Category Archives: ALA

ALA Annual Chicago 2013

Once again, I find myself packing my schedule with overlapping events as I prepare for ALA Annual. I’m excited to go to Chicago: The few times I’ve been there before I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m flying in Thursday afternoon and leaving Tuesday morning, so I have a nice chunk of (already over scheduled) time there.

What am I doing at ALA?

Friday I’ll be attending the Print Archive Network meeting at the Newberry Library, then the OCLC Americas Regional Council Member meeting. I’m having coffee with my former Director, and hopefully catching Steven Levitt’s Opening Keynote at 4.

Saturday I’m going to see Jaron Lanier’s talk in the morning, then the OCLC presentation on the Power of Shared Library Data at the Network Level. There’s a Next Generation Technical Services IG meeting at 1, then probably the MARC Formats Transition IG meeting, where I’ll (hopefully) learn a little more about BIBFRAME Instances. Then, in the evening there is a Linked Data talk on Managing Authorities. Saturday night I believe I’m going on some EBSCO hosted boat cruise. Fun times!

Sunday is the OCLC Update Breakfast, then I’ll have to decide between the Metadata IG and the Library Linked Data IG. There’s a WEST meeting in the afternoon, which unfortunately conflicts with the Top Tech Trends panel (which I’m actually on the committee for this year). I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that conflict yet. The LITA Presidents Program with Cory Doctorow sounds awesome, and then I’ll probably go to the LITA Happy Hour.

Monday morning there is an OCLC session on Metadata Management, then a presentation on what their Research Group is up to. And I’m hoping to see Alice Walker’s talk! Then I have the afternoon to myself, to explore Chicago. I’m hoping to meet up with my cousin and her husband at some point.

I’m also hoping there will be an LSW meet up somewhere. I’m looking forward to pizza at Lou Malnati’s, and a shopping excursion at Fox & Obel. And I’m really hoping the weather isn’t too humid or stormy.

What do you think I should make time for in Chicago? Are you going to be there? Want to grab some coffee and a cookie?

ALA Again

Sometimes it seems that the only time I update this site is when I’m heading to ALA. Sometimes it seems like I’m always going to ALA.

I’m excited about this one: I love Seattle, and Sean is coming with me, for the first time. We have shared some wonderful visits in Seattle in the past, and I’m happy to be going back with him. Also looking forward to seeing some friends who live in Seattle.

As far as my conference activities, I think my time will be pretty well split between committee meetings, Shared Print and print archives meetings, and OCLC stuff. The OCLC Americas Regional Council begins before I arrive on Friday, but I hope to at least be there for the end of it.

Of course, there are three or four different things going on all at the same time in Saturday. This happens every single time I go to ALA: I have huge empty chunks of time on some days, and others that are overbooked. There’s a linked data round up I want to go to, and a Metadata Standards committee meeting. A MARC formats transition meeting is at the same time as a presentation on the Orbis-Cascade Alliance’s transition to a shared ILS, a project with which I was involved when I worked up there (and still feel a little invested in).

I’ll be at the WEST meeting, and the meeting of the Print Archives Network (PAN), listening for things that will impact the our development work over the coming year or two.

I’m still a little confused about why ALA claims the conference runs from Friday to Tuesday, and then schedules almost nothing to happen on Monday or Tuesday. What’s up with that?

If you’re going to ALA, let me know! I’d love to see those of you I’ve met in the past, and meet those of you I don’t yet know.

ALA Annual 2012 Recap

This year, most of my time at ALA was spent in meetings, and I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to check out sessions and hear the cool things that people are doing in libraryland. I also cut out a lot of the social stuff I’ve done in the past, and I felt much better for it. I’ve learned that I’m a person who needs plenty of quiet alone time to recharge my batteries, so making sure I got that every day made this year’s conference a much less draining experience. It was a different conference experience for me, but I’m still grateful for it. Being around so many engaged librarians always re-ignites my love for this field and my enthusiasm about my work.

I’ve been reviewing the notes I took in the sessions I did manage to attend, and thinking over the big picture ideas that I took away with me. One of the things that felt most significant is that the engine seems to be picking up speed. By which I mean that all these big changes that people have been talking about since I entered the field, in relation to library metadata and cataloging and infrastructure, seem to be gaining some traction. Real work is being done. Momentum is being gained.

There were two main themes that I felt running through the sessions I attended: Linked Data and the Platform. OCLC has been all about the platform lately, and if you didn’t attend their symposium on Friday, during which author Phil Simon talked about The Age of the Platform, I’d recommend checking it out. OCLC has absolutely embraced this idea, and considering how deeply part of our workflows OCLC often is, I think it’s important to be aware of the direction in which they’re headed.

And this is a direction I firmly applaud, but I also think the idea of the platform is bigger than the WorldShare platform that OCLC is building. And I think this is where the two themes I mentioned intersect. The Platform is, at its foundation, a store of data onto which people can hang services and products. OCLC is using their huge store of bibliographic data in Worldcat as a foundation for their management and cataloging services, and allowing anyone to access that data through APIs, in order to build their own services.

But I don’t necessarily think libraries need a vendor to provide the platform for us. I think that eventually, bibliographic metadata in the form of open linked data will provide a wide-ranging platform on which many of us will be building our library services. The platform will be built by us, owned by us (inasmuch as its ‘owned’ by anyone), and open and free for anyone and everyone to use. Vendors might still have a role here, in building the services that we want on that platform (I don’t fool myself that every single library is going to have programmers on staff). But I think our bibliographic data will stop living behind walls.

OCLC is in a strange position here. They walk a fine line between vendor and cooperative. In one sense, OCLC is Libraries, but they do behave like a vendor. I think this is going to be a harder and harder road for them to walk as bibliographic data, the foundation of their cooperative, begins to live on the open web. Their role with libraries might need to be re-defined.

There were a few other ideas that I came away from ALA with rattling through my brain:

  • Libraries always seek consensus, and this can slow our progress wayyyy down.¬†We can’t always do things by consensus. Sometimes leaders just need to step up and lead.
  • The work of catalogers in the future will look almost nothing like the work of catalogers now. Accept.
  • We are moving into a new era of collaboration and cooperation, and the future, this will make some of our work a lot easier.
  • The process of getting to that future will be hard. It will require hard work, not just in terms of Getting Stuff Done, but in terms of struggling through transitions in our organizations. We can’t keep saying that we can’t afford to do Stuff, because the truth is, we can’t afford not to.

I’m excited to see what this new world of metadata will look like, and I’m even more excited that glimmers of its future visage are starting to appear. I saw, for the first time, a real live example of the discovery system that’s been living in my mind’s eye yesterday, and I was almost giddy with possibility. It’s rough, and it’s incomplete, and apparently the organization that created it won’t be supporting that work going forward, but still. Possibility.

Did you go to ALA? Did anything you hear there make you feel giddy with possibility? Maybe even just a little lighthearted with possibility?

Is it time for ALA again?

Yes, it is, and this time ALA is practically in my backyard. Ok, it’s an 8 hour drive away, and I don’t really have a backyard, but I’m looking forward to a trip to Southern California. I’m extending my stay down south with a few days at the family compound (ha) in San Diego.

So what am I doing at ALA?

Friday morning I’ll be attending the OCLC Americas Regional Council Member Meeting. I’m interested in being a council member, so this will be a good chance to see what it’s all about.

After that, I’m heading to the LITA Open House. I really want to be more involved in LITA events so I’ll be making an effort this time to fit those in.

Saturday morning is SRRT Action Council I. I’m a new Council member, so I’ll be participating in a more active way than I have before.

In the afternoon, the LITA Publications committee is meeting, and then there is a MARC Formats interest group presentation I’m interested in.

Sunday is the OCLC Update Breakfast. I usually really enjoy that, so I’ll probably be there, but there is also a session on the Current Research On and Use Of FRBR in Libraries at the same time. I’ll probably make my mind up about that early morning situation on Saturday night.

I think I’m going to the Heads of Library Technology Interest Group Saturday afternoon, and then there is WEST Meeting, and the LITA President’s Program. And Sunday night, I’m presenting an award at the NMRT Awards reception. No, I’m not nervous at all. Why do you ask?

Monday I’ll be at the Metadata Interest Group session, and then I think the OCLC Research Library Partnership session. So far my afternoon is free, before I meet my former Director for dinner (super excited to see her).

Tuesday is empty so far, and I suspect I’ll actually check in to work for awhile in the morning, before heading home to San Diego to play with my niece and give big hugs to my family and generally enjoy three or four days of being home.

I’ll be driving down to Southern California (I really wanted the flexibility, since I’m tacking on vacation time at the end), and I’m hoping I won’t regret that decision.

I hope to see some of you there! What meetings are you attending? Are there any great parties I should definitely check out? I’m going to try to have a fairly mellow ALA, as far as late night events go, but I want to see friends and meet new people, too. What will you be up to at ALA?

Thoughts after ALA Midwinter

I got back from ALA Midwinter on Tuesday night, and after taking a day to ponder all the things I heard and discussed over the long weekend, I wanted to quickly write up a few observations and thoughts. I’m trying to take an overall approach, rather than detailing each session I attended, as I have in the past. I didn’t go to as many presentation sessions as I usually do: I had some committee meetings to attend, and I was trying to do a much better job at balancing conference stuff with my own need for down time.

There were three sessions I attended that shaped my general impressions of what’s going on right now in libraryland: The Cataloging Norms Interest Group session with Diane Hillman, Susan Massey, and Roman Panchyshyn, OCLC’s presentation on the changes they’re making to FirstSearch, and another OCLC presentation (by Kathryn Harnish) on the WorldShare platform and the underlying theories behind OCLC’s strategic vision.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the word that’s been ringing through my mind since I came home is “change.” Yes, everyone is talking about change. Because, duh, we are all going to be facing a crap ton of it in the coming years. The timing of the Harvard Libraries’ announcement about restructuring was kind of fortuitous: Many librarians were talking about change and change management all weekend. Nearly every presentation I heard over during the meeting was at its root all about change.

Diane Hillman gave a great talk to the Cataloging Norms Interest Group about linked data, “From Records to Statements.” And what she said was, basically, “Hey catalogers, get ready, because everything you know will be different.” I think she did a terrific job of explaining how the future of data differs from our existing practices, and why our existing practices won’t serve us well going forward. Cataloging isn’t going to be about record creation and management anymore, and catalogers need to adapt and learn new skills. Metadata work going forward is going to be about aggregating data, working with programmers and developing new methods for handling and using data, modeling and documenting best practices, and evaluating and analyzing data. We’ll be working to create new tools to work with large amounts of metadata: We can’t think about bibliographic metadata on a piece-by-piece basis anymore. We need to make massive changes in our basic conceptual models, and the faster we do it, the better.

The OCLC presentations I attended were also pretty well focused on change: It sounds like OCLC itself is heading in a new strategic direction, and I think that’s a great thing. Kathryn Harnish’s presentation on the WorldShare Platform was well done and interesting, and I’ll probably end up talking more specifically about some of the things she discussed in a separate post. But the big takeaway for me is that OCLC is shifting the frame around what they’re doing. They’re thinking about data on a large scale, and how libraries can use that data in new ways, to improve effectiveness and to cooperate in ever more meaningful ways. I think it’s fantastic. The only thing I have to say, though, is that in both presentations and one-on-one conversations with OCLC folks, I wish there was less jargon and more solid information. They could definitely work a bit on transparency. As I like to remind myself, OCLC is OUR organization, it’s our cooperative. It would be nice if it didn’t feel sometimes like they are trying to sell it to us.

I think most of the librarians I know are aware of the need for significant transformations in the way we work. We have, after all, been talking about this for a long time. Libraries are notoriously slow about adopting new practices, and this worries me. We do not live in a slow world. But I feel hopeful that the constant murmur around change I heard at ALA is a sign that we know we have to pick up the pace, get on the ball, get our shit together, whatever metaphor you prefer for hurry-up-and-make-good, people!

Some things I think librarians should do in the coming months to start getting themselves and their organizations ready for change (self included):

  • Start learning about linked data and RDF. The W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group Final Report is a great place to start.
  • Read The Age of the Platform by Phil Simon, and think about how data management works outside of libraries (PS – I tried to link to Worldcat for that book, but I couldn’t find it using a keyword, title, OR author search; if OCLC can’t fix stuff like that their ideas about platform driven development are kind of meaningless.)
  • Learn about change management. There are best practices, no matter your role or position in an organization.
  • Start thinking about your own skills and strengths, and your weaknesses. Come up with a plan for learning something new this year. Codeyear has been great fun for me so far. Position yourself well for the changes that are bound to come in your organization, rather than waiting for some kind of training to come from on high.
  • Read about RDA, if you haven’t already. Even if you’re not a cataloger, it will help to understand how library metadata is being conceptualized.

These are just a few things off the top of my head that I want to do this year; I’m sure some of you have more and better ideas for how you are getting ready for big ol’ fancy changes in libraryland. I’d love to hear them. Are there other big themes you’re hearing and seeing in the profession right now? If you went to ALA, what are you thinking about this week, now that you’re home?

Getting Ready for ALA Midwinter

Like many of my library brethren, I’m getting ready to head to Dallas next week for ALA Midwinter 2012. I’m getting kind of excited, because I like conferences, and I’ve never been to Dallas, and I’m staying in a nice hotel. I like traveling to new cities for any reason, and no one who knows me would be surprised to hear that I’m already researching my dining options. Eating in restaurants is one of my favorite things, and discovering new food in new regions is another favorite thing. So my Dallas Eating list is slowly coming together.

One of the best things that happened at ALA Annual in New Orleans was a spontaneous dinner outing with some folks who gathered together via Twitter. It was a lot of fun to sit around a table with a group of people I didn’t know, and talk things I love: books, librarian stuff, and FOOD. We ate a Cochon, and it might have been one of the best meals of my life. I’m really hoping to pull together another Twitter Dinner in Dallas.

Some of the places I’ve got on this tentative list are Bread Winners Cafe, Off the Bone for barbecue, and Luna de Noche for Tex-Mex. I’d LOVE to hear other suggestions, if anyone has them. I’m definitely for at least one meal from a well-renowned and respected restaurant in the area, and I sadly don’t know that much about the Dallas restaurant scene. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for recommendations. And if you’d like to join me for a Twitter Dinner, I’m on Twitter as @lkrier.

I’m looking forward to conference-related things, too. It’s not all about the food. Mostly.

Banned Books Week: A Defense

Another Banned Books Week is coming to a close, and once again, my RSS feed has been filled with arguments for and against this most well-known library tradition. I’ve always been a supporter of Banned Books Week, even organizing events around it for the Simmons College community when I was chair of the Simmons Progressive Librarians Guild chapter. But I’ve never heard a better articulation for why it’s still important than the one Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe gives in his recent post.

The ALA estimates that one in four book challenges in libraries goes unreported, and in these cases, the librarians dealing with these challenges are also unsupported. There are many reasons a librarian might choose not to report a book challenge, and some of them might be perfectly reasonable. But the worst of these reasons is fear: Fear of losing a job, fear of bad publicity, fear of loss of funding. In these cases, a librarian might choose to simply remove the item in question, without consideration for what the loss of that material might mean for the community. It doesn’t mean that’s a bad librarian, it means that’s a fearful librarian.

Banned Books Week exists so that we can bring attention to the reasons to stand up for your community, and your library’s collection. It exists so that, in the future, those librarians might be able to find more support than they thought they could expect. I think that’s as good a reason as any to continue holding Banned Book Week events every year.

Andy articulates this much more clearly than I, so please, go read his excellent editorial on Banned Books Week.

Michael Porter on Library Renewal and eResources

Michael Porter presented a session with a nice, attention-grabbing title at ALA Annual: “You Mean Libraries Will Be Able to Deliver Content Better than iTunes and Netflix?” The session wasn’t really about how libraries will deliver content better than commercial providers; it was more like a rousing exhortation to libraries to start re-thinking how we own, deliver, preserve, and manage our materials as we move ever onward into the digital era. He has some interesting ideas, and it was a great, lively presentation, I think Michael has a gift for lighting a very needed fire under librarians’ collective butts.

Besides talking about the bigger picture of the library’s role in a digital content environment, I thought his narrative of how he got involved in ALA and started to make things happen in the areas he cares about was very inspiring. For everyone who thinks ALA is a big, unfeeling organization that cannot be moved, talk to Michael. He shows that ALA will respond if you push hard enough.

ALA formed a presidential task force, EQUACC (Equitable Access to Electronic Content), to investigate digital content and how its use is being restricted for libraries. (There’s some interesting stuff on the timing of this task force’s creation; it was underway and beginning work when the whole HarperCollins debacle happened, but hadn’t released any information. ALA’s delay in response was noted by many, and when EQUACC did release their report, it kind of looked like it was in response to the HarperCollins situation…at least from my admittedly small perspective). EQUACC delivered their report to ALA the day after this presentation (I have not read it yet). Their report details some very specific monetary requests they are making of ALA to begin work on problems around access to digital resources. They want to look at accessibility issues, conduct an environmental scan, deal with PR issues around e-content, and create a permanent place in the organization for these issues.

The EQUACC website has a forum that, at this point, is a bit sparse. Like any online community, it will only be built if people get in there and build it, and this could be a great place for this kind of conversation. Ultimately, though, I think it’s kind of dead in the water. People are already having these conversations on blogs, FriendFeed, Twitter, etc. ALA expecting people to have them all over again in a new place is kind of unrealistic, I think. Maybe better to aggregate comments and blog posts on these issues in one place?

Michael also talked about a few organizations who are starting to work in this area, including the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and the Harvard/Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s Digital Public Library of America project. Interestingly, he had some guarded comments about the DPLA project, including that their top-down, very monied approach doesn’t seem designed to be part of a collaborative, networked library world. One organization, COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library Associations) has actually asked the Berkman Center not to use the name Digital Public Library of America because it is not, in fact, a public library. I, too, thought the DPLA project was a little strange when I first read about it. I remember thinking, “Wait, who are these people and why aren’t they working in collaboration with existing projects like Hathi?”

Here are some more general notes I have from the session; as with the rest of my ALA posts, I will be trying to pull all of this together into something coherent and meaningful in the end.

  • People will continue to access electronic content at exponentially increasing rates, and not just books and journals but music, video, games, interactive applications, and things we can’t even imagine now. Our current business models aren’t designed for this kind of content and distribution and they won’t continue to work. We need new solutions.
  • Libraries have a lot of power IF we begin to work together, and consider ourselves an aggregate organization rather than single, isolated libraries. Regional consortia have a lot more power than a bunch of libraries working alone, and it will become more and more important for us to band together in groups like this. Our best opportunities are going to come from new organizational structures like consortia, from new vendors and new partnerships.
  • Libraries need a our own distribution infrastructure like iTunes and Netflix, and it would be best if we build it ourselves.
  • We should be building archives of digital content, but we’re currently held back by restrictive copyright legislation, litigious publishers, and our own fear. If we could band together to fight restrictive copyright and litigious publishers, we’d have a better chance of winning.
  • We can’t rely on for-profit corporations to build our archives of digital content because they have no business reason to preserve after the content stops making money.
  • There are some major hurdles in the way of libraries owning, distributing, and preserving e-content, and the biggest is that the law is against us right now. The people who make the content don’t necessarily want us to have it. There was some conversation about creating new publishing models, and organizations like GlueJar and Library Renewal are doing some really interesting things in this area, but that doesn’t change the fact that the content our users want most isn’t being offered to us in ways that work for our organizations or our patrons.
  • Partnerships with publishers will be key, and we need to start thinking about how we should approach them. We have more power as a collective: if libraries as a whole, or even large library consortia, rather than individual libraries here and there, approach them, there is more incentive to listen. We need to think about what we can offer them. As it stands, they have no interest in working with us, especially large trade publishers (university presses might be more open to partnership). What can libraries give publishers in return? We need to start thinking of this so that we have something worthwhile to approach them with.
  • I think we can approach publishers either as good cops or bad cops: We can offer them something beneficial (statistics? marketing? events?) or we can threaten them with bad publicity. Or both? I’m generally not a fan of negative tactics, but in some cases you have to fight with what’s going to work.

I think there are some really interesting ways we can move forward in this area, but we have to collaborate to do it, and we have to be clear about what we need and want. Right now a lot of libraries are taking whatever they can get because they want to offer content to their patrons in the formats people want. And I completely understand that need, but I also think we might be undermining our long-term needs and goals.

There is certainly a lot to think about here, and I’m glad we have people like Michael who are passionate about these issues, who are thinking of solutions, and who are so excellent at getting other people engaged, too.

Library Renewal (the non-profit Michael and a few other folks started up to advocate for libraries’ rights in a digital age)
EQUACC (the ALA task force that was started thanks to Michael’s poking and prodding)
Libraryman (Michael’s bloggity)