Browsing as an art and lifeskill

One of this year’s recurring topics at Book Expo revolves around the current book industry reconsideration of DRM (the digital rights management coding that essentially keeps ebooks and eaudio locked from the user’s attempt to copy–and, too often, from accessing a rightfully owned file  due to technical incompatibilities between  file and player or other downloading snafus). As digital intellectual property becomes increasingly accessible, both technically and popularly, some of us librarians here in the digital collections conversation are identifying the need to create the opportunity for collection users to engage in physical browsing.

This, for me anyway, is an unexpected lapse in the rich world of digital collection use habits: youth readily scan web pages, sample music, and put their eyes, ears and imaginations to the end of sorting among options to find what fits the moment’s need or want, from an information standpoint. Browsing, however, has become a stranger. Browsing–be it among horses in a meadow or middle schoolers in the school media center– is a physical activity as much as an engagement of thoughts/feelings elicited by auditory or visual stimuli. Confronting three potential resources for pursuing research on Egyptian jewelry making is, of course, a lot about what visual scanning–and in the case of a video’s soundtrack, in this example–sound resonance. Engaging one’s evaluative powers, however, can be enhanced by leafing through plates that were set in just this specific order, noting that the volume offers a biographical note about its author who turns out to be a noted jeweler, and how this volume’s smell contrasts with the scent of that other one which has beautiful little pen and ink sketches and no photos of artifacts. And, oh look, this third is printed on heavy stock that seems to promise its contents are similarly substantive…but are they? Can one judge content worth by its package…oh, look, another now personalized question to explore by the beginning researcher….

The intrinsic difference between this kind of browsing and online research scanning is subtle. No superior term paper grades abound to demonstrate the academic worth of touching, turning, riffling and hefting as part of the resource selection process. And yet, these browsing activities call up resources within budding researchers’ awareness. It’s not just who said it, when it was said, and whether it works in my information gap context; it’s also about learning to learn, and learning is an engagement with the world in its concrete aspect as well as the abstracted formulations we can draw.

What’s going ’round

The past month (and in almost any “past month”), tech media stories have been awash with a few high profile stories that cry out for library-level responses. The pair selected for highlighting here involve a collection-oriented concern and one related to community information needs.

The We Need Diverse Books Campaign became solidified and systematized across the past couple weeks, although the concerns it addresses have been real and compelling for a century. Major publishing houses, the work horses that supply our libraries with books for youth, have a lot of responsibilities: finding, editing, publishing promoting works of fiction and nonfiction comprise a gargantuan job, undertaken by those who work as editors, editorial assistants, agents and other proposal and manuscript readers, cover designers, packagers, sales jobbers, reviewers…and only then do new works reach the point of audience discovery, and individual reader enhancement or rejection.

When a panel planned for 2014’s Book Expo America was first revealed to be exclusively white and male, years of discontent with this long outmoded staging of how-we-show-kids-their-world erupted into a groundswell of activist author, editor, librarian, bookshop staff, and reader response. Social media, including most particularly Tumblr and Twitter, became the stage for days of concentrated demonstration, and helped to establish a presence of alternatives. To catch up with how swiftly such a demonstration of needs can foment, articulately and cogently, serves as an ancillary lesson for library staff who have been slow to credit social media with relevant and awesome power.

This story, then, offers two bottom lines: no matter what you think your community looks like/identifies with, they (and you, in service to that community) need diverse books; and you, in the position of learning quickly and authoritatively, need to engage in linking to what is happening in the publishing world, now that it can be altered in direction by skilled social mediators.

The second story is one that originates with the discovery of the devastating breadth of the Heartbleed bug, news of which began to reach the general public at the end of the first week of April. What has developed across the six weeks since this news broke is a secondary story that implicitly addresses us as library staffers: a month after Heartbleed’s reported presence and publicity about how to mitigate its damages at the personal online security level, a majority of American computer users were not taking the steps required to rid their online presence of this security flaw. That is where we need to step up our game, taking a proactive stance toward educating, coaching, and actively supporting good online hygiene in our communities, instead of waiting to be asked for guidance.

We can be information sources for our communities. However, doing the informing, doing information, is a far more powerful and valuable approach. And to take that on, we need to address our own never-ending need to know and understand how big news doesn’t happen in a silo: we have a role in connecting news and our community in ways that enhance and promote the community’s interests.

Why We Rebooted–and Why You Need to Reboot, Too

Yesterday, Infopeople announced the grand reopening–okay, the notice–of the free (free!) independent online learning series, Affordable Care Act @ Your California Public Library. And no, it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke. What the heck?  Did we somehow miss the word that the initial enrollment period for the health insurance marketplace closed March 31?

Nope. And that’s exactly why we rebooted, revised, and re-announced. The health insurance marketplace is just one of the Affordable Care Act’s features. So, with that initial enrollment period now history, and with the California state public health policy makers, practitioners and health awareness foundations turning to the other major elements of the Act, it’s time for us, library folk, to turn attention to them, too. Or, more to the point, to turn our attention to how we can best assist our communities in connecting to health and wellness access, information and education that is up to date with the Act.

Among the big issues:

  • Financial and health literacy needs in many communities
  • Clarity about how to find, select and engage with clinicians to receive preventive care
  • Learning American English vocabulary for reading prescription info
  • Learning that there is linguistic and culturally competent healthcare available

The Affordable Care Act, made law in 2010, has a decade-long roll out period. The initial insurance enrollment came at the beginning of year four, so there’s a lot to discover that has been in place and which is now coming into play legally, and there’s even more to consider when it comes to planning how you can help your community connect to what is rightfully theirs under the law.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Get Your Training on in April!

Infopeople’s April Training Calendar offers libraries and library staff of all types a goldmine of possibilities. Noting that the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics for us library folk concludes “We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession,” taking responsibility to participate in one or more of these hits the spot. Bonus points for the curious who see this treasure trove as the answer to your wish list:

With California already being one of the first states to get involved in the Edge Initiative, exploring new methods and best practices you can apply for enhanced community connections gets a boost from the online course, Community and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector, which opens April 8. Instructor Jane Salisbury, of Portland’s Multnomah County Library, brings years of experience and insight on reaching adults in the library community. Jane supervises Library Outreach, with services that target, among other populations, older adults and members of the disabled community.

Another online course opening April 8, Redesigning Library Spaces on a Shoestring: High Impact at Low Cost, gives participants access to instructor Ruth Barefoot‘s space planning, marketing, and architectural expertise and her experience as manager of San Jose Public Library’s initiative, the San Jose Way. Ruth’s reconceptualization of how to improve library space for today’s library service users can be simple if dramatic. A favorite tip I heard from her some years ago, when she was speaking of how to untangle overcrowded library space without great cost, is elegantly simple: take everything out of the space and then restore only those things that are necessary and useful, putting them back into the branch shell according to their importance and where they are optimal for library users.

A third online course opening in April will be taught by the ever popular Infopeople instructor Cheryl Gould. All Work Is Team Work, which opens April 22, carries Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC), an indication that it addresses the learning needs of non-degreed staff who want to demonstrate quality skills in library service provision.

The noon time, and always archived, Infopeople webinar schedule has got to be the best free training smorgasbord in town. On April 2, Laura Solomon, whose previous Infopeople webinars have skillfully and substantively broached such concerns as “Fine-tuning Facebook for Libraries” and “Absolutely Free (and Practically Unknown) Online Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed,” takes up Writing a Social Media Policy for Your Library.  No matter your library type, you gotta be sure your library gets this info!

Toby Greenwalt, who co-hosted the wowsome Spark Talks crowd at PLA in Indianapolis earlier this month, will explain why and how we need to Embrace the Evolution: Adapting Reference Service to New Technology,  on April 23. This preso is gonna show us that reference services can be designed for today’s user.

Kelli Ham, a health librarian at UCLA who has much to share–and has shared much–with Infopeople webinar participants, returns on April 16, with From Baby to Preschooler: Early Childhood Health Resources. Infopeople hosts an ELF 2.0 webinar, on April 10, Foundations of Early Childhood Development: It’s All about Relationships, with with John Hornstein of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, and Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass.

And speaking of matters of health and wellness, Infopeople’s independent online learning series, which give participants the opportunity to dive deep in a focused area with a facilitator but no assignments and a two-month access period to explore, include a newly updated Affordable Care Act @ Your Public Library.  The reboot goes beyond healthcare insurance enrollment to address the information and community strategies identified by California’s healthcare policy makers and practitioners as most important for 2014 and 2015.

Phew! That’s a whole lot of possibilities to get your development on! Looking forward to seeing you in one of those “theres.”

Now, that’s a packed goodie hour!

Library community members recognize Joan Frye Williams as a deep and fluent source of observations and analyses of where and how library services are going, from nascent development through their stages of emerging best practices. The free webinar she provided through Infopeople today, Life After Desk: Implementing the New Service Models, offered those of us in the “live” audience more than a handful of ideas already in practice, with good reasons on offer as to why and how to bring them to our home libraries.  Of course, not everyone can get to a webinar at its scheduled time, so another shout out is in order that, as with all Infopeople webinars, the recording, as well as the slides and even the text chat by those who could attend the presentation, wil be available for any-time review in archived form (The slide sets are already there, with the rest to come later this week).

There are take aways here for both public and academic libraries, for staff concerned with reference staff locations and for those interested in the integration of makerspaces–and maker activities–as well as traditional information services.  Among the issues that lit up the chat among the audience are:

  • How to identify library staff as such when we aren’t behind desks
  • How to organize library space so that it makes sense to users interested in locating the types of services they need with a minimum of confusion that requires staff handoff between designated departments
  • How to deal with staff who won’t engage in new approaches, such as roving

We were treated to glimpses of attainable models, including a “Library Idea Box” in which makerspace meets art display space.  We heard research-based evidence for giving library users more comfort by working with them side by side instead of face to face.  We were reminded that “excellence is defined by user experience” rather than by staff decisions of what is convenient from our side of things.

While waiting for the archives to get fully loaded, you can get further ideas–or whet your interest even more!–by checking the Twitter hashtag #ifpafterdesk. This hour was so packed that going through it all more than a time or two is bound to create sparks that can lead to action!