Hi, this is Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast, hosted by me, Steve Thomas. This is a special PLA 2012 episode. I went to the conference in Philadelphia and spoke with some folks face-to-face. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed meeting them face-to-face and having a nice conversation.
First up is Andy Woodworth, blogger and library advocate. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What you’re going to be talking about and how you’re presenting with?
[Andy] Sure. I’m on a panel, it’s a, well it’s a panel, yeah I guess it’s a panel, with Sarah Houghton and Michael Porter, it’s called E-book Pro Prospectives and I think in preparing for this talk the one thing I’ve discovered is that I hate everyone. I hate.
[@sarainthestacks] Join the club.
Well I hate, yeah, I hate, like I hate librarians, I hate publishers, I hate authors, I hate the mediums, I hate the books, I hate the, I just, which I, I mean, I could do for 10 minutes, but probably, probably not go over very well, but at least people will be waiting for the other people to talk.
It wouldn’t be the most uplifting talk.
No, but what I find is I think perspective actually is probably the key word in there because I think there is a complete, I think they’re, e-books are blown out of proportion and it’s probably because of the book part of e-books that’s been so well associated with libraries over the years, is their product and their brand, but it’s really just, for my part, the way that I see it, with the Harris poll saying like one in six people have e-readers based on a 2000 person online survey, I mean, hello digital divide, how are you? Oh I’m doing well. Do you have an e-reader? No, I’m not, I’m behind the digital divide, I don’t have an e-reader.
What do you, you said that was an opt-in sort of survey right?
Yeah, it was an opt-in survey, which they, which, I mean, it’s not like Harris doesn’t know what they’re doing, I have to take a better look at the survey, but just first glance, I mean I see that they balance it for demographics to try and reflect the United States, but still, it’s relatively specific and the fact that it’s online as well is a little.
How do people opt into it?
I think probably via email or something, website, who knows. People, people will, you know, sign up for all kinds of things.
It’s the kind of thing that could have been on Facebook, an ad or something even…
Yeah. It’s like there was a, you know, big hullabaloo when this number came out, it’s like well 20% of people have e-readers. Well, it’s like, that means 80% still don’t, even if you set the results from that, and I think it’s just, I think at this point it’s blown out of proportion. I think it’s a product that doesn’t suit our budget or our vision or our principals or need otherwise because it comes with so many caveats or so expensively that I don’t think it’s, I think it’s, I think like wow, I’ll back it up this way. I think all the decisions are hyper local. If you have a library where you have e-readers, a good size population and you can afford it, then you’re going to buy it. But, if you’re on the fence, it’s probably not a good decision right now.
And if you don’t have a population that has e-readers, like Sarah’s, I mean don’t bother, I mean unless, I don’t think they’re downloading on their phone, I don’t think it’s, like telephones we’re talking about.
Right, the Obama phone doesn’t have an e-reader app.
Well it doesn’t, it’s not a smartphone so it’s, it’s like, I think it’s, it’s a disservice in a way that it gets disproportionate attention and.
I guess I said, that seems to be what everybody is talking about is e-books, e-books, e-books and there are other things going on.
Yeah, I mean the other, the other one in six number, that the census number, that one in six Americans live in poverty and that’s a, that’s a fairly mandated survey of the United States and to come up with that, now I mean I want to look at the where the poverty line starts, I mean I’m sure it changes from locale to locale but it’s still like there was no buzz or fanfare for it, so it’s like disproportionate. I mean cause that’s still like yeah one in six people are, you know, wondering where their food, shelter or other amenities are going to be coming from and I think that’s, if there’s any sort of population that’s in need of attention it’s that because we, we can have all the e-books we want, but we can’t really, improving people’s lifestyles and lives generally to me is far more important.
Well I mean e-books is providing a nice little service to people who can read them if they, if they like that kind of thing
But that one in six who’s in poverty, I mean, they really need us, it’s not something that’s a nice addition to, oh well we also have e-books, it’s, I need to apply for a job and they only have the application online so I have to be on like, and I don’t have a computer, so, yeah.
But again, I mean, the flipside of that, it’s hyper local, where my, the area I serve probably has, I don’t know what the pop, certainly has probably people who live below the poverty line, I don’t know what kind of percentage and there’s probably areas that are even worse, so that might be more of a priority, whereas, you know, there might be high per capita income places where it’s not, that they do have the, you know, that they can afford the luxury and the libraries can make the deals. I think, I think the real path forward is probably, the real good path forward in my opinion is that, is really working with a lot of the smaller publishers and making connections that way, like Douglas County is doing out in Colorado, and I think, I’m probably wrong, I was going to say Darien has something going on, but I know I’m gonna get a message from John or Gretchen being like, no, don’t, or no we do, so if they hear this, what, somebody will probably message and say hey, you got name checked, but.
So, do you think that, do you think what Bobbi Newman suggested with the, basically the big six don’t deal with them, just don’t even deal with it right now and just let everything just work itself out?
I think the more pertinent question, to answer her question with a question is whether publishers are ready for e-books because they’ve gone from a business where they just produce, they don’t, yes they do step a little into like the retail in terms of dictating when things, you know, go on the shelf, or how things are promoted, or, that sort of thing, but now they’ve really taken over a lot more of the reins which with age is the pricing, which they didn’t do before, they just gave, yeah the bookstore the book, or the library the book and they were like here, or the, I should say the book store, in this case, the book and be like sell it for whatever you want, you know, you can mark it up 400% or you can sell at a discount to try and get people in the door, and now they’re much more into it where they’re dictating prices, you know, they’re controlling, you know e-books at the individual level where whether you can share it or not on a Kindle. I mean like if they can choose who can share it on Barnes and Noble or Amazon, at the book level, then libraries don’t have a chance, I mean, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. If they can turn off like the lendability of the help, so that people can’t even purchase this, or purchase the license, whatever you want to say, who purchased it can, can’t lend it, something they bought, there’s really not a chance for libraries at this point.
Right. It always seems like publishers are trying to just use, trying to shove their old business model on top of this new business model, and just. They have to get to act like there’s one copy, it doesn’t make sense for a file.
It doesn’t make sense for a file, it makes sense for a business model. [laughs]
Yeah, I think they’re basically just freaked out because they think that they’re going to go out of business too, so.
Well, yeah, when you have something like Smashwords, Lulu and places where people can put writing, their writing up now, the good counter-argument is that they don’t have editors, but like you say, well the publishing companies, but you can hire an editor. Whether you do or not is an entirely different thing, some people might just be naturally gifted enough, but people can go and do, you know, they can write their own great American novel and then they can put it up there for better or for worse.
I would think that’s a business opportunity for somebody out there, somebody’s got to be doing that freelance editing these.
Yeah actually I know some options, my brother’s getting his book edited and, you know, he hired an editor.
Same thing, I mean just with artists to doing book covers for these people and.
I think, like book publishers are probably get more boutique level where I think it’s a possibility, they get more boutique level where they say we have editing services, or we have marketing services, or we have packaging services, you know, we can put together a social media package for you, we will, you know, help to market your book, and we do this for a flat fee, or whatever they can negotiate. Which, actually, probably wouldn’t be a good idea because when it comes to negotiating rights now, they pretty much put everything in there, whether it’s e-book rights, paper rights, carved it on a stone tablet, you know.
Well they write it in the contract now where it’s like and any format that might be produced in the future, they’re like covering their bases, whatever happens in the future they have rights to that.
But in a way if you think about all the books that pass through, that have passed through libraries, the public library last 150 years, of authors who were, in their day, they were known and out of the day they’re not and they unfortunately get discarded and never hear from them again and it seems kind of odd that they wouldn’t want to hang onto these rights for, you know, the lifetime of the author plus, you know, whatever is 26.
Something like that.
Something like that and, which I guess works for the author, but it doesn’t work for.
Isn’t good business.
Doesn’t work for innovation, creativity or anything else, though I have to wait until Neil Gaiman has died and then, like, however many years if I want to make, you know, Stardust The Musical, or make a derivative work, although there’s that derivative work, that there is a lawsuit to, somebody say that taking notes in e-books is a derivative work. That was the Gale lawsuit I think.
I haven’t heard that one.
Oh I think it’s Gale, I hope it’s Gale because I don’t want to be saying Gale over and over again if they’ve, I’ve got to know about, I’ve got an email or it’s like our company’s not doing this, please make it, please make a.
Please make a correction.
When I made that map for Midwinter, I got a couple of emails saying that’s not our company, we have the same name, that’s not our company. I was like whoops. So I had to make a few revisions, but I couldn’t make them to the map because the map was.
The map was done.
And it’s very hard to. Well I don’t know, I put in all the ones where things have changed, but.
So can you tell us about the map for people who don’t know what that is.
Oh I made a map for ALA Midwinter when SOPA and, was really in high, in its high form going through congress for people to visit certain vendors who supported the Research Works Act or who supported this Stop Online Privacy Act and who also just put, anybody who delves into e-books and tell, you know, just to stop by and be like what are your e-book policies, how do you feel about us, you know, this is what we’re looking at, this is what other things we want, so.
Well cool, you’re, we’re obviously recording this at PLA, what do you, what do you hope to see, or what do you hope to learn?
I’m here for people, I don’t, this is more a social call, so, I mean I’ll, I have an exhibits-only badge which I can probably try and sneak into a few places.
Which also says Andy Woodworthy.
Yes, I am Woodworthy, so, yeah. I don’t know know where they got the Y.
We’ll let that comment go, so.
Yeah, I’m not gonna, I’m going to keep my mouth shut.
Don’t go there, Sarah.
I’m not gonna go there.
No, it’s fine.
I’m just not gonna go there.
Then, they’ll just walking around with you to lunch, Sarah and I have already seen you connecting with people already, so.
Yeah, it’s good to see people, it’s been a while.
Okay, well, thanks a lot for talking to me, Andy.
All right, Steve, thank you, Sara.
All right, bye.
Next up is Barbara Stripling, she’s running for ALA President this year and she’s a professor at Syracuse University.
Okay, so this is Steve. I’m sitting here with Barbara Stripling, she is an associate professor of practice, assistant professor of practice at Syracuse University and she’s running for ALA President this year and she is one of the people working on Molly Rafael’s “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities” initiative. Barbara, can you tell us a little bit about that initiative?
The “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities” initiative is an advocacy initiative that builds on the initiatives of the last several presidents. We are trying to build not only our expertise in advocating for the impact of libraries, but this initiative reaches out and identifies the aspirations and priorities of our communities and then empowers community members to speak out for libraries. So it’s building a next step beyond librarians and frontline workers and authors advocating for libraries to the community members who we serve actually advocating for libraries.
Thanks and so this is Molly’s...
Molly Rafael’s initiative, if you were elected ALA President, how would you, is there a specific way that you think you would tweak this to make it sort of your own? Or would you have your own? I know each president tries to, we just got out of session where they had talked about all this and Molly was talking about that where each president, one year is really not enough to make a huge change, so you kind of try to help continue a previous thing. Have you thought about that? Of how you would, what specific thing you would bring to that to continue the advocacy efforts?
Yes, of course I’ve thought about it. My, my theme is absolutely transforming libraries, transforming communities and I have a lot of thoughts about how we can build on, on what happens. Next year Maureen Sullivan will be President and I’ve already been in conversations with her about how she’s going to build on this. We’re pushing more into the idea of, of civil discourse and civic engagement and really empowering our librarians to be community centers where that safe space of, of learning and conversation can happen. That’s really what I want to push out on, I, I know that libraries are so much more than resources, although we need to certainly have both electronic and print resources, but, but it’s the experiences, both virtual and face-to-face where people can connect with each other and they can find others who are like them and not like them and we can create those safe spaces for conversation in our communities. That’s the piece that I would like to push out on.
I think it’s kind of changing the idea of libraries of, I think most people just think of libraries as big book warehouses.
It’s the sort of the stereotype of the library and it’s changing that idea because I don’t think the physical book is going away, but as it does go away, if people have that stereotype then that does lessen our values, so we need to make sure they understand that that’s not all we are, so.
Yes, and there’s a lot, there’s a lot of work we have to do to figure out what this is going to look like with the digital environment because it’s not as easy to engender great conversations virtually. We have some examples, book clubs, one community, one book, where the library is a center of interesting questions and blogs and people can react. It’s a lot trickier than just having it in the library face-to-face, so that’s a piece of what we need to figure out, is how to make that work.
Yeah, I went to that session this morning that was about social media and it was all about that, of how do libraries need to connect with social media, not, use it to connect with our communities, not just broadcast out to them and say hey we have a program on Monday, it’s a…
Exactly, and it’s that interaction because communities have things to contribute to the way a library operates as well, but also to each other and we can be a center of that I think.
Okay. Thank you for talking to me Barb, and you can listen to a longer interview with Barb and with Tina Millsap on the podcast at Circulatingideas.com. Thank you Barbara.
Next we have Gina Millsap, she is running for ALA President as well and she is the CEO of the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library.
I’m here sitting with Gina Millsap who is the CEO of the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library in Kansas and she is also running for ALA President. I have a longer interview with her on the podcast, episode 10, you can listen to that and listen to her and Barbara Stripling and decide who you want to vote for, so go listen to that. But, for today, I wanted to ask Gina about the session that she’s about to be on, it’s about market segmentation, using market segmentation to help get customers into the library.
It is and that makes it sound like way too boring and it’s not, it’s a very exciting, it’s very sexy. It’s called From The Heartland To Sin City, so I love the title because one of my colleagues is from Las Vegas, is presenting, but it’s a group of libraries around the country that are using market segmentation, really correlating our library usage statistics with data that a company called Esrey produces and they do this on a global scale by interviewing millions of consumers and they’ve divided the United States into, you know, I think it’s like 61 market segments with names like Green Acres and Milk and Cookies and, and they sound a little funny but they have, they really help us understand our communities in a way libraries have never been able to before. And the really exciting thing is not only do we learn more about the people who use the library and how they use it, we’re learning a lot more about people who don’t use the library and potentially why they’re not using it.
Right, so we can change our behaviors to get them into the library.
Exactly, and so the rep, in my presentation what I always talk about is, which seems to resonate with people, it’s kind of like libraries becoming Match.com. It’s our version of Match.com, where we really began to align, you know, identify what we already have that’s going to appeal to people, you know, to either increase their satisfaction with their existing services, to increase their usage if they’re already library users, and then to reach out to those folks that don’t really see, the library’s not on the radar, know about it, don’t know what we have, maybe they don’t even care, but my feeling is they just think they don’t care.
They don’t realize what, I mean, they have sort of that stereotype of well there’s the, the library’s that little warehouse of books over there, they don’t have anything to offer for me, but we might have something we can offer them.
Exactly, so if we want, you know, to me I always think about it as okay, what questions do I want to make go away in my community. The question I get, you know, if I say oh I see you have a new e-reader and I said where are you getting your books? I’m buying them from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I said have you checked any out from the library? And there’s this look of disbelief, stunned disbelief and it’s like the library has e-books? Well I want to make that question go away.
Right, you want to make that confused look go away.
That’s right, we’re just, that like disdainful, libraries don’t do that! That oh yes they do, sister!
Yeah we’re stuck in an image problem still, that we’re working on getting ourselves out of. I think what you’re talking about is a good way to do that, of identifying the way to get into that.
And as, you know, I work out in the community a lot, you know, and I’m CEO and so when I’m talking to other CEO’s in the public and private sector both, you know, I’m telling them, you know, we’re very data driven here, we make really good decisions because of the type of analysis that we do and not only are they very interested in that because they may not yet be doing that, but it gives the library a lot of credibility in terms of our stewardship of public monies.
Right, I didn’t ask you about this in the other interview, can you talk a little bit about the difference, cause most libraries no don’t have the model you guys have of having a CEO as the head. How does, how does that work for you guys in a more positive sense than the general, this is the director and then the assistant director and all that stuff?
One of, I, we chose to go with, with more private sector titles, I mean you know, I could be the Executive Director, I was, but what I found is that in my work in the community, especially working with chamber, corporate members, donors that executive director is very much kind of a non-profit term, they, and people don’t necessarily understand, always see you as the leader of the organization and so words matter, titles matter and so we chose to do this because when I say I’m the chief executive officer, people know exactly what that means. Okay, she’s the boss, if she says something I can count on that.
And did you do that throughout the organization? I mean are you the only one who changed, or did other people follow you?
No, we changed the deputy director to the chief operating officer, our finance person is the chief financial officer. Actually, our top tier of managers are directors, you know, and down from there and so, and actually what we told our staff generally is we have our job classifications and those are part of a system, but with our staff, in terms of their individual job titles, I let them chose them as long as they’re accurate.
The kick claiming to be the empress of the universe, or anything like that, that’s my job, but. [laughs]
Unless they are the empress of the universe.
That’s right. But again, that’s me, but they can be the princess, or they can be the prince, you know. [laughs]
Are you doing anything else here at PLA that you’re, you want to talk about, or?
Well, you know of course I’m campaigning, but very discreetly because this is not really the place to do that. So it’s a subtle more of one-on-one communication, like this opportunity you’re giving me, but also I’m presenting, you know, I’ve been a PLA member many many years and I’ve been presenting at PLA for a number of years, it’s a great, I think it’s like the best conference for public librarians, I always get wonderful takeaways and have since I was a baby librarian here.
This is my first PLA, so it’s great.
Yes, highly recommend it. You get takeaways that you literally go back and put into place immediately, you know, which is, you know it’s worth every penny, but I’m presenting two things. One on market segmentation, you know, being very data driven and using that data to really learn more about your community and your library users and really provide the services collection and programs that are going to be most meaningful for them. And then I’m doing a program on intellectual freedom and really sharing what happened to our library in a book restriction case that occurred in 2009. It was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through in my career, and I, you know, as much of a veteran as I think I am at a lot of things, it was a very humbling experience, but I learned a lot.
There’s always something new to learn, no matter how long you’ve been in the field, so.
There, absolutely. That’s why I love being a librarian, you know, the thing is, you know, I always say I look forward to going to work every day, and I learn something new every day and how many people can say that about their jobs?
Right, I mean it’s, that’s basically, that’s part of our job, is to learn.
Well that, you know, that lifelong learning pitch that we give our communities, if we’re not modeling that, then something’s wrong.
Yeah cause I went to a session earlier, yesterday about, just using social media and stuff and it was saying even for the staff that doesn’t want to use that kind of stuff, they need to understand it because if somebody comes in and says why do I need to check in on Foursquare? That staff member needs to understand what check in on Foursquare means, so they can answer the question.
Understand the lingo at the very least, I mean even if you’re not going to use it yourself, just, you have to be versed in that.
And the thing is, I mean, how many of us do have Facebook pages, you know, or Twitter feeds, you know, those kinds of things and the thing is if we are expecting our customers to do something, whether that’s checkout an ebook from Overdrive, use a self-check, you know, or interact with us on social media, and do that on their own, if we can’t do it equally well, we’re not doing our jobs, that’s the bottom line. We’re customers too.
Right. So the last thing I wanted to ask you was about, I think I asked you a little bit about it in the other interview, but do you have a specific, we talked a little bit about how, and I actually was in a session with Molly Rafael earlier where she was saying the same thing that you guys said, that it’s hard to get anything really done in one year as president of ALA so you’re kind of moving things forward during your time. Is there one thing in particular that you would grab on and try to change if you were elected?
I think right now, you know, I’ve said there’s, there’s kind of four things I want to focus on and I’m hoping that with following Maureen, whoever follows Molly, Maureen Sullivan, they’re going to put us to work which is a wonderful thing, so maybe three years you have to really work on something, but certainly e-books and digital content. That is not a quick fix and it’s going to take really consistent leadership to really make sure that libraries get what they need to be able to build collections for their communities, serve the needs of readers and at the same time, make sure publishers and authors thrive. I mean if they don’t, we don’t have anything to buy, right? I think also diversity within the profession because we need diverse perspectives to be more innovative, you know, and just to be more representative of our communities. Library visibility and awareness, we got to get out of the current communication channels and go beyond that. We’ve got to be more effective with social media, but you know, the thing is, I don’t want to see stories like we saw and I think we’ve talked about this before, what those stories in Wall Street Journal and New York Times that say oh look what libraries are doing. I want those stories to go away, I find them annoying because they’re talking about stuff we’ve done for two decades. You know, I want those to go away, now will I make them go away? No, but I’ll give it my best shot because part of this is just continuity and consistency, not giving up, being relentless.
Yeah it’s one of those things when you read articles like that, it makes you wonder about all news because when it’s something about what you know about and you’re like, but that’s like not right and it’s, it’s not new and everything, it’s like is every news story like this? I just don’t understand the other, so it takes I’m a little scared of that.
To me it’s a little, it’s almost lazy, you know, reporting because it’s like it’s reporting on things that we’ve done that are basically part of our, institutionalized at this point, helping people find jobs. I mean, those are all really great things, you know, the stories I want to see are the real difference we make in people’s lives and in the community, you know. With this kind of basic understanding that yeah, that’s what libraries do, they’re community assets and this is specifically what we mean by that.
Right, not just “hey look, what are e-books gonna do to libraries? Libraries are over.”
Yeah, I mean.
I’m getting tired of the library, the library is dead headlines.
And it’s always been a version of that hasn’t it? Oh yeah, what about when LP’s went away. Well you’re dead. Paperbacks, oh no!
Yeah that was a good takeaway I took from one of my other sessions that I went to, that the death, or the introduction of a new media doesn’t mean it’s a death of an old media, just because something new comes along does not mean the one one is gone.
Well you know information technology don’t get retired, I mean okay we don’t use stone tablets much any more.
Right, or scrolls.
Yeah, but we use paper, and paper’s been round a long time. Because, my feeling is, this is very anthropological, that we’re wired to want choices. Human beings are wired to want choices, we want, what we want when we want it, how we want it, and that’s going to change based on the situation, right? Okay. So I have my phone here, I got my book on it, you know, cause I didn’t want to schlup my Kindle around in my purse, but I have my Kindle in my room and I also brought a paperback book, you know, and I have my audio in my car, there you go.
Nothing wrong with choice.
No there’s not, choice is good. And I’m hoping that we’re making way more convenient, so that downtick we saw in reading, you know, over the last several years, say last 15 years, you know, if reading becomes really convenient, maybe there’s more reading. Haven’t seen any data yet, but I’m hoping that’s where we’re going.
I hope so too.
So, thank you again Gina for talking to me again, and hope you have a good rest of the conference.
Thanks Steve, you too.
This next interview is a conversation I had with librarians Lindsay Levinson and Annie Seiler after a session at PLA where we were talking about Twitter interactions between librarians at conferences.
I was in a session today and it was called…
Geek to Chic, or Chic to Geek.
Chic To Geek with Sam Chada, talking about using emerging technologies in libraries and we realized in the middle of the session that a few of us were tweeting it and we realized it’s kind of weird sometimes to be in a room with a bunch of people that you don’t really know, but you’re following them and following the conversation and so I have a couple of them here with me. I have Lindsey Levinson and Annie Seiler and, so we were just going to talk about it a little bit. I know you guys thought it was strange as well.
[AS] I think it’s really kind of interesting because you do look around and try and determine who is who, especially when you have an outdated, like Twitter avatar, it gets a little hard cause if like someone changes their hair color, and.
Right, when like Annie, you are not, you are wearing glasses now but you’re not in your Twitter avatar. And Lindsay you are wearing glasses in your Twitter avatar but you’re not now.
[LL] I think it’s fun, it’s almost like where’s Waldo, you’re just trying to look around the room, but it’s also neat because when you, like we are meeting up people that you’re tweeting with after the conference, you learn a lot about people, their backgrounds, and make connections with people through Twitter.
Right, and I think we also mentioned before that it’s, it’s, when you’re doing that Where’s Waldo? thing, it’s kind of weird because everybody’s kind of following these things on their smartphones and iPads and not everybody’s covering it, so you’re trying to figure out who’s just reading, who’s covering and there was one other girl in there before, but she wasn’t interested in sticking around, so. There were at least four of us in this room that didn’t have that many people in it, I don’t think, about 50 probably, but it’s interesting, so.
[AS] I think it’s fun.
Yes, I do too, and may get you the laugh, and we talked about trying to do a flash mob in the middle of the thing, but we probably should have cleared that with Sam before we actually did it, so, we didn’t do that.
[AS] Which we did not do, but having the tweeting jokes back and forth and accidentally making people laugh out loud is, can also be a little bit disturbing to other people, I had.
Which I did to Annie.
[LL] I think it’s a neat thing just to connect with people that you don’t know from all over the country through Twitter, it’s a great form of communication and socialization of people.
Yeah I met a lot of people here that I’ve only, I’ve talked to some people for years on Twitter and I just never been able to put a face to the names, besides the little Twitter avatar, so it’s very nice. Thank you guys.
[AS] Thank you.
Finally, we have Maurice Coleman, host of the T is for Training podcast and library trainer.
I’m talking to Maurice Coleman, the host of the T is for Training podcast, I should be able to.
Just stand up right there, there we go, as it stops wobbling, hi Steve.
Hi and Maurice can you tell me about what you do for your, I was going to say your real job, but T is for Training is your real job, right?
T is for Training is an avocation, it’s truly a labor of love, I work for the Harford County Public Library in North Eastern Maryland, if you’re familiar with the state of Maryland and the Eastern seaboard. We are about 50 miles north of Washington DC, my official title is the Specialist Three Technical Trainer which means I do a lot of the technology training for staff, I occasionally dabble in technology training and presentations for the public and when I’m not doing technology training themselves, it’s my job to keep up with all this stuff that has to do with the latest in libraries and not so latest in libraries and I do dorm orientation. I do pretty much anything my supervisor asks me to do, they come in and say here, here’s a special project, give it to Maurice, so I do it. That’s my job, I do stuff.
You’re the specialist.
I’m the specialist, I do stuff, I’m a Swiss army knife.
You’re the generalist/specialist.
I am one of many.
You’re the specialty generalist.
I also answer technology reference questions and not a degreed librarian, but I do have to do reference interviews, I don’t have a choice, I have to figure out how someone messed something up and how to undo it. So, I say okay, what did you do? What were you doing? What were you trying to do? What were you actually trying to do when you did this thing you thought you should do, but really shouldn’t have done. That’s what I do, that’s part of what I do.
How much of training the public do you do? Do you just, do you just train staff? Or do you.
I do, if it was right now as of December, about 10% of my time training public as in doing a few presentations for the public, primarily around electronic books.
So, they come in, we do a, I usually do a dog and pony show, these are the different electronic book readers that we work with with our vendor Overdrive. If you have one then you can bring it in, we’ll get you set up, we’ll give you some instructions, if it’s small enough class, we’ll work with you to actually get an e-book on your device, yay.
Sorry, I’m getting distracted.
That’s what’s working with the public, then with staff I do any type of computer training from soft skills to hard and fast skills in Word and Outlook, there’s a Passport to New Technologies class we do that’s part of our new employer orientation. We do a lot of very long employer orientation. For a manager a new employer orientation lasts a year, they’re on probation for a year and end of that do a lot of different things. For most of our employees it’s six months of various things they have to do during that time to make sure that they’re truly indoctrinated into our corporate culture because we don’t want people to sit in the branch, go what are they talking about? I don’t feel like I am part of this place. Maybe I shouldn’t work here, no we want to make sure they have, you know, a common language with staff who have been there for a long time.
Well, and that’s really important, I think that, to have that cohesion of staff and to feel like you’re part of a family, for lack of a better term, but yeah.
Well yeah, and at Harford County Library, as a lot of public libraries, we’ve had our people stay here a long time. It’s not uncommon that if you’ve been there 10 years, you’re relatively new. They are people who we, we have someone who just retired, who just put in for retirement who’s been at the same branch in the same position for 32 years. She’s been the children’s lib, people who now work in the library grew up with her as a children’s librarian.
So I was going to ask also what made you want to start the T is for Training podcast in the first place?
Wow that’s a good question.
I know you’re pretty high up in the numbers now, so.
Well what happened is due to various social media, where I was sitting around, I think it was at Computers In Libraries a few years ago, saying well we know it really stinks that the only time we see each other is at some sort of conference, you know, we sit and we hang out etc. Because trainers are primarily the only person that does that in their system, it can be kind of lonely, well, you know, who do I talk to? Well you can bounce ideas off your boss, the boss, your boss might be a branch manager and information services or whatever anyone wants to call it, by being human resources, as in my case, might be information technology, IT, computer, whatever you want to call it, or executive branch, true executive, you know, report directly to the director, and they may have some idea what you do, but they can’t help you solve problems. So, due to various social media, I said well let’s see, let’s try to get together every once in a while, I did a poll: well what works for you? What time works for you? How often do you want to get together? And I said look, I’m going to be here this day at this time, show up if you want , I don’t care, which is, it’s actually kind of nice to have the rotating cast o characters come in and people tend to ebb and flow, starting on August two thou, I want to say it was August 2008 was our very first show and obviously we’re still continuing. At some point in the next month we will do show number 100, which doesn’t include live podcasts or special things we’ve done, they’re over a hundred different taped episodes available on Talkshoe.
And for me it’s been incredible in a couple of different ways. Number one, I get my problems solved that I might come with, and sometimes without me even asking the question, we’re just talking, oh yeah, I have to remember that, and building that sense of community. Also it’s nice to hear other stories and hear the successes and sometimes the failures and learning how to avoid those when you do the same type of thing. I was, I’m able to pick up, now I won’t, shoot them an email or send them something over the Twitterverse to be able to say “hey, does anyone know anything about this particular type of training” and you usually get a very accurate response like, “yeah we did this, or these folks did this.”
Right, and sometimes though, I mean having that just conversation like this is better than just social media too because, so the podcast is good for that because you’re having a good conversation with different voices together and.
And people bring, like any conversation people bring up stuff that they remember, or we’re famous on T is for Training to say okay just tag that thing in Delicious. Now I don’t use Delicious any more because I think it, well it stinks, right now the new Delicious because the old Delicious actually worked well, but we would take tag it and people could share the information and share it, now people primarily do it on Twitter. Twitter truly in the last, for me, in the last two years has become my, it’s my associated press news wire, I’m going old school people, it’s, there’s always a constant flow of information and I jump in sometimes, or I don’t, that’s just my choice, but that’s what it’s become for me, and it’s really, it’s really where I get most of my news, it will eventually find me.
That’s, that’s generally how I use it too cause I try to follow a large group of people and I realized there’s no way you can follow every single Tweet somebody does, once you get past a certain level and so it’s just better to just jump in the stream, jump out of the stream when you’re done, so.
It’s like “oh, okay, I need to, okay let me follow that for a couple of hours, okay that was fun, right, I’ll back out now, and when.”
And I’ve got a couple of lists of people that I want to make sure that I read everything that they write, but it’s a small list and I can.
For the most part, Steve, I’m sure because you follow a lot of really interesting people, that the important stuff again will find you, the, oh well, there it is, okay I know that because it’s there, it’s there and. Someone wrote in the Twitter world when you have a message that you want to resend to folks, it’s called retweeting, so odds are someone you know’s going to retweet it.
And they may not do it right then, and they do it like five hours later, and then there it is. It’s like “ohh, okay I missed that but hey, I have it now.”
And it’s interesting to go back to using hashtags to go back to see,
And search through things. Like I remember I got into the, when the HarperCollins 26 circ thing popped up I was, it was hours after it had broken before I actually got into it, so I’m kind of getting in and reading and trying to figure out what people are talking about, what everybody is freaking out, so you can just kind of click on that little hash tag and go back and read that.
And read why everybody’s freaking out.
“Why is everybody freaking out?” [laughs]
Well the fun thing is opening up Twitter, and finding out something has happened. I’ve, I’ve found out a lot of big, big news happening via Twitter. Oh blah blah blah passed, it’s usually someone died, or the tsunami, or the earthquake that was on the East Coast in September?
Yeah, I believe so.
The, because the quake in Virginia that was felt on the East Coast, I’m reading the Twitter feed and it’s like oh blank, we’re shaking and I know this person in DC and suddenly I’m feeling it, I’m reading, I’m reading the tweets about it as it’s happening to me, that’s a metavision of things going on. I was also on the phone with someone, I was doing a presentation for the Special Libraries Association in Virginia and she said oh, I think the building is shaking. I’m looking at Twitter, wow the building is shaking. It’s like oh my god my building is shaking [laughs]. It was this incredible metadata, meta thing and this large tsunami a year ago watched it happen. Oh this, there was a earthquake, okay, oh that was a big earthquake, oh tsunamis, oh oh. You know stuff is happening, it’s, I am amazed that more people just don’t go completely bat glue crazy straight jacketing with the sheer volume of information that’s out there. And folks, if you’re listening to this, it’s always okay to take a break. You sometimes you need to take a break. Sometimes you don’t turn on your computer, now I am incredibly connected, the visual right now folks who are listening to Circulating Ideas out there, I’m sitting here, Steve is sitting here next to me, he has his very little, cute little recorder and I have, within arms reach of me, I have my netbook, my phone, a microphone, I’m sure in my bag I have all my bag of tricks, I mean I have all sorts of stuff here.
Right, and I’ve got my phone, my iPod, several, iPad and the.
You’re, you walk around with various amounts of connectivity, sometimes it’s great just to turn it off, or I play solitaire, I play Uno on my phone, but I just, I mean I don’t need, I don’t need to get associated with thousands who play Uno. But sometimes you have to turn your brain off in order for it to be able to process the information that you get bombarded with better. And it’s the truth, you have to, you have to stop every once in a while and I, I do, so I sit outside and just don’t have anything with me, I sit outside and I garden. I get back, back to my roots, my wife who is not technology, tech savvy at all, she’s see a Twitter feed and go “how in blazes do you follow that?” I say “well it’s really easy, I start here, I read stuff that was there before, then when I get bored I get out, I just.”
Yeah my wife was on Twitter very briefly when I, I made an account for her and finally she was just like “just take me off that thing, I’m not going to use that and I’m tired of getting emails from all these weird things saying they’re following me, whatever that means, I don’t know, just take me off of it, I don’t need it.” [laughs]
Who does that, I don’t know what that means [laughs]. I’m glad I’m not the only one.
Right. But yeah sometimes, I mean like sometimes it’s just fun to just turn everything off and play with my kids, that’s what you want to do sometimes.
So you, I, yeah, I told you how I started T is for Training, how did you start Circulating Ideas and why?
It was because I wanted to listen to this kind of show and nobody was doing it.
Excellent way of starting something, it’s like well it’s, you know, if you build it, well someone will actually listen to it, which is true.
Right, cause I would listen to like a lot of Fresh Air and stuff on NPR and it was like those are nice little interview where you get good one-on-one and I looked around at library landscape and I saw you doing T is for Training and there were a couple of other people doing library podcasts, but nothing that was sort of a one-on-one, and there was also a part of the discussion that was going on on Twitter around the time that Ned Potter brought up about the echo chamber thing, then everybody was talking about now of echo chamber, of everybody talking to each other and nobody’s getting a word out. So I was thinking I can do this to get the word out, maybe we’ll understand what librarians are doing, and.
You know Steve, about the whole echo chamber thing, that’s partially true. I say partially true in that maybe via some social media there is a bit of an echo chamber, but when it comes to our individual libraries, guess what? There is no echo chamber.
Usually you are the person in the echo chamber, you’re the person giving all this echo to your fellow folks, they going wow I didn’t know that, wow I didn’t know that and sometimes I’m telling you about something that happened a couple of days ago on, it’s in my past, and they’re like oh I didn’t know that. And the SOPA and PIPA Bill, that was a big, I, you follow anything on Twitter, anything technology wise you are bored with it after 20 minutes because you see everything about it, pro, con, maybe pro, maybe con, I don’t care, I don’t care, I care, I won’t about it, but then you translate that as part of being a technology, a technological evangelist, to the people in your system, to be able to relate that okay this is how SOPA and PIPA will put a monkey wrench in your life if you allow it to and they go oh well that really makes sense and in my head I’m thinking man I had this conversation myself days ago, but they’re, it’s fresh to them and hey, that’s part of my job. It’s fresh to them.
Well and then it’s not, it’s nice to follow news cause I remember a lot of, with the new stuff that Penguin’s doing with e-books, I had followed everything on social media and then one of my staff members had a question about so how do you, you gotta connect, you can’t do wireless any more from Kindle? Or what is that? It was like, but I was able to explain it because I had followed it on.
Right, you need a, now you need a wired device. Really? Does that make sense? No. So they did it anyway? Yep. That really, that really stinks. Ah yep.
And I like, I can’t keep it all straight in my head sometimes either because it’s getting so complicated and what publisher allows what, but you know, we’ll figure it out.
No, there’s the, no you shouldn’t have to keep it all straight in your head and don’t feel like you have to keep it all straight in your head, which I think, in terms of electronic books, and that’s just this, the newest thing cause it, a couple of years ago this was Web 2.0, the same, the same exact questions came with Web 2.0. Well how am I supposed to keep up with all this? You can’t. That doesn’t make any sense. No it doesn’t. But do you get, I counter, do you keep up with all of Shakespeare? No. Then how do you expect to keep up with all of tech?
Now someone’s a Shakespearean scholar if they’re at, you know, name your university with a medieval studies program, or an English department, if they’re Shakespearean scholar they should have a pretty good idea of Shakespeare, but that’s one out of maybe 500 faculty members.
That’s, you know, you do reference, you’re a generalist, your job is to be able to find the answer, not know the answer, there is a very big difference.
And that’s, that’s what I always say when somebody asks me something, I was like librarians don’t know everything, we can just find out everything, so.
Right, it’s like tech, you know, well do you figure out how to repair that? Well the first thing was to read the help. What do you mean? There’s always help. Either there’s help on the device, or there’s help on the internet, you type in what your problem is, you start from there, did that work? No. Okay, then maybe turn it on or off.
It’s funny sometimes, it’s funny too many times when I’m helping patrons just with books even, when I can just say well let’s look in the index, like oh, yeah, that’s, the index, that’s what it’s for.
Hello, what it’s there for.
It helps us find things in the books.
Aha, ohh that’s a great idea, let me actually look at. There’s something that tells you that? Yes.
Exactly, it tells you exactly what page to go to.
Uh huh. I wonder do people do that when they’re trying to read the bible and they just cite that, well cause the bible usually does, well it depends on the version I guess, doesn’t have an index, but there’s concordances, there’s various indices out there. It’s a, just pick the, well how did you figure that out? It’s like let’s see I went to the index, I looked for the word I wanted to, oh it’s there and you know, I John 3:20, I went to I John 3:20 and there it was.
And I read it too, there was the words.
Right, there it was and there was a word and it was there. And now I can move on, my question has been answered. We at the, I, part of what we should do in libraries and part of it is doing it with our staff, is to build that confidence. Part of it is be a cheerleader, part of it is build that confidence so that they think it’s okay when it comes to technology to look up the answer. A lot of staff feel stupid, they, well why don’t I know this? And, again you give them the leave, you can’t know this, don’t stress. But I have to stress, I have to know everything. No you don’t, what made you think that you have to know everything? Because it’s new.
I just need to know where to go to get it.
Exactly, I just need to know how to find it. That’s all I need to, I need to find it. I don’t need to know it, I need to find it and give it to you in a, explain it to you in a way you can understand, use and have a takeaway.
Exactly. Okay, well thanks Maurice for talking to me and we will talk again later.
You’re welcome Steve. Sure.
Thanks a lot.