This Moment

This first year of motherhood is overwhelming, joyful, and stretches you beyond your limits. Eventually, the children learn to amuse themselves, though they still need you for many, many things. Once Bairn4 turned one, I started writing again. I wrote a book, Mob Rule Learning.

It was an interesting process, writing non-fiction. I found through the process that I preferred writing non-fiction in the length of articles and blog posts, not books. The process did give me the confidence to try something new and different.

Then Bairn1 came along and I was again in the throes of high maintenance motherhood. The youngest Rochesterling has achieved the ability to amuse himself and thus I have again been writing. All the free time I could squeeze out has been spent working on a new project.

I wrote a novel, a fantasy romance, that has been bouncing around in my head for a very long time. Unlike the non-fiction experience, it was exhilarating. I am now polishing up the manuscript for submission. That part of the process makes me freeze with anxiety and fear. I have determined that one step at a time is the best way to tackle the anxiety of the submission process.

I have begun, in the past year, to drop my ALA committments and disengage from libraryland. Oh, I still follow mostly librarians on Twitter, though they are starting to be outnumbered by editors, publishers, and writers. I will still be presenting at Internet Librarian in October. I loved being a librarian and I may be one again, some day, but my heart’s desire is to write more. Now that Bairn4 and Bairn1 are older, I can write more here, there, and everywhere.

Being at home means I can juggle writing in between quiet time, preschool, and PBS Kids. I am going to use this opportunity to see what I can do.

That is where I am at this moment. A once librarian (and maybe again some day) stay at home mom who wants to write stories with kissing in them.

–Jane, happy with her place

An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

Something happened yesterday that I am still trying to understand. I am not talking about the shooting in AZ. This was much less tragic in the worldly sense, but more tragic to me personally.

An open meeting was closed to me because I could not physically sit in the room, though the means necessary for me to be “present” at the meeting were available and running; it was shut down for what I think are some shoddy reasons.

A disclaimer: I was not at the physical meeting, so my knowledge of what happened after the stream was cut off is limited to the Twitter hashtag #litabd11 and other backchannel discussions.

A word to the PTB, if you do not control the conversation and allow transparency, someone else will do it for you and the results will not be in your favor. I think the backchannels bore out the truth of that reality yesterday.

Briefly: Jason Griffey set up a Ustream if the LITA Board meeting so that members not physically present in San Diego could watch the meeting. This would also have ensured that members who were currently serving elsewhere at Midwinter could have watched the discussion later. The main speaker for the section of the meeting in question was a consultant who did an analysis of how the LITA leadership works and how we can make our organization better, at least that was what I gleaned from the tweets I saw from members in the room (which sounds a topic all the membership should have access to seeing). The board voted to suspend the live stream “during this portion of the meeting” (though for the record, the stream was never set back up). Jason has the recorded section of the meting up on his Ustream channel which shows the discussion of why the stream should be turned off. The sound is a bit wonky, but gets a little better. The discussion happens about 7 minutes into the recording.

For those not familiar with ALA or the processes of its meetings: The LITA Board meeting is an open meeting at ALA which means that any member of LITA is welcome to attend and participate. LITA stands for the Library and Information Technology Association.

There were three main reasons the board and other members present gave (in the video and on Twitter) for turning off the stream:

  • The board was not aware the streaming was going to happen and wanted a chance to discuss it first,
  • Streaming is a form of communication and should be discussed because a stream of the board would be seen as an “official” communication mechanism of the board, and
  • The information being presented by the paid consultant to LITA was copyrighted and he was paid to present to the board and not a large group (aka the entire membership).

The first reason given is valid, though knee jerk. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did. The issue is that we should be streaming meetings and there is some disconnect about the why and how. People do not like to be surprised by things and will frequently reject the thing, good or bad, because the surprise factor is hard to get over. Jason got the knee jerk reaction he was looking for but unfortunately it was not in favor of streaming. The surprise could have given way to a, “What a great idea” discussion, but instead it was more like a “we want the opportunity to apply some red tape to this procedure so we’ll put it off reason” which brings us to the second reason given.

The second reason was that streaming constituted an “official” communication from the board and therefore should be vetted in some way. This argument reminds me of the discussions surrounding the LITA Blog when we first began that successful experiment. The same argument was made for not having a blog. We must get over this idea that everything that is produced should be polished to a high shine before being sent out to members. The internet is a beta platform. If you blog or tweet a meeting, people expect to see a meeting, not an “official” communication platform. If you wait around for “official” there will never be streaming of anything, including open meetings. Official communication methods from meetings, by the way, includes types notes that are out up somewhere, sometimes months after the meetings itself. This is not useful, though I think in the LITA Board’s defense their meetings minutes take less time to get the membership that want to read them. I think it is about time we got over this argument and accept the way technology works. I would expect that an association whose main purview is supposed to be about technology would inherently understand the meaning of change and flexibility in technology. Let us not forget this is an open meeting, but I will talk about that later.

The last reason given, while also valid, has some major issues as well. I do not know the exact rules about who owns copyright on material created by a consultant for ALA, whether the ALA body or the consultant is the holder of copyright for that material. For the sake of the argument, I will assume that the consultant retains copyright. If this is true, than the meeting, open or not, should not have been recorded in any fashion, including blogging and tweeting. However, there was more than one person in the room tweeting what the consultant was telling the board. Those tweets, while valuable, lacked context to some degree, as Twitter often does, so instead of a valid, whole picture of what the consultant was telling the board, we got choppy bits and pieces. In the world of the internet, streaming and Twitter are not that far apart except that one is better quality. Streaming would have given the consultant a better platform. If copyright was really an issue, a creative commons license could have protected the content of the message. After all the money we paid the consultant (I assume he did not do the work for free), should the members not be able to hear what our money paid him to do? Cindi Trainor did let us know that we could receive print copies of the consultant’s presentation if requested. I half wanted to request a copy just to put it up on the internet. I think that getting a print copy of the report is a waste of paper and postage.

My main issue with all this boils down to the fact that the LITA Board meeting is an open meeting. Open. Any member is allowed to attend and I think that should include me even though I can not physically be there. If the technology exists, and it does, for me to participate with the workings of my association, though other obligations and finances prevent me from attending, why are we not utilizing them? If the board is concerned that non-LITA folks might see the goings on of our association, then put the stream somewhere only members can access it. I would not advocate that route, however, since we all know nothing that secretive happens at board meetings. For actual secret stuff, we would have to record the conversations that go on in the halls after the meeting. Streaming meetings would open up opportunity for participation, which is what LITA is always saying it wants.

My secondary reaction is one of supreme disappointment. I love LITA, but I do not always feel that reciprocated now that I am not able to physically attend all the meetings. We are the technology group for the love of all that is holy, but we rarely act like it. Some of the tweets yesterday were arguing that the governing body should not be simply reactive to what members want and my response is “Why not?” Why can’t we experiment? Why can’t we try new things? Why does everything have to be official even when published on a platform, like streaming, Twitter, or blogs, that people know are not polished modes of communication? Why not test the newest technology (though streaming is hardly new) and show the other divisions how to do it? Isn’t that one of the things LITA is supposed to do with technology?

Lastly, and anyone with a shred on internet saavy knows this: If you do not control the message, someone else will. Yesterday, the LITA Board declined to try something new for reasons they felt were valid. As a result, other people, mainly members disenfranchised by the decision controlled the conversation via Twitter, and LITA did not come out the winner. They came out looking ignorant about the thing they are supposed to know about, technology.

I come away from this sad but unsurprised. LITA continues to be the thing I give my time and energy to in ALA because I want to make it better. I want to keep advocating for a technology association that actually is a leader in technology from inside the organization, even if I have to do so from miles away, on my blog, instead of on the live stream of the open meeting of the my board.

–Jane, this post is open for discussion

LITA Forum Presentation – Staff Training and the Mob Rule

I am presenting at 3:20 in room 205. It is going to be very interesting and FUN! I am going to talk about how to use the concept of an unconference to solve your staff training issues. There will be zombies. Participation is required. But not participating zombies. Sorry, no brains for afternoon snack time.

Here are my slides:

–Jane, braaaaaaiiiiiinsssszzzzzzzzzzzzzz

On the Road to LITA Forum

Today, I am getting ready to leave for LITA Forum. Leaving the house for a couple days and leaving Mr. Rochester, The Bairn, and The Dogs behind means a lot of extra preparation for me. I will leave them food and water so they should all be alive when I return, I hope.

I will be presenting on how to use the unconference concept for staff training. It should be interesting and very hands-on, so I hope if you are going to Atlanta for the conference, you will swing by Saturday afternoon.

Safe travels, LITA folks!


BIGWIG Becomes a Transparentocracy

(I said Friday for big news, but I suppose I am unable to read calendars. This is the big announcement. Enjoy.)

People fear and worry about the unknown.

The PTB, Powers That Be, in most organizations perpetuate fear by having closed meetings, by distributing meeting minutes that have no substance, hiding or disguising the way decisions are made, and not explaining any of the above to the people whom these decisions invariably effect the most. These practices create worry, fear, and gossip mongering because the lower levels of the organizations are kept, unintentionally or deliberately, in the dark. Who does this system protect? Certainly not the people on the bottom.

I believe that information is power and it is time we give it back to the people.

In an effort of experimentation, truth, and transparency, the leadership of BIGWIG will henceforth be practicing Radical Transparency. We want to model how radical transparency can change the work of an ALA group. We want to show that transparency breeds loyalty and productivity. It does not produce chaos. We discussed this at ALA Midwinter with the group and everyone was in favor of moving forward.

How will this work?

BIGWIG has registered its own domain called Your BIGWIG. There you will find different areas for discussion, work, and projects. We will strive to publicly discuss all projects, from the bottom up. The first item up for discussion and work is the Social Software Showcase planned for Annual. Well, it is not so much planned yet. We want the people to plan their own program.

We are not creating a democracy. We are creating a transparentocracy. The chairs of BIGWIG will still have final decision powers and will be true leaders of the group, but everyone will know what is going on, what is coming down the pipes, and how every decision is made. People will know because decisions will be made on the web for all the world to see or they can search the archives later).

Transparency is the future. It may be the medicine that ALA needs to regain and restore faith to their members. BIGWIG, the tiny IG unlike any other, wants to show ALA that it can be done. If you want to play, come on over, and sign-up for the fun.

–Jane, always happy to be the bearer of good things

Midwinter Round-up, the not so good bits

The not so good bits being two things I did not see but heard a lot about about one thing for which I was present and accounted for.

Most of my complaints about ALA Midwinter are about things having to do with the division in which I spend most of my time: LITA. As we say down South, Bless your heart. Bless your heart, LITA, I know you try, but let us consider the ways in which the brain was left behind in the planning of some of the aspects of ALA Midwinter 2008 and how your members have lost touch with reality and the word leadership.

In the past, LITA sponsored a Blogger’s room, which has become more popular as more people found out about it’s existence. At Annual 07, there were always people hanging out in the room, chatting, blogging, and surfing the internet whenever I chanced by. The room had multiple tables, chairs, wifi, and many power strips. BIGWIG usually has its meetings in this room because it is available, convenient, and has all the equipment we needed (wifi and power strips). At Midwinter 07, the room was bumped back to only be a couple tables in the back of the ALA office, but it still included power strips and wifi. Members of LITA have been thinking of ways we could use this service of a plug and wifi as a way to market LITA as a technology provider guru to ALA at large. I think this is a wonderful idea and an even better service.

(As a disclaimer, I did not see said table, but I did hear about it from multiple people. I wanted a picture, but ran out of time on Monday. If anyone snapped a picture, please share it in the comments.) This year the idea of the room or properly equipped tables seems to have gone awry somehow. This year, we again had a Blogger’s Table at Midwinter in the ALA office. But it was one table with two chairs, no power strips, and no wifi. Welcome bloggers, you would be better off sitting on the floor by a plug in the hallway instead of using this service we have not put much thought into providing. I am not sure who thought this would be a good idea, but clearly it is not useful and a waste of space besides.

The Blogger’s Area should be something, by now, that LITA leadership and admin have realized is a “good thing” for their image, but BIGWIG has to ask and advocate for it before every conference. It should be something that LITA wants to provide, not something they must be cajoled and prodded into doing.

At Annual, LITA, I will not be there to enjoy it, but please provide a real room, with numerous tables, chairs, power strips, and wifi . We know it costs money, but think of it as much needed advertising to all the techies hiding in other ALA groups that see you not as a technology leader or innovator, but as an innovator and leader that has forgotten what it means to do so.

I again must write a disclaimer as I was not present at the following meeting, but I did hear about it after the fact from multiple people. At Midwinter, the Top Tech Trends Panel holds an open discussion meeting in which they throw out ideas about new trends and the audience is able to comment on the panel’s assumptions. Other then the President’s Program, the TTT Panel at both Midwinter and Annual are the most popular LITA events. The thing that makes the Midwinter program stand out is that, instead of the panel talking to the audience, as they do at Annual, the panel talks with the audience about tech trends in libraries.

You would expect that such a largely attended and well received program would not have the problems getting the right room and equipment they need from LITA to hold their events. Indeed, they should not have the kind of problems a little IG would have, say getting a blogging area, but the TTT Committee had similar connectivity and set-up issues. It is possible that these issues were a problem with the conference staff and not LITA. If I am wrong in my assumption, I want to be corrected. Someone, please correct me!

Instead of a large room, set up for a lively discussion and debate, the room TTT was given was small and set up for a traditional committee meeting with a table in the center and chairs around the table. The chair of the committee, Maurice York, had to run around, fetching as many extra chairs as he could cram into the room. During the discussion, the room overflowed into the hall. LITA – we do not have room for you.

The connectivity in the room was not wonderful. One of the committee members, trying to participate virtually on Skype, had issues connecting to the group because of the wifi. Wifi can be problematic, so I am hesitant to really lay that on LITA’s door. I applaud the committee for trying Skype. Who says ALA does not have virtual participation?

Lastly, the LITA Town Meeting ended in a debate over which we should be: Innovative Leaders of Technology (in which we often blaze the trail as the first) or Leaders in Technology (in which we do not care about innovation but instead create best practices and know the best tools in hopes that others will seek out our expertise). The conversation made me want to cry, scream, and rip my hair out. It is the conversation I hear repeated in MPOW and in libraries all over the nation. It is the reason a lot of libraries talk about doing something but never actually get around to doing anything at all and thus never lead anyone anywhere.

Why try to be first, when you can be last? I have a news flash for the people in LITA who think we should give up trying to be first and be the ones who make great policies and practices. All those groups who blazed the trail we are sauntering down, already created all the policies and best practices they need because shortly after being first, they realized they needed some guidelines. When you wait for others to do all the dirty work and then step in later to save the day, you only look like an attention grabber and no one believes you have anything to contribute that is worthwhile. If you did have something meaningful to say, you would have said it at the beginning, when the innovative group was hacking through the jungle, not later when the road is built.

I am not bringing this up to say that age is the factor, but someone asked all of us under 30 to raise out hands and there were less than 5 of us in a room easily holding about 60 or 70 people. I know LITA used to be the leader back when they had the Internet room for people to use and you were all young. I know because you tell us about it all the time. I am proud you blazed that trail and it is part of our history. You know what though, you are the only ones who remember that and that remembrance is not enough for the rest of ALA to keep believing you are a leader of anything. One good idea will not ensure your status as an innovator. It just means you had one good idea.

People no longer see LITA as a leader in technology because we are not. Not in innovation, policies, or best practices. If we really want to reclaim our position as a leader in technology we have to actually lead the way to be taken seriously. I want LITA to be great. I want us to blaze a technology trail others can walk down. I want us to partner with other divisions who are also using technology in innovative ways so we can be leaders again. We do not always have to be the first ones down the trail, but we should try to be in the lead group, leading.

–Jane, not ready to sit back and let others have all the innovative fun

David Lee King Keynote at LITA Forum

The Future is Not Out of Reach: Change, Library 2.0, and Emerging Trends

Change affects each of us in different ways. Sometimes libraries change like turtles. We are the lucky ones. LITA, the techno geeks.

Social networking has been taking off in the last 2 years. Our patrons are using things like YouTube, but not all of us are.

Comments allow people to hold conversations on the web. It is like having an open meeting on the web.

Friending on the web is different then what it means in person. You can be friends for life. The web allows you to keep track of people much easier then before the web. Friends lists are a trusted list of people.

Content: Before the web it was books on a shelf and electronic resources. Someone else’s content arranged on a shelf. Now there are RSS feeds, original staff content, and patron generated content.

Web as Platform: The PC is no longer the platform. Old models, patrons visit the library to do stuff at the library. New Model, people go to the library to do stuff outside of the library, on the web. We are the launch pad not the destination itself.

Why do we need to participate?
To be relevant to the next generation. All our younger people are using IM, why aren’t libraries using that?

What are YOU doing at your libraries?
Gaming, SecondLife, podcasts, interactive art galleries, flickr photos

What are we teaching the current generation?
Information literacy is no longer just about reading. Information Literacy is also about teaching grandma to use flickr to look at her grandkids pictures.

How to make time for new stuff?
The problem is not finding time; it is changing your focus and priorities. Sometimes we have to do something scary to stay relevant.

One thing David can promise is that there will be change.

–Jane, great presentation

Geek Librarian on Parade

Today started a string of travel for me. I am in Denver until Sunday to attend LITA Forum. I will be giving two talks:
David and Goliath take on Social Tools and Learning 2.0 on a Dime.

Monday, I leave Denver for Virginia Beach to talk to the public library there about Web 2.0 and how it can help them engage customers. I created an outline and entitled it Making Your Patrons More Than the Audience. I got an email back from Nancy, who has been working with me for the trip, saying that they refer to their patrons as customers. I gladly changed the wording of my presentation. It is nice that the mentality of patrons as customers is already in place in Virginia Beach.

I have long thought it short sighted of libraries not to admit that we are competing for people’s attention and that makes us like a business. If you follow that logic, our patrons are indeed customers. If we really planned things this way, would we offer different services?

I think that we would move a lot faster and keep up with demand better. In the real world, companies that do not keep up, go bankrupt and fail. In the library world, this does not happen, but you do become obsolete in your community. I think the ability of libraries to survive despite a lack of innovation has hurt our culture. I believe that is beginning to change because we are competing for people’s attention and money, but oh, the change is so very slow.

We need to start thinking like businesses and get over our hang-ups about that.

–Jane, well that post went off on a tangent!

Survey About Technology Conferences

I am on an ALA LITA Committee that is trying to design a better technology conference. We want to know what you liked, did not like, or would like to see at a technology conference in the future.

If you have ever attended a technology preconference, session, conference, or you simply have an opinion, please take this survey. Feel free to spread the survey far and wide. We would like to have feedback from as many people as possible so that we can create something that will serve you better.

–Jane, thanks!

updated: the link should now be working!