Monthly Archives: January 2009

Let me bare my librarian soul…

Part of the Emerging Leaders project meetings involved the following exercise:

Pair up with someone in the room you don’t know. You each have one minute to tell your life story. First, I’d like you tell your life story from the perspective of a victim.
I’ll let you know when one minute for each of you has passed.
Great.
Now that you’ve shared, tell your life story from the perspective of being a hero.
Great.
Now tell your life story but relay it only from the perspective of the life lessons you’ve learned.

I thought it was going to be a really stupid exercise. I was really, really, really resentful that I was being forced to share my life story with someone I didn’t know at all. I did my best to share but edit gently.

Luckily, I had a really cool partner.

And you know what? I’m thinking of that experience today, and I’m not resentful. I really enjoyed it, and I really learned a lot about myself and my perspective of myself from that exercise.

It was really hard to be the victim. I kept trying to leap to the most positive things that happened, but that wasn’t really allowed. “Yeah, that sucked big time but later on something great happened!” I guess I’m a more positive person than I really thought.

Secondly, I was a bit embarassed to try and be the hero. But I couldn’t tell the story without making it funny. I think that’s true of librarians – we have a hard time making ourselves and our institutions into heroes.

And the life lessons…I hmmmed, and hawed and muttered something about learning to be patient. And now that I’ve had three or four days to think, I’ve realized how many life lessons I’ve really gained. And how I don’t appreciate or refer to those life lessons nearly enough. Wow…crazy…it’s like having an amazing personal resource center and never bothering to use it…

So, I went from resentfully baring my soul to really learning a lot. That six minute exercise is still making me think, days after the fact.

Something to ponder…

(p.s. I tried to find clipart a naked dude wearing a barrel.  No dice.  It got kinda kinky!  Yikes!)

Agnotology problem? I think I know a remedy…

I’m a little behind in reading this month’s edition of Wired Magazine.  But now I’m wide awake at 2 AM EST (Midnight in Denver) and restless and reading.  And I find an article entitled Manufacturing Confusion (subtitle: How more information leads to less knowledge).

As the article says, the historian Robert Proctor has come up with a new word for our language:

“He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

The idea is that in this world in which we are awash with information, special interest groups (for example) are easily able to stir up the proverbial sand and make the factual water very murky.  We are becoming an increasingly ignorant society according to Proctor because we don’t seek out truths – we wait for them to fed to us via that information pipeline called the web.  What’s that quote…We’re drowning in information but starving for knowledge.  Oh yes, we are.

The author of the article wraps up by saying this:

“Can we fight off these attempts to foster ignorance? Despite his fears about the Internet’s combative culture, Proctor is optimistic. During last year’s election, campaign-trail lies were quickly exposed via YouTube and transcripts. The Web makes secrets harder to keep.

We need to fashion information tools that are designed to combat agnotological rot. Like Wikipedia: It encourages users to build real knowledge through consensus, and the result manages to (mostly) satisfy even people who hate each other’s guts. Because the most important thing these days might just be knowing what we know.”

Huh, we need to fashion information tools huh?  Gee, where, oh where, would we get these tools?  Who will guide us through this information?  Hmmm.  I dunno, maybe a potential remedy to this situation is…a world wide network of damn good librarians.  Let’s step up to the plate, before Wikipedia becomes the answer for everything.  And if it must be the answer for many things, if it is the place that people go to for answers, then let’s make sure that we’re the ones editing it.  Because information is our business and we can’t be bit players.

Just something to think about.

I’m going to try to go to bed.  Again.

Hello from Midwinter!

Hi, sorry for the delay my darlings.

This Midwinter thing has been fun thus far.  I have photos but am having some technical difficulties, so those will have to come later.

First things first – yes, you can tell who the librarians are.  It’s incredible. 
Secondly, ALA only contributed to this phenomenon by providing all attendees with – neon orange bags.  Oh yes.  Best thing I heard all conference “So, what?  You want us to go pick up trash off the side of the road or something?”

Denver – great town.  Really walkable and people are pretty friendly.  My only experience with the city other than conference was when I was 10 and my family and I had a layover at the Denver airport on the way to California.  I remember seeing a cowboy leaning up against a pillar – cowboy boots, hat and all.  And it was forever the only thing I associated with Denver.  Now I associate Denver with cowboys and librarians with neon orange bags.

Mostly I’ve been in Emerging Leaders events.  I am going to have to explain the full program in greater detail another time, but let’s just say it’s newer librarians who have been identified for their proven leadership or desire to lead.  We all tackle a project to help change/improve ALA or some aspect of it.  It’s been interesting.  The energy and buzz in the room is incredible.  I’ve come away with some good lessons (that I’ll also share later – I’m working on a sleep deficit, folks – two hour time change…)

Hmm, just read my post.  If you were looking for constructive info on the conference, you came to the wrong place, I guess.  But I do promise I will be more clear in later posts.  Probably. 

For my friend the Blogbrarian who wanted a fashion report – yes, yes, it’s bad outfits galore.  I have seen more than one misguided attempt by attendees to fit in with the local culture and – gulp – wear very hideous cowboy boots.  However in good news, I must say a lovely trend towards great hair styles and excellent use of jewelry to accessorize.  How else would we all detract from our sensible, ugly shoes?  Let’s hope that at Annual Chicago, YALSA saves us all.

You want a map of Denver? I gotta map of Denver…

And here is it: http://net.educause.edu/section_params/conf/E04/images/map.pdf  It’s like five years old, but whatever, it works!  And if you are even half as directionally dysfunctional as I am, you will need every map you can get your hands on! (Love Educause – providers of the above map)

Many other great ones are available at http://www.denver.org/transportation/map

As for Midwinter…

denver_attending     See you there, yo.

Return On Investment – Prove It

Have you seen the ALA Economic Toolkit?  It’s got lots of handy info from how to develop talking points to managing the media.

Related to talking points…do you know what makes a great talking point?  Hard numbers.  And money.  People remember hard numbers given in a brief format – especially when the numbers carry a dollar sign.  And there is a lucky library that can say this:

“During the last fiscal year, our library was work $59,551,714 to the community.  To find out more about this tremendous return on investment, visit us online…”

That library is the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois, and you can see the webpage they’ve created by visiting http://www.ahml.info/about/ROI.asp

ALA provides a great calculator that’s available in the toolkit and that you can use here.

This is an example of providing great information on what libraries do for communities.  Take a hard look at the numbers your library tracks (and you are tracking, aren’t you???).  From door counts, to circ stats, to reference questions, to program attendance – there are countless ways to creatively combine statistics and financial information to demonstrate what the library is worth to a community.  Think outside the box and don’t just provide the normal info – give it context to community members to whom “circ stats” mean nothing.

Google Art

El Cardenal

El Cardenal

 I’ve been reading the International Herald Tribune for a few minutes each morning.  I like it because it covers more global issues with a slightly different perspective – whereas on CNN or MSN you just find the same news rehashed.

Anyways, this morning there was a neat article about a colloborative effort between the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain and Google Earth to bring the details of great masterpieces to life.  All the ability to zoom in to see detail, but instead of seeing, say, some dude picking his nose on main street, you can see the brush-strokes and cracked laquer of art masterpieces.  Kinda neat.  There’s potential for an interactive art program online for teens there.

Nice toolbar, baby

Cuyahoga County Public Library has a fantastic library toolbar that patrons can add to their web browser.  I am totally, TOTALLY, TOTALLY in love with it…

Check it out and tell your IT people: http://www.cuyahogalibrary.org/StdBackPage.aspx?id=17208

As an aside, I’m kinda thinking about doing a personal blog.  I’ve been inspired by the Blogbrarian and The Pioneer Woman.  They are both fabulous women with small herds of children and creativity by the truckloads.  I can only aspire to be as funny as they are.  I normally would not think my life would be blog-worthy, but in the last week some of the oddest things have happened (and the most beautiful sunrises have occurred over the Missouri River valley) and it’s getting to the point that I have to share for the sole reason of describing the oddness.  (Somehow in blogging about it, it makes it all seem a little less crazy.  For instance, finding out the The Dude’s apartment used to be a brothel during WW I, or seeing the biggest cockroach EVER in January, or watching one of the many yorkshire terriers in the neighborhood escape from her yard only to go and harass the neighborhood pit bull who very pitifully ran away…) 

Anyways, that’s my thought for the day…peace out, my peeps.

Defining Library Leadership

leaderUnless you’ve been living under your desk for the last couple of years, then all the talk related to the shrinking pool of library administrators is not new to you.  I don’t know about you, but I feel inundated with journal articles, listserv posts, and blogs telling me about how few leaders there are in the profession – about how library administrators are retiring at a faster pace than they can be replace at and that no one actually wants to be an administrator or a leader.

So, I’ve been thinking about this.  This is all personal opinion, which I’m quite good at distributing liberally, but hear me out.  Being an administrator and being a leader are two completely different things.  A library can have one administrator and many leaders.  In fact, systems that fit that description seem to thrive, if the leaders’ skills are well directed.

Librarians don’t want to be administrators because it appears to them that being an administrator looks like a lot of pushing and pulling.  Pulling people to new ideas, pushing people to reconsider their budgets, pulling people to adopt new customer service techniques, pushing people to not do things the ‘old’ way.

But in library school, for instance, you hear a good deal of talk about why the library world needs more administrators.  Why it really would benefit people to consider administration roles as a future career.  Here’s an idea…why don’t we explore what it means to be a LEADER first?

Being a leader can be very easy if it builds on a persons strengths.  You can lead quietly, you can lead loudly, but dang it, just lead.  Blogging is leading.  (Heh Heh…like that pat on my own back?)  Being an early technology adopter is leading.  Going to conference and sharing what you learned is leading.  Being on a committee for your state association is leading.  Fearlessly trying new library trends is leading.  Being creative, trying new things, stepping up to the plate when needed – those are all leader qualities.  And those leader qualities eliminate a good deal of the push and pull that administrators struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

But then that changes the task of the administrator.  You can no longer be in constant control.  You can no longer be power hungry.  Leadership becomes about shaping goals, providing vision, timing events, adding structure to the creative and professional output of all those leaders that are being enabled.

I guess my point is that maybe as a profession we need to redefine what leadership means and how people can demonstrate leadership.  We need to clarify that you don’t have to carry a traditional leadership role to guide the profession and your individual library.  I think once more library professionals feel comfortable with being leaders, then we’re going to have a lot more administrators.

Ridiculously sick…and thoughts on Kansas

So, I was ridiculously sick last week and didn’t even feel like touching my computer.  But while laying in a cough syrup induced semi-coma, I began to think of some of the major differences I’ve noticed about Kansas and Michigan.  Some library related (well, only one), others not-so-much.  Though I miss Michigan and my friends, I’m enjoying Kansas and the life I’ve got here.  It’s fun to see something different and it’s kind of a different culture in some ways.  Keep in mind, I’m in a slightly more rural area of Kansas…so I’m not talking about Kansas City or Topeka or Wichita in my notes.  Need to go do more city safaris.

– No coney islands.  That’s the saddest thing about Kansas to me.  Those staples of metro Detroit life…the coney island restaurant, do not seem to be in existence here.  I’m going to start looking harder.  It appears that once you drive west of Chicago, people no longer need mousaka, chili dogs, or lemon rice soup available to them 24 hours a day.  Breakfast is only served in the mornings in Kansas restaurants.  These people have no idea what they’re missing!

– Now that said, the most positive thing?  The pace of life is so much nicer here.  People don’t honk much when driving down the road.  And for the post part, folks are very, very nice.  I have been in the grocery store and been asked by the employees there if I need help finding anything.  IF I NEED HELP FINDING ANYTHING!  As if it is their job to help me find the groceries I need if I am wandering through the aisles looking lost!  And then I realize…it is there job to help me find something if I can’t find it!  It’s just that in Michigan most grocery store employees try to avoid eye contact.  (I worked in grocery stores for many years…don’t tell me I’m wrong…I’ll kick your…)

– I do, in fact, have an accent.  And apparently it’s obvious.  And people find it humorous.  I uttered the phrase “out and about” (oot and a-boot) a couple weeks ago to the guy behind the desk at the post office and he just about turned his face inside out trying not to laugh. 

– Growing up in a small town in Michigan, I’m used to not having a big food selection at the grocery store.  But I gotta tell ya, the selection in most of the grocery stores in Kansas is lacking.  (I need Middle Eastern food…I was raised by a Middle Eastern dad and a girl needs tabbouleh sometimes).  But the barbeque?  It’s orgasmic.  (Read again…I said orgasmic…).  It’s incredible.  What’s that Japanese term…umame?  Kinda like savory, but better?  I think that’s what makes KC BBQ so good…umame. 

– There is a library system in Missouri that shall remain nameless, but I think they are privatized.  And from everything I’ve observed, it’s not pretty.  One professional librarian at every branch, all the other employees are paraprofessionals.  All cataloging and purchasing done at a main office.  It’s bad for two reasons…non-librarians without a decent amount of training are answering reference questions…but are they doing it well?  (I think there are a lot of paraprofessionals who do a lot of great work at the ref desk, but I’m admittedly a fan of librarians being on desk…it’s a whole other post).  And how can one office purchase for all branches?  You’d hope that a branch would be a reflection of it’s community.  I hope they at least look at circ stats before purchasing from that one main office.

As you can see, I’m feeling a bit fiesty again.  It’s good to be back.  I’m almost fully decongested!  Then I’ll be unstoppable!