Friday, July 18, 2008

And still more on ALA

My one committee assignment for ALA right now is ALA/APA fundraising. What most people don't realize is that it is illegal for ALA to give APA any continuing financial support. ALA can give loans, but no subsidy. APA not only has to become self sustaining, but it also has to repay the loans ALA made to get it started. Since no one on the committee has any real experience in fundraising, this is quite a challenge. We were responsible for the APA Angel event to recognize the people who have given support to the association. And we worked on a direct mail solicitation (which I had been told is still the most effective way to raise money). Most of APAs money comes from selling reports that it generates on salaries and other HR information. However, the fundraising group keeps coming up with ideas for events to raise money and visibility for APA. Most of them seem to be a lot of work and I think would be very hard to pull off, like Library Jeopardy played at Midwinter or Annual. However, the other day I was asked to donate money to two different people who are hoping to "kiss a pig" at the Harford County Farm Fair this year. The money raised will support the Boys and Girls Club. It reminded me of all those MSD fundraisers where people get put in jail and their friends have to bail them out. And the school campaigns where teachers or school principals do silly things like eat bugs or sit on the roof of the school if kids read X number of books. Maybe that would be a fundraiser for APA. I am not sure what the silly thing is that people would get to do if they raise a certain amount of cash, but I would think that it would raise the profile and might be fairly easy to organize (I told you that I minimal fundraising skills).

In addition to programs and committees, I had my usual good time in exhibits. I am still drawn to the children's book booths although I have finally taught myself not to pick up scads of pins, pads of paper and posters. Of course now that so many books are given away, that is an even heavier temptation than brightly colored posters! It turned out that the two authors I would have most liked to see, Lois Ehlert and M. T. Anderson were both in exhibits on Monday when I was safely on my way home.

I did see an interesting solution to the DVD/CD/video game security problems. It is shelving where the cases are locked into the shelf. Customers can locate what they want by flipping through the choices on the shelf, then they go to a self checkout unit and scan their card. After the card is approved, they put in the shelf number of the item and get a receipt. They go back to the shelf, scan the receipt and the case is unlocked. People can also look for what they want in the self check unit rather than going through all the items on the shelf. The items aren't kept in any particular order. When something is checked back in, it is simply snapped into whatever cases are empty on the shelves. The comapny also makes lockers where people can pick up holds after hours. The system is installed at the Frederick County Public Library.

I also saw some neat furniture for kids that has toy boats or cars with magnets that are sealed between two layers of glass (or maybe plexiglass). The children can move the toys around with a magnet that sits on the table. It really looked like fun and pretty indestructable.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back to ALA. Other programs that I attended at ALA (in addition to the program that Michelle Bayuk and I did for ALA/PLA newbies):

  • PrimeTime: Family Reading Time. This is a NEH funded program that began in Louisiana to promote reading in families. It is a cross generational program that intends to improve reading and comprehension skills in children while encouraging families to read out loud together and to talk about what they read. The program has been so successful in Louisiana that it has spread to forty other states with 887 sites in all. Maryland is not one of the states that have used the program. Recently they began an additional program targeted at families where Spanish is the primary language.
  • A program on sister libraries. This goes back to when Sarah Long was ALA President and encourages libraries to form relationships with libraries in other countries. I had a difficult time hearing what the speakers were saying, but I picked up a detailed brochure on what to think about and how to get started.
  • A LITA program on technical trends. This was interesting after the ULC program because they actually did demonstrate some of the technological trends that they discussed. In addition to the panelists, they had two people at other sites who were shown on one giant screen, plus they were using twitter so that people could make comments on the program as it was going on. They reduced the lighting to make it easier to read the screens, which meant for me that I had a hard time concentrating on the live speakers because their faces were in shadow. So instead I concentrated on the twitter comments. However they ranged all over the map with some comments on what the panelists were saying but also on the technical problems that were occurring with the off site speakers, general observations and comments like one of the speakers had a new haircut. As observing a techinique, it was all very interesting, but I don't think I know much more about technical trends than I did before. After the LITA program, Joe Janes gave another talk. Although he used several themes that he had used at the ULC conference, the focus of this talk was on the expandability of the library experience. It can be a real space or a virtual space. He is a lively speaker, so it was enjoyable, but he didn't say anything terrible new. There was also a panel of reactors who were also lively, but they didn't say anything particularly new either.
  • I also attended the reception for ALA/APA where they recognized people who had supported the nascent organization either through donations or sweat equity. They also recognized the first recipients of the certification program that is one of ALA/APAs main responsibilities.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back from ALA

Despite good intentions, I haven't blogged on libraries since I wrapped up 23 Things, but I thought this migt be a good way to report on ALA in Anaheim.

Audra, Mary, Jamie and I began with an all day program sponsored by ULC. It was called Foresight 2020 and was supposed to get the participants thinking about what libraries will look like by 2020. Parts of the day were really stimulating and parts were a little disappointing. John Seely Brown was the morning speaker. His examples came mostly from academia, but they were still close enough to home that my head was swirling by the time he was done. His point was that colleges are still mired in a teaching mode that is ancient while the students have moved on to the 21st century. Many of his comments about how disengaged the students are hit a target for me, it wasn't quite in the way he meant. The students in a huge lecture hall all spent most of their time totally ignoring the professor, but it reminded me of a required introductory class on British history that was totally boring. The lecture was compulsory and so to pass the time I knitted, read Time or Newsweek or wrote letters to friends. The 20th century equivalent of Facebook and Googling. Students haven't really changed; they have just updated their methods for handling boredom. OTOH his discussion on social learning which emphasizes a collaborative process was thought provoking and made me think about the way our libraries are laid out which leads to an emphasis on maintaining order for all rather than recognizing and accepting that many people from late teens (maybe even early 20s?) really want a group experience. The afternoon session was a sharp contrast. Although the speakers were much younger (Brown is either a Boomer or even a bit older), their purpose at the program seemed to be to convey to the participants that young people (the Gen Xers) still love books even while they embrace technology. The message was soothing, but a little condescending and definitely a soporific after the morning's session. Probably not a good thing after lunch. The wrap up was Joe Janes from the U of Washington library school. He had a very high energy level and so the program ended on an adrenaline high, but probably the most memorable portion of his talk was a photo of a library reference desk which he said was from 1906. He said that if he showed a picture of an operating room from 1906 to a group of surgeons, they would probably have difficulty relating to it, but he said "Put a computer up there and you are ready to roll." and he was right! ULC is hoping to keep a dialog going on the issues raised and has set up a page on the website that people can access for blogging. Supposedly other staff who didn't attend the program can hear podcasts and join in the discussion. If they can keep it all going...

The next day Mary and I went to the ULC deputy directors discussion group. These sessions are usually pretty loose with no specific agenda. Someone throws out a topic and it us discussed until people run out of ideas/information. We learned about a long running program that Phil. Free Library has for teens. It is a competitive program where the teens who are selected are trained for certain basic tasks (like helping at computers) plus they are used as a sounding board for programs. In addition at the end of the year they plan an all day program for teens. The program is not aimed at the "best and the brightest" but at kids who are in the middle of the pack who are less likely to get selected for stuff. Phil Free Library has also developed several ways of helping staff help the different ethnic groups who use the library. The deputy director handed out phrase booklets that they have developed. Customers can point at the phrase that best explains what they want and the staff can point at the phrase that most approximates the answer.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The end!

Although I often felt like I was on a moving sidewalk, passing a tempting buffet of ideas that I could only taste, this was a great experience. Even though I gave more attention to some parts of 23 Things than others, I now feel that when someone talks about something on the web, I am not totally clueless. Even better I have learned about some Web 2.0 pieces that I know I will use again: Flickr,, Library Thing, wikis. I have found some great blogs that I will continue to follow and I expect to keep blogging for at least personal use. The challenge for all of us is to keep 23 Things alive and active in our work, not just personally. We can use wikis and blogs for communicating with our customers as well as managing projects. Someone pointed out to me that is a great way to track favorites from the web without worrying that a library's computer could crash and all the files would be lost. Flickr is a great way of organizing and sharing photos of library events. We could use podcasts and youtube for mini training pieces or to offer mini book talks to our customers. This really is a matter of just letting the mind roam and trying things out. However, I have to go back to the article by Dr. Wendy Schultz where she talks about what comes after Web 2.0. I came away feeling that while we were all learning how to organize our blogs and discussing whether or not to use Myspace, the rest of the world is now in Secondlife and our next branch should be located there. How far are we from Library 4.0 with its combination of old fashioned print and holograms of children's picture books which are accessible through some microchip that we carry in our wrists? I was amused by the end of her article where she described a cozy virtual space that she called the knowledge spa. She said that it would recreate the old image of a country house library with the smell of leather, the provision of fine brandy and the rustle of pages. Definitely the dream of a Boomer. In the best of all possible worlds we will be able to provide her vision, and at the same time create the far livelier space of bright lights, colors and noise with energy drinks and snacks for a younger generation who want to gather in groups to enjoy a lively interchange via whatever technology is big while at the same time talking to the people immediately next to them. And it will all be available when everyone wants it at the time that want it with minimal effort.


This turned out to be much more frustrating than I expected. I had no trouble pulling up the little Merlin lesson, but then when I tried to find something to listen to on, I kept coming up with messages that they couldn't find anything even though I was putting in things like Terry Gross who I knew had podcasts. So then I moved on to Podcast Alley. I had much better success in finding podcasts on topics that I dreamt up, but I was having a hard time following the instructions on how to download them. So I moved on to Yahoo podcasts. Just like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, this one was "just right." Of course it helped that I found some topics on their "most popular" listings that looked interesting, but the whole process of getting something going was just much easier. This all reminded me of my ill fated attempts to download audio books to my MP3 player a couple of years ago. Ugh. That and the difficulty I have with audio quality between my poor hearing and the speakers on my computer don't make this a very happy option for me.
I decided for the last exercise to take a look at Project Gutenberg, which I haven't seen since its very early days. Through random selection, I picked "Nat Love, better known in cattle country as Deadeye Dick." I had no trouble downloading it and the print looks like basic typescript. Then I realized that I was supposed to be working with downloadable audio books. I have downloaded audiobooks to my computer before although my attempts to go from there to an MP3 player have failed in the past and I gave the player to my daughter.


I picked Yelp from the Web 2.0 awards list, since I am always looking for travel information. I selected two cities that I know fairly well, San Francisco and Chicago, and then started messing around. I spent the most time with San Francisco and generally thought the comments on restaurants were on target. The basic problem for me is that the people posting are all way below my age range, which means that probably for much of the shopping, they are focusing on things that would appeal to a very skinny, very young audience. I would have to spend a lot more time on the site getting used to how it is put together to see how helpful it would be if I didn't know anything about a city.


Zoho really is as neat as everyone has been saying. And easy to use! I was able to post my grocery list to the blog with no hassle at all. However, when I printed it out, the only part that came was the grocery list and not the little introductory piece about multi-tasking.
This is something I would really like to play around with some more to see how it works when I am trying to use it as an alternate to Microsoft Office. The thought of not having to worry whether I am storing it on my home computer or my work computer or something else in between is great. Of course, I do have to have access to the web...