Here’s my final post about NELA ’12. (Read about Sunday afternoon’s sessions here, and Monday morning’s events here.) The following two sessions were on Monday afternoon:

Library Renewal, Ryan Livergood

Neither publishers nor libraries are happy with the current model(s) of access to digital content (e-books and digital audiobooks) through libraries: not all publishers will sell or license e-content to libraries, and librarians aren’t pleased with the cost, availability, or difficulty. Library Renewal proposes a new model: “fairly priced equitable access to e-content.” To this end, Library Renewal is building the non-profit infrastructure that will allow rights-holders to sell directly to libraries, have transparent pricing, and be easy for patrons to use.

Some have predicted that in ten years, libraries will circulate more digital content than physical content. If one accepts that (a) technology makes libraries more relevant and useful, and (b) communities need libraries to thrive, this new infrastructure begins to look absolutely essential. Furthermore, it streamlines the process: instead of Publishers –> Vendor (e.g. Amazon, OverDrive) –> Libraries –> Vendor –> Patrons, it looks more like Publishers –> Libraries –> Patrons.

Now if only Library Renewal had the same kind of funding as the DPLA.

Reshaping Reference, Julie Kinchla and Patty DiTullio

Julie Kinchla, Head of Information Services at the Winchester Public Library, spoke about opportunities to create change, and types of changes to consider. Opportunities include major and minor renovations, strategic planning, technology upgrades, new staff hires, and analyzing usage statistics. Types of changes include weeding, downsizing the reference desk, redesigning the reference stacks, and offering different types of reference services, such as tiered, roving, or book-a-librarian. New technology (think iPad) makes roving reference a good choice for helping patrons at their point of need, a smaller desk is more approachable, and generic business cards make it easier for patrons to contact reference librarians.

Patty DiTullio, Director of the Amesbury Public Library, spoke about the importance of having a mission and vision for the library. Working in an old building, a small space with significant constraints, DiTullio described implementing a new model – making changes to the circulation and reference desks – as “adventures in change management.” She said that retraining staff was a circular process, not a linear one.

Staff buy-in is important to any change, as is clarification of division of labor (e.g. when does a circ question become a reference question?). Patrons, too, need to be “retrained”; a great sign for the reference desk is “You’re not interrupting our work, you ARE our work.” (A similar sign says simply, “Interrupt me!”)

Even if a brand-new building, major or minor renovation isn’t in the cards, we can all use DiTullio’s formula: (small actions) x (lots of people) = big change

See also: the Swiss Army Librarian’s NELA conference wrap-up.

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