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March 31, 2006

Survey: Libraries, Librarians, and Change

Please take just a few minutes to complete this survey about libraries, librarians, and change. Thanks!

Please click here to take the survey.

March 30, 2006

Courtesy Please

Another good change. Click the image for the full story from the Indie Rock Librarian.


Courtesy Please 

Library 2.0

March 29, 2006


Click on the image to go to her post. This is a great example of determination!!!!!

Library 2.0

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I got into this business of writing about libraries and librarianship because of one person.    I first saw him speak one year ago at CIL2005, where he gave a presentation with Aaron Schmidt on IM.  It was that presentation that provided me with the knowledge and encouragement to press for instant messaging reference service within my library system.  His energy level, enthusiasm and knowledge were infectious, and I walked away from that presentation feeling smarter and stronger and capable of making change happen within my library.

I got into this business because of Michael Stephens.  I imagine that there are many others who can say the same thing.  

I envy Michael’s ability to speak to his audience and make them feel as if they are THE future of librarianship.  Michael’s excitement -- his always positive outlook -- is contagious.  He speaks to groups of librarians as if they were, well, regular librarians.  He does not speak down to them.  He does not bore them with overly technical presentations.  He does not try to show off by reciting all that he has done.  He does what any excellent speaker does – he talks to his audience as humans, he talks to us as the librarians we are, and he understands that we are struggling with the same issues he is struggling with.  His goal, like mine, is simple: better librarians, better services, and better served customers.

Many of you will know why I am writing this – I am sorry for delaying what should have been said days ago.  But for everyone else, let me simply say that now is a good time to recognize those who have done so much for the biblioblogosphere, libraries, librarianship, and, most importantly, our library users.  Most certainly there are others who can be mentioned with Michael.  But for now, for this brief moment, I want to direct my praise to one person who, in my humble opinion, deserves much credit for getting so many average librarians like myself more involved in improving ourselves, our profession, and our services.

March 26, 2006

Architecture of Participation

Check out this New York Times article titled Here's an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas.   Here are two excellent passages:

"We're the founders, but we're far from the smartest people here," Mr. Lavoie, the chief executive, said during an interview at Rite-Solutions' headquarters outside Newport, R.I. "At most companies, especially technology companies, the most brilliant insights tend to come from people other than senior management. So we created a marketplace to harvest collective genius."
"There's nothing wrong with experience," said Mr. Marino, the company's president. "The problem is when experience gets in the way of innovation. As founders, the one thing we know is that we don't know all the answers."

Communicating With Blogs

This brief piece was originally meant to be included in my CIL2006 presentation titled New Technology Challenges & Success. 


How do we communicate? From the new branch construction perspective we have one primary goal, and that is maintaining excellent communications with all staff during what is, understandably, a very stressful and hectic time. Construction projects are not the best place to train and develop new staff. Nor are they all that conducive to quiet, one-on-one discussions regarding policy and procedures.

But you have to work within the reality of your situation, and in this case we’re talking about a new staff, in a new building, 65,000 items to prepare, and two months to do it in. Somehow, we needed to communicate. Our first choice would always be face-to-face, but that wasn’t always possible. And as in any work setting, we have staff who communicate on different levels, often using different generational or professional languages. Creating an environment that can comfortably encourage communication on these varying levels is never easy, but it is positively daunting to try and do it amidst book deliveries, building inspections, staff training and all of he other things involved in a new library building project.

So we needed to create other avenues for staff to communicate. As branch manager, I am not always the easiest person to reach – meetings and telephone conversations and my own email communications often take me away from that direct interaction I want to be able to provide. And staff, busy with so many tasks and unable to always work together as a large team, need another way to communicate, both informally and professionally.

What we needed was a mechanism which allowed for both horizontal and vertical communications, and which was less formal than email but had many of the attributes of face-to-face communications; namely, openness and accountability. Horizontal communications – the communications between staff who are mostly on the same level – often take place in break rooms and on the work floor. But this project had staff everywhere, and talking to a trusted co-worker wasn’t always possible. Vertical communications – communication between front-line staff and management – usually takes place either in formal meetings or through email, though hopefully is also takes place in small groups and one-on-one between worker and supervisor. But we did not have a typical library work environment, and we needed to try something new. So, we turned to an internal blog as one tool to assist us.

Our IT department rolled out to our server a WordPress blog that was both simple to learn and administer. Staff were all sent an email with a link to the new blog. Simple instructions were also sent and logging in and receiving a password were very simple operations that all staff easily understood.

Over the course of a week I posted several questions regarding branch issues. I asked staff about genre placement, shelving strategies, and scheduling. Other staff asked questions regarding in-branch parties, network passwords, and local restaurants. Very quickly most staff were checking and sometimes commenting to the blog on a daily basis.

It’s too soon to declare victory, but initial indications seem to point towards the blog serving as a positive tool for communicating both vertically and horizontally. The concept of the blog, by its very nature, lends itself to this success.

Our internal blog provides us with a very effective means to communicate. The openness of the blog lends itself to a strong sense of group-imposed responsibility. Every staff member can read and comment on the blog. Both the writer and the commenter share a responsibility that is policed by the larger community of readers. Snarky or inappropriate questions or comments will be seen as such by everyone. Likewise, questions posed but unanswered, or answered in an unsatisfactory manner, will be available for all to see. So, for both parties, reputations are at stake.

As branch manager I cannot simply choose to ignore the comments and questions posted to the blog. Oh, I could ignore them, but at my own peril, and with the loss of any positive reputation or respect. Likewise, staff value that line of communication, and so long as they use the blog in a responsible manner they know that management will respond to them.

We’ll see how the next few months play out as staff get more and more busy with direct customer interactions and library operations become just a bit more traditional. I’m hoping that the blog will continue to serve as an effective means of communicating for branch staff.


Library 2.0

Take the Leap...

..and get your library on Flickr!

Flickr Book 

March 24, 2006

The Meaning of...

From the March 2006 edition of Information World Review...

(click image for full size

Information World Review

Paul Miller and Talis are the primary focus of the article, but the folks at IWR were nice to contact me and ask for my two cents. Full article link when available.

Library 2.0

Gaming Night: Not What You're Thinking

Gaming.  The name alone conjures images of excited teens huddled around overheated Xbox consoles.  Librarians for some time now have been trying to get these teens into the library in the hope that those same teens may return on other occasions to use our other services.  But teens and gaming are controversial subjects in some quarters of librarianship (hopefully those numbers are declining), and the idea of setting aside time and money for such events is often a difficult sell for the forward thinking librarian.

On my flight from Atlanta to Washington for CIL2006 I came across an article in the March/April edition of MIT’s Technology Review titled Brain Trainer: How to conquer cognitive decline, one game at a time.  The article, written by Emily Singer, looks at the work of Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist and cofounder of Posit Science.

Merzenich created a software program that attempts to slow the rate of cognitive decline in seniors through computer-based games.  Initial results are encouraging and Merzenich hopes to begin testing the software on middle-aged victims of Alzheimers.

Now imagine going to your library decision makers and saying that you want to have regular gaming days – dedicated times were a select group of individuals can come into the library and use our computers to play games.  But this time you’re not going to say “teens”.  This time the gaming is for your older customers, and the payoff is far more than simple pleasure.  This time your goal is cognitive skill enhancement.

Suddenly, gaming takes on an all new meaning.

Library 2.0

Paul Miller on Web 2.0 / Library 2.0 -- CIL2006

Paul Miller, Talis’ Technology Evangelist, spoke Friday afternoon to a packed audience in the Jefferson Room at CIL 2006.  Paul, who I was surprised and impressed to learn holds a PhD in archeology from the University of York, is a very engaging and humorous speaker – his fluid interaction with his content made for a very good presentation.  Paul’s program on the technological benefits of Web 2.0 / Library 2.0 was very well received by a group that had probably been hearing more about Library 2.0 this week than they ever expected.  

I think many of the attendees were viewing the possibilities that APIs/mashups can provide in relation to the library’s catalog for the very first time.  Paul highlighted some of the great work coming from John Blyberg at AADL, along with Casey Bisson and Superpatron Ed Vielmetti.

Paul’s discussion had, at its core, the idea that library ILS vendors need to craft very user-friendly data mashing applications that can, at various levels, function openly regardless of ILS platform.  He highlighted many Talis initiatives that have at their core the furtherance of data usability mining library data and mashing it with Web 2.0 company information – Amazon, Google, etc.

I am, perhaps, a bit more pessimistic than Paul regarding the willingness of various ILS vendors to share, under Creative Commons license (as Talis is now doing) new applications that will allow cross-vendor ILS system data sharing.  This, to me, represents a huge and fundamental shift in the business practices of these companies, but one that I think can, as Paul pointed out, be brought about by market forces – namely, pressure from libraries.  To achieve this level of shared platform interoperability will require a library vendor détente, which would be a remarkable thing, but one that I agree must happen.

Paul also spoke to the library’s relationship with Google, and basically asked, “when did they go to Google”?  I’m not sure I agree that they “went” to Google, because I think that assumes that libraries “had” them to lose, which I don’t think we did when it came to internet search.  I’m not sure internet users ever saw their library’s search capabilities as anywhere near the top in relation to Yahoo and MSN, etc.  

Also touched upon ever so slightly was the issue of library change – a component of Library 2.0 that interests me greatly and, in my opinion, is key to our future success.  Much of what we want to do requires some rather fundamental changes in organizational cultures, and an open willingness to be more responsive and willing to change.

This was one of my favorite sessions at this year's CIL.  Paul is an excellent speaker and very fun to watch.

Finally, I have a question for Paul, “Does all of this mean that we will see a Talis booth at next year’s CIL?”

Paul's slides are here (PDF File)

cil2006Library 2.0

March 23, 2006

Take-Aways: Schmidt and Stephens CIL2006

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of sitting in on two pre-conference sessions. The first, Social Tools for Your Library by Aaron Schmidt of Thomas Ford Memorial Library, discussed the role that new social networking tools can play in reaching out to new and existing users in innovative ways.

Perhaps the greatest take-away from this session was a story Aaron recounted about an IM he had received via his library’s IM reference account. A young girl asked about a book, inquiring as to its length and how long it would take to read. Aaron provided the information and went on to have a brief discussion about another book -- classical reader’s advisory. The young girl’s IM was flowery and full of the enthusiasm of youth – lots of questions and very open in it’s tone. The take-away, however, was when Aaron told us that several days later this young girl came into the library and, as it turned out, she was very shy and not at all talkative.

It’s stories like this that remind me how important it is for us to provide our customers with as many possible channels to contact us as we can. Each channel has its strengths and weaknesses – in-person, over the telephone, via email or IM… But our customers are all different and, as this case study illustrates, every customer has their own comfort-zone, and we need to do our best to provide them with that zone.

The other session I attended on Tuesday was Michael Stephens' Technology Planning for Libraries. This is a subject that interests me greatly, and my own presentation yesterday discussed some of the same issues. Michael’s presentation touched upon some of the same things as Aaron’s, namely the importance of meeting our users “on their turf”. The significance of this cannot be stressed enough. Getting to our users instead of making them come to us will be one of the keys to our future success.

But if there was one take-away about technology planning from Michael’s presentation, it was the role that staff buy-in plays in any plan’s overall success. The need to listen to your staff, to involve them in training, the role that stories play, and, my personal favorite, the importance of transparency. Without all of these, any technology plan will face great difficulties. But without transparency, that plan – along with so many other library efforts – will fail. Staff, and often customers, must be brought into the process so that they know why we’re doing things. They must be involved in the process – planning, implementation, and review. Hide nothing.

Aaron and Michael had many other valuable things to say, and I’m very glad I was able to come in a day earlier this year in order to hear them both speak. 

cil2006Library 2.0

March 22, 2006

New Technology Challenges & Success: CIL2006

A look at technologies that are being utilized in our newest branch library, with emphasis given to the role that RFID, wireless access, blogs and wikis all play in daily library operations, including the real world benefits that such technologies can provide.

Michael Casey, Branch Manager, Gwinnett County Public Library

Chris Hall, IT Coordinator, Gwinnett County Public Library

Computers In Libraries 22 March 2006

Full PowerPoint Presentation Download

March 18, 2006


I've been working on a paper for HigherEd BlogCon on social networks and have been unable to explore Orkut. Does anyone out there have an invitation to spare? Thanks!

EDIT: Wow! That was fast! Thanks for the invite.

March 17, 2006

Come To Our UnPresentation

On Monday I’ll be traveling to Washington DC for the annual Computers In Libraries conference at the Washington Hilton. I hope to be blogging on several of the conference sessions, and discussing what sort of great ideas – take-aways, if you will – I receive from the presentations.

I, too, will be presenting with my co-worker, Chris Hall, on Wednesday at 1:45PM (Session D103 — New Technology Challenges & Successes). I was contacted just a month ago yesterday and asked if I would want to throw together a presentation for that time slot. While I cannot guarantee polish or pizzazz, I do invite everyone to come to our discussion and participate. Chris and I will be looking at four primary technologies (RFID, WiFi, Weblogs, and Wikis) and how they can be utilized in our newest library. In other words, what do each of these four individual technologies allow us to do right now for our staff and customers, and what role can they play in our streamlined, high customer service environment.

We also want to discuss what sort of future benefits these four technologies will be able to provide when they are used in conjunction with each other, or with other, existing, library services. This is where the idea of APIs and mash-ups comes into play.

We don’t plan on having a “techie” talk, and we want to try to “unconference” this discussion as much as possible. So, if you’re interested in talking about how RFID, WiFi, Weblogs, and Wikis are all contributing to greater efficiency and effectiveness in library customer service, please stop by on Wednesday and participate. We promise, we’ll only have a few PowerPoint slides!

Congratulations John & Meredith!!!!!

LJ Movers and Shakers 2006

Congrats Meredith

Congrats John


March 15, 2006

Isn't Everyone an Oenophile?

When I'm not reading about library happenings I'm usually reading about wine, so I want to pass on this bit of news. Eric Asimov, the chief wine critic of the New York Times, has a new blog devoted to wine and other drinks.  Asimov is an excellent writer and I hope this new blog gives us a more personal look at his thoughts about wine and culture.

March 10, 2006

Above and Beyond the Call: The Birth of a New Library

I don’t normally write about happenings in my own library, but the past three weeks have been some of the busiest and yet most fulfilling in my career. On Monday, February 20, my new staff of ten library associates arrived onsite in our new building. In addition to these ten, I also have one of my two librarians and my assistant branch manager. These ten associates went through over 55 hours of training and were stationed in other system libraries for several weeks, working with both the staff and the public to learn and practice their new skills.

On Tuesday the 21st, our materials began to arrive. Our first order consisted of over 20 pallets, each weighing approximately 1,000lbs. Two days later we received our second major shipment of the same size. This does not include the daily UPS delivery that sees anywhere from twenty to fifty boxes of books, nor does it include the thousands of audio books that arrived just this past week. Needless to say, this was a lot of stuff for a mostly new staff.

We were, however, not alone. Our materials department saw to it that there was some semblance of order to the deliveries, with our children’s materials arriving first since the kid’s department was farthest from the entrance. Our IT department provided us with four RFID tagging and writing stations – computers with scanners and RFID antennas, all on special mobile carts that allowed us to unpack and process the books very near where they would be shelved. Not only did this save time and energy, but it quite possibly prevented injuries that are often the result of moving large numbers of books back and forth between boxes, carts, tables and shelves.

So over these past three weeks this small staff has managed to process and shelve almost 80% of what has arrived – this calculates to approximately 54 items processed per person, per hour. Processing includes taking the materials out of the boxes, checking that every item on the packing slip is present (and many packing slips are not in the right boxes, or present at all), placing an RFID tag in every item, scanning the barcode to attach the barcode number to the RFID tag and the database, switching to check-in mode and running the item over the antenna to verify that the database correctly associates that RFID tag to the actual item record, and then shelving the item. Many of these processes were split among several groups in an assembly-line fashion.

While all of this was going on, I was trying to balance all of the requirements that come with having a new staff with the tremendous number of things that still had to be done with the physical structure itself. Completing staff transfer forms, providing keys and security codes, filling out worker’s compensation notification forms for every person, and training the new staff on branch safety procedures – all of this had to be done right away. In addition, we continue to work through a very long construction punch-list of items to be fixed or completed. Training from various lighting, security, computer and HVAC vendors was also going on, and I had to try to remember all of this for future use. These are only the large items that I remember now – there were numerous issues regarding trash dumpsters, furniture arrivals, flagpole cabling, telephone functionality, carpet repairs, foyer flooring, temporary office furniture, lost mail, and, last but certainly not least, many late night calls from the security company because our security system needed fine tuning.

None of this should be misconstrued as complaining. The new staff and the support from other branches and headquarters has been amazing. I’ve often made desperate phone calls to administrative staff, only to be met with friendly understanding and a quick resolution to the problem. Other branches have done an excellent job training and preparing my new staff. And, perhaps most important, that new staff has been amazing. All we have asked of them they have done without complaint or delay. The sight of thousands upon thousands of boxes of items did not deter them from maintaining a positive and energetic attitude. These past three weeks have been overwhelmingly busy, and everyone, staff especially, has responded above and beyond the call.

In a recent note to our entire system I wrote,

“Just today we received a shipment of 18 large book trucks and the staff unpacked them, put them together, and broke down the masses of cardboard, all within thirty minutes just so we could receive another large book shipment only hours later. It’s this kind of determination and flexibility that always amazes but never surprises me. Everyone here has the ability to stop one task, begin and finish another, and then go back to the previous job without skipping a beat, and I think this is testimony to the excellent training they received while working in other branches over the past few months.”

We are scheduled to open on Saturday, April 15. I am confident that we will be on time and ready to great our new community of users.

March 06, 2006

Online Romance: A PEW Report

Talk about social software! This new report from PEW:

The Pew Internet Project announces the release of its first report on what role the internet plays in American romance, "Online Dating."

Another distinguishing feature of the dating scene in the digital age is the newfound ability for singles to "Google" each other or search online for information relating to a potential date before they meet or even agree to meet. Of those internet users who are single and looking for romantic partners, 17% have searched for information about someone they were currently dating or were about to meet for a first date.

"Whether you meet someone offline or online, email and other forms of online communication now play host to some of the most crucial interactions in the early stages of a relationship," said Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist and co-author of the report. Indeed, a substantial segment of single and looking internet users, 40%, say they flirt online, and 28% have used the internet or email to ask someone out on a date.

However, many who use the websites don't take that extra step to follow through with an in-person meeting. Just 43% of the online daters in our sample, about 7 million, said they had gone on a date with someone they met through the sites.

And..."Some 66% of internet users agree with the statement that online dating is dangerous because it puts personal information online. And 57% of internet users agree with the statement that a lot of people who use online dating sites lie about their marital status."


Full Report 

Rural Broadband: Another PEW Report

Not as exciting as the report on online romance, but just as well written, the new PEW report on Home Broadband Adoption in Rural America gives us an excellent look into the importance of broadband penetration and the wealth of services it brings to rural America.

Overall rural internet penetration has risen quickly in recent years, with 62% of adult rural Americans at the end of 2005 with internet access, compared with 70% of adults in urban and suburban locales. This 8 percentage point gap is about half the rural-non-rural gap at the end of 2003. Coupled with fast growth in broadband adoption, the internet profile of rural America is slowly becoming more like the rest of the nation.

Full report. 


March 03, 2006

Reuters 2.0: User As Author and Editor

Tom Glocer, CEO of Reuters, made an excellent speech at the Online Publisher's Association. He discussed the role of the consumer in news content creation and delivery.  He said:

They’re consuming, they’re creating, they’re sharing, and they’re publishing themselves. So the consumer wants to not only run the printing preess, the consumer wants to set the Linotype as well….

Our industry is facing a profound challenge from home-created content…. If we create the right crossroads, provide the consumers with the appropriate tools… we can harnass what otherwise from the outside would look like a punk revolution….

Read more about on this excellent post at BuzzMachine.

March 01, 2006

"The Stream Has, In Fact, Moved On"

ALA TechSource has another excellent piece titled On Change, Library 2.0, and ALA written by Michael Stephens.

My favorite part is Mary Ghikas' email response to a question posed by Michael Stephens.  Stephens, as part of a discussion about the introduction of computing technology into libraries in the late 1960s, asked, “If you knew the term [Library 2.0] and understood the meme, would you have called that 'Library 2.0' back then?”  Part of Mary's response:

So, on reflection my answer to your serious question is "no, not really." It's also rather like my reaction to people who ask me if I like Chicago more than LA or more than DC or..... Each place is its own; each time is its own. You take places and times on their own terms. We all have "been there, done that" reactions and necessarily so, since I think that's an important part of the pattern recognition that lets us function effectively. On the other hand, most of the time "there" and "that" are not really exactly the same. The stream has, in fact, moved on.

Go to the entire piece and read it