NELA 2014: The Youngish Leader on Changing Direction

Stand Up and Shout: The Youngish Leader on Changing Direction, Zach Newell and Peter Struzziero (Monday, 4:30pm)

Peter and Zach presented a polished talk on some of the challenges of being a young leader in libraries. Peter is the director of the Winthrop Public Library (MA), and Zach is the Humanities Librarian at Salem State University (MA). In addition to their experience in NELLS (the New England Library Leadership Symposium), both have been involved on several committees at the local, state, and regional levels; this is one way to acquire leadership experience as library staffs shrink and the middle management level disappears. With little or no middle management, the route to the top is quicker, but people aren’t always excited to step up; they may fear they’re underqualified, or they may not want a different job than the one they have. However, Zach and Peter pointed out, younger/newer librarians can use other experiences and committee work as leadership training, and they can learn on the job by listening and observing.

Being a library director is “a different job from librarianship” – you’re removed from the “front lines,” and have to deal with things like union negotiations, staff issues, the budget, statistics, old buildings, new websites, and new programs. As Zach said, “We never stop to admire a job well done, because it’s never done.” (While it’s true that we’re always working toward our goals, I do think there’s time to appreciate progress and achievement.)

Advice:

  • Building relationships is essential; communicate with staff and with others in the town and community, even/especially when you don’t need anything from them.
  • Get involved in the community. Be a familiar friendly face. Go to Town Hall meetings.
  • Take risks to make positive change.
  • Recruit good Trustees, and build a Friends group if there isn’t one (or if they all quit on you…)
  • Get involved in your town library board (if you live in a different town than the one you work in)
  • Collect before-and-after stats to illustrate progress; “the proof is in the pudding.”
  • Consider the future of libraries, but also YOUR future.
  • Look at job postings for library director jobs, even if you don’t feel ready yet. See what skills and abilities are required. (“You may be ready now, even if you don’t feel ready. You never feel ready.”)
  • There are lots of places to acquire MBA skills without actually getting an MBA. Try edX, lynda.com, and TED talks; ask for informational interviews. There are also NELA and ALA (ALSC, YALSA, NMRT) mentoring programs.

Tweets from the session:

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Citations and references:

Are you a library leader? What’s your #1 tip? Share in the comments.

NELA 2014: Library Corps of Adventure

Library Corps of Adventure! Looking at Libraries Across the Lewis & Clark Trail, Mary Wilkins Jordan (Monday, 2pm)

This presentation had very little to do with my day-to-day work at my library, but it’s good to go to at least one of those sessions during a conference. Mary Wilkins Jordan is a popular professor at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS, formerly GSLIS), and she didn’t disappoint in this session. As we wandered virtually along the Lewis and Clark trail (not really just one trail, it turns out), Mary covered the following:

  • Coming up with the idea: she ended up driving more than 10,000 miles across ten states in three months
  • Obtaining funding: a Kickstarter plan failed, but the word got out to library listservs across the country, and librarians – surprise! – were happy to help
  • Researching libraries, museums, and historical sites along the trail
  • Planning, packing, preparation (including logistical hurdles like “no car”)
  • Her trusty GPS, Jane, and the danger of accidentally turning off the “stay on paved roads” option
  • The cool libraries she found along the way, including at least one with cats available for checkout (Someone on Twitter responded to this news: “Wait…living cats?!” Yes. Living cats. They had barcodes on their collars.)
  • The difference between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams and private dams*
  • A library with plexiglass-esque floors (Actual question from the audience: “Does everyone wear pants at that library?” Answer: Yes, but that may be coincidence – the floors aren’t actually see-through.)
  • The different information needs that people have in different areas, and how that information is communicated
  • Seeing ALA’s summer reading theme (Fizz Boom Read) in action in libraries from Missouri to Oregon
  • Seeing a community get into the “Geek the Library” campaign
  • Encountering new topography (“Everything in Washington is up a very steep hill. I don’t know how they do it but everything is uphill”) and dangers (“An interesting thing about the West is that it catches on fire ALL THE TIME”)
  • Observing that libraries are struggling for funding, but still doing great things in their communities
  • The importance of seeking better information, not just accepting the first information you find. (Seek better information, find cleaner bathrooms!)
  • Interesting facts about Lewis and Clark’s traveling party (“Everyone lived. Everyone but one guy. He died of appendicitis. It was no one’s fault”)
  • Photos of various historical sites along the way
  • The lack of diversity in library staff
  • The different ways libraries are working in and with their communities (“Community involvement is critical”)

*I made a terrible, obvious pun about this on Twitter, to which the US ACE responded:

USACEtweet1USACEtweet2

 

Mary’s talk was entertaining, and she said she’s planning to write a book about her experience, so stay tuned. The data analysis stage, apparently, is less fun than the travel stage, but she’s looking at the size of communities she visited, how many libraries were Carnegie buildings, how many and what kind of programs they offer, and whether or not they have a strategic plan.

“Everything is amazingly beautiful.”

One of the unique things about working in a library is the opportunity to visit other libraries to see what they do differently and what’s the same. If you have a job in a regular office, you probably don’t see a lot of other people’s offices, or at least you have to make an appointment with someone to do so. With libraries, you can just walk in and look around anytime they’re open. (As Gina Sheridan says, “What makes a public library amazing is that we welcome everyone. Everyone!”) I like to visit other local libraries when I can, and I try to visit libraries when I’m traveling as well, but I’ve never made an official project out of it (though I do enjoy stealing cool display ideas). Vermont librarian Jessamyn West, on the other hand, is working on such a project: she’s going to visit all 183 of Vermont’s libraries, and Mary’s project reminded me a little bit of hers.

Are you a library tourist? What are some of the coolest/strangest things you’ve seen in libraries?

NELA 2014: Peter H. Reynolds

thedotPicture book author and Massachusetts local Peter H. Reynolds spoke at the New England Roundtable of Teen and Children’s Librarians (NERTCL) luncheon on Monday at 12:30. He gave a very engaging presentation, including slides and video, and he did an original drawing that was raffled off at the end of his talk (see easel in photo below).

Though I love picture books, I hadn’t encountered The Dot before – or Ish or The North Star – but now I’m a fan. Reynolds’ books are colorful, and they celebrate art and creativity in a way that doesn’t bang the reader over the head with a moral.

He’s also very quotable:

  • “Art is one of the last playgrounds we have left.”
  • “Story is one of the most powerful technologies we have.”
  • “Creativity needs funding.” Tell your policymakers! Turn STEM into STEAM*, and remember that creativity isn’t confined to art class – it should be encouraged in other subjects too.
  • “Vision: to be able to see something before it exists.”
  • Ask kids: “Who are you?” and “Who do you want to be?” Remember those are two different questions. Tell them, “You are not the test score. You are not the data.”

*Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics

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Peter H. Reynolds at the NERTCL luncheon at NELA, Boxborough, MA, October 20, 2014.

 

NELA 2014: Programming for Millennials

Cross-posted at the NELA conference blog.

Mixing It Up for Millennials: Library Programming for 20- and 30-Somethings  (11am)

In this panel presentation, three librarians shared their experiences creating library programs to attract that elusive 20s-30s age group. Carol Luers Eyman from the Nashua Public Library (NH) presented “A Night Out for 20-Somethings,” an after-hours event at the library where 20-somethings could meet each other and see what the city’s community groups and organizations had to offer. The event was from 6:30-8:30pm on a Friday night (after work, but “before the real parties started”). There was no alcohol, but library staff made the space look less “institutional” with tablecloths, (fake) candles, couches and chairs, a piano player, and refreshments. To promote the event, they went above and beyond the usual press release, contacting new teachers, young journalists, personal acquaintances, young library employees, older library employees’ kids, etc.; they also extracted patron e-mail addresses in the 20-29 age range and sent one e-mail notification. The “Night Out” attracted 62 attendees (not including the 39 who just wanted to get into the library, not there for the event).

“Make programming social.”

getlit_haverhillSarah Moser is in charge of programming for adults at the Haverhill Public Library (MA), and she said, “You never really know what is going to attract this group.” Art and music programs have done well; a Scrabble tournament and a community writers program flopped. The most successful regular program is the monthly book club, Get Lit. The library established a partnership with a local restaurant, the Barking Dog Ale House, where the group meets one Thursday evening each month. Holding the library program outside the library removes preconceptions about the library, and creates a looser social environment. Moser has had success in reaching out to authors on Twitter, where they are happy to re-tweet about book club events, and the group regularly attracts 10-15 people.

Kelley Rae Unger (Peabody Institute Library, MA), a former YA librarian, brought the concept of the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) to the realm of adult programming; she organized a 15-person focus group and created an Adult Programming Advisory Board, which meets 3-4 times a year; there is a mix of ages, interests, and genders. There was less enthusiasm for one-time or one-shot events, and more interest in multi-week or repeating events. Everyone on staff at Peabody runs some programming, in line with their interests (“teach what you know”), which include coffee roasting and beer brewing; volunteers from the community run programs also. They are active grant writers, and have funded many programs through grants. They have offered book clubs, programs about budget travel, a film discussion group, and cooking classes; in their Creativity Lab makerspace, they have offered silk screening, 3D printing, computer programming, Arduino, and woodworking. People register for events online, and events are promoted through a Constant Contact newsletter and the facebook page. Instruction is always free, though attendees may need to provide their own materials.

“If you own this story, you get to write the ending.” -Brene Brown

Not every program intended to attract people in their 20s and 30s will do so, but that doesn’t mean libraries should give up on this demographic. Involve community members in brainstorming, planning, and teaching; reach out and form partnerships with organizations and businesses in the community; and advertise creatively.

What cool library programs have you had? Share ideas in the comments.

NELA 2014: Consent of the Networked

Cross-posted on the NELA conference blog.

Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) Keynote: Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, Rebecca MacKinnon (Monday, 8:30am)

MacKinnon pointed to many excellent resources during her presentation (see links below), but I’ll try to summarize a few of her key points. MacKinnon observed that “technology doesn’t obey borders.” Google and Facebook are the two most popular sites in the world, not just in the U.S., and technology companies affect citizen relationships with their governments. While technology may be a liberating force (as envisioned in Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial), companies also can and do censor content, and governments around the world are abusing their access to data.

“There are a lot of questions that people need to know to ask and they don’t automatically know to ask.”

MacKinnon noted that our assumption is that of a trend toward democracy, but in fact, some democracies may be sliding back toward authoritarianism: “If we’re not careful, our freedom can be eroded.” We need a global movement for digital rights, the way we need a global movement to act on climate change. If change is going to happen, it must be through an alliance of civil society (citizens, activists), companies, and politicians and policymakers. Why should companies care about digital rights? “They are afraid of becoming the next Friendster.” The work of a generation, MacKinnon said, is this: legislation, accountability, transparency, and building technology that is compatible with human rights.

It sounds overwhelming, but “everybody can start where they are.” To increase your awareness, check out a few of these links:

 

 

NELA 2014

NELA2014On Monday, October 20, I’ll be at the New England Library Association (NELA) Conference. I’m looking forward to seeing several librarian friends, meeting some new people, and attending some excellent programs; I’m especially looking forward to Rebecca MacKinnon’s keynote (despite its much-too-early time slot – 8:30am?!). I’ll probably be on Twitter throughout the day (@itsokihaveabook, #NELA2014) and may do some blogging for the conference blog, http://conference.nelib.org. If you’re a New England librarian, I hope to see you there.

(Failing to) Protect Patron Privacy

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On October 6, Nate Hoffelder wrote a post on The Digital Reader: “Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries.” (He has updated the post over the past couple days.) Why is this privacy-violating spying story any more deserving of attention than the multitude of others? For librarians and library users, it’s important because Adobe Digital Editions is the software that readers who borrow e-books from the library through Overdrive (as well as other platforms) are using. This software “authenticates” users, and this is necessary because the publishers require DRM (Digital Rights Management) to ensure that the one copy/one user model is in effect. (Essentially, DRM allows publishers to mimic the physical restrictions of print books – i.e. one person can read a book at a time – on e-books, which could technically be read simultaneously by any number of people. To learn more about DRM and e-books, see Cory Doctorow’s article “A Whip to Beat Us With” in Publishers Weekly; though now more than two years old, it is still accurate and relevant.)

So how did authentication become spying? Well, it turns out Adobe was collecting more information than was strictly necessary, and was sending this information back to its servers in clear text – that is, unencrypted. Sean Gallagher has been following this issue and documenting it in Ars Technica (“Adobe’s e-book reader sends your reading logs back to Adobe – in plain text“). According to that piece, the information Adobe says it collects includes the following: user ID, device ID, certified app ID, device IP address, duration for which the book was read, and percentage of the book that was read. Even if this is all they collect, it’s still plenty of information, and transmitted in plain text, it’s vulnerable to any other spying group that might be interested.

The plain text is really just the icing on this horrible, horrible cake. The core issue goes back much further and much deeper: as Andromeda Yelton wrote in an eloquent post on the matter, “about how we default to choosing access over privacy.” She points out that the ALA Code of Ethics states, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted,” and yet we have compromised this principle so that we are no longer technically able to uphold it.

Jason Griffey responded to Yelton’s piece, and part of his response is worth quoting in full:

“We need to decide whether we are angry at Adobe for failing technically (for not encrypting the information or otherwise anonymizing the data) or for failing ethically (for the collection of data about what someone is reading)….

…We need to insist that the providers of our digital information act in a way that upholds the ethical beliefs of our profession. It is possible, technically, to provide these services (digital downloads to multiple devices with reading position syncing) without sacrificing the privacy of the reader.”

Griffey linked to Galen Charlton’s post (“Verifying our tools; a role for ALA?“), which suggested several steps to take to tackle these issues in the short term and the long term. “We need to stop blindly trusting our tools,” he wrote, and start testing them. “Librarians…have a professional responsibility to protect our user’s reading history,” and the American Library Association could take the lead by testing library software, and providing institutional and legal support to others who do so.

Charlton, too, pointed back to DRM as the root of these troubles, and highlighted the tension between access and privacy that Yelton mentioned. “Accepting DRM has been a terrible dilemma for libraries – enabling and supporting, no matter how passively, tools for limiting access to information flies against our professional values.  On the other hand, without some degree of acquiescence to it, libraries would be even more limited in their ability to offer current books to their patrons.”

It’s a lousy situation. We shouldn’t have to trade privacy for access; people do too much of that already, giving personal information to private companies (remember, “if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product“), which in turn give or sell it to other companies, or turn it over to the government (or the government just scoops it up). In libraries, we still believe in privacy, and we should, as Griffey put it, “insist that the providers of our digital information act in a way that upholds the ethical beliefs of our profession.” It is possible.

10/12/14: The Swiss Army Librarian linked to another piece on this topic from Agnostic, Maybe, which is worth a read: “Say Yes No Maybe So to Privacy.”

10/14/14: The Waltham Public Library (MA) posted an excellent, clear Q&A about the implications for patrons, “Privacy Concerns About E-book Borrowing.” The Librarian in Black (a.k.a. Sarah Houghton, Director of the San Rafael Public Library in California), also wrote a piece: “Adobe Spies on eBook Readers, including Library Users.” The ALA response (and Adobe’s response to the ALA) can be found here: “Adobe Responds to ALA on egregious data breach,” and that links to LITA’s post “ADE in the Library Ebook Data Lifecycle.”

10/16/14: “Adobe Responds to ALA Concerns Over E-Book Privacy” in Publishers Weekly; Overdrive’s statement about adobe Digital Editions privacy concerns. On a semi-related note, Glenn Greenwald’s TED talk, “Why Privacy Matters,” is worth 20 minutes of your time.