I admit it. I’m not the most patient person in the world. I want to be. I would have made it my New Year’s resolution but that would have meant waiting 12 months to see if I could pull it off. One of the ways my impatience manifests itself is that I get… well, impatient with people when I hear the same thing from different people over and over. They, of course, don’t know that I’ve heard the same thing from other people, but I still feel like a snarky 13 year old, “Really? Ugh. That is sooo last week.” The most recent ‘repeat sentiment’ has come up when I tell people about my job. You see where this is going right? I know you get the same thing. The very earnest question in a somewhat conspiratorial tone, “So, do you think we really need libraries? I mean, with everything online, do you think there is really a place for libraries in the future?” Really? Are people still asking this question? Ugh.
But people are still asking this question. And this concerns me because I’ve been hearing this question since I started library school in 2003. To be clear, I’m not worried that after hearing this same question for almost ten years I’m going to lose it and unleash my 13 year old snarky self (although, that is a valid concern). I’m worried that we are still not doing enough to articulate our current value to our communities. Which is strange because I feel like every where I look, there are reports of the dramatic increase in library use—especially since the economic recession.
At WebJunction, we’ve just published Project Compass Lights a Path to Workforce Recovery. This is the year two report for the IMLS funded project working with library staff across the country to develop programs and services to assist the un(der)-employed. Here’s what I find exciting about the year two report: it gives me the talking points I need to respond to the ridiculous “do we still need libraries?” question without sounding like a big jerk. It helps me articulate the conscience shift library staff are making toward helping their patrons develop 21st century skills. As one Project Compass participant stated, “The discussion of 21st century skills reminded me that current job seekers need to develop not only specific technological skills but a whole new mind-set which is more open to constant change, learning and creative problem solving.” The report also speaks to the number of library staff across the country who are committed to preparing their communities for the needs of the 21st century. Almost 2000 library staff attended a Project Compass in-person workshop and over 300 staff attended the online workshops. There were over 16,000 views of the discussion topics for those online workshops—that’s about 16,000 times that library staff have looked to increase their skills and develop creative solutions to support the economic health of their community! At the same time that we see that there is a national movement of library staff taking purposeful steps to support their communities, the report also details some of the innovative approaches library staff are taking, how they are changing people’s lives and why they are critical. One Project Compass participant stated, “A recent laid-off employee came in and had no idea of how to use the laptop to complete her paperwork. She was almost in tears when she found out it all had to be done over the Internet. After spending some time and explaining how the laptop works and the info she was going to need she felt better. Now every two weeks she comes in and acts like a pro on it and has even helped others on how to use the e-gov computer.”
As I bring up these points to answer the dreaded question, I can see the light bulb go off. So I’m going to keep talking about Project Compass, our innovative workforce resources, and how libraries are positioning themselves as economic beacons in their communities until I don’t have to hear that (!#@%ing) question anymore. I don’t think I could ever get tired of hearing in an earnest, conspiratorial tone, “Libraries? You know, I think they’re totally invaluable in this day & age.”
Tuesday’s webinar on Organizational Storytelling for Librarians answered two burning questions about the topic: why the library should use storytelling and what makes a good story.
[Photo: Pawnee Story Bundle, courtesy of Kansas Historical Society]
First, the why.
“If you don’t tell your story first, someone else will.”
When you write your own story, you share your vision and select the elements that convey the vision most vividly. If you let someone else control the narrative, it will probably not be the picture you want to paint about your organization.
“Touch the heart to facilitate change.”
Facts, figures and dry logic don’t convince people to change. We all have “confirmation bias,” but stories can penetrate those entrenched beliefs.
“Stories are sticky.”
The brain is “neurologically organized to remember narratives” better than statistics and bullet lists. Even more so if the story engages the emotions of the audience.
“Stories build community.”
The concept of belonging to a community is powerful for people. When the library tells stories about its role in the community, it strengthens the ties among its members.
What makes a good story?
Most of us are not naturally gifted or trained as professional storytellers. Presenters Kate Marek and Chris Rippel both provided sound and reassuring advice for developing your ability to relate an effective story without formal training.
Kate outlined 7 basic ingredients for creating a good story:
Chris analyzed some of the key characteristics of story that draw us in and compel us to listen. I recommend reading his full article on How to tell library stories. Some elements that may be surprising include:
There’s much more to this story. To watch the entire webinar and connect to related resources, go to:
Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Leadership, Community, and Advocacy
John Emerson, graphic designer, writer and programmer from New York City, did an excellent job of talking about Data Visualization for Advocacy in clear, concise and graphically engaging terms.
Data visualization is a fancy way to say pictures with words and numbers. It is a graphic approach that makes relationships easier to see at a glance and makes the stories behind the data more memorable. The Colorado BTOP poster at right is an example of this “picture superiority effect” (more fancy terminology). It conveys attention-grabbing statistics with a graphical layout that is readily digestible in its simplicity and color. You easily “get the picture.”
But really, “the purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures.” (quotation from Ben Shneiderman) Which brings in the advocacy piece. Emerson takes the idea a step further, saying that the purpose is insight that leads to change, with change in the world being the ultimate goal of advocacy. Based on the premise that “you get 5 minutes with a legislator” to convey your message, he emphasized the critical importance of planning your visualization carefully, being clear about your goals, and knowing what your audience cares about—“what keeps them up at night.” With some thoughtful mapping, you’re better equipped to make decisions about how to design to your audience and what to emphasize.
Emerson offered plenty of practical design tips. We all have an internalized visual literacy with which we respond intuitively to graphic metaphors: big things are more important, happy is up, lines are paths. These abstractions, which we grasp without thinking, are the essential building blocks of effective data visualization. Trim to the essence and avoid excess detail.
Don’t just take it from me. Watch the archived recording and get the full picture from Emerson. The archive page also has many links to tools (like 10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics), sources of inspiration, books, data sources, and some resources added by webinar attendees.
“Size does not matter. Quality matters” (Susan Hill Pieper)
As an introduction to the revised edition of the popular “Small But Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library,” this one-hour webinar was indeed “Small But Powerful.” It packed a punch of great insights and ideas that will help small libraries stay strong, relevant, and vital to the communities they serve.
Jennifer Peterson, community manager at WebJunction, ARSL board member and chair of ALA Rural, Native, and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds Committee, kicked it off with suggestions for “amplifying the value” of libraries every day and everywhere through the use of technology tools and data resources. Reach beyond the library walls with cool tools like digital frame slide shows, social “satellite” sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), library calculators, and videos of non-library people expressing what they value about the library.
Susan Hill Pieper, director of the Paulding County Carnegie Library (OH), shifted the presentation into high gear with her no-nonsense advice and first-hand experiences that have built a community of patrons who “cannot imagine life without the public library” and will rally enthusiastically to support it. Counseling that “your library must show excellent service consistently” in order to garner ardent support, Susan discussed a host of strategies and tips for sustaining a “modern library”—no matter how small—and for broadcasting its value loud and clear. She urges libraries to be willing and ready to adopt new technologies but to examine them for relevance and meaning to each community. The audience appreciated her example of scrutinizing “self check-out” for its detraction from the one-on-one interactions that may be the soul of the rural community library.
Marci Merola, director of the ALA Office for Library Advocacy, wrapped up the session with a quick tour of the substantial aggregation of resources that ALA has amassed on behalf of library advocacy efforts. Their Advocacy University is a potent collection to get you amplifying your library’s value on multiple fronts.
This is just an appetizer for the full meal of possibilities. Go to the webinar archive page for:
Have you heard about the Geek the Library community awareness campaign? Did you know that any U.S. public library can implement it locally?
Created by OCLC and funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Geek the Library illustrates the fact that everyone is passionate about something—everyone “geeks” something—and that the public library supports it all. The campaign materials include advertising, collateral, a campaign Web site, social media and other online tools. The campaign message is bold and simple, and it focuses on the critical role that public libraries play in our communities while raising awareness of local library funding challenges.
OCLC piloted the campaign last year with nearly 100 libraries in many communities in southern Georgia and central Iowa, as well as libraries in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Geek the Library helped participants educate the public about the value of the library and library funding, and start important local funding conversations. The results of the pilot are encouraging. People noticed it and it’s making an impact!
After just five months, over 60 percent of residents in central Iowa and nearly 50 percent of residents in southern Georgia were aware of the campaign. More than two thirds of people had taken action or intended to take action in response to the campaign, including visiting their local library or talking about the campaign to friends and family. And, in southern Georgia, there was a statistically significant improvement in people’s willingness to support an increase in library funding.
A few pilot libraries also reported other positive outcomes as a result of improved community perceptions, such as fewer budget cuts (and even increased financial support) from both the local and state level, and increased staff compensation. The results of the Geek the Library pilot will be available in a comprehensive report later this year.
OCLC is currently accepting requests from libraries and library systems interested in implementing Geek the Library in their community. To learn more visit get.geekthelibrary.org.
I recently read the report published by IMLS, Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills which is a part of an outstanding initiative which “underscores the critical role our nation’s museums and libraries play in helping citizens build such 21st century skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.”
The initiative includes 3 parts, all available here http://www.imls.gov/about/21stCSkills.shtm:
1. The Online Self-Assessment: a brief interactive survey that quickly analyzes an institution’s 21st century strategies and describes next steps for action.
2. The Report: outlines a vision for the role of libraries and museums in the national dialogue around learning and 21st century skills and includes case studies [be sure to read these case studies!] of innovative audience engagement and 21st century skills practices from across the country.
3. The Self-Assessment Tool: allows museums and libraries to determine where they fit on the continuum of 21st century skills operations and programming.
I found numerous parallels to the efforts of the initiative with those of Project Compass and thought it would be great to start a discussion about the long term goals your library has to support the development of patrons’ 21st Century Skills beyond the current workforce challenged economic climate and on into the future.
The report identifies the differences between 20th and 21st Century skills, and provides a framework including four skills areas:
You can see the skill sets cover many of the areas we have traditionally focused on. I’m very excited to see how this framework might help libraries clarify our role and forge potential community partnerships to build 21st C. skills in our communities.
I found these 3 quotes to be particularly powerful:
First an overall call to collaboration:
All libraries and museums—and the people they serve—stand to benefit from becoming more intentional and purposeful about accommodating the lifelong learning needs of people in the 21st century, and doing this work collaboratively in alignment with community needs.
And then more focused on learning, specifically the role we as libraries can play in informal learning to help our communities…
Skills like critical thinking and problem solving are not only relevant for K-12 students and schools. There are millions of adult learners not in formal education programs looking to refine workplace skills. Even school-aged children spend the overwhelming majority of their waking hours in non-school settings, and increasingly they spend this time in organized out-of-school settings such as afterschool, museum, and library programs. In these settings, they develop important skills—such as problem solving, collaboration, global awareness, and selfdirection—not only for lifelong learning and everyday activities, but also for use back in K-12 schools and college classrooms.
And I loved this one that encourages us to
view learning from an “ecological perspective” that involves “life-long,” “life-wide,” and “life-deep” experiences.
The report itself is loaded with other excellent information that can both guide programming as well as advocacy efforts, with clear articulation of the critical value of libraries. I’ve yet to dive deep into the assessment tools, but kudos to the task force and team member who pulled together the launch of this outstanding initiative!
Read it and tell me what you think!
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the National Center for State Courts, the Center-hosted Self-Represented Litigation Network, in cooperation with the Legal Services Corporation, is presenting:
A Training on Public Libraries and Access to Justice
January 11-12, 2010, Austin, Texas
Information on Application Process
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the National Center for State Courts, the Center-hosted Self-Represented Litigation Network, in cooperation with the Legal Services Corporation, is presenting a two-day conference that addresses how public libraries can improve access to online legal information at libraries. The conference will be a unique opportunity for participants to meet with public librarians and with legal and court experts to discuss strategies for integrating access to legal information into their programs, including how to locate the best content and tools, how to talk about the content with library patrons, how to work with content partners to make sure that needed content is developed, how to share what they have learned statewide, and how to use successful programs to advocate for the importance of public libraries as gateways to government institutions.
The conference organizers plan to select between 10 and 15 teams of two to three people from across the country to attend the conference. These teams will learn about a broad range of currently available print and online, customer-friendly legal tools developed by courts, bar associations, law libraries, and legal aid programs that support people without access to legal aid or counsel. The participants will learn how to access this information, facilitate sharing among libraries and legal agencies and participate in the enhancement and customization of these tools.
Preference will generally be given to teams that include a person who plays a statewide library staff educational or organizational role; a local librarian with a strong interest in expanding the use of public libraries for access to justice; and one of the following: a legal aid staff member; or a court online information expert or member of a self help center currently not using online tools to provide services. Applicant teams are encouraged to put together a group that will be the most effective in their area of service to spread the word in their states. The decision of the selection group will be final.
Conference participants will receive travel and hotel costs (subject to certain caps described in the application). Participants will also be eligible to apply for post-conference funding to implement some of the tools learned at the conference. Such grants, which will range from $750 to $1,000, might be used for travel to conferences at which training would be shared, development of marketing materials, and so on.
For additional immediate information, contact Richard Zorza, email@example.com.
Application materials can be found on:
First, a confession. I’ve been holding this list for months. Don Reynolds sent this to me back in the fall of 2008, and I’ve been meaning to post it ever since. Today, the guilt finally overwhelmed me, so I went in and checked all the links, tossed out or updated the bad links, arranged the list in chronological order from oldest to newest, and threw myself on the mercy of the court.
REPORTS ON CALCULATING A LIBRARY’S RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Compiled by Don Reynolds, Past President of the Association of Rural and Small Libraries, and Director, Nolichucky Regional Library, Morristown, Tennessee
Updated February 20, 2009
Public Library Benefits Valuation Study. St. Louis Public Library, April 2001.
Library’s Contribution to Your Community. Illinois Regional Library Systems, 2002/3.
Libraries: How they stack up. An OCLC Report. OCLC, 2003.
The Economic Impact of Public Libraries on South Carolina. January 2005.
Taxpayer Return-on-Investment (ROI) in Pennsylvania Public Libraries. Pennsylvania Library Association, September 2006.
Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development. Urban Libraries Council, January 2007.
Worth Their Weight – An Assessment of the Evolving Field of Library Valuation. Americans for Libraries Council (Libraries for the Future), May 2007. Two notes:
1.) This report summarizes all the various valuation projects from around the country.
2.) I was having some trouble getting this to download, but was told by Libraries for the Future that the website issue is being addressed.
Vermont Library Association’s Library Use Value Calculator – What is your library worth to you? August 2007. (Note: Follows Massachusetts model.)
Return on Investment (ROI). North Suburban Library System (Illinois), 2008. (Note: Two calculators are available here, one for a library’s return on investment to the community, one for the ROI for an individual.)
Maine State Library’s Library Use Value Calculator. Updated 2008. Note: This approach also follows Massachusetts model.
Runner Sam Thompson got his Seattle Public Library Passport stamped at 11 different library branches throughout Seattle yesterday.
“I heard about the library-passport program and thought it was really cool,” said Thompson, 28. “I love going to my library. It’s such an incredible resource. My goal is to get people excited about visiting their local branch.”
Thompson had originally planned to visit all 28 branches of the Seattle Public Library system in one day, but freezing temperatures and early library closures shortened his list. Besides the 11 branches he was able to reach before snow forced them to close, he also visited 6 more branches which he photographed.
To read more about Sam Thompson’s library marathon, see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s article, A marathon task: Runner logs 50 miles visiting library branches in one day. Also see SPL’s recent news release on other locals’ programs centered around the Passport.
I know, it’s a solemn reminder for the day after, but I wanted to check in with folks who were hoping for the passage of library bonds yesterday.
I’ve heard both good news and bad about library bonds passing. I’m hoping folks will share their stories here as a comment or in a WJ discussion. Because we’re getting ready to launch our Virtual Town Hall in December these types of conversations will also be useful in helping the WJ community build a solid foundation for the series.
Virtual Town Hall: Focus on Tough Economic Times
This December, WebJunction is hosting a series of three webinars on the topic of Libraries in Tough Economic Times. Join us in a new Virtual Town Hall format designed engage all attendees with questions, brainstorms, stories, and to collect practical strategies. We’ve picked 3 different days and times to accommodate as many schedules as possible, but you’re encouraged to join us for as many of the sessions as you are able.
I’ve started a Town Hall discussion to get the conversation rolling and to get input as we decide on topics for focus. I think that library bonds are certainly worthy of focus. Other ideas include:
Please plan on bringing your questions and strategies to the events. All attendees will be encouraged to participate, but if you’ve got something meaty to share, let us know so we can get your slides or pictures into the Virtual Town Hall before the session begins.
I’ve been itchin’ to use the Wimba Classroom for more informal virtual gatherings like this and look forward to the series. With your participation, we as a community can begin to tackle many of the challenges that lie ahead for our libraries.
A bunch of us here at WJ are fans of Freakonomics (the book and the blog). So, it’s with pleasure that the same day we highlight Teen Read Week resources over at WebJunction, Steven Levitt gives us a sneak peek look at intended titles in his 8-year-old daughter’s bookpile.
Some of Amanda’s choices are standard fare for any teen/pre-teen’s reading list:
Normal stuff, right? But then you keep reading and right down there at the end she drops the kind of zinger you still don’t expect (had you been expecting a zinger from an 8-year-old, that is), even from a child who’s been listening to their famous economist dad. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s worth viewing Amanda’s list for yourself.
Personally, I’m going to spy on my daughter’s night stand when I get home tonight. I don’t expect to find much indication that my work has influenced her reading choices, but then again, she’s only 7. Next year could be the big year for online community and information theory texts.
How about you? I’m sure some of you have some great stories to share. What’s the weirdest book you’ve ever seen a kid choose and why?
by Patricia H. Fisher
Money talks! In good times and tight economic times, people are conscious of spending their money wisely. People also want their hard-earned dollars, given in the form of tax dollars, spent wisely. As a library trustee on a governing or an advisory Board, can you convince elected officials, your neighbors and taxpayers in general that they are getting a good return on their investment (ROI)? In other words, can you talk in dollars?
For-profit companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies need money to provide products and services. People who invest in these organizations, stockholders, individuals and grant agencies and taxpayers, all ask: “How do I measure my return on investment?” and “How do I know if my investment is really paying off?”
Two reports were published this past week on WebJunction:
WebJunction’s new functionality includes the ability for you, the community, to share comments about the research, so please share (here or at the bottom of each of the documents) your thoughts after reading these reports. I’m especially interested to hear how people anticipate using the new data to advocate for their library’s services.
As most of you know, we run a pretty regular weekly question feature over on WebJunction.org. Most of the questions come from our discussion forums. Elevation to QOTW status comes for many reasons, but central idea is to give attention to questions that will generate community enrichment via discussion while (of course) providing an answer the original question.
This week’s question breaks a trend by coming in through a BlogJunction comment. We’ve often pitched the blog as another place for folks to ask their WJ questions, but hardly anyone takes us up on it. Maybe along with all the other changes we’ve got going, we’re going to some new blog trends, too.
Anyway, on with the question. RoseAleta asks:
I’m trying to find a quote to use for a City Council presentation about how libraries contribute to economic development. It seems I’ve read this any number of times that businesses and homebuyers look for “quality of life” as much as job income, etc. in making a decision to re-locate.”
I’m sure the WJ community is loaded with great ideas for helping RoseAleta (and if you aren’t I’d love to hear that, too. Maybe we can get together and commission a report!). I know my library adds a huge value to the community, but you can’t quote me because I’m not running a multinational corporation.
If you’ve have thoughts to share on the matter, please respond to the question in the WebJunction advocacy discussion forum or here in the blog.
by Patricia H. Fisher
Library boards and the library director are responsible for seeing that community needs are addressed by providing library services that are well-planned and that fulfill the library’s half of the social contract—making a difference in stakeholders’ lives in return for taxpayer funding. It’s in the job description!
But how to go about it?
Start with a “Give ‘Em What They Want!” philosophy
One way of measuring is to have “benchmarks,” which are sometimes called “standards,” for comparisons. Georgia has operating and primary standards, to evaluate its public libraries. The standards describe essential, full and optimal levels of service in enough narrative detail to allow boards and directors to determine where their libraries fall on the continuum. (more…)