With spring conference season in full swing, we figured it was worth taking a few minutes to share some thoughts and links from our PLA 2008 experiences—before we got sucked completely into the next event (CIL 2008).
Personally, I really enjoyed the PLA Virtual Conference, and that’s not just because we were sponsors! I think there’s a definite online conference need for those in our library community who can’t (budget? staffing?) or won’t (environmental issues?) travel to a national conference venue.
The technology infrastructure and bandwidth is almost there, and the virtual production values are pretty darn smooth—the next step is to find a programming model that works for the genre. I’m not sure what that is, but I can tell you we may do more harm than good by trying to cling to our physical format in a virtual sphere.
One thing is for sure, a Virtual Happy Hour has none of the redeeming characteristics of its physical world cousin! I’m hopeful though, and am excited to see tons of online conference innovation in the coming years. (more…)
I don’t know why I’m surprised by the common threads weaving through many of our PLA 2008 posts. During Saturday’s closing session, Paula Poundstone summed up the week for me when she asked incredulously about our week of sessions, gatherings, and meetings: “What are you meeting about? Change?” As with all library conferences, this past week has presented change with fresh facets and urgencies for our work throughout libraryland and in the WebJunction community.
At a Friday luncheon, I heard Nan Kari speak about her work with the Jane Addams School for Democracy, a civic engagement and democratic education initiative for immigrant families and college students located in St. Paul’s multi-cultural West Side neighborhood. Kudos to hosts Libraries for the Future and Diantha Schull for continuing to draw libraries into thinking about Library Placemaking and the development of libraries as vital civic places.
Have you engaged your civic skills lately?
Nan Kari began her eloquent presentation with observations about a shift in American civil life. She notes that the values of the market place have permeated the ways we choose to prioritize our time and resources, and as a result our civic skills have begun to atrophy. We have become more accustomed to experiencing public life at the mall (an interesting juxtaposition considering the appearance of library branches in a number of suburban malls) than in the democratic process. There are many ambiguities and dynamics surrounding this shift (including some positive impacts, on youth—seen in the numbers in this year’s caucuses and primaries—and increases in entrepreneurial civic engagement), but ultimately, there has been a shift away from inquiry and engagement around our authority as citizens.
Before Nan detailed the School’s advocacy for community engagement, she defined citizenship in 3 ways, acknowledging that they overlap and co-mingle in the real world:
Case for Community Commons
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I was nearly leaping off my chair by this point, very excited to hear more especially about how to apply these precepts to our work. As Nan began to share about her work with the Jane Addams School, she spoke of the opportunities for us to develop libraries as “democratic spaces” (both social and physical) where a diverse mix of people interact, engage in dialogue, solve problems and exercise civic engagement that builds and sustains public goods and resources. She used the new Minneapolis Public Library (where we met) as a way to talk about democratic spaces being shaped by physical elements and the need for civic imagery, accessibility and flexibility. Working with an online community, I recognize these as parallel principles of web design (UI, IA, flexible tools etc.) but certainly see how these apply to physical spaces in libraries, especially those with meeting rooms and other public gathering spaces which can be opened up to serve needs identified via the community commons. But whether we’re looking to present our libraries as core to civic engagement in virtual or f2f communities, I think this next bit hit me the hardest.
Deprogram the space
In libraryland we are busy working to design programming and services that meet the needs of our users. In order to provide a truly democratic experience for their diverse community, the Jane Addams School chose a different approach, in order to “pull the circle open.” The tendency to fill up spaces with programming and services can leave little or no room for civic engagement. They found that when you stop programming all the spaces, the “tapestry of lived experiences” are welcomed into the community, bringing their cultural learning into an environment where everyone is considered both a teacher and a learner. The Jane Addams School “facilitates” the use of the spaces, but the participants organize themselves into “learning circles” based on their interests and objectives. Nan admits that this is not a clean process, quite messy in fact, but they all recognize that the learning that comes from the experience is expansive and not just academic. Participants become part of the “Crossing Borders Leadership Team,” a citizen-based committee which further facilitates the creative engagement.
I know there’s a lot in here, even without the fantastic pictures (check out their site!) and details that Nan shared from her work but the message is certainly timely. While we need to continue doing all that we do to provide information, resources, services, and programming, we need to be equally accountable to our communities as space facilitators ensuring platforms for collaborative inquiry and public creation. I can’t think of a more fitting mandate for all of us in this, the community that is WebJunction, as we move through this year. We are in the process of developing a number of exciting enhancements to the site, all part of our ongoing goal to facilitate a highly engaged online community for library staff. We’ll continue to look to you, the WebJunction community, for your participation and leadership in the co-creation of a “community commons”—as we refine and sustain the tools for facilitation and as you continue to share your strategies that ensure libraries remain core to civic engagement. So yes Paula, we are meeting about change.
The Minneapolis Public Library‘s new central branch is not only beautiful and light-filled, it is also clearly thriving. The constant flux of people flowing in and out of the library at midday on a Friday was way beyond any additional traffic attributed to PLA attendees. I’ll let the photos tell the story.
A prime example of a thriving library.
WebJunction’s member receptions are a time for everyone involved with WebJunction to come together. The Member Reception at PLA had people who read the site, people that write on it, people who take courses, trainers, Community Partners, WebJunction staff, and even those who’ve just heard about us and are curious to learn more. We had some great food and even better conversations. It got me thinking about my pre-conference experience at the Sustaining Libraries Symposium, and in particular, our session on Building Relationships. At the beginning of the session, we were asked to think about this question: Who are your community supporters? As I looked around the room of about 200 people I thought, “They’re right here!” And they’re reading this post, and they’re having conversations in our discussion boards, and they’re attending webinars, and they’re taking online courses, and they’re always finding new ways to do the important work that they do better.
Your own community supporters will expand far beyond our group. They probably include foundations, government agencies, schools, churches, hospitals, businesses and dedicated volunteers. I’m also betting that your relationships with each of these institutions vary depending on your resources, community, and vision for your library. But no matter where you and your partner are, there are some key concepts that can help foster your community relationships. Here’s what I learned from our session:
The best synopsis of this material came from a fellow participant: Partnerships are between PEOPLE—not institutions.
I hope our Member Reception provided another opportunity to build relationships with one another. The relationships we build with each other makes us stronger and better able to articulate our value as we move outside the library to seek new partnerships.
The Dangerous Ideas* session presented at PLA on Friday morning should be on the agenda for every library conference. It started a conversation that speaks to the survival and the vitality of libraries as they evolve into the future.
As Darwin discovered, it’s not necessarily the swiftest or strongest or largest species that survive; it is those most adaptable to change. The dangerous ideas conversation is all about adaptation and change. It begins with the question “What if …?”
(This is just a sampling of the provocative questions raised.)
Half of the “what ifs” above came from the audience as a result of the refreshing level of interactivity. (What if all conference sessions stimulated participation from the audience?) Questioning assumptions is contagious and uncomfortable. There was anxiety and reaction mixed with excitement. In the atmosphere of brainstorming “unthinkable thoughts,” the point is to confront the discomfort, find the opportunities, and then move forward with actions.
One audience member suggested that the next PLA (2010) should be totally focused on “what if?” Someone else said we can’t wait that long—that the next PLA should be one grand discussion of the results of two years of action.
Catch the fever at whatiflibs.wetpaint.com.
*Presenters: Deirdre Routt/Omaha PL, Stacey Aldrich/California State Library, Brian Auger/Howard County Library, Amy de Groff/Howard County Library, Rivkah Sass/Omaha PL
I had planned to start the day off with my old (not in age, of course) reference professor Joe Janes’ session: “What Does it Take to be Good at Reference” but I had two (two!) flat tires on my bike this morning. Let me tell you, that makes for a long commute.
I finally made it to Nancy Pearl’s Q&A and then stayed through to the day-ending Virtual Happy Hour. Here are some of my brief thoughts on the event:
The Virtual Conference Format/Tools
All this stuff worked surprisingly well. The PLA folks, along with the Learning Times production team, did an outstanding job of keeping things on time and engaging. The conferencing platform—Adobe Connect—works similarly to Wimba, WebJunction’s conferencing tool, allowing participants to see slides, video, listen to audio, and chat with the hosts or other participants. Sure, we’d occasionally lose sound or a video feed, but considering the challenges of running live, streaming media for a national conference, these were tiny blips.
The term “rock star” is way overdone in the library world but if anyone qualifies for the title, it’s Nancy. The session was billed as “conversation” and lived up the expectation. Nancy took questions during an open chat hour and covered them all, frankly and in rapid-fire succession.
And on and on… Needless to say, the hour went very fast.
The “Why Do We Dewey” Session
This was a very interesting, info-packed presentation on how the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library embraced an experiment to merge the best of the bookstore shelving format, foundations of Dewey, and their staff expertise to develop a customer-centric shelving/display “neighborhood.” They piloted the project for their travel collection and shared their best practices and lessons learned from the project.
My favorite item from the talk could work anywhere—travel bags! What they do is pull together bags of travel guides, brochures, maps, and more for popular travel destinations such as Napa Valley. The bags are designed to give patrons all the information they need to have a successful trip, all in one bag. As a bonus, people who check out these bags also get a T-shirt: “I booked my Trip at Topeka and Shawnee County Library.” Patrons are asked to send in a picture of them wearing the shirt on the trip. What a great marketing hook!
Virtual Happy Hour
I’m sure many of you are wondering what a Virtual Happy Hour is. I know I was.
It turns out there was little in the way of bargain-priced well-drinks or marinaded chicken wings, but there was plenty of conversation in the form of a lightly-moderated chat that allowed participants to share their thoughts about the day’s programming.
Though I felt slightly duped by the Happy Hour moniker, I agree it was a great way for the organizers to collect feedback on the day while encouraging participants to interact with each other in a fashion similar to how they would at a face-to-face conference happy hour (tomorrow, though, I’m going to find a way to have a cocktail).
That’s it for today. If you attended a session (or not), and have thoughts to share on the virtual conference experience, please post them here in the blog comments.
What makes conferences great is having/making the time to connect with other library folks doing great work and getting ideas and inspiration to keep-on-keeping-on. With this year’s PLA Virtual conference and lots of talk about how we can use virtual spaces to connect, I can’t help get excited about the possibilities! Some of you may have heard me refer to what I call the “continuum of engagement” that makes for a rich and relevant community, whether online or face to face (f2f). The more we explore different learning styles, comfort zones and various levels of engagement the closer we become to acknowledging the varied venues for community building. I think that virtual conference spaces certainly increase the options for engagement with folks who are financially (or otherwise) unable to attend physical venues or with others who may feel or come to feel more comfortable presenting or participating in an online environment. I just listened to the panel members in the WJ hosted session Mix It Up: Using Blended Learning for Staff Training highlight the ways we can blend various virtual and f2f learning opportunities, and I think many of the same strategies extend to the continuum of engagement in which we share and learn with each other in any environment or venue. I’m excited to explore all the options with you in the WJ community, and look forward to our “blended conferences” in the years to come, but now I’m off to some very special f2f time…our WJ Member Reception! I promise I’ll take lots of pictures!
I was late to the session Caught in the Middle: Immigration Controversy and Public Libraries (see session 316) because I kept chatting with people after the OCLC Update Breakfast, where Jay Jordan gave an update about OCLC for the packed room. I entered the room as Loida Garcia-Febo of Queens Public Library was discussing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which ensures equal access to information for all. This joined nicely with the Opening Session John Wood speech, where he announced, similar to the Millenium Development Goals, Room to Read‘s own modified goals to provide an education for 10 million children in the developing world by 2020.
It’s an interesting sign of an increasingly globalized world that international policy documents, including the Library Bill of Rights, are being referenced as guides for creating local policy and service. While libraries are subject to local legislation, Garcia-Febo, and other presenters made the case that libraries can be advocates for the rights of all the residents of their communities, documented or not. These international policy documents can serve as a guide and compass for human rights-based local policy and law.
The four Cs of the OCLC Language Set Program: Content, Community, Catalog, Campaign; will be defined for PLA attendees in an update of multi-language “Language Set” offerings today (Thursday) at 3:30 at the Hyatt Regency Rooms. I look forward to representing WebJunction and sharing my experience with Spanish language collection development and the OCLC Language Set Program in support of this great initiative. Come and learn…
…about the community-building, life-changing, essential importance of libraries, that is.
PLA kicked off with keynote speaker John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. On top of being engaging, energetic, and funny, he really is changing at least a portion of the world. In the eight years since Wood delivered the first load of books on the back of a yak (named Zach) to a remote Nepali village, his organization has established over 5,100 libraries in South/Southeast Asia and South Africa.
For a striking comparison, Wood displayed a bar chart comparing the number of stores opened by Starbucks around the world since 2000 with the number of libraries opened by Room to Read. At first, Starbucks held a strong lead over the fledgling non-profit, but in the last three years, the library effort has surged ahead. More than a frivolous comparison, it’s a challenge that Wood took on, one he dubbed the “Starbucks test.”
“If they can open Starbucks at a rapid rate, why can’t we open schools and libraries at the same rate?”
Photos of kids beaming with excitement shone from the screen; heart-warming stories were told of the priceless rewards that come from empowering kids and communities. It’s inspiring to see what can be done in so short a time. Of course, we gave him a standing ovation.
Now that the SLO pre-conference is done, I can focus my attention on the PLA sessions that kick off tomorrow. Here are my conference session picks:
Yesterday, WebJunction’s Spanish Language Outreach Program hosted an all day pre-conference for over thirty librarians from across the country. Trainers Bertha Huertero, Bruce Pomerantz, and Rachel Rubin did an outstanding job of sharing their knowledge and experience about implementing effective outreach to Spanish speakers!
We were honored to host guest speakers, Sr. Ricardo Hernandez, Consul General of the Mexican Consulate and Sr. Jesse Bethke Gomez, President of Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicios (CLUES). Both speakers shared their insights about the needs of the Latino community in the Minneapolis area.
CLUES is Minnesota’s premier provider of behavioral health and human services to the Latino community. A community builder and a catalyst for change, CLUES provides services that advance and enhance the quality of Latino’s lives in Minnesota, including: Mental Health Services, Chemical Health Services, Family Services, Aging Well Services, Employment Services, and Educational Services. They are doing amazing work by providing programs and services to the Latino community that meet the needs of the “whole family”.
Sr. Gomez strongly encouraged our participants to approach outreach to their Spanish-speaking patrons in a similar “family centric” way.
For those of us who can’t attend PLA 2008 in Minneapolis this week, we are relying on reports via blogs, Twitter, Flickr streams, and more to keep up on the happenings. With the conference getting underway, I thought I’d share some notable links to get started:
Keep an eye out for some posts from the WebJunction attendees as well!
At WebJunction, we can’t get enough of of the public library community. Which is why so many of us are winging it to Minneapolis next week for the PLA National Conference. Our reception and other events, provide a chance to meet with many of our members and partners. But outside of these “official” events, we’d like to extend an open invitation to contact us and try to arrange a time or strike up a conversation about almost anything you might be interested in.
Everyone listed following the jump will be at the show. You’ll find our email addresses, plus some topics we’re especially passionate about. Or stop by our spot in the OCLC booth (#617) if you don’t see an email. However we connect, we’d love to meet at PLA 2008!
It’s time for the Public Library Association’s National Conference, and the WebJunction team will be there! We have several great events happening and we’re hoping you can join us. For the latest updates, see our WebJunction @ PLA 2008 page which also includes some information about our sponsorship of the Virtual Conference. To let us know you’re coming, and to set up reminders for these and related OCLC events, check out the OCLC PLA registration tool.
Here’s the quick list of where WebJunction will be, to get you started:
WebJunction Member Reception: Thursday March 27th from 5:30pm-8pm, Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Registration is not required (though it helps us plan for food and drink quantities…)
That’s right – the opportunity to mingle, chat, and share drinks that you know and love from ALA Annual is coming to PLA 2008! Stop by after a long day of conference sessions, unwind, strike up some conversations, meet new people, and connect with the WebJunction staff. Jay Jordan and our own Marilyn Mason will share a bit about why 2008 will be such an important year for WebJunction and our partners and members.
Feel like taking a stroll through the exhibit hall? Meet us at the WebJunction station in the OCLC booth (#617). Hours are:
Grab some coffee and join us for breakfast, at the WebJunction tables in the OCLC Update Breakfast: Thursday March 27th, 7:30-8:30am; Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, Regency Room
Sessions we’re supporting:
Preconference 5: Spanish Language Outreach
Tuesday March 25th, 8:30am – 5:30pm, Minneapolis Convention Center, Room M100 A-B and I-J. Advanced registration via the PLA conference site is required.
WebJunction’s Spanish Language Outreach Program equips library staff with knowledge and resources to reach out to Spanish speakers to increase their access to technology. The workshop provides library staff with information on proven marketing techniques, understanding cultural differences, providing technology training, partnering with local community organizations serving Spanish speakers, and highlights free outreach resources available on WebJunction. The workshop is part of a national grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With WebJunction’s Laura Staley, and Presenters: Bertha Huertero, Circulation Services Manager, San Diego County (Calif.) Public Library; Bruce Pomerantz, Library Development Specialist, Minnesota State Library Services, Roseville; Rachel Rubin, Adult Services Librarian, Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library.
Mix It Up: Using Blended Learning for Staff Training
Thursday March 27th, 2:00pm; Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium Room 2
Join us for a discussion of panelists’ experiences implementing staff training programs with an e-learning focus. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how your organization could harness the benefits of e-learning. You’ll also understand how to demonstrate the value of e-learning to stakeholders and build “learning communities.”
From Hype to Help: Making a Difference with New Technologies
Saturday March 29th, 10:15am; Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 101 A-C
Library agencies working to support library staff often struggle with the staff-time and financial resources required to reach and engage everyone. New tools for developing online community and cooperative content management for library staff can help. Looking beyond the hype towards practical applications and workable solutions, panelists will discuss their experiences creating customized online communities and cooperative programs for library staff. They’ll share stories from their experiences with interactive, shared content management and collaboration tools on the Web—with a focus on tools that don’t cost a fortune to implement or maintain. Panel members will describe how community-based content and program development saves resources, shares best-practices, and engages more of the library staff they seek to serve.
As a side note, the PLA team is doing a nice job blogging about events, guides, and activities at the conference. [PLA Blog]
See you in Minneapolis.