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.