Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Atticus Rocks

Early arrivals at the luncheon on Tuesday afternoon had the pleasure of meeting Atticus Finch, yes Tom's Atticus Finch, up close and personal. Atticus can teach us all a few lessons in life: keep cool, look good and love the hand that feeds you.

Author Tom Ryan kept his luncheon audience enthralled with his heartwarming and honest story, Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship (September 2011). Atticus kept the audience equally enchanted with the absolute comfort he finds in the arms of his owner and his calm, childlike demeanor. Well, perhaps not childlike. Any child would have been bored to tears and itching to get down on the floor. Atticus snuggled up in the crook of Tom Ryan's arm and laid his head on the comforting shoulder. Both these guys had us entranced and there were many 'awwwwwww'esome moments.

Tom's story isn't just another "man loves his dog" story. Sometimes it is hard to believe that Atticus is a dog. He is truly Tom Ryan's best friend.

Ryan shared many things besides the obvious stories of finding this furry guy and bonding with him. He shared honest and painful stories from his life at home as a child and as a young man,
as a rogue small-town reporter, as a square and awkward peg in a round-hole society, and as a man finding his way in life and on the trails of the peaks of New Hampshire's mountains. Like his articles in Yankee-town Newburyport's newspaper, Tom Ryan pushed the envelope. He hiked all forty-eight 4000' plus peaks. He hiked them as a overweight man not used to the physical strain. He hiked them in the winter. He hiked them twice and with his four-legged friend.

Those who stayed behind also had an opportunity to visit Atticus. Tom inscribed his books with his own signature and with a very special pawprint of one very special dog.
I loved the movie of Marley and Me. Ok. I'm hopeless but I can't wait to watch Following Atticus. Here's hoping Hollywood agrees.

Read Tom's blog and follow them on more New Hampshire adventures. Or Friend them on Facebook at Following Atticus to see where their latest book signing will be.

Charlotte Canelli, Library Director, Morrill Memorial Library, Norwood, MA

Digital Literacy Challenges and Workforce Recovery

This year's New England Library Association conference was my first as a new member of NELA. I was able to attend this year due to a scholarship from OCLC for librarians in geographic areas deemed particularly economically challenged. I thank OCLC for this opportunity first of all, and the librarians and professionals I have met this week have been astoundingly caring and passionate about library and information services.

This year's theme "Navigating the New Normal" addressed in a series of outstanding sessions the rising tide of need for libraries' technical, digital and professional expertise from increasing patronage at the same time that staff numbers are often skeletal at best, there is often a shortage of available computers and devices, and the staff who are there are stretched to the limits of their own technical knowledge and availability.

Librarians from all around New England reported similar concerns:
1. How do I help a patron use a device to download a book that I am just seeing myself for the first time?
2. How do I help patrons file their taxes when the government is telling them they must do it online and they have little or no computer skills?
3. How do I help a patron apply for a job online when I am also the only staff person who is answering the phones, checking out books, troubleshooting computer problems and answering reference questions?

The librarians of NELA did not gather to mourn their changing industry. Their concerns were very patron-centric. The cry was not "Who is going to help me?" It was "How can I better help my patrons?"

The sessions that I was able to attend on Tuesday the 4th addressed these concerns to the best of anyone's ability by addressing the need to help our patrons who are still on the other shore of the Digital Divide, and how to best help with our often limited time and resources the patron who no longer has a job in any industry - changing or otherwise.

Bright and early at 7 am, several representatives from libraries around the region met for breakfast and with LYRASIS to discuss proposed benchmarks for technology in public libraries.
As stated in a press release from their website:

"The benchmarks will be developed by a coalition of organizations that bring diverse perspectives and expertise to the effort, including:
  • Library support organizations, American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy and Public Library Association, LYRASIS, Urban Libraries Council, and Web Junction-OCLC;
  • The State Libraries of California, Oklahoma, and Texas;
  • Two university-based research groups from the University of Maryland and University of Washington;
  • Local government support organization, International City/County Management Association,
  • TechSoup Global, an organization that provides technology support throughout the nonprofit sector; and,
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The development of the benchmarks will include three phases. To begin, the coalition will draft prototype benchmarks and will collect feedback from the library field and local government leaders to ensure the benchmarks will be meaningful and useful to libraries and communities across the country."

This last statement (with my own bold emphasis added) was the purpose of the morning meeting, gathering feedback from library professionals on the draft wording for these benchmarks to help libraries talk to their government leaders about technology demand and needs in libraries.

Jessamyn West led a dynamic and highly popular discussion about reaching our patron populations who are not and might never be online in "Checklist for Digital Divide Readiness." Her presentation and delightfully engaging personal delivery covered 10 steps to address novice users or non-users of digital technology in libraries, and her presentation may be found at http://www.librarian.net/talks/nelavt/. (Hint: Jessamyn REALLY likes Mousercise! :D)

(Below: Jessamyn West helping librarians bridge the Digital Divide)

Lunch with author Tom Ryan and Atticus M. Finch was a moving combination of laughter and tears as he described traversing the peaks of the White Mountains in winter with "a miniature schnauzer of some distinction." This talk was warmly received by the large crowd in attendance.

The post-conference session "Libraries on the Front Line of Workforce Recovery" was the ultimate goal for OCLC's generous scholarship. Other librarians from my home state of Maine who also attended on this excellent scholarship opportunity traveled from Pittsfield and Cherryfield. The room was filled with librarians and information professionals learning and sharing ideas about how to address the growing population of job-seekers visiting libraries for resume, job application and job readiness skills. Encouragement ran strong, and several spoke up with excellent ideas about offering Microsoft Word and Excel training for patrons unfamiliar with these in-demand skills. (Goodwill Community Foundation offers some very good ones at no charge at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/) Other suggestions were a reminder about the availability of resources such as Maine's 211 (http://www.211maine.org/), and the challenges and successes of offering classes and one-on-one help with retired professionals or teens as volunteer trainers. Libraries can find peer support and a treasure trove of resources at http://www.webjunction.org/workforce-resources.

(Below: Library and information professionals collaborate on how best to serve their job-seeking patrons)

On a final and personal note, I would like to dedicate this blog entry at the conclusion of NELA Conference 2011 to Dan Gauvin. Dan was a regular patron of Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle, Maine, where I am Reference Librarian. Dan started out as one of our "computer regulars," who was often one of the first ones in the door when we opened in the morning, with tousled mop of curly hair, tee shirt and a story about the latest Red Sox trade. Dan was very quiet at first but slowly developed a rapport with library staff, and eventually began to volunteer occasionally by shelving books or helping to tidy up around the library.

Over the past year, due to a most generous private $1 million donation by Mary Smith to expand and renovate our library and add an elevator, matched by additional generous financial input from city leadership and citizens, Dan became a regular volunteer. He helped move books and furnishings, and he learned how to perform circulation duties, joining a growing volunteer corps that helped the library staff and patrons with over 300 hours per month of donated time and effort. Dan was very popular with patrons because of his outstanding knowledge of popular science fiction authors and his gently helpful manner in assisting with computer questions.

On Saturday, October 1, 2011, Dan dressed up in a suit, complete with haircut, and assisted with the library's grand-reopening and unveiling of the new Robert & Hope Akeley Memorial Wing. So handsome and well turned out did he look that I took his picture, despite his laughing protests. The library construction project was officially completed; Presque Isle has a beautiful newly renovated library. The State Librarian spoke as well as the Chair of our City Council and representatives from Senators Snowe and Collins' offices and the head of our local historical society. A large spread of elegant refreshments were laid out, and a show of works from artist Raphael Gribetz opened. In the midst of the bustle and excitement, Dan looked as transformed as the building itself, grinning from ear to ear. He had been most instrumental in bringing this all about.

On Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, after walking home from the grocery store, Dan collapsed on his front door step and passed away.

This - all this, the professional endeavors to do better and better at providing a warm environment and relevant services to the daily "computer regular" patrons who quietly shuffle in every day with their tee shirt and small talk about the latest baseball trade, who find not only a welcome at their public library but a support team and maybe even a second family - this is for you, Dan Gauvin, and the as-yet unknown Dans, from all the librarians who continue to rise to navigating the new normal as you sail into the west.

Thank you.

(Library volunteer Dan Gauvin)

Respectfully and humbly,
Lisa Neal Shaw
Reference Librarian and Friend

Mission Morale: Cultivating a Caring Work Culture

Jennifer Sabatini Fraone from Boston College Center for Work and Family began the conference hoping that we'd bring back some good ideas to take back to our own organizations. BCCWF is a global leader in workforce effectiveness and resources are available. Hot topics for BCCWF are Millennials in the workforce and the role of fathers in the home.

What makes a great workplace culture? Among them are a leadership who inspires, gives trust and autonomy; an environment that encourages teamwork, employee engagement, recognition and reward and loyalty; a climate that values the employee as a "whole person" who gives back to the community and who has an opportunity for advancement.

Creative ideas from the corporate world: speed networking events; leader luncheon; fun atmosphere; volunteer events; small celebration; regular recognition. Fun, caring and collaboration can be wonderful, low-cost, high impact initiatives.

Sarah McGinley Smith from King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT shared that KAF is 100% owned by employees and is the oldest flour company in the world. See website for the video.

Sarah brought a laundry list of ideas from KAF. Cross-company themes of safety, employee stewardships, marketing, surveys, brainfood classes (employees teaching other employees), monthly town meetings, orientations, open book management (think financials), intranet, free classes, snacks and product, Tablespoon (weekly newsletter), brown-bag lunches, kudos, essay contests, community service, teambuilding. Ownership behaviors are important. KAF is proud to be 100% employee owned but is 100% committed to quality.

Mara Neufeld Rivera from Resource Systems Group in White River Junction, VT. The company is focused on producing. It is an employee-owned (ESOP) consulting company that provides high-quality information, analysis and insights for a broad spectrum of public and private clients and have experienced 40% growth in the past year and has been awarded the Best Places to Work in Vermont in 2006, 07, 09, 10 and 11. Casual dress, dog-friendly offices, flexibility, professional development (RSG Institute) including $2000 a year to spend on education, showers on-site, PTO donation bank, and environmental sustainability benefits.

Last up Karen Waylen from Wells River Savings Bank, Wells River, VT with six locations across Vermont on the New Hampshire border. Karen belongs to a writing group and has worked on a novel since 1986. Wells River began in 1892 and is a mutual saving bank - employee owned. 60% of the workforce is 50 and over. WRSB won first place in 2010 Best Places to Work in Vermont. WRSB promotes from within whenever possible and work as a team. The CEO of the bank supports all the initiatives that support high employee morale in these areas: Communication - informal quarterly pizza lunch meetings; an intranet; daily email updates from the CEO; excellent rapport with staff. Recognition - birthdays, milestones, anniversaries. Opportunities - exposure to senior management, interaction with other locations, bank intern and job shadowing opportunities, consistent promotion from within, recognition luncheons and Halloween contest. Flexibility - much like libraries, there are problems with flexibility but it is integrated into the schedules. Paid Time Off - benefits added: one day of service to work at a non-profit organization; paid time for family medical appointments or family meetings; prizes and contests with the awards being time off. Good things flow from the top down and it is apparent to Karen that this is crucially-important to the foundation for high morale.

The panelists opened the discussion to questions from the audience for the last 20 minutes. Participants directed inquiries which included library environments of layoffs and shrinking budgets, employees of retirement age, flexibility of schedules of staff who serve at public desks and succession planning for the event of the CEO or main personality.

Reader's Advisory for Kids & Teens

Monday, Oct. 4th, 8:30 - 9:30
Presented by Cindy Schilling of Wells (ME) Public Library

For something you can print and keep, Cindy provided a handout featuring her presentation in a nutshell, and a handout featuring a list of books and websites about and for RA.

Reader's Advisory (RA) is a conversation with another reader. Not an interview or a stressful test of your librarianship. RA is all about suggesting books, not recommending them. "Recommend" is a word that puts pressure on the reader to like something.

To improve your RA skills:
1) Read
With purpose, and across genres and age ranges.
As you read, think about:
  • the potential reader
  • plot v. appeal
  • how you would describe the book to a child or parent
If you can't, or don't want to, read the whole book, do the 5 minute read. This will give you enough of a sense of the book to be able to suggest it to a reader.
  • Look at the cover
  • Read description, reviews
  • Read 1st chapter
  • Skim the middle
  • Read last chapter
2) Record
Keep track of what you read. Can be on paper or on the computer, but keep track of what you and your coworkers are reading.

3) Rehearse
Practice RA with coworkers and friends. The more you do it, the better you will get.

The RA Conversation:
  • Get out from behind the desk!
  • Don't hand books to the reader, put them on a shelf or desk. This is less pressure for them to decide or react with you around.
  • Make several suggestions.
  • Give them space. Don't hover when they are looking through your suggestions.
  • Follow up. Check in to see if they need more suggestions or would like to see a booklist, website, etc.
Questions you can ask:
  • Are you looking for a specific book or do you want suggestions?
  • Do you read a lot?
  • What's a book you've liked? A book you've hated?
  • Is this for school or for fun? (if for school, get as many details as possible about the assignment)
  • Do you want something fun or more serious?
  • Do you like a fast story or is a slow start ok?
  • Do you like stories that are about action or stories that are about people?
  • Do you like books with a lot of dialogue?
RA Tips
A lot of us get questions from parents who have young children who read at a higher level. How do we recommend books that will be at their interest level but more challenging?
  • Folklore, fairy tales, mythology, and classics are great for this group
What about struggling or reluctant readers? How can we engage them and find the right books for this audience?
  • Ask about their hobbies and interests. What TV shows do they like? Movies? What do they do in their spare time? With friends? This can lead to nonfiction or fiction suggestions.
  • Graphic novels
  • Gaming guides
Displays are great "passive" RA. Mix nonfiction, graphic novels, chapter books, magazines, picture books, etc, around a common theme. They tend to fly off the display.

Best NE Books in Two Minutes or Less!

As the chairperson of the Massachusetts Center for the Book Non-Fiction Award committee, I know the work that goes into reviewing of books in a few short months. The process includes whittling down the pile (nearly 80 in the non-fiction category), whittling down it again, making tough decisions, arguing for your favorites, making concessions and choosing a winner. Long sentence - too short of a process.

Booktalking is an art and some people do it so well. Sticking to two minutes or less takes even more effort and talent. (In one light-hearted moment, Sally Anderson of Vermont backtracked to add more about Jay Parini's Promised Land that had to be said.)

Directors of the New England Centers for the Book began these high-speed reviews of their states' outstanding books at 8:30 in the morning - none too easy an hour for any of us. Sharon Shaloo of Massachusetts, Sally Anderson of Vermont, Karen Valley of Maine, Ira Revels of Connecticut and Mary Russell of New Hampshire. Mary Engels had the unpleasant task of being timekeeper - a responsibility she took seriously.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book awards winners in several categories each year Its website include the criteria for each prize and the lists of books. Several of the other states choose award winners, as well.

Massachusetts 2011 Must Reads: Reading, Discussing & Celebrating Books Published in 2010

Affiliates of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress are a network of 50 state-center affiliates to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries locally, regionally and nationally.

Check the NELA Conference website for the complete list of books discussed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Displays on a Budget

Make your library shine with the use of creative arrangements and displays. Louise Goldstein from Waltham (MA) Public Library shows how to entice users to check out materials with the creative use of displays.

Louise Goldstein

Displaying is a great way to entire and engage readers - even just face-out shelf displays

You don't need to be an artist, just creative
"Mass Murder" for true crime in Massachusetts
"Anniversary of the first episode of the Flying Nun" do a display on Nuns and religious orders
Use Chase's Calendar of Events

Just get people reading - let them choose the topic (Laura Schessinger, comics, anything)

Use displays as eye candy - patrons enjoy impulse check outs, and use them to promote underused or little-known collections

Display ideas

  • Have a "staff picks" display

  • Beach reads display

  • Have attractive signs/banners for displays

  • Use lights to draw attention - July displays

  • Mix fiction and non-fiction

  • For a "going green" display use plants as props

  • February: romance and relationships

  • For props, bring in little things from home, or check out yard sales - but don't use anything you don't want to lose

  • Use a display case for fragile, rare, or valuable items - also a great way to feature patron art or collectibles

  • Take advantage of the talents of your staff - let them be creative (artists, arrangers, scrapbookers, etc.)

  • Put bookmarks in display books to promote programs, databases, or other resources

Cheryl Bryan - Merchandising your collection

Merchandising requires knowing your target audience - use are they, when do they come to the library, what do they respond to, what do they like? What draws people into the library (curb appeal) - what does it look like from the street, what do they see through the windows, do you use signs/banners? One idea is "Burmashave" signs - a series of signs along the street all conveying a small portion of a larger message.

Know how people use public spaces (study results from Paco Underhill)

  • Sit and watch how people move through public spaces - look for "desire lines" (how people want to move through the space)

  • Watch how people enter and use the library

  • They need a "transition zone" people need a few steps to orient themselves - don't put displays and signs near the door, because they will be missed

  • 80% of people turn right upon entering a new space

  • Every building has a center point - where you can stand and see where everything is - that's what patrons are looking for, so that's where to design from

  • If you have something in the library (chair, table, etc) that you constantly find moved, consider than it's in the wrong place

  • People only have two hands - they can only take what they can carry, so provide bags/baskets for browsing, or a little play area/simple toys for kids to play in while mom browses or checks out

Use the right furniture - slat walls, gondola displays (four-sided stand alone shelving - http://www.franklinfixtures.com), face-out CD displays

Make sure your goals match your patrons goals - libraries are set up to find specific books, but patrons want to browse; our shelving is generally linear/spine-out, but patrons move organically; we try to give equal weight to everything, patrons are looking for a specific collection

Marketplace How-To's

  • Highlight new and popular books

  • Offer books for all ages

  • Use lighting to highlight or draw focus to a certain area

  • Redefine new as last 1-2 years - not everyone is in every six months

  • Keep shelves looking full (encourage people to check out, but be sure to refull holes)

  • Mix spine and face out

  • Use endcap displays

Redesign Children's Room as "Family Room" - have furniture for adults too, and places where adults and kids can sit together and read or play or work

Use slat walls to draw people towards the stacks - highlight older materials or small collections (like "Oprah picks") - the principle of "massing" means put up as many as you can on slat walls, so 15-20, not four. To help staff, make a list of the books that can go on a display and put it on the back of the sign so staff can easily refill holes.

Merchandising how-to's

  1. Tidy first

  2. Turn covers out

  3. Fill in the gaps

Is Dewey User-Centered?

  • You can increase non-fiction circ using "neighborhoods"

  • Pull together subjects people naturally link together

  • Example: Pull books from travel, history, and language learning to make a country section

  • Use display cubes within the non-fiction collection to signify where collections are

  • Books get special stickers and are marked in the catalog

  • Redesign space so collection all fits together

Trends in Technology for Reference

Technology should be invisible and make things easier, not more difficult. There are many ways technology can be used effectively in reference service in any library. Andy Burkhardt from Champlain College in Burlington, VT, Michele McCaffrey from St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT, and Heidi Steiner from Norwich University in Northfield, VT, discuss innovative, cost-effective ways to use technology in outreach, management of reference services and enhancing virtual reference interactions.

Slides at http://slidesha.re/pWSMqE

Andy Burkhardt - Technology for Outreach

One of the most important pieces of tech is: button maker.
They printed lots of different images and had a fun staff day to make the buttons, then put the buttons out at the desk to engage patrons - people will ask what they're for.

The goal of outreach should be engagement (focus on quality, not quantity). You don't need to reach everyone, and no two communities are the same.

Don't be afraid to get patrons to help with outreach - UVM did a photoshoot of students holding an "ASK" sign, and then share the photos online, using bookmarks, posters/signs. Or do a "why you 'Like' the library" contest on Facebook - people will share creative photos. Champlain College using twitter (@champlib) to retweet events and other info to promote sharing, being a good friend and community member - resulted in people asking reference questions via Twitter (either the library directly or their community)

These efforts will pay off.

Michele McCaffrey - Technology for Reference Administration
Zoho - way to track reference statistics

  • Breaks down what kinds of questions, what kinds of patrons, busy times, trends, length of interaction

  • Very easy to manipulate and view data

  • Can also use it to keep track of instruction sessions

  • Has free version, but also pay models - St. Michael's ended up bumping up to the Basic plan ($15/month) because they found it worth the money)

Acuityscheduling.com - way to schedule appointments
Allows patrons to see when appointments are available, choose their librarian to work with (or by subject area, or any available librarian), length of session. Uses email to notify staff to confirm appointments. One drawback is there is no "notes" field to let patron provide specific information, so staff have been asking this question with email confirmations.

Heidi Steiner - How to make the virtual reference experience better

Barriers to virtual reference:

  • Reference interview is labor intensive, if it happens at all

  • Technical problems are magnified and difficult to diagnose

  • Instructions take longer to explain in text

  • You have no idea if they're getting it

Lots of free and flexible technologies available

  • On-the-fly screencasting (not the same as nicely edited videos) - use to demo things in the moment, tailored to their info/question/resource. Free online examples: Screencastle (very simple, no limits), Screenr (a little more advanced, can pause, put in audio), Screencast-o-matic (most advanced of the three)

  • Screen sharing - great for synchronous over chat (sharing what's going on on your screen with someone else). All of them require you to download or run a program - these do not require that of the patron: Join.me [Heidi's favorite] (can be done from their website or download to your computer; patron gets emailed a link and code to view your desktop in their browser; also has internal chat for easy communication, and you can also share control so patrons can practice or interact); Quick Screen Share (same people as screencast-o- matic); ShowMyPC (patrons have to run .exe file); Mikogo (download-and-install type software, and gives the most options and functionality); Skype and Google+ also offer screensharing, but require patrons to already have an account

  • One-on-One research consultations with web conferencing - Adobe ConnectNow - patrons just need the URL for your room, and Flash installed. Has all the essentials except presentation sharing. Big Marker - you need an account, but has no limits - you can do anything (and set your own limits), and seems designed for people doing tutoring (and trying to make money from tutoring). Wiggio - a full shared environment, but no VOIP (does have video chat and text chat). Meeting Burner - still in beta, but one to watch, it seems much faster than other services

Is it risky to rely on free tools, and what are for-paid tools that don't require plugins?
Show my PC has a paid option, and there are things like Blackboard Collaborate, WebX. Other good options are Google Forms and SurveyMonkey for ref stats

How do these companies make money?
They give a little away free, but if you go over their limits they charge you. Also with ads - screencast-o-matic embeds watermarks in the free version. Join.me doesn't seem to have any add ins.

Dreaming Big and the Magical Flame of the Story

It doesn't matter that I can't read much children's literature anymore ... or that I'm not a fantasy-reader. I always know that attending the annual NERTCL luncheon will inspire me. And T.A. Barron did not disappoint.

Thomas (I learned on the Web that his family and friends call him Tom) Archibald Barron's accent does not give away the fact that he was born in Boston, MA where his first years were spent among the Eastern Massachusetts apple orchards. His family moved, lock, stock and [apple] barrel to Boulder, Colorado where it was apparent that his mother's love of learning and and writing and reading followed him. Years later he created a very special award for young people and he named it after his mother, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

Barron's story is so much like so many other authors and is one the I never tire of hearing and he tells the story well. It is one of success that is often achieved only after years of perseverance. He sent his first novel off to 26 publishers and received 26 rejections. It only after a serendipitous acquaintance with Madeleine L'Engle, his continued writing and finding the love of his life, Currie, that Barron was able to leave his other successful life - that of Princeton and Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar and a investment company president behind. And he has never looked back.

"What was scary to me," says Barron, "is knowing that I had a dream that I didn't try hard enough" to reach. Follow your passion, is his advice.

Barron himself tells us that the recipe of a wonderful life is to ask yourself 'what you love in the world and give the 'world what it needs.'

During the luncheon talk which was rich with story and personal history, T.A. Barron shared his initiatives of Dream Big (a video that we all received) and the concept of The Heroes Trail (and book by that name, also received by each luncheon participant.) His ideas that young people can be inspired by 'the glimpse of heroic power that comes from stories' and by the example of others is immensely powerful. His metaphor of the flame ran through his entire talk reminding us that as librarians we are responsible for carrying that flame to our readers and for passing it on and on and on.

Mr. Barron shared an emotional moment with his audience with a story of a little girl and a starfish. Overwhelmed by an unfathomable amount of starfish washed up on a beach, this little girl realized that all the starfish might all die unless they were returned to the sea. While she despaired, she was taunted by an observer who told her that there were too many starfish on the beach and that she couldn't possibly make a difference. Holding one starfish up in the air, and reaching inside for wisdom that all of us really have inside us, the little girl tossed that one starfish into the sea. "I have made a difference. I have made a difference for that one." A story told by a master storyteller with words that we need to be reminded of all the time.

Had I had the silly idea that fantasy and children's literature are irrelevant to me, I would not have had the chance to listen to T.A. Barron, to be inspired by his work and his life story, and to realize once again that I have the power to make a difference. "The sharing of stories," Barron says, "is as essential to being alive as breathing. They are uniquely powerful vessels that carry big ideas."

ITS Carnival Continues!

New England librarians discover eReaders with the help of Rick Levine, Massachusetts Library System

Ed Garcia presents "Mobile Library Websites

Jenna Hecker of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA presents "Website on a Dime Using WordPress"

Goffstown Library's Dianne Hathaway presents "Integrating YouTube Videos in our Website"

Adventures in Cartooning

Monday, Oct. 3rd, 11:30 - 1:00
(Disclaimer: I had to duck out about a half hour early to attend the NERTCL luncheon. If anyone stayed for the entire cartooning session, please add to this post! Thanks.)

Presented by James Sturm, cartoonist and cofounder of The Center for Cartoon Studies, and Caitlin McGurk, head librarian at the center.
How can libraries use comics to promote visual literacy and storytelling? What roles to libraries and comics have in common? How can librarians promote all stories, including ones told in this visual form?

First of all, they gave out very cool brochures about the center. Really fun handout. ;)
And this slide was on the screen when the presentation started:

Cat & Girl comic

Caitlin McGurk presented first. Caitlin is a comics librarian. She starts by going over her background and how she got to where she is at CCS.

Why be a librarian?
  • You can study what you love and share what you love and are passionate about.

  • It's a career that allows you to learn and love learning for a living!

Caitlin's passion has always been comics and zines. So she was driven to find a library that would allow her to use that. How did she do that?
  • Looked for other librarians who are interested and starting networking, asking for internships, etc.

  • Got an internship at Marvel - catalogued their archives and helped start their lending library (for editors at Marvel)

  • Then hired at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center libray, to create a library for their materials. Started comic and zine making programs for the patients and their siblings. Zine making is great for bibiotherapy.

  • Now Caitlin is at the Schultz library at CCS.

    • When she was hired they used LibraryThing, but the collection was huge (over 10,000 items). So she built a Koha open sourse ILS. Used a lot of CCS student volunteers to help build it.

    • Catalogued, archived, organized their minicomics, zines, student work.

Comics and Libraries: the great equalizers
  • Both libraries and comics are acessable. Available to all ages at all levels.

  • Both are beyond priviledge and class.

  • Both are a safe place, comfort zone.

How can comics help students learn?
  • Great for helping students learning vocabulary. Adds the visual connetion.

  • Wonderful for people on the autism spectrum because of images with text. Can help these visual thinkers with vocabulary but also social learning, understanding facial expressions, body language, etc.

  • Comic creation promotes storytelling for people of all ages

Caitlin heard an NPR interview with Mo Willems a long time ago that stuck with her. He said we are all artists. We all used to doodle when we were kids. We can all draw, but most of us just stopped. Kids see that adults don't draw, so they think of it as something just for kids, not a legitimate art form.
Alexa Kitchen, age 7, wrote "Drawing Comics is Easy! (Except when it's hard)" She is the daughter of a cartoonist, so she was raised in a household that valued comics and cartoon art.

Someone in the audience asked Caitlin how librarians should shelve their comics. She responded that CSS is a unique place, so she doesn't personally tackle this issue. But one tip, if you are in a public or academic library, is to try to intershelve some. For example, you want to have Maus shelved with your history books so people can find it there, as well as in your graphic novel collection. By intershelving you can show people the amazing GN that are out there on various topics.

Next we heard from James Sturm, cartoonist and co-founder of CCS.

Since late 1800s, there have been books and comics written about how to write comics. Why? Because kids love to cartoon and want to create comics.
Perhaps kids stop drawing because they can't cross the chasm of what they are creating and what they are consuming (amazing Pixar movies, photoshopped Marvel superheroes, etc.)
So how can we narrow that chasm? Provide them with other choices. Comics and GN come in many shapes and sizes, not all the most polished art.

Comics are like Media Literacy 101. Understanding comics can help us understand commercials, advertisements, all media we consume.

For young kids, he recommends not going overboard with word balloons, boxes, etc. Stick to character creation. Kids love seeing their doodles come to life. Ed Emberley books are a great example. He helps you take shapes and lines and make something with a personality.

James showed some slides from his book Adventures in Cartooning. In it, he uses narrative to get kids excited and engaged in cartoon creation. He sees his book as being the next step from Ed Emberley for kids who are ready to take cartoon creation to the next level.

Website Makeovers for Mobile Users

Is your website mobile-friendly? Melora Norman from Unity College Library in Unity, ME, shares her expertise on universal and common-sense techniques and best practices for content and design. Steve Butzel from Portsmouth (NH) Public Library showcases his successes with LibAnywhere and his mobile Online Newstand.

Meloa Norman

"Universal Design" is designing a tool for the widest possible audience regardless of how they choose to use/access something (instead of maintaining multiple parallel methods tailored for different groups. One example is ramps in sidewalks - everyone can benefit from them without excluding access from anyone.

Small screen problems

  • pictures either too big or too small (but requires use of ALT text)

  • Lengthy or irrelevant text - be concise

  • fixed-sized tables - forces too much scrolling

  • poor/unintuitive navigation

  • low contrast text/backgrounds (just go with black-on-white)

  • plug-ins: flash, java (tough to update, resource compatibility) - use only when vital, not just for fancy things

Consider the context

  • mobile users are often very focus in need, but distracted during user

Special pages for mobile users?
Perhaps, if you really need something that only functions well on a large monitor
Try designing the mobile site first, and see what doesn't fit in

Best practices

  • Be concise

  • Use bullets

  • Edit, and then edit again - eliminate anything unnecessary

  • Clean markup & CSS: good code = good universal experience

  • Use images well and deliberately - small

  • Label form field and tables - accessibility code is important

  • Use consistent headers and navigation - don't make people work or hunt

You are here

  • More smartphones than desktops will be sold in 2011

  • More people have web-enabled phones that PCs with internet-access

  • People expect to access key services via phones - it's not a "side project" for them

  • Lower socio-economic mobile phone owners don't have any other access (don't have computers, broadband, landlines)

Steve Butzel

Mobile is taking off - we know that. The people that use them REALLY love them, often describing them as "necessary." They use them for specific functions, but don't always have undivided attention - plan for this.

Portsmouth (NH) Public Library mobile website is designed for targeted use: http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/library/mobile.htm

It doesn't have to be fancy - it just has to work. But mobile patrons like a good experience, so if you can make it more fun, do it.

Mobile Web is not a Mobile App. There are lots of library-related apps though (Overdrive, LibAnywhere, Boopsie, Mango, etc). Apps look much fancier and might have more customized functions, but you can do much of it in a mobile website for free.

It's also fun to integrate gamification into your mobile website - it'll drive traffic just because it's a cool thing to do. Portsmouth uses "Games and Quests" - Guess the book by it's cover, QR Code Quest, Scavenger Hunt, Geocaching, Treasure Quest (give extra points for using databases).

For details on auto-detecting and redirecting mobile phones to mobile website, see http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net/mobile

Mobile Online Newsstand

  • Makes magazines (you already pay for and have access to through your databases) much easier for patrons to access

  • Shows covers like a physical newsstand

  • Links to articles in current issue's table of contents, also with link to other issues

  • Lots of libraries involved already

  • It's free - all that's required it you "adopt" a magazine and add those links to the newsstand

Perceptions of Libraries 2010: Context and Community

While it can't be said that it was bright* and early, it WAS early at 8:30 on Monday morning when we met to listen to Carole Myles from OCLC in the Conference Center's Ampitheater to present the report that was presented in 2011. (*Vermont is a beautiful state and even Burlington is lovely in the rain but it can't be called bright this Monday morning.)
"Perceptions of Libraries 2010 explores how the economic environment has affected perceptions and behaviors of our users and potential users. This [compilation of statistics can be] used in advocacy and grant applications, along with observtions about new formats and trends".
The last report of this kind was compiled in 2005 of environmentally-scanned information from 2003-2005. Interestingly, most devices were not as available before 2005, including sites like Facebook. With the advent of the smartphones and all the apps available, information has exploded. Smartphones will outpace PCs in a short time.

If you like statistics, OCLC has the information for you. The full report, by the way, is available at OCLC as a pdf.
From the OCLC site:
This OCLC membership report explores:
  • Technological and economic shifts since 2005
  • Lifestyle changes Americans have made during the recession, including increased use of the library and other online resources
  • How a negative change to employment status impacts use and perceptions of the library
  • Perceptions of libraries and information resources based on life stage
"Americans are very confident in their ability to find the information they are looking for online," Myers states. We find information easily and consider our sources trustworthy.
Harris Interactive surveyed 2229 respondents were included in the report, all US residents online. (At least 3/4 of the US population are online.)

7 out of 10 public libraries report the amazing statistic that they are the only free WiFi access in town.

Most importantly, in this economy, many Americans were impacted. This is our library audience at the moment. They are using the library, especially, for Broadband access and for use of public computers.

Troubling statistics include the results of a survey of respondents who began an information search at the library website. In 2005 it was 3%. It is now 0% or something less than 1%. Library website usage is down overall. So while the recession has pushed people into the libraries to use WiFi or to borrow books, it has not pushed them to use the library website for an information source.

The number one reason for an increase in library use is the 'save money.' The second reason is that families enjoy visiting the library. The newly-unemployed have more time to spend at the library.

Commentary was made about several of the branding statistics, namely that teens' perception of libraries is first of all 'books.' Whether this is good ... or bad, is up to debate!

Overall, the report speaks especially to the differences between the economically-impacted and those who aren't. Economically-impact patrons find the library more important for computer and Internet usage; those not impacted find that the library materials are more important. Families are using libraries because they like to visit them. College students are becoming particularly savvy about finding their own information. Teens aged 14-17 are not using the library website or online databases. Where are they going and how do we reach them? They do feel that we are out of touch and that libraries are outdated. Teens, young adults and GenXs are critical of both academic and public libraries. They want more space, more relevant space, more books of all kinds and increased customer service. Boomers and Seniors are happier with their libraries, 11% and 8% retrospectively (as compared to 5%-6% for the younger generations.)

Themes that run through all demographic sections are more space, updating, improved customer service, better lighting and more of relevant books and materials.

Read the full report, for more information.

Emerson Greenaway Award: Shelley Quezada

Shelley Quezada, librarian, professor and consultant extraordinaire, is the worthy recipient of NELA's Emerson Greenaway Award 2011. The award was presented at the Sunday, October 2 NELA banquet by Rick Taplin, Past President of NELA and Head of Systems and Networking, Minuteman Library Network.

Shelley Quezada wears many hats. Biographical information and the photo at the right is courtesy of the Simmons College Graduate School of Library Science website:
"Shelley Quezada is a consultant for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (the state library agency) where she manages grant funded projects to libraries using Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds. She coordinates and develops library‑based literacy and ESOL programs in Massachusetts libraries; promotes outreach to special needs populations including the educationally and economically disadvantaged and people with disabilities; promotes library service to multicultural populations and works as liaison with Massachusetts correctional libraries. She has developed and manages many popular grant programs including "Serving Tweens and Teens," "Mother Goose on the Loose," "Conversation Circles " (for English Language Learners), "Serving People with Disabilities," "On the Same Page" (One Book/Community Reads), and "Readers' Advisory." She conducts numerous workshops on proposal writing, evaluation, developing literacy/ESOL programs, services to multicultural populations, readers advisory services and outreach to diverse underserved target groups. With a background in library service in Brazil and Mexico, in recent years she has been active in conducting program evaluation of library programs and services in both Indonesia and West Africa. She has taught the course "Literacy and Services to Underserved Populations: Issues and Responses" and "Children's Literature and Media" . A longtime advocate of library support for family literacy, she was a recipient of the Massachusetts Library Association "Hall of Fame" award in 1998."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delaney Delights

The NELA Banquet Sunday night, October 2, featured author Frank Delaney whose latest book is The Matchmaker of Kenmare. (The third book in this standalone 'series', will be published in January 2012, is The Last Storyteller.)

What a delightful guest and talk - full of humor, perspective, retrospective and advice for librarians.
From his own website: 'The Most Eloquent Man in the World', says NPR, about the writer, broadcaster, BBC host and Booker Prize Judge, Frank Delaney.

"As natural as the night follows the day, I would become a writer", reflected the author who grew up in a small village of Ireland where his father taught the older students and his mother the youngest of the school. His tale of being present when the boxes of books arrived at the school each month, padlocked and opened to the wonderment of Frank, was rich storytelling and also spoke to his pride of being an author. "To write well, a sculpting process has to be started."

Some of the themes of Mr. Delaney's talk revolved around our important role as librarians in the process of reading, in encouraging reading, in pursuing reading and in ensuring that the culture of reading will continue in this country. "Librarians are the curators of the culture of the world of books and reading." They are its future. The process is dependent on librarians sharing reading - through readers' advisory at every level.

"The best kind of librarian is the librarian who takes a writer's passion and conveys it to his/her customers."

A second theme is that of eReading, eBooks and eReaders. Like many of us, Frank Delaney owns an eReader and purchases books from Kindle. Like many of us, however, the Kindle or the eReader will NOT replace the book. Instant publication, self-publication, instant-access to books - this new world of publishing will ensure that Mr. Delaney and others will have to be the best writers that we all crave. He does not seem afraid of the future but he embraces it is his quest to be that writer we want to read.

Who Moved My Chi?

Think Paul Ruebens, Mr. Bean, Garrison Keillor and perhaps a bit of George Burns rolled up in one. Perhaps you might then have a picture of comedian Brian Longwell who presented a rip-roaring, albiet irreverent, routine on a drizzly, foggy, freezing afternoon at NELA. If you came for cute references to libraries, this was not the place! If you came for polite language it was not the place either.

No yawns here though. Mr. Longwell used the unlikely tools (technology?) of and overhead projector and transparencies. Imagine if you will.

The conference program "Books I Never Returned" (a lighter side of libraries) was NOT what Brian Longwell presented but it was funny nonetheless. A few references to the profession were made but they were few and far between. Instead, Longwell surveyed the spotty crowd (well, about 1/5 full with a huge emptiness near the center) and asked "Is there an open bar somewhere in the building?" We were laughing within the first few minutes, though, when one of his only references to librarians was "I don't have to ask you to turn off your cell phones while I'm in the company of THIS profession!"

He looked like Mr. Bean, his timing was reminiscient of Burns, his inflections sometimes a bit Keillorish and his expressions more like Paul Ruebens (Pee Wee Herman.) His presentation included hand-drawn graphs, rough sketches, overlays and explanations all on those silly transparencies. But it worked. We ended on "Who moved my Chi?" and laughed our ways out of the room.

Table Talk: Managing Internal Communications

Over 18 library administrators met from 2:30 - 3:30 in Alcove 1 on the Promenade Sunday afternoon, October 2. Cheryl Bryan led the discussion which began with detailed introductions and a presentation of what seems to be a growing concern - communication with staff during these troubling economic times. Whether it is the economy or something in the climate, library staff seem to be more stressed than ever before.

This was a lively and useful discussion for everyone and it probably could have gone on for hours. The brief table talk barely touched on some of the frustration and angst that administrators are feeling. On the other side of the coin, staff are feeling that they aren't being heard and that they aren't important.

Most administrators were from public libraries although a few were academic administrators. Everything from wikis to blogs, online schedules, in-person staff meetings, email updates and daily 'huddles' were mentioned. Cheryl emphasized that (1) there are inherent problems with library communication; (2) staff seems to crave information and input; (3) it is amazingly important.

Some suggestions were the weekly and monthly staff meetings with a time limit on the meeting agenda and opening this agenda up to all staff. Another was a review of the policy manual for consistency. There is nothing good about an anachronistic policy and all policies should be consistent and supported by written procedures.

Change in management at libraries seems to be a consistent theme in communication problems. Styles and resistance to change are major factors.

Cheryl also opened up a discussion about the importance of 'catching people doing things right' and expressing that to the appropriate staff. Positive reinforcement in these troubling times is amazingly important.

A staff that understands the concept of 'going out of your comfort zone' will show the most growth.

Social Media @ New York Public Library

Sunday, Oct. 2nd, 2:15 - 3:30
NYPL's Digital Producer, Lauren Lampasone, gave us an overview (with a very snazzy slide presentation!) of the really cool stuff they are doing with social media. While NYPL has many more employees (in some cases MANY, MANY more) than the library where you may work, a lot of these ideas are easily implemented.
Lauren went over NYPL's use of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and crowdsourcing.

Over 100 staff members write blog posts for NYPL. Lauren encourages each blogger to have their own voice and write about what interests them.
NYPL uses blogs for:
  • timely and timeless information
  • fostering discussion with members of the community
  • links
  • lists
Staff blog about:
  • TV shows
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Books
  • Places: they have a "Ticketless Traveler" channel which features book, music and film recommendations tied to a place.
  • Their collections: local history, special collections, maps, etc.
  • Their community: they do a "My Library" post which regularly features an interview with a community member using the library.
Within all of these posts, Lauren encourages links to other websites, NYPL catalog, NYPL resource lists, etc.
The more bloggers you have, the less pressure there is for bloggers to write. With over 100 bloggers, NYPL has approximately 2-3 posts going up each day.

NYPL has a Twitter schedule, with regularly scheduled tweets from:
  • collections
  • programs
  • marketing team
  • reference
  • customer service
  • retweets from the community
They use HootSuite for prescheduling tweets and assigning tweets to users. They also use SocialFlow, which keeps track of Twitter conversations and optimizes when your tweets get published.
Lauren's hot Twitter tip: Users love quotes! They tend to get a lot of retweets, replies, etc. But we are librarians, so be sure to link to or site your source!

NYPL has an editorial calendar, so they are aware of what events, holidays, etc. are going on in the world and can post relevant content at their FB page.
Popular FB content:
  • Ask a question
  • videos
  • photos and slideshows
Social media feeds on itself. Use FB and Twitter to spread the word about your blogs.

Lauren didn't have too much to say about this tool. She said NYPL uses it, have done a promotion where people get a badge for checking in a certain number of times or at a certain number of places.

NYPL uses crowdsourcing for 2 cool projects:
Training and Support
For these social media tools, NYPL has:
  • Two training levels
  • Internal documentation and policies
  • ongoing support/miniconferences
In summary, Lauren's session was filled with amazing ideas, but many would need to be scaled down for a smaller library. We can all look to what NYPL is doing for inspiration when we dive into the world of social media for the first time, or if we want to take our library's use of social media to the next level.

Keynote: Killing Librarianship - R. David Lankes

Killing Librarianship: R. David Lankes

Sunday, October 2 1:00-2:00

David Lankes, professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, gave a rousing keynote on what librarians need to do to reclaim their place in the ever-changing world of the library.  One of the things librarians do best is innovate, and it is something Lankes preaches, not just to students, but to everyone in the field (his audience included.)

Lankes warned that what will kill our profession is not ebooks, Amazon or Google, but a lack of imagination.  He challenged the crowd to think big, especially in an era of enormous problems that have created big challenges.  There are many reasons to think big, but the most important reason is that librarians are no stranger to big ideas.  

Mr. Lankes posed three (3) criteria for following the big think.  The first is INNOVATION. When we think of innovation, we think of people like Steve Jobs, god-like figures who we equate with innovation on a rather large scale.  Mr. Lances, however, distinguishes between innovation and entrepreneurship; the latter is synonymous with risk and capital, which is an enormous barrier.  Innovation on the other hand is purely comprised of good ideas that can be taken right to the masses.  Innovation for librarianship is the marketplace of ideas, not capital which, for librarians, deals with discovery and pulls people together.  Innovators can be change agents on a small scale.  Innovators see knowledge as open and enriching, the task set to librarians by trade.  Librarians do not need to change the axis of the world. Just innovate and do better.  

Innovation should, however, be coupled with Mr. Lankes’ other criteria, the next of which is PARTICIPATION.  Part of what librarians do is participate in a larger process/conversation about community.  The idea of community is inherently present in the process and procedure of the library.  Librarians prepare people who can develop their own idea of community, preparing people who take and give by calling them members.  “Members” reinforces the idea of participation and the notion of teams.  Librarians are part of this participatory process, whereby they do not work in a vacuum, but reciprocate expertise and services with other members who participate in the very democratic notion of the library.

Which leads me to Mr. Lankes last criterion: DEMOCRACY. Historically, the public library has been, and is, a vital instrument of democracy and opportunity.  Librarians, as proponents of democracy, engage in the sharing and cultivation of knowledge for the greater good, to actively inform citizenry.  This actively informing of citizenry feeds the notion of the library as a civic organization (hence the “member” designation for those who participate, pay dues, as it were, through the sharing of information.) Librarians are in the aspirational business of fighting for freedom.  

Through the criteria of Innovation, Participation, Democracy, Lankes argues that we arrive at Librarianship—a tall mission for librarians to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their own communities.  And with this mission is a call for a revolution in librarianship to overthrow ignorance, again in the lofty service of the people.  Librarianship is a profession that seeks to serve, a profession of great complexity and caring with a rather long and proud history of innovation.  There is a long legacy of humanity through librarians, rooted in an obligation to think big!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Burlington Rocks!

As a Burlington resident and member of the Conference Committee, I am so excited to welcome everyone to the Queen City! We hope you will take in some of our great local restaurants, peruse Church Street, and enjoy the beautiful waterfront. Monday evening is an excellent chance to take in some Burlington flavor: don't miss the Reception and NELA Games at Burlington City Arts, located on pedestrian friendly Church Street, and consider signing up for a dine around to eat at one of the cities best restaurants with colleagues.

October in Vermont is arguably the best time of year, so I hope you enjoy your time here. Do not hesitate to flag down a Vermonter for recommendations of things to do or places to eat. There is much to offer in Burlington and the surrounding areas. Have a great conference!


Monday, September 26, 2011


Welcome to the official blog of the NELA 2011 Annual Conference!  The conference will be held at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center, October 2-4 in Burlington, VT. This year's theme is "Navigating the New Normal", and we are presenting the NELA conference in cooperation with the Vermont Library Association. 

We will be reporting on programs and happenings from the conference.  We are excited to be sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues from all over New England.  We appreciate your thoughts and feedback. We are happy to be in Vermont for the 2011 conference and we look forward to seeing you there.

For more information, please visit the New England Library Association Annual Conference Page