No PT so Library debate can continue: WAS What are the 3...

Update: Thanks to everyone for the great conversation, which I hope to rejoin at lunch.

Since people are still writing in and talking to one another, I'm not inflicting a "Politics Thursday" on you until either this journal drops off the front page or we get no comments for a day. Again, thanks. I'm learning good things and getting food for thought.

I was originally going to ask these questions of GregS*, since he's running for ALA Council, but then I thought it would be even more interesting to get more perspectives. Unscientific but perhaps fun and perhaps thought provoking. If not, I have plenty of pictures left.

My questions for the whole LISNews community are:

1) What are the three biggest problems facing librarianship today?
2) In a perfect world, how would these issues get resolved?
3) Is there anything we as individual librarians and/or library associations can do in the real world to fix the Big Three problems?

The answers to #1 might be repetitive, but I don't think much ink (many electrons?) have been devoted to answering the second two questions.

a) For my money, three of the biggest problems facing librarianship are:

1) Regaining relavance as a place to find information or entertainment.

2) Maintaining privacy of our patrons.

3) Preserving the vast amount of useful digital information while recognizing we cannot save everything.

b) "Perfect World" resolutions

Relevancy
1) Raising new generations of readers through "read-alouds" by parents who frequent libraries for new kids books and tapes.
2) Teaching critical thinking and information literacy from an early age.
3) Putting some kind of "librarian prescence" in all the places a person is likely to be. Like maybe an "ask" button on cell phones.

Privacy
Having a government that distinguished between thoughts and actions.

Preservation
"Star-Trek style computer emulators" to run any known combination of hardware and software. These emulators would also be able to reconstruct proprietary standards which were never published.

c) What can we do in the "real world"?

Relevancy
1) Survey entire communities (i.e. not just library patrons) on where they choose to go for information/entertainment. Try to place "librarian presence" in those places. (An "ask" button on your cell phone? More IMs? More bookmobiles? Book carts in Hospitals?
2) When newspaper articles or letters contain wrong information, write correcting letters using authoritative sources.
3) Have ALA move beyond "Read" to "Repair!" "Garden!" "Laugh!" "Cry!", all at your library.

Privacy - Continue to support limits on gov't and corporate intrusions into personal privacy and have ready lists of example abuses. Have ALA run "How would you feel if ..." campaigns based on actual privacy abuses.

Preservation - Focus on unique digital resources that either your funders or community cares about. Keep as many copies as possible in as many places as possible. Start an education campaign about material already lost and the dangers of closed proprietary standards.

Ok! Anyone want to be next? Greg?

I'd prefer that anyone who comments bring up their own issues instead of taking issue with my priorities. But if you feel I'm either spot on or really waaayyy off base, go ahead and tell me.

Comments

Three Threats To Libraries/Librarianship

Great List! Here's my ideas.1. The for-profit wave. Google et. al. are coming. Hell, what am I saying, they're already here. Like it or not this is our competition. Like it or not we actually have competition now. Real competition where we are forced to justify not just our jobs but our entire profession. Books are easy to buy from Amazon today, tomorrow they'll be even easier to download into your e-book reader. It'll cost a buck or two and you'll have access to the full text of that book for a year or so till the DRM software takes it away. Google (or whoever replaces Google) will have bought/partnered/created enough digital information so that just about anything anyone needs will be right there. They'll be big enough to support well over 90% of everyone's information finding needs. Maybe it'll still be advertising supported, maybe government supported, maybe subscription. They'll have moved will past the "good enough" phase we're slowly creeping through now into "really good." Remember, only librarians demand perfection or even excellence. Everyone else just wants an answer, now. Few people will care about how we do it better, few people will feel the need to hold a paper book, and few people will even notice when we're gone. Ask a 13 year old why she needs to go to the library.2. Budgets/Politics: Public libraries don't fit in most budgets now. Ask a 43 year old if he wants to pay another $6.00 a year in taxes to keep his library open.3. eThings: ePaper / eHandhelds / eBooks / eOther eThings: I'll try and tie together things that aren't related very closely by using how the are used as the commonality. Things computer devices will be small and handheld and people will be able to connect to something at any time to get any kind of question answered. True, all they had to do was call you on the phone, just as true, they won't do it. Ask a 13 year old why he needs a book.Your List: (Not taking issue, just commenting)"Regaining relevance as a place to find information or entertainment." Fits right in nicely with all three of my ideas. I like that one a lot, but I'm not sure that's the threat, but rather the response to the threats I see. Still, that's key to everything. Without it, libraries are gone. This should be a priority for all librarians (instead of just making it through these next 4 years to retirement).Privacy: Most people don't care about privacy, I don't see that as an issue. No, that's not quite right, people don't see that as an issue.And for your last one: Unfortunately I don't think we have the time, skills or money as a profession to preserve the vast amount of useful digital information out there today, or in 5 years. It's a GREAT idea, but not one I can see US tackling. Others will do a better job.

I'm still long on libraries

Here's my quick list.

Perception

This is a biggy and not only within the context of politics. Why would someone need a library in a connected world? What do we collectively offer that Starbuck's, Google and your DSL carrier cannot? Quality control and expertise.

Embrace new technologies, maintain classification, and continue to provide professional service. As for politics, everyone knows my thoughts on that one.

De-commoditization of information

Don't buy(no pun intended)into the recent "everything should be free" nonsense. We (librarians) have become jaded, and a bit lazy about information, thanks to the Internet. Libraries owe their existence to information as a commodity. Demanding economics be removed now not only marginalizes our role, but will have a long term detrimental effect upon quality collections and perpetuity of access.

Attitude

IMHO there has never been a better time to be a librarian. ALL of these tools, when just a few years back Reader's Guide held the key to the world! It takes a much more diversified skill set to do our work today. This is good!!! So, let's stop complaining about a changing world and learn to grow with it. Yes, this includes Google. We are responsible for defining our relevance, not our constituents. Think of ourselves as CPA's, not bookkeepers (again, no pun intended). Stop whining about our relevance. Take pride in knowing that we know better than anyone else how to sleuth for information that really matters to our patrons. Stay on focus with information needs, leave politics alone, and we'll be fine.

Re:Three Threats To Libraries/Librarianship

I like your list too, and appreciate you taking the time to respond.I especially agree that "for-profit" and "e-things" are already important and will continue to grow.As far as privacy goes, we still need to be concerned with it whether the public is or not. As the instances of identity theft and prosecutions/investigations for essentially First Amendment activities rise, I think people will be more concerned with privacy.As far as digital preservation goes, while I agree that we don't currently "have the time, skills or money as a profession to preserve the vast amount of useful digital information out there today, or in 5 years", I think we have to be out in front trying anyway. Based on my decade-plus experience in various governments, my sense is that most IT folks are concerned with today only. And who can blame them with so many viruses, trojans and hackers out there? Plus many IT folks work with organizations also obsessed with getting things done today and hang tomorrow. In an era of limited resources and demands for immediate results, this is not an entirely irrational strategy.By contrast, the library and archives communities have been concerned with long-term preservation of information regardless of format for centuries. Given our unique long-term outlook, we can't give up just because the format has gotten harder to preserve.We certainly can't lick the problem on our own, but we need to take leadership positions whenever we can.Thanks again for your points. It's much nicer when people comment! Especially when their comments move the conversation forward.

Re:I'm still long on libraries

For a quick list, I think it's great. Thanks for posting. I especially agree with you that it is a great time to be a librarian with all the resources at our fingertips. There are questions that would have taken weeks to answer in the old days that can now be accurately answered in minutes.Could you elaborate some on the Bookkeeper vs. CPA analogy? I'm lost.Also, can you think of anything we can do to show "we know better than anyone else how to sleuth for information that really matters to our patrons" and that "Quality Control and Expertise" are worth having and can't be found through Starbucks.I agree with both of those points, but how do we get that knowledge out of the library ghetto into the world at large?Thanks for giving me a good conversation on a library topic. I was sort of afraid this was going to be another journal entry without comments.

Re:I'm still long on libraries

Could you elaborate some on the Bookkeeper vs. CPA analogy? I'm lost.

Well my point here is that we are professionals. Nobody does what we do better. However, we seem too eager to run up the white flag when anything new comes along that may impact our work. It's not the medium that defines our importance, it's our ability to apply well-developed skills in any environment to classify, search and find information. Unfortunately we allow others, and more often ourselves, to diminish this fact. You and I both understand that more is not necessarily better with respect to information yet we read on this board about how libraries will become obsolete. This is rubbish. The need for a librarian has never been greater with Google searchers regularly casting nets fetching over a million hits. Think of that for a minute, over one million results and we can't find opportunity here?? Isn't time money??

Bookkeepers in my analogy are your friends, family, teachers, who can give a push when doing some type of research. These are likely to be the folks who recommend "Googling", which is fine provided granularity and time aren't important. But we, librarians, need to think of ourselves as the CPA's of information. The folks others seek for professional assistance when quality, and money, count. In other words, how many of us would trust our best friend with our capital gains schedule?

Also, can you think of anything we can do to show "we know better than anyone else how to sleuth for information that really matters to our patrons" and that "Quality Control and Expertise" are worth having and can't be found through Starbucks.

Well take Birdie's interesting post A Look Back With Postcards as an example. Digital collections are a wonderful opportunity for libraries to set the standard for "virtual" objects. Consider this in light of a Google Images search. Here we have a product (no I don't work for OCLC but I am familiar with CONTENTdm) developed by librarians to classify, manage and make available digital collections. Again using Dublin Core and/or MARC. There is simply no comparison between the two, Google images vs CONTENTdm. Google Images is a wonderfully fast tool, but a crapshoot at best. If I'm in a hurry and don't really care what I find, then I use it. But when quality counts, objects tangible and virtual, are better left to be managed, searched and found by librarians.

If there is something I fear, it is a complacency among information seekers. "Well I really would like to see that transcript of the Treasury Department hearing last Tuesday but I couldn't find it with a Google search so I took this article from NoSpinNews.net instead". Some may consider this a form of information snobbery. But to the contrary of some opinions around here, information is not relative or flat, but stratified in a hierarchical structure. Scratching into higher levels is difficult yet there is a discernible difference in quality. For those who take issue, I welcome a comparison of keyword searches in MEDLINE compared to my using MESH headings and tree structures. Now consider this comparison in a clinical setting with no luxury of time and someone's life involved.

Let's all keep in mind our standards are time-tested and will work with both tangible and virtual collections so there is no need to fret about the net. We as librarians must remind others and more importantly ourselves about the critical importance of classification standards for archiving, searching, perpetuity of access, etc... Information is not a short term issue nor is it inherently free

Good discussion topic Daniel!

3 biggest problems

What are the three biggest problems facing librarianship today?

1. confusing interfaces designed by non-librarians (just try explaining to a student why you need to click on multiple databases and the same search words in one may not work in another and why they also should click on something called SFX and why that may or may not solve their problem)

2. assignments that are given to students that don't match existing resources, don't follow existing conventions in scholarly research, don't promote information literacy, and don't provide life-long career learning skills

3. lack of current emphasis within the library community on (a) books and (b) interior design and (c) promotion/marketing/advocacy

Re:3 biggest problems & possible solutions?

Hi Librarianscott, thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. In addition to seeing what my colleagues think are the three biggest challanges facing librarianship today, I also asked:

2) In a perfect world, how would these issues get resolved?3) Is there anything we as individual librarians and/or library associations can do in the real world to fix the Big Three problems?

So how do you think the very real problems you cite could be solved if 1) you had a magic wand, and 2) had to work with the real world of librarians, libraries, library associations, etc?Really liked your line about "why they also should click on something called SFX and why that may or may not solve their problem." It makes it sound like we're trying to be mysterious.

here ya go

Re:I'm still long on libraries

Thanks that helps a lot and gives me examples of why we matter for others!

Summarizing and rephrasing

If I understand you correctly, you find the biggest problems in librarianship to be:#1 (by far) The overpolitization of the profession. We're way too distracted by non-LIS issues to focus on the getting the right thing to the right person at the right time.#2 Education - We need an education that helps librarians relate to the communities they serve. This doesn't have to be (or should be) done at a graduate level.#3 Preservation - Although you call this preservation, it seems like you're really talking about making things accessible to as many people as possible. I think your take on this is so good I'm going to reproduce it here for people who wouldn't dream of going to your blog:

I do believe that each individual library has a unique collection which is in the form of the town, city, business, or college that it is home to. There are things that must be preserved in each and not just preserved but made available to everyone at the same time. Otherwise what's the point? Better to let it rot. There are plenty of naysayers about digital preservation, that its not a safe long term alternative. Fine, we'll call it digital publication. Isn't it better that for the next hundred years thousands of people get to see their history then to have one person open a box 1,000 years from now and cry as the contents turn to dust? Its certainly not what most librarians consider their responsibility but in today's technological world I see us creating as many reference resources as we access and this will be one of the major ones.

While I hope and work for a future where thousands can see things now AND in a 1,000 years, I think your point is well taken. Something that can never be viewed may as well not exist.I think your (and others) ideas of creating virtual collections from existing ones (digital publications) is a terrific one, and we've done up here in Alaska for historical photos and for unique newspapers. But I'm more concerned about "born digital" documents, ones that will disappear forever without any intervention on our part.#4 Ourselves - We are worrying ourselves out of jobs.Does the above fairly charactize your views? If not, where have I gone astray in representing them?I'd like to hear more (whether it's here or at Shush) about what steps you'd suggest taking to depoliticize the profession (new bylaws? New orgs?, other?) and shape librarian education to produce librarians more in touch with their communities.Welcome back from your vacation and thanks for joining the discussion.

Everybody: Consider checking out Shush's...

MLS Debate Forum. There are some interesting comments on both sides of the issue that might play into the education questions I asked of Greg.

A blog that might interest you

Library Geek Woes--documenting the death throes of the American public library. Considering the topic here, it might be worth a look...

Change, change, and change

Change, in the sense of resisting change. Resisting change is futile. You may not link to the innovative academic search engine, but people will find it anyway.Change, in the sense of having mutual respect for those without MLS. The electronic library is more CS, CE, and IT, not LS.Change, in the sense that you think the place will fall apart without you, but you're wrong. Retire as soon as possible. There's a great big world outside the library. Be free.

Re:Summarizing and rephrasing

#1 I wouldn't confuse "we" with ALA. "We" will find our way. ALA could help but as of right now, yes, its too distracted to do much.

I'd rather not see anything in the by-laws about it. Its a question of integrity and pride. To me the only solution is force of will, the wherewithall to stand and say "no, that's not a library issue, sit down and be quiet".

#2 It shouldn't be done at the graduate level. We need to recruit a certain kind of person. There's an Isaac Asimov story I need to find, maybe that will have a good word in it. But we need people who aren't great at anything but like to be good at everything.

#3 I'm not sure you can preserve something without maintaining access. Or better yet, you are preserving something by maintaining access to it.

The problem with 'born digital' documents is, I would think, that they are harder to weed then regular documents. It would be easier to rollover a small set of materials that need to be preserved then to just backup every single doc from year to year. Which is not exactly true today, it probably is easier to backup every single doc but 20, 30 years from now the time it would take to backup that much info might make it impractical.

#4 out of a job? No, but it does seem to leave us wandering in the wilderness an awful lot. What other profession is so unsure of its own nature?

$$$, but in another sense

Call me selfish, but I'm getting more and more concerned about my own personal money, and less and less concerned about my department's budget at work. I certainly did not go into librarianship expecting to get anything close to wealthy, but I also didn't expect to be struggling to be slightly upwardly mobile. Five years after my MLS, with lots of fabulous experience under my belt, I'm making a microscopic amount more than the average college graduate -- and that's including longevity benefits. And job opportunities are few & far between. It's gotten to the point where miserly ol' me cannot afford to be a librarian. (Enter violins...)

Money

I agree with the need to reestablish relevance, but in my opinion, the other two issues are directly related to money:Getting enough for employeesandGetting enough for the systemSomeone else mentioned that it's very disturbing for someone with a master's degree to be struggling to make ends meet, when college graduates with simple business degrees are doing just fine, let alone the MBAs who make 60K and more to start. I think as a profession we are greatly undervalued, and suffer from the belief that those devoted to public service shouldn't care about making money. Well, as much as some of us would like to be able to, we cannot live on books alone. Our jobs are increasingly more demanding - how many media specialists are responsible for "just" the media center? Or are more of you finding yourselves to be the go-to person for any technology in the school - from the network to laptops to new digital projectors? As a reference librarian, at least 40% of my questions are more instructional in nature. I have to show people how to use everything from the catalog and databases to scanning equipment and copiers. What I'm getting at is that for number of hats we wear in a day, we could earn at least 3 salaries if they were all separate jobs, but a lot of us barely get paid enough for one.Sadly, this is directly tied into the amount of funding the library or system itself gets. I'm not sure who is to blame here, or if anyone one "thing" can be blamed, but not matter what the cause, we're often off the radar. In situations where we should be visible, we just don't have a presence. ALA has made a tremendous effort with the @ your library campaign, but since most of the marketing goes on in libraries - not outside on television, radio, in print, on the internet - the effort is all but lost. If only people who already come to libraries see how great they are, then what's the point? However, marketing takes money. Getting ads in more promeninent places - billboards, on drink cups - has anyone ever tried a partnership with a local chain restuarant? - in schools and shopping malls...Well, my perfect world would include lots of money for libraries and those who work in them. I think having Bill Gates' bankroll would solve a lot of our issues...

Resistant to change

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Having entered the profession just five years ago and seeing a large number of changes during that time, I am concerned that librarians and our associations have been more reactive that proactive. We are still relying on old models of reference and information provision and many of us still expect our users to adapt to our ways instead of the other way around. We have spent too much time trying to justify ourselves and our places when our users (and potential users) could care less. We should be spending more time on developing our resources customization and delivery capablities and less on reacting to perceived or presented stereotypes of librarians - let our work speak for itself. If we are not anticipating our users' needs, they will just bypass us.

How do we decide library issues?

What sort of criteria would you use to decide whether something is a "library issue"?I have here in my hand a letter from Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, in reply to my request that the Government Printing Office be given better funding to fulfill its mission of providing permanent, no-fee, public access to government information. Something that has been done for 150 years in over 1200 depository libraries. GPO is greatly struggling in the digital age for a number of reasons we discuss at Free Government Information on a regular basis.Getting adequate funding to preserve a public information system associated traditionally with libraries *is* without a doubt, a library issue.However, in his June 23, 2005 letter to me, Senator Stevens says "I'm sure you have heard that, due to increased costs of security and the war against terrorism, the budget this year is very tight."Senator Stevens (a definite supporter of the FDLP) did say he would work to CONTINUE funding, but the letter implied that an increase was out of the question because of the increased costs of security and the war against terrorism.At the current occupation costs of $5 Billion a week, a SINGLE DAY's cost of the Iraq occupation could fund the Federal Depository Libraries Program at TWICE its curent levels for TEN YEARS!When my own legislator tells me that a library-related goal cannot be met because of some other specific priority, does that make the other priority a library issue in these that is draining away resources from our field? If not, why not?Mind you, even if we decided that the Iraq War was a library issue, it might be not be wise for organized groups of librarians to oppose it if that meant that large swaths of localities would cut library funding in retaliation.But behind the extreme example above lurks a reasonable question -- when does an issue stop being a library issue and becomes a political one?We need to know before we can depoliticize the profession.

Lack of advertising

I'd moderate your post as insightful if I wasn't commenting.I think you make a great point here (Emphasis Mine):

Sadly, this is directly tied into the amount of funding the library or system itself gets. I'm not sure who is to blame here, or if anyone one "thing" can be blamed, but not matter what the cause, we're often off the radar. In situations where we should be visible, we just don't have a presence. ALA has made a tremendous effort with the @ your library campaign, but since most of the marketing goes on in libraries - not outside on television, radio, in print, on the internet - the effort is all but lost. If only people who already come to libraries see how great they are, then what's the point? However, marketing takes money. Getting ads in more promeninent places - billboards, on drink cups - has anyone ever tried a partnership with a local chain restuarant? - in schools and shopping malls...

I think ALA, and I know the Federal Depository Libraries Program have produced Public Service Announcments, but I haven't heard any, have you? PSAs are often relagated to low rated hours when advertising can't get on. Maybe ALA should have taken the money we spent on CIPA and bought some prime-time TV or Radio advertising. Or gone into partnership with the Ad Council. Or even the Office of Drug Control Policy -- Reading: The Anti-Drug! On the other hand, I think the anti-drug commercials aren't effective, so never mind.Heck, what about library associations buying ad-words in search engines? See a link that says "Find out more about Napoleon Bonaparte @ your library!"

How do we anticipate needs?

Thanks for these comments. This set in particular raised some questions for me:

We have spent too much time trying to justify ourselves and our places when our users (and potential users) could care less. We should be spending more time on developing our resources customization and delivery capablities and less on reacting to perceived or presented stereotypes of librarians - let our work speak for itself. If we are not anticipating our users' needs, they will just bypass us.

1) Is the development of customization worth the loss of privacy? Particulary in the new law enforcement environment?2) I agree with you that we need to anticipate our users needs, but how do we do that (either ideally or with limited resources?)

Re:How do we decide library issues?

We've always been the bottom of the financial ladder. That's not going to change. He could have just as easily said it was the new prescription drug bill that's going to make it too tight to spend. I guarantee if it was something he wanted to spend money on he would have found a way. Why we waste time going through politicians I have no idea. We're an all-carrot service and we exist only becuase we make a lot of people happy with what we do. You want better funding get the general public on your side first.

The Iraq War never started as a library issue so I'm not going to dignify the question of knowing when to stop. We both know why ALA has passed the resolutions it has passed and it has zip to do with money.

Re:How do we decide library issues?

Your points on funding are well taken.But still, how do you define a library vs. political issue? Is it just like obscenity, or are there some guidelines that at least some rational people can agree to?

Re:How do we decide library issues?

First, I would imagine it would be based on degrees of seperation. Second, if the issues that are directly related to libraries aren't being addressed then less-related issues simply need to be set aside. It took a lot of effort on McGrorty's part to get ALA to address Salinas but he still wasn't able to get them to have some kind of standard response to libraries in jeopardy while in Chicago.

Re:How do we decide library issues?

First, I would imagine it would be based on degrees of seperation. Second, if the issues that are directly related to libraries aren't being addressed then less-related issues simply need to be set aside.

Could you elaborate on "degrees of separation"? Your second point looks to be a fair and sensible criterion. Thanks.

Re:How do we decide library issues?

I'm not sure I can elaborate, it gets messy. I think the problem lies somewhere in where the physical reality of libraries leave off and the political fantasies of some librarians start up. Simply because libraries sometimes deal with free speech or privacy issues doesn't make every free speech or privacy issue a library issue. Idealy there should be a direct line from an issue to a library or librarian.

Re:How do we decide library issues?

Simply because libraries sometimes deal with free speech or privacy issues doesn't make every free speech or privacy issue a library issue. Idealy there should be a direct line from an issue to a library or librarian.

That makes sense to me. Thanks!

my two cents

I'm mulling this over on a lazy Friday afternoon. My fuzzy thoughts--1) What are the three biggest problems facing librarianship today?* funding. The eternal problem. As resources get more expensive, and the public more stingy with tax dollars, what will happen to our budgets?* marketing. No one seems to know libraries exist. People equate research with hopping on the internet, end of story. Libraries provide necessary services in this day and age, but do people know what those services are?* copyright. I'm just throwing this one in there. I'm not convinced it's one of the top three, but copyright has been on my mind lately. With copyright lengths extending ever onward, harsher digital protection on media being favored, and people thinking anything you find on the internet is free and fair game, how will this impact libraries' lending of materials and provision of information?2) In a perfect world, how would these issues get resolved?More PR on the part of libraries and librarians. Make sure our stories are told, that the general public knows what we do, why we do it, and how it benefits them.It'd be great if ALA was more visible in some of these battles, like copyright and funding. I would love it if every library on the chopping block got the Salinas treatment, and if ALA stood up to businesses like Microsoft, who are far more into protecting their content from pirates than making it useful, and encouraged libraries to use open source software.3) Is there anything we as individual librarians and/or library associations can do in the real world to fix the Big Three problems?I think it'd be great if ALA would do a bit more for publicity. Not sure specifically what they could do. Maybe have a reality show where librarians race the average person in answering questions. Then they could eat bugs or something :-) Gotta get the ratings!Also, I consider myself an ambassador for librarianship whenever I talk to "outsiders" like my husband's family. Those folks never read a book and wouldn't think of going to the library, but I've pointed out the public access internet computers to them, the movies available for borrowing for free, the consumer research opportunities, and the fact that you can just call the reference librarian to look up a phone number instead of 411. Things like this. I love to talk about what I do and how great libraries are with anyone who expresses a tiny bit of interest.

Re:my two cents

Also, I consider myself an ambassador for librarianship whenever I talk to "outsiders" like my husband's family. Those folks never read a book and wouldn't think of going to the library, but I've pointed out the public access internet computers to them, the movies available for borrowing for free, the consumer research opportunities, and the fact that you can just call the reference librarian to look up a phone number instead of 411. Things like this. I love to talk about what I do and how great libraries are with anyone who expresses a tiny bit of interest.

Samantha, THANKS for your ambassadorship! It sounds like your working hard at one-on-one marketing. Too often I get toung-tied trying to explain my work, but I'm getting better at it.I'm suprised I could have missed copyright - thanks for bringing that up. I agree with you that DRM to could bring libraries as we know it to their knees. If first sale doctrine is nullified through tech and license agreements, we will only have a steadily aging collection to offer our patrons.It's interesting that marketing keeps coming back as an issue. I mean there are lots of articles about marketing libraries out there, and you hear about ALA doing this or that publicity item, but I just don't see very much out there on the airwaves or on the Internet. Am I just looking in the wrong places?Two things we do in Juneau might be of interest. The local chapter of the Alaska Library Association occaisionly puts print ads in our local paper. The latest one will run in a special salmon derby supplement, so it may get wide notice. Another thing we've done in the past is put up signs on buses saying "Juneau - It's at your library!" with a picture of a local librarian.On topic I find interesting that could be a whole new discussion is "How do we measure the effectiveness of our marketing? What works, what doesn't?"Thanks to everybody who's made comments. I think this has been a very good and interesting conversation that has been remarkably troll free!

Libraries Today

I think one critical issue is raising and nurturing future library users. What shape is your local school library in? Probably not good. Kids are getting the message that the school library isn't important, doesn't have up-to-date materials, is being used as a babysitting place for kids instead of the learning center it should be, may not even have a librarian. How will these kids support their public or university libraries as adults? They won't! And why should they - their teachers tell them they can find everything on the internet. We are not paying attention to our school libraries - and all libraries will suffer for it in time.

Re:How do we anticipate needs?

Thanks for the follow-up. In regards to your two questions, here are my thoughts:

1) Is the development of customization worth the loss of privacy? Particulary in the new law enforcement environment?

I think the limits of customization should be up to our users, not us. I attended a plenary session at this year's North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) Conference by Marshall Keys entitled "Chaotic Transitions". One of his points was that privacy is not a big concern of the younger generation of library users, he used the example of young people sending pictures via cell phone to people they have never met in person. Personally I would not do that, but the decision to do divulge personal information should be with the individual not institutions. I found a quick summary of Mr. Keys presentation at the Eclectic Librarian Blog. I'm sure that it will also be summarized in the conference proceedings.

2) I agree with you that we need to anticipate our users needs, but how do we do that (either ideally or with limited resources?)

Perhaps we could have exit surveys on our databases and Web pages/sites. If Google or Yahoo can do it, why can't we? The respondent would have the option of providing as much or as little information as they want.

We are so sensitive about tying any type of information to our users that we are probably losing out on many survey opportunities, especially in regards to online resources. That being said, many of our database providers are probably gathering much more information about our users than we realize. If we don't develop and offer online user satisfaction surveys, we are loosing an opportunity to gage a large majority of our users who never enter the building.

I look forward to reading your responses to the above.

Surveys and Privacy

Hi Bearkat, thanks for replying to my questions. I found your responses very thoughtful.Let me take your second comment first. I've become skeptical of exit surveys, but maybe it's just my own experience. We use OCLC's QuestionPoint at my library for our chat reference and much of our e-mail. Every time a patron completes a chat session they are offered an exit survey. When an e-mail question is answered and closed, they are offered an exit survey. It's a short five question, multiple choice survey. Our volume is in the low dozens per month. We get an exit survey about once every other month. IMHO, that's not enough for a good sample.Another potential problem with exit surveys is that the people are self-selected. So chances are they either really like our service or they they HATED the service they got.When I worked in Air Force libraries, we would have a day a month (or so) where we would distribute a short questionaire to anyone in the library and it was a matter of military discipline to fill them out before they left the library. The surveys were anonymous, so people could (and did) leave negative feedback. Overall, they were happy with our service and we responded to specific suggestions. If there was a way to extend this to cyberspace, that might tell us more about our users.I think your idea of going to database providers has a lot of merit. Particularly if they could provide us with a list of the top 50 searches with zero hits. That might be a guide that we need to provide something different. It'd be nice if our OPACs did this too.A few years back, I was given the opportunity to examine a month's worth of failed hits from the main State of Alaska site search page. It turned out that the most frequent failed search was for "Secretary of State." We don't have one. Some of the functions of a Secretary of State, like elections, are handled by the Lt. Governor, and others, like registering corporations, are handled by the Department of Commerce. The Library recommended that the State put up a page explaining that we had no Secretary of State and offered a choice between the Lt. Gov's page and the Department of Commerce page. This wasn't done, but it is an example where users falling through the cracks could be given a better choice based on search data.So, the database providers probably do have some interesting search data, and I'm all for using it, providing that it isn't personally identifying.So, on to privacy. As someone libertarian-oriented, I think you have a point about letting the user decide their level of privacy. But as a trained information professional I worry that they're not making a fully informed decision. A college student who loves the idea of having a library profile that automatically gives notifies him about new books on terrorism and new Noam Chomsky articles might not like it when the FBI tracks and him down and questions his reading habits. But it might not occur to the student that the first action could make the second more likely.Aside from that, there's a potential to use other technologies like RSS to provide custom services like new book notifications, new articles in your field, etc. Maybe we should exhaust the non-privacy infringing possibilities of service before we ask patrons to give us info that might eventually get sucked into a future Total Information Awareness database and collated with other data to come up with a wrong conclusion.But you'd be right if you said that the danger of misuse of patron data is still a theorhetical at this point. I'm just one of those "hope for the best, and prepare for the worst types."Thanks again for continuing the conversation. This is almost as much fun as being back in library school!

Re:Libraries Today

I think that you're right that we have to start convincing people of libraries and librarians value when they're young. Although school libraries weren't that great even when I was a kid. Thankfully we DID have a full-time librarian, but I went to high school in the mid 1980s and I swear that there were astronomy books that literally said "Someday we will go to the Moon and learn much more about our nearest neighbor." To get decent astronomy books, I had to go to my public library.I worry about a lot of things we're inadvertently teaching kids today - libraries worthless, knowledge bad, consumerism, they can have everything from their gov't and pay no taxes, that it's normal and natural to be subject to random searches of lockers, bodies, and urine, and so forth.Thanks for chipping in, Anon!

Censoring by North American cities' public libs

1.
Internal censoring by our North American cities' public libraries of their very own public reports on their long range planning and development from interested, concerned, affected public library users/customers/clientele , public library workers and public library unions labor relations advocates.

2.
Reference desk departments censoring at our North American cities' public libraries of the same public reports. Misguided reference desk departments go along with improper instruction from public library leadership to censor information in response to public enquiries. For example, a reference desk department receives a public report but does not disclose it to an enquirer instead sending the library user to an officer of the public institution who then delays or denies access to the information on hand for librarians at the reference desk department.

3.
Grey literature of our North American cities' public libraries, that is their own respective public documents of the public institution are not acquisitioned, accessioned and cataloged for the collections.

How ironical that intellectual freedom advocate librarians censor in their own practices while enunciating the freedom to read principles among colleagues.

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