Category: library

LITA PPC: Planning for 2013

If you are on any of a number of listservs that I frequent, you’ve heard that LITA-PPC has a call out for Lightning Round presentations at Annual 2012. They’re due on May 7. Go fill it out now and then come back.

This isn’t anything particularly new, but it does allow for a few more people to throw in a last minute proposal, get a surprise speaking credit, and allows for topics that we weren’t really planning on last summer to get a moment in the spotlight.  The committee will be doing a really fast round of evaluation and we’ll have decisions by the end of the month.

We’ve gotten 15 so far. That’s not a huge number but there are confounding factors

  • the session time is already set for Monday morning at 8 a.m. *
  • we asked that people not propose if they couldn’t guarantee they were going
  • no vendor proposals allowed

I expect that number to at least double, which will put the selection ratio at about 1 in 5.

I’m starting to think about next year. Sure, the majority of my focus is still on June, but when the end of June hits, I need to be ready with a few things.  I will have several new committee members in addition to the two I picked up after Midwinter, and they’ll need some orientation. We’ll be putting up a new call for proposals for Annual 2013 and starting to schedule the discussion meetings for those.  We need to discuss anything that we’d like to change for next year.  (Actually, that conversation is going up right after we finish the Lightning stuff–as several people won’t be at Anaheim.)

And this year, people are getting assignments. I’ve relied on people volunteering and they generally step up but I’d like to get that a little more organized so committee members can plan accordingly.  Things they’ll get to sign up to do include:

  • Confirm submission receipt for all ALA Annual programs (2)
  • Lightning Round Program 2013 –Call for/Supervise/oversee day of (2)
  • LearnRT Liaison [informal] (1-2)
  • LITA Slide Deck Template manager/sharer (1)
  • Pre-Conference Blog Posts (1-5)

Everyone on the committee is still expected to supervise programs, have lots of opinions, and throw in for other things as they arise, but these are the ones that come to mind thus far.

I also have to make some suggestions on who should be the 2013-2015 chair.  While it doesn’t have to be a member of the committee, it puts the new chair at a huge disadvantage if they have not served before. I’d been on the committee for two years before taking chair and I still spend half of my time flailing and feeling like I’m making things up. Hopefully, between my various blog posts and documentation, I can hand off something a little more structured to whoever is next to warm the seat.  That will also be something that comes up in the next month with the current committee.

*This means I have 8 a.m. meetings Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  And I’m not a morning person. At least we’ll be on Pacific Time?

ACLTS Program on the Ithaka Report, I’m still thinking about it

A lot of blog posts followed ALA last summer but I can’t say that I saw much about the ALCTS Program on the Ithaka Report.  A great deal of that probably had to do with the fact that it was scheduled at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, which is a challenging time slot. Personally, I’m not sure I would have hauled myself out of bed had I not really wanted to see Jenica Rogers speak.  As one of an audience of less than fifty people and (as I would note specifically when I asked a question–one of about five people under the age of forty), I’m glad I went.

The focus of the presentation was the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from US Academic Library Directors.  Representatives from Ithaka identified their survey population (directors of four year institution libraries).  The full text is available at the link above but I did jot down a few points:

  • Faculty see the library as a buyer of access, not as a gateway.  Library directors focus on teaching
  • If given a 10% increase, directors said they would spend it on online journals, discovery tools and staff for user services (in that order)
  • 35% of library directors said they had a well developed strategy in place for the future.
  • Insofar as the move from print to electronic: 88% have transitioned for journals, but it’s moving more slowly for books.
  • In our roles as buyers we are perceived as hugely important and that switch will be ever increasingly to electronic; yet only 50% of directors say they have enough information for informed decisions regarding the transition to electronic and only 36% have policies in place for when print is deaccessioned.
Ithaka asked respondents to speak to overcoming the library director and faculty disconnect; making priorities align with high level goals; and trends such as print books following journals.
*If I misstate the speakers, I ask them to let me know. I am taking my interpretation from notes hastily take during the presentation*

Jenica Rogers spoke first and opened bluntly: Ithaka brought conclusions, she came to judge. Her opening slide was “We Should Worry”

As a director, Rogers said she identified as a next generation of leaders. Insofar as the Ithaka report, she admonished that we are not seeing good things expressed. Specifically, when asked about strategy and strategic plans 65% of the respondents said that they didn’t have one.  Strategic planning, Rogers reminded the audience, is a director’s job and these directors said no. So the frontline staff is ostensibly moving forward without a plan and without leadership at the top.

Rogers asked questions: How many libraries are doing some planning but didn’t think it was enough to say they were doing strategic planning? How many want to but are paralyzed? And if that many respondents aren’t actually doing any strategic planning, how seriously are we supposed to take their responses to the rest of the survey?

In response to the migration of journals from print to electronic, Rogers asked how much more information we need? We already see and know that we’re going to electronic but our behaviors and are stated feelings are out of alignment.  If we’re waiting for a policy, then we need to create one.  Noting that Ithaka said faculty are tied to print journals, Rogers admonished that those are a dead technology and faculty will have to change. She pointed to our missions of libraries where access is high amongst stated goals–what makes print so important to that?

In the Ithaka report, 40% of the respondents said that they were working with faculty or technologists. This number, Rogers stated is far too low.  For we must collaborate with them or die.  We can provide what people can’t get from the internet but we can’t exist just to be the library, an institution that’s always been there.  Why can’t we get to them? What’s in the way? How much is institutional politics? Do we have the skills to be effective partners?  How would a strong leadership voice change that?

Some of Rogers strongest comments, however, were reserved for the answer in the report that 75% of the respondents felt that libraries should be gateways.  She flatly dismissed this, saying we haven’t been gateways in 15 years, the internet changed so that we are one node of access, not the be all and end all. The idea of the gateway is a sunk ship and we need a new one.

Facing these realities, that we’re looking at outdated ideas of what a library should be and without leadership willing to plan, Rogers asked when we are going to be find a future that makes logical sense and noted that we need to determine what skills and training we’ll need to get there (especially for those decision makers),  what questions we need to ask, etc.

The second speaker was  Robert Kieft who is the college librarian at Occidental College.  He opened by saying he seriously wanted to throw out his prepared remarks and just respond to Rogers, but that he wouldn’t.

Kieft described the Ithaka report as a cultural document plus and opinion poll and would liked to have seen the results in comparison to information from the annual LibQual surveys.  Noting that the literature is littered with surveys, he pointed out that we need to study survey results in context.

Kieft discussed the major change in emphasis in user education.  We have big gaps between librarians and faculty, partially because we’re not sure what we mean by supporting the faculty or what the faculty are expecting from us insofar as support.  When we’re talking about technological needs, many faculty think only of what they need at present, not what they might need in the future.

Insofar as comments about print journals, Kieft pointed to the work being done by the Hathi Trust to try and get orphan works that are no longer under copyright digitized. His suggestions were that we should

  • reorient collection development and weeding around collectives and collaborations
  • rewrite policies in terms of partner management
  • if the question of optimal copies arises, we need a firm number and a good reason as to why we need even those copies
  • if we’re going electronic, the scans have to be good
  • pointing to Hathi and current circ records, he noted we can reclaim space in central campus buildings where we’re presently “storing cellulose”
  • we must strengthen consortia with business models–the gentlemen’s agreement where ARL libraires have to keep everything isn’t working

Kieft stated that we need to abandon the idea of of shelf browsing for both faculty and students, noting that Google provides one of our best browsing opportunities ever. Browsing is a bucolic ideal we need to get out of our heads.

He reminded that we need to keep an eye on the practice of our users  as we’re making these transitions, that many may express a sense of loss and giving up of successful work pratices (however successful those actually are) and recommended engaging with scholars to talk to them about collections development on a higher level than campus politics. This is particularly important, he emphasized, with the humanities.

He concluded that we need to translate practical concerns to a mission centered to access to materials not movement of physical objects, turning practical tiggers into a mission.

Following the presentations there was a spirited conversation–I apologize that my notes from here are a little fuzzy and attribution is mostly nonexistent.

Aleast one audience member commented that it was nice to see Rogers as a younger side of being a library director but that age might be part of the anxiety that we’re seeing. Rogers responded that the profession has always been facing huge change and is always updating with people creating plans and walking away.  She advised that moving towards accountability helps, with  greater assessment needed so we can show results in order to make the case for future funding.

Rogers noted we need to live the strategic plans but that instead, many libraries are doing it in a vacuum, writing up grand documents and then setting them on a shelf.

The question was raised of two elements that didn’t get a lot of weight: staffing and use of space if we get rid of the print.  Staffing must be done in alignment with goals, whether that means hiring or training.  Insofar as space, there are going to be new partners with libraries and there are administrative complexities of partners who inhabit the building but don’t report to the library.

One audience member commented on the lack of desire to get rid of print and said she tried to consider it realistically: if rapture hit the library tomorrow and all the print was gone, how much would she replace? The answer was not much.

Insofar as non-library partners, someone mentioned that we already have these in teaching and learning and as we consider what to do with our buildings we’ll need an array of workspaces.

My director spoke up (yes, my director and I were sitting down the row from each other–I think we were the only pair like that from a library) and said that while we are throwing tons away (I can confirm, we just closed the Science library and soon-to-be former science librarian recycled huge amounts of bound journals to which we have electronic access)* but that they (current library leaders) are learning from the process too.  My response to that, a couple of questions/comments later, was to point out that we can’t make this a cyclical problem.  Library directors need to start including the younger librarians and the not-yet-department-heads on strategic planning so they don’t move into management roles without any experience at doing this.

Another audience comment was that a plan needs prioritization. The Dean at XYZ institution had a “direction that covers the universe” but without focus the staff isn’t sure what to do when or what’s really the most important. The suggestion came back that you sometimes have to send priorities up the food chain and force that conversation to happen. Others noted that if you pick the wrong priorities someone will probably tell you.

Someone pointed out that there’s the mindset in higher education and government that any project will take as long as it is given. The response (my guess is from Rogers) is that we have to expect more and faster from each other.  We can have good project management or we can accept the mire as the normal working environment.

There was another note that there is a huge lack of communication within the library and out of the library to the faculty.  Rogers noted they do a yearly survey at Potsdam that has both formal and informal components. ** She noted that we want to be constantly gathering data on our users but too often wear professional blinders.  It’s time consuming, yes, but it’s important.


As you can see, this presentation resonated with me. As someone still considered a baby in the world of libraries (less than 10 years experience,  looking at 30 very closely), it was not particularly encouraging to hear that present leadership isn’t working on strategic change and from the audience comments, when it is happening, it’s not involving the people who most need it (those front line librarians).

One has only to look at Harvard or UIUC to see that major changes and reorangizations in university libraries are fully upon us. I would like to believe there are some plans, some five year goals or strategies aligned with campus that will help us more forward.  Otherwise, I worry that individual librarians will rapidly burn out trying to move things forward while the institution is slowly oozing along towards irrelevance.  It is going to take a concerted effort on the part of administration, librarians, and para professional staff. None of those groups of people can be ignored and communication between all of those groups has to be improved.

One comment I heard from one director in that room was that she was just waiting to retire until her child was through college, which was a couple years in the future.  While I don’t imagine she is the only representative of that class (I’ve met some professors who were certainly hanging on for the same reason), that really bothered me.  I had no sense from her that she had any impetus to plan for the future, really start working on transitions now while she was still there or anything. It was a waiting game for her and I felt for her staff, who must feel stuck in a rut of status quo.   I wondered later to Jenica, how we might address that and she suggested the transition to a non-administrative position that allowed still keeping one’s job but not being in the administrative position anymore. I’m not sure how many universities allow for that–at least at the library. One can stop being a dept chair and go back to being a tenured faculty member….

I wish the session had been taped. I hope I’ve been able to capture some of the energy in the room.  We could have easily continued the conversation for another hour. Hopefully the conversation did not end there but will resonate in the participants, either by what they heard there or by my bringing it up here.

*He’s soon to be former becaue he got a great new job.  Very happy for him. Very sad that I won’t get to work with him here for a longer period of time.

**We’re going to be doing one of those at UIC, I’ve asked and gotten a copy of that survey from Jenica and passed it on to the task force working on it.






Jenica’s slides are available here.   I also suggest her original blog post response to the report and the very interesting Friendfeed conversation as supplemental reading.

Program Planning Committee Update

Looking at my archives, I see that it’s been quite a while since I gave you an update on the LITA Program Planning Committee and all the various and sundry things that go along with that.  As I actually have a couple of hours to write this afternoon before I need to shuffle off to the airport, now seemed like a good time to get that done.

In August we chose programs and in September the committee sorted things into time slots. This is far less fun than it sounds.  We have to try and meet the requests of the speakers, not conflict with similar topics or other LITA no-compete times, and still have something during every slot that we’d all like to go to.  We might have moved our committee meeting because of one of the programs that’s happening next summer…..

During the course of the fall there was some contact work that the liaisons needed to do.  I sent a fair number of reminders and when people weren’t speaking up, I sent pointed requests.  Due to work situations, two of my committee members had to excuse themselves from service, so I also need to send emails to my two new committee members this afternoon.

By the way–unless it’s a personal special request, I don’t really control who is on my committee.  When I lost a committee member over the summer, I had a name in mind because of some emails that I’d seen not too long before conference.  I knew said person had filled out the volunteer form and had other committee experience that would benefit my group.  This time around, I sent a request saying I need two more people and Colleen Cuddy made things happen.  I got the names shortly before Midwinter.

This spring, I will be hearing from/working with the VP of LITA–Zoe, to get a couple of people who are rotating off the committee replaced.  I don’t know how much influence I’ll have there either.  I think it’s a good committee to cut your teeth on, though it’s a fair amount of work in the fall.

My committee did not have a formal meeting at Midwinter ALA. I said I’d be in X space at Y time and three of my committee members happened to come by and see me and, over the course of the conference, one of them and I worked out some changes to one of the programs (I say “we”–Mike did the hard work and the talking to people, I gave him some ideas, started a couple of conversations and asked to be copied on the emails.).  I saw a few other chairs and we shared some ideas but the wifi at the conference was so weak that I couldn’t edit a GDoc while I was there.  Did I mention that 98% of my committee’s work is in a GDoc Spreadsheet?

Interestingly, several people have come to me assuming that I can put programs into the program now or that LITA PPC actually arranges the programs.  While we have the latest (last I checked) deadline for annual programs, that deadline is long past.  When we’re talking about a conference of 25K people, it’s not quite as easy to throw a program in at the last minute.  And while we select and coordinate programs, the PPC does not traditionally arrange and put on the programs.  Our work is much more behind the scenes.  That being said, the committee is responsible for the Flash Presentations.  This is a new program (it’s not about the Flash on the computer btw–someone asked) that I’ll send out a call for in April.  Six ten minute presentations about what’s going on in technology at your library RIGHT NOW.  But that was something I knew I wanted to arrange last summer and we already have our timeslot for that.

Someone else asked what if there is a cancellation?  We do not do a replacement.  Particularly this year.  Individual speakers on a panel might certainly change up until the conference but if an individual doing a presentation pulls out, I’m not going to go back to the list of suggested presentations.

That being said, I am sharing the LITA-PPC spreadsheet with LITA Education Chair Cody Hanson, who will be reviewing both the presentations that we accepted and those that we did not accept to see if there are workshops that he could create, speakers he could tap, and other opportunities that can be created out of the wealth of suggestions people put forth.  And one of our rejected proposals was handed as a suggestion name to an IG Chair who asked us for people for their panel.  So things do still happen.

Oh! I did go and talk to the LearnRT Board and they are entirely on board to take on coordinating with our programs to offer pre-program support: reviewing slides, dry run of the presentation via Skype, etc.  I’m thrilled to have their assistance and felt very welcome at their meeting.  I’m happily anticipating better programs by our presenters!

We’re under description deadline for the print this week, so it’s time to go send emails to all of my committee members again.


If there’s a question I didn’t answer, let me know…


Bring it to La Crosse…

For anyone who was wondering, our Board approved replacement of my position.  That means if you’ve ever wondered about La Crosse, ever imagined tackling storytimes in the Boat, ever thought you’d like to work with Mesdames Director and Storyteller or the infamous Acquisitions Man…here’s your chance!

The formal job description is available here and I imagine will be or is going out to the usual job boards. Please share it around.

What can I tell you about La Crosse Public Library?

LPL is a vibrant resource library for both the La Crosse community, which uses us heavily, and for our system, which spans 90 miles and includes many smaller libraries.  We have a really great DVD and audiobook collection–I have not had nor felt the need for a Netflix account nor an Audible account.  ILL is solid. We have video games, graphic novels for kids/teens/adults, and I’m pretty proud of the chapter book collection.   We have an Archives and an Archivist. It’s a pretty good bet that if I send up a pleading email to the appropriate selector, the book or movie will be ordered (which is why we have the Smurfs and a couple of sock knitting books).

We’re a little tight for collection space, what library isn’t?  That being said, it’s bright and feels spacious.  There’s a huge basement to explore and there are secret storage areas that one feels could also lead to mysterious tunnels that are at the beginning of some adventure novel.  We have the Boat.  I’m sorry to say that I think with my departure the Chocolate Drawer will be no more, but not everything can stay the same.  We have a very nice staff room and it does not have a television in it–so it’s usually quiet!

There are people I have greatly enjoyed working with. I mention the Director, Head of Reference, and Head of Youth Services often enough right?  They have been wonderful sounding boards and always willing to share things from a more experienced perspective or just from the other side of the desk.  I don’t hear the word “no” often but when it comes it is with an explanation.  The transparency they have shared with me about library operations has been invaluable.

I am leaving a good place; my taking a new job is about being ready for different challenges.

What can I tell you about La Crosse?

La Crosse is a beautiful town on the banks of the Mississippi. Yes, it gets really cold in the winter; hot and humid during the summer. We see a temperature swing of about 100 degrees between mid-March and mid-July.  You will need a 3/4 length down coat, wool socks, and a really fabulous hat. That being said, they know how to handle snow removal and I’ve only been unable to get myself to work on two days in three years.

It’s a wonderful family town. We have good schools and a strong community that really focuses on families.  Festivals seem to happen every weekend between May and October, many of them several day events with dancing, music, kids shows, beer tents, ethnic foods and crafts. The public library is good ;).  We have a community college that is overflowing with students, a popular UW campus and a private Catholic university here.  There are two major hospitals. There are a lot of churches and community organizations.  Decent music and theater scene.  We’re a small hub for conferences and get a lot of national tours through on a one-night/one-weekend appearance.

There’s an airport and Amtrak.  You connect either through Minneapolis (Delta) or Chicago-O’Hare (American).  It’s a 3 hour drive to the Twin Cities; 2.5 to Madison; 5 to Chicago. There are five yarn stores in about 45 minute radius, possibly more now…

La Crosse is a good green/eco/outdoors destination. If you like hiking/camping/trails/nature/gardening–definitely consider coming up to La Crosse.  There are many freely available trails (talk to MVC and HPT), there are places to rent snowshoes, and we have Mt. La Crosse skiing. There’s a Food Co-op and plentiful farmers markets. Many people bike though we don’t have bike lanes.  Madame Storyteller reminds me that the region has been known for it’s commitment to organic and locally grown foods since the sixties.

You will need a car. There is a bus system but the timing is sketchy and the downtown drop-off is a bit of a walk from the library.

I’m happy to answer questions, my email is on my About Me page–which I need to update with a non-braces picture and my new work information. 🙂

KidLitCon 2010 Review Part 2

Here’s Part 2!  I went offline while I was staying with the Master Sergeant’s parents.  They are wonderful hosts and made my sniffly self very welcome.  I noticed, when I got home on Monday, that it felt as though I had been away far longer than 2 days for having been offline during that time.  How to extend your vacation through lack of technological devices…a future idea to examine.

Anywho, back to Saturday afternoon.  When last we left our intrepid hedgehog, she was off in search of tissues and armed with directions from author Steve Brezenoff to a pharmacy for better sinus clearing medication.

The last two sessions of the day were about the emerging changes in school/library visits by authors.  Nancy Carlson was there–insert a bit of fan girl moment here! I’m not a huge picture book reader but it was Nancy Carlson! Cool! She shared with us her first author visit–a small library where no one showed up, and where she thought she might be off the hook until a busload of senior citizens arrived with her as the afternoon entertainment.

Most authors visits still come through word of mouth, though that mouth is expanding to tweets, blogs, etc… Another story Nancy shared was about how mentioning a trip to Maine for an author visit turned into a ten day tour down the North East coast.  Nick at joined us via Skype, demonstrating that technology from Montreal and talking about how author visits can come via Skype and how teachers/librarians can use resources such as his site to get pre-taped videos in advance or in substitute or addition to a school visit so kids can connect more with the authors their reading about.

One of the new things with author visits that was hit on was how now we have to be concerned about whether or not it is okay to take pictures of kids. Schools now have various forms that are usually filled out in advance.  At a library visit, because it tends to be public, parents can have the okay–still it can be a gray area.  This is something librarians can plan in advance so they have kids who can be photographed and included on the authors blog.  The idea of photographing a bulletin board relating to the author that the kids created was also a way to include the kids without showing actual pictures of them.

Our final session talked about the creation of the Kidlitosphere and the Cybils.  We got a quick history of the kidlitosphere, including creation of the word. We heard who some of the heavy hitters were–I added a few names to the RSS feeds (Children’s Literacy: Scrub a Dub Tub; Cynsations for author interviews).  I didn’t realize there was a Yahoo! Group specifically for the kidlitosphere.  I may peruse though I’m not sure I’ll be an active participant at the moment.

The Cybils were most interesting.  The award was described as the “Organic Chicken Nugget” award for children’s literature–really taking into account what was child friendly as well as well written, rather than trying to lean on one or the other.  This year they saw the number of people volunteering to be judges jump to twice their actual need but those of us interested in the future are encouraged to apply. One can follow along on Twitter or Facebook too.  There are two rounds of judging: the short list and the winners. The short list sounds like the Newbery work–read ALL these wonderful books and pick the best five.  Intimidating amounts of reading, eh?  But hey, gets us into the lit of the year right? And it gives librarians a small list to run down and see if we’ve got all of them….Speaking of that backlist blogging…

Then was wrap up, announcement of locations of 2011 (Seattle) and 2012 (NYC).

I pinned Liz Burns at the end of the day and we had a nice chat about the infamous SLJ cover.  And then I was back onto I94, managing to miss both Presidential and Viking traffic!