Notes from UnALA10

These are my notes on the presentations given during the Unconference at ALA. Here is how they came into being:

As a large group (we had over 50 participants!), we brainstormed trending topics in libraries. Topics generated during this ranged from the digital divide to services in libraries. Then, each person was able to vote 5 times for the topics they found the most interesting. They were able to use their votes in whatever manner they liked, all 5 for one, spread out or not at all. The top 8 made the final list and from there, we ended up with 6 groups.

The groups then had one hour to create a 7 minutes or less presentation, in the format of their choosing. Each group presented to the larger group after one hour.

The conversations that the groups had at their tables were wonderful. It was fun to observe and listen.

Below are my notes from the presentations. Each group’s topic is in bold:

Service in libraries
trending and service in libraries
pump it yourself (as in gas) generation – older who do not use technology and do not like it
mobile reference and things online – younger generations
the people that want the things online are the people driving the trend
checkout is going to go away, that is not the word, access is the word
library as place is still a thing that matters – people still want to do that
unique programming happens in libraries and this brings in different users
children’s services are more traditional and this has not changed much
literature services on the other side of the digital divide
we still have books
Book Well – librarians trained to use books as a healing process (I was unable to find the link. I think it is in Australia?)

Web Usability, Next Gen websites
single search interfaces
requires a change in thinking from catalog vs database
need info from proprietary databases
does not always return the best resources
librarians hate it student love it – shallow searches
branding and various flavors available
high transaction costs means no availability – hard to get to resources behind closed doors
Ex. XC Extensible Catalog, Summon, Follet One Search, WorldCat Local, EBSCO Discovery service
search indexes
pushing data out
The Newberry Library – pushing geographical information out with digital collections, using local history and adding the places onto
resources are too fragmented in too many places so do we need to gather them to one place or push them out to more places

SWOT – Library Viability

Space – the library is a space in the community
Why – complacency, bureaucracy, lack of staff
Threats – poor management/leadership, areas of change/fear of change, budget/funding, lack of community awareness
Opportunities – marketing, advocacy (we do not always do well but they are things that we have to do), better operating models and standing up to publishers that are causing price problems for libraries, digital resources, community outreach

One of the participants turned their computer into a big timer to keep the groups on time. I love unconferences

You Be the Change
how do we deal with staff,colleagues and the PUBLIC that are resistance to change
asking some people to change is like a natural disaster to them and then you are dealing with the unknown
tips for dealing with change
proactive vs reactive – be thinking about the future and not what we did not what we did in the past. There will always be change victims, figure out how to work with them and how to make them feel valued
Get data to support the change
take initiative – do not wait for someone else to do it
build relationships
what are the needs of people in the org
be flexible if you are the change agent
your attitude – be positive
mentor – having a mentor in your org or not that will support you through the process
Training opportunities – synthesizing new knowledge
Time – it takes time
You be the change, you can be the change, it takes, time, effort, persistent. Sometimes you are so close to the change that you can not see it, the forest for the trees, so remember to occasionally step back and see what is going on.
Good question on when you get rid of/fire people who do not get on board with changes.. govt agencies always have malcontents, part of performance reviews
q – have a list of shared values, find the motivators for different actors in the conflict, find the contribution that individuals are making to the org especially if they are resistors
conversations are important – talking AND listening with intent

Digital Divide – avoiding the #epicfail

this group had a presentation on the computer but we have a technology fail and they are going “analog style” and using their notes
information literacy
access to technology
interpersonal interaction
online vs f2f
generations compressing in staff and users
They ask the group what their libraries have done to bridge some of the divide
checking out laptops – in the library
tried to give an 84 yr old Nook and did not like it bc of packaging, feel of books, liked buying used books
in India – costs of textbooks issue for students, small loans for students to buy books, FlatWorldKnowledge, company that makes books available for students in multiple formats
circ Kindles

Finding, Getting, and Keeping Library Jobs

be open minded about your future including looking beyond the word library and librarianship
don;t fear the job description
RSS feeds, websites, job boards, but most people get jobs through people so do that as much as possible
Getting the job
be a good presenter of yourself
network, know people, communicate with others
move out of your comfort zone – be flexible about your job
frame what you have done to get what you want, frame it for the job
interview well
Keeping the job
holding something back to avoid burnout
get a mentor, they’re awesome
politics – learn how to deal with them well
get involved with a bog project, complete small and and keep them moving forward
be versatile in what you do, do not say, “this isn’t in my job description”
awesome, they sang a song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

–Jane, has some new things to think about, thanks unala peeps!

Come unala With Us

Something that has the potential to be the most exciting and fun thing happening at ALA Annual this year still has a lot of spaces for people to attend. And it is a free event. And if you come, you will have a large say in what happens, what we talk about, and how what is shared in a few short hours could change the world.

Don’t you want to change the world?

Come to the Unconference at ALA Annual. Sean came up with the theme for the day: the theme is the number 9, the homophone for long lasting in Chinese. Long lasting friendships and long lasting impacts upon the library community.

Last year was fun, but this year could be better. We are mixing it up with flash debates, Pecha Kecha presentations, and a fishbowl at the end of the day. We are also in the conference center so there should be no wifi issues.

If you are looking at your schedule for Annual and thinking it needs some zip, some inspiration, or some fun, sign up to find all three Friday, June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm.

By the way, if you have to duck out for lunch plans or have to miss part of the day, sign up anyway and indicate that you will be gone for part of the day.

–Jane, only you know the best way to save the world, come tell others about it

Back-up Plans, the A Team, and Flexibility

It is important to have a back-up plan when creating the plan you hope will work. Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry and then it is time to revamp, evaluate, call in the A-Team, or whatever is needed to keep the levy from breaking.

I recently gave birth in a Birth Center with a midwife. Because we were not at a hospital (the hospital was only a few blocks away) we had two birth plans: the everything goes normal and the emergency plan in case of, well, emergencies. It included what we wanted in a worse case scenario, who was to go where, and important numbers. Though we appeared prepared, we forgot to plan for the contingency that something might go wrong with the baby. Our back-up was great as long as the problem only resided with me.

Sometimes even the best laid back-up plans go awry.

The thing is that, though we may not be able to plan for every facet of a failure or problem, we should have some notion in our minds of what we will do if Bad Things happen to our plans.

How do you plan for the worst while hoping for the best? What does this look like when implementing technology?

When planning a new venture at your library, consider these things:
What if something (funding, staff support, technology, training, the weather, or other things governed by Murphy’s Law) goes wrong or simply does not work? Am I willing to scrap X entirely or in part? Am I willing to adjust? What is the ROI, loss or gain, if we change gears?

This all sounds entirely pessimistic, but flexibility is a pillar of Web 2.0. Flexibility is one of the things that makes Web 2.0 work the way it does. I think we tend to treat the flexibility of Web 2.0 like it is a new concept when really we are just creating things that have built-in back-up plans.

Perhaps this is the way we should have sold the flexibility of Web 2.0 technologies in the beginning, because back-up plans are a known idea. Of course, many back-up plans require committees and actual written plans. This is not the sort of path I would recommend. Perhaps simple discussion of flexibility as a concept of back-up planning is still a way we can start discussions with people who struggle with the idea of beta and flexible technologies.

We should still remember that not all plans, normal or back-up, will work for the situation as it presents itself. The technology that looked great on a small scale may crumble when scaled for the masses, but we will never know until we try. Taking chances, even with a back-up plan in mind, is still a chance, but the benefits can be sweet indeed.

–Jane, all back-up plans should involve the A Team

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

An Old Story with a New Twist

I have been busy getting the Rochester household ready for our new addition and I have neglected to read the news from library land. I saw a few posts pop up about Swift when they first popped up, but I did not read them. I think maybe I should have because I would have seen that Swift, which has been denounced as a waste in different ways by many people I respect, was created by the Otter Group.

This Otter Group.

I believe in giving people second chances, but it seems to me that this company has learned nothing in the two years since they were last on my radar. I suppose this just goes to show you that companies will pay money for anything. Crap, libraries and our organizations do it all the time. I know not all online tools are “free” but Karen makes a great argument about what we would like our organizations to be spending money on and this is not it.

I can see Swift being useful at a conference where the attendees and presenters are not Internet or technology savvy, but that is the target audience of ITI. People at CiL have some clue as to what is going on in the world. We already have a way to share the things Swift wants from us.

I want to know why ITI felt the need to use a product like Swift. How did they get bamboozled into that decision? Was it simply because the hive that usually exists around the conference (via Twitter, blogs, IM,etc.) can not be contained and thus can not be profited from? This whole discussion reminds me of a quote I use in presentations to talk about transparency and reputation:

“The reputation economy creates an incentive to be more open, not less. Since Internet commentary is inescapable, the only way to influence it is to be part of it… Putting out more evasion or PR puffery won’t work, because people will either ignore it and not link to it – or worse, pick the spin apart and enshrine those criticisms high on your Google list of life.” —Clive Thompson

We, the librarians in the Internet Tubes, see through things fairly well because we are smart and often like to read the fine print. We spend our days looking for new things to serve the public better by saving money, not making it. Please do not be surprised when we look your expensive horse in the mouth and tell you that the reliable and cheap pony we already own works fine because we see only a shiny toy with no substance that you are offering. Beware of things that only glitter.

–Jane, ITI, we already have transportation to the Ball, we do not need another ride. Now can we talk about wifi?

Do we practice what we preach?

I am still trying to figure out how to plan my work, house, and napping needs around the hours of my day. I think I am finally getting an idea of what is and is not possible in a 24 hour period for the stay-at-home Jane.

I am catching up on some much needed reading this morning and read Meredith’s post (finally) on Building 21st Century Librarians and Libraries. Meredith points out that it is not just SLIS schools that are to blame. As I have stated many times in frustration, our organizational cultures are not equipped to be flexible enough to allow for the growing need of tech skills in ALL our public services staff. Meredith says:

It’s also the way organizations are structured. So many libraries have a 1.0 org chart for a 2.0 world. They’re not structured to support public services technologies like blogs, wikis, etc. They’re not set up to allow for the sort of experimentation and agile decision-making that is required to meet the changing needs and wants of our users. So I don’t know that in an environment like that, hiring an emerging technologies librarian or a 2.0 librarian or whatever is the answer. You’re just putting a band-aid on a problem that goes to the heart of how your organization is structured and how decisions are made.

How do we make our organizations more nimble?

I think we have to start with the belief that all public services staff should have some level of tech skills. We have to stop relying on those one or two people to figure things out and then hopefully find time to teach the rest of the staff. We should all be learning and sharing with each other all the time or we should have someone on staff to train and plan for technology.

That kind of sharing is how the online tech oriented librarians learn from each other. We learn and share all the time. I certainly do not know everything and see all the cool stuff first. I am linked to a plethora of really smart people that I keep my eyes on, librarians and non-librarians. That is the only true way to “keep up.”

Not only do we need to believe that public services staff should know how to use technology, we should require it. Our users, our customers expect us to know it; we should expect it of ourselves.

This also begs the question: If an organization is unwilling to devote time and money to training its staff in technology skills are they really trying to be flexible and innovative? If an organization does not allow time for their staff to learn new skills are they really supporting continued learning?

–Jane, put your money where your mouth is

Fish4Info, an Interview at TechSource

I have an interview with Christopher Harris over at the TechSource Blog today. We talk about his new project called Fish4Info.

The vision behind Fish4Info was a desire to create a positive library experience. I wanted to change the typical library catalog which is often used as a pass through to information into a destination where students would stay and interact. This means that the catalog had to become more social.

Chris, who writes Infomancy, is a friend who I think is doing some really fabulous stuff for school libraries. Hooray for school librarians!

–Jane, hooray for Friday

School Librarians Are Heroes

Since October, I have been working with a group of school librarians from the Rochester, NY area. I created and taught a Five Weeks type course for them called Library 2.0 Leadership Institute. The idea was the brainchild of Chris Harris who is, in my opinion, doing more for school libraries right now then anyone else. He designed a collaborative catalog and web page system for schools in his area, from scratch, with a team of two. The program is called Fish4Info and I think it looks fabulous, but that review is for another time.

This experience has led me to realize that, of all the librarians in the United States, school librarians get the shortest, saddest, under-appreciated end of the stick. They have more hurdles to overcome than any of us. No one has room to complain compared to them.

The thing that shocked me the most was their lack of access to technology. These wonderful people we were expecting to teach our children about information can not even access the information themselves. The system is broken almost beyond repair.

I am not talking about individual website blocking, which is bad, but platform blocking as well. Google Docs. Pbwiki. Any wiki for that matter. Blogger. WordPress. What are these districts afraid of? Collaboration? Scary! People talking and such!

I asked some of the participants in the institute what the process was for getting a website unblocked. Most of them are from smaller districts and their answers varied, but more than a few of them had an answer that floored me. They have to send a formal request for each site they want unblocked to the Superintendent of their district. You did not read that wrong. The Superintendent of the entire district has to approve the unblocking of each individual website that a librarian, not a student, wants to look at and use. This would be the equivalent of me submitting a written request to the President of my University for permission to look at Wikipedia.

After a few choice words, I asked them how this made them feel. They said like “children.” These districts have no respect for their librarians and teachers as smart individuals teaching the future of our country. They might as well require that they ask to go to the bathroom. Do these districts think that this treatment will empower and instill trust with their staff? I wonder how many of the people making decisions about what is a “safe” website even know what half of the websites are that they are blocking. The most common reason for blocking a website, according to the librarians, was because it might contain porn. Porn. What a lame excuse to block Google Docs. It does not even make sense.

At the end of the 6 week program, each librarian was to come up with a proposal to use one of the 2.0 tools at their school. For many of them, their decision was based not on what would work best for their students or teachers, but what was not blocked by their filtering system. That is no way to make technology decisions. It is irresponsible on the part of the administrators to force their teachers and librarians into this position and only encourages bad or no technology use in our schools. This situation benefits no one, except perhaps companies selling filtering software.

On the bright side, they came up with some really great and unique ideas despite their limitations. The projects ranged from class projects to useful information for teachers. Even though some of them had ridiculous odds stacked against them for learning, they persevered. I think that any school librarian that perseveres and continues to search for new technology avenues for their students and teachers despite idiotic PTBs and rules is a hero.

It was fun to be a part of another project where people are in charge of their own learning. It is amazing the extra lengths that are taken when people are empowered by the process instead of hindered by it.

Chris hopes to replicate the institute and have the librarians who have already completed it be the mentors and teachers. Hopefully, with some lessons learned and some great new leaders, this program will be something that will help many more librarians in the Rochester area.

–Jane, is proud of the librarians in the program

Joe Janes – Second Day IL2007 Keynote

Joe Janes
Reference 2.0:Ain’t What it Used to Be… and it never will again

[My comments in brackets.]
[He is doing this without slides! Coolio.]

Mr. Janes self identifies as a Lackluster Enhancer [from Rainie’s talk yesterday].

First article we know of that talks about reference is from 1876. The primary motivation for helping people is that there is too much information and people find it difficult to find it because the subject headings do not help. We, librarians, should step in and help people. [Seems like nothing much has changed. It makes me wonder if we ever learn as a profession or a species.]

Reference manifests itself in different ways and different settings.

Now there is a lot of stuff and people can find it or they can find something. There are lots of ways to get help. Traditional reference is not going to work. [Mr. Janes is exceptionally humorous, but he is right. Traditional reference is not going to serve the needs of our users.]

Someday we will come to the time when everything is digital. We have an evermore digital world. Horizontal searching and federated searching is where everything is going. There are a lot of ways to find everything. We are increasingly looking for wholes and parts of things in digital form.

How do we insert reference services there?

Quoting a 1930’s article about the reference interview: “They will choke and die before they tell you what they want.” [This gets huge laughs. We all know exactly what this librarian is talking about.]

We can take on Wikipedia. If you are griping about Wikipedia and you are not editing it, you have no right. [Amen. If I hear one more professor or librarian harp about the information on wikis I am going to poke a pen in my ear. It is like voting. If you do not vote, you have no right to complain about the state of this country.] Blogs, wikis, podcasts, we have to be doing that. [Yes, we do and how many of us are not?]

We have to explore our areas of strength and the niches where what we do is unique. [What is the library long tail?] We have the skills to respond to people’s needs and the help that people need. There are people that need us in the digital realm too but they do not know where to look for us.

It is easy to look at those [the digital visitors] and then look at all the people we will not be helping, but look at all the people we are not helping now. We will never be able to answer all the questions Google answers everyday. This is the question of levels of service and we were always taught to do that.

People living online is just the idea that people want to be heard. Every book, movie, song, poem can be reduced to “I was here.” A handprint on a cave wall is, “I was here. I had a life. I mattered. I want to be heard.” Now it happens on facebook. It is the same thing. [To me, this is the most powerful thing Mr.Janes said. Where is your cave and what is your handprint?]

There is no end product to Wikipedia or LibraryThing. There is no finish; the point is the participation and figuring out how to make them better and bigger. The process is the outcome. If this is the environment that half to a third of our communities are living in, we have to be there too. We have to be heard and seen.

The exciting thing about librarians in Second Life is not reference, it is creating. You have to create everything. You have to create your life! Everything is about creation. If we could get librarianship back into the idea of creation, that would be wonderful. What if there had been a librarian around when the http protocol was built?

We have to be more easily found. Without throwing out the idea of being a librarian. Get out of the freakin’ library and stay in the library. What you really gotta be is somewhere and everywhere as every library should be. You have to be somewhere. You have to provide the 3rd space, the physical space and you have to be everywhere else as well. It is the concept of the library leaking out of the building.

It is easier to use the library from home. You do not have to get dressed.

If you do not know how many people are using your webpage and downloading stuff from your databases, you can not ask more money to support it. That is an open scandal.

You have to be in and out of the library at the same time. You have to be here and everywhere. The communities online are helping each other and they are asking us questions at the reference desk less.

We were made for better things then standing behind a reference desk waiting for people to ask us dippy questions. [like where is the *insert noun here* or I need three articles on gun control.]

For now, print is our secret weapon. But as the years go by, print becomes less worthwhile. The role of print will decrease and reference collections will go into the general collection. Grieve and move on. [I think I may be in love with this man, sorry Mr. Rochester.]

“Method over material” quote about reference in 1909 [In the digital wars going on in our buildings, this idea has been lost.]

We have to help people tend the networked communities. Individually and collectively, we should be on the networks. Slam the Boards project is awesome. Be a role model about how to make things more useful.

Market. Tell people what you do. Tell them you save them time and money.

It is unrealistic and illusory to think that the old days are going to come back. The service we provide to people in our physical buildings is phenomenal. Whatever services we provide people online have to be better. When they visit you online, they can be gone in a heartbeat. It has to be better online than in person.

[Wow. I am cleaning these notes sitting in the San Jose airport waiting for my flight. The words are just as strong now as they were two days ago. I wish that every librarian could have been in the room to hear this. After I post this on my blog, I am going to share this with my department.]

–Jane, posting this before going to work today

Lee Rainie – Opening Keynote IL2007

1385 people at the conference

Lee Rainie from Pew Internet and American Life Project
2.0 and the Internet World

[my comments in brackets]

[Lee always opens with humor and he goes through some things that have been blogged about him.]

[I can never keep up with Mr.Rainie when he talks. Everything he has to say is so interesting. Someone should podcast his speeches.] The Internet is the new computer. People do everything online. Half the population has broadband at home. Wireless users are different then other internet users.

Blogs have been built so seamlessly into social networking sites that teens do not think of the writing they are doing on their profiles as blogging.

19% of online young adults have created an avatar that interacts with others online

All content creators have an audience.

44% of young adults seek info on wikipedia
36% of adults use Wikipedia

34% of online young people have tagged things, though they do not often think of what they are doing as tagging

Americans can customize their online experience with Web 2.0 tools.
40% of younger users customize news and other info sources. [Though they often do not know it is RSS which makes that possible.]

Internet User Groups
Omnivores – 8% high end user group, have the most gadgets, late 20s, male dominant, students, wireless, racially diverse, broadband users

Connectors 7% – do not do nearly as much stuff as previous group, email, IM, cell phone, female dominant, diverse, believe that their gadgets can do more than they use them for

Lackluster Veterans 8% – use stuff at same level as Connectors, older, trending white, 40ish, tech is necessary but not exciting, do not like being “on” all the time [You could call these the technology grumps. They use it but they grump about it all the time.]

Productivity Enhancers 8% – workers, 40ish, like it because it helps them be efficient at work and shopping, no gender difference (like all all previous groups upscale in SES), no blogging really

Mobile Centric 10% – early 30s, minority rules, middle income, love their cell phones, only 37% have broadband, texters and photos with phone

Connected but Hassled 10% – high level of broadband, female, mid 40s, being online is a hassle, do so less frequently, complain of Information Overload

Inexperienced Experimenters 8% – no broadband older, but will try stuff, late adopters

Light but Satisfied – 15% – fine with what they have, mid 50s, do not need more, you have to call them to tell them to check their email, below national average SES, love tv and radio, only 15% have broadband

Indifferents 11% – 40s, “I do not like this stuff” most have cell phones and the internet but do not need it, proud to tell you that they do not need it

Off the Network 15% – no cell phone, no internet, 60s+ female dominant, poorest group, largest group of African Americans, they think the internet is full of porn and badness [It’s not?! 😉 ]

49% of pop is a low tech crowd, technophiles are only 8%

suggests a book entitled Smart Mobs by Howard Reingold

We have become grazers of information. [I agree. Not only do we have to because there is so much, but RSS encourages grazing instead of in depth reading.]

–Jane, grazing