Friday, February 23, 2007

Toward Community: statement on Cha Vang

I'm chairing the Toward Community: Unity in Diversity Board of Directors. I'm an individual member, but the library is also a member, as we're also a member of the Multicultural Center. Why is this a library thing?
  • the library is part of the community
  • the library is committed to serving the entire community on an equal basis
  • support for cultural diversity is implicit in the public library ideals of intellectual freedom and fair treatment of all points of view
Looking at the recent and nearby tragic murder of a Hmong hunter in that context ,and with a good deal of input, I drafted the following statement. This was approved by the Toward Community board and sent to the Attorney General, prosecuting District Attorney, media and community groups. The statement itself has nothing particular to do with the library, but I'm not embarrassed to have people think that the library director speaks up for inclusiveness.
Statement on the death of Cha Vang

The Toward Community: Unity in Diversity Board of Directors notes that we are all saddened by any untimely death, and more so by a violent death such as the murder of Cha Vang. As an organization devoted to inclusiveness and diversity in our community, Toward Community has two concerns.

First, there seems to have been a rush to judgment on the part of prosecuting attorneys that Wisconsin’s Hate Crime statutes were not applicable. Given the history of the accused, as well as remarks the accused made to law enforcement, and the vicious violence apparent in the condition of Cha Vang’s body, we are unconvinced that there is no Hate Crime here. We encourage prosecutors to keep this option open through their investigations.

Second, we are concerned about the possibility of blaming the victim, and further blaming the victim’s ethnicity and background. The suggestion that this problem would not have occurred had Cha Vang been proficient in English is unproven. Until all the facts are known, if they ever can be, this is unsupported and could justify further discrimination. Some have suggested that Hmong people not hunt for a year or two, and this is manifestly unfair.

We can insist on better safety training for all hunters. But you can’t legislate courtesy or respect. That takes all of us, and is not furthered by discriminating against all Hmong people by applying additional restrictions.

On behalf of the Toward Community Board of Directors
Terry Dawson, President

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A grace for libraries

Our supporters and friends are surely a grace to us. Here's the dinner grace from our Library Foundation's "Love My Library" dinner, written and delivered by library board member Rev. Willis Bloedow:
O God of imagination and story,
Of memory and retention

Of community and conversation
Of authors and readers

We give you thanks.

We thank you for libraries
And for those who care for what resides therein.

For hospitality and help for those who visit them.

As we give thanks on this night,
We ask that you bless our community and our conversation
Our food and our fun

Bless our love for libraries,
The gift of knowledge and our love and care for each other.


Aw, c'mon, I'm still learning the web we have now!

The Lifeboat Foundation has a special report on the coming Web 3.0.

The Digital Divide at home

Public libraries are famously proud of efforts to bridge the digital divide and create opportunities. But have we looked hard enough at our own house?

At a staff planning retreat, a staff member handed in an anonymous question:

How would I find out about available technologies that could improve library efficiency or service?
My answer is slightly painful: if you're an administrator a supervisor, with a computer on your own desk and some ability to structure your own time, you can learn lots of things readily. Subscribe to mailing lists, read blogs, look at the Library Success Wiki, etc. If you are not among those so privileged, there are still journals to read and classes to take. As a manager, I'm both happy and obliged to point these out to any interested staff member and work to help them find training opportunities to meet their interests.

And yet, there are limitations on those who don't know what questions to ask, let alone where to look for answers. Library managers need to be proactive in making sure that a range of learning resources is available and their use is encouraged. In this context, one of our best resources is our library system. I know that our system (the Outagamie Waupaca Library System or OWLS) not only maintains an excellent, cutting-edge online catalog, but they provide great training resources for staff. They're cooking up some good technology training and I would like to encourage as many staff as possible to become involved. No matter what our future technology choices are, the more savvy our staff is, the better prepared we'll be to make those choices.

Our staff is our best & most costly resource; we need to make the most of it.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Gandhi

Mark 4:9

John Blyberg, writing about "Strategery" notes:
The reality is that public libraries are not in a position to compete with power houses like Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.
He also quotes Roy Tennant's summary of a Business Week article on corporate change:
* Watch for treacherous shifts
* Get your best people behind the program
* Give your new initiatives room to breathe
* Make painful breaks with the past
* Don’t confuse what your company does with how it does it
One answer is that our mission differs profoundly from Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. They make a profit; we provide learning opportunities and build community. If we were only about moving popular materials, I'd find the concern more valid.

Read, think, discuss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jessamyn West: "2.0... no big deal"

Jessamyn West of has posted slides form a talk on Library 2.0 that are interesting and informative and have lots of good links. It's worth noting that "no big deal" in this context does not mean "unimportant." Strongly recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn more about what the 2.0 foofaraw is.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Goth socks

goth socks
Originally uploaded by Terry Dawson.
What a creative Reference staff at our library! I believe these were done to prepare for a young adult program, though it looks pretty darn therapeutic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I Love My Library Dinner

It was a heavy load for many volunteers and a bit of a burnout for the staff, but well worth the effort as 110 people got together on the Sunday before Valentine's Day for the Appleton Library Foundation's annual fund-raising dinner. A pleasant time was had by all, and the dinner, silent auction and raffle raised over $10,000 for the Library Foundation's endowment fund.

Budgets continue to be difficult as public agencies are facing tough times everywhere. The charitable giving environment is always competitive, and particularly so in Appleton the last few years. But in the face of these concerns, our library is fortunate to have a terrific group of foundation board members and other volunteers to help with fund raising. Not only do events like these raise needed funds, but they help keep the library in the public eye from the perspective of community leaders and donors.

As a library director, I can only express deep appreciation that so many other people beyond our staff are doing so much to help us. Maybe we're doing something right!

Nancy, the reading advocacy chicken

Our friends at Overdue Media, home of the online library comic strip Unshelved, have done it again. Their new character, Nancy the chicken, inspires kids to read just by clucking. Would that it were that easy. But kids do love to learn and I'm glad for the real characters that inspire kids to read as well, including parents and librarians. In the meantime, Nancy and her friends at the Mallville Public Library give me a daily smile and something to think about. Libraries are pretty funny...

Friday, February 9, 2007

the Machine is Us/ing Us

Web 2.0 from a cultural anthropologist with lots of implications for Library 2.0. Worth four minutes!!

Thanks to Jenny Levine, the Shifted Librarian.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Bittersweet Winds

Our library is fortunate to partner with our neighbor, the American Indian Center of the Fox Valley, to host the Bittersweet Winds exhibit.

This is another example of a community partnership I find exciting. Not only are we giving their exhibit a lot of exposure, while they are bringing people into the library and providing us with content, they also held their exhibit opening reception in our meeting rooms. In addition, we host the Indian Center's website on the community network (Fox Cities Online) which the library operates. And it didn't take a whole lot of staff time. This one is hitting on all cylinders for me.

Addendum, Feb. 13: we've received a complaint about the display, stating it is offensive because it decries the use of Native American names as sports mascots. I can understand why Native Americans find this practice offensive. I can understand that there is a point of view stating that no offense was intended, therefore no offense should be taken -- though this strikes me as insensitive. It's harder to understand why someone would be offended by thew statement that other people felt offended. Well, at least we're talking. Except that the complaint was anonymous!

Two (and a half) sides of an important discussion

Back in October 2005, Blake Carver on LISNews posted a depressing meditation on our impending obsolescence, Libraries and Librarians In A Digital Future: Where Do We Fit?. While there are many good answers to his questions, those questions have not gone away in the intervening months.

More recently, Will Sherman on degreetutor asks the question "Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?" and answers with 33 Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians are Still Extremely Important.

Needless to say, I'm on the side of the 33 reasons, but we dast not ignore the questions, because our users and taxpayers don't.

On the third hand, David Lee King argues that the "33 reasons" article is not needed, but says we should just be doing a better job of anticipating and adapting to change. He has a point, but I think articles like this help bolster our arguments. Some of us need more help than others with our elevator speeches.

Ranganathan's Five Pieces of Really Good Advice

Michael Stephens Tame the Web has a post on Would you rewrite Ranganathan's Five Laws for the 21st Century? One of the responses Michael quotes is:
1. Collections are for use.
2. Every collection its user.
3. Every user his collection.
4. Save time & energy of user.
5. The library is a growing organism.
Of course, this is a question that has been tackled numerous times. Some of my other favorites:
1. Information is for use.
2. Every bit of information, its user.
3. Every user, his/her bit of information.
4. Save the time of the user.
5. A network is a growing organism.
- Jean Armour Polly

1. Libraries serve humanity.
2. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated.
3. Use technology intelligently to enhance service.
4. Protect free access to knowledge.
5. Honor the past and create the future.
- Walt Crawford & Michael Gorman

0. Nothing comes before something.
1. Information wants to be free, but TANSTAAFL!
2. Share knowledge, seek wisdom
3. Build connections, grow community.
- me
This last was pronounced by our friend Karen Schneider as most appropriate for public libraries. I can see what she means -- I guess I've been out of academic libraries too long. :)

And another study suggests keeping Ranganathan's five just as they are, but adding two supplementary laws: ‘Every reader his library’; and ‘Every writer his contribution to the library.’ Although the article was written in 1999, it seems to predict many of the impacts of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0.

But another question is: why are these "laws"? I know a little bit about scientific law, and these seems more like... principles. There's debate and various schools of thought about scientific laws in the social sciences. More on that in a future post.