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 del.icio.us page (which is linked here). It has helped me to begin to understand del.icio.is 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 exhibits...it has been a while since I have had time for that at ALA conferences!