Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

I like the article by Wolman and it brings me back to a Mass Comm class back in my undergrad years. Every technology which comes along is seen as a threat by many in the establishment. The telephone comes along and some fear people will be less sociable and isolated. When movies began the fear was that no one was going to go to plays anymore. When radio and records were invented the fear was there would be no more live orchestras. If everyone went out and bought a television, they’re not going to have time to go to the movies and even less time to listen to the radio. Ah, and then came the VCR, which I remember my uncle buying for my grandparents and being opened up on Christmas. Oooooh, now you can get a movie and watch it whenever you want. No need to go to the theater, you can watch it in your living room. Then DVD’s. Now online streaming. Then when CD’s and later the Internet came around, no one is going to need books anymore. E-Readers will eliminate print.

Each of these new technologies were often seen as “dumbing down” the consumer. We don’t read the newspaper, listen to the radio, play a record, or do things like we used to do. While some industries do go away for good (Horse & buggies) because they are obsolete, and others don’t adapt to a changing environment (Blockbuster), the majority of industries stay around but must compete with a more crowded market. People still go to movies, theaters, operas and shows, and even vinyl is making a comeback. In the bigger view of history, the Internet isn’t making us dumber anymore than watching a movie on TV is as opposed to the big screen. Formats change, but they also adapt.

And 60 years ago there was a push to ban rock & roll from the radio because it was going to destroy society. Whatever happened to that?


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I’m thinking of Martin Buber’s emphasis of “I-Thou” in his writings. The though goes that I can not say “I” (or understand myself) without you. We are communal people in need of contact. The web 2.0 stuff is a fascinating application of this. The Hyperlinked Organization article presents a user-friendly approach where we are not dependent on weekly committee meetings but in-progress drafts we can all collaborate on.  How can I really do my job without you? How can I really learn without you? How can I really know myself without you?

I have had this model in my head for a while and have mentioned this in SLIS classes but has never received a lot of “Yeah, that may be the model of the future” kind of response. But in reading the DOK article, I’m now wondering. Could it be a possibility that one day we could see libraries, historical societies, archives, art museums or other cultural entities sharing one facility? I know it wouldn’t work in some communities, but since there are always funding issues for organizations, would they be better off sharing a space that would be more high traffic? Musicians can put on shows. In many cases (not exactly in New Hampshire, which is known for towns where libraries occupy little more than hen houses) libraries have the space with which to accommodate, and since a true weeding would replace shelf space of unused books with activity space, would this not be a modern day Agora? It would become an intellectual and cultural hub of the community. Or is it too far fetched because each organization is autonomous and wants its own space?

A participatory model means the user can go and make things in the library, such as the scanning of old pictures to contribute to a history project. The library has to have a kitchen model, in which we come in and make stuff, as opposed to the supermarket model where we pick up an item and go.

I find the “trashing the collection”  article interesting. Five years ago when I arrived at my new job as a high school librarian, my assistant (who had years of experience in public libraries but was also beginning new at her job) and I rolled our eyes as we went through the shelves. Harlequin romances were the majority of fiction books. The English Dept. head said kids didn’t go and get books from the library because there was nothing to choose from.  And I don’t think Nancy Drew was a big hit. Nonfiction had books from the 60’s entitled “Famous American Negroes,” and “The Judeo-Christian  foundation of hunting.” These shelves were stocked with old, musty books, as the long time librarian had saved the school money by turning a lot of her budget money back in. She didn’t need it- she could find great stuff at flea markets and Goodwill.

So we began operation “Bitch-N-Pitch” and we threw out hundreds of books secretly, often boxing them up and putting in my trunk to take home and throw in our condo dumpster. Otherwise they would show back up. Many reference books were other libraries’ discarded books. By the end of it, we had a lot of empty shelves and for the next few years spent a lot of our budget on new fiction books to get in the hands of the kids. The collection is now a 1997 date average, opposed to 1983. But we try and hide the empty shelf look so people won’t get suspicious of what great gems we are tossing now. But my philosophy was, a 1968 book on the history of China is useless and should be tossed, even if it’s the only book on China. In reality, we have no books on China because that book is useless. So, to save money I would buy books used on Amazon that were maybe 4-5 years old to replace these. Much better than 40-50 years old.

Michael’s participatory service article makes me question what we can really use Facebook for. I am now the default social media librarian at the public library I work at. I have used it before to ask questions, such as my wondering whether we could start a Lego club for kids.  I only got two responses, and neither were helpful.  I have shared articles on library issues and asked patrons what they think, but rarely is there a response. I suppose it is good in that we are even “out there,” but I wonder what else to do with it besides publicize events. I grab my iPod and take pics of things happening and throw them on FB. We have 152 “likes” so people are out there, but I’m curious what else to do with the thing. At least we have a start.

In reading the Unquiet Library, I was reminded, if the space was really possible, to have a “Library at lunch” idea. I would have the music teacher put together a musical program to hold during lunch in the library. Students would bring their lunch and come up and watch it. Not sure space would allow it in my situation, but maybe it would. Perhaps I need to look more into this.

I can relate to all the issues mentioned about school libraries. Until this year, with a breath of fresh air with new admin, we have had a policy of no electronic devices. The day would be spent continually telling students to put them away, and writing them up when they wouldn’t. The new principal asked the other day why we have faculty meetings when there is nothing to discuss (or discuss something which could be discussed via email), simply for the sake of saying we did? He also pointed out the hypocrisy of saying students come first, yet all department heads meet 7th period every Thursday, which means they do not teach any 7th period, and over 70 students are in study hall because there are fewer classes to take. While this is school and not library issues per se, I find we all have such silly rituals with no meaning because at one time they were convenient or needed.

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In doing the readings for this week, I had a real life in the beginning of the school year. While this context is education and not a library, I found very similar discussions.

The guest speaker who addressed all of the teachers on the district, began with a probing question of if we did not have these jobs, what would we be doing?  He said while there are a few of us with marketable skills that could provide opportunities outside the classroom, many of us have stagnated so much we don’t even know what goes on “out there.” Later on he asked how many in the audience didn’t carry an electronic device of some kind. A number of hands went up. He then asked how we expect to connect with students whose lives revolve around these. And then, he used this video:

Much like the above people on the escalator, so teachers, and librarians tend to be. But our jargon is great. We talk 21st Century, web 2.0, technology, social networking, and all kinds of techie words, but we have no idea how to really implement them. So we make a blog that is updated every two years, a Facebook page with few followers, or other tools which are never utilized. Our speaker on that Friday also asked how many of us are truly prepared for students wearing Google glasses and accessing the web through their voice (soon to be available in contacts), or having a hologram-type keyboard emanating from their watch as they access the web. I can barely push the buttons now…no idea how I’d do that.

So the task is daunting, yet the readings we’ve had show us we must get into the conversation.  We still live in the dark ages in counting on a piece of paper how many people come through the door. The public library I work at part-time requires us to lock the outside dropbox every day so they have to come into the library to return books, and that is an extra person to count, or two if she has a baby in tote. It’s laughable.

Instead, we should be counting the meaningful conversations we are having. Lankes even says the catalog itself should be conversing with the patron- telling them recommendations based on their interests. Everything should be dynamic and user-based instead of the librarian having to explain how funky it works and how some items never seem to come up right.

I do not, however, understand where Lankes is going when he says the library should be allowing the user to come in and setup their own website. Aren’t there better ways to do this? His mention of Wikis and Myspace also show how much has changed since this was written. These are not top tools anymore, although wikis are more prominent than Myspace.

I am interested in what can work in a library setting. I go into Barnes & Noble and think, “Wow- the cafe, books, wifi…this is cutting edge,” and then the next day read about them closing more stores. It seems even these grand attempts fall short.  But I don’t think the answer is what is referred in chapter 3 of the Library 2.0 book that we have to have great mission statements prominent. I am pretty sick and tired of hearing these discussed over the past 20 years, whether it be in a church, school, or library. We wordsmith after we gather brainstorm adjectives on a board and ponder how to combine them. Then we come up with a paragraph long “statement” of mission, dream, vision, or whatever. I don’t even like the term “mission” because of its origins in religious jargon. But that’s me. If your statement doesn’t fit on a t-shirt, no one is going to remember it anyway.

I suppose I am always judging all of these discussions with the public library I work at (7 hrs per week). This is a “public” library which does not receive direct funding from the town, but can get a “generous” donation every year of $10,000 if things are good. We have to get our own person to plow the snow even. Everyone, including the director, are part-time. The entire budget is $100,000 per year, 60% of which goes to staff salaries. I am the children/youth librarian, which was to include a storytime on Saturday, but since most weeks no kids show up, I do other things. I do the website, Facebook, cataloging, etc. etc. This library was built 8 years ago with privately raised funds on donated land. There is a small group of people who “do everything” to keep the library going in this town of 6,000.

We attempt a number of things considered 2.0, but just keeping the library going with a recently shortened staff is enough of a struggle. So I am interested to see, given the ambiguous, “not one size fits all” conclusion of the 2.0 book, what could be done in such a scenario with little money, staff, or town support. I know there are examples of successes in such an environment, so I am interested in exploring these things.

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