Thursday, June 05, 2014

Your Library In More Places

I often tell people that I am a big believer in the magic of libraries. They provide inspiration and hope, no matter their size. Today, libraries can be everywhere. From the massive buildings that dominate a downtown landscape, or the small branches in malls where people shop, to book machines on the walk home from school, and even on your smartphone, libraries are there. The biggest challenge is getting this message across. How do we find ways to tell this story to the local community? To get people excited about it, and ultimately change their perception and gain their support? I believe it is in this magic that we can spread that message. This misconception is an opportunity to surprise and delight. It’s our own shock and awe, and we can deliver that to our communities.

One of the key principles to this process is a motto from our Foundation: Your Library in More Places. The concept came up on a sort of whim. I have written a regular feature for the local paper about our library for several years. One of these articles was titled "Your Library in More Places." In this article, I discussed our book machine services and our efforts in renovating our libraries.

My main focus in the past few years has been outreach, specifically the library’s book machines and renovating our small rural libraries. It is amazing to see the impact these kinds of acts can have in these communities- a new library with state-of-the art services that they never would have imagined. Instead of dilapidated hand-me-down shelving, worn carpet, and old computers, they get the same new furnishings and finishes that are available in the larger branches. The custom carved book shelving, the early literacy computers, they are all there. It provides a big boost for the community to have these amenities and it demonstrates to the community that the library cares about them.

Book machines are the easiest and cheapest way for libraries to provide books and materials on a 24/7 basis in a remote location. We've provided these machines outside of schools, inside job centers, but most importantly, where books are simply not available. A lot of discussion today has been about how to get children school ready, as well as how to ensure children read at a third grade reading level by the third grade. Access to books is a key feature to that effort. There is much buzz about projects such as Little Free Libraries, but this alone doesn't address the problem of getting books into a community in the first place, especially in small rural towns. These machines provide 300 books to children on a 24/7 basis. They get such heavy use that we need to send staff out several times a week, just to replenish the machine. Most of these areas are without any resources and have no access to books or a library. Some of their schools do not even have libraries. It is in this way that we can provide the key ingredient to literacy, and in a way that has the greatest amount of access.

It's also important to keep ahead of national technology trends and apply them to local community needs. E-books, digital maker spaces, and other technology are key pieces to the library's immediate future. Throughout a community, if someone looks at their smartphone for information, a library app can be there, complete with e-books, magazines, videos, reference materials and research. Even tutoring help is available! Now more than ever, libraries have the tools to show up in unexpected places and demonstrate their value.

It is a critical time to be involved with libraries. People are increasingly without resources when they most need them. Libraries provide community space for children and adults alike, to have access to books in any format, free access to that knowledge, learning, and reading. We provide that advantage. I've always thought that libraries will exist as long as curiosity exceeds one's budget. Whether it is reading or information gathering, libraries play a role no one else can. Libraries are a beacon of hope in so many communities throughout the country. There are those who seek magic, and libraries are the place to find it. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Management Book Review: Multipliers

Review below also appeared in the latest edition of the California Library Association Management Interest Group Newsletter LEAD.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

by Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeown

The book Multipliers, in my mind, falls into the category of servant leadership: encouraging employees to give their best, providing the resources they need, and getting out of the way. Authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown take this a bit further to create a better definition of the concept.

There are two kinds of managers, multipliers and diminishers. The main goal for multipliers is to get employees to think for themselves, come up with creative solutions, and harvest their potential. It’s not about the manager or the leader, but about the employees who are making things happen. Intelligence and capability can be multiplied in this way, without getting more staff or more resources. Diminishers, on the other hand, make everything about them. They have the great idea; things must always be done their way. It’s much like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. The employees cower and hope to get transferred, or work somewhere else very soon. These employees don’t give their best; they focus on getting away. The authors are very detailed on how to become a multiplier, how to identify a diminisher, and remind us that anyone can have both traits without intending to do so.

There are five key disciplines for a multiplier:
  1. Attract and optimize talent
  2. Create intensity that requires best thinking (remove fear of failure and create safety for best thinking)
  3. Extend challenges
  4. Debate decisions
  5. Instill ownership and accountability

There are also tips to identify talent:
  1.  Look for talent everywhere
  2.  Find people’s native genius (they might not realize they have it)
  3. Utilize people at their fullest
  4. Remove the blockers
  5. What do they do without effort, better than everyone, without being asked, without compensation?

This book helped hone some already believed truths. It provides a more concrete idea to help an organization act smarter, be more efficient, and have employees who love what they do. I really enjoyed the read and felt it provided a clear path for me to follow, as well as pitfalls to avoid.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Straight Talk #clanoise

I recently wrote an article for the California Library Association Management Interest Group Newsletter LEAD covering the program that I moderated at this year's annual conference. I'm posting it below.

More Straight Talk by Jeff Scott, County Librarian, Tulare County Library

I had the honor to host another Straight Talk program with some of the best library minds in the state, Directors: Jose Aponte of San Diego County Library, Julie Farnsworth of Pleasanton Public Library, Robert Karatsu of Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, Jan Sanders of Pasadena Public Library, and Rivkah Sass of Sacramento Public Library, were captivating as they discussed the trials and tribulation of today's modern library director.

I really enjoy putting this program together. Library directors are always so willing to tell their story and to help others. Often, people can be too intimidated by directors, particularly with a group as prestigious as this one. However, they are all incredibly down-to-earth and willing to help. My thought behind providing this program was that I hoped it would not only inspire those new to the profession, but would also demonstrate how human these directors are; they started out just like everyone else. I gathered some notes from the program which were particularly poignant for me.

Don’t Follow the Crowd

In their own way, each director had advice on being innovative. Jose Aponte said it was important to look outside of the profession, in some cases getting out of the profession for a time to gain perspective. It leads to a different outlook and attitude when coming back. Robert Karatsu said that the only way to know the future is to change it. If we follow everyone else, we will always fall behind; by taking our own path we can create something new. Julie Farnsworth said that those drawn into being a director must possess a heart-pounding drive to do good things. All members of the group reminded us that politics make strange bedfellows. In order to get things done you have to look to the people to make alliances with and put party politics aside.

Say Yes

It's important to look for opportunities, be willing to say yes, and build a culture of the same, according to Rivkah Sass. It‟s important to be fearless and be willing to move backwards or sideways in a career in order to make the big leaps forward. I particularly liked Jan Sanders point when she said, “Dragons be damned” emphasizing the importance of pushing through despite heavy opposition. Robert Karatsu further expanded on this by suggesting it is important to stir things up.

One is the Loneliest Number

All of the directors reminded us that it can be very lonely at the top. It's important to know oneself since the ego will be often bruised. One of the most frustrating things, brought up by Julie and Jan, was how the slightest phrase can be taken out of context and twisted. Rivkah had the best comments on the topic stating that words can be twisted, making you out to be a monster. It's important to have a trusted circle. It's also important to be a good poker player.

The real point of this program for me is to allow library directors to speak directly and honestly about how they got where they are, what others can do to be successful, and where the profession is going. While others may panic during budget cuts and a changing climate, these directors have seen it all. The benefit of this experience can be very calming for those new to the profession or experiencing tough times for the first time. I always appreciate their honesty. Even with the same questions, each time it takes a different tack, the less formal the better. Straight Talk is a straight answer about the library field, past, present, and future.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tulare County Libraries Start New Chapter

A couple of months ago the Visalia Times-Delta featured a great article on our libraries. Unfortunately, it is no longer available on the newspaper's online archive. However, I am currently including it in a project, and have uploaded the article as it appeared in the newspaper, as well as the full text document.

Libraries start new chapter
Bridge to the future built on technology, multimedia, convenience and community
By Kyle Harvey

Excerpts from the article:

"It's an old profession in a new frontier."

For better or for worse, the 21st century has brought a new level of connectivity, accessibility and flexibility when it comes to the gathering, altering and distributing of information, art and ideas. This new information age has contributed greatly to the evolution of the traditional library. Once the guardian of information, libraries are changing, becoming hubs outfitted to organize and redistribute the world's vast wealth of online resources in the formats that are most compatible with its communities' needs and desires.

In Tulare County, librarians have been charged with the task of meeting the needs and desires of several groups of people‚ children who read traditional books but who are also technologically inclined, teens and young adults who consume much of what they read on a mobile device, and older adults, who could be either completely faithful to traditional printed media, or eager learners of their children's and grandchildren's gadgets. But the strategy for staying relevant goes beyond simply adding technology. There has been a concerted effort on the part of our public libraries to re-brand themselves as not only information centers, but also community centers‚ places where learning is social.

A tech-driven tomorrow begins in Visalia today
While community engagement is an integral part of the Tulare County Library's plan for the future, the transition to the library of tomorrow is very much technology-driven. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Tulare County Library checked out 20,000 ebooks. While 20,000 checkouts constitutes only about 3.5 percent of total library transactions, it becomes significant given the fact that there were zero e-books being checked out four years ago. Today, Tulare County is invested in three digital library services, the largest being OverDrive, which houses most of Visalia's digital collection.

"December 2010 was the e-reader Christmas," County Librarian Jeff Scott said. "We got OverDrive because it was the tipping point for e-books. It was either get them or get left behind." Getting left behind in the digital age is precisely what Scott says will not happen in Tulare County. Patrons of electronic reading material have a considerable selection from which to choose here. The Tulare County Library boasts more than 32,000 digital titles‚ a number that Scott says is larger than that of libraries in comparable markets elsewhere. "We have a Fresno-sized collection in a Visalia-sized market," Scott said.

In addition to catering to clients who already own and operate their own e-reader devices, Tulare County Library is taking an active role in introducing the latest in electronic reading technology, whether it be Nooks, laptops or tablet computers, to library card holders. Grants have enabled the library to begin loaning out Nooks, which are preloaded with bestsellers and other requests, for guests to take home. The opportunity to participate in workshops and use a mobile device free of charge has helped to spread awareness and increase the library's clients' proficiency with technology, many clients wind up purchasing or being given some kind of mobile reading device as a gift. With older adults who already frequent the library going digital and younger e-reading adults returning to the library for the first time since childhood, the result is an ever-increasing digitalonly clientele that is checking out more and more electronic media every year.

But what does the new media cost? Does it cut into the print budget? Right now, about 20 percent of the $500,000 annual collection development budget is spent on ebooks, leaving 80 percent to traditional print books, according to Scott. In addition, the digital collection has benefited greatly from donations from the Friends of the Library and Tulare County Library Foundation, as well as private donations from individuals totaling $200,000.

How far does a digital dollar go compared to a print dollar in terms of buying new material? Are gadgets making books harder to come by? How far a digital dollar goes is hard to pinpoint, Scott said. To purchase a digital copy of an old novel is pretty inexpensive. And the upside of a digital copy is that even if the initial cost is more than that of a hard copy, it has a limitless shelf life. There are no pages to tear, no binding to come unglued, and thus, no replacement copies ever needed.

The situation is different, however, when it comes to purchasing the latest bestsellers. Each of the big six publishing houses have different, and ever-changing, rules about library usage rights. A digital copy of a bestseller, which may cost $75, is still a good deal if it never has to be replaced. After all, by the time the library purchases several replacement copies of a heavily used bestseller that sells for $15 apiece, it about breaks even.

But the drawback is that the exorbitant initial investment in an online book does not help with short-term high demand. An electronic book can only be viewed on one device at a time. So while it may have good long-term value, the cost of purchasing several digital copies of a popular item all at once is astronomical.

New gadgets are not just for reading. 
Thanks to grants, teens who participate in the awardwinning TCL Teens program will have the opportunity beginning in the fall to check out iPad Minis for the purpose of creating their own personal documentaries with a "Day in the Life of..." theme. The kids will then be trained to edit their footage into a short film. Gunner Santos, 15, a student at Mt. Whitney High School, is an eager participant in the TCL Teens program. "It sounds really fun, showing people what I do," Santos said of the documentary program. "I'm really excited about that." 

Read the full article as it appeared in the newspaper or in a text document.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Straight Talk Panel at CLA 2012 #calibconf

Straight Talk: The Directors Speak featured five prominent directors whose contributions to our profession are quite substantial. The program was sponsored by the Management Interest Group, of which I am Chair, and presented at the California Library Association Annual Conference in San Jose. I was honored to moderate the panel, and excited to assist in providing such a valuable program. It’s inspiring to gather a group of some of the best minds in the library world to hear them talk about their experience as directors and their views on where we are headed as a profession. As busy as this group is, I was amazed that they so readily agreed to serve on this panel. The panel members are Librarian of the Year winners, library management school instructors, and Eureka program mentors, in addition to being inspiring library directors.

Luis Herrera, San Francisco Public Library Director; Rivkah Sass, Sacramento Public Library Director; Patty Wong, Yolo County Library Director; Brian Reynolds, San Luis Obispo County Library Director; and Robert Karatsu, Rancho Cucamonga Library Director, sat down with me to talk shop. The California Library Association Management Interest Group and I gathered questions to ask. The responses were insightful, inspiring, and surprising. It takes a lot to be a library director, and even more to be an inspiration to others. I asked them five questions:

  1. What made you choose the path to become a director?

  1. What has surprised you about being a director?

  1. If you could give someone just coming out of library school one piece of advice what would it be? Keeping in mind that this might affect the path they choose to take.

  1. Given the current trends in technology and funding, where do you think libraries will be in 5 years?

  1. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned as a director?

The Responses
No blog post could possibly compare with having been a member of the audience. For those of you who were not able to attend, here are some of the notes that I gathered as they were speaking. Some of it of course may have been shortened and/or paraphrased. Organized by speaker, from left to right.

Luis Herrera, San Francisco Public Library Director
Organizational citizenship behavior: you are an ambassador to the organization. You contribute to the health of the organization. It's about creating a stronger and healthier organization. You are responsible beyond your job. If we are going to thrive, we need to blur our organizational lines. 

We can identify trends to prepare us for the future. The publishing industry will be a big impact on libraries. It also hinges on the consumer. We need to be part of that trend to be part of the future. Staff need to plan programs. Not just what has happened, but something entirely new. E-learning is a great idea working with vendors. Lifelong learning: libraries will be people's university. We are facilitators of learning. Collection management is going to be our one biggest concern. How do we balance media vs. print. We need to be storytellers. 

Political nature of the job- once you accept that you will do a much better job. 60% of the job is dealing with politics. You can broaden the political environment if you do not personalize it. Don't take it personal. You want to be liked, but it is part of a process to believe in what you are doing. You will not please everyone. High tolerance for change. Tolerance for ambiguity. Top down library management is out. Need a bottom up approach. Suggestions coming from the staff can be more accepted than it came from top down. Culture of engagement.

Brian Reynolds, San Luis Obispo County Library Director
You become a really big pebble. What you do or don't do matters. It affects everyone. Need to be compassionate and common-sensical. People are relying on you to be steady. Do you have what it takes to deal with difficult people and stay sane? You have to have that. 

We serve too small of a community. We only serve a small part very well. Need to convince half of the population that we matter. Not to look at just libraries, but also look towards the community.

Acquire and attain good staff. Create working additions that provide that environment. Don't let people know you are doing that. It is a political minefield over time. To improve morale, better to go after the bad staff rather than praise the high achiever. You have to be willing to fix it. 

Rivkah Sass, Sacramento Public Library Director
It's okay to make mistakes. We'll only get better if we make mistakes and own up to them. When you make a mistake, know how to fix it. Admit your mistakes. There are people who will not like you.  She used the Winston Churchill quote, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

Directors need to be optimistic about libraries. Well-educated community members over 50 are coming in running our programs as volunteers. Embedded community inside our libraries helping us solve community problems. Libraries that will thrive will not be wallpaper. Use our community in ways we never thought of before. It's the talent and skills that our community will give to us. Eureka program is a great harvester of our future. Convergence of community technology and people, with the library as the nexus. The library is the place that will help them learn what they want to learn.

Everyone has a set of strengths. Don't be afraid to hire someone with a skill set that you don't have. Different skill sets make a whole.

Patty Wong, Yolo County Library Director
The Director job is very unstructured. Need to go beyond the MLS. Getting it and being done is not ok. You need to be continually learning. Continue to grow. Need to make connections outside of libraries. Build community through others. You are responsible for your own growth. Go make the world a better place.

Need to be relevant with our own funding. Can't rely on the same resources that we have always relied upon. Find new sources of revenue and new partnerships. Work with local government organizations. Need to be stronger advocates for our diversity in funding. We can influence policy as a neutral organization. Access to information cannot be just through the smart phone. Internet Access is not as universal as we think it is. Libraries need to be at the forefront. Abundance thinking, not scarcity thinking. 

Directors can have same level of importance as politicians and other government officials. You are that important. It's important to know where your money comes from. Leave your ego at the door. You need to have partnering skills. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do. Team building support is necessary. You just need one more person to stand next to you and you have a team. Bridge builders! 

Robert Karatsu, Rancho Cucamonga Library Director
You are ultimately responsible for everything.
Be creative, do new things. Start a program and then let others borrow.   
We can't get in front of the technology. We can't predict the future. Find the right path. 

Libraries are not silos. We need to create relationships. There are always opportunities to partner with other organizations. As Library Director, he is part of the Emergency Operations Center because librarians have those crisis skill sets.