Visioning For A Library And Its Community

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Taking its work on the future of public libraries
to the next stage, the Aspen Institute has selected Winter Park,
Florida as one of five locations with which it will work closely to
develop a useful set of models for all kinds of public libraries.

As
part of that effort, Aspen and the library and City of Winter Park held
a day-long community dialogue and visioning meeting last Thursday.  (I
was asked to participate because I previously worked with Winter Park and I’m one of the small group of advisors to the Aspen Institute.)

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I
won’t use this space to repeat what I’ve said about libraries already,
but instead this is about the Aspen process of engaging citizens to
figure out the future of their communities.  What I’ll report below may
seem simple or even obvious, but it’s clear that the Aspen Institute has
been conducting these dialogues for a long time and has a sense of what
works.

Many of us, including myself, have seen enough such sessions accomplish little.  We appreciate it when this works well.

It
also helps that Winter Park is a city with engaged residents.  For a
city of about 26,000 people, the turnout of several dozen people for an
introductory session on Wednesday night was extraordinary, especially
considering that it was not well publicized.

So too was the
involvement all day Thursday of the Mayor, the City Manager, and another
member of the City Commission, in addition to the President of Full
Sail University, a leaders of Rollins College and Valencia Community
College.  Of course, various other local leaders who have been much
involved with the library joined them.

Thursday’s roundtable began
with a discussion of two topics:  Library Alignment With Community
Goals and The Library As A Platform For Community Development.  This
framing is all important, since the focus is on the community, not about
the library as a solitary building.

Sometimes the discussion was
all over the field.  Like the blind men and the elephant, this is
necessary for everyone to hear not so much what each thinks of the
overall thing (the library or even the community) but how it looks from
their particular perspective.  Unlike the story of the blind men, this
can work as long people then put together their perspectives to achieve
an understanding of the whole picture.

The pressure from a number
of local futurists also had an impact on the nature of the dialogue –
more on how do we keep up with a changing world, instead of the
too-frequent complaint I’ve heard elsewhere that “we don’t understand
these changes”.  I was pleased to hear local residents even talking
about the use of artificial intelligence in libraries, something that
I’ve blogged about but not heard even from many professionals.  This is a
good indication that, at least in this community, the library won’t be
overtaken by onrushing technological changes, including one that was made public as we were meeting.

Rather than just continue a general discussion, Aspen’s Amy Garmer then presented 15 possible action steps.
She asked each person to vote on those steps (singly or combined) they
thought most important so that the group could generate a list of three
actions they would start to implement.

This voting and the
discussion around it also had the effect getting people’s commitment to
their choices and thus acceptance of responsibility for follow-up
tasks.  And, indeed, as the day ended, several people stepped up to take
on the tasks.

So, in a day and an evening, there was a sequence
of futuristic visioning, discussion of community priorities and
commitments to substantive action steps.

Simple, yet not very often successfully done.

© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved 

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/145909807742/visioning-for-a-library-and-its-community]

New Funding For Libraries

The Metropolitan New York Library Council was invited to take part today in a working conference of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Information Technology on the digital divide, broadband and especially library funding.  We — Nate Hill, Executive Director, and myself as Board president — took the opportunity to address the large and developing problem of how to fund libraries in this century.

We noted that these subjects are all part of a larger problem.  Libraries are delivering more and more digital content and services to larger numbers of people, especially those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide or who still need help navigating the digital economy.  These increased services require much higher bandwidth than most libraries can now offer, which puts an unfair and arbitrary cap on how well people can be served.

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While the need for broadband in libraries and its value to the community is clear, what has been unclear and, at best, sporadic is the financing to make the broadband-based services possible.  When legislators only thought about libraries as just another one of the cultural resources for the state, library funding was limited to a piece of cultural funding.

Now that libraries offer a broader array of services and can offer even more in a digital broadband era, the funding should also be more diversified. 

• To the extent libraries support entrepreneurs and small business as both location for innovation and “corporate reference librarian”, a piece of the economic development budget should support libraries.• To the extent libraries support students, especially with homework help and after school resources, a piece of the very large education budget should support libraries.• To the extent libraries support workforce development and are the most cost-effective, often the only, way that adult learners can keep up their skills to be employable, a piece of the workforce development and public assistance budgets should support libraries.• To the extent libraries support public health education, a piece of the health budget should support libraries.

There are other examples, but the strategy is clear.  Library funding needs to come from a diverse set of sources, just as a good investor has a balanced portfolio and doesn’t have all the money in one stock.

Of course, in the longer run, public officials will recognize the role of the library as the central non-commercial institution of the knowledge age that we are entering.  As such, perhaps the permanent funding of libraries should be a very light tax on the commerce going to through the Internet to support the digital public services that are provided by libraries.

To some degree, the principle of basing support for library broadband on telecommunications revenues has been established with the Federal E-Rate program.  But the amounts are relatively small and the telecommunications base is traditional phone service, which is diminishing, not the Internet which is growing.

Whatever the source of funding may turn out to be, libraries need a consistent source of funding that grows with the demand for their services in this century.

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© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/140390575384/new-funding-for-libraries]

A National Library Service

Readers of this blog are aware that libraries have continued to adapt
to our evolving digital era. Most provide electronic materials, teach
people about digital literacy, help overcome the digital divide by
making Wi-Fi and even devices freely available, etc.  Some even support platforms for self-publishing.

But
libraries have yet to collectively take advantage of the Internet as a
national (even global) network that connects them all. This is
especially true for reference librarians.

This is not really a new
idea. There are a few examples of collaboration within state borders,
such as Florida’s Ask A Librarian.

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More than ten years ago, going
beyond one state to the whole nation, the Library of Congress helped
create the QuestionPoint service to provide

“libraries with access to a
growing collaborative network of reference librarians in the United
States and around the world. Library patrons can submit questions at any
time of the day or night through their library’s Web site. The
questions will be answered online by qualified library staff from the
patron’s own library or may be forwarded to a participating library
around the world.”

Although it’s now part of OCLC, QuestionPoint
certainly hasn’t grown in use as the Internet has grown in use. Indeed,
the movement for collaboration among libraries seems to have peaked
perhaps ten years ago. This is despite the fact that the demand for
these services has increased, while the tools to meet that demand have
become less expensive. The tools for collaboration – from social media
to videoconferencing – have vastly improved and become more common
recently.

In a world where everyone is drowning in a sea of
information, reference librarians have a unique and valuable role as
guides – the captains of the pilot boats on that sea. However, without
collaboration, every library would somehow have to have reference
librarians on staff who can quickly be expert on all matters. That’s
clearly impossible and no library can do the job adequately all alone.

But,
in its last report on employment, the American Library Association
reported that the USA has 70,000+ paid librarians and 150,000+ other
library staff. Imagine the impact if they worked together and
collaborated, each person specializing in some – but not all – subjects.
Each of these specialist reference librarians, networked together,
would be available to patrons everywhere in the country.

In this way, collaboration through the Internet would enable each library to:

  • Promote economies of scale, both becoming more cost-effective and more valuable
  • Broaden the library’s resource reach to better serve its local residents

Maureen
Sullivan, Past President of the American Library Association and my
colleague in the Aspen Institute’s working group on libraries, has
stated the situation clearly:

“With a nationally networked
platform, library and other leaders will also have more capacity to
think about the work they can do at the national level that so many
libraries have been so effective at doing at the state and local levels”

Jim
Neal, former head of the Columbia University Libraries, current member
of the board of the Metropolitan New York Library Council and hopefully
the next President of the American Library Association, wrote four years
ago wrote an article whose message was clear “Advancing From Kumbaya to Radical Collaboration: Redefining the Future Research Library”. While his focus was on research libraries, his call for radical collaboration should be heard by all libraries.

With
that in mind, Ronna C. Memer of the San Jose (California) Public
Library, reflecting on her 25 years of librarianship, wrote in a 2011
issue of the Collaborative Librarianship journal:

“Although some
collaborative efforts have recently been curtailed due to rising costs,
it seems that more rather than less collaboration would be most
cost-effective to library systems in coming years. As distinctions
between types of library services (e.g. online vs. face-to-face)
diminish, so too do some distinctions between types of library systems
(e.g. academic vs. public) as well as between library systems and other
institutions such as museums. Libraries, their staff and their patrons
all benefit from creative sharing of library resources and services.”

Other
fields of endeavor have created national networks. For example, the
National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy (NARDeP) Center is a
“flexible national network of scientists and analysts ready to quickly
meet the needs of local, state, and federal policy makers.”

Certainly, all libraries – networked together – can do the same thing for the residents of their communities.

© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/139429516062/a-national-library-service]

Helping A City Envision Its Future

There are some interesting developments happening in Winter Park, Florida.
  Established in the late 1800s as a winter haven for the wealthy of
northern states, it is now a city of about 29,000 people in the Orlando
metroplex.  

Although it has a nice quality of life, relative
affluence, other good aspects, etc., like every city, it faces its
challenges.  What makes it interesting is how the city is responding.

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For
many years, a significant part of the city felt that their library
needed to be replaced and brought into the new century.  This effort
came closer to reality with the creation of a library facility task force more than a year ago and, more recently, with three workshops in which hundreds of community residents participated.  

Needless
to say, this is not how the majority of new library building projects
go about planning.  It is an example of the open and collaborative
spirit of ACi Architects, the
architecture/urban design firm that the city retained, which is leading
this effort.  (This is clearly not the exercise in egotism that too many
architects practice.)

In my role as a member of the Advisory Group to the Aspen Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries,
I was invited to talk at one of these workshops about how the changes
in the world and libraries provided the basis for Aspen’s report and how
that report could inform their own plans for a future library.

Since
a good library is very much a part of the fabric of its community, it
is especially interesting that the library planning effort has been
conducted in parallel with a larger “community visioning” project to provide direction for all of the city for the next 50 years.

While
no city will ever achieve 100% agreement on anything, it’s been
fascinating to watch these efforts develop with generally civil
discussion – and visible in real time online to those who couldn’t be
there.  

This picture is from one of the breakout groups during a workshop.

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In
the case of the library workshops, part of the challenge is that the
best site for a new building is in a city park named for Martin Luther
King, Jr. and that there is also a need for what has been a civic center
(community meeting building).  So the design needed is not just for a
library building.

While this complicates things, it also
presents an opportunity to create something new which combines a new
library building and the recreational area around it – an opportunity to
create a kind of knowledge park or knowledge experience.  The library
can offer its services not only inside the building, but on it and
beyond in gazebos around the park – and a new civic forum space.

A
combination library/park/civic space is not common, but not rare
either.  Many large libraries sit in parks, most notably the New York
Public Library in Bryant Park.  But these two public amenities – the
library and the park – are not all that often integrated together.

Recently, WIRED Magazine in its design issue article, “8 Cities That Show You What the Future Will Look Like”,
featured Medellín’s Biblioteca Espana library/park that is “Combining
Libraries and Parks into Safe Spaces for All”, while serving and helping
to upgrade the impoverished neighborhood that surrounds it.

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The
New World Symphony in Miami Beach provides another model of how a park
can be integrated with cultural events inside a building.  With a large
video wall on the outside, it is a natural place for people to sit or
even picnic while listening to great music and seeing great musicians.

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Sometimes the park is jam-packed with listeners.

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Building
a library in a park offers similar possibilities.  Even the always
necessary garage for a library can be turned into a set of display walls
for the projection of knowledge outside of the building – and thus
upgrading, perhaps, hiding its parking function.  For instance, pictures
and text from the city’s African-American history museum could be made
more widely available this way.

Although no two cities are
exactly the same, Winter Park is a good example of an historic, but
relatively small, city that is now striving to re-define itself as part
of a larger metropolitan area in a 21st century digital economy.  For
that reason, I’ll be reporting back on how the residents proceed to set
an example for many other places in the USA and the rest of the world.

© 2015 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/130060753327/helping-a-city-envision-its-future]

Connecticut Dialogue on Public Libraries

I’ve written before about the important work of the Aspen Institute’s project, “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries.”  (I was a member of their Working Group and am still involved with the project.)

Yesterday, April 13, 2015, Aspen took the Dialogue on the road in a joint all-day meeting at the State Capitol in Connecticut, co-sponsored by the Connecticut State Library.  It was the first such statewide dialogue about the future of libraries.

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It brought together more than 100 elected officials, policymakers, business executives, leaders of civic organizations and those involved professionally and as trustees in libraries.  The diversity of participants was unusual – too often librarians just end up talking to themselves. 

The intent was two-fold:

“To identify strategic opportunities presented by the state’s public libraries in response to the educational, economic, social and technological transformations that are affecting individuals and communities across Connecticut.

“To explore how to leverage the assets of public libraries to build more knowledgeable, healthy and sustainable communities.

Two themes caught my attention during the day.  First, the necessity and value of library networks in a digital world.   Second, the library as a community asset, in building the community that surrounds it and as a platform for people to achieve their economic potential.

The former State Economic Development noted the role of libraries as something that will attract people to a community – in a situation where every community is competing for people.

There was a panel on a fundamental issue, but one that is seldom discussed —Library Alignment with State Priorities in Economic, Workforce and Community Development.  As Aspen noted:

“In addition to providing a platform for learning, public libraries are also hubs for community and workforce development, creativity and innovation.  They provide a variety of technologies, tools and resources; diverse spaces including maker-spaces, STEM learning labs, hacker spaces, innovations centers, co-working and collaboration spaces; and access to mentors and conversations among creative people. Public libraries are well positioned to work with government, businesses and community partners to design and deliver skill development opportunities and promote the development and use of advanced high-speed Internet connectivity.”

Governor Malloy gave the keynote address at lunch, offering the perspective of an elected chief executive:

“With information at the fingertips of everyone wherever they are, the ground is changing under libraries.

"Relevancy is a key issue for libraries.  A future role for libraries has to involve more than those people already involved with libraries. 

In addition to the traditional role of being a place for 6 year olds, libraries are "where you go to get information [and training] and to change your life.  It’s where you prepare for the next career you want or are forced to have.

Creating a new role for libraries, in the face of stagnant or declining local funds, requires more collaboration.   As an example, he pointed to Connecticut’s statewide purchases of e-books.  

During the afternoon, a subset of the leaders were invited for a roundtable discussion on next steps in implementing the ideas of the Aspen report.   (See the picture below.)

Amy Garmer, director of the program, concluded by promising that Aspen plans to continue these statewide efforts, which will involve some of us from the working group.  Maureen Sullivan, past President of the American Library Association, and I will be bringing these ideas next month to the New Hampshire Library Trustees annual meeting.  

If you want to bring this vision of the 21st century library to your state or region, please contact one of us.

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© 2015 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/116382595125/connecticut-dialogue-on-public-libraries]

Libraries And Open Government

Last spring I wrote about my participation in a workshop on the role of libraries in open government, led by the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University of Albany and funded by the Institute for Museums and Library Services. 

Last month, CTG released their final project report.  You can get the report from their website, but I want to provide a summary here.

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Overall, CTG’s key finding is straightforward:

“The traditional and important role of public libraries as trusted information intermediaries provides a powerful platform for public libraries to be key facilitators in opening government … Libraries need to work with government partners and other key stakeholders to develop portfolios of programs and services geared toward helping community members access and use information and engage with their governments.”

As someone who has been involved in open government, public technology and libraries, the role of libraries seems obvious to me in at least three ways.

First, libraries are places that almost everyone recognizes as neutral, objective and fair purveyors of information.  The trust in this role of libraries is a valuable asset for any government leader who wants constituents to take seriously his/her pledges of openness.

Second, librarians have the training and experience to help the average person make sense of vast volumes of information.  And the open government initiatives around the US have certainly provided a vast amount of information.  Just making this information available is a bit like trying to open a library by buying a million books and dumping them all into the middle of the floor.  Without the assistance of librarians in these initiatives, the ideals of openness and transparency will not be achieved.

Third, following on the previous point, librarians can do even more than help to organize and make accessible all of this new open government data.  Librarians can also help train the average person to know how to make sense of the information.  They can provide the space and the platform for citizens to collaborate on their use of open data.  For example, John Szabo, the head of the Los Angeles Public Library, has provided a digital forum for people in south Los Angeles to use public land and building data as they consider and debate a major new development project in their neighborhood.

Of course, while giving libraries a key role in open government initiatives can make those initiatives much more successful, library resources are limited.  So it would be useful if part of the budget for open government be devoted to funding the role of librarians.

CTG elaborated on these six recommendations:

“1. Clearly define the role of public libraries in community-focused open government activities.

2. Adopt a focus on the demand side of open government.

3. Adopt a community-wide perspective on open government.

4. Build capability to create and sustain new kinds of partnerships with a wider range of community actors.

5. Build a knowledge base of public library open government initiatives.

6. Fund and carry out a set of pilot projects focused on building new understanding of preferred and best public library open government practices.”

If you’re involved in government, open data/information, public sector transparency or libraries, it will be worth it for you to read CTG’s report for the rest of the story.

© 2015 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/108736939340/libraries-and-open-government]

Re-envisioning Public Libraries?

Yesterday, in the stately Trustee Room of the New York Public Library, the Aspen Institute released its report “Rising To The Challenge: Re-envisioning Public Libraries."  It was based on the results of their Dialogue on Public Libraries.  (Full disclosure: I’ve been a member of their Working Group and I even helped out with the draft report a bit, including one of its sidebar stories.)

They also unveiled a new video about this future at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh5E2VConxc

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that I’m clearly in synch with the central foundation of the report that "public libraries [are] at the center of the digital age”, our era.

The project was led by Amy Garmer of Aspen, who also wrote the report and who deserves enormous credit for this work.  As Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Gates Foundation Global Library Initiative said, Amy Garmer is now the most influential non-librarian in the library world. 

She begins the report by setting the stage this way:

“The process of re-envisioning public libraries to maximize their impact reflects:

  • Principles that have always been at the center of the public library’s mission—equity, access, opportunity, openness and participation
  • The library’s capacity to drive opportunity and success in today’s knowledge-based society
  • An emerging model of networked libraries that promotes economies of scale and broadens the library’s resource reach while preserving its local presence

The library’s fundamental people, place and platform assets”

In addition to these points, another strategic, but infrequently stated, point was made in the report – there needs to be a new model for sustainable funding for library services that recognizes and supports their fundamental role in our society and economy.

As part of the event surrounding the report’s release, there was a panel discussion with some more interesting observations:

  • Linda Johnson, CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said that we need to understand that libraries are not centers for books but for learning – and centers of enjoyment.
  • Ralph Smith, SVP of the Casey Foundation and Managing Director of its Campaign For Grade Level Reading, said he had learned over time that libraries have a unique combination of “hi tech and hi touch” which is what is required for education these days.
  • Nashville/Davidson County Mayor Dean said that “building libraries is the most popular thing I do.  Demand always outstrips supply.”

Although not directly related to this event, the Atlantic Magazine also had a recent article about the public library of Columbus, Ohio, titled “Not Your Mother’s Library”. 

What immediately stood out were two contrasting word clouds.  First, the words people associated with past libraries, the libraries of their childhood. 

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Then the words they used to describe the library of the future …

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In a more elegant and profound way, the Aspen report expanded on these simple descriptions:

“The Dialogue’s perspective on the 21st-century library builds on the public library’s proven track record in strengthening communities and calls for libraries to be centers of learning, creativity and innovation in the digital age. No longer a nice-to-have amenity, the public library is a key partner in sustaining the educational, economic and civic health of the community during a time of dramatic change. Public libraries inspire learning and empower people of all ages. They promote a better trained and educated workforce. They ensure equitable access and provide important civic space for advancing democracy and the common good. Public libraries are engines of development within their communities.”

Aspen intends to follow up to implement and move the vision forward, so look for these ideas to take root in your city with your help.

Note: The report is at http://as.pn/libraries

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/100076796620/re-envisioning-public-libraries]

What Is The Role Of Libraries In Open Government?

Earlier this month, I was invited to participate in a workgroup that focused on and merged two of my strongest interests – libraries and open government.  This workgroup, made up of approximately two dozen leaders of the worlds of libraries, open government and the Internet, was pulled together by the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) of Albany University, as part of a project funded by the Federal Government’s Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS).

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CTG describes the rationale for the project this way:

“State and local governments are exploring new ways to open their governments using technology to engage citizens, increase transparency and accountability. Such efforts provide new opportunities and challenges for public libraries as citizens turn to them for both access to and assistance in their interactions with government … An open government initiative will impact and can be facilitated or impeded by a community’s information ecosystem. Libraries can have a critical influence on an ecosystem and the success of such an initiative.”

The CTG staff will summarize the day and a half of intensive work at a later point.  But I thought I’d share some of my observations from participating in it.

First, while open government, particularly the open data initiatives that have occurred all over the US and elsewhere, is clearly a step forward for transparency, it is not always very useful to the average citizen.  That’s why too often, the data has been used mostly for “gotcha” articles by local news media. 

Typically, the data is put out on the web.  This is akin to setting up a library by buying 10,000 books and dropping them all in a big pile in the middle of the floor.  Librarians have long developed skills in organizing knowledge and, as reference guides, in helping people find what they need.  So the most obvious first role of librarians is to help open data initiatives succeed by applying their professional skills to the data.

Second, libraries can be the place where open government occurs.  This role not only involves making available to citizens the printed and online forms they need to interact with government – or even extending that to enable citizens to have video conversations with government staff who are located many miles away from home.

Libraries can also encourage the discussion of public issues.  Traditionally, libraries have used their meeting spaces for open forums.  More recently and much more interesting is the role the Los Angeles Public Library has played in a community in south Los Angeles.  The local library branch there is hosting Betaville, open source software to enable people to collaborate together to propose urban design solutions for their community.  Betaville is being used for people to do exactly that with respect to a large proposed redevelopment of the Rancho Cienega facility.  The library was the only place where people could come together to do this work, which had the proper technology and also the trust of residents that it is an objective, open facility.

Third, Jamie LaRue, former director of the Douglas County library system, which has been a pioneer in libraries as creators of content, built on that experience to propose an additional role for libraries.  In the face of the demise of many local news outlets, he suggested that this creative role of libraries be extended to becoming the platform for local news.

Finally, while a number of state and local governments have encouraged their local software developers to create apps using open government data, this is clearly not enough.  There are many apps that are needed, but make no sense for private companies that ultimately require profits.  Government cannot abdicate its own technology role.  Recognizing that it can’t do everything, however, government can call on librarians to understand what gaps exist based on what they are asked for by library patrons.

For more information, see CTG’s website at http://www.ctg.albany.edu/projects/imls .  They have also posted a concept paper at http://imls.ctg.albany.edu/book/enabling-open-government-all-planning-framework-public-libraries .  If you’d like to participate in the discussion about libraries and open government, you can do that at http://imls.ctg.albany.edu/forums/online-discussion-concept-paper

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/86405556739/what-is-the-role-of-libraries-in-open-government]

How Can Libraries Respond To Technology Trends?

On May 3, the Library Trustee Association of New York State held its annual trustee institute.  I ran a session on the intersection of technology trends and changes in libraries.  I made a presentation, titled “Creating The Library’s Future”, to get people to start thinking about this intersection.

While there is always change in information technology, I chose to highlight these clusters of trends as being most relevant to the mission of libraries.  Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Digitization Of Written, Oral and Visual Materials: the worldwide effort to digitize paper documents as well as the increase in media that are born digital; the budding Digital Public Library of America; the end of the self-contained book which makes possible an infinite variety of mashups; the various ways that “big data” in libraries can be used
  2. Artificial Intelligence & Robotics: such applications as speech recognition, the Army’s artificially intelligent guide and its implications for Ask A Librarian; robotics, especially in warehouses that have implications for larger libraries
  3. High Quality Visual Communications: noting the importance of non-verbal communications and how we are not yet at a stage where this is a ubiquitous aspect of the Internet, but it will be; the extension with videoconferencing of the groups, literacy training, public services that libraries have always provided
  4. Ubiquitous Internet: the various ways that access to the Internet is escaping the limitations of the traditional PC display/keyboard/mouse where any surface can be a display or a keyboard or a mouse or you don’t even need a surface at all with arm movements or eye tracking; augmented reality
  5. Billions Of People Who Produce And Consume Content: the concepts of the “Pro-Sumer” and the long tail; the ways that this is opening up opportunities for authors and content creators that are not limited to the traditional publishers; the role of readers and library patrons in enhancing the traditional hierarchical catalog; the various forms of user involvement and creation at libraries in the US and abroad, including 3D printing and entrepreneurial spaces

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Then I shifted to thinking about libraries in this future world.  I noted the warnings have been around for a long time, with a quote about the Internet’s impact almost twenty years ago.  I asked about a series of websites that seem to offer services which librarians have defined as their role.

All of this requires librarians to enhance that role to keep ahead of what are now commodity services and to think about library services as pervasive throughout the community – not confined to what goes on in the library building or even what is local.

Then taking a World Café approach, we broke up into groups focused on three questions:

  • How will technology change the expectations of patrons?
  • How could/should future technology trends affect the way individual libraries budget and spend their money?
  • What are the organizational implications of changing technology? (including the role of the individual libraries vs. the systems vs. the RRRs vs. the State vs. the national networks)

Here are some of the possibly contradictory highlights from the discussion that followed:

  • Expectations of patrons are rising because of what they exposed to, outside the library – at work and at home.
  • Libraries as often lead patrons to new technologies and uses of tech, rather than the other way around
  • Budgets need to shift, setting a minimum percentage for digital collections and providing staff training.
  • As library activities become more varied, there may need to be more private spaces for music, videoconferencing, etc.
  • The availability of resources directly from the Internet is upsetting the traditional hierarchy of the library world.  So individual libraries may see alternatives to the cooperative systems or the State librarians that used to be the primary suppliers of technology.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/85721053189/how-can-libraries-respond-to-technology-trends]

Moving To A National Digital Library?

In a post last year, http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/66967472797/a-national-future-for-libraries , I discussed the increasing volume of digital text, video and audio, produced by millions more writers and artists than have been supported by the big publishing and media corporations in the past.  These trends have important implications for libraries, especially the need to offer library patrons a national collection and reference to materials located anywhere.  That’s why I titled the post “A National Future For Libraries”.

So it was great that the US Government’s Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) conducted their “Strategic Priorities 2014” conference with a focus on a National Digital Platform. 

image

The meeting, held at the main building of the New York Public Library on Tuesday this week, featured most of the key leaders in the world of libraries and other non-profit cultural and information organizations as you can see below.

Jason Kucsma, ‎Executive Director of the Metropolitan New York Library Council, was one of the speakers – a nice recognition for the innovative work that METRO is doing under his leadership and METRO’s role as the New York State hub for the Digital Public Library of America.  (Note: I’m President of the board, but Jason and the staff of METRO actually do the work.)

It was very encouraging to see these leaders working together with a generally positive frame of mind, trying to figure out how to create and, more important, sustain a national digital library.  There’s clearly lots of work ahead of us – including much more than the usual community of librarians – but this was a good start.

You can see the conference video at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/imls/140429/.  Since it was a whole day event, I’ve put the agenda below so you can watch particular sections.

Welcome and Framing the Day

Anthony Marx, President and CEO, New York Public Library – @NYPL

Maura Marx, Deputy Director for Libraries, IMLS – @mauramarx / @US_IMLS

Play Flash Video


INFRASTRUCTURE: Examining the Hubs Model

Moderated by:
Jim Neal, VP for Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University, @columbialib

Panel:
Dan Cohen, Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America – @dancohen / @dpla

Brett Bobley, Chief Information Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities – @brettbobley / @NEH_ODH

Elliott Shore, Executive Director, Association of Research Libraries – @ARLnews

Play Flash Video


CONTENT: Beyond the low hanging fruit: Strategies on Providing Access to Complicated Content

Moderated by
Rachel Frick, Director, Digital Library Federation – @RLFrick / @CLIRDLF

Panel:
Sari Feldman, Executive Director, Cuyahoga County Public Libraries – @Sari_Feldman / @CuyahogaLib

Katherine Skinner, Executive Director, Educopia Institute – @Educopia

Clifford Lynch, Director, Coalition for Networked Information – @CNI_org

Play Flash Video


USE: Challenges and Opportunities to Broad Use of Digital Content

Moderated by:
Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services – @IMLSDirector / @US_IMLS

Panel:
Susan Gibbons, University Librarian, Yale University – @YaleLibrary

Bernie Margolis, New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries

Play Flash Video


TOOLS: Encouraging Innovation

Moderated by:
Mary Lee Kennedy, Chief Library Officer, New York Public Library – @NYPL

Panel:
Ben Vershbow, Manager, NYPL Labs – @subsublibrary / @NYPL_Labs

Martin Kalfatovic, Associate Director Smithsonian Libraries, Program Director BHL – @UDCMRK / @SILibraries

Tom Scheinfeldt , Associate Professor of Digital Media / Director of Digital Humanities at University of Connecticut – @foundhistory / @UConn

Play Flash Video


ACCESS AT SCALE

Moderated by:
Josh Greenberg, Program Director for Digital Information Technology, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation – @epistemographer / @SloanFoundation

Panel:
MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian, University of California at Davis

Jason Kucsma, ?Executive Director at Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) – @J450NK / @mnylc

Dan Chudnov, Director, Scholarly Technology, George Washington University Libraries – @dchud / @gelmanlibrary

Play Flash Video


SKILLS

Moderated by:
Bob Horton, Associate Deputy Director for Library Services, IMLS – @US_IMLS

Panel:
Nancy McGovern , Head, Curation and Preservation Services, MIT Libraries – @mitlibraries

Jack Martin, Executive Director, Providence Public Library – @provlib

Play Flash Video


CONCLUSION AND CLOSING DISCUSSION

Maura Marx, Susan Hildreth and Bob Horton – @mauramarx, @IMLSDirector / @US_IMLS

Play Flash Video

©2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/84466500047/moving-to-a-national-digital-library]

A National Future For Libraries?

The second and final meeting of the Aspen Institute workgroup on the future of libraries was held last week.

[What follows does not necessarily represent views of anyone else there or even the discussion that took place.  These are purely my reflections when the meeting was over and continue what I started in a previous post.  I also apologize in advance for the length of this post.]

The question that kept crossing my mind is simple: given the obvious trends in the library world and, more broadly, the world of knowledge, is some form of national network of library services inevitable?

When books were physical items primarily produced by established book publishers, the local library was the place local residents needed to go to get access to those books (assuming they couldn’t afford to buy everything they wanted to read).

There are still many printed books in local libraries around the country.  We are, after all, in a transitional period and we can expect to see some printed books lasting long after almost everyone will be reading digitally – 2050? 

But books are changing.  It’s not just that there are digital versions of printed books.  Self-published books and co-created texts already are more numerous than traditionally published books, even including e-books.  With so much digital content, produced by so many different sources, the purely local collections in a local library can easily be outmatched in both quantity and quality. 

The Digital Public Library of America is one important response to this accelerating condition.  Indeed, DPLA is as much the future of libraries as anything on the horizon right now.  DPLA doesn’t centralize all of the digital collections, but it makes them available to everyone.  It uses local library resources (and regional consortia) to collect and organize digital content created locally, but it lets that content escape the constraints of the physical building in which they have been stored.

Another sign of the times is the use of virtual reference librarians.  These were first established to share the load of patron requests especially at odd hours. 

However, the potential of a network of reference librarians is much greater than that.  Consider the deep knowledge that a reference librarian in one part of the country can have about some subject – say Hellenic pottery as an example.  Why shouldn’t she or he get the reference questions that come up about that subject no matter where the patron is?  Can the reference desk in the local library match this knowledge?  Of course not.  Is it possible that the reference librarian locally happens to be that expert in a subject? Of course.  Why not let her specialize?

In a future world where most content will be digital, a national network of reference librarians would provide patrons with the best possible service and pointers to the best places to find the content they are searching for.

DPLA and specialized virtual reference librarians are just two significant ways that library services are no longer limited to the local library building.

So, if not as the collector of printed books or the location for an all knowing reference librarian sitting at a desk there, what will be the purpose of local library buildings in the decades ahead? 

Already we see the library building being used as a meeting place.  Even more exciting, many libraries are becoming centers for create content and culture in various ways – offering Maker Spaces (with 3D printers), poetry rooms, video/audio studios, etc.

Consider also that the national digital collection that is being pioneered by DPLA will need much more manpower to become useful than DPLA and its hubs can provide.  The local library building can be one place where the staff can help with the task of tagging/classifying and otherwise making sense of all the new content produced by others.

The local library can also be the outreach center to get volunteers to help with this enormous task and thus be the local chapters of a national pool of librarians and colleagues.

As with any other sea change, the shift to a national library network will not come without strife.  The most obvious trouble is that libraries have been inherently local institutions supported by local taxes.  There is currently a very small amount of Federal money devoted to library services, mostly in the form of a fraction of the e-rate program.

As library services become not merely local, but an interstate concern, the Federal government or some other national organization is going to have to step up funding for the national institutions that will make those services work.

***

The Aspen Institute has also been involved in projects about citizenship so it worth remembering that our founding fathers strongly supported libraries as the cornerstone of an educated citizenry, which they thought, in turn, was essential for democratic government to survive. 

Our national leaders today don’t explicitly share that understanding and seem to find it easier to deal with a less engaged citizenry.  Perhaps the nationalization of libraries will make it easier for American citizens all over the country to gain the knowledge necessary to play their proper role in our democracy and thereby improve the way that our national government functions.  Now there’s a long term goal!

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/66967472797/a-national-future-for-libraries]

Aspen Institute on Public Libraries

Last month, the Aspen Institute gathered about two dozen leaders and innovators to a workshop on the future of public libraries.  I was honored to be asked to participate.  I will be helping to develop the larger strategy, but I thought I’d share some immediate observations from the discussions and my reflections on them.

As a pre-condition to thinking clearly about the future of libraries, we need to leave behind legacy thinking. The libraries of today cannot be and shouldn’t be the libraries that we fondly remember from our childhood.  A library is no longer a building merely with books.  Even the addition of e-books to printed books is not a fundamental and sufficient change in the traditional library model.  

To escape that old mold, library services can now – and should now – escape the confines of the library building itself.  With the Internet, library services can be everywhere.

At one point in the discussion, someone put up a picture like the one below – which isn’t quite what I have in mind by going beyond the library building 😉

image

The reaction of some people was a feeling that the “little free library” movement built cute little boxes but it is sad that library funding has been so diminished that we are left with such pitiful collections.

My reaction was a bit different.  I said I agreed that this little box was limited, if what you had in it was printed books.  But why not take all the outdoors and other locations which are targeted for “little free libraries” and make the real and much bigger digital library available to people there.  As a portal to the digital library online, the collection can be as large as possible even in this little box.

I also pointed out that our economy has been changing and more people earn a living in digital ways, based on knowledge and innovation.  In such an economy, you would think that libraries should be the key institution and hub of society.  I gave examples of how some libraries are providing support to entrepreneurs.  Another implication of this role for libraries is that the distinctions between public libraries and those labeled as specialized, school or university libraries will be weakening because often an entrepreneur or other innovator needs access to specialized technical knowledge as well as general audience information.

It was clear that the idea that Google and the Internet make librarians unnecessary was weighing on the minds in the room, as elsewhere in the library world.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been an unusually long time user of the Internet, but I’m waiting for help from good librarians.  What most of us face is TMI and TLK – too much information and too little knowledge.

Librarians can be the guide, curator, re-mixer, and knowledge creator for people who are drowning in a sea of information, or worse, swimming in the wrong part of the sea considering what they need to know.

Of course, it was clear from the discussion that many of us realize the users of libraries can also contribute, as in the pro-sumer model where a person is both consumer and producer of information.  So librarians should encourage and make space for people to self-publish.  Going beyond text, libraries should do the same for people making videos, music or even things (through the availability of maker rooms and the like).

Along those lines, there was a bit of discussion about the Douglas County (Colorado) Library model.  That library got fed up with the refusal of four major publishers to sell e-books to them and the tough conditions imposed by the other two big publishers.  So it reached out to many independent publishers to get their e-books in the library.  

A much wider possibility in the future is for the libraries to help authors to publish their works without the traditional publishers. Yes, I know there could be a lot of junk published, but there is no reason why book reviews, peer reviews, and other means couldn’t be used to help identify the junk without the need for editorial approval from the big six publishing companies.  The Public Library of Science (PLOS) has, as an example, established itself as a respectable medium for research using these techniques.

Finally, it seems that each library is trying to create the future itself.  Why can’t librarians and others in the library world work together nationally, enabled by the tools of the Internet.  If there is a librarian in Seattle who is an expert on Eritrea, why can’t she be available all over the US?  Someone described this as the library version of MOOCs.  This kind of federation, perhaps mutual aid pact, is a natural result when librarians realize their services are no longer limited to library buildings.

The Aspen Institute project is asking important questions not only for libraries, but for our country as a whole, so keep track of its efforts.  For more information now, see www.aspeninstitute.org/dialogue-public-libraries

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/60932592269/aspen-institute-on-public-libraries]