The Boiling Point

Photo by ell brown (off to Italy) [Flickr]“What is your boiling point?”

For my part of the “Social Media and Advocacy” presentation that I did at ALA annual about two weeks ago, that was the question I posed to the attendees. During the train ride down on that Friday, I had decided to change my original talk. The compromise for the New Jersey state budget had just been announced earlier in the week and the implications of funding restoration lines were just being determined. The night before I left for the conference, I felt the emotional tension of months of pushing, writing, and advocating resolve itself in the course of a few hours. Having been without word of news or developments from anyone in the know, it had been a rough time wondering what was working, what didn’t, and what was left to be done.

I will say now, upon further reflection, I am disappointed that more funding was not restored. I’d like be happy about the restorations that were made and the programs that were saved but, quite frankly, I’m not. I don’t believe it was from a lack of effort. However, if the library advocacy campaign was the second most contacts that legislators received during the budget negotiations, and the library funding went from 74% to 43%, New Jersey libraries still have a very serious problem. It represents a ton of further education that will need to be accomplished to reach legislators and the general public as to the importance of library funding.

As I sat on the train as it lumbered down the track towards our nation’s capital, my original talk felt a bit short of the mark. I didn’t want people to leave the talk with a list of sites; I wanted them to leave with a fire in their belly. While the talk I gave was not as polished (and at parts, I struggled a bit to make for smoother transitions between points), I was satisfied that I was able to get my point across.

When it comes to library funding, the boiling point is the moment at which library cuts are no longer accepted and a call to action is demanded. In other words, how much tolerance do you have for library cuts? How much of a reduction of materials, services, and hours are you willing to accept on behalf of the communities that you serve? In people’s hearts, I’m sure the answer is none; but when it comes to the reality, my non-scientific observations of reactions to library funding cuts would indicate that this pushback point exists at a much higher levels (or sometimes only if the existence of the library is threatened). This is something that needs to change.

Cuts to library funding need to be seen in a different light: as an attack upon the institution and what it represents. Some might find this imagery as a bit overblown, but one cannot ignore that the denial of resources reduces the effectiveness of the library and its ability to serve its community. It is marginalizing the work by librarians and staff everyday on behalf of their patrons; it is limiting the ways in which the library can act effectively to provide materials and services to any who seek it.

This is a call to action. This is a statement that says, “Yes, you can and should resist any funding cuts.” That such resistance is productive and that you should fight for every dime for your library. It’s not simply that you are depending on it, it’s your patrons and your community that are the benefactors here. Any cut, however small, impacts the performance of the library. Librarians must become cut intolerant and continue to expand the actions and steps for securing funding in the future.

Lower your boiling point.

 

(While this may pose as an unreasonable position for political realities, I don’t think being reasonable under these same conditions has been serving the library community very well either. -A)

ALA 2010 Post Game

“Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” – Mark Twain

zomg, run! The weather was an excellent metaphor for the librarian profession’s current status quo: the presence of smothering heat (budget cuts), the pros and cons of doing anything outside temperature controlled areas (movement and change versus consolidation and static), and everyone desperately wishing for a change in the climate (draw your own conclusions on that one). The only topic to be discussed more than the weather at the conference was that of change, at least at some of the sessions I attended and the circles I was socializing in. It was mentioned in the acceptance speech during the PLA awards in that “[the library profession] is a quickly changing field.” It was at this utterance that I stifled an eyeroll so strong that I was assured to be rendered blind if I allowed it to happen. But I digress.

[I had a blurb written about the topic of change, but upon review of some of the things I wrote, I decided to bump it to another post.]

Look who is too far from the mic...For my talk for PLA/REFORMA “Social Media and Advocacy” on Saturday, I ended up completely scrapping my carefully refined presentation. Earlier in the week, the New Jersey State Budget compromise had been reached the Monday before the conference. In the days afterwards, the implications of this compromise were coming to light: some state library budget lines had been completely restored, a few partially, and others not at all. On Friday, in sitting on the train heading down to DC, I had a thought: “Do I want the people who are attending this talk to leave with a list of sites and such? Or do I want them to leave with a fire in their belly for advocacy?” I really couldn’t ignore the opportunity to reach out to even a small group of librarians at the conference and try to get them motivated to take action. [This will be the basis of another blog post. –A]

Personally, I was pleased with how the talk went; I said what I wanted to say to the people who attended. I don’t know what sort of impact it had, but it’s a start. Someone who attended the talk has a nice outline of what I said for those who want the highlights. (Thanks Amanda!)

Short version: social media is a tool, but advocacy is a mindset. The tools will not matter if the profession doesn’t have the mindset to treat attempts to remove resources as acts of war on our communities. And yes, I am serious. [Don’t worry, I’ll be writing about that real soon.]

Pete Bromberg's view from the presenters area One of the highlights of the conference for me was the RUSA President’s Program “For the Love of Reference”. I had never heard Nancy Pearl speak before, but it’s always great to hear my friend Pete Bromberg present. I had an idea of what he was going to cover since he had asked me if he could use my Library Day in a Life Round 4 entry. (Here’s a previous thought on reference posted back in April.) Pete really brought back the affirmation of why I love reference as well; it was the right little reminder about how I feel about it. The recognition was appreciated, though I certainly didn’t feel like I was the only one in the room to think what I wrote in that note.

The other highlight was Battledecks. I don’t really have words for this, only links.

The ALA Wiki entry (the actual theme was “Turn and Face the Change: Evolving and Revolving in Libraryland”.)

American Libraries Inside Scoop writeup

Jason Griffey’s winning Battledeck performance (his blog entry on it)

The Flickr group

For those curious about the slides that Janie couldn’t use for Battledecks, I have uploaded and shared them in Google. (They are in Powerpoint form. The contestants dodged a lot of bullets. And potentially NSFW for mild language.)

***

The overwhelming positive that I have taken from the conference is that I have found excellent online company in my peers. Those whom I have grown to know on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog are the people who are the thoughtful passionate individuals that I have been looking for. I would be remiss to ignore the new acquaintances I made as well; these are people I look forward to hearing more of their ideas and meditations on our shared profession. To those I shared talks, drinks, and meals with, I am thankful that those moments came together in that manner. (Now I just wish I had taken more pictures with people.)

I am delighted that, while my body is weary, my mind is energized with ideas, projects, and future blog posts. On the car trip back from DC, I was making notes on my iPad to send to myself so as to not leave anything on the table. Once we are settled into the new apartment, I have a list of things that will claw for my attention. I hope to be able to satisfy them.

This conference has given me the energy boost right at the time I needed it.

If you are playing along with the LSW Badge game, be sure to pick up those badges that you have qualified for (or make some new ones and add them to the Flickr group) and add them to your site.

ALA 2010 Badge ALA Dance Party Badge Tote bag badge Battledecks badge

(The ALA 2010, ALA Dance Party, Tote Bag, and Battledecks badge, respectively)

***

As to a question posed to me, whether I would join ALA or not, I’m still on the fence. The issue revolves around whether to not join or, if I was to join, form a coalition of like minded librarians, run together as a slate for ALA Council, and change the organization.

ALA Annual Countdown

dc_annual[1]

Like many of my fellow professionals, I will be attending the ALA annual conference this week in Washington DC. I’m excited to be attending my first annual national conference; I’ve attended my state conference a number of times over the past couple of years. After the Midwinter meeting, I’m pretty interested to see what the full deal looks like. (And I’m looking forawrd to the eventual end to all of the email and snail mail that I’ve gotten in the last two weeks. I almost threw out the envelope with my conference card in it because it was in the same mail pile.)

I will be crossing off one thing from the career bucket list: presenting at ALA. On Saturday at the Washington Convention Center (Room 203), I will be one of the speakers for the “Advocacy and Social Media” program sponsored by REFORMA and PLA. I will be giving the full account of the saga of the “People for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor” campaign, from the start to finish (virtual finish, because there isn’t much left to be done). For this talk, I’m going to be taking TED Commandments to heart; I hope to make it a fun experience for all those who attend.

I’ve been refining my notes for the talk, but I’m having a hard time getting myself to settle down and give a few practice talks. I’m confident in the material that I have and the style I wish to present it in, but I have yet to time it out or figure out some of the smaller details. I find that rehearsing makes me more confident and relaxed for the real deal, but getting myself to settle down and rehearse… that’s another deal. Still, I will have something to say that Saturday and it will fill up 15-20 minutes of program time (or possibly 25).

The other part of the appeal is the location itself; I’ve been meaning to visit Washington for a long time. As a history buff, it’s just one giant location loaded with items from the nation’s past. I’ve penciled in some tourist time, but it’s not a lot overall so I have to pick my sights carefully. Hopefully, I will not get consumed in the other activities (both conference and social) that I will not be able to take the time. But at least Washington is a short trip away from New Jersey, so I can always come again at a later time.

For those interested, I have constructed a “ALA newbie” list on Twitter. You can follow the tweets of people attending their first conference. I’m looking forward to checking in on the list and see how other people’s experiences are going.

I’ll see people in Washington. If you see someone who looks like this, be sure to stop me and say hello!

The slow march towards ALA Annual 2010

Today, I registered for my first ALA Annual conference. It went along smoothly for the most part, save for when I went to pick a hotel. I had to scramble to get a map to figure out what was where from the slim pickings left. Even then, I ended up doing a virtual eeny-meany-miney-mo and selecting a hotel. As it turns out, according to Google Maps this hotel is right next to the building that houses Fox News. I personally really don’t have anything against Fox News, but I’ll be able to tell my fellow conference attendees if the presence of thousands of left leaning socialist ‘give away the materials for free on taxpayer dollars’ librarians has any effect on the station. Or maybe the proximity of the conservative network will mask my liberal presence in the city the same way that the cave that was strong with the Dark Side of the Force hid Yoda’s from Darth Vader and the Emperor on Dagobah. In any event, I found the registration for the ALA website to be a bit stranger.

You see, when you register, you have the option of a prefix. Normally, this is limited to a select few choices: Mr., Mrs., Ms., maybe Dr., and a none of the above blank one. Apparently, these few are simply not enough choices for the ALA.

A title for all occasions!That screenshot is a composite of the many, many prefixes you can choose. Captain? Lt Commander? Rabbi? Senator? Sister? I know I’m going to go back and swap them every month just to see the faces on my coworkers when they get the mail. What I can’t figure out is why they have some military ranks and not others. Who wouldn’t want to be a Rear Admiral in the ALA? The jokes practically write themselves! (Personally, I’m leaning towards Judge or Professor.)

lol newbsIn more serious fare, I have started a Twitter list for other ALA first attendees. If anyone wants to see what fresh eyes see (and tweet) when they attend the conference, I highly suggest you follow this list. It will be growing, I presume, as more people announce their newbie status. I asked for advice for people new to the annual conference on Twitter today. The collected wisdom of the day was:

I also highly recommend Erin Dorney’s blog post "Conference Attendance Advice”. It has her own conference tips as well as links to other posts with advice. Check out additional tips in the comments, too!

I’m looking forward to this summer. It should be a good one!

ALA Midwinter Meeting 2010 Recap

4289596648_e2ebdef4b5_b[1] 2010 ALA Midwinter Exhibit Hall panorama composite (click to see the original size)

As much as I have written about the ALA, I was still curious to see the organization up close and in action. I’ve talked with librarian friends and certainly read enough online (both positive and negative) about the organization. But there is something about going, seeing, and experiencing it for myself that requires satisfaction. So I set hotel reservations, rummaged through the social events calendar of various subgroups, and excitedly drove by way to Boston, sensing adventure in the air.

My objective was to put everything out of my head and just examine everything anew. It’s difficult to set aside the compliments and complaints I have heard for this organization, but I gave myself a simple strategy of objective questions. I’ll outline my approach (please consider answering them in the comments if I did not speak to you personally).

  1. “Are you a member of ALA?” (If no, why not? If yes, continue to 2.)
  2. “Do you serve on any committees, roundtables, and the like?” (If no, why not? If yes, continue to 3.)
  3. “What does that committee/roundtable/whatever do?”

In listening to the answers, I was also taking into account word choice and tone. While my polling size and choice was not very scientific, I found the answers that I heard to be most enlightening. With a few exceptions, most answered that they felt rewarded by their involvement with the organization. However, this group diverged between feeling effective and frustrated. Cheery explanations were tempered by acerbic rants, each providing clues to the bigger picture for me.  With an organization as large as the ALA, these many glimpses from the top on down gave me much to think about as I assessed the organization on the way home.

If I was to liken the organization to something, I would say it is a Rubix Cube. Some of solved how it works, its meaning, and purpose; others struggle with the apparent complexity and mechanics; and a minority simply don’t get it and/or won’t try to get it. (And, for the more cynical out there, some are arguing about appropriate colors on the cube. Or as one person put it when I mentioned this idea to them, “I’ve solved it and I don’t care for the answer.”) What I would say is true and apparent is that, despite how people feel about the organization itself, I did not meet one person who was not passionate about their career in librarianship. This speaks well for the true potential of the organization should it ever overcome its inefficiencies. From what I understand, talk of reformation has been going on for awhile and that it is a matter of action and resolve to see it through.

Even with this new knowledge in hand, I am still reserving judgment on the organization. Part of this is that I still disagree with the politicization of resolutions, but the other part cannot help but feel compelled by those who strive hard for the profession within the association. From my experience in organizations run by member volunteers, it is no light undertaking to produce results. Where others might make light of their efforts, they have my respect. There are additional discussions ahead, I feel, so I await more input and information.

Beyond my own inquiries into ALA, I really had a great time meeting and socializing with many of the people who I have been communicating with through Twitter, Facebook, and blog comments. It is extremely flattering to tell someone how much you love their blog and they reciprocate in kind. I even had a couple of people tell me my name and/or my posts came up in various meetings, though I’m not sure whether the context is favorable or not. It is heartening, for certain, to have the personal conversations reinforce your choices of inclusion in readers, followers, and Facebook friends. I left with a renewed sense of community and a strengthened feeling of professional bonding.

Photo by Peter Bromberg/Flickr My only actual obligation of the Midwinter Meeting was to co-present “Set Sail for Fail” with Karen in the Networking Uncommons area. For those who missed it, you can watch it the entire thing either through Buffy Hamilton’s raw footage or Jenny Levine’s Ustream clip. I was not certain how many (or if anyone) would attend, but I was pleased to see at least a dozen people interested. As time went on, this number easily doubled. It was a good natured lively discussion about what hasn’t worked out for people and the lessons in evaluation that could be applied in the future. It also provided Karen and myself with some feedback about the type of topics that could arise as we plan out a FAIL conference for the future. I’d like to thank everyone who attended, tweeted it, and shared their stories.

(You can also read about it on the American Libraries Inside Scoop blog or listen to Karen and I talk about it in the video interview linked below.)

(I’m not exactly sure what is going on with my face in this frozen moment, but I assure you it is not permanent.)

As I drove back to New Jersey, my reflections upon this experience have induced me to give the annual conference a try. For those with suggestions as it pertains to the annual conference, please do not hesitate to add your comments. This was a good time and I’m eager to see what waits for me in Washington.

The Library Ecosystem

Late Saturday night, after the various bar socializing trip during the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting, I was sitting on the bed in my tiny hotel room (more on that when I do my recap post tomorrow, hopefully) thinking about the different types of libraries and how they might be interdependent. I grabbed my notepad and sketched it out (this is a cleaned up final version of that idea).

4286696021_e2f26a2572_b[1]Please allow me to explain a few things about the chart.

First, this is a very simple chart of the possible relationships out there. With a tool like Mindomo, I bet there could be more connections made between the different library types. In sketching this out, I went for the idea that felt to be the greatest connection between the two types. I’m sure there are some better ones out there, so please tell me with a brief explanation in the comments.

Second, I’m sure there are a couple of people that thought, “Well, why are special libraries a block on the outside? Where are their connections?” To be blunt, it’s not that they are not connected, it’s that the diversity in the types of special libraries is such that it would be hard to pin down a connection to each other type of library. I wanted to include it on the chart (to acknowledge its existence), but I was hard pressed to make it work. So, there is it.

Third, whether my connections are right or wrong, I truly believe that the different types of libraries really do depend on each other. Academic libraries provide the greater depth and breadth of scholarly knowledge to which the public and school libraries rely upon. Public libraries provide broad support for the curiosity that fuels the inquiries made at the academic and school libraries. School libraries provide the crucial building blocks for a lifetime of literacy in both scholastic (academic) and recreational (public) information seeking skills.

As a greater community of librarians, we really must not lose sight of what the different types bring to the table. Without public libraries, would school and academic libraries have the resources to sufficiently cover personal non-erudite inquiry? Who would act and advocate for information access for all? Without academic libraries, where would scholars delve into deeper meanings of accumulated research results? Would vast archives be relegated to those cities and communities that could best afford to collect and store it? Without school libraries, who else will represent our ideals of intellectual exploration and inquiry to the upcoming generation in their formative years within the walls of the school building? Teachers are bogged down by instructing towards the test standards and administration is smothered by education regulation.

I believe that our fortunes are not singular but collective; and that when one type is threatened, all types are threatened. When a public library closes, the impact is felt in the local school and academic libraries as they will bear some of the load that puts them slightly askew from their mission. When an academic library sees its funding cut, the public library takes on collegiate inquiries that go beyond their available resources and school libraries lose out on more advanced materials for their gifted students. When school librarians are removed, the public library loses an onsite literacy advocate and the academic must expend time, money, and effort to provide basic inquiry skills rather than focus on more advanced ones.

The words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind here.

We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Recognition is in order that all library types count. In a year that will be heavy on advocacy, no library is insignificant. Everything is connected and we should act accordingly.

Nominations & Conference Destinations

I’m very humbled to announce that I have been nominated by my friend Buffy Hamilton for the 2009 Edublog Awards in the category of Best New Blog. I’m very flattered to be considered and I take it as a great compliment. (Although, as I look through the other sites nominated, I see a lot more teacher oriented blogs than librarian oriented blogs.) I do get a fancy badge for the blog, which gives it some color. Check it out!

 

In other news, I am gradually being peer pressured into attending ALA Midwinter 2010 next month in Boston. While it will certainly be very damn cold, the social opportunities to meet with other librarians that I have been Twittering, Facebooking, and Friendfeeding with is a powerful lure. (FriendFeeding sounds somewhat off.) I have to check as to whether I can get credit for a day worked for Friday since I will be paying my own way otherwise.

4179350993_2b806ab77e_o[1]And since I’m interested in the social opportunities more than what else is being offered (not that I can decipher it and have been encouraged not to as well), I’ve made a special blog badge for myself (linked to the left and in the sidebar).

I have an idea for something to do while things are going on; all I can say is that it involves a flip camera and some hustling around. Right now, I’m trying to figure out where I would stay (with friends or get a room) and a basic itinerary. I hope someone organizes a blogger meet-up. I would offer, but I have enough on my plate as it is!