"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Aug 1, 2012

Read Something! DEAR CREATURE (Jonathan Case)

Dear Creature
Graphic novel, pulp, horror, romance


This quirky, absurd mashup of romantic comedy, "B" horror flicks, and Shakespeare has to be read to be believed. Grue, a mutant horror from the deep, has discovered Shakespeare through a series of cola bottles cast adrift with the Bard's plays inside. Inspired, he renounces his flesh-eating ways and sets off in search of a lady love. Hilarious and sweet, this book will keep you hanging as you wait to see how Grue's quest for love will turn out. Don't miss the appendix, "An Invertebrate's Guide to Iambic Pentameter", in which Grue's Greek chorus of sarcastic crabs explain the poetic meter using the immortal phrase, "Ba-donk a-donk a-donk a-donk a-donk."

Appeal Characteristics
  • Visuals: dramatic use of black and white
  • Visuals: generally realistic art (although Grue is depicted less realistically)
  • Visuals: fairly clean art, but panels are sometimes hard to decipher due to being very busy and not having shading
  • Frame: silly/absurd tone
  • Frame: main character is the character who is usually the "bad guy"
  • Frame/plot/characterization: characters and situations are mostly stereotypes drawn from "B" movies/pulp horror
  • Plot: romance/lovers who the world wants to keep apart
  • Plot: happy ending
  • Plot: loose ends are all tied up at the end
  • Plot: plot is not very fleshed out and often relies on pointers/gestures to conventions and stereotypes of a typical pulp horror story
  • Pacing: moves fairly fast; each chapter presents a new challenge to Grue's quest

  • ???

Jul 27, 2012

I'm on Programming Librarian!

I was recently asked to write a post for the Programming Librarian blog about a cool program we do with the local art museum. It went up earlier this week - you can read it here, if you're interested.

Jul 19, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Get Involved: Powered by Your Library -- Successful Engagement of High Impact Volunteers

Following are my notes from the "Get Involved: Powered by Your Library -- Successful Engagement of High Impact Volunteers" session at PLA 2012, held on Saturday, March 17 at 8:30.


Statewide volunteerism campaign in CA: "Get Involved powered by your library"
- Aim = get high-impact volunteers and make them advocates
- Volunteer recruitment aimed at baby boomers, who are different from senior volunteers
- Goals: train public libraries in recruiting and engaging skilled high-impact volunteers, position libraries as centers for civic engagement, help people find opportunities that match their skills and interests

Baby boomers and volunteerism
Why should we care?
* Lots of them (77 million)
* Most educated and financially secure generation in history
* Volunteer at higher rates than past generations did at the same age
* Nearly 2/3 of Boomer non- volunteers want to get involved but don’t know how
* Have been in workforce & have professional skills they want to share to make high level of impact
Right now, ages 48-66 – not silver-haired
Different from senior volunteers
* More physical ability than previous generations; 4 of 5 expect to work past 65; "feel younger"
* View retirement very differently -- see second half of life as a source of social and individual renewal, not as a time to just rest and relax
* Think some of their most important contributions lie ahead
* Not simply extending the years of working and volunteering -- looking to add deeper meaning
* Different perception of aging -- don’t want to be called “Seniors,” “Retirees,” “Elderly” or “Older Adults”

Attracting baby boomers
Offer flexibility and a wide variety of options, including virtual volunteering
Engage their skills and expertise
Show them impact on mission -- how will their work make a difference?
Provide clear expectations of time, tasks and training
Go beyond volunteer management – look at engagement in meaningful ways

See Get Involved: Powered By Your Library website for resources (library.ca.gov/lds/getinvolved.html?)
Idaho is now coming in on this project
VolunteerMatch created search widget that gives back multiple results – library opportunities, then literacy opportunities, than general opportunities near your zip code
Last 2 or 3 years, 27% increase in volunteers in California

General insights/thoughts from putting this in practice
One library no longer collects applications for generic volunteers, only for specific positions
High impact volunteers have leadership roles, may train and supervise other volunteers
Putting volunteers in teams helps in case of turnover (volunteers often have unpredictable time commitments)
Interview volunteers extensively and basically treat them like job applicants
Volunteer management software exists

A good job description is key
- Make it very clear what skills and commitment you're looking for
For high impact volunteers, this is a real job
- Approach them personally to recruit them
- Professional level interviewing
- Look for a good fit, and give them a chance to say no
- Remain flexible
Communication is critical
- Trust your volunteers, keep them in the loop, facilitate networks, share successes and outcomes
- Feedback matters (from patrons and staff)

You can still  have volunteers doing more rote tasks – high impact volunteers don't exclude your having more traditional volunteer work

Make it fun, and include the volunteers in the process

Jun 19, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Engaging Customers in an Online Environment

Following are my notes from the "Engaging Customers in an Online Environment" session at PLA 2012, held on Thursday, March 15 at 8:15.


Three basic levels of online engagement
1) Social media as primarily a promotional tool – one-sided
2) Online engagement: customer-focused communication
- have conversations with them on topics they’re interested in
- quality more important than the number of people you reach
- personalizes the organization, shows you care about what customers have to say
3) Customers feel comfortable starting conversations with you and others in your network

Have an online strategy and policy
Strategy = road map – where you’re going and how you’re going to get there
Policy = rules of the road
Include: goals and measurements, strategy for publicizing your online presence, an exit strategy (how do we handle it if we decide to leave a social networking site?)
First, survey the online environment and your current presence on social media (whether deliberate or inadvertent)
Metrics are more than followers; consider interactions and responses
Think carefully about how many platforms you can support (don’t overextend)
Who can post? Do you need a coordinator/moderator?
Make sure your branding is consistent across sites

Legal considerations
This is still a fuzzy area; talk to your lawyer
Look carefully at sites’ TOS documents

Finding your voice
Think of your library as a character/persona – what would its personality be?
If you have many people posting, sign tweets with the poster’s name?
“columns” on Facebook – a staff member posting regularly on a given topic

Engaging customers online
Go to meetups and tweetups locally and talk up your social media
Try to use Trending Topics hashtags on Twitter
Create and use your own hashtags
Surveys, questions, staff columns
- first person to answer correctly gets a prize (to be picked up at an event IRL?)
- Make sure you’re being authentic (“question of the week” fizzled out b/c it was too formulaic)
Being engaging = sharing personalized info – share inside information (statistics?) – have exclusive content for followers
Hey girl, let’s jump on a meme
- Andy Woodward got Old Spice guy to talk about libraries
- library created video of Old Spice guy
- failblog.org – Memebase category
Listening to the crowd – sometimes the conversation isn’t happening in your feed/on your Facebook page/etc
- set up Google Alerts

Look for what your patrons are using (and how it correlates with demographics)

Initiate/develop partnerships w/community organizations
Friend potential partners with your personal account, and communicate with them that way
“Like” local organizations

Measuring success
Stop if you aren’t meeting objectives, or if it isn’t interesting to you anymore
Look at other organizations to establish baselines

Online book club for teens done via Ning chat (Ning also offers message boards) – but Ning is now paid service
“Where in the world is the bookmobile?”
* Library has laminated cutout of bookmobile; staff take it on trips and post photos, asking patrons to guess where the bookmobile is
Create booklists (covers link to reviews?)

What’s next?
Facebook app letting people reserve and check out books
One library shares “how to” videos from YouTube – start creating them?
Giving patrons the opportunity to create content, or finding content they’re creating and promoting it
Make your personal use of social media professional – connect with other librarians etc. through your personal accounts

What if you’re doing “everything right” (asking questions, etc) and people still aren’t engaging/answering?
* Find a couple of people to engage regularly – it breaks the ice – maybe even staff?
* Promote sites in person to make people feel a more personalized connection to your social media

May 14, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Building Your Base (& Your Budget)

Following are my notes from the "Building Your Base (& Your Budget)" session at PLA 2012, held on Thursday, March 15 at 4:15.


Speaker is from NY's Mid-Hudson Library System

You can't just sit back and see what happens in library votes – you need to actively tell supporters you need them to vote/act/speak up

MHLS created campaign structure to get the vote out
* midhudson.org/vote – Public Library Vote Toolbox (works for general advocacy to boards, etc. too)

When a vote fails, who voted no? Who actually came out to vote? Do you know them? What are their characteristics/what are they like?
* The day after a no vote, you have to get right back to convincing them

Garnering support has to happen year round
Start "inside" – know who is using the library
* What are they into?
* Where do they live?
* What do they do when not at the library?
"Magic Quadrant"
* Most important = heavy library users, registered to vote – supporters – ensure that they vote
* Heavy library users not registered to vote – supporters – get them to register and vote
* Registered voters who don't use the library – neutral/potential supporters – reach out to them
* Try to figure out who they are, and segment the market

2 basic tenets: Tweak what you're already doing, harness others to work for you

Don't avoid publicity b/c you couldn't handle popularity – if you can't handle the demand, make an argument to your community that if they want x, this is what it costs/will take

1) Gain more supporters and goodwill
* Do this even among current users, who may not know about all services/have all background info, etc.
2) Create and build a sense of loyalty
* Don't aim for everyone and don't aim to make them all weekly users – just make sure they understand your value
3) Work smarter, not harder
* Be as simple as possible

6 basics
Regular communication w/current users/supporters (not just when you need something)
Consistent effort to gain new users/supporters
* Yearly townwide mailing?
* Include the VIPs in town
Increased visibility in the community
Proactive communication with community leaders
Strategic thinking about everything you do
* How can you add a value-added message to everything? Programs, services, etc
Practice word of mouth marketing
* Know what you want to say
* All internal constituents – staff, trustees, etc should be saying the same thing at the same times
* Tried this system-wide with Mango, doubled usage in a few months
* Everyone should have some little factoid for grocery-store-line conversations
* Prep a packet in advance including talking points, a video, etc. to help train/prepare people

4 steps
* Choose a group – who isn't using the library?
* Think lifestyles rather than demographics
* Who is ready to hear your message and help out?
* ESRI tapestry segmentation chart: http://www.esri.com/data/esri_data/tapestry.html -- freely available, describes many market segments very specifically [note: I requested a copy of this poster in late March and I haven't heard a peep since]
* Go where the people already are
* Take advantage of already extant communication networks
* Find social groups that don't have a high rate of library use
* Learn about chosen groups to tailor your message to their needs and perspectives
* "Stalk" them online? (Facebook pages etc)
* Be genuine
* Investigate their communication network, get in touch, explain what you're doing
* "why do you want to talk to us?" "because you're members of the community and we want to serve our community"
* Ask what they need
* Reach out, show and inform, market, educate
* Think about repackaging – talking slightly differently about what you have to communicate its appeal to a particular group

Toolkit: midhudson.org/byb

How to do this in an online environment
Website = fundamental landing point for online searching for info about your library
* Needs to load fast, have info easy to find
Keep an eye on online reviews
Find local groups with Facebook pages, promote your stuff through them (with permission)

Think backwards – start with them and work from there

Apr 11, 2012

I'm famous? -- part 2

Part two of the interview I mentioned in my previous post is up here: http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork/2012/04/10/the-role-of-social-media-for-libraries-part-ii/

(Needless to say, all statements made therein are my own opinions and do not represent the position of my employer. This isn't an "official" statement, just my own personal thoughts on the eBook situation.)

Apr 8, 2012

I'm famous?

How exciting! I was recently asked by someone I met through Twitter (Tweeting at her from my library's account) if I would like to be interviewed for a blog post on libraries and social media. Of course I said yes. Part one* recently went up here: http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork/2012/04/03/the-role-of-social-media-for-libraries-part-i/

While I'm trying to monitor the comments on the original blog post, I'm also happy to engage in the comments section here if anyone has questions or thoughts.

* (Part two consists of me making a fuss about the eBook situation, and I don't know when it's going to be posted. Personally, I think part one is much more interesting, although part two was more cathartic to write (and required much more editing)!)

Apr 6, 2012

PLA 2012: Overall thoughts

Overall, I had a great conference. I learned a lot, got to talk with interesting people, ate delicious food, and sparked my creativity by getting my brain out of the day-to-day routine of my job. I'm so glad that I went!

A few overall surprises/things I learned from PLA 2012:

The exhibit hall is so much more relevant when you're actually working in a library

When I went to ALA as a grad student, I enjoyed wandering the exhibit hall, but largely for the free stuff. Going to PLA as a working librarian, the exhibit hall was still a little bit about the free stuff (ARCs! Be still, my beating heart...). But I could also place the exhibitors in context of what I know about my job and my library, and what might be useful. I came back with a bunch of information about possible reference resources, as well as materials about upcoming graphic novels for my collection development. Instead of feeling at a loss in a sea of booths, I was able to selectively approach the ones that offered information or materials that were most relevant to me and my library.

Talking to strangers isn't so hard!

I am a bit shy and definitely an introvert, so I sometimes have difficulty striking up conversations with random people. At ALA Annual, I had ended up feeling a bit lonely because everyone seemed to know someone else and there weren't a lot of structured chances to meet and interact with new people. So I worried that at PLA I'd wind up eating alone and not really talking to anyone. That concern was part of why I made sure to take advantage of opportunities like the dinner on Wednesday night and lunch with New Hampshire librarians on Thursday. But even without those opportunities I think I would have done all right.

PLA, as it turns out, is a smaller and cozier conference, with a friendlier feeling, than ALA. I think that part of it has to do with the fact that any two people sitting next to each other in a session are likelier to have more things in common with each other than at ALA. There's a lot of common ground and many people are dealing with the same challenges/struggles/opportunities, which makes it easier to have a conversation. I ended up talking to lots of people before and after sessions, and had no trouble carrying on an interesting conversation at meals (though I did generally eat alone except for Wednesday dinner and Thursday lunch – but at that point meals became nice breaks where I could relax and didn't have to think!). I even quizzed a new library director on how to progress one's career to a directorship, totally out of the blue, and she very graciously offered her advice.

Not only did I have great conversations, but I semi-inadvertently ended up doing some professional networking as well. I even had one person tell me she really enjoyed talking to me and wanted to keep tabs on my career, which was quite flattering! I never thought that I would find it so easy to make these kinds of contacts in this way. Now I just have to figure out how this "maintaining your network over time" thing works...

Conferences take a lot out of you

I was amazed by how hard I crashed post-conference, and how quickly it happened. The train ride to the airport was about 30 minutes, and while I had felt peppy when I boarded, by the time we reached the airport I didn't want to get out of my seat. When I called my partner after getting through security and finding my gate, I found it difficult to keep my eyes open while talking to him on the phone! I napped lightly for about 30-45 minutes while waiting for the plane, revived a bit when I started talking to another librarian who was on my flight, but then went straight to bed as soon as I got home.

I had a day between coming home and getting back to work, and I thought that would be enough to rest. Boy, was I wrong. I was tired all week, and had some difficulty getting back into the swing of things because in between bouts of exhaustion I was still buzzing with thoughts from the conference.

The next time I do a major conference like this, I think I'll plan for a couple of days of vacation afterward so that I have some time to rest and fully absorb the new information to which I was exposed, before having to get back to work. I think I might also plan to spend some more time in the conference city, either before or after it ends. I felt a lot of pressure to see Philadelphia and didn't end up seeing much of the city at all, which probably contributed to my being so tired.

Lucky me!

I feel very lucky to have been able to go to PLA. It seemed less common for a young/new librarian (vs. a management higher-up) to be sent by their library, and it was an incredibly valuable experience for me. Not only did I learn a lot, but I had wonderful opportunities to network within my field that would have been much harder to find outside of the conference. I came back with new ideas, information, and connections to benefit my library and my ability to do my current job, but also with ideas, information, and connections that will continue to help me throughout my career. It was a privilege to be sent to the conference, and I'm grateful to my employer for offering me that opportunity.

Not only did I learn a lot and talk with some really interesting people, I came away from PLA really feeling validated as a professional. There I was, a fairly young librarian with just a couple of years experience in the field, mingling with people who were mostly older, at much higher levels of their organizations, and in possession of much more professional experience than I have – and yet I was included in conversations, and treated as a valid contributor with useful things to say and share. In retrospect, I suppose I should have expected nothing less. But one of the more difficult elements of transitioning to the work world for me has been realizing that I can and should hold my own with people who are not necessarily of my age cohort or equivalent experience level. (In my own day-to-day work, for instance, it took a while to really click that even though I might be the youngest person and newest hire working on a Saturday, as the reference librarian I am nevertheless the person in charge and therefore need to make certain decisions myself.) It was so nice to be really treated as an equal at this conference, and I think that the experience will help me with my professional confidence in future. (It also speaks quite highly to the generosity, open-mindedness, and interest in sharing of my fellow professionals – bravo, public librarians!)

Apr 4, 2012

PLA 2012: Saturday, March 17

Waking up on Saturday morning, it was hard to believe that later that day I'd be on a plane back home – it seemed like I'd barely been at the conference for any time at all! I slipped over to the Reading Terminal Market for some croissants (okay, but not great) and a latte (good, but a bit expensive!) before the morning session.

I only attended one session on Saturday: Get Involved: Powered by Your Library -- Successful Engagement of High Impact Volunteers. "Get Involved: Powered by Your Library" is a state-wide initiative in California with the goals of helping libraries to recruit and make use of "high-impact volunteers" (volunteers who have high-level professional skills and are looking for chances to use them for a good cause) and helping talented volunteers to find placements that are a good match for them. The session was very interesting, and left me with some new ideas and ways of thinking about our volunteer program, which I coordinate. I also thought that elements of the "Get Involved" program would translate very well to many of the smaller libraries in my state, which often only have a few staff and need volunteers to do many "extra" things. For instance, one of the smaller libraries represented on the panel, serving a community approximately my library's size, had something like eight volunteers basically doing all of their marketing. That gives me pause in some ways (no one wants to bolster the argument that libraries could just be run by volunteers), but for a small library with few resources it's also an amazing way to get community members heavily involved and able to advocate for the library, while also enabling it to accomplish things it never could otherwise. What a thought provoking session! – and a great way to end the conference.

Afterward, I went back to the hotel to grab my things and check out, then shipped all of my freebies and other goodies back home (shoutout to the Philadelphia Convention Center FedEx for making that experience quick, easy, and pleasant!*). I stopped at the Reading Terminal Market one last time to get a souvenir for my partner (chocolates from the Amish-run candy store, as he's a chocolate freak) and to sample the fantastic ice cream again (I settled for a shake, for portability). Then it was goodbye to Philadelphia – a train to the airport, and after a nap and some delays, a flight back home. Even then my conference wasn't quite over until after I landed – I ended up being on the same flight as a library director who also happens to be the head of our state organization, and we talked for a good portion of the wait in the airport and the flight home!


* As a complete aside, the manager working that day told me that we had basically cleaned out not only every box in the city, but for some miles around – he'd had to order extras from pretty far out of Philadelphia to meet demand. The power of librarians when given access to cheap/free books...

Apr 2, 2012

PLA 2012: Friday, March 16

On Friday morning, I attended the ConverStation How to Safely Manage Discruptive Patrons, led by a staff trainer from the Oklahoma City library system and an educator from the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). This session provided a useful overview of CPI's scale of workplace violence and practical tips on recognizing the state of mind of disruptive patrons (and colleagues!) and handling the situation appropriately. It was another solid, useful session with plenty of good advice. I was glad to hear the presenters making important but often unappreciated points such as that all staff need to be given the knowledge and skills to deal with a disruptive person and that an environment in which discourtesy and disrespect are permitted is the first step to an environment in which aggression and violence (physical or emotional) are possible. I left the session feeling more confident that I could handle disruptive patrons and more assured that it is important to deal with even small disruptions promptly to keep them from escalating (this latter is something that I often struggle with).

Then – I'll admit it – I skipped out on the second Friday-morning session. I'm a knitter, and there was no way I was going to spend three days in a different city and not check out the yarn stores! Before I struck out, I browsed the Reading Terminal Market. I'd heard it was worth looking around (it is! It's kind of like a bigger, more food-oriented Faneuil Hall, for those who know Boston), and I had only had tiramisu for breakfast so I thought I should get something to eat. I found a creperie and had a sweet crepe with caramel and powdered sugar. It was very good, though I tend to like my crepes a little less cooked; this one was not overdone but was pretty brown.

In my quest for yarn, I ended up going to Rosie's Yarn Cellar, which is down near Rittenhouse Square. (There's also a store called Loop within walking distance of the convention center, but I only had time for one place; Rosie's was slightly closer and sounded as though it had a cozier vibe whereas Loop sounded as though it was more "modern" and sharp-edged in feel.) It was about a 25-minute walk past some truly gorgeous 18th and 19th century architecture. The store was quite cozy, a small two-room affair tucked below street level. It was chock full of yarn without feeling cramped, and the staff person was very friendly. I ended up purchasing not yarn, but buttons for a sweater I'm working on. Easier to carry back to New Hampshire, anyway!

I had just enough time to run a couple of necessary errands and grab a (reasonably good) chicken salad sandwich from the deli in the Market before the Unconference began. I had heard about Unconferences a while ago and found the concept fascinating, so I was excited to finally have the chance to participate in one. Unconferences originated with a person who realized that some of the most exciting and invigorating experiences he was having at conferences weren't in the sessions; they were, instead, the conversations he had with other attendees, because those conversations were addressing the most pressing issues for the people involved. An Unconference is basically a conference without a pre-planned agenda. Participants propose "session" topics at the start of the conference, select which topics they want to discuss, and go from there.

The PLA Unconference began with the moderator introducing the concept and explaining the ground rules (including the "rule of two feet": if you are neither contributing to nor learning from a discussion, you should use your two feet to move to a discussion where you can contribute and/or learn). Then people proposed topics by writing their ideas on large post-it notes and sticking them up on the wall. Each person had thirty seconds to explain what they wanted to do in their proposed session, then we all voted on which topics we preferred. After that things ran like a (small) conference: there were different tables in the room, and each table was designated as the site for a particular "session". We had two sets of sessions, with a break in the middle.

The first Unconference session I attended was on the future of public libraries. I didn't take a lot of notes, but it was a good conversation about our current frustrations and hopes. The only thing I ended up writing down was a particularly good point made by one person: that we are defined by our services, not our bricks and mortar. I think that's an excellent thing to keep in mind as we move forward. (It would be interesting to try to envision what a public library without any physical location might look like...) For the second session I attended a discussion on multigenerational programming and programming for boys, and had a great time swapping ideas with five or six other librarians.

After the Unconference, I meant to get some ice cream (there was a place in the Reading Terminal Market that I had heard was supposed to be fabulous) but instead ended up chatting in the hallway for the whole time, first with someone else who had been at the Unconference and then with someone I'd met at dinner on Wednesday evening. By the time I had stopped talking it was only ten minutes to the next session. I'd hoped to go to The Elusive Library Non-User – but it was already totally full by the time I got there (!), with a man standing outside the door turning people away. So instead I went to Public Libraries and Academic Libraries: A Town-Gown Collaboration that Works. This was another ConverStation, and this one was actually run like a discussion. I got to share some of how we try to work with Dartmouth and reach out to its students, and listened to a lot of good advice on how to reach out to various elements of the campus community. Most of what I took away from the session was how to work with professors, particularly ways to encourage development of longer partnerships.

Friday night was the All-Conference Reception. I'd been having success networking so far, so although I am shy and usually don't do too well at these kinds of large gatherings I thought I'd go for half an hour or so and see how things went. First, however, I needed the ice cream fix I'd been waiting for all afternoon! And it was worth the wait. I had mocha chip, which is my favorite flavor, and it was incredibly good – I'd say #2 or #3 on my list of all-time favorite ice cream shops (behind my hometown farmstand, of course). Then it was off to the reception.

I'd expected a big room full of people talking to each other, with flowers on tables and hors d'oeuvres being passed around. Instead, it kind of felt bizarrely like prom, but with everyone in work clothes. There was a live band singing a cover of Katy Perry's "Firework" as I approached the ballroom, and there was buffet-style food, including entrees, once I got inside. (I tried the pasta, wasn't a huge fan, and decided to get dinner later.) Within a couple of songs the band was trying to get people out on the dance floor, and a few of us went. It was a lot of fun, and some people were really cutting loose (including some guy in a suit, which was hilarious). I went to sit down for a bit as the band took a short break and ended up chatting with someone else for a while. (She was a new library director, and I asked her for some career advice, which she quite graciously gave.) While I was there, the person I met at the Unconference came over with a friend. I ended up hanging out with them for the rest of the evening, periodically getting up to dance. I had a blast; it's been a long time since I had a chance to dance at an event like this! I think we surprised the band – they seemed to have been expecting a fairly sedate group, but by the middle of the evening the floor was packed and people were really getting into it. It was so much fun. Next time, I am definitely planning to stay for the whole conference reception if it's going to be like that!

Mar 31, 2012

PLA 2012: Thursday, March 15

My first session of the day was Engaging Customers in an Online Environment, led by four California librarians. This was a pretty solid session. It covered a lot of basics, but the speakers also offered some ideas and tips that were new and interesting to me, like taking advantage of memes or the need to have a clear goal and measurement metrics for your social media use (should be obvious, I know, but I hadn't been thinking about this this way). The presenters clearly knew their stuff and offered a well-organized, insightful, and engaging presentation.

During the break I had a meeting with the person in charge of Maryland's One Book program. She had helped to run a forum/get-together for librarians in charge of community read events on Wednesday, but I had arrived too late to attend that event. However, she generously agreed to meet with me to summarize what had been discussed. It was a great conversation and I really enjoyed meeting her in person (we'd communicated by e-mail a bit in the past).

Then it was off to a "ConverStation,"* Reaching for the Future: You've Got to Take the Risk to Get the Reward. This was the only unmitigated disappointment of the conference. The description made it sound as though this session was going to be a high-level discussion of the future of libraries, incorporating some talk about the need for creativity and how we can work as a field to innovate in the face of the sweeping societal changes and the challenges we are encountering. What actually happened was quite different. First, the presenters spent ten minutes plugging an entirely different conference that they were putting together and wanted us all to attend. They then briefly summarized six characteristics of creativity and presented the idea of having "experience zones", or small surprises scattered around the library for patrons to encounter - such as a puzzle or a cross-stitch for people to work on, or a place where patrons can write what they love about the library on a post-it and then stick it to a wall. When they announced that we were going to break into groups and brainstorm our own little ideas like this, I left. I was stuck standing in the back anyway, and the session was clearly not going to be what I thought it was.

Unfortunately, the other session of interest to me was full (one of my only major criticisms of the conference as a whole was that room planning was really not well done - I and many other people were locked out of over-full sessions more than once). So I checked my e-mail at the Internet cafe while there wasn't a line, then went up to the exhibit hall for a while.

For lunch, I met up with a bunch of other New Hampshire librarians. I had expressed an interest in dim sum, which it is nearly impossible to get in my area, so we went to a place called Dim Sum Garden right near the conference center. It wasn't "real" dim sum but it was amazing anyway - lots of dumplings, most of a kind I'd never tried before. And after all of us were very full, it only came out to $8/person! I am definitely adding that restaurant to my "must-revisit" list for Philadelphia. Conversation was, once again, enjoyable and stimulating. It was nice to get to know some of the people I encounter on mailing lists and at New Hampshire Library Association conferences a bit better.

Full of amazing Chinese(?) food, I returned to the conference center for Isn't It All Just Improv Anyway? Building Successful Relationships in the Workplace and Community. I admit: I went to this session because 1) I took improv in college and loved it, and 2) I couldn't pass up the chance to meet a real live Second City performer. The session was fantastic. The presenters introduced the five elements of improv (trust, communication, acceptance, building, and spontaneity) and then led us through a variety of improv games that can be played in the workplace to improve relationships, address problems, and facilitate communication. It was fun and thought-provoking - and though I'm not in a management position right now (and I doubt that improv at staff meetings would really fly at my current library), it's definitely something I will keep in mind as a management option later in my career.

Then it was time for something a little more serious. For my last Thursday session, I chose to attend Building Your Base (& Your Budget). Led by the coordinator for library growth and sustainability in the Mid-Hudson (NY) Library System, this session discussed the strategies for increasing community engagement and support developed by the Mid-Hudson Library System as part of their "Building Your Base" project. My library is lucky enough to enjoy strong community support, and we already implement some of the ideas from this session (e.g. provide great service first, since that will naturally make people want to support the library). However, it also provided good insight on how to identify non-supporters of the library and find the best way to reach out to them and hopefully change their minds, as well as some solid practical advice on how to improve marketing and outreach efforts without using lots of additional resources.

Afterward, I took an hour-long walk around downtown Philadelphia. (The architecture is lovely, but I was sad to see many homeless people around the city. They seemed to be more prevalent than in other cities I've visited. I hope that the city is taking some steps to address the issue.) For dinner I ate at Maggiano's, just a minute or two from the convention center and across the street from the Reading Terminal Market. It was a fabulous, typically huge Italian meal, and my waitress slyly pointed out that they offer desserts in individual sizes for $2.50 that can be wrapped up and taken back to one's hotel room. After that, I couldn't resist the tiramisu! It stayed in a bucket of ice overnight and I had it for breakfast in bed the next morning. It was amazing.


* I think that these sessions were meant to be smaller, discussion-driven events, though none of the ConverStations I attended were small (although they were in smaller rooms, they were inevitably full to overflowing) and some were run mostly like lectures.

Mar 29, 2012

PLA 2012: Wednesday, March 14

I arrived in the midafternoon, checked into my hotel, registered, read through the conference program and chose my sessions, then started in on the exhibit hall until dinnertime.

One thing I'd been really worried about before coming was that I would barely talk to people the whole conference. My only previous conference experience was ALA Annual, which was huge and overwhelming; everyone there seemed to know someone else already, so I never really ended up being able to connect with that many people. As a result, I was thrilled to see in a pre-conference e-mail that staff from the Free Library of Philadelphia were going to be hosting dinners at area restaurants for interested conference attendees. I signed up to eat at a Vietnamese place on Wednesday evening, and I'm so glad I did. There were about ten of us, and the conversation was lively and interesting. It was a great start to my conference, and helped me to feel comfortable and welcomed as a young librarian and novice conference attendee.

PLA 2012: Or, I Think I Burned Out My Brain

I was fortunate enough to be sent to PLA 2012 in Philadelphia last week the week before last (it took me a while to write up this whole thing!). It was awesome. And exhausting! An incredibly stimulating experience, both in the sessions and in all of the people I met.

I will try to post my detailed notes for the individual sessions I attended, but to start with I wanted to write about my experience in general. Originally this was going to be in a single post, but then the Word document I was drafting it in ran to eight pages... so I'm going to make one post per conference day, plus a wrapup/overall thoughts post, over the next week or so.