ellie <3 libraries

sooooo much!

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


TLA Conference – Transforming Texas Libraries: An Update on Statewide Visioning

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.

First off for more on the Transforming Texas Libraries initiative please see the homepage and the blog. You can also read my comments on the keynote speakers.

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
  • Outreach
  • Marketing
  • 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.


Transforming Texas Libraries Summit – Dinner Keynote December 5, 2007

Filed under: Transforming Texas Libraries — ellie @ 5:27 pm

My full summary of the Dinner Keynote is available on the Transforming Texas Libraries blog. I’ll be using this space for my personal impressions.

Unfortunately Kathleen’s speech was a little disjointed, but the overall message of “we can’t stand for this!” definitely struck a chord with me.

In particular, if you are not familiar with 211, please take the time to visit 211’s websites at https://www.211texas.org/211/ and http://www.unitedwaycapitalarea.org/gethelp/ and read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Transforming Texas Libraries Summit – Luncheon Keynote

Filed under: Transforming Texas Libraries — ellie @ 5:09 pm

My full summary of the Luncheon Keynote is available on the Transforming Texas Libraries blog. I’ll be using this space for my personal impressions.

I really liked the reminder that transformation doesn’t start with big institutions out there, it starts at home. One of my recurring “big ideas” throughout the summit was to think small, think grass roots, think bottom up rather than top down.

I also liked the constant repetition of a user centered view. Who are we supposed to serve and what do they value? Not just in the library, but period. And how do we fit? How can we contribute to our constituents’ quality of life, work, and learning – on their terms?

I liked the term constituents. I’ve always stuck with patron because I don’t like the coldness of user or customer, but I can support constituents – everyone who is eligible for our services, whether they’re using them or not.

I did have some problems with oversimplification on some ideas and with the research methodology of some of the reports and uses of data.

One item presented was that people feel very confident online doing things previously done by experts/intermediaries. Examples were tossed up like Travelocity, online stock exchanges, and LibraryThing. They said the main difference between experts and civilians is access to information.

I disagree. I believe the main differences are training and experience. I have worked as a travel coordinator in television, both on my own and working with travel agents. People may feel very confident booking their travel through Travelocity, but confidence is not the same thing as expertise. Knowing the best days for deals, knowing the rules about 7 day, 14 day and 21 day advances, knowing to comparison shop and that you can often (but not always) get a better deal by calling the airline directly – and these are just examples for a simple round trip flight – not a multi country European vacation with hotels, passports, currency, and ground transportation issues … These are not things you get from casual use – nor are they necessarily something the casual user needs to know. Travelocity is good enough. But lets not confuse good enough with expert.

Also, throwing LibraryThing up there is amusing and jolting, but not at all in the same vein as booking your own travel or trading your own stocks. It is cataloging your own books, not providing books that aren’t yours for you to use. (Leaving aside all the other things libraries do…) Libraries have never been in the business of coming to your home and organizing your books for you, so LibraryThing is not diy library the way Travelocity is diy travel.

More “amen” moments:

“Subscription databases are not built for civilians.”

If we set them up to fail, they will leave. If we set them up to succeed they are more likely to come back and interact with staff. When someone says, “I know it’s a stupid question, but…” what we should hear is, “Your system made me feel stupid.”

Something I wasn’t clear on – there was a call for crawlable databases… Seeing as this is proprietary information what exactly are they hoping for here? That vendors open up their content to search engines? All of it or just snippets that people can then either buy or check to see if their library has? Even if databases were crawlable, with current search algorithms they wouldn’t be prominent results because (a) they couldn’t be linked to and (b) it’s unlikely any individual item would be prominently linked to. Those two items combined with the fact that vendors make their living by selling this content make me think crawlable databases are both impractical and unlikely.

Likewise there was a bullet that said “engines not OPAC.” In the first place OPACs have a search box – powered by an engine. OPACs have search engines. Maybe they meant better search capabilities? Maybe they meant people should find our books through Google not our OPAC? I have to imagine that as long as there are libraries there will be a person coming in wanting to know whether we have a certain book. They don’t want “information” in general they want the physical book. There is absolutely still a place for specialized search – and this would be one of them – searching the holdings of a particular library. I don’t really see the place for all of the world’s library catalogs as search engine results. I’ll repeat – Even if OPACs were crawlable, with current search algorithms they wouldn’t be prominent results because it’s unlikely any individual item would be prominently linked to. I’m all for a better OPAC, but expecting people to find us through random web searches is impractical in the current environment. Now if their browser was feeding a location with their search and that prompted library results, that could be a way to enact this plan, but there are obviously privacy and consent issues there.

And speaking of privacy – I do not consider myself an alarmist – but I think that every single person in American should be sent back to history class to review McCarthyism and Japanese internment camps and be reminded that the 1940s and 50s really were NOT that long ago. I’m all for social networking, but in an era where more and more laws like the PATRIOT Act and the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act keep being passed, I think educating the public about privacy issues should be an important goal, not tossed aside with a “get with the times, the kids don’t care.”

I did like the reminder to approach collaborations with a more positive attitude. Focus on our assets not our deficiencies. Be a partner that says, “Yes, I can make that happen.”

Another argument was to get the pros off the desk – no other profession has their best people at the walk up counter. We’re asking people walking in to forget everything they’ve ever learned and wonder why they don’t realize we have masters degrees. They had some good points about people not really asking all their questions because they don’t want to hold up the line and the customer satisfaction of being really cared for when someone says, “Let me get you a pro.” But. In our small group someone mentioned this seems like adding another “click” before you get to what you want. Another librarian pointed out that us new librarians really need that desk time to become better librarians. And I would like to add that study after study shows that people aren’t asking their real questions – they test the waters first. If we expect our front line staff to be able to navigate those tricky waters I think they’re going to need either a fair amount of training and a raise, or be told if it isn’t directional, get a librarian. This, of course, is all from my academic library point of view where my main reference questions are helping students with research and yes, any staff member should be able to locate a book or point to the bathrooms, but research assistance is a specialized task and in my experience in my library, when someone comes in asking for a book they’re very often really wanting research assistance. So overall, I’m torn on this one. I want the library to be very easy to use. I want staff to feel empowered to answer questions. I want librarians to be using their time efficiently. And I want patrons to be getting the best service possible. I feel that we have a pretty good set up at my campus. The circ desk is the first thing you encounter when you walk in. Most students ask there and if it isn’t specifically a circ question they get sent down to the reference desk. We have remote desktop, so I’m working on other library activities when I’m not busy with a student. I get occasional directional questions, but the majority are “real” reference questions. I feel that this allows for a certain amount of triage without my having to be “fetched” as needed. I am also at a small enough library that I am free to walk with students to the stacks and ask others who look confused if I can help them as I’m walking back to the desk.

I do really like the idea of offering a “book a librarian” service where you can make appointments for individualized research help. I would certainly do that for a student now, but no one has asked and it’s not something we advertise.

They said that we should all have a Wikipedia entry. I’m not in any way opposed to this, but I hope they don’t think students trying to do research online will in any way find us because of that. I also think it’s impractical for libraries to start adding themselves to the bibliographies or further resources there. If we all did that the entry would get so unruly that someone would be sure to come along and delete them. But! Far be it from me to say don’t try because you’ll fail. Try it! Let me know what happens. It just doesn’t seem like the most practical form of outreach to me. I vote for something more focused on my students in particular. Not the whole world. Maybe an item saying – or check your local or school library – rather than links to resources at particular libraries.

I also liked the idea of real time activity buzz on the website – examples: just checked in items, today’s hot topics, wireless strength, parking camera.

More questionable research methodology – a 1947 survey saying where would you go for information on these four topics – libraries scored last at 1%, but books were a high scorer – was there any indication of how many of those books were used or found within libraries?

The point of showing us the survey was to show that people asked for certain things and libraries started to provide them – so there is hope. Focus on the user and all else will follow.