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November 28, 2007

The Power of Photography

I am by no means a Civil War buff but I do love and appreciate photography's role in history and these recently revealed photographs of Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1863 are absolutely amazing. You can read the Center for Civil War Photography's press release (PDF) here.

Notice, also, the kind of conversations photos like this create. Verlyn Klinkenborg, writing in the New York Times, uses the photos to discuss the greater scene being shown on the fields of Gettysburg. Klinkenborg writes:

Perhaps that’s what is so convincing about this photograph. At the edges of every crowd — even at moments of intense historical importance — there is an unknown someone being distracted by the world, uninterested in what’s happening behind his back. You can see it here. We feel the power of what Lincoln was saying more strongly than those who were present did — that is, we feel its ongoing power. But if you begin walking outward from where Lincoln stood, how far would you have to go before any trace of the extraordinary nature of that day had vanished into the ordinary? The evidence of this photograph suggests that you wouldn’t have to go far at all, a few hundred yards at most.

I don’t quite know why this thought seems to matter so much to me. Perhaps it’s the irreverence of the world, the way it is always tempting you to pay no attention to that great human being uttering words that will live forever behind your back. Perhaps it’s the fact that the moments we have traditionally called history are really just brief disruptions of the heavy, dense fabric of ordinary life. Perhaps, too, it’s the way that humans, for all their ability to concentrate, will nearly always behave, if given the chance, like the animals we are — easily distracted, diverted by a sudden motion, drawn off guard by the glint of light on a camera lens.


November 20, 2007

David Brooks: The Segmented Society

David Brooks, writing in today's New York Times:

It seems that whatever story I cover, people are anxious about fragmentation and longing for cohesion. This is the driving fear behind the inequality and immigration debates, behind worries of polarization and behind the entire Obama candidacy...

...We live in an age in which the technological and commercial momentum drives fragmentation. It’s going to be necessary to set up countervailing forces — institutions that span social, class and ethnic lines.

Full text

November 19, 2007

Tech for Teens

From ComputerWorld comes a nice article about Memphis Public Library's Tech for Teens program.

Faced with dwindling enrollments in university computer science and IT programs, the Society for Information Management has taken a novel approach to engaging America’s youth in potential IT careers: It is partnering with public libraries and other organizations to create technology camps for teenagers.

The first such summer camp, which Chicago-based SIM organized three years ago with the Memphis Public Library, “connects SIM to the next generation of technology users,” says Terrice Thomas, who works at the Memphis Public Library & Information Center.

The weeklong Teen Tech Camps, which target 12-to-15-year-olds, give kids a chance to learn about BSOs — “big, shiny objects” such as iPhones, digital cameras and other gadgets — says John Oglesby, director of IT strategy at Memphis-based ACH Food Cos. and former president of the Memphis SIM chapter...

...SIM has created a set of software templates from the Memphis project that other SIM chapters can use to develop their own Teen Tech Camps with libraries and other community organizations. The software, which includes a budget template, marketing timelines and permission forms, will be available for download from SIM’s home page in the near future, Pickett says.

Full article

Amazon Kindle

There's already been a lot written about the new Amazon Kindle but I wanted to point to this good review on ZDNet.

If you’ve been considering jumping into the e-reader game, the Kindle offers enough bells and whistles to justify the $100 premium over Sony’s $299 Reader – heck the wireless access alone is worth that. But make no mistakes about it — the Kindle feels like a 1.0 device, and like most first generation products, there appears to be a lot of room for improvement. And I can’t help but believe that Amazon knows that too, but that they figured that the current version was good enough for public consumption, and that by releasing it, they could get a lot more guinea pigs.

Review link

Pew Internet: Parent and Teen Internet Use

Parents today are less likely to say that the internet has been a good thing for their children than they were in 2004. However, this does not mean there was a corresponding increase in the amount of parents who think the internet has been harmful to their children. Instead, the biggest increase has been in the amount of parents who do not think the internet has had an effect on their children one way or the other. Fully, 87% of parents of teenagers are online -- at least 17% more than average adults.

Full Report in PDF.

November 14, 2007


Originally uploaded by mstephens7.

A nicer side to library signage.

November 12, 2007


Originally uploaded by Travelin' Librarian.

Michael Stephens already blogged this but it deserves another posting. This sign is awful.

Porn at the Library

Woman Wants Porn-Watching At Library Stopped

Dozens of Gwinnett County residents will be voicing their concerns about porn on library computers. They say the county isn’t doing enough to block sexually explicit material and protect their children.

During Ruth Hardy’s last trip to the Collins Hill branch library she got more than just books. She got mad at what she saw a man watching on his computer. “It looked like she was having sex there on the computer screen,” said Hardy.

Read about it here

Mudflap Controversy

Emily, who works as a shelver at a public library in Wyoming, sent us a link to this graphic, which is part of a marketing effort by Wyoming Public Libraries. Being a lover of libraries and subverting sexist symbols, I was initially excited. I naively thought maybe Wyoming was hoping to convey, "Reading is sexy!" or "Ladies with intellect are really hot!" Which, in my opinion, might be a defensible appropriation of the mudflap girl.

Of course, I was wrong...

Read the rest of the story here.

November 08, 2007

Give One Get One: One Laptop Per Child Project

Starting Monday, November 12 at 6:00am EST, you will be able to donate one XO laptop to a child in the developing world and also receive a laptop for the child in your life, by visiting www.laptopgiving.org or calling toll-free 1-877-70-LAPTOP.


"Give One Get One" is the only time we are making the revolutionary XO laptop available to the public. For a donation of just $399 ($200 of which is tax-deductable), you will be giving the gift of education. Additionally, T-Mobile is offering donors one year of complimentary access to T-Mobile HotSpot locations throughout the United States, which can be used from any Wi-Fi-capable device, including the XO laptop.

 It's worth noting that T-Mobile's Hotspot service is currently selling for $29.99 per month.

Re-Nominate LJ Movers and Shakers

Via LIS News:

If you nominated people for Library Journal's Movers and Shakers before November 5, LJ needs you to go back and RENOMINATE those people, because due to a computer glitch, those nominations were not captured and stored on LJ's server. They are assured that the electronic nomination form is working, but if you prefer, you can supply all the information requested on the form and either fax it to 646-746-6734, or send it in an e-mail to Francine Fialkoff, fialkoff@reedbusiness.com. The deadline has been extended to November 28.

The one positive thing about this is that it gives us some extra time to nominate some of those great people out there who work so hard for libraries! 

November 06, 2007

Users or Customers: Internal and External

Ryan Deschamps over on The Other Librarian says:

This only goes to show that a user-centric library may have to also be fairly librarian-centric in the end. If we want to change our brand to something positive, we will have to invest our time and energy in attracting positive non-jerk librarians in the end. For alot of countries (and the U.S. is an exception to this) that are going to be looking at labor shortages in the next couple of years, this is going to be more and more difficult. In other words, it goes to show that going on a manifesto of user-centricity is not going to be enough to satisfy the needs of our users in the end. We have to consider the whole package. We can’t be user-centric, if our employees are jerks.

I think many have been saying this for a long time – the idea of creating internal customer service expectations that demand the same level of performance and attention as that given external customer service is key to our success. Business 2.0, Learning 2.0, and pretty much every 2.0 customer service approach has included internal service with the external, fully acknowledging that the way we treat our employees (and the way they treat each other) has a very direct and measurable impact on our external customer service. The "manifesto" you reference (and all of my writing) includes internal customers (staff) in the larger equation of user-centricity or customer-driven services.

One way we get better employees (and better employee morale) is to simply communicate with them. Finding ways for staff to communicate has always been a goal. In Living Out Loud (Library Journal, 6/1/07), Michael Stephens and I write:

Corporate blogs and wikis—and any other tools that create transparency in the organization—foster the concept of vertical teams, where front-line staff have the ability to communicate and cooperate with top-level administrators. This internal openness is as important as external transparency. Building morale within the organization—and sharing the big-picture ideas with everyone who will listen—creates a stronger and more motivated work force, one willing to participate and share new ideas. Such internal openness will translate into external transparency, which is vital to the library's future.

Back in March of 2006 I wrote about using blogs as a way to communicate internally, so that both vertical and horizontal discussions could take place in an open and productive manner. Before that, in November of 2005, writing in 3 Degrees of Separation: Libraries, Technology, and Administration, the idea of using new tools to foster internal communications is discussed:

But how do we offer these tools to an administration that does not even want to hear such words as “blog” and “wiki” and “IM”? I do not believe I am exaggerating here – I have heard first-person accounts from fellow librarians about administrators saying such things as “I don’t ever want to hear the word blog”. This despite numerous trusted sources such as Harvard Business Review (2/2005 issue) and Business Week proclaiming the necessity, the requirement, for any company to have and use an internal (behind-the-firewall) blog and, in many circumstances, an external customer-focused blog.

In Going to the Field (Library Journal 9/15/07), Michael Stephens and I write:

So how do you get administrators and support staffers to understand the daily operations of the real library? How do you get them to recognize that you deal not only with their guidelines and expectations but also with those of many other departments as well, all on top of your local duties?

Bring them out.

Bring out the maintenance administration and let them see just how dark that corner area is—perhaps sending out staff to replace lighting once a month simply doesn't work. And get those accountants out there to see how you have to count the money amidst screaming kids and a full book-drop and do it all on a tiny table without a proper chair.

Get collections staff out to see your full rows of boring fiction and your empty shelves devoid of graphic novels. Use these visits as a means to start conversations about what the users want.

Rotate administrative and support staff through the branches or various departments. Have them go through the same training that all of the front-line staffers go through. Write policies and guidelines so that staff can easily understand and comply with them.

By following this simple rule—bring them out—you'll develop a big-picture understanding of library services among your staff, and you'll see dividends immediately.

Staff morale and the "culture of no" was discussed in "Turning 'No' Into 'Yes'" (Library Journal 5/1/07), where we argued that staff with ideas must be listened to and that libraries must cultivate ideas without setting up insurmountable roadblocks to staff initiatives.

Often times, it's born at the desk. Staff members think of a new idea, and they want to share it with the decision-makers. They put together a presentation or proposal at the suggestion of their immediate supervisor and take it up to administration. But they receive a cold reception. Not only are they told, “No,” but they were “talked to” by the department head: “How could anyone think such an idea would work? Didn't they realize that their idea had been tried five years earlier?”

Good employees who were once open to change and receptive to new ideas become entrenched in their positions and somewhere along the way become closed, curmudgeonly, and unreceptive to new ideas.

But it goes farther than this. Getting staff out into the field so that they understand front-line concerns is but one step in eliminating, as Ryan calls it, the "jerks" of the library. Ask any IT staffer in my department and they will tell you that the past year has been spent listening to our customers -- branch staff and external users -- and responding to their needs and ideas. IT exists for one reason, the customers -- both internal and external -- and if we don't listen to their needs, if we fail to ask them questions and find out what is working and what is not working, then we have failed. I will not have "jerks" on my team, and I don't.

But "jerks" can only become "jerks" when other library staff -- supervisors and administrators -- allow them to continue to exist. Whether it's the passive aggressive "jerk" who stymies your every effort at change by creating barriers to innovation, or the outspoken yet anonymous "jerk" who sits at her (or his) computer on the reference desk each day turning out vitriolic diatribes against fellow librarians and library customers (presumably while ignoring those real customers in front of her), the supervisors bear the burden of responsibility. Evaluations exist for a reason, and there are plenty of other good people out there who would happily replace those "jerks".

I don't think we've ever avoided talking about the internal problems libraries and library staff face. In fact, given the record, I think we (the collective professional blogging/writing librarian "we") have always identified internal staff morale and behavior to be fundamental to excellent external customer service.


Best Friends, by Sophia

Best Friends, by Sophia
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

My daughter Sophia drew this and I had to share it because I like it so much.

November 05, 2007

The MaintainIT Project

MaintainIT  Last week Helene gave me a copy of The Joy of Computing Cookbook (2MB PDF) by the MaintainIT Project. This little gem contains very helpful info on setting up time management software for customer computers, creating and locking-down computer images, and writing technology plans, among so many things. It's designed and written for small and rural libraries but the information may be helpful for larger libraries, too (though other versions of the Cookbook are planned).

The MaintainIT Project also has a blog worth checking out. 

Something Lighter: The History of LOL Cats

Thanks to Curtis for the link!


Originally uploaded by
Michael Casey.


November 02, 2007

SCLA Keynote with Helene Blowers

The past few weeks have been terribly busy at work, with many major projects in the final stages, including a system-wide VoIP telephone migration.  So it was especially nice to be able to get away, even if only for two days, to Columbia, South Carolina, to join Helene Blowers in giving the closing keynote at the South Carolina Library Association annual conference.  Outgoing SCLA president Quincy Pugh, incoming president Curtis Rogers and everyone with SCLA did a bang-up job putting together one fantastic and informative conference.

As Helene says in her post, we put together some of Lynette Webb's provocative images, Interesting Snippets, and the slideshow can be viewed here.

No matter how many conferences I go to or participate in I never fail to come away reinvigorated with new-found energy. This conference was no different. Talking with Helene and everyone at SCLA just reinforced my belief that change, though often difficult, can be very good. Listening to the many questions and comments we got during our presentation made me realize how lucky librarianship is to have so many dedicated and giving people who go to work every day with the desire to help others. I am proud to be able to call myself a librarian.

Thank you SCLA for a wonderful time.