Facebook Discussion

I wrote in December 2013 about the MCLS discussions taking place on Facebook, and wanted to come back and encourage you again to take part there. The group is closed now, due to the complaints group members were getting from friends about the deluge of posts in their Facebook feed during the discussions. If you want to play, go to your Facebook account and search for MCLS Open Discussion, then ask to join.

The next discussion will be some time in mid-August when Shelley Matthews, the RPL Literacy Coordinator, will host a discussion on the importance of play in early learning and in the workplace.

Hope to see you there!

What’s Happened Here?

I just realized that there hasn’t been a post here since December! How did THAT happen?

Actually, I think it happened because much of our creative discussion is taking place on Facebook these days. Since we started the MCLS Open Discussion group, the good conversation is happening there. Here’s an example:

As patron interests and needs continue to evolve with rapidly changing technology, how can staff keep up with professional development to meet those needs? What are innovative ways we can learn at pace with patron demands? How does library management allow for and encourage this?

  • Anne Hicks One way that library management can encourage this is by giving employees time to explore things. The Lets Talk conference was an awesome example of this.
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro I see no other way than to build it in to your workday. Librarians aren’t answering as many reference questions as 10 years ago, circ staff aren’t checking out as many things as 10 years ago….but it doesn’t seem as though there’s any extra time. Why not? I introduced the MacMillan Matrix to the people who attended my Assessment workshop at RRLC last week. That is a great tool to use when you’re trying to figure out what tasks to get rid of.
  • Matt Krueger Amy Boland Joslyn shared that with us–it was great, I want to use it for everything I do!
  • Amy Boland Joslyn Ive started using the Matrix for everything now too. I think it’s a great way to evaluate, in a quick simple way, what we are doing. And, I also think conferences and any kind of continuing ed are vital, but what about just observing our patrons at the library and getting to know our communities. I love that the Emerging Tech group went on a field trip to Best Buy… Maybe we should be doing more of that kind of thing.
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro Observation is my favorite tool. And not only in libraries. Go to Barnes & Noble sometime and observe. I like to see what people are reading while they are there that they DON’T BUY! I also like to eavesdrop on their book discussion groups, nerd that I am….
  • Matt Krueger Back to the Matrix, what are libraries doing now that we should give up immediately?
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro Matt, I think it’s different for every library. For Central, for example, it’s housing periodicals that haven’t been used in decades, or pencilling in the last four digits of the barcode on the last page of a book, or stamping the library name on page 36 of every book…
  • Matt Krueger Good point, we still mark every book when it gets reshelved so we know when it went out…seriously??
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro Gah! That was one of the first things I changed at Ogden when I became director there!
  • Amy Boland Joslyn Patty, I was surprised when you said that someone was still measuring books for cataloging! There are probably lots of things we do just because they have always been done.
  • Matt Krueger I convinced them to stop doing it for the YA books, but I have been less successful with the other collections.
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro Amy, that was an example of a work process that gets perpetuated because “we’ve always done it that way.”
  • Pat Drojak Rapp Field trips to Best Buy and Barnes & Noble are great ways to scope out the landscape. There is also enormous value in doing things and attending events that fall outside of the perceived “normal” library-related areas. Imagine RIT, for example, is this Saturday. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve learned something valuable about people, technology, learning, and creativity.
  • Amy Boland Joslyn Patty, there are so many things that fall under that heading. At the same time though I’ve known directors (not in MCLS) who have changed things without understanding the needs of their community or having any kind of vision for the future. Change is good…but it has to be the right change at the right time for the right community. Change for the sake of change isn’t always good.
  • Pat Drojak Rapp I think there’s a difference between “change” and “grow.” I agree that changing for the sake of change is a bad idea. Constantly looking at user needs, and growing and evolving to meet those needs, is vital for any organization.
  • Patricia McDonald Uttaro One of the things I have stressed with our MCLS new directors group is the importance of knowing your community (and your staff) before making major changes. The worst thing you can do is go into a new environment and suddenly start making major changes before you fully understand the problems.
  • John Cohen MCLS directors and circ supervisors recently got an email to look at all the old notes in CARL and see what can be resolved/taken out. There are a lot of notes in there that look like they are for old procedures. But some are fairly recent… as if someone is still operating under old rules.
  • John Cohen I started at Ogden in late July and didn’t make any changes (except reverting some that had been changed in the previous year without staff consultation) for about 4 or 5 months. I think that helped make the changes I’ve made since then stronger, in many ways. First of all, I truly understood issues that I had taken time to learn. Secondly, it allowed my staff to learn I don’t make decisions on a whim; if I’m putting forth a change, I’ve thought about it, and consulted with relevant staff about it.

Library Exchange

This month I began work on planning an exchange program with two of Rochester’s Sister Cities – Rennes, France and Wurzburg, Germany. On December 2, Dean Ekberg, Chair of the Wurzburg Committee, met with me, Jennifer Byrnes, and Whitney Davidson-Rhodes to discuss the first steps in making an exchange happen. Ekberg spoke about work being done with the Wurzburg Committee, including preparation for the 50th anniversary of the relationship between our cities. There will be a Rochester group going to Wurzburg in early November 2014, and there is an opportunity to include a library delegate in that group. A delegation from Wurzburg will be in Rochester in October 2014, between 8th and 12th, and we can include interaction with our libraries in that visit. Ekberg expects Anja Flicker, the Wurzburg Library Director, to be among that group. There are many similarities between Rochester and Wurzburg – their university is also their largest employer, as University of Rochester is for us; and they also have a well-known music school, similar to the Eastman School.

Ekberg recommended that we begin to build relationships with Wurzburg and Rennes digitally first, using email, and other means such as Skype and Google Hangouts. Uttaro will work through Anja Flicker and Sarah Toulouse (Rennes) to arrange email pairings. Staff will be paired with colleagues in Rennes & Wurzburg based on their specialties:

  • Jennifer Byrnes – Business, Financial Literacy, Public Health
  • Whitney Davidson-Rhodes – Teen Services
  • Mary Jo Smith – Children’s Services
  • Sara Stewart – Social Media
  • Adrienne Furness – Administration & Children’s Services
  • Greg Benoit – Administration & Technology
  • Melora Miller – Teen Services
  • Patty Uttaro – Administration, Visioning & Technology

If you are interested in knowing more about this project, or would like to participate, please let me know.

Shiny Object Syndrome

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time than usual talking to staff and to patrons of Monroe County libraries. Everyone seems to be working on or thinking about strategic planning. Some libraries are hiring new Directors, some are planning new buildings. All are thinking about what their patrons want and need.

Conversations have been wide ranging, and many refer to things that are happening in other communities. Some of the common questions I am hearing include:

  • Should I buy a 3-D printer? My answer to this is always maybe, IF you think it has practical applications in your library and your community, and you can afford one. You can get a pretty nifty little model for a reasonable price, but I often wonder about the practical application. Is this kind of equipment a fad? Will your 3-d printer succumb to “shiny object syndrome” and sit unused and dusty in a couple years (months) after the whiz-bang-gee-that’s-cool wears off? I briefly glanced at an article somewhere in recent days that seemed to focus on using a 3-d printer to bring children’s drawings to life. If that is possible, what an amazing application of that technology in a library. Can you imagine being a 6 year old with an awesome drawing of a super-hero, taking that drawing to the library and going home with an honest-to-god 3-d model of that piece of imagination?
  • Should my library develop a makerspace? Hello! most libraries already *are* makerspaces. Does your library offer programs or classes where people make things? If so, you’re already on your way. Think about how to cultivate that creativity inside and outside the library. What tools do you need? Pick a focus. Maybe you have staff who are experienced quilters, or painters, or potters. What’s stopping you from allowing them to use their skills as part of the jobs? Do you have collections of how-to books? Find a way to turn those collections into real life maker sessions.

Many of the other questions I’m hearing revolve around digital content and ebooks, but THAT is a whole other post. Suffice to say that “print is dead” is a big ole MYTH.

My common response to nearly every question is, talk to your community. Talk to your staff and to your patrons. They will tell you where you should focus time, effort and money.

MCLS Mobile

The MCLS Mobile app made its debut June 4 and has so far been met with great enthusiasm by staff and patrons. The app is available for free download from Apple and Android stores, and works on smart phones and tablets. The app pulls together a number of activities typically performed by our patrons: searching the catalog, placing holds, downloading e-content, searching for programs, locating a library, and much more.

This project was led by Mary Jane Wright and Mary Royce in the Library Automation Services Department, who did an exemplary job in working through the development.

Digital Publishing Toolkit Teaser

Several months ago, I began working with Cyril Oberlander, Director of the Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo, on an incubator project for the Rochester Regional Library Council. Cyril and I had participated in the I2NY Information Summit in Saratoga Springs in September 2012, and had been part of a visioning group considering the role of libraries in content creation. During the course of several conversations after that, we began to see a common thread emerging – there were plenty of ideas and thoughts about how libraries could participate in digital publishing and content creation, but we really didn’t know what was happening in the field. At the same time, the Rochester Regional Library Council was looking for a unique project that would explore a topic new to the region. And so the Digital Publishing Toolkit was born.

The Toolkit is a collection of articles from librarians across the country who are experimenting or implementing some kind of digital content creation in their libraries. It will be published as an ebook later this year. Cyril and his staff at Geneseo, Kate Pitcher and Project Manager Allison Brown, plus MCLS staff Greg Benoit, Adrienne Furness, Jay Osborne, and Betty Spring have all provided input for the project. I have written an article for the book that describes my own vision for digital content creation in libraries. Here is an excerpt:

An image imprinted indelibly in my mind is that of a line of people forming a human chain, hands clasped firmly together, protecting the Library of Alexandria from protestors and looters during the unrest in Egypt in 2011. Those people fully recognized and believed that the library and its contents were too important, too valuable to jeopardize, and were willing to risk their own lives to protect it.

Libraries scare people like dictators, tyrants, zealots, terrorists – anyone who wields power based in fear and oppression – because the library represents knowledge which celebrates and records human achievement. For centuries, libraries have born the responsibility of collection, management, and preservation of information; in 2013, however, libraries have the opportunity to broaden that responsibility to include the facilitation, creation, and interpretation of information, or content.

Libraries are uniquely positioned to become facilitators of content creation as well as content creators in their own right. Libraries are connectors in their communities, whether located in a small town, a city, suburb, or college campus. People seek us out for information, for access to equipment, for expert advice, for space to create. Why not broaden our focus from collection and preservation of information to facilitation and creation? Let’s strengthen the connection between writers and libraries by helping independent authors navigate the Wild West of self-publishing, and help create a vibrant author colony in our own communities. Most libraries have the tools necessary, and are capable of acquiring and developing the staff expertise needed to jumpstart and maintain such an operation.

Additionally, many libraries are sitting on storehouses of content treasure, just waiting to be repurposed and reintroduced to readers and information consumers. Almanacs, poetry, letters, diaries, maps, images, scrapbooks, and so much more has been diligently collected and preserved by libraries all over the world; the opportunity exists now to bring those items to light and share them widely through such avenues as the Digital Public Library of America, HathiTrust, and regional projects such as the New York Heritage digital collection.

If you have a vested interest in libraries, and in their changing roles, keep an eye out for the Digital Publishing Toolkit, coming to an e-reader near you!

RocNext Article

Several months ago, I was asked to write an article for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ROCNext column regarding technology in libraries. I was asked for the text again recently by a staff member, and discovered the original article is no longer on the D&C website. So, here is the full text…


These days, there’s an app for everything, and your local libraries have not been left behind. Technology is part of everyday life, and library users in Monroe County have a multitude of apps, gadgets, and, most important of all, skilled staff ready to help you learn how to use your new e-reader or figure out your smartphone.

There are currently two apps for smartphones and tablets that provide access to the Monroe County Library System catalog. LS2 Mobile Library is available in both the Apple and Android stores and provides mobile access to the general catalog; Overdrive Media Console is also available in both major app stores and provides mobile access to e-books and e-audio books. Coming later this year is a new app, MCLS to Go, that will provide mobile access to the general catalog, Overdrive, an events feed, and more, all in one convenient place. On schedule for 2013 is an iPad app called Rochester Voices that interprets and presents portions of the Central Library historical collections that reflect “voices” such as diaries, letters, oral histories, and music.

Although libraries in New York State have experienced a 23% cut in state aid since 2008, the Monroe County Library System & Rochester Public Library have used private funding and portions of our remaining state aid to move the system forward and satisfy the growing demand for hi-tech access to our collections. The Rochester Voices project, for example, is funded entirely with private money raised through the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.

In addition to apps, local libraries have become sources for the gadgets themselves. The Central Library has loaned GPS units for the last two years with great success, and the Greece Public Library currently loans Nook e-readers and iPads for use by children and families in the library. Most libraries in Monroe County offer help for users who are puzzled by or frustrated with their own gadgets. Webster librarian Greg Benoit, with assistance from BOCES I, recorded several videos now available on the library website (www.libraryweb.org) that provide step by step tutorials for downloading e-books to various reading devices. In addition, many libraries offer one-on-one “Apple Genius” type assistance for users onsite or by phone.

Despite the surge in popularity of e-books, libraries everywhere are faced with significant challenges in providing the level of service our users have come to expect. Many publishers, most notably Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Penguin, refuse to sell e-books to libraries. Other publishers offer e-books to libraries at inflated prices, making it nearly impossible for libraries to adequately satisfy user demand. For example, a library can purchase a print copy of 50 Shades of Gray for about $9.00, while an e-book version of the same title costs nearly $50.00. In response to this, libraries are looking to independent publishers to provide new and exciting e-content, and are also looking locally for content. Scheduled for release later this year in Monroe County libraries is a collection of original, local music which will be available for download through Overdrive.

The death of the library has been doggedly predicted for at least the last 25 years, but libraries are doing what they’ve always done – improvising and adapting to new challenges every day. Libraries have grown beyond the four walls of the building and are now making content available to users 24 hours a day, virtually anywhere. Visit us and see what we have for you.