Tag Archives: Libraries

Passing the Torch


I have been blogging about 21st Century Library since January 2010. Some say that’s a long time for a blog. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4&1/2 years, but I do feel as though I have run my course and written virtually everything that I have to write about the “21st Century Library” and 21st Century Librarians.

It is a topic that will never be fully explored, reviewed or discussed, because as much as we engage in the topic it will evolve, even while we converse, into whatever we envision it to be, which creates a new conversation about the new role of librarianship.

One of my earlier positions on change within the librarianship profession I wrote in February 2011 in Discontinuous Thinking;

Charles Handy based the title of his book THE Age OF UNREASON on George Bernard Shaw’s observation that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man. His argument was that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable [person] persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore for any change of consequence we must look to the unreasonable man, or, I must add, to the unreasonable woman.” [Emphasis added.]

While in Shaw’s day, perhaps, most men were reasonable, we are now entering an Age of Unreason, when the future, in so many areas, is there to be shaped, by us and for us – a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no predictions will hold true; a time, therefore, for bold imaginings in private life as well as public, for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable.

My point being that librarians need to adapt the library to serve the new environment that society has created for its consumption of information. We need to better understand the real business that libraries are in, and librarians must discard the old stereotype of the library and librarianship and replace it with whatever works in the community that their library serves.

This should not be interpreted to mean that I endorse librarians shaping their community for the better, because our role is to serve. Simply serve the information needs of our community. Librarians do not establish what those needs are, they figure out what those needs are and satisfy them. The vacuum created by the uncertainty, evolution, or revolution, of the role of librarians within the community allows many misdirections in seeking that role, but the guiding principle is always service! If the new role does not fit the concept of service, then it isn’t the correct role.

Having stated all this, I will be stepping aside as the blogger of 21st Century Library Blog to allow a better mind than mine to direct the conversation about that new role of librarianship. Many times I have referred to my “good friend urban library director” in posts because I found many ideas and words of wisdom in her writing. She has agreed to take up the challenge of contributing to this conversation, partly because she has lots of ideas and things to write, and partly because she is my daughter, who was a librarian before I was.

Director Kimberly Matthews, Trenton (NJ) Free Public Library, has agreed to step in as the new blogger for 21st Century Library Blog. I have every confidence that you readers will find her writing more thought provoking, engaging with a very “practice” orientation, and even amusing.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to present this forum and hopefully contribute to this worthwhile conversation. Thank you all for your support.

“21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries”

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ALA’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own


The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

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

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

For librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.


Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?

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Pew Research Defines Library Users – Yet Again?


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Among the broad themes and major findings in this report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friends Are Priceless!


February is Friends of the Library Month

Friends Make a Difference…

Friends help advocate for 21st Century Libraries.

FOAPLLogo

Friends support life-long learning.

FOL

Friends are of all ages….

bot-library-friends

Friends Board

Friends provide valuable community service.

Friends support LLL

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Why Do We Still Need “libraries”? We Don’t!


A couple of years ago I reiterated the age old question – Why do we still need libraries? – but mostly in passing. I noted that both Leonard Kniffel, long time Editor and Publisher of American Libraries, and former ALA President Roberta Stevens have acknowledged that the major question of the 21st Century that they are most often asked is; “Why do we still need libraries?”.

They both express exasperation from being asked that question repeatedly, and I suspect there is hardly a librarian anywhere that has NOT been asked that same question. What this tells me is that the profession has no single or universal answer, AND, that there is no adequate answer – yet.

Why is that? Why are we – the profession – unable to answer that fundamental question? Is it because there is no single answer that satisfies everyone? Is it because the answer is too big for non-librarians to understand? Is it because it is the wrong question that has no correct answer? Yes. Yes. and Absolutely!

When we look at what the library is evolving into today – the 21st Century Library – we can easily answer the “Why…?” question with a “We don’t.” answer. BECAUSE that tired old question is asking why we need the “classic” library, the 19th Century Library, the “collection of books” library, the librarian as “gate keeper” library. And the correct answer is WE DON’T!

We absolutely DO NOT need that tired old stereotype library with the bunned, shushing librarian guarding a dusty collection of “books.” Society has no use for those obsolete libraries and librarians of the past that were adequate for the society of the past.

So, what is the solution to answering people’s question? What can the librarian profession of the 21st Century reply to that question? Try this.

“You’re right. Our community does not need the “library” that you’re thinking of, because that library doesn’t have:
• high-speed Internet terminals,
• access to more materials than the NYC Public Library,
• downloadable eBooks, eAudio books, music and videos,
• 3D printers for people to make their visions something they can hold in their hands,
• a virtual branch where you can access our information 24/7,
• a mobile app for you to take “it” with you wherever you go,
• mobile technology that can give you a virtual tour of our collection,
• innovative learning programs for virtually every interest,
• dynamic space for stimulating conversation,
• creative environments to stimulate your imagination,
• librarians to help you learn how to use all these services,
• user centered materials and services, and
• more challenges to your learning and entertainment than Disney World.

OK, well maybe that last point was a little over the top, but you get the idea.

The next time you hear that tired old question “Why do we still need “libraries”?” think about your library and answer with a flourish and an excitement that says –

We Don’t.

we need lib

21st Century Libraries!

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21st Century Libraries Look Like: True Innovation


In February of this year I posted 21st Century Libraries and Librarians Look Like: Innovation with a list of eight links to new and innovative ideas “that to me typify what the 21st Century Library looks like – what it does – what it symbolizes – how it performs – how it benefits its community – how it remains relevant – and most of all, how it is different in the 21st Century.”

It’s taken most of the year to run across a new and even more expansive list, this one developed by Pew Internet & American Life Project, titled Library Services in the Digital Age by Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell. While this is another relatively useful Pew report about who’s doing what to who in the library, an offshoot report by Kathryn Zickuhr, Innovative library services “in the wild”, is really the crux of this post, because it deals with an interesting list of innovations in library services, some awesome, some not really new.

Their intro to the list of library innovations simply states;

But we also wanted to include illustrations of some of these more innovative services, to see what they look like on the ground. To that end, we’ve collected examples of many of the types of services mentioned in the report, as well as some “fun and funky” services that we’ve seen pop up at libraries across the county.

We’ll keep updating the list with new examples as we hear about them. Does your library have a neat service we should know about? Send us an email and let us know! And many thanks to everyone who has sent in examples so far.

So, if your library has any really great innovative ideas that you want the world to know about, let Pew Research know and they’ll share it with the library world.

My favorite part of their list was the state-by-state listing of innovations that include the following. There are many more states and libraries with somewhat innovative programming, but the ones below look to me like true innovations.

Colorado
A librarian in the home: “This program sends librarians outside the library to the far reaches of their rural service area. Librarians are vetted and trained for this very specialized program, and often teach patrons on technology in their own living rooms.” Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO

Florida
“Lost in the Stacks,” a one-hour weekly radio show, is done in partnership with the local NPR affiliate, WJCT. “DJs/librarians Andrew Coulon and Matthew Moyer play diverse selections from the library’s collection. Sometimes include local musicians and educators join Coulon and Moyer in the studio to select songs from the collection and share how these pieces have influenced their own lives.” Jacksonville Public Library

Montana
Early literacy / wildlife “trunks”: “The Montana State Library has developed a partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. The trunks, which we refer to as ‘Ready 2 Read Goes Wild,’ utilize the ‘Growing Up Wild’ curriculum with a focus on Montana wildlife. We have developed trunks that feature ungulates, bears, owls, creepy-crawlies, water, and tracks. Each of the trunks includes between 15 – 20 books on the subject, (both fiction and non-fiction); puppets; the Growing Up Wild curriculum guide; and wildlife resources, such as grizzly hides, elk antlers, deer hooves, a number of rubber tracks, skulls, and more. … Additionally, MT FWP staff works with libraries across the state to provide programming in libraries on MT animals.” There is a short video about the program here. Montana State Library

New Jersey
Historic Walk Through Your Hometown – Guided walk through Bradley Beach in collaboration with Borough Historian that highlights significant historic landmarks and events. Bradley Beach Public Library

Oregon
Naked Came the Rogue: a Serial Mystery set in Southern Oregon’s Jackson County – a serial mystery book, written by 9 local authors, based on librarians helping to solve the mystery of the dead bodies popping up in or near some local libraries. Ashland Branch of the Jackson County Library Services

Texas
Living Books: Patrons “can ‘check out’ (interview) an interesting person on a specific subject-such as a mathematician or artist.” Georgetown Public Library

Virginia
Online E-Resources Scavenger Hunt: “The Library of Virginia and Credo Reference . . . partnered together to create a set of questions that take users through a virtual adventure, where points are earned and research know-how is accumulated. Those that successfully make it to the end of the mission even receive a printable certificate acknowledging the online trek.” Library of Virginia and Credo Reference

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A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face


In October of 2011, I wrote Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face and outlined these five challenges.
1. Broadest Spectrum of Library Customers in History
2. Information Literate Millennial Customers
3. Computers that Replace Librarians
4. Transition to Digital Content
5. Devaluing of the Library’s Benefit to the Community

In the past two years I have not seen or read anything that revises my opinion about these five challenges. Almost 5,000 reads in just the past year (8,500 since posted, about 100 a week) have not resulted in any opposition to those five challenges. Although, in January of 2013, I posted an update to 21st Century librarianship, 21st Century Librarianship – Revisited, in which I wrote about (a very slight) change in librarianship education.

And fortunately, there does appear to be a slowdown in the worsening of Number 5. Library closings have slowed and are less in the headlines, which seems to indicate that, if there has been any improvement in the economy, libraries are benefitting from better local budgets along with other community entities. That’s the good news! Still, the bad news is that the local library must reinvent itself to be more relevant to its community, if it expects to survive, and certainly if it hopes to thrive.

The sixth challenge every librarian must face is the personal development of new skill sets – the kind of skills they don’t teach you in library school. I have long advocated that the 21st Century library must be more business-like to meet the multitude of challenges that running a library faces. (Read and The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like and More Business-Like? Absolutely!)

Based on my assertion that 21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries, it follows that the 21st Century librarian must also have the business acumen in order to run that 21st Century library – 21st Century Librarianship – Part 4, Business Acumen. That business acumen includes the skills to be successful at such tasks as:
• Conduct continuous assessment
• Be service oriented
• Employ marketing strategy
• Implement continuous innovation
• Develop flexibility
• Be highly responsive to every environment
• Become nimble in operations

These are traits and skills not traditionally associated with librarianship. Which means the forward thinking and innovative librarian must develop these skills on their own motivation, effort and resourcefulness. Not only those business skills are required in the 21st Century, but many other skills not traditionally associated with librarianship.
• Cloud Computing
• Customer Targeting
• Crowdsourcing
• Digital Discovery
• Gaming
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Social Networking

And, as if that wasn’t enough change, in 2000 Alvin Toffler gave us a new understanding of literacy in the 21st Century: “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” Which means we must also develop new learning skills and master skills such as how to:
• Learn and re-learn
• Use constantly changing technology
• Master new ways to find Information
• Efficiently problem solve
• Effectively communicate
• Create strategic collaborations

21st Century Librarianship is faced with MANY challenges that can only be overcome through new ways of being a librarian, using new skill sets, and imbued with a new understanding of what being a librarian means today – and in the future – if our profession is to have a future.

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