Shorts: Librarians

Here’s one series of videos I shot (somewhat experimentally, as I am not a “video” person!) while visiting Australia earlier this month. These short videos each tell the stories of the fabulous librarians I met along my trip, all doing incredible work in Australia. It was a pleasure meeting all of you and I thank you for your time.

(And to those of you who hijacked my camera for secret ‘thank you’ messages, you’re sweet, but don’t think you’re off the hook! I’ll get your spots the next time around.)

collaborative writing

my colleagues at WebJunction published this wonderful article about Rachel MacNeilly’s fabulous children’s programs at the Mission branch of the San Francisco Public Library. they kept my name on the article because I met Rachel last fall, was so impressed with her work in the branch, and blogged about it here back at that time. this article is based on that post.

let’s give credit where credit is due: rachel (herself), along with jennifer, emily, and tim at WebJunction made this wonderful success story much better than i could have done on my own. here’s to collaborative writing, and editing, and all other forms of contribution!

experiencing collections

From Laura at Library Crunch:

… libraries must craft their services and collections to reflect the needs of their individual communities. If your community is crying out for the latest in popular fiction or a collection of classics (or likely a combination of both), then by all means that is what you should provide. As librarians we are here to serve our users by providing them with the information and resources they want, not glare down our noses at them because of their reading choices.

Last year I interviewed Annie Norman, Delaware State Librarian, about how collection development is evolving for public libraries in Delaware. After the interview, Norman sent me the Dover Public Library User Identity-Motivation Study that the Dept. of Libraries had contracted with the Institute for Learning Innovation to understand public library users and their motivations in Dover. (Kudos to Norman for questioning how much we really know about what patrons want – and then offering segmentation as one solution for getting us there.)

Guess what? The study concluded that library users could be categorized as “experience seekers” more frequently than any other category. And the opportunity they discovered for this group? Community building. From the report:

All users believed that at a rudimentary level, libraries already act as community centers, allowing communities to communicate shared values such as cultural diversity or the joy of learning and reading. However, a disproportionate number of Experience Seekers spoke of the potential for libraries to expand this role by offering opportunities for them to come to the library for a wider variety of activities, such as:

  • Offering enriched programming such as classes, guest speakers, reading groups, etc. Users spoke of wanting an interactive exchange with experts, which is not available on television or the internet. In addition to presentations with personal accounts and/or expert knowledge, users wanted to be able to ask questions, and connect personally with the presenter.

  • Libraries could work harder at building community by offering individuals the opportunity to engage with others who share specific interests and learning preferences; all while providing a safe space to support identity-building and personal exploration. Again, a number of the individuals we talked with felt libraries could expand this role through both expansion of above mentioned programs as well as through the development of specialized groups or clubs.

I agree with Laura about service/collection development practices and policy. I would push us further: to expand our ideas of “services” or “collection” to include participatory experiences around the materials our communities show interest in and want to create connections around.

There’s first the resistance to the glaring down of noses. Second, the invitation to dialog and connect. (Does your library really listen?) Finally, there’s the appropriate appropriation of resources towards the meeting of true needs.

I’d love to hear from folks who may have practical examples of library invitations to patrons to experience their collections, or from patrons experiencing collections and materials in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the library’s invitation.

what type of sound does “connect” make?

Seattle Times (my hometown paper) published an article today about how “quiet libraries” are shifting into “busy community hubs.”

LTR’s web 2.0 and libraries

Finally got around to reading my comp copy of ALA TechSource’s latest Library Technology Report on “Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software” by Michael Stevens. After introducing Web 2.0 and its current/potential impact on libraries, each chapter digs into a different technology (RSS, blogs, IM, wikis, and Flickr) and best practices (or hints) for using them in libraries. The issue concludes with some tips for getting tech projects like these off the ground. I think it’ll be a useful introductory resource for anyone who wants to wrap their brain around “web 2.0” stuff – and implement a few things as well.

I was most impressed, however, and it’s the reason I’m writing about it here, with the issue’s introduction on “creating conversations, connections, and community.” The intro (however brief) provides context and meaning for all the more practical techy stuff that comes later, and reminds us all that it’s not the technology that should drive our decisions to implement this or any new stuff in libraries, but the opportunity these innovations afford us for making more and new kinds of connections with our communities – especially those who may already be “living” on the Web.

As I’ve said in other pages, it’s sometimes difficult, especially for those who have grown up professionally with this stuff at our fingertips, to keep from falling for the technology just because it’s neat – and keep our heels (and hearts) grounded in the real reasons we’re doing this stuff in the first place.

mission statements: mission impossible?

I’ve been thinking today about Joseph Matthews’ discussion on public library mission statements (Measuring for Results, chapter 3). His chapter orients public library planners to the basics of mission, value, purpose, and strategic planning documentation and includes a number of examples of public library mission on value statements.

In short, Matthews says that the mission of your library should simply identify the library’s purpose and explain why it exists. The language should be clear and speak to your whole community. The mission should be focused on the present, and clearly invoke actions for both library staff and patrons. Here’s an example: The mission of the Richland County Free Library is meeting our citizen’s needs for reading, learning and information.

Matthews maintains that mission statements written by committee are often filled with library-jargon, and can ramble on (without much benefit) for paragraphs and even whole pages. On the other hand, many libraries don’t have a missions statement, or at least don’t communicate them externally (as indicated by the lack of public library mission statements published on their web sites, which may not be a complete indicator, but it is one).

My questions to you:

-Does your library have a mission statement? What is it?

-Does your library publish your mission statement? Where?

-What resources (published or otherwise) did your library use to develop your mission statement?

-What are the elements of a successful mission statement?

As part of the work I’m currently doing on evaluation and community building, I’d love to publish some or your more stellar statements, and tap some other resources that you guys think offer some good guidelines for developing effective mission statements. More later … or perhaps I’ll be moving on to “vision statements” in my next post. 🙂 Thanks in advance for your help!

Building Better Communities

SirsiDynix just announced the 15 finalists for their Building Better Communities Awards (thanks Kelli). Congrats to all the finalists – we’d love to see your nominations as a supplement to our online survey data! Please just send us an email if you’re interested & willing to share. I’ll be on-hand at ALA to see which five will be the lucky winners of your cash award, but each of these libraries is well deserving, I’m sure.

Speaking of, I am just about to do my ALA schedule and would love to join you for dinner or drinks to talk about your libraries & community building projects.

Who’s gonna be at ALA? Shall we have another community building conversation?

Lovely Rita

Travel and vacation all complete, I’m back home to my job and our LBC project. (Photos of Estonia are posted on Flickr for anyone who wants to see – though they’re certainly not titled or tagged just yet.) While I was away our fabulous editor delivered comments on our first chapter. Essentially, it seems we’re on the right track, though I feel that we still have much to do (such as, write the rest of it!) before it’s ready for primetime. Still, it’s great to have a first round of feedback. Steven and I will likely debate when it’s ready for the blog. I admit that I’m a little chicken. What do you all think, should we post the first chapter? How “baked” should it be before we post it?

Meanwhile, I’m extremely thrilled with the continuing response to our online survey – posted earlier this month in the “about you” section of the blog. (Last entry was today, just three hours ago.) Thanks for writing in, everyone! My favorite part of this research process so far continues to be the positive vibe that our colleagues write in with. That last question about advice for other community building librarians has turned into a real gold mine of good humor and inspiration. For example, after asking I’m wondering if you’d like my answers. I’m dutch and maybe you only like answers from the USA ? Rita Niland at Bibliotheek Rotterdam, Netherlands advises:

You need crazy volunteers and crazy librarians to make good things …

Excellent. Finally, someone has us all pegged! For the record, Rita, we l-o-v-e your answers. Thank you!

where the heart is

Seattle Public Library recently replaced their traditional reference desk with a “mixing chamber,” host to roaming wireless-enabled librarians and more than 200 public access terminals.

Skokie Public Library, serving a growing suburb outside of Chicago, uses an electronic reader service to deliver email with daily five-minute book samples and online book discussions.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library recently placed an information center, complete with Spanish print collection, a sound station with AV equipment, and three public access terminals in a local homeless shelter.

Tonganoxie Public Library in Kansas, serving a rural community of only 3,400, showcases their service to local teens through their library profile on My Space.

Not to mention the whole SecondLife thing…

Urban, rural, large, and small – these public libraries all face the same challenge: serving up meaningful resources to patrons, wherever they are and whatever their need. It occurs to me that they are all examples of disaggregated library services – each offered up, perhaps, as solutions to the public’s need (and growing demand) for integrated content experiences. Is there a paradox there?

Librarians willing to migrate themselves and their services out into patron managed spaces (whether they’re online or down the street) create a whole new experience for library users – are they users we may not reach otherwise? When delivered within the context of an individuals own community or social network, maybe library services become more approachable, accessible, and meaningful – I guess we’ll see.
Wherever they’re offered, the result (for our professional community) is a new “diaspora” of library professionals. Scattered throughout the personal spaces of the patrons themselves – maybe we’re closer to them than ever before – but what’s lost (if anything) by being so far away from “home”? Those of you who are “out there” – how is it for you? Do you ever get homesick for the down-home comforts of a good old-fashioned library service or space?

film + community = change

The Film Connection is an online national public film library that provides films and film programming (for free!) to local film groups all over the country. They started after 9/11 with a vision for creating community conversation around film for positive social change. When you receive a film in the mail, much like netflix, you get a return envelope and a suggested deadline for its return. The barcode sticker on the DVD sleve is stamped with the inscription “Film + Community = Change.” TFC’s website provides space for online film ratings, reviews and film group stories – along with support for facilitating intentional conversation around the film (both locally and online).

Anyone can start a film group and become a TFC patron. I encourage anyone who’s interested in film and starting a local community building project to check this out. Might even be a nice way to do some film programming for your library. In the meantime, I hope to connect with one of TFC founders for an interview. I’ll keep you posted!


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