Tag Archives: Vision

What IS the State of America’s Libraries?


My first impression of ALA’s Report was just another rehash of Pew’s survey information. ALA releases 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report is that rehash, but it also masks ALA’s misguided concept for the future of librarianship.

CHICAGO, April 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Libraries continue to transform to meet society’s changing needs, and more than 90 percent of the respondents in an independent national survey said that libraries are important to the community.

But school libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect, according to the survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and school libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.

These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2014 State of America’s Libraries report, released today during National Library Week, April 13– 19.

Most of the emphasis here seems to be on the desperate school librarian situation, which deserves as much muscle to correct as ALA can muster. But, after venturing off into la-la-land to discuss banned books, the article concludes with a link to the full report, State of America’s Libraries Report 2014. The Executive Summary states;

Some of the key findings of the national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project were detailed at the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits in Philadelphia in January. These included:

• Ninety-six percent of those surveyed agreed that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading. The same number agreed because libraries provide tech resources and access to materials, and a majority view libraries as leaders in technology.

• While the overall number of visitors to a physical library or bookmobile dropped five percentage points from 2012 to 2013, from 53% to 48%, there was an equally significant increase in the number of users of library websites. Particular increases were noted among African Americans, Hispanics, those age 16 to 29, and those with some college education.

• More than 75% of the survey’s respondents want libraries to play an active role in public life. Seventy-seven percent want libraries to coordinate more closely with local schools in providing resources to children, and the same proportion want free early literacy programs for children. People look to libraries to help fix struggling schools and to help children learn to navigate new technologies and become critical thinkers.

An earlier Pew study, released in May 2013, showed that most parents highly value one resource for their children: libraries.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar. Didn’t I just write a post on Pew’s view of the library world? Sure enough – Pew Research Defines Library Users – Yet Again? – three weeks ago.

The Executive Summary also delves into ALA’s vision of the library’s future. A very disturbing vision that they are borrowing.

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.

This can include helping communities cope with the unexpected. The rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had many public libraries struggling to keep up with the demand for public computer terminals and with requests for help in using the Healthcare.gov website. And people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy filled libraries in New York and New Jersey, using library computers to complete federal forms and communicating with loved ones using the library’s internet connections.

And through it all, libraries continue to deal with societal issues and sometimes with problems—such as homelessness—that are familiar but nonetheless seem intractable. San Francisco Public Library’s outreach program to homeless users, for example, is staffed by a full-time psychiatric social worker and includes the services of five peer counselors, all of whom were once homeless themselves. The New York Public Library is reaching out to another at-risk group through BridgeUp, an educational and antipoverty program that provides academic and social support to at-risk 8th–12th graders at NYPL branches in underserved neighborhoods.

And sometimes the word “library” stretches the traditional definition of “library.” The Lopez Island (Wash.) Library, offers musical instruments for checkout, and the Northern Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, New York, lends out plots of land on which patrons can learn organic growing practices. (“Anyone can ‘check out’ a plot!” says the library’s website.)

[I will write more on why adopting this “Libraries Transforming Communities” vision borrowed from The Harwood Institute in which libraries become “change-agents” to their community is a very bad idea.]

My urban library director friend recently wrote;

Another serious issue facing not only public libraries, but our profession as a whole, is self-identification. We must continue to understand and truly believe in what we do and why we exist. As I attend conferences, meetings, and workshops, I hear the frustration of the internal struggle with my colleagues in rationalizing their place and purpose within the current model of public library service. I listen to the frustration over feeling as if books and reading have been abandoned by the public in favor of Facebook and social media, or spending time on the computer. I hear their struggles with their desire to provide in-depth reference yet meeting the patrons desire to simply receive a quick answer to that question, or to be signed up for their next session on the computer.

I have been involved, due to my recently published book on strategic planning for the 21st century library, in many discussions on planning and purpose of the mission for the public library. I hear the struggle between the professionals in their own identification of the mission of the free public library. They grasp at answers including encouraging reading, encouraging lifelong learning, creating a community gathering space, enriching lives, and many more. We as a profession must, while respecting the individual community and library needs and differences, establish a clear mission and purpose for the “librarian.” I believe that this is essential to our continued survival in the future. Each time I am asked if Google will be our undoing, I am more certain that we ourselves and our lack of understanding of our mission and purpose in this new society is much more likely to be our downfall. Because, if we were clear about our mission and purpose, the question of whether or not Google will replace librarians would be moot. [Emphasis added.]

That pretty well summarizes what is lacking in this 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report from ALA – any perception from them that librarianship is lacking a clear identity.

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Rebranding Removes the Term Library


At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I knew this was coming when I wrote The Revolutionary Library in April of 2011, and again in August with The Physics of Your Library Brand. I just didn’t know where it would break out or exactly when.

A library no more . . . Idea Exchange is born. Library rebranding is underway in Cambridge according to the Cambridge Times reporter Bill Jackson in his article last Thursday, February 20. The Cambridge Public Library – Art Gallery • Library • Community Center – in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada was established in 1973 by combining the separate libraries of Galt, Preston and Hespeler with a history over 100 years at that time. In 1992 renovation and expansion of the Library & Gallery in Galt included new space to house a climate controlled art gallery, a studio and greatly enlarged children’s facilities. Additional expansions over the years have created the multipurpose entity that exists today.

I’d like to say it’s an evolution,” said chief executive officer Greg Hayton. “About three years ago, we started using the slogan Ideas Unlimited. About that time we also began to take a careful look at the service provided.

As you know, the advent of e-books, the rise of Google, all these electronic sources and services and means of conveying information have changed the approach that people take to get their information.” [Emphasis added.]

Hayton said the library board felt the need to expand services and has begun to develop much broader programming for children and adults while making a “huge effort” to integrate art as a central component.

“It’s not a separate thing sticking out on the side anymore,” he explained. “It’s central to what we do.

“Being stimulated by art is as valid as being stimulated by something you read in a book, coming to a program or hearing a concert we have,” Hayton continued.

“That led us to think we should look for a new way of presenting these changes that we’re making to the public and that led first of all to the slogan Ideas Unlimited. The second and last stage of that evolution is to do a rebranding, which removes the terms library and gallery from the terminology that we use and replace all of it under one umbrella called Idea Exchange.” [Emphasis added.]

Mayor Doug Craig thinks it’s appealing.

It’s bringing in a new demographic of individuals other than people like myself who are part of a generation that has traditionally seen libraries as book repositories,” he said. “They’ve now become places where events take place, where people get together, where ideas are exchanged.” [Emphasis added.]

“In this case, the library has chosen to follow a rebranding exercise to help strengthen and promote its image.” [Christy Arnold, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport]

The terms library and gallery will no longer be used by the Idea Exchange. [Emphasis added.]

Let me reiterate my comments from almost three years ago. “There is only one certainty regarding libraries in the future – they will not remain the same as they were in the past. … The LIBRARY brand must change. It is no longer BOOKS. Libraries need to actively market their changes to cause a change of perception among library customers – and the public in general – to be competitive in the marketplace.”

Two articles from August 2011 provide emphasis for the point of changing the LIBRARY image, just by changing the name and redefining the priorities to address community needs as Cambridge has done. A third article emphasizes the importance of detaching the term LIBRARY from the physical building.

Don’t call it a library: Stevenson debuts new information center about Chicago area Stevenson High School’s new “Information and Learning Center”.
Now’s time for library with benefits about Carson City, NV efforts to create a new “Knowledge and Discovery Center”.

When “Library” Is Not an Action but an Old Building –A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson in which he reiterates; “This concern was captured by Rick Anderson in his editorial when he said, “Eventually the term ‘library’ becomes an honorific attached to a building, rather than a meaningful designation for what happens inside it.” (Journal of Academic Librarianship July 2011,37:4, p. 290)

How can the library re-invent itself and change its brand to survive in the 21st Century technology and information marketplace? How can we apply physics to library rebranding in order to move the library’s position in the information and community center marketplace?

    • Each library must start with its own local library brand marketing campaign – such as “Likenomics” & Library Marketing.
    • Every access point for customers to interact with a library should be a unique experience – unlike typical LIBRARY experiences – such as Digital Discovery – A New 21st Century Library Skill .
    • Every library must begin to overcome the stereotypical LIBRARY perception by becoming MORE – such as The 21st Century Library is More: and other suggestions in several Blog posts that followed.
    • Re-brand your local library on an incremental scale by creating “a portfolio of brands or maybe new brands for new ventures” – such as new logos for library programs that do NOT include the word LIBRARY.
    • On a regional level, library consortium must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK.
    • On a national level, library associations must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK.
    • Re-brand professional publications, logos and events without the word LIBRARY.

2014 is long past time when libraries should have been responding to the change in the Information Age operating environment – if they have any hope of being relevant to their community.

ADDENDUM:

Eighth-graders design and build a school library for the 21st century
“When we asked them what do you want out of your school, they didn’t use the word ‘library,’ …. “They said they wanted a space to relax and read and discover. They said ‘I want to learn how microphones work,’ ‘I want to learn how ostriches make their nests,’ ‘I want to learn how to make video games,’ or ‘I want to learn better English.’ All these questions about exploration and finding things you don’t know.”

Boston Public Library’s Central Branch Children’s Library “will be filled with opportunities for children to read, create, play, explore, and learn together.” This is what will change the perception of “library” for the future generations of users.

Innovative Library 21c leads PPLD toward new horizons “It’s not just a building,” said PPLD Executive Director Paula Miller. “We’re changing the way we deliver public library service in several ways. The [Pikes Peak] Library District’s board of trustees approved late last month a name for the $10.7 million project, which will be called Library 21c — a moniker representative of its 21st-century model. “Leaders at PPLD find the ‘c’ component edgy and flexible,” the district said an announcement. “ ‘C’ for century; ‘c’ for change; ‘c’ for connections; ‘c’ for create; ‘c’ for community.”

From library to learning commons “We’re talking about a proposal to put the researching and the writing process together,” [Frederick Community College Writing Center Manager Betsey] Zwing said. The library’s print book collection has shrunk from about 32,000 volumes to about 17,000 since 2002, O’Leary said. Organizing those hard copies in the most efficient way would free up 2,500 square feet that could be used to accommodate help desks, collaborative study rooms, Writing Center tables, SmartBoards and more.

Starting from Scratch | Design4Impact While not technically rebranding, redesigning the library’s space for different functionalities is close enough to warrant understanding this trend.

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Get Creative At Your Library


Gregg Fraley at TEDxStoremont
Scaffolding To Solutions


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The Secret to Creativity: Mike Dillon at TEDxEastsidePrep
A former Imagineer for Disney, Mike Dillon founded his own imagination company.


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What creativity is trying to tell you: Jonathan Tilley at TEDxStuttgart
“The creative process is as individual as it is universal.”


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What can you imagine and create to transform your “library” into a “LIBRARY!
we need lib

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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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You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:


Over two years ago I wrote Are You a 21st Century Librarian? and proposed the following six behaviors that would describe a 21st Century librarian.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

1. Are Creative – …

2. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit – …

3. Are Customer Oriented – …

4. Embrace Technology – …

5. Are Business-like – …

6. Adopt a New Library Paradigm – …

I also wrote that there are definitely more than six characteristics of a 21st Century Librarian and more would follow. Life is what happens while you’re doing something else.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

7. Develop New Skill Sets – These are the skills they don’t teach you in library school; team building, collaboration, application of cutting edge technology, conducting training, individual professional development, applications of social media, crowd sourcing, open innovation, and many more. The point is to recognize what skill set is needed now and next year and develop it within yourself – on your own time if necessary.

8. Build A Great Team – In the 21st Century Library everything is done through collaboration, strategic partnerships and team work. Having the skills to bring people together through a shared vision and clear advantage in a joint venture is crucial to being successful in the 21st Century environment.

9. Think Strategically – Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library [as of 2011]. The Fayetteville [NY] Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things.

Smedley says she plans on adding other equipment as well, including a CNC Router and a laser cutter. Smedley helped her library win a $10,000 innovation grant at the recent Contact Summit in New York and is also raising money via an Indiegogo campaign. She’s reaching out to local science teachers, as well as encouraging those already active in area hackerspaces and makerspaces to get involved.

10. Are Creative – “You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone.” [Jack Andraka, age 15, Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize Winner] The point is librarians MUST be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries. Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” during the first decade of the 21st Century in the same way it has been done for centuries. The reason the old way does not work is because the environment, conditions and library user’s expectations of libraries have all changed drastically. Without a new perspective of librarianship and the ability to create and implement new ideas to address new challenges, as well as old challenges, libraries will never reach their 21st Century capabilities.

11. Give Exemplary Selfless Service – “The needs and mission of the organization ALWAYS come first. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about the staff. I am responsible to see that this organization functions at the highest possible level of efficiency, responsibility, accountability and integrity. My job is to always meet that expectation and see to it that everyone else gets as close as possible.” [The Highly Successful 21st Century Library Director]

12. Make Your Library Relevant to Your Community – This is the ONLY thing that truly matters in the end analysis. You can have all the bells and whistles, all the latest technology, the best customer service in the world, but if the products and services your library is offering to your community do not “connect” with what the community wants – you will still not be relevant. PERIOD! End of story! End of library?

[Read also: Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders

A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face

A New Perspective of Librarianship

Re-Imagining The Public Library

21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

Please contribute to this list with ideas and experience of your own.

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Watson Come Here – We Want You


Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer. But they tell the story much better than anyone at their website. Visit it before you read on. Even the Watson website is impressive. How great must the computer be. Watson

A January 14 article from SmartData Collective – IBM Bets a Billion to Mobilize Watson Business Unit and Monetize Cognitive Computing – explains that IBM has now made Watson front and center in its empire.

Until now IBM Watson was important but had neither this stature in IBM’s organizational structure nor enough investment to support what the company proclaims is the third phase of computing. As IBM tells it, computing paradigms began with the century-old tabular computing, followed by the age of programmatic computing, in which IBM developed many products and advancements. The third phase is cognitive computing, an area in which the company has invested significantly to advance its technology. IBM has been on this journey for some time, long before the IBM Watson system beat humans on Jeopardy!. … Now IBM Watson is focused on reaching the full potential of cognitive computing.

I’ve been following IBM’s progress on Watson for some time, because it WILL have a profound affect on the role of librarians. Since I first ran across the brief article in early 2011 I knew that the world was on the brink of experiencing “thinking” computers. We have all seen movies about cognitive robots, Orwellian world domination by computers, and now there’s even a TV series with a robot police partner that has a soul – of sorts. So we have been fascinated with thinking computers for over a century. There’s even a movie in theaters now about a guy who falls in love with his smart phone – and it falls in love with him. [eyes rolling] As I’ve stated before, Jules Verne wrote “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” so it should be no surprise that the thinking computer is now reality.

If IBM is right that cognitive computing will be the next wave of innovation in the industry and a new phase of computing, it has placed itself at the center of a substantial new market opportunity. Even at the most basic level to simplify the process of making information more available is what IBM Watson provides and our information optimization research finds is very important to 65 percent of organizations. [Emphasis added.]

IF IBM IS RIGHT…? Seriously! Did that young man just write that? How could ANYONE doubt that cognitive computing IS the next wave of innovation in computing? It is what the world has been waiting for with anticipation and dread. It will spell the beginning of awesome new capabilities for the individual, as well as businesses.

At the launch of the IBM Watson business unit, IBM Research’s Dr. Guruduth Banavar brought forward some of the latest thinking on cognitive science and the ability to teach machines to reason and … how it will impact roles and businesses in the next decade.

As it begins to scale its offering, part of IBM’s challenge is to manage the continuous information feeds that effectively make IBM Watson smarter. While IBM does not talk much about the content aspects of what is required, it is clearly more than just loading files, and these efforts are just as important as librarians are to libraries, whereby they are not just stewards to a collection of books but ensure the value and improvement of the library.

The author is stretching his expertise a bit to assume what the importance of the librarian is to the library, but it provides a great segway into how Watson has the potential to eliminate the reference librarian, and potentially other aspects of the library as well.

WatsonMedData This issue is not without controversy. On the Watson FB site is the diagram of Watson using natural language and evidence-based learning to crunch the world’s medical data. This obviously raises the age old question of security and privacy of individual medical records. The data has to come from somewhere. Is it possible that computers will decide they don’t need inferior human input? Yes, it probably is. Will it happen in the next 100 years? Who knows. The reality is Watson exists and it will change the way the world views information.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

This impending revolution in how people find information reminded me of Peter Brantley’s article from February, 2013 – You Have Two, Maybe Three Years… in which he stated;

The most serious threat facing libraries does not come from publishers, we argued, but from e-book and digital media retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Google. While some IFLA staff protested that libraries are not in the business of competing with such companies, the library representatives stressed that they are. If public libraries can’t be better than Google or Amazon at something, then libraries will lose their relevance. It’s good that the library e-book issue has heated up over the past year, and not just in the U.S. but globally.

But libraries have dithered for far too long – it is now time for action. No matter how glorious the vision of local 3D printing, community gaming, or how critical the literacy training and job assistance libraries offer, reading lies at the heart of the library mission – and as the world goes digital, we cannot let the library become a pile of dusty books. We must make the library the most cool and awesome space it has ever been.

But absent immediate innovation, libraries are going to be increasingly unable to meet the expectations of their patrons, and if such a breakthrough cannot come in the next two or three years, libraries risk losing their central place in the world of literature. That would be a great loss. [Emphasis added.]

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

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[Read: Reference Librarian vs. Computer! February 16, 2011

And The Winner Is….. “The information seeker in 2015.” February 17, 2011

Remember Watson? November 18, 2013

The Future of Librarians? June 28, 2010

Technology Game Changers for Libraries June 26, 2012]

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Complete These Statements …


The 21st Century Library is…
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The 21st Century Librarian does…
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This is not a quiz. It is not rhetorical. We all need to share our ideas and understanding about our future. Isn’t that why you’re reading this Blog? Because you care about the future of your profession. Please contribute to the conversation.

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