PLA Closing Session

Paco Underhill

(blogging session live – this is my rough notes)

Closing session with Paco Underhill, founder and managing director of Envirosell. Spent 25 years researching shopping behavior.

Came in late, after talking too long after last session

Everyone who comes in to this session has a clock ticking in their head – just like everyone who comes in the library.

What do richest and best want? Good weather, medical facilities, golf, and libraries
Libraries want to be on the real estate radar screen

Adding snack bar – makes us a social crossroads (not just making money).
Want to be social crossroads of people who love books.
Buying and selling book storage – partner with merchants
Seating choices displayed
Why are all chairs the same height?

“Angels Fly – Take Yourselves Lightly”. Having a good time yourself. Having fun in your job, rest of people who come in will have a good time.

Transformation of customer service. Not nose to nose – rather hip-to-hip (come up beside.)
Get out from behind desk.

Go around borrow other ideas – retail a good place to do it.
Use chalkboards.

Look at library as you would a retail outlet.

Displays. Books are beautiful. Speaker has books all over house.

Communication – signage
If 2 signs work, 27 don’t work better.
Blow up signage and start over

Overwhelming majority of people who could use library don’t or don’t know how.
Have courage and energy to go out into community and talk to people.

Library space arrangement:
Separate space for age groups.
Identify service communities (novice, expert)

Throw out concept that being commercial is contrary to profession.

Institution doesn’t start at lease line. Look at parking lot.

90% of people are right-handed. Employ counter-clockwise patterns to accommodate.

“Butt brush factor” – the more apt to be brushed on butt, the le to buy. Applies to space, aisle width, etc.

All labels are too small

Key to success is thinking standing up. Be seen on the floor!

Community Building Through Your Web Site: Library Blogs & RSS Feeds

(blogging during session . . . will “clean up later)

Community Building Through Your Web Site: Library Blogs and RSS Feeds

2004 Mirriam Webster word-of-the-year was Blog

Defining Weblog
Slides will be on Web, won’t copy statistics, etc.
Content management system that does all the “dirty work”

Used Exeter Public Library Blog, Went over features

Web sites – asked DreamWeaver, etc.
Sympathy to hard code users (oops)

Marketing blogs (St Joseph Public Libraries)
Icarus . . . the Santa Fe Public Library Blog

take a look at other people’s Blogs

Waterloo – Ontario Canada, book club Blog
Ancestor Research Log, focuses on local history

shows vibrancy of library
puts human face on library

Rutland Free Library (not a blog, but clicking on photo goes into Flickr)


Put up URLs
Ann Arbor Library

****Drupal – free open source software
made entire website blog-based

Had director’s blog during migration
Upset patrons, complaining. Helping de-bug catalog.

Unhappy patrons, answered immediately, diffused situation.

Are you scared by patrons “talking to you” in a public way? Yes

Patrons debated whether a new circ was the same as a renewal (fascinating conversation)
Put in a “added for publication”. Replace bad word with asterisks.

Teen Blog, 94 comments on gaming
another 315, or 451
Has anyone had that many teen comments in their library?
Most of them, kids trash-talking each other about gaming

Flossmoor Public Library
Western Springs History
put local history into Blog — get comments. People add to it. “My grandparents owned this . . . “

What if we let our users comment on catalog?
WordPress – free
Every item in catalog is a blog-post
Patron could come here, comment on item
By using “Trackback” — can post on their own website, which will automatically post.

NOW – shows program objectives for this session
2 years ago set objectives. In 2004 needed server, etc. NOw free

****Book “Small Pieces, Loosely Joined”
Idea – social aspect. We can take advantage of that.

Riverdale IL.
Very poor.
Set up blog through blogger. Gave residents of community a login.

Defines RSS – gets you found in places you normally wouldn’t be found

Hennepin County (demo)
Showed Bloglines

Force users to come to your site to read website.

Kenton County Public Library – RSS feed for new items added to catalog
Hennepin does key word out of the catalog on RSS

*****ProQuest — RSS
Combine information from variety of community sources through RSS feed.

Creates website for you, combines RSS feeds from a variety of sources
localizes news by zip code

add school, chamber, etc. if they have an RSS Feed

Not just a library uses information. Other people will aggregate your information.

LiveJournal — “don’t put your blog there. it’s for teenagers” (Jennie)

Sirsi has RSS, also III, and ????

Michael – step back — Why?

the cluetron manifesto — one of best business books of 2000. talkes about network conversations. creating new form of social organization.
Urgest companies to talk with human voice. about being transparent.
Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance. (also LIBRARIES).

6 things you can do now:
1. Read Weblogs
2. Start your own “what’s New Blog” at your library
3. Appoint a “trend reporter” on your staff who watches and learns (and shares, emerging technology committee
4. Train your staff to use an aggregator to read RSS feeds – it’s powerful (bloglines, blogbridge)
(makes you sound really smart in meetings)
5. Advocate for RSS to be built in to products we pay for
6. Learn about Library 2.0 (aha! first time it was mentioned)


feed2js (service to get RSS)

blog software breakdown (reviews)

oss4lib (mailing list — open source software for libraries)

transfer blogger into wordpress (most have export functions)

PLA Day 3

Started the day at 7:30 at the OCLC breakfast – bacon & egg croissant, fruit, juice, and coffee – mm mm! Table talk with catalogers, especially challenges of multiple cataloging locations within system.

Full or Plural Funding
Speakers: Steve Coffman & Tom Hennen

  • Steve and Tom presented opposing viewpoints, both convincing. Steve encourages plural funding, following the model of NPR, etc. Tom believes libraries are tax-supported public goods.
  • Steve’s points: If what we (libraries) are doing to gain public support isn’t enough, it’s not working. We’ve squeezed everything we can out of public support.
  • In 1950, 2 cents of every tax dollar (nationally) went to libraries. Current figure is .5 of every tax dollar.
  • In 1950 an average of 25% of budget went to book budget. Current figure is 14%.
  • With a single source of funding, the major funder (whoever it is) has major influence over library’s philosophy. Encourages diversity of funding.
  • Tom’s points: Not important what percentage of budget is spent. More important, amount spent per person served.
  • Question asked: “where does library fit? (cultural, education, etc.)”. Steve – cultural; Tom – community education and learning.

Productive Aging – Are public Libraries Productive Partners?
Speakers: Mary Catherine Bateson (Institute for Intercultural Studies), James Welbourne (New Haven), Representative for Diantha Schull (Americans for Libraries Council).
This session was a pleasant surprise. I expected information about serving baby boomers – got new information (to me) and points to ponder.

  • Mary Catherine’s philosophy: “We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn.”
  • MCB said for the first time we are living in a 4 generation society: children, adult 1 (raising children), adult 2 (being grandparents), adult 3 (being great-grandparents).
    Adult 2 are being the traditional grandparents (“they are getting advanced degrees and eloping”). That role is now filled by Adult 3 to children.
  • MCB – we are making too many short-sited decisions, mortgaging the future.
  • Too many people age 65 are burdened with obsolete concepts of aging formed from watching previous generations age.
  • James Welbourne talked about the Transition Center in the New Haven Library. It sounded as vital as having a children’s room or teen center.
  • Diantha was ill. Her stand-in did a great job (sorry I didn’t get her name). She quoted Maxim Gorky “in the carriages of the past you cannot go anywhere.” She challenged to get a new carriage.
  • She talked about the wealth of service available in experienced people and suggested an HR service to handle volunteers.
  • She cited Marc Freedman who said aging adults are our largest growing natural resource.
    She related that many boomers are not well-educated nor middle class – an opportunity for inclusivity in the library.
  • For others the assumption for needs for services in a deficit model is mistaken (homebound, impoverished, etc). Need to think of them as resources.
  • Talked about life planning resources. Services to non-traditional students, thought provoking meetings.

Evening reception at Boston Public Library: What a magnificent building. Thanks to red-capped Boston PL staff. All the touches were wonderful – the music, the food, the fife and drum corps. Even the outdoor traffic control by the Boston Police.

Personal notes: new photos added to Flickr today.

I won the new Nancy Pearl doll at the OCLC WebJunction reception last night. I asked Nancy to autograph it when she was at the ALA store today. I just really enjoyed meeting and chatting with her. She’s a special person.

Very nice lunch at Legal Seafood today. Also squeezed in some time to see some of Boston this afternoon. Especially enjoyed seeing Old North Church, Old Ironsides, and the “Cheers” barfront used in the TV show (how’s that for incongruous?)

PLA – Day 2

First session — went to Leaders as Readers (after my routine oatmeal breakfast, of course)
Organizer: Peggy Sullivan, Library Consultant, Chicago. Speakers: Susan Hildreth, California State Library; Bernard Margolis, Boston Public Library; Neal Ney, Evanston Public Library; Bill Ptacek, King County Library System.

Handouts were lists of books important to them, but they didn’t really talk about what they were reading, but rather, how they read, or where reading is in their lives. Interesting points:

  • Susan quoted a survey of the economic value of libraries that was done in Norway — 60% said they received direct benefits from libraries. 94% stated they wanted to have libraries available.
  • Bill told that research done at King County indicated that the biggest reason people use the library website is to find the library online catalog. He also stated that 30% of the circ in the library is books that were placed on hold.
  • Bernie talked about the amount of reading that people do, citing the number of people reading in airports (almost everyone).
  • How to select a good book. Bernie reads Amazon’s customer reviews. Bill suggested finding a way for library customers to post reviews ala
  • Susan related the value of retail experience in library staff members and said the philosophies of customer service in retail and libraries have similarities.
  • There is no obligation to finish a bad book. If it doesn’t appeal after the first 50 pages — quit reading.
  • King County Library Friends bought book journals and gave them to persons promising to read 50 books. When they had finished their 50 books they turned in the journal and received a gold library card.

Second session — spent too long talking in the exhibits. When I got to my first choice it was full and the doors were shut (not be opened to admit anyone, by order of the “fire marshall”). Same story with my second choice. Went to a third choice and found it left much to be desired. Went to my fourth choice and after a few minutes there realized there was nothing there for me either. So, I went back to the exhibits, and had a great time. Met author Karen Robards, and got an autographed MP3-CD of her book Vanished. Got my picture taken with her, too. Check photo on Flickr.

Had lunch in Cafe Court — rice bowl this noon (in case anyone is wondering).

Afternoon appointment with Pam Arnold, our SirsiDynix rep. Looked at Rooms.

WebJunction Reception — Great food. Good wine. And a big surprise. George Needham announced that Mnnnesota is a new WebJunction partner. Wow! Can’t wait to introduce all the neat benefits to our members. And then the evening got better (if that’s possible). I won a doorprize — the Nancy Pearl figurine. We were all so excited, we Minnesota librarians that were there lined up with George and had our picture took. (just like they do back in Lake Woebegon).

Rounded out the day with a wonderful dinner with Ann, Marlene and husband Jerry. Finally got my crab cakes — something they don’t make too well in Rochester Minnesota ;^(
. . . Now, if I could only find stuffed, baked lobster on the half shell, like at Captain Nick’s in Maine. I have less than 48 hours left to keep looking.

Blogging at PLA


  • Flew in Tuesday, uneventful flight — on time!
  • Dinner at Champion’s in the hotel. Philly Cheesesteak and Killian’s Red! Mmmmm


Pictures at Flickr


  • Yes, I found a bakery cafe in the Food Court that has oatmeal. Really good oatmeal with bananas, raisins, and brown sugar. I’m happy!

Nancy Pearl “Book Buzz”

  • Overflow crowd filled the adjoining public area. Amazing how popular our action icon is. I was thrilled to be there!Even took a picture (see Flickr photos)
  • Nancy put together 4 publisher friends to preview new books – great stuff coming! My personal favorite? The Brief History of the Dead
  • Nancy asked how many brought books along to read — 2, 3, or 4?
  • Nancy introduced the 4 publisher reps: Nora Rawlinson, Time Warner; Marcia Purcell, Random House; Virginia Stanely, Harper Collins; Talia Ross, Holtzbrink. She said 2 are librarians, and she suggested 2 might go to library schools. Then she said, “you notice I said LIBRARY school.” Big cheer from the audience.

Opening General Session

Michael Gorman, opening remarks

  • New strategic plan for ALA. Encouraged consideration of increased dues to support it.

Linda Ellerbee

  • Really overflow crowd. Ballroom was full. We ended up in the Sheraton watching big TVs with (almost accurate) closed captioning.
  • Even on TV, Linda was inspiring. Her rapid fire delivery was a challenge to keep up with. Even more challenging to take notes.
  • Quoted Patrick O’Brian (??) The public library is the only place you can walk in off the street and get information from a person with an advanced degree without having to pay for it.
  • Talked about her life. Philosophy early on was “take big bites.” Said at any point where she predicted her 5-year future, she got it wrong.
  • Said most of the people in TV news think that they’re smarter than those watching. So they give them what they think the viewers want. That’s why TV is the way it is.
  • Gave 5 recommendations about change
    1. When all else fails, do it your way. (only dead fish swim with the stream all the time)
    2. Face a new challenge with a new solution.
    3. You must always set a place at the table of life for the unexpected guest.
    4. Just because everything is changed doesn’t mean everything is different.
    5. In this world a good time to laugh is any time you can

Vendor Exhibits opening with bagpipes. See Flickr photo. On 2 floors. I don’t think people were finding the 2nd floor area. Much quieter up there.

Dinner At the Cheesecake Factory. One hour wait for a table, but terrific!

Is Google Irish?

Once again Google gives us a smile . . . have you seen the logo today?

I wonder how many libraries decorate their website for the Irish holiday? Anywhere near the same number that have green in their library?

hint: each library has 2 doors – physical & virtual

Don’t take test in the rain

Over 4,000 students who took the SAT in October did not get credit for their test scores. The company that scores the test reports that high humidity caused the scoring problem according to CNN Online. So now, those students are wondering if they were rejected from their pick school because of the scoring snafu. And, I suppose thousands more will forever claim they could have been Ivy League grads if the scoring would have been correct. And schools who weight SAT heavily as a criterion for who gets in are reviewing those they rejected and maybe even those they didn’t.

Although I don’t know anyone who took the SAT this year, I feel bad for those who did and now are wondering if their SAT score is real. Our culture is preoccupied with evaluating people according to numbers. Even public schools are driven by test scores, where classroom teachers are teaching to the test. Schools are using merit-based pay schedules to motivate teachers to higher standards (funny, most of the teachers I know are motivated by their passion for the education of children, but that’s another post for another day.)

School budgets are heavily impacted by raising test scores. The Minnesota Legislature this year is considering legislation that would require schools to spend 70% of their budget on classroom expenses – although there is a fair amount of inconsistency in what a classroom expenditure is. All this leads to school libraries being starved out of existence, if they are not swiftly eliminated altogether. If literacy skills were used as a measure of academic achievement, libraries would fare quite differently. Unfortunately, learning to learn, with the school library as the research lab, is not supported by the dependence on test scores to evaluate the quality of education. . . . very sad . . .

Sorting delivery

Sorry . . . today’s entry is a personal rant . . . .

It snowed today . . . . it’s winter in Minnesota, so that’s to be expected. Our office is a sorting hub for the statewide delivery system that enables Minnesota citizens to borrow library items from almost anywhere in Minnesota. Almost 4,000 items move through our office daily between our 80+ libraries.

Well, like I said, it snowed today. The kind of March snow that bogs down traffic and closes roads while accidents are cleaned up. The last van came back in 2 hours late. At least half of our staff did not make it in to work. So, those who did come in became the delivery sorting crew.

I don’t sort delivery very often; neither do most of those who helped today. We weren’t terribly efficient, but we got the job done. Luckily, John, who is experienced, kept us organized as we just did as he told us, especially when stacking the tubs for pickup by the delivery drivers tomorrow.

Every library has a unique delivery code, which is listed on the sheet we send out every September to each library. If libraries would only adhere to those symbols, instead of finding some other creative way of abbreviating libraries. For instance, BR is Brownsdale, but a large number of the items destined for that tub were labeled BRO and BRN. It sure slows down sorting when you have to stop and figure out what the creative labeling means.

Maybe if I send out one more E-mail to remind them to use standard delivery codes?????

Interesting political concept

Attended the first Eggs and Issues of the 2006 Minnesota Legislative session. E ‘n I is sponsored by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce and other community partners. Regional legislators are in regular attendance, bring their view of legislative progress, and hear ours. Point was made this morning that our area, southeastern Minnesota, has benefited by representation in all 4 caucuses of the Legislature.

Hmmmm . . . . interesting concept — voting that is influenced by keeping that balanced representation.