Professional Development

During June 2011...

New Orleans ALA, cont’d.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 4:27 pm

On Saturday I dropped in to see Susan take on the challenge of the Academic Librarian Lightning Round. She did a great job sharing the details of our Wake the Library 5K.


Next, I attended an Ares Users Group meeting put on by Atlas Systems. The speaker was Genie Powell, the Chief Customer Officer for Atlas Systems. She highlighted some of the upcoming changes in Ares. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Ares, it is our new Course Reserves system. It’s up and running the summer semesters. Mary Reeves and I are looking forward to this fall and really putting this system to the test. Ares 4.0 (Currently Ares 3.0) will be rewritten to be more similar to its sister programs, ILLiad (Interlibrary Loan) and Aeon (for managing special collections). This will allow upgrades and add-ons to be implemented across all their products in the same manner. Another change will be the option to view a patron’s record in the web interface through the staff client. This will allow the Course Reserves staff to know what the patron is seeing and we’ll be better able to talk them through any problems they may have. Also, we had asked Atlas Systems about needing a notification when a faculty member changes a loan period or takes a book off Course Reserves. The new release of Ares will have that notification. It’s good to know they listened!

That evening Mary Beth and I attended an Ares Customer Appreciation Dinner at the Bourbon House restaurant. We had an excellent dinner and got to meet fellow Ares users as well as the Atlas Systems staff.

Sunday morning we attended the Alexander Street Customer Appreciation Breakfast and were privileged to hear Stanley Nelson speak about his latest movie, Freedom Riders. Even the 10 minute clip that was shown moved me close to tears. It’s being added to our film collection and is an important movie to see. Mr. Nelson credited his mother, a librarian, as having a great influence on his career.

Lauren C. at ALA Annual 2011, New Orleans

Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:35 pm

Like Lauren P., most of my hours in New Orleans were spent on responsibilities as an elected representative: Chair of Acquisitions Section (AS) in ALCTS.

I attended 2 programs organized by committees of AS on Saturday morning, had a quick Aramark lunch in the convention center, ran by the Serials Solutions booth to check with Mary Miller about finalizing a contract for the Summon discovery service, then spent the rest of the afternoon in the ALCTS Board meeting. Monday was very similar, right down to the fast Aramark lunch. Sunday was my big day though: I ran the AS Executive Committee meeting, pinch-hit on a panel discussion about print-on-demand after lunch, and that evening, handed a leadership award to Eleanor Cook and a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Knut Dorn.

About a week ago I was asked to substitute for librarians who had to pull out of the panel discussion, so I was prepared, but having never served on a panel outside of my own library, I was really nervous! It helped that there were only about a dozen people who attended. Also Lynn gave me good advice — to think of how calmly and slowly Dr. Ed Wilson speaks — which helped me even more for the awards ceremony, while reading the citation on the certificate for Dr. Dorn! I also announced ALCTS’ decision to rename the award to: HARRASSOWITZ Award for Leadership in Library Acquisitions, In honor of Dr. Knut Dorn, Senior Managing Partner. Dr. Dorn is retiring as the Senior Managing Partner and Director of Sales with HARRASSOWITZ, which has sponsored the award for about 15 years. I still cannot believe how smoothly my day went in spite of having to change location between each major event. I even found the earring I lost that morning in the bottom of my backpack when I got home. Good thing I didn’t throw its mate away!

I feel good about the accomplishments of the Acquisitions Section and the ALCTS division this past year. I’m happy that one particular issue will be seriously addressed in the coming year: I strongly believe that in this era, we should have one conference per year, and that governance shouldn’t be limited just to those who can afford to attend two conferences in person. Finding and implementing solutions is now in the ALCTS strategic plan and the incoming ALCTS President pledged to give her attention to this. The Board approved a strategic plan linked to ALA’s strategic plan. One major initiative of ALA’s plan is Transforming Libraries (see the picture of Lynn and the ACRL Excellence Award at a new portal, ). ALCTS’ linked strategic intitiative is Transforming Collections, with a task force to brainstorm actions. I hope Derrik forgives me that the Board extended the term of the task force, since I got him into that! In addition to strategic planning, my section caught up on getting our web pages updated, put several publications into the pipeline, participated in ALCTS 101, and held 2 well-attended programs and a successful pre-conference on patron-driven-acquisitions of e-books. Once I turn in my section’s annual report, I’ve finished my work on the ALCTS Board, but will still serve a year as Past-Chair for the Acquisitions Section.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I got from Paul Courant, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, who was the speaker for the ALCTS President’s Program:

Costs of storage:
$4.26 open stacks
$0.86 high density (but not as usable)
$0.22 HathiTrust average

Courant also said that we owe it to students and faculty to do what we do cheaper. He is an economist, and his presentation definitely connected with me, especially with my strong acquisitions focus at this conference. Another point he made that resonated with me is that we should learn to share ownership, going beyond the type of sharing that we’ve typically done via ILL. It made me feel good about our role in ASERL’s journal retention initiative, as a start.

New Orleans or Bust!

Thursday, June 30, 2011 11:32 am

ZSR’s version of Thelma and Louise headed out last Thursday for the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. The weather, the traffic, the car and the gas prices were all cooperative. Along the way we found interesting sights both large peachand small.turtle

We also stopped to dip Mary Beth’s toes in the Gulf of Mexico as they’d never been there before.


We arrived just in time to attend the Opening General Session. (see Mary Beth‘s and Roz‘s posts for excellent coverage of this event)

We started the next day with beignets and coffee at Café Du Monde and then got down to business. I attended a session called ACRL 101 which provided tips for first time attendees to ALA as well as information for new members of ACRL. Suggestions for participation in ACRL were given in graduated order from those taking the least time to involvement that would require a greater commitment of time. They included reading the ACRLog, following ACRL on Twitter, attending an ACRL webcast, attending a workshop at ALA, and serving on a committee. During the session there was an ACRL representative seated at each table and later we were given the opportunity to introduce ourselves and ask questions. I was at a table with the president of ACRL, Lisa Hinchliffe, who had just recently visited ZSR to present the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. I found the session helpful and have a better understanding of the scope of ACRL.

Next, I attended a Copyright Discussion Group sponsored by the ACRL. The discussion was led by Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The ARL is preparing a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. Mr. Butler reported that they will soon complete the first phase, interviewing librarians anonymously to determine, “how fair use comes into contact with practice.” He emphasized that the ARL does not seek publicity in this process and that the initial draft will not be made available for public scrutiny. The code will address fair use practices in areas such as ILL, electronic reserves, digital collections, and institutional repositories. Butler indicated that the Practices will be “affirmative”. The intent is to encourage librarians use their right to fair use and he stated that the Code’s “legal force comes from its use on the ground.” He said that there are some groups that want to “keep librarians in fear.” The ARL hopes to finish writing the Code of Best Practices by the end of 2011. It will be posted on the Center for Social Media website when it becomes available.

Susan’s ALA Annual Conference Report: Days 2-4

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 10:10 pm

This ALA Annual conference was a different experience for me. I am now on two LITA committees, Top Technology Trends and the 2012 LITA National Forum Planning Committee (which I am chairing). This means that much more of my conference time was scheduled to perform the duties this entails.

As a chair of a LITA committee, I found (thanks to Lauren P.) that I should attend a joint committee/IG chair meeting first thing Saturday morning. Because LITA holds its National Forum Conference annually, I also needed to attend, in addition to my planning committee, the one for this year’s conference so I can get up to speed on what’s planned for this year.

View Looking Down on the Crescent City Brewhouse Bar
View of the Crescent City Brewhouse Bar from Above

Much of the work for Top Technology Trends takes place throughout the year because it is a programming event that takes place at both Midwinter and Annual. Last year, we decided it would be a good idea to plan a social gathering with the committee and the “trendsters” so that they would be acquainted prior to coming to the podium the next day. My assignment was to find a restaurant to hold the “get acquainted” dinner and if you know me, you know I have “hostess anxiety.” This meant that I spend a long time finding a place that would be a good one: with New Orleans atmosphere but not priced in the stratosphere. I settled on the Crescent City Brewhouse which was reasonably priced, centrally located on the edge of the French Quarter and had a live jazz band! It turned out to be a nice networking evening. The actual event took place Sunday afternoon. We had a great venue this time with the session taking place in one of the main auditoriums. This time there were 5 trendsters, Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC; Clifford Lynch, CNI; Nina McHale, Univ of Colorado, Denver; Monique Sendze, Douglas Country (CO) Libraries; and Jennifer Wright, Free Library of Philadelphia. You might want to note that, for the first time, the female trendsters outnumbered the males. As Erik mentioned in his post, the trends included social reading, the death of the mouse, proximity marketing, “mashing down” print, and computational photography.

Top Technology Trends Panel

Top Technology Trends Panel at ALA Annual, New Orleans

This was the first time at ALA that I also had a presentation. I participated in the ULS/CLS Program with 9 other presenters. The format was a Pecha Kucha, a presentational framework where we had to do 20 slides for 15 (preprogrammed) seconds each for a total of a 5 minute talk. My topic was “From Department Director to Race Director.”

I have to admit that this was the most challenging presentation I have ever made. I am more of an ad-lib speaker. I like to make a broad outline and go from there, depending on what stories come to me in the moment and how the audience reacts. The Pecha Kucha format is very regimented. I had to know exactly what I wanted to say in the 15 seconds that each image projected. They even had a cow bell that they said they would ring if we went over. It was very intimidating, even for a seasoned pubic speaker. However, I survived and had positive feedback on my content.

I always enjoy attending the Alexander Street Press breakfast. This year, the speaker was Stanley Nelson, the award winning documentary filmmaker. HIs most recent film is Freedom Riders. After several minutes of audio technical snafus, he showed a ten-minute clip about the second wave of freedom riders. It was extremely moving. I was particularly drawn to the fact that he produced the documentary The Murder of Emmett Till. In both of my “south trip” experiences, the story of Emmett Till played a central part in starting to understand the complex issues of the black experience in the south.

Those of you who know me also know my belief in the importance of embracing the local culture of the places we go for conferences. This was not hard to do in a town like New Orleans. I’ve been there four times now, three of them post-Katrina. During our Monday French Quarter Neighborhood Bike Tour we learned that only 70% of the population from pre-Katrina is now there post-Katrina. The bike tour is an example of another belief I have about conferences. It is the perfect opportunity to make a different type of connection with your colleagues. Interacting with colleagues in a different setting is conducive to getting to know each other in a unique context. With 12 people attending ALA New Orleans from ZSR, there were plenty of chances to connect with each other in ways that resulted in higher understandings and appreciations of each other!

French Quarter Neighborhood Bike Tour

Excellent French Quarter Bicycle Tour

Evolution of an ALA Attendee

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 1:26 pm

My last ALA post was about programs and how I didn’t get to see too many, so this post is about the reason why and it’s the leadership post. (One more post to go!)

One of the neatest things about ALA is that it is a conference for anyone with any interest in libraries or information. There’s something there for everyone. You can go to learn, share, network, contribute to the work of the association, and/or participate in governance.

I started going to ALA because of an interest in the work of the association. I wanted to work on committees and productively contribute to what the organization does. And I really like that work. In fact, I wrapped up service on the LITA Web Coordinating Committee at this conference.

The Emerging Leader program, as well as conversations with people I think of as role models, helped me realize that I wanted to get more into the governance side of things, and that’s what most of this ALA was about for me. For example, first thing on Monday I was in a Council meeting until noon, then after a fast lunch, I was in a LITA Board meeting until 5:00. These are seriously long meetings. And at this conference I clocked about 11 hours of Council and 9 hours of LITA Board meetings in addition toauxiliaryCouncil and LITA activities. I can totally understand that’s not for everyone, but it really is something I enjoy and feel that is a good use of my energy. So here’s the rundown:

ALA Council

ala councilThis was my second conference as a Councilor-at-Large. This means that I do not represent a specific body on Council, but rather the people who voted for me. Since I campaigned on a platform about helping ALA adapt to future expectations, I feel I represent people especially concerned with keeping ALA relevant. This conference was ripe for discussion relevant to the constituency most interested in that platform. We discusses the Future Perfect Task Force, the Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content report as well as a Council Effectiveness Task Force. Despite my shyness, this was my inaugural conference for saying something from the floor and I did it twice! My comments were along these lines:

People speaking against the Future Perfect report (notice the fun name… future perfect is “will have been”) seemed to be focused a lot about how we’ve done things in the past or how our current members might not like what it proposed. I suggested that though these comments might be true, this report might have ideas that would make us more appealing to those who have chosen not to join or those who in the future would not find the current model relevant to them.

My other comment was about communicating out. There was a suggestion in the Council Effectiveness report that suggested councilors communicate more with the membership about who they are and what they find important as well as find ways to listen to their constituency. Again, completely in line with the folks who voted for me based on my video or Twitter activities. Several people were saying they didn’t want to be so public or take the time to make videos and that people knew who they were and how to get in touch with them. I suggested that we hear from people who know how to find us but we don’t hear from the many that just think of ALA as a conference for programming with no idea about who is on council, why, or what we do. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the issues. I suggested we follow the recommendations so that people can learn more about how council works and what issues we are discussing. Anything you want to know? :)

So my first foray into speaking on the floor was basically two comments on the same theme, but I was compelled to speak to the issue twice since we kept coming to the same place.

ALA Council covered a lot of other ground as well: a resolution supporting a UN Report, a resolution to share all council documents via ALA Connect (the Facebook/Acad1/wiki/discussion list/etc of ALA), and others. I was really disappointed that I had to leave early. My flight was cancelled and the only way to get out on Tuesday was to switch airlines and leave several hours early. On the upside, after this conference I feel much more confident of my role and how to function as a councilor.

LITA Board

My LITA Board terms actually begins today, so I just attended LITA Board meetings as a guest at this conference. The main distinction I picked up was that whereas ALA Council focuses on governance and policy, LITA Board appears to be more about strategy and planning. For example, there is a Treasurer of ALA and a Budget Review Committee, so anything financial that comes before Council has been thoroughly vetted and has little discussion. LITA doesn’t have these bodies, so the Board spent much of its time on topics related to budget and membership. LITA’s been working on a strategic plan since I’ve gotten involved, so in addition we’re seeing the implementation of that now.

I also learned about different roles I’ll have to take on as a board member. I’ll have to give up my seat on a committee (makes sense, it allows for broader participation), but will have to take on liaising to a committee to share information from the Board. I joined a subcommittee of the Board charged with dealing with a few issues specific to the budget as well as how to generate more revenue. So at this point I’m ready to dive in!

I think the LITA work will be a nice thing to have in parallel to Council. In LITA, we’ll see concrete results of actions–and fast–where sometimes the work of Council–though meaningful–doesn’t have the same obvious high-impact to the membership.

If you think you’d like doing any of this type of work, and don’t mind learning a few procedural/cultural ways of having conversations (we use Sturgis, for example), I’d love to talk to anyone who thinks they might want to run for office. ALA tends to propose slates of candidates, but any member can run if they get enough signatures. Those candidates are not distinguished on the ballot from slate candidates, and many times they win!

And it’s not all work. We know how to have fun, too!

ala councilors at work

(cross posted to with a few modifications)

Storage and Commons–ALA day 3 and 4

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:14 am

I attended two sessions on Storage facilities at ALA. One of them was entitled “Planning for the Worst, Disaster Preparedness for High Density Storage.” I hoped to be able to use what I learned there to help with the Emergency Plan that Craig is working on for the Offsite Storage Facility. The focus of the session was more directed to being sure that your high density storage facility has built in sufficient fire suppression to meet the needs of your facility, so in effect, we’d already done that. One takeaway though was about how other libraries are using High Density Storage to store their rare books. A common strategy is to put the rare material at between 3 and 10 feet off the floor so it is accessible by step stool or reaching for it from the floor. This would allow you to remove that material quickly without having to use the gruelingly slow fork lift to go up and down the aisles and up and down the 35 foot stacks to pull out the most valuable material that has been stored in the facility. We haven’t got plans to store any rare material at Offsite as yet, but I will keep this in mind as we go forward. (I had an opportunity to privately gently correct another library who said they were to about to install the “first high bay mobile shelving units used by a library”. They are, in fact, third, behind us and UVA.)

In the second Offsite Storage session, the LAMA Storage Discussion Group meeting, the first part of the session had Brenda Johnson and Carolyn Walters, both of Indiana University Libraries, talking about their plans for the CIC Shared Storage Repository. The CIC is the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, and they represent “the countries top-tier research institutions” including Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Univ. of Indiana, and others. Their planning for a shared repository mirrors our involvement in ASERLs similar movement. Their goals include

  • aggregate secure and preserve rich print resources
  • ensure CIC scholars have timely access to resources
  • realize economies of scale through collective action
  • help reclaim local resources: space, funds and staff time
  • integrate CIC libraries into emerging national network of collectively managed resources

They will do this by collecting, assembling, validating, preserving and securely storing journal runs that will serve the collective. The cost of the project will be shared among the participating libraries, $25,000 per library per year for 10 years, and then $2,500 per year thereafter. Collective savings is estimated to be about 13Million over the first five years and growing to more than $20million in subsequent years. I have handouts if anyone wants to see them.

The second part of this session was about the HathiTrust and was presented by Tom Teper of the University of Illinios-Urbana-Champaign. He shared slides on the program that were similar to slides I’d seen recently on a webinar on the subject. He discussed the overlap of the things that have been scanned into digital form and are available on the HathiTrust and asked, as has been asked before, “how many copies of these common titles do we need?” His closing thoughts: the HathiTrust gives us opportunities to rethink what is retained locally, what the missions are for different institutions, and allows us to manage local growth and costs that might otherwise be used to expand facilities. He argument was provocative and engendered much discussion, especially after he said that a library’s determination to hang onto print was “nostalgic”. He quickly backed away from that statement, but it was a lively discussion nonetheless.

On the Commons: Roz has already posted about the ALA RUSA session on libraries that have implemented commons. It was very interesting to see all of the different ways that libraries have interpreted what is meant by an Information Commons. There are libraries that “co-locate” desks so that people can be pointed to the direction of where they will receive the needed services. In other libraries, a single desk has been installed that tries to be all things to all people. In this second iteration, cross training becomes a big issue and can lead to service failure without constant attention and opportunity for feedback.

It occurred to me that its a question of determining “Do our users want our Information Commons to be more like a food court, or an emergency room with a triage desk? Which is less intimidating? Which will best meet their needs?” I also wonder how and if these libraries have done any assessment on whether they are doing better meeting patron needs before or after their transition. Maybe there is not only one answer. The library that had combined IS help with Reference help discussed at length how they had included a “memorandum of understanding” between all of the services before they joined into a single desk. Such a document should include expected levels of service, what will be funded by whom, how many hours of operation are going to be staffed by which department, etc. I think this is a great idea and will help to define as well as reassure all of the participants in this shared environment.

On Furniture. Here’s a little something from Agati Furniture. Gee Chair And there are many pictures from the exhibit floor on the library’s Flickr stream.

It was a busy few days at ALA. It was something for everyone, and especially for me. From the conference sessions, exhibit floor, Cafe du Monde and Bourbon Street, I really enjoyed this conference and this town. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at once.

Final Threads – VR and Discovery – Roz at ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:18 pm

Two more – then I’m done!

Another fall project we are undertaking in Research and Instruction is a more robust and thorough student training program that will last all year. In the event that we do go the information commons route, it will be more important than ever that our students are well trained and that we put in place a more robust monitoring and assessment of the service our students provide. To this end many things are coming, including a Sakai course with learning modules, moving to the LibraryH3lp native interface for chat, investigating LibStats for statistics and more. I attended a session on VR service and even though it was primarily discussing consortial programs for VR, there were good nuggets to take away that related to all VR.

One was not to expect more out of VR than you do out of in-person, email or telephone reference. Just like the person at the desk cannot always answer a patron’s question in full by themselves, you should not expect to be able to do that in a chat session. You still have referrals, assistance and suggestions of face to face contact that can be used when the question goes beyond the expertise of the person at the keyboard. Another item is that it is critical, especially when you have students answering questions on chat, that you monitor those transactions. Read transcripts, praise good answers and correct incorrect ones. Librarians also have to be willing to analyze chat sessions from other librarians and be willing to have their own analyzed. The idea is to continually improve your service and in order to do that you have to assess it. When we move to the native interface of LibraryH3lp in July and away from Meebo, we will be able to capture our chat sessions and become better able to assess what happens in this medium. While WFU does not have nearly the volume of VR that many schools do, it is a growing percentage of our reference transactions, and needs to be trained and assessed in a more strategic way.

Finally there is the issue of web-scale discovery services (my thread is starting to look like a rope). I attended a really interesting session on user experiences when their libraries implemented web scale discovery services. Two of the schools had implemented Summon and one has implemented Ebsco Discovery Service. Their experiences were similar in many ways and they learned many lessons along the way that are critical for us.

First, DO NOT take away easy and obvious access to your catalog and your database and journal finder tools. There are many valid reasons people may still want to search your catalog or go to a specific journal or database and if you make that hard or hide the access you risk infuriating your patrons and creating a bad launch of what otherwise is a useful product.

Second, the content differences among these products is not significant enough to worry about. They are good for undergraduate researchers and though they will claim to be far superior in one way or another, they probably aren’t. What the library has to focus on is how they integrate with your journal data (both platforms, coincidentally, reported that they still find journal data in full text options to be incorrect in some cases – but everyone agreed that this happens in all systems so it is not really a deal breaker) and how you choose to integrate it into your web site. Giving it a good name and brand, placing it in appropriate places on your web site, explaining what it does, providing instruction in how to use it, keeping everyone on staff positive (but realistic) about the product all go a long way to make it a success on your campus.

Third, they don’t solve all your problems. In fact, they can create more confusion initially for students when using them without prior instruction or any guidance on what they are and what they do. Both Summon and EDS, for example, tout that one strength of web scale discovery is that the facets you apply after your search can drill you down to exactly what you need. But what all the libraries found is that no one notices the facets until they are pointed out to them. Edges of a screen have become on most web sites where ads are placed, so our students tend to tune them out. This means that the 650,000 hits they get can be so overwhelming, especially if they do a very general search, that their frustration grows. But all the schools also said that when you teach students and faculty how to search and use the facets, they are really excited about the product and wonder where it has been all their lives. So setting expectations and reformatting our instruction to make the best use of our time in demonstrating a discovery service will be extremely important.

Finally, I was surprised at how all of the schools talked about keeping abreast of all the services and not committing forever to a particular product. They all agree that the products are developing and improving so fast that you need to be willing to consider them all and avoid long-term commitments for the next few years. Even the school that was one of the first Summon development partners agreed that even though there is time invested in the setup, that can’t be your only reason for staying with a product if it doesn’t suit your needs or if other products develop differently. Change is the new normal.

‘Commons’ Thread from Roz’s ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:10 pm

Ok – Thread two from ALA now that I have had time to reflect on it is perhaps related to Info Commons. One of my big projects going into the fall is working with Mary Beth and coming up with a plan for a possible information commons on Reynolds 2. For Mary Beth and I, that meant going to sessions on commons as well as visiting lots of furniture vendors in the Exhibits hall to get a feel for what is out there that might be of use to us in a retrofitted space. The options range from completely custom furniture design – the benefit here is you get what you really need for your exact space. The drawback (other than cost) is that if you tailor it to fit your space too specifically, it becomes inflexible if your space or service needs change. On the other end of the spectrum are the prebuilt options from vendors like Demco and Brodart. Many of these are modular ( ) – so you can buy the parts you need when you need them and move or reuse them in other spaces later. These are the more cost effective and flexible options, but often lack the ‘sexy’ that the custom places provide. Almost all of the options we saw, however, have built in power and even USB charging stations, reflecting what we already know our students want. One of our favorites is Agati Furniture, especially their booths ( I’m hoping Mary Beth has some other pictures she can post of other cool concepts.

On Monday Mary Beth and I both attended a really great discussion group about combining service points. We heard from a wide variety of schools who have, or are considering, combining service desks and service points and heard cautionary tales, unforeseen consequences and the bugaboo that is signage in a combined environment. Mary Beth may have more to say but the thing that was most interesting to me was the variety of approaches to having Reference Librarians on the desks. Some places kept them, some got rid of them altogether at desks, another school moved them to another building; there were buzzer systems, iPhones and other ‘on call’ models to keep librarians within reach but not actually out at the desk. There are concerns about visibility of librarians when you take them off the desk, quality of service if students are your main points of contact with your public, how to manage on-call hours, VR and more. Many places have the luxury of having support staff and LIS grad students to staff the desks. One school took them off the desk and then had to put them back on because service suffered. Another place combined service points and their reference stats actually went down 40% (they don’t quite know why).

There is no right or wrong answer, apparently, to setting up a commons and you have to know your faculty, staff and students and what they expect in terms of types of services and level of service coming from a centralized desk. Most places planned for two or more years (even up to five years) before implementing a commons and even then mistakes were made and issues that were never considered popped up – for example, when you combine with other services on your campus (writing centers, technology help services, tutoring) and their cultures are different then you can end up with what it obviously an unhappy marriage at the desk. And if departments lose budgets or staff, you can find yourself with a service you can no longer offer at your main desk and if you have committed funds to marketing, signage and have built up customer expectations that a service is offered, you can be in trouble. The session gave Mary Beth and I a lot to think (and worry) about. I am sure she will have some specifics of what struck her in the session.

Wanda’s ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 10:07 am

This may be about the 4th ALA I have attended here in New Orleans. However, something was so very different about this one. It took me a while to figure it out, then it hit me, it was the loud noise and over abundance of people stumbling all around. My hotel was too much in the French Quarter district. One lesson learned. I have observed however on the other hand noticed that the face of the conference attendee has changed. Perhaps it is the location, but for sure the librarians here this week seem to mirror the evolving communities with which we live. My BCALA sessions were filled with younger new faces. It was a delight to see.

Saturday morning I heard a representative from the University of Miami discuss the road to their Summons installation during a Serial Solutions hosted breakfast. Their each subject librarian had to visit several Summon sites, conduct relevant research and then write an assessment. They convened and voted yes or no, it was an unanimous decision. Initial assessment numbers still indicate a preference to their catalog, even though these numbers have decreased significantly. However they also report a 40% increase in searches in their top 50 databases. Support during installation was great.

Serial Solutions also announced a new forthcoming WebScale management solution, not yet named, to be unveiled in phases beginning in 2012. They promise it will, manage all content in a single unified service, automate print management in a central highly accurate knowledgebase, simplify and automate selection, improve acquisitions have platform assessment and reporting.

During the ACRL Presidents program Jason Young, ex-manager of customer services at Southwest Airlines, shared his vision for culturetopia. Culturetopia he defines as the ultimate high-performance workplace. The power of relationships drives performance. The key to employee fulfillment and to employee productivity is the company’s culture. The humor present on any Southwest flight was also interwoven in Jason’s presentation. I brought the book, Culturetopia.” So if you like to borrow it, just let me know.

During the Springer lunch and learn I heard about a service I was not familiar with available at It is here that you may search and limit by institution and retrieve a list of articles published by your faculty. Springer also has an ebook service coming that will allow library patrons and faculty members to purchase any desired ebook after viewing it the Library subscription service for a mere $24.95. This would be a tremendous savings to the patron. Since these are personal requested and paid for items, the library saves.

ZSR Library was the recipient of Honorable Mention in the PR Exchange Best of Show awards in the programs promotional category for Craig’s promotional material he produced for the Ammons symposium we hosted in the fall. Yeah! There much have been 10 categories and at least 5 winners in each category. The winners and honorable mentioned all received the same certificate and button. They were a few libraries that won awards in several different categories. I believe our annual report would be an excellent candidate, as well as the book Susan pulled together reflecting our award ceremony. Also our faculty and student brochures could be other possibilities.

Each of the assessment sessions I attended had overflowing standing room only audiences. One featured NC States, Annette Day discussing the assessment they conducted comparing money spent on monographs, serials and databases relative to each individual academic department. Analysis of the departments took a look at the total number of faculty within the department, number of degrees awarded within that discipline and number of students in the program and grant money awarded to the department. This data was used to justify fund allocations.

During another session, virtual reference was the focus of the assessment. They appointed a project team, conducted surveys, held focus groups and analyzed the data. Using the data collected, they changed the hours they were offering IM, added more librarians to staff the hours and changed how they advertised the services. These IM stats show success. 2007 – 468, 2008 – 383, 2009 – 549, 2010 – 2293, 2011 through May – 1722.

Monday was spent at two very interesting LibQual sessions. The morning was a sharing session where members revealed what works, what doesn’t. The greatest take-away from the morning was from Virginia Commonwealth, who offered as an incentive one dollar to be donated to the local food bank for every completed survey. They donated $2,800. The University of South Florida offered an ipad to the winner with a not necessary to complete the survey disclaimer.

The afternoon was a five hour grueling look at statistic analysis using SPSS. Yes, it was to say the least way over my head. To me, a visual learning, it was a disaster to hear 4 hours of lecture and only one hour of actual hands on. I look forward to working with others J on this.

Winners announced during BCALA’s Literary Award presentation included, Bernice McFadden for Glorious, in the fiction category; Wes Moore for The Other Wes More: One Name, Two Fates, in the nonfiction category; Dolen Perkins-Valdez for Wench, in the first novelist category; Keith Gilyard for John Oliver Killens: a Life of Black Literary Activism, in the Nonfiction honor books category; Wilbert Rideau for In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance, also in the nonfiction honor books category; and Harold Battiste Jr. and Karen Celestan for Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man, in the outstanding publishing citation. Four of the authors were present last night for the awards. Most inspiring was Harold Battiste Jr. who must have been 90 plus years old. Battiste wrote songs that Sam Cooke and Sony Bruno later made famous.

I attended other sessions that I want include in this summary, but as always I am eager to share my handouts, notes and hold informal conversations.

ALA Programs

Monday, June 27, 2011 4:50 pm

This conference, for me, was about meetings meetings meetings. At this point, even though I’m still here tomorrow, I only have meetings left to go. I didn’t get to attend many of the types of sessions that I’ve attended on and blogged about in the past. So in thinking about how I wanted to report out what I did, I (with a bit of help from Molly) came up with a few general categories to discuss: programs, leadership, and connections. So, to kick off my posts, here’s one on programming.

A lot of people go to ALA just for programs. And programs tend to be fantastic. Many at this ALA were standing (or floor-sitting) room only, spilling out into the hallway. Until getting really involved with ALA, I didn’t realize that it’s not like most conferences. It’s rare that someone proposes their own program. Most of the time a committee, interest group, or another official body comes up with an idea, proposes it, and finds speakers. You’d think that means speakers get paid since they’re invited, but ALA does not pay members to speak, so most are still just volunteering. ALA is awesome in that there are programs aimed at every part of librarianship. Many people tell me that they attend a bunch of sessions related to their work and throw in one or two for other areas (like children’s librarianship, or something within academics but another area than they specialize in) to stay aware of the entire field.

All that being said, at this particular ALA I haven’t really been able to get to them. I did make sure to get to LITA Top Tech Trends. It’s the major LITA program, I’m an alum of it, and I wanted to be a good future-board member and show up. Susan was on the committee that put it together and it went well. It was rather theatrical, in a large, stadium-style theater with low lights. The speakers were: Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC, Clifford Lynch, CNI, Nina McHale, Univ of Colorado, Denver, Monique Sendze, Douglas Country (CO) Libraries, and Jennifer Wright, Free Library of Philadelphia. They addressed: Drupal, accessibility, apps, social reading, interfaces, cloud, repository, and mobile marketing (among others).

I was planning to attend the LITA President’s program, but got sucked into the ALA President’s program instead. The program was “Wikipedia: Past, Present, and Future.” The speaker was Sue Gardner, Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation. It was a lovely session, just Roberta Stevens and Gardner sitting on stage, doing a Q&A with questions from the audience. It was a lot of what you’d expect at this point: a general feeling that Wikipedia is a good place for certain types of research (background information, citations, etc). That there are crazy copyright issues around it (people posting copyrighted images or trying to publish Wikipedia articles for money, etc), and a sense that there’s still a lot of work to do to improve the resource. It was a great talk. Gardner is a librarian in spirit in a way: interest in open access to information, life-long learning, and an understanding of how we need to critically question things like copyright and communication in light of evolving information practices.

jesmyn ward, novelistThe last program I have to share about was a really powerful talk by author by Jesmyn Ward at a luncheon. She shared her story and it was such a compelling and challenging talk that many in the room were clearly affected. She told a story about how her author peers thought she didn’t take her characters to a dark enough place in her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds. She said she couldn’t do it to them. She felt too connected to them and loved them too much. Her new novel, Salvage the Bones, is about Katrina. She lived through Katrina and knew the dark places that people went to and this book apparently pulls no punches. Her talk was so compelling that as she spoke I checked if I could buy it from ANY ebook vendor on my phone. Towards the end of the talk I realized the book wasn’t out yet… and then we were given advanced copies that she signed!! I haven’t started the book yet. But I am going to read it, and that says something because it’s paper. :)

If I can swing it I’m going to try to get to something called Battledecks tonight, with is program-like. But otherwise, those are the events I saw. They’ve all been good, but as great as they were, they weren’t even the best part of the conference… more on that in the leadership and connection posts that are forthcoming!

(cross posted to

ALA Annual
ALA Midwinter
Career Development for Women Leaders
Carolina Consortium
CASE Conference
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Charleston Conference
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Electronic Resources and Libraries
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Southeast Music Library Association
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UNC Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference
University Libraries Group
ZSR Library Leadership Retreat
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