A Blind Leap Of Faith: Keeping Your Library Thriving in the 21st Century


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How do you keep libraries relevant and open in this age of shirking budgets and rising expectations? here's how....

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/64349611@N00/2570688467
  • So this is me. The nice folks at the state library were kind enough to invite us here to share to talk to you about my vision of the future of librarianship and how you can survive and thrive in the 21 st century.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/64349611@N00/2570688467
  • This is how you can usually divide library staff at any gathering. Either WERE Done or WE are NOT DONE I am on the right in this case. We are relevant. As a prelude let’s see what we can learn from one politician…
  • From Man of the House, the Autobiography of Thomas P. “Tip” O”Neill Speaker US House of Representatives. 1977-1987. Rayburn served the state of Texas as a member of the house for decades. And was a pragmatic politician. He was the man who organized congress to authorize 1 billion 1943 dollars for the Manhattan Project. And kept it a secret. This man was very good at his job. So…..what can we learn from this?
  • We have to continually prove that this fact is true even in the age of instant electronic information access for some of the population we serve. This ideal is not always how folks see libraries today. Some think libraries are relevant as the dodo. In this age of the internet, some think of libraries as serving on specific population or age group. Some think libraries have nothing to offer the modern consumer of information and entertainment. But this is not the first time libraries have had to deal with changing access to information. Let’s take a look back at the 19th century. Specifically the “gay nineties.”
  • http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/u/uzanne/octave/end/ I own to you frankly that I do not believe (and the progress of electricity and modern mechanism forbids me to believe) that Gutenberg’s invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products. Illustrated by Albert Robida [email_address] 
 2006 From Scribner 痴 Magazine Illustrated � JulyDecember 1894This web edition published by [email_address] .
  • So, how can you …http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola/3623768629/sizes/o/in/photostream/ How can you serve the ever-changing needs of their population while dealing with shrinking budgets and rising expectations?
  • Jenica Rogers, Director of Libraries, SUNY Potsdam is correct about planning in general and strategic planning in specific. Planning for the present and future makes your work easier as managers, staff and library supporters. If you have the following plans in place, you will have some success working for and managing your library. This should be a natural process for many librarians, who tend to um….discuss various points…in specific detail over periods of time Well some of them do…. And will fight to the death for their service area. And you will be ready to meet any foreseen and unforeseen challenges you may face in the future. Also. Having plans allow your library to let go of things as you add things to your plate. And prepare for disasters. If you don;’t have some of these plans in place you may ask your self Why?
  • How many of you have a strategic plan? Ok, how many have reviewed it in the past year? This is the core of your library. I should be able to look at this document and quickly get an idea of what you are doing, how you do what you are doing, and why you are doing what you are doing and what you see your library doing in the near future. This is based on studying your community, your users, your competition, your supporters, and your library itself. The process of creating this plan creates almost as much value as the plan itself. This environmental scan of your library and your community will help you make smarter decisions about service access and show opportunities for partnership and service in your community. This plan will also help you in times of trouble for your library. If you know your core services, you know what you can trim without doing deep damage to your core services.
  • Are you ready for retirement? Not your retirement but the retirement or resignation of your staff? Do you have a plan in place for the moment that someone hands in their paperwork for retirement and they are taking their 20/30/40 years of experience to other pastures? What about someone who needs to take Family Medical leave? Do you have plan in place for that person’s absence and how you could deal with it? that permasmile lands on their face? What about your valued staff member who has to suddenly leave the library? Are you ready for that? It is good long range planning practice to look at your organization and forecast your staffing levels over the next few years to help you determine how you can capture their knowledge, pass that knowledge onto others and how to prepare other staff to move into positions of increased responsibility in your library.
  • Succession Planning in the Library: Developing Leaders, Managing Change Paula M. Singer with Gail Griffith
  • Of course you have your primary funding streams. But what about those extras? What if your primary funding gets cut unexpectedly? Do you have a fundraising plan? A grants coordinator? Long term institutional development plan? Major Gifts Campaign? Donated Materials/Collections/Big Ticket items? Annual and Planned Giving plans? Are you ready if a donor says: I have $50,000. What can that do for you?
  • Do you have a plan to reach out and work with the people in your “neighborhood” that you are and you are not yet in working with directly? Do you have a plan or are you reaching out to your local civic, business, nonprofit and fellow government agencies as applicable? If no, ask your self why not? I cannot stress to you the importance of developing support outside of the library. These folks can help you in both good times and bad times. These partners could help you with both monetary assistance, networking assistance and possibly political capital to support the library. Making friends, keeping friends and contacting friends, especially when you DON’T need something will provide an incredible return on investment to your library.
  • Show of hands… does your library have a disaster plan? Are you part of your area government disaster planning team? Are you ready for both natural and man made disasters? Both hurricanes and someone crashing a bus into your data center? I should hope you all have an organizational disaster plan and communicate it to your staff.) Will that completely shut you down for some serious time? How long will it take you to be back up and running if something happens to your library building? Or Several of your buildings? If not, again ask yourself why not ? Is your data backed up? Do you have an ‘incase the main server room catches fire we have some sort of backup” plan?
  • Create spaces ready for your service deliverables now. Also create with an eye to 5 years from now Here is where the research for that strategic plan pays off. Is your space able to be flexible enough to deal with more of what you are doing? How about if you completely changed how you serve your patrons/customers? How about in 10 years? Remember it was not too long ago and some of you may still have it…the card catalog would dominate part of your floor space? How about a couple of microfiche machines? Or typewriters? Now computers, individual working spaces, and meeting spaces are redefining older buildings causing both stress and opportunities for creative thinking and use of spaces. If you are lucky to build new. Think FLEXIBLE public AND Staff Spaces; If you can tell what your customers will be accessing and what type of space your staff will need to serve them in 10 years. You are not in this room. You hit Powerball AND MegaMillions. So, think flexible spaces able to transform easily from one type of function to another.
  • Do you have an informal or relaxed space where your customers move the furniture or rearrange the seating to make the space work for them Do you put that furniture back each day? Ok.. Why? Do you do that? Your customers are defining what works for them in the space you give them. Perhaps you should leave it just as it is. In addition, ask your users, what they would like in the common space.
  • From the work of Ray Oldenburg, we know of the Great Good Place first published in 1991 ( a Florida social psychologist) “ the idea that the First Place is our home; the Second Place is where we work; and that fabulous, much sought after and all too rare community meeting place is the Third Place. Funny thing about the idea of the Third Place is that Oldenburg mentioned “cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts at the heart of a community.” Almost every social gathering place imaginable. And because it was just before the World Wide Web changed the landscape, those three places were all physical. Turn your library into “Fourth Place” a community social learning center. Social learning does not need to happen in the face to face formal classroom. Anywhere people can share, build and create information and ideas and learn from that sharing of ideas is a social learning center. That is what every library should strive to be for its customers. A place where social community learning is allowed and encouraged to happen. mlibranius’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlibrarianus/3381455759/sizes/m/in/photostream/
  • Lets take a look at a few practical examples of being truly creative with space. How about the humble shipping container.
  • Filled with goodies that were made in “Fill in the blank place” and shipped here on unbelievably large cargo ships. I am sure you have been on a highway and have observed stacks of empty containers rusting in the sun. Since we are an importing nation, the united stated takes in way more of these than need to leave the country. The are practical, not the best thing to look at, but tough as nails. That’s why they make great alternative space. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Container_01_KMJ.jpg
  • BiebBus bus. A retrofitted container transformed into a bookmobile and reading center for a crowded community in the Netherlands. http://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2011/04/BiebBus-4.jpg
  • The BiebBus can fit into almost any parking lot or other empty space. Similar to bookmobiles, they are portable, affordable and unlike bookmobiles, virtually indestructible. Shipping containers are designed to be lifted, carried, rolled, dropped and generally abused during their journey from the product origin to its final destination thousands of miles away. http://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2011/04/BiebBus-4.jpg
  • http://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2011/04/BiebBus-2.jpg
  • Want to foster better community relations? Grow iT1 With a garden as part of your library. Northern Onondaga Public Library Outside of Syracuse New York. NY
  • Northern Onondaga Public Library (NY The LibraryFarm is an organic community garden on one-half acre of land owned by Northern Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, NY. Anyone can 田 heck out � a plot for no cost. It 痴 purpose is to teach and learn 吐 good literacy, � as well as to preserve knowledge that our grandparents might have had but that never got passed down, and to provide fresh organic produce for local food pantries.
  • Future forward thinking use of space means applying these principles critically and creatively to your library’s future space needs Such as the Roanoke county library recycling county land for their library. Gloucester County’s Point Branch Library had a former life as a grocery store. If you have to build for the future, do you want to retrofit an existing big space to your needs or develop a sustainable green space? Or
  • Yep, Craig is right, the staff at the local library can do a better job of getting someone in touch with the right information quickly than many computer search methods. That is another reason to value your…..
  • Your staff by being incredible and doing great work advocate for your library. Their expertise gained through years of experience, can help almost any person walking through the doors of the library. Providing the best service in the manner outlined in your plan from before is a great way to build community reputation capital and remind your community that the library is a vital place for all information, not just books and DVD’s.
  • In order to make your library the best it can be to survive and thrive in the future, you must develop the next group of leaders of your library. Identifying and nurturing the skills of future managers and future leaders of your organization is critical in developing organizational flexibility and adaptability.
  • This one can be tough. Really tough. The divsions/separation in any library between information and access/circulation staff sometimes Is a real issue. There are plenty of instances where the people on the bottom or the middle of the organization have a better view of direct customer service issues, needs and impacts than people in an administrative capacity. These same folks often feel improved upon when something new comes around. Those folks will grumble, “ Why don’t they ask us what we think? We work with the customers every day. We know what they need. This will cause more work for us than save work for us. They never listen and don’t care what we think. And they may be right. To prevent this you should seek out your internal institutional knowledge from all levels when making organizational decisions as much as practically possible. Also a real get stuff done suggestion box with tangible results and changes will do more to increase staff morale than many monetary things. Also you will tap into and develop new leadership in your library.
  • Make sure your staff have up to date job descriptions. Provide training opportunities. You are a WebJunction state. Take advantage of this great resource. Have your staff share their knowledge with each other. That will build teamwork and get your staff learning new skills, keeping their jobs fresh and exciting. Effective staff and organizational evaluation and surveying can help you identify ways your staff need to be trained and want to be trained. Bring in someone from the outside to train your staff. IT may be the only way your message is heard by them.
  • Let your succession plan happen organically. Develop the new leadership and management in your library and remember to carry out that plan by encouraging cross training, management internships, mentoring and promoting from within as much as possible. If you do not promote from within, staff who have been waiting in the wings my go elsewhere for an opportunity to get ahead. Take advantage of SLA’s and ALA’s esp.. PLA’s leadership programs. Also check with your local county or region to see if they have a leadership development institute.
  • David Rothman, editor and co-author of Medical Professionalism in the New Information Age (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine) Makes an excellent point. It is about clarity. It is about access, it is about
  • Raise your phone if you have a smart phone or feature phone that web browses. You are not alone. And you have an award winning app to access library resources developed by the Library of Virginia. Be proud of that. Brag about it. According to research conducted by Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 35% of US adults own a smart phone of some kind, and one quarter of smart phone owners say that their phone is where they do most of their online browsing.  So just by that one poll, and our informal survey, If you don’t keep these devices in mind when you design new web based services, someone may choose to go elsewhere for that book, DVD or reference questions. And you don’t want to drive away potential customers just because you didn’t design a user friendly web interface. Remember to involve both staff and public in designing new digital outreach tools.
  • Reaching out to your public an supporters is vital to continuing to survive in the 21st century and beyond. Also reaching in to your staff. Ask them what is going on at the service desks, at the street or when they use your library. Their valuable perspective could help you adapt quickly to your staff and customer needs and usage patterns.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/miriella/4968672326/sizes/o/in/photostream/ Miriella Uk of the Fairfield Public Library Photographed and blown up as part of their outreach program. photo large with staff picture Recognize their successes publicly. Their talents, their skills, their accomplishments. This will resonate with the public and help put a face on your staff which can be helpful when and if you need to call on them for assistance or support.
  • Potential customers may not come to your physical building. As we saw just a minute ago, they may come to you virtually. Some may not physically be able to come to you. So, go to them. Bookmobiles are great and effective outreach tools, but if you do not have the money for a book mobile, you can great things out of a car. How about opening a branch in a shopping mall? Worked for Jefferson Regional Library. What about yours?
  • Transform a lot into a community library. Take an empty unused county lot in an underserved area, put a couple of shipping containers or a mobile building there and open a library. Get the community out to help you paint the structure and make it a true community center.
  • Remember to serve your customers into the 21st century, you have to be there. So, you make sure you stay around by advocating for your services and support. Does not matter what type of library you are, advocacy should be part of 21st century survival plan.
  • Libraries are nice but I would not pay for anything else, well part of your advocacy campaign should be to prove to your supporters AND not quite yet supporters that you are an important vital and necessary part of your community. Use your state library resources such as the Himmel and Wilson study as jumping off points to developing customer support.
  • Librarius the joint initiative of ALA and the Public Insight Network to share how you are using the library today. Can you capture these stories locally? Do you share them locally? Regionally? Statewide?
  • Community center, Gathering Place. Do you encourage the community to use your space? What about local politicans/donors/faculty members? Do they use your facilities? Do they know your facilities exist? Your space should be shared and celebrated by many different walks of your community. Show the value of your library to the social fabric of the community. You want folks to think of you as a vital piece of civic life.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/daniel_solis/4520024767/
  • Join the knights/kiwanis/lions/chamber of commerce. Show the return on investment calculator with the Maine State Library Value Calculator adapted to Va. Show them the free resources you provide to small and not so small businesses. Your databases are PLATINUM to a smart business professional. Show the value of the library as a source of good pr. You do have a library foundation or someone who coordinates this stuff, yes? Can be a volunteer position. Also an outreach specialist can help your library.
  • Do you have a marketing plan? Do the folks in your community KNOW what great things you have done for the community? If not, you you should work on either hiring someone or cultivating a volunteer to do some leg work for you. To ensure survival in any climate, people have to know WHAT it is you do so well. Wallflowers don’t survive. ALA has a program called Turning the Page 2.0. It is a free public library advocacy training course developed and presented by the Public Library Association (PLA) with generous support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this six-week, facilitated online course, library staff and supporters will learn how to create and tell their library's story, deliver effective presentations, develop a compelling case for support, and build and sustain partnerships along the way. Participants are encouraged to come with a specific, self-determined advocacy goal for their library. At the end of six weeks, you’ll have a complete Advocacy Work Plan to guide your efforts.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/circulating/553427458/sizes/o/in/photostream/ Think Sales Pitch Not Booktalk when thinking about marketing and advocating for your library.
  • He is right. It is now up to you to make your library a shining needed and recognized necessity in your community, however you define community. Work with your staff and partners to keep your library around and open.
  • Librarians are a helpful lot. Sometimes too helpful. It is impossible to know all about every new/old sort of new or old technology out there. Please stop trying to be all things to all people. Does. Not Work. This does. Something for everyone.
  • Just over one hundred twenty years ago, the trans- Atlantic cable was the new hotness.
  • Just over 60 years ago, this computer, which was housed at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds right behind my house. Was THE state of the art computer. All technology is relative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eniac.jpg
  • If the man who invented the internet thinks this maybe it is true. This is good starting point for the last thing I am talking about today which is technology…
  • Librarians are a helpful lot. Sometimes too helpful. It is impossible to know all about every new/old sort of new or old technology out there. Please stop trying to be all things to all people. Does. Not Work. This does. Something for everyone.
  • I could not fit this in anywhere, so here it is. If your budget gets cut, you should not provide the same level of service. Period. Why? If you can provide the same or approximately the same level of service with less money, why do you think you will or should get the same pre-cut funding level?
  • This is a good thing. You can market your newer services to customers AND help them use the things they have by pointing them to the right resources for whatever they need.
  • You do this by doing what you do. A reference interview. Connecting people with information. This is how your library survives specific technological change. Just do what you are trained to do. It is just like helping someone find Shakespeare's sonnet's. Except what tech customers may need help with is an ever changing landscape so do the best you can. You keep up by doing your best to do so, asking for help and developing connections that can help you look good and know some stuff. (again outreach by doing what you do)
  • This philosophy will help you deal with change in its many forms.
  • This way they know to come to the LIBRARY when they need help. You are a valuable resource. So since I work in a library and do technology reference services, here are a couple of books for further reading. To start.
  • Jessamyn West’s book Without A Net can help you further deal with the digital divide. Links can be found in the resource page for this talk.
  • Ray Oldenburg (some of you may have met him) his book The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community [Paperback]
  • Roger Levin has a lengthy report entitled:   Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library  (
  • Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space from the council on library and information resources.
  • http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/ The Atlas of New Librarianship. R. David lankes tome seeks to help The MISSION of LIBRARIANS is to IMPROVE SOCIETY through FACILITATING KNOWLEDGE CREATION in their COMMUNITIES
  • These five things along with intelligent and practical application of technology will equip your library with the tools necessary to survive and thrive in the 21st century. Well trained, flexible staff, carrying out accessible library plans in spaces of community learning and sharing advocating for advocating for your customers.
  • Medical Professionalism in the New Information Age (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine) [Paperback] David Rothman
  • www.flickr.com/photos/31623674@N00/2227456490
  • A Blind Leap Of Faith: Keeping Your Library Thriving in the 21st Century

    1. A Blind Leap Of Faith: Virginia Public Library Directors 2012 Annual Meeting
    2. Maurice Coleman Principal, Coleman Consulting & Technical Trainer Harford County (MD) Public Library @baldgeekinmd
    3. Proactive Libraries in the 21st Century –Keeping your Library Relevant To Your Community or…http://j.mp/seflin11Presented by: Maurice Coleman#seflin2011
    4. This is nota planning device
    5. Thanks to Overdue Media -@billba and @ambuam for permission
    6. How can you serve the ever-changing needs of your population while dealing withshrinking budgets and rising expectations?
    7. Your first priorityis to get reelected Sam Rayburn, Speaker/Minority Leader US House Representatives, 1940-1960
    8. Your First Priority is to BE OPEN!
    9. Libraries promote the sharing ofknowledge, connecting people of allages with valuable informationresources.These dynamic and modern institutions,and the librarians who staff them, addimmeasurably to our quality of life. President George W. Bush via Ilovelibraries.org
    10. Gutenberg’s invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products. The End of Books, Octave Uzanne From Scribner Magazine Illustrated July-December 1894http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    11. Staff Planning Accessibility Advocacy Spaces Technology
    12. Planning
    13. StrategicServices Plan Planning
    14. Succession Plan Planning
    15. Fundraising Plan Planning
    16. Partnership Plan Planning
    17. Disaster Plan Planning
    18. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    19. Spaces
    20. Now and 5 and 10 and 20 Spaces
    21. User defined vstaff defined Spaces
    22. Creating SocialLearning Centersor Fourth Places Spaces
    23. Be TrulyCreative Spaces
    24. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    25. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    26. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    27. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    28. Land Ho! Spaces
    29. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    30. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    31. ReduceReuseRecycle Spaces
    32. "My guess is (it will be) about 300 years untilcomputers are as good as, say, your local reference library in search.“~Craig Silverstein, former director of technology, Google.com
    33. Staff
    34. They Are YourBest Advocates Staff
    35. Develop leaders and managersand no they are not the same Staff
    36. Allow staff to leadfrom any position Staff
    37. Coach ‘em up Staff
    38. Develop and carry outsuccession plan Staff
    39. “Information professionals shouldbe champions of clarity andconcision who find accessible waysto describe complex topics.” David Rothman Common Sense Librarianship
    40. Accessibility
    41. User and mobilefriendly web presence Accessibility
    42. Outreach and In reach Accessibility
    43. Put a Face On Your Staff Accessibilityhttp://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    44. Go Where YourCustomers Are Accessibility
    45. ShippingContainers again Accessibility
    46. ‘If a community doesn’t feel ownershipof its library, it’s going to go away. Andif the people at the city and the countyaren’t made to understand a library’svalue for the community, they’re notgoing to fund it.” Channing Kennedy Colorlines.com
    47. Advocacy
    48. Develop Customer Support Because that becomes Voter support Advocacy
    49. Librarius page
    50. Show value of libraryas social and learning center Advocacy
    51. Show value of library as business resource Advocacy
    52. Brag about your bad self Advocacy
    53. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    54. “Library advocacy as we havedone it for the past 20 yearsdoesn’t work. We need afundamentally differentapproach.” James LaRue director of the Douglas County (CO) Libraries.
    55. Let’s TalkTechnology
    56. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    57. “Two decades after creating theWorld Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee says humans have becomeso reliant on it that access to theWeb should now be considered abasic right.” Network World April 2011
    58. Technology Provide what your community needs so you havesomething for everyone
    59. TechnologyTurn do more with lessinto what it should be… doing less with less
    60. TechnologyYour library is the eye of the tech storm to your customers
    61. TechnologyHelp customers make smart technological decisions
    62. TechnologyYour customers/patrons walk in your door needing something. Just make sure the things you have work
    63. TechnologyIf what you have does not work for them, help them find an alternative
    64. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    65. To improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in theircommunities
    66. Staff Planning Accessibility Advocacy Spaces Technology
    67. "The illiterate of the 21st century will notbe those cannot read and write, but thosewho cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Alvin Toffler, Rethinking the Future
    68. “The world of information has alwaysbeen in a constant state of flux. Astechnology continues to change theworld of information, it is preferablefor information professionals and theinstitutions they serve to adapt ratherthan perish.” David Rothman Common Sense Librarianship
    69. http://j.mp/seflin11#seflin2011
    70. Maurice Coleman @baldgeekinmd All photos had CreativeCommons license for reuse or were used with permission