Benson Memorial Library, Books, Chattanooga Public Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Technology

Ditching The Hype and Focusing on The Community

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This is where I live. This is the community I serve.

Like a computer our brains need to be restarted every once in awhile. Events and shifts over the last few years of my life have made me realize this. I no longer work to only serve kids, tweens, and teens. I no longer live in an urban area. I no longer live in a world which I fully understand. My life these days is very different than what it used to be, and with that I feel the need to reset myself. This post is an attempt to put this reset into practice using words to coalesce my thoughts into one coherent belief that moves me forward in my work as a librarian.

I believe that a strong part of the future of public libraries will be in focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level. This differentiates from where I believe public libraries are focusing their efforts now, which is looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession to see what they are doing before acting themselves. No more is this apparent to me than the recent effort for public libraries to shift a lot of focus towards STEM/STEAM/Makerspace/Coding efforts. Please do not get me wrong: I believe in teaching and exposing citizens to things such as these, yet at the same time I do not believe in a one size fits all solution that can be applied to every public library. This is the case here, as it was with eBooks and any other “trends” in recent history.

The idea that we should be focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level instead of looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession is doing became clear to me when I was completing a survey sent to me by our State Library. In that survey, participants were asked about STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and nothing else. I understand that the point of the survey was to better understand the libraries in my state, but while reading it I thought of the following scenarios as I imagined another librarian in my state reading the email:

  1. The State Library is focused on STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and we’re not doing this at all so we must be very behind.
  2.  The State Library created a survey about this, so it must be very important and I must get behind this trend even though I do not know if it is right for my community.
  3. I need to learn more about all things related to STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and if I do not I risk losing patrons and support.

I understand that not everyone will follow one of the paths that I laid out above, but many will.  Human beings are creatures of habit and enjoy following the leader. There is probably something embedded into our DNA that makes us this way.

The problem with following the hype and trend of the moment is that it is usually fixated on something that worked well for one particular library and that it does not translate well to other libraries. When I lived in Portland, ME I felt like my library was focused on what happened everywhere else and the idea that “if they’re doing, we should be heading that way too.” In reality, Portland was its own very unique community that needed a specific set of programs and services. A huge part of why I moved to the Chattanooga Public Library in 2013 was because they were looking (and still do) at their programs and services on a hyperlocal level. Programs like DEV DEV, The 4th Floor, Makeanooga, and many more worked and continue to work because they are programs for that community, not programs that were copied/pasted from what someone else in public libraries was doing.

Why are we at where we are now? I believe that social media, large organizations, and large publications have led the charge towards public libraries focusing outwards towards everyone else in the profession instead of inspiring those in the profession to think for themselves and focus inward on their communities. A culture of “here’s how to be successful with your public library in 5 easy steps” combined with ego boosting catchphrases like “rock star librarian” have not helped us but instead presented public libraries with the path of least resistance.

How do we change the conversation? 

  • We need more public librarians out there willing to share their stories about how their focus on a hyperlocal level is benefiting their public library and their community. To start, I recommend following the work of librarians and libraries in New Zealand and Australia. You can do that by starting here with this Twitter list that I have compiled. The work done by the people and organizations is focused, inspiring, and uplifting.
  • Share through any platform that you feel comfortable with. I personally would like to see an increase in public librarians writing more and maintaining their own blogs or Medium profiles
  • Remind each other that our communities come before everything and to keep the message positive. Support and reminders from other public librarians is one way that we can spread the message that we need to focus our work locally.

Ditch the hype. Don’t copy and paste. Focus on your Community. This is what I believe to be the path forward.

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Libraries, Social Media

This is big: David Lankes releases “Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World” on Medium

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Interested in reading David Lankes great book “Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World”???  Well now you can, for free, over at the excellent site Medium.

I think this is huge.  Why?  Medium is something I can see becoming a very big tool on the internet for sharing information.

1. I’ve been dabbling with Medium for some time.  To me, it feels like the next step in the evolution of blogging/writing online.

2. I’ve never really been clear on what Medium can be.  Is it a site for blog like writing?  It is a site for simple sharing?  Is it a site for long form publishing?  David releasing his ENTIRE book on Medium shows me that Medium is ANYTHING that we want it to be.

3. It has amazing design.  Articles published on Medium look beautiful and are easy to read.  The interface for the writer (statistics, collections, etc) are easy to manage and great to browse.

Once again, David Lankes has put himself out ahead of the curve in the library world and released a full (and amazing) book on Medium.  This isn’t one of those “this could be big” moments.  This is one of those “THIS IS BIG” moments.

And one final thing: I really love how David handled this question on Twitter:

Rdlankes

Libraries, Social Media, Technology

Statistics: Blogging VS Medium

Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)

In two days, my post on Medium about Teen Tech Trends has been viewed 926 times and read 589.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 295 views per day.

In three years, my most popular post on this blog was viewed/read 15,045 times.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 14 views per day.

I don’t know what this means.  There are lots of variables that could be factored into this like tracking how many times these stories have been tweeted/liked/+1’d and more.

It could mean absolutely nothing or it could be a sign of a shift in how we write/share things on the internet.

No matter what, I thought that these statistics were pretty interesting.

Libraries, Social Media, Technology

Why Medium may be awesome for libraries

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Last week, I got an invite to test out Medium, a new publishing site developed by the folks behind Blogger and Twitter.  Over the past week, I’ve been dabbling in it and it hit me that Medium could be a really awesome tool for libraries to use.

So what is Medium?  I’ll let the developers tell you all about it (click here for more):
It’s great that you can be a one-person media outlet, but it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in a world of increasingly overwhelming quantities of content, how do we direct our attention to what’s most valuable, not just what’s interesting and of-the-moment?

When I created my first collection (titled Public Libraries) and posted my first two pieces, this idea came to mind:

MEDIUM CAN HELP COLLECT YOUR TEENS STORIES
Teens have a lot to say.  If you don’t believe this, spend 15 minutes at a teen service desk in a public library and you’ll change your mind.  Most of these conversations happen daily and then they’re left floating in the ether, never really collected to share.  Medium can solve this!  Why not develop a teen program based around Medium.  Set up a collection in Medium called “Daily Stories from the Teen Library” and encourage teens to post their stories there.  If they’re not into posting those stories, why not collect them as the teen librarian and share those stories?

You can also use Medium as a way to collect stories created by teens in writing workshops at the library.  If Medium had existed when we ran our Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game program back in 2010 at my library, I know that I would’ve used it to collect the awesome stories told by the teens.

COLLECT YOUR STAFF EXPERTISE
One of the conversations the administration at my library has been having is centered around staff expertise and how to share that with the greater community.  Currently, we use our blog to do that and plan on expanding that more when our website relaunches in 2013.  With collections in Medium, you could start a collection which your staff can contribute to.  Collections have the option of being open to anyone to contribute or can be limited to those who are invited.  Think about how neat it would be to have a ANYTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY collection with posts written by your staff.  It would be a great way to share your staff knowledge.

Here’s my profile on Medium.  It shows the collections I have created and also all of the contributions I have made to other collection.

I ❤ Video Games Collection is one of my favorite collections.  Click here to read what others have contributed to this collection.