Sunday, November 30, 2008

ALA Presidential Candidates

It is that time of year again! The ALA Nominating Committee has chosen Kent Oliver and Roberta Stevens to run for ALA President.

I am strongly endorsing Kent for President.

Kent was the Kansas Chapter Councilor when I first joined Council. He was an incredible mentor to me in my early years. He also co-convened what was then called the Council Caucus. In that role he was also a role model for organizing the group, and an excellent example of fairness and listening. He encouraged/cajoled me into following in his footsteps in that group as well.

While Kent is no longer in Kansas (he got a great job in Ohio), I know that one of the things he brings to his ALA roles is the importance of the Chapters (state associations) and the critical relationship between ALA and the Chapters. Sometimes this relationship is strained when ALA leaders forget about or do not understand the local situations.

Kent ably served as the chair of ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee for four years. It is a tremendous vote of confidence to have four successive ALA Presidents appoint you to chair this very important committee.

Please support Kent. I expect that he will have events at ALA Midwinter, or you can visit his web site. There is also Kent's personal page on FaceBook (feel free to be his friend) and the Campaign's page on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Names, Pseudonyms, etc.

Part of why I have not blogged much lately is the process of my moving from Wisconsin to New Orleans (LA). As a part of that, I have driven a couple times between hither and yon. It is a straightforward route through seven states and three state capitals. (Two of which are named for Presidents of the US.) (I'll review the route at the end.)

Today when checking one of my email accounts, a story about baby names popped up as one of the "highlights" when I closed the email. It reminded me of a note which I wrote to myself.

About the second time on the drive, I began to notice that in the more rural areas the exit signs often had two town names. Presumably, it is one town in each direction off the Interstate. Some of them struck me as interesting pairings for a pseudonym or for a stage name. Wikipedia has a good article on stage names, and some great examples.

Here is my contribution based on driving I-55, I-39, I-90, and I-94:
  • Madison deForest
  • Cambridge Madison
  • Byron Genoa
  • Mendota Earl[ville]
  • Hennepin Oglesby
  • Henry Streator
  • Alton Greenville
  • Antonia Barnhart
  • Miner Sikeston
  • Bertrand Sikeston
  • Carter Holland
  • Victoria Luzora
  • Keiser Wilson
  • Marie Lapante
  • Joyner Tyronza
  • Gilmore Truman
  • Marion "Sunset" Wynne
  • Lexington Pickens
  • Summit Natchez
Many of these can be inverted with equal success, and I only included on three name combination because it particularly struck me. Remember, these are all real place names that have some geographic proximity.

Random thoughts from driving.

The route by the way (North to South) starts out on I-94 which joins I-90 in Toma (WI). In Portage I-39 joins. I-90 splits to the East in Madison, and I-94 splits to Chicago in Rockford (IL). I-39 ends at I-55 in Bloomington/Normal (IL). I stay on I-55 except for a short jaunt around St. Louis on I-255, until I-55 ends at I-10 just West of the New Orleans airport. The states are: Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The state capitals are Jackson (MS) and Madison (WI) [named for Presidents] and Springfield (IL).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Facebook: The current controversy

Now, I am not opposed to change. Generally, I am in favor of change. In one of my prior jobs, I redesigned (i.e. changed) the newsletter twice and was about to do it for a third time. I also created a new logo!

Facebook has sowed the seeds of its own destruction with its latest moves. Awhile ago, they introduced a new look. They let users try it. Some liked it. I did not like it. The new design took away the kind of graphic design which design professionals say is most effective in a web site. There was a column on the left with tools, there was a column on the right with tools (and ads). The middle had "the meat" or the content. Look at sites like the new L E Phillips Memorial Public Library. It also has a bar and boxes on the top. It is what a professional graphic designer would have done. (Although I am kind of proud that we had the talent in the building to create it!)

Facebook made a critical mistake this week. They FORCED everyone to the new format. Some developers created a work-around. Now Facebook has blocked/disabled those. Over 1.2 MILLION users have joined a group against the forced move. That is in a matter of days!

If Facebook is not careful, they soon will be replaced in the marketplace by someone else. (If I knew who that would be, I would invest some of my limited resources!!)

The new version asks for input/feedback. Who knows what happens to that feedback. I have offered any number of comments. Have I heard anything? No!! It is not good to build a frustration level with your core constituency and talented users. (I am in the first, but not the second.)

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

America's Health Care System is broken

This has been perking in my head for almost a month now, but yesterday and today pushed me over the edge.

One of the problems with the system is that it is dependent on employment. My current health insurance is scheduled to end with the end of this month. I will "suck it up" and pay the COBRA to be sure that I (and my dependent) continue coverage. We have health issues, and need the continuity of coverage. That alone indicates that the system is broken.

Here are the three issues which pushed me over the edge about speaking out:
  • who choses the medication?
  • who pays the bills?
  • why does it cost so much for insurance?

First: medication choices

I have a medical condition where, at the moment, there is one medication which works for me. I have tried the generic and it does not work. Here is the story. I had bad, continuous heartburn. I was diagnosed with GERD (Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease). I started with one name brand, it stopped working, and I changed to another. It also stopped working, and I moved to a third. All was good for a couple years. Then I changed jobs and therefore health insurance. The first time I renewed my prescription under my new employer, the pharmacy went back to brand #1. I did not fight, and after a couple weeks, I was in agony again. I talked to the pharmacy, and I was back to what worked. Last July, my employer changed health plan providers. Suddenly I was dealing with a "formulary" process. This is, in my opinion, nothing less than a price-fixing cartel process where the insurance company, for whatever reason (which may include discounts...) did NOT include my drug. Suddenly I went from paying $10 per month to a random amount, usually over $35. Fair? I don't think so? This summer I renewed my prescription, and the pharmacy again provided the generic. I refused to take it. Why? In January, I had taken the generic for two weeks, and my symptoms returned! Would you? What price is your health worth?

Why can someone in an insurance company, who has never met me, and not ever even talked to me, decide that I cannot have a prescription drug that I want. I can tell you that I spent almost 10 hours on the phone and in emails dealing with trying to get the medication which keeps me from having constant heartburn.

Second: Doctors and business practices

The more recent incident has to do with doctors offices and their willingness to deal with health carriers. My current carrier is technically a "cooperative" and is fairly local. My daughter is many states away. I chose a health plan which provides for "out of network" services. Well, my daughter's doctor's office management are a bunch of (well, I will be kind) dorks. (I have not decided if I will call them out publicly.)

Because my health insurance provider actually has a person answer every phone call, and does not use "voicemail hell" to screen calls, but is not a big player on the national scene, that office does not deal with them. The first time I called they referred to my carrier as "non-par." As a lay person, that sure sounds like "sub-par" which is not a compliment. Each time I called, they used "insurance-ese" even though they knew I was not an insurance person. They consistently refused to even talk directly to the insurance provider, and once when the insurance provider called were "more rude than anyone [we] have ever dealt with." And that was according to one of the experienced "member services" staff of my insurance provider. The fact that a medical office would refuse to deal with the insurance carrier of one of their patients absolutely boggles my mind. It is so antithetical to the customer service attitude which we in libraries try to provide.

I may be telling my daughter to find a new doctor for the rest of the time that I am responsible for the medical insurance. How else can you send a message?

Third: Insurance costs

I think I have known this for some time, but it has recently been driven home to me when I received my official COBRA paperwork. For my personal situation, it will cost me over $1,800 per month for insurance. Where does that money go??? That is $21,600 per year. I know that is more than many library workers are paid! I guess I always knew that it was expensive, but I had not really paid attention to the level.

Now, I don't begrudge any of my caregivers what they receive. When it costs $150 for a doctor's visit, I know that only a small part of that goes to the doctor. There is money for the rest of the staff (receptionist, nurses) and overhead (space costs, utilities), and even worse for them, malpractice insurance. Medical personnel must have to see a large number of people each month to meet the bills (plus have money to eat -- and to pay for their own health insurance!). But the amount paid for the insurance seems to me to be outrageous. Even more so when I remember that in July 2007, my employer changed providers when the prior provider wanted to boost rates by more than 50%!

I rest my case. The system is broken. I wish I knew how to fix it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Driving thoughts

I have done some driving this summer. One trip was back to Connecticut to collect the last of my personal possessions so that they are all together in one city.

I have been sporadically reading the various blogs on my list. One of the non-library ones I heard about via the Brown University alumni discussion list (which is sporadic in volume). It is a personal blog written by a Brown staffer, and the "listmom."

Earlier this month she posted about driving. It is a very thoughtful post which somewhat reflects my experience. In my work life I have driven with traffic flow and against the traffic flow, as well as short within the city commutes, and in the even older days, I took the bus.

I will note that her last experience reminded me of the one thing I miss about the longer commute: listening to NPR and "All Things Considered" each evening. [And in finding the link, I found this great Wikipedia article about ATC!]

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cutting Hours or Cutting Materials

On PUBLIB today, there was a post which I am putting below. My comments will follow, and I'll post the link to my comments to PUBLIB. Of course, any and all are free to comment. Because I did not ask permission, I am not posting the name of the organization wrestling with this issue.

Hello out there,

I'm a new subscriber to the list, having just joined to post this question (although I was a subscriber many years ago). In these tough economic times, we're having to make some difficult choices. We are trying to find any data, anecdotal or otherwise, to support or refute a decision one way or another. We have been searching the literature but not doing too well - it's sort of a tough concept to put into search terms, due both to such common words and the many synonyms of them that appear in the journals.

Put briefly, is it better to cut hours/days of operation or acquisitions?

Or, the way it was phrased to us to look into:

XXX Library has been asked to consider cutting deeply into its Library Materials budget in order to fill personnel vacancies, which might allow some library branches to expand public hours. If you cut deeply into your materials budget, did your circulation and/or visitor statistics decrease? By maintaining or increasing public hours, despite cutting your materials budget, did your circulation and/or visitor
statistics increase?

Many thanks for any information you can share.

What is presented here is the proverbial rock and hard place question. Or when I was asked once at a City Council budget hearing "Which branch would you close?" I answered, "That is like asking me which is my favorite child, and I have three!"

There is no right answer!

When I first worked at the Bridgeport Public Library I was told that one of the reasons why that library had such a great collection was that during the Depression, the Library paid its workers with "scrip" which was honored at local stores to save its cash to purchase library materials. Even in the 1980's the result of the depth of the collection was evident.

I can say that as a business librarian, it really impressed me to walk into the [closed] stacks and see every single Moody's Manual ever published. And there are many more examples.

Unfortunately, in the 1990s, the City hit very bad financial times, and cut both staff and acquisitions, that began a death spiral for the reputation of the library. By the time I returned as City Librarian in 2000, my predecessor had done a yeoman's job of increasing both, but neither adequately to meet the needs of a city with so many economically disadvantaged. In my tenure, there was a constant battle to increase both, with only collection funds being increased more than the cost of living. We even reduced hours modestly once.

In the position I just left, the discussion is beginning for the Fiscal Year (January - December) 2009 budget. There will be some tough choices. In the last budget cutting cycle, that library was able to save collection resources by "being lucky" and having several long-term employees retire.

My ALA colleague (and dare I call him: friend?), Jim Casey, frequently argues on PUBLIB that cutting Sunday hours is punishing the public. And while I agree, I would also note that it is the very same public which pressures elected officials to reduce taxes, in nominal dollars, without thinking about the impact in real dollars or in services. The City of Eau Claire (Wisconsin), has used all possible options, and now is facing the prospect that the funding base (given the state-imposed "levy limits") will only support a city operation which is 2/3 the size of the current one. What will go?

I do not know the answer. I do know that cutting hours can send a strong message to the public, and *may* rally support (not will). As I told the staff at my last staff meeting, it is not a choice I like making, even if it sometimes in my job to make that choice!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Library Funding -- More responses to blog posts

I feel like after not posting for a bit, I am finally catching up. I have a post in my head about ALA, one about driving, and one about food. Stay tuned.

This one, however, continues the theme of library funding. One post showed up in my blog reader and the other in AL Direct.

The first was about library funding and starts out with reflections on why library referenda fail. [I hate that Microsoft/Google does not recognize the proper plural for referendum!] Jeff Scott call this post From Awareness to Funding Part I. The post includes both some findings from quantitative research and some good graphics to explain support for libraries. It is a good summary, and he promises more analysis.

The second post addresses the value of libraries in an economic downturn. The Consumerist itemizes seven ways that your library can help you. This is great ammunition for library advocates, and there are a slew of comments, almost all favorable. REad it!

Books Read -- January - June 2008

Here is the list of books which I have read from January - June 2008. I have now clipped then off the sidebar.

Alive: The story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Reid

Marketing that Matters: 10 Practices to Profit Your Business and Change the World by Eric Frienwald-Fishman and Chip Conely

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger Uncorrected Proof Copy

Maximum Ride: School's Out -- Forever by James Patterson free book from PLA Conference

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson free book from PLA Conference

Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska by Seth Kantner Advance Reading Copy - Uncorrected Proof, free book from PLA Conference, a review is here

Skinny Dipping by Connie Brockway free book from PLA Conference, signed copy

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet Eau Claire Big Read title

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Burnt Bones by Michael Slade

Jamaica Me Dead by Bob Morris

The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre

Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story by Rachel Kadish

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

The Vagabond Virgins by Ken Kuhlken

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

Whiskey Straight Up: A Whiskey Mattimoe Mystery by Nina Wright

The Mile High Club by Kinky Friedman

False Fortune by Twist Phelan

An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor Advance Reader's Edition

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities by Katherine Schneider

What are we scared of -- Censorship

In my last post, I talked about public library funding, in the same issue of AL Direct, there was a link to a post on the YALSA blog titled "What are we scared of?"

This is a critical issues, not just for librarians serving youth, but for all librarians. However, it seems that it is those who serve young people who are most likely to feel under fire.

Linda Braun does a great job of covering the topic, and as of this morning there are several thoughtful responses. Sue Wargo made a particularly telling admission when she wrote "I found over the past few years that since I took greater risks and provided a broader selection that my circulation has gone up dramatically." The public, particularly the teen public, recognizes when we take risks. Ellen Snoeyenbos had a great comment about her having been "banned" from doing book talks at the high school after she talked about a book that "made parents nervous." She noted several areas: "In our community issues such as cutting, suicide, and depression are worrisome to parents - not just sex." I look at that list, and I think about some of the young people (and even some in their twenties) for whom all three of the issues are important, and at the same time very hard to find information on. I have a friend here in Eau Claire (who is actually a smidge older than me) who has recently discovered that she not only has issues with depression, but also ADHD. These are medical issues which are not limited.

It is a critical role of the public library to have the information which people need -- even if it makes other people "uncomfortable."

Now, I worked only briefly as a "Young Adult Librarian" (back when I actually was a young adult). I have been an administrator for the past quarter century (wait, make that 25 years, it does not seem as long then). One of my cardinal rules has been that if "my" library does not have at least one thing which is not liked by every person in the community, then the collection development team has not been doing its job. As the library, and the source of information for the whole community, we must take on this role.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Library Funding -- i.e. Public Library Funding

I was reading the latest issue of AL Direct. Several stories jumped out at me, but this is the first I will blog. It is about the funding issues facing the Hartford (CT) Public Library. But first some background.

Over half of the "public" libraries in Connecticut are not municipal libraries. What? I can hear my non-New England colleagues cry. Well, in Connecticut, and other primarily New England states, there is a tradition of having public library service provided by an organization which is a legally incorporated, tax-exempt [501(c)3, usually] corporation. Besides Hartford, other notable cities in Connecticut with this arrangement include Stamford, Darien, Wilton, New Canaan, Redding [the Mark Twain Library], and many others. Each community has a unique history and different level of funding. I am intimately familiar since I was the Library Director for the Wilton Library Association for almost a decade.

So, the Hartford Courant ran a story that the City wants to take over the public library because the Library Board is closing two branches. Well, HELLO!!! The reason why is that there is not enough money!!!

Look at what is happening in Bridgeport, which is, by the way, the LARGEST city in Connecticut by population! Here is the Library Journal article (which is not the latest news, but the latest I could find using the Connecticut Post's inadequate web site and search engine).

I have news for Eddie Perez and other mayors/city managers. It costs money to keep the Library open. If you don't provide the money, choices will be made. They are hard choices. They are not what Library staff members want to do.


That last is in bold, italics, and all caps because I am trying to yell!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Job Hunting

Many of you know that this is currently a topic near and dear to my heart.

In catching up with my blog reading I found several posts which cover the topic, and most interesting to me, they were all by people I have met or know.

I was standing in Lowe's in New Orleans a few weeks ago, and started chatting with a guy wearing a T-shirt which said "Info * Bitch." Who should it be, but Cliff Landis. He handed me his Moo card, and I thought to myself, "I know that name....why?" I later read Karen Schneider's post which talked about Cliff's original list. [Now Cliff is an interesting person. Visit his site. He covers more than just library stuff.] Cliff is also a good enough person to be able to deal with constructive comments, and even posted a second time about the comments he received.

It was good to read Cliff's list and has reminded me of several points which I think I have let slip a little. As I send out cover letters and resumes, I am reminded of the importance of tailoring each letter, and probably need to do that more carefully than I have in the past.

At the same time, I am in a different place than those to whom Karen offers her wise advice. I am primarily looking at jobs where I would be the director, there is not a lot more "upselling" that I need to do.

As I work on my job search, I have found some good reminders.

I also ran across this great list from a college web site listing over 100 places to look for library jobs. [I am sticking it here mostly for me to be able to find it, but if it helps others, I am happy.]

Management Techniques

I had been quite behind in reading my RSS feeds. Over the holiday, I caught up.

I don't remember where I picked up this one, but it could have been Karen Schneider's Free Range Librarian. It is about "Employee of the Month" programs. In several of the places I have worked, comments have been made about recognizing good public service. In offices and in fast food establishments, you often see plaques with photos. I know at least one car dealership I have used has a program. Even the grocery store near my apartment has a parking space reserved for the Employee of the Month. (Actually, so does Best Buy. I parked in it once when I was in a hurry and knew it would be a quick visit.)

Many times those parking spaces are vacant, and I have seen plaques which months or years out of date.

Once I informally proposed the parking space idea. I received immediate, negative feedback from the "middle managers" of that organization. I think that Ask a Manager is right when he/she says "Recognize employees who are doing a good job in ways that really matter -- with strong evaluations, great raises, good management, new challenges (if they want them), and ongoing positive feedback." I am beginning to realize that I have been successful because I have done all but give the "great raises." That is really tough in public libraries today!

It is an interesting and thoughtful post. If my list of RSS feeds was not already ridiculously long, I would add this. It seems to be a good source of thoughtful ideas and comments for managers.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Adventures at ALA Annual 2008 (Anaheim)

Those who read the blog from the web itself have seen the posting of my Flickr photos which show up in a bar at the top of the blog. The rest may or may not be aware that I spent an exciting week in Anaheim at ALA Annual. [My Facebook friends know about both, but I do not remember at the moment if I put all my ALA photos on Facebook.]

Some of you remember that last year there was the adventure of 96 hours to travel from DC to Minneapolis. I blogged it here and here. Well this year, the return was uneventful. The adventure happened in Anaheim!

On Monday when I had just left Membership Meeting II to attend the PLA Board, I received a call from the hotel. We knew that they had been working on the room above us, because we had heard the hammering, drilling, and (for me) the unmistakable sound of "BX-cable" being pulled through concrete floors and metal studs.

Well, it seems that they hit a pipe and water poured into our closet....all over the clothes!!! My roommate had purchased an outfit just to wear on Monday night at a special event. It had never been worn, and was 85% silk!

The hotel staff were great, however, they could not touch our belongings without one of us being present. And since the roommate had a shattered an ankle less than a week before, I got to go supervise. My suits were soaked (of course I went casual on Monday!), and my shoes were soaked, as well as all my dirty clothes which were on the closet floor.

Well, they packed all the clothes in plastic, took the shoes (and my suitcase, on the shelf) and promised to return them by 6 pm -- in time for our evening!

The room smelled damp. I asked for a new room. They gave us one on the same floor. [Of course, the next morning, we heard the unmistakable sounds of construction above us....] We drank a little and they did deliver our clothes at about 6:15. My shoes looked good -- then. One pair, however, has been ruined, I believe.

At about 5:30, we got a call saying "We have an 'amenity' to deliver, but you have a 'Do Not Disturb' sign. May we deliver?" I said, yes, and we got a food basket. About 15 mintues later, we got another, similar call, and received a bottle of wine (in an ice bucket, with glasses and a corkscrew!).

Afterwards, there must have been a note on the record, because almost every hotel staff member apologized.

When the clothes arrived, I was amazed. I had segregated the "dry clean" from the "launder." But my shirts (which I usually have folded) came back on hangers, as did my socks, and even my underwear!! Have you ever seen underwear on hangers? Well here is a look!

Content about ALA in Anaheim will follow!

Title edited 7/8 when I found an extra space. Added year and place.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marketing that Matters (review)/Diversity @ Your Library (program)

I serve on ALA's PR Assembly. This group of people is responsible for planning the Public Relations Forum at ALA's Annual Conference. The official charge is:
To provide a forum for the exchange of information about library public relations and marketing activities throughout the association and with other library groups and associations sharing an interest in library promotion. To promote cooperation and enhance the effectiveness of public relations activities throughout the association and to strengthen ALA's national public awareness efforts.
[from the ALA Handbook of Organization.]

This year the speaker is Eric Frienwald-Fishman. Eric is the author of a book Marketing that Matters: 10 Practices to Profit Your Business and Change the World. The book talks about Eric's business the Metropolitan Group as well as that of his co-author Chip Conely who founded the Joie de Vivre hotel group.

They talk about a large number of other business who use socially responsible business practices to not only make a living, but to provide significant employment and to change the world. They, successfully I believe, present ways that businesses can act in socially responsible ways and still be successful on any business scale. Among other things they note that the SRI segment of the investment market is currently 9.4% of the total market and growing. The show a large number of businesses who practice ethical business, are business successes, and advance a positive social agenda.

Now here is the great news for those of you attending ALA in Anaheim. You can hear Eric in person on June 29, 2008 8:00-10:00 a.m. when he presents Diversity @ your library: Broadening Your Audience and Engaging Communities in the Anaheim Hilton, Pacific Ballroom B. Please join us!!

Monday, June 16, 2008


It is now public and official. I will be leaving the L E Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire as of July 5. There has been a breakdown in the relationship between me and the Library Board.

This is not new news to the folks in Eau Claire (thanks to the newspaper) or to my children and family.

There is a limit to what I can say. I am leaving here with my head held high. This is a great community, and I have received incredible support from my staff here and from many members of the community.

Where I will go next is still up in the air. I have a number of irons in the fire. I will have interviews at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim. Where my personal adventure takes me next, I don't know.

I will continue to live in Eau Claire for the time being. After all, it is relatively cheap to live here. In early July, I will retrieve the last of my personal belongings from Connecticut and have all of my "stuff" in one city -- Eau Claire. It is sort of half-way between the coasts, even if it is further north than the mid-point.

Rest assured that this blog will not disappear, and I will even promise to blog some or all of my adventures in Anaheim.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Outside Rock/Country Concerts and Festivals

The news of the opening of the Woodstock Museum got me to thinking about some of the summer events advertised in this area.

This weekend is Sawdust City Days, sponsored by the local paper. I went last year, and it is a carnival with some big music acts each evening. It is really a big carnival or small state fair.

In July, on the same weekend the 17th through the 20th, there are competing outdoor music festivals which are outside the community and include camping as an option. Closest to Eau Claire is Country Jam. It is an open area west of town. Last year the headline act was Bon Jovi who was on tour promoting his new country album. This year's Saturday headliners are Clay Walker and Carrie Underwood (in separate shows).

A little bit away from here Rock Fest in Cadott, Wisconsin. Thursday performers include Boston, Godsmack is on Friday, Saturday includes Goo Goo Dolls and Stone Temple Pilots, Sunday concludes with Matchbox Twenty.

When I arrived in the area 18 or so months ago, I was surprised at the number of outdoor concerts with big names. Part of why it can happen here is the low price of land makes it economically feasible to keep a large enough plot of land to hold these kinds of events. At the same time, it is not outrageously far from population centers. From the Twin Cities to Eau Claire is about an hour and half (depending on where in The Cities you live). Cadott is 105 miles, so under two hours. The flyer I picked up for Rock Fest notes that it is 265 miles from Milwaukee and 340 miles from Chicago. From those cities, Eau Claire is about 50 miles closer.

I guess that the lessons learned at Woodstock (about security, etc.) have paid off.

Friday, June 06, 2008

On the Road

Ever since I have been here, I have been talking about going "On the Road with Bob." Bob is the LEPMPL staff member who, five days a week, drives and collects the materials returned to the eight book drop locations around Eau Claire. [Update, 5/25/2014 - There are now 10 locations.] Take a look at the map, and you will soon realize what an incredible service this is to the community. Library staff empty the drops six days a week (Monday through Saturday). Monday through Friday, Bob does it. Bob is a retired library custodian who has been doing this now for about 4 and a half years. It is a great fit, he gets some part time work, and would normally be up at that hour. He is incredibly reliable, and committed to doing a great job.

I got to the Library at 5:15 or so, and went to my office. It was still quite dark out! I then headed to the office where Bob hangs out. We headed off in the van. My Flickr account shows all the photos I took, and the notes are a narrative of some of the morning.

Our first stop was at the supermarket right by my apartment. We then visited each of the book drops in a giant "anti-clockwise" circle around the City. (Look at the map, and you will see why I describe it that way.

One advantage of riding shotgun was that I was actually able to sit and look at what we were passing. It is rare that I am a passenger in the town, and when driving, I try to pay more attention to the traffic than the passing scene.

I have a few final comments on my adventure today....

I still find it incredibly wild how many book drop locations we have. People in this community do not have any idea how unique that is. Second, even though we get a good volume of returns through these book drops, people still have to come downtown to actually get their items, so it has not really affected our circulation, but I think it has helped reduce our loss rate. Third, the fit between a person and a job is critical. For this job, Bob is a great choice. He has all the right qualities and enjoys it! That is very important.

Added challenge to my non-Eau Claire readers: Is there any other public library which has as many off-site places to return library materials? Remember, the eight locations in Eau Claire are at convenience stores and grocery stores, not at branches or even other government offices. I contend that Eau Claire is unique and has more off-site places to return materials than any other public library.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

WAPL -- A Summary

I summarized PLA the other day, now it is time for WAPL. The same certification rules apply, and given that I have five years to complete 100 hours of CE, I am well on track. With last year's more than 20 hours, and almost 25 hours so far this year, I have nothing to worry about (I think). As a further note, Terry Dawson compiled what he (and I) believe is a complete list of blog posts on WAPL. If you are interested in the various views (and some of us blogged the same sessions), visit his list.

The Keynote address at WAPL was critical. In it David Ward of Northstar Economics presented the basic information from the economic impact study which his firm completed. In it he positioned the public library sector as a key to economic development. David presented a number of key economic concepts. The message which we who are library workers need to deliver to our stakeholders including elected officials, city managers, and business leaders is that for every dollar invested in the operation of a public library, the community receives, at a minimum, $4.06 of direct economic impact.

After the keynote, I attended the break out session which included further discussion of the economic impact study. The focus of this session was how to present the results of the economic impact study. There are several talking points, and here is what I learned (I sent this as a quote to the WLA Executive Director yesterday): "For a long time we have known that the Library was the single busiest destination in Downtown Eau Claire with over 1,500 people visiting us each day, seven days a week. What this study shows is the dollar value attached to those visits. If 30% of our visitors spend and average of $25 per person, the economic impact of having the Library downtown is $11,250 per day, which is more than it costs to run the library for a day."

The other key concept is that for every $1 of tax dollars invested in operating a public library, the local economy gets at least $4, and for every library job there is another job in the community. One of the key issues about the $4 is that most of that money is spent within the local community since that is where our library workers live.

We need to frequently communicate that message.

I am skipping the luncheon speakers for both days, I may blog that separately, if I feel so moved.

After lunch I went to a session on strategic planning for results. Cheryl Becker talked about the new PLA publication which served as the basis for the library's recent RFP for a strategic planner. I learned some of the key concepts underlying the process, and now more clearly understand the nature of one of the responses to the RFP. It was a critically important program for me.

My "official" day ended with CE in Your Pajamas. At the very least, go to the blog post to see John DeBacher in his PJs for the program! The panel covered a number of different technologies used for distance CE including some live demos. It was well worth it to learn about some of the many options out there.

Friday morning I was a little late getting to the program Have You Heard About? which was an incredibly fast paced move and demonstration of a huge number of various technology sites and tools around the web. They used a page (which is linked here). It has helped me to begin to understand a little, even if I don't use it much....and there is a wealth of information to be mined here.

I did not blog the one other program I attended, and the two luncheon speakers are on the WLA blog (Thursday, Friday).

Monday, June 02, 2008

PLA -- A summary of the 12th National Conference

PLA in Minneapolis was a wonderful experience. I have long promised a summary. The State of Wisconsin, in its wisdom, certifies public library directors. I am currently certified, but to keep up my certification, I need to provide evidence of continuing education activities. I must complete 100 hours over a five year period. There are forms (of course) which are in the manual (Appendix F and G) . I must fill these out and submit them to my system. I did the 2007 CE reports for 23.5 hours. I will use this summary as part of my 2008 report.

I started PLA by attending Book Buzz, hosted by Nancy Pearl. While it has been a very long time since I did Readers' Advisory, I am still fascinated about the topic. Nancy did not talk a great deal, but served as the Master of Ceremonies for a group of publishers and representatives who talked in great detail about the new and upcoming titles from their respective firms. I picked up a couple of tips for titles to read. One of the panelists, Emily Cook from Milkweed Press, who was (correctly in my opinion) introduced as a "look-alike" for Winnie Cooper from the "Wonder Years." My most recent post was a review of a book which I received as a result of my interaction with Emily. A final reflection, I started getting incredibly excited about Readers Advisory at the PLA National Conference in San Diego in nineteen-mumble. Since then I have kept a sort-of-journal where I have recorded every book I have read since that conference. It helped me in my first years of Readers Advisory, and it is partly out of habit that I maintain it. In a way, the list on this blog is a public continuation and documentation of my reading.

The PLA opening keynote speaker was as much inspirational as informational. John Wood talked about his new mission of education -- which includes libraries! He noted that his goal is to reach 20 million children across the world by 2012. One of the more important points, that I think I knew instinctively, but had not ever spoken before was when John said: In the developing world there is no one who has done what Andrew Carnegie did in the US. One of the final notes which I took, is as true in this world (the "first world") as it is in the so-called "third world": You have to build “with” the people otherwise it is not sustainable. This is an incredibly important concept for librarians and library administrators (like me).

I started the next morning with the program Why We Borrow. This posting gathered the most comments (hey, for me, three is big!) of all my PLA posts. In a way, some of what was covered harks back to the old Baltimore County "Give 'Em What They Want" philosophy. That process took ideas from retail and applied them to libraries. Charlie Robinson was a leader in getting us, as librarians, to begin to think outside our library box. [In the quick search I did, this was the best I could come up with. Unfortunately, Charlie was pre-Internet.] This program also validates something I have learned that ALA is doing as part of its efforts to improve the ALA Conference. At one or another of the recent meetings, ALA had some specialists watch videos of the behavior of we librarians on the ALA exhibit floor in an effort to better understand our behavior. We need to think about doing the same for our public as they visit our facilities. This is a huge difference from the way we currently act!

Lunch with the Frommers was fascinating. They talked about the travel industry and some of the places which are still bargains. Who doesn't want to travel. Will I get to any of those places? Likely not, but that does not mean that I can't dream. As I started to compile this, I got to thinking about the one question never asked: how does it feel for father and daughter to work toether? As much as I l0ve my daughter, I could not imagine being in that kind of situation!

After lunch I went to So What? Using Outcome Measurement to Assess the Impact of Library Programs. I have been around long enough to remember the introduction of PLA's "Output Measures for Public Libraries." This concept takes the output measures to a new level. While I understand and appreciate the importance of "outcome" measures, it goes against some of my librarian training to get to that level. Output measures uses quantifiable results of "inputs" (like budgets). "Outcome" measures means that you have to, in my opinion, get into the lives of our users to find out what they did with what we, as librarians, have given them. It is an important concept, but I think that the concepts of patron privacy have become so deeply ingrained in me that I resent the need to ask our users about how they will use our outputs, that I get really antsy. Is the next step to judge the "worthiness" of our serving some users? This is an interesting concept which will challenge administrators and freedom to read advocates!

For me, the program on outcomes was followed by a much more practical program on surveys. For any library preparing for strategic planning (as is LEPMPL), the concepts of valid community surveys is critical. We often know what our regulars want, but what about the occasional user, or better yet, what about the non-user. It is surveys of the latter which most interests me as an administrator. While I believe that there is a certain segment of the population which we can never effectively serve, I think that we can probably reach those in the margin -- i.e. those non-users who we just have not reached, but are willing.

Cutting Edge: The Latest Info on Web 2.0 started with a presentation from someone at one of my former libraries! It was great to see some photos of places I recognized and had worked! Much of the program was about how to integrate new technologies into our regular, daily work. Some of my favorite "2-point-0-ians" were on the panel including Michael Stephens and John Blyberg. How I wish I could be as bright as they are about connecting public libraries and users!

Who doesn't love an author? And an author who owns and runs an independent bookstore is a huge bonus. Well, that is Louise Erdrich! Her newest book, a souvenir of lunch, The Plague of Doves, is sitting just waiting to be read. It is incredibly hard to capture an author reading the words that they have written. Suffice it to say, it was inspiring!

Sponsorships are the wave of the future for libraries. (Look at municipal stadiums and taxpayer-financed professional ballparks!) A panel discussed the ins and outs of sponsorships. Here are some hints: be sure to spell the sponsor's name correctly, have rules in place (in advance), plan in advance for what you will ask, don't always expect cash. Sponsorships will soon be the lifeblood of library marketing, especially if you do not have a large budget for marketing. I have learned that already!

One of the best programs I attended was Let’s Get Married! Bringing Friends and Foundations Together to Raise More Money. The relationship among library staff, Friends groups, and foundations are among the trickiest in the library world. Everyone has an ego, we need to pay attention to each other and maximize our funding potential. One of my true heroes in this arena is Peter Pearson of the Friends of St. Paul Public Library. Truly one of the huge advantages of my current position is the proximity to St. Paul and the ability to watch him more closely! There is an incredible wealth of information on the PLA Conference site (#238).

Another great program was presented by my friends Past ALA President Pat Schumann and Kathleen Imhoff of Lexington (KY). The program was on marketing without a budget. Kathleen's presentation included 10 easy steps to start, and there were some really great ideas from the audience. It was the perfect example of a great, interactive program which is hard to capture here (or in words anywhere). The best thing, is that it is easy to do!

The second to last program I attended was both in a more humorous vein, but also included some great reader's advisory ideas. It was called Superheroes to Serial Killers: Librarians in Literature. As part of the presentation there was a segment called "Serial Killer or Librarian" where a series of photos were projected and the audience was asked to pick one or the other. It was fun, and humorous. My original post includes a link to the reading list -- a must for librarians!

Paula Poundstone was the closing keynote speaker. It is really hard to capture the spirit of a stand up commedienne. Paula is one of my favorite panelists on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (well, after my high school classmate, and original panelist Charlie Pierce...I walked to high school with him!) Some of the presentation was prepared, but clearly parts were not, as when she "picked on" California State Librarian (and PLA Past President) Susan Hildreth. I think that Paula may have been surprised at both our moxie and at the level and type of public librarian represented.

Overall---it was a great conference. As I said at a meeting today, one of the key things about the PLA National Conference is that it is all content. There are no business meetings, it is all programs and exhibits! Too bad I cannot get credit for going to the has been a while since I have had time for that at ALA conferences!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review and a reminiscence

At the PLA National Conference, I picked up an advance reading copy of a new book from Milkweed Press. It is Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska by Seth Kanter. It is Seth's second book, the first was a novel. He is a photographer and writer whose work has appeared in many publications.

It is partly a memoir, and partly a reflection on how life on America's last frontier is changing. His parents moved to rural Alaska and lived in an earthen igloo when he was born. There are great stories about his growing up years and his adventures. There are some very touching stories of the native people, and the values and skills he learned from them. There are great photos in the book, many of which he took. [In the ARC, the photos are in black and white, I can only imagine how great they will look in color. The publicist for the book has told me that they are in color in the final copy.

Reading the book brought back a poignant memory for me. When I was about 12 or 13, I met a young man who was growing up in Alaska. His grandparents lived down the street from my family (in Central Massachusetts), and their son came back with his wife and kid for an extended visit. Remember that in the 1960s, it was a very big deal and long trip to go from central Alaska to Central Massachusetts. I don't remember his name. What I do remember is part of what Seth reflects on his his book. This kids was socially pretty awkward. (Yes, even compared to me.) He was easily overwhelmed if there were more than a couple other kids around. (I have seven younger brothers and sisters and grew up in a suburban neighborhood during the Baby Boom. There were *always* lots of kids around.) It has also made me reflect on the differences between how I grew up and how my kids grew up. Besides a difference in environment, the sheer difference in demographics is incredible. On the street I lived on with my kids, they were among the few young ones for most of the time. There were one or two other children, but the neighborhood had not changed yet from the older owners to the younger ones who are there today.

Anyway, I recommend the book. It is a fascinating read and offers insight into a far corner of our country.

Friday, May 02, 2008

WAPL - A complete list of posts

I posted to both this blog and to the WLA Blog for this conference. Here are the posts, in chronological order, linked to each.


Initial post
and Beginning to blog for WLA

Opening Keynote

Economic Impact of Wisconsin Libraries

Luncheon: The Writer's Life

Where are You Going: Strategic Planning for Results

Continuing Education in Your Pajamas


Have You Heard About

[I did not blog my second program of the day.]

Closing Keynote

From the news

I don't usually read USA Today, but that is one of the perks of staying at the Holiday Inn. Yesterday's paper (5/1/2008) had a couple of articles worth commenting on.

First, one of my few favorite TV shows, Boston Legal, was in danger of being canceled. It is #1 on the list of shows that USA Today readers want to save. Hmmm. I may need to see what's out on the web to try to save it. [That was the banner on page 1, and the top story in section D.]

There were economic stories on the front page which received comment at yesterday's WAPL program on the economic impact of libraries. The Fed dropped the interest rate again (and it did not help the stock market yesterday).

Air travel costs are going up. That is not good news, especially with my need to visit family, and travel for the ALA conference. I am glad I have most of my tickets locked in.

Then there was the story about college tuition. The headline was, in my opinion, very misleading. It caught my attention partly because David Ward yesterday showed a slide which dramatically showed the lifetime earning impact of having a college education. The headline seemed to be saying that was not true. However, that is not really what the story was saying. There was a report recently which showed that most of the increases in college tuition do not go to directly supporting the teaching of students. That is incredibly different than the headline! I guess for me, the good news is that for private, 4-year institutions the cost increases (as a percentage) were smaller than public universities or community colleges, and that the proportion going to direct student education costs was higher than the public universities and community colleges. I guess it is just media at work!

[I would have linked to the USA Today articles, but they charge. So that's that!]

WAPL - Have you heard

I came in late, so I missed the introduction. There was a panel whose members took turns showing new items. They used a page (which is linked here).

Good Reads

Geek Brief TV []
This is an occasional podcasts on tech issues

Ad Block
This is an add on for Firefox. It will let you block ads from specific advertisers. It has options and settings, but it will also let you "whitelist" a page so that the ads show up.

If you are a fan of Pandora, this will let you search for and listen to one specific song (which Pandora does not allow). You do not have to create a playlist because it sets a cookie. It also lets you see the video.

Has all sorts of info on technology as it relates to higher education.

Web alert
Similar to GeekTV, but more focused on the industry. You can listen to it as a podcast

Takes everything where there is a feed and puts them in one site. It will keep track of what you do on various social networking sites. You can use it to RSS feed items.

Library Thing Local
A way to promote upcoming local author events. Anyone can add events (if you have a Library Thing account). You can also subscribe as an RSS Feed. It also keeps track of favorite venues and events.

A Place Between Us
Is a way to find a mutually convenient meeting place. You can choose parameters like coffee, need chocolate, at a library.

Widget Box
Lets you create widgets, customize a little, and then you can cut and paste a bit of code to paste on your site/blog/facebook/etc.

Down for everyone or just me?
Will let you check to see if a specific web site is working or if you are having a local problem.

It is very graphical and lets you drag stuff on to a specfic page to save. It is something which is downloaded on to your machine.

Takes every hot site you do not want in your RSS feed reader and lists them on a single page. It gives you an idea of what is going on.

Bloglines Beta
The original Bloglines got "old and tired." The presenter said that it has all the benefits of both Bloglines and Google Reader. [editorial note: I *hate* Google Reader.] She really liked it. I may take a look, but she had disparaging remarks about Bloglines.

Google Docs Bar
It is an easy way to access the Google docs from within your web browser.

Chat Maker
It is a way to create a spontaneous chat session. It is important to choose a name which is unique.

Book Lamp
This is a "sad and pathetic" excuse for readers advisory. It seems to have a science fiction and fantasy bent. Aims to be the Pandora of reading.

This is similar to Rosetta Stone. It adds a community of learners who can offer tips.

Quick definitions are listed here.

Includes logos and tags of new items on the web.

Since YouTube is blocked in most schools, this lets you get info out to teachers.

Awesome Highlighter
Lets you highlight sections on a page, and then send a link to the highlighted page.

Let's you store your online accounts and passwords.

Add This
Lets you generate all kinds of buttons for your page.

Google Browser Synch
Lets you keep your history, cookies, bookmarks, and saved passwords across several computers. It does need to be added, and works only with Firefox.
Finds sites similar to the ones you are on. It is based on tags on tagging sites. It will work not just with web sites, but with articles. They need to have been tagged.

This is a site for getting free stock photos. It includes items which cost also.

It is a radio site. It has any kind of song you want built into a channel. You can even build your own channel (but only if you use IE). High quality music.

Net Vibes
This is a way to make your own page to feed in all of your social networking site. You can arrange the page however you want.

Lets you send yourself "hassles."

Twitter is a social networking that uses very short messages. This sends a message twice a day which is the first line from a book, as a teaser.

Net Disaster
Let's you choose a web site and (for fun) put different disasters over a web site.

This site lets you create an organizational chart and print it and save it.
Has authors talking about books. It can easily be embedded in web page.

Here you can upload photos to make a movie. (It is part of Yahoo!)

Reflections on my mother

I launched Facebook this morning to find that my daughter and a niece had posted comments about my brother-in-law's Calivn and Hobbes post and analysis. Here is what they said:
your dad's email totally made me cry in the middle of the computer lab today. thanks a lot uncle jimbo!
yeah, me too. it's nice to think of it that way, cause it's so true. but I agree with Calvin, just because she lives in us, doesn't make it any easier to deal with the fact that she's not out there in the world anymore. well, I don't know...just having a hard time with it today.
One of the things I have learned this winter and spring is the importance of sharing personal feelings and I am glad to both see their comments, and see that their comments reflect my feelings.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

WAPL - Joining the WLA Blog

As I was getting ready to blog the last WAPL program, I got to chatting with Lisa Strand, the WLA Executive Director. After we chatted, she said, "Oh, I should invite you to the WLA Blog." Well, even as I was blogging, I got an email inviting me! I have signed up, and will cross-post. Actually, I will probably put most of the additional programs on the WLA Blog, and post my personal comments here (with a link from there).

More reflections on my mother

One of my brothers-in-law sent this note out to the family today. I'll post the PDF file, if I can figure out how, or you can email me for it.

I get a daily Calvin & Hobbes cartoon on my Google home page. A couple weeks ago, there was one about a baby raccoon, where Calvin said "You don't get to be Mom if you can't fix everything just right." I thought you Moms and all of us, as children of a Mom, might appreciate that.

As the days went on, the story of the raccoon developed into one of sadness as Calvin dealt with the mortality of the little raccoon. It made me think of Nancy when he said, "Don't die, little raccoon. It wouldn't be very grateful of you to break my heart." It sounded like something Nancy would have said when she was little.

When the raccoon died in the comic strip, it was the day of Mother's funeral. Calvin's Dad said, "At least he died warm and safe, Calvin. We did all we could, but now he's gone." And Calvin replied, "I know. I'm crying because out there he's gone, but he's not gone inside me." That sure hit home, and I thought it was very well put.

The series ended with Calvin saying, "Mom says death is as natural as birth, and it's all part of the life cycle. She says we don't really understand it, but there are many things we don't understand, and we just have to do the best we can with the knowledge we have."

I put the strips together to share with you, if you're interested. I hope this message doesn't offend or upset anyone, but I thought the way the comic dealt with death was both touching and cute, and it made me feel better.

WAPL - Economic Impact of Wisconsin Public Libraries

This was the breakout session after the keynote. The state library will be posting the slides from the keynote. They also promised to publish the slide show this break-out session. [Links to be added when verified.]

David Ward talked about how to present the study on the economic impact of libraries. He started by talking about his company, as a background. They do a lot of work in regional economic studies. [I have heard his parts of his basic economics speech and on his business before. He spoke to the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce a while back.]

He talked about the "new economy" and the importance of regional organization and thinking. He talked about the New North, and other joint planning efforts including Momentum (which includes Eau Claire).

It is important to set the context by talking about the four economic trends highlighted in his main speech. He offered slides for use to libraries who are making the presentation.

There are so many things happening in the world today that people are confused.

His income gap slide (which shows family income by educational attainment) shows the critical role for libraries which support people's acquiring a better standard of living. From 1976 to 2000, real family income (that is adjusted for inflation) has decreased for those with less than high school education and only a high school education.

Economic multipliers are acquired from various sources some are often available locally.

Be careful to not overstate your case. Libraries are not an economic engine. First mission is to provide services. But....public libraries are in important part of the new economy.

One slide showed three key points:
  1. ROI is $4.06 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment
  2. Overall (conservative) economic impact of $753 million
  3. Library serves as a knowledge/information resource base
The last point may be the most important and includes not only the collections by the value of the people.

Messages to use:
  1. Public libraries are a good and necessary investment in a rapidly changing economy.
  2. Public libraries are a consistent source of information and technology. They won't be acquired closed down or moved offshore.
  3. With an increasing gap in income levels, public libraries level the information and technology playing field.
  4. A growing wave of retiring baby boomers will use libraries as a key part of their working and non-working lives.
He then went to questions.

There has not been a study done of Minnesota. The state economies of Wisconsin and Minnesota were equal in size in 1990, that is no longer true. Minnesota has half a million fewer people. Some think the brain drain is the reason, but that may not be true. However, Wisconsin does not attract "new brains" while Minnesota does. Financial risk-taking has always been greater in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a manufacturing state with a guarded mind-set. Minnesota has had a broader vision, and companies like 3M encouraged spin-offs. There is change in Wisconsin, but it is slow.

It is important to use the ROI argument in print but verbalize the services argument. The economic multipliers come from the Implan Group in Minnesota (ironically).

WAPL -- Keynote Address: Economic Impact of Libraries

WAPL is the public library division of the Wisconsin Library Association. Each spring there is a meeting. For me it is a lot like going to the PLA National Conference because it is all programs!

The Keynote Speaker was David Ward of NorthStar Economics. About a year ago the state's LSTA Advisory Committee recommended an economic impact study. NorthStar Economics won the contract through a competitive bidding process.

He handed out both the slide show and the Executive Summary of the final report. The session was scheduled to be followed by a breakout session, which is scheduled to be repeated Friday morning. He started with one of his favorite jokes (I have heard him before). "An economist is someone who does not have enough personality to be an accountant."

He started with an overview of the current economic situation including the shift from agriculture to manufacturing and now to services. The second shift is in the nature of work. The proportion of work that is "nonroutine interactive" has increased dramatically while "nonroutine manual" has decreased. The analysis was done using the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the occurrence of skills required. The chart shows types of skills base-lined to 1960, and graphed them over time.

He gave the example of the new economy using Google which is about a decade old, and is already 6 times the market capitalization of Ford and General Motors. He showed the size of the US economy related to the size of other parts of the world. Total world population is 5.5 billion but the US population is only 0.3 billion. The world economy is $48 billion. The US is only $14 billion and the EU is $13 billion.

The four key economic trends:
  1. The nature of the economy is shifting rapidly as economic sectors expand and decline.
  2. The nature of work is shifting away from manual labor to higher level analytic and interactive skills.
  3. The pace of econonmic change has accelerated.
  4. The US is an important but shrinking share of the global economy.
He showed the change in family income based on education. He also told his "Rotary" story about using key states for comparison of data. People from Wisconsin always believe that Wisconsin is behind Illinois, but cannot accept that Wisconsin is behind Minnesota -- smaller in population, and has even worse weather! [I don't get the rivalry....] Wisconsin is in the upper part of the lower third of educational attainment. The comparison of per capita income shows that Wisconsin is about $4,000 behind Minnesota. (There is a huge potential impact on state revenue.)

This was a basic introduction to the study. He held up the USA Today which had economics based stories all over the front page.

The study started in October 2007, the report is essentially done, and the presentation was the formal unveiling. There were surveys and focus groups and they reviewed other studies of public library impact studies. He reviewed the basics of impact studies which calculate the amounts acquired from various sources and spent. The model takes the direct economic impact and use the economic multiplier and calculate the "total spending impact." In Wisconsin that is $326 million. This is spending that mostly affects "Main Street businesses." A second part is jobs: there are 3,222 jobs, but another 3,058 jobs are created by the spending from people in the first set of jobs for a total of 6,280 jobs.

They also looked at the market value of services provided by libraries. He presented a chart which I will need to analyze more before talking about it. However it is included in the full report. They assigned values to materials, the value of a reference transaction, computer and Internet access (which has been consistently undervalued in prior studies -- Kinkos charges $0.30 minute), and then for programs. The total was $750 million which he advocates saying is 3/4 of a billion dollars.

After discussing the preliminary results they added values for meeting rooms, career and job info, periodicals and subscriptions, electronic databases, specialized materials, and wi-fi access. The best way to present the data is to talk about things like economic impact per capita.

The key message on the ROI is that the annual return for each dollar of public tax support is $4.06.

After some further review of the report, he ended with some observations:
  • The value of libraries is particularly evident in rural and low income areas.
  • Library use is increasing by baby boomers who are recently retired. (A key demographic to stay on top of!)
  • Libraries are a central community gathering place and are very valuable.
  • Despite concerns, libraries are increasingly important in the Internet Age
  • Availability of specialized knowledge is crucial
  • Electronic access to library is critical (example of picking up requested items).
  • Important to inform the public about the mission of the library
  • Operating money and space are key issues
  • Even in the Internet Age it is important to maintain the physical facilities and maintain a knowledgeable staff.
It was a great summary of a report which will play a huge role in promoting the value of libraries in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urban development -- a perspective after PLA

I have been subscribing to the email newsletter "Shelf Awareness." In today's issue is an article about the Open Book store in Minneapolis. Now, while I am a latecomer to the upper Midwest, and certainly don't know what the neighborhood used to be like, I did have the opportunity to visit for a reception at the PLA National Conference.

It is a great store, it houses several (?) small presses, and has an incredible workshop for printing. There is a cute gift shop which I also patronized while there, and there is the now-required coffee bar.

I encourage a visit!

Friday, April 25, 2008

More reminiscences

My daughter posted to her LJ account both a photo, and some wonderful thoughts about my mother, her grandmother. I thought about linking, but decided that it is probably more appropriate to quote her. She is a really great kid, and I just love what she says. Some of it is part of what I remember hearing also. Here is what she wrote (punctuation is hers, not mine, this is a cut and paste, the photo was her choice also):

my grandmother passed away on wednesday. that's her in the middle, in the green sweater. i guess you could consider her a matriarch.

She was born in 1925. she grew up on riverside drive in manhattan. she told me stories of playing in the hudson and all around the city. she was turned into a paper doll. she was apparently hot stuff and went on lots of dates. she knew from high school that she wanted to do medical research. she went to brown when there was still a seperate women's school. she met my grandfather there, and about a billion generations on both sides had gone to brown. i know she graduated in 1947. i don't know when they married, or exactly what my grandfather did, but i know they had their first child, my dad, in 1953. she had 7 other children over the course of about 12 years. she did research at the worcester foundation for experimental biology at some point. my grandfather died in 1976 of melanoma. her father died some time in the '80s. growing up, there were always easters at grandmas. christmases at the church hall. summers at the beach houses. weekends when she would take care of me and my brothers. trips to mystic, the snapping turtles, the park with the duck pond. brown football games at yale and columbia. her charm bracelet with charms for all of the cousins that she would show to everyone. her "ask me about my grandchildren" license plate. she was the coolest person ever because she was the only one who could rightfully tell my dad to shut up. she was involved in girl scouts, brown sports foundation, a family care clinic, the inland wetlands commission, her church, and more groups that i can't even remember. there is a vernal pool named after her. she lived 7 months and 20 days longer than they gave her.
and that's just off the top of my head.
basically, she was an amazing woman.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It has been quiet here lately. Partly because my mother has not been well. Earlier this afternoon, I heard from one of my brothers that she died peacefully in her sleep at age 82. Posted here is one of the last really good pictures before she began not feeling well a couple years ago. It was taken en route back from dropping my daughter off at college (hence the Boston University shirt on yours truly). Once the obituaries run (tomorrow or the next day), I will also link to them.

When she had a major health crisis this past fall, I spent time with my brothers and sisters. We spent some quality time together and dealt with planning a number of the hard issues, including visiting the funeral home and the local church. That planning has made this particular crisis easier than it otherwise might have been.

The second photo was taken two Christmases ago. It shows my mother and me with all my brothers and sisters ("the siblings" to some of my friends and colleagues). In this photo are (l to r): front: me, Paul, Mom, Peter, Thomas; rear: Meg (Margaret), Beth (Elizabeth), Helen, and Sue (Susetta).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Leadership Eau Claire and Humor

Today was the April day for Leadership Eau Claire. It was "Media Day." We visited the local newspaper plant, a local TV station, one of the local radio station groups, and heard from media experts at UWEC. Going from one to another, we went by school bus. To entertain us on the bus, one of the members of the class entertained us with his accordion. Here is a clip.

[Added 5/2/2008]

Look for photos on Flickr soon! [Done!!]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

PLA -- Humor

Yes, I know I still owe an evaluation, and it has been percolating in my head a little. However, I have to share this which was also in American Libraries Direct. It is my excuse to figure out how to embed a video.

And I think I got it!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Chris Brubeck

The last event in the Jazz in the Valley series was a concert by Chris Brubeck as the finale of the UWEC Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, I missed most of the festival which conflicted with the Public Library Association's 12th National Conference which was held in nearby Minneapolis.

Chris Brubeck is the son of jazz great Dave Brubeck and was performing with a group called "Triple Play." [Dave lives in Wilton CT, and has been a great library supporter over the years.]

I was disappointed with the size of the audience at the State Theatre (the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center). The theater is an art deco masterpiece which reminds me a great deal of Bridgeport's Klein Memorial Auditorium. I would have characterized the audience size as modest.

The performance was great! It included works by Chris, his dad, and many other jazz greats. They received a standing ovation at the end which resulted in an encore! It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Paula Poundstone -- Closing Keynote Speaker

Later this week, I will do a reflection piece on PLA in Minneapolis. This is my las "report" of a session.

Paula Poundstone was the closing keynote speaker. While some of what she did was part of her regular stand-up routine, she did a great job talking about and to us. During her show, she did "pick on" some of the audience members and asked them questions, including about their personal education and most importantly when they knew that they wanted to be a librarian, and why.

One of her early choices of audience members was Susan Hildreth, a past PLA President, and the State Librarian of California. The interchange about how Susan was chosen and appointed by the Governor ("the Governator," Arnold Schwarzenegger) was hysterical.

It was a great closing to a great conference.

PLA President Jan Sanders reported that total attendance for th conference was over 9,800! A huge success.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Superheroes to Serial Killers: Librarians in Literature

Started with his doing talks on readers advisory and threw in books which included librarians. They were always the most popular with the audience -- even when librarians were not in the audience.

Everything is on the handout.

Michael Gannon @ Prince Georges County Maryland

Objectives for all activities in Maryland, and Michael listed his objectives. Talk was rated PG-13 because of the "racy bits."

Famous Librarians quiz...very humorous. First answer was was Hypatia of Alexandria. St Lawrence was the second, as another patron saint of librarians. (Roasted alive was the key clue.) Casanova got a huge laugh. Pope Pius XI was a librarian. Chairman Mao made the list also. J. Edgar Hoover worked at the Library of Congress.

He then talked about stereotypes including the clip from It's a Wonderful Life and the Bacardi ad: Librarian by day, alcoholic by night! Batgirl and Captain Comet were librarians. He included librarian blogs including the Lipstick Librarian and her Cafe Press products. He noted the Modified Librarian. He noted the Wyoming Library Association campaign with the mudflap girl campaign.

He then went into librarians in literature, starting with Librarians in Fiction which he referred to as "incredibly dry." In the Stacks is a collection of short stories. One of the stories features TV's Mr. Ed.

He finally got serious with Miss Zukas and the Library Murders. And continued. What is missing from the handout is the wonderful covers and incredibly snarky remarks on books and covers like Nympho Librarian.

He ended with a little game called: Librarian or Serial Killer with some amazing photos.

[This was a wonderfully entertaining speaker.]

Marketing without Money

[I will revise this post next week!]

The program was organized by ALA Past President Pat Schumann, and had as the main speaker was Kathleen Imhoff, Director of the Lexington KY Public Library.

I sat next to Kathleen at dinner last night, and have known her for years (we serve on an ALA committee)

  1. Neaten Up
    Look around the building. Look at all the signs. Make it a goal to take down 5 signs every day!
  2. Secret Patron
    Get someone who has not been to the Library in a while to come in and look around and share their perspectives with you.
  3. Increase Staff Training
    When staff are at the desk and not waiting on someone, what are they doing? If they are doing “off desk” tasks, they do not look approachable.
  4. Form New Partnerships
    Look for partners in the community, the Chamber of Commerce
  5. ???
  6. Join Community Groups
    This is a great way to get your message to key community leaders. Library Directors and
  7. Partner with PR Firms
    Even in the smallest community, you have someone who has a connection with someone in a public relations firm.
  8. Barter
  9. Grocery Store Line
    Talk to people in the line without identifying yourself as working at the library. It is stealth marketing. Kathleen did not call it this, but it is a way of viral marketing. This would apply to any place where you are waiting in line. Ask your staff to do this.
  10. Change or Revise Image
    Use name tags, use cheap (Oriental Trading Company) beads to hang name tags.


Various members of the audience shared messages. One that caused some chuckles was “Your Library is Free and Easy!”

The message needs to be short and “punchy” there is information on the ALA web site. Pat Schuman shared a Message Worksheet. It needs to speak to the listener, not to us! The message needs to be very clear. Need to have a short message and then have a longer “elevator speech.” (For those not familiar with the elevator speech, it is a brief talk that you would give on a short elevator ride – i.e. no more than 2 minutes.

Low cost marketing opportunities:

For a small amount of money (e.g. bookmarks) consider going to the local bank (if you still have one).

Take a zip lock bag, put the two sided brochure to display or hand out with bookmarks and brochures. They can be used over and over. Or you can buy printed plastic bags for events. More people will take a bag of “stuff” than will a brochure or bookmark.

Combine messages by doing things like printing black and white on one side, and color on the other. Kathleen also had a brochure with tear-off/cut-off bookmarks on the end. For about $0.25, new baby bibs with message: Read to me! Lexington got a health care firm to underwrite the cost of the bibs (and without the logo).

Kathleen talked about her book Library Contests published by Neal-Shuman. Pat Schumann offered a discount to attendees.

Other ideas included chalk art to advertising programs, including having the teen advisory board doing the art. Pharmacy bags or promotions with grocery stories.

We must evaluate any activity. What does success look like? Did that promotion get more people? To find out some of the answers, we may need to ask people.