building the global library field

I spent the last several days in a room with the strategic advisor network of the global libraries program at the gates foundation. It’s exhilarating to have the time and the space to sit with the collective intelligence of a dozen or so library professionals who are managing global library associations, building the most innovative public libraries in the world, advancing scholarship and practice, developing local economies with the public libraries they lead or support. Exhilarating, honestly, feels like it doesn’t do any of this justice.

By the end of our time together, the group came up with three priority suggestions for the team on where to invest resources in order to “build the global library field” (in my own words):

- human capital and leadership networks

- measuring impact and communicating value

- shared solutions and infrastructure

Implicit in all of these was the notion of “articulating a vision for the future of libraries” and a strong emphasis on “community engagement” and “partnerships” in doing so.

I left the meeting with a renewed, and still profound, sense that this team is the best positioned organization in the world to advance the field globally. They’ll do it with their continued deep engagement with stakeholders (our group is just one small way they engage inside the field) and their commitment to working with others to get the job(s) done. I also felt extremely grateful for my time there. I am so lucky to know every individual in this group; and am changed myself by my interactions with them whenever we have the chance to meet and exchange. I also left the meeting feeling that there should be concerted, coordinated effort to articulate the future of libraries - in context with how content and learning is changing. It certainly wasn’t missed in the discussion, but I would have traded “human capital” investments for more focus there.

It’s hard to prioritize, and really, working in any of these critical areas will do much to energize the institutional change we need now. If you were personally tasked with “building the global library field” - and you had significant resources to apply to this challenge - what would you do?

assessment v. evaluation

Most of the library staff we interviewed for this project talked to us about community and/or customer needs.

But I’m having a bit of a quandary as I think this through: I have the “assessment” section of my work separated from the “evaluation” section of my work, and I’m wondering if that makes sense. In my mind, assessment is a separate function. You do it first to identify customer needs (or unknowns) as well as scan the environment you’re playing in. You use this to inform your design or evolution of library services as you map it to your organization’s core competencies & maybe even existing collections and services. Evaluation comes after the first pass of service delivery - it’s the first (and ongoing) look at how you’re doing against the goals you’ve set as a part of your initial planning.

In my literature review of the needs assessment function as it relates to library service places it almost always in the context of evaluation. My question: is anyone doing one and not the other? Do you think of them as separate functions? Or, are they inextricably linked?

Putting Patrons on the Map

I’m back into the final push for finishing the manuscript and have also been connecting with a number of my original contributors to make sure I have bio lines right, details updated, etc. Thanks again to all of you who’ve worked with me on these sidebar views into the real stories that make up the entire project. (There’s still time if you have not told me your story - it’s a short online survey.)

I’m especially excited about being able to print this story from Molly Rodgers. I saw a short description of her library in an article a long time ago on WebJunction and I’m really glad she agreed to tell me more about her library for the book. Molly’s story reminds me that we don’t need to have a big complicated project in order to have huge impact for the community. And check out her bio line! A kindred spirit? I think so!

Thanks Molly for your insights. It has been great working with you.

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online survey & results

On the way home from Australia, I watched the entire ABC/AU series The Librarians on Quantas Air. Hilarious. I hope and pray that someone picks this up (it’s like The Office, but, but it’s a library!) and/or remakes it for US audiences.

But in-between episodes, I was also thinking about how the last chapter or “element” (if you will) of community building that I discuss in my talks and in the book is evaluation and iteration. It occurred to me, suddenly, that I have nothing other than anecdotal evidence for the response and/or impacts of the talks that I give (or of the ideas that I convey). I have asked specifically for feedback from the people I’ve worked with to develop or deliver some of my talks, but this was personal correspondence and, well, people are very nice when asked to do that sort of thing.

I published an online survey last week to cover all of my general speaking engagements. Eighteen people have responded thus far, all from my talks in Australia. Thank you! If you’ve seen me give a presentation, I’d welcome your feedback as well. Here’s the survey and the results as they come in. (on everything but open-ended) as they come in. Because the second section asks for email addresses, and I can’t limit the results sharing to exclude that question, I’ll post that separately at some point (or revise the survey somehow). UPDATE: now includes everything but email addresses.

In the meantime, enjoy, let me know what you think, and thanks for being a part of my own community building process!

IL2007, Blending In, & LBC

I presented on “Blending In: librarians in our networked world” with libraryman yesterday morning at IL2007, full documentation here and presentation here. We had a great time - those of you who heard me speak at MLC earlier this month will recognize some of the ideas (and slides), as I drew out a lot of the research I’ve been doing for the book in this presentation as well. Michael Porter followed my part of the talk with a whirlwind tour of libraries doing really amazing things on the web to “blend in” to a networked community there; I concluded our program with an example that I just uncovered last week during my “writers retreat” and visit to the Bay area:

Rachel MacNeilly in the Children’s Services manager at the Mission Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. She runs a bilingual Children’s Storytime - now up to five times a week - with an average of 110 people in attendance every time. “I live in this neighborhood,” says Rachel to me during my visit to her library last week, “these people can’t hide from me for long. They WILL come to my storytime.” Over the course of less than one year, Rachel has changed children’s programming from a single session once a week with an average of 45 attendees to multiple programs per week and almost three times the attendees. How did she do it?

First, she did some weeding of the Spanish language collection in her library. “I want this place to look like Nordstrom, NOT the Nordstrom Rack,” she beams! And it works, with the following principles at play: she doesn’t have any Spanish children’s materials in the library that are “older than me;” second, she doesn’t have any books that “look junky. I got rid of everything that’s older than me and everything that looked awful,” Rachel says, and the funny thing is “with less on the shelves, there’s less on the shelves,” (meaning that people check things out more). Circulation has almost doubled, but it’s still not up to where she’d like it to be; she’d has aggressive goals for upping her circ stats in the coming year, stats that match what she’s been able to do with their program stats. “I love stats,” Rachel says, as an aside, “you can think you’re changing things, but stats let you know if you really are.”

Rachel’s impact on the programming attendance in her library is directly related to the facts that they’re bilingual, offered at appropriate times of day for their intended audiences, and have benefited from a complete and recent overhaul of the content. It’s more age appropriate, and more focused on touch and movement; “I also try to throw something in there for the caregivers,” says Rachel, every hour I do a program I give them a development tip that I think they find really helpful.

I visited one of Rachel’s story hours and was awestruck by the energy and emotion in the fully packed, standing-room-only one hour bilingual program. I was very proud to be a small part, as a fellow librarian, of the community building work that she’s doing in her neighborhood.

When I asked her (completely as an aside) about online community building, Rachel (to my sheer, absolute joy and delight) told me that she’s partnering with volunteers from a neighborhood high school to create a MySpace page for her branch. The new page (not complete yet, stay tuned) will “definitely be bilingual, just like our programs” where you can access all the storytime content, songs, and calendar of events in both English and Spanish. “My people are busy,” says Rachel, “they don’t have time to click through the SFPL website and then only find English once they get to my page.” I’ll post their page here as soon as I have a link to it!

When I asked Rachel what makes her programs and services so successful, especially in so short a time, she said very simply “My people ask me for what they need, and I just try to get it for them.” Funny thing, right? Patrons are people, and she tries to get them what they need.

Go Rachel!! You’re a rockstar!!

F D Campbell Memorial Library (PA) ROCKS

I woke up this morning in a panic because I had a dream (actually, it was more like a nightmare) that I had left out some important examples in our chapter on evaluation and demonstrating impact. I went back to the chapter. I had. So much for my pontificating (navel gazing?) on the extreme value of “outcomes” and “impacts”. Although she wasn’t actually in my dream, the Annoyed Librarian could have been reviewing my chapter, that’s how bad this dream was. So, I guess my subconscious was trying to tell me something. (And here I am talking about myself again!!)
Needless to say, I’ve spent the day sifting through correspondence that Steven and I have received over the course of our work on this project. What a great way to spend a day (even if it means fewer words on the page at the end of it!). Though I didn’t quite find the evaluation examples I was looking for (more sleuthing - I’ll find them!) I was reminded yet again of the fantastic community-building work our colleagues are doing all over the county. Still, the spirit and spunky of our small, rural libraries never ceases to amaze me - I have a special place in my heart for this work.

This very moment, I’m impressed with Jean Workman, director of the F D Campbell Memorial Library in PA. Check out the graphic on her library’s home page. I love the way she brings traditional library services (books) and technology together to form the supporting column for her library. You “enter” the library’s website by clicking on the PC (they have three of them onsite) and exploring a mix of consortia and state-wide services, along with tid-bits about the library’s local services and history.

I’m particularly interested in the very simple yet powerful way that Jean has reached out in partnership to local small businesses. Noting that both small businesses and small libraries “have a place in the scheme of things (because we) deal in service and caring to our people,” Jean identifies mutual purpose and benefits to working together. In that spirit, she developed summer programs for children and teens that require library patrons (she calls them “members”) to visit one place (the library) and then the other (local business) to complete the program. Teens completed a bike scavenger hunt by visiting local business stops and collecting prizes at the library; children pick up coloring content papers in local businesses stops, but bring them back completed to the library. Though obviously small and operating with limited resources, Jean exemplifies a few of the strategies that have worked for large urban libraries with strong community support: she emphasizes her value to the community based on their needs, she works with small business through partnerships, and she focuses on children and teens. (Can you tell I just read “The Thriving Library” by Marylaine Block? It’s great!)

Thanks Jean for your work in Bessemer. And thanks for sharing your success with all of us!

stats, plans, standards, and results

Thanks to Kathleen (de la Pena McCook), I finally found the overview/context for evaluation movements (for public libraries) that I was looking for. In chapter four of her Introduction to Public Librarianship (Neal-Schuman, 2004), she outlines public library evaluation practice “from faith to fact,” through the standards & outputs/role setting movements, and on to new planning for results and outcomes based eval.

Thank you Kathleen! I don’t remember spending a lot of time on this in library school (did I just forget?) and I’ve been struggling to make sense (historically) on all that I’ve been taking in on this subject lately. For anyone who’s trying to put OBE and NPFR in context, it’s worth tracking down and taking 20 minutes to get yourself oriented! Now I feel like I’m (getting close to being) ready to make the connections to building community that are certainly there … yet somehow get lost in all the hoopla.

And many thanks to Kathleen for your continued interest in my process!

more eval questions

In Joseph Matthews’ Measuring for Results (2004) he mentions that input measures have been used by SLA’s and ALA to develop minimum library standards. I looked around and found a few “Minimum Library Standards” still published on SLA sites. It doesn’t look like there’s still a standards committee at PLA and I wasn’t able to find any “minimum standards for library service” (or the like) posted on ALAs site. The article Matthews references was published by PLA in 1967 (!). Anything still out there on this? Or … are we talking ancient history here? (just curious. thanks in advance for any info you may have. and yes, i am being a bit lazy by asking here before i dig deeper.)

IMLS & OBE requirements

In an earlier post I make this statement…

Although grantees are not required to conduct OBE on their projects funded through IMLS, organizations are now required to report to Congress in terms of measured outcomes.

But last night I was reading Keith Lance’s 2001 Report “Counting on Results” and he says…

When the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) was passed in 1996, the Institute for Museum and Library Services mandated outcome-based evaluation as part of its grantmaking to public and other types of libraries from LSTA funds.

I checked with IMLS and in answer to the FAQ “Do I have to do this?” they say…

IMLS does not currently require its grantees to conduct outcome-based evaluation, but it supports and encourages it as a valuable management tool. At the same time, IMLS is required to report to Congress in outcome-based terms; we cannot do that without input from you. We consider the consistent use of outcome-based evaluation to be an effective and efficient way for all programs to capture critically important information and to tell their story persuasively. IMLS is gradually strengthening information about outcome-based evaluation in guidelines for its discretionary grant programs and its program for State Library Agencies, and is considering the benefit of making outcome-based evaluation for funded programs a requirement at some future time.

Was OBE an IMLS requirement for public libraries working with LSTA funds in 2001, but is no longer? Or, maybe there’s some nuance between mandate and require. :) Would love whatever light others have to shed on this question…

Finding Value in Victoria Public Libraries, Australia

Thanks to John for hooking me up with this fantastic 2005 Libraries Building Communities report from Victorian Public Libraries in Australia. From their site…
Libraries Building Communities is the first comprehensive Australian study looking at the value public libraries bring to their communities. One of the most extensive research projects undertaken in this area, the study included every public library in Victoria (44 libraries with 238 branches), and sought the views and ideas of almost 10,000 people via online and telephone surveys, focus groups and interviews.

The research aims to increase community awareness of the range of public library services and show how public libraries can help achieve government policy goals. For library staff it:

  • presents clear new data on the contribution libraries make to their communities
  • provides case studies that show how Victorian public libraries lead in innovation
  • identifies groups that are not currently well served by their libraries, and offer solutions
  • builds awareness of the critical social capital and community role of public libraries

Report One: Setting the Scene ~ Covers the concept of community building, the Victorian Government’s policy agenda, the Victorian public library network, project methodology, and relevant research.

Report Two: Logging the Benefits ~ Outlines the community views on the role and benefits of public libraries.

Report Three: Bridging the Gaps ~ Provides socio-economic demographic profiles of library users and non-user, as well as strategies for bridging the perceived gaps in public library service delivery.

Report Four: Showcasing the Best ~ Gives over 30 examples of innovation and excellence in Victorian public libraries.

Know what? This collection is remarkably similar to the themes that Steven and I have been working on. The key components of community building that we’re focusing on are: Assessment, Communication, Service/Program Development, Evaluation, and Sustainability.

It’s nice to see some of our ideas mirrored in other works. On the other hand, it takes me back to the question I’ve been struggling with throughout this entire process: is there anything new? anything fresh? I have a few reasons why the answer is yes (pulling tech services, traditional services & physical spaces together, for one thing) but I think we need to pull it out of the work more explicitly.Writing books is hard. I wonder if, when it’s done, you forget that.

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