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For Local Readers: Halifax Social Media Group Meet-Up

17 May

Last month, we had some great fun attending the Halifax, Nova Scotia Social Media Group Meet-up.    We’re doing it a second time, and I hope anyone in town will consider joining on in for some beverage and chat.

In case you do not want to hit that link, it’s going on May 22 at the Argyle Pub (on Argyle, down from the Pizza corner) from 6 to 8 pm.   We’ll be around the bar.

It’s pretty informal, and we usually have one or two people get up and say 2-5 minutes worth of “what are you doing around social media these days?”   Bring some business cards with you, as there are people from all walks of life there.

Chiming in On the Biggies

1 Apr

There have been a few, ahem, debates going around and I could make a post on each of them, but things have just been too much in my home life recently, so I’m going to chime in one on one.

MLS or non-MLS?

My favorite call on this issue is coming from Dorothea Salo, but there are others by Rachel Singer Gordon and Meredith Farkas. I know great librarians of both the MLS and non-MLS variety. I am one of those who started as the latter and made the decision to got the former. I know the good, bad and ugly in both realms — but most of it from my line of view is good. I hope my colleagues do not see me as a “high and mighty OMG I have my MLS so sit back” kind of person. In fact, it was because I had a mentor that was the opposite of a HAMOMGIHMMLSSSB that I was able to gather the knowledge and skills that make me who I am today. The MLS, well it sort of helped I think. I’d say the MPA helped more, frankly — but I did have the opportunity to meet some very interesting people along the way to the MLS as well — and that did a lot too.

There is one thing that getting the MLS does do, and that is establish an accountability trail which may reduce risk in the workforce. That’s not a whole lot, but I do think it is something. One thing I find interesting is that the blogosphere may be a not-bad proxy for accreditation and the recent blab on the MLS may be a side-effect of this. David Rothman and Walt Crawford are good examples. The contribution that those blogs make to librarianship more than counts for having an accredited degree in my mind.

I think the ALA and librarian accreditation as a whole better start looking to Web 2.0 and social networking as a threat to their credibility. If the Masters is going to mean something, it ought to mean that those who came through the gate had earned it using their head, heart and body — and not just their pocketbook and ahem lips. Dorothea Salo has more to say on this.

Gaming or No-Gaming

I support gaming in public libraries. It seems to me that most of the gaming skepticism comes from non-public librarians, though I could be wrong. There are a few things that I feel are being misconceived here.

  • Public Libraries use gaming to attract teens

That’s not precisely true. If we have public computers, the teens are already there — gaming. Gaming programs are an attempt to channel the gaming energy into a community building experience. It’s noisy; it’s not books; it’s probably more fun than your average taxpayer would like to think a teen should be having in a library — but it does some very important things: a) it builds trust with teens, helping them to see the library as a positive place to be b) it engages them toward other positive — not necessarily toward books, no — but if it is staffed properly, lots of progress can be made toward strong research skills, safe internet use, respect for property, respect for each other and so on and c) it builds community support around the library. Police, Fire Fighters, Health Professionals, Recreation Professionals, Social Workers and more have got behind some of the activities we put on for teens — and that’s because they know libraries play their part to help young people grow into productive, healthy and happy adults.

In a nutshell, teens are in the library anyway — we might as well say “hello” on their terms. If I can go back to my “made-of-straw” non-public librarian again, we cannot forget the essential role (no, responsibility) that public libraries play in community development.

  • Gaming programs are unnecessarily noisy in libraries

Have you ever been around public libraries post-adult programming? You get a group of people excited about a topic, they are going to be chatty, noisy, laughing sort of people. I have also seen a good share of older adults being disruptive, evening bullying to teens simply because they are teens. The library is a public space, shared by many people from many walks of life. There are going to be moments when a public library is not going to be the Mecca you expect it to be. We try our best, but it’s always a challenge to make everyone happy all the time.

  • That’s not what libraries are for. . .

As they say in the unconference world “the people who are here are the right people.” Teens are in public libraries because they need us. We bloody well better serve them. We’ve had board games for years. Heck, I went to the library in my young age to play with the games on the Apple computer way back when.

Media Equity

Michael Sauers chimed on Media equity at the request of David Rothman in an episode of Uncontrolled Vocabulary. And, yes Greg, I will buy a t-shirt. I think I am going to put in a longer post on this issue, but I’ll start my questioning now.

I agree with Michael that policies related to public computers in libraries should try to mirror those for other formats, but I am not yet convinced that this has to do with a principle of media equity. As an avid reader of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan in my day, I feel that media makes a big difference in communication. Whether this difference can or should influence freedom of information as offered in libraries is a hard question. The only way I can think of to get at the bottom of this is to try as hard as I can to refute Michael’s position and see what I have left in the end. My instincts say that I’ll conclude that Michael is right on this one — however, there is an assumption in favor of individualism that makes me a little uncomfortable in using media equity as a axiom for all service.

I will say that the media equity line does make things easier in the end. Explaining the policy is alot easier too when you treat the computers the same as if they were anything else.

National Film Board of Canada Has a Twitter Account

20 Feb

From the Myths On My Shoulders blog, the National Film Board of Canada has opened a Twitter account.

I’m a big advocate at watching what other industries do with services to see what might work for libraries.   While in its infancy, I am pretty interested to see what the Film Board will use the account for.   There may be plenty we can learn from these innovative folks.

Kids Help Phone Cyberbullying Report

2 Jan

There have been lots of exciting things happening in my life these days, which means I have backlog of the things I would most like to write about.    Expect January to be busier with my blog than December was.

But, to tide you over until then, I think these Kids Help Phone reports are invaluable to any public librarian.   In particular, I was interested in the one on cyberbullying.   I don’t know about other librarians out there, but I always find it hard to find the balance the messages out there about Internet Safety.   Some want to block/filter everything, others want to abdicate all responsibility to the parents.  This report was an interesting reality check on what the real risks are and how teens/young people feel about them.   I think it has alot of insight on how parents, teachers and librarians can ensure that the Internet remain a positive short and long-term experience for kids.

I also felt that their discussion group is excellent for gathering perspective on what concerns teens and how they experience the world around them (also what they think of adults).

Jerk: the Current Library Brand?

6 Nov

I found this to be an interesting quote from Tim Sanders, who wrote The Likeability Factor, in a news article I read today.

“In this bloggable, cell phone camera world, your brand on the inside is going to be your brand on the outside. If you have a bunch of jerks, your brand is going to be a jerk.”

I think libraries as a whole have to consider the “plays well with others” factor in who they hire — for sure.   It’s pretty simple, if libraries send jerks out to the community — the library is going to be considered a jerk too.   And, however stereotypical, it’s hard to say that “grumpy & scowling” has not been part of the library brand for quite a while now.   (Jerk?   Well, I’d agree with that too, but I won’t add a link for that because I might end up calling some nice guy or girl a jerk).    Thank goodness for efforts to change that image [snark].

This only goes to show that a user-centric library may have to also be fairly librarian-centric in the end.   If we want to change our brand to something positive, we will have to invest our time and energy in attracting positive non-jerk librarians in the end.   For alot of countries (and the U.S. is an exception to this) that are going to be looking at labor shortages in the next couple of years, this is going to be more and more difficult.   In other words, it goes to show that going on a manifesto of user-centricity is not going to be enough to satisfy the needs of our users in the end.   We have to consider the whole package.   We can’t be user-centric, if our employees are jerks.

A Serendipitous 12 hours.

17 Oct

This is kind of like the “day in the life of” except it is a “night in the life of.” I can’t remember the times, but consider that most of this stuff happened between 8pm last night (Tuesday) until I posted the final blog post today.

  1. I logged onto Meebo for fun.
  2. I chatted with Amanda Etches-Johnson. Mostly, to tell her some feedback I received from a co-worker who saw her presentation at Access.
  3. I asked her for help in speaking to Medical librarians, because I expect to be doing that when CHLA comes to Halifax.
  4. Amanda mentioned that her audience really enjoyed playing with an online screencasting software. It turns out that a co-worker of mine just started using Captivate, and I was thinking about whether or not I needed to put in a request for myself.
  5. I found the screencast-o-matic software to be pretty easy to use, so I create a test screencast to show people on the Halifax Public Libraries Learning 2.0 blog. The topic was adding an RSS feed to Google Reader.
  6. While I was doing the screencast, I saw a blog post by Helene Blowers about Michael “The Machine is Us/ing UsWesch‘s latest video about the information revolution. And then another one, which is just as interesting about what students are thinking.
  7. I posted the screencast late last night.
  8. I watched the movies.
  9. This morning, I asked a co-worker to look at the screencast. He is technically more competent than I am, but he didn’t have his Java plug-in updated, which caused some interfacing issues for him. Fortunately, he knows enough about Java to upgrade the plug-in and see the cast. Goes to show how important architecture still is, even for website administrators.
  10. The co-worker with Captivate dropped by and I showed him the screencast I made.
  11. Jeremy later came into my office and told me, “oh yeah — I forgot to mention that there’s a product out there called Wink that available for free, but creates Flash films instead of Java. You might want to check it out. It’s not Web 2.0 though.”
  12. I thought that the screencast is an interesting artifact showing serendipity happening to me via Web 2.0.
  13. Lunchtime came along and I decided to post this experience.

I can’t explain how many times that this sort of thing would have happened to me after I decided to login to a collaborative tool, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Meebo Rooms, any number of Web 2.0 websites.

There are serious learning benefits coming from Web 2.0 — most of the time I don’t even realize it. This time I did — probably because I managed to record my information discovery in a screencast.

And when those medical librarians ask me what they can do to convince their IT departments that these tools are important, I may just tell them about this experience. I don’t know if it will work — but it might just affirm their suspicions that, yes, stringent policies blocking Internet sites for so-called “productivity benefits” is just wrong.

Not only did I learn a heckofalot in just 12 hours. I shared that information with a potential 400 staff and, hopefully, another potential 400 people who read my blog regularly. Loss of productivity my big patootey!

Superpatrons at the cusp of a Neo-Progressive Movement?

27 Aug

Edward Vielmetti, the ever illustrious Super-patron left a comment on my post called “We asked for 2.0 Libraries and we got 2.0 Librarians.” To spare you the use of your back button, I’ll put it here (it’s not long):

“library patron 2.0″. discuss

For a librarian to respond to this call is a bit like playing with a loaded gun. A librarian calling for a pseudo-reform in his/her patrons is kind of like reverting to librarian 1.0. I don’t think this is what Ed intended by the statement, however, so here is the best response I can offer for a patron to “take it to the next level” so to speak:

  1. Learn what you love to learn (until it hurts).
  2. Read what you love to read (until it hurts).
  3. Develop a sense of community, and foster it in others (until it hurts).
  4. Insist that your library support #s 1-3 (until it hurts [us]).
  5. Shame your library with cool inventions when we fail at #4.
  6. Share (via technology if you can) what you know if you think it will make another patron’s life better.

That’s my first crack at a patron 2.0, and now it is out of my brain and on to this blog, I realize that only #5 is that different from the kinds of reforms we have asked from our patrons for, like, ever.

Are we taking advantage of our Superpatrons?

Clearly, there is an opportunity for libraries to engage the broader community of online patrons to work actively toward improving library service. Why not an online advisory board? Whether requested via an Expression of Interest or hand-picked from some influential open-source community (Linus Torvalds as library tech advisor? That might light a fire under some tech innovators at your library), the technology is out there to engage superpatrons in ways that get them thinking proactively about their libraries’ web presence. Just a thought.

Neo-progressivism is Coming! What is the Response?

Though not a term I have coined, I believe that a sort of neo-progressive movement is upon us, and that the interest of people in libraries is part of this movement. By neo-progressive, I mean that certain circles of people are echoing the principles that founded such things as the Olympics, the Salvation Army, libraries and prohibition (ok. not everything about a movement can be good). That is, make yourself better physically, intellectually and morally so you can become a more proficient member of your community.

But there is an added piece to this, for the future I think: even if you are not the strongest, smartest, or goody-two-shoes in your community, do simple, proactive things that will improve the world’s situation. Examples:

  • environmentalists asking people to take small actions (buy fluorescent bulbs, quit idling at drive-thrus etc.) to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Bill Gates et. al. spending billions of dollars to support international efforts in a kind of philantropy termed “social entrepreneurship.”
  • Increased community outrage over violence by teenagers.
  • Blogs, wikis, Facebook groups, emails etc. advocating just about everything.

Granted, individuals can look at many of these actions with a great deal of skepticism — but the key component is a world on the look out for intelligent and effective “should dos” to help provide meaning in their lives.

Where Libraries and “Should Dos” Connect

If you listened to me when I blogged the Kings of Philantropy podcast from CBC’s Ideas podcast (if you didn’t listen to me then, it’s too late — CBC only keeps about a month’s worth of shows live at any one time), you may have heard the criticism of social entrepreneurs. For instance, if you puts millions of dollars into (say) a polio vaccine in Ghana expecting to save millions of lives, you might want to think again. Why? Well, you have to think about the real problem.

Real Problems and Measureable Solutions

What’s the real problem, you say? Well, so you prevent people from getting polio. Great — but that doesn’t mean you’ve saved a life. Why? Well, when a child is undernourished, Polio may only be the first of a large number of nasty diseases just waiting to attack the poor soul. While a child might not die of Polio, he or she may die of malaria, or cholera or a minor infection or any large number of serious diseases. See, the “problem” is not polio per se, but a poverty-stricken population that is susceptible to polio.

Meanwhile, your actions to solve the polio “problem” may convince government, NGOs and other aid agencies to divert resources away from other activities to jump on the “cure polio” bandwagon. In the end, you may make the community worse off with your great intentions.

Knowledge — global and local — the Library’s Competitive Advantage

If libraries were able to help communities understand their key problems in a local environment, while bringing them access to global technologies, we may be able to offer something, not only to the developing world, but everwhere.

The key difference is that librarians can no longer assume that the world of knowledge is sitting behind them, among the stacks. In the neo-progressive world, knowledge stands opposite the desk — with the patron. Our role is two-fold. 1) keep the “desk” from getting in the way of the patron’s access to information and 2) create an environment where the patron can see the answers to his or her problems from within — within the community and within him/her self. If we can do this, then we can solve real problems. . .

. . . and Library Patron 2.0 will take its place as the real Library 2.0.

The Kings of Philantropy Podcast on CBC — Get it Quick!

16 Aug

I keep saying this, but subscribe to the CBC Ideas podcast.  Do it.   Right now.   It is probably the best podcast that is not related to celebrity, comedy or music.

A new series, called the “Kings of Philantropy” is about to be nixed from the list (Ideas only keeps about 4 podcasts up on its site at a time), but listening to it on my iPod the past day or so on the way to and from work has been amazing.

It talks about the new “social entrepreneurism” that is coming out of the big dollars being made by tech and media moguls like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Larry Page.    I can speak to its relevance to libraries in a “good news/bad news” trope.

The Good News:  The United States appears to be embarking on an era of progressivism and philantropy that could rival the efforts of Rockerfeller and Carnegie.

The Bad News:   The money is going to international public health, and a few swipes are being made at spending for libraries.

I wonder how we are going to find entrepreneurs in the developing world without giving the people access to the world’s knowledge, eh? — that said, public health is probably the first step for most developing countries — then we can look at schools and libraries.

There is also a good amount of interesting discussion about the challenges of accountability for social spending under a philantropic envelope, and the problems a business-minded “results focus” can have when it crosses paths with long-entrenched social systems.   An example offered is in Haiti, where a hugely amazingly high-level hospital was created to deal with public health, only to discover that a $200,000 expenditure on a better water system could help prevent visits from about 80% of their patients.

Either way, I think social entrepreneurism is a great move in the right direction.   The world is just going to have to learn more and better to get the systems right over the long haul.

SSP: My Article is a “Link of the Day”

27 Dec

I almost missed this today, but my article ‘”That’s ‘E’ for ‘Everyone'”:  The Future of E-Learning in Public Libraries‘ is the Library Link of the Day for December 27, 2006.    I never expected that article to be noticed.   A little self-validation is always a good thing.  Makes me think that my occassional blog posts are worthwhile!

A big shout out to Partnership and Heather Matheson for asking me to write something on this topic!

My top ten “pills” for partnership headaches (Part Two)

1 Aug

(Continued from previous post)

  • Separate Your Pain from Customer’s Pleasure

I think it is very easy to lose track of the big picture when pressures mount from partnerships.    In the end, organizations like libraries get involved in partnerships because they bring benefits to their users.    From the perspective of your objectives, deadlines, and inbox, partnerships may appear like all pain.

Partnerships ultimately mean the conjoinment of two different cultures.   Two cultures means different values, different traditions and different ways of doing work.   Your organization may place a strong emphasis on meeting deadlines.   The partner may not place the same emphasis, focussing perhaps on “taking the time to do it right.”   That’s going to mean that you are going to get in trouble as your partner shows up late on a deadline.   That is going to be frustrating.   It is going to feel horrible and stress you out.

You are going to wonder about the value of the partnership.
Perhaps your partner will feel frustrated as well as you miss details on your way to getting the job done on time.   Maybe they will question your competence as well.

Before you get your back up, retract your claws and think about the value this partnership brings to your customers.   That will be your defense when the shared document is late and your boss visits your cubicle.

Then you can highlight how the Partner’s values may give your organization a fresher look on things.   “These guys cover all their bases,” you can say.  “That will reduce the potential risks that we will face as we push forward with this project.   For my part, I will fix my deadlines so our projects do not get stalled in the process.”

  • Find Your Avatar

A partnership implies a culture shock.    You will need a champion in the partner organization.   Do some research on this.   Who makes things happen in the organization?   Who does the senior management listen to?   Who is hard working?   Who has the innovative ideas?     You will have to find the person that is right for your particular partnered project and get them on board.

  • Be Your Avatar

Next, take a long look in the mirror and decide where you stand in the organization.   Do people listen to you and make things happen when you make a decision?    Are you the ideas person?    Are you the doer, taking the decisions of others and making them happen in ways that exceed the expectation than even the originator of the idea?

However you see yourself, that ought to have a great deal of say in how you approach the partnership in your organization.   If you are the visionary, then you should take that vision and bring it to the organization itself.   If you are a doer, maybe you need a visionary ally in bringing your message across.   If you are an innovator, maybe you need a prototype that explains your project to others.   Either way, you have to create a hero out of yourself to make a partnership effective.    Buy-in has to come both ways in this process.

  • Key Support

It goes without saying that you ought to have Senior Management approval for any substantial money-costing partnership.   There are others that are important as well.

For instance, your front-line staff may begin to receive a number of phone calls from stakeholders in the partner organizations.   Their attitude toward the project will have a serious effect on how serious it is taken throughout that organization.

Other departments such as IT and Marketing may be impacted as well.   At minimum you should find out where this project sits in their hierarchy of priorities.

  • Communicate the Vision

You have to let people know what’s going on.   That’s no surprise.   But how do you explain what this partnership is about.   Sometimes a metaphor helps.   Using an overarching image to describe the principles of the project will help bring it closer to your colleague’s hearts.

Does the project merit its own title?   If so, the title should be catchy and quick.   It should not confuse others.

However you decide to approach the communication, the better your colleagues understand your project, the better the partnership will be.

Conclusion 

In the end, a partnership is a rewarding process for an organization to engage in.   Despite the emotional impacts, fear of change and general headaches,  increase your capacity to offer core services through resource sharing, expand markets, and increase learning in the organization.

The pain is definitely worth the gain in the end.

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