Category Archives: The Transparent Library / Library Journal

TLCover

News: Download “The Transparent Library” e-book here!

TLCoverI am very happy to share that over the past few weeks Michael Casey and I have edited together all of the Library Journal “Transparent Library” columns into an e-book that we are making available for FREE to readers of TTW.

Here’s the description:

The “Transparent Library” gathers 29 columns from Michael Casey and Michael Stephens. Originally published in Library Journal from 2007 – 2009, the column explored concepts related to transparency, management, engaging communities, social media, strategic planning and constant change. The e-book includes supplemental essays and columns, and includes a new conversation “The Transparent Library Revisited.”

We’ve wanted to assemble the “Transparent Library” columns for some time. Including a few extra pieces from my “Office Hours” columns – including a piece called “The Transparent Library School”  – and Michael’s post from Tame the Web concerning participatory service, we believe this collected group of essays offers insights, conversation starters, and roadmaps for improving the openness of an information organization. Thank you for downloading. Please share far and wide.

By structuring the transparent library for constant and purposeful change we reduce the negative impact that change has on both the staff and user. Incorporating change into the organization through creative teams and open lines of communication allows the transparent library to add new tools, respond to changing community needs, and move ahead with new initiatives without shaking up the foundation.

PDF Version: TheTransparentLibrary2

Kindle Version: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/239835/The%2BTransparent%2BLibrary.mobi

transparent

X – On Anonymity & Librarianship

In the Library with a Lead Pipe is one of my favorite blogs. The writing is peer-reviewed, balanced and well-reasoned. The most recent post by Emily Ford is evidence of this:

http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2010/x/

Emily explores the nature of undisclosed publications:

Hiding our identities allows us to break accepted social practice and  there is nothing inherently unethical or wrong with creating a character in Second Life or engaging in gender swapping or other identity experiments online. However, the realm of library professional discourse, i.e. writing critical essays or peer reviewed articles that contribute to the discourse of our profession, is not where this kind of experimentation or use of nondisclosure should occur. Undisclosed publishing can be used to insult, act violently, and lash out in a way that defies our understanding of social contract and accepted norms of professional behavior. It can easily lead down the path of snarky and negative venting that are wholly unproductive.

Read the whole piece and take a look at the comments.

The Transparent Library Director

I’m not a library director.  Heck, who knows if I’ll ever be a library director.  But spend some time working in a public library and you’ll see a common theme: most employees and the public have no clue what a library director does.  There’s this belief that the library director is some person way high up in the sky making all these decisions and pulling all these strings to make the library work. With such little information known about the day to day happenings of a library director, employees and patrons end up getting confused about the direction of the library.  In turn, that can sometimes lean towards anger, poor morale, and communication breakdown.  The victims here?  It’s always the patrons.  When the library staff doesn’t know what the hell is going on, the patron’s suffer.  They lose out on valuable materials, services, and more.

Social media allows us to be more transparent than ever.  We can check in at every place we visit, we can tweet quotes from conversations we’re having, we can share pictures at the tap of our screen.  Blogging/Video blogging makes it super easy and quick just to share your thoughts/actions for the day.  To some folks, this transparency is scary.  Most everything you say or do can be found on the web.  Here’s where I burst your fun bubble.  THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.  I’m just as guilty of this as you are, so I’m not pointing fingers.  We have to remember that when we’re working in a public library that we are public employees.  Our salaries and benefits are graciously paid for by public taxes paid by the people we serve.  Living in the era of the Tea Party and slashed library budgets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our country is pretty darn upset about taxes and will do anything to get rid of what they consider unnecessary spending.

USTREAM
Have a UStream feed running in your office all day as well as during meetings.  What have you got to hide in these day to day meetings?  If you’re talking about people behind their back, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

Opening up your office and your meetings to the public will give your community the primary resource they will need to understand your direction and vision.  Instead of hearing half true rumours from other employees and around your town you’ll be giving the information to the public as it was meant to be heard.

*Yes, I understand that some meetings are meant to be private.  These meetings should totally stay that way.

FOURSQUARE/FACEBOOK PLACES/GOWALLA/ETC
Check into every place you’re visiting in the community.  Give us a little info about why you’re there.

I don’t have a solid example for this recommendation, so instead I’ll point you to my Foursquare account (http://foursquare.com/justinlibrarian).  Just imagine that all those restaurants I checked into are different meetings and locations I’m out scouting for possible collaborations.

TWITTER
In my own opinion, this is the perfect tool for the director who is on the go to use.  Tweet quotes from meetings you’re attending.  Give your followers a brief 140 character synopsis about what’s going on.

Don’t think you have enough time to tweet?  That’s a lame and outdated excuse that everyone uses.  Look at Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker’s Twitter stream for inspiration.  He’s running a whole city and he can still tweet! http://twitter.com/corybooker

VIDEOBLOGGING
Fire up your webcam (chances are that your laptop already has one.  If not, get this one) and start talking.  If you’re a director, you should be well spoken and ready for the cameras.  A quick 1-3 minute videoblog about your day that can then be uploaded to your library YouTube account will give your staff and patrons always valuable face time.

I couldn’t find any specific library directors already doing this (although I clearly remember seeing one out there a few years ago) so instead I turn your attention to teen author John Green and his brother Hank.  They run the Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube where they just talk about…stuff!  It keeps them connected to their rabid fan fan base and provides quick and easy updates to keep them relevant and interesting.

LIFESTREAM
Jenny Levin’s blog is a beautiful example of how a lifestream can be used to keep people up to date with what you’re tweeting/blogging/sharing.  It’s easy to set up and use once you get the ball rolling and it will provide your community with more than enough information about what you’re doing while you work.

http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/2009/08/17/experimenting-with-my-stream.html

There shouldn’t be this communication breakdown in libraries anymore.  Starting at the top and leading by example, directors who embrace social media can show their staff and the public they serve just what they’re doing to keep their libraries relevant.

For further reading, I highly suggest you check out these awesome articles by Michael Casey & Michael Stephens:

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

The Road Ahead

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We’ve been writing this column for more than two years, and though it’s been a wonderful experience, it’s time to move on to other projects and topics. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received on the LJ site, via emails, and in person—including all of those wonderful “please keep this anonymous” stories.” Since April 2007, we’ve seen the rise of Twitter, the closing of libraries, and the burgeoning of social applications, among numerous changes. One constant: an open, flowing conversation is best to involve and engage everyone. In closing this column, we present one more list of suggestions.

Be kind.
Kate Sheehan, Darien Library, CT, told a group at the Computers in Libraries conference that the “chief export of the library is kindness.” That rings so true with us. Michael S. recently suggested performing a “Kindness Audit” of your spaces and services. How user-friendly are your policies and spaces? What message does your signage carry to your clientele? Can you justify limits on services? How do you treat staff? And in an era when people go to libraries for everything from job searches to filing for government assistance, how do we treat them?

Be human.
As stated in The Cluetrain Manifesto, “A human voice sounds human.” Indeed, we’d much rather hear the real story about anything related to your library than a PR message. Monitor the social networks for talk about your services and respond in a true voice, supported by library administration. Managers, if this makes you uncomfortable, get a grip. It’s not going away.

Teach them.
Who knew we’d become teachers in our jobs as librarians? Take every opportunity to teach your patrons how to access collections and get the most out of the library. Ranganathan said it best: “Books are for use.” These days everything in your buildings and online should be as available as possible to all. Don’t have time or resources to do this? Re-allocate. Managers and administrators should spend time on the front lines helping out.

Learn always.
Roy Tennant offered this touchstone: “We are born to learn, but somewhere along the way many of us pick up the idea that we must be taught in order to learn.” —”Strategies for Keeping Current,” LJ 9/15/03.
In the age of Learning 2.0 and the content-rich web, there’s no excuse to fall behind on current practices and emerging trends. Conference budgets are tight, but we can still learn and exchange ideas, locally or online. Launch a learning blog for your staff and accept contributions from all. Record a video at your desk about your recent successes in tough times and share it.

Shine, but be humble. In our “Be Selfish, Promote Service” column, we urged library staff to shine—to do their best helping users and promoting the profession. Those writing blogs and making presentations at conferences should shine, too. The biblioblogosphere and other online venues have allowed many librarians to stand out.

But, shining stars, please be humble and acknowledge your home library and those who have helped you. You are representing the profession to the next wave. They will learn from what you do, what you say, and how you act online and at that vendor reception.

Encourage one another.
Administrators and colleagues should let the stars at your library shine—and everyone can be a star in some way. Celebrate little successes and big ones, outside achievements, and inside accolades. Acknowledge great customer service and rewarding ideas brought to fruition.

We still hear whispered horror stories of recent Movers & Shakers who feel like outcasts at their jobs or who have had to leave for other pastures. Remember “Check Your Ego at the Door”? Administrators, remember to grow your talent, encourage staff, and promote their accomplishments—big and small.

Finally, say yes.
New ideas, new methods, and new services can thrive in a culture of yes. Our column “Turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes'” argued that the culture of perfection can hurt an organization while a culture of experience and curiosity can lead to better things, such as library use, public awareness, and recognition.

Consider the DOK Delft Library and its innovations with Microsoft Surface and user interaction. Its motto “keeping stories, sharing stories, and making stories” should be part of every Transparent Library’s mission.

We hope these columns have helped you toward transparency.

Michael Casey is Information Technology Division Director, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, CA, and co-author of Library 2.0.

September 15, 2009 Library Journal

The Transparent Library: It’s Fine to Drop Dewey!

MS: Each semester, during an intro class unit on organization of information, we discuss these issues. Dewey designed a system that worked well for its time—and way beyond—but it has deficiencies we’ve tried to cover with Band-Aids, like more signage. We listen to Marshall Shore interviewed on NPR about the original project at Maricopa County Library District’s Perry Branch. Then the students share their views and personal experiences—and many echo what Michael mentioned above.

Smith has an answer: “WordThink allows library staff the freedom and creativity to develop collocation relationships that could never happen in Dewey. [It] allows staff to anticipate customers’ inquiries and shelve items that have natural affinities.”

What a perfect duty for librarians: creating connections among materials to inspire users. To me, this naturally pairs readers’ advisory with the foundations of collection management.

Read the whole column here

It’s Fine to Drop Dewey

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We think it’s good news that the Rangeview Library District, CO, is experimenting in one of its branches with an alternative to Dewey.

MC: I started highlighting Dewey’s failings when I was helping build and open a new branch library. I asked the many contractors and vendors if they used the library.

Many responded that they had gone as kids but that they never continued use into adulthood. Many said they went to the book superstores but had given upon the library. Why? Coffee, collection, and classification.

Today’s busy, working adults want to find what they want, quickly, and be able to have a latté or iced tea while they browse. And Dewey, no matter how good for librarians needing to locate a book fast, is simply not suited to a popular collection intended more for browsing than research.

Missing the big picture
MS: Recently, while visiting a library in a distant city for a meeting, I entered the building with a librarian who was about to check how series titles were cataloged, saying, “So many libraries do it wrong.” Such granularity of concern among some colleagues bothers me. Some commenters on the Rangeview news story can’t understand why more signage placed on top of the Dewey framework wouldn’t fit the bill. Another suggested that the Rangeview people were just making the library “more confusing.” One person noted this approach had been tried in the 1980s, serving browsers well but not folks seeking a particular item.

MC: Does this mean libraries should become bookstores? Absolutely not. We offer services that bookstores simply cannot. Libraries are nonprofit public service organizations. That doesn’t mean we can’t experiment with ways of providing better access to our materials. Compromises include better subject signage and improved shelving layouts. The West Palm Beach Public Library, FL, is trying something like this with a mix of bookstore categories and Dewey classification.

MS: The response from Rangeview director Pam Sandlian Smith (who used to run West Palm Beach) is spot on, because she recognizes customer convenience and the DIY movement. Amen. User-centered self-service and easy-to-access collections should be the order of the day. It pains me to think we still expect people to come to the librarian behind the reference desk—the gatekeeper of all knowledge—to beg for some snippets of information.

Findability issues
MC: Findability can be complicated; to some it means locating things easily while browsing and to others it means finding things precisely after doing a catalog search. The relationship between shelving style and findability has a lot to do with the size of the collection. Smaller collections (perhaps 100,000 volumes or less) are probably better suited to de-Dewey shelving strategies. Improving findability will not take us closer to becoming bookstores nor will it lead to the “commodification” of libraries in general. It will make access to our materials easier for our users to understand, which will improve use, which will result in happier library customers. And this is what we want, right?

Improving service
MS: Each semester, during an intro class unit on organization of information, we discuss these issues. Dewey designed a system that worked well for its time—and way beyond—but it has deficiencies we’ve tried to cover with Band-Aids, like more signage. We listen to Marshall Shore interviewed on NPR about the original project at Maricopa County Library District’s Perry Branch. Then the students share their views and personal experiences—and many echo what Michael mentioned above.

Smith has an answer: “WordThink allows library staff the freedom and creativity to develop collocation relationships that could never happen in Dewey. [It] allows staff to anticipate customers’ inquiries and shelve items that have natural affinities.”

What a perfect duty for librarians: creating connections among materials to inspire users. To me, this naturally pairs readers’ advisory with the foundations of collection management.

I have no idea where these innovations may lead, but I’m glad others are following the initiative at Maricopa. Isn’t focusing on innovation, creative thinking, th edelivery of intuitive user-focused service, and streamlining workflows a bit more important and timely than worrying if the catalog is perfectly correct?

Michael Casey is Information Technology Division Director, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, CA, and co-author of Library 2.0.

July 2009 Library Journal

Be Selfish, Promote Service

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

Now, more than ever we need to deliver our best customer service. No library users should walk away feeling that their questions or needs were not fully addressed. No teen should come to the reference desk only to be met by a sarcastic answer and a hand gesturing them to some distant region of the stacks. No senior should be expected to use our newest technology without being offered a training session.
Is this hard in today’s tighter economic times? Absolutely. Time is at a premium, as is money, but right now you need to be selling yourself.
This isn’t about “the library,” but as in “Reasons for Optimism” {LJ5/15/09, p. 20), it is about you, the librarian, and the individual, making yourself stand out. You need to be the most energetic, multitasking, forward thinking, driven librarian you can because administrators, managers, and your fellow workers (who may be your future bosses) are all watching to see what you’re doing.
Economic hardship and crisis make life difficult in libraries. Budgets are being cut, staffs are being stretched thin, and morale is being tested with every cutback and increased job responsibility. Many staffers respond with complaints and unproductive annoyance.

Smiles and energy.
So what can you do, especially if you’re already busy and working as hard/fast as possible? As silly as it sounds, bring a smile to your tasks. Volunteer for teams and committees. This is a great way to get yourself recognized by administrators and management.
Ask your supervisor if you can cross-train in another department, perhaps filling in for someone on leave or simply helping an understaffed section. This is a great way to grow your big picture understanding of your library.
When, you’re at the desk helping customers, be sure to get out from behind that counter and walk customers to the shelves. Use that time as an opportunity to tell them about new services your library might have. Are there up-coming events you can bring to their attention?
Spend a little time talking to the customers. Find out what they’re looking for in a library. Do they expect to see or find things that you don’t offer? Do they want training or classes in areas your library doesn’t currently provide? Potential new initiatives abound.

You’re a librarian, so read.
Begin reading a bit more about libraries. Cruise the many librarian blogs for new ideas and initiatives. Read through the professional journals to find out what other libraries are doing to address today’s economic challenges. Keep an eye on other organizations for how they might be adapting to deliver quality customer service more efficiently.
Read outside the profession, too. Seth Godin’s Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us (Portfolio) and David Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous (Holt) are two favorites that can illuminate your thinking and your work. Scan the best sellers lists. Spot trends in Wired, Fast Company, and other publications. Check out TEDTalks to hear some big thinkers share their insights for free.
Look for ways to improve efficiency and see what you can do to share and implement them. Is there a team or taskforce that accepts ideas for review? Can you talk with your manager? And remember: always couch your ideas constructively, not critically.

No immunity for the boss.
Administrators and managers don’t get off the hook when it comes to standing out in times of crisis. But if you’re the boss (or one of many) and you’re working 60-hour weeks, your staff may have no idea. Take a walk out onto the floor before you leave for home so everyone knows you’re still there. Make it a point to talk to staff about the increased workload, mentioning that you, too, have been pulling extra hours in an effort to keep the library on track. Stop by a branch library while driving home and ask how everyone is doing—facetime is very important.
We don’t work in a for-profit world but rather in public service, nonprofit agencies. We need to serve more people with less because what we do is so darn good and important. Everyone from front-line staff to the top dog needs to understand this. But it is possible to excel during times of sacrifice.
If you can find it within you to embrace this downturn as an opportunity to shine and to grow as a team player, you will find that when better times return, you will be rewarded. Anyone can shine when money and time are in abundance. It takes a positive and progressive individual to stand out when things are difficult.

Michael Casey is Information Technology Division Director, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, CA, and co-author of Library 2.0.

June 15, 2009 Library Journal

The Transparent Library: Reasons for Optimism

MS: I just concluded a section of my favorite class to teach: LIS768 Library 2.0 and Social Networking Technologies. Centered around the concept of participatory service, the class encourages students to experiment, play, and think critically about improving services in a changing world. I close the session with some counsel to students as they head out into the job market.

  1. Make Issues Opportunities. Look at any of the issues impacting libraries right now, for example, the economy, new converged devices, and digital streaming and downloads. Then look at what innovative thinkers have done regarding such issues. Learn to be such change agents.
  2. Never Stop Learning. By graduation, our students should have learned, through successes and stumbles, how to address a problem and find solutions via evidence and their own thinking. When one student expressed her excitement at mastering Facebook, I commented, “Now you can take on anything.” The master’s degree is just that, not an end point for librarians’ learning.
  3. Be Curious. Marketing guru Seth Godin suggests, “To be curious means to explore first.” New grads should emphasize this trait and even add it to their résumés, saying something like, “I’m curious about how libraries and librarians can help change the world, one library user at a time.”
  4. Focus on the Heart. No matter where they find work, new grads should remember they’re human-focused. Consultant and blogger Karen Schneider reminds us that “the User is the Sun.” If we help people achieve the best they can—satisfying information needs, providing entertainment, enabling social connections—we’re reaching the heart.

Read the whole column here

Reasons for Optimism

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

These may be tough times, but libraries are more important than ever. We find reasons for optimism and also offer advice to new graduates.

Libraries are going through some difficult times right now. What gives you hope?

MS: Libraries are forging ahead with low-cost technologies and new initiatives. Many nimble librarians are adapting quickly to the current economic climate, offering access to government programs, résumé workshops, and projects centered around saving money. We can and do think on our feet.

MC: I’m encouraged by the number of libraries that offer training classes in various basic skills and services. Community outreach now means instruction in using Word and PowerPoint to put together job application packages, career nights with tutorials on online job search databases, and evening seminars in career-centered social networking.

As my library goes through a strategic planning process, this is an amazing time to be looking ahead. We’re being asked to do more and more with less. We’re using computers for longer cycles and refreshing those computers and making them function in new ways. And we’re creating teams for more innovative services, getting projects off the ground and managed without needing to hire or transfer many staff.

Does this add to the workload? Yes, but staff are stepping up and delivering. They realize that the top performers now are the ones who will be recognized when some of the difficulties pass.
This is not the time to retrench or retreat. Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, reminds us, “Never allow a crisis to go to waste.” For libraries (and librarians, as we’ll discuss below), now is the time to look around and ask ourselves, What could we be doing that we’re not? What additional services could serve some of the increasing numbers in need of assistance?

What should MLS students be doing to make themselves more marketable in this tighter job pool?

MS: I just concluded a section of my favorite class to teach: LIS768 Library 2.0 and Social Networking Technologies. Centered around the concept of participatory service, the class encourages students to experiment, play, and think critically about improving services in a changing world. I close the session with some counsel to students as they head out into the job market.

• Make Issues Opportunities. Look at any of the issues impacting libraries right now, for example, the economy, new converged devices, and digital streaming and downloads. Then look at what innovative thinkers have done regarding such issues. Learn to be such change agents.
• Never Stop Learning. By graduation, our students should have learned, through successes and stumbles, how to address a problem and find solutions via evidence and their own thinking. When one student expressed her excitement at mastering Facebook, I commented, “Now you can take on anything.” The master’s degree is just that, not an end point for librarians’ learning.
• Be Curious. Marketing guru Seth Godin suggests, “To be curious means to explore first.” New grads should emphasize this trait and even add it to their résumés, saying something like, “I’m curious about how libraries and librarians can help change the world, one library user at a time.”
• Focus on the Heart. No matter where they find work, new grads should remember they’re human-focused. Consultant and blogger Karen Schneider reminds us that “the User is the Sun.” If we help people achieve the best they can-satisfying information needs, providing entertainment, enabling social connections-we’re reaching the heart.

MC: It’s difficult to get a foot in the door; I think library administrators are looking to hire people not only with a good philosophical understanding of the role and purpose of libraries but also with a solid working knowledge of customer service. With tight economic times and shrinking budgets, libraries need to know that they’re getting the absolute most for their money.

It’s not enough that you have an MLS and can quote Ranganathan’s five laws. You must understand customer service and be willing to do everything and anything thrown at you, whether it’s shelving, weeding, working the desk, or reading a story to kids. The new keys are versatility and flexibility.

Don’t give the impression that menial tasks are beneath you. It’s not an option to sit at the desk updating your Facebook status while waiting for “real” reference questions. Help where you can, and meet the users’ needs.

Veteran librarians and administrators should be honest and open with new librarians. Far too often, we make it look like everything we try and everything we do is a success. Sometimes, it’s not. We should learn from those efforts and do better. Librarians, especially new ones, need honest encouragement, not quixotic tales of generations past.

Michael Casey is Information Technology Division Director, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, CA, and co-author of Library 2.0.

May 15, 2009 Library Journal