libraries

The 7 Deadly Librarian Sins

And from on high Library Mountain came down these rules that shall be followed by those charged with carrying out the most noble of professions, Librarianship.

#1 Thou shalt be proactive not reactive.

Jason Griffey gave a presentation today about future trends in libraries, charging us to think about what’s coming next, not just what’s here.  He brought up the interesting point that it can be hard for our patrons to ask for what they want because they’re not aware of what we can do.  Basically the old Henry Ford adage of “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”  Seek out new technologies, new methods, new products even if you can’t fully adopt them.  We should be a step in front of our patrons where ever they are.

#2 Thou shalt not ignore the world outside of libraries.

How can you discover new things coming down the path?  Read Wired or other tech magazines, follow blogs on User Experience design or hell any kind of thoughtful design.  Griffey brought up that our patrons’ experiences in other environments become the expectation universally even in libraries.  If Amazon is quick, cheap and easy, libraries should be as well.  We should look at our competitors and take their successful models and adapt them with things we do well.

#3 Thou shalt not covet other libraries.

It’s easy to look at other libraries and become jealous and depressed.  They have shiny new toys that walk, talk and more!  They have amazing community support.  They have money growing on trees.  As lame as it sound each library IS a unique and special snowflake.  We need to assess, with quantitative data. the needs of our communities and work from there and not a place of pouting jealousy.

#4 Thou shalt not get mad at techno-challanged coworkers.

Frustration at coworkers slow or out right resistant to implementing new technology is a common emotion.  I struggle the most with this.  Constant training that have direct impacts on people’s work flow along with recognizing everyday teachable moments help calm the anxiety on both sides.

#5 Thou shalt not ban.

Obviously.

#6 Thou shalt value our patrons above all else.

Yes, they do in fact pay your salary.  While that does not give them a right to mistreat and harass it does mean all goals and assessments must come back to the ultimate question, will it help the patron?  Will they benefit or see an improvement?  Are we making our jobs easier or their lives better?  Answer carefully because we need patrons to be our partners and not enemies to be kept at bay.

#7  Thou shalt not let the technology win.

You are at all times technology’s master and liege.  It must bend to your will and desires.  It is your tool, not the other way around.  If not might as well lay down now and wait for robots and AI to evolve enough to overpower us and take over the earth.  Laugh all you want but just know when it all goes to hell, I told you so.

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Can we talk?

I’d heard the saying, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission. Until I started working in libraries I never knew how true it is.

I use my young, techno-savvy image to start social media projects, to suggest new technology toys, and to basically do cool things like go to Wordcamp Chicago and ALA. I find when there are walls in my way I simply go around them or knock them down by talking long and loudly enough. My voice is out there, I say what I think and importantly what I feel. I don’t always get my way but at least you know where I stand.

A long time ago (cough, high school) I felt like I was a quiet person who had nothing important or interesting to say.  That’s probably why I connected with Lisa Barone’s post on Outspoken Media’s blog about finding your brand’s voice and not being scared to share it.

“There’s power in engaging with people by letting them see what you and your business are about.”

So I have a voice and I use it, but her post made me wonder, does my organization? Honestly, no. If it does then it’s not a cohesive one that makes an impact. I feel this lack of voice, position, opinion hurts us and informs our users in ways we didn’t intend to.

The biggest frustration with adopting social media in my organization is getting internal buy-in. My ideas get met with approval and nods of support but when I ask for input or material, silence. Sure, it’s great we have a blog but hardly anyone posts to it. Yeh! We’re on Facebook, but are we interacting or just posting event notices? There is a clear hesitation to fully engage in these new places. There is no social to our media.

I understand the reluctance. No one wants to get in trouble. Libraries take their time implementing new ideas. The Board must take action, than the director needs to approve, maybe even lawyers consulted. A public institution is accountable to the public, I get it. But the process takes time and can wash away the human element, the voice.

Toby Greenwalt was part of a panel at ALA and made a point I’ve been thinking about, where is the human touch in technology and how it’s used in the library. Are you in social media because everyone else is? Use self-checkout stations because they’re successful at other libraries? The follow-the-leader mentality does not create the need that authentic adoption will come from. By adding the human touch, our voice, we can become more than another public intuition. Public libraries are always saying, we’re not like police or fire department. So then why do we act like it, clinical and procedural organizations that are seen as inflexible and out of date. Reading and researching are very personal activities. Why don’t we get personal too? Why do we hide behind passive-aggressive signs and policy filled with legalese. Where do we reach out to our patrons, human to human and not library to user?

Fact: Librarian talk, a lot. Chatter in offices, back channel talk on Twitter, sharing New Spice videos on Facebook. So why are we not talking to our community? Why are we not going to them and starting a conversation? Why do we passively wait for feedback to find its way to use? Why are we scared to say how important our programs and materials are to those that need them most?

If we don’t begin getting involved in these discussions with all our passion then public libraries will continue to be seen as poor orphan children walking around with our hand out begging for change. Public libraries need more than change, more than leftover funding. We need to find our voice and add to the discussion and we can’t do that if we are standing on the sides, being silent because we’re scared to speak.

I may have been wrong…

I don’t always say it but it does happen and I’ll freely admit it here.  I may have been wrong about Book Trailers. 

The first few I saw were uninspiring.  They were filled with strange voiceovers narrating a synopsis with shadowy figures and bland tracking music.  I also did not get how these would work.  How would people see them?  Find them?  Are they suppose to build anticipation with established fan bases or introduce new works to new audiences?   All around it was a head-scratching, no thank you on my part.

I now give Exhibits A, B, and C that prove how wrong I was.

Exhibit A

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/28931

Created by one of my favorite blogger, Ransom Riggs over at Mental Floss, it was on point.  It captured the book’s appeal, the charm of Austen mixed with crazy B-movie monster action.  How better to explain that than in video format.  Sure that’s the point of the book trailer but this is the first time I saw how well it could work.

Exhibit B

This one came out a few months back and I was floored.  Not only did it include great graphics and animation (yeah steampunk!) but the voiceover worked!  There is a real sense of drama and urgency about the story being described.  It fits the time period as well as the new world Westerfeld created.  I already loved him for the Uglies series but now my esteem has been taken to a higher level which is another result of a well made Book Trailer.

Exhibit C

http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/friday-videos-know-whats-next/

Let me introduce you to another author who is now on my must-always-read-list, Maggie Stiefvater.  I read Shiver and enjoyed it (thank you ALA!) but after this video I have to check out her other book.  I liked Shiver but I was always saying  because “werewolves are the new vampires.”  I put it in the Twilight category of YA supernatural romance.  Quick read, impossible love, mythological creature.  Well written for sure but that’s where I put it in my mental file folder.  Talk about being put in my place.  The Holly Hobbyness of the production, the gentle mocking of the genre, the animation… I cried with laughter.  People thought I was having a fit for trying to hold it in.  I love how the author is promoting her material in a unique and engaging way. 

As better products come out I’m willing to change my opinion on Book Trailers but I still have to wonder, besides sitting around and admiring them for their cleverness, does this work?  Where are they placed to be viewed for maximum exposure?  And bringing it all back to me, how can libraries use this model to promote their services and programs?  Are we clever and engaging with our promotion material?  Where can we place ourselves to be seen and enjoyed by our community?

Fear and loathing in the library

I have this friend. We’ll call her Angie because that’s her name.  Angie recently ventured into her local public branch library.  YEH for Angie!  She later confessed being intimidated by the experience.  Nothing terrible happened, she wasn’t shushed out of the building.  She simply didn’t know how to navigate the library.  She didn’t know who to ask her questions, what computers to search the catalog with or where to find her book.  My friend Angie can talk to anyone, be in any situation and be confident and fabulous.  Seriously, I can leave her for a minute and come back and she’s already talking to someone.  So I find it very curious that the library would throw her off so much.

I walk into any library and feel right at home.  Sure each one is unique like beautiful snowflakes (insert s

norting noise here) but libraries tend to have similar areas with similar functions.  Working in one and utilizing many, I know the drill, ref desk for questions, circ desk to check out, phone calls taken outside.  For the general population though, outside of school, how familiar are they with the basic layout and function of the library?  It doesn’t help that there are specialized areas, staffed by specialized people, called by terms that are not commonly used outside of the field.  So how do our patrons know what to do?  Where to go?  Who to talk to?

Look at the pretty display

What my friend does know and myself as well, is retail.  Yes a dirty word, but the retail model is more familiar to people in their 30’s and 20’s.  We’re the mall culture.  New stuff up front on pretty displays and a greeter to tell you about the sales, staff walking the floors and fixing displays, registers conveniently located for browsing in the back.  My friend likes that set up too, besides being comfortable with it.  So do I.  Take for example the big B bookstore I used to work at (yes, I played for the other team once).  Many hours were spent on where things went.  There were the integrated endcaps with the movie, the book tie-in cover, the board game and some CDs for good measure.  There was the placement of the bestseller table, the new fiction bays, the staff recommendation endcap.  As my friend said, it is visually pleasing.  And she made another point.  Why can’t libraries be like that?  What experience do we offer our users, patrons and clients?  Why can’t you ask anyone with a name badge your question?  Why do we call it the circulation desk when it’s the checkout?  Do our practices benefit us or them?

While asking these questions I also recognize that libraries should not be copies of big retail stores.  We offer services that retail has no interest outside of selling another item.  I strongly believe though we need to look closely at what makes sense or what we do because it’s always been done that way.  There is no lamer phrase than “we’ve always done it this way” and it means nothing.

I wonder how many other people, like my friend, avoid the library because they don’t know how it works or they associate it with school?  How far do we have to go to change perceptions and how far should we go?  At what point are we just talking to ourselves?

What’s old is new…

Just wanted to share this with ya’ll.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/136961

A great article in Newsweek by Jamie Reno called “Generation R (R Is for Reader)” about the resurgence of YA Lit and its role in YAers lives.  What most struck me was David Levithan’s (author of one of my favs, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, soon to be movie) comments about teen books as apart of pop culture with TV, movies and videogames.  Look at Gossip Girl, Harry Potter and the slew of the fantasy/adventure movies that have come out/are still coming out/optioned to come out on film. Eragon, The Dark is Rising (alternately known by the ridiculous title The Seeker), Twilight, City of Ember.  And these aren’t small productions either.  On the lower end Hannah Montana has her own series of books that tie to the TV show.  So although the article lays out the premise of YA Lit being popular is surprising, it really isn’t. 

What is surprising is how libraries haven’t overwhelmingly gotten on the YA mothership.  There are great programs out there like Los Angeles PL’s Teen’Scape with it’s overwhelmingly awesome website (http://www.lapl.org/ya/)  and gorgeous space dedicated to teens.  But then there is Michael Casey and Michael Stephen’s recent article in Library Journal “Embracing Service to Teens” (http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6556178.html) .  Stephens has been following the story of Mishawaka PL which has banned MySpace and Facebook in response to teen behavior issues.   It’s troubling to me because many people still see teens as troublemakers and rule breakers.  Libraries should be welcoming places for everyone of all ages.  We’ve gotten very good at programing for youngsters, storytimes and the like.  But what are we doing to keep those readers past preschool? Elementary? Junior High? High School?  As more libraries look to gaming and graphic novels there is beginning to be a trend towards getting the YAers in the library at any cost.  It’s a trend that’s starting in places like LA, Oak Park IL and other places that I hope to see continue and become a standard for libraries.