Thursday, May 31, 2007

Library to display regional anti-poverty award

CAP Services, at their annual award ceremony May 30, presented the Gaylord Nelson Anti-Poverty Award to the Project Promise collaboration. Michael Kenney, our library's Marketing & Development Coordinator, and Paula Morgen of the ThedaCare Community Health Action Team, received this plaque on behalf of all the agencies who worked together on the project.

It was amazing to help make this major effort grow out of our community read. I've posted enough about this before (the author visit, more about the author visit, the poverty simulation done by CAP Services at the library) that I don't want to recap it all here. It's encouraging that our collaboration received this recognition -- thanks to Nicole Harrison & the whole CAP Services gang for their ongoing efforts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

General Reference Wiki

Great introductory training on wiki collaboration for library staff.

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

The BostonNOW website reports on the dilemma faced by Massachusetts libraries. Following cuts in state revenue, local municipalities need to pass a referendum to override fiscal restrictions in order to maintain library service. These referenda have failed in 60% of communities, causing many libraries to severely cut back services and others to close. In the article "Losing our borrowing privileges", BostonNOW reports:
Municipal libraries fall victim to municipal budget woes across the state because flat revenues and rising health care and energy costs force cities and towns to choose between asking voters to raise taxes or cutting services like public libraries.
In this respect, Massachusetts is not so different from Wisconsin nor (your state's name here). The Stoneham Sun reports: Northbridge the public library has lost hours of operation, members of its staff, and its affiliation with the state public library system: no children’s story time, no summer reading program, no internet access, and no way to borrow books from other public libraries. The Saugus Public Library will close its doors this week. The building will be shuttered by the end of June. Medway’s library will suffer the same fate as Northbridge...
Ah, well, too bad for them. But as that great philosopher, Frank Zappa, taught us:

It can't happen here
It can't happen here
I'm telling you, my dear
That it can't happen here...

Who could imagine...

It can't happen here
It can't happen here
Everybody's safe and it can't happen here
Except, of course, it can happen here. All your well-earned politesse and good management can't stop it, but maybe we can soften the blow. How? I'm still trying to learn, but can think of a few ways:
  1. Make sure our services are well-aligned to the needs of the community we serve and that the community knows it. That means we keep dancing on the "give em what they want" vs. "give what they need" boundary line. Listen. Talk. Be valuable and seen as valuable.
  2. Local communities should be invested in the library that they will ultimately need to support. Being overly reliant on state funds or other outside funding -- that could dry up due to forces beyond control -- leave locals holding a big bag.
  3. Nevertheless we need to cultivate multiple revenue streams -- diversify our funding & support. We need local support, but we also need endowment funds, friends groups, volunteers, equitable reimbursements for service provided outside our funding area, and as many available grants as reasonably relevant.
  4. And we can't forget to keep working with our professional associations at the regional & state level, to make sure states don't clobber municipalities in general and local libraries in particular, and to sustain library collaborations. We need to energizie trustees & friends to be involved as well.
It makes one ask: would this community pass a referendum for a major increase in support, or would it let the library close? If communities get the libraries they deserve, what does my town deserve? What determines a town deserving a library? a good library? an excellent library?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Internet Safety Bookmarks

From the PLA Blog comes info on a nice piece of work -- useful for parents, children & young adults, as well as librarians:
The Illinois Library Association (ILA) and have partnered to develop a series of Internet Safety Bookmarks These bookmarks are designed as a series that will help educate youth and parents to make safe and informed decisions online. Each bookmark is aimed at a specific audience including kids, teens, and parents.

The three Internet Safety bookmarks are:

Dealing with Cyberbullies: Tips for Kids
Safe Blogging: Tips for Teens
Social Networking: Tips for Parents

The bookmark files are available on the ILA website for libraries to download and print locally.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Echoing around the biblioblogosphere is the hot video du jour, a mashup from Stanford University’s Fair Use Project Documentary Film Program, as reported on in Wired. The video is a brilliant example of of satirical information, as it simultaneously explains and lampoons copyright law.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Local RSS feeds

RSS feeds are multiplying. Though our library uses them internally, and our consortial catalog InfoSoup uses them for Bookletters' feeds, our library does not use them publicly. The market would appear to suggest we should look at it as a means of service delivery. Like anything, we sholdn't do it because it's trendy, but should consider what it would offer our customers. Is it an effective service? Ann Arbor District Library and the Topeka Shawnee County Library are both doing wonderful things in this area.

It's great how changes in webpages can be sent out as feeds to aggregators. Here's some feeds from our local community -- library and non-library -- in my feed list over at Bloglines:

General local interest
Internal to our library or system (as development & collaborative tools):
  • Appleton Public Library Policies
  • InfoSoup Development Blog
  • APL Wiki
  • New on the APL Intranet
My own personal feeds:
  • Hopeful Travellers - personal blog
  • my Flickr photos
  • the New Cybrary - this library blog
Off the wall technology just for fun:
  • Technorama - (and the associated podcast) from guru Chuck Tomasi
Our local newspaper's feeds:
  • The Appleton Post-Crescent Breaking News
  • The Appleton Post-Crescent Latest Headlines
  • Odds and Ends worth a listen (podcast)
  • Columns by Dan Flannery Podcast (podcast)
  • Weekend Preview Podcast (podcast)
My church's sermons even have a podcast feed - accessible on an iPod or right in Bloglines:
  • Appleton (FVUUF) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Fox Valley WI (podcast)
This is one of my preferred methods for getting news and staying current. What's the potential for our library services?


Approaching my 59th birthday, I'm thinking more about how long I'll stay in this job (speculation on how eagerly my departure is anticipated by other staff is counterproductive). I'm aware that in the last forty-some years, our library has not had a director stay until age 65, and as I look around at my fellow boomer/administrators, I certainly see a lot of people retiring as soon as possible. Two director colleagues who have retired in the last year have both advised me that they're not a bit sorry and everyone should retire ASAP. Change can be good for the organization as well as for the director.

I've been working continuously full-time since 1975, here since 1978, and as Director since 1996. As a career winds down, there are challenges:
  • Stay fresh
  • Don't burn out
  • Don't coast
From where I sit, the way to do this is not only in all the real excitement of Library 2.0 opportunities, which are surely a great way to stay fresh, but in some good old Management 1.0 virtues:
  • Think long range
  • Think big picture
  • Stay positive
  • Stay involved in local and professional community
  • Focus on organizational goals
This means not to get seduced by opportunities to do something big or splashy before getting out the door, but to pay attention to the plans and think years ahead. The trick is to make plans for beyond the time I'll be here but accept that the next Director may toss them out and take a whole different tack. So it goes: since nothing's permanent, there's no point in getting hung up on what happens when I move on. In making plans, I need to listen to the customers and staff and try to make this the library they need it to be, not just the one I think it should be.

I'm eligible for Social Security in 1,105 days. But who's counting? I've got a lot to learn and a lot to do!

The Four Habits of Highly Effective Librarians

Todd Gilman, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, has written a nifty essay on being effective as librarians. The whole is worth reading, but in summary, the four habits are:
  1. Openness
  2. Responsiveness
  3. Collaboration
  4. Communication
While it's surely possible to get a lot done without these traits, our jobs would be much better, and we'd frustrate other less, the more we develop these habits. Not coincendentally, this dovetails with three other things I've been thinking about lately:
  1. Tasha Saecker's excellent Library Director 2.0 essay, which emphasizes some of the same concepts.
  2. Recommendations from our staff planning task force, which in looking at issues affecting our library, did not recommend that we take up or abandon any services, but that we should work harder organizationally to exhibit some of these habits. They had a lot of other good and specific recommendations, but these traits encapsulate many grass-roots concerns.
  3. "Radical transparency", as in the cover story in the March issue of Wired, is surely the trait/habit/virtue of openness. This good article in the Long Tail blog covers some of the same ground.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Transformation Lab - Prototyping the Future

I don't know that many of us have the resources, particularly the time, to experiment as creatively as the Danes in Aarhus. Nevertheless, it's nice to be reminded that in library science, sometimes you need to do experiments.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Wisconsin Association of Public LIbraries conference notes

This is the third and final day of this year's WAPL conference. As usual, it's been a good time and worthwhile, not just for the change of pace, but for the opportunity to learn and get some perspective from other libraries.

This year, I've been one of several folks blogging the conference over on the WLA Blog, and the collective posts provide a partial snapshot by highlighting some of the sessions. Other resources, including presenter PowerPoints and bibliographies, are available on the Post-Conference Resources page.