Category Archives: The Transparent Library / Library Journal

Cheers & Jeers at the Transparent Library

Jeers to the librarian mind-set that in troubled economic times, learning, curiosity, and play must take a back seat. Now is the perfect time to find ways to extend services with free open tools.

Cheers to libraries like Roselle Public Library, IL, and Lafayette Public Library, CO, for creating user-centered communities for their patrons with Ning, a free DIY social network site.

Cheers to the American Library Association (ALA) for embracing Twitter and promoting the use of hash tags like #ALAMW09 that conveyed streams of Midwinter Meeting information to folks all over the world. And cheers, too, for launching ALA Connect, a virtual online space.

Jeers to the organizations that still don’t understand that controlling the conversation—call it public relations, marketing, etc.—has passed out of your hands. Brands are created by users and conversations about your brand happen all over. Find them. Chime in. Respond.

Read the whole column here

Cheers & Jeers

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We’ve been writing the Transparent Library for two years, so it’s time for some more thumbs up and thumbs down.

Jeers to the five board members at Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, KS, for voting yes to restrict four books about sex. This does not help library users-who shouldn’t have to face barriers in seeking such books-or public perception of their community.

Cheers to the director and librarians at the Topeka library for fighting the good fight to maintain a well-balanced, useful, and inclusive collection for all.

Cheers to the library in Fox River Grove, IL, for its outreach to teens and the FRGMLTABLOL (Fox River Grove Memorial Library Teen Advisory Board LOL). They’re creating lifelong library users by encouraging use, exploration, and participation.

Cheers to all of the libraries and other organizations that have offered a Learning 2.0 program to staff and users. Last we heard, over 1000 organizations have offered a version of the free program created for self-directed exploration of social tools.

Jeers to the librarian mind-set that in troubled economic times, learning, curiosity, and play must take a back seat. Now is the perfect time to find ways to extend services with free open tools.

Cheers to libraries like Roselle Public Library, IL, and Lafayette Public Library, CO, for creating user-centered communities for their patrons with Ning, a free DIY social network site.

Cheers to the American Library Association (ALA) for embracing Twitter and promoting the use of hash tags like #ALAMW09 that conveyed streams of Midwinter Meeting information to folks all over the world. And cheers, too, for launching ALA Connect, a virtual online space.

Jeers to the organizations that still don’t understand that controlling the conversation-call it public relations, marketing, etc.-has passed out of your hands. Brands are created by users and conversations about your brand happen all over. Find them. Chime in. Respond.

Cheers to the New Jersey State Library for creating www.solvinglifesproblems.org to gather stories from users about how their libraries transformed their lives. Such true stories of how libraries change people impress funders.

Cheers to the folks using emerging tools to enhance conferences and learning opportunities, such as Skyping speaker, UStreaming a trends session, or tagging tweets, posts, pictures, and more with a common moniker.

Jeers, however, to some who criticize in the conference back channel. We’ve been disappointed with snarky chatter and lack of respect for speakers and conference attendees at some events.

Cheers to the gaming initiatives happening in libraries worldwide. Half-jeers, however, to the folks at the Nebraska Library Commission who could have contextualized that notorious YouTube video-and jeers to the Nebraska State Auditor who should have known better than to go after a legitimate library initiative.

Jeers to the libraries that still have signage restricting the use of cell phones inside the building when it’s all about simple common courtesy.

Jeers to the library that restricts computers to “library research only.” Guess what? Games, chat, instant messaging, Facebook, etc., might be part of the 21st-century student’s curriculum-we know they’re in LIS curricula.

Cheers to the academic libraries that asked students about their lives and needs and how the library could fit into their workflows. Rather than having “the students fit our rules and regulations,” the University of Queensland in Australia opened the doors to food and drinks in covered cups.

Cheers to marketing guru Seth Godin and his book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us (Portfolio)-a touchstone for us this year. We agree with Godin that the market will reward organizations and individuals who choose to lead while those stuck within archaic rules and outdated practice-or guided by fear-will not flourish.

Which will you be?

LINK LIST

ALA Midwinter Twitter

FRGMLTABLOL

Learning 2.0

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

April 15, 2009 Library Journal

You Can’t Afford Not To Do These Things

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We’ve written about ideas for improving customer service, boosting staff morale, fostering change, and building a management and communication style that is win-win for both staff and administration. Almost everything we’ve discussed has, as its only cost, time–necessary to plan, implement, and review.

There are no expensive technologies to purchase, no cutting-edge software to struggle with, and no $500-an-hour consultants. Our suggestions involve listening, dialog, and transparent actions. Trust is the underlying concept. Communication is its foundation.

Economics hit morale

On April 1, 2007, when we began writing The Transparent Library column, the nation’s economy was reasonably strong, and library budgets were relatively sufficient and stable. But things have changed. Federal, state, and local budgets have begun to suffer seriously, and many libraries now face hiring freezes and, in some instances, layoffs and closings.

The economic downturn also hurts morale. If your library is experiencing layoffs and closings, this is unfortunate yet understandable. But we hear from some librarians that managers are using the economic crisis to close their doors and ears to new ideas and initiatives.

That is the worst thing they can do. In fact, now is the best time to implement many of the ideas we’ve advocated for the past two years, to listen to your staff and your users, seeking new and more efficient ideas to boost service delivery and morale. It is not the time to hunker down stubbornly.

Directors shouldn’t hide

First, managers and administrators should take some time to visit your locations. Listen to your constituents. While costly new initiatives are unlikely, ideas that make use of existing tools should be encouraged and studied. Honest dialog goes a long way toward addressing staff worries and concerns.

If you can’t get to all of your locations, go to some, then record a video for the staff as a whole. For a look at transparency at its best, check out the video of Allen County Public Library, IN, director Jeff Krull addressing his staff and user base about the current property tax reform issue in Indiana.

Building teamwork

Many libraries are responding productively to improve or augment internal interaction and the management of day-to-day tasks. Teams and committees can alternate between actual physical meetings and virtual meetings, reducing the fuel and downtime costs associated with travel. Free online tools can open up dialogs among physically and hierarchically separated groups within your organization.

Take a look at what the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga library is doing with a MediaWiki install to plan for its new building and highlight the workings of various departments.

Never stop learning

Unfortunately, many libraries are cracking down on just the things their staffers need. Recently, we heard from a librarian who found her “Learning 2.0″ initiative on hold as her library system grapples with budget cuts and a hiring freeze. “I was told we don’t have time to take on new things,” she reported via email.

While we’ve previously promoted inclusive learning and open management, how do these ideas hold up in troubled economic times?

Budget woes, hiring freezes, and cutbacks are not reasons to suspend innovation, creativity, and learning. The mechanisms and priorities may change, but the culture should not.

Actually, tight budgets should foster creativity and the exploration of free online tools for outreach and low cost programming that taps into user needs. A program called “Super Couponing”—available throughout the Chicagoland area at public libraries—recently attracted almost 200 people to the Schaumburg Township District Library, IL.

Making use of time

While staff time isn’t free, it also isn’t permanently affixed to specific tasks and services, especially those that return little on investment. Sandra Nelson, author of Managing for Results, points out that a few hours here and there devoted to something as simple as a bulletin board can add up to misallocated time.

If you can find such black holes of time—whether it be hours spent on displays or hours spent on programs that few attend—you might reallocate some staff to more productive and lucrative projects that boost both morale and door-count.

You may also find that some teams or projects should be delayed or canceled in light of the budget. Staff time devoted to these initiatives could be redirected toward projects with more immediate returns. If you have a monthly team meeting to discuss a new ILS but, owing to budget cutbacks, that system is on hold, then you could retask that team or staff to look at other customer service initiatives.

Some new ideas

With the above in mind, try out some of these ideas to create buzz and interest with staff and your user base:

Mine the biblioblogosphere for innovative yet cost-effective ideas for programs. Rick Roche’s “How To Manage Your iPod” class at Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Western Springs, IL, is a recent example of programming success.

Community conversation

If your community is being hit by the economic downturn, take every chance to talk with your user base and reach out to other organizations. San Diego County Library is offering “hands-on support” for citizens in foreclosure via programs and partnering.

Other ideas you can explore:

Host “Town Hall” meetings to discuss openly how the library is handling budget shortfalls. Encourage participation with users.

Consider creating a video for extending the town hall online—involving administrators or staff. Call for video responses.

Ask your user base to help you promote the library with their own video or graphic creations, as the New Jersey State Library did. Have a contest. Give the winner a “no cost” prize, such as freedom from fines, free video, or 50 free printouts.

Don’t make sweeping changes without checking in with your users and mining the appropriate data. For example: cut hours with low use not busy times.

Consider taking the conversation online via a site like “14 Days To Have Your Say” from Western Libraries, Western Washington University, which gathers and tallies user-generated ideas and the responses to them.

Keep your eyes on the ball

And, please, librarians, don’t take the easy way out. “Our budget cuts mean we have no time for staff development” could become “Let’s offer a free Learning 2.0 program for all staff and our users.”

The above is within reach at little or no cost and an outlay of staff time. The tools are free or low cost. All it takes is ingenuity and the proper mindset.

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

March 15, 2009 Library Journal

The Transparent Library: Dear Library Directors

… As people find information “on the fly” or “just in time,” how can we still play a role? We’re excited to see new ways libraries are offering reference: texting, Meebo, and outreach to places like Panera Bread. It’s not time to stop those innovations. Could your reference staffers be doing their jobs in other channels? In other spaces?

We were impressed by Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH, and others that have changed imposing reference desks to friendlier stations where staff and users stand beside one another. The reference interview these days should be all about collaboration and context.

But remember the role of privacy. Consider private reference interview areas, much like hospital admissions cubicles, where patrons can quietly and confidentially seek information. Online channels like Meebo also provide a low-cost way to answer sensitive questions from library users online.

Read the whole column here

Dear Library Directors

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We appreciate your feedback, positive and negative. As we move into 2009, even as you grapple with budget challenges, keep in mind that these Five Things We Just Can’t Ignore in Libraries require moxie more than money.

Privacy: We really need to rethink our privacy concerns, offer varying levels of opt-in, and educate our users about a networked world in which our life streams are saved through social networks and servers in the “cloud.” We believe the default should be privacy, but if patrons want to share, we should let them.

Rethink your library privacy settings, as well. Is the “No Photography” rule really for your users’ privacy (beyond minors), or is it a loss of control to see pictures of your facilities and signage on Flickr? Cameras are everywhere today, including in phones. Sharing images might just bring nonusers and potential funders your way-or serve as a wake-up call. Imagine how useful Jenny Levine’s photo tour of DOK Library in Delft, Holland, is to librarians and LIS students who might never get to visit.

We thank those who gave us tours of their libraries this past year and were tickled to have the photos stored online.

The Environment: Saving money is important but so is saving resources. As you plan your new buildings and new services, how can you lessen the impact on the planet? We’re happy to see new buildings, like the Darien Library, CT, open with green certification, limiting energy use in a larger structure.

Even little things can help. Do your libraries have bicycle and skateboard racks? Can you create ride-sharing programs for staff? Can staff grab a quick shower if they bike or walk to work? Telecommuting should be considered for jobs not tied to public service desks.

As librarians lose their conference travel budgets as well, we urge meeting planners to offer opportunities for learning and exchange locally or online. Also, when was the last time you met with library people in your area for a luncheon “round table” or facility tour?

The Nature of Information: As people find information “on the fly” or “just in time,” how can we still play a role? We’re excited to see new ways libraries are offering reference: texting, Meebo, and outreach to places like Panera Bread. It’s not time to stop those innovations. Could your reference staffers be doing their jobs in other channels? In other spaces?

We were impressed by Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH, and others that have changed imposing reference desks to friendlier stations where staff and users stand beside one another. The reference interview these days should be all about collaboration and context.

But remember the role of privacy. Consider private reference interview areas, much like hospital admissions cubicles, where patrons can quietly and confidentially seek information. Online channels like Meebo also provide a low-cost way to answer sensitive questions from library users online.

Generation C: Our spaces, policies, and service offerings must reflect that young people grow up to be creators. Let them create along with you. In order to do this they must work in groups, and groups are not usually “shhhh” quiet. Can you designate both quiet space and collaboration environments?

Create multiple channels to engage your users. Have your staff-and you, too-explore the possibilities of social networking tools. Many libraries are creating thriving communities via sites like Ning or sharing spaces via wiki software. Mine the biblioblogosphere for useful “how to do it” posts and examples from all types of libraries. And get involved yourself. You don’t have to understand all the tech to use it and see what returns it might bring to your library.
Telling Our Story Well: Tough economic times can spell disaster for library funding, even as use skyrockets. Make sure you tell your story well in various channels. It’s no excuse to say, “We don’t have any money to do that” when the examples here highlight ways to engage users and funders with simple, open tools.

Make sure you sell your successes to your board, dean, mayor, commissioners, faculty, local press, chamber of commerce, and student body. Perhaps an electronic annual report (isn’t paper old-fashioned, expensive, and wasteful?) could be sent to the key players in your community, highlighted with library user photos from Flickr or Facebook.

We know you have a tough job. We thank you for your attention and request that you keep the feedback coming.

LINK LIST

Georgia Tech Tour

Jenny Levine on DOK

Panera Bread Librarian

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

February 15, 2009 Library Journal

The Transparent Library: Measure the Silence

You hold community nights for customers to talk to you and go out to where they are and try to hold conversations where it is most convenient for them. From all of this, you try to steer your library on the right course, paying heed to and responding to input.

But what are you not hearing? As with any healthy relationship, personal or public, you need to hear what’s not being said. What about the silence? What are people not telling you and why? How do you measure the silence?

First, recognize that there are two types of silence, actual and perceived. Actual silence is easy to understand—no one is communicating even though you’re listening and paying attention.

Perceived silence can be more insidious. That’s when your staff or customers are saying or doing something and you’re not hearing it because either you haven’t put the proper mechanisms in place for them to talk to you, or, more likely, because you’re ignoring the conversation.

Read the whole column here

Measure the Silence

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

You make every effort to create a transparent library. You listen to your staff and customers and give them all possible means to talk to you-email, blogs, paper comment cards, telephone numbers, instant messaging, etc. You try to listen in via Twitter and Yelp.

You hold community nights for customers to talk to you and go out to where they are and try to hold conversations where it is most convenient for them. From all of this, you try to steer your library on the right course, paying heed to and responding to input.

Types of silence
But what are you not hearing? As with any healthy relationship, personal or public, you need to hear what’s not being said. What about the silence? What are people not telling you and why? How do you measure the silence?

First, recognize that there are two types of silence, actual and perceived. Actual silence is easy to understand-no one is communicating even though you’re listening and paying attention.
Perceived silence can be more insidious. That’s when your staff or customers are saying or doing something and you’re not hearing it because either you haven’t put the proper mechanisms in place for them to talk to you, or, more likely, because you’re ignoring the conversation.

What to do
First, review your communications tools. Are they working? Are they easy to locate and use? Do they allow anonymity? Do they reach out to the different demographics in your community by being available in multiple languages and obtainable offline in a printed format and at a variety of locations?

If you’ve checked the tools and they pass inspection, you must turn a bit more inward. You’ve got your favorite sources for information and feedback-those people you call upon regularly to give you updates on the “feel” of the organization or feedback on new initiatives and services.
Still, begin looking at the rest of the organization. Whom are you not hearing from? And worse, whom are you ignoring? Are there discussions going on that perhaps you’d rather not hear?

Some measurements
Sometimes the silence is good. If you have recently upgraded a service or technology and then help desk tickets or complaints declined, that’s good.

Still, you want to measure the change in feedback. If you put a lot of work into repairs or upgrades, you want to be able to prove that the return was worth the effort and cost. Measure the silence by highlighting the reduction in complaints, the increased uptime, or the improved use or attendance numbers.

Putting review structures in place will also greatly assist in hearing that silence. As discussed in the book Library 2.0 (Information Today, 2007), by Michael Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, creating teams that review new services and initiatives will ensure that nothing is “planned, implemented, and forgotten.”

By regularly reviewing everything your library does, you can be certain that you’re hearing what’s being said or not said. And by including both staff and members of the community in your review process, you can invite those people who might not otherwise talk to you to participate in the evaluation and development of library services.

Bad silence is when something is wrong, but you’re not hearing about it. Are there individuals who used to complain about things but have stopped? Ideally, you’ve been placing customer comments and complaints in a database for review and follow-up. If you’re no longer hearing from particular groups, it may be because they simply stopped complaining and went elsewhere.

Go to the field
Don’t forget about “going to the field” (The Transparent Library, LJ 9/15/07). Talk to staffers who don’t talk to you. Find out what they think, and ask them what they might be hearing from the library’s customers. You’ll be surprised what customers say to front-line staff that never reaches the decision-makers.

If you target customers who have not used their cards in a while, you have another way to measure that silence-and to find out what it will take to get them in the door or onto your web site.

Public libraries’ outreach to teens is a good example. Dedicated librarians hosting teen advisory boards, gaming nights, open mic nights, and more have attracted previously underserved groups to become regular users of the library. This successful outreach effort, nontraditional in many ways, signals a way to further expand future library services.

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

January 1, 2009 Library Journal

The Transparent Library: Six More Signposts

Check your ego at the door. Good leaders don’t surround themselves with “yes” people. And good leaders know that if their message is not being heard, or it’s being heard incorrectly, then the fault does not lie with the listener but with the speaker. Stop worrying about the snarkiness of survey responses and start worrying about the meaning behind those negative comments.

Be sure to listen through the criticism. Behind relatively unconstructive criticism may lie a real concern. Show those critics you can listen, and show them that you’ll respond.

Recognize and grow your talent. Talented staff reflect better on you. Talented staff can help you take your organization places you didn’t think possible. However, if you view talented staff as threats, or, worse, ignore them completely, then you are doing a disservice to yourself and an injustice to your organization.

Embrace change. Build change into everything you do. Don’t plan, implement, and forget. Recognize that the tools will change, but the purpose and mechanism will stay the same. Not trying a library blog because “next year there’ll be something new” is not a workable excuse. We need to communicate now with our users.

At a recent conference, we overheard someone say, “Every time people really like something, we get rid of it.” Wouldn’t a better solution be to examine the reasons that something becomes popular or well used and find ways to deliver it as much as possible, be it Facebook access, more tables and chairs, or niche materials?

Properly handled and managed, adaptation to change ensures our survival. You can build that change into your organization through the use of review teams and community forums, drawing on staff and users alike.

Read the whole column here

Six More Signposts

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

Properly handled and managed, adaptation to change ensures our survival

Last month, we presented six mile markers for your transparent library. Here are six more.

Have an open-door policy.
You have to listen to be heard. And you have to be out there to be noticed. Whether you’re a director, leader, or manager, listening to your community and working with other leaders and managers is the only way you will remain relevant and grow stronger as a leader and help build a stronger organization. Seth Godin reminds us in his book Tribes (Portfolio, 2008) that anyone can become a leader in this new, connected world. All it takes is a shared interest and a way to communicate.

We must listen in every direction, using both old and new tools. We need to hear our users and staff when they ask for new tools or services. And we must listen when they tell us that things are broken. We, of course, notice the loud voices, but we also need to hear the concerns and needs expressed in quiet tones.

Participate in the conversation.
As we previously observed, people are sharing reviews and observations online about your facilities, staff, and services. We must participate in these forums; it should be part of your duties. In fact, the truly transparent library might find ways to facilitate, encourage, and nurture the conversation. Why couldn’t a thriving “ask the experts” site like MetaFilter be duplicated in the library setting, tapping into user knowledge and expertise?

Measure progress.
You can’t review and change those services or tools if you aren’t measuring their progress. Almost all technologies-web pages, blogs, and library catalogs-have some method or means for quantifying usage.

Ed Byrne, senior librarian (web services) at Dublin City Public Libraries in Ireland, recently reminded us that many of these new tools are so new that we don’t know everything there is to know about them. So, while allowing time to analyze these new measurements, be sure to collect anecdotal evidence about usefulness, time saved in the process, and any other benefits. Look for ways to solicit comments and feedback. Mine your library users’ behavior by watching what they do and how they interact with your building, collection, and computers. Engage them in impromptu dialog, both online and in person.

Serve all of your user groups.
Review your mission and vision. Are you serving all of your users? Sometimes the easy route is to cater to those already using the library. Consider commuter students, teens, twentysomethings, and online library customers. Do you have designated positions and services for them?

We’re reminded of library efforts to ban social networking sites on public computers, or to ban young people during school hours to prevent truancy. Don’t forget that these users will someday decide the fate of the library as they vote for funding or expansion. If you show them the door today, they may never return.

How do you reach out to nonusers? Are they aware of your offerings? Position the library where these individuals will find you. The librarian who frequented a local Panera Bread outlet, promoting the library, answering questions via a laptop, and signing up people for cards is a great example.

Check your ego at the door.
Good leaders don’t surround themselves with “yes” people. And good leaders know that if their message is not being heard, or it’s being heard incorrectly, then the fault does not lie with the listener but with the speaker. Stop worrying about the snarkiness of survey responses and start worrying about the meaning behind those negative comments.

Be sure to listen through the criticism.
Behind relatively unconstructive criticism may lie a real concern. Show those critics you can listen, and show them that you’ll respond.

Recognize and grow your talent.
Talented staff reflect better on you. Talented staff can help you take your organization places you didn’t think possible. However, if you view talented staff as threats, or, worse, ignore them completely, then you are doing a disservice to yourself and an injustice to your organization.

Embrace change.
Build change into everything you do. Don’t plan, implement, and forget. Recognize that the tools will change, but the purpose and mechanism will stay the same. Not trying a library blog because “next year there’ll be something new” is not a workable excuse. We need to communicate now with our users.

At a recent conference, we overheard someone say, “Every time people really like something, we get rid of it.” Wouldn’t a better solution be to examine the reasons that something becomes popular or well used and find ways to deliver it as much as possible, be it Facebook access, more tables and chairs, or niche materials?

Properly handled and managed, adaptation to change ensures our survival. You can build that change into your organization through the use of review teams and community forums, drawing on staff and users alike.

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

December 1, 2008 Library Journal

12 Signposts to Transparency Part 1

We recently presented a workshop in London at Internet Librarian International, based on our writings here, and realized that throughout the columns we’ve identified a set of mile markers for the journey toward transparency.

Give everyone an avenue to talk. 
Play nice and be constructive. 
Grow and develop your support community. 
Be willing to accept anonymity. 
Tell the truth. Lies don’t work. 
Focus on user-driven policy, not driving users away. 

Read the whole column here.