Monthly Archives: August 2014

Innovation is all a matter of Perspective


We spend so very much time talking about innovation and 21st century librarianship! We attempt to define what it is and what it looks like. We try to pin it down like a butterfly on a board so that we can study it. Why? Because we are either looking for a template (What should I be doing?) or validation (Ah Ha! I am innovative!) People ask me on a regular basis: “So what is the next big Library Innovation?” My answer remains always the same. “For which Library?”

What is innovative to one community is yesterday’s news to another and the work of a science-fiction whacko to yet another. In defining innovation, it is absolutely critical to know your audience (aka-your community).

All we need do is review that last week or so of headlines to see this play out:

Irving Public Library Unveils New Catalog!!

 Irving Public Library announces the launch of a new, state-of-the-art online catalog system, Polaris, which keeps track of library materials and customer records. The system goes live Aug. 28.

Customers also will be able to place holds and check out eBooks, as well as monitor account activity directly from the library’s catalog. Other new account features include an option to keep one’s reading history, create alphanumeric usernames and receive text notifications.

New Public Library Opens in Elk Mound

After years of work, Elk Mound finally has a library to call its own.

A grand opening for the new Elk mound Public Library was held Monday.

It’s a satellite library based out of Menomonie.

Ted Stark, the Director of the Menomonie Public Library, says the new building has all the resources as any other library, wireless internet, computers, books, magazines and much more.

He says the library is linked to several other libraries, and has access to around one and a half million books.

Ted stark, director of menomonie public library “I think it’s a lot better looking then I ever imagined it could be, because if you saw it before, my first thought was to tear it down, because it was bad but they have really done an amazing job, it’s like a brand new building,” says Stark.

The library will have regular hours Monday through Thursday

What’s all the Hoopla in Muncie??

Muncie Public Library is now offering Hoopla, a digital streaming service similar to Netflix.

The addition of Hoopla to MPL’s offerings is just another step in the library’s stated mission of keeping up all the growing and changing forms of media its patrons can use, according to Gentis. “We just want to offer what people want,” she said.

MPL Director Virginia Nilles called the addition of the streaming service “a natural progression” in the library’s embrace of technology. “We were interested in it before the technology was there,” she said.

MPL began offering Hoopla in July, and a little more than a month in had more than 200 users who were using it through the Hoopla app or website, Gentis said.

Though the article by Ms. Erickson is flawed in its logic nearly to the point of uselessness…it does highlight a fabulous innovation and utilize some wonderful quotes.  Is your idea of the innovative 21st Century Library one with more Technology and Less Books?  The James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University agrees!!

What Does a Library without Books Look Like?

What makes a library a library, anyway?

The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, at North Carolina State University, thinks it has an answer. University officials in Raleigh just spent $115 million building what some people call the most advanced library in the world.

“We started asking people, ‘What do you need?’” Hiscoe says. “We wanted to create a space that would serve the people who used it, not our high-minded idea of what a library should be.” The students, he says, had two main requests — they wanted spaces to work together and opportunities to visualize data on some kind of grand scale.

With these ideas in mind, the team set out to create a new kind of space. But they wanted to do more than drop in a couple of extra computer terminals and couches. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they set out to reinvent the library.

That meant hiring Oslo firm Snohetta to design the building, a sleek modernist structure that looks like rows and rows of shiny silver dominos, lined up on a ramp. It also meant playing down the books, and playing up the many other amenities, like the hang-out spaces.

Then there’s the technology, all 241,000 pieces. Students can rent out everything from iPads to microtiles to Google glasses. A hive of robots retrieves and reshelves the books. (Patrons can no longer wander through the stacks themselves, but they can “browse” digitally — a computer will pull up a photo of a particular shelf; patrons can request whatever they like). Screens are everywhere.

There are rooms where students can build simulations of entire spaces. Hunt Library wanted to have a spot, say, for students to digitally recreate a 17th-century cathedral. With that, they could study how sound travels, to better understand how sermons stirred people. “All we had is text,” Hiscoe says. “We didn’t know what it sounded like, whether the preacher is up there screaming, whether the echo would do particular things to his voices.”

A team of students and professors also digitally “re-created” a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at White Rock Baptist Church in 1960. Floor-to-ceiling screens displayed what King would actually have seen as he looked out into the crowd; audio technology modulated the volume of his talk so that students could get a feel for what it would actually have been like to hear the speech.

At first, people didn’t even think the space should be called a library, Hiscoe says. But once people actually get inside, they understand it as a focal point of the community, a place that brings people together to think, create and learn, a place that gives them the tools they need for these central missions. And isn’t that the point?

“No matter where people are, they have to look at their community and ask, ‘If it’s no longer books, what is it?’” Hiscoe says. “Every community will answer that question differently. But it’s a question that is answerable … Maybe you don’t buy a lot of Wallace Stevens … Maybe you buy a 3D printer instead.”

But on the other extreme of the “To Book or Not to Book” debate…you have Boston:
Why is Boston Public Library Discarding Books?

It’s housecleaning time at the Boston Public Library, with tens of thousands of books being pulled from branch shelves all around the city. And it’s a beast of a task. The only library in America with more volumes in its collection than the BPL’s 19 million-plus is the Library of Congress. Take that New York!

“The number of volumes in a library is not a good reflection of the quality of the collection or how well it’s being used,” said Larry Neal, head of the Public Library division of the American Library Association, and probable Yankees fan.

“The intention is not just to hoard everything that you can possibly stash away,” he said. “Your job is to provide things that the community wants that have an interest in and make it easy for them to find.”

And that means, sometimes, books have to go — something that Amy Ryan, head of the Boston Public Library, says is standard, daily practice for all libraries.

But many of the books being weeded are perfectly accurate and in good shape. They just aren’t being checked out. The BPL is targeting books that haven’t circulated for four to six years. And this has some concerned, like Dave Vieira, a longtime patron and former President of the City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library.

But what Ryan calls an evolution, feels like a revolution to Vieira — one that he worries could leave loyal, older patrons behind. At the opening of the East Boston library, he says he couldn’t help but think, “Where are all the books?”

“While the library of the future may look like that, we are moving too fast, we are rushing from point A to point C,” he said.

But whatever the speed, libraries, like the rest of us, have no choice but to trudge into the future. And for Neal, that future, looks remarkably like the past.

And it is also important to remember that not every experiment with innovation works! Failure is an important factor to consider in the risk of innovation. Only invest what you can survive losing and don’t be afraid to say your attempt failed…at least you tried!

Brooklyn Public Library Yanks iPads from Tots!!

Perverts at a Brooklyn public library have lost their iPad privileges.

Officials have permanently yanked two iPads out of the children’s reading section of the Kensington branch after kids and some parents kept sneaking off with the devices to shop, play violent video games and view porn sites, sources said.

“It’s a shame,” a library staffer said. “This was a pilot program. I guess you can say it failed.”

The iPads on the top floor of the 18th Ave. branch were installed with reading and other educational apps for youngsters between the ages of 2 and 5, when the branch opened two years ago.

But there have been “unfortunate issues” with older kids hijacking the electronics to change passwords and install their own apps, said library spokeswoman Emma Woods.

One even took a selfie and set it as the background photo, a library insider said.

So what do all these wide and varied examples of “innovation” mean. How do we reconcile the fact that they run the spectrum and sometime conflict with another library’s innovative methods? The take away is that Innovation (like beauty) is really in the eye of the beholder. To one community a nearly all-digital library with a maker’s space cathedral is innovative… To another it is having a library at all.

At the end of the day, the relevancy you create for your library within your community is the only true judge of your innovation.

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Authors now join Public Libraries as targets of Publisher and Bookseller censorship and greed – But who is the real victim?


It appears that it is not just Libraries any longer that are at the whim of publishers and booksellers. Authors now find themselves pawns in the game of market share and bottom-line. And some are NOT taking it lying down. Rather they are banding together, passing petitions and now a full-page spread in the New York Times Sunday addition at a cost of $104,000!

From ArsTechnica.com Report on the Dispute:

“Authors affected by Amazon’s contract dispute with publisher Hachette have started to band together against the online retailer, reported The New York Times on Thursday. More than 900 authors have signed a letter condemning Amazon for “using writers as hostages in its negotiations,” referring to Amazon’s choices to keep low stock of certain Hachette titles and taking weeks to ship them as the two companies battle over e-book prices.”

The Guardian Reports Best selling Authors take out Full Page New York Times Ad against Amazon:

“As writers – most of us not published by Hachette – we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’,” write the authors, who include Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Paul Auster, Barbara Kingsolver and a host of other well-known names.

Read The Authors’ Letter

But Wait! What is this?? Amazon has not taken the attack in stride but has come out swinging!! They have written their own letter!! (Note it says it is a Letter to Readers – However, I first saw the exact text from an Amazon Author who forwarded an email he received from Amazon billed as a letter to its authors- Thanks Dr. Steve Matthews!)

Read The Amazon Letter to Readers
(OH! and they have they have a bibliography! Nicely played Amazon! Too bad so many facts were wrong- especially that Orwell reference. Pesky Details!)

But now the letters are flying! We did not have to wait long for Hachette’s Response!!
Read the Hachette Letter of Response

And what is to be made of all this back and forth? Well the New York Times made a little fun!
The New York Times Reports on Amazon’s Letter, Its Misquotes, and the Fall out!

At the end of the Times report it appears as if Amazon maybe pondering a go at the giant Disney!

“In a related development, it became widely known over the weekend that Amazon was in a dispute with yet another supplier, this time Disney. Amazon was doing the same thing with the movie studio that it did with Hachette: preventing customers from preordering physical copies of yet-to-be-released content.”

Wow…Disney may be about bringing joy to Children and Adults all over the world; but they are also notorious for aggressively protecting themselves successfully from just about any form of infringement. Amazon may find THEY are the Mouse…to a much larger Cat in that game!

So now, after reading all the press and the letters from the various players, What do we think? What side did you come down on? Who is fighting for what? Who is the Good/Bad guy? Do the details of the actual argument seem….muddled and confusing. I’m sure there are some pros and cons on all sides of the financial and philosophical argument (and a whole passel of lawyers); but to form a truly educated position might require a review of the actual contract in dispute. However, what cannot be disputed…is that in all this pointing and sharpening of the pen the only REAL victim is the CONSUMER. The person who simply wants access to the movie, book or eBook of their choice but is shut out. And when one of the worlds largest booksellers unapologetically employs tactics that covertly limit public access to material in a democratic society it should be a serious warning sign to us all!!

Booksellers and Publishers have been shutting America’s Public Libraries out of the eBook market for years. They have only recently opened the back door and ONLY if we are willing to buy our way in through ridiculous pricing or public-trust threatening “collaborations”. I wonder: Will these authors’ efforts have any greater impact on the covert stymieing of access by these booksellers and publishers than the nearly ineffectual attempts of America’s public libraries?

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21st Century Library Innovations and Inspirations!!


Today my Library hit an innovation milestone. After months of negotiation, planning, board convincing, budgeting, and financial paperwork, we took delivery of our brand new media box! (think Redbox meets library card!!). It is the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey and the 35th of its kind in the USA!
After years of pulling DVDs out of drawers or binders or little paper sleeves or fighting with security cases (that you would swear were designed specifically to drive you insane) or whatever other ‘brilliant’ process we contrived, we have reached the 21st Century with our circulation processes for DVDs. This technology will secure, checkout & dispense, accept returns, check-in, and re shelve at least 2000 DVDs titles. It will allow staffing resources to be reallocated to other library needs. It will generate reports based on circulation and browsing history detailing the most and least popular titles in the collection. It will, within librarian-defined parameters, generate lists for regular weeding and automatically dispense titles chosen for removal to the librarian in a batch upon demand.
And best of all, the patron’s are ecstatic! They understand “RedBox-style” and they love interactive and ‘patron-managed’ services!
It was a great day.
(Watch for a future post about the Media Box and the arduous journey to its acquisition!)

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In the spirit of 21st Century Library Innovation, this is a snapshot of other library innovations happening all around the Country! Innovation is in the Air!

New York Public Library Opens Pop-Up Outdoor Reading Room and New “Read Everywhere” Campaign

Omaha Public Library Goes Mobile with a Book Bike!

Midland Public Library to promote “Little Free Libraries”!

Portland Public Library in talks with City to Store & Digitize Historic City Records

Aurora Public Library Receives Innovation Award for KMart Branch!

Inspired??

Be INNOVATIVE!!

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