(Data)base! How low can you go?


Still waiting to hear from the state what’s going on with POWER library.  My sources tell me it might be a while.  And, as that veritable sage Tom Petty once put it, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

The plus side to waiting, though, is that you have plenty of time to scheme plan and agitate collaborate.  It’s always good to have a plan, and it’s about time you heard a little more about some of the fine people I work with, and what we do.

I will do my best to make these topics as “sexy” as possible, but sometimes there’s just no way to dress up a skunk:  librarians care, and very deeply, about electronic resources.  Patrons tend not to know, or care, how the magicians do their tricks…until the money runs out, and resources are cut.  I provide this information anyway, in the hopes that it will be useful to someone.

Allegheny County Databases 101

Library users in Allegheny County have access to three levels of database service, provided in different ways.  Let’s take it from the top down.

Pennsylvania POWER Library

This is the suite of electronic resources that is available to all libraries in the commonwealth. It is currently paid for by the state of Pennsylvania, but based on the 57.1% reduction to the line item that includes these resources, its future is uncertain.  These databases are selected and purchased by either the state library or a statewide committee of library staff, I believe–someone please correct me if this is not so.  It’s a tad shrouded in mystery, and I’d like a little more transparency on the process, myself…

EREC Databases

The Electronic Resources Evaluation Committee is a committee of the Allegheny County Library Association.  It is composed of librarians who represent different geographical regions within the county, as well as staff from the Electronic Information Network, a/k/a EIN, which currently handles the statistics reporting and tech troubleshooting for countywide electronic resources.   EREC purchases are funded from a variety of sources, which makes deciding issues about their administration (including tech support and stats-keeping) a touch complicated.

All databases selected by EREC are available to all library cardholders in Allegheny County, regardless of which library issued their card.  The committee meets once a month to decide which products to keep or cancel, discuss other electronic products on the market, set up trials, discuss the outcome of trials, and generally keep tabs on the state of library electronica. 

Individual Library Subscriptions

Each of the county’s libraries–and there are quite a lot that are not part of the CLP system–has the option to purchase individual database subscriptions with their collection development budgets.

CLP has its own Database Selection Committee (DBSC), which is made up of representatives from both Main Library and the branches, who make decisions about what, if any resources, we want to buy for CLP cardholders on top of what the county and state provide. Individual subscriptions have pros and cons, which we will examine more in detail when we discuss the patrons’-eye view of all this.

Everybody with me so far?  All righty then:

Chain Lightning

When all is working well, this three-tiered system actually functions more like an equilateral triangle, with all limbs in perfect balance, resting on a solid base.  If Bob Ross were here to paint it, he might call it a happy little triangle.

In our current situation, however, with steep budget cuts to POWER that could very well eliminate the majority of the subscription databases, a chain reaction has begun.

The current posse of fine folks on EREC are currently creating a survey, meant to be distributed to staff countywide, so they can provide feedback on what resources are key for them and their patrons.  A patron-friendly version of the survey, which will appear on the county database page, will glean info from library users.

The surveys will, hopefully, tell EREC a few important things it needs to know, namely:

  1. Which databases are most useful to library staff.
  2. Which databases are most useful to patrons.
  3. Which POWER library databases EREC should try to purchase if the state drops their subscriptions.
  4. Which EREC databases we should cancel to make room to pick up POWER subscriptions.

Do you see the bind that crops up there with points 3 and 4?  Given that the public library subsidy was cut 20% statewide, chances are good that EREC will have LESS money to spend in 2010, it will boil down to canceling some resources in order to save others.

Good times.

Whatever choices EREC makes will trickle down to individual libraries.  If, for example, a particular database is canceled countywide, each individual library may choose to research pricing, and make a purchase for its own cardholders.  Given that many vendors do their pricing by population served and/or number of cardholders, electronic resources are less expensive the smaller your service area gets.

The only problem there is that it creates little “service ghettos,” in which the quality of electronic access varies widely depending on how much collection money a library has to dedicate to databases.  This is what we library professionals like to call “uncool.”

The Patron Perspective

Patrons don’t care who buys what, what standards they use, or where the monies come from.  They simply want what they want.  This is human nature, and I am at peace with it.

Besides, look at it from the average patron’s point of view.  To her/him, does it matter who bought what for whom?  Nope.  S/he just wants the information, not an object lesson on service models.  And when s/he asks why s/he has access to some databases and not others, there’s currently no way to answer this question without boring the living daylights out of the poor patron.

If I ruled the world…

As you may have gathered, I think about these issues quite a bit.  I’ve been immersed in this stuff for about two years now, so I’ve certainly had plenty of time to consider it.  I’ve served on the DBSC and EREC, and then suddenly found myself as chair of both. 

From a certain perspective, this makes the job a lot easier:  when I get pricing for things, I can measure twice and cut once.  However, wearing multiple hats also forces me to think about everything twice as long and twice as hard.  What’s really in everybody’s best interests?  What is the solution that will be best for my library and its patrons, as well as other libraries and their patrons?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, in most cases, it really makes more sense to buy databases on a countywide level, especially databases that give access to full-text journal articles.  It seems ridiculous to have an army of little full-text fiefdoms – better to make the purchase on a wider scale, making as many journal articles available to as many people as possible.

In a way, this is not unlike the argument for opening up the gifted curriculum to students of all levels.  Trips to the ballet, and chess lessons, and visits to art museums, are just the ticket for the high-achievers.  But perhaps, if the “regular” or “under-performing” kids had those opportunities as well, it would cause them to flourish and grow?  While every library should be free to spend its individual collection budgets as it sees fit, I can think of very few situations where a boutique database is needed.

Obviously, there are exceptions, and sometimes pricing on a countywide scale is prohibitive.  Why shouldn’t a library pick up that would please its patrons if countywide pricing is not feasible?  Still, if I ruled the world, I’d do a complete overhaul of the current three-tier system.  Here are some of the changes I’d make:

  1. There would be a countywide database coordinator whose sole responsibility would be the care and feeding of the EREC databases.
  2. That person’s duties would include, but not be limited to:  researching products, designing and producing promotional brochures, scheduling–and, if necessary, teaching–training sessions, creating Camtasia and/or video tutorials for staff and patrons, maintaining an electronic resources blog to keep everybody in the county abreast of electronica, serving as liaison to EREC and whomever selects state resources, as well as being a consultant for libraries on an individual basis.
  3. And speaking of the state, a huge part of this person’s job would be to let some sunshine in on just exactly how those POWER databases are selected.  They’d also be responsible for promtion of and training on state-provided resources.
  4. If, after closer examination it was felt that was the best solution, this person would also be responsible for database tech support and statistics gathering for all the county libraries.
  5. Given the scope of 2 & 3, this person should be compensated A Very Lot.   Perhaps not as much as a director, but definitely more than the average librarian. 
  6. A subscription to The Charleston Advisor should be part of this person’s benefits package. Either that or the agency that employed him/her should pick up the tab.

You can see why I won’t be put in charge of anything anytime soon.  I can just hear you now:  “Where, foolish dreamer, is there money for that in this current economic climate?”

My only response on that point is, you get what you pay for.

If you have made it to the end of this post with your eyeballs still firmly lodged in their sockets, I salute your fortitude.  Blathering about all this has been helpful for me because I have been asked to give not one, but two, presentations about databases within the next few months, and spilling it out in a blog entry has been insanely helpful in terms of brainstorming what I want to say.

Comments / questions / clarification?  Let me know.

Indeed A Stage: Librarians and Theater


Well, that was fun!  But, all good things must come to an end.  I really enjoyed being on stage again after — yikes! — twelve years.  I suppose it’s less than that, given that I performed at Friday Nite Improvs for a few years. But it’s been more than a decade since I had to memorize a script and put on multiple shows in a weekend.  I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I started rehearsing, too.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, “Well, dear, that’s very sweet and all, but shouldn’t you go back to being a grown-up now?”  I suppose I should, rather.  Still, there are plenty of grown-up, sophisticated library bloggers about–I’ve decided that I’d much rather be the holistic type who tries to convince you that things like theater and improv could actually be good for your career.

Consider the reference librarian.  S/he frets and struts an hour or two upon the refdesk, then is no more (presumably s/he’s in a back office somewhere, ordering books, attending meetings, ripping her/his hair out, etc.).  S/he has scheduled entrances and exits, and when s/he’s at the desk, s/he has a role to play.

Occasionally these roles are scripted; more often, they’re improvisational.  You have a situation/location (the reference desk) and a relationship (librarian/patron).  Although there are a number of different shapes the conversation could take (Where’s the bathroom?  Do you have Jane Eyre? Does this reference book make my bag look fat?), you have absolutely no idea what any given person is going to say to you, and you have to be ready to respond in the moment.

One thing I love about improv is its reliance on “Yes, and.”  In the best improv scenes, the partners roll with the reality of the situation no matter how far-fetched it becomes.  “Did you steal a kidney from the transplant truck? ”  “Yes, and I wanted you to see it first–happy anniversary, honey!”  Hopefully nobody is bringing transplant organs to your desk, but they are bringing you a lot of other transactions where “Yes, and” is an appropriate response.  For example:

“Do you have The Castle of Otranto?” Yes, and you might also like The Mysteries of Udolpho, Northanger Abbey, or The Monk!

“Is there a bathroom on this floor?” Yes, and I’d be happy to show you where it is.

“Can I take books out of this section?” Yes, and nearly all of the other books on this floor are available for checkout, too.

“How many items can I take out at a time?” 50, (yes implied) and that total includes 10 DVDs, 10 CDs, etc.

The skeptical among you might be wondering, “Okay Tallulah Bankhead, what about those of us who don’t work in public service?”  Just because you don’t work directly with the public doesn’t mean you’re never going to be asked to give a presentation or, at the very least, speak in a meeting.  In fact, the amount of public service you do seems to be inversely proportionate to the number of meetings you must attend (I’d like a grant to study this — wouldn’t you?).  Why not get over your fears by trying out a few improv games?   At the very least, your next staff meeeting / training will be the one your colleagues will discuss for years to come.  “Remember back in the summer of aught-nine, when Tallulah had us play ‘Freeze’?  Good times!”

One shameless omission from both lists is “Questions,” in which the scene partners can only speak in queries.  This is a lot harder than it sounds, but a great way to break your brain out of its usual channels and stimulate some creative thinking.  And isn’t that something else we Librarians 2.0 are supposed to be doing?

Future posts will, I promise, be more “normal,” but I think the most important thing my return to the stage has taught me is that the boundaries between work and home are a lot more porous than most of us imagine.  After all, it’s not like we completely shed our personalities when we step into our offices–decorum might suggest we keep certain things under wraps, and tact will always be a huge part of professionalism.  Still, we are who we are, quirks, personalities, interests, and all.  I’m in favor of a holistic paradigm of library science, where who we are outside of our offices can feed and nurture the kinds of things we do inside of them.

Just a theory.  What sorts of things do you do in your leisure time that sustain your workday persona?

Back later this week with more whimsical thoughts…

ALA 2009 Recap


And we’re back to what passes for normal!  Here is a quick recap of other ALA goings-on.

Emerging Leaders Salon

This was a post-emergence session designed for us to plan out our next steps for getting more involved in ALA.  Although I haven’t yet updated the portion of the wiki devoted to this, I know what I’m going to write, which is half the battle.  My main interest is learning more about ALA Council, because it is either praised or reviled, with very little middle ground.  If there’s a polarized element in our profession, I want to be there as an independent embedded journalist, as it were.  So, you’ll see random posts from me in 2009-10 about ALA Council, how it works, etc.

Salon was also the opportunity for fellow Emergent Christine Ayar and I to stand up and make our modest proposal pitch:  given the state of the economy, we thought it would be a nice gesture if the 2009 Emerging Leaders class sponsored somebody from the 2010 class.  There were enough of us in the cohort that a sponsorship could be raised with a modest individual contribution, but the prospect of standing up in front of people and asking them for money made me a little nervous! 

Much to my relief, the response was positive, and many people were willing to make contributions on the spot.  And now that I’ve had experience with the sort of thing our development folks do all day, albeit on a miniature scale, I have a whole different perspective about it.  If I really want to keep fundraising on my list of competencies to develop (and I really, really do), I have a lot of research to do, and a lot of advice to get.  Best of all, though, it makes me feel really good to be part of a group that also resonates with the idea of giving back out of the good fortune we have received.

Street Smarts A Plus

I attended “Street Smarts A Plus:  Developing a New Generation of Urban Public Librarians” – you can read the handouts here, but they only contain one speaker’s notes – I hope that changes, as it was an intriguing panel indeed. Most fascinating to me was the info about the Queens Public Library’s Page Fellows program, to which I’d give you a link, but can’t really find one source that does it justice.

I’m keenly interested in the future of libraries, and this panel dovetailed with our EL group’s project. We’re committed to trying to attract the passionate, versatile diverse people urban libraries are going to need. What I would’ve liked to hear more about, though, were the challenges of an urban public library, and how to prepare for them. I suppose I probably should’ve gone to the “Shooter in the Library!” panel for that, but I had a conflict.

At any rate, the slides that are available are very good! Here’s hoping the other speakers choose to update.

Emerging Leaders Subcommittee Meeting

Seeing a trend here? I just can’t let it go. In fact, I’d really like to serve on this subcommittee as part of my 2-year committment to EL, but I need to a) formally ask, and b) find out if I can participate virtually, at least for one of the two 2010 conferences.

A number of other ELs were there, and we discussed different ways to change and improve the program.  It was interesting to hear other perspectives I hadn’t considered, and extremely happymaking to hear the young lady from NMRT (whose name I do not recall, more’s the pity) say that NMRT will sponsor automatic NMRT membership for everybody selected.  This is what ALA 2.0 should look like, I think:  divisions and roundtables and committees working across boundaries to advance common interests!

Because I’m me, you know I’m wondering about ways to bring the EL experience down to state and local levels.  I think I want to get through this play first – lines to learn and all – but September seems like a good time to start having brainstorming sessions with folks who might be interested.  Leave some room for another LAV crazy idea in your Outlook calendar. :)

Exhibits/ Vendors

I attended at least one vendor breakfast, and hit the exhibits with a number of super-secret assignments to perform.  Vendor relations is yet another one of those things that I never thought I’d do – it doesn’t come up in library school, and it didn’t hit my radar until I came up to Reference, so I’m coming to it a ways into my career.  Still, it’s been valuable and educational, and I learn something from every single conversation, both what to do, and what not to do.

My favorite vendors are the ones who respond to customer input, are easy to reach, and understand that I’m not always available to take their calls.  In fact, the most valuable part of dealing with vendors is, again, boundary setting:  being able to express what you do and do not need, learning to say no in a kind way, and being able to communicate that yes, you do want to talk to them…just not right now!

Sales is a difficult job, and dealing with salespeople is part of many librarians’ lives.  I think it would be great if, profession-wide, we talked about this a bit more.  If this conversation is happening, and I’m not in on it, can somebody point me to it?  Please and thanks!

So, there’s that.  It’s going to be an interesting fall around here, that’s for certain.  I wouldn’t have it any other way…

When next we come back, I’ll have descended from the clouds and returned to earth.  Library world can be very airy.  It’s good to soar…but it’s time for your alchemist to get grounded.

Another 23 Things ‘N @ Interlude


This is too good not to share – this week the 23 Things ‘N @ crew is studying YouTube and Flickr. Once again, folks went above and beyond, and here’s the empirical proof: another summer reading video, this time from the Community Library of Allegheny Valley, Harrison:

Good Grieg!

Have a safe and happy Fourth, everyone. I’ll try to get back on track next week, before we launch once more into the ALA Chronicles…

Summer Reading 2.0


I couldn’t leave us on the last post’s lugubrious note – not when there are so many cool things afoot.

For example, one of our 23 Things ‘N @ participants created an awesome video to show off her library’s summer reading activities. Observe:

Hurray for Scott Township!  And trust me: you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a Frownie.

So many things I want to blog about, so little time! What I really want to write about, though, is reading 2666. I’ve finally finished it, and I have some thoughts about the process of reading it, given that it’s a 900-page unfinished novel in a Web 2.0 world.

Fashionably Late to the 23 Things Party


The big day has finally arrived: 23 Things N’@ went live today, and as of right now over 280 people have registered. Not only that, but 44 folks have already started their week one assignment.

You might be wondering why I’m so giddy. After all, didn’t everybody already do this last year, or the year before? Haven’t we all moved on to the next splendid, shiny thing?

Well, no, not so much. Something I’ve tried to point out over the course of this blog (sometimes gently, sometimes not) is that Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are different.  We have power users, but we also have a lot of patrons who are still functioning at a less-than-basic level.  And although the unwritten code of the library blogosphere states that we’re never supposed to say this out loud, sometimes we really are too busy to incorporate emerging technologies into the workday, especially when we’re up to our eyeballs in reference questions that require multiple trips to the stacks, and simply cannot be answered in 48 hours or less.

[Yes, that means I haven't checked our Twitter account today.  I shall hold out my wrist for the wet noodle-lashing I so richly deserve. It also means I'm willing to put my MLIS on the line that the Stravinsky question I spent two days working on could NOT be easily Googled. :)]

What that means is that, professionally, we’ve really had to slow down and think about what Library 2.0 means in a patron population where there are still a lot of 1.0 needs to fill.  As librarians, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves in all areas, which is why Team Celery Stick worked so hard to pull this off.  However, we also have a responsibility to make sure that, while we are leaping boldly forward, that there is No Pittsburgher Left Behind.

So, while I still like the image of us sauntering in the room a little bit late (clad, of course, in our fetching little Chanel suits that we scored at the thrift store on Ellsworth), I prefer to think of us as being right on time for ourselves and our patron needs.  If we’d done this when everybody else did, we would’ve deprived ourselves of the year of discussion and debate around these issues.  Now that we’re ready to move forward, I honestly can’t see anyone or anything stopping us.

Those of you who have never visited our fair city might be wondering what’s up with the ‘n@” part of 23 Things.  ” N’at” is a lovely little phrase peculiar to the Pittsburgh speech pattern, and I couldn’t begin to explain it to you if I tried.  You can, however, click here and here for, respectively, a scholarly and a fun explanation of why there’s no linguistic place on the planet quite like Allegheny County. :)

At any rate, while the program is going on, this blog is going to be quite Things-centric, but I promise I’ll try to write about other stuff too. See you later this week…

Dreaming the Library (professional reading)


This month’s professional pick was Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager. It was pure serendipity that I’ve been reading this at the same time the Darien and Taiga statements came out – I don’t plan these things, but they seem to work out that way. Such is alchemy. :)

The Dream Manager is an extended parable about a janitorial company that suffered from high turnover costs, and how it turned that trend around by investing in its employees and their dreams. Step by step we see how a company can go from struggling to amazing by treating its human resources like, well, resourceful humans. Here’s the money quote:

In our corporate dealings, let us never forget that it is people who drive every business and organization. On both sides of every transaction, we find people. It is, therefore, people who decide whether organizations will be successful or unsuccesful…and people have dreams.

I know I’ve probably lost one or two of you by now, if the very word “dream” didn’t scare you off already. But, as with all things, there’s a middle ground to dreaming. Far too much of library rhetoric is composed of either pie-in-the-sky speculation that doesn’t take the reality of the human condition into account, or extreme cynicism that blows apart any glimmer of hope anyone has to offer because what’s the use of trying and who needs an MLIS and by the way we’re all going to die broke and homeless, so, whatever.

But library workers are in a unique position to leverage the power of dreaming, because what do we do all day already? We help people achieve their dreams. We help the woman working on her resume, or the proud grandpa learning to e-mail pictures of his grandchildren to far-away friends, or the student who has to write a critical paper on “A Rose for Emily.” Library workers connect people with the information needed to achieve their dreams, tall or small.

[Because people are people, they sometimes don't behave very well. But, I've found, usually there's a frustrated dream behind that bad behavior. Life does not deal all of us the same cards, and while that is not an excuse to behave poorly, it is a reason. If you can ferret out the goal behind the frustration, and maybe remove the barriers to the dream, you might get somewhere. Just a theory.]

So, we’re all pretty well acquainted with patrons’ dreams. What if we approached our own dreams, and those of our peers, with the same attention and respect? If everybody in your organization felt valued and appreciated as a human being, with a backstory and outside interests, and goals and objectives, and, well, dreams, can you imagine?

Of course, it’s not enough to have the dreams. You have to have a plan to back it up. One major reason dreaming is frowned upon is because there’s no plan and no accountability. Enter the Dream Manager, the person in your organization who functions as a coach to help you achieve your dreams. This could be an official, separate position. It could be an additional task that a manager takes upon him/herself. It could be an extremely informal thing that a bunch of individuals within an organization decides to do, in the attempt to support each other. The important part is that there’s somebody there to bounce your dreams off of, who will give you constructive criticism and help you form a plan.

Now, honestly, if you knew somebody was going to listen to you seriously, and help you achieve your best self, wouldn’t you respond by working your little heart out? I know I would! This book is recommended for library managers, people who think they might want to be library managers, and front-line staff looking for a glimmer of hope. I would also like to challenge the cynics to read this one, too, and see if it’s realistic enough for them. As a confirmed “show me” skeptic, I think it will hold up well, but I’d like to hear from some bona fide gloom cookies. :)

What’s your take on dreams? Do you have a mentor, manager, or co-worker you could trust with your dreams? What could your organization acheive if there were a mechanism for people to grow their dreams in a realistic way?

I’ll tell you my dreams if you’ll tell me yours….

Twitter, Technology Playground #1, and Tea


Twitter announcement

The mad rapscallions at CLP Main have done it again.  Fifteen of us have teamed up and created a Twitter feed for CLP Main that will, we hope, showcase the good things our library has to offer in a somewhat less annoying fashion than Twitter can often be:  all of the social networking, none of the “I had tuna fish today” irrelevance!

By which I mean, please take a peek at CLPicks and see what we’re all about. One tweet, each weekday, on one fabulous library item (books, movies, Playaways, the whole nine yards). We’re going to try it for a little while and see how it goes. My goal is 100 followers in 3 months – real followers, that is, not spam accounts. Bonus points if it’s not just all my library “family” and friends, too. :)

I think my favorite part of this most recent experiment is the fact that a number of the volunteers are people who, when I started initiating these 2.0 projects a year-point-five ago, did not want to participate. In the interim they have become curious about what we tech-dabblers were doing and slowly warmed up to playing along with us. Web 2.0 technologies won’t solve all of library world’s problems, but it’s great that we’ve apparently built some bridges and convinced folks to try something new. Mission accomplished, there, regardless of how the tweeting itself turns out.

Technology Playground #1

Today at the Whitehall Public Library a handful of ACLA and CLP staff, including Beth M., Kelley B., Ryan H., and the incomparable Amy E., descended en masse and demonstrated emerging technologies to a group of 30 librarians who voluntarily signed up for the presentation. First Beth gave a great presentation on resilience and lifelong learning, and then attendees were free to walk around the room to different stations. These included:

  • gaming
  • blogging
  • social networking
  • downloadable books and movies
  • the Encore catalog interface
  • plus a special appearance from Best Buy’s geek squad!

There will be three more technology playgrounds, and they’re open to all public library workers in Allegheny County, so please leave a comment if you think you’d like to attend one of the future sessions – I’ll get you hooked up. 

These playgrounds are a prelude to the “23 Things” program that Ryan, Kelley, Beth, Mark M. and I have been planning – I’ll be blogging about that a lot in April, so be prepared…

Public Service Announcement (With Tea)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that colleagues who are sick, or feel they might be getting sick, should kindly stay home and not infect the rest of us!  Alas, I think we all have a tendency to feel, at least on occasion, that we are indispensible.  This is, for the most part, not so much true.

In the interests of practicing what I preach, I will be staying home sick tomorrow if the giant lemon-ginger tea I am drinking does not knock the stuffing out of the flu-like symptoms that have been wandering around the building, and apparently settled in my bronchial tubes.  In the meantime, please, please, please, I beg you:  don’t be a martyr.  Take your sick days!  And drink more tea, in general.  It’s good for you.

More later this week, possibly…also, I’m moodling over a post on the so-called dying art of book reviewing.  Stay tuned.

Gaming, Gold Stars, and Birthdays


Another random update in-between tasks and projects:

Gaming

Under the heading of “Wait, what?”: some gaming kerfuffle in Nebraska. The YouTube video in question led to a state investigation (complete with report) and, thankfully, an eloquent response from the Nebraska Library Commission.

A lot of ink has been spilled on libraries and gaming, and as a lifelong gamer myself, I’m just a touch biased. I do worry, however, that the opposition to gaming in libraries is merely one symptom of a larger cultural problem in America: the belief that we must always be working, all the darn time (which, alas, the shiny Web 2.0 technologies sometimes make it all too easy to do).

Life is so very short – don’t we all deserve fun, rest, and recreation? Are we really going to be on our deathbeds wishing we’d worked more? Methinks not. Maybe if more libraries embraced a healthier, holistic approach to work and play, we’d have a healthier citizenry. You work hard, you play hard, you go to sleep (for 8 hours, naturally, and please call your mom).

If that doesn’t convince you, doubters, chew on this: all those people you’re going to be asking for donations, in about 10 years? They’ll remember that you frowned upon them and their interests back when they were young, and will probably be less inclined to support the library. I’m just saying.

[Really, the only thing the Nebraska librarians did wrong was use "Yackity Sax" in the video. Can we say "earworm?" Quelle horreur! :)]

Moving on…

4 Gold Stars

I’m pleased as punch that CLP has been named one of America’s Star Libraries by Library Journal. To celebrate, I’ve put four gold stars on my badge – if anybody else in the building would like one, I’ve left the sheet on my desk (feel free to use your own, too). Next time, we could totally get five. I’m serious. Let’s get cracking!

Kudos also to the Sewickley and Green Tree libraries for earning stars! Who knew Pittsburgh-area libraries  were so great? Why, you did, Constant Reader!

Birthday Number One

Eleventh Stack celebrated its first birthday this week. I swear, I didn’t deliberately pick George Harrison’s birthday as the launch date, but am pleased as punch it turned out that way.

On a more serious note, I couldn’t be more proud or pleased about the way the project has turned out so far. You know you’ve been a good leader when the team doesn’t really need you to function. Oh, sure, I’m the one who gets to represent us at meetings and whatnot, but when it comes to the day-to-day matters like proofreading or switching days, the team works it out amongst themselves. We make our decisions by consensus and everybody is empowered to fix tiny typos or other troubleshooting issues. It goes without saying that everyone is also empowered to write about whatever they want, and they all know, instinctively, how to make the library look good.

At our last blog meeting, I asked the team if they’d be willing to share some of their “best practices” for blogging. I reprint the list here in the interest of Learning 2.0:

  • Have a planning process and write effective guidelines
  • Once you’ve done that, “Just do it!”  [It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission]
  • Blogging does not necessarily lead to increased circ, so don’t make this a condition of a “successful” blog
  • Have a consistent schedule and make sure everyone knows what it is
  • Be realistic about the schedule you set
  • Readership can grow slowly, and people won’t always want to comment.  Don’t worry about this.  Just keep going.
  • Short posts and/or videos are good!
  • Steal ideas. :)
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread!
  • It’s okay to write about the familiar.  Sometimes it’s preferable.
  • When writing, leave plenty of time for dealing with technology glitches
  • Pay attention to what other team members are doing so you don’t repeat yourself [NB:  Three zombie posts is NOT excessive in Pittsburgh. :)]
  • Collaborative posts are good!
  • “Word of mouth” advertising can be really effective (Facebook, your .sig file, etc.)
  • Use your own, unique voice

 So, there’s that.  Why no, I am not misting up with affection.  That’s just something stuck in my eye, probably.

No.  I love these people.  I really do.  And I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished, that my heart grew three sizes this day!

Ahem.  :)  Twitter training and number-crunching are in my future, but for now I’ll say, “until we meet again,” by which I mean, “probably next week,” as there will be much to tell!

CLP Music Dept. Promo – From Haydn to Hip-Hop


Ryan and I get up to some pretty cool stuff around here, but we’re not the only ones in the organization having fun with technology. I’m happy to share a video effort put together by my colleagues in the Music Department. I’m also pleased to point out that Bonnie, Wes and Tim, three librarians who appear in the video, are also members of the Eleventh Stack blog team – clearly, this building is chock full of creative, multi-talented librarians!

Check out the wonders of our music department via the video stylings of David K., with expertise, help and support from music librarians Kathie L. and Kirby D.

Conventional wisdom has it that your videos should be short; I think this is definitely one of those exceptions that proves the rule – by this I mean, your video should be short unless you’ve put a lot of thought and care into a longform piece, as is the case here. And I definitely want to snag David for my own video efforts, before he gets snapped up by Cannes or Telluride.

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