In the event of my untimely death…


Shocking title I know… but we have all suffered loss and we know how fragile life can be. Of course for some they choose not to acknowledge the potential risk; but for most of us we make serious, carefully considered, legally binding plans in the event that something were to happen to us. Parents, in particular, feel the responsibility of planning for the event. Why? So that those we love are cared for and because we realize that life carries on. The loss is hard enough. We make plans so that our untimely ‘departure’ will not leave those we care about without guidance or direction- from funeral plans to care of children to financial issues.
Many of us pour our hearts and souls into our work; but how many of us think to leave directions to our colleagues in the event of our passing?
After so many years in the workplace, I recognize that no one is irreplaceable (We miss them absolutely! And maybe we will never find another that brings the same talents to the table… but we are all replaceable to an extent in the context of work). However, a sudden ‘departure’ can, depending upon the person’s responsibilities, and will cause ripples in the work process. Depending upon the person’s responsibilities, the effects can range from minor to nearly catastrophic. Are you the only person who knows the password to the Facebook account? Are you the only person with a key to that magic closet where they keep the check stock- is it on your key ring buried deep in your purse?
If you are the keeper of certain items such as these, make sure that you have documentation that can be used to carry on your good work. Of course you want to keep passwords and keys secure… but don’t keep them SO secret that NO one can locate them in an emergency.
If you are the Supervisor of staff who are keepers of these types of projects or information, sit with each person and develop a plan ‘just in case’.
If you are the Director, have you thought of what would occur if one day you did not successfully make the journey to the office? Who would take the lead? Who would make the calls? Have you left your Board Chair with guidance of who you feel would be best suited to take a lead role in such a transition?
These issues apply to Libraries of every type and size. In large organizations you have the benefit that there are many partners on various projects. The Director will likely be working with Human Resources, Business Managers, Supervisors, Branch Operations Directors, etc. This may allow for an easier transition than in a smaller library where the Director is gatekeeper to ongoing vendor issues, budgets, labor matters, and more. Plus, in large organizations it is absolutely vital for each individual to provide some type of backup plan. By their very nature, large organizations may more easily lose sight of the fact that one individual is holding a lynch pin upon which many other factors of a project or task rely.

This is a difficult and uncomfortable subject. It raises fear and pain in the hearts of many. However, it is essential… and inevitable. And the best, most responsible approach we can all take, just as we do in our personal life, is not to obsess or deny but rather to make a realistic and fair plan that is revisited as necessary.

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Why librarians (and therefore libraries) will always be better than Wikipedia. 


As librarians we protect our services, collections, and patrons from censorship and bias. Simply put- We do not allow it. From too much left or right wing material to too much sci-fi or mystery. At our core we begin from a place of balance, equality, representation, and non-censorship.  This is one of librarianship’s inherent characteristics that draw people to join the profession.

Interestingly I found this today:

Wikipedia Countering Systemic Bias Project

The Wikipedia project suffers systemic bias that naturally grows from its contributors’ demographic groups, manifesting an imbalanced coverage of a subject, thereby discriminating against the less represented demographic groups. …
This project aims to control and (possibly) eliminate the cultural perspective gaps made by the systemic bias, consciously focusing upon subjects and points of view neglected by the encyclopedia as a whole.

 

I must admit…this felt a bit like finding Bigfoot because he stepped into Times Square and said “Ya got me!!”  For how many years have librarians been asked if, in the face of Google and Wikipedia, we would continue to be relevant?  And here we have Wikipedia providing us with the very best answer – within their product exists “systemic bias that naturally grows from its contributors…”.  

Well ladies and gentleman, I cry foul.  There cannot possibly be a more diverse demographic group than is represented within the profession of librarianship. And yet (though VERY isolated instances may occur) public librarians have built centuries of public trust for exactly the fact that they embody the antithesis of what Wikipedia now admits is a serious “systemic” concern for them.  

Long live public libraries…public librarians…and all they have become known and respected for.  See world… it’s isn’t that easy… otherwise anyone (or everyone in the case of Wikipedia) could do it.

 

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Trenton Free Public Library adds Outposts to its 21st Century Library Service Model.


Over 4 years ago, having faced two and a half years of budget reductions totaling almost 50%, my Library was forced to close four of our five locations.
It was devastating to the Library and our Community.  While the Main Library is well situated in the center of our City, these four branches had provided a network of coverage throughout the community for nearly 80 years.  Now we were losing that…
Questions, fears, anger, hurt, and more swirled within our organization and as a barrage from the community.
How had we let this happen?
How  would we provide service now?
Would the Library Survive?
What about people who couldn’t get to the Main Library?
This was no subtle shift- no gradual scaling down of the operation- this was a massive closure of facilities all on one day- August 16, 2010.  Everyone felt the void in the fabric of the community.  And frankly it was necessary to take a period of time to lick wounds, heal the hurt and grieve before anyone (staff or patron) was ready to move forward.  But the beauty of all things is that the sun always rises and tomorrow is a new day.  So eventually the time came when everyone was open to the discussion of “What next?” and together we walked into the 21st Century Chapter of the Trenton Free Public Library.
We did not want to half-heartedly replace what we had lost or ‘make due’.  We wanted something innovative that met the particular needs of our City!  Our new service model needed to be economic, low impact on resources, satiate the desire of the community for services close to home, and attempt to repair the damage to the image of the library caused by the shattering of four of our five locations. To this end the library began to search for a new service model.
We knew that continuing to look back at the branches we had lost was a waste of our resources and energy best spent crafting an innovated 21st-century Service Model and began instead to at the loss of our branches as a an opportunity to begin the planning process with an open canvas. This fresh perspective allowed us to build a five-year strategic plan that addresses specifically the service to the entire community on site without physical locations.
Our new Service Model, stripped to its most simplistic version, include the implementation of the following components over a five-year period:
  • Outposts spread throughout the community (four at least)
  • A CyberMobile
  • A small physical location in a high traffic commercial area dedicated to On-The-Go Technology and Service
  • An emphasis upon Outreach and Embedded Librarianship
  • Become the Hub for all community information.

With this service model and idea in place, approved by the Library Board, and our City partners, we began to move forward.  First up Outposts!

What is an outpost you may ask yourself?

You may have heard them referred to as a satellite location, an unmanned branch, a vending machine, etc. None of these names resonated within our organization or our community; therefore, we termed them “Outposts”. An Outpost consists of three pieces of equipment and a commitment of partnership and out reach in that particular location. The equipment includes a lending machine (think vending machine but with books instead of potato chips and Snickers bars), a locker system for hold pickup, and a book drop.

After the appropriate RFP process, we purchased 2 Outposts from a lovely company called PIK,Inc using CDBG funds graciously given to the project by the City of Trenton.   We partnered with respected Community organizations (such as the YMCA) to place the Outposts in  high-use facilities within the community to maximize their potential and exposure.

These new Outposts, the first 2 of 4, provide our Library Card holders with instant access to between 250-500 books in the lending machine and the ENTIRE collection for pick up at the lockers within 24-48 hours.  Along with the book drop, these Outposts provide patrons with the ability to access the Libraries materials in their own neighborhoods!

This Outpost is not only the first of its kind in New Jersey but also the FIRST on the entire mid-Atlantic Seaboard. We are very proud!!

DSC_0089-s

YMCA Ribbon

DSC_0094-s Crystal speaking

DSC_0100-s-Yvonne scans her Library Card2 DSC_0102-s-2-Yvonne removes her Book from the Lending Library

Up Next…………

CYBERMOBILE!!!!!!!!!!

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The 21st Century Library Director is a CEO


I have to play solitaire to go to sleep.

I didn’t use to. I would watch tv, read, dozing and drifting to quiet my mind. And eventually I would drift off.

But that doesn’t work anymore. My mind races. To-Do lists fill my head. Conversations rehashed or practiced. Strategies and plans. Budgets and contracts. They barrage my mind until I’m making notes into the wee hours. Sending emails. Making lists.

Why? What has changed?

 

My job.

 

I started as a librarian. Moved on to management. And then into administration. I always thought that jump from management to administration would simply be a natural progression of steadily increasing responsibility and challenges. But I simply had no idea. Being the Director (if you are in an autonomous agency and doing the job correctly) is to be the CEO of your library.

But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in library school. I also have an MBA. And surprise. They teach you a whole lot about money, marketing and business. But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in Business School either

So when you find yourself in the job and realize that none of your formal education has given you the tools necessary to do the job, what do you do? As any good librarian, I started researching.  I found hundreds of books, articles, and online resources on the subjects; because IN FACT they don’t teach you to be a CEO anywhere.

 

So how do you learn to be a CEO?

 

After asking a great many professionals and doing a great deal of research I have come to the conclusion that the majority all learn the same way.  They get dropped in the deep end of the pool and either drown or swim.

And what does it mean to be the CEO of a Library? What does the job look like? How is it similar or different than being the CEO of other types of organizations?

 

So what do my days as the CEO of an urban public library look like…?

Many of my days take on a life of their own and a trajectory that on great days I shape, on good days I wrangle, and on bad days I just hang on and pray a little.

I simplify life. I tell people when they have done well or when they have failed. I refocus energies on the goal. I remind people of the path. I listen and summarize in the hopes that my synopsis might provide the clarity for others to reach a decision

Other times I complicate life. I explain what is missing and request more to be done. I explain why a project is not complete though it is presented as such. I add necessary details or new information that reshapes a project. I add new requirements I only now realize are necessary because of the progress made thus far.

In some people’s story I am the champion. In others the villain. And none, if any, know the whole story even when they believe it is their own. I take blame and give credit. I have broad shoulders and thick skin to withstand the barrage when it will shield the innocent and ensure the goals are accomplished.

I make sure that everyday I am exactly the kind of employee I want to have. I work harder, longer and better than I expect anyone else to do. I don’t ask anyone to do anything that I would refuse to do or have not done in the past. I model every attitude and every behavior I ask my staff to have. I hold myself to a higher standard than I would anyone else. I create the culture of my organization. I build my team. With that team, I define the vision and set the direction of my organization.

I never raise my voice.    I admit when I’m wrong. I ask for, listen to, and implement better ideas than my own. I try to surround myself with people who are smarter and better than me. This makes some staff love me.

I am decisive. I know my own mind and my vision for my organization. I believe we can be better. So I do not accept the present as good enough. I tell people when they are wrong and demand they do better. This makes some staff dislike me.

And at the end of the day if the organization is better I have succeeded. If it is worse I have failed.

And at the end of the day- I am responsible for everyone and everything.

Because that’s what being a CEO is. And that’s why they don’t teach it in any school or classroom. Because they can’t. It’s not a job or a profession. It’s not even a career.

It’s a way of life.

My job is to hop and juggle and prioritize. Like a circus performer, keeping all my plates spinning on their sticks. And just when they start to fall, give them a good spin in the right direction with all my focus and attention for a split second before I move to another set of plates and do the same. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

When does it stop? When does it get easier?

Never.

 

Why does it matter you may ask? Why do we need to understand that a Library Director is a CEO? Defining the position helps us identify the skills, education, and measures of success for the job.

How do we gauge the success of a Library Director?  How their staff feels, patron feedback, increased material circulation?  We know the CEO of a corporation is successful based on the companies bottom line and growth.  How do we determine the success of a Public Library and therefore its Director? In a Library there is no fiscal bottom line, instead we use numbers that are more fluid, testimonials of patrons, budget ups and downs, etc.  So how do Boards and Citizens evaluate the work of their Director? Do they? Shouldn’t they?

And if we are going to start using clear criteria to determine the success of our Library CEOs, are we providing them with the skills necessary to BE good at the job?  Or are we simply taking good Librarians and promoting them hoping they will also be good administrators?  We are overflowing with leadership programs in LibraryLand – but is growing leaders the same as training skilled CEO’s to lead our Libraries?

This year the 21st Century blog is going to spend time exploring the issue of Library Director as CEO.  This incudes:  training, tools, skills, challenges, measures, outcomes, and more.  I hope you’ll contribute to this important conversation.

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Support for Innovative Public Library Projects


This blog has spent considerable time forwarding the belief in the necessity of a common mission for Public Libraries:

“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”

It is wonderful to see news of efforts supporting the development and enhancement of this fundamental mission in Public Libraries!

The Knight Foundation Awards $3Million to Libraries for Innovation!!

Winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries were announced Friday, awarding projects from across the country that create new and innovative ways to improve city libraries and communities.

Launched by the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge will award 22 projects that “leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities.” Eight projects will receive investments of $130,000 to $600,000, and 14 early-stage ideas will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund.

“There is a growing demand for libraries to evolve their role and become more dynamic, living platforms, responsive to community needs,” said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “The winners are working to reinvent the ways in which people experience the library, and providing citizens with the tools and information they require to contribute and strengthen our democracy.”

This is solid affirmation of the idea that Public Libraries must continue to focus on providing access to information and the tools that allow citizens to become “informed” and able to participate in society and the democratic process!

Some of the winners:

The Community Resource Lab by District of Columbia Public Library (Washington, D.C.): Advancing the library as the primary anchor of an open information system that connects residents to essential health, human and social services.

BklynShare by Brooklyn Public Library (New York): Enabling people to learn new skills through a service that connects knowledge seekers with experts in their own neighborhood

Book a Nook by Harvard University metaLAB (Boston): Activating library public spaces for diverse community uses by testing a software toolkit that streamlines the exploration and reservation of physical library spaces.

GITenberg by Project GITenberg (Montclair, N.J., and Somerville, Mass.): Exploring collaborative cataloging for Project Gutenberg public-domain ebooks using the Web-based repository hosting service GitHub.

Journalism Digital News Archive by University of Missouri Libraries and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (Columbia, Mo.): Ensuring access to digital news content through development of a model for archiving and preserving digital content that can be used across the country.

Your Next Skill by Seattle Public Library (Seattle): Helping people acquire new skills or expand their knowledge by creating a librarian-led, referral service that connects users with materials, classes and instructors that will help them meet their goals.

Space/Time Directory from the New York Public Library: Working with local communities and technologists to turn historical maps and other library collections into an interactive directory for the exploration of New York across time periods.

Open Data to Open Knowledge from City of Boston: Turning Boston’s open data collection of everything from building permits to potholes into an accessible resource by working with Boston Public Library to catalog it and make it easier for residents, researchers and public employees to navigate.

The Internet Archive: Helping people create and share global collections of cultural treasures on the Internet Archive, one of the world’s largest public libraries.

The list is lengthy and you can see it in its entirety here.  It is amazing to see so many worthy Public Library projects (or projects that will impact Public Libraries access to information) getting the money they need to make headway on this important mission.  (Its equally unfortunate to see that a few of the ‘big money projects’ seem to stray a bit from the clearly stated mission of the Challenge…)

Congratulations to the Knight Foundation and the winning Libraries!

 

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21st Century Library and Open Government


With a degree in English Literature and advanced education my parents have so generously funded…along with decades as a librarian and an Administrator…I like to think of myself as “well-spoken”.  I occasionally even relish the notion that I might sometimes rise to the level of “eloquent”:  However, I read an article today on the “IMLS Blog” that purported a notion that was so obvious- but presented as NEW- that it left me with none of these attributes.  My only response was… “Duh?!”

Be that as it may, I still felt it was worth sharing.  The ideas presented (clearly new to the researchers and participants of the work) are, in my opinion, simply reaffirmations of what many of us in Public Libraries already know and work toward every day.  Their findings also reaffirm my belief in the necessity of a common mission of Public Libraries:

“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”

“A Demand-side Open Government Planning Model for Public Libraries”

 

The question of the project detailed in the article:

What role can public libraries play in the highly visible and expanding domain of Open Government?
The project answer:
Public libraries are the best-positioned community anchors to address the demand-side of open government. In addition, with a bit more strategic vision and planning, they can play a key role in helping ensure that open government activities align with community aspirations and that citizens have the capabilities to contribute to the opening of government in useful and meaningful ways.
The author goes on to write:
One of the most revealing things I learned was that public libraries have a long history of supporting the opening of government through many of the services and resources they provide. However, this role was hidden in plain sight due to the lack of common language and understanding both within the public library community and between public libraries and open government experts.
Adopting a focus on the demand side of open government will provide public libraries with a much needed common language and a strategic planning platform to help match their programs and activities to their communities’ needs and capabilities. Focusing on the demand side of open government will assist public libraries in developing key partnerships with government and other entities, helping government officials, government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations have a direct resource to the community and its needs. It will also allow them to play a significant role in and benefit from the open government trend.

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21st Century Library 2014 in Review


Thank you to all of our readers and followers! It has been a fantastic year.  We are looking forward to next year and all the coming innovations in Libraries! As I told someone the other day, “Libraries are a fascinating place to work! There is always something new, something happening, new ideas, new challenges, and the constant sense of fulfillment you receive from serving others.  Not to mention….the endless source of amusement from those crazy moments that you just can’t make up!!”

So here is wishing you all a Happy New Year! See you next year!!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 54,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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