TLA is making the 2008 Second General Session program with speakers Roy Tennant, Joe Janes, Karen Schneider, and Stephen Abram available on the TLA website. This extraordinary panel really stimulated thinking about the transformational process; and with the speakers’ permission, we are disseminating this valuable content. You can find a six-minute excerpt of their presentation at http://www.txla.org/conference/conf.html or can contact Randy May (email@example.com) for instructions for downloading the full 80 MB file.
Transforming Program at TLA Annual Conference June 4, 2008
Go Austin! April 24, 2008
The Austin Public Library’s winning book cart drill team performance is up on YouTube. (The banner at the end reads: “Literature is my Utopia – Hellen Keller”)
And just in case you missed the original “I want to be a librarian” video when it was making the rounds here it is again too.
TLA Conference – Transforming Texas Libraries Task Force April 23, 2008
On Friday, April 18 from 7:30 to 9 a.m., the Transforming Texas Libraries Task Force will have a chance to debrief the comments made during the Thursday afternoon program. Coffee and breakfast breads will be available.
This was a debriefing of the session the day before. We were reminded about the report and asked to keep in mind that this is a draft report. It’s not the 10 things we’re going to do, but some of the big ideas. The agenda wasn’t to discuss the report but we decided to start with that. The report and appendices are all online.
Julie’s initial comment has to do with fine tuning. The report is intended to give big sweeping direction, but people wanted directives – “this is what we’re going to do.” We’re trying to decide how specific we want to be.
A lot of the discussion at the meeting were concerns about wanting to move forward but not sure how. We have a big hole with what comes next because it wasn’t intended to do that. It was just to start things going.
Julie is working on the materials for the “getting excited about it” part, but we need a next step.
We heard people asking, “tell me what to do,” but we’re trying to tell them how to have a discussion.
We’re hoping that the document will foster a culture of change. Fostering that broader culture is where we need to be looking. We’re not talking about a cookbook. This isn’t Access Texas. It’s a much broader harder thing to get to because it’s much less tangible. It’s going to be a journey, not a destination. If we stop having the conversation, if we say we finished, we did it, then we failed.
We think having the wikis and sharing what others are doing will be helpful.
We need an interim step of 3 or 4 scenarios of what’s next.
People think transform and they think 2.0, but it doesn’t have to be about technology. Some people left confused.
We want to create a 2 page executive summary – “Texas is talking about.” We’ll put that up and then send out a blast email. We’re struggling with how much info to leave in the report. Julie used a cruise analogy – we went on this cruise and had such a wonderful time and now we want to show you all our pictures, but no one wants to see all your cruise pictures. We need to pick out the best ones. We need to figure out how to use the appendices and lists.
They want a hook to hang their hat on, which is why she was saying district meetings. We think we need to be more specific in the scenarios.
We need to shift to concentration on user. The future of Texas is not, “If we can just get them to use the databases…” There’s the broader issue of switching from, “here’s what we have for you” to “what is it you need and how do you want to get to it?”
A lot of the thinking needs to be rethinking the questions.
We want to create some scenarios that help people recognize what it might look like when they have transformed. It’s not a best practices it’s a vision.
Establishing relationships with constituents, provide them a list of outside facilitators so they can hold their own focus groups to collect local data. Then have people put those questions and answers in the wiki.
There was talk of the realization that not everyone is starting at the same point – it’s going to be different for different people.
There are so many ways people collect information about what people want. Even the simplest are important – do you have comment card/suggestion cards in your library? – what about online? There are many low-tech non-scientific ways to do things. This is an ongoing process, it’s just part of doing business.
Emphasize that this is different for everyone.
We want our constituents to realize we are motivated and enthusiastic, we have service values.
We need more events that will cause our own profession to evolve. The district meetings are to convert the preachers, not the masses. Julie said that would be the dinner speech approach.
The single most transforming event has been the rally. We need a video with a number of things – we’re changing, we’re excited about what we’re doing.
We have to do a geographic dispersion.
A bunch of librarians liked the general session – great topic, liked the format of conversation, they could see where they could transform here at their own libraries.
Maybe have a staff development focus.
Idaho did a study of digital natives.
ACRL just had a free webcast – Henry Jenkins has done incredible work with teenagers.
I reiterated my emphasis on grass roots – that staff meetings should be started with an open floor, maybe something akin to PLA dangerous ideas session, not with a top down “here’s what we’re going to do.”
Start with things to be done internally with the idea of critical mass pulling you over.
We need to be committed to continuing this dialog. We need to inundate people. We can be a powerful force for change in our communities, for transparency in government for example. So it’s not just libraries changing for constituents, but also helping constituents change.
Next tasks: executive summary 1st, scenarios 2nd
Join Stephen Abram, Joe Janes, Karen Schneider, and Roy Tennant as they debate and discuss the latest and most contentious issues in Libraryland. As our library community takes up the challenge of Transforming Texas Libraries, this general session will be like no other: entertaining, enlightening, energizing, and (most importantly) all about the future of libraries and what we, as a professional community, need to do to control our destiny.
Stephen Abram, president, Special Libraries Association, and vice president of innovation, SirsiDynix; Joseph Janes, associate professor, Information School, University of Washington (Seattle); Karen Schneider, research and development consultant, College Center for Automation (Tallahassee, FL); and Roy Tennant, senior program officer, OCLC.
The session was designed as a conversation between the panelists with Roy Tennant as the moderator. He threw out a few provocative questions to start things off.
What keeps you awake at night? It could be a major challenge, something that worries you or a real opportunity that you get excited about.
Karen talked about the reemergence of reference. The kind of reference where you walk to the desk and ask for the population of Alaska is gone, but reference is becoming a specialized tool. Students won’t go to the library as the first place, but they do when they have a specialized need or when they get stumped.
Joe said that the “what’s the capital of Bolivia” ready reference kind of stuff is not over, but it’s such a small fraction of what they’ll turn to us for. If that’s what you convey to people that’s what you specialize in then they won’t come to you when they get stuck. [Excellent point!]
Your expertise is far better used when people get stuck, when they’re spending 45 minutes and getting nowhere, when they’re trying to accomplish something important. He would rather see us positioned as a conduit to the much larger institutions that we represent.
What keeps him awake is that we seem to love to fight about what is a librarian, how do we prepare people, who is, who isn’t. It has to be addressed because it’s always changing, so he’s ok with the conversation, but the temperature of that conversation has risen, and people want to lock that down. The worst time to do that is when everything is up in the air. Absolutely we have to keep having the conversation, and keep doing the same things, but it’s damaging to our profession that we’re crapping on the new graduates. We’re building a wonderful wealth of dinosaur literature. [Dinosaur in the sense that the dinosaurs didn’t die from climate change, they died from failing to adapt.]
Abram worries whether our colleagues are capable of making the changes that are coming. There are tons of people who don’t have a Facebook account but have very strong opinions about it. [They made the argument that how can you have an opinion if you don’t try it for yourself. I would offer that that isn’t the best argument. A glaring example might be heavy drug use. I’m pretty sure not very many people are going to tell me I can’t have an opinion on that without first trying it myself. But a much tamer example might be collection development. We select materials all the time based on what others have said about the item without reading every page ourselves. I personally think having a Facebook page is kind of like putting up a flyer at a local coffee shop – it certainly can’t hurt, but if none of your constituents go to that coffee shop, maybe your library doesn’t need to be doing that. You can certainly make an informed decision without signing up for an account.]
Karen said we are not an evidence driven profession. Someone will say “Our users don’t use Facebook, oh but we block it.” There’s a dogma about tools, about what people do and don’t do, but most of it is not evidence based. [I definitely agree that I would like to see more user surveys – even of the most informal nature.]
Abram – “You were so successful at getting kids not to smoke and drink by banning it.” [I could be wrong, but I don’t think most places are blocking Facebook because they think it’s bad for kids. They’re blocking it because people are hogging the computers. There may be other/better ways to handle the problem, but I think this was a misrepresentation of what’s going on.]
Janes said that when teachers say you can’t use Wikipedia we need to take those teachers aside in the faculty lounge. It’s about how to learn how to use the tool. [Yes! I’m huge on using the bottom of the page in Wikipedia to find articles and websites.]
If you don’t like Wikipedia, fix it. “Like my dad says – if you don’t vote you can’t bitch.”
Karen thinks Wikipedia should have been ours for the taking. Janes agreed, there’s more of us than there are of them.
[I think this argument gives librarians a little too much credit. Wikipedia is not something that can be “fixed.” It is what it is and as such is constantly evolving. Librarians taking over as stewards won’t change the fact that Colbert can ask people to change the numbers on the population of elephants and they’ll do it en mass. Librarian involvement would not change any of the inherent “flaws” of the tool. And there are more of them than there are of us. And they’re much more technologically savvy.]
The next discussion question was: If you could change one thing what would it be?
Abram would change the big picture confidence of our colleagues, give them the confidence to think way bigger, advocacy skills in a much more coordinated manner.
Karen would put a software developer in every library, or every country, or every state. We would be able to write our own software, have incredibly great applications. [I’m a huge fan of Karen’s but I’m thinking she doesn’t really know what all goes in to software development if she thinks putting one in each state is the way to go. (See the comments – she assumed collaboration while I was assuming silos.) At the very least it usually involves teams of people… I’ll take the sentiment behind it though and say that I am so in love with the fact that many talented librarians seem to be embracing open source and excellent things are being developed.]
Abram asked, “Can we develop a user experience?” He also kept talking about how we need more meat in the game, which I think sometimes meant more substance and other times meant more people? But it was an odd turn of phrase and particularly kept turning my non-meat eating stomach.
Janes would like to be able to go into the collective mind of the profession and flip the little default switch from no to yes. [What a lovely way to phrase that!]
Karen said someone will bring up user tagging and the next person will ask how can we control that?
Abram would like to see intergenerational mentoring – young and old know equal amount of stuff that’s different. [I felt this was based on an assumption that all young librarians are tech savvy and that’s just not true.]
Janes said the directors are trying to innovate, the youngns are trying to innovate, but the people in the middle are sitting there with their arms crossed and it’s so disheartening.
Janes tells his grads that there are people who are going to beat you down, you need to figure out how to work together.
They mentioned a Wilson Bulletin from the 50’s saying not to use phone reference – if they’re too lazy to come in they don’t deserve our help. So it’s not a new thing.
Where they start is up to them, where they finish is up to you. [I agree very much with the sentiment that we should provide as many ways to contact us as possible. We can always continue the communication using a more appropriate method.]
Another topic was the idea of risk mitigated by small trials. Janes said for those of you who want to try stuff – the most important thing you can do is fail – then tell us all about it. Maricopa used bisac instead of dewey and the profession was not supportive of the trial. If they had failed it would have “proved” to everyone, but things happen iteratively. We need a few more celebrated failures in this profession. [Oh how I agree with this!!]
Federated search is going to be messy for years. Having all this stuff digital is going to be hard and a mess. Google books the search engine is going to take time to get where we want it to be. It’s going to be very difficult to predict what people are going to want these for and what they’ll do with it.
There’s a different kind of scholarship, authorship, readership, creativity. Movies, podcasts, recordings are all valid formats.
Karen said this is an exciting opportunity for us to become curators – think beyond the books. We have to see it and seize it.
There are 2 sides – designing infrastructure and putting people out there. We have so much to contribute. “Free the authorities.” Show our candy.
The idea of embedded – that everyone is part of a community. Librarians posted comments on local community blogs, engage people where they are. [I think this is a great idea for communities that have that type of public forum or local bloggers!]
Karen said it’s not the user who’s remote, we are. We need to reach out and close that gap. It can be as simple as commenting on someone’s blog. [Though there is the question of how many small rural Texas communities have anyone blogging? But we can take the idea without the methodology – comment in the local paper, local PTA meeting, wherever would be relevant for your community.]
When we see something awesome at a library, why isn’t it in 50 other by 6 months? [Good point.]
Abram suggests reorganization of structure – from hierarchical to team based. Karen doesn’t think it’s the structure. She has been in team based structures are awful and hierarchical that are very nimble. It’s the people that need to change.
Abram asked – how do we do that?
Karen said some of that is teaching the young people how to go in there and not get frustrated.
Janes said that the new people are different and they’re different in interesting ways. They’re different in the way they think, more steeped in the technology. In many important ways they’re the same. They want to do good in the world, fight for access, do reference, tell stories, it’s just that they go about it in a slightly different way.
There is hope for the younger folks.
There was a nice defense of some of the feet draggers – think about their position – they entered the profession in 70s or 80s with a perception about the world – a world and profession that wasn’t going to change very much. But their world and perspective was knocked out from under them and they find themselves in a profession they did not sign up for. It’s not a surprise that some people decide this is all bad. But some decide, “I can be a better librarian.” That’s the way to engage these people. [Here here!]
The tools are better now, so you can do what you signed up for better.
They mentioned vodcasts from Cornell about how to do research. [I would strongly recommend though that if you’re going to have some form of media giving information that you have it in text too – remembering our learning styles – just because we can do video now does not mean that it’s the way that everyone prefers to learn.]
There was a joke about forming a 12 step program for librarians.
There’s the frustration from young librarians, “Why are they treating me like a child instead of a new colleague?”
There was talk that we need to be dong the policy work – the advocacy book. People are in denial about reaching supervisory/management. Janes said that part of it is making that attractive. What people come in wanting to do is this profession, why should they want to do the administrative – they’re not trained for that. How do we recruit people into the field that have this breadth of interests and background and experience? [There was a mention that 65% of incoming librarians don’t want to go into management. My question to that is, not everyone can be a manager, so what % do we need to be interested?]
Karen said that we have some really interesting development going on. We need to know more about them and celebrate them a little better.
The final question was – what one thing would you want to know more about?
Abram wants to know how information becomes knowledge. How do we get better at creating those educational items? What behaviors do we want? If we understood the dynamics of learning, society would be better.
Karen wants to know where Google will be in 20 years. If they’re like most technology companies they’ll rise and they’ll fall. When will their time pass? The Google antitrust is coming.
Janes wants to know what happens. There’s a lot going on and a lot of ways this could go. He can imagine a vibrant future or a very different future where we lose. This moment is incredibly fraught and could go either way.
Abram thinks we can do it.
Karen wants to know how we get through the transition from paper to digital. There will come a time when we make that transition. [I disagree that paper will be gone forever, but I agree that more and more is online and dealing with that transition is important. Providing information digitally removes some of the physical cues about what makes something an encyclopedia article or a journal article for example.]
How willing are we to embrace a world where we don’t own what we curate?
Janes said the library isn’t the building – its every time a person engages. The idea of the library has always been bigger than the building. As the stuff becomes increasingly non physical now its just much easier to do that.
We have to be better online. The kinds of services we offer online have to be better.
The idea of bricks, clicks and tricks:
The people we see in the library are different from the ones coming in online. We need to send the message that we improve access to resources – we’ve got the tricks – like an accountant or a doctor. We can all add and subtract, but we go to the accountant for the big things. We do basic nutrition but still go to the doctor for his medical expertise.
Karen said she goes to a lot of technology conferences, librarians have enormous respect and trust – we need to tap into and take advantage of that.
Janes encouraged us to talk to library school faculty work with each other, take internship students, recruit for us.
Abram urged us to develop a new culture of openness. Librarians need to learn when we study something to death that death was not our original goal.
I thought this ended on a wonderful note and had many wonderful notes throughout, but did tend to be repeatedly disparaging. There was a running joke about presenting a session on how libraries should go back to the good old days and then locking those people in that room and getting rid of them. There was also the overall vibe of “ugh, why aren’t we all doing this already!” and “can you believe these idiots we all have to work with?”
I’m going to quote myself here because this session brought up a lot of the same emotions for me as the future of the catalog session did.
My parting thought on this session is my general personal unease with the antagonistic approach that I frequently see when proposing important changes. I think that this session was well received, but I worry they were preaching to the converted. There’s something to be said for firing up the choir, but in terms of getting new recruits I wonder if we might not catch more flies with honey. “Look at all the wonderful options we can offer our constituents!” rather than “Get with the times or die!” I will readily admit that I’m probably more sensitive than most people, but I don’t see the need to be so disparaging toward what’s come before. Librarians did the best they could with what they had and now we have some great new tools in front of us that will take some time to learn how to use. This is an exciting opportunity! Let’s share that enthusiasm and optimism and try to put aside the negativity as much as possible.
Edited to add: Starr types much faster than I do, so for more on what the panelists said, see her notes.
Members of the visioning team will update attendees on recommendations and seek feedback on the draft report. We want to learn from you. Help craft a vision that will make all Texas libraries stronger today and tomorrow.
Steve Brown, director, North Richland Hills Public Library; Peggy Rudd, director and librarian, Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Julie Todaro, dean of library services, Austin Community College.
This session was for gathering feedback from the community. It started with a brief overview of the progress so far.
The initiative started about a year ago. TLA president Steve Brown talked about wanting a process to bring Texas libraries together and to stay vibrant into the future.
What is the big question for libraries? How are we going to be relevant? How can we do new and different things?
Instead of having to play catch up to the world’s expectations, lets get ahead of the game and see what we can be like.
We’re looking at libraries in different ways, some ways are uncomfortable and some are exciting.
There was an aggressive time line to get some ideas going forward. They didn’t want a short term 6 month project that mounts a report that doesn’t get read. They see this as a living thing.
Hopefully you’re here because you want to continue the process an make it better.
We needed quick great thinking to give a framework to go forward. So they got together a steering committee. They wanted to bring in people from across the state so they made a task force, a strong group of people with new ideas with at least 50% being new to the profession. It didn’t make sense to craft a longstanding vision that wasn’t going to be fueled by the people who would have to take it forward. So there were young turks and veterans at the summit and folks from outside of library land – legislative especially. Decided it was best not to just talk to ourselves. Have to make a conscious effort to get that outside view. The summit consisted of people in work groups tackling questions. They wanted big ideas. From that process we had 6 emerging themes. [Link to the draft report]
- User focus
- Universal access
- Partnerships and collaboration
- Accountability and preparation
This is all available on the TLA website along with a podcast of the keynotes.
We need to stop talking about what libraries need and talk about what users need, stop talking about how to bring users in and start on how to go out to them. We’re still very much for universal access. There’s an ongoing need for partnership and collaboration between libraries and between libraries and other kinds of organizations and user communities. [Personal plug – do you know about 211? Do you let your constituents know about 211? It’s a nationwide initiative to help connect people to free information and referrals to health and human service agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, disaster relief resources, and volunteer opportunities.]
The job of librarians today is to set up the candy store and let them have at it. It won’t hurt our jobs since there’s so much to organize.
There’s a need for statewide marketing.
This is the first of hopefully many feedback forums. The panel included:
Steve Brown, director, North Richland Hills Public Library and TLA president; Peggy Rudd, director and librarian, Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Julie Todaro, dean of library services, Austin Community College and Transforming Committee Chair.
Peggy Rudd told us that the transforming process begins now but will have to be handed off. How will we operationalize this? She hopes we all have a chance to read Gloria’s draft report. The question now is how is it we are going to step into this process? How is what we are going to do going to impact libraries across the state?
She’s going to talk about some of the things they’re trying at the state library. Libraries are instruments for innovation, success and self fulfilment. Our purpose is simple but profoundly important. How are we going to make that come true?
We have some of the most successful programs that are around that are statewide. We have a solid foundation to base future work but we need to continue pushing envelope. Public libraries must have a presence in the virtual world, not just a static web page with a picture. We committed – created/provided public library internet kit – website in a box toolkit. This allows these libraries to be more meaningful and more interactive. Libraries need to begin taking advantage of social networking sites, to work within the blogging sphere. That came up as a need and desire for libraries of all types, particularly public. How are we going to get many public librarians comfortable in these spaces with these new technologies? We need some training, preferably training online so it can be accessed when they’re ready.
In the area of statewide resource sharing – Texshare is the name that stands out as a brand. It has immediate name recognition among librarians, but the public is not aware. The term database means nothing, Texshare means nothing. How are we going to brand the Texshare experience – connecting people to info and materials quickly easily, take that as a brand and sell that to the public? What we need to do is connecting. We’ve got work to do in that area.
How can we market them so the public immediately recognizes a value? Compel them to reach out and grab what we make available to them?
Statewide authentication. What do we do about people who are not coming through a library? We’ve always pitched it as something available through your library. What about the people who have no library? Should we let them in at the state level or partner them with local libraries? Are we ready now to really talk about a statewide library card or statewide reciprocal borrowing card? How would that look?
What if we move it out into the world of other libraries at large?
If we’re thinking about the user, our answer is different than when we think about it as librarians. Remember it’s about the user.
They’re already rethinking ILL (at the state library). They have 3 models. The ILL implementation group is meeting to discuss a recent study.
In the area of cultural heritage and digitization of collections they’ve been lucky with grants etc. to be able to do a great deal of work. They’re testing a data collection instrument to identify historical collections, then they’ll push on public access to those resources.
How are we going to move in preservation so years from now people have the same or better access? Having access to primary resources makes students more interested.
How are we going to integrate library services so they have integrated full range access regardless of their purpose, income, location. Right now they’re working to tear down many silos so they can reach across.
Community colleges see that what access students had in high school has a huge effect on entering college.
Next up Steve Brown said there are two driving sentiments – enormous challenge to librarians looming on the horizon and change is hard. Users move more quickly than we do. He said we owe a great debt to Julie et al for pulling us together and giving us a beginning. Now how do we sustain that and take it down to a local level?
He found it easy to play the role of outside agitator, but now how to carry it on. He said that the incoming president is focusing on one Texas, one card, no barriers.
Change is not an easy thing, it doesn’t happen overnight. We need to keep pushing and keep it in the air til it becomes something they expect. About 80% of the cities and towns in Texas are smaller than the population of this conference. It’s very hard to tear yourself away from day to day concerns and look ahead.
They’re working with the idea of putting together toolkits that give people the working pieces. He said they want feedback more than talking, so he passed it over to Julie.
Julie talked about the need for repackaging so rather than the content she’s going to talk about the process. We had an agenda and she pointed to item 4b – events scheduled so far. She’ll be traveling and speaking about how you might do this in your environment. She mentioned they’ll be offering a very short edited down version of the keynote which was a discussion between 2 futurists.
Some of the options include:
- elevator speech – 5 minutes
- dinner speech – 30 minutes – to take and deliver to excite them about the fact that there’s some wonderful things going on out there and you need to have the discussion
- workshop – plan to do with staff
- webcast – less than an hour
- video, ppt, handouts, discussion questions
They want to make it flat so that you can do it at any time, or synchronous.
There will be publications – handouts, press releases, discussion questions, articles with rationale, why should you as well as steps. Take handouts to district meetings.
The online toolkit is the structure to this entire event.
They’re also doing a poll of Texas – like a Gallup poll – of people who both use and don’t use libraries – constituents. [Constituents was the term proposed by the keynote speakers to talk about all the people the library serves. I like it.]
They’ll continue to update the blog as well as utilize the wiki system within TLA to provide content and feedback.
Then the floor was open to comments with the following questions as guidelines:
Which of these things is interesting to you? Who else do we need to talk to? [I made a note to myself here – there was a sign up list of who to talk to up at the summit and I would love to see that list online somewhere.]
Start today by using that content from Gloria (the draft report). Also think about how you might transform your own environment.
3rd – how you might use a piece of the repackaging.
An audience member encouraged the face to face structure. Another agreed, yes, we need face to face, we won’t do it just online.
Another suggestion was that perhaps next year the Texas Library Journal’s theme should be the transforming process.
The panel added that the 6 themes will also be the 6 programming themes for next year’s conference.
Partnerships – need to talk to others who share our ideals and would be happy to help us transform.
Harrington – 94 libraries, easy time changing because they’re always changing and growing.
Another plug for branding across the state.
The PR committee is actively involved in the poll they’ll be doing.
We’ve had a couple of statewide campaigns.
Will be doing RFPs and will work with a marketing company.
Why can’t we use the driver’s license as the statewide card? Cuts both ways – way too much info on one card and what about people who can’t get DLs?
Some of the past campaigns:
“Get the facts ask a librarian” – focused on environment and people
“read for your life” – outcomes based
Someone from a community college said that developmental learning is very front and center.
No time for MySpace.
Initiated several new programs with youth that have been successful
Another person said they don’t have the talent, the money to hire the talent, or the time to learn.
Transforming is to give you an idea of where you need to go.
Using other people’s energy – e.g. high school kids coming in and getting trained from local Apple Co.
Technology Petting Zoo – need to do something to increase the comfort level – ATRT will likely do this next conference. [I’m working on getting one together at my college too.]
We need to share ownership of library – invite the constituents into our system.
Question – how far is this going to go?
That’s on the agenda. The idea is that kits will be organized by what is realistic based on your size and constituents. Should give you ideas of what you can do within the resources you already have. Identify something you can do immediately. Really looking at things that are doable almost immediately, that’s the way they’re trying to steer people. Remember to use your TLA colleagues and library students.
The very nature of this technology is that it’s ephemeral. Transforming is not about “let’s all get on the technology bandwagon,” it’s about how can we change. Our constituents are changing, resources are changing. We need to address the basics. Helping people look at what they need to change and how.
Julie would be happy if in small areas people came in to talk about change and found out the databases were there. Would be thrilled if people knew what we have now and how we can enrich their lives.
Another person mentioned the viagra model – getting vendors to market directly to patrons.
Gloria said they have been in discussion with some database providers, the vendors had this idea already. Ebsco is planning to.
I think the most important take away from this session was the idea that we’re talking about looking at libraries and what they can be. People think transform and think 2.0, but it doesn’t have to be about technology. Focusing on our constituents and asking them what they want is a big and important change that doesn’t require any technology. The same is true for forming partnerships with other organizations and reaching out into the community. It’s about what we should be doing, not what tools we should be using to do it.
What is the role of the library catalog in a world where users expect to find everything from one search box? Where does it belong in the value chain? How will it work and who will provide it? Explore a no-holds-barred look at the future of catalogs.
Roy Tennant, senior program officer, OCLC (Dublin, OH).
The Future of Catalogs was presented by Roy Tennant. He was introduced with a long and impressive list of accolades and broke straight into the agitation for which I’m sure he was invited.
“Future? What future? Catalogs ain’t got no stinking future?”
He explained that’s upsetting to us because we put so much time and energy into building them. He’s trying to slay the word OPAC – it’s an anachronistic word. Use catalog or ILS.
Roy explained that discovery increasingly happens elsewhere (e.g. Google). If libraries are not there, not reflected in sites like that, they’re going to miss us. OCLC is trying to make that happen. While I agree with much of what Roy had to say throughout the presentation it still came off a bit preachy and like an OCLC sales pitch and sat a little sour with me. But like I said, I’m sure he was brought in to stir the pot, and I think he did an excellent job at that.
He cited the OCLC report on where people start their search – search engine 98%, library website – 2%. [Frankly I’m impressed it reached 2%. How many librarians start their searches at the library website when not helping a constituent? For how many general searches is the library website even the appropriate place to start?]
He said that users have been trained to look for a search box and button. They don’t even see all the other stuff on the page. So even when they come to us we don’t meet their expectations. We give them what we have in our building, they expect the world of information. [I strongly disagree with this statement. Speaking as a community college librarian, a large number of my questions include a student who wants a book and wants it now. They don’t want what we have at another campus and can get here in 2 days. The paper is due tomorrow. Yes, I share electronic resources with them that are often very helpful, but just as often they’ve already gotten most of their research done, but the teacher is requiring that they cite at least one book. Or they just aren’t comfortable with ebooks or don’t have a computer at home and want something they are familiar with, can hold, and take home. Or thinking of public libraries, or anyone coming in for leisure reading – they’re not interested in the world of information, they’re interested in what you have in that building. I would wager that far more people who enter a library are actually more interested in what is physically in that building than the whole world of information.]
He talked about the management environment – the stuff we have to keep track of (our resources – bought, licensed, various authorizations) vs. the interface to the consumer environment. He said we’re not injecting ourselves into personal workflow, institutional workflow. He challenged us to syndicate out into the user environment. We have to surround them and not expect them to come to us. In the past the library has been an edifice that users come to. That world is gone. Now the user is the center of their own universe. They know they can find good info at their computer. We need to make sure they see us. That we’re there in usable ways.
Library imperatives – being where they are, services built for them, where and when they want them. E.g. – instructor’s course web page. [Love this idea.]
Understanding their needs and desires – convenience trumps quality. If you’re writing a 3 page paper your requirements are a lot less than a grad student doing a thesis. We need to help them get the best info before they give up.
Sharing trumps privacy – we have to consider allowing the user to drop that wall when they want to. E.g. allow info about books they checked out so they can get recommendations. Offering control, enabling personal collections and personal uses, mashups, repurposing. E.g. graduate students or faculty members. [I think this is where he mentioned that this demographic had no way to track citations/collect research materials currently, which is of course ridiculous since there are gobs of software alternatives for this kind of thing, Endnote being the first that comes to mind, but certainly not the only or the best. Should we make library records exportable to citation management software? Absolutely! Should we expect the next generation catalog to become citation management software? I think not.]
He also talked about disclosing content on the net in useful ways. He’s working on some best practices. [I’m very interested in this. The mantra “expose yourself to search engines” seems at best ill thought out currently. There are the easy and obvious examples – if you have special collections for example, definitely mention them on the relevant Wikipedia page, or use tools to try to get the site more recognition. But what about those of us who aren’t large research institutions? I asked more about this in the Q&A section at the end, but didn’t receive much beyond OCLC is working on it. I think it would be wonderful to team up with the big search engines to have a “find it at your local library” suggestion whenever anyone searches for a book or an author. How can we make that happen? Google book search does have a “find this book in a library” feature that leads to WorldCat and seems to know my location. In my dream world the first hit for a search for a book would take you to some sort of FRBR-ized version of what Open Library is doing (one page for every book) where you can then buy, borrow, or get a free version online. I suppose this is what OCLC is trying to be, but I somehow feel a little better about a group that doesn’t have a pricing page being the ones in charge of it…]
The demise of the local catalog – discovery increasingly happens at the network level. Even when it happens at the local level, few want to limit their search to only books. [I think there are some inherent problems with trying to search for articles and books at the same times since the granular metadata isn’t there for books yet, so many relevant books would be missed in favor of articles. Different sources have different types of information in them which would be retrieved with different keywords, so I don’t know that a single search interface would actually help you or save you any time. But there’s probably a solution out there somewhere.]
Even if they do want to limit themselves to books, our systems don’t include what they can find at Google books. [If what he meant here was “doesn’t include all the free books online” then I agree, it would be great to get all the free online books indexed in one place and then get those records into our catalogs – assuming you could also filter them out for people who want something made of paper to walk away with. If what he meant was “doesn’t list all the books indexed by Google books” well then why should it? And better yet, why choose Google books as your marker? Why not LOC? Why not OCLC? I still think most people coming in to most libraries want to know what that library has, not what the world has.]
New finding tools are making traditional library catalogs obsolete. Note: libraries still need an ILS but it will not be the way users find what they want. Put a new finding tool in front of users. His idea is Open WorldCat. Discovery up at top. Why this makes sense – users typically want to find everything they can on a topic. [I’d really like to see a study to back this up. My impression is that constituents are more likely to want the book they’re looking for, or a book on the topic or in the genre they’re looking for. Only people writing research papers want as much as possible and even then they often only want as much as they need to reach their word limit. As an aside – another argument I have against federated searching is the mixing of reading levels. There is no point in bringing in detailed chemistry or biology journal articles for someone who just wants to write their 4th grade book report on spiders. Knowing which resource to go to is valuable, not in a “oh you need us” kind of way, but in a “let’s not mix everything together so that it makes it hard to find what you want” kind of way. One of the main roles of librarians as I see it is to help people learn the research process – how to evaluate sources, where to go depending on what you’re looking for, etc.]
Users prefer to search in one place if possible – “only librarians like to search, everyone else prefers to find.” They want to know how soon they can get it but not much more. Most ILS have been optimized for librarians not users. [That I will definitely agree with!]
Taking a look at what users are accustomed to – Amazon. Here he showed a slide of the UC Berkeley catalog – they built it themselves. Then the site redesign – added choices. He was saying there are too many choices before you can run your search. [On the other hand, if he’s saying that they don’t notice any of that stuff, what’s the harm in putting it there? Maybe they’ll learn something.]
Then he showed the advanced search page. 51 choices for what to search on – including binder file. No reason to be in front of users. [I would argue that some options are worthwhile, moreover, the next generation catalogs still have those refinements, you just usually select them after you’ve run your search, refine by location, format, subject, etc.] No vendor was involved in this disaster. They’ve been kind enough to give us what we’ve asked them for. Melvyl at UC – shows a record of a book that is available online in full text – goes to a copyright notice. Is this what the Google generation expects? Deserves? [I don’t know whether the copyright notice was required or not, so I’ll skip that, but I’ll agree with how far the person has to hunt through the record to find out that there’s also a free version online. Or an exact copy that happened to be published a different year. We need some better sort of works level access rather than jumping immediately to the item level. I like what LibraryThing is doing with this and includes in their LibraryThing for Libraries services. I’ve pitched this at my college and hope that it goes through.]
Next gen finding tools are able to integrate access to a wide variety of sources. Able to use information from other systems as well as provide it (via protocols). Offer sophisticated features like relevance ranking, faceted browsing.
libraryfind.org – open source project to provide a metasearch tool. OSU libraries are developing it. Facets on left to narrow results. Surfacing the richness of the data that so far has been hidden. Integrates access to articles as well.
WorldCat Local – faceted browsing, relevance ranked. Books are ranked – complicated algorithms but also includes number of libraries holding – so most popular go to top. Integrated articles. First thing you see are local holdings, then regional consortium, then everything else. Set up in concentric circles where the user is the center and how soon they can get it is the center. [This explanation went a long way to help sell me on his provide them everything idea.]
Our viewpoint = local collections, then our group, then the global
User’s viewpoint = same building, 1-2 days, 1-2 weeks. Tell me what I have to go through to get this and I’ll decide if its worth it.
WorldCat identities – pulls in cover art, publishing timeline, most widely held works, genre – chicklit, fictionfinder, tag cloud, can search on genres, settings
He said he’d be remiss if he didn’t show some of the vendor options.
Libraries have begun to develop tools themselves
Penn library – search box and button at top searches web site, journal articles, catalog, ebooks, research guides
He said “it really doesn’t take a whole lot to do this.” [I think that depends very much on your resources both financial and technical. I know there’s a desire to let people know how easy things can be, but let’s not forget the single librarian rural libraries with no money and no tech skills and no tech department. Again, I know he was brought in to be inflammatory and inspiring, but I think this attitude of “It’s so easy!” is actually more condescending than reassuring. It had this undertone of “get with the times people!” and it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. It’s simple to say, but not at all simple to do. Change in large institutions is hard because of all the administration and bureaucracy that needs to be plowed through. Change in small institutions is hard because of lack of funds, technology, and technical skills. Change is hard. It’s important – definitely, but let’s not pretend it’s easy.]
Talk to your users, do needs assessment, usability testing
Next gen catalogs – not his preference that we continue to have silos of information. Try to provide a unified interface.
A brief moment to discuss taxonomy:
- ILS = integrated library system – including circulation, cataloging, etc
- discovery system = only the public interface, doesn’t replace the ILS
both can be locally configured/maintained or centrally hosted
Needs an API between discovery system and ILS.
Questions to consider:
- Do you want to replace your ILS or just your public interface?
- Can you consider open source options? Many cannot.
- Do you have the technical expertise to set it up and maintain it locally?
- Are you willing to regularly harvest data from the ILS to discovery system?
- one of his favorite interfaces [Mine too, this is one I made a note to look into further]
- developed by Villanova
- open source supported by palinet
- vufind.org has a demo version
- tells you available or checked out in results
- also call number and location
- faceted browsing – narrow by material type or topic
- shows similar items
- review that they bring in from amazon
OCLC offering API for WorldCat
- blogging platform made over into a library catalog system
- based on wordpress
- Plymouth State University
- nice search suggestions !!
- they use the word tags rather than subjects since users are used to that
What does the future hold? A few predictions:
- Users of local library services will continue to (and increasingly) discover them beginning at the network level.
- The basic infrastructure for small and medium sized libraries will be commoditized and outsourced.
- The overall spending on library software will decrease.
What do I do now?
Most of you should just hang tight. Some will be early adapters, but he wants to see some more shakeout happen. Keep your eyes, ears and minds open. Don’t despair, you will survive this too. Laugh because if you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right.
Then we went to audience questions.
Shawne Miksa was first up. She wanted to point out that much more work is needed on the back end to make these tools effective. Whatever the display is, the data is needed.
She also wanted to ask about the statistics – it was an online survey – she thinks it was a narrow user group. Should we only focus on that one user group? Roy said no – we should ask our users, but since many libraries don’t have the resources to do in depth user studies, general surveys can help. Shawne said that her 70 year old mom won’t understand tags. She also worries about dumbing down system. Roy replied that it’s not dumbing down, but making it easy to use. We’ve required the user to come up with complicated boolean queries, it’s all about building intelligence into the back end. Shawne also lamented that she never hears anything about people can learn. Roy thinks its important that we not require them to learn. [I’m a bit split down the middle on this one. I do believe that teaching is a main component of my job as a librarian. I also agree that our systems should be easier to use. I think a lot of it depends on what the person is looking for when they come into the library and I’m not convinced that adopting the single search box method is the best approach.]
The next person had an odd question about being indexed. His IT department told him that was bad because that puts you into Google cache, which made them more likely to be hacked. The general consensus was “huh?”
The next question was about his claim that young people don’t care about privacy, that we should give them the option to drop that. She asked about our responsibility to inform them. He thinks there are ways to provide what they want and maintain privacy. [I agree with this completely and think that this should be the message that people use in the first place. We can do lots of great 2.0 things without throwing out our privacy concerns. I think this is a much more effective and responsible approach than the “get with the times, the kids don’t care” one I usually hear. The kids might not care, but that’s just because they’re young enough to think they’re invincible and that the McCarthy era could never happen again.]
The next woman offered that one of the heartburn items is feeling they’ll lose what they want in terms of searching. [This was a really great point, assuring librarians that they won’t lose the functionality they’re used to is important.]
Next up, I asked more about making libraries crawlable. As I said above, I get what libraries with special collections can do, but what is the approach for smaller libraries? There’s no reason our sites would or even should rank near the top. He suggests using Google sitemap to get your ranking up, but outside of that that the real initiative is to get WorldCat into the search results and have your library found through WorldCat. I also asked what WorldCat was doing to get higher in the search results. He said they are in Google book search, but didn’t have any specifics beyond that.
The next question was on the role of OCLC as gatekeeper. And unfortunately I must have been walking back to my chair then because that’s where my notes end and I sorely wish I had his answer to reflect on here.
My parting thought on this session (which will come up again when I cover the general session later) is my general personal unease with the antagonistic approach that I frequently see when proposing important changes. I think that this session and the general session later in the day were well received, but I worry they were preaching to the converted. There’s something to be said for firing up the choir, but in terms of getting new recruits I wonder if we might not catch more flies with honey. “Look at all the wonderful options we can offer our constituents!” rather than “Get with the times or die!” I will readily admit that I’m probably more sensitive than most people, but I don’t see the need to be so disparaging towards what’s come before. Librarians did the best they could with what they had and now we have some great new tools in front of us that will take some time to learn how to use. This is an exciting opportunity! Let’s share that enthusiasm and optimism and try to put aside the negativity as much as possible.