unala10 (Un)Official Call for Volunteers

Can there be official announcements for an unevent? Perhaps.

Mark your calenders, oh you lovers of chaos and fun. ALA Unconference 2010 or unala10 will be Friday, June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm in room 207A at the Washington Convention Center.

This year, I am planning the unconference with the amazing Sean Robinson. Last year, ALA was just getting their feet wet with the unconference idea. This year, Sean and I decided to kick it up a notch and give the crowd more power. Between our two brains, we have cooked up an exciting day of unconference fun. For a sneak peek, check out the preliminary schedule already on the wiki.

Announcements about registration dates will be coming in mid-May. Registration will happen shortly thereafter. Keep your eyes and social media feeds open. We will announce it in enough places that you will be unlikely to miss it.

Now to the true purpose of this post. Sean and I would like to have some volunteers for the unconference. These lovely, fabulous people would help us wrangle the crowd during the course of the day. You know how those crowds can get all chaotic and unruly. Volunteers will not have to compete for an official spot on registration day as they will have a special spot reserved. We would like our wranglers to be SLIS students. I know some of you seasoned librarians are a little broken hearted. I still love you.

If you are a current or soon to be graduating SLIS student, please email me at mboule at gmail dot com, DM me on Twitter, or send me a smoke signal. I only need three people so type fast.

–Jane, (un)changing the world

Coffee Makes Jane a Better Jane

Some days, I think the only things that remind me that I am, deep down, a nice person are a good cup of coffee and God. I came to the conclusion yesterday, and admitted it to the world on Twitter, that though I do not want to be, I am a morning person. I know; it is extremely disappointing to me as well. I just can not get much done after 1 pm. Perhaps it is a sign of my advanced age.

In sending out some emails for book related things, I am reminded, yet again, how truly remarkable librarians are as a profession. We love to help each other and we are excited for each other. It is so different from other professions sometimes. I suppose, since we are a service industry, I should cease to be surprised by this. I am glad that I can still recognize blessings when I see them. I love librarians, in a big group hug, squeeze you tight sort of way. I am really looking forward to Annual in June.

The book is coming along. All the chapters are written, but some have some gaping holes and notes like CITATION NEEDED. There are elves for those kind of notes, right? Chapter revision and cleanup are not fun projects and I really am not looking forward to it. Mostly, I think, because I will read something and think, “Who wrote this crap? Oh, yeah…”

There should be news about the ALA Unconference 2010 coming soon. Sean Robinson and I have been planning a day filled with some really cool and fun things. Keep your eyes peeled for that, ladies and gents.

Enough rambling. Back to work, everyone.

–Jane, one more cup of coffee before the pot is empty

You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

You will never be able to make everyone happy. Please accept this and move on.

I am going to poke my head out of Dragon Age Origins long enough to write this post and make sure the Dog is still watching the Bairn. For more about how Dragon Age has disrupted the Rochester household, see these two posts.

There were two stories Thursday about ereaders and how they do or do not serve people with disabilities.

The first, was about how the Amazon Kindle has come under fire from the National Federation of the Blind who is suing Arizona State University for a program to use the Kindle as a textbook distribution system (though that was unclear from the article). The real, and only issue, as far as I can tell, would be if these schools only distributed books on Kindle (or ebook) devices meaning that no other formats were available. None of the schools mentioned in the article seem to have gotten rid of all their print books in favor of ebook readers, so I am not sure what the real issue is here.

If the issue is that schools should not get any ereaders at all because the Kindle is not accessible, that is simply ridiculous. As long as the library does provide other formats, then people should be satisfied. There is still a format available for them to use. I see this as similar to libraries spending money on books I do not like. I do not demand libraries only buy things I like to read or understand or in my language (I would argue mathematics texts are inaccessible to my brain as are languages other than English). Libraries serve many different kinds of people and they must, and should, decide how to best spend their money.

If we try to serve everyone equally, we will succeed in serving everyone in a mediocre way. Never good or even great. Again, we must choose the best way to spend our money to make the greatest impact. The libraries that have chosen to circulate Kindles did not choose to do so because they wanted to discriminate against a particular group; they wanted to serve their population with a new service. Toddler story times do not serve every constituency of a library either, but no one is suggesting we get rid of them. To me, this is just another service that is meant to serve a part of the population. We can not limit ourselves to things that only serve every single person that walks through our doors. That is not a realistic expectation.

On Thursday, the same day everyone was complaining that there were no ereaders accessible to the blind, Intel announced an ereader for… the seeing impaired. This announcement, in my mind, makes the above gripes against the Kindle moot.

If schools have students who would benefit from Intel’s new ereader for the blind, they can afford to acquire one, and it fits the vision the library has for service (i.e. offering more digital formats), they should consider purchasing some of the new devices.

If groups, like the National Federation of the Blind, are angry about the Kindle’s inaccessibility, they should simply not give Amazon their business.

–Jane, only makes one person happy today and you, sadly, are not that person

Why the Kindle makes a difference

The wonderful and handsome Mr. Rochester presented me with a Kindle for my birthday at the beginning of the month. I was surprised and delighted. I did not think I would own an ebook device anytime soon. In a few short weeks, I have fallen in love with this gadget (I can not even begin to tell you how awesome it really is) and it has made me consider again the future of the book.

I think that, regardless of what every bibliophile wants, that physical books will be regulated to vanity and specialty presses in the future. Maybe far into the future, but I would guess definitely in my lifetime. I adore books. I own quite a lot of them and I will continue to buy printed books for authors and series I like and collect.

Collect is the key word. Books have always been things I collect and now it is more like a collection than the fact that I simply have a lot of books. I will be more choosy about what I buy in paper. I have already made the decision that books for work and fluff books will be completely digital.

The Kindle’s capabilities for note taking, highlighting, and searching make it natural to move work related books to a digital format. I wish I would have had this as an undergrad and grad student! The fluff books will move to a digital format for me because it is cheaper to buy them in that format and I am more likely to want them to be mobile.

These recent musing have left me again thinking about what the future of the librarian profession will be in a digital world. Karen’s recent post about being positive in adversity has reminded me that we should always think of solutions when we criticize. David Lee King pointed to the idea that there will be a larger need for librarians (Content Curators) in light of the sheer amount of digital information.

Though I think the book will go, I do not think libraries and librarians will, but I do think that our jobs will look very different. I think our buildings, if we have them, will look different as well.

For me, I find this very exciting. I am glad to be a librarian at this time in history, despite the budget woes, the space problems, and the changes. I just think how fabulous it is to know that we could literally take our profession in any direction we choose because the future seems very flexible and that should make us all smile.

What kind of librarian do you want to be when you grow up?

–Jane, wants to read books

Filtering Gets an Epic Fail

There is a new post on Library Garden that sums up every reason why filters in our public schools (and often in public libraries) get an epic fail. Epic. Fail.

Most of the stories I have heard from school librarians involving filtering have absolutely nothing to do with protecting children against things obscene and everything to do with filtering things that are simply unknown. WordPress = unknown, bad. Search engines in general = unknown, bad. flickr – unknown, bad.

The best line from the post is from a survey:

Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.

–Jane, is filtered

Be An Organization That Leads

I started reading Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin a couple days ago. It is a short read and well worth the time. As an individual who has spent a good portion of the last 15 years or so on the Internet, participating in various tribes, the ideas are not new but Godin has a wonderful way of explaining the power of tribes. Anyone in doubt of the true power of tribes and technology needs to read this book.

But that is not why I am writing this post. The thought that occurred to me as I was reading Tribes is that everything Godin says about the power and ability for any individual to lead a tribe also applies to every organization. This book should not be looked on as only a call to arms for individuals to become the leader they could be. This book should also be a manifesto for every organization that yearns to be more.

Godin talks about the need for an organization or tribe to have “true fans.” These are people who will do almost anything to support you, they talk about you all the time, and they are willing to go the extra mile or pay the extra dollar to have your product. True fans make up the heart of a tribe.

According to Godin:

Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans.

Every organization I have worked for was guilty of counting people like widgets. I am guilty of this. You are guilty of this.

One of the first questions we ask about a new service, website, or tool is how many users it has, how many unique visitors have come, or how many people have bought the product. While we may ask if there has been any anecdotal feedback, we never, ever ask if we have converted any fans.

One true fan of a service could be more influential, more important, than having 100 blase users. One true fan will spread the good word and try to convert others. A simple adopter will not say a word and your service dies with their lack of passion.

How would our organizations change if we stopped counting clicks and widgets and started counting fans?

If we started counting fans, we could use our new tribe to create change in our community or within the profession. Our organization could become the leader it always wanted to be.

Darien Library is a perfect example of what can happen when an organization harnesses the power of its tribe. Darien is a leader among library organizations because of their ability to see three separate groups as true fans and part of their tribe: the community they serve, the Darien Library staff themselves, and other librarians in the profession. With this tribe behind them and a vision before them, Darien is blazing a trail and many of us are happily following along.

Where are you taking your tribe today?

–Jane, is a true fan of many tribes

In which I learn being the family librarian is hard work

Mr. Rochester is a picky reader in the sense that there are just very few things he wants to read bad enough to actually read them. He finds reading a bit boring.

I know at this point you are wondering why I married him, especially after he locked his first wife in the attic (she was crazy!). He does have some redeeming qualities. At least one. Lucky librarians in Chicago this week might get to meet him as I am dragging him and the Baby Rochester along for the ride.

But I digress… Mr. Rochester mostly likes sci-fi/fantasy type things. He asked me, since I was already going to the library, to find him a paperback to take to Chicago. Here is our actual conversation via text messaging.

Jane: what do u want?
Mr. R: whatever
Jane: you could browse amazon and give me a couple of suggestions
Jane: (again) look fast. even a genre suggestion would b helpful. dammit jim i’m a librarian not a mind reader
Mr. R: how about the “good” genre. Does that help?
Jane: haha
Mr. R: sci fi and fantasy?
Mr. R: (again) I don’t think I want to mess with a large book. i know, I’ll just buy a Kindle

Later, after alternatively searching and chasing down the child…
Jane: i actually found the perfect book
Jane: what about His Majesty’s Dragon? is an awesome excellent book

This has taught me two things:
Even when looking for a book for a loved one, you still get the, “I want the blue book” type question. You know, where they do not know what they are looking for really, but it might be blue.

Librarians are still so talented and fabulous that they find you that blue book you were looking for even though you had no idea what is was exactly you wanted.

–Jane, now back to email

Where the Money Goes

I have complained about paper newsletters before. I know that there is a demographic that like them and would get the information no other way, however, I still contend that the ROI is too low and the cost way, way too high.

I have never received a newsletter that could not easily and more conveniently, for me, be replaced by some electronic format.

In my mailbox, every month, I receive a community newsletter, whose sole use is the amusement of reading it as the President of the Homeowner’s Association wags her finger at people driving motorized vehicles on the grass, people parking over the sidewalks, and a retelling of how unmentionable, naughty things were found by the lake. *gasp* (My imagination is probably leagues dirtier than what is actually found out by the lake. In a way, I am glad the President is too prude to tell us exactly what is found in the recesses of the lake’s shores.) It is quite diverting. Mr. R chuckles with me as I read this part aloud. The newsletter is about 10-15 pages long and glossy. However, the 5 minutes of smiles I get does not equal the effort that goes into printing it. While it does have local club meeting information, I could easily get that information online at a central site.

My church used to send a biweekly newsletter, but we recently received the newsletter with an announcement saying that particular issue would be our last. Many things have gone up in cost and the church is trying to reduce costs where it can so we can continue to spend money on things that matter and fit with our mission as a church. Newsletters to members cost an annual $25,000. Our church staff believed this money could be better spent on missions and programs. Amen!

In contrast, this week I also received a newsletter from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation. It was glossy and in full color. Newsletters like that cost a lot of money to print, hours upon hours of staff time, and money for postage. I would rather the New Orleans Public Libraries spend money on things like new books, new buildings, and more staff. I should mention that there was an option on the back page to not receive the newsletter anymore. It was worded like an unsubscribe message at the bottom of an email which I found interesting.

When I give presentations on technology in libraries, I almost always get asked with what time do I suggest staff learn these new tools and skills. “Where does the time and money come from?” they want to know. I always tell them that we have to decide what is important. We put our time and money into things we think are important.

Yes, decisions are sometimes hard, but will we evolve and learn new skills or will we continue to spend time and money on things that may not matter as much as we think they do. Are the things we think are important really important to the people that matter, the communities we serve?

My church knows me better than my community association. I am glad my church wants to spend that $25,000 on something more substantial than a newsletter. I wonder what my community organization could buy for the money our newsletter costs? New playground equipment?

What could you do at your library of you found an extra $25,000?

–Jane, wants $25,000 to appear in her mailbox. someone start writing her a check already