Kansas public library service model is threatened

This post is in response to advocacy efforts in the Kansas library community, opposing HB 2719. A hearing for this bill is scheduled for Monday, March 14, 2016. Please IMMEDIATELY contact the House Taxation Committee members and your local representative, asking them to oppose this bill. HB 2719 will end Kansas public library service as we now know it. #ksleg

Full disclosure: I am an employee of a Kansas regional library system. These thoughts are my own and not my employer’s. I am not advocating for my job. I am advocating for the citizens of Kansas who deserve maintaining equity and efficient public library service by keeping current funding models and practices in place, and oppose HB2719 as a result. 

Kansas has always leaned conservative. But it’s been common sense conservatism until recently. We’re a small urban/rural split state. Communities large & small take great pride in their public schools, public libraries, community health, and great public roads.

Kansas had figured out how to do much within its communities w modest tax dollar investments over the years in public services.

But now, in the name of low/no tax dollars at all levels of government, legislation keeps getting introduced & (at times) later passed that threatens communities.

Continue reading “Kansas public library service model is threatened”

Learning at Your Library presentation

I presented yesterday at the 2015 NEKLS Innovation Day, “Learning @ Your Library: Empowering your community to learn”. It was a new presentation, expanding on the Open Education Resources introductory sessions I’ve led over the last few years for school librarians and teachers.

The presentation focused on the idea that libraries (public, particularly) are the perfect organization to be facilitating learning for all ages, Continue reading “Learning at Your Library presentation”

The speech I would have given tonight

I am accepting an Outstanding Recent Graduate award tonight from Emporia State University, for the School of Library and Information Management. All my paperwork for the event had stated that I was to be prepared to respond to the award in a 3-5 minute speech. Knowing this wasn’t going to be a librarian-centric crowd, I prepared a speech that preached libraries and librarians and how we’re transforming communities. Unfortunately, I just learned that that was a mistake and the outstanding recent graduate honorees no longer give remarks.

So other than genuine disappointment, what can I do? I have a blog, and while my site is pretty dormant these days and not far-reaching, I’m going to put it out on the web anyway.

To my chagrin, the tears friends predicted I would have while delivering this speech won’t happen now. That’s probably a good thing. Maybe no one else will appreciate these comments but it’s a love letter to librarians and it doesn’t deserve to sit only on printed paper or in Google Drive. Here’s the speech I would have given tonight:

Good evening. I want to first thank Emporia State and the School of Library and Information Management — SLIM as we call it — for this honor and recognition. I would not be standing here today, without the support and encouragement from my parents, family, friends, colleagues, and my patrons — the librarians of the Northeast Kansas Library System.

Eight years ago I entered the SLIM program, running away from my first loves of politics and public good and I stand here today, having come full circle, in my own way.

Let me start back at the beginning. I am the daughter and grand-daughter of school librarians. I was destined to become a librarian.

I came to SLIM, KNOWING I was going to be a law librarian.

I started SLIM’s foundational coursework, and along the way, technology and social media began transforming everything.

One Sunday morning in March 2007, my reference professor told us of careers in blended librarianship, blending librarian skills with technology. That evening, I applied for the Technology Support position at the Northeast Kansas Library System (NEKLS), and in April 2007, I began supporting the technology in over 30 small public libraries across Northeast Kansas.

Today at NEKLS, I manage a library software platform that connects the resources of over 40 public and school libraries in northeast Kansas. These libraries share over 1 million items with their communities. The open source software we use, Koha, is used by thousands of librarians around the world.

My career-path has been technology-focused, but technology isn’t what fascinates me about libraries.

I now believe, that librarianship, especially in public libraries, is steeped in public good.

Libraries are one of the few democratic places (little d democratic, before anyone misinterprets that) available in almost all communities.

What do I mean by that? Libraries are one of the few places where everyone is welcome and welcome to learn whatever you want, explore whatever you want, and…

Where it doesn’t matter how much money you make or
where you went to school or
how much schooling you had or
how old you are or
where you are from or
what you look like or
what you believe or
what you want to know more about or
what you want to be entertained by.

Librarians want to help you on your journey. We want to see you succeed.

Many of you may think of libraries as a place for books. And that’s fine — that’s our brand. But libraries are so much more. Yes, the Internet allows you to search for and access a lot of “stuff”, but Google will NEVER be as good as your local librarian. A company or platform can’t transform communities — people transform communities.

The librarians I work with, in small Kansas towns and across this country, are transforming their communities through
job searching support,
cooking classes,
tutoring,
Lego clubs,
co-working spaces,
business support,
civic discussions,
beer crafting opportunities,
summer reading, and
yes, even the escapist new movie release.

Libraries provide opportunities for learning, offering spaces for collaboration, discussions, and music and poetry performances.

And multimedia labs in some libraries are changing the possibilities, including a brand new sound recording studio in the beautifully renovated Lawrence Public Library.

Of course, libraries still offer spaces for reading. Have a digital device? Librarians can help you with those, too.

What makes all this possible? Your local librarian.

The library spaces and “stuff” and systems are important, but without the trained librarians, particularly in our schools, I would argue libraries WILL fade into the past. The librarians are the ones working with people, connecting them with the “stuff” that they need, that next great book, or even apply for a job.

I could stand up here all night, sharing many more examples of all the ways librarians are transforming their communities. But to end, I’d like you to consider this statement, from ProtectNYLibraries: Throughout our lives, we seek knowledge and information. Throughout our lives, we learn. Throughout our lives, we turn to our libraries to continue learning. How is your local library doing this? Are you supporting them? Thank you.

Measuring What Matters

Joan Frye Williams, Library Consultant @ Northeast Kansas Library System Trustee Training

We are a word profession, not a numbers/statistics profession. Communities are changing…younger generations realit

To understand how your library relates to your community,

  • look beyond what’s always been measured
  • look beyond the conventional wisdom (change ideas about what’s important)

Focus on these six: Start with the people; Reach consensus on what role your library should play in your community; Get acquainted with library services; Understand how library resources are allocated; Look for certain things; Gather brief, compelling stories about the impact of library services

  1. Start with the people.

    No point in libraries doing what they do without the people. Yet, it’s not customary to do measuring based on people. Libraries track inventory; close records of stuff, but not much at the people. As long as you’re looking at groups, you’re not breaching confidentiality. We’ve secured privacy through ignorance of what our people are doing. Hard to make policy. Confidentiality and not knowing what’s going on is two very different things. What is okay to measure? Okay to know about our public? Believe in the principle of privacy; measure without breaching someone’s privacy, yet still must look at the people.

    Who is eligible to use your library? We think we know who’s here, but who’s here now? What are their aspirations? Profiles? Libraries are prepaid services tha

    Community profile: demographics; neighborhoods; destinations — not just where people sleep (where residents work, play, shop, go to school, and hang out); technology availability/usage (technology penetration; broadband speeds; cell phones; what’s normal in a community with technology); quality of life goals and priorities [aspirations].

    Communities are communal. Are people in your community because they want to raise their kids in a small town? The schools? Costs? Golf course? Lake? A stepping stone to another community? The answers to these questions provide context for what . If you ask people only about their library experience, instead of their life experience/aspirations, you’re missing the point. How can the library help people achieve these experiences/aspirations? Quality of life issues drive what the libraries do.

    Who has signed up for a library card? Who’s actively still using the library 6 months after library card signup? How are people using library over time? How many are active? Do people only use the library once, and then stop, or use it a lot at first, and then stop, or stay active? Strong case for recruitment and retention.

    Member profile: Age range; neighborhood; school (add to patron record); other demographics or target audiences (add to patron record), eg Spanish speakers; business owners; new residents; recruitment rate; retention rate.

    What does the library card mean? To civilians (non-library staff/board members), they joined something, a sign of membership. To librarians, it’s a sign that you get access to certain services. One library puts notes on their library cards like “member since…” or “donor”. Recruitment: membership instead of inventory control. Collect card information for a short period of time. When talking to elected officials, telling them how many people have joined the library, can show how good a service it is. Some people may be library supporters but not use the library services. If it’s a membership…anyone can show support. Cards not just as gatekeeping, but a way to know the community.

    Who works at the library? Track employee/volunteer profile; age range; years of service; similarity to community profile. How close a match is the faces people see in the library compared to the community?

  2. Reach consensus on what role your library should play in your community

    What business should the library be in? A candy store of books that was the library of many of our childhoods? That was the library business of the past. Libraries are not the only source of information anymore. Choices about what business libraries are going to be in.

    CRITICAL: Consensus: Process was fair; understood the decision criteria; opportunity for voice to be heard; even if the direction isn’t exactly what I would have chosen, I will support it w positive communications and actions.

    Choosing what business you are in, means you sometimes say no. It’s hard to say no. Choosing a direction, helps you say no. If an opportunity isn’t fitting in with your library’s direction, you need to say no.

    Strategic profile: mission, vision, values; alignment with broader community goals; positioning with respect to other service providers; desired impact — measuring success; how do we know something worked? Librarians are focused on what isn’t right, what didn’t go well. A strategic profile is easy to boil down and then makes decisions easier. Helps determine if things fit in/don’t fit in, in certain places.

    Charlotte Mecklenburg strategy focus: Early years, literacy; School years, educational success; teen and older : workforce/development.

  3. Get acquainted with library services

    Libraries have lots of data of how hard they work. Proof of hard work isn’t enough. Do our services fit into the people and the position of the library?

    What can the community get from their library? Very few libraries can, today, give a full picture, full list of all their library services. 154 services. Some services are well-kept secrets. Librarians need to know the list, and clump the list, under that strategic positioning. Why are we doing these services? For every service that is offered, someone needs to ask if a service is successful, what is a “good” service? If everyone asked for every service at the same time, we’d die of being overwhelmed. Libraries have designed services with the intention that they’ll be used, but not too much, because many involve staff intervention. What happens if people really like a service? What would great turnout be, and what happens if we exceed that? If this happens routinely, can libraries cope? What can libraries stop doing if demand goes up for important services? Librarians design services with librarians in mind…should services be designed differently? Delivered by others, including support staff and volunteers?

    Service profile: Complete list of services available; when each service was introduced; how each service relates to the library’s strategic profile; where each service is offered in the library, out in the community, online/virtual; how is designing, delivering services.

    A healthy library has services in the library, outside the library, and online/virtually. -JFW

    Which services are members choosing? What percentage of people who borrow materials from you, place holds? How many holds have different patrons placed? Communicating with heavy service users. What is okay to talk about? Talking about content vs data?

    Demand data: number and percentage of members who are using each service; types/group of members who are suing each service; seasons, days, or times of heaviest demand; services for which community demand exceeds the library’s capacity to respond, with an estimate of the gap

    What’s a “typical” transaction for members of different groups? Not just average. Marketers say typical…bell curve. Design policies for sweet spot, not around the outliers. Most library people set policy based on a situation that happened yesterday that we didn’t like. As library board members, ask how long until that situation happens again?

  4. Understand how library resources are allocated. 

    Ask, not what is the cost of the library, but what does the community get out of the investment.

    Cost data for key services: per capita; per member (card holders); per user; per program/event; per transaction.

    When you have this data, you can look at services, and is everyone getting served equitable, not just reacting-to-demand-services. Services relationship to community important.

    Key services: total cost of doing it per capita; and what part of that is staff. Scalability important.

  5. Be on the lookout for…

    Diversification; sign that interest in a service is waning (every service has a life cycle) —  VHS/Audiobooks on Cassette options: change with mercy, honor system or tell people who have used these materials in the past, you are welcome to what you want, and we’ll get rid of the rest); cost/demand disparities; outliers and exceptions (change with mercy: don’t make everything an exception but meet these people where they are at, if possible, not just keeping services where they are at because of the exceptions); omissions; surprises.

  6. Gather brief, compelling stories about the impact of library services

    Critical pieces: person, problem, library intervention, happy ending.
    Story: Caden was a bright 6 year old boy. Caden had a stutter and was having trouble in school. Caden’s Mom took him to the library, and he saw a library program where children were reading to service dogs. Caden began reading to Toby, and eventually overcame his stutter. Caden’s Mom called last week, and he’s doing much better in school!

    Focus on these six: Start with the people; Reach consensus on what role your library should play in your community; Get acquainted with library services; Understand how library resources are allocated; Look for certain things; Gather brief, compelling stories about the impact of library services

joan@jfwilliams.com — continue the conversation!

Open Library and Open Libraries: Information for ALL the people

Jessamyn West

I missed the beginning of this but here’s her full slidedeck

Examples of current issues in Open Access/Copyright/Fair use