Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Justin Hoenke

Library Idea Share

I’ve been working in public libraries for five years now and recently decided to go back and look at the things I’ve done.  Part of it was curiosity and the other part was to make sure that I’ve been doing my job and making interesting things happen for my community.   Also, sometimes there’s a program or idea that you’ve had in the past that you’ve totally forgot about.  Going back through my personal archives has helped me rediscover some ideas that I can now see through to completion.

The Library Idea Share is my attempt to get these ideas and tools off of my hard drive and into other librarian’s hands so that they can be used by anyone looking to put a program together.  I hope that through this series of posts you can find something that you can take and remix for your own libraries needs.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Thank you Harper Collins (for making the path forward a little clearer)

Note from Michael – I’m deep in two projects today  and tomorrow and haven’t had much time to catch up on the hubub with Harper Collins and ebooks. I can say that I agree with Justin’s take on the potential and promise of promoting content creation, access to technology and building the community memory (whatever community it might be – civic, academic, education) as a big part of our future in libraries. I appreciate Justin’s hard work and insights.

 

The news about HarperCollins placing loaning caps on ebooks in the Overdrive catalog—known as #hcod on Twitter—gobbled up my Twitter feed last Friday afternoon.  On one hand, I knew some publisher was going to pull this stunt, so I wasn’t shocked. On the other, I learned two things about libraries and the profession in general.

First, the lending-digital-goods jig is up. With DRM, publishers have found a way to cut out libraries and used booksellers. This kind of greed is absurd when you consider how much business libraries give the major book publishers. The average annual teen book budget I’ve worked with over the years at a few different libraries is $20,000—and that’s often one of the smaller pieces of the pie. Adult public library book budgets for systems serving upwards of a million people range from a cool $1 to $2 million. And let’s remember: libraries don’t ever return books. The obvious solution to the HarperCollins slight is to stop buying its wares. The lack of library cash flow will speak loudly. Also, no more booktalking HC’s backlist or generating word of mouth, the rumored force behind best sellers. You’re grooming your next Neil Gaiman, HC? Wonderful! Good luck making him or her a star without our readers advisors and community centers, where people can talk about what their discovering in the stacks.

Now, let’s all quit being shocked that the ebook loaning cap happened and take the long view of digital goods in libraries. Two of the so-called Big Six book publishers already refuse to lend ebooks to libraries, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. Overdrive, the vendor involved in the HC incident, is a pile of garbage in terms of usability. Don’t believe me? Read this comic.

Tell me you haven’t run into this problem before. As a Teen Librarian, I’m working with the one-click-and-the-file-saves-to-your-computer generation. Do they use Overdrive now? No. Will they later? Doubtful, if the interface and DRM remain. Does this bode well for the future of library services and literacy? For an answer, look at what’s happened with digital music products for libraries. Like ebooks, they are locked up in crazy DRM or come with an insanely high price tag. Let’s not even get into databases.

ZT IPv6 software tool: try this calculator

The second thing I learned from this incident is that the library world is terrible at advocating for itself. DRM and greedy publishers are here to stay. No number of tweets, emails, or blog posts is going to change their minds. If HC and other publishers in their wake want to cut us out of the ebook market, let them—it gives us a chance to do what we need to do, that is, reinvent ourselves. REVOLUTION!

What do I mean by “revolution”? Let’s use this slap in the face as an opportunity to make libraries modern institutions. For a while now, we’ve loaned popular materials like DVDs in our communities. To many people, libraries are like free versions of Blockbuster. Meanwhile, our unique local collections are hidden away, either hard to browse or physically out of reach. Instead of giving patrons access to cutting-edge technology they can use to create original works and teaching them how to use it, we give them basic Internet connections so they can watch YouTube clips and Facebook themselves into oblivion. We’ve become lazy, boring; extensions of people’s living rooms, essentially. 

And now that we’re being squeezed out of lending popular materials like ebooks, what do we lend out?  The answer is simple: we turn to our community to create the content that we collect.  We “check out” distinctive experiences and educational opportunities to our patrons instead of the Twilight saga ad nauseam. We become the go-to place for people to record music, film movies, write original stories, and do anything else creative, educational, and life-improving.

We then take these works and make like libraries and catalog, store, and share them. Sure, we may only have one or two ebook copies of James Patterson’s crapfest, but look at the awesome content we’re encouraging our community to create! The best part? It’s one-of-a-kind material that we can now share easily with the world. The other rad part? We’re empowering our patrons to become creators instead of consumers.

Finally, the first person to say, “But my library doesn’t have the money to do this kind of stuff!” in the comments section loses. It’s easy. 

As for my take on DRM, cut and paste what Cory Doctorow has said and put it in my mouth because I feel the exact same way. It’s a bad, ugly thing. His post on the #hcod debacle was brilliant from start to finish, but this chunk of gooey goodness keeps on repeating in my mind:

And that’s why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It’s unsafe at any speed.  I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, “Oh, no, sorry, we didn’t mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts,” the libraries’ answers should be “Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing.” Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you’ll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won’t notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?

Cory’s got it right: stop giving them our money. Instead of buying 80 copies of Dan Brown’s bound schlock, buy some cheap netbooks, toss on some open-source software that will turn patrons into creators, and lend them out. Invest in your community instead of bleeding time and money on ebook garbage.

MUCH LOVE GOES OUT TO:
In no way am I the first person to ever say something along these lines:
Thank you DOK Library Concept Center and Eli Neiburger (watch #1 and #2)

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

“She wrote the book on saving libraries”

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette…

Gov. Tom Corbett’s no-new-tax pledge means he has to figure a way to slash billions of dollars across the board from Pennsylvania’s budget, and it’s unlikely libraries will emerge unscathed.

Into this breach steps janet jai of Highland Park. (She had her name legally changed to lower-case letters a long time ago, but that’s another story.) Ms. jai (pronounced like the letter J), 65, has rushed out 500 copies of a self-published, 165-page paperback book, “Saving Our Public Libraries: Why We Should. How We Can.”

We met Monday to discuss her fundraising suggestions. I had coffee and she had tea — or almost did. She’s so passionate about this cause she never pulled out the tea bag. She sipped hot water. “Silver tea,” she shrugged, and we kept talking.

Her book defies quick summary but she makes two key points. The first is that libraries can’t feel they’re being singled out if government is cutting more or less equally everywhere. The second is that librarians must now think like entrepreneurs even as they hold fast to Andrew Carnegie’s “free to the people” credo.

I was drawn immediately to a quirky suggestion on page 149. She knows people want to be remembered, and also knows most of us aren’t Carnegies. So she suggests small fundraisers that could end with innumerable little signs like the following:

“The lights are on today because of Amanda Smith’s contribution. … Kelly Hu paid for the electricity that makes it possible for you to use this computer. …”

What a great article.  Coming from a librarian or someone directly linked to libraries, a passionate book like this may be overlooked.  Coming from a patron, however, it becomes a whole different thing.  Empowering patrons…it’s just one of the things we’re here to help with.

Read more here: She wrote the book on saving libraries at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Teens Through Time Movie Series

As much of a fan of putting together elaborate and  unique programs at my library, at the same time I feel it’s good to balance things out with some laid back stuff as well.  This lead to my desire to seek out a movie license so that we could show some films.  It was a program that could easily happen and at the same time give our teen patrons something to do.

I tried a Random Movie Night program at first.  It was probably the least amount of work I put into a program and I had hoped for high results.  It wasn’t that big of a success.  I’m still trying to figure out why, but I feel like it had something to do with uncertainty.  If someone’s gonna make the trek out to the library to see a film, they want to make sure it’s something they’ll enjoy.

With that, my colleague Michael Whittaker and I put our thinking caps on.   How could we effectively use this movie license and still keep the program simple?  It was Michael who came up with the theme Teens Through Time, a film series showcasing teen movies through the years.  Our hope was to show that what people call “teen angst” wasn’t just something that was happening to their generation, but instead a problem that teens have faced through the years.  We quickly came up with a list of films we were enthusiastic about and put our creation out into the world.  For the full list of what my library is showing during our Teens Through Time series, click here

We got some great feedback on our program.  Our local newspaper covered the Teens Through Time series two weeks before it began, drawing some great feedback from our community.  If that wasn’t enough, the same paper ran an very positive op-ed on the program titled Our View: Portland Library film series shows teen drama is not new.

Students who watch the movies will see that fashions may change but people don’t, and the issues that they are wrestling with have been constant themes.

They also may recognize that, like some of the actors on the screen, they will likely play different roles in the course of their own lives, as they have kids, who also grow up.

The series is a great use of the renovated library facility and should give teens — and adults — plenty to talk about this winter.

So far, we’ve gone through two movies.  At the screening of Blackboard Jungle, we had a grandmother, her daughter, and granddaughter show up for the film.  The grandmother told us that she had seen the movie in the theater when it came out and that her daughter had seen it on VHS many years later at home.  It was the granddaughter’s first time seeing the movie.  Three generations of family in the public library, enjoying just one of the many services we offer.  Awesome.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Buy India a Library: UPDATE

First up, the Buy India a Library team wishes to thank everyone that has donated to the project.  Right now, our total amount raised stands at £665, which is more than half of what we need to accomplish our goal of purchasing a village library!  Awesome!

If you have any questions about how the money we raise is being spent, please read our post here: Who spends the money we’re raising, and how?

And finally, Andromeda did this really great interview at ALA Midwinter that explains the project and how it came to be.

Thanks for everything, and if you have a moment or a spare dollar/quid/krone, please help us give India a library!

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Buy India a Library

From the minds of Jan Holmquist (representing Denmark), Andromeda Yelton (representing the USA), and Ned Potter (representing the UK)…

Click here to go to the Buy India a Library blog!

…comes Buy India a Library, a project started by librarians to fund a library in India via Twitter.  Head on over to their blog for more information on the project and learn about how you can help them accomplish their awesome goal!

What an awesome project and a wonderful team.  I’ve been lucky to meet in person with Andromeda a few times and have many great discussions with Jan and Ned online.  Kudos to them for making it happen!

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Portland Public Teen Library: 2010 Year In Review

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

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

How to Raise Boys Who Read (Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes)

How to Raise Boys Who Read (Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes)

I think what I hate seeing in these types of articles is the general “GAMES BAD BOOKS GOOD” thing (for the full effect, imagine The Incredible Hulk saying that).  Perhaps I’m only seeing this because of my interest in gaming (I am one of the co-founders of 8BitLibrary.com).  I don’t know.  I try to read articles like that from the approach of my parents, who are middle class, everyday blue collar folks who have their high school diploma.  What would they think?  I think they’d come to the conclusion that games are bad and reading is good.  Especially with a headline like that.

That worries me a bit as someone who got a lot out of video games.  I didn’t read a lot, but I played a lot of games.  Some had great stories, some had crap stories.  The same thing applies to a lot of books out there.  I felt like what I was doing was the equivalent to reading in some way.  I was participating in stories with characters/drama/plot/etc.  The only difference is that my reading was a bit interactive.  I got a lot of enjoyment out of these stories.  The characters and their quests are still with me to this day.

I also think playing video games led me to a lot of reading which I wouldn’t have done before video games. I read a lot of gaming magazines and comics.  That led to graphic novels and some sci-fi (actual books!).  I wasn’t the best gamer in the world so sometimes I resorted to using strategy guides.  That’s reading too!

Do I think it ate into reading time?  I think it was my reading time.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor