Friday, January 7, 2011
My thanks and appreciation to many more people than space permits naming: colleagues, board members, volunteers, and citizens have added great joy and satisfaction to my years here. This is a community which cares about the difference a public library can make: I see it in co-workers, supporters, people coming up to me on the street, and in the faces of children leaving here carrying books. I feel fortunate, humbled, and privileged to have been a part of this place and this effort. Colleagues here are doing work they believe in and living their values. This makes the place exciting and fun, though there are more than a few workaholics. The patient support of my family, especially my wife, Marsha, has been daily essential to my ability to do the job.
Many people have been saying kind things to me, but I’m very aware that I’m the most public face of a big team effort. While I’ve had a fair amount to say about what the library does, there’s a big staff that contributes ideas and delivers services with commitment and professionalism. Mostly I’ve tried to listen to the community’s expressions of what they want and need the library to be, and to bring professional resources to meet those needs.
The will and the expectations of the community makes the library what it is, as expressed through people: the library staff, Boards and volunteers – as well as City staff, elected officials, library users and others who take the time to tell us what they need and what they appreciate. Librarians may run the library, but it is the community that dictates what we will be and do. Our public votes not only in elections or through elected representatives, but with their feet, their donations, their time and their care.
Most of the staff never gets to work with our boards. Year in and year out, our trustees and friends have worked diligently to express that community will. It’s been a rewarding challenge to deliberate with them how steward resources and work to meet library needs.
It’s a joy to find opportunities for community collaborations and to be part of a professional community including local libraries and media centers, our exemplary public library system, our networks and professional associations that provide valuable education, support and resources. Cooperation among libraries to serve the public should be an example to other government services.
Finally, many people have asked me what I’m going to do in retirement. I have no big firm plans, but I’m staying in Appleton and staying involved in lots of ways, though stepping away from job-related connections. I have some ongoing community activities, a few small projects, and plan to spend time with family, read, travel, and let some grass grow before deciding on too many new commitments.
I’ll remain a strong supporter of the library. I believe that the community will continue to need, to want and to get much from APL, facilitated by a terrific staff, Friends and Library Board, led by an excellent new director who will do great things here.
But at the last, it’s time for a change, for me as for APL. It’s been an honor. Thank you and goodbye.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
It seems appropriate to share a few reflections and one librarian’s opinion on where we've been and where we’re going. I've seen massive changes in how we provide library service. At the UW-Memorial Library in 1972, we hand-stamped transaction cards each time a book was checked out, filed copies of the cards in call number order, and pulled them from the files when the books came back or when somebody wanted to place a hold. We had to maintain card catalogs for people to find anything and the catalog alone at Memorial took up a room larger than many small public libraries.
As a new reference librarian here in 1978, I could answer most questions by consulting our small card catalog, the Reader’s Guide to Periodicals (and its specialized cousins), and some selected reference books. We sent inter-library loan requests only a few places, using a teletype machine. Our media collections were LP records, a few filmstrips and – just for schools and groups -- 16 mm films. We had no community meeting spaces, very few adult programs, and none for teens.
So what’s changed? There’s been a revolution in electronic communications and thus in information. Databases and Google searches have replaced many reference books. Email and text messaging have replaced postal mail and telephone. So the library’s tradition “bibliographic instruction” of teaching people how to find things has gone electronic, in big-time fashion, with informal assistance in getting an email account and formal instruction in computer basics as precursors to doing meaningful research. "Library 2.0" has developed connections and interactivity, while shared automation networks have created huge virtual collections, making more library materials available to more people in more ready fashion than ever.
Growth in electronic media has meant that library materials are continuing to change, although book circulation is still huge, DVDs, digital recorded books, and eBooks are all increasing their share of library use. Downloadable electronic files continue to shake the publishing world and libraries are struggling to define their place and preserve their values in this rapidly evolving environment.
The library has long been a community center, but is more self-consciously developing that role with programs for all ages and interests, awareness of learning as a social activity, community meeting spaces, exhibits and displays and outreach via staff involvement with partner groups. Program attendance and meeting room use have grown rapidly. In Appleton, as in many places, we are more aware of the centrality of volunteers and friends in fulfilling the library’s mission. Many essential tasks are now done by volunteers as shrinking public funding has not been sufficient for the staff to grow as quickly as demands for services. There is an increasing reliance on donations and endowments. All of this leads to the need for a strong balanced friends organization providing a variety of support including volunteers, marketing, fundraising and advocacy.
With so many changes, are libraries still the same and relevant? Absolutely, and more than ever! The unchanging mission of the public library is for information equity, intellectual freedom, and a diversity of ideas, opinions and users. Public libraries support every individual’s ability to define and pursue their own opportunity, and the changing economics of information only increase the importance of supporting that for everyone. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The public library is an institution working to guarantee this right.
The library has long been a cultural center, which no longer means a book warehouse, if it ever did. We support everyone's access to the cultural record in myriad forms. Libraries are individually responsive to their communities, but everywhere support lifelong learning, the love of books and reading, and the chance for everyone to learning independently on their own terms.
The technology changes the techniques, but not the values.
I’m leaving my job, but I’m still a librarian and will continue to work for the values of libraries – particularly public libraries.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Among her points:
- "The library, at its very core, is the cultural institution of the community. It has a unique role, which is why it is a universal in cultures with written traditions. The stewardship of the human records in that society in which the community dwells is one aspect of the role, the other, perhaps more authentic role for the library user, is the role in the enculturation [of] the next generation."
- "...the library is a reflection of its community at a moment in time. Each library tells its own story. This is who we are, we bring with us who we have been, and we strive to serve who we might be. Libraries, like their users, are in a constant state of becoming."
- "Entering a library on any given day is like standing in a river with the waters flowing around you. As you enter the library, it is your identity that becomes the driving force. How might that library serve your needs? Who are you today? Who are you in the process of becoming?"
- "On my desk sits a tiny publication that packs a wallop. It is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ... it is Article 19 that I see as a beacon for librarianship, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
- "We stand on the frontlines of ... democratic ideals, we are the community agency that welcomes you in as you are and helps you to become who you might be, which, in our country, is limited only by your own vision and determination."
- "We need to stay true to our vision. We do not have the luxury to allow ‘our current situation’ to limit our thinking, contain our potential, or impair transformation of our communities."
- "...quality literature and critical thinking require guided discovery. Conversation is key; it is in dialogue that we best serve our young charges and in fact, that we gain self-knowledge.
- Keep the community close so that you hear from supporters and detractors. Stay aware of other community agencies and align your goals to best serve your constituents.
- "Traditionally we help learners find answers to their questions. Now we are obliged to help them question the answers."
- "In a nutshell, libraries and technology have been interwoven since the days of Alexandria. And since change is our constant, what better fit for the advances of emerging technologies to find a home at your community library. As we move closer to the semantic web, we need to stay vigilante that personalized information services do not limit the perspective of our learners."
- "Librarians need to be open to the universe... We need to mine our inner resources, to continue that novice perspective of learning something so new and different in order to keep the needs of the learner fresh in our minds."
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
- Changing of the guard: new leadership, or APL:TNG -- Colleen Rortvedt has been tapped as the next Library Director -- I probably list this first because looming retirement somehow seems like a big deal to me. But after I've been gone for six months, it'll either be "Terry who?" or "this is great -- why did we never do it before?" I appreciate the extensive hiring process our Board went through to find the next Director: they made a great choice. Colleen will bring some great new energy and innovative ideas; she is poised to make positive changes. 2010's accomplishments testify to her vision and effectiveness. In any case, fifteen years of me in this chair is enough.
Last May, Brian Kopetsky succeeded Meg Shriver, our longstanding reference supervisor with whom I worked for 30 years. Meg was well loved for many reasons, nonetheless Brian has begun making some positive changes as well, showing leadership in social media, marketing, technology, and the Wisconsin public library community.
- Friends Executive Director & board bring new activism and energy -- After our Friends and Foundation merged last year, they spent some months getting organized and hired their first Executive Director -- Janice Daniels Quinlan -- who then set up a great annual meeting, recruited new board members, and has greatly expanded fund-raising and advocacy. With Jan's leadership, the Friends are increasing their visibility and effectiveness while fostering increased connections with the community.
- RFID sparks massive weeding, slated for complete implementation in 2011 -- There are four great things about the way RFID is going. First is the concept of tagging the collection mainly with volunteers, making the process shorter and cheaper to implement. Second is the tight teamwork of the group that planned the details of implementation, and went through the RFP and vendor selection process. Third is the totally massive weeding project that saw tens of thousands of marginal, worn, or outdated items pulled from the collection, buying us some needed space and making the tagging faster and more cost-effective. And finally, the bold plan to complete the project next year with sophisticated self-checks, security gates and automated materials handling. The Library Board, Mayor and City Council all approved the $400,000 capital project, which will transform many tasks when implemented in 2011.
- Meeting room changes -- We had several responses to increasing meeting room use, with associated workload issues as well as supply and demand problems. We created a new small meeting room, permanently set up as a conference room and thus readily available with minimal effort. We implemented the Evanced meeting room booking and calendar software, allowing anyone to check on room availability and put in a request 24/7 without staff mediation. Lower level rooms are now available to community groups on Saturdays. We set up a new color-coded directional signage system on the lower level, clarifying room information and eliminating confusion.
- New long range plan -- Beginning with a staff retreat in February, through meetings of a staff task force in the Spring and a Library Board/community committee in the summer, we revised our long range plan. While the new plan did not represent a radical departure (only prudent in the midst of management transition), it includes a redefined mission, a serious update and some useful new directions. Some of these were already underway with building recommendations, RFID, changes to the Friends and updated marketing efforts.
- Marketing plan & social media -- After a long evolutionary process, we have a new marketing plan with some good mechanisms to maintain communications. An active team has made our Facebook page into a great information source and opportunity for community conversation. We are poised to integrate calendar feeds, improved email communication and other social media, along with a re-branded Friends organization, to possibly re-brand the library and finally bring home the oft-delayed website revamp.
- Program attendance & meeting room use jumps -- Our annual program attendance is pushing 40,000, an increase of 16% over last year. This is related to marketing efforts and to hardworking and innovative program staff, putting together cultural and educational offerings for all ages. There's also been a huge increase in use of our meeting rooms. Both these changes reflect the increasing community center role of the library.
- Monitors depart and “Maintenance” turns into “Operations” -- We significantly tweaked, rather than transmogrified, our former Maintenance Clerks to provide some increased security and oversight backup for public services staff. We had done this with part-time Monitors for after-school hours nine months a year, but had been unsuccessful for years in getting funds to expand the Monitor hours. Instead we eliminated a few part-time unbenefited jobs, folded those duties into the Maintenance job descriptions, and gave the full-time, renamed, Operations Clerks additional training on policies and Black Belt Librarian techniques. As city Facilities Management staff has taken on more of the maintenance duties here, our Operations Clerks have used the time to start some new routines, checking in with service desks while doing their regular rounds, and provide public assistance for the increased meeting room use.
- Ebook platforms and discussions proliferate -- While a bunch of have been excited by the iPad this year, we continue to have supply, demand, format and DRM issues with eBooks. Through our system and a statewide consortium, we are able to offer downloadable eBooks in our catalog, and these can be read on Sony Readers and Nooks, as well as Androids, iPads, and iPhones. There are not yet enough titles or copies, and they're not perfectly easy to use, and they don't work on Kindles, but it's a good start. There's been a lot of conversation with much more to come.
- Building project stalls with ongoing economic concerns -- The City Council referred the Library Board's building request to a special Capital Facilities Committee, which met for some months, and is currently on hiatus until late winter or early spring. Community Development Director Karen Harkness summed up the situation nicely, saying she:
"believes the Committee would be in agreement that the most prudent way to proceed would be to build a new library. However, she also believes the Committee would be in agreement there are too many unknowns such as stimulus dollars, fundraising and the economy."Stay tuned!
Friday, October 15, 2010
It's RFID: Radio Frequency Identification, increasingly used in many libraries for all the above reasons.
RFID will change all our inventory control processes, most visibly checkout and security gates, but also check-in, reshelving, and searching for items. To implement it, we'll need to place a radio-frequency tag in or on every item in the collection, then replace our self-checks, security gates and book-drops. We'll want to add additional self-checks, new bookdrops, and automated materials handling equipment for returned items. With almost 400,000 items in our collections, this is a huge undertaking, and it will be the better part of two years before it's done.
The reason for all the work and cost is to improve service and security while lowering costs. By automating processes, we can handle more business without more staff. We can shorten checkout lines as more people use self-checks. Some libraries get 90% of checkouts done at self-checks, and we're planning to get easy-to-use checkout stations that will unlock media cases and allow payment of fines. We'll still have staff to help with problems, but any routine checkout, picking up holds etc., should go much faster.
RFID will improve library use because we'll get things back on the shelves faster, and have better tools to find lost or misshelved items. It will speed the checkout process by using faster more reliable self-checks with more functions including unlocking media cases and accepting fine payments. RFID will help stop loss with security gates which can notify staff of specific items being taken away without being checked out.
There should be considerable cost saving over time. Not only should we lose fewer items, but checkout and return processes can be highly automated. New bookdrops will check items in as they are returned, and automated materials handling will use conveyor belts to sort returned items. As implementation of new equipment is phased in, we should be able to save staff through attrition, by not using people to do repetitive tasks, and by letting attrition in non-benefited staff reduce the workforce. Staff should be able to do more high-level tasks and help the public. If use increases substantially, we would not need to increase staff commensurately.
In the past, there have been some civil liberties concerns expressed about public library RFID. In the system we are putting in place, there should be no privacy issues or concerns for two reasons:
- the radio frequency tags in our materials are very short range -- about 18" -- and require a dedicated reader on the frequency of the tags
- the tags contain nothing more than the bar code just like is currently printed on the backs of our books. Without a link into our circulation database -- which has strict privacy safeguards, the RFID data is meaningless.
We're keeping the cost much lower than it could have been by relying on volunteer labor to tag the materials. This will save many thousands of dollars over hiring temporary staff to do the project, or stringing it out for years to try to let current staff absorb the tagging duties. With volunteer help, we plan to be done tagging all the materials by next summer.
We need a lot of volunteers to help. Cheryl Kraft, the RFID Volunteer Coordinator, is recruiting and training volunteers to tag materials for RFID. She’s looking for volunteers who would be available for 1-2 hour blocks anytime during the library’s open hours to scan bar codes and tags and work with a lap top computer. The work is actually easy to learn and goes quickly. Anyone interested in learning more about this exciting new volunteer opportunity, contact Cheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
The Council has endorsed the Committee's recommendation for a single library building -- no branches. By now, there is a lot of agreement that a new downtown library building would be best for Appleton, but the location and configuration are uncertain and the funding is a very big question mark. Given the many unknowns on this project, it seems like a good idea to keep discussing, learn more, see how the economy and other factors affect available funds, and defer any final decision. If a new building is by no means affordable, then we'll need to do the best remodeling and expansion job we can to address service concerns, add needed space, and increase efficiency.
There are many reasons why new would be better than remodeled, including greater impact on downtown development, best design for improved efficiency, a larger percentage of the project done with private funds raised by our Friends group, as well as more flexible space for future growth and changes. But after a year of discussion, there are unanswered questions about how we would be able to fund a new building as well as location and the architectural relationship of potential sites to other City offices. Thus the Capital Facilities Committee has gone on hiatus, but asked two task forces to do further study on building issues and finance issues. There will be no building or site selection funds in next year’s budget, and we assume it will be several years before either an expansion of the current building or a new library could be built.
A wait of a few years is not a fatal problem: we’ve always understood that this would not be a rapid decision or a quick implementation once decided. But in our current situation crowding will get worse, it will be harder to realize efficiencies, and well nigh unto impossible to realize some of the requested service improvements that would make this library better for the community.
As time goes by, with increasing use and flat or decreased staffing, efficiency will become more important. As time goes by, with continued inaction, the library will become less of a nice place to be -- not the destination this city deserves, not the community learning center it needs. Form follows function, but form can also constrain function.
So I’m a bit disappointed that things cannot move more quickly or decisively, but realistically, this is a hard time to commit to any big projects. We need to wait for an improved economy or more funding sources. I appreciate the hard work and difficult deliberations of the Capital Facilities Committee, and trust they will reconvene in the future, with better information, to continue their efforts. In the meantime, we need to keep studying issues and possibilities, while working with our Friends and others to help the community understand the situation.
We have other pieces that are not displayed or are in staff offices. But I love the eclectic blend of local history, local and state artists and a few other things. Art is another medium through which the library expresses culture, diversity and community. Thanks, Dan!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
She said that yes, I was the one who donated it. He told her that he had been out of work and laid up for some time. During that time, he appreciated using more of the library's materials, and in particular the F&SF magazines. He said that he hoped I would continue the donation -- which I've been doing for years.
My wife said that I would very probably continue the donation; he said he would like to ensure it and handed her a folded twenty dollar bill. She said that this was not needed, that I was the library director; he said that it was even better then that I was donating, and he wanted to help. Then he left.
After he was gone, she looked more closely and found that it was in fact five twenties that he had given her: $100 cash.
When I got home from the City Council, more than a little tired from the budget wars, she shared the story of what had happened. Of course, this made my day. We'll give the $100 to the library's materials budget. The library buy some extra fantasy and science fiction titles, thanks to this generous library user who wanted to show his appreciation and make sure we keep getting the magazine. And I'll definitely keep donating F&SF.
While we know many people appreciate what they get from the library, we don't always know who, why or how much. But every now and then, there's a pleasant surprise that helps us remember why we do this.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I'm looking forward to seeing the range of responses from the thirteen member committee -- I'm sure there are many ideas I'd agree with, and maybe some I won't. Although I do not sit on the committee, Ald. Martin solicited feedback from Library administrative staff. Herewith, his questions and my responses:
BUILD NEW OR RENOVATE LIBRARY FACILITIES?
Have the past two architectural and consultant studies sufficiently established the need to address library facility concerns?
- Yes – there has been a lot of public input, including scientific random input from users and nonusers, as well as architectural and operational analysis that documents real needs.
What are the requirements of the users that may influence the site location?
- There are several market segments with identifiable site-related needs, mostly due to transportation mode:
- Automobile drivers need convenient parking
- Automobile and private bus passengers need convenient, safe drop-off
- Pedestrians, especially downtown workers and shoppers, need a site close to the central city
- Valley Transit passengers, including school children, need a site within a few blocks of the Transit Center
- Elderly, parents with multiple young children and handicapped, need convenient parking near the library entrance
- It is highly desirable that the library be perceived as serving virtually every demographic in the City. In looking at affinities to other organizations, public schools and other educational groups would rank high, as would other government (local, state and national) and a range of community nonprofit groups who would either use library space or do joint programming with the library.
- The current site is basically compatible, but the current structure lacks both design features and space for current and future community needs. Concerns in the long-range plan would be most fully addressed by a new structure designed to address current priorities and future needs, but could also be addressed by extensive remodeling.
POSSIBLE FUNDING SOURCES
Are there potential donors to the project?
- Unlike police stations, water plants or other municipal construction projects, libraries have the potential to attract significant donations to help with construction. 25-33% of project cost is not unusual for public library projects.
- There are numerous potential donors, ranging from philanthropic individuals and corporations to grass-roots donations from a wide range of the library’s 86,000 cardholders.
- Realizing this potential will require considerable effort, and we assume much of the private fund-raising could be done by the Friends of the Appleton Library (FOAL) -- our community support group. Success of private fund-raising will be greatly enhanced by two factors: naming rights and perceptions of civic presence. A new library will have significantly more potential to bring in donations than a remodel.
- Some, although this is limited and related to project scope. Potential tenants among nonprofit organizations are unlikely to be able to afford anything comparable to prime commercial rentals. OWLS (the Outagamie Waupaca Library System, which provides many services to APL) currently pays about $30,000/year, and while this is on the low side of cost per square foot in the downtown, Appleton derives many benefits from their presence in ways that would be difficult to quantify in dollars. Likewise, we once housed the Literacy Coalition pro bono. If we were to house groups such as the Literacy Coalition or Multicultural Center, it would be due to the Library’s ongoing participation in and support of these groups as much, if not more, than for revenue generation.
- There is limited potential for commercial development to be co-located with a new library, but absent the involvement of a developer from the inception of the project, this would be difficult to pursue and fit into a structure.
- The most typical commercial activity found in public libraries is a library friends’ store, which will usually sell used books, library merchandise and sometimes have a coffee bar. This would be part of library space to supplement operating income rather than to generate general revenue.
Is there an alternate solution for solving this space problem?
- The only viable alternatives comprising complete solutions are either extensive remodeling and expansion or new construction. It would be possible to address some concerns with a smaller scale remodel and expansion project, but this would almost certainly be unsatisfactory in the long term and neither result in service enhancements the community is seeking nor the same level of operational savings to be realized through more comprehensive design changes.
- Extensive remodeling and expansion could answer very well, but would neither offer as many opportunities for operational savings through significant design improvements, nor make as strong a case for private funding as would a new building. A new building could also spur other downtown development to a greater extent than an expansion.
- Neither space nor design features to meet the needs are available within the existing structure and the existing footprint.
LINKAGES TO OTHER PROJECTS
What effect will this project have on other projects?
- Much of the effect will depend on the nature of the project. For example, a new building would make the current facility available for other uses, such as a larger, more visible and accessible City Hall. A new building attached to this one and the East Ramp would likely require the relocation of Valley Transit. A new building close to the river front could impact other development initiatives.
- Presumably, were this building vacated by the Library, it would require some renovation for different use. While it is theoretically possible that some other building could be renovated as a library, this is not highly practicable due to design and engineering requirements.
Remodeling construction during the operation of the library
- There are two scenarios: one where the library moves to temporary quarters and one where remodeling is done while library operations adapt. The first would require the library to close twice for two moves and maintain dual facilities, but remodeling could be done most quickly. The second would not require closing but would entail serial disruptions of various services, and add to construction costs and duration. The extent of renovation might be a deciding factor.
- Disruptions and limited usage would be significantly less with new construction as opposed to renovation. There would only be one move and it could be phased to keep closed days to minimum. By tweaking loan periods and asking for public help, some portion of the collection could be moved by patrons checking items out from the old library and returning them to the new.
- The advantages here are relatively short-term, but would result in some operational cost impacts for about two years of any project.
- There are some substantive advantages to designing new vs. remodeling. The first is in better opportunities to design spaces to meet current and anticipated future needs, rather than adapting. New design offers greater possibilities for efficiency, ease of use, and meeting community needs. Adapting will necessarily require a greater degree of compromise. The goal is to provide the best possible public service, knowing that staffing and operational resources will be limited over the long term.
- The second advantage to new design is the message we send to – and the presence we create in -- the community. A highly visible and substantial investment in this public service makes a clear statement that this city values education, family, opportunity and community space. It says that we value our downtown and will invest in its success, creating better destinations for people, and more reasons to be part of Appleton. The library is a gateway to knowledge, opportunity and community, as well as to our downtown.
- A corollary benefit is the opportunity to create as sustainable and green a building as makes sense for operational needs and costs: as an educational and highly visible public space, this creates a statement of community values and concern for the future.