Sunday, April 29, 2007

Twitter Update or how I was able to exploit the latest social networking site without really trying

So I posted last week about how my library is using twitter. A few people didn't see how twitter could be useful for libraries, but there are several benefits to using twitter for your library. When twitter originally came out, I did not see much use for it. I did not want to keep track of the every move of strangers. However, when several twitter tools came out, things began to materialize.

My library puts out a lot of RSS feeds using a subscription through They produce newsletters, reviews, and other information about new books. It sends an update on new fiction, new non-fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, and many more newsletters. Right now it produces over 20 newsletters that are preset and are produced without staff intervention. It also produces staff developed newsletters. Most of these newsletters are produced by staff and deal almost entirely with events. Again, the neat thing about these newsletters is the fact that I can dump the calendar of events into it and the old programs go away once they have expired. Once we plan out three months of programming staff only need to click a button to update the website for the newest program. These newsletters can be followed by going to the website, by getting the rss feed, or by subscribing via email. The majority of information produced is performed by this subscription. You can see it here.

Another piece of information we produce is information through our google calendar. This is a way for patrons to review all of our events at a glance. They can subscribe to our events through their own google calendar. I also set it up so the calendar sends the daily agenda to our library blog.

I established a blog through blogger and dump all of the feeds into the blog. It continuously updates without any staff time. I had some trouble with spam at first when I tried to automate the updates. I was able to develop a filter through gmail to send the update to the blog. I have not had any problems so far. An advantage of the blog is that one can subscribe to it, or follow it all they want. It also highlights all of the library newsletters so patrons don't have to subscribe to every single one, they can just subscribe to the blog. The daily events are also sent to the blog so patrons can see what we are doing that day, or if we are closed.

Polaris creates a feed for all new materials added. New books, videos, audio, and large print all have a separate feed and is updated as soon as the book is on the shelf. This is neat because you can follow the new materials in real time. I am attempting to develop a custom feed so that adult fiction, non-fiction, juvenile, easy, and Spanish books all have separate feeds. These are not dumped onto the blog, but can be followed on our website.

We also established a flickr and photobucket account. I have a direct link to flickr on our main page, and it has an rss feed. We use photobucket just to establish our library gallery page. The library gallery also has a feed as it is developed through the bookletters content management system.

So all this information and it can be dumped anywhere. What to do with it other than push it to subscribers? After reading about twitter and investigating the other tools with twitter, it became easy just to dump all of the feeds into to twitter using rss2twitter is an easier interface since twitterfeed requires an openid. However, there is more control at the twitter feed site as you can tell it how often to update. So I just starting dumping the feed in there.

My plan is to advertise the service in the local paper and one the website. I would have liked to advertise that anyone can subscribe to library news, events, and new books just by texting "follow cglibrary" to 40404. However, when I attempted the experiment myself, it didn't follow. I am investigating as to why. I set up the account and tried it with my own phone. It seemed to work fine when I texted. It prompted me to set up an account, and then it told me that whenever cglibrary updates, I would be notified. It didn't work. Of course, the side affect of trying this is that people who are just using the twitter interface online can follow the library quite easily that way.

From the trends I am seeing, I think only the truly dedicated would use only their cell phone to use this service. This also calmed my fears about just using it for cell phones since if people were following us via their cell phone, they would get at least six text messages a day, that can get a little expensive. I also thought that I might customize the feeds depending on the user. I am developing that now, but not sure if I will have a separate twitter account for adults, children, teens, and Spanish users. More investigation is required.

Another bright side is the incredible attention the library is receiving by developing the twitter feed. Really, it's not much different from many news organizations dumping their news stories into twitter. I think the discussion on how useless it was led to the attention since I found a simple practical use. Thanks to all the bloggers who brought it attention, Shifted Librarian David Lee King,Steven Cohen at Library Stuff (sorry had Thing originally), and to Daniel Cornwall at Alaskan Librarian for sending the information to the For Immediate Release Podcast. It's great to see libraries mentioned in non-library settings. This also helped produce an interview with Bryan Person via Twitter for his New Comm Road Podcast

Other libraries are twittering as well: Cleveland Public Library, Ada Comm Library, and the Lunar Planetary Institute Library. I am sure there are more, just not enough attention is being paid to them. If your library twitters, send a comment over to David Lee King. I will keep you posted on the twitter progress.

Six Time-Wasting Practices CIOs Need to Stop Doing to Improve Performance

Great post on Chief Information Officers:

Gartner's 'hit list' advises CIOs to:
Stop Being the Budget-Priority Police -- Ensure that your IT organization minimizes boundary disputes when business units use technology, particularly if business units have control over discretionary spending. It's more important for CIOs to ensure that the enterprise uses technology effectively than to provide all the technology through their own IT organizations. Initial support and education may be needed so people can regulate their priorities.

Stop Using Enterprise Architecture as a Command and Control Tool -- Rigid standards and policies might make it easier to reduce risk in system changes, but this approach reinforces the traditional view that the IT organization doesn't understand how the enterprise needs to respond quickly to business or market changes. Don't use architecture to control priorities and direct details of business applications; rather, use it to enable coherence.

Stop Communicating Using IT Metrics; Focus on Business Performance -- The focus should be on a manageable number of IT value indicators that are meaningful to business leaders. They should be linked to familiar business measures, such as business goals, business strategies or business processes, and should show the current status and progress to date. Ideally, these indicators should be jointly reported on with the appropriate business unit, or included in the business unit leader's dashboard.

Stop the Proliferation of Applications, Infrastructure and IT Governance Committees -- There's often a common, underlying cause of ill-disciplined enterprise decision making. The critical action to fix these problems is to create and repeatedly exploit a strategic portfolio of applications and infrastructure capabilities, with associated rationalization of IT governance. This means using enterprise architecture and related mechanisms to ensure coherence.

Stop Defining Services in Technical Rather Than Business Terms -- The key recommendation is to simplify the number of services offered, bundle them into a logical group and describe services so they reflect user-based activities or processes -- for example, "adding new employees," which might include a suite of services, including PC, telecom and mobile device support; or "Work space design and installation."

Stop Wasting Time Apologizing for Past Problems -- Credibility requires building strong personal relationships. It means being politically smart, integrating IT objectives with enterprise objectives and anticipating business needs to deploy a predictable stream of technology that enables business solutions. Repeated apologies diminish that.

In some organizations, IT is set up to be reactionary instead of proactive. A forward thinking CIO would see the potential savings in projects instead of creating a command and control environment.

A book is not a piece of music, nor is it a movie

The e-book struggle continues. The Sony e-reader has responded to the complaints that people will not read a book on a computer screen. Now the computer screen looks just like the page of a book, it reacts to light, it's not back-lit, and it's not hard on the eyes. It IS however, hard on the wallet. No one will shell out $350 for an e-book reader, especially if they have to shell out an additional $25 for a book, why not just buy the book? There is something about books that is different from movies and music. In many ways it is easy to define the difference. However, there are many differences that are difficult to explain other than how people act about books.

Two quotes from Lawrence Clark Powell:

" We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed."

Another quote I cannot find and so I probably shouldn't mention it. However, this quote was repeated to be by former University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Sciences Dean Brooke Sheldon. It mentioned something about the soul of books and how one could drink from them and find everlasting nourishment. It was a quote she mentioned when recruiting for library school. I signed up soon afterward.

The point being that books cast a magical spell on the reader. Something unexplainable that no technology can ever master or reproduce. It's the reading of the book quietly at night and staying up until 2 in the morning finishing it, satisfied. I think the problem with the internet so often is that there is no end to it, no quiet. It is a constant state of doing something with no accomplishment. Reading a book gives you a story that inspires the soul that lasts forever long after the book has been read. It reminds me of a quote I read about The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Aimee Bender, author of An Invisible Sign of My Own
The Lovely Bones is the kind of novel that, once you're done, you may go visit while wandering through a bookstore and touch on the binding, just to remember the emotions you felt while reading it.."

It is difficult to explain that emotion. Many publishers and technologists may say, "It's silly that these people go on about you can read the book in bed and you can't share it, its electronic you can put it anywhere, give it to anyone". It seems simple, but it is not the same thing. The feel of the book, to touch the spine, it's something real, tangible, it transforms you to that place in the book, just be feeling the paper, touching the spine. I even like the vinyl cover on library books.

Some posts in the last month have hammered the e-book industry about the systemic problems with e-books. No one will buy an expensive reader AND pay for the book. Especially since they can only use the book on that reader. They can, of course, download from Gutenberg and other free sites. Those are nice for the classics, not very good for current titles.

The most prominent was this post:
Why the commercial ebook market is broken
My take on ebooks is that they are — and should be seen as — the cheapest form of disposable literature. They're not cultural artefacts (pace Cory Doctorow); you don't buy them in signed, slipcased, limited editions. They're like stripped mass market paperbacks without even the value-added of doubling as wood pulp wall insulation once you've read them."


"I don't think most of the ebook sharing subculture is even about reading the books in the first place — it's about collecting, and participating in a gift sub-culture where your kudos is governed by how much stuff you can give away."

Which leads to this quote:
"To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser. "
Robertson Davies

Which explains the obsessive nature of book collectors, or just readers in general, to collect books. They may have a house full of books, with no room for more, and then they convert their garage. Look at Library Thing!

Then this article from Wired! talking about the problem of digital rights management. Something I talked about in a post a while back.
Wired! article:

"E-books are growing, thanks to the improving simplicity and mobility of acquired content. With the masters of digital music finally relenting and offering DRM-free tracks, it's time to kill e-book rights management once and for all: give us we want, in the file format we want, and you get our money. Once."

Then to add to that, we have very clueless publishers trying to charge PER PAGE! (older article, probably will never materialize)

Random House Announces Ambitious Pay-Per-Page E-Book Project
November 03, 2005
By Max Chafkin
The world’s largest trade publisher will charge websites four cents per page for fiction and narrative nonfiction (a 350-page book would cost $14, for example), ostensibly allowing vendors to determine their own pricing schemes.


Why would I want to pay for one page of a book? Books don't work this way. Music can be broken down to a song, even a favorite part of a song (which ends up on your cellphone), but the same cannot be done for a book. You cannot rip it apart and just read its parts, you need the whole thing. It is not a CD, nor a song, it must be complete.

A few more articles from this week:

Fujitsu to release colour e-book reader

"So, of course, all this is too good to be perfect. The price, for one, is over $1000 per-reader (for ten readers, for testing purposes - presumably the final product will be slightly less expensive), for the small size. The large size more-than-doubles that price. It's also running "Japanese Windows CE 5.0" (apparently something different from Windows Mobile), and will only be available in Japan."

Again, very expensive and a very closed system.

Why e-books are bound to fail
Electronic books pack bleeding-edge technology, too bad they'll never catch on
"People who care enough about books to spend $25 billion on them each year tend to love books and everything about them. They love the look and feel of books. They like touching the paper, and looking at words and illustrations at a resolution no e-book will ever match. They view "curling up with a good book" as an escape from the electronic screens they look at all day. They love to carry them, annotate them, and give them as gifts. Book collecting is one of the biggest hobbies in the world."

I liked this comment on the article as well:
"Perhaps 'e-book reader' is just too misleading a name, as these are at least as well suited - if not better - to non-book written material. I highly doubt the e-book reader will ever disappear, and I honestly believe these could replace everything I noted. References, like encyclopedias, probably in only 5-10 years, and completely replacing newspapers and magazines in, perhaps, 10-15 years."

Another e-book fallout is around the corner. One thing I loved reading over and over again on was how many people use their local library for books. Hey its free, your taxes already pay for it, so why not use it. It certainly makes a lot of sense to me. Think about it this way, you own 100,000 books at your library. Not many people can collect that much AND the more you use it, the more it gets for you. The public library was designed to provide the most money towards the people that use it most. Save $350 or $1000 or even $25 and check out a book. Even some of the e-book vendors aren't pushing as hard as they once did. Music and movies are easy to download since they have always been electronic. Books have never been and it will be difficult to get them there due to proprietary reasons and eyesight annoyances. Until then, you can always get free books at the local library.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Naked Library (or Radical Transparency for LJ): Tame the Web and Library Crunch

In a post, here and here, Michael Stephens of Tame the Web and Michael Casey from Library Crunch continue their quest for the transparent library. They have identified a national trend in management change toward a flat, open, or group based decision making instead of the autocratic ""I am the boss and we are doing it this way until we drive off the cliff" approach.

They ask the following questions:
"Some points to ponder:
What does it mean to be radically transparent? How closely tied to radical trust is it? Is secrecy dead? What reputation do you want your library to have?"

My response follows:

In many management training courses, they often refer to radical trust as the type of trust you give in which your life depended on the other person. (The example is when a Navy Seal gives it). Its pretty extreme and makes one very reluctant to be trusting if that is the angle to take.

I think the transparent manager has to be able to open the decision making to his or her staff and be able to handle criticism openly. Managers must remember that if they don't open up decision making, often the decision may not be followed.

I would like the library to be as open as possible. When a patron asks why we do a certain thing, or don't have a certain book, I should be able to explain why and be comfortable with showing the patrons the data in the decision-making. I have done this many times in letters to patrons (like why we lock the bathrooms), in open discussions with patrons, and in many other formats. I am ready for any challenge to the status quo and I am willing to change it. Some things I cannot change, but in those cases I need a good reason, as I have explained here. I would like to have the reputation of being open and transparent.

Technology Centers Empower Low-Income Hispanic Communities

Technology Centers Empower Low-Income Hispanic Communities

April 17, 2007

Hey, just what libraries are doing! Have you seen Webjunction,
More from the article

While a higher percentage of Hispanics are employed compared with any other ethnic group (64 percent employment rate versus 63 percent for the next highest, Current Population Survey, April 2006), Hispanics are far more likely than the average American to be among the working poor. In addition, according to a new study by Pew Hispanic Center, 53 percent of Hispanics who are not online say this is because they do not have access. Empower Hispanic America with Technology is aimed at combating these inequities by giving Hispanics the necessary skills, and access, to compete in today's technology-driven workplaces.

Economic development, workforce development, and more can be developed by providing computer and internet access. I remember when our bookmobile went to an underprivledged area; some elementary aged children used our laptops from our van. It was like they had never seen a laptop before. In this day and age, the introduction of the computer at a young age is almost as important as introducing reading.


Hispanics with lower levels of education and English proficiency remain largely disconnectd from the internet
Just one in three Latinos who speak only Spanish go online
78% of Latinos who are English-dominant and 76% of bilingual Latinos use the internet compared with 32% of Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults.
76% of US-born Latinos go online, compared with 43% of those born outside the US. Some of this is related to language, but analysis shows that being born outside of the 50 states is an independent factor that is associated with a decreased likelihood of going online.
80% of second-generation Latinos, the sons and daughters of immigrants, go online, as do 71% of third-general latinos who did not complete high school go online.
Mexicans are the largest national origin group in the US Latino population and are amont the least likely groups to go online: 52% of Latinos of Mexican descent use the internet. Even when age, income, language, generation or nativity is held constant, being Mexican is associated with a decreased likelihood of going online.

An uphill battle indeed, and I thought literacy programming was hard.

Use a laundry basket to avoid library fees from Life Hacker
See comments too!

Its always great to see a general audience blog, news, or other organizations talk so much about the library. Look at all the comments on this post! I often recommend keeping a library bookshelf. At home, we have a small basket for our library books. I think Library elf works best ( since it sends me an email or text message saying I have books due in a few days. Then I know to renew them or to grab them out of the basket to return it.

How I found a good use for Twitter

I did it! I was able to take all of the library's notifications and put them into twitter.

I set up our twitter account at

Then I dumped all of the library's rss feeds into

The great part about that is that twitter feeds itself. No staff time is required except to check to make sure it is working. I dumped the new books, new videos, new audio, new large print, the google event calendar (, library news, library programs, and all of our newsletters rss feeds into it (

Now every time the library has an update, a library event, a new book or video, or new newsletter, it goes automatically to twitter. I have set up most of the library's information this way. We have a content management system through Bookletters ( that automatically produces newsletters on books, from Fiction, to Non-fiction, to books in the news. We also have custom newsletters for library events that are posted on the libray's website and are sent via email. Everything also goes through our blog at and finally it goes through Twitter.

I have to find a way to get messages down to 140 characters so that the entire message is received via a text messag. If the content is too long for the message, it automatically creates a tiny url. Like this:

Reading comprehension success in 20 minutes a day. :

Which doesn't work too badly, but I think most users wouldn't go to the link. I think if there was a program that day related to the user, a new book, or just to send a message that the library is now open and the library is now closed might be some very practical uses. I haven't placed it on our website yet or advertised it. I only recently was able to get it to work so I was very excited about that.

Now I just need to customize the feeds a bit for different users, but I was amazed at how easy it was to set it up. I don't know how many users will subscribe to it, but the functionality is there. I bet the more I can customize it, the more people will subscribe since customizing will not make it overwhelming. Its amazing how many free things there are out there that provide great service!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Teens smart enough to stay safe online

Three good articles about how teens are smart enough to stay safe and how schools and educational organizations are using social networking to assist teens:

Teens, Privacy, and Online Social Networks by Pew Internet

  • 55 percent of online teens have profiles online; 45 percent of online teens do not have profiles online.
  • Among the teens who have profiles, 66 percent of them say that their profile is not visible to all Internet users. They limit access to their profiles in some way.
  • Among those whose profiles can be accessed by anyone online, 46 percent say they give at least a little and sometimes a good deal of false information on their profiles. Teens post fake information to protect themselves, but also to be playful or silly.
  • Most teens are using the networks to stay in touch with people they already know, either friends that they see a lot (91 percent of social networking teens have done this) or friends that they rarely see in person (82 percent).
  • 49 percent of social network users say they use the networks to make new friends.
  • 32 percent of online teens have been contacted by strangers online -- this could be any kind of online contact, not necessarily contact through social network sites.
  • 21 percent of teens who have been contacted by strangers have engaged an online stranger to find out more information about that person (that translates to 7 percent of all online teens).
  • 23 percent of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the online encounter (that translates to 7 percent of all online teens).

Usually the worst thing adults can do to teens is to treat them like they are not smart enough to figure things out on their own. They are also creative in how they protect themselves either blocking or giving misinformation. Most of them can spot a creep online too.
Don't Tell Your Parents: Schools Embrace MySpace Robert Andrews 04.19.07 (WIRED)
Broadly, Elgg represents a shift from aging, top-down classroom technologies like Blackboard to what e-learning practitioners call personal learning environments -- mashup spaces comprising feeds, blog posts, podcast widgets -- whatever resources students need to document, consume or communicate their learning across disciplines.

So a bottom up approach to learning seems to be more effective. It becomes a better learning environment because of the change in format depending on the students' desires.
Why MySpace Is SafeSpace (
Lisa Lerer, 04.03.07

How do you think parents should protect kids online?
We need to basically teach our kids proper online safety and proper online etiquette so that they learn to make smart decisions online. I use the analogy of how we've addressed other types of safety issues in the past through significant government campaigns or public private partnerships. We need that same campaign for online safety and instead we are burning millions of dollars in litigation campaigns. I prefer education not regulation, a strategy of talking to kids about these issues and getting them to understand proper online behavior.

And the original article:

Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions
by Adam Thierer∗

Moreover, what is almost completely overlooked in the current debate over social networking is that many social networking communities have developed effective self-policing strategies. Those self-policing strategies come in both formal and informal varieties. Many online communities adopt formal policies about how to report abusive or offensive behavior. Others allow site users to tag certain content or pages as inappropriate or offensive. Site administrators can then take appropriate action, including removing troublemakers from the site or even reporting them to law enforcement authorities. Site administrators have enormous reputational incentives to self-police their own networks because most social networking sites depend on advertising revenue, and they risk losing advertisers if they don’t maintain a positive standing.

There is incentive to be safe, to protect others, and even from the organizations themselves there is incentive to create a safe environment.

It seems there is a great need to join the conversation. I know that the best way to talk to a lot of our teen computer users is to go on myspace. If we had a profile and all these users as our friends, we can bulletin them about library events. Just like with text messaging services like Twitter, we can talk to them on their cell phones, the major medium in which they communicate. If we don't start showing up in this arena, we just don't exist to this growing population.

Literacy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment on Adult Literacy

Literacy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment on Adult Literacy

Literacy in my community
A 2003 survey indicated that 19 percent of adults could not read at level one. 4,000 adults could not fill out a job application, read a food label or a simple story to a child.

Community Impact
We cannot afford to leave any adults behind. We need each and every individual to work to their full potential. Businesses need a well-trained workforce; our economy depends on a skilled, educated workforce. We cannot afford to send jobs overseas because of deficits in essential workplace skills. Individuals with lower literacy levels are disproportionately represented in the unemployed.

Graph provided by Literacy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment on Adult Literacy, published April 2007

Economic Impact
1 out of every 5 adults is below basic in literacy skills, which means that 1 in 5 adults do not score above 200 in the literacy scoring used by the National Assessment on Adult Literacy, or 1 in 5 adults do not qualify for any jobs offered in the City. Businesses that cannot find good quality workers will go elsewhere for their business or will not be attracted to the City to conduct their business. At first, they may see an advantage in paying a low wage to its workforce, but the business will never be able to grow or evolve its workforce without qualified applicants. This situation threatens economic development in the city.

Personal Impact
He is a stranger in a strange land of incomprehensible symbols. Knowing the stigma attached to illiteracy, he uses many strategies to conceal his inability - - though he knows people will see through it anyway. That takes even more work, as well as the shame inherent in the ruse. Keeping himself convinced he isn't stupid is a constant effort.

Action is required now to solve this problem in the future.

"The great French Marshall Lyauteyone asked his gardener to plant a tree.The gardener objectedthat the tree was slow growingand would not reach maturity for 100 years.The Marshall replied,In that case, there is no time to lose,plant it this afternoon!"
John F. Kennedy

It takes seven years to acquire a new language and it takes a year for basic literacy skills for current English speakers. Attracting businesses to our community is important now!

"Furthermore, many researchers caution against withdrawing the support of the home language too soon. There is a great deal of evidence that, whereas oral communication skills in a second language may be acquired within two or three years, it may take up to four to six years to acquire the level of proficiency for understanding language in its instructional uses"
( Lessons From Research: What Is the Length of Time it Takes Limited English Proficient Students to Acquire English and Succeed in an All-English Classroom? September 2000, Issue and Brief)

What the Library is doing to provide assistance with this problem:

One on One Tutoring Program
Laubach technique is used for one on one tutoring.
Tutors for Pre-Lit to 3rd grade reading level.
18 hours of training plus working with the students ahead of time to become a regular volunteer.
Nine month commitment to each student
Need to meet with students two (2) to three (3) times per week (at least 4 hours).
Need at least 30 tutors, 60 when at full steam and they need to fill out monthly reports on progress.
Coordinator will meet with tutors 4 times a year

Library resources
The Library provides a host of resources to assist our tutors and the general public. The library currently has a full set of Laubach materials for one on one tutoring and other resources for the general public. The library will also have computer programs available for students to use on their own to supplement their training.

Library Bookmobile
The Library maintains bookmobile services. This service provides transportation for tutors, the ability to provide literacy training on site, job searching and internet access on site, as well as general bookmobile services.

Other literacy details:

Literacy Levels

"The percentage of adults with Below Basic quantitative literacy decreased, and the percentage of adults with Proficient prose and document literacy also decreased. In 2003, some 5 percent of adults were nonliterate in English."

Education and Literacy

"Educational attainment increased between 1992 and 2003, with a higher percentage of adults completing an associate’s or college degree and fewer adults ending their education before completing high school. In 2003, average prose, document, and quantitative literacy increased with each increasing level of education, except for students who were still in high school."

Employment, Earnings, and Job Training

"In 2003, adults with higher literacy levels were more likely to be employed full-time and less likely to be out of the labor force than adults with lower literacy levels. Adults with lower literacy levels also generally earned lower incomes. On all three literacy scales, a higher percentage of adults with Proficient literacy were employed in professional and related occupations and management, business, and financial occupations than in other occupations. Many individuals with lower literacy levels were employed in service occupations. Specifically, 30 to 35 percent of adults with Below Basic and 22 to 24 percent of adults with Basic prose, document, and quantitative literacy worked in service jobs, compared with 7 to 10 percent of adults with Proficient prose, document, and quantitative literacy."

Tough Road for library funding

Some library funding stories from the past few weeks around the nation:

Town library will get funding, Plainfield leader saysBy JESSICA DURKIN Norwich Bulletin
April 4, 2007 (Norwich, CT)
PLAINFIELD -- First Selectman Kevin Cunningham said Tuesday selectmen will continue funding the Plainfield Public Library in next year's budget.
Six members of the library board and the librarian attended a Board of Finance meeting Tuesday, upset selectmen eliminated the library's funding for next year, which threatened closure.

Library officials asked the money be put back into the selectmen's proposed budget.
"I'm sure many people would be very angry to find out the town will have no library," Librarian Nancy Wilcox told the board.

Yes I would imagine people would be unhappy that one day they have a library and one day they don't without any public input. Its amazing how flippant city officials can be with the library budget and operations.

Library funding approved, tax rates same as last yearBy Anita J. Firebaugh
Craig County, Virginia April 21, 2007

The county has also put $13,850 in the regional library line item and allotted $6,000 for tourism.Prior to the budget hearing, Marjorie Hodge, president of the Friends of the Library, told the supervisors the library is a necessary service to citizens and that use numbers continue to increase.She asked the supervisors to include funding for a part-time paid library employee in the upcoming budget.The county had to give back $5,176 in state funding to the Library of Virginia because the local library had failed to meet its obligations. One of those obligations is a paid staff member.

Its too bad that local governments don't understand the value of libraries and too often they are found on the chopping block. I like that many state libraries provide a punitive incentive to fund libraries. The availability of books and library services should be as commonplace as the streets one drives on.

Cap to library funding considered
By NAOMI SMOOT / Journal Staff Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Berkely County, West Virginia
During the meeting, commissioners told delegates that they would also be interested in finding a way to cap the amount of money that they put toward libraries. In the past five years, the county’s library funding allocation has increased from $289,000 to more than $500,000, Overington said. Commissioners agreed that the increase had been sizable, and questioned whether their budget could continue to accommodate this expansive growth in the library’s funding requests.“Everybody else comes to petition before the County Commission,” Commissioner Bill Stubblefield said. “We can’t afford this continual escalation.”Commissioner Ron Collins agreed, noting that he was beginning to question the amount of funding that the county is being asked to put towards libraries each year. He said it was time to consider a cap on the amount of money that they would allocate for the library. Stubblefield said he would be interested in seeing a cap placed on the library’s funding, perhaps at the 2007 budget level.At present, the library has a $1.5 million budget, $540,000 of which comes from educational funding.

Goodness, you mean that the people who want library services and have asked for an increase in library services shouldn't get it? Why is that? Why should there be a cap on library services, is there a cap on other government services? I also have a difficult time in the complaint about the rise of library funding a mere $200,000 in five years, that's only $40,000 a year! How cheap can you get! I always find it surprising how governments want to squeeze libraries instead of putting a general squeeze on all services. I am also surprised how much service these libraries can provide in the midst of these trying situations.

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks' battle with Central Library
Daily Record (Rochester, NY), Feb 23, 2007 by Tara E. Buck
Poll: Readers split on Internet policy, APril 20, 2007
Rochesther (Monroe County), New York

RBJ Daily Report readers are divided sharply on Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks’ threat to withdraw all county funding of the Central Library unless it acts immediately to “halt the public viewing of pornography and other graphic materials” on computers at the library.

To filter or not to filter can be discussed in a reasonable matter. Libraries must comply with federal law unless the local municipality should choose to refuse federal grant money. Libraries are cash strapped as it is, so its difficult to get such an extreme reaction from a funding source. To say "Filter or I will close your library" seems extraordinarily extreme, especially since computer and internet access is just ONE of many services the library provides.

Times can be very tough for libraries. All I know is that the more the financial decision makers use libraries, the more they understand their use, the more funding that usually follows.

Why Should I say No to this?

One of my favorite children's stories is The Zax.

The Zax

by Dr. Seuss
From The Sneetches and Other Stories
Copyright 1961 by Theodor S. Geisel and Audrey S. Geisel, renewed 1989.
One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.

And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood.
Foot to foot. Face to face.

"Look here, now!" the North-Going Zax said, "I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I'm a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!"

"Who's in whose way?" snapped the South-Going Zax.
"I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you're in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove."

Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
"I never," he said, "take a step to one side.
And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!"

"And I'll prove to YOU," yelled the South-Going Zax,
"That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That's my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I'll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!"

Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax

And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

It demonstrates what can happen when two stubborn people do not budge. I find myself in situations where I can be very stubborn, especially something that I feel very passionate about.

The lesson to be learned in the story is that by stepping to one side would get both to their respective destinations. Maybe your pride gets hurt, but everyone gets what they want. I think as a Manager, you need to set your pride and ego to one side. Otherwise, you never go anywhere and you only end up proving how stubborn you can be. I recently had this situation with my staff and decided to step to one side. I wasn't happy about it at first, but I realized that for better service and for a better work environment I had to step to one side. It is not easy, but I felt it was the right decision.

This type of scenario can ring true for librarians trying to implement library 2.0 concepts, or in just trying something different. Whenever I am asked by a staff member to change
something, the first thing I think is why should I say no to this?

Many times there is a good reason for things to remain the same, other times, its important to try something different. By creating change suggested by staff they are empowered to look for ways to improve their job environments AND it increases morale.

It's not always easy to change since change can often mean more work. However, the reward for forward thinking is immense both for staff and the public. Its better to get where you are going then to stand in each other's way making no tracks in the prairie of prax :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Seth's Blog: Stinky Durian

Great post about marketing and listening to consumers on Seth's Blog:


Stinky Durian

The feedback you get from non-consumers is rarely useful, because the objection they give is the reason they don't buy from you, not the thing that will cause them to affirmatively choose you.


With libraries offering all kinds of books, programs, and services, it is always the email that asks for something different. Why don't have you have storytime at night so working parent could come, or have book discussions.....or...?

Every time we listened and tried something that was suggested, invariably, no one would show up. I remember running a book discussion at night after it was suggested (again via email) that we should have one. I ran it for six months and not a soul every showed up. I say via email because it is a distant request by someone who never comes to the library, but went to the website to find information. They emailed rather than call or come in and ask. I am not saying emails are bad, but it sends a distant message that if someone is not willing to take the time to come in, maybe he or she never will.

This is also why many focus groups don't work. They suggest things that they would like to see, but then never show up at the library. Its not the reason they don't use the library, but something else is keeping them from doing that.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Fast Company: Leadership Lesson: Tiger at Doral

A great post on leadership, confidence, and focus from Fast Company. Three lessons learned from Tiger Woods and why he stays on top, check your ego, trust yourself, and don't blink.


Leadership Lesson: Tiger at Doral

"Check your ego. At the eighteenth hole, Tiger held a three stroke lead. So what does the game’s best player of the day do? With five hundred yards of water to his left, and not trusting his driver to play the ball straight, he plays it smart. Tiger pulls out a three-iron and lays up. Not once, but twice. That’s brilliance. No macho driver for him. Many a golfer have succumbed to ego in such positions and wound up losing.

Trust yourself. Tiger knows his game better than anyone. When he was rolling well, he trusted himself to pull out the stops and hit the shots he needed to hit. And frankly for most of the 72-hole tourney, Tiger was in command of his game. He led from day one, hitting great tee shots and even more incredible second shots to get him on the green in regulation. But when his putter did not hold up, he turned conservative and did not push shots to the edge. Better a par than a bogey. Or when things get really tough, a bogey is better than a double bogey.

Don’t blink. It is traditional for golfers in the lead walking up the fairway of the 72nd hole to smile, doff their hats and acknowledge the cheers. But with a lead that had dwindled from six strokes to two, Tiger was taking no chances; he maintained focus. His second shot, again from a lay-up position was masterful; it put him on the green, but 52 feet from the hole. His lag putt was a gem, end up just 3 feet from the hole. Brett Wetterich, with short putt for a birdie, missed and Tiger only needed to hole his shot to make bogey and win. When his ball rolled in, then and only then did Tiger flash his million-dollar smile, doffing his cap and acknowledging the crowd. And then as he always does, he congratulated his opponent on a round well-played."


I recently had a ding to my ego for a project I was working on. I was upset at first that people thought my idea was harebrained. My idea was simple, create a bookmobile from a standard van, insert the bookshelves, and place a satellite dish on top so that patron could check-out books AND use wireless internet access from the van on laptops we provided. Many bigger systems do this, but I knew I would be stretching the limits of my knowledge and I knew I would get no IT support for the dish and wireless.

I didn't lose heart that the start of things were rocky. We rolled out the bookmobile without the satellite dish at first and some of our routes did not get any patrons. I listened to my staff and made better decisions, knowing that if I let my ego run wild when I was wrong, the project would have failed. We changed our routes to places with the most need with much more success.

I trusted my vision to see the project through. I knew the dish wasn't working, but that the fix would be simple if I could just take some time with the vendor's tech support and do it. I knew right at the end it was make or break and I took a day just to make it work, and it did. We went out this month with wireless internet access. It was fun because it went just how I had envisioned it. We had a bookmobile stop at an adult education location where classes were held. When the class let out, we had books and materials for their GED and language acquisition assistance AND we had wireless internet access with ten laptops set up on a picnic bench right outside their door. They flocked to us when class let out. The project was a success.

The funny part was that I didn't realize there was such a negative outlook on the project. It is probably best not to hear your worst critics in the earliest stage of the project, especially if the comments are not constructive. I actually heard that people thought it was harebrained from another city staff member. They told me this while I had the van ready, the satellite dish running, people on our public access laptops with internet, and people checking out books. I was still upset at first, but then realized that I shouldn't be, since I was right and these above lessons helped make it happen.

Friedbeef Tech: Top Ten Places to get Free Books

From Friedbeef Tech (via Lifehacker) a top ten list of places to get free books. On a tech blog, it makes sense that it just covers online books, but I was hoping libraries would show up in part II.

Top 10 Best Places to Get Free Books (Part 1)

1. Find Popular Public Domain Works With The Gutenberg Project Top 100 List

2. Exchange Used Books With BookMooch

3. Get Technical Books With ebookspyder

4. Read the Classics Online with Google Book Search

5. Download Plain Text Novels With Dwalin

I guess not:

Top 10 Best Places to Get Free Books (Part 2)

6. Find Specialized IT Books With

7. Get Someone to Read Books to You at Librivox

8. Skip the Book and Get Free Study Notes with CliffsNotes

9. Save Money on Textbooks With WikiBooks

10. Receive Books In Small Parts via Email Using DailyLit

Sunday, April 01, 2007

That first impression

The saying, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" is held even truer for libraries. I don't know if some people already come in with a feeling that they don't want to use the library or expect that it won't have what they want. We seem to need blow them away before they give us a first chance, let alone a second. I know that our library made the most dramatic increase in general usage when we renovated the library and doubled the computer capacity and had brand new sleek looking dells.

Too many people for too long saw the library as dirty, with slow clunky computers, and only bums there to greet you. Furthermore, the collection was in shambles. We were in a dos based catalog system that was difficult to use, it wasn't web-based, and no collection development reports were EVER run.

We removed the distractions that were immediate deterrents to library use. We upgraded our catalog, upgraded the computers, renovated the building. However, no matter how many changes we made, it still boils down to every reader his/her book. If they can't find their book, the most important book in the whole world, then this library is not for them.

Two cases in point. A high school student comes in for a particular book assigned by her class. We should have materials that meet every interest. She doesn't find the book. Well the we are just crap. How dare we call ourselves a library when you don't have the most important book in the world? We should be reported to the Library of Congress! She ended up doing something better, she blogged about it. It was a two part blog post, OUCH! The worst part was that she was a reader and would have probably been a die-hard patron, but we weren't the library for her.

Another one is with library donations. When a patron donates their prized possessions to the library, their books, they expect us to fall over in amazement. "Wonderful, this is just the book I have been looking for, the 1931 complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica! How did you know?" Its sad since these people have the best intentions. They would rather donate their mold covered attic-imprisoned books to the library rather than throw them away. Its either they can't bear to throw a book out, or they think we are so poor we would take it. Again, every book his/her reader. When they donate their book and we don't need it, it affects patrons deeply.

Lastly, a patron comes in looking for an audio version of the bible. This item has been a long standing for our library because not all vendors have the entire bible, and if they do, its a mess to process and catalog. We have received many complaints before about not having one. We finally were able to order it. However, when this woman wanted it, we only had one copy of the NIV New Testament, but an entire copy of the King James version. It turns out she was in the middle of reading the King James version and it was exactly what she was looking for...SCORE! That is when you look like a genius and the patron feels like this library is for them.

Collection development can be very much like a democracy. You order what the people want and they vote with their library card. To the patron who can't find their items it is much like living in a red state when you vote blue. It is isolating. It is like telling the patron your interests aren't welcome here. That is very tough to say when we offer so much to everyone else, just not for you.

However, that feeling seems too much dependant on that first impression. How can we get patrons to trust us and to use our many services? If the high school student had waited a moment, she would have found that she could have requested the library purchase the book, or request an Interlibrary loan. If that patron worked with our system, she could have helped build the collection that interested her. It would take some time, but it would have developed.

It seems that everyone expects to have exactly what they want NOW! A government funded library cannot keep up and patrons have to learn to become more patient. I don't know what the answer is, I just wish they would not be quite so angry we didn't have their book.