What IS the State of America’s Libraries?


My first impression of ALA’s Report was just another rehash of Pew’s survey information. ALA releases 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report is that rehash, but it also masks ALA’s misguided concept for the future of librarianship.

CHICAGO, April 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Libraries continue to transform to meet society’s changing needs, and more than 90 percent of the respondents in an independent national survey said that libraries are important to the community.

But school libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect, according to the survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and school libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.

These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2014 State of America’s Libraries report, released today during National Library Week, April 13– 19.

Most of the emphasis here seems to be on the desperate school librarian situation, which deserves as much muscle to correct as ALA can muster. But, after venturing off into la-la-land to discuss banned books, the article concludes with a link to the full report, State of America’s Libraries Report 2014. The Executive Summary states;

Some of the key findings of the national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project were detailed at the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits in Philadelphia in January. These included:

• Ninety-six percent of those surveyed agreed that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading. The same number agreed because libraries provide tech resources and access to materials, and a majority view libraries as leaders in technology.

• While the overall number of visitors to a physical library or bookmobile dropped five percentage points from 2012 to 2013, from 53% to 48%, there was an equally significant increase in the number of users of library websites. Particular increases were noted among African Americans, Hispanics, those age 16 to 29, and those with some college education.

• More than 75% of the survey’s respondents want libraries to play an active role in public life. Seventy-seven percent want libraries to coordinate more closely with local schools in providing resources to children, and the same proportion want free early literacy programs for children. People look to libraries to help fix struggling schools and to help children learn to navigate new technologies and become critical thinkers.

An earlier Pew study, released in May 2013, showed that most parents highly value one resource for their children: libraries.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar. Didn’t I just write a post on Pew’s view of the library world? Sure enough – Pew Research Defines Library Users – Yet Again? – three weeks ago.

The Executive Summary also delves into ALA’s vision of the library’s future. A very disturbing vision that they are borrowing.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

This can include helping communities cope with the unexpected. The rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had many public libraries struggling to keep up with the demand for public computer terminals and with requests for help in using the Healthcare.gov website. And people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy filled libraries in New York and New Jersey, using library computers to complete federal forms and communicating with loved ones using the library’s internet connections.

And through it all, libraries continue to deal with societal issues and sometimes with problems—such as homelessness—that are familiar but nonetheless seem intractable. San Francisco Public Library’s outreach program to homeless users, for example, is staffed by a full-time psychiatric social worker and includes the services of five peer counselors, all of whom were once homeless themselves. The New York Public Library is reaching out to another at-risk group through BridgeUp, an educational and antipoverty program that provides academic and social support to at-risk 8th–12th graders at NYPL branches in underserved neighborhoods.

And sometimes the word “library” stretches the traditional definition of “library.” The Lopez Island (Wash.) Library, offers musical instruments for checkout, and the Northern Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, New York, lends out plots of land on which patrons can learn organic growing practices. (“Anyone can ‘check out’ a plot!” says the library’s website.)

[I will write more on why adopting this "Libraries Transforming Communities" vision borrowed from The Harwood Institute in which libraries become "change-agents" to their community is a very bad idea.]

My urban library director friend recently wrote;

Another serious issue facing not only public libraries, but our profession as a whole, is self-identification. We must continue to understand and truly believe in what we do and why we exist. As I attend conferences, meetings, and workshops, I hear the frustration of the internal struggle with my colleagues in rationalizing their place and purpose within the current model of public library service. I listen to the frustration over feeling as if books and reading have been abandoned by the public in favor of Facebook and social media, or spending time on the computer. I hear their struggles with their desire to provide in-depth reference yet meeting the patrons desire to simply receive a quick answer to that question, or to be signed up for their next session on the computer.

I have been involved, due to my recently published book on strategic planning for the 21st century library, in many discussions on planning and purpose of the mission for the public library. I hear the struggle between the professionals in their own identification of the mission of the free public library. They grasp at answers including encouraging reading, encouraging lifelong learning, creating a community gathering space, enriching lives, and many more. We as a profession must, while respecting the individual community and library needs and differences, establish a clear mission and purpose for the “librarian.” I believe that this is essential to our continued survival in the future. Each time I am asked if Google will be our undoing, I am more certain that we ourselves and our lack of understanding of our mission and purpose in this new society is much more likely to be our downfall. Because, if we were clear about our mission and purpose, the question of whether or not Google will replace librarians would be moot. [Emphasis added.]

That pretty well summarizes what is lacking in this 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report from ALA – any perception from them that librarianship is lacking a clear identity.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Pew Research Defines Library Users – Yet Again?


Pew Research Internet Project has released the third in its series of research “on the topic of public libraries’ changing role in Americans’ lives and communities.” From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and beyond “serves as a capstone to the three years of research the Pew Research Center has produced…”

The focus of this report is the creation of a new typology of Americans’ public engagement with public libraries, which sheds light on broader issues around the relationship between technology, libraries, and information resources in the United States. …

By creating groups based on their connection to libraries rather than their gender, age, or socio-economic attributes, this report allows portraiture that is especially relevant to library patrons, library staff members, and the people whose funding decisions impact the future of public libraries in the United States.

The impact of digital technologies on public libraries is particularly interesting because libraries serve so many people (about half of all Americans ages 16 and older used a public library in some form in the past year, as of September 2013) and correspondingly try to meet a wide variety of needs. This is also what makes the task of public libraries—as well as governments, news organizations, religious groups, schools, and any other institution that is trying to reach a wide swath of the American public—so challenging: They are trying to respond to new technologies while maintaining older strategies of knowledge dissemination.

While interesting that Pew Research findings support this conclusion; this is not news to those in the profession. So, let me state right up front that I found this report lacking in really useful, although critically needed information. They have re-named demographics, re-conglomerated social groupings, and generally rehashed the same information already available. AND, they took three years to do it, which makes their findings almost obsolete by 21st Century standards.

Having said that, there are a multitude of library professionals who may find interesting and possibly useful information in this latest Pew report.


By creating groups based on their connection to libraries rather than their gender, age, or socio-economic attributes, this report allows portraiture that is especially relevant to library patrons, library staff members, and the people whose funding decisions impact the future of public libraries in the United States.

Among the broad themes and major findings in this report:

Public library users and proponents are not a niche group: 30% of Americans ages 16 and older are highly engaged with public libraries, and an additional 39% fall into medium engagement categories.

Americans’ library habits do not exist in a vacuum: Americans’ connection—or lack of connection—with public libraries is part of their broader information and social landscape. As a rule, people who have extensive economic, social, technological, and cultural resources are also more likely to use and value libraries as part of those networks. Many of those who are less engaged with public libraries tend to have lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy, and less engagement with other cultural activities.

Life stage and special circumstances are linked to increased library use and higher engagement with information: Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student, and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a decision. Similarly, quieter times of life, such as retirement, or less momentous periods, such as when people’s jobs are stable, might prompt less frequent information searches and library visits.

Most of the report reminds me of OCLC’s 2008 in-depth Report to the OCLC Membership, From Awareness to Funding A study of library support in America, except without the extraordinarily detailed information and recommendations. It’s nice to know there hasn’t been much change in the past six years in describing library supporters, and non-supporters.

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I have to respond – DUH!?!? Anyone with any degree of library experience and common sense knows that “library habits do not exist in a vacuum” and that “life stage and special circumstances are linked to increased [or decreased] library use and higher [or lower] engagement with information.” SERIOUSLY? That’s the best Pew has to offer to explain the 21st Century library user environment?

I stated essentially the same things in August, 2011 – Customer Targeting – A New 21st Century Library Skill, and in a series of 21st Century Library Customers posts in February, 2011 covering all the generations that libraries serve today. [21st Century Library Customers – Greatest & Silent] For libraries to provide such a wide range of services and technologies makes their mission difficult, to say the least.

While Pew tries to impress readers with cool graphics and simple organization of extensive information [kudos], the content just is not impressive. It’s mostly a rehash, like I’m beginning to do in this post. My assessment is – nothing new from Pew. Maybe some enterprising marketing expert can translate the findings into a strategy to move the Solid Center to Information Omnivores, so be sure to share if you do.

ADDENDUM:
Are you a ‘Digitarian’? Look what one public library was able to discover about its users. “According to a city report, the information will help Phoenix libraries better understand customers and tailor resources and services to meet their needs.” Imagine that! Highly useful user information essential for local library decision making.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pros and Cons of Outside CE Trainers


At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I earned a PhD in Adult and Continuing Education over 20 years ago. Since then it’s hard for me to sit in CE classes on any topic and not critique the development of the subject, the presenter(s) style, visual materials, exercises, virtually everything that goes into creating a CE event. There are two reasons for my assessment activities. One is that I’ve either taught it or learned it before (several times in some cases) so I get a little bored. Two, I like to improve my own knowledge and skills by assessing what is being done well and what is not. Yes, I’ll admit that makes me a bad student, somewhat like MDs make bad patients. But it makes me no different than the other attendees who aren’t all there mentally because of issues back at the library, or at home, or where ever they’d rather be.

Another element of these CE events regards the trainer him/herself, and whether or not they are a librarian. I recently attended a workshop on a topic relevant to librarians who work directly with the public, or with their customers, but it was presented by a non-librarian “professional” trainer. The person had their own firm of consultants, had a fairly good resume of national presentations and significant customers. But I still watched and listened and wondered – How? Why?

Frankly, the presenter was so much like me in terms of mannerism, demeanor, voice inflections and rate of speaking that I was even more puzzled how they got this contract to present, let alone earned a living and employed other consultants. The words “uninspiring” and “bland” came to mind.

But the thing that really puzzled me was Why are librarians being presented with “generic” material, rather than “library specific” examples and framework for this topic? I immediately thought of two well qualified and highly capable “career librarians” who could have done a much better job, AND also provided that librarianship credibility, which I think is essential in librarian CE, while presenting a much more effective and entertaining workshop.

After some reflection, I reminded myself that there are two essential elements that make an effective teacher/trainer. One is knowledge of the subject, and the other is skill as a teacher/trainer. Often times many people have one or the other in unequal proportions, but not both in equal proportions and adequate levels of strength to be really effective. On a balance scale it should look like this.

teaching scales

This is where the decision to go with a non-librarian comes into consideration. Presumably, the “professional librarian” has the necessary Subject Knowledge, but may not have the necessary Teaching Skill. That presents a dilemma. Does one choose abundant Subject Knowledge combined with weak Teaching Skill, or does one choose abundant Teaching Skill over weak Subject Knowledge? My bet is we have all been recipients of both types of CE workshops.

What do you think?
Which is more important; great Subject Knowledge, or great Teaching Skill?
Would you rather sit in an all-day CE workshop with someone who knows all about librarianship, but is an ineffective trainer, or sit in one where the trainer is very entertaining, but has very little grasp of librarianship and tries to make their topic generic enough to fit the library?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Rebranding Removes the Term Library


At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I knew this was coming when I wrote The Revolutionary Library in April of 2011, and again in August with The Physics of Your Library Brand. I just didn’t know where it would break out or exactly when.

A library no more . . . Idea Exchange is born. Library rebranding is underway in Cambridge according to the Cambridge Times reporter Bill Jackson in his article last Thursday, February 20. The Cambridge Public Library – Art Gallery • Library • Community Center – in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada was established in 1973 by combining the separate libraries of Galt, Preston and Hespeler with a history over 100 years at that time. In 1992 renovation and expansion of the Library & Gallery in Galt included new space to house a climate controlled art gallery, a studio and greatly enlarged children’s facilities. Additional expansions over the years have created the multipurpose entity that exists today.

I’d like to say it’s an evolution,” said chief executive officer Greg Hayton. “About three years ago, we started using the slogan Ideas Unlimited. About that time we also began to take a careful look at the service provided.

As you know, the advent of e-books, the rise of Google, all these electronic sources and services and means of conveying information have changed the approach that people take to get their information.” [Emphasis added.]

Hayton said the library board felt the need to expand services and has begun to develop much broader programming for children and adults while making a “huge effort” to integrate art as a central component.

“It’s not a separate thing sticking out on the side anymore,” he explained. “It’s central to what we do.

“Being stimulated by art is as valid as being stimulated by something you read in a book, coming to a program or hearing a concert we have,” Hayton continued.

“That led us to think we should look for a new way of presenting these changes that we’re making to the public and that led first of all to the slogan Ideas Unlimited. The second and last stage of that evolution is to do a rebranding, which removes the terms library and gallery from the terminology that we use and replace all of it under one umbrella called Idea Exchange.” [Emphasis added.]

Mayor Doug Craig thinks it’s appealing.

It’s bringing in a new demographic of individuals other than people like myself who are part of a generation that has traditionally seen libraries as book repositories,” he said. “They’ve now become places where events take place, where people get together, where ideas are exchanged.” [Emphasis added.]

“In this case, the library has chosen to follow a rebranding exercise to help strengthen and promote its image.” [Christy Arnold, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport]

The terms library and gallery will no longer be used by the Idea Exchange. [Emphasis added.]

Let me reiterate my comments from almost three years ago. “There is only one certainty regarding libraries in the future – they will not remain the same as they were in the past. … The LIBRARY brand must change. It is no longer BOOKS. Libraries need to actively market their changes to cause a change of perception among library customers – and the public in general – to be competitive in the marketplace.”

Two articles from August 2011 provide emphasis for the point of changing the LIBRARY image, just by changing the name and redefining the priorities to address community needs as Cambridge has done. A third article emphasizes the importance of detaching the term LIBRARY from the physical building.

Don’t call it a library: Stevenson debuts new information center about Chicago area Stevenson High School’s new “Information and Learning Center”.
Now’s time for library with benefits about Carson City, NV efforts to create a new “Knowledge and Discovery Center”.

When “Library” Is Not an Action but an Old Building –A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson in which he reiterates; “This concern was captured by Rick Anderson in his editorial when he said, “Eventually the term ‘library’ becomes an honorific attached to a building, rather than a meaningful designation for what happens inside it.” (Journal of Academic Librarianship July 2011,37:4, p. 290)

How can the library re-invent itself and change its brand to survive in the 21st Century technology and information marketplace? How can we apply physics to library rebranding in order to move the library’s position in the information and community center marketplace?

    • Each library must start with its own local library brand marketing campaign – such as “Likenomics” & Library Marketing.
    • Every access point for customers to interact with a library should be a unique experience – unlike typical LIBRARY experiences – such as Digital Discovery – A New 21st Century Library Skill .
    • Every library must begin to overcome the stereotypical LIBRARY perception by becoming MORE – such as The 21st Century Library is More: and other suggestions in several Blog posts that followed.
    • Re-brand your local library on an incremental scale by creating “a portfolio of brands or maybe new brands for new ventures” – such as new logos for library programs that do NOT include the word LIBRARY.
    • On a regional level, library consortium must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK.
    • On a national level, library associations must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK.
    • Re-brand professional publications, logos and events without the word LIBRARY.

2014 is long past time when libraries should have been responding to the change in the Information Age operating environment – if they have any hope of being relevant to their community.

ADDENDUM:

Eighth-graders design and build a school library for the 21st century
“When we asked them what do you want out of your school, they didn’t use the word ‘library,’ …. “They said they wanted a space to relax and read and discover. They said ‘I want to learn how microphones work,’ ‘I want to learn how ostriches make their nests,’ ‘I want to learn how to make video games,’ or ‘I want to learn better English.’ All these questions about exploration and finding things you don’t know.”

Boston Public Library’s Central Branch Children’s Library “will be filled with opportunities for children to read, create, play, explore, and learn together.” This is what will change the perception of “library” for the future generations of users.

Innovative Library 21c leads PPLD toward new horizons “It’s not just a building,” said PPLD Executive Director Paula Miller. “We’re changing the way we deliver public library service in several ways. The [Pikes Peak] Library District’s board of trustees approved late last month a name for the $10.7 million project, which will be called Library 21c — a moniker representative of its 21st-century model. “Leaders at PPLD find the ‘c’ component edgy and flexible,” the district said an announcement. “ ‘C’ for century; ‘c’ for change; ‘c’ for connections; ‘c’ for create; ‘c’ for community.”

From library to learning commons “We’re talking about a proposal to put the researching and the writing process together,” [Frederick Community College Writing Center Manager Betsey] Zwing said. The library’s print book collection has shrunk from about 32,000 volumes to about 17,000 since 2002, O’Leary said. Organizing those hard copies in the most efficient way would free up 2,500 square feet that could be used to accommodate help desks, collaborative study rooms, Writing Center tables, SmartBoards and more.

Starting from Scratch | Design4Impact While not technically rebranding, redesigning the library’s space for different functionalities is close enough to warrant understanding this trend.

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Friends Are Priceless!


February is Friends of the Library Month

Friends Make a Difference…

Friends help advocate for 21st Century Libraries.

FOAPLLogo

Friends support life-long learning.

FOL

Friends are of all ages….

bot-library-friends

Friends Board

Friends provide valuable community service.

Friends support LLL

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Librarian’s Role in the “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”


Do you remember Jonathan Swift’s account of “the terrible Fight that happened on Friday last between the Antient and Modern Books” in St. James’s Library? That was last Friday some month in 1697, but it could easily have been an account of the biblio-fisticuffs between Antients and Moderns any day on the Web in the last twenty years or so.

Jonathan Swift 1704

Jonathan Swift 1704

As in Swift’s day, our Antients and Moderns come in several stripes: Textbook Antients and MOOC Moderns, Printed Antients and Kindled Moderns, Copyright Antients and Open Access Moderns and so on. One stripe to have taken the field recently is the humblest of the lot but nonetheless passionate: the Antient and Modern Readers, that is you, Dear Reader, not the e-reading device. Were you aware of this pugilism by proxy on your behalf across the expanse of the Internet? No? Then, … allow me to provide you with “a full and true account” of the actions of certain of your avatars. ….”


If you are a lover of books and reading, I strongly encourage you to read the entire thought provoking article at “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”

What is our role as 21st Century Librarians in this future of “reading“?

Or, is being a librarian only about ACCESS?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Get Creative At Your Library


Gregg Fraley at TEDxStoremont
Scaffolding To Solutions

|
|
|
|
|

The Secret to Creativity: Mike Dillon at TEDxEastsidePrep
A former Imagineer for Disney, Mike Dillon founded his own imagination company.

|
|
|
|
|

What creativity is trying to tell you: Jonathan Tilley at TEDxStuttgart
“The creative process is as individual as it is universal.”

|
|
|
|
|
What can you imagine and create to transform your “library” into a “LIBRARY!
we need lib

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized