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A room (and a person) with a view


Yes, this is the view from my room at the Downtown Marriott. Very nice, yes? And what follows is my view of the 4 great sessions (and a luncheon) that I attended today at PLA 2012.

A brief word about lunch with David Baldacci–He was great. The highlight for me was a wildly entertaining story about the author’s boating experience in Maine with Bush 41, who is by all accounts (or at least Baldacci’s) an unpredictable and renegade boat captain. I am certain I could not do the story justice, so I will not even try.

I started off the day right with Getting eContent to Your Customers: Challenges, Best Practices, and Solutions. It was the right choice for me, anyway. I write a lot about ebook angst, which is so pervasive right now in the library world, particularly among library bloggers. This session was, in a word, refreshing. While the issues with vendors and publishers were acknowledged, the focus here was on long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes. The panel was excellent. I took lots of notes, and there is so much that I could quote; however, my takeaway was this: libraries need to be working toward a model where we have control. Libraries should have an “elegant, intuitive, low-maintenance interface” for ebooks just as iTunes and Netflix have for music and movies. And something like that is not out of the realm of possibilities, especially with initiatives like Library Renewal dedicated solely to this proposition.

This session was a  good reminder that the whole ebook phenomenon is still in its infancy. Rather than focusing on the short-term gain with regard to negotiating pricing and DRM and circulation limits, etc., libraries should be focusing on the long-term goal of harnessing this technology in a way that will benefit our users and our missions going forward well into the future. Douglas County Libraries in Colorado (under the leadership of Jamie LaRue, my personal library hero) is one model to keep an eye on. And exciting possibilities do exist. We just have to be patient, and prudent, and determined.

My second session of the day was Creating aVirtual Orientation for New Staff . While it is true that this particular virtual staff orientation was created by Baltimore County Public Library–a large system with money in the budget for professional video production (and its own TV production studio), there is still a lot of good information here that could be translated for use by smaller systems with smaller budgets. My own library system has no formal orientation for new employees. I would love to see some sort of interactive, online virtual orientation that would educate new staff about our entire system–administration, member libraries, and branches–in one fell swoop. It’s so important to understand the whole when you’re only working in one small segment.

After lunch, I attended Creating a Vibrant Organizational Culture at Your Library, which was timely for me since my System office has just this week embarked upon a cultural change initiative. It was encouraging to be among a roomful of fellow librarians only to discover that the majority of us are experiencing the same culture problems in our environments–dysfunction, complacency, silos, old hierarchies, distrust, etc. The goal is to move from a reactive environment to a creative environment. From a “yes, but” culture to a “yes, and” culture–big difference. “You must change thoughts and beliefs before you can change actions.” “Experience creates beliefs; beliefs create actions; and actions create results.” I wonder how many libraries and library systems out there could use a culture change?

Finally, since I am a cataloger (albeit a reluctant one) and work in technical services, I attended The Speed Team: How We Got Rid of Our Backlog, Improved Customer Service and Saved Money without Using a Consultant. While I admire the transformation that The Los Angeles County Library underwent in reducing their backlog and turnaround time from 52 days to 5 days, unfortunately, it was difficult to visualize application of this model to my own technical services department, which is so much smaller and does not have the same issues. My takeaway, however, was that it is important to question whether old processes are still valid and to measure every task and every avenue of output and to cut whatever is non-essential.

Overall, a productive, informative, and entertaining day in Philadelphia. Can’t wait until tomorrow.