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(Re)Evaluating Things...

1 min read

I read three things this morning that have me really (re)evaluating what I do, how I do it and why I do it. Not in a bad way. They just got the gears turning.

They are:

How People Change - David Brooks

New Job Title: Innovation Catalyst Librarian - Andy Burkhardt

Too Much Assessment Not Enough Innovation (PDF)- Brian Matthews

 

Head in the Clouds

3 min read

For the past 3-4 weeks I have been firmly rooted in detail and day-to-day issues that I haven't allowed myself to look up and daydream. I am doing that today!

My oldest daughter has been talking about college a lot lately which is funny since she just finished Kindergarten. I don't bring it up. She just wants to know what college is like and if she can bring her stuffed animals. It makes me wonder what life will be like for her and her sister when they finish high school. Lots of possibilities. Nothing is certain. It could be a mess. It could be wonderful. I'm looking forward to experiencing whatever may come with them.

One thing for certain is that technology will play a big role in their lives. What kind of devices will be making life easier for us? So many things will evolve and 'simply' appear in the next few years. It's fun to imagine the possibilities. This is one of the advantages of my job. I get to learn about new(er) technologies and hopefully stay ahead of most people a little. The trick I'm still trying  figuring out which new technologies are worth learning more about. Which ones will be helpful to me and which will be helpful to my library. It's kind of fun.

Links for the week:

This two part post by Joe Weinman on GigaOM fascinates me. He was a keynote speaker at the IEEE First Technology Time Machine Symposium in Hong Kong earlier this month. Just the name of that symposium makes me want to go.

In the two posts below he outlines some of the technologies that are probably going to be part of our lives in the near future, what they can do and what needs to be done to make them happen. In the first part he states that a company's "new sensor chip has the power of the original Pentium chip but fits on the head of a pin." This leaves me a little slack jawed at the possibilities. It makes things like this seem more likely. I enjoy living in the future now. Just wait till the 'real' future happens.

The post below is the introduction to a larger work that I have just begun to read. I hope I can read it this weekend...if the kids let me. The authors state that we are in the third era of the web: The Social Web. (First = the Web Browser. Second = the Search Engine) That's about right. We are firmly in an era of social connectivity that has been enabled and reinforced by the web. This post focuses on Facebook and Google as leaders of the social web. They discuss how the social web is different and how it could evolve. It makes me wonder...what's the next era of the web?

 

Friday Reads - Busy Week Edition

2 min read

This was quite the busy week. Lots of travel around the county and little time to read. No complaints from me. I like visiting the branches. I went to three branches to talk about our impending Summer Reading Clubs. To make it more palatable I brought cookies/cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches/drumsticks. Yeah. I know how to make people come to a meeting.

My library is about to launch OverDrive and there has been lots of preparation for that. I've written a short 'How to get your computer ready for OverDrive' sheet for people. I hope it helps. I've also been tasked with being the point person for customer/staff education and troubleshooting once the site goes live. I know you're jealous.

I've spent today getting everything ready for another Time Machine program featuring Mr. Chris. This time he's kidnapping Richard Byrd. It's for the Moving Henrico Forward: Air, Road, Rail and Water event at the Virginia Aviation Museum this Sunday. The guys did a great job of filming and I'm really looking forward to seeing the reaction from the kids.

On to the posts

Library Renewal is an organization worth watching. The people involved are smart and have a very good understanding of libraries and electronic content. I wish them luck and am willing to help if possible.

I like it when people not directly associated with libraries discuss libraries. I especially like it when technology reporters at great technology sites discuss libraries. This one talks about the Digital Public Library. Watch the video.

The e-G8 was this week and it seems to have been an interesting mix of people. It was held in Paris a few days before the G8. Called by the French President to discuss the internet and how it affects lots of different areas, it got some mixed reviews. I like this write up because the guy from EFF was not the typical attendee.

 

Friday Reads - Free Edition

3 min read

What is the price of free? Really. Very few things are truly free. There is always a cost to be paid. Whether it is giving a company some personal information, or doing some extra work there is always a cost associated with free.

My library will be launching OverDrive in the next few weeks and this has gotten me thinking about the costs of 'free' in libraries. Libraries have generally been a place for free content. It's one of our biggest draws for many people. But what is the cost of free to the person using the library?* Usually it's time. The person who wants to read the latest bestseller usually has to wait for the book to be available. That wait can take some time. So if you are willing to be patient you can read that book for free. If you can't wait you can buy the book immediately.

The same is true for OverDrive and eBooks. While waiting for a digital copy of anything runs counter to how we think it should work it is the trade off people make for it being free. For a long time I griped (mostly to myself) about the lunacy of making people wait for a digital copy of a book. "It's bits for goodness sake! There is no limit to the amount of people who can use this right NOW! Why do they have to wait?" Well the answer is they don't have to wait for it. They are free to purchase the book from any number of places. If they want the book for free they have to wait for it. It's not perfect and I don't particularly like it. But that's the current price for free when it comes to eBooks and libraries.

Maybe this will shake things up? Maybe not. Hope so.

*Not mentioning taxation on purpose

This week's links

This post by Seth Godin got a lot of people talking this week. (I think I'll dedicate this week's list to this post and some of the responses)While some of the things he says have made a few people angry and defensive I think his last paragraph is rather encouraging.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.

A more defensive post in response to Godin.

 

Friday Reads - Lack of Focus Edition

3 min read

This week has been a bit hard. I haven't really felt like reading much or thinking about anything other than my family. My grandmother passed away on Mother's Day surrounded by her children in a comfortable place she was 88.

She was a big inspiration to me and is a major reason I am who I am. She always encouraged me to read and learn as much as I could. She taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature and passed on her love of hiking and the mountains.

I'm lucky I got to know her as well as I did. When I was in graduate school she lived within walking distance of my house. I would visit her frequently and we would often eat lunch together. We discussed many things and talked about whatever books we were reading at the time. She was the most well read person I have ever known. She read just about everything you were 'supposed' to read and lots of other things. She was NOT a Harlequin Romance reader. I could go on and on but I won't.

I love her dearly and will miss her the rest of my life.

This week's posts

This week Google announced they would begin selling Google branded 'Chromebooks' in June. These computers will only go online and will be powered by ChromeOS. ChromeOS is essentially the Chrome browser. The prices are in line with most netbooks but they will have business and student plans. These plans allow businesses and students to lease the machines for a monthly fee ($28 business $20 student). I don't know if they will work staff but they may be an option for our public machines. The monthly fee covers all upgrades, there is no licensing or security and they even replace the hardware after a few years. How much do we spend on pc's, licensing and hardware upgrades?

I'm including three posts about this topic today because they all touch on different aspects of the device.

I've always been intrigued by this idea. Check out a person to learn more about them, their ideas, history and beliefs.

Good news on digital privacy from California. The State Senate unanimously passed a bill that upgrades reader privacy laws to include digital distribution. I hope it passes the House and becomes law. If it does maybe it will be picked up in other states.

This is a good list and worth reading. My favorites:

    • Libraries are there for all ages.
    • Libraries are there in a crisis.
    • Libraries offer the human touch.

 

Friday Reads - Rushed Edition

3 min read

Not too much to report for this week. I've been thinking about other things. Family has been taking up most of my time and thoughts. Over the weekend I learned my grandmother has days left... To say that I've been incredibly sad doesn't quite describe my feelings. I'm headed home to see her and be with my mother today so this has been a bit rushed...

I did get a good evaluation though. Thanks boss!

On to the readings for this week:

After reading some less than positive things about the public library this is most welcome. David Morris provides a quick history of the public library in the US then follows up with a rebuke of privatization efforts and the closing of libraries to 'save money.' He points to some interesting studies that highlight how the money invested in public libraries provides an economic stimulus to the community. I'll have to try and read some of those. Looks interesting.

Om Malik gives us a very thoughtful post about the past, future and limits of technology. Are people the limiting factor of technology?

If the hue and cry over Apple’s location data collection methodologies is any indication, then are we the people becoming the limiting factor in the evolution of technology and its adoption? Will the idea of what computing can do and what it will be in the future be limited by our collective ability to grok these changes? I mean, things aren’t exactly getting less complicated.

Jeff Jarvis wrote a piece about the business rules and realities of news. I'm including the post here because I think they apply to libraries as well. They could probably apply to a variety of occupations. Some of my favorites:

    • Tradition is not a business model.
    • Virtue is not a business model.
    • You no longer control the market. You are a member of an ecosystem.

I'm beginning to like Francine Fialkoff. This post on the commonalities of librarians is thought provoking. She attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference in Philadelphia recently and believes the disparity between public and academic librarians is shrinking. One of the sessions she attended featured 'next-gen' librarians. They focused on a set of virtues that we could all use:

collegiality, playfulness, collaboration, flexibility, creativity, courage, and service-orientation, characteristics that must span the profession if we are to move our libraries ahead.

I also like the 'rapid prototype model' she mentions. It is essentially a philosophy that encourages:

incremental testing so that failure comes quickly in the process of change and at little cost.

 

Friday Reads - Challenges Editon

5 min read

It's been a challenging week. Both of my kids are sick and that means a serious lack of sleep. On top of that, my father-in-law and his wife visited us the first half of the week. That's a good thing but there was no time to rest. But enough of the whining.

The real challenge for me this week was trying to stay positive professionally. I'm generally an optimistic guy who tries to see the good side of things. Lately I've been thinking about the future of libraries and it's been depressing. I want libraries to succeed and thrive because I believe that we are the only institution of government that is truly open to everyone. We have the potential to assist every member of society regardless of age, gender or economics.

The thing that has gotten to me this week is the realization that our future is far from certain. I'm lucky to be in a county that values its libraries. Will that always be the case? How can I justify our existence to someone like this without sounding whiny and/or angry? What I need to do is work on my 'elevator pitch' about the value of libraries. Maybe focus on:

  • how the library is more than books
  • we are about people
    • helping them improve
  • by helping individuals improve we are improving our communities

It's a start. I'll work on it.

The posts below have helped me this week. While I don't think libraries are quaint I appreciate Cooley's response. McGuire has given me a lot to think about and I'm still trying to sort out his post. I really like P.C. Sweeney and his optimism. Andy provides a funding option that I hadn't really considered.

On to the reading:

The post isn't nearly as good as the comments. There are lots of people defending libraries and getting mad at Mr. Cooley but his response is very interesting. The part that hit me the hardest was his take on the library brand. Here's the entire quote:

Brand: Libraries, first and foremost, have a major brand issue. They span physical books, digital books, public search, proprietary search, research assistance, career counseling, literacy development, computer skills training, free internet access, movies, games, lectures, reading groups of various demos, community forums, book sales and more. Sliced another way they offer news, history, data, entertainment, elder services, children’s' services, entertainment, training and more. Either way, it’s a broad offer best summed up as "making society better". Unfortunately, like "saving the environment" you get more lip service than traction from consumers on that one. (re)Focus your brand as an industry and good things will happen.)

Short version: we're doing too much to do anything well.

Hugh McGuire has written a great post at In the Library With the Lead Pipe (which is a very good site for library ideas, theory and philosophy) about what libraries are for. He raises many good points and questions but basically it boils down to this: our business model is changing and we need to change with it. The value of a library as place full of books for people to check out will decline and we should start focusing on the other things that make us important to our communities if we are going to be funded and relevant in the future. I think this quote is beautiful:

A world of ubiquitous free or near-free ebooks is coming, in 5 or 10 or 20 years. And when that happens, a library that defines itself as “a place where you can get free or near-free books” will no longer be an institution providing a service deemed important enough to be maintained by its community. But libraries have never been solely about free books. They are about something deeper, about information, about access to knowledge, about providing a public space where citizens can interact with each other, all within the context of an exchange of knowledge. Libraries are at the core of our understanding of civilization, and if we are to keep them healthy, we’ll have to make sure that they continue to answer deep needs in our society, rather than provide particular services because they’ve always done so.

I like this post and have been thinking about it most of the week. Sweeney also thinks libraries are changing but the core service of libraries doesn't have to.

What I’m saying here in a round and about way, is that we need to continue what libraries have always been, and that is to be enablers to those who want to learn and provide the resources that enable our communities to learn. It’s not reference, its enabling our patrons to live more fulfilling lives. After all… By answering reference questions wasn’t that the real goal anyway?

Andy always writes thought provoking posts and this one isn't any different. He proposes that libraries be open to the idea of corporate sponsorship. I'm not against this idea. I actually think it could work in some cases. Would it fly here? I doubt it.

 

Friday Reads - Alumni Edition

5 min read

Since this week was spring break for my kids I took the opportunity to take them south to visit my parents in North Carolina. It was a good trip. I always enjoy going home for a few days and spending time with my parents and grandmother. The girls love playing with their grandparents and generally running their house for a few days.

I was able to visit the High Point Public Library and talk to the director there for a little while. He's about to retire after 39 years of service. He's done a good job of setting the library up for the future and I think he'll be missed. Since that library is where I got my start I'm pretty fond of it. They've recently renovated it to make a large library a huge one. It's very different from when I worked there. There aren't many people left that worked there when I did but some of the circulation staff is still there. It was great to see them. Circulation people are the unsung heroes of library land. They deserve more credit.

This trip was especially interesting for one big reason. I was able to attend my Library School's Alumni Association's Luncheon on Saturday. I had no idea that it was occuring until I contacted one of my professors to see if she wanted to have coffee while I was in town. She mentioned it was alumni weekend and they were having their annual luncheon and that I should attend. I did and I'm glad. Not only did I get to see that professor I got to see two of my other favorite professors. One of them is retired and I really was lucky to see her. I had a great time and met some of the new faculty and the new chair of the department. It seems the program is in good hands.

One of my biggest surprises from the luncheon was meeting Susan Smith, Giz Womack and Lauren Pressley. They all work at Wake Forest University. Lauren Pressley was the keynote speaker for the event and had a great presentation about the future of libraries. I enjoyed it and hope to use some of her ideas if I get to speak at VLA this fall. I also voted for her as a LITA Director at large. I don't know if she won yet. Hope she did. I was happy to meet Susan and Giz because they are both serving on the LITA 2012 National Forum committee that I am also serving on. Susan is the chair of the committee, so it was great to be able to meet her before the work starts. I'm looking forward to working with them.

There was one thing that really struck me at the luncheon. I was asked by a recent graduate for advice about finding a job. I didn't know what to say. Really. The best thing I could come up with was 'be willing to relocate' and that's pretty lame (but important). This struck me because it made me realize just how lucky I've been in my career. I graduated at a time when the economy was good and library jobs were pretty plentiful. I found work at a very good library system that has the support of its community, elected leaders, and county administration. Then I LEFT that job! My experiences in the next job were good but I wasn't ready for management yet. Had to try though. I'm glad I did. Then I was lucky to get another job with my former employer. That rarely happens here. So when this guy (who was probably my age when I graduated) asked me for job advice I felt a little guilty for being so lucky. It's tough finding library jobs these days. I know too many degreed Librarians who are under employed. I wish I could find them all jobs. But I'm going to hang on to mine for a while.

On to the readings for this week:

The big news (as far as I can tell) from this week. Amazon and Overdrive have worked out a deal that lets Kindle owners check out books from an Overdrive library. Good news? For customers/members/patrons yes. For libraries? I'm not sure. Steven Abram has written a good piece on it and included some links to other posts that discuss it.

Jason Griffey does a good job of covering the development of the Amazon/Overdrive announcement this week. He always does a good job of explaining things.
More information about the municipal broadband bill in North Carolina. I know I said this last week but I really need to learn more about municipal broadband. It's an idea that I think could go a long way to addressing the digital divide...maybe. The idea that cable/telephone companies are lobbying this hard to enact legislation to hamper the development of municipal broadband makes me think they are more than a little worried about it.
Interesting proposal I should learn more about. An interesting quote from this piece makes me wonder if the library could play a role in this (or a similar) plan:
Ozment said the plan is to create a “marketplace” with businesses and agencies of different kinds, all of whom are trusted identity providers. Users could obtain identity credentials from anyone who met certain standards, he said: “[I]t could be something on my USB drive, it could be a smart card, or maybe a one-time password generator.”

 

Friday Reads - Pollen Edition

4 min read

[caption id="attachment_2371" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Hand print in pollen"][/caption]

Two things on a pollen related note:

  1. We learned that my oldest daughter has basic pollen and mold allergies this week.
  2. Pollen levels have been pretty high in the Richmond area lately.

That makes for an unhappy little girl. I guess we'll help the good people at Claritin put their kids through college now...

In professional news, my friend Phil and I submitted two proposals to speak at this year's Virginia Library Association conference this week.

  • Proposal #1: We want to have a discussion with other attendees about the future of libraries, what they think about them and how we can make it better. The plan is to have a brief presentation about changes libraries have managed already, show some things other libraries are doing now to manage change then open up for discussion. Will it get selected? Don't know. It's worth a shot though. We are calling it "Library Crystal Ball" (cheesy...or clever?)
  • Proposal #2: Technology Petting Zoo. We're bringing the library's gadgets and are encouraging other conference attendees to bring theirs to this session. Instead of standing in front of a room and telling them about what the gadgets will do we will encourage them to play with them and ask questions. We are calling it "Bring Your Own Gadget...or not"

We'll find out in June if either of our proposals are accepted. I've never presented at a conference before so if they pick one or both it will be my rookie presentation. Should be fun though.

The links this week are all over the place. Municipal broadband, a library 'love' letter, more eBook frustration, a library prediction and a great discussion about a popular service.

Since we recently began offering Freegal, I found this post very interesting. As you can tell from the title, Sarah doesn't like Freegal. Her reasons are solid and she makes a good argument. The comments are where the real action is though. Wow! That's a fantastic discussion.

I don't share her opinion. My experience with the people at Library Ideas has been pretty positive. I do worry about the sustainability of the service though. It's not cheap and it is not a core service. We may not renew our service if things don't improve financially.

Oh wow! Where to start? This is a very interesting piece. Mike Shatzkin is a pretty smart guy and he discusses the future of libraries here. It's a thought provoking piece. Here's a quote:

The core purpose — the founding purpose — of a library, around which other things have grown, is to deliver access to printed words. Even the smallest local library almost certainly had more content housed within it than any individual had in their home and, in most cases, far more content than would be available at any local store. It was the books in the library that initially defined the library and attracted a core of patrons to it. When all of us have access to more books on our screens than are in the library, what’s the point to the library?

But not all is lost. He finishes up with this:

...librarianship will be needed by people long after buildings full of books are not. That’s going to require an entirely new business model that hasn’t been invented yet.

A frustrated eBook reader proposes a novel idea. Buy a hardback get a digital copy too! I like it.
A great piece where the author rediscovers the joys of her local public library. Always nice to see some good things being written about us. Not everything is doom and gloom.
This is an interesting development in my home state. The State Assembly passed a bill "that severely restricts communities’ ability to choose their own best broadband solutions." It basically says that municipal governments won't have the ability to create their own broadband networks, making them essentially a utility, like water. This may not pass the state Senate. If passed, it could reduce options for people in areas that don't have any broadband service. Municipal broadband isn't something I'm familiar with but it doesn't seem like a bad idea.

 

Friday Reads - Birthday Edition

3 min read

This was an interesting week.

[caption id="attachment_2353" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Yes. Henrico Libraries DO Rock!"][/caption]

The big event was our All Henrico Reads on Tuesday with local boy done great David Baldacci. He was born and raised in Henrico county and everyone is very proud of his success.

The event was great! Over 1200 people came out on Tuesday night to see him speak and sign books. He's a great speaker and a very good sport. He stayed until 10pm and signed every book put in front of him. He also spoke to hundreds of students in two separate assemblies during the day. I can only imagine how tired he must have been. I've got a lot of respect for him and hope he continues to produce bestselling books. You should check out his literacy foundation and consider giving them some money if you can.

Today is my birthday so I will be helping the local economy by eating out for every meal. My oldest daughter and I went to IHOP for breakfast. She loves the Create-A-Face Pancakes. Lunch will be with the wife and youngest daughter. Location is yet to be determined. Dinner will be pizza. I will not cook today!

This week's links are less focused on technology than most of my past posts. I like the idea of gamifying the library but I don't know how we can do it here. It is something to think about though. There is good news/bad news and on the eBook front. And some creative people in Spain have come up with a novel way to make souvenirs.

This is simply cool. You'll have to look at the video to get the full effect. The people who thought this up are very creative and smart.

Bad news on the eBook front. It looks like the State Librarian for Kansas is balking at increased rates proposed by Overdrive. It looks like a complicated issue. I wonder what will happen. It will probably affect us at some point.

Good news on the eBook front. Harper Collins is willing to negotiate with libraries. I hope they mean it and we can use this as a way to find a good/fair model that works for libraries and publishers.

Brian Herzog discusses gamifying the library. The idea is to reward people who follow the rules. It's an interesting idea and one that we should think about. What to reward? How?

Andy discusses gamifying the library. He asks some questions that should be asked when deciding whether or not to make a game and proposes one of his own. I don't see his game working for us but maybe we can come up with one that will.