The Future Comes to ALA Midwinter!

The 2017 ALA Midwinter conference in Atlanta, Georgia featured some forward-thinking sessions sponsored by ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries gathered under an umbrella called “The Symposium on the Future of Libraries.”  As a member of the Center’s Advisory Committee, I was honored to join others in reviewing proposed sessions, and provided some write-ups for American Libraries of the excellent sessions selected.  The full articles available online here and here.

Here are my raw notes and photos from the sessions I covered:

Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich will, as she says, talk to anyone with 5 minutes to spare about sustainability.  Not in terms of what water bottles or recycle bins are the best, but the in terms of strategic directions to have the “capacity to endure.”

“I want to make sure we’re fulfilling our missions in a way that matters – especially in terms of ensuring policymakers in our communities have an understanding of modern libraries and are worthy of investment.”
Photo of Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

In a fiery, inspirational style — and citing the many disruptive factors in the environment, politics, society, technology, and more — Rebekkah stirred the audience (including several calls-and-responses, including several “hell yeahs”) to engage on some of the pressures libraries are feeling and how sustainability is attainable throughout all of the change.

One place for librarians to start is by exploring what they believe (in terms of values) and expressing those to empower, engage and energize their libraries and communities. Using the “Triple Bottom Line” test (Is this environmentally sound?  Is this economically feasible? Is this socially Equitable?), librarians can ensure that the most important bases are covered as they make decisions about services, buildings and — hopefully — engaging in their communities beyond library walls.

One of Rebekkah’s key messages is that in all times — including time of crisis — libraries are one of the most important places in each community to not just respond, rebuild and restore — but to thrive and endure.

Interested in more?  Rebekkah invites all librarians to Join the Sustainability Round Table:


Immersive and Interactive: Virtual Reality In a Contextually-rich Learning Environment

You might have heard about VR (Virtual Reality).  How can Virtual Reality content be used in learning?

Photo of Presenters

Matthew Boyer (Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations, Clemson University College of Education) and Stephen Moysey (Associate Professor, Clemson University Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences) explored that very question at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta.

VR is currently available in several forms — including forms involving “Google Cardboard” viewers that offer VR on mobile phones to more immersive experiences that require more powerful computing hardware such as Oculus Rift.

One application that the pair demoed is a VR-powered visit to the Grand Canyon.  Called a Virtual Reality Field Trip, the use of VR here is to “bring the field to the students.”  Good VRFT design is tied, of course, to good course design.  The VR experiences are aligned to the content and learning goals of classes with the “in the field”-like experience of interacting with the geography and elements that one might experience in a real-life trip to the Grand Canyon.

There are lots of options to dabble in VR, including a wealth of pre-recorded VR content online (viewable via Google Cardboard).

For those wanting to try making their own VR, there are fancy 360-degree cameras available, but much simpler approaches are also possible.  Through the use of Google Street View on a mobile phone, nearly anyone (those physically able to move the camera to cover the 360-degree field — the software “stitched” the image together t make things seamless) can manually capture a 360-degree photo that can be viewed in a VR context such as Google Cardboard.

The presenters are also fans of what they call “emancipating VR” – although for some the technology seems like science fiction (and only suitable for expensive gear and development platforms), using simpler approaches like Google Streetview and online services such as Thinglink ( to put things together, the onramp for library VR may be simpler and quicker than many think.

21st Century Library Ethics

San Rafael, California Library Director Sarah Houghton – a renowned library ethics advocate (see her popular blog at for more) — brought her message to a standing room only session Monday morning at ALA Midwinter.Sarah Houghton

Making note of political tensions among librarians in the wake of the new US presidential administration, controversy among librarians in light of the new US administration (“I’ve seen librarians eating librarians in the hallway…”) Sarah encouraged the crowd in a deep breath (in and out) and think about ALA’s founding documents as a north star to steer by in challenging times.

Quoting a popular – and controversial — tweet from the Storytime Underground “LIBRARIANS ARE NOT NEUTRAL AND LIBRARIES ARE NOT NEUTRAL SPACES,”   Libraries are inclusive, Sara says, but certain materials libraries make available and the publics served by libraries offend people every day.

In her talk, Sarah used the framework of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights to revisit what librarians say about their own ethics and apply them to current situations.  One easy rallying point for most libraries — and with little controversy among librarians – is fighting censorship in all of its forms.

Despite ALA’s Code of Ethics’ theme of freedom, Sara says parts of the code create the most heated discussion among librarians – with each statement (and even segments of each statement) drawing a wide range of opinions and interpretations.

In terms of ensuring the free-flow of information, Sarah called out Digital Rights Management (DRM) that allows content creators to “lock” content that can only be opened with a special digital key – meaning without that key it’s possible and even likely that information will not be available in the future.

Currently under threat is the concept of “Net Neutrality.”  There are commercial interests that want to create “Internet fast and slow lanes” instead of today’s open Internet – which is another way of censoring information by virtue of making it slower to access.  Also problematic are vendors libraries working with libraries – with some sacrificing user confidentiality and privacy.

Resources to equip librarians include the Library Privacy Project, the Library Digitial Privacy Pledge, the IFLA Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment, and ALA’s soon-to-be-released Library Privacy Guidelines (in checklist form friendly to all sizes of libraries).

Despite Sarah’s personal convictions – and referring to item VII in the Code of Ethics — she urges the librarians to check personal biases and preference at the library door when coming into work to best serve the entire community.

Sara’s session covered much more ground – I’m not sure I’ve seen as many people in a library conference taking careful notes — all at the same time.

 Created with Andy Woolworth, Sarah shared a new project called Operation 451 ( to suggest positive ethical actions for librarians in challenging times.

Registration is open for my Management of Technology Class!

It’s that time again!  Registration is open for an online course I teach called “Management of Technology” designed to help library workers of all stripes have  a better understanding of concepts and tools to use tech more powerfully to serve their communities. The class begins in February!

Signup info from the American Library Association is below!


Management of Technology<> | Cost: $350 |




Dates: February 6 – March 19, 2017
Instructor: Carson Block<>
Times: Online asynchronous sessions with access to recordings.

*   Sessions and materials will be made available on six sequential Mondays.
*   There will be a recorded lecture each week as well as occasional live sessions in which the instructor will address specific questions and context from the participants regarding the course material
*   A link to a recording of each session will be made available to the students shortly after each session concludes

Course Description: This course puts the full power of information technology into the hands of library managers and leaders. You’ll start with a clear vision and an understanding of technology policy.  Next, you’ll consider the nuts and bolts of managing technology.  Technology planning is next followed by technology implementation, and finally, evaluation. The course is presented in plain language with many concrete examples and exercises. Topics include: connecting your library’s goals to technological possibilities, monitoring and administrating technology budgets, assessing resources, drawing a line between efforts and impacts, evaluating those efforts and making course corrections, and understanding and using emerging technologies. You will assemble your own Technology Planning Kit, which will help you create your own library technology plan. Course tools include spreadsheet and tally sheet templates for you to download to evaluate budgets, inventory populations served and electronic services provided, inventory hardware and software, and calculate the relationship between the cost and value of a technology investment.

Technology Requirements: Reliable Internet connection; Java-enabled web browser; PDF Reader; IBM Compatible PC with at least 400 MB RAM with Windows XP/7 or above or Macintosh with OS8 or above; 128 MB RAM; sound card with speakers and/or earphones; color monitor with at least 800×600 resolution. Contact: Pamela Akins,<>

Logo for the Certified Public Library Administrator program

Logo for the organization for the advancement of library employees

ALA Annual 2015

ALA 2015 conference logo


It’s time again for the annual gathering of library people in the US — this time in San Francisco, CA.

I’m a presenter for two sessions at ALA – if it fits your schedule, please swing by!

Top Technology Trends  This program features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology by a panel of LITA technology experts. The panelists will describe changes and advances in technology that they see having an impact on the library world, and suggest what libraries might do to take advantage of these trends. More information on Top Tech Trends:

Lib*Interactive@SXSW – growing and thriving  2015 was the best year ever for library activity at the annual South by Southwest EDU, Interactive, Film, and (yes) even music conferences. SXSW needs librarians — and to stay current with trends, technology and marketing libraries need SXSW. Interested? Come to this informative and (ahem) interactive session to get the skinny and get involved! There’s a place for everyone — from the leading/bleeding edge to the laid back and supportive!

Will you be at ALA too?  If so I would love to see you!  I know everyone’s dance cards are full for the conference — so please feel free to get in touch to set up an appointment!

ALA Candidate Interviews!

**Update 5/8: Congrats to Dr. Julie Todaro! **


Original Post:

We see the names (and some are our friends) but we don’t always have the chance to chat about the issues — including technology in libraries and thoughts about leadership.  In late 2014 I talked with the four American Library Association presidential candidates for the 2016-2017 term.  The conversations were compelling and help each candidate differentiate themselves from each other.

The process was simple – each candidate was asked the same set of questions, and questions were provided in advance of the interview.  The interviews were not released (even to the candidate) until all had been completed.  Here they are, in the order they were completed between late November and Mid-December 2014:

JP Porcaro

Joseph Janes

Jamie LaRue

Dr. Julie Todaro

Who should lead ALA?  I hope the interviews give you a head start in making your choice.

Update March 2015 – Steve Thomas is featuring interviews with all four candidates in his excellent podcast series here.  The more you know…! 

Voting begins in late March 2015 – ALA will send voting information to each member at that time via email.

Recruiting for Library Tech!

I’m helping two public libraries recruit for technology positions in Toledo OH (Virtual Services Coordinator) and Tacoma WA (IT Manager).


Virtual Services Coordinator in Toledo, OH

Do you want to harness the talent at the Toledo-Lucas Public Library to break new ground in Virtual Services?  Become its first-ever Virtual Services Coordinator!  Your strong technology vision and excellent communication skills are valued here!  Salary range: 70’s to 100’s depending on experience.


IT Manager in Tacoma, WA

Love managing library IT? Love the northwestern US lifestyle?  The Tacoma Public Library is hiring an IT Manager to lead an excellent IT staff in delivering customer-driven solutions in a supportive environment. Salary range is $80k – $97k.


If you are interested in either of these positions I would love to talk.  Nothing formal — just a chat to touch base.  Please get in touch and we will set it up!