Power of Place (Tamworth)

Though it’s a little late in posting (finally starting to catch up from being away - whew!), here’s a link to my country public libraries conference presentation in Tamworth, NSW. The conference theme was “power of place” and I talked through some of my research and discoveries around the libraries build communities project in the context of space and place as it pertains to libraries.

I am so thankful to everyone for the great feedback I’ve received thus far. From inspirations to start new library blogs all the way to re-engaging with local councils to get or retain access to the participatory web, I think it was a great match, and great timing, for me to share some of this work. As for my end of the learning, I am so grateful to have met so many committed and insightful library professionals and supporters, and to have learned about the unique challenges and opportunities (not to mention successes!) already underway in New South Wales.

Have I already thanked the State Library? Yes I think so, but I’ll keep on about it for awhile I’m sure…

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??

tweets for teams

You may remember that I once said that the most important piece of information in the lives of my peers is “what are my friends doing?”

Enter twitter, which I’ve been playing with for about a week now. It’s fun! I have four “friends” and four people following me (not sure what I’d do with more!). One is a colleague that I work with at the WJ, another is a colleague that I’m writing with on this blog, another is a colleague that is a friend of a friend, another is someone I’ve never met - they added me so I added them. So, I’ve got four distinct channels coming into a single feed to my treo by txt, and on the web (when I check it, which has been about once every other day). After about the first or second day I realized that it would be most beneficial to be able to aggregate particular individuals into their own twitter channels, so that all my WJ tweets come into one stream, all my other library pals into another, all my friends into another, and so on. Then, yes, it could be extremely useful (and still fun!). I didn’t do /much/ investigating, but it does seem that twitter doesn’t support said “channels” and other people have been vaguely complaining about this a bit on their blogs in the OC space. (Does it? If you know something I don’t know, pray tell!) In short, if you have a large group of friends who don’t know each other and you can’t really compartmentalize your interactions with people, it’s sort of annoying.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered this link (hat tip to Nancy White) on how to create a custom group in twitter. I haven’t tried it yet, but this could get (more) interesting.

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.”

inside and online

Have others been watching the il2006 wiki come to life in prep for the conference next week? It’s a great example of using a collaborative online space to set the stage for a physical gathering. Creating connections between physical and online gatherings (before, after, during) can be powerful testimony to the fact that the tech tools we use make new things possible - and also to the fact that it is always so much more about the connections we make through them. I’d love it if someone would set up an IRC chat during the sessions so that we could provide commentary & annotations to the speakers in the sessions as they go on. We did this at the last two online community summits I attended and it was pretty cool - though you do have to get pretty good at partial attention! Does anyone else know if this is planned for IL already? I don’t know how to do it (as I’ve only joined IRC, not set one up) but I’d be happy to try this if anyone else is game.

a community for people who love books

While at the Online Community Summit last week in beautiful (though a little rainy) Sonoma, I learned about wetpaint. It’s an online tool that let’s you create an online community about anything. Essentially, they’re taking the techy out of the wiki and making it (more than) super easy for anyone to set up a community about anything. Even the big guys (like ABC) are linking to them (for their LOST enthusiasts) instead of hosting communities of their own. Wouldn’t you know it that Nancy Pearl has her Book Lust Community set up there. A community, she says, for people who love books. Now, who could that be?

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.

Ode to Readers’ Advisory

Tonight I was chatting w/ some colleagues about whatever is to become of traditional readers’ advisory services, when we have an ever-growing number of tools, many of them online, to help us identify items we’d like to read (or at least know about). Will people choose the recommendations of strangers, acquaintances, colleagues, and friends over … the librarian? If you think only about the technology, then you might say YES!

But consider that it’s in this current, technology-enhanced, recommendations-galore environment that Nancy Pearl has just published two book-length works based on a lifetime and career of good-old-fashioned-librarian-style readers’ advisory. I heard a few weeks ago that someone else is publishing “Movie Lust” (or was it film lust?). I’m not sure how well these books are selling outside of our profession, or Seattle, for that matter, but my impression is that they are selling well. At least well enough to justify a sequel, and what’s sure to be the first of a long line of copycats. XXX Lust. Who knows where that could go…

To tell you the truth, I’ve never once read a book that a librarian referred me to. (I know, and I call myself a librarian.) I have asked a thousand librarians a million questions, but they were never along the lines of “what should I read next, or in this mood, or that’s like this other thing?” I’m not sure why or how I missed that boat. I love libraries. I love books. I even love librarians. I just never thought to ask them what book I should read next. I think of them more as experts on technologies and resources ~ and so I’ll go check out recommend’s on Amazon, or (increasingly) WorldCat, or even check out Library Thing (though I’ve never added any books of my own there) before I ask a librarian.

I’m not sure where this leaves us, but I’m starting to think that there needs to be a meeting in the middle here. What would happen if - when we thought of readers’ advisory - we didn’t think “Nancy knows what I should read next” but instead made a connection that Nancy taught us how to make - with a tool - with other people - with online resources - whatever. Are there patrons who would miss the relationship they have with a librarian who ‘just knows’? I am so sure of it that writing the question out seems silly. Perhaps we could figure out how to keep the librarians who *know* readers’ advisory using the tool (along with other people who ‘just know’) ~ making it an even more valuable resource ~ but still shift the perception about what it is that librarians do. Or can do.

Either way, it would be nice to explore the collision of these two ideas. Perhaps they are not mutually exclusive. What if … in the future … a librarian could walk with a patron over to a public access station, search (with a known title) one of the readers advisory databases, link to a record in their catalog, which is connected (1) to a local social network of others who have read, borrowed, or owned the title and their comments on that title (2) a broader social network of others who have read, borrowed, or owned the title and their comments on that title (WorldCat?). ‘Look here,’ the librarian might say, ‘I read this book and reviewed it. You can too!’ The patron would then have access to the book, the collection, other collections, and a wide range of reviews, recommendations, and … they’d get it all from the starting place of that f2f with Nancy.

Are we already doing this sort of thing in ways that I don’t know about? Would this be more “community building” than traditional reader advisory? Does your library connect readers to their communities, online or otherwise? How?

-CRH