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.