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!