living on layoffs

I admit that watching the Seattle layoffs take place, along with those around the country, has been sobering. The last two months have been particularly difficult (huge understatement) because as my management team was trying to “right-size” our organization for the resources we have and the work we have to do, Aaron was being laid off himself, along with hundreds of other architects in the Seattle area.

Word on the street? There’s nothing going on out there.

So, what’s an itgirl to do? First thing I’ve done is tried to acquaint myself with my new role at work, as I’ve taken on new responsibilities in areas that I’m familiar with but don’t have a ton of formal experience or expertise.  You guessed it: MarCom.

Truth is, I love strategic marketing (now that I know what that is). I’ve been reading Made to Stick and Marketing Straight to the Heart and Communities Dominate Brands and Mission-Based Marketing. I’ve been cleaning out the cobwebs on my social marketing RSS feeds, and thinking more about social media, word-of-mouth,  community-based brands, and viral marketing. I am anxious to have some authority to work from in these areas and have been flirting with the differences between “dominate” and  “lead.”

Bottom line: I may be becoming a business-person. This has become very handy for Aaron as he’s reacquainting himself with his real interests in architecture, and finding new ways to articulate why he’s interested in his projects, and why they matter. Now he’s reading Made to Stick.

So while I’m living the manager side of the lay-off dream, Aaron is living on unemployment. But it’s not as bad as that sounds. He’s way less stressed about it than I would be, I can only imagine, and so it has given me a better understanding of who he is (amazing) and who I am (neurotic). Not exactly the way that I had planned to spend my first six months post-writing on a new “self-care” plan.  In a word, this has been good.

I am very blessed to realize that hard times help you get to know yourself and your partner better. Very blessed to recognize that my good fortune (so far) makes it relatively “easy” to tighten my belt and just focus on paying the damn mortgage. (Thanks to Sallie Mae’s pay-back policy, student loans can wait - although this does make me feel a little cranky on certain days.) But the most wondrous thing about all these circumstances is that you realize what’s most important: people and how their lives can be impacted by what you do and what you don’t.

I’m still searching for a purpose for my blog post-production for the book that started it. Speaking of, here’s an update on the book: it’s in final proof, the cover-art is in production, and there’s an American Libraries article coming out next month that’s primarily an excerpt from the first chapter. I’ll post when it’s available…and/or when I better understand what the blog should be for in its next iteration. Until then, I’ll share tid-bits of things I’m learning from personal and professional life as it goes on.

Hope y’all are doing ok out there amidst all this craziness.

the mortality of text (and other contributed content)

I have a flood of random high-level thinking that has been trapped inside my head, backed up behind the dam of finishing the book project. I’m going to take a quick break and just take the time to write it down. Who knows where this will go…

It started when @cindi (Cindi Trainor) published a tweet several weeks back about how a friend of hers had passed away this year. That friend’s flickr account was still online. She was grateful, she said, of the opportunity to be reminded of her friend every now and then. I responded that my sister, knowing she was dying, had methodically set about the task of deleting herself online before she died. Friendster: gone. My Space: gone. Website: gone.  I don’t think she was every on facebook, flickr, or other social networking sites, but she did delete herself from my online world far before she passed. In some way, it helped me prepare I think. Take, for example, the comment/testimonial she had left on my friendster account. “Chrystie is the first person I go to for any reason and on any matter,” she said, “for all of it.” When she deleted herself on friendster, her comment left my testimonial. I wish I had copied it. Printed it. Something. There are always regrets.

After Rosie died, I became somewhat obsessed with building her online presence back up. Memorials online included friend’s groups in facebook and flickr. People changed their avatars to include a photo of themselves with her; they published videos, pictures, stories, and all kinds of “this reminds me of Rosie” over the course of many months. I’m still getting some of that and posting it here. It’s all organized via delicious, flickr, and other memorial tags or sets. I lurk in facebook groups of strangers who have lost siblings and pour over memorials of the same ilk. Online condolences may be a metric of community health. Or, we just can’t help ourselves.

At dinner with Alane and George last month we talked about how our colleague Gary Houk still has a “presence” in our lives via his facebook profile. We wondered if it could be possible to request that dead people be added to a group, a social network of the deceased. So that you could go and visit them in their new context; so that we could mourn them more appropriately online. Last week I discovered the cemetery 2.0 website via attendees at #idea2008. It’s a little gadget that links to digital memorial from the site of your headstone - so that the deceased’s epitaph online is linked with the physical space. I wonder how these two ideas can mash up.

All this talk these last few weeks about publishing anonymously and how or whether the authenticated author and the text are connected, put together with the (culturally constructed?) impulse we have to associate them, has me wondering if it’s ever possible for us to allow an author, any author, to “die” and to also let their text/content be disembodied from them. If we were able to do so, would it change anything? In the case of the actual dead, probably not. But in the case of the living, the texts might be better off without their authors.

If this seems like a crazy turn for the LBC blog, perhaps it’s a sign of things to come. I do like to play in the theoretical space. It’s tangentially related to community building in that it considers the humanity of online content, and how important personal identity is/isn’t in the context of new media.

All said, I go back and forth between the extremes on this one. To write, or not to write. Is that the question?

something lovely

My friend Kelly sent me this video with this note: this reminded me of Rosie. I hope you’re well.

I wanted to post it here because it captures the creative possibility of the social changes we’re all a part of right now. Whether you find some way to contribute to exisitng projects, or you find some way to start a new project - don’t you just want to put your arms around this wonderful social thing and just give it a big hug?

i’m a happy person

this is what i talk about on twitter:

passion quilt meme: connect

connect

connect

image: ecstaticist
tagged by: helene
tagging: blogjunction

luscious libraryland

My last fall trip is just now over. I’ve been sitting in my house for, I don’t know, twenty minutes or so, and I’m very happy to report that the trip and the talk went very well. For the first time I tried pulling together some of the ideas and research for the LBC project into a talk about the community building project at WebJunction - the two are obviously very connected for me but not necessarily for everyone - but guess what? it worked! i was relieved and pleased that it seemed to be the right mix of community building for library staff and community building for patrons. Viola! connections made!

I left out the Putnam stuff and instead focused on our community building roots and how in-person community building and online community building share the same principles and practice; then I connected what our patrons are doing with web2.0 tools to what library staff are doing with the same, and with projects like WJ.

I was a little nervous about the mix, with only one hour for a joint presentation with my co-presenter, Mala, the team lead for WebJunction Arizona, but at the end of it all, one of my audience members come up and says something like: thank you for your overview of social networking and what it means for WebJunction; now I understand why this stuff is important. I work in a rural library and I’m trying to help my community understand how to use this stuff and understand what it’s all about; this was really helpful.

Does it really get more libraryland luscious than that? Maybe. I’ll be here for it if it does. I only posted a few pictures from this very short visit, but you’ll find them here. Many, many thanks to the organizers of AzLA for having me. I had a great time and it was wonderful meeting and talking with so many of you and your library staff in Arizona.
(reposted on BlogJunction)

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!!

libraries & social networking

OCLC’s latest report on sharing, privacy, and trust in our networked world is here (pdf), just in time for me to incorporate into our own thinking about libraries & community building for ‘inside, outside, and online’. yay. i’m trying not to swallow it whole.

bottom line: the creation of the ’social web’ is well underway. in general, users (and librarians) do not see a place for the library there. to me this is sad news, but i remain hopeful …

a few highlights from the report, from my point of view, though i’m sure to blog more on this later as i get a little deeper into it, and have more time to savor all that fantastic data.

  • this data shows the distinction between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” to be almost non-existent; we’ve all been online for long enough
  • the shift from users simply reading the web (in 2005) to authoring it (in 2007) is startling; library web site use decreased by 33% during this same period
  • people who use social networking sites (drum roll please) read more than people who don’t. HA!
  • social networking is qualified by interaction; social media is qualified by content creation, publishing, and sharing - more than a quarter of the general pop surveyed had used either (28%), making them more likely to participated in the social web than to have searched or borrowed from a library web site (20%)
  • people participate in social networking for interaction; users believe that it helps maintain current relationships (42%) or develop new ones (47%)
  • the general public (13%) and US library directors (14%) generally don’t think there’s a place for the library in the social web; when they do, they think we should host book clubs. HUMPH!

our thesis for this book has always been that libraries have always been about community as well as content; we help create connections between people and each other, and between people and the content or information we help provide access to. we do this in person and in our libraries everyday that the library is open, and every time we’re out in the community as a representative of the library. we also do this when with our library’s presence on the web. we are social. we should be on the social web.

maybe it would help if we shifted our thinking - towards recognizing people as another format or form of “content” or “information resource.” as a librarian at webjunction.org, when i help facilitate a connection between two library staff members in different locations but who share the same interest or problem, i am doing just as well for them (thinking of these folks as my patrons) as i would be if i delivered an article, course, audio file, or some other resource as long as it’s useful. we wouldn’t hesitate to do this in a physical library space. let’s open up a bit and begin to let ourselves think about facilitating these types of connections between community members online as well.

i try not to get exasperated. i try not to call out ‘why is this taking so long?’ i suppose the good news is that this type of early reporting on consumer/patron behaviors, and perceptions of the library’s role in this new world, will give us a chance to deliberately and very intentionally ask our selves - do we have a right to play here? do we want to be a part of it?

the report closes with these lines: the new web is a very different thing. libraries need to be very different too. i couldn’t agree more.

socializing the social - aka, conform! it’s fun!

I’ve been pondering the meaning of the term “socialize” as I think about social activities, networking, and capital - and how online environments are similar to or differentiated from in-person ones. In trusty Clayton Wood (my new boss) fashion, I marched over to google and typed in “socialize” and retrieved the following definitions:

  • take part in social activities; interact with others; “The old man hates to socialize”
  • train for a social environment; “The children must be properly socialized”
  • prepare for social life; “Children have to be socialized in school”
  • make conform to socialist ideas and philosophies; “Health care should be socialized!”

I keep going back and forth about the manifesto-ness of my own messaging on this topic. Are we truly in the middle of a “movement” or “revolution” in libraries - where we must train, prepare or even ‘make conform’ in order to get by in the new environment? Or, are we simply taking part in activities - interacting with others - only doing it in new ways. In the case of the latter, we’re not really dealing with any sort of revolution, except that the tools are different than we’re used to. Right?
One way to think about this may be to say that it IS a revolution for us in libraries because we’re being called upon to make a fundamental shift in the way we deliver services: away from “pure” or “authoritative” data, information, and content, and being asked to deliver services that help people connect with each other as their source of content and information (though I’m not sure data). Is it a fundamental shift? Has there always been an important community-building aspect to information delivery (in physical space)? Are we ultimately doing much of the same work we always have? Ug. I guess I’m stuggling with the balance between our connection to work that we’ve always done in communities as library professionals, and the new work we’re being called upon to do, or at the very least, the new way we’re being called upon to do it. Which is it??

tweet tweet

I’ve found my flickr (as my dear friend Michael Porter would say) and it’s on twitter. Try following me there (http://twitter.com/itgirl) for library, WebJunction, LBC, and personal news - at least until the LBC book’s done. There’s something magical about 140 characters!! Twitter’s not replacing the blog, but as the deadline zooms in on us, the blogging gets harder and harder to get to. Once we turn in the full draft, I’ll be back a bit more regularly I think.

Twitter’s also a fairly interesting experiment in “mobile” community for me. Always learning, always revising…
Meanwhile, regarding our LBC project, I do want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to our survey, commented via the blog and emails, come to our meet-ups at conferences, and even contributed sidebars for the various areas we’re tracking. This (surprise! surprise!) has been my most favorite part of this project and we couldn’t have done it w/out your insights, examples, and inspirations.

Ok, back to (finishing up the) work …

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