Monthly Archives: January 2013

LibraryEdge Benchmarks? We Can Do Better!


As I read the news at the LJ InfoDocket website – “Info Tech and Public Libraries: The Edge Coalition Releases “Edge Benchmarks 1.0″” – I had some initial high hopes.

According to the LJ release; “Launched in March 2011, the LibraryEdge.org initiative is led by a coalition of leading library and local government organizations to develop a suite of tools that support continuous improvement and reinvestment in public technology.” And, according to the Benchmarks published by Library Edge.org;

Edge is a leadership and planning tool.
Its aim is to help you:

    • Assess your public computers and how they are being used,
    • Identify ways to strengthen or enhance your public technology, and
    • Communicate with key leaders on the value of the library’s computers for supporting a skilled workforce and employment, the educational needs of students, and more.

Led by a coalition of library leaders and bolstered by thousands of public libraries and staff, the Edge Initiative is a suite of tools that support continuous improvement and reinvestment in public technology.

In addition to these Benchmarks, here’s what is included in the toolkit:

    • A Resource Guide with practical templates, tools, and tips for improving the library’s public computer services.
    • Case studies that feature examples of public libraries of all sizes using computers to meet citizen needs.
    • Reporting tools that help library leaders tell the story of how computers support the local economy, workforce, lifelong learning, and a strong community.
    • Training that will guide libraries in using their Edge results for planning, advocacy, and outreach activities to enhance as well as build technology services.

Edge is a tool for library professionals. It helps libraries plan and grow for the future.

These are pretty bold claims for one resource. But, as I read the specific 11 recommended benchmarks, my high hopes sank. They contain neither leadership nor new useful ideas that I can discern, just another assessment tool. Which part contains the leadership? Where is the implementation strategy? And seriously, is simple survey input from “thousands of public libraries and staff” really bolstering this assessment tool? Hardly!

Among these benchmarks, which ones are innovative or even new? Seriously!
Which ones are goals, objectives or tasks that the vast majority of libraries are not already doing, or at least addressing?

1. Libraries provide assistance and training with the goal of increasing the level of digital literacy in the community
2. Libraries provide access to relevant digital content and enable community members to create their own digital content
3. Libraries provide technology resources to help patrons meet important needs related to personal goals and community priorities
4. Libraries make strategic decisions based on community priorities for digital inclusion and innovation
5. Libraries build strategic relationships with community partners to maximize public access technology resources and services provided to the community
6. Libraries support continuous improvement in public access technology services by sharing expertise & best practices with other digital inclusion organizations
7. Libraries integrate public access technology into planning and policies
8. Libraries have sufficient staff with technology expertise to help patrons achieve their goals
9. Libraries have sufficient devices and bandwidth to accommodate user demand
10. Libraries manage their technology resources to maximize quality
11. Libraries ensure participation in digital technology for people with disabilities

NONE! So what’s the point of yet another tool to endorse common-ness among libraries with a one size fits all approach? And where is the “leadership” and “continuous improvement and reinvestment in public technology” in this assessment tool?

Visionary Leadership! That’s what libraries need to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.

I’m not saying that these LibraryEdge Benchmarks can’t be a useful tool for many libraries who may still be struggling with these issues, and this Post is in no way intended to diminish the exceptional efforts of so many valuable organizations who have spent considerable resources developing “a … tool … to help you … Assess your public computers and how they are being used,…,” etc., etc., etc.
• American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy
• The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
• California State Library
• International City/County Management Association
• LYRASIS
• OCLC
• Oklahoma Department of Libraries
• Public Library Association
• Techsoup Global
• Texas State Library and Archives Commission
• University of Maryland, Information Policy & Access Center
• University of Washington Information School
• Urban Libraries Council

I mean, who would deliberately insult such a coalition as this, but to self proclaim this tool as anything more than just “another tool to help libraries assess their public use technology” is unwarranted and unfortunate. Tools like this do not provide leadership. Leaders do! And is this going to be like a community needs assessment? Once you’ve achieved the results, you try to figure out what it means so you can develope a solution to address the issues?

Where is there any useful new idea in telling libraries that they should “accommodate users with disabilities?”
Where is the leadership in telling a library to track metrics they are already following?

    Number of hours public devices are in use by patrons
    Number of attendees in technology classes
    Average wait times for public devices
    Number of wireless sessions
    Number of requests for one-on-one technology help

Where is the cutting edge ideas in telling libraries that they should “provide peripheral equipment that enables patrons to complete tasks?” – DUH!
What library director doesn’t yearn to be able to “provide staff with work time to engage in technology related learning activities?”

Benchmarking is the process of comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other industries.” These LibraryEdge Benchmarks are the library industry’s best practices? Seriously?

Frankly, I think librarians and libraries are capable of much more and much better performance, and introducing this “assessment tool” as the magic bullet for public computer use, a day late and a dollar short is misleading at best, insulting at worst. Use the LibraryEdge Benchmarks for what they can help you assess, but strive for much higher “benchmarks” for yourself and your library. Many of you are already way down the road in terms of public access computers, and have moved on to more important issues. Seriously!

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What’s In A Name?


Something struck me as being off yesterday when I read a blog post from the UK where a young man of 15 who was in a work-study program at his local library referred to himself as a “librarian.” I know it’s been an elephant in the room sort of topic since I’ve been in the profession – who is a “librarian” and who is para-professional, library worker, etc. But what really is in a name?

Many in marketing will insist that everything is in a name – branding is the end all be all. Others will claim that it doesn’t matter – usually those who share the name with others who have accomplished more to get it. Yes, I know that’s horribly insensitive and politically incorrect to state, but that’s what happens when one chooses to state out loud to everyone else that there is an elephant in the room, and the emperor in reality has no clothes.

I think it is important to examine this issue at this point in the 21st Century – actually it is an important issue to examine in any century – as the role is being redefined by circumstances. As libraries shift their mission to include services never before imagined for a “Library,” and librarians perform activities and are required to develop skills so much different than their predecessors, if we are asking what is a library, shouldn’t we be also asking what is a “Librarian?”

So, what is in the name LIBRARIAN?

Is it time to redefine “librarian” and limit its application to only MLIS degreed individuals, or should there be some other criteria – like competency certification?

Should the title of “librarian” be reserved for those who only serve or interact with the public directly?

Is it ego building and flattering for everyone who works in a library to be referred to as “librarian,” (like the 15 year old work-study) or is that stolen glory like those who impersonate decorated military personnel?

If not everyone who works in a library is referred to as “librarian,” what should others be titled?

Would it be more politically correct to allow everyone to choose their own title – “shelver” or “indexer” or “public service representative” or “program coordinator” or “manager”?

Do non-MLIS degreed library directors refer to themselves as “librarians?”

So, what is in the name “LIBRARIAN?”

ADDENDUM:
FROM: Kay Dee
Wow! You’re right in saying this is a loaded topic! But it is an issue. My thoughts may or may not directly answer the questions posed but it is where your thoughts led mine….

First, I believe it is important to say that for most of our patrons every employee they encounter is a “librarian”. I think for the average patron they simply mean “library employee”. I also think that it is not always necessary to “school” a patron on the differences. They simply want help and their needs met and whichever employee they encounter should work to insure that is accomplished.

NOW…that said, I believe it IS important that those of us who work within libraries and the profession acknowledge the difference in level of skill/education/experience that traditionally comes with title and/or grade level. Being a “professional librarian” does not make you a better person it means that you have an advanced level of skill in a particular field. It seems we often confuse those two issues. (Much like the Gen Y discussion of ‘if we don’t keep score then no one loses’… if we don’t have titles then no one feels “less than”.) We need to stop apologizing for the fact that some individuals have made libraries their life’s career while others have made it a paycheck for the next short while. And for some who have made it a career, they have chosen to advance their skills through formal education and certification. Nobody is more or less….just varying degrees of skill/education/experience.

Why is it not only OK for this difference to exist but vital that it be acknowledged? One reason (and for me the most important) is so that we as library employees in our various forms can best meet the needs of our customers. It isn’t their job to find the employee best suited to answer their question of “Where is the restroom?” or “How can I get on a computer?” or “I need to find a good divorce attorney.” or “Why do I have a $2 fine on my library card?” or “Why do you filter the Internet computers in the children’s area?” or “How do I know you won’t make my personal information available to law enforcement?” I have seen patrons ask each of these questions to library employees at every level from the newest hire to the custodian to the supervising librarian. Each question has an answer…but not every employee is equipped to provide it. What they MUST be equipped with is the ability to direct the patron to the employee who does (or should) have the answer.

For that we need titles that define levels of skill, education, and experience. If we look at titles in this light perhaps we will get past the idea that they are about divisiveness, elitism, or egos but rather they are about the provision of excellent service to our clientele.

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21st Century Librarianship Is Not For Casual Librarians


I commute to work about 30 minutes through city streets and Interstate. I am not a casual driver. My pilot training and experience gave me a sense of driving with precision and purpose, as well as driving defensively and decisively. I like to get where I’m going as efficiently and quickly as possible. That’s why I prefer to commute before the 7:30AM and 5:30PM “rush hour” rather than during rush hour. After six years of commuting in the same city, I have found that during the early hours there are a preponderance of more purposeful drivers on the road trying to get where they’re going, rather than during rush hour when everybody else is commuting – not to mention the ‘flow of traffic’ is much faster. I also know the roads well enough to vary my route depending on the traffic situation, like yesterday when I could see Interstate traffic backing up and lots of flashing lights a mile ahead and took an earlier exit that would keep me out of a traffic jam.

This morning I was running late and ended up right in the rush hour traffic. It struck me again that most people who drive during rush hour commute are what I consider “casual” drivers. A little like Sunday afternoon drivers. Many don’t put 100% focus on driving, consider it a chore they can do while focusing on something else (I HATE TEXTers), don’t anticipate traffic situations and make last-instant poor decisions that put everyone else at risk, and they drive slower. They don’t strike me as serious about driving, even though they are exposing themselves to more risk during rush hour. Most act like this is their first time traveling this route – they’re tentative.

So what? you ask. There is an analogy between casual drivers and casual librarians. (That is librarians with a casual attitude toward the profession, not librarians who work “casual hours.”)

Casual librarians tend to not take their profession seriously, or work with any great purpose. They tend to go along with the crowd and stay in the main stream of everything – technology, customer service, advocacy, etc. Casual librarians tend to not consider the bigger picture of the profession, but just get through the day doing their job.

Casual librarians generally don’t anticipate their circumstances or situation to keep from making last minute middle of the road decisions about what are really important issues. They would rather amble along with the crowd than venture out to find their own route – they’re tentative.

A 21st Century librarian is not a casual librarian.

The 21st Century librarian works with an intense purpose and desire to achieve the higher objectives they envision. They don’t go with the flow, but lead the flow at their own express pace, hoping others will keep up. They work to make things happen, not wait and watch to see what is happening around them, because they know what should be happening – they’re decisive.

The 21st Century librarian knows what is going on around them and is able to make decisions that will improve the situation, rather than make a traditional decision regardless of the implications of a situation. They read and study professional publications, and get involved in stimulating discussions. They take an intent interest in innovations that improve the library’s relevance to its community. 21st Century librarians are so knowledgeable about the profession they are ahead of situations and making adjustments rather than always playing catch up.

The 21st Century librarian performs their profession with precision and purpose, as well as decisiveness. They lead with passion and determination to make a difference. The 21st Century librarian is anything but a casual librarian.

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Gen Y The Greatest Generation – Seriously?


According to some psychologists who have analyzed results of the most recent American Freshman Survey, which has been asking students to rate themselves compared to their peers since 1966, the survey shows that present U.S. college students feel more entitled than ever and that there is a disconnect between students self-assessed value and their actual abilities. The issues of Gen Y thinking they are the greatest generation were discussed among a news commentator and panel that included noted “Gen Y Guy” Jason Ryan Dorsey. Listen to the discussion for yourself.

What’s your opinion / experience?

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21st Century Librarianship – Revisited


In 2012 I tried to focus the majority of my Posts on librarian leadership. I thought in 2013 I would return to 21st Century Librarianship.
• Why is 21st Century librarianship important enough to write about?
• How is 21st Century librarianship different from previous concepts of librarianship?
• What does this 21st Century qualifier really mean?
• How is 21st Century librarianship described (since trying to “define” it would be very limiting)?
• What are some examples of 21st Century librarianship?

Everything about librarianship has changed since 2000 – technology, society, education and economics have all impacted the environment in which librarians operate, and these changes require new knowledge and skills. Librarians are seeing the need for new roles emerge such as; data management, school librarians teaching Internet information literacy, and Digital Image Metadata Librarian. New roles are emerging to deal with 3-D printers, school library staying open extended hours during finals week, and providing new services to remain relevant to their community. Not to mention an explosion of eBooks and eReader technology that is threatening the perception of the value of libraries, and ultimately their very existence.

Education
Youth education has changed. According to a recent t|h|e Journal article – A 21st Century Librarian Helps Students See Through the Cloud – youth are being taught to be more information literate.

Many schools have renamed their libraries Media Centers, and the people who help students access their resources need to be as tech-savvy as any IT person. Today’s librarians have to know things like responsible use policies (also known as acceptable use policies) and how to guide students in the effective use of the Internet for research. For schools trying to incorporate technology into the curriculum these educators are key, because they speak the language of technology and education.

Michelle Luhtala—a self-titled “21st century enthusiast,” educator, and department chair at New Canaan High School library – values access to the cloud as a resource for her students. In addition to allowing access to timely information, Luhtala says, working with her students online has helped her teach critical thinking skills they’re not always able to grasp.

“We’ve been talking about resource evaluation forever with kids,” she said. “They look at the screens, they’d see the stuff coming in…and they’re like, ‘It’s a totally trusted source—it’s right there.’ They couldn’t distinguish between a blog and a subscription service and an op-ed piece and just a straight news article.”

The teachable moment came when she challenged the students on the snap judgment.
“They were having conversation about, ‘What are the clues that it might be an opinion piece or a blog? What kind of langue would we be looking for?’ These are the conversations educators have been chomping at the bit to have with kids and to have them engaged in it, and suddenly the kids were having the conversation amongst themselves,” she said. “That was very powerful.”

Meaning? Future library customers are becoming more information literate than ever before, as well as tech-savvy, which requires librarians to be more information literate and tech-savvy than ever before, both of which potentially will diminish the role of the reference librarian.

Librarian education is also changing based on new understanding of the role of librarianship in society. In a recent Library Journal article – USC Launches Master’s in Library Management – a totally on-line degree – they reported;

“It is the basic qualification for professional librarians”, Ken Haycock, director of graduate programs in library and information management, told LJ.

The MMLIS is “one of the first programs in librarianship in the United States to be affiliated with a major business school,” USC said in a statement. (Read the complete announcement at INFOdocket.com.) …

The MMLIS will differ from library degrees already offered by other institutions by including a required course in communication for leaders and a two-credit course in Research and Professional Applications required each semester, in which students will investigate critical, current professional problems identified by the advisory board, in teams and with faculty. [Emphasis added.]

Meaning? Librarians must become more business-like and broaden their skills to include other disciplines – if they expect to remain not only relevant but competative.

Economic Challenges
Libraries are being threatened by serious and long-term economic challenges that are raising serious questions about the fundamental role of libraries in the 21st Century. A LJ article last year reported on Harvard University Libraries’ drastic reorganization. Kira Poplowski, Harvard University Library’s director of communications, stated to LJ;

University leaders embraced a series of recommendations for the future of the Harvard Library system to establish a coordinated management structure and increasingly focus resources on the opportunities presented by new information technology. Ultimately, the University seeks to ensure that the Harvard Library continues to set the standard for research libraries worldwide.

Library Journal this week reported; Vermont Library Lays Off Whole Staff. After making reference to the Harvard University Library restructuring, the Library Board commented that reasons for their decision included;

The other stated goal of the restructuring is to gear the Athenaeum up to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world of librarianship, including a new focus on digitization, research and technical assistance, super-broadband Internet access, and off-site services, as well as more emphasis on programs and collaboration with other institutions.

Q: Is there a future for public libraries?
A: Yes! Absolutely yes! There is an important role for public libraries, but it’s going to be different. Preparing for this new role for our library is the fundamental reason we are restructuring. Moreover, this change is occurring with great speed and we have some catching up to do. This is the reason we felt we needed to take a bold step forward, instead of small, incremental changes.

Questioning the value of the traditional place of libraries in society has led to significant loss of funding support that previously was provided mostly without question. As Use of Libraries Grows, Government Support Has Eroded was a recent NY Times article based on a report from the Center for an Urban Future‘s study Branches of Opportunity, in which author David Giles concluded;

On the downside, …, we find that New York policy makers, social service leaders and economic officials have largely failed to see the public libraries as the critical 21st century resource that they are, while the libraries themselves have only begun to make the investments that will keep them relevant in today’s digital age.

Meaning? Library leaders must become a respected member of the community they serve in order to demonstrate their library’s value to their community, as well as broadening their ability to serve the diversities of their community.

Technology
In a Blog post in March, 2011, I described “A Look Into Your Future.”

Corning [Glass] Incorporated’s presentation “A Day Made of Glass… Made possible by Corning” will amaze you.

Imagine touch screen technology in your library! Touch the OPAC screen to search for what you want. Browsers (people who browse) can touch the display at the end of the book stack to reveal hidden treasures. Touch the library calendar / events signboard display to reveal future library events, or schedule your own future event. What can you imagine for your library that others will make real?

Meaning? Technology has only just begun to change the library world. Librarians must become users of and advocates for improved technology in their library services.

Even though I’ve only scratched the surface on reasons why – ask yourself again – Why is 21st Century Librarianship important enough to write about?
Please share your examples of changing librarianship.

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Year Three Blogging – Ending Stats


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog. It was viewed almost 84,000 times in 2012. That’s 230 times per day. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Since United States readers comprise about 65% of my total readers, I’d like to recognize a few other countries with the highest readership.
Thank you all for your support, your comments, your interest in librarianship, and your contributions to your own library.

Australia

Canada

India

United Kingdom

Philippines

New Zealand

Again, Thank You for your readership! Let’s see what 2013 brings!

Best Regards,
Steve

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