Education to strengthen neighborhoods

A newspaper reported last week that the Homework Center is closing in a neighborhood where many at-risk kids live. The help center was a partnership between the housing authority and school district, who somehow managed to run this service, which was open 2 days a week, on $13,000 a year. The news story told about the end-of-year party that marked the end of this one-room place which has become a neighborhood center for children to come to for the past 13 years. One young man, an immigrant from Laos, started coming to the Center when he was 4 years old. He got help with his homework, became a tutor, and is now graduating from high school.

Another help center in the city closed 6 months ago. According to the article, the closings are due to lack of funding. A tutor at the center was quoted: “”It’s really sad, if you want to know the truth. It’s very sad. It’s become a community center for this housing area, actually.”

The story has haunted me for the past 5 days since I read it. What will become of the kids who got help with their homework there? Without the caring tutoring of the Homework Center, how many will ultimately fail and drop out of school – possibly ending up in trouble and incarcerated. The $13,000 a year pales in comparison to the cost of lost lives, not to mention the cost of incarceration. According to a Bureau of Justice report on State Prison Expenditures 2001, Minnesota spent $37,000 per year for each of the 6,514 inmates in state prisons in that year. And the number of persons in confinement has increased, as evidenced by recent reports of counties who are building new, larger jails. Jurisdictions who are unable to house all their prisoners are paying anywhere from $55 to $85 a day to other counties or states who so far have beds available in their jails or correctional facilities. Seems to me that funding the Homework Center is a bargain at twice this year’s cost.

I hope that our city will find a way to continue these neighborhood education centers – by providing adequate funds to organizations who are well positioned to work in neighborhoods. What a great place for an expanded community center partnership that might include a satellite library in these neighborhoods where at-risk kids and their families live. If we want to keep any child from being left behind we need after school programs, pre-K literacy, and homework help in the neighborhood where the kid lives.

Library fines? or not

via It’s All Good, Vote Early Vote Often (George Needham)

Looks like The Christian Science Monitor has once again raised the perennial question of library fines – or late fees. They even have a survey, asking the opinion of readers: “Should library fines be abolished?” As of this writing, out of 238 votes, 168 said “No. Fines help to keep borrowers in line and can be a needed source of income for small towns.” And 70 said “Yes. Late fees are more trouble than they’re worth, and they cast libraries in a negative light.”

While I realize that some libraries believe they receive considerable income from the fines collected ( cites the Chicago Public Library having brought in $1.1 million in revenue last year from fines, even without using a collection agency), the article proposes that the cost of good will may be higher, not to mention the undefined labor costs of cash collecting and management.

I previously worked for the Air Force Library Service, where we did not collect fines. Our ultimate threat was collecting for unreturned materials after a generous period of time. Recently, several of our library directors have shared that they are considering or experimenting with elimination of fines. Our Online Schools do not, indeed under state law cannot, charge overdue fees. From anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t appear that there is significant difference in number of lost materials between those libraries that assess fines and those that do not.

The real questions for libraries to ask are: Why is the fine in place? What is the cost of the whole process? What would be the cost of eliminating the fine process? What could be gained in good will if fines were eliminated? or even . . . . How much might library usage be increased if citizens didn’t fear past or future fines?

Anyway, as George says: “Vote early, vote often.” (hurry, poll closes 30 days from start of survey, according to

And in the meantime, can we at least call them late fees instead of fines?

Newspaper finds librarian a curiosity

Our local paper, the Post Bulletin has a weekly column called “Your Style” which features someone who has been nominated by someone else for their personal style. Tonight’s column features fine Mayo Medical Librarian, Kelly Arp. The reporter who wrote the piece was obviously hung up on a librarian stereotype which is as unrealistic as a male cigar-smoking reporter with a drink in hand. In the interview, 4 of the 7 questions asked try to measure Kelly’s style against what the reporter thinks she should look like. I suggest that the reporter get rid of her tired cliches and walk across the street to get acquainted with some real librarians. Her questions:

Q: Your nominator said that although you’re a librarian you don’t fit the stereotype. What do you wear that makes you stand out?
Q: What do you switch it up with?
Q: Is there anything in your wardrobe that would fit the classic librarian look?
Q: How would you categorize your style?
Q: Librarians are known for finding information fast. Does that translate to shopping as well?
Q: Where do you shop?
Q: Is your closet organized like the Dewey Decimal System?

Librarians “sainted” for “vast knowledge”

While enjoying my morning coffee and paper I was thrilled to find librarians “Sainted” in the weekly Pioneer Press’s “Sainted and Tainted” column – of course the librarians were the sainted ones!

Sainted: The Ramsey County Library on Beam Avenue in Maplewood. Not for any one specific act but for their consistent willingness to help no matter what is asked of them, friendly service, vast knowledge and overall good service. As a regular patron, I think their good job performance should be recognized.

Knowing and working with as many library folks as I do, I wasn’t surprised. Our librarians across the 11 counties of southeastern Minnesota are just as willing to help and provide good service as those in Ramsey County. The words that jumped off the page at me were the ones where the nominator cited librarians’ “vast knowledge.”

I’ve thought about this aspect (having vast knowledge – aka being the resident smart person) of the librarian persona a lot lately after having started the week with Michael Stephens as he began his whirlwind Tame the Web Northern Tour. Following the Monday session, one of my rural librarians came to me and said, “Y’know, Barb this is all very interesting, but I don’t see that it has a lot of relevance for me in my farming community. They don’t use computers, and we don’t have a need for blogs and wikis, and podcasts.”

We talked for a while (I talked, she nodded) until she agreed to come to our next blogging class and consider writing a blog for her library web presence, as a number of our members have. However, I think there is an element of truth in what she said. And therein lies the value for her (or any librarian) to become Library 2.0 literate. Communities have lots of utilities: the fire people, the power people, the water people, the roads people, and the smart people — that’s where libraries fit in. Who else can assume the responsibility for being the resident knowledge expert? Indeed, who else is there to do it? The majority of the library’s community might not be ready today to participate in wikis, or hear podcasts, but they sure as heck are hearing about them in the media. And who else is there to explain to them what’s going on? The library, as the utility for lifelong learning, has the opportunity to inform their communities about Library/Web/World 2.0. And who knows, pretty soon (if not already) there will be a use for a blog, or a wiki, or maybe even a podcast.

Media Center center of new school

KTTC TV carried a newstory tonight about Lyle, one of our schools. A quote from the the 10:00 news copied from the KTTC website: “Superintendent Jerry Reshetar is excited with the progress and he can’t wait to set up the media center which he says will be the central focus of the building and a great addition for the entire community.”

Note — he talked about the media center! Amazing! Additionally, this media center is run by Fran Zosulis, a great, fully certified media specialist. That is one lucky group of students who have a superintendent who cares about their media center. But then I’ve known it for a long time – ever since I met Mr. Reshetar. Congratulations, Lyle School and Community (population 500+). I can’t wait to see your new school and library media center in September.

Tame the Web Minnesota

Photos from Michael’s Tame the Web Minnesota tour on Flickr — tag ttwmn

Michael Stephens is here on day one of a 5-day tour of Minnesota. The room is packed with every type of library person, public, school, medical, board members

I’ll be posting all day high points.
His first “Hot” was “Rich User Experiences”

Barriers are sacred cows. Policies are born out of anxiety — anxiety that something may happen.

Commonalities of 2.0 Tools

  • tagging
  • commenting
  • RSS feeds
  • mash ups

Looking forward to the ILS that rolls tagging into their catalog (he thinks it will be SirsiDynix, because Steven Abrams gets it)

27.2 million blogs (Technorati)

Great job going over basics of blogging
Have a mission or goal statement on the blog

Asked who is using various WYSIWYG (Dreamweaver, Front Page, HTML coding)
Great sympathy for the HTML coding (ugh, that’s me)

Biblioblogosophere — “wonderful word”, coined by Karen Schneider
edited 5/17 – typo in spelling, should be biblioblogosphere — thanks, Karen(sorry)

Library Blogs:
Topical Blogs
Book Reviews
User specific information (teen, seniors, book clubs)

Book club has a blog, do discussion through comments

Ancestor Research Blog

Singled out school librarians — said “Glad you’re here, it’s hard to get school librarians out”

Other types of blogs:
Project Blogs
Association Blogs
Librarian Blogs

Transparency, example Urbana Public Library, progress on new library

Association Blogs totally anonymous blog, librarian on the front lines

Why blog?
It works
It’s fast, easy & cheap
Internal: Communication for staff
External: Selling your message
Gorman? Cronin?

Question – how to measure effectiveness of blog. MS says, “ask me again in a year” Says he’s working on this. Measure
Brand new site. Didn’t like Innovative OPAC. Developed own with overlaid WordPress (watch this closely)
Pulls in Amazon reviews, cover art
Released code to world.

Simply Put: Be Human
Talk to each other
Don’t hide
Successes & failures
Give the library a face

Took a break, gave some doorprizes! Shirts or “Perspectives” study

Enhances library web presence
Time consuming
Limited methods of linking
Fascinating to see what comes next

What could they do:
Add podcasts to circulating podcasts
Podcast as training tool
Get clearance – permission from speakers, etc.

Dave Winer, defination “automated web surfing”

Train staff to use Bloglines — important to keep up
Cuts down on time to keep up on news

PC: Amphetadesk, News Gator
Mac: NetNewsWire, iBlog
Web: Bloglines

Libraries can aggregate:
Local events
New book lists

With RSS Librarians can:
Keep in the know
Help your users find your stuff
Syndicate audio/video content about their library (podcasts & videocasts)

How can tools be free? Bloglines owned by ask (probably funded through them?)

Selling RSS:
Teach them
Promote feeds
Use them yourself
Be ready . . . it’s going to be big

Put your content out there where the library users are — through RSS

Instant Messaging Stats
Library using IM Reference, Michael says “Rock on”

At SJCPL did not get return on investment. Dropped VR. Replaced with IM
Have a separate IM for audio visual
Want library to be on Buddy List

Make IM part of technology plan
Promote screen name
Admin should be messaging
Trian & encourage staff to interface via IM from desks
Add IM name to business cards, sig files, presence

Use multi-network IM program (trillian does all 3 — otherwise you need to have all 3 open at once)
Use away messages
Use online sources only if the best answer can be given from them
Don’t panic

Question from audience — value of IM weighed against cost of interruption, especially in small library with less staff (and no reference staff)

There was the phone
Then there was IM
Now the phone – (example) send text message to Google

Skype — “should this be available on our user PCs”
“should we be doing ‘skype-ref?'”


“it’s a box, you type in it”

WorldCat wiki
Must register

The Wisdom of Crowds — more people are infinitely smarter
Harnessing the collective intelligence

ALA 2006 New Orleans

Welcome to the Blogging Libraries Wiki

Could design policy manual as a wiki

Media wiki, need a savvy person to do the install
Free — can do multiple wikis


illustration, Rutland Free Library, Vermont

Michael Casey, Rock the Shelves: Band Night 2005

Creative Commons license — will share — use this, just give credit

Flickr – $25/year commercial license

Social Networking Sites
MySpace/Facebook (academia)

See article by Dana Boyd — doing research

Second Life — “be aware . . . . a good place to visit”

Mashing up
Using APIs (Application Program Interface) to create new content
Many sites off
Google, Amazon

Example, mashup with Chicago libraries

Wall of books – Super Patron

Meeting the mission:
Mission & vision
fulfill goal or objective
best solution?
technology plan can guide innovation

Technology planning
Investigate & evaluate are good words
Mixture of admin & IT as well as front line staff — communicate about planning new services

lifespan of library tech plan: 1-2, not more than 5

12 Step Program for Technology Planning
1. Control your technolust
(beware technomust)
Techno-Divorce, let go of dead tech
Why are we doing this

#2. Plan for your users
user-centered planning
find new ways
involve users in planning from beginning
ask them what they want – don’t tell them what they need
OCLC’s Perceptions
meet the gamers
gaming tournaments at libraries
Beck on Gamers & Boomers
Create zones
Expand AV (circulate games)
Know each culture
Go global
Be a guide, not a boss
Personalize your Web services
Be attentive
Pew study: Millenials
team oriented,
immersed in media & gadgets
they use the Social web
Accept loss of privacy for accessibility
Their learning is shaped by technology & collaboration
Gamers learned to not fear failures
5 factors to consider (still in user)
2-1. Does it place a barrier between the user & the service
2-2. Is it librarian-centered or user-centered in conception
2-3. Does it add more rules to bulging book
2-4. Make more work for the user or the librarian?
2-5. Does it involve having to do damage control?

#3. Do your research first

#4. Communicate effectively
every step of the way, with staff, with users, involve all, listen

#5. Focus on the ROI
Value for users, you can tell this story
5 Steps for Implementation:
Create policy />Technology
Revisit the plan often
designate point person
form committee

#6. Become a trendspotter
Read Blogs & use RSS feeds
Read professional journals
LITA Top trends
Read outside of field
Library Landscape
Retail expectations

#7. Create Staff Buy-In
7-1 Listen to the staff
7-2 Involve staff in planning
7-3 Tell stories (a picture’s worth a million words)
7-4 Be transparent, tell the staff what you’re doing (staff is suspicious of your motives)
7-5 Report and debrief
7-6 Manage meetings well (Death by Meeting – Patrick M. Lencioni, Getting Things Done by David Allen)
7-7 Let them play (DDR)
7-8 Celebrate successes

#8. Training
Librarian 2.0 understands value of training
delivered trainin in person, online, offsite
part of staff development
part of culture – up and down
well-trained staff can carry your message to your users
Important to train staff on Bloglines
The Sandbox — let them play
Why are we doing this? it’s how our young users meet the world
Emerging technology group
(Michael’s blog post for tech source “are you dreaming”)
Training 2.0 is about:
many different ways to get to the end result
Brenda Hough – “Training in a 2.0 World”

#9. Consider Content
It’s the future
Digital Creation Stations
Mashups and Remixes
Apple slogan – Do something. Say something. Make something.
“The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution”
Generation C (creates content)
Community, conversation, collaboration, connections, commons

#10. Embrace Change & Learn
We’ve always done it this way
There’s no time for that

Never stop learning
Challenge yourself

Breathe & take care of yourself
Cluetrain Manifesto.
ALA TechSource Blog
Librarian 2.0
Harnesses the social tools of Web 2.0
Understands the Long Tail – people have access to just about anything, long tail of interests
Uses the Wisdom of Crowds
If we don’t “get it” users will pass us by (use the tools)
But why?
You are discoverable
Go where users are
You utilize IM
Share with flickr
Use social networking tools to keep the staff informed.
Use a blog/wiki for planning or new projects
Offer training (RFID, WiFi)
Extend conversation
Reach out to patrons on their terms
Interact via new tools that don’t break budget
Remain relevant to those “born with the chip”

Keep a “No” log. Every time you say no in the library (from Librarygarden)

Creative catalysts
John Cage: “I don’t know why people are afraid of new ideas. I’m afraid of old ones.”

5 steps you can do now
Train staff to aggregate RSS
Create an Emerging Technology Committee
Involve your users
Use Web 2.0 Tools in the Sandbox
Learn from the gamers

Question answer – US is very behind on our bandwidth availability/and in infrastructure.

Incendiary words

In the last few days, the library blogosphere has had a hey-day over ALA President Michael Gorman’s May column in American Libraries. (I find it amazing how many people read American Libraries, or did we all go looking for it buried in our in-basket, or online)

The most quoted paragraph is an adolescent name-calling tirade. I won’t give it yet another publication, but you can read it on several other library blogs – such as Library Crunch. Come on, Mr. President, “pseudo-librarians”, “yips”, “yawps”????

I will quote the second paragraph, in which Gorman does make valid points, if he has any readers left after the preceding words:

Here are the central issues: I believe there is a discipline called librarianship; that the core concerns of that discipline can be defined and codified into a core curriculum; that ALAs accreditation of LIS programs should depend on the faculty of those programs teaching and doing research into those central concerns; and that library educators and practitioners should work together through ALA to ensure that graduates of ALA-accredited programs receive the training that will enable them to build on their library education to become productive librarians. Moreover, I believe that those educated and trained librarians should be involved in both the practice of librarianship and in continuing education–another area in which the Association can work fruitfully with practitioners and library educators.

Several points:

  1. Gorman says: “. . . to ensure that graduates of ALA-accredited programs receive the training that will enable them to build on their library education . . .” The MLS is the beginning, the foundation. Well-prepared graduates will become “productive librarians” when they use all the appropriate tools at their disposal to accomplish the job. Tools come and go, and the “core concerns of the discipline” are much less changeable.
  2. Technology is the tool. We all know that. We pick the right tool for the right job. Some people are better at one tool, some at another.
  3. Good library organizations have a well-balanced staff, each who may have unique abilities with various tools and who all collaborate to bring the best possible service to their community.
  4. I hope the EbscoHost version of the now-famous editorial was faulty and that Mr. Gorman understands the need for a possessive – see the paragraph above “ . . . that ALAs accreditation of LIS programs . . .” (in which case, never mind)