September 2010 Archives

Moving Library Cooperation to Web Scale

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I'm looking forward to participating with fellow librarians in a series of member events hosted by OCLC and LYRASIS this year. These events will center on cloud computing and Web-scale solutions... which seem to be the buzz-words for 2010. I would say there is just cause for this attention. It's important to look for new ways to do old things that allow us to move forward and actively participate in today's information economy. These events are intended to spark serious thinking and discussion about how and when we embrace cloud computing solutions.

What excites me most is the opportunity to interact, listen and learn from the library community. In addition to having thought-provoking speakers such as Rachel Frick, Tim Daniels, and Tim Rogers, there will be time for librarians to try out various cloud computing tools and discuss how they might improve workflows in their library. People will have the opportunity to interact both with workgroup peers and across divisions within the library. Hopefully, this will help us all broaden our perspectives on what makes the best sense from this plethora of new services.

The first event is being held at the Free Library of Philadelphia on October 15 from 9am to 4:30 pm. It's a free event, and lunch is included. If you're in or around Philadelphia on that day, we'd love to have you at the event. You can register here.

I hope to see many of you over the course of this year as we learn from the experts and from each other how to take advantage of new technologies and solutions.

Too many cooks?

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They say that "too many cooks spoil the broth." I'm not sure that's always the case, especially when it comes to building partnerships.

You may have seen the recent announcement that the cooperative's relationship with H.W. Wilson has been expanded to include access to 29 additional databases through WorldCat Local (21 in the WorldCat Local central index; 8 more available remotely via a Z39.50 search of WilsonWeb). We've had a long and very productive relationship with H.W. Wilson and are very glad to be able to make more of its valuable content available to our member institutions.

This relationship is an excellent example of how a community, working together, can accomplish more on behalf of libraries than any single member. That community includes OCLC, its member institutions and information producers such as H.W. Wilson.

The key factor working on our behalf is that when my team or I sits down to discuss details with a partner like Wilson, it's not just us at the table--we're backed up by thousands of libraries from all over the world.

That's important, because being able to advocate on behalf of the library community leads to a productive, virtuous cycle--an "engine of cooperation," if you will. Tangible results from partnerships--in this case, making WorldCat more comprehensive and better able to represent libraries' full collections--leads to better value for members. That, in turn, lets us attract more partners and members, who then bring further improvements. The cooperative becomes stronger when our services attract more partners.

I spend quite a bit of time talking both to librarians and industry partners--publishers, booksellers, Web-technology providers, search engine companies--all kinds of people doing interesting things in our space. And in those talks, there is often a discussion of one of the following: content, technology or community. What I've come to realize, though, is that the best results come from places where all three come together.

I've noticed that this model is driving lots of companies that already have one or two of the ingredients and are looking for ways to lock onto a third. Possibly this is because libraries are now very focused on electronic content, which is an area that attracts lots of nonlibrary players. Which is great. It means more innovation, more attention, more resources and more options for our users.

What it doesn't mean, necessarily, is more community.

There is a fundamental difference between "improving technology" and "cooperation." What libraries do together can be managed for our mutual benefit. And that's the most exciting part of our discussions with information industry partners: being able to point at the results and say, "Libraries built this."
Going into the last quarter of 2010, it's clear that communities are still struggling with high levels of unemployment and other economic challenges. From the beginning of this recession, state and public libraries have responded with energy and leadership and continue to do so as the crisis persists.

OCLC's public purpose outlines the cooperative's responsibility to respond to important challenges like this in the library landscape. Our global membership gives us the means to make a large-scale impact, and our partners in federal agencies and foundations can lend financial support. To address the effect of the recession on public libraries, OCLC launched Project Compass to investigate the growing demands of job-seekers and what could be done to address them.

Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), WebJunction and the State Library of North Carolina formed a partnership to complete this work. Over the last year, the project shed new light on state and public libraries' value to the workforce, promoted the exchange of shared solutions, and concentrated on collective future action.

The State Library of North Carolina team was a great partner, having just completed an effort to increase library staff knowledge and effective use of resources for job-seekers. In their "Job Search" workshops, they demonstrated a successful model for increasing staff knowledge and skills through peer learning and the collaborative building of a centralized online toolkit for job-seekers and library staff. To this, WebJunction added strong connections to state library agencies and experience with national training and community building for library staff.

The project started with a national needs assessment, the results of which were published on WebJunction, along with state snapshots outlining the economic reality in each area. Our research indicated that new patron demands were urgent and more common across regions than previously known. The highest increases were reported for patrons' job-seeking needs. 98% of respondents also reported a significant increase in the demand for instruction in basic computer skills.

The next phase involved a series of four regional in-person summits and one online summit. 109 participants from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia came together to concentrate on the issue of library support for workforce recovery. The summits generated more than 50 project ideas for augmenting support of public library services to the unemployed. Over the course of the summits, five common themes surfaced:

  1. Staff training
  2. Patron training and resources
  3. Workforce agency partnerships
  4. Small business support
  5. Communicating the value of libraries to community stakeholders.
You can view a full list of state projects identified through Project Compass on WebJunction.

For the final phase of the project, we wanted to develop ways to sustain ideas and efforts beyond the initial one-year program, so we set up the Workforce Resources site on the WebJunction platform. Over the last year, the site has swelled with the contributions of summit participants and from the broader library community.

In June 2010, WebJunction and the State Library of North Carolina were awarded a follow-on grant from IMLS to bring some of what we learned directly to front-line library staff. The program will target areas with the highest unemployment, but there will also be online training and resources that will benefit all libraries that are striving for workforce renewal.

We know that individuals, families and communities are counting on libraries to provide the support and resources needed to build new skills and adapt to a changing workforce. We'll continue to work together, to guide and be guided, as we help libraries show the way forward through tough times.

Visit us online at or follow our progress on twitter with the tag #libs4jobs.

Start with "Why"

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Lace Keaton, the director of the Okefenokee Regional Library System in Waycross, Georgia, recently sent me a link to a terrific TED video featuring Simon Sinek titled "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." Sinek is a management consultant who has written Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek says that average leaders start with what they do, and how they do it, and then they ask you to come along with them or buy their product. He believes that all great leaders---whether they be individuals or institutions---reach people by starting with "why:" Why should what we care about matter to you? Why should you identify with us? Why are we the right fit for what you think about yourself?

Using examples as disparate as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Apple, he explains how long lasting bonds of loyalty emerge not from features and benefits of your service, but with identification with the cause or purpose. This 18 minute video can change your thinking about how your library can lead in your community by associating itself and acting from the core values that motivate those you serve.

Watching this video brought to mind an interesting Q and A pair that was recently added to the QuestionPoint Knowledge Base by New York Public Library. The question was deceptively simple:

"When asked at a library fundraiser, this question was brought up, Why do libraries exist, for what purpose. The answer would not be a mission statement or what we do, something different. What would that be?"

The good folks at NYPL provided a long, detailed answer, quoting sources as diverse as John Blyberg and 17th century French librarian Gabriel Naudé. (QuestionPoint subscribers can see the whole post at Q&A ID: 5550278.)

How would YOU answer this question? What gets you out of bed every morning to do this work, instead of driving a truck or teaching a 1st grade class or managing an organic grocery store? About a year ago, Joan Frye Williams and I posted our personal beliefs on why libraries exist on our consulting website, using the "This I Believe" format cribbed from Edward R. Murrow and, later, NPR.

The "This I Believe" template can be a powerful tool for understanding your own motives and to help you start with "why."

Cooperation fuels innovation

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campus_books.jpg The beginning of September usually marks back-to-school in the U.S. Everyone (including me) is sad to see the summer go, but we're always eager to get started back in the swing of things for the autumn. There's always the promise of a new semester with new projects, trying out new ideas and learning new things--and even though I'm no longer a student, I still feel that "new semester" inspiration in the air this time of year.

The good news is, people in the OCLC community have been hard at work all summer long to bring you inspiring possibilities--and many of them are now coming to fruition. Particularly for mobile, there are a ton of a new applications that showcase library results created with the WorldCat Search API and WorldCat Registry APIs to download and try out:

  • CampusBooks - (shown at right) find free textbooks (iPhone or Android)
  • BookMinder - create a personalized list of books that interest you (Android)
  • iRecommend - see which books you should be reading (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)
  • iBookshelf - create your personal portable book database (iPhone and iPad)
  • MyLibrary - organize your personal media collection (iPhone and iPad)
  • MyBox Office - Keep track of your DVD and VHS movies (iPhone and iPad)
  • DiscTracker - View your CD collection (iPhone and iPad)

Those are just the ones that are currently available. There are at least five more apps in the queue with the WorldCat partner program team that are still in the prototyping, testing and learning stage.

And isn't that what we're all about, really--creating cool things that we can work on individually or together, share out with each other and by doing so, benefit the whole. By sharing the good things that are being worked on, we push the needle forward for everyone. Far from being a homogenizing element, cooperation actually fuels innovation because it brings everyone up to the latest trend line.

Speaking of the latest trend line, you can catch trend-setting members of the Developer Network later this month in Boston at the next WorldCat Mashathon, 23-24 September. They'll be mashing up library services, WorldCat APIs and other Web Services to create even more inspiration for us as a community. Two days at the Microsoft New England Research & Development (NERD) Center is sure to yield some creative results.

Even if you can't attend in person, the "Show and Tell" portion of the Mashathon is going to be broadcast virtually -- so you can catch the flavor of that "new semester" inspiration right at your desk, no matter where you are. Come share your ideas and be inspired by innovation and cooperation.