Tag Archives: Paradigm

21st Century Library and Open Government

With a degree in English Literature and advanced education my parents have so generously funded…along with decades as a librarian and an Administrator…I like to think of myself as “well-spoken”.  I occasionally even relish the notion that I might sometimes rise to the level of “eloquent”:  However, I read an article today on the “IMLS Blog” that purported a notion that was so obvious- but presented as NEW- that it left me with none of these attributes.  My only response was… “Duh?!”

Be that as it may, I still felt it was worth sharing.  The ideas presented (clearly new to the researchers and participants of the work) are, in my opinion, simply reaffirmations of what many of us in Public Libraries already know and work toward every day.  Their findings also reaffirm my belief in the necessity of a common mission of Public Libraries:

“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”

“A Demand-side Open Government Planning Model for Public Libraries”


The question of the project detailed in the article:

What role can public libraries play in the highly visible and expanding domain of Open Government?
The project answer:
Public libraries are the best-positioned community anchors to address the demand-side of open government. In addition, with a bit more strategic vision and planning, they can play a key role in helping ensure that open government activities align with community aspirations and that citizens have the capabilities to contribute to the opening of government in useful and meaningful ways.
The author goes on to write:
One of the most revealing things I learned was that public libraries have a long history of supporting the opening of government through many of the services and resources they provide. However, this role was hidden in plain sight due to the lack of common language and understanding both within the public library community and between public libraries and open government experts.
Adopting a focus on the demand side of open government will provide public libraries with a much needed common language and a strategic planning platform to help match their programs and activities to their communities’ needs and capabilities. Focusing on the demand side of open government will assist public libraries in developing key partnerships with government and other entities, helping government officials, government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations have a direct resource to the community and its needs. It will also allow them to play a significant role in and benefit from the open government trend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why Libraries Are Needed! – Revisited

With the latest buzz over Emily Ford’s In the Library with the Lead Pipe Blog post “What do we do and why do we do it?” last Wednesday, and Jacob Berg’s  “BeerBrarian Blog” commentary response “Toward a Unifying Field Theory of Librarianship, Or Not“, it caused me to revisit my own observations from February, 2011, about Not WHY?, But WHY! Libraries Are Needed.

Here’s what I think about all this philosophizing over a librarianship philosophy.
I think she [my reader] has hit on the fundamental basis for establishing the library’s significance in the 21st Century, or any century.  That is what the profession has been lacking – a proper explanation of the one fundamental issue on which we can base our indisputable need to exist.  This may well be it. I have quoted her comment below (using some editorial license emphasizing particularly important points).

“My thought is this: part of [what] I think libraries problem is, is this vaguery that we attach to our purpose. I was reading on the IFLA [International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions] website and it stated; ‘The public library is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.’

Seriously?  What does that mean…how is that helpful?  A service meeting WHAT needs? I mean, the sentence could be rewritten for the local butcher shop. “The Snyder Bro. Butcher Shop is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.” It is about as useful and meaningful.

Nothing these days seems to say WHAT we do or what need we are fulfilling.  Some days I feel like I am the only person still saying – The purpose of the free public library is to create an informed citizenry that is capable of participating in self-governance. I thought that was what the American library was for.  And, from THAT comes a whole lot of ways to provide that service and to define “What” an informed citizen is.  As in, does access to the Sopranos TV show help you self govern? In my mind yes, because it allows you to participate in discussions based in popular culture that lead to communication and conversation about our society, culture, and way of life which ultimately impacts our politics and how we govern ourselves.

At another place on the IFLA website it says: ‘The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.’ (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, 1994) Frankly I don’t agree.  This mission makes us easily replaceable…which is really something we should avoid.  I mean, in this definition you could replace public library with bookstore, Internet, social club, church group…you name it.

Now this statement (oddly also in IFLA–they seem to have some confusion on what they think the library is) is the best…but still not as clear and concise as the one I always use (which also makes us irreplaceable): ‘A public library is an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.This one is [also] lacking because it doesn’t say WHY we do this…and THAT is the most crucial piece.

And, as a public library director I fight the constant battle with the politicians, the non-user taxpayers, the staff and frankly some days inside my own head of WHY do we do this…Are we still relevant?  What is the point?  And, when I consider the 21st century library, I still feel like the HOW needs grounding in the WHY.

During my MBA program they talked a lot about the sustainable business. A company that makes buggy whips or wagon wheels is going to be out of business in short order versus the business that makes accessories for things that transport people. If libraries want to last from century to century then we have to stay grounded in WHY we are unique and then HOW to provide the service in the current landscape.  But don’t let the HOW overshadow the WHY.  NO ONE does what we do, IF you [focus on] the free and equal access to information for all citizens to create a people capable of sustainable self-government.  We take it for granted, but ours is a system dependant upon a populace capable of sustaining itself.  The Roman republic only lasted 565 years…we are on year 235.”

If any additional justification for the director’s argument is needed, it can be found in a quote from President James Madison in a letter written in 1822;

A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

In the Supreme Court case Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 438 U.S. 30-32 (1978) Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in which he quoted Madison:

The preservation of a full and free flow of information to the general public has long been recognized as a core objective of the First Amendment to the Constitution. . . . In addition to safeguarding the right of one individual to receive what another elects to communicate, the First Amendment serves an essential societal function. Our system of self-government assumes the existence of an informed citizenry. [Emphasis added.]

The reason libraries are needed is because it is a fundamental right of America’s citizens to have free access to information and knowledge.

I think Jacob had an excellent post! “Make as much information possible to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.” because something beats nothing all to hell. Too much philosophizing about a library philosophy puts people off the real work that needs doing. Jacob noted that only 20% of ALA members cared enough to vote for their leadership in 2012. I think that’s because those 80% realize that actions speak louder than words.

Stop debating our existence, or lamenting our place in society, and start DOING Librarianship. Our philosophy is nothing more than Jacob implied by stating; “We are agents navigating structures, some of which we helped to create.” We should be DOING librarianship, not debating it. And, lots of 21st Century Libraries already are!

21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries

21st Century Skills in Action in Illinois Public Libraries


Filed under Uncategorized

The Public Library of 2020

According to Pew Research Center’s “Pew Internet & American Life Project” they think they know what public libraries will be by the year 2020. I wouldn’t question their research, but I’m skeptical about some of their conclusions. See what you think.

“On Thursday June 7th, Kristen Purcell will deliver the keynote address for the 2012 State University of New York Librarians Association Annual Conference in New York City” Libraries 2020: Imagining the library of the (not too distant) future.

There are 59 slides in the presentation, and only the last nine present Pew’s “Imagining” of the public library of 2020. I selected six of the last slides that have relevant information for 21st Century librarians.

Pew believes: These information conclusions relevant to libraries.

I believe: The nature of the library customer is changing and will continue to change toward technology being an integral part of their life. I believe that is a fact.

Pew believes: The library in 2020 will help “information consumers” with three basic functions.

I believe: These three factors will continue to be a constant. However, in another 8 years there will be more customers who do not need librarians to filter their information, nor manage their information stream.

Pew believes: The library of 2020 will be faced with this environment.

I believe: This is a fact of life that will never go away. Librarians need to understand that and begin to work within it.

Pew believes: These are Roles of 2020 Librarians.

I believe: Pew was trying to appease the “old guard library establishment”, because none of their reported facts unquestionably leads to these roles. I don’t know from where they drew these roles, but they got this wrong. Customers in 2020 will not need any of these roles from librarians. They will fill these roles for themselves.

Pew believes: These additional Roles of 2020 Librarians.

I believe: They got these roles correct. These will be the roles of the 21st Century librarian, and library.

Pew believes: This slide from ALA Office of Information Technology Policy as the last slide.

I believe: ALA Finally Catches Up? The information in the slide comes from the Office of Information Technology Policy, Brief No. 4, June 2011, by Dr. Roger Levien. You can read my review at the link above, in which I summarize the publication by writing:

While there is virtually nothing new or profound in Levien’s paper, it is important that ALA has adopted his “Policy Brief” because it FINALLY establishes in ALA Policy what so many have been saying and writing for so long – change is here, the future of the public library is far from certain, and the changes in technology, competition and society will have profound affects on what that future will be.

And, my final comment was, which I think is even more valid today, “Of particular value in this publication is the reiteration of what so many have written – the future of the library will be determined locally – not nationally! Better late than never!”


Filed under Uncategorized

Zombie Librarianship

What a great perspective on our profession. Sally Pewhairangi’s Blog post at finding heroes borrowed the concept from John Quiggin’s book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. The premise was highly fitting to the free market economic situation after the ‘crash’ in 2008, and it certainly is relevant to librarianship today. Many in our profession seem to be wandering aimlessly looking for some place to fit in – as opposed to coming alive and creating their future library state.

Librarians have held on to many old beliefs because we’ve always done it that way and no one has stepped forward to replace those ideas. Sally recognized that there are at least –

7 dead ideas that still walk among us
1. Social media is not worth worrying about.
2. Librarians know what is best for their customers.
3. Committees and working parties can create innovative services.
4. Blocked websites are something libraries have to put up with.
5. Organisational models based on the industrial age still work.
6. ‘Provide and pray’ is not a bad investment.
7. Google and Amazon are the bad guys.

She feels elaborating on those seven ideas is unnecessary, which may be an overestimation of her profession’s members, but concludes with her own “top five reasons for keeping the zombies in librarianship.”

1. You don’t have time.
You have 24 hours just like anyone else and you just can’t fit any more in. You’re already working 10-12 hour days, and you can’t delay one thing for this. Don’t worry, it’s the most common and obvious reason for zombie librarianship.
2. You don’t have the budget or resources.
Money (and resources) is tight (as always) and is already committed to other projects. It’ll have to wait until the next budget round, as will killing those zombies.
3. It’s not your job.
You don’t get paid to do this. You don’t care if it could fast-track your career. You’ve got a monthly report to write, the usual meetings to attend and Lorna’s morning tea to go to. The walking-dead.
4. You tried this before and it didn’t work.
The situation is exactly the same as it was 5 years ago when you attempted to get this off the ground. There’s no way it will work now.
5. The company isn’t in the gaming industry, we make consumer electronics.
Why would we want to invest in gaming, when consumer electronics is working well for us? This is a bit left-field isn’t it? Let’s stick with what we know works.

I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say that her suggestions are intended facetiously. Her final question for readers, and the whole profession is – “Will you fight with or against the zombies?”

She is absolutely right – it’s time to chose sides people! But, I think there should be more zombie librarianship ideas added to this list.
8. Librarianship still consists of only collecting, organizing, archiving, and disseminating information.
9. The library paradigm didn’t change when the Internet became available to everyone, so it hasn’t changed.
10. SLIS or ALA will tell us what to do to survive.
11. It requires a master’s degree to be a ‘real’ librarian.
12. ……..
13. ….

How about you? What other zombie librarianship ideas are still walking among us?


Filed under Uncategorized

Introducing Google’s Knowledge Graph – Things, Not Strings

Google is telling us how we will learn in the future. It’s pretty much that simple. Google’s Blog post on May 16 – Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings – announced that it is developing a new search tool.

Search is a lot about discovery – the basic human need to learn and broaden your horizons. But searching still requires a lot of hard work by you, the user. So today I’m really excited to launch the Knowledge Graph, which will help you discover new information quickly and easily.

Take a query like [taj mahal]. For more than four decades, search has essentially been about matching keywords to queries. To a search engine the words [taj mahal] have been just that – two words.

But we all know that [taj mahal] has a much richer meaning. You might think of one of the world’s most beautiful monuments, or a Grammy Award-winning musician, or possibly even a casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Or, depending on when you last ate, the nearest Indian restaurant. It’s why we’ve been working on an intelligent model – in geek-speak, a “graph” – that understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another: things, not strings.

So, if you ever had any misconception that librarians might still have a roll as gate keeper for information seekers – FORGET IT! Computer programmers have taken that away from us.

AND – “This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.” so this is just the beginning of our slide into obsolescence. Every librarian reading this should begin looking for a new profession.

I’ve been writing for some time that commercial enterprise will fill the void, and since they have the resources to do it NOW – not in 10 years after committees debate the situation – it is ready for public consumption. People will ALWAYS select the best tools available to provide the services they want, and what used to be traditional library services are no exception. There is no more love affair with the local library simply for the esoteric pleasure of ‘books.’ Life is too practical, progressive and technology oriented.

I’m afraid that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills idea of teaching information and media literacy will be too little too late. Young people – excuse me, ALL people – will be inexorably drawn to Google’s new knowledge graph like bees to blossoms.

Be sure to watch their video at the bottom of the post.

We hope this added intelligence will give you a more complete picture of your interest, provide smarter search results, and pique your curiosity on new topics. We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the “Star Trek computer” that I’ve always dreamt of building. Enjoy your lifelong journey of discovery, made easier by Google Search, so you can spend less time searching and more time doing what you love.

Posted by Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

More Evidence FOR a Bachelor’s Degree in LIS

Last December I wrote the Post Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment.

According to the Wall Street Journal post From College Major to Career, “Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students’ career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.” WSJ gleaned the study data from a report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Click here for the full report.

Some readers took exception to the data because it represented only bachelor’s level degree information relating to librarianship employment. As we all know, those entry level jobs are few and far between. But it all seems irrelevant in light of the latest information published by CNBC – 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Or does it? While it seems like the current unemployment/underemployment climate makes my advocacy for a bachelor’s degree in librarianship and information science even less appealing, actually it makes it even more appealing. Seriously? Absolutely! Read on.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

There is “strong demand in science, education and health fields” – not arts and humanities. Librarianship is a science field. We have need of entry level bachelor’s degree educated individuals who are multi-talented, technology literate, information literate, (dare I say) transliterate, young imaginative, innovative, in-touch librarians who can help change the profession to meet 21st Century challenges.

Be honest, when faced with a choice of science, education or health fields, which would you choose – SCIENCE!!

SLIS are missing the boat by not recruiting these young people into the librarianship profession. Now is the time – well actually, 10 years ago was really the time – to heavily recruit for a bachelor’s degree as an entry level position into the profession. Other disciplines and professions will be doing it. If we don’t get moving, we’ll be left behind – again.

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers, said many people with a bachelor’s degree face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes. “Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” he said, emphasizing that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the difference. “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.” [Emphasis added.]

How can any SLIS faculty or administrator read this and not see the opportunity here? We have a MAJOR pool of undergraduate candidates who have been working in the profession and currently are in local libraries EVERYWHERE. They know what they want to do, but the profession is stifling them! Most don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and the prospect of getting a master’s to become a “librarian” is beyond their grasp right now.

If there were abundant bachelor’s degree programs in LIS, these young library workers would have a stepping stone for career progression. This is not rocket science. All it takes is a few “establishment” librarians to think outside the box for just a minute to see the potential. Why isn’t somebody willing to step into the 21st Century?

This Post is not addressed to those SLIS with existing bachelor’s degree programs. Kentucky, Maine, and others are making an effort to address the shortfall, but are getting no support from the “establishment”.


Filed under Uncategorized

Big-City Public Libraries vs. Statistics

I’m always skeptical of “data”, because I’ve seen enough data reporting to know it’s all about how one configures the parameters of the data collection that determine the outcome. It’s a commonly used quote from Samuel Clemens that “There’s liars, there’s damn liars, and then there’s statisticians”. (BTW: If you have 18 minutes to watch a fascinating TED Talk about reporting data, David McCandless has a great one.)

When ALA released its 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report last Monday, I was at first skeptical, then curious. ALA’s summary in american libraries pretty much confirmed that no one is certain just what the state of America’s libraries are 12 years into the 21st Century.

Some 5 percent more states reported decreased state funding for public libraries in 2011-2012 than in 2010–2011. Some 23 states reported cuts in state funding for public libraries, marking the third year in a row that more than 40 percent of participating states have reported decreased public library funding. (However, only nine states anticipate decreased funding for 2012-2013.)

For the second year, 42 percent of states report that local funding for public libraries probably declined for a majority of libraries in the state. However, only 12 states reported that they were aware of public library closures in their states in the past year, down from 17 the previous year. Only New Jersey and Michigan reported closures of more than five libraries. [Emphasis added.]

I would think everyone would celebrate that fact that only 5% more states reported decreased state funding last year, and only nine states think they might see further cuts in 2012. Apparently, 42% of states are unaware whether local funding is actually decreasing in their state. AND, it also sounds like good news that only two states reported closures of more than five libraries in their state. Are we celebrating yet?

What really struck me as important data from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative report that ALA used to cite some of the data in its report, and presumably draw some of its conclusions about the state we’re in, is that distilling data often leaves out the most important information. That and the fact that Pew reports it much better at their Our Work webpage – interactive charts – good stuff.

There appears to be an anomaly related to the data that Pew researchers compiled through their comparison of Philadelphia Free Library, the primary focus of their research, and 14 other big-city libraries. Specifically, the data doesn’t track in a “cause and effect” manner. If we look first at their Change in Library Visits and accompanying Visits Per Capita charts they present side by side – the library with the second greatest decline in visitations is Columbus with -14% and then look at their per capita visits, they are third highest with 8.3. AND – the library with the second highest increase in total visits was Baltimore with 25%, but they are the lowest per capita visits at 2.8.

Wouldn’t one expect that major increases or decreases in total library visits would have a direct relationship (as opposed to inverse) to major increases and decreases in visits per capita? Say a city with a population of 100,000 experiences a decrease in total visits by 25% – hypothetically they go from 40,000 visits to 30,000 visits – shouldn’t there be a corresponding decrease in visits per capita – hypothetically from 4 to 3. So what would explain a 25% increase in total visits and a very low per capita visit rate?

Trying to find a direct correlation, we can look at circulation – that’s always a good bell weather for changes – right?

Unfortunately, we see more anomalies between total circulation and circulation per capita. Columbus had the greatest decline in circulation over the reporting period –12%. Yet, they had the second highest circ per capita at 17.2. Seattle had the highest total circulation increase at 50%, so having the highest circ per capita seems appropriate. AND, Baltimore had the second lowest total circulation decrease at -9%, along with their lowest rank circ per capita of 2 seems totally compatible. So what’s up with Columbus’ large decrease in total circulation and high circulation per capita?

Maybe there is an answer in the revenue – the level of funding – or not. Los Angeles had an almost 0% change in their total circulation despite a 34% decrease in funding. Philadelphia had a 12% increase in total circ despite a 19% decrease in funding. Seattle’s 50% increase in circulation doesn’t really track with a nearly static funding level, but we know they experienced a significant bump from their new library facility.

OK, I know the answer to making sense of disparate data – public access computers. Everyone says that libraries are experiencing the greatest boom ever due to people needing Internet access because of the economy.

Seattle has the highest number (among those libraries studied) of public access computers at 17.1 per 10K citizens. That would certainly account for much of their increased total visits and visits per capita – along with the new building.

Columbus came in second with 13.1 computers per 10K citizens, but that doesn’t track with their 14% decrease in total visits. But, would that account for their high visits per capita? Yet, their funding has taken a distressing hit at -12%. So…………?

Phoenix had one of the lowest increases in total visits – about 2% – and next to the lowest visits per capita at 3. Their circulation increased by 13% and per capita circ was a respectable 9.6. Yet, Phoenix has only 3.5 computers per 10K citizens. WHAT? A city the size and diversity of Phoenix has only 3.5 computers for every 10,000 citizens? They’ve experienced only slight decrease in funding at 4%, so why would Phoenix have so few public access computers?

One never knows what conclusions data will lead to, or whether they will reveal anything at all. My conclusion is that none of these data comparisons has a clear “cause and effect” relationship. That leads me to the conclusion that like politics – all library use is local.

I’ve been saying for some time that libraries must determine the needs of their customers and their community and meet those needs in whatever manner is best for them, hopefully while applying 21st Century librarianship techniques. One could argue that these data support that theory, and my suggested new…

21st Century Library Paradigm:
The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of their local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.


Filed under Uncategorized