Monthly Archives: September 2010

21st Century Library Collaboration

Public libraries have evolved gradually as institutions of learning, but in the 21st Century, more and more of these bastions of knowledge are asserting themselves as anchors of community activity and development. Long past are the days of libraries as passive repositories of information. To remain relevant, the public library must develop a multi-directional organizational culture that can adjust to constant and rapid changing conditions and that incorporate non-routine, technical, creative, and interactive approaches to public service. [Gleaned from IMLS 2009 publication Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills.] Collaboration is one of the cornerstones of 21st Century Skills.

In this context, the key characteristics of an intentional and purposeful collaboration include:
•The ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams and organizations.
•The flexibility and willingness to compromise to accomplish common goals.
•A shared responsibility for work and value individual contributions.

Another Model of Collaboration

The following outline was prepared by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine MidContinental Region Collaboration Working Group and presented in the webinar series “Navigating Collaboration: A Crash Course in Connecting with the Community”. The model presents four “levels” of partnerships, from simple (First Level) to complex (Fourth Level) depending on;
(1) the amount of time partners invest,
(2) the amount of trust exchanged between the parties, and
(3) the amount of turf partners are willing to share.

A visual representation of the four levels of partnership – Network, Coordinate, Cooperate, Collaborate – and their respective primary goals is shown in this figure.

Examples of Collaboration in the 21st Century Library

•Participate in a health fairs with a table full of library information. While there, stopping at all the booths to say hello to all the other “vendors.”
•Attend a local meeting, for example a community council, city, or county commission meeting.
•Attend a state or regional conference. Present a poster session on a special library project and be there to answer questions and talk to folks as they walk by.
•Participate in meetings and activities of local community-based groups to chat informally with others.

•Alternate hosting of classes or meetings – one session at the library, another session at the partner’s facility
•Share a booth at a health fair. Half of the booth or table at the fair contains library materials and the other half contains materials belonging to the partner agency. Both parties staff the booth equally but each party answers questions only about their own activities.
•Coordinate an event. One group hosts the location while the other provides the speaker.
•Let another agency know what you are doing for Summer Reading Program and schedule your own activities at times that don’t conflict with each other. Here, each agency does their own thing but there is basic coordination – harmonization – to not duplicate efforts and avoid conflicts.

•Share a booth at a health fair, but each organization takes different times staffing it; that means each person at the booth is able to promote both agencies giving accurate information about the partner’s activities.
•Co-present a program at a conference or co-teach a class. Each partner develops and delivers part of the content.

•The library hires a staff person who is embedded in a community organization.
•The partners write a grant application to fund a project – this is from the ground up, from the very beginning, both partners have equal interest pursuing similar and complementary goals.

Gratefully contributed by my USL colleague Juan Tomás Lee.
Readers can expect more examples of the 21st Century Library.

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The Ghost of Library Future

In all my Posts about the 21st Century Library, I have been regrettably lacking in providing enough examples of what that apparition looks like. USAToday online today published an article by AP Reporter Jeannie Nuss Libraries launch apps to sync with iPod generation that gave a few sterling details to that ghost of library future.

“People tend to have this antiquated version of libraries, like there’s not much more inside than books and microfiche,” says Hiller Goodspeed, a 22-year-old graphic designer in Orlando, Fla., who uses the Orange County Library System’s iPhone app to discover foreign films.
– – – – –
In Princeton, N.J., 44 people are waiting to borrow Kindles, a wireless reading device. Roya Karimian, 32, flipped through the preloaded e-pages of “Little Women” after two months on the waiting list. “I had already read it, but I wanted to experience reading it on the Kindle,” Karimian says.
– – – – –
The Grandview Heights Public Library in suburban Columbus, Ohio, spent $4,500 – a third of what the library spent on CDs – to give patrons access to songs by artists from Beyonce to Merle Haggard using a music-downloading service called Freegal.
– – – – –
The Cuyahoga County Public Library near Cleveland laid off 41 employees and cut back on hours after its budget shrank by $10 million. But it still maintains a Twitter account and texts patrons when items are about to become overdue.
– – – – –
In Florida, the Orange County library’s Twitter feed sounds more like a frat boy than a librarian: “There’s more to OCLS than just being really, really ridiculously good looking. We created an App!”
– – – – –
Jennifer Reeder, a 35-year-old mother of two in suburban Phoenix, tracks her reading stats on 12,431 pages so far this year – most of them in library books.
– – – – –
Even the brick-and-mortar buildings are evolving, as libraries cater to a generation with smart phones stapled to their hands and music plugged into their ears. Sleek study areas give off a coffee-shop vibe, while silence seekers are relegated to nooks. Self-checkout stations feel more like supermarkets, with patrons ringing up books and DVDs instead of boxes of cereal. Libraries are designing new branches as hybrid technology centers – dedicating more space to computer labs and meeting rooms.
– – – – –
“The traditional function of a library, of being a place where people can come to get information, to learn, to relax, to kind of lose themselves in books, is going to continue,” says [Chris] Tonjes, of the D.C. Public Library. “It’s just not going to be constrained by physical boundaries.”

What does your 21st Century Library look like?

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Privatization of Library Services. Seriously?

Apparently so! As if everything I’ve been writing in the past few months (the challenges for learning 21st Century Skills, creating relevant 21st Century libraries, acquiring 21st Century librarianship skills, rapid advances in technology, lagging MLS education, and more recently, education reform and societal changes) isn’t enough of a challenge for librarians, NOW we have another growing threat to the local library institution – PRIVATIZED LIBRARY SERVICES.

Believe it or not, privatized contracted library services have been around in the form of Library Systems & Services, LLC (LSSI) for almost 20 years.
“Since 1981, Library Systems & Services, LLC (LSSI) has partnered with communities throughout the US to provide library outsourcing for new and existing libraries, as well as contract library services for Federal agencies. LSSI currently provides library management services across 13 public library systems and 63 branch operations in the US.”

“We assume full responsibility for operations while communities retain ownership of library facilities and all capital assets, policies, programs, and collections.”

“Library patrons typically notice improvements almost immediately:
– better customer service
– improved hours of operation
– expanded collections
– new technologies
– engaging new community programs”

Now, there’s a BOLD claim for a private sector enterprise that sounds a LOT like an indictment of existing library services. Are professional librarians and their libraries incapable of providing “better customer service”, or any of the rest of LSSI’s claimed “improvements”? I don’t think so!

The most glaring question one has to ask is – HOW? How can they offer all that they claim, and do it at a profit? Maybe lower wages for employees? Maybe because they let the community continue to pay ALL the overhead fixed costs of running the library? Maybe more volunteers? One Friends of the Library Board Member of the library privatized in Redding, CA, is quoted in the article as saying; “We volunteer more than ever now,” Mr. Ceragioli said.” Curious. One has to question why.

Or, in the case of LSSI in Santa Clarita, CA, they will de-unionize the library system. (Isn’t there a law against that? Oh yes, the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act. We’ll assume there’s a loophole somewhere.) Maybe there is a reason it has taken LSSI twenty years to gain any notable foothold in the industry (if you can call 14 library systems at 63 locations a foothold – maybe a toehold). Contractors are not cheap, and most communities can see through the claims to the down side of privatization.

A New York Times article Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries by David Streitfield, published on September 26, states; “There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s [LSSI] chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” The company, known as L.S.S.I., runs 14 library systems operating 63 locations. Its basic pitch to cities is that it fixes broken libraries — more often than not by cleaning house.” [Emphasis added.]

I worked in the government sector in a previous lifetime, both state and federal, so I know what outsourcing means. And I’ve also been an employee of a government contractor, who makes a bundle of money because governments use “other” funds besides specific operating or project funds to pay for the more expensive costs of contractors – rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s often how that system works. The other way it is profitable for the contractor is to cut services and slash overhead costs, i.e. employees, as LSSI is planning in Santa Clarita.

What’s apparently most disturbing about this Santa Clarita situation, as Streitfield points out, is that LSSI “… has been hired for the first time to run a system in a relatively healthy city, setting off an intense and often acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy.” OUTSOURCING? Where’s the debate about the value of the community library run by the community? Where’s the outrage at letting a private company at the behest of their local government de-unionize the library work force? Where’s the outrage at the library director working for a for-profit contractor, rather than for the citizens of the community? The whole ‘contractor behind the scenes making the library run better and cheaper’ facade sounds like a huge sham to me. Wake up people! See the wizard behind the curtain!

I’m not sure Streitfield got it right when he slanted his piece toward the “outsourcing” issue. It appears to be more of a “the library is the community” issue to me.

The head of the county library system, Margaret Donnellan Todd, says L.S.S.I. is viewed as an unwelcome outsider. “There is no local connection,” she said. “People are receiving superb service in Santa Clarita. I challenge that L.S.S.I. will be able to do much better.” … “A library is the heart of the community,” said one opponent, Jane Hanson. “I’m in favor of private enterprise, but I can’t feel comfortable with what the city is doing here.” Mrs. Hanson, who is 81 and has been a library patron for nearly 50 years, was so bothered by the outsourcing contract that she became involved in local politics for the first time since 1969, when she worked for a recall movement related to the Vietnam War. She drew up a petition warning that the L.S.S.I. contract would result in “greater cost, fewer books and less access,” with “no benefit to the citizens.” Using a card table in front of the main library branch, she gathered 1,200 signatures in three weekends.

Regardless of the perspective on a core issue, we should all be wary of turning over our professionalism to private enterprise. I know I’ve promoted 21st Century libraries as needing to be “more business-like”, but I do not advocate making community public libraries a for-profit business. Business for-profit is ONLY focused on the bottom line, especially a contractor who lives or dies on making money by cutting costs – WHERE EVER! They CAN’T increase revenue any other way, except maybe through grants or donations. But, WHO is going to GIVE to a for-profit company? I shudder to think about being the director of a public library being paid by a contractor, yet trying to foster community support for the “the heart of the community”.

Do we really believe that a for-profit contractor is going to invest in new technology, take directions from a library board, expand the collection, or implement new programs at the public’s request? Where’s the profit in that? While virtually all municipal departments are “cost centers”, a for-profit business survives on “profit centers”. There are no “profit centers” in a public library! (unless you consider the overdue book fines a profit, and I’d like to see a for-profit company survive on that. Seriously!) The nature of the library is totally different than just another municipal department like water or sewer or human resources. Why not privatize the whole city/county/state/nation if it’s so advantageous?


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US Education Reform Will Require Many Supermen and Superwomen

In yesterday’s Blog Post I reiterated the IMLS prediction – library services in the 21st Century will be impacted by these three elements:
Technology – Education Reform – Societal Changes

I also asked if you had heard of Waiting for “Superman”, the documentary film about the US public education system? Today I want to make sure you have heard about it, because it is a topic that is sweeping the nation, on every talk show and newscast network, from Oprah to CNN.

I will see it when it comes to my town (hopefully soon), because in light of the P21 (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills) movement toward the 21st Century Skills in education (that I’ve discussed) and this documentary, that is causing such a nationwide stir, there will be education reform. I guarantee it! I have a feeling that Dr. Radice was thinking about P21 when she predicted education reform, but my guess is Waiting for “Superman” will provide the impetus to really open the door to making major education reform happen – because it spotlights in a visceral way that the system is broken.

Claims are that the current generation of kids in school will be the first generation that is not better educated than their parents. TRAGIC!

Is your library ready to provide some of the Supermen and Superwomen? Are you ready for the impact of education reform on your local library?

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Future of the pBook – Conflicting Opinions!

Thanks to a well informed colleague who shared these two conflicting opinions about the future of physical published books [I’m going to go out on a limb here and refer to physical, paper published books as the “pBook”. Maybe it will make the complicated written discussion easier.] we have before our profession – another profound issue that will impact our future. (I hate to keep reiterating Dr. Radice, former Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, in the IMLS 2010 publication The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide that, “… the delivery of library … services will be impacted by technology, education reform, and societal … changes …” in what seems like every Post, but she was SO DEAD ON, it is highly applicable.)

Technology – Education Reform – Societal Changes

I’d have to list this latest debate over the death of the pBook as a societal change, because consumers drive the market place that is producing the eBook and challenging the existence of the millenniums old culture of the pBook. Below are a blog post and a technology review that present compelling but conflicting opinions about how and whether the eBook will replace the pBook, and possibly a public library’s collection.

The Negative Opinion Regarding the pBook

Sarah Houghton-Jan, “Librarian in Black” blogger, Posted a very comprehensive review of an event in San Francisco in her Post: Future of Libraries 2010: The Consumer and Library E-book Markets. In her Post of September 21, she reviewed three individuals (Paul Sims, Ann Awakuni and Henry Bankhead) who shared the opinion that the pBook was nearly dead and would reach its demise in about 5 years.

Sims outlined;

Three scenarios that could undermine our business:
1. What if Virgin or another company offers an eBook reader for free with a 2 year contract for $9.99 a month and get 3 free anytime eBooks every month (very Netflix-esque). These would likely be promoted heavily at discount chain stores and campuses. They could also offer Read-As-You-Go plans.
2. What if publishers abandoned printing books and instead allowed licensed eBooks to be printed by vendors and partners only. Libraries would continue to get print books and have to pay twice, for content and printing. Some libraries might adopt the print on demand technology, but guess what? Libraries are back to fixing printers all the time. What if FedEx/Kinkos starts printing books for people?
3. What if Google announces the creation of Google Publishing? They could offer best-selling authors huge signing bonuses (e.g. 50% of sales and 50% of ad revenue). eBooks might be sold for $2.99 to read online with ads, or $9.99 to download and transfer to other devices and with no ads. And they would likely make no provision for libraries…except the lovely one reading computer station per library.
… We have to work with ALA to lobby to get copyright law changed so that we can lend eBooks in a meaningful way. The other option is to just give up on collections, service, and librarianship.

Sounds reasonable. Sounds bleak for the future of the pBook, whether it’s 5 years or 10.

Awakuni discussed the technology involved in the eBook movement, and also observed that;

What does this mean for libraries? We need to add value to the reading experience on digital devices. How can we offer this up with the tools we have now (can’t). She sees us moving toward a “haiku culture” with digital content. We’re moving away from solitary reading to sensory, social, and arguably more shallow. Libraries have to keep up our eContent for the “haves” and not just the “have nots.” We will definitely see more people preferring the electronic to the print, and what are we doing to meet that demand? Do we know what our patrons want? What formats do they prefer? What categories or genres do they check out most?

Also sounds reasonable, and adds significant demand on already limited library budgets to make eBook readers available to lend.

Bankhead concluded by talking about;

… the role of the public library with eBooks in the future. Books are simply packaged words, a time transfer of knowledge, culture, and entertainment. Books show us what the past was like and what the future may hold. eBooks are just another format and formats change over time. The history of bamboo books in China exceeds in duration the use of paper books. When eBooks first came out in the 1990s, they failed pretty badly and left a bad impression with people due to bad selections, formats, and digital rights management. But now eBooks are becoming popular because of the wide availability of eBook reading devices and apps. … Libraries need to change from curators of predefined collections to distributors of access.

Even more reasonable, and a perspective we’ve heard for many years now, the eBook is just another format – the fundamentals of librarianship have not changed. Or, have they? And, will the eBook be beyond the acquisition capability of libraries?

The Positive Opinion Regarding the pBook

The technology review I noted at the beginning is from “Technology Review: Published by MIT” by Christopher Mims, “a journalist who covers technology and science for just about everybody”, in his article also published September 21 titled The Death of the Book has Been Greatly Exaggerated. Mims goes on the record by predicting that eBook expectations have peaked and will be followed by disillusionment.

I’m calling the peak of inflated expectations now. Get ready for the next phase of the hype cycle – the trough of disillusionment. The signs of a hype bubble are all around us. Mostly in the form of irrational exuberance. In Clearwater, Florida, the principle of the local high school recently replaced all his students’ textbooks with latest-gen Kindles – without, apparently, any awareness that formal trials of the Kindle as a textbook replacement led universities like Princeton and Arizona State University to reject it as inadequate.

His graphic illustrates this point very well.

Mims goes on to point out that;

Here’s the reality this kind of hype is up against: back of the envelope calculations suggest that ebooks are only six pecent of the total market for new books. How can that be possible, when Amazon recently said that ebooks are outselling hard-cover books at Easy: Amazon is only 19 percent of the total book market. Also, Amazon has something like 90 percent of the world’s ebook market.

He justifies his opinion by pointing out that;

The backlash against ebooks by those who aren’t so in love with technology for its own sake has yet to begin, but it’s coming. Ebooks are adequate for reading novels, but the makers of the Kno, (in)famous for being the world’s most gigantic ebook, believe that their technology is the only way to replace the specialized class of books we rely on for our education — textbooks. If they’re right, the experiment in Clearwater, Florida is bound to run into problems.

And as for the death-by-2015 predictions of Negroponte, it’s just as likely that as the ranks of the early adopters get saturated, adoption of ebooks will slow. The reason is simple: unlike the move from CDs to MP3s, there is no easy way to convert our existing stock of books to e-readers. And unlike the move from records and tapes to CDs, it’s not immediately clear that an ebook is in all respects better than what it succeeds.

The Realistic Opinion Regarding the pBook

So, who’s right? Maybe the real future is somewhere in the middle. Probably eBooks won’t take over the whole world of books in 5 years, but eventually it seems reasonable that the eBook will become the format of the 21st Century library (assuming there is one). Will copyright laws change to allow the public library to “lend” (or re-license, or whatever it will be called) eBooks? Probably.

The major question is still – How will the library remain relevant in the 21st Century community? Some will argue that this pBook vs. eBook evolution is just a bump in the road for libraries, a change of format. Maybe. But even so, that doesn’t negate the impact of the education reform that is coming. Have you heard about the “Waiting for Superman” documentary expose’ of the US public education system? You will.

I strongly recommend that the serious librarian who is concerned about their profession’s future and interested in helping to shape that future read both of these resources I’ve highlighted in their entirety. (Thanks to Craig for opening these issues to us all.)

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“White Spaces” – Another Game Changer!

One of the drums I keep beating since I began this Blog (to everyone’s chagrin I suspect) was that our schools need to prepare 21st Century students for jobs that don’t currently exist that will use technology that hasn’t been invented to solve problems we don’t yet understand (to paraphrase others). AND, this will have a life-altering impact on libraries, what we understand about libraries, and how we exist in order to be relevant to our communities.

In my August 26 Post ( 21st Century Skills & The Future of Libraries) I quoted Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, who wrote in the IMLS 2010 publication The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide that, “… the delivery of library … services will be impacted by technology, education reform, and societal … changes …”

Freeing “white spaces” in the broadcast spectrum will be one of those technologies that is a game changer. For those of you (like me) who were not up on the “white spaces” issue, this explanation from Wikipedia (it’s really not a four-letter word) may be helpful.

“Full power analog television broadcasts, which operated between the 54 MHz and 806 MHz television frequencies (Channels 2-69), ceased operating on June 12, 2009 per a United States digital switchover mandate. At that time, full power TV stations were required to switch to digital transmission and operate only between 54-698 MHz. This is also the timetable that the white space coalition has set to begin offering wireless broadband services to consumers. The delay allows time for the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test the technology and make sure that it does not interfere with existing television broadcasts.

John D. Sutter, CNN, September 15, 2010, explains in his article FCC heralds a new era of ‘super Wi-Fi’ that opening up the “white spaces” in the broadcast spectrum

“… would come about if the FCC votes to open up some of the “white space” between TV channels for use by anyone.” after a Commission vote on September 23. “It’s “SUPER Wi-Fi!” as FCC “… Chairman Julius Genachowski is calling a new class of bigger-faster-better internet connections. …The spectrum allows signals to travel further, to go through walls, to [transfer] more information — so it’s very robust,” he said in an interview with “Super Wi-Fi has extraordinary potential. What’s as exciting is we have a new platform for innovation and we can’t anticipate what will happen next.” [Emphasis added.]

“The commission says the technology has been used to bring broadband internet to a school in rural Claudeville, Virginia, to add a public Wi-Fi network in Wilmington, North Carolina, and obtain data about the “smart grid” electricity infrastructure in Plumas County, California.”

Remember when your library had the fastest Internet service in town? Remember when your free, fast Internet access was your library’s “anchor store” draw for patrons to actually come in to the library and check out other materials? Say good-bye to that “Internet Cafe” role of the 21st Century Library!

According to a freepress article “White Spaces: Bringing the Internet to Everyone”;

“Millions of Americans who do not have basic Internet access or are forced to use antiquated and slow dial-up connections will finally get some relief. In a remarkable victory for the American public, on November 4, [2009] the Federal Communications Commission voted to open the vacant public airwaves between TV channels – called “white spaces” – for high-speed Internet access. After an exhaustive study (, the federal agency has found that we can open these unused airwaves for everyone. New technology is available to expand and improve broadband access and wireless communications across the country.”

Watch for Super Wi-Fi to come to your neighborhood – SOON!

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Librarians and Integrity

I feel I must comment on the recent library blog topic regarding Netflix in libraries …., or, in my way of thinking, more broadly – librarian integrity. Meredith Farkas commented very perceptively on libraries using Netflix DVD commercial movies in their collection in the same manner as DVDs they have legitimately purchased. I wholeheartedly agree – It’s wrong!

I have a hard time believing that any qualified or experienced librarian would even consider such actions. Copyright law requires that “if the following circumstances exist, then you must obtain permission from the copyright holder to show the movie;

    *if the screening is open to the public,
    *if the screening is in a public space where access is not restricted,
    *if persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization

I think it’s safe to say that any “public” presentation of a commercial movie in the library to the general public would be prohibited without permission from the copyright holder.”
(Williams College Libraries has an excellent resource on the topic.)

And, it seems logical that any other viewing by the general public that is not allowed by “fair use” legal exemptions shouldn’t be permitted, let alone encouraged. This is almost common knowledge among our profession.

So, where is the integrity among individual librarians? As I commented to Meredith, “If there are no institutional accounts with Netflix, then some individual librarian is putting their neck and career in jeopardy, and inviting personal liability along with the library as defendants in a law suit.” Who would do such a thing?

Seriously, does any professional librarian really believe that Netflix is going to extend their blanket carte blanche permission to share rented movies to any library – therefore to EVERY LIBRARY? Netflix is a business! For libraries to steal business from anyone is unconscionable. Meredith’s analogy of a grad student checking out library materials and then re-loaning them for a profit is very apt. It’s just not right, and no library would sit still for such a practice by their customers. Why would Netflix?

If Pegasus Librarian (There are Terms of Service and Terms of Service, If You Know What I Mean) is an example of current professional librarian thinking, maybe we have more serious problems than trying to make 21st Century Library services relevant in our communities. Does anyone really believe discussions involving topics from “closed stacks to copyright to food in the library” are ALL topics open to local interpretation? Local policy and federal law are hardly in the same category of discussion, or have the same gravity of consequences.

I certainly hope and pray that this is not a shadow of what the 21st Century librarian is going to become.


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