data-driven strategizing for tiny libraries

I really need to upgrade this version of WordPress but I only remember when I am making a post and so I am busy. I did take the time, with other VLA members (Heidi! Helen! Sarah!) of redesigning the Vermont Library Association website. It was a great project, still a little bit in process, but I learned a lot more about responsive design and working with a team of engaged and interested people. Last weekend I went to Lexington MA to speak at the Cary Public Library. Not my usual routine, I was a guest speaker at a brunch talking about blogs. No slides, just talking. I talked about the history of this blog–15 years old this month–and other things I’ve done as a blogger. It went well. You can read the talk here: Blogs, Blogging and Bloggers. Scroll to the end to read a list of good book/reading blogs I put together. Ah, blogs!

Cutler library stats

This past weekend I went to a strategic planning retreat for one of the local small public libraries. They are in the unenviable position of needing to make some changes without really having the cash or the staffing to do those changes. The head of the board asked if I’d come in and talk about… making tough decsions, what other libraries are doing, that sort of thing. I came in to talk a little bit about Libraries I Have Known and spent about 45 minutes with a combination of local library anecdotes (I got a million of ‘em) and some data-driven talk.

The Vermont Department of Libraries puts out a terrific Giant Spreadsheet every year with a lot of information about all of Vermont’s libraries. I’ve talked about it before. However, it’s more data than most people want to deal with, which is perfectly okay. I took the giant spreadsheet and used some Excel filtering and added some averages and summaries and was able to create a much more modest spreadsheet which basically said “Show us how we’re doing compared to other libraries our size” For this project, I took all the libraries that had within 400 people population-wise and found the most salient information about those libraries (budget, circ, per capita funding, programming &c.) and then highlighted where this library fell on the matrix for these values. It didn’t take long, but it was fiddly work. At the end of it I think I had a really useful one-sheet for the board (above) and a few smaller spreadsheets so they could see where the numbers came from. It was fun. I’d love to do it for more libraries. I work in-state for pizza and Fresca (and mileage if I have to schlep someplace). Look me up.

How to solve impossible problems with Google… by Google

Like many library people, I get annoyed when I tell people I can’t find something on their website and they tell me how to search for it. That said, I know there are things I still don’t know about searching and I like learning what they are. Greg Notess’ Search Engine Showdown is always a first stop. I also enjoyed this post–How to Solve Impossible Problems–about Google research scientist Daniel Russell’s presentation to a group of investigative journalists last week. It’s got two great parts

1. The impossible problem which is just a fun sleuthing puzzle about how to identify a randomish photo (though not so random as it turns out, solution explained)
2. Even more tips about Google that I hadn’t known including the public data explorer and using the word “diagram” when looking for schematic type stuff. Makes sense now that you think about it, hadn’t really thought about it much before.

living inside the library, some photos

A comment in my previous post led to a blog post, nominally about NYC’s Fashion Week, but including some photos of the apartment over the 67th Street Branch of NYPL.

Grandpa’s Grandpa was a Norwegian immigrant. He lived on East 67th Street between First and Second Avenue, in the penthouse apartment above the 67th Street Branch library. He was the custodian of the three-story building, and at the time, the custodian lived above the library (there was a dumbwaiter, but no elevator) as part of his employment package.

Librarian in Black redesigns and moves

Sarah Houghton-Jan has a new URL and an all new look. Go over to her inaugural post and say hello. Don’t forget to update your feeds!

missing ALA this year

I sort of have a “How can I miss you if you won’t go away” feeling about ALA most years. I went when I was a councilor. I went when it was near me. I went when I was speaking at it. This time, none of these things were true and I was still a little exhausted from ALA Anaheim last year where my credit card number was skimmed and I had to drive an hour to get a decent restaurant. This year ALA is sounding fun, from the reports. ALA is always a better time when it’s in Chicago. More of the staffers can go and more people are used to the location and can get decent hotel rooms and the weather isn’t horrible. At least that’s been my experience. My work travel this month is going to consist of a trip to New Orleans next week [another popular ALA summer venue] for MetaFilter’s Tenth Anniversary where I will be paid to drink beer and eat alligator and wear a catchy t-shirt. Here are a few links I’ve been seeing about what I feel I’ve been missing at ALA.

It’s just like being there, only I’m still in my pajamas, and I slept til 11.

neat pictures from old books

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new site with neat old pictures. I have a tendency to just trawl Google Books to find old images, but this site — From Old Books — has a bunch of neat images along with all the citation information and sometimes some nifty stories besides.

happy tenth birthday librarian.net

I forgot, with all the hubub about 4/20 [Hitler's birthday, the Pirate Bay decision, other stuff] that my blog is now ten years old. Older than most, younger than some. I’ve become a much less frequent updater, and often on Fridays for some reason, but I’m still enjoying writing it, reading it, interacting on it and being immersed in blog culture generally.

Thanks readers, for a decade of sharing library information here. Here’s a link to the first ten days of librarian.net.

Shiny Toys or Useful Tools? Wikis and Blogs

Walt Crawford’s new version of Cites & Insights contains the freestanding article version (pdf) of the talk he gave at the OLA Superconference that I thought was so useful. Lots of good charts and graphs and stats about the world of library blogs and library bloggers. Interesting reading no matter what your familiarity is with either of these tools.

Blogs and wikis aren’t shiny new toys for libraries and librarians any more. They’ve moved from toys to tools. As with most tools, they’re not magic, they’re not right for everything or everybody, but they can be powerfully effective in many situations.

what’s hot

As much as the blogoworld might seem otherwise, ours is not a particuarly trendy profession. However we do have trends and HotStuff 2.0 uncovers them for us. It’s an autogenerated blog set up by Dave Pattern which tracks hundreds of blogs and looks for trends. Sometimes these are pretty prosaic (really, potato?) but other times you can sort of see somethign happening there if you squint a little. Either way it’s an attractive and interesting blog with the obligatory “Hot or Not” which I don’t totally understand but I guess I’m happy to be on. Neat project!

a little more long-form reading

As I said previously, I’ve been reading more. One of the online things I’ve been reading has been the group library blog In the Library with the Lead Pipe. It’s a long-form blog by six authors that gets to go a little more in-depth into library issues than your average blog. Recent posts I’ve enjoyed include this look at the idea of universal catalogs and this look at how to make bibliographic instruction “sticky” (memorable). The thing I like abotu this blog is that in addition to having really good writing and heaps of links to more information, the authors actually comment on each other’s posts so that you get more of a sens eof the authors’ perspectives and also some built-in discussion at the end of nearly every essay. This is one of my favorite new blogs of 2008.