All posts by mick

What type of library do you work for? (By TTW Contributor Mick Jacobsen)

“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t” – Robert Benchley

When I walk in to a library I can usually tell what type it is fairly quickly.  I don’t mean public, special, academic, school, etc.  but a library for stuff or a library for experiences.  When I walk in to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL  it is obviously centered on experiences.  When I go in to a museum library it is obviously about stuff.

This isn’t to say that AHML doesn’t also have an amazing amount of great stuff and a museum library doesn’t have a wonderful experience, these are not mutually exclusive.  I am also not passing judgment on either type, simply pointing out that there is a difference when it comes to emphasis stuff vs. experience which affects every aspect of managing a library.

My home town library is a very interesting case in regards to experience vs. stuff.  The adult area is all about stuff as was the kids area.  However, in the last 2 years in the kids section has changed from stuff to experience.  I love the changes as does my family.

MPOW is a hybrid between stuff and experience. I believe if you come in one entrance you will believe we are all about experience (the theater, kids play area, meeting rooms, Digital Media Lab, and art) and if you come in the other it will look like we are all about stuff. I think it works for my community at this time.

So, what type of library do you work for?  Are you changing?

#TTW10 : A Space to Show It by TTW contributor Mick Jacobsen

Evan Monkey Bars
A poster displayed outside the DML.

I have written previously about Digital Media Labs and their ilk.  I have also been a small part of helping  a number of libraries starting media labs of one sort or another.

An aspect of DMLs that often gets lost in the shuffle of all the shiny hardware and expensive software is a place to display art.  This space can be a wall in the main lobby of the library for photos, slides, graphic design work and whatever else can be put on a poster.  A LCD screen or something that can be used to show films or a movie festival.  Don’t forget the interwebs!

The posting of digital media creations has been one of the biggest wins I have had in my career as a librarian.  The patrons are honored to be selected and excited to see their work as a poster/on a movie screen and on the LIBRARY website.

We are planning to start using our catalog to bring even more attention to these works in the near future.

Make sure you create a space for your library patrons to display their works as well as create and curate it.


ILEAD USA (by TTW contributor Mick Jacobsen)

I have been a part of this initiative as an instructor for the first two iterations and can not recommend it highly enough! Check it out if you live in one of the states involved.

ILEAD USA Applications Available-“National Day of Application” November 1 The State Library continues its preparations to host ILEAD USA (Innovative Librarians Explore, Apply and Discover): The 21st Century Technology and Leadership Skills Institute for the States. This continuing education initiative will be held at the University of Illinois Springfield on March 25-28, June 17-20 and October 21-24, 2013. Our partner states in ILEAD USA are Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Utah.

We are accepting applications until December 14th for mentors, instructors, and participants for ILEAD USA. ILEAD USA is a competitive, application-only program. Please consider applying for one of the three components at Applications are currently being accepted for Illinois, Ohio and Utah, and will be available shortly for Colorado and Iowa.

A “National Day of Application” will be held November 1 featuring a live Webinar from 10 a.m. to 12 noon CST. During the Webinar ILEAD USA project directors will answer any questions about how to complete the ILEAD USA application.

Registration is encouraged but not required to take part in the “National Day of Application” Webinar. Register at The live Webinar will take place at Log in as a guest with your name and state. No password is needed. If you wish to test the system prior to November 1, please contact Debra Aggertt at [email protected] or 217-558-1945.

If you do not have an audio connection via your computer for November 1, you may participate via conference call. Please call this conference call number: 888-494-4032, Access Code: 3886075450.

ILEAD USA is made possible by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant awarded to the State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Contact Gwen Harrison at [email protected] (217-785-7334) or Debra Aggertt at [email protected] (217-558-1945) if you have questions.

What Ho? Computer Lab (by TTW Contributor Mick Jacobsen)

Computer Labs are the ugly ducklings of libraries, very rarely get discussed, very few presentations on best practices, disgruntles reference librarians everywhere “I did not go to library school to help somebody play with Facebook”, and all that jazz.  I have never understood that opinion but I am not here to try and change anybody’s mind about the need, but to discuss the future of computer labs in libraries (my experience is in public libraries).

As background, mpow’s computer use statistics were down from last fiscal year, and this year looks to be down again.  At our height we were at nearly 140,000 uses per year (that is a lot of bodies in the library, even including the people that come in 3 times a day – there is your need) for a town around 70,000.  Last year we were at about 121,000, this fiscal year I think we will be around 112,000 at best.  And, for those of you wondering, we have good computers, up-to-date programs, and a dedicated, friendly staff. We are also in the midst of remodel and have added no new computers, probably a first for a remodel in the last 10 years, right? In fact, I have purposely designed the new computer commons to degrade gracefully to work areas for laptops users in a few years.  But even if your statistics are going up, you see the writing on wall don’t you?

What are we going to do when usage goes down to 90k, 35k?  Is the computer lab something we are going to be glad to get rid of?  Is it even important to the mission of the library of the future?  Most importantly, how are we going to keep these library patrons engaged with us (don’t give me any of that crap that computer users aren’t real library patrons)?

I don’t have the answers, but I do have ideas.  I hope you have some to share as well.

Perhaps, depending on your community, it is time to really think about creating a Media Lab, Maker Space, Craft Area, Art Room, Game Center, Music Center, Tech. Petting Zoos, Philosophy Discussion Rooms, Idea Box and other spaces.  Design a space that people cannot easily or cheaply create, and pulls together the community.

It is time to consider how to better start teaching technological literacy via group, 1 to 1 classes, and by video.  Become the obvious neighborhood expert.  No more should teaching be optional for librarians, no more should user instruction classes be optional for library school students.

We have, through computer labs, already positioned ourselves as technology experts to a large portion of our community.  I believe we need to grasp that label as hard as we can and expand on it.   I think all librarians should say a thank you to computer labs for providing one potential future.

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

Volunteering in a Digital Media Lab – A Guest Post by Lian Sze

LianThis is a guest post I asked Lian, a volunteer in the Skokie Library Digital Media Lab, to writeWhat is life like for DML volunteers and workers is a common question from people interested in DMLs, I hope Lian’s post will help explain what her volunteering looks like.  – Mick Jacobsen

With four tricked out Macs, a chroma key green wall, Blue Yeti microphones, a drawing tablet, scanners, various electronic instruments and more, the Skokie Public Library Digital Media Lab is the place to be if you’re looking to create.  Each of the four Macs at the DML is considered a station, and each station has unique software that appeal to different patrons depending on the type of project they are working on.

As a volunteer at the Skokie DML, I had no idea what types of patrons I was going to encounter or what kind of help I would be able to offer.  Much to my relief, a lot of the questions that I get asked are often basic computer questions that anyone familiar with a Mac can usually answer.  However, I do get asked questions on some of our more advanced software, such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe InDesign, questions that I am only able to answer with a little bit of research online or in the books that we have in the DML.

What I love the most about patrons at the DML is that they are always willing to help each other out, so even if I can’t answer something I can always ask another patron to see if they know the answer.  The sense of solidarity comes from the fact everyone is working in this shared space together, a place where there is so much equipment and so much software that no one person can claim to be an expert at everything.  Skokie Public Library also attracts a culturally diverse patron base, so it’s not unusual to see someone editing a video on an Albanian wedding alongside another who is editing photos from her childhood growing up in Europe.

The skill levels of the patrons vary, from those who are very technologically savvy to those who can barely use a computer.  There are often high school or college kids who come into the lab and know exactly what they need to do, whether it’s video editing or remixing that song that they love so much (NO PROFANITY, PLEASE!).  But we also have a lot of older patrons who may need help scanning photos, others who just want to watch a video and some who might just want to learn how to use a Mac.

Even though some of the older patrons seem to have more difficulty with the software programs, it never seems to deter their determination to get their projects done.  One lady was using Dreamweaver to edit her church’s website, while another man was using Adobe InDesign to edit a brochure that explained his recent world travels, and both of them told me that they were just beginning to learn how to use these software programs.

The most excited patrons are always musicians.  When they see all the equipment we have here, you can almost see their minds reel at how they can use the DML for their upcoming music projects.  They often comment on how expensive the equipment and the software are and how many of them would not be able to afford it on their own.

Whenever I see someone poke their head into the DML, I always explain to them what the DML is for and how they can sign up for a station.  You may never be able to predict why someone will sign up for one of the stations at the DML, but you can be sure if you don’t tell them about it they may never know that these resources are available.

“Lian Sze is a MLIS student at Dominican University and will graduate in May 2012.  She is also an intern for the Public Library Association and Northwestern University.  In her spare time, she is a bike enthusiast, gardener, traveler, yogi and foodie. Despite her love of technology, she still writes snail mail.  She is currently living in Chicago.”

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

Battles & Wars

We librarians are in a war for survival but we keep getting caught up in battles.  The battle with Overdrive, the battle with Harper Collins, Penguin, other publishers, the battle with database providers, the battle with Apple, Facebook, and everybody else trying to limit choices/privacy, etc. and we are losing them and losing them badly.  It is time to remember the War.

I don’t know about you, but I am fighting the War to make the Library vital to my community and make the community I serve the best in the world.

I don’t care about eBooks, I am not sure I even care about books anymore except that my community uses them for the moment.  But the writing is on the wall.  If your library is spending all its energy on righteous indignation about corporations not playing fair, and fighting the same battle over and over again perhaps it is time to step back and remember the War.  It is not about books, it is about the community.

I appreciate and admire the people (where do you get the energy?) and organizations fighting the battles, but I am sick of all the kvetching and hopeless hand wringing.  Play the long game, go out there and do something awesome, screw ebooks, screw books.

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

Is a digital media lab right for you?

Erika helping in the DML
From the Skokie Public Library

If you can be in charge/start your/be part of a Digital Media Lab (DML) I highly recommend it… for you.

Now, I think all the community building, etc. aspects of a DML are awesome and one of the futures of libraries – see a Library Journal article I co-authored for that all important aspect.  However, this post is for those of you who are considering starting a DML and wondering if you will enjoy it as an aspect of your job.

This is what my work life looks like being in charge of the Skokie DML ( I have other duties besides the DML, but you aren’t interested in that). Training, training and more training.  Training myself, colleagues, and library members. Oh, and also making sure everything runs smoothly and is positioned for the future.

  • The Software

I am always training myself on software.  I mean always!  In the last 1.5 yrs I have taught myself the rudiments of Photoshop Elements, Motion, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Dreamwearver, iWeb, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Fireworks, Screenflow, and Adobe Premier Pro (ongoing – I think I may try to become more of an expert on this as it is really useful and videos and libraries blah, blah, blah).  I have taught myself to be a relatively advanced user of iMovie and Garageband.   My next ones to study are everything Final Cut X, Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Soundbooth, and Adobe Photoshop. I try to give myself 4 hours a week for self training, but that normally becomes 1-3 as other stuff moves up the to-do list.

  • The Hardware

I prefer learning the software more than the hardware, but maybe you a musician or an engineer type and the hardware will be more fun for you? However, hardware doesn’t really change and I can usually have something down well enough in relatively short time in comparison to software. I have had to learn microphones (gain, patterns, etc.), flat-bed scanners, slide scanners,  Flips (terribly difficult, I know), relatively inexpensive still cameras, tripods, MP3 Recorders, portable hard drives (which need fixing as members often hurt the file structure when ejecting the devices incorrectly on Macs),  digital convertors, midi keyboards, midi recorders, electric drums, and electric guitars (my next week’s project).  Am I awesome with any of these, not really, but I know how to get them to work in our environment, I certainly am not a drummer or guitarist or any type of a musician.

  • Administration

This eats lots of time (it should) as we are figuring out the best way for this space to grow and function, the most important part of the gig.  Being sure we are offering enough training (internal and external), reaching out to local organizations (non and for-profit) for partnerships, presenting, hiring, managing, and training incredibly talented individuals, recruiting amazing volunteers (your normal library volunteer is not going to be useful in a DML), selecting hardware and software, building for the future, dealing with problematic users, running the website, blogging and making sure others are blogging, and all that other leadership stuff.

Does this seem kind of fun? If so, maybe you should be in charge of a DML. No, then I seriously recommend passing on this responsibility. We are constantly getting interns and LIS student volunteers interested in working in the DML, hire them – contact me if you want some names.

I am hoping some other DML manager types will post in the comments or elsewhere explaining what they do.

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

ILEAD U: Second Year

I wanted to point to this great post about ILEAD U from Alicia Hammond, the Corporate and Small Business Liaison Librarian at the Schaumburg Township Library, IL.

I have been given an incredible opportunity as a librarian.  Earlier this year, I was accepted in the ILEAD U (Illinois Libraries Explore, Apply and Discover: The 21st Century Technology Tools Institute).  This program is operated by the Illinois State Library and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  And it is really cool!  Basically there are two things going on with this program.  They bring a bunch of librarians together to form groups and create projects that utilize technology to support and engage the community.  But the underlying goal is even better.  While creating this project is great, the real reason we are doing this is to get used to being bold and putting new, awesome, fun projects into practice.  This isn’t the kind of program where failure is going to get you into trouble.  (Not that we want to fail!) But we are allowed to dream big and then go for it.

Read the rest of the post on her blog Librarian Unafraid.

This year State Libraries from all over the country have sent representatives to discover whether they want to try and bring it back, some seem enthusiastic and others worried about funding (staff hours, etc.) . I would recommend putting a little pressure on your state library to bring this to your area, a grant is being written at this very moment.

You can learn more about Alicia’s ILEAD U team’s Library Events Mobile App project soon on Facebook at (the page doesn’t seem to be up yet). You can learn about the other groups at

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

Fun at the Library

Fun at the LibraryA few of my coworkers (Ruth, Erika, and Matt) had some fun this April Fool’s Day.  Check out the entire run of images here.

You know, there’s something to be said to working with people who come up with fun ideas.  Furthermore, there is many things to be said about working under leadership that allows/encourages this sort of fun creativity. Patrons/members/customers can sense when people like what they are doing, it makes a difference.

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen