adopted the Mayor’s proposed budget for the library unchanged, and the Mayor’s budget was very similar to the Library Board’s request. The good news is that we will see a 10% increase in the materials budget after three years of no change. We’ll also be able to address some staff training needs; the training budget had eroded in the past few years and the recently adopted Long Range Plan identified this as a priority. Our increasing volume of business and increasing dependence on technology mandates a well-trained staff.

But the controversial part of the budget was our building study. For the past three years, the Library Board has requested we study our facility needs, but until this year, the Mayor was not ready to support the study, considering all the other facility concerns for the City. The need has grown more pressing as we’ve grown more crowded and the increased use exacerbates some of the difficulties of the current building. We’ve done some “make do” remodeling, but it’s better to address the needs in a serious and systematic way.

Our building is critical. Books and other library materials may be our lifeblood, and our virtual and online services may be increasingly important. But the library is still a place, a place for the whole community. The facility should make everyone feel welcome. It should be efficient to operate and should sustain the library services delivered: not only getting library materials, but doing research, attending programs and meetings and bringing children to story hours. Our current facility is functional, but less so every year and not adequate for the growing library service needs of a growing community. We need to look at some tough questions.

Some of our alderpersons were not ready to support the study. I suspect their reasons were diverse: some may have been concerned about the cost of implementing recommendations; some may have felt the study was too undefined; some may have felt that conclusions are foregone. From where I sit, the study is needed and timely, neither are the conclusions known. And though we had a close vote in including our study in the budget, it is there.

The consultants can help clarify our choices and understand costs, so the Library Board, the Mayor and Council, and ultimately the community, can decide what they want and will pay for. Choices include doing nothing, remodeling or relocating the central library, and whether to build a branch or branches – and if so, where.

Library services and our building may be under the authority of the Library Board, but our building is one of many city facilities. We’re glad that our study is going forward even while our city is looking at other facility needs. We’re also benefiting from the expertise of Dean Gazza, the City of Appleton Facilities Management Director, who had helped draft our Request for Proposals and will work with us on every step. We hope to send out our RFP in January, and then buckle down to do some work taking a good look at our options.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We love a parade!

From the Post-Crescent website: "The Appleton Public Library offers cards through the years in the 37th Annual Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade on Nov. 20, 2007. Post-Crescent photo by Steve Kabelowsky"

Several staff members, family and library supporters -- undaunted by drizzle and sleet -- carried large blow-ups of library cards from the 1930s to the present as well as historic and current photos of the library.

Young library supporters in the parade.

After the parade, children were treated to a Santa Story hour at the library. Miss Kathleen, aided by her husband Ty Westbrook, played songs shared stories and welcomed the Jolly Old Elf.
Ty & Kathleen Westbrook entertain the kids.

Miss Kathleen supervises Santa in placing a book atop the tree.

Library photos by Michael Kenney

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Our local paper reads the state's reports

Posted November 23, 2007

Appleton, Neenah libraries see big circulation increases
By Ben Jones
Post-Crescent Madison bureau chief


MADISON — A slow economy could be the catalyst of a boom at some Fox Valley libraries.

Circulation at the Appleton Public Library rose more than 10 percent last year to 1.3 million items circulated, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Terry Dawson, the library's director, said there are probably many factors contributing to the increase, but a slightly slowing economy could explain part of the increase.

"People use libraries rather than buying books (and) people that can't afford to buy books are more reliant on the library for books and other media," Dawson said.

Dawson said other factors also could be driving circulation. He said the publishing business is booming and, locally, people pick up books while they are in the library for other events and meetings.

Dawson said circulation is up among different types of materials.

"It's not just adult materials, not just children's materials, we've seen increases in both of those," he said. "It's not just media, although it is rising quickly, it's also books, we are circulating more books than ever before."

Dawson said that in general, Fox Valley libraries are doing well. Circulation varies among area Fox Valley libraries, although state statistics show Kaukauna, New London and Oshkosh libraries saw small circulation declines.

In Neenah, the public library's circulation grew by more than 8 percent last year and is up another 8 percent this year, Director Stephen Proces said.

"We have at least 750 people a day in here," he said. "It's a good cross-section of the community."

Debra Cronmiller, executive director of the Community Shelter of the Fox Valley, said libraries mean more to low-income people than people with greater means.

"If you are making $100,000 a year, you are probably still going to Barnes & Noble," she said.

Dawson said circulation increases are good news for libraries. "It's the first law of library science," he said. "Books are for use.
With all due respect to Debra Cronmiller, who does wonderful work with the homeless in our community, if you're making $100,00 a year and going to Barnes & Noble, you're probably still going to the library. There's no doubt that poor people have fewer choices and are thus in some ways more dependent on public libraries. But there's lots of stuff that even people of means will not find in a bookstore or online.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

YouTube marketing

"London Public Library: it's time to take another look!" is an interesting YouTube video from the London Ontario Public Library. I like the fact that while they're promoting their new website and cover a lot of 2.0 stuff, they also emphasize plenty of traditional services.

Read about this on John Miedema's blog -- which has been in my Bloglines list for quite awhile. John's new blog emphasizes the Slow Reading movement, and is worth viewing as a balance to all the 2.0 influences of the biblioblogosphere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reading at the intersection

In a Nov. 5 New Yorker article, "Future Reading: Digitization and its discontents", Anthony Grafton looks at Google Book Search and the Google Library Project, balancing their claims and promise with a look at how we read and process information and ideas.

He has some conclusions which should hearten, but not surprise us in the trade:

For now and for the foreseeable future, any serious reader will have to know how to travel down two very different roads simultaneously. ... Sit in your local coffee shop, and your laptop can tell you a lot. If you want deeper, more local knowledge, you will have to take the narrower path that leads between the lions and up the stairs. ... The narrow path still leads, as it must, to crowded public rooms where the sunlight gleams on varnished tables, and knowledge is embodied in millions of dusty, crumbling, smelly, irreplaceable documents and books.
It is not coincidental that we're hearing about the slow reading idea and Walt Crawford's Balanced Libraries. Even as we undertake exciting changes that help us become more interactive, deliver service with new tools and remind our patrons of our relevance in a digital world, our core values and services are essentially unchanged.

In marketing terms, reading is our brand. OK, but contrast with the public image of library stodginess. The trick here is to show off the new and glitzy without abandoning -- or ever appearing to abandon -- that core. Nor try to be all things to all people.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

That's that, now what?

Well, our building study is in our budget, on a narrow vote in the City Council. But narrow or unanimous, we go forward. Now the work starts: we have a plan for our service priorities, and we'll work with some consultants and the community to better understand our facility options and take forward some priority recommendations.

We'll thank those Council members who voted for the library, and ask our supporters to do likewise. We'll keep talking with those who voted against the library, to understand their concerns and help them understand ours. And we'll keep telling the library's story to the community, because a well-informed community will give us better input as we study our building choices.

The long range planning at our neighbor's place in Menasha reinforces the need to keep telling our story. Tasha notes some concerns in her blog:

  • Intelligent people in your community are not using your library.
  • Even more so, they have no idea what a modern library is.
  • They see us as conservative institutions.
  • They see us as insular and unresponsive in the extreme.
  • They believe every librarian fits the stereotype because they don't know or interact with librarians in real life.
  • They believe we don't care, don't want to serve, don't understand society.
While Menasha's concerns are going to be nearly identical to neighboring Appleton's in respect to these perceptions, they're broader than that. This public image fight is one for all of us, touching the whole public library community. It comes home to roost in local planning and local government voting.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Libraries and Social Networks

There's been a lot of conversation online about the new report from OCLC, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World (.pdf download, 280 pp.). There's a lot to digest, but it's plenty interesting.

The report studies the way that Internet usage has evolved and matured, focusing on

...four primary areas:
  1. User practices and preferences on their favorite social spaces
  2. User attitudes about sharing and receiving information on social spaces, commercial sites and library sites
  3. Information privacy; what matters and what doesn’t
  4. Librarian social networking practices and preferences; their views on privacy, policy and the potential of social networks for libraries
And it comes to conclusions which some may find reassuring, but others see as concerning. The good folk at the Libraries Build Communities blog note the following highlights:
  • this data shows the distinction between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” to be almost non-existent; we’ve all been online for long enough
  • the shift from users simply reading the web (in 2005) to authoring it (in 2007) is startling; library web site use decreased by 33% during this same period
  • people who use social networking sites (drum roll please) read more than people who don’t. HA!
  • social networking is qualified by interaction; social media is qualified by content creation, publishing, and sharing - more than a quarter of the general pop surveyed had used either (28%), making them more likely to participated in the social web than to have searched or borrowed from a library web site (20%)
  • people participate in social networking for interaction; users believe that it helps maintain current relationships (42%) or develop new ones (47%)
  • the general public (13%) and US library directors (14%) generally don’t think there’s a place for the library in the social web; when they do, they think we should host book clubs.
What does this mean for our future? As has been said before, books are our brand. Will library websites always be marginal in the social web? Is the community conversation in libraries essentially limited to face-to-face, though virtual elsewhere? Is this a problem or an opportunity?

Part of the report's conclusion notes:
Brand creates an important and useful set of expectations of what the organization should deliver, and conversely, brand often puts boundaries around what users believe an organization can deliver.

The library brand has put boundaries around the expectations of libraries on the social Web. Overwhelmingly, neither the general public nor librarians see a role for libraries as providers of social sites. Offline, libraries are vibrant social spaces. They are hubs of community activities and provide a venue for open exchange and dialogue. Yet, neither users nor librarians can
see such a role for libraries online.
Are we self-limiting or wisely recognizing our capacity and role? Some may read this with relief and others with sadness. This report deserves to be widely read, and we should consider the conclusions as we plan our websites and online catalogs.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Information R/evolution

Thanks to Tasha Saecker of the Menasha Library & Sites and Soundbytes for pointing out this one! Another good one from Michael Wesch in Digital Ethnography at Kansas State U. -- similar to his "The Machine Is Us/ing Us".

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Building study issues in the press

Editorial reactions from selected writers on the Post Crescent's online forum, with some of my thoughts in response in italics:

Jamtheman:
I agree we are changing and the use of how one uses the library system is also changing.We have an explosive movement in the North. I would like to use OWLS and see if they can freely provide the same information that a $50,000 study will provide. We have the knowledge...Go north young readers.
This refers to how Appleton is growing to the north, with two fairly new high schools and some major annexation miles from the downtown. Northern considerations should be a major part of this study.

OWLS certainly has expertise, but not in building design or construction -- for that you need professional expertise, likely from an architect. That will allow service needs to be translated into building concepts with some associated cost projections. And while OWLS has the ability to do many things, they are already doing many things -- this is a major project and OWLS staff does not have lots of spare time on their hands.



MikeB:
Seems to me the librarians are getting short shrift in this deal in favor of fattening the pockets of outside consultants. Who would be more expert in the library's needs, a consultant or the people that run the library? As I see it it should be a fairly simple and straight forward proposition. Look at the needs of the library over all then look at the city's demographics to determine if the existing building should be added to or a new building elsewhere in town is needed. To me it looks like the city is just trying to avoid taking any responsibility for any decisions.
From this librarian's perspective, our librarians are not getting short shrift, they're asking for help. I would certainly expect that any consultants hired would be responsive to library staff and Board, so that our expertise will be taken into account.

But I disagree that the proposition is either simple or straightforward. Since this story broke in the press, I've had people tell me that it's obvious we should build branches, I've had people tell me it's obvious we should expand our current building, I've had people tell me it's obvious we should relocate to a new building with modern design, allowing us to build some new efficiencies into operations.

I know what I think, but that doesn't give me alternatives with costs. And it's the people of this community, through their input and representatives on the Library Board and Council -- maybe even through referendum -- who get to choose. What do you, the people, collectively want? What will you pay? Not simple questions at all.


Cassandra:
All I know is that the library needs a bigger parking lot.
I can sure argue for that, but I've had other people tell me it's obvious the library needs a smaller parking lot so more people will use nearby parking ramps. Seriously. This issue alone could generate a long discussion.


tcsbiz:
Outsiders are brought for the following:

1. A knowledge of what other communities are doing.

2. The existing staff can have tunnel vision and not be aware of alternatives.

3. To minimize conflicts of interest. There are people in the community who would question large expenditures proposed by the staff.

There's no doubt that the staff could analyze the situation and propose changes but bringing in outsiders has the appearance of impartiality whether or not the impartiality actually exists.
I mostly agree -- one additional reason is particular expertise, such as civil engineering, architectural planning and cost-estimating. It's everybody's job to keep an eye on that impartiality thing, though outside consultants are less likely to have a local or hidden agenda. Not that my agenda is hidden, but it's sure possible I have tunnel vision. You could also argue that any proposal from staff is self-interested (like we would want the headaches this entails).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Newspaper editorial spot on

This opinion piece appeared in today's Post-Crescent, and indicates a good understanding of the value of public libraries, as well as current community needs. Thanks, Post-Crescent!

Posted November 5, 2007

Editorial: Library study needed to best serve city

A public library is a vital part of any community. It's a gateway to reading, but it's much more than that. It's a gateway to learning, through all sorts of media. It's a gateway to technology. And it's a community center — a place to meet, a place to be, where all are welcome.

The Appleton Public Library is no exception. It's one of the centers of the city. But the time has come to explore whether the library is meeting the needs of city residents.

Appleton has grown a lot since the library was built, in 1981, and slightly expanded, in 1996. More people are using the library, and the library has more to offer people. As a result, space in the building has become a problem.

The city's 2008 budget proposal includes $50,000 for a space needs study of the library — an idea we heartily endorse.

The importance of the study is not so much what the space needs are today, but what they'll be in the future. Expansion of some sort will be needed someday. But what kind of expansion would be best to serve the changing community?

Since any proposal, realistically, wouldn't become a reality for several years, the time is right now to conduct the study.

The library's long-range plan maps out a course. This study is needed to determine what kind of building is needed to follow that course.

The Common Council should keep the library study in the 2008 budget.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Let the public discourse begin...

This is the text of an email sent to the Library staff, the day after the City Council Finance Committee reviewed the Mayor's budget for all departments, and the our local newspaper published an article featuring the request for a library building study
---
Notes on a Sunday morning...

I know, this should be a day of rest, but I had to go and read this morning's Post Crescent first thing ...

The headline on page 2 states, in impressively large type, "Library space study budgeted." True enough, but the reality is complex and political. We've been asking for a space study for three years. This year is the first time it's been in the Mayor's budget. And now it's in the Finance Committee's budget, on a 3-2 vote, and going to the full City Council for approval on November 14. At that point, it could be removed from the budget by a majority of the Council. Based on the split vote in committee, some of the other remarks from alderpersons, and the media attention, we can expect the issue to arise in deliberations.

The Post Crescent article was actually pretty good, though I don't believe I said that the library is literally bursting at the seems. We're not, although space is getting tight, and we know that the time from a study to any significant change will be measured in years. We also know:

  • we may have enough space for today, but not for long-term needs
  • several areas of the collection are already quite tight, despite increasingly aggressive weeding
  • shelving on top and bottom shelves alleviate some needs but is not ideal for accessibility of materials
  • growth in collections and technology has eaten into floor space and reading/study seating
  • Appleton is growing in size and population, with two high schools north of Highway 41, continued annexation and construction, especially to the northeast and southeast
  • more people from Appleton use libraries in our neighboring communities than vice versa, often citing convenient location and parking as reasons
  • our exit and entryway are not ideal for security: this makes it hard for Circulation staff to monitor and creates problems when groups use our meeting room before or after hours
  • our Young Adult area is very small -- smaller than Little Chute's and much smaller than libraries in Waupaca and LaCrosse, restricting our ability to attract and serve people at a critical age
  • for economy and expediency, our 1996 expansion ignored our 1994 building study's actual recommendations and built smaller than needed for future growth
I really have to disagree with Alderperson Jirschele's comment that this study would be premature because the library needs to first determine a philosophy of service. I think we've done that with our long range plan (on our website at http://www.apl.org/policies/ApprovedPlan07.pdf), and we have given a copy of that plan to all of our City Council members. I'll be reminding Ald. Jirschele of that and trying to understand his concern. What we're looking at is not what kind of library service is needed, but what facilities options are best for delivering that service for Appleton in the coming years. Our current building is a response to existing needs in the 1990s, not future needs in the 21st century.

Assuming we get the study approved in the final budget, we will work with the Library Board and the City's Facilities Management Department to make it happen. Most likely this would mean creating a "Request for Proposals" to consulting firms who have experience in studying library building alternatives. Often this includes a team of a library services consultant and an architect. Until we actually get into a study, it's hard to anticipate every possible alternative, but major ones at this point involve:
  • doing nothing
  • remodeling and/or expanding our current building
  • relocating to a new building
  • adding branch(es), either though construction or storefront rental
  • developing a joint library with one or more neighboring municipalities
I think we're very fortunate that our Library Foundation has generously offered to contribute $10,000 to the cost of a study. We've also been talking with the Foundation about soliciting donations to help with any project that might happen. Because of community support, public libraries often are able to get significant contributions for building projects, and I hope this would ease the burden on Appleton taxpayers and help any future library projects go forward.

This will be interesting as we proceed. I hope that everyone on our staff has a sense of what we're doing and why, as I'm sure you'll all get questions. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me or refer people to me.

There were more budget issues, but I think the building study was the big one. Nobody from the Council even asked about the materials budget, so I hope that will be OK. More to come, I'm sure!

There's other stuff to talk about, but enough for now.

---
Library staff, APL users, etc. this is a good point to leave a comment here...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

1 conference, 4 blogs, 8 bloggers, 36 posts

We had a great Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Green Bay last week, thanks to a lot of good work by many people. I put a post in the blog partway through the week, but there are a lot of postings in four different blogs that I know of. If I'm missing some, please post a comment / link! Thanks to all the bloggers for sharing their experiences:

Michael Golrick / Thoughts of a Library Administrator:

Tasha Saecker / Sites & Soundbytes:
Leslie Farrell / Posterhead
The WLA Blog - with bloggers Beth Carpenter, Joy Schwarz, Pete Gilbert, Nanette Bulebosh, & Amanda Werhane
Thank you all --Wisconsin library folks rock!

Social Digital Global Shift

We need more rocking librarians. This isn't a library song per se, but it puts that 2.0 thang in perspective -- and it's catchy! The redoubtable David Lee King strikes again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jan Brett visit

They waited for hours, in a line that went around three sides of the library building. Parents were patient and kids were amazingly well-behaved. They were waiting to meet author Jan Brett and get her to sign a book.

For our library, it was a great low-cost program and collaboration with our local independent bookseller, Conkey's Bookstore. It was Conkey's, with their publisher contacts, that plugged us in to Jan's new book tour, promoting The Three Snow Bears. Jan's bus was parked for the afternoon in the library parking lot, so we had the out-of-pocket cost for a few meters. Jan, her husband and her (publisher's) staff did a lot of the work, as did the folks from Conkey's. We gave out about 200 tickets for book signings, and over 400 children and parents went through the library meeting room before the day ended. Conkey's wound up selling a lot of books in our meeting room (a worthwhile exception to the commercial use of the meeting room policy).

In late afternoon, Jan came into the library, was introduced to a receptive audience, presented a donation of several books to staff, gave a talk and drew a picture. Children, parents and librarians alike were captivated, but the best was yet to come. Following her talk, Jan signed books -- and it was a good thing that we had given out tickets so that she was not mobbed.

She was there for hours, much longer than she had agreed on or planned. Yet every child that approached her got the benefit of a big smile, a short talk and Jan's full attention. It was very fine to see a big name writer take as much time as needed to make every child feel special.

It was long hours for our hard-working children's staff, who assisted at every step and worked to keep kids entertained with stories and songs through the long wait, but I hope we see Jan on her next tour!


(Photos by Michael Kenney)

Heroes boost & disparage libraries

Ya gotta love irony. I'm rather fond of the show Heroes, but they are quick to reflect common library prejudice.

Two things in the same week:

  1. a new ALA graphics catalog shows up with a cover photo of a "Read" poster featuring Sendhil Ramamurthy of the NBC series Heroes.
  2. in the latest episode of "Heroes" (10/15/07), as reported on the Library Geek Woes blog
    Teenage Claire wanted to sneak out of the house to meet her boyfriend, so at the dinner table announced that she had to go to the library that evening to work on a research project. Her brother responds, "Duh, Claire, haven't you ever heard of the Internet?" To which she replies, "Well, duh, that's why I'm going to the library. My paper is on how the library is obsolete!"
The depressing thing, of course, is that her family buys this as reasonable and sensible. Presumably viewers are meant to see it that way as well. Perhaps Professor Mohinder Suresh should have a little chat with Cheerleader Claire on the value of libraries! That's more likely to happen than the mainstrema media buying a clue about what we do.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WLA - learning in person & online

We're in the midst of the Wisconsin Library Association annual conference in Green Bay. It's great to rub elbows with colleagues, meet vendors, have lots of conversations -- some quick, some in-depth -- and of course, go to programs. The conference team and WLA staff are doing a great job as usual.

Thanks to some good bloggers and the WLA website, there are opportunities to learn and talk about the programs even for those who were not able to get here. The WLA blog has extensive notes on many of the programs. Worth watching and following as the website become richer with links to presentations and online resources.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hacking the Library

In a post titled "10 ways to hack your local library", Jeff Scott at Gather No Dust gives us some good insights on ways anybody can exert their influence at their public library. In fact, if we at the library are doing our job we're paying attention all the time. To cite one of Jeff's insights, merely by the act of checking out a book, a library user communicates a preference that will influence future purchases.

Jeff's points are all worth checking out. The only distinction I'd make is not all libraires extend such major benefits to their friend's groups -- but the ideas are worth considering. Check 'em out! Some of these are like a low tech 2.0, but the principle is the same -- we need to be open and interactive. Library 2.0 is in many ways only good customer service principles and techniques while acknowledging and using rapid technology changes in our professional environment. Here's the outline:

  1. Check out Books
  2. Don't see it -- ask us to buy it
  3. The world is at your fingertips with Interlibrary Loan
  4. Don't know what to read? Ask us! Or ask us anything, really!
  5. Be our Friend
  6. Ask us for services
  7. Return books
  8. Ask about our services
  9. Databases are good
  10. In fact EVERYTHING is free

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adults aren't reading as much -- except maybe at the library...

Ann DeBroux reads a book called "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" by Nora Ephron in her Appleton home. Post-Crescent photo by Kirk Wagner

from the Post Crescent, Sept. 11, 2007
Studies: Adults aren't reading as much

By Cheryl Sherry Post-Crescent staff writer

Karla Breister likens her love of books to warm, gooey, straight-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies; it's hard to eat just one.

"If you have a craving and it's there … that's how I am with books," said the 36-year-old Fond du Lac woman and wismoms.com forum participant. "If I have them in the house, I will read them."

A recent week in late August found Breister catching up on three — yes, three — bestsellers, "Nineteen Minutes," "Bungalow 2" and "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," two of which were recommended by the wismoms.com book club. Her favorite? "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult.

Breister's reading habit goes against the results of a poll released in late August by the Associated Press-Ipsos, which found one in four adults read no books last year. But of the three adults who did read, Breister and other women as well as senior citizens were the most avid readers. Religious works and popular fiction were their top choices.

While book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers — the national trade association of the United States book publishing industry — saw children's and young adult book sales flourish in June (22.2 percent increase in hardcover books, 7.1 percent in paperback books), they also found sales in the adult mass market category year-to-date were down 2 percent.

The fact that fewer adults are reading is difficult to measure, said Bill Gillard, published author and assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. "You can look at those survey results … but there is so much electronic media these days it may not tell you the whole story about the actual amount of reading people are actually doing. They may be doing a ton of reading, but maybe not the wood pulp books.

"Also book sales might not tell the story because libraries are circulating books, too. It's a complicated picture," Gillard said.

According to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002 at the request of the National Endowment of the Arts and released in 2004, fewer than half of American adults read literature. Although the NEA survey found literary reading is on the decline for both sexes, women do read more literature than men. Slightly more than one-third of men now read literature, it found.

While Breister is a ravenous reader, her husband, Terry, 39, hasn't finished a book in years, she said.

"He does read the newspaper and magazines that pertain to his interests, but he's just not really interested, especially in fiction," she said.

Reading takes time, and that also might factor into fewer readers, if that is indeed the case. In 2001, author and professor Mario Vargas Llosa's article on the premature obituary of the book, which ran in The New Republic, a journal of politics and the arts, said literature has become a female activity. Men, he said, often use the excuse that they are too busy.

"According to this widespread conception, literature is a dispensable activity, no doubt lofty and useful for cultivating sensitivity and good manners, but essentially an entertainment, an adornment that only people with time for recreation can afford," he wrote.

Literature, he said, is not a luxury pastime, but rather "one of the most primary and necessary undertakings of the mind."

Gillard wonders if there is any kind of guilt associated with spending, say five hours, reading when a person could be doing something more productive.

"Maybe that plays a role, too. I don't know."

Ann DeBroux of Appleton loves to read, but like many young mothers has to arrange a time to read either when daughter Gracie is in bed or at her once-a-month women's book club, which began five years ago.

"All but one of us at the time were stay-at-home moms. We kind of thought this was a neat outlet for us — we all love reading and some of us like to write — and thought it would at least make time to read one book a month, then discuss it," DeBroux said.

The studies failed to take into consideration the estimated 117,378 libraries in the United States. While book sales may be down, the American Library Association found public library use continues to grow.

Despite the continued growth in online resources, the most recent comprehensive federal data shows the number of visits to public libraries increased 61 percent from 1994 to 2004, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While all library collections have increased, the number of e-books in these libraries has jumped more than 68 percent from 2002 to 2004.

Terry Dawson, director of the Appleton Public Library, said local library use also is on the increase.

"Changes in technology have meant changes in use, but I'm happy to say that circulation of books, for all ages, has continued to grow," Dawson said. "Although book use has grown more slowly than media use, it has increased."

In 2002, the Appleton library had 33,617 adult registered borrowers. Currently the number is 37,621 — an increase of 11.9 percent in five years. In 2002, 337,563 adult books (both fiction and nonfiction) were circulated, and in 2006, the last complete year for circulation numbers, the library circulated 380,108 adult books, an increase of 12.6 percent in adult book use.

"So it seems that book use is growing slightly faster than the number of borrowers," Dawson said. "The grain of salt here is that media use (DVDs, recorded books) is growing faster than book use. Nonetheless, book use shows continued growth."

Books on CD also go like gangbusters at the library as well as downloadable audio-books.

"But the printed book still has a lot of vitality, even if losing some market share," Dawson said.

Books are not only Dawson's job, but also his way of life.

"Speaking personally, I usually have a book on CD in my car, another book on my iPod, and I carry a lot of electronic books on my Palm Treo," he said. "That's in addition to the stack of regular bound books next to my chair. But I may be an atypical book geek and techno-nerd."

"Reading," Gillard said, "is a solitary activity that's completely dependent upon your imagination. To the extent young people and beyond … can cultivate our imaginations, the richer life we can have. … What I explain to my students in class is the book has no existence; it's squiggles on wood pulp. Whatever meaning it has comes from our own mind and the creation of it, which is fundamentally different from the creation of an excellent film, which arrives to us as almost a complete finished product. You just have to sit there and receive it.

"But it's the act of creating the characters in our minds, hearing their voices that makes it such a valuable and wonderful experience. Reading is harder, which might be a reason people are shying away from books, too. Compared to TV, it's hard. And it's long and it's slow and there's a very delayed gratification."

Although Breister can't imagine not reading, when asked how her world might change without books, she said, "Well, my house would be cleaner. It's how I relax, how I escape. It's just my thing. Some people run or go for a bike ride. I read. I would be tense all the time if I didn't read."

DeBroux, who averaged reading about four books each month this summer, said her "house is still pretty clean. My lawn still got mowed and my family wears clean clothes and we do manage to eat."

Cheryl Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 249, or csherry@postcrescent.com

Sidebars:

How to instill a love for reading in children

A love of reading begins in the home. Here are some tips to encourage your children:
  • Teach children to respect books at an early age.
  • Read aloud to children; even teens enjoy being read to.
  • Set up a daily free reading time.
  • Visit the library often.
  • Children love to read favorite books over and over again, and it's good for them.
  • Allow children to read books that are easy for them; it makes reading less of a chore.
  • Casually talk about the books they read.
  • Set up a reading incentive program.
  • Keep a book in the car and the bathroom.
  • Begin collecting books for your home library.

Writers pick their Top 10 books

Who knows more about great books than great writers? That's the premise behind J. Peder Zane's book, "The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books," which was published in January. Zane, book editor of the Raleigh News & Observer, asked 125 British and American writers to provide a list of their choices for the top 10 greatest works of fiction of all time. Authors included Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Stephen King and Michael Chabon. Here's the list in order of popularity:
  1. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy
  2. "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert
  3. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
  4. "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
  6. "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
  7. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. "In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust
  9. "The Stories of Anton Chekhov"
  10. "Middlemarch" by George Eliot
Source: about.com

Did You Know 2.0

My co-worker Melody sent me this update of the "Shift happens" video posted earlier this year -- interesting things to think about for the future. Especially for librarians supporting:

  • educators
  • job-seekers
  • technology planners
  • children & parents

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Library Links 2: the QuickRef Library Page

I love QuickRef, and I probably don't say it often enough to our Reference staff.

Time was everybody maintained link lists, often annotated. Shortly after our library set up our web site, we added a list of useful links. Managed for years by Reference Librarian (& poet) Harriet Tippet, the page was known as "Harriet's Hot Links." Harriet is gone, alas, but our link list transmogrified into a great tool to help our librarians answer questions. It soon proved popular with other libraries and patrons.

That tool is QuickRef, and it contains separate pages on a variety of topics, each page with a categorized list of links. Part of what I like is the clean and easy-to-use design, but mostly I just like that it's useful and handy. Pages include: Books & Lit. Business , Education , Ready Reference, and many others -- but for this discussion I'll focus on the Library Page.

Categories, each of which includes from four to fifteen links, are:

  • Indexes
  • Libraries
  • Full Text Indexes *
  • Wisconsin Libraries (statewide resources)
  • WI Public Libraries & catalogs
  • WI Academic Libraries & catalogs
  • Other Wis. Libraries & Associations
  • Prof. Resources
  • Listservs
Needless to say, having the most useful links gathered beats the heck out of imperfect Googling. We'll have to see what the future brings -- will del.icio.us replace separately maintained link lists altogether? Some thoughts and examples of library links in the 2.0 environment in forthcoming part 3.

Ask for What You Want

Michael Stephens & Michael Casey, writing in Library Journal, challenge us to move beyond our perceived stereotypes. They note:

Unfortunately, librarians are often portrayed as technologically backward, fearful of teens and loud noises, and overly protective of books to the point of not wanting anyone to “touch our stuff.”
Their suggestion is that we as a profession need to be more assertive. If we confront our problem patrons rather than creating new rules so we don't have to confront them, we'll be moving in the right direction. We should not hesitate to enforce our rules.

Their other example is our failure to get any library vendors to provide iPod-compatible audiobooks via libraries (surely a frequent patron complaint). I'm unsure that a lack of librarian assertiveness has been key in that issue. I suspect we don't swing enough weight in the market to make a difference in this particular battle of the Apple-Microsoft wars.

It occurs to me that budgets might be another example. We have to articulate our needs, but we're hesitant to alienate decision-makers. We may not get what we ask for, but if we don't ask, we'll surely not get it. The LJ article, and the reader responses, are worthwhile.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Policies - doubleplusgood practices

The Duncan Banner in Duncan, OK, has a story about their public library's efforts to set a privacy policy. In these time of rapidly changing technology and federal law, privacy can be uncertain. Last week I got an email solicitation from a security firm selling a special report on the serious security and privacy threat known as "Web 2.0." Not only the USA PATRIOT Act but Library 2.0 reinforce the need to have our houses in order and our library boards standing behind us.

Thus it was interesting to read in the Duncan Banner:

Privacy is an important concept, and for Duncan Public Library, this concept could become a necessity.

At their regular meeting Tuesday, members of Duncan Public Library Board discussed the possibility of instituting a patron privacy policy. While no action was taken on the item, members talked about the importance of privacy to the library patrons.

Library Director Ann Brown said, “I noticed we didn’t have a policy in place. I don’t think we’ll ever have problems with it.”

Brown said she had been reading about privacy in libraries and thought the board might want to create a policy for the library.

“I’ve just been reading a lot of about this,” she said.

During the meeting, members looked at several library privacy policies from around the country. The policies came from places including the New Jersey Library Association, the Boston Public Library in Massachusetts, and the Appleton Public Library in Wisconsin.
Of course, all our policies are published on our website; we've several times heard from other libraries asking permission to copy or adapt our policies. While our policies are imperfect and keeping them up-to-date is an ongoing challenge, this speaks well for our staff and board, and the good effort that goes into policy maintenance.

Library Links 1: L4L

How do we find what we need to know? Librarians know that just typing something into a Google search has some severe limitations. There are advantages to finding the good stuff, consulting experts and beginning with some of the research that's already been done to identify useful sources.

There are a lot of places that put together useful links of websites to help librarians do their jobs. One of the most useful for me is the L4L site (Links for Libraries) maintained by the folks at the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (OWLS).

L4L is handy because its designed to help the system member libraries with their professional concerns. Some of these concerns might be specific for libraries in Wisconsin, but much of it would be useful anywhere. Topics are kept up-to-date and represent a broad range of library services and concerns -- political, professional and technical:

  • Acronym Lists
  • Associations & Organizations
  • Blog Use in Libraries
  • Book-Related Info (awards, bestsellers, etc.)
  • Buildings
  • Caring for Materials
  • Certification
  • Children's Services
  • Collection Development
  • Continuing Education
  • Copyright
  • County Planning & Funding
  • Discussion Lists
  • DPI/DLTCL Info
  • Employment
  • Endowment Funds
  • Filtering [ALA Filters & Filtering]
  • Foundations
  • Fundraising
  • Health & Safety
  • IM use in libraries
  • Latino Links
  • Legislation and Advocacy
  • Library Law
  • Marketing & Promotion
  • Meetings
  • Online Publications
  • Personnel
  • Planning
  • Podcasting
  • Policies
  • Privacy and the USA Patriot Act
  • Readers' Advisory
  • Reference
  • Special Needs
  • Technical Services
  • Technology & Trends
  • Trustees
  • Volunteers and Friends
  • Webmeisters
  • WI Library System Web Sites
  • WI Public Library Standards
  • Young Adult Services