Digital Tips in a Recession

David Armano over at Logic + Emotion offered up a great post this week on 10 Ways Digital Can Help You Thrive in a Recession. What struck me most in reading his ten tips, was how closely many of these items mirrored some of the shift tenets that I’ve been advocating in my talks and work within libraries over the past year.

Thriving in a recession? Well, that’s something that most libraries are already masters of. We know how to tighten our waistlines and get stretch ten cents into a dollar. But with the digital economy, it is not the dollars and cents that we need to focus our attention on, instead it’s about taking advantage of technology (which is often free and easily adaptable) and utilizing the power of social network currency.

Here’s the list. You can access the full text with more explanations here.

  1. Live by the rules of The Beta Economy
  2. Leverage Existing Platforms
  3. Switch Tubes
  4. Don’t Entertain, Engage
  5. Coordinate Infinite Touch Points
  6. Prototype Often
  7. Trade Focus Groups For Digital Ethnography
  8. Think Outside The Banner
  9. Embrace Delight By Functionality
  10. Listen
There are lots of things to think about within this list, but perhaps the the most important one to me in the last one. :)



Wired Mag & News officesI forgot to bring my camera along, so all I had was my lousy cell phone to capture a few images. But the tour of Wired’s Magazine and News offices was definitely one of the highlights (I'll blog another later) from my short trip to SF -- along with having dinner with a good friend. Thanks Bev!

PS: Check out this month’s cover story Things that Suck and cast your vote for one thing that doesn’t :)

PPS: Also of note in this issue is page 58… Jessamyn West makes news again. :)


"Patron", "Customer" in an "Us & Us" world - Does either fit ???

As I read Seth Godin’s latest title, Meatball Sundae, on my flight yesterday from Columbus to SF I couldn’t help but be struck at how often the word “customer” appeared throughout the book. Sure it makes sense, that book is after all about “new marketing” techniques and rules to connect with your customer. But its constant use got me thinking about how libraries ‘see’ the customer.

When I first started working in public libraries, I learned to call library users “patrons” (BTW this was a hard habit for me to break – for proof, just look back at some of my early blog posts) but as the tide has shifted, I now mostly call them “customers.” In thinking about the shift that is occurring within our society currently where we are moving away from an “us and them” marketing culture to an “us and us” one, to me the use of the word “customer” just doesn’t seem right either. See if you can follow my logic …

In an “us and them” culture…

… the word “patron” implies that “they” ( the patron) exist to support “us” (the library) Think patron of the arts, patron saint of lost souls, etc.


… the word “customer” implies that “we” (the library) exist to support “them” (the customer). Much better, I think.

But in a culture that is moving more and more rapidly to relationships that are shared, “Us and Us”, this division is getting more and more blurry and to me neither the word customer nor patron seems to fit properly anymore.

“Community” is the best word that I can think of because it embraces the idea that we are in this together. But there isn’t really a good singular form to the word community – at least I can’t think of one. Citizen, comrade and colleague come close, but these all seem to be weighted with implied baggage from the “us and them” culture. Hmm … perhaps we need a brand new word? Does anyone have any thoughts?

PS: I know, I know ... some of you are thinking right now "Blowers you think about things too much". But hey, that's what's happens when I have time on a 5 hour flight to kill. I read and then think. :)


I know I’m forgetting something …

As anyone who has ever replanted themselves in a new city, a new job and a new culture all at the same time can attest to, the few first weeks of trying to keep your head from spinning off can be both time consuming and tiring. Fundamentals (like network logins, department name acronyms & even your own phone number) are easily forgotten and essentials (like Which way is it to the restroom, again? or What did she just show me to do to retrieve my voice messages?) can make you feel like you’ve been the victim of a drive-by lobotomy. Yup, being the new kid on the block is mentally exhausting. Period.

Anyways… so what’s the point to this post? Good question. To be honest I had started out with some thought in mind, but as I stare at my opening sentence again, I’m beginning to realize that my plight may be worse then I think. I’ve already forgotten it.

To recover from this fate, I think instead of trying to remember what I’ve already forgotten, I will instead try to list at least a few things that I have learned (& which have made a strong enough impression in both both my st & lt memory) during my short two and half weeks on the new job. Here’s a short list …

  1. CML has a lot great things going on and ton of successes to build upon. In the past year alone they’ve redesigned three websites (library, kids & teens), launched a new catalog, built their own online webpay system, implemented a new events web tool and created numerous ways to engage kids and teens in their new space.

  2. The energy that this organization has is amazing. My first week here, they (nts: I can now say “we”) kicked off a robust (robust is understatement, but I can’t think a better descriptor at the moment) 134 item Tactical Plan to help us reach our vision of a “thriving community where wisdom prevails.” 134 items (ie projects) -- that's a lot!!

  3. There’s a great commitment to providing staff with the resources and tools that they need and a system-wide methodology to help assure their success one they get them. In just the past few weeks alone, over 60 project managers have already received training and that’s just the beginning of the learning and growth opportunities being unveiled.

  4. The closest restroom to my new office is to the right, then left down the hall and another left. Oh, and I think I’ve finally memorized my network, email, LearnerWeb, timesheet and ??? (I know I’m forgetting something) login passwords too!

OK, I think that’s about all I can rehash out of my cerebral cortex at the moment. I’m hesitant to press any harder, 'cause as those of you who have been in my shoes know… remembering those logins and passwords (especially the network one) are too important to loose. :)

Trends 2008

What's Next has just released their latest trend map for 2008 covering everything from Virtual Worlds to Aging. Hmmm...I'm still not sure how aging is a trend.. But on the scale it does kind of seem the opposite compliment to living life virtually. :).

Anyway, here's the large pdf


Two Thumbs Up for Yellowgold

On Yellowgold stage“What do you think? Thumbs up or down?” I asked Kate and Jess as we watched Morgan and friends introduce us to Gustafer Yellowgold through video and song yesterday afternoon.

Tony had said we would enjoy the experience and he was right. And although many of the younger audience members (clarification -- young in age, not in heart) @ ImaginOn were a year or two beneath the girls, that didn’t stop us from laughing and behaving childish. :)

Bottom line: As an introduction to performance art, Gustafer is fun! And as kid crowd pleaser it gets “two thumbs up.”

PS: Our favorite video was, I’m from the sun

PPS: It was nice break from High School Musical overload too!


Congrats Tom & Barry

Back in spring of last year, I had this wild hair idea that I hoped would not only solve a real problem (not enough staff capacity to explore and lead some new emerging technology projects), but also ( & perhaps more importantly) give staff the opportunity to stretch themselves and develop project management and leadership skills.

A mini-Fulbright scholarship is how I thought of the program and after championing the idea under the program title “Emerging Technology Scholars the idea gave birth when staff members Tom Cole (Librarian @ University City) and Barry Newman (Technology Associate @ ImaginOn) submitted two great technology/program projects that they were willing to lead.

The start date for the pilot program was August 1st and after finding space for them both to settle for their 6 month project durations in the Virtual Village, they both took off with their projects in earnest.

In hindsight, I wish that I had been a bit closer in physical proximity to their workspace, so that it wasn’t so difficult to seek my guidance or assistance when they needed it. But our Wednesday weekly project update meetings seemed to work out well and once the projects were scoped to a manageable and measurable definition (there’s only so much you can do in 6 months) both Tom and Barry really took off.

One of my few regrets in leaving PLCMC last month is that I didn’t get to see both Tom and Barry through to the end on their projects (Thanks Matt for picking up the charge). But through what I’m able to follow via blogs and email, I sorta feel like a proud momma eagle watching her fledglings soar high.

Congrats Tom and Barry !! I know you both have at least two weeks left to complete your project deliverables (& Board of Trustee presentations). But now that I’m a bit removed from the action, I just gotta tell ya that your success looks equally as good from a far.

All my best - Helene


Libraries: Taking the "leed" in being green

It seems lately I’ve been both hearing and reading a lot about sustainable design and green living. Of course, it helps that CML is embarking on a long range facilities’ plan this year and that LEED certification has also been a hot topic among libraries over the last few.

Anyway, So what’s my point to this whole post anyway? Well, thinking about “green” got me thinking about saving trees… which got me thinking about books, paper & pulp … which got me thinking about libraries and all millions of books that circulate from our collections in our communities each year… and then I realized …

... Libraries in a huge way have always been “green.” In fact, our collections and borrowing practices not only emphasize “re-use”, they were literally built upon the principle - i.e. shared access for all.

So if you're thinking about green, it seems only natural to think about libraries. I mean why not ...

Go Green. Borrow a Book.

Brain fodder: I wonder if it's possible to calculate how many trees libraries have saved? Even if you took only 1% of library circulation over the last 100 years and used that to estimate the number of trees saved by "re-use" (instead of new purchase) of print materials, I would guess the number would be astonishing! Hmm... Not that I have the faintest idea to go about trying to capture the data for such a calculation. But it is fun to think about, especially in terms of libraries impact to the environment. How about you - Got any thoughts?

PS: Sorry... for... the ... extended ... use of ...
ellipsis' . Sometimes my thought process really is that ... broken and ... sporadic :)


2007 Review - about a week and half late ... opps

For the 1st time in 20 years I missed my “Best/Jan 1st” ritual and the sad thing is that it's taken me 10 days to just now realize it. I remember that I packed “the book” (the best book that is) to come along with me on this interim move -- Note 1) I’m flying back to CLT on the weekends & Note 2) I've been just THAT Busy! -- but for the life of me I can’t remember where –ughh!

To say that 2007 was good year for me is understatement - it was great year! and one that far exceeded my expectations. One year ago, I would have never imagined that I would spend my summer traveling and speaking all over the globe talking about libraries & learning, let alone have accepted a dynamic new job and would moving to Columbus. But it's funny how just 365 days can bring about such huge changes...

Anyway, in the tradition of last year, I thought I’d highlight a few of the posts from the year that were notable. These among my stats and memory either generated the most buzz, link love or page views. You can make of them what you want. Note: They are in no particular order.

Of, course the post with the most comments was this one, Change, Changes & CML.

OK, That's all. I'm off to go search the boxes for that book.


On wild success, stones, gems & online catalogs

(Yup, From the title you can see I’ve thrown a lot of mixed ideas into this post. Hope you can follow my ramblings. )

This week I was reminded of a conversation I had with a former colleague (it seems so odd to call Tony a former colleague) about “wild success” after talking with a new staff colleague about a some of the customer emails she was receiving regarding CML’s new catalog implementation. Most of the emails are overwhelmingly positive – people really love the new catalog and it’s features -- but like any service enhancement that changes the status quo, there is always a small part of your customer base that prefers the “old” (& more comfortable way) of doing things and to their credit they make it known.

For those of us who have invested weeks months of our time and effort in trying to deliver a new product or service enhance with the customer in mind, receiving bad feedback (even a little bit) can be very disheartening and sometimes even crushing. But if you get beyond your own emotional response to what really is, in most cases, the customer’s own emotional response (“Ughh! The catalog has changed, it’s no longer comfortable to me.”) then you can actually see that this type of feedback is indeed a very positive sign.

I mean think about this … Why would your library invest so much time and resources in developing and/or implementing a service enhancement only to have the customer not be able to notice that an actual change has occurred? Hopefully you wouldn’t. You want your customer to notice that there has been change. And with any change, it also means that there is going to be small amount of your customer population that isn’t quite comfortable with something that is new and different and will let you know about it. To me this equates to two huge positives -- 1) Success, in that your enhancement was significant enough to be noticed & 2) Opportunity, in that your customer (through the email that they initiated) has indicated that they are open to a dialogue exchange. These are both very good things and through the 2nd (opportunity), you have ability to help the customer get beyond their first emotional reaction to the unfamiliar interface and take notice of all new things that they can now do.

So how does the term “wild success” fit into all of this? Well, I like to think of wild success as the unintended negative results of creating or implementing a new product or service which cause you to put more into the project than you originally intended. For example: Let's say that your library's summer reading program is such a success that you break all your participant projections and run out chotchy prizes and then have to scramble to find alternatives and also deal with a ton of parent complaints because you don’t have a "plastic animal rubber stamp set" right then and there to award to their child for reading 20 books. To me that’s wild success!! And although it may not feel so good at the moment, especially when an irate soccer mom is yelling at you while their 6 year-old is having a temper tantrum, it does in a way indicate that your summer reading program is a success (as in you attracted way more participants then you ever imagined or planned for). The term doesn’t quite exactly apply to the dozen or so disapproving emails that we received about the new catalog (btw: there have been many more positive ones) but it does remind me that even the “negatives” can indicate a great success!!

Of course, a bigger indication of success are emails like this one we received yesterday.

“Love the new catalog! Easy to use and to find exactly what I am looking for, which is usually picture books. It has always been difficult in past to locate exact picture book. Thank you for the wonderful change!”

But you can’t expect to always get all gems. Our customers are human. They react emotionally change. It's natural to get also get emails along with the gems that say "Please get rid of the new catalog. I hate it. The old one was better and easier to use." The trick is to look beyond these small-stones emails that get occasionally thrown your way and see the potential in helping your customer see that the "stone" they are reacting to may actually have several helpful new facets that they may not have noticed. :)


A good way to start 2008


It's official ...

... I'm a card carrying CML member!!

BTW: I hate to admit it, but this may be the one and only time that my printed receipt actually ever reads "Fines: $0.00"