Tag Archives: Libraries

21st Century Libraries Look Like: Something Unexpected – Part 3

Little Free Library / NYC

The 21st Century Library is – SOMETHING UNEXPECTED!

The Story Behind Ten Tiny Libraries That Popped Up in NYC This Summer

What unexpected library feature have you created in your community?

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Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns

While I’ve been busy with other things, I let this issue raised at ALA slip past unnoticed. Issues in library world don’t go unnoticed for very long, especially when they deal with government intrusion. Apparently, during ALA 2013 Conference a video was played in which there was a White House appeal to public librarians to help Americans understand the new Affordable Healthcare Act insurance system that goes into effect whenever – maybe. This federal initiative to get public libraries involved in assisting people to sign up goes into effect October 1.

As much as I dislike relying on news media for any valid information, a Washington Times online article “Librarian foot soldiers enlisted to help with Obamacare enrollment” published June 29 states:

CHICAGO — The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law. The undertaking will be announced Sunday in Chicago at the annual conference of the American Library Association, according to federal officials ….

Libraries equipped with public computers and Internet access already serve as a bridge across the digital divide, so it made sense to get them involved, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Libraries will be particularly important in conservative states that are not making much effort to promote the health law’s opportunities.

In Texas, the Dallas library system’s home page has linked to HealthCare.gov — the revamped federal website that is the hub for health law information. Embedding the widget on their sites is another way some libraries may choose to get involved, said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Some libraries may decide to set aside some public computers for people seeking health insurance or extend time limits on computers, Hildreth said. Some may work with community health centers on educational events. Those will be local decisions with each library deciding how to participate.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is contracting with the Online Computer Library Center to develop an online toolkit and training webinars for librarians, Hildreth said. Librarians are likely to get questions on the health law from the public.
“Frankly whether we’re prepared or not, it’s going to happen, so the best way for us to serve the public is to prepare ahead of time,” Hildreth said.

Lissa Staley, a librarian in Topeka, Kan., specializes in health information, and already is helping people figure out their insurance options.

“I talked to a woman this morning who said, ‘I’m a single mom. I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and my employer will only let me work part time.’ I gave her my card and we’re going to sort through some of her options,” Staley said.

“It’s never just a straightforward question,” Staley said. “It’s always a life story and we help sort through the pieces of where we can help.”

There are several disturbing issues raised by this report, and several unanswered questions about how and how much.

I understand that IMLS is a federal government agency that is required to carry out whatever mandates they are given by the White House, but is it really a local public library’s or librarian’s role to become an insurance counselor to the public? If the Topeka librarian was quoted accurately, she is assuming that role. Good for her. If that’s the way she chooses to serve her library users, and her boss, Board and community agree then that’s great for them to devote library resources to that project. But that’s just one library. What about the 17,000 other libraries who supposedly are being enlisted for the cause?

Is this federal program any different than when libraries used to provide federal tax forms? The IRS provided libraries with the forms to make available to library users. Everybody knew they could get forms “at the library.” But that’s all it was!

Librarians were not and were not expected to be tax advisors. Organizations might come to the library to offer tax filing assistance to citizens, but NOT LIBRARIANS!! If the IRS – still the culprit agency in charge of ObamaCare – wants to provide healthcare insurance information to libraries, fine, no problem. But the White House and the ALA teaming up to encourage libraries and librarians to roll out this new federal program is wrong.

At the LISNews blog the issue was posted on July 2, and some discussion followed. I suspect the discussion was so resistant to helping the White House that it has already dwindled off now. Some of the comments were:

I wouldn’t have the foggiest clue as to how to tell people which insurance they need to sign up for. How much training are we going to be given on this? Because I can just tell you right now, the people who are signing up for insurance aren’t going to know what insurance they will need and will expect us to figure it out for them. Sorry, but considering how confusing health insurance is, I wouldn’t know where to tell them to begin.

Have a set of useful websites with additional information on them (often to be found on government websites to help people) and steer people onto those sites. Providing information and access time doesn’t have to mean sitting there with them doing it.

‘Finding books about “rashes on their crotch” is far different from someone filling out complicated online health insurance forms which might require hours of work.’

Indeed. One is part of our job and one isn’t. We can do what we can for them but we are not specialists so it’s madness to think we should even try to be.

The chances are there will not be the computer resources available in public libraries to fill out the forms required under the new health care law. Librarians can not answer questions about which coverage options a patron may need, anymore than they can answer income tax questions. Was the ALA consulted? Not all public libraries are wallowing in computer resources.

All of these issues are valid and demonstrate a serious impact on public library resources. Did ALA or IMLS or anyone else even stop to consider this fact? Maybe it just doesn’t matter to those who are rolling out this federal program. “Just do it and make the best of it.” How typical of federal demands on public resources that don’t belong to them. Is IMLS providing funds for libraries to implement this program? Of course not! Is IMLS providing and training to implement this program? Of course not! What is ALA doing to provide funds or training? Well, I see one webinar being offered by one organization – Webjunction is offering one webinar on the impact of new healthcare laws and the library. But it’s already full, so better luck next time.

SafeLibraries blog posted some information and posed pertinent concerns on July 5, “Librarians Refuse ALA Obamacare Push; Wanted: Video of President Obama Speech at ALA Conference; Lenny Kravitz’s Message for Librarians.”

Despite the American Library Association’s [ALA] support for equal access and free speech, ALA agreed to allow the President to make a video statement to hundreds of librarians at the annual ALA convention, then to never display nor distribute it ever again. Some librarians bristle at this and related ALA problems with mishandling the message;….

The Sellout: American Libraries to Promote Obamacare,” by Lindsey Grudnicki, National Review Online, 1 July 2013:

So the public library – the institution whose foundational principles are the preservation of intellectual freedom and the unbiased promotion of learning – will become politicized to advance the Obama administration’s agenda.

This agreement between the ALA and the Department of Health and Human Services violates the so-called “Library Bill of Rights,” which declares that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” and that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” The partnership essentially dictates that librarians blindly lead those seeking healthcare to the welfare fountain and encourage them to drink – no matter the consequences, and no matter the myriad of concerns raised about the program. “All points of view” about the Affordable Care Act will not be represented; the proscribed materials (HealthCare.gov, marketplace.cms.gov, etc.) will clearly not offer true “health care literacy.”

What does ALA have to say to all this negativity toward helping the federal government implement new laws?

2 JUL 2013 3:14 PM

Hello everyone,

I want to apologize for the confusion. The partnership between IMLS and the Center for Medicaid Services means that both groups will work in the next coming months to prepare librarians for the number of patrons who will need help enrolling in the Affordable Care Act. ALA is only providing resources on the health law so that libraries can fulfill their mission to make information available to their patrons.

Many of you have attended the ALA Conference “Libraries and Health Insurance: Preparing for Oct 1” on Sunday. The session was recorded and will be available for sale soon. We’re sending updates to all of our ALA Washington Office subscribers: http://capwiz.com/ala/mlm/signup/ You can also get Washington Office news at http://www.districtdispatch.org.

Additionally, IMLS announced that they will work with Webjunction to host online educational seminars about the new health enrollment requirements (see this press release http://www.imls.gov/imls_and_centers_for_medicare_and_medicaid_services_to_partner_with_libraries.aspx).

Warm regards,

Jazzy Wright
Press Officer
American Library Association, Washington Office

Bottom Line: I agree with StephenK who commented on LISNews blog, “Alas I don’t see this ending well.”


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Communities Don’t Know What They Want Their Library To Be

According to Eli Neiburger during his remarks to the ILEAD USA group June 18. He was making the keynote address to the group of ILEAD participants in Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, and Utah – The Inverted Library: Harnessing the Creative Power of the Internet Generation to Reinvent Library Services. He covered a lot of topics, but this one was the one that resonated most to me. It represents our opportunity to demonstrate to our communities WHAT THEIR LIBRARY CAN BE!

Neiburger believes that libraries are in a transition period, much like early 20th Century technology of the Industrial Age. For example, some communities developed refrigeration by working through first ice harvesting and storage for dispensing in warm weather, to creating ice for regional dispensing, to bulk local dispensing of ice for home “ice boxes,” to eventually electric in-home refrigeration. Neiburger believes that we are still in the beginning of this Information Age when very limited parts of the world are experiencing the information revolution – relatively speaking – and technology is advancing faster than anyone can envision where it will end. Where it took decades for everyone to get refrigeration, 90-some percent now have it, and it appears to be the logical end of the development of that consumer technology. The rapid advance and continuous change of personal access to information – not necessarily communication, since texting and video are very prevalent – is what makes the present period in the Information Age a transition phase toward the end technology – whatever form that takes. Neiburger contends that chasing after technology at this time is a waste of resources because it changes too rapidly.

However, the future of the library is still in jeopardy because people, telecoms, information brokers and the world in general are trying to make money on that technology march toward the consumer end product, which ultimately will exclude the local library to a great extent. Because the role of the local library in the 20th Century was to “bring the world to the community,” we now must figure out how to transition to make “the 21st Century library bring its community to the world.”

He discussed many programs and services that his library, the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, offers mostly to youth, but to all “users” as he prefers to call them. He thinks “members” is too exclusive and “customers” too commercial, but believes that everyone can and should be a “user” of the library’s services.

One AADL program that expands the notion of the library as a lending institution is Unusual Stuff to Borrow, which includes items like telescopes, music tools, science to go kits, and Kids Book Clubs to Go kits. Neiburger offered his formula for determining what can reasonably be lent by using the following. Medium cost (less than $400) + Short duration (of use like a one-time need) + Low frequency = Sweet Spot for accessing items to lend to library users. He said that AADL users are on a six month waiting list to borrow a quality telescope, and they will gladly wait that long to use something that they aren’t sure they want to buy, if they could afford it.

Communities don’t know what they want their library to be because the library’s traditional role and function are being replaced by advancing technology of the Information Age. Communities have as many questions about the future as do libraries, which means the opportunity is ripe for libraries to demonstrate to their community what they have the capability to become – WHATEVER THAT IS FOR THEIR COMMUNITY! The age of all libraries looking the same and providing the same collections and services is over. Libraries MUST become something new and valuable to their community, or risk being obsolete and being replaced. Period. End of story. Hopefully, not the end of the library.


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Big Data vs. Little Library

As one of the newest (in terms of public awareness) emerging advances in technology, Big Data is being employed and explored by government, business and even Library of Congress. Leslie Johnston, Acting Director, National Digital Information Infrastructure & Preservation Program, Library of Congress, presented the following information at the Georgetown University Law School Symposium on Big Data last January.

We still have collections. But what we also have is Big Data, which requires us to rethink the infrastructure that is needed to support Big Data services. Our community used to expect researchers to come to us, ask us questions about our collections, and use our digital collections in our environment. Now our collections are, more often than not, self-service.

Obviously, Library of Congress has significant influence on our profession and the complexion of libraries across America. One has to pause and wonder what impact the future of Big Data will have on the small library.

Big Data is described by our friends at Wikipedia as:

Big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to “spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions.”

As of 2012, limits on the size of data sets that are feasible to process in a reasonable amount of time were on the order of exabytes [1018bytes] of data. Scientists regularly encounter limitations due to large data sets in many areas, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, and biological and environmental research. The limitations also affect Internet search, finance and business informatics. Data sets grow in size in part because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial sensory technologies (remote sensing), software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification readers, and wireless sensor networks. The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, every day 2.5 quintillion (2.5×1018) bytes of data were created. The challenge for large enterprises is determining who should own big data initiatives that straddle the entire organization.

Big data is difficult to work with using most relational database management systems and desktop statistics and visualization packages, requiring instead “massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers”. …

Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target, as of 2012 ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set. The target moves due to constant improvement in traditional DBMS technology as well as new databases like NoSQL and their ability to handle larger amounts of data. With this difficulty, new platforms of “big data” tools are being developed to handle various aspects of large quantities of data.

OK, that was a big quote, but the most important part is that “The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization.” meaning that Big Data is SO FAR beyond the capabilities and considerations of smaller libraries that it may create a huge polarization in library services. “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time.”

Curate! Store! Search! Share! Transfer! are ALL functions of librarianship and libraries, and LoC is telling us that Big Data is making them “beyond the ability of commonly used software” to deal with. So where does that leave small libraries without the capability to develop their own digital library services, like Douglas County (CO) Library System’s cloud library project? It leaves them right back in the 20th Century where they have too long been.

The progression of Big Data relative to library collections obviously appears to be toward everything being available over the Internet or other WiFi and mobile devices. Earlier fears about librarians becoming obsolete were not unfounded. Not only are Google, Amazon, and National Digital Library trying to make information more ubiquitous, now Library of Congress is helping promote Big Data that will make small libraries nothing more than remote terminals for Big Data.


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21st Century Libraries and Librarians Look Like: Innovation

As I conduct my personalized professional development, I want to share articles 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. This will include the Librarian and Librarianship – what skills you need – what attributes – what practices – what education – and most of all, how they are different in the 21st Century.

What Does A Library Look Like In 2013?

The Future Of Libraries.

Think Like a Startup: A White Paper To Inspire Library Entrepreneurialism

College Students Study Habits Changes Library Operations

Libraries Transforming In The Digital Age

Library Adds Vending Machine to Dispense Laptops

What Is The Role of a Library?

Adopt-A-Magazine Program

These articles are presented to be thought provoking and ideas for change, adaptation and progress. What they mean to you is what is important, not what they mean to me. There will be other resources to follow periodically that I hope will also spark conversation.

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The Perception of Your Library

No doubt most Americans are watching the presidential election events pretty closely. Commentators and those involved claim it is the dirtiest and most lie-filled campaign in history. Every news and media organization is conducting polls to figure out what Americans think, believe and feel about candidates and issues. Generally, the polls are in contradiction to what most commentators are saying about the candidates and voters.

Even though the results of this presidential election are significant for every American, and regardless of which side one happens to be on, it is very evident that people believe what they believe no matter what “facts” media and commentators – and even candidates – claim to be the “truth.” Everyone has their own version of the truth, and in some cases they may both be right – they’re just talking apples and oranges. If this situation doesn’t prove that old adage that Perception is Reality, I don’t know what would. That’s just the way people are!

My point? Have you taken time to consider your community’s perception of its [your] library? Does it fit with your reality as you perceive the library? Do you even know your community’s perception of your library? When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought of their library – from an overall perspective?

Librarians tend to survey customers about specific programs or services, but do we ask what they think or feel when they think of The Library? Is that even important? I think it is highly important and extremely relevant to know your library’s standing within your community. It has everything to do with support, participation, funding, and especially relevance to the community – that paramount perception that determines your survival.

Let’s look at this situation from extremes. I find that considering the worst and best case scenarios often clarifies the issues related to a question.

Worst Case: You conduct a survey of every citizen in your community [just for the sake of this illustration], so there are no sampling errors and nothing to dispute the results. Those results reveal that 50% of residents don’t even know where the library is located. Another 40% indicate that they have never used the library – for anything. The final 10% respond that they’ve had better libraries in other places they’ve lived. OUCH! Those results would hurt even the most thick-skinned librarian. BUT, you know for a fact that the city council members know you, and you all think you’re doing a pretty good job.

So What? With results like this, how long do you think the community will continue to fund the library? Or maybe we should say – this library director. Citizens are the ones who elect their city council representatives. City and county councils fund those government agencies that can demonstrate they are making a difference with the money they are given. With all the problems communities face today, jurisdictions fund those agencies that are providing solutions, creating a better community in which people want to live, and presenting a show piece of which the community can be proud.

Best Case: Your survey of every citizen reveals that 90% of residents know where the library is located, and about 50% know its general hours of operation. About 45% respond that they use the library “regularly.” Only 10% indicate that they have never used the library – for anything. Finally, 30% respond that they’ve never had better library service anywhere they’ve lived. WOW! Who wouldn’t be proud of those results?

So What? With results like this, a library could feel confident that they are making a difference in their community. Jurisdictions continue to fund government agencies that demonstrate they are making a difference with the money they are given. They even give them more money to provide more solutions for the community, if they demonstrate they are within their capabilities. This agency is totally secure because they are creating a better community in which people want to live, and presenting a show piece of which the community is proud.

These two scenarios show the importance of community perception of the library. It is highly important to the library’s relevance to the community.

What is the community’s perception of your library?
Community Leader
“The Place”

In addition to my point that perception is reality when it comes to your community’s perception of its library, I further assert that your library will become a 21st Century Library when your community perceives that you are helping it become a 21st Century community. Perception can be even more important than fact.


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Library Profit = Community Relevance

I have long advocated that 21st Century libraries need to operate more business-like, and that 21st Century librarians need to develop business acumen. While this is essential to 21st Century library operations and survival, it may need more justification to be suitable to some as a 21st Century librarianship principle.

The major distinction between the library organization and a business is the “bottom line.” Businesses are in business for profit. Since a service business is most closely analogous to a library, a service business either delivers better service than their competition, or they earn no profit. Without profit they won’t stay in business. Libraries also provide a service and should be able to measure the “profit” of their service. The problem is that libraries as a governmental agency operate like all government agencies – as a cost center – where the bottom line profitability is virtually never measured.

Considering that not all businesses are highly profitable, there is a continuum of profitability. If your business is highly profitable then you are thriving. If your business is unprofitable, you are dying. That’s an undeniable business principle – if you’re not thriving, you’re dying. To keep from dying a business must thrive.

Just as not all businesses are highly profitable, so too not all libraries are highly “profitable” in the sense that the funds being spent to keep the library in business are not being spent most effectively to cause it to thrive. How relevant or irrelevant a library is to the community it serves is the measure of its profitability. The library’s “profit” is measured in terms of “community relevance.” In business, if you’re not profitable you die. For libraries, if you’re not relevant you die.

Library Profit = Community Relevance

There is a scale of profitability and relevance, it moves in the direction of profit or loss, and relevance or irrelevance. The center state between profit and loss is “break even” – neither profit nor loss. Unfortunately, there is no “break even” state for a library – unless one wants to consider where libraries have always traditionally been – dependent on the good will of tax payers and governance – as break even.

While libraries have historically operated with heavy reliance on other factors such as positive community history, citizens’ good will, a presumed inherent value to the community, and some basic community services that no other agency provides (i.e. summer reading, and ……….…), those traditional support factors are disappearing like so many things in our society are changing. A library can be marginally relevant, but that is closer to dying than it is to thriving. A library that is marginally relevant is not likely to be good enough to survive. Under any circumstances, marginally relevant is a tenuous place to exist in the 21st Century.

It should also be an undeniable 21st Century library principle – if you’re not thriving, you’re dying. To keep from dying a library must thrive.

Library Profit = Community Relevance


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