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Something to Talk About: CPL Scholars Part 3

Submitted by Teresa Koltzenburg on November 29, 2005 - 3:37am

Michael Stephens CPL 1

  • There are a series of conversations going on in the marketplace. People are talking about things. People are talking about YOUR library online.... Somewhere.—Michael Stephens at the

Chicago Public Library’s 2005 Scholars in Residence ConferenceAnd boy are they! Michael's November 18 post (after his stint as a CPL Scholar in Residence earlier this month here in Chi-Town) on the recent Talis white paper (in PDF format), Do Libraries Matter? The Rise of Library 2.0, is an excellent demonstration of the discourse churning on the Web about libraries and technology and the future of libraries.

Here's a sampling of this multifaceted online conversation:

Are Your Ears Burning?
Many in on the digitally based dialogue are glad of it—glad that librarians' ears are burning, that is. Librarians like Jenny, Michael, Tom, and Karen (the insightful contributors to this blog), those mentioned above, and many, many more keep talking about their own libraries (see Aaron Schmidt's post, "Another Successful DDR Night"), their colleagues' libraries (see Game On: Games in Libraries blog post about Aaron's post), the ways cutting-edge use of technology likely is helping drive circulation within their libraries... These librarians/techies, library promoters/self-described "tech-librarians-by-default"are pushing the library into the Web 2.0 World with unrelenting endeavor.

And, if you've been lucky enough (like me) to attend any one of the library-technology related events held lately (LITA Forum 2005, Internet Librarian 2005, CPL SIR, next week's Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium), you know that librarians like Michael portend that "Libraries Fit for the Future" definitely involve technology, people, planning, and participation.

Michael Stephens CPL 2But as Tom Peters discussed yesterday here, it's not always feasible to pay ($) the visit in person, so here's the online version of Michael's CPL Scholar presentation.

Michael is a delightful and dynamic speaker to watch, and I can't do it justice here (neither can the PDF—I need to get video Podcasts going on this blog!); nevertheless, it's definitely worth a perusal.

Optimizing Technology in Libraries
Michael says:
Control Your Technolust
"We've got to ask some questions. It may be cool...but how does it fit into the plan of the library?" (The video iPod, for now at least, falls under this "drooling" category!)

Control Your Technomust, Too
"Beware of Technomust as well. ‘All of the libraries in Illinois are doing blank, so we must do it too.’ Maybe not. Maybe some of the libraries are ready for certain things, while other libraries are ready to dabble in just a few things. Pick and choose. Pick the one that is going to provide the better service."

Don't be Afraid to File for Techno-Divorce
"Here’s the really hard part: letting go. We’re afraid, sometimes, to throw things away, aren’t we? They are done! Sell them! Do whatever you have to. We have a library garage sale at my library. We sold Macintoshes, and people lined up for a mile to buy Macintoshes. What a great way to get people into libraries!"

Plan for Your Users
"Make user-centered planning the first and foremost thing. Find new ways to deliver services to your users, and involve them in planning from the get-go....Ask them what they want: don't tell them what they need—because we might not know."

Do Your Research First
"You are not alone when planning for technology; people have done these things before. Look around, because there are resources. There are places you can go: you can take a field trip. There’s something called, ‘evidence-based decision making.’... Make that decision by getting some evidence and see how people are having successes or failures with implementing it. Look at what successful libraries are doing."

Michael Stephens CPL 3Communicate Effectively
"Every single step of the way! When you implement a new project, a new ILS, say, you start telling people now what they can expect in three months, in four months, when it comes time. And keep telling them. Use a blog. Use a wiki. Do what you have to do, but tell them. Communicate with your staff, communicate with your users. Involve all of them in your services, and listen to what they’re saying."

Focus on the ROI
"Focus on the return on investment. There’s [a study, available in PDF format] out of Florida that found for every dollar that tax payers put into the public library, they get $6.54 in value for their users. That’s incredible. This is a story you need to tell. A lot of this is about storytelling."

Become a Trendspotter

Create Staff Buy-In
"This is incredibly important....Here are some things to do to ensure buy-in: Listen to your staff. Listen to what they’re talking about. Listen to their concerns and be ready to apply [their ideas]. You can do that online, you can do that across the table. And involve staff in planning from the beginning because—guess what? If you sit in a room and choose the library's carpet, you’re going to 'own' that library, it’s going to be very important to you. You’re going to care."

Offer Training in Technology for All
Let your staff play with the technology that you’re bringing in first.... If you're bringing in a recorded-book system, let staff members play with the technology first. Let them experience. Get an MP3 player, and let them take it home overnight and see what this service is going to be like for users."



Embrace the Social Tools

"IM with your users and with your colleagues. We IM at my library. We do IM reference; there are a lot of plugged-in librarians there. My buddy list becomes a virtual ‘in-out’ board; I know where people are, they know where I am."

Embrace Change and Learn
"I’ve been all over the country this year and actually to London too.... I’ve talked to so many incredible librarians about their services and their planning and what they want to do in technology. Still, I’ve heard this a lot: ‘Well, we’ve always done it this way.’ Or, ‘There’s no time for blogging.' Or ‘There’s no time for Bloglines or RSS.’ You know what? We need to look at what we do, and I really think there are things that we can [take] off [our lists of duties] and make the time, because these things are important."

Breathe and Take Care of Yourself
"We can talk about technology until we’re blue in the face, right? And we can go at this stuff twenty-four hours a day, it seems like. Always thinking, pondering, planning... Do this for yourselves because it’s important: GET AWAY FROM IT! Unplug. Find the thing that rocks your world. Breathe and recharge yourself, because if you recharge yourself, you’re better the next day to come back to the planning and come back to the technology and keep using it."

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