Dashboard Time

I love driving in Colorado – even during the winter months. Especially during the winter months!  Yesterday I kicked off the first of eleven site visits to rural Colorado libraries with a drive to the Redfeather Lakes Community Library.  It  had snowed the day before – and through my front window I took in the beauty of late fall/early winter Colorado.

These network assessments — for the Colorado State Library, and funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — are designed to help libraries have a better understanding of their Internet connections, their local network and associated technologies to continue serving the public with access to computers and the Internet.  The assessments will also help libraries understand their connectivity options, as well as ways to make the best use of their technology resources.

The drive yesterday took me back to my roots — years ago I worked for the High Plains Regional Library Service System in Colorado (one of seven regional systems — since replaced by the most excellent Colorado Library Consortium – or CLiC) and I spent many hours logging miles and seeing the beautiful state across the dashboard.  Yesterday was like slipping back in time in the best possible way.

Another thing that was unchanged was the warm welcome from library staff — and seeing just how important rural libraries are to the fabric of the community.

My favorite photo is below.  Due to the lack of access in the mountains, Redfeather encourages patrons to connect to the Internet whenever they happen to make it into the tiny town.  Free wireless access is available from the parking lot – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  For some residents, it’s their only option.

Internet access for people in rural areas is an essential part of modern life.  Sometimes the library is their only connection to the networked world.

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Lucky 13

2013, that is!

As we embrace the new I’m thankful for so much — and especially all of the excellent people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.  The projects have been stimulating and satisfying — from facilities master planning, technology planning, tech assessments, coaching, keynote speeches at conferences, teaching, and other activities.  But the real joy has been working with so many outstanding people, all across the country.

As libraries face some of the greatest challenges in their histories, they are also in some very good hands.

Experienced librarians are using their wisdom and knowledge to navigate through the murky waters of eMaterials and remind us that although formats change, the core mission of the public library — connecting people to information, ideas and enrichment as a public-funded good — endures.

New generations of librarians are entering the profession with a native understanding of digital formats, multiple modes of communication and the power of customer service.  These librarians are asking all of the right questions — and with the  spirit and energy to “make it happen” or #mih.

The combination of these elements makes me feel very lucky indeed.

Here’s to you, and to all the best in 2013!

Summertime, summertime…

Well, I’m not the most active blogger on the planet. An update once a quarter is enough, right? :o) Lots of cool things are on the schedule for the rest of the year, including a July keynote address for the WiLS World Conference in Wisconsin! I’ve also been invited to join the audience and participation workstream for the Digital Public Library of America — honored and thrilled!

Speaking is always a blast, but I love working directly with clients even more! Library Facility Master Planning (tech) has been so much fun, and working with other libraries on technology reviews and improvement plans has been just as great. When doing the tech reviews/audits, the IT pieces are often the simplest, and what really needs the most attention are the people who make it all happen, and the communication structures that connect everyone. There’s also been lots of action on the eBook and eMaterials front — it’s on everyone’s minds and libraries are beginning to take action!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I love my work!

Other talks include TEDx FoCo (yowsa!), the Marmot User’s Group meeting (another yowsa!), Internet Librarian (Yowsa yowsa!), The New York Library Association (yowsa yowsa yowsa!), and more!

I have a mid-year’s resolution is to blog more frequently. Wish me luck!

New year — new libraries and new issues!

I love my work!

In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to help improve library technology efforts and staffing structures, coach some very talented individuals, teach (CPLA Technology Management), facilitate (helping libraries find their vision for technology, set goals, and create the roadmap to get there) and speak (“eBooks!  Get your eBooks!”).  Yowsa!

The beginning of 2012 has all that and more — including technology program planning for several new and existing library construction projects across the nation (quite literally from sea to shining sea),  helping libraries and communities identify and realize their vision for library technology, strategic technology planning  and evaluating the effectiveness of LSTA-funded technology efforts.

I’m also settling into my duties as the President of the Colorado Public Library Association (CoPLA), working with an outstanding CoPLA team, as well as serving on the Executive Board (another dynamite group) of the the Colorado Library Association.

I’m seeing more than ever before — and seeing how important it is for all of us serve from where we are.

As institutions, libraries continue to serve the public good like no other,  yet are facing threats ranging  from perennial funding challenges to a coming crisis over electronic content.  We’re well familiar with the funding issues, but e-content (especially eBooks, but also audio and moving picture media) is still a bit fuzzy.  Libraries have hundreds of options to purchase and loan physical materials — but less than a  handful of options to lease and loan eBooks.

Some are simply waiting for things to “settle out.”  Waiting is risky — librarians are among the very few (again, less than a handful) who know and see the public good being served.  If we truly value information access for citizens, we can’t wait for someone else to do something.  It’s our job to ensure that the essential and unique  role of public libraries — connecting people to valuable information and enrichment at no direct cost as a publically-funded good — endures.

The good news is that taking action need not be a grand political gesture.  Little things, if we all do them where we are, could have a huge effect.  Just talking with those we serve could be enough.

The most recent Perceptions of Libraries report from OCLC  indicates that librarians are trusted.  In a world where we often feel at an arms length from companies (such those who give us prices too low to ignore, but we never seem to completely trust them) trust is a rare and beautiful thing.

A moment is coming that you can seize — when the next wave of folks with bright shiny eBook readers begin flooding into your libraries after the holidays.  They’re coming because when it comes to reading — and books — the library is the place to go. It doesn’t matter if the book is physical or digital. According to the “Perceptions” report, the book remains the brand of the library.  But from experience, we know that our eBook lending systems are not only few, but they’re imperfect.  I’m thankful for the vendors and non-profits currently providing eBooks to libraries, but we really need more and better ways to connect people with electronic materials.

The flood of new eReaders is a golden opportunity to not just help patrons with their new devices, but to also talk about the issues.  Many libraries are taking the ball and helping patrons understand eReaders, but not so many are sharing that eBooks in libraries are a whole new game, with rules that are changing every day, and no certain time when this whole thing is going to settle out.  I know not knowing the answers is uncomfortable for many librarians, but I think this is a case where sharing the challenges with patrons will help us form the right questions, together.

I want to wish you all the best in 2012!  Thanks for visiting the site, and please get in touch if I can help you in any way!

Thankful this holiday season for Books, eBooks and Buildings

I’ve  been doing lots of speaking lately about eBooks lately (at the California Library Association annual conference, the PLA eBook webinar that just wrapped up, a PLA Facebook chat on eBooks, and more to come…) as well as projecting the impacts of eMaterials on the built environment as part of current construction design projects!

Just as we saw the consumer market embrace eReaders last year around this time, eBooks have become *the* hot topic in library land.  During the course of the four-week PLA webinar, I was struck by how similar the issues are for libraries — from small to large.

There is a clear shift to digital in the publishing market, and the transition has been difficult for many libraries.  It’s a world of contrasts.  Patrons and many library staff love eMaterials.  Some library staff aren’t yet sold.  Libraries have very few (less than a handful) of eBook options to offer patrons.  There are many eReader devices on the market — seemingly a new one each week. Change is constant.

Despite the uncertainty — it’s clear that public libraries that haven not entered the eBook world should begin — first to understand, and then to help influence this shift in publishing for the benefit of the patrons we serve.

What stood out to me during the eBook webinar (which featured many guests weekly — including librarians, techs and vendors) is that all successful eBook projects had strong, visionary leadership at the core.  This element is key when so many aspects of eMaterials are still in the emerging stage.