Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Art of Listening

ear sculptureI work on a university campus where incidents of bias and racism occurred  last fall (and still continue to occur), drawing the eyes of our campus community, our regional community, and the world on us (USA Today article).  Last fall, these incidents caused fear on the campus.  Students did not feel safe, especially since it wasn't clear who was leaving racist messages in various campus buildings.  Students began protesting and demands were made of the administration.  The administration accepted most of the demands, but could not accept all as they were written due to legal reasons. Then came the December holidays. Students promised to continue protesting in the spring semester, and they have.  At issue is how the administration continues to handle itself and the feeling that nothing is changing.   Students are angry. Yes, I have just provided a simplified description of what is occurring and in reality it is much more complex. For an up-to-date picture of what is happening, check the hashtag #NotAgainSU on social media (e.g., Twitter).

Someone this past week reminded me that protests are not the first reaction to a problem, rather a protest is what happens when a situation has gone unresolved for a long time. Racism is a situation that has been protested for a long time. In the U.S., racism continues to be a problem in our our communities, including on college campuses. Its roots can be traced through making "other" those that are perceived as different, Jim Crow, as well as white and protestant supremacy.  Gains have been made, including during the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War, but racism has stayed with us. Many groups, including the Poor People's Campaign, continue to struggle against systematic racism.

There is No Magic Wand

And that is what makes this situation tough. Nothing can happen immediately to make this situation better, either here at Syracuse University or in another community. There is one thing, however, that is not being done which could make a positive impact and that is listening...really listening.  Real listening means listening to the words being said, as well as what is not being said.  It is paying attention to body language.  It means being fully present and not distracted.  It means seeking to understand, which takes time and perhaps a number of different listening sessions.

I believe that no one is fully listening in this situation. Listening fully takes more time that each side is investing in that activity currently.  It would mean listening to people across campus, in all of the different schools, including 22,800+ students, 3,500+ staff, and 2,000+ full-time and part-time faculty.  It would mean holding listening sessions in every building on our 721 acres campus, as well as SU facilities in other parts of the world.  With some of our students taking classes online, it would also mean holding listening sessions through online platforms. No matter how you think about it, that would all take time to ensure that everyone has had an opportunity to be heard.  Those who are listening - a mix of administrators, staff, faculty, and students, as well as perhaps outside observers - would need to verify their understand, and that would take time, too.

Are You Listening to Your Coworkers and Colleagues?

Inadequate listening happens everywhere and all the time, not just at SU.  Thinking of your situation, perhaps better questions are:
  • Do you know how to listen?
  • When was the last time you listened without using that time to construct a response?
  • When have you listened, then asked questions to clarify what you heard?
  • When was the last time you said something like, "What I am hearing you say is..."
Good listening is vital for day to day work activities, including all of those projects we're working on.  If you are not listening, how do you know if a project is running into [hidden from you] problems?


There are many resources on listening, including articles, books and workshops, and below are just a few.  While you will learn from reading these materials, you will need to practice, practice, practice.  Please don't be afraid to tell people that you are learning how to listen.  I think they would be happy to know that you value them so much that you want to hear them better.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending by Libraries endorsed by COSLA

At the 2019 ALA Annual Conference, I learned about the Controlled Digital Lending Program, which 37 libraries have implemented thus far.  On January 30, the Board of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) endorsed the position statement on this program.  What is controlled digital lending? Their press release says:
Originating conceptually from the copyright community and pioneered by the Internet Archive through their Open Libraries program, Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) allows libraries to digitize older in-copyright print books. In this ‘lend like print’ model, participating libraries choose to circulate either the print or the digital copy of a title. The model supports libraries in making 20th century materials available digitally while respecting copyright laws. The Internet Archive has been circulating a collection of over one million books using this model since 2008.
The press release contains more information and I've placed a resource list below.  If you are interested in digitally circulating your older in-copyright print books, I encourage to you look into this.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

#ALAmw20 Day 4: Advocacy, Wrap-up, and EveryLibrary Institute

Making the News: Library Advocacy and Local Media

Speakers: Shawnda Hines (moderator), Christi Buker, TyLisa Johnson, John O'Brien

Christi Buker (Pennsylvania Library Association):
  • Use traditional advocacy and social media
  • Make sure their legislative community is fully engaged
  • Focused your limited time and resources
  • The Pennsylvania Library Association  (PLA) have created handout that provide information on the good, bad, and what’s possible (the ask)
  • In 2018, PLA focused on awareness
  • In 2019, PLA focused on positive revenues within the state
  • Suggested that you get your county to acknowledge National Library Week
  • Do media training
TyLisa Johnson (journalist):
  • Use data to supplement stories on people. Marry anecdotal stories with data.
  • Educate your journalists about the library
John O’Brien, (Pennsylvania State government staff):
  • Revenues have not recovered from the Great Recession
  • There is a lot competing with libraries in the budget
  • Libraries must prove their worth
  • What is your return in investment?



Book Nook inside the Reading Terminal Market Like other associations, American Library Association is a period of change.  Our reliance on our professional associations is different than it was, partially due to the Internet (for training and information) and the economy.  The fact that our vendors (sponsors) have consolidated hasn't helped either.  This all has placed financial pressure on ALA.

I have not tracked information on how ALA might change in the future. My impression is that is still being worked through.  However, ALA has announced that it will be changing its Midwinter event in the future. So this may have been the second to last one.  According to information posted to Twitter, total attendance for this Midwinter was 8,099 (2020). This is compared to 9,211 in 2019 (Seattle) and 8,036 in 2018 (Denver). These registration numbers are similar to the Midwinter conferences in the early 1990s.

ALA still does important work for our libraries across the U.S. and in other countries. ALA accredits our MSLIS programs. ALA advocates for our libraries and sets standards.  No matter what happens in the months to come, ALA will still be an important force.

EveryLibrary Institute 

I ended the conference by attending a meeting of several board members for EveryLibrary Institute (ELI). (Yes, I'm on their board.)  ELI conducts research on libraries, which libraries can then use to help discuss their value with their constituents, political representative, and those who vote on library budgets.  ELI's available research includes a Library Funding Map, information on U.S. Library Funding Change Rate, and the Crime and Library Report. They also push out relevant information produced by other organizations.  If you are interested in understanding or articulating the value of libraries, check out EveryLibrary Institute.

ELI also does training for library staff to increase their political literacy skills. If you're approaching a vote on your library's budget, you might want to top-off your political literacy skills through a workshop or webinar.

EveryLibrary Institute is interested in understanding why people vote for or against library budgets. You might think that you know exactly which way people lean politically and how that impacts their vote on a library's budget, but it is much more complicated than that.  We know that it would help every library vote across the U.S. and so one of things we discussed is how to fund and support this research. If you know of an organization - or group of people - that would be interested in funding this work, please contact John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney.

The Art of Philly

Philadelphia has increased the amount of public art on its streets and in its airport.  Here are a few pieces for your enjoyment.

Mural on Sansom Street by Amy Sherald
Mural on Sansom Street with the theme of biochemistry
Art sculpture at the Philadelphia International Airport made from suitcases
Mural on Arch Street near Convention Center with the theme of water

#ALAmw20 Day 3: Tech Trends, Future of Libraries, and More

LITA Top Technology Trends

Speakers:  Ida Joiner (moderator), Victoria Blackmer, Marshall Breeding, Elisandro Cabada, and Alison Macrina

This Top Tech Trends session was focused on privacy.

What is causing the privacy concerns?
  • Internet of things - the connection of the entire world 
  • Inclusion of sensors in many things that are collecting personal data
  • Not all libraries have secure websites - what a person does on a library's website should be private
  • A need for libraries to use more encryption
  • A recognition that a library's website may be secure, but the ads on it track user activity
  • Analytics which capture user information
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality
  • Data storage
  • Facial recognition - they have been some conversations about using facial recognition instead of library cards
  • Consumer surveillance devices
  • Vendor privacy issues
  • People using Alexa, etc., for quick reference questions
  • The use of drones
Libraries cannot assume that others will figure this out in a way that suits them and their patrons.  Libraries need to get involved and assure that the privacy concerns of their community are being met.

Libraries at the Nexus of Migration

Speakers: Julie Botnick, Derek Johnson, Alex Gil Fuentes, Adriana Blancarte-Hayward, and Christian Zabriskie

Lots of good information in this session and a resource list.  One effort mentioned was the Nimble Tents Toolkit, which is library people combining their efforts on specific, quick response initiatives. One effort was "Torn apart / seperados". Volume 1 is a "rapidly deployed critical data & visualization intervention in the USA’s 2018 'Zero Tolerance Policy' for asylum seekers at the US Ports of Entry and the humanitarian crisis that has followed."  Volume 2 is "a deep and radically new look at the territory and infrastructure of ICE’s financial regime in the USA. This data & visualization intervention peels back layers of culpability behind the humanitarian crisis of 2018." why are libraries getting involved?  Libraries are trusted spaces in their communities. They are welcoming places for everyone.  Libraries offer information, programs, and resources to everyone. We often do civic engagement because we want to help our communities improve.

What specifically are we doing?
  • Providing health information in multiple languages
  • Focusing on offering inclusive materials
  • Training ourselves to do this work and then building capacity
  • Learning about cultural competence and practicing cultural humility 
  • Building collection in non-English
  • Creating program in other languages
  • Providing access to legal resources
  • Giving information to help people know their rights
  • Holding town halls
The work these groups - and others - are doing is admirable and needed.  Let's urge other public libraries to get involved.

FUTURE-READYing Your Library: Preparing for the Future Today

Speaker: Marcellus "MT" Turner

Marcellus Turner is the Executive Director and Chief Librarian of the Seattle Public Library.  During his introduction of the topic, he said that this might not be what people expected and that it was okay to get up and leave.  That made me even more intrigued!

MT and Seattle Public Library are preparing the library of today for tomorrow.  While Seattle Public is well-known, that library was built to be the library of tomorrow, but rather to liberate our ideas about what a library can be.  Now SPL is working hard to figure out the trends that point to the future needs and what the library must do to meet those needs.  The goal is to be proactive, rather than being reactive.

Our Opportunity to Become Future Ready
Thinking Out Loud

SPL has been  on this project for about 18 months and are now at a point where they can begin sharing information. They are still gathering information and do want to engage a futurist, so the work is not yet done. They hope in sharing that they can also learn from others.  MT promised that as they continue to learn, they will continue to share.  He noted that they have hired a policy officer to help with this effort.
Steps SPL is using

MT showed us this information on their strategic direction, noting that what they do will touch on these three areas: Individual, Community, and the Institution. 

SPL Strategic Direction

This was an interactive session.  When we sat down, MT gave each of us a color-coded card, which related to 12 different areas.  These are areas that other industries are thinking about, and he emphasized that we need to think about them too. The areas are:
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Future of Work and Education
  • Changing Demographics
  • Financial Sustainability
  • Corporate Influence and Consumer Expectations
  • Climate Change
  • Growing Inequality and Inequity
  • Urbanization and Density
  • Institutional Trust, Privacy, and Big Data
  • Library as Concept
  • Librarianship and Staffing
  • Customer Service and Engagement
This was a session where my mind was fully engaged and I wished it could have gone on longer. Yet my notes are minimal.  Not every library has the funding and support to engage in strategic thinking like this and so it was inspiring to hear from a library that can take the time and resources to do this.  I cannot wait to hear what MT and SPL learn.  I do hope that some of those lessons will come while my own public library is working on its strategic plan!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

#ALAmw20 Day 2: Sustainability, Diversity, Change, and More

Sustainability Is Now a Core Value. So... Now What?

Speakers: Rebekkah Smith Aldrich and Matthew Bollerman

As the session description says, "In 2019 ALA Council voted to make sustainability a core value of librarianship. So what's next? How do we embed this new core value in our work as a profession, in our libraries, and in our association?"

Smith Aldrich and Bollerman took turns talking about sustainability.  They noted that we - as individuals - want the people we care about the most to have the best possible lives...and that we want the same for our communities, too. Sustainability is one way of providing the best possible future for those around us and our communities. As libraries, however, we are late to this game.

Smith Aldrich and Bollerman are working to get sustainability as a topic in the MSLIS programs and in ALA accreditation. They noted that three MSLIS programs have already inserted sustainability into their coursework (Syracuse University, San Jose State Univ., and Rutgers).

Image of the triple bottom lineThey see sustainability as having a triple, interconnected impact, which they call the triple bottom line:
  • Environmentally sound (earth)
  • Social equitable (people)
  • Economically feasible
ALA has adopted 52 recommendations related to sustainability (2018) and provides information about this in a guide and elsewhere (like the Sustainability Round Table). Smith Aldrich and Bollerman recognize that using sustainability thinking can feel overwhelming, so they encourage people to empowered to start small.
They provided examples of what organizations are doing, including the City of Santa Monica (CA) Ofice of Wellbeing.

One final thought was that we all should be advocates for the ground we are on.  For me, that thought of focusing on the ground we are on, makes this all even more important.

Making Real Change: Moving beyond the Interpersonal to Create Actual Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Environments for Both Library Users and Employees

Speakers: Erin Elzi and Elia Trucks

Anti-oppressive practices (AOP) grapple with power inequities that uphold structural forces like racism and sexism. Librarianship has primarily focused on individual expressions of AOP. However, AOP must include institutional and ideological change, which can be more challenging.

This session will discuss the AOP framework, explore examples of AOP in libraries, and give participants tools for starting larger conversations at their own institutions. Participants will discuss what their institution is doing that focuses on the individual, and explore how theories of organizational change can be used towards institutional AOP.
First of all, it is important to note that their resource list is available and is being updated.  That resource includes a link to their presentation slides.

Second, a significant part of this session was conversation at our tables, where we talked about our institutions and other situations.  I wrote down these things to remember:
  1. Archives save the past, but do not confront it.  We need to confront and discuss the past, not just preserve it.
  2. We need to do bystander training.  People may not naturally know what to do if they witness bias or racism.  By stander training can help.
  3. People need training on how to talk about race, gender, etc.  This should include discussion and training related to pronouns.
  4. Some of the events we hold in our libraries should include a training element for staff.  For example, staff may need training in order to support a controversial event or an event that new for them and the library.  A colleague at my table mentioned the need to hold conversations and training with staff ahead of a drag queen story time event.  Staff may not have interacted with drag queens and may not know how these story times can open positive conversations about gender and gender

Big Shifts: Libraries, Collections, Networks

Speaker: Lorcan Dempsey

Academic libraries increasingly define themselves in terms of student success, research support, and community engagement. We are seeing a major shift from the centrality of the collection, to services and to deeper engagement with changing research, teaching, and learning practices. This presentation will frame important changes, identify patterns in library responses, and discuss how they can use trends to their advantage. It will draw on an extensive record of OCLC Research work on the future of libraries, on the shifting boundaries and character of library collections, on research support, on library collaboration, and on the shift to open.

Map of geographic regions with large print collections

Dempsey said that we used to have limited resources and an abundance of attention.  This is when you needed a lot of patience to locate needed information.  Now we have an abundance of resources and a deficit of attention. Everyone wants information quickly.

Dempsey moved quickly through his presentation and my notes feel very incomplete.  I want to note, though, that he mentioned: 
  • Pluralizing collections
  • Analyzing collections at scale
  • Optimizing collections
  • The rise of the collective collection  
  • Shared collection
  • Specialized collection
  • Facilitated collection
He said how we have moved from owned collection to collective collections:
  • From owned collections to
  • Borrowed collections to
  • Licensed collections to
  • Demand driven collections to
  • Shared collections to
  • Facilitated collections to
  • The collective collections
We need to understand the impact of our networked and digital environment on our collections, our staff, and the users of those collections.  We now have a blurring of workflow and a complex research infrastructure.

Finally, the identity of our libraries has been tied to their collections.  That is no longer true. Rather we need to focus on the services that bring those collection to those who need them, and on the needs of our communities. This will impact how we talk about how collections, our work, our budgets, etc.  In this environment, people skills are move important.

From Non-Voters to New Voters: How Libraries Can Engage Their Communities in the 2020 Elections and Beyond

Speakers: Nancy Kranich (moderator), Gavin Baker, Kendra Cochran, Maggie Bush, Jean Canosa Albano, Michelle Francis. Abby Kiesa

All of these speakers talked about how they have taught other about voting in our elections. 

  • Talk with people about the daily impact of their vote (or their decision not to vote).
  • Education whomever comes to a program on voting.  It does not matter how many people come, because even educating one more people is important.
  • Focus on young people.  People who vote once are likely to continue to vote, so getting young people to vote could launch them to become life-long voters.
  • People need to learn that they have a voice and power.
  • People's traumatic interactions with the government can stop them from voting.
  • Basic information about voting (where, how to, etc.) can be very helpful.  Some have held dry runs, e.g., taking people to where the polls will be, showing them in advance how to use the voting equipment, discussed who is on the ballot.
  • Civic education is important.  Educate people on the law.
  • Educate people about the issues.
  • Hold sessions on what is it like to run for office.
  • Host events so people can meet and greet the candidates.
  • Train your staff to do voter registration.
Helicopter book storage and seating area from Brodart