I was going through some stuff on my desktop and came across this video of NBC's Brian Williams talking about technology at the Ad Council's Public Service Announcement awards. Enjoy!
I was going through some stuff on my desktop and came across this video of NBC's Brian Williams talking about technology at the Ad Council's Public Service Announcement awards. Enjoy!
Recent years have been marked by a steady drumbeat of reports and articles about the decline of reading, so it was gratifying to hear a couple of weeks ago about the results of a recent National Endowment for the Arts survey that actually shows an increase in the rate and number of American adults who read literature.
The greatest increase in reading was among 18-24 year olds, which I found a bit surprising until one of our library volunteers forwarded me this article by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett (thanks Mary!)
Read it, and remember why you are a reader!
I spend a fair amount of time reading and thinking about how libraries can use technology to expand our range of services and our reach into the communities we serve. While the use of "web 2.0" technologies by libraries is growing, the topic is not without some controversy as we wrestle with how to balance the open-ness of the social web with our professional commitment to individual privacy, whether gaming or using social networking sites are appropriate uses for library computers, and even how to provide adequate bandwidth to support streaming video.
That's why I was interested to read about two very different situations and approaches regarding the use of technology by government entities.
First, this article from the Washington Post about the current state of the technology in the White House (thanks to librarian Michael Barb for sharing). While the description is shocking in its own right, its even more shocking when contrasted to the smart and aggressive use of web 2.0/social networking tools by the Obama campaign, to Obama's obvious reliance on technology-based communication as evidenced by the great Blackberry controversy, and to the Obama teams' obvious intent open up communication between the White House and citizens as evidenced by the new www.whitehouse.gov website and Office of Public Liaison.
If the Air Force with its security concerns, classified information, and military secrets is willing to empower everyone from the newest recruit to top brass to use You Tube, Twitter, and other social networking tools to communicate not just with family and friends but with the world at large you've got to wonder what the White House, or for that matter libraries, have been afraid of!
That said, discussions like this give me hope that the Air Force won't be alone in its efforts to use social technology tools to transform the way government communicates! (Thanks Michael Sauers at the Travelin' Librarian)
In our community the sources of truly local news are increasingly limited. The local Palos Verdes Peninsula News is under new ownership and has gone from two editions/week to one, each of which is much smaller than when I first started at PVLD 5 years ago while the regional Daily Breeze newspaper (which shares the same corporate ownership) is likewise a much slimmer version of its former self, and increasingly relies on nationally syndicated content.
What if the library filled some of the gap by doing the things Seth suggests -providing brief news items about local people, organizations, and events? Here at PVLD we already have a growing database of email addresses from people who want to receive our monthly library calendar and "staff picks" newsletters, and are implementing new e-newsletter software that will provide an even better means for distributing information via email. It wouldn't be a big stretch to add a "community news" e-letter.
It might not even take a lot of work, as once word got out my guess is that local organizations would be eager to provide information about their organizations and events. The costs could be offset by the sale of low-cost ads that would provide our local businesses, many of whom are struggling, with an affordable way of promoting their businesses.
Apart from the opportunity to further cement the library's role as a center of community life, a community newsletter would be a great way to get our staff more connected with the local community. What if each librarian were required to write one local news story each month or each quarter? They would have to learn enough about what is going on outside the walls of the library to fulfill this obligation, perhaps by having each pick a local organization to follow (the School District? the four Peninsula cities? local non-profits?), or by soliciting ideas from our library customers.
Staff resources are limited, so maybe some other activities would have to stop. Would a locally focused e-newsletter be of greater value to the community than book reviews by staff or than dozens of "pathfinders" to library resources? I think it might...and we could always keep the link to books and literature by featuring local authors and their work. Maybe we could even be a place where local authors could publish poems, short stories, or serialized pieces....or student journalists and writers could share their work with the wider community and not just their school.
We wouldn't be in competition with the local newspapers as much as a supplement to them - carrying the kinds of stories that they don't have the space or staff resources to cover.
Seth's post sparked lots of ideas for me...what do you think?
Five years ago today I started work at the Palos Verdes Library District, and what a rewarding and challenging five years it has been. I can honestly say that it is the best job I have ever had...and a month from now will also mark the longest period I have ever spent in any position. Usually after 3-4 years I start to get "itchy feet", but that is definitely not the case here for a number of reasons -
The fact that I got this position at all was really a stroke of luck, as we moved back to California in late 2003 without jobs and with our fingers crossed that we would find personally rewarding work. It was a sheer coincidence that I saw the PVLD Director's job advertised just a couple of weeks after we moved back; and a bigger coincidence that the management experience I had gained in nearly 20 years away from the library field was of more interest to the Board of Trustees than my very limited experience as a professional librarian more than 20 years ago.
It was the right position in the right place at the right time...and it still is!
Getting boys to read can be a challenge, as evidenced by conversations our staff have with parents and educators and among themselves, and by articles such as this one from the Washington Post. Just do a Google search using the terms "boys" and "reading" and you get more information than you can possible absorb on the topic of how to encourage boys to read, including a link to author Jon Scieszka's terrific Guys Read website. (as an aside, Jon Scieszka was recently named as the Library of Congress' first ever national ambassador for children's literature - very cool!)
Here at PVLD Young Readers Librarian Michael Barb has a passion for getting school-aged boys to read, and to that end is planning a great father/son program for this spring. Keep an eye out for "Knights in Training"!
As someone who comes from a family of readers (boys and girls alike) and who has no children of my own, I don't have a clue what makes a book enticing to a young boy, so I'm always fascinated by articles on this topic. Late last year I spent an enjoyable and educational few minutes listening to this National Public Radio interview with John Scieszka while running errands on a Saturday morning - and it inspired me to actually go read some of the Stinky Cheese Man (although I confess I just skimmed it!)
This past Sunday the New York Times had a great article about the very popular "Wimpy Kid" books and how they are inspiring boys to read, which in turn inspired me to check out Diary of A Wimpy Kid:Rodrick Rules (the one and only Wimpy Kid book available on the shelf at the Peninsula Center Library, which tells you something). I just started reading it and am already chuckling.
I loved the NY Times article's closing paragraphs, too -
"Slightly older readers vouch for the accuracy of Mr. Kinney’s observations. Ethan Bloom’s brother, Josh, 13, who is an eager reader, said, “A lot of spy and fantasy books are ridiculous, but this isn’t ridiculous at all. Everything in it is completely true — the way the parents reacted to things, the dumb things we do, all the annoying things you have to do with younger brothers.”
And is he looking forward to the next “Wimpy Kid” installment?
Absolutely, Josh said. “We’ll be making a trip to the library,” he replied.
Not a bookstore?
“Naw,” he said, “ I don’t buy books. I can waste my money on other things.”
What a great plug for the Wimpy Kids books, and for libraries!
It's Friday afternoon. At PVLD that means casual dress and fewer meetings than most other days. Don't know whether its the jeans or the "free" time, but I also find that Fridays are a good day to let my mind wander a bit from the day-to-day demands of running the library.
I'd saved this article from PC World a few weeks ago, and when I read it again it really caught my fancy. Don't you just love the idea of public libraries as "homes for the human imagination" with the library staff (and volunteers and or even customers) sharing their special knowledge and talents? Of the library as a hive of creative energy and activity?
Read the article and see if it doesn't get your creative juices flowing...Happy Friday!
We've invested a lot of time and effort (and a not insignificant amount of money), developing the PVLD website as a "virtual branch" of the library with library services available 24/7 from home or office. I'm really proud of what our Digital Services team have accomplished in terms of the look and feel of the site, the shift from traditional "databases" to online services such as Value Line, Mango Languages, and Brainfuse, the use of tools like Wordpress blogs and Flickr to both deliver content and make it available via the wider web and not just the library website, and the inclusion of social networking concepts like user reviews and ratings and instant messaging.
And then today I read two blog posts by David Lee King that made me realize how far we still have to go! The first post asks whether our online question-answering services discriminate against "a growing, younger, web-savvy customer base. Customers who *almost* have all the tools in place to simply ignore you and your grad-degreed, professional information-retrieval services. Especially if they are treated like second class customers when they ask a question using their preferred, and handy, means of communication." when we don't have easy fast ways for them to communicate with us and get timely responses via the web.
David lays out some terrific, but painful (because they hit close to home!) examples of how libraries do this - e.g. by allowing people to email in reference questions, but only committing to answer within 48 hours; by only providing online reference during "normal business hours", etc. Ouch! PVLD is guilty as charged -
We don't offer any email reference/question answering service other than via a generic "contact us" web form on our "Contact Us" page that goes to our webmaster regardless of the type of question...and we don't give any indication of how quickly questions submitted via that form will be answered. My guess is it could be days given that the staff who check the page work mostly Monday to Friday!
In addition to the generic web form the "Contact Us" page gives people the option of emailing the Library Director, or emailing the "website". Otherwise people can contact various library departments by telephone - definitely not the best option for a generation used to email and text-messaging. Reviewing this page also made me realize why I get so many questions about overdue books emailed directly to me....I'm pretty much the only option for someone who wants to email a question!
We do offer a "Chat Service" on our home page, but its only available Monday-Thursday from 1-4PM (exactly the hours when our tech-savvy younger customers are in school), and when it's offline there is no obvious alternative way to contact the library. No wonder it isn't used very much!
That bit of reflection was painful enough, and then I read this companion post on "Doin Stuff At the Library's Website" in which David lists some of the things you can do at the physical library and asks if you can also do them at the library website. PVLD's website capabilities are noted in italics.
Again, Ouch! Is our website a great resource - absolutely. And we actually do offer some of the things David mentions further in his blog post - you can browse large parts of our collection online, and we do offer RSS feeds - but to call the website a true "virtual branch" is an overstatement. As I thought about this I realized that the problem is not with our Digital Services team - two guys who have way more on their plate than is reasonable, and who really get what it means to compete in the web 2.0 world. The real issue is an entire library organization that (understandably given the roots of our profession) is built around delivering services within our buildings. Interacting with customers online is treated as an "extra" ...something to do after we've made sure the reference desk is staffed, the physical collection is maintained, and the in-library programs are developed. While I absolutely believe that the physical library is both important and in no danger of becoming irrelevent any time soon, like David Lee King I also worry that if we don't find a way to stretch our resources to serve people as effectively using the Internet as we do in the library itself we run the risk of becoming irrelevant to new generations of potential customers. I'd hate for the library to be having trouble like Borders is having at the same time its online competitor Amazon.com had its best holiday season ever. This year PVLD will be creating a new 3-year strategic plan, and I can see that figuring out how to truly make our website a virtual branch without diminishing our physical library services is not only going to be essential, it's going to force us to rethink how we do almost everything we do. Now there's a challenge for 2009!
Again, Ouch! Is our website a great resource - absolutely. And we actually do offer some of the things David mentions further in his blog post - you can browse large parts of our collection online, and we do offer RSS feeds - but to call the website a true "virtual branch" is an overstatement.
As I thought about this I realized that the problem is not with our Digital Services team - two guys who have way more on their plate than is reasonable, and who really get what it means to compete in the web 2.0 world. The real issue is an entire library organization that (understandably given the roots of our profession) is built around delivering services within our buildings. Interacting with customers online is treated as an "extra" ...something to do after we've made sure the reference desk is staffed, the physical collection is maintained, and the in-library programs are developed.
While I absolutely believe that the physical library is both important and in no danger of becoming irrelevent any time soon, like David Lee King I also worry that if we don't find a way to stretch our resources to serve people as effectively using the Internet as we do in the library itself we run the risk of becoming irrelevant to new generations of potential customers. I'd hate for the library to be having trouble like Borders is having at the same time its online competitor Amazon.com had its best holiday season ever.
This year PVLD will be creating a new 3-year strategic plan, and I can see that figuring out how to truly make our website a virtual branch without diminishing our physical library services is not only going to be essential, it's going to force us to rethink how we do almost everything we do. Now there's a challenge for 2009!
Just before Christmas Parade Magazine ran this little article on how budget shortfalls are leading to the possibility of library closures across the country at the same time as library use is rising. Since then there has been some good news on the library closure front, as a concerted advocacy effort by Philadelphia library users has led to a court order that (at least temporarily) averts the closure of their libraries. More information can be found on this local Philadelphia TV story.
What caught my eye in the Parade article, however, was the statement that "According to one story, a family of four saves as much as $2500 a year by borrowing 10 items per month instead of buying."
That got me thinking about the economic value PVLD delivers to our community.
First, I have to note that public library services aren't "free." In PVLD's case they are paid for by an allocation of local property taxes (over 87% of our bduget this year) supplemented by a miniscule amount of state funding; interest income; internally-generated revenue from things like movie rentals, meeting room rentals, overdue fines, and our passport acceptance and notary services; and gifts and grants.
If you consider just our property tax revenue as the price all PVLD residents pay for library services, on average each of the Palos Verdes Peninsula's approximately 70,000 residents contributes about $80/year in property taxes towards the cost of operating our libraries.
That means that if the hypothetical family of four referenced in the Parade article were an "average" family living on the Peninsula they would pay $360/year for library services whether they use them or not. (I know that not everyone who lives on the Peninsula pays property taxes directly, but even if they don't own property their landlord contributes on their behalf and it is reflected in their rent. I also know that averages are not reality - some families will pay more than this and some less, but you gotta start somewhere!)
If, however, they do as the article suggests and save $2500/year by checking out 10 items/month instead of buying them they have received $2500 of value for the cost of $360. Not bad!
But, one might argue, unlike many libraries PVLD charges for audio book, movie and video game rentals so if the 10 items/month checked out by our hypothetical family include these items the savings go down. That's true, but even if every one of the 120 items checked out had a $1 rental fee the total annual cost to the family would only increase to $480 and they would still save over $2000/year....maybe more when you consider that many books and movies cost more than $25, and video games can cost $50 or more to buy.
In fact, I think the savings are even greater. For one thing, the $2500 savings doesn't include the value of access to online resources such as those offered through the library website and the value of these can be substantial!
A one year individual subscription to the online version of the Value Line Investment Service is $538/year. PVLD offers it at no charge to our library cardholders. A twelve month subscription to the Ancestry.com family history and genealogy service is over $150. PVLD offers both the library version of Ancestry.com and the complementary service Heritage Quest at no charge. Individuals can pay for online tutoring from the Tutor.com service for approximately $30/hour....or they can use Brainfuse.com, a comparable service offered through the library website, for free. If they are interested in learning a language they can pay $549 to purchase the Spanish module of Rosetta Stone, or they can use the library's free Mango Languages online service to learn any of 10 languages (or if they are not a native English speaker, to learn English). And those are just some of our online services.
If our hypothetical family takes advantage of all of the specific online services mentioned above they could save an additional $1200/year or more, and because all of them except the library version of Ancestry.com are available remotely from home or office they can also save on gas!
And let's not forget library programs. It's hard to place a value on a story time, movie showing, or concerts but it's not outrageous to think that a family that takes advantage of several of these kinds of events each month instead of paying for comparable activities could save $30 or more each month or $360/year.
The bottom line? A family of four living and paying property taxes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula pays $360 in property taxes each year to support library services. If they check out 10 items/month and return them on time their net savings are at least $2000 or more than 5.5x their property tax contribution even if they pay a rental fee for all 10 items. If they take advantage of our online services they could save another $1200 or more, increasing their return to nearly 9x their property tax contribution....and up to 10x their tax contribution if they also attend library events and activities.
Now that's what I call powerful value in tough economic times!