Thursday, May 29, 2008

Report on the second town hall meeting

By now, you've probably read the articles in the paper or seen the TV news about last night's meeting on our facility. The press coverage I've seen was accurate, if necessarily incomplete.

The evening was worthwhile. We had about 50 people, three TV stations plus the Post-Crescent & WHBY. So lots of buzz: mostly positive about the importance of the library & space needs, but also some healthy skepticism about costs. Attendees included two Library Board members, one Foundation Board member, four members of the City Council, two members of the School Board, at least two members of the County Board, the FOAL Board president, and quite a few staff. There were a number of movers and shakers, and some just there as interested library users.

Consultants from Durrant and Himmel & Wilson reviewed the process and their findings. As discussed in the previous meeting (reported here), they got input from nearly 1,000 people including surveys and in-depth interviews, and they got further feedback after the meeting. They developed some priority lists:

Community Top 5:
  • Downtown Library
  • No Branch Library
  • More Comfortable Environment
  • More Computers
  • Better Teen Area
Consultants’ Top 6:
  • Strong Downtown Library
  • No Branch Library
  • Community Gathering Space
  • Enhance Customer Experience
  • Streamline Operations
  • Technology Center
These are darn near identical and pretty close to my own list. So there's a lot of agreement about needs and priorities. As to what to do to fulfill the needs, the presentation included three alternatives. Space analysis by the consultants says that right now we have 88,000 sq. ft. and should have 118,000 for current needs. In 20 years, we should have 138,000. Interestingly, the 1994 library building study recommended about 118,000 square feet then -- if we had followed that advice we wouldn't be facing this problem today or would only be in the early stages of concern.

No matter what else we do, we should probably start moving to RFID security sooner rather than later -- it will take a few years to convert and we should have it done prior to any facility change. Radio Frequency ID has the potential to seriously improve security for library materials and save tremendous amounts of labor, but it comes with a steep price tag, in excess of a half million dollars and involving both equipment and space. We could start now, but we should finish by putting the equipment into the right kind of space.

The three alternatives:
  1. A minimal addition of 12,000 sq. ft. to the 2d floor east wing -- was clearly insufficient, but I guess it had to be publicly identified as an alternative in order to be considered and seen as insufficient.
  2. Expanding the current building on-site, was highly developed and included eliminating the Transit Center -- obviously we need to have some serious talks with Transit staff soon. I need to learn more -- it may be possible to expand on-site without relocating the Transit Center. In any event the needs of Valley Transit have to be taken into account.
  3. A new building, was a bit vague in terms of location and vision, and did not include much that would have fired people up. If there are advantages to designing new versus remodeling -- and I believe there are, I didn't hear them. Cost is an obvious, and possibly fatal, disadvantage to this alternative.
But I'm not completely sure the group had a level playing field to evaluate alternatives, partly because the consultants may have felt less free to discuss options involving any privately owned land versus City property. We need to look at the map with them, Valley Transit and downtown planners.

There was a lot of discussion and feedback, mostly useful and productive. It's a start -- and we're working on next steps. We'll have the slide show from the presentation posted soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Appleton library plans set for unveiling

Appleton Post-Crescent, Sunday, May 25
APPLETON — Residents will find out this week whether expanding, relocating or building a branch to the Appleton Public Library are favored options to deal with several shortcomings in the downtown...
While you can read the balance of the article online, and it's a pretty good article, I'd go a step further. Residents won't just "find out" -- they'll have a say. I hope we get a good turnout tomorrow night for the hearing!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cell phones: the wikiality

A couple years ago, Library Journal asked a tough question for library policy makes: "Ultimately, how do we draw a principled line between phones and computers?" We're still wrestling with how to answer it.

I've just edited the LISwiki article on cell phones in libraries, which previously read:

Many libraries forbid the use of cell phones as part of their general user responsibilities policy.

As with the practice of having coffee shops in libraries, this rule can elicit strong responses from librarians about the purpose of a library building. In 2004, the Huntington Beach (CA) public library announced a fee structure of up to $1000 for using a mobile phone within the library.[1] Other librarians have proposed blocking cell phone signals, a practice which is illegal in the United States, as a way to quell the use of cell phones against library policy by problem patrons.

In an Unshelved strip, a character uses a walkie-talkie to get around the library's "no cell phones" rule.

Some libraries have special designated areas where people can be directed to if they insist on using their cell phones.

Given that my informal poll of public libraries show that most allow reasonable use of cell phones, I thought this rather too one-sided. Many other sources cite the way that cell phones are becoming integrated into our communications, our commerce and our lives. It seems simplistic to draw a line on the technology when the real concern is noise and behavior. After my edits, the article now reads:

Many libraries forbid the use of cell phones as part of their general user responsibilities policy. Others permit cell phones in designated areas, and prohibit them elsewhere. Many libraries have no rules against cell phone use per se, but seek to deal only with behaviorial issues creating excessive noise, including ringing and loud conversations.

The problem and response can vary widely depending on the type of library, physical design and community expectations. A high school media center, the reading room in the Library of Congress, the reference area of a research library, and the children's and young adult areas of a high traffic public library may be seen as different environments in this context. Some libraries may elect to treat any and all use of a cell phone as problem patron behavior, while others treat only the noise issue.

As with the practice of having coffee shops in libraries, these rules can elicit strong responses from librarians about the purpose of a library building. In 2004, the Huntington Beach (CA) public library announced a fee structure of up to $1000 for using a mobile phone within the library.[1] Other librarians have proposed blocking cell phone signals, a practice which is illegal in the United States, as a way to quell the use of cell phones against library policy by problem patrons.

In an Unshelved strip, a character uses a walkie-talkie to get around the library's "no cell phones" rule.

What'd I miss? Of course, you can go change it back :-)

I really like quiet study areas in libraries -- but I don't want to pay a $1,000 fine for silently checking my email. Since I email on my Treo PDA phone, I could get that fine in the Huntington Beach, CA library. The library in nearby Glendale, CA has a more sophisticated response based on behavior: "Library users who are bothered by noise made by other users, including cell phone use, should not hesitate to inform staff or a security guard, who will enforce our rules".

What do you think?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jamie LaRue - market share pyramid

A couple weeks ago, when Jamie LaRue presented the keynote at the Wisconsin Strategic Visioning Summit, he described a "market share pyramid" of successive ways libraries can reach various parts of their communities. There's a copy of the whole pyramid diagram on Jamie's website.He lists the highest thing we can do is to get out in the community; I like that. It's not enough to wait for the reference questions to come to us. People don't know what resources we have to offer, so many of them will never ask. We need to put librarians at lots of tables, where they can contribute and help bring library resources to bear on many questions. That's the "librarian at every table" community development philosophy, just like I learned from Margaret Monroe, in days of yore in library school.

We have a lot to offer and contribute. I'm glad that our staff is involved on community committees, boards and task forces, and always want to be open to opportunities. It's good for professional growth of the staff and it's good for the community.

What are some other ways we could be answering the "community reference question"?

2nd public hearing on library facility needs

This is a copy of an email sent out to the Library newsletter & advocacy mailing lists.

Dear friends,

Library staff has just sent out the following press release about a meeting here at 6:30 PM next Wednesday, May 28. Our consultants will present three scenarios for addressing our facility needs. At this point, your input is again critical: it's not about buildings -- it's about what kind of library we want to have.

The library has a good plan for meeting library service needs. But how we do that depends on what the community wants. In buildings, form follows function and function follows philosophy. The philosophy -- what we, as a community believe in -- is up to you!

Please come: bring your ears, your mind, and your voice. It's not about politicians, it's not about librarians -- it's about you, your businesses, your children, your neighbors, your future. It's your library.

Hope to see you next week!


Appleton Public Library Announces May 28th "Town Hall" Meeting to Discuss Three Potential Library Proposals

APPLETON, WI – The Appleton Public Library will hold a second "Town Hall" meeting next Wednesday evening May 28th, at 6:30 in the library’s Lower Level Meeting Room. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss three potential building scenarios being put forth as a result of findings and consultants recommendations based on a library facilities study. The consultants will also seek public input.

The library began its facilities study in mid-February with Durrant architects and Himmel & Wilson consultants. The Library Board and the City of Appleton commissioned the study with financial support from the City and the Appleton Library Foundation.

Approximately 1,000 surveys were mailed in March to randomly selected residents throughout Appleton and the library’s service area. Those surveys were just one step in a thorough series of research projects conducted by Durrant, which has also included community focus groups, interviews, and neighborhood meetings to discuss the library facility. The May 28th Town Hall Meeting is the second of two neighborhood meetings.

Working closely with library and city staff, Durrant will complete a thorough review and present its final recommendations by June 30, 2008.

The Appleton Public Library is located at 225 N. Oneida Street in downtown Appleton.

One evening... five meetings downstairs

Yes, it's happening at the library. Yes, we're a community center. Yes, we need more space and better accessible meeting rooms.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taking time to plant the roses

I've been reading a number of blog responses to Meredith Farkas' legit concerns on how our profession penalizes people who present at conferences. The entire discussion is a sad comment about how little we, as a profession, support continuing education. There are several aspects, including state associations that can't afford to provide incentives for their own members who make presentations, and libraries not paying conference expenses for their staff. As a library manager, I'm more concerned about the latter.

It's a challenge for staff and managers (and governing bodies) because there are always pressing needs. So we face hard choices that shouldn't be "either/or", like getting training or buying books. But if we're going to do a good job buying books next year, we need to keep up our skills this year. Libraries are educational organizations: respecting the training needs of our own staff should be part and parcel of operations.

It's a matter of thinking in the long term. There are always urgent problems demanding attention. But sometimes we have to step back and pay attention to the important things, even if they aren't urgent.

The main thing is not to get discouraged, and keep on creatively seeking resources to do what we need to do. Education is an investment in the future. Runner & author George Sheehan wrote:
Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.
and he's right. The little voice that wants you to quit is the little voice that tells you it's pointless to try, the little voice that says it's not worth it, the little voice that says you can't do it. We're never going "win" against all the people that want to cut funding, that don't believe in libraries. We'll never convince everyone, and resources will always be tight. While we need to honestly deal with questions, we have to believe in ourselves and what we're doing. We need to believe in the future more than we believe in naysayers and seeds of doubt.

We have to believe in what we do; we have to invest in ourselves and our future. So we don't give up on training, even with tight budgets. Professional associations should look at incentives to encourage, not punish, speakers -- and libraries in particular should look at training opportunities and incentives for staff. We can keep doing good work and grow our own future.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Top down building

Tony Tallent of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County writes about "Building from the Top Down":
I want to build a library from the ground up…well, really from the top down. What I mean by this is not beginning our building with bricks and mortar but with philosophy and commitment so that we are always poised to experiment, ready to adapt and have more limitless thinking and action... the invisible that strengthens the visible.
This is right on -- our library is doing a facility study right now; we began by getting community vision for future library services and are working to get a sense of the most important "top down" criteria for planning. The architects will use these to develop some scenarios. Form follows function, function follows philosophy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Julie Andrews: When You Read

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, decrying possible library budget cuts, movie star and author Julie Andrews speaks powerfully on the value of books, reading and libraries:
I have witnessed firsthand the crucial role our libraries play in providing free access for children and adults alike in the realms of learning and literacy. Public libraries are our great teachers and storytellers, and are a vital adjunct to our schools. In this day of standardized and homogenized education, a library offers individual and personalized learning opportunities second to none.

Perhaps most important, libraries offer a powerful antidote to the isolation of the Internet, providing connection, support and community. Rather than wading in a solitary fashion through the morass of potential misinformation available on the Net, the student who conducts his or her explorations at a library has safe, professional guidance in his or her search for good books and accurate information.
This is another perspective on where we, as a society, find value. We can demonstrate a good return on investment. But the value of libraries doesn't end there.

Pay Attention: students as digital learners

Aimed at teachers, but relevant for libraries. Jamie Matczak of the Nicolet Federated Library System sent a link to this video from the TeacherTube Channel to a bunch of folks and asked: "what kinds of reading/technology skills will be necessary for the future? And how can libraries help with that solution?" It even (gasp!) talks about evil cell phones as learning tools.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jamie LaRue's Vision Keynote: the 21st century library needs to be community-centric

Jamie LaRue is Director of the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado and author of The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges. Last week he keynoted Wisconsin’s "Strategic Visioning Summit on the Future of the Library." The following notes are a mixture of what I jotted down at the time and points he reiterates on his blog.

His presentation covered four themes, six trends, five numbers that matter, and two big ideas:

Four themes:

  • save our stories
  • libraries mean business
  • libraries make citizens
  • family literacy

Six trends:

  • self-service
  • merchandising
  • emergent literacy
  • community reference
  • convergence of libraries and museums
  • passing the torch

Five numbers that matter (especially as statistical trends):

  • staff / 1,000 served
  • total expenditures per capita
  • library visits per capita
  • circulation per capita
  • program attendance per capita

Two big ideas:

  • statewide library card
  • public library districts

He noted:

the Colorado library card idea was actually easy enough to do (aside from politics!), and cost almost nothing. The library district has been clearly shown to be the most effective kind of public library, because it ties the funding to the actual users.

LaRue included several useful observations along the way, such as “every library employee believes themselves to be a graphic design wizard -- they are wrong; libraries need to require consistent use of fonts, graphics and colors" and "if you want to move materials, build displays, not bibliographies." In support of community reference, he encouraged libraries to put reference librarians into the community and let paraprofessional staff handle the 84% of reference questions that don't need a librarian.

"Easy enough (aside from politics!)" -- I like the optimism of that. One more: "The library should be the hearthstone around which storytellers gather."

The final report of the Strategic Visioning Summit will be released later this year.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Economic impact slideshow

This is the slideshow presented at the WAPL conference by David Ward of Northstar. More information is on the DPI website.

Value of social software

Value is where you find or make it. While a recent study revealed the "shocking news" that the social site Facebook is mostly a time waster, libraries can still make worthwhile use of it. Writing in her Free Range Librarian blog, Karen Schneider notes:
I realize Facebook has its silly side. ... I also don’t spend a lot of time in Facebook. I ignore actions on Facebook such as sending me “beer,” karma, stuffed beers, or the same dumb video. Once in a while I’ll play a game, but I won’t forward it to my 300+ “friends.” I check in, I tweak my profile, check messages, send a couple out, but I’m not Facebook-obsessed.
Pretty much exactly how I use it, though the game part is off work hours and I feel guilty about ignoring the pinatas and pokes people send me -- I'm not ignoring my friends, just the fun part of Facebook. I'm not very much fun at work, as coworkers will attest. The message part, OTOH, has some real utility for professional purposes, and having a library page allows one more easily updated vector of information about the organization. Facebook has recently announced "Facebook Connect", which raises the ante for serious work.

Closer to home, our InfoSoup catalog has quietly unveiled "community reviews", with an option to write a review on the pages of bib records. It'll be interesting to see if it takes off -- would love to hear more input and feedback from people in the community. What do you think?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Madison Library Board approves new building

Downtown, developers, seeking donors, fund-raising, naming rights -- they're dealing with lots of issues. See article in the Cap Times.

As Appleton continues to consider facility issues, it's worthwhile seeing how other communities are dealing with their buildings. Appleton is not Madison, nor Menasha, nor Minneapolis, but I hope we can learn from all of them.

Public libraries boost economy

Northstar Economics has unveiled the results of a statewide study on the economic impact of public libraries. The study was commissioned by the Department of Public Instruction using federal LSTA funds as well as grant funds from the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries.

In presentations at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries conference, David Ward of Northstar noted several key points:
  1. Return on investment is $4.06 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment
  2. Overall (conservative) annual economic contribution is $753 million
  3. Library serves as a knowledge/information resource base

Relevant messages for libraries to share:
  1. Particularly in a rapidly changing global economy, public libraries are a good and necessary investment .
  2. Public libraries are a consistent source of information and technology, and won't be acquired, closed down, or moved offshore.
  3. Earnings are tied to education, and with an increasing gap in income levels, public libraries level the information and technology playing field.
  4. Wisconsin is below average for per capita income and below average for growth. Libraries can be part of changing that.
  5. A growing wave of retiring baby boomers will use libraries as a key part of their working and non-working lives.
The report notes that library visits increased 28% in the past 10 years, and materials circulation, children's program attendance, computer access, and electronic access to library catalogs are also showing healthy growth.

Perhaps not coincidentally, our staff, in assessing the Best Practices Review, recently published by the Legislative Audit Bureau, noted that the Appleton Public Library shows some of the fastest growth in use among large libraries in the state. Of the ten libraries with the highest circulation between 2002-2006, only Madison and LaCrosse showed faster growth in use than Appleton; our circulation grew 22.1% in that time.

WAPL Conference Notes: an index to blog entries

The 2008 Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries Conference was held in Stevens Point on April 30th-May 2nd. Several members of WAPL and the WLA Media and Technology Section (MATS) have blogged the conference, reporting on many individual programs. These included Joy Schwarz, Michael Golrick and myself on the WLA Blog, Tasha Saecker on Sites & Soundbytes, and Nichole Fromm on nichole's auxiliary storage . Michael has also posted on his Thoughts from a Library Administrator.

See also the Post Conference Resources page for handouts, etc. -- includes some great PowerPoints!

Sessions blogged: