Monday, July 31, 2006

Anniversaries and change

Tomorrow will mark my one-year anniversary here at MPOW.

Somehow, Newly Minted doesn't feel quite like me anymore.

And so I've made some changes. You can now find me here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Bloggers

We're teaching new bloggers here at SELCO!

Mary is creating the Wabasha Public Library blog....
Monica is creating a blog for the Chatfield Public Library....
Marj is creating a blog for the Friends of the Chatfield Public Library...
and Corrine is creating a personal blog.

Welcome to the biblioblogosphere!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On sneering and shushing

I wandered onto a new-to-me blog at lunch today, and discovered a goldmine of information. Sandra has linked to a report entitled Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Leadership Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century.

This report was prepared by Public Agenda, with support from the Americans for Libraries Council and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It surveys a number of communities and community leaders, and while some of the results aren't particularly surprising, some very definitely are.

The report is 84 pages, and so I can't even begin to give an adequate summary of its findings. I encourage you to read it for yourselves - it's worth the time, believe me.

A few tidbits to whet your appetite:
    People have high expectations of their libraries. Topping their list of priorities is that the basic services they have come to expect from libraries remain free of charge to the public. They also expect libraries to have enough current books for children, numerous reference materials and friendly, knowledgeable librarians available.

    Libraries receive the best grades of any of the community institutions covered in this study, with nearly half the sample giving them an “A.” Moreover, libraries seem to have escaped the public’s general cynicism about government waste of taxpayer dollars. A majority of the public says its local libraries use tax money well.

    Even in a world of computers and the Internet, the public values the library’s traditional services. When respondents were asked what the library’s top priorities should be, keeping services free and having enough books for children, good reference materials and a knowledgeable, friendly librarian topped the list. In fact, many of the public’s priorities for libraries revolve around services for children.

    While people value libraries’ traditional services, they also value and appreciate Internet and computer access in libraries. Two-thirds of Americans say that having enough computers and online services for people should be a high priority for their local library. Seven in 10 favor wiring libraries so that those who might not be able to afford computers in their home can learn computer skills and get online.
OK. No big surprises there. There were, however, a few tidbits that jumped out at me. The two that are still resonating involve what the public wants from us, and what the community leaders think of us.
More than 8 in 10 Americans agree that libraries provide an important, quiet oasis from fast-paced, stressful lives, with over half saying they agree strongly on this point. Nearly 7 in 10 say libraries are one of the few places where kids can learn quiet concentration in a hyperactive world. “That’s one of the reasons I take my kids to the library,” one man in Phoenix told us, “…to get them away from the TV, the computer games and everything. It’s a time for me to get some peace and quiet. It’s a time for them to get some peace and quiet, too, to learn how to be quiet.”
Hmmm. I keep hearing, at various and sundry conventions, meetings, and workshops that we need to stop shushing people, that we're being unfriendly to the teen set who just want to communicate and that we need to lighten up, already. And of the things most valued about libraries is that we're relatively quiet. I use the word "relatively" deliberately; I don't think we need to be as quiet as a tomb. I do think, however, we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we dispense completely with the notion that a library should be a place that's kinda quiet.

The second tidbit is a bit harsh, so brace yourselves.
[M]any leaders believe librarians might be idealistic and at times too high-minded. They feel that librarians must be more pragmatic in their approach if they're going to make the necessary alliances to thrive in the current atmosphere of fiscal and budgetary restraint. "The people working in libraries find the profit motive repugnant — and reject people who are motivated by anything other than the kindness of their hearts." —David Pointon, Government and Industry Relations Manager, 3M
OK, folks. This one hurts because it hits the mark. As someone who has a background in retail sales and the Evil Empire of the Brokerage Industry, I have a slightly different view of capitalism and for-profit businesses. I was raised by a father who worked in the investment business for over 40 years, and learned at his knee that capitalism and the free market are good, and that companies are only as good as the people who run them.

Once I joined the ranks of the non-profit world, first in higher ed and now in libraries, I have been in the presence of those who will, if given a moment, sneer rather openly about business people and their evil motives, their faces curling into a moue of distaste.


Y'all need to stop that right now, folks. Those "evil business people" are the very ones who sit on your City Councils, who run your cities (either actually or behind the scenes) and who will untimately make the decisions about your library's survival. If you want to impress upon the power brokers in your community that the library is a worthwhile institution, you can't do it with a look on your face that indicates they haven't bathed in a while. The study has this to say:
When asked about the future of public libraries, many of the leaders we spoke with suggested that libraries must make their cases by engaging more actively in the life of their communities. Communities have real needs that libraries may be uniquely equipped to address, and now is the time to shine a spotlight on that underappreciated potential of the library.
So they understand that we're a good thing. The problem is that we do a horrible job of telling that story. We somehow feel it's beneath us...or demeaning....or talk about what wonderful things we're doing and therefore why you need to support us financially.

This is no time to be overcome with a fit of the vapours, folks. Times are hard, money is short, and people have to prioritize. Practice your public speaking skills and polish your speech...and get out there and tell your story.

And quit sneering. But go ahead and shush.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The more things change.....

Aaron at Walking Paper points to a fabulous speech given by Gratia Alta Countryman, at an address to the Minnesota Library Association. The whole thing is terrific, and I encourage you to read it.

One pithy exerpt:
Many of our libraries are now housed in beautiful buildings, in which case, the building as well as the books becomes a means of social influence. If there is need of a home for social intercourse and amusement, the library may legitimately attempt to furnish such a home within its walls. If there are social or study clubs, organized labor guilds or missionary societies, or any other organizations, encourage them to meet at the library, find out what they need, let them find out that the library is their cooperative partner. And so with the schools and industries, of which I have not time to speak. The whole building at all times should be managed in the broadest spirit of hospitality; the atmosphere should be as gracious, kindly and sympathetic as one's own home. Then do away with all unnecessary restrictions, take down all the bars, and try to put face to face our friends the books and our friends the people. Introduce them cordially, then stand aside and let them make each other's blessed acquaintance.
(Emphasis mine.) I love this woman. I wish I could have met her. By the way, did I mention that Ms. Countryman gave this speech in 1905????

It's becoming apparent that we've known for a century how to do things. All the current emphasis on technology is fun and interesting and I really enjoy a great deal of it. But it is really acting as a distraction from the main point:

Serve. The. Customer.

On blogging

The Pew folks have come up with yet another interesting report, this one on blogging. A summary of their findings:
Blogging is bringing new voices to the online world.

Telephone surveys capture the most accurate snapshot possible of a small and moving target.

Contrary to the impression created by the press attention on political blogging, just 11% of bloggers say they focus mainly on government or politics.

The blogging population is young, evenly split between women and men, and racially diverse.

Relatively small groups of bloggers view blogging as a public endeavor.

The main reasons for keeping a blog are creative expression and sharing personal experiences.

Only one-third of bloggers see blogging as a form of journalism. Yet many check facts and cite original sources.

Bloggers are avid consumers and creators of online content. They are also heavy users of the internet in general.

Bloggers are major consumers of political news and about half prefer sources without a particular political viewpoint.

Bloggers often utilize community and readership-enhancing features available on their blogs.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Reality check

My friend, Charlie, has written a new book, and includes a short exerpt from it in his blog. It's terrific, as I thought it would be. His book is called, "50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School."

If that sounds familiar, it's probably because you've gotten a mass email at some time, talking about how Bill Gates authored a list of "Rules Kids Won't Learn at School," or how this was a graduation address he gave.

He didn't. The list is Charlie's. And it's wonderful.

For those of you who haven't seen this list, here they are:
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4.)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You're welcome.

Brilliant guy that he is, Charlie decided to expand the list into a book. I can't wait.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Teen feedback

Aaron Schmidt at Walking Paper has a thought-provoking post from Idaho's Evolving Library Services for Digital Natives conference. Part of the conference involved a panel of teens interviewed by Stephen Abram.

Their answers to his questions are in some cases what you'd expect. Others, I found surprising. I'd encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are a few tidbits I found particularly interesting. (By the way, Aaron channels e.e.cummings, and so doesn't capitalize. I chose to include the questions and answers in their original format.)

when did you visit a public/school library?
    really really long time/school often
    couple months for big projects/constantly!
    quite a while/don’t go in there much
    couple weeks/not for a while
    when i was 9/school year
    when i need to get a study book or project, couple days ago/regularly
    only been there once, a month in a half ago, didn’t have da vinci/for projects
    winter/last day of school

do you have myspace, tell me about it
    2 accounts, one real, one test, i talk to friends that way
    don’t do it too much anymore, switching to facebook
    don’t use it too much any more, i got over it
    don’t have one, my friends do
    trying to get it canceled
    don’t have it, don’t get it
    don’t have it, don’t get it
    my parents hate it, think it is unsafe, won’t get it
    don’t have it, made one up for fun
(This one surprised me. Apparently, My Space is sooo last week.)

what would make you go the library!?
    group collaboration!
    sweet computers, flatscreens - sexy!
    plan ahead of time for research
    talk and make noise
    an area where you can have bigger groups
    faster computers, way to find the books easier
    easier way to find books
    (boy thinks his library doesn’t have internet, window 98 is getting SLOW)
    faster computers, easier to find books

would you go to the library if there was gaming?
    of course
    my friends would, tons of people would
    if it was closer

what would your space in the library be?
    barnes and noble, sit and read
    bright colors, contemporary, sunken in floor
    trendy colors
    more colors, couches
    food stand
    music playing, headphones
    comfortable seats
(Interesting. I didn't expect the emphasis on ambiance.)

What would be in the library?
    magazines and books
    girls magazines
    game rental, play it there and take it home
    big TV, game nights like the library

what would you need in a study space?
    3-5 people, 2 computers or big monitor
    2 computers, doing different things (multitasking)
    wireless keyboard/mouse

IM reference?
    yes (willing to pay!)
    easier to drive,
    never phoned the ref desk

we have this stuff. how should we let you know?
    something on the internet
    video announcements

how do you FEEL about the library?
    they are not so nice, eagle library is nice tho. depends
    the library is a friendly place (the homeless scare me), i’ll get what i need
    depends on library and librarian, for the most part, good
    always willing to help
    i don’t know enough to know
    they are nice for the most part
    they want to help
    it is a friendly place

have a favorite search engine? do you have a strategy?
    dogpile, gives you the least amount to go through
    google, spell correction
    google, yahoo ads suck
    google, the first i used
    google, yahoo
    google, used it first, i’m learning how to use it well

So. They'd like better technology, a more comfortable and colorful space, and a place to work and play together. We can do all that, can't we? Remember, these are the folks who will be voting on that bonding bill in 10 years. Time now to endear the library to them!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ode the the library

One of the serendipitous features of the Internet is its connectedness, and the occasional stumble onto a wonderful web site. A few months ago, I had found an author's site - an author I hadn't heard of, by the way - and found the posting so riveting that I bookmarked it.

This afternoon, while looking for another bookmarked site, I came across this one wondering, "Who is Dan Simmons, and why have I bookmarked his site?" And another wonderful, serendipitous discovery was had.

Dan has written a delicious ode to the public library. It's worth a read. What's interesting is his view of librarians and our mission:
Libraries, despite current misinformed opinions (even by librarians) to the contrary, are not about mere information. This is an age where we can’t escape information vomiting at us from our TVs and cell phones and iPods and radios and print ads and commercials and computers. Let the Internet handle the shallow job of shoveling “information” at people like so much unfiltered sewage. Libraries are for and about books. Libraries have a sacred trust and a unique role for civilization; they have been and must continue to be clean, well-lighted places where books are preserved and lent out – the greatest and most successful act of trust, perhaps, in modern American society -- and read, sometimes read right there, in the comfortable and companionable silence of the place. All the rest, as Ezra Pound said, is dross.

In this Whatever 2.0-centric world, this is rather refreshing. And something we really shouldn't overlook. In recent surveys, we found out that our primary "product line" is books. Maybe that's not so bad....

Teens and the Internet

Stephen Abram posted yesterday on a presentation by Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. (As an aside, if you ever get the chance to listen to a presentation by Lee, GO!)

Stephen reports on a few tidbits from the report, which can be found in full here.

    87% of those ages 12-17 use the internet.
    Teens from the poorest families lag in internet use.
    Teens are technology rich and enveloped by a wired world.
    Bad experiences online keep some teens away from the internet. (I found this very surprising.)
    Teens log on most often from home, but library use grows more than any other location.
    Email is still a fixture in teens’ lives, but instant messaging is preferred.
    Teens’ IM use eclipses that of adults. (Duh.)
    IM offers ways for teens to express their identity and reshape technology to their purposes.
    Most teens will block messages from those they want to shun or avoid.
    One in five online teens keeps a blog and 38% read them.
    Email is still a fixture in teens’ lives, but instant messaging is preferred.

Given that 87% of teens 12-17 use the Internet, and given that poor teens are behind the curve in Internet use, I would posit that the mission of a public or school library today is to offer those teens a place to access the Internet.

What does that really mean? Virtually every library now has public access computers. Unfortunately, some also have Battleaxe Librarians who hover and scowl and generally make teens very aware that they are simply not wanted in the library.

If you are one of the Battleaxe Librarians, stop it. Right now.

If one of your staff is the Battleaxe Librarian, either get BL to stop it immediately, or get rid of them.