Leaving California and Traditional Library Work!

Is-This-the-Next-Big-Thing-in-Content-Marketing.jpgI am making some big changes in the next month and I am really excited, scared and… well… mostly excited. I am leaving my administrative job here in Sunnyvale and moving to Brooklyn to be with my girlfriend Kate Tkacik and working for EveryLibrary full time.  Personally, I’m very excited to take the next step with Kate and start that chapter in my life, but this is my professional blog so I’ll focus on those things. If you want to get personal, feel free to friend me on Facebook.

One of the things that makes me most excited about this transition is that I get the opportunity to do something that I think is important and give back to the profession that has been so supportive and good to me. Librarianship has truly given me a lot of opportunities and I can’t possibly repay all of the great love and support I have received from so many people and organizations. I have been able to see the country and meet a lot of amazing humans that I call friends all over the United States all while paying my bills. I have really been very lucky to find such magnificent people and a profession that does such important work. I feel as though I have real opportunity and obligation to give some of that back and work to make the future for libraries a little bit better by taking on the local funding challenges by working for EveryLibrary fulltime.

In case you aren’t familiar with EveryLibrary’s work, it is the Nation’s first Political Action Committee built to work specifically on local campaigns and ballot measures for libraries.  In the last 3 years we have helped libraries win over 60 million dollars in funding through working to support local ballot committees, training campaign volunteers and library staff, and helping them win 26 campaigns all over the nation. We have also spoken at a number of conferences and given trainings and workshops to hundreds librarians in dozens of states.

I have been involved with EveryLibrary as a board member since its creation nearly 3 years ago and I have been more and more involved in the ground level work over the last few years. The political work, working with campaigns, and talking about libraries as important community causes has been some of the most fulfilling work I have ever had. This work is both challenging and educational and there is just too much to do for me to not take it on and work with John Chrastka and the team full time on it.

Of course, if you’re interested in the work that we do, need some campaign consulting, or having me or any of the EveryLibrary team members speak at your conference or workshop, feel free to get in touch with us. Of course, our work is pro-bono and only made possible by your generous support.

Since I’m leaving traditional library work, I’d love to close this out by giving a big shout out to the folks at Lincoln Public Library for starting me out with my first huge job, San Mateo County for just being amazing and supportive to work for, the wonderful librarians all over CA and CLA who have been really amazing to me and some of my best friends, and the librarians at Sunnyvale who are doing some of the most innovative work I’ve seen.

PS – I’m keeping the boat.

LOL Second Lifebrarians. Chill.

Ok, there were a whole bunch of people who rallied on my last Second Life post. (which was actually my second Second Life post). They brought some points that I didn’t address in my first or second post but Roy Tennant talked about on his Blog. I’ll address them all here or at least write until I get bored with talking about SL more.

The trolling nature of my previous post. Lol u mad bro? Really? Chill Second Lifebrarians. Seriously. But I will say that interestingly enough I wasn’t trying to troll, but rather just write something entertaining. I do want to point out that it was one of my most read blog posts and explains to me why people like the Annoying Librarian* an Dan Kleinman get so amped about their blogs. I just found that interesting as a passing thought.

What My Previous Post was Actually About
Here is why I have the negativity for SL. My SLIS made me partake in SL after spending tens of thousands of my tuition dollars on their “island.” ALA spent way too much money on SL (my dues). There are STILL libraries spending my tax dollars on Second Life. I’m negative because so much of my money has gone to support a failed endeavor. So basically after spending way too much of my money and forcing me to spend way too much time learning the interface I then had a number of experiences that would have been fine with a simple link in an email, tweet, FB, G+ hangout, or even myspace post. Hell… I would have settled for a flyer with a QR code on it! It would have been a lot cheaper.

The valuable “work” that librarians are doing there.
I don’t know. I haven’t seen any stats on that. My own experiences were disappointing. Anyway, I’m guessing those stats are not kept but I would say that they should be. Maybe I’d be surprised but I doubt it. The stats I have seen for second life overall are dismal at best and grossly inflated at worst. You can see them here.

I’d also like to point out that the examples of valuable work being done on SL were actually excellent examples of valuable things being done in SL, but really not library related at all. Some people built a car, some people made fractal art, etc… (that is very cool but this is a library blog) The things that people used as an example of library related work were also very cool, but again could have been accomplished by about a thousand other mediums with zero learning curve and as such could include hundreds (maybe even thousands) more librarians to really achieve something great. Instead, a few librarians encased themselves in a format that is an exclusive group by its learning curve, overly large necessary computing capacity, internet speeds, technical skills, etc… Well, I’m glad you could afford all that to create an exclusive group of librarians who loved SL before (and after) it was cool. But then again… As sjclarkfl pointed out, I’m the hipster.

The numbers
Linden labs juiced their stats to artificially inflate their numbers to a million active users. This number is world wide and only .002% of the population at their highest estimate of 15 million but the real numbers are actually around 800 thousand when not calculated by linden numbers (who inflated it to one million most recently). Someone made the ridiculous comment that if we’re going by stats then we should close libraries. Clearly this person didn’t see the numbers on libraries or a library’s ebranch. I guarantee that they are above .002% of the population. (hint- its around 60%)

Innovation
As I said in my previous post, there are people who make their names in convincing other people (and themselves) of innovative library services. These people often talk about the great new things libraries can use. How great this or that new service, program, idea, or QR code is. But once again I’ll say, that part of being innovative is knowing what things need to just be dropped like a bad habit. (drop eBooks, get eReaders).

Better options
You know, I’m all about solutions and Craig Anderson presented what I thought was absolutely a much better option. Why not go were users actually are? There are tons of MUVEs with millions more active users than SL. Craig brought up the idea of a Library in WOW. I fully support this. I think that if we got a couple dozen librarians with Librarian Avatars in WOW or other popular MMORPGs running around and answering questions for folks, advocating for libraries, or even placing holds on physical books out and having them sent to their local libraries through Link+ or WorldCat. I think, then we would really have something.

I will admit that I don’t often participate in MUVEs these days but that is only because I have a hugely addictive personality and way back in the day I spent huge amounts of time gaming and participating in virtual worlds and now I just don’t have the time to give in to that as I did in the past.

*I know its Annoyed Librarian but she’s pretty annoying*

Seriously? Are We Still Using Second Life?!

<rant> A recent post on an article hipped me to the fact that some library organizations might still be active in Second Life!! I couldn’t believe it. But maybe I’m just totally wrong on this one so I’m open to your criticism of my criticism. Here is why I think that Librarians should get off second life.

Second Life is for Geeks and Pedophiles

It WAS cool. At one point, a long time ago in the way back machine. It looked like it would turn into the next Facebook but then it kind of fizzled out to become the next Myspace. I take that back, that’s kind of harsh, they do boast about having 15 million users so I guess it’s more like G+. Everyone has an account, but nobody actually goes there. (the soundtrack to Second Life should just be crickets and wind blowing and investors being sad).

It WAS innovative. Part of being innovative is knowing when to know to walk away from something. Sometimes I think innovation is as much doing something as it is not doing something ridiculous. Here is a good example – a tumblr of people using QR codes.

This program also boasts a completely ridiculous learning curve for use. Basically, what someone has to do is re-learn everything that someone had to learn to live a regular life all over again. That is, walk, talk, move, dress yourself, pick things up, put things down, etc… (you do get to learn to fly though). I already learned that crap, why do I have to learn it again to get the same effect I do in first life?

Here’s the deal. After learning (relearning) all that garbage you then have to find the place you have to go on a map then get there however you want to get there, then interact with that space in some way to get what you want. All the while you spend massive amounts of time dodging people asking “ASL?” But, what really irks me is that once you get there, you sit in a room and watch… wait for it…  a freaking webinar!! WTF!!? People!! WTF!!?

You know what would make it all easier? Turning on your computer and clicking ON A LINK FOR A WEBINAR!!!??? I’m a freaking genius! Why has nobody thought of this before!?

Anyway… I have more, but I just feel like being done now.</rant>

Will Google+ be Another Brick in the Tower of Babel?

So I had this random thought and posted it to Google+.  The conversation was one of those rare good conversations that occur on social media sites. So good in fact, that I thought I’d post it here for anyone not on Google+ yet or have no desire to make the switch.

PC Sweeney -Thought… With the significant fracturing of the social media that should be bringing us together, building communities, and having the potential to create a more perfect society and/or better social spaces are we recreating another tower of Babble? When we all join a different social media space will we be able to communicate with anyone?

PC Sweeney – I currently speak Google+, Facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube, flickr, vimeo, wordpress, goodreads, librarything, blogger, picassa, bucketlist, and a few others….

Eric Riley – This is why there needs to be real social media federation. You should be able to select the social site you prefer, for whatever reason and be able to connect with people from other sites with no barrier.

Unfortunately most websites prefer to see their users as a commodity rather than a person. Facebook is trying to pull some serious dick moves to prevent people from leaving, like not being able to export your data, closing ads for other sites, not allowing api access, and not allowing a user to delete their profile. It’s petty, childlike behavior.

As federation building protocols like xmpp becomes more ubiquitous we’ll see how certain social sites want to play. Google has said thy want to allow federation VIA G+ but its not in here yet. My guess is that this is a result of this still being trial phase, and that it will be implemented eventually.

Ellen Carey – I’m all for federation. I can (and usually will) learn to “speak” any social media you put in front of me. But trying to keep up with the content on all of them can hinder, rather than help, true communication as my attention gets stretched ever thinner – especially when we make a lot of noise contributing what amounts to the same content through multiple channels. At the same time, many of the people I want to connect with are disinclined toward the level and range of social media fluency that interests me, and are unlikely to leave their familiar Facebook for Google+ (for example). It would be great if we could prevent our communities from being splintered by what is a cool new tool to some, and yet another overwhelming thing to learn to others.

Jennifer Meyer – A great question for sure. It’s funny but I think we sort of lose sight of what the technology is – at least I’m guilty of this. But really it’s just a tool. It gets used as any other tool and is only as effective as its user. If as a human being I interact on social media with the same personal blind spots as I do in “real live” then I’ll limit my communication regardless of what platform I’m using. Despite the possibilities we are still “stuck” inside our own little sphere.

Would social media really be more productive at bringing others together for social change with a federation?? I don’t know; bet it would depend on the paradigm of the society when the federation formed. What is the goal of social interaction? To find differences and celebrate, or to find similarities and celebrate? Neither is wrong in fact I’ll bet we need both – but do we purposely go out and look for differences??

Ellen Carey – Great points. I agree: we need both. And I think many (most?) of us seek out and celebrate the similarities rather than the differences – through social media as well as F2F.

As far as tools go, I’m always thinking about the less tech savvy people I know who are overwhelmed by the learning curve for each new thing. Their inability to keep pace with the rapid introduction of new technologies can isolate them when fellow community members like me move on to newly-formed communities based on new tools. It can also disenchant them with social media in general, and I have very mixed feelings about that problem. On the one hand, I think we all need to take it upon ourselves to keep up with the pace of change. On the other, I don’t want to leave anyone behind, and I don’t think it’s reasonable for me to expect everyone to be as geeky about becoming fluent as I am. How do we consider the very real challenges of access to information and community, in such a rapidly changing landscape, for the significant number of people who are not digital natives? The idea of federation is on appealing solution in theory. I’m not sure how it would work in practice.

Jennifer Meyer – Ellen well thought! One phrase came to mind as I was reading that. Access points. And isn’t that awesome that librarians do that? Perhaps part of our future is going to be creating and disseminating access points for that social community – whatever that might be. It will become critical that we acknowledge those challenges in a similar way to ADA considerations. Particularly when it might be lack of digital access that prevents people from learning those new technologies.

Ellen Carey – Absolutely! I love the idea of librarians developing access points to communities. And I like the analogy to ADA considerations. I am still (always) wrestling with the question of what is reasonable to expect of those who have digital access, but lack the desire to develop a level of fluency in the digital world.

Going to ALA Conferences? You’re Doing it Wrong!

I never used to enjoy going to the ALA Conferences and I’ve heard so many people say the same thing. They were always too big, too overwhelming, and just… too much. But, at the ALA Conference in Washington DC 2010 I was invited to stay at a vacation house with 11 other Librarians that was organized by Justin Hoenke and JP Porcaro. I was excited about this for a couple of reasons.

1) Justin and JP are awesome humans
2) It was way cheaper than the ALA hotels
3) It would be a totally new conference experience

So of course, I said yes. In the days coming up to the conference various emails were sent to introduce everyone to each other and to talk about anything that we might want to do as a group at the conference. Somewhere in these emails, someone, at some point, jokingly called the house the ALA Think Tank (because it rarely seems as if people are thinking at ALA) and the name stuck. This conference experience was amazing and I learned more than I could have ever hoped. By the end of the conference, I realized that this was the only way to go to ALA and the ALA Think Tank folks have done one Midwinter and two annuals like this. What follows is everything I learned about conference going from the awesome folks in this house.

Start a Think Tank.
I can’t stress this enough. The benefits of a house are HUGE! The full kitchen and communal living dramatically reduce the cost of conference housing and food. There will always be someone to do something with and you’ll be plugged into so many different things going on at ALA then you would be alone in your hotel room. It also makes a great space to have your own meetings and socials to meet even more people. You also get to hear about all the other things that your roommates learned at the conference and greatly increase the amount of take-away information you’ll get. I learned so much from my Think Tank folks that I’m still processing information from DC.

Get on Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, instagram
I know, everyone is saying this, you’re probably sick of hearing it. Why aren’t you on the social medias? By following the ALA conference hashtag or seeing what your friends are posting online about the conference you can find out about the best sessions, networking events, book signings, latest updates from ALA, where all the freebies are, blogs about what other people learned at the conference, tons of various tidbits of information from other librarians learning things, and you’ll get to find opportunities to meet more librarians. If you don’t know where to start:

1) Facebook – Join the ALA Think Tank
2) Tumblr – Browse the Tumblarians list
3) Twitter/instagram – Follow the hashtags (the official hashtag is #ala2013 but everyone is blowing up #ala13)

Meet Everyone
Meeting folks and networking with other awesombrarians is really one of the best things I get out of ALA. There are so many people doing rad projects at their libraries and meeting them at the socials and after parties gave me opportunities to find out what they are excited about. Of course, there are over 20 thousand people at ALA so meeting everyone is not at all possible but at least put yourself out there and talk to everyone you can! You would be surprised where a random conversation at a meeting or a networking event will take you.

Forget about the Sessions and Workshops
As a tie-in to the previous three tips, I think this has really helped me learn even more while at the conferences. I know it seems totally backwards but I learned so much more at everything else ALA has to offer that I stopped going to sessions and workshops. The problem is that the session proposals are written a year ahead of the conference and by the time you get to the conference (if you’re on FB and twitter) you’re going to be sick of hearing about whatever the session is because it will have been discussed and blogged about ad-nauseum all of the days to and following the conference. Instead, I recommend the following three tips;

Get involved… In something!
My own personal choice was Emerging Leaders. This was a great pre-Think Tank kind of group learning experience. Through Emerging Leaders I figured out how to navigate the ALA and first met many of the people that I currently work with in the ALA. While my experience in my EL project itself was less than stellar, I did meet a bunch of amazing librarians and got gently pushed into running for ALA Council. All of the committees and council stuff that I’m involved in keeps me learning and pushing me forward. If you don’t want to get involved in Emerging Leaders you should visit the ALA Office at the conference and they can explain how to get involved in ALA in many different ways.

#partyhard
Typically, I get up at 7-8am on conference days to get to the conference for my morning meetings and various obligations. This is rough considering I also typically spend most of the night out with librarians at various council forums, meetups, socials, and after-hours networking events. It’s during these times that I corner my professional heroes and talk to them about what they are working on right now. I’m interested in learning what the next big thing is that they are excited about. Also, I find that people are far more truthful about their previous projects over a beer then they are at the session they held. People are more open about their fails and how they overcame obstacles at these events then they are in the more professional conference setting. It’s also during these times that some of the best projects that I have been involved with in librarianship arose. Basically, by partying as much as I could with as many brilliant people as I can find, I have been able to learn more meaningful, current, and useful information in librarianship.

#makeithappen
ALA loves to say that they are your organization. This is a lie. You are ALA’s organization. You are the one who has the ability to make your conference experience as amazing as you want it to be. It is your duty and obligation to get out there and make whatever you think should happen at a conference happen at the conference. For example, JP Porcaro, Amanda Pilmer, Justin Hoenke, and Jenn Walker decided to make an ALA Dance Party happen so they organized it and it was epic. If you think your conference experience would be better if there was a QR code hunt, you can make that happen. If you would like to help other people make awesome stuff happen at the conference you can join the group on FB called the ALA Think Tank and see where you can help #makeithappen. Overall though, it’s your conference and if you don’t get everything you can out of it, you have no one else to blame. Don’t complain, #makeithappen.

Bonus tip – Friend JP Porcaro on Facebook and Twitter. (and google+)
Trust me on this one.

JP Porcaro Talks to Erin Dorney about Emerging Leaders at #ala11

JP and I met up with EL Alumni Erin Dorney at the Emerging Leaders poster session at #ala11 to talk about her EL Experience, how it prepared her to be a leader, and EL as a way to network with fantastic librarians.

Could Google+ Ruin Your Online Personal Brand?

So I got a google+ invite (just bragging)! While I was exploring this new social media and talking to friends and happily putting them all in all of their specifically labeled circles, I started thinking about the amount of metadata that we are creating for each other and about each other. I started thinking about twitter lists, facebook groups, and other classifications in the multitude of social media platforms that we, our company, or our brand, is being put into against our will and without our control.

I understand that people have had these concerns with FB already because they are already doing some of it in a way. But I think that Google is slightly different because people “like” a company on FB or “friend” me and its pretty much exclusive to FB, whereas people “Google” me to find all of my online persona or a company’s online presence. These groups and pages in FB don’t have an effect on people’s search results for me within FB. But, my friends’ classification of me could have a strong impact on what search terms are used to find me or have a strong impact on my public online identity.

Here is another difference, I think. FB uses my groups and likes data to send me more specific and better targeted ads and recommendations. I’m the only one who is really affected by this data because I see the ads and recommendations when I’m online. I see the results of people’s classifications of me. And, for the most part, I’m the only one who does. However, Google can more effectively use this “circle” data to influence the search results for me. Results that anyone can see, that influence how people find me, and that the public can associate with my online brand identity.

This is because these lists and groups generate a massive amount of metadata about our online persona. I originally thought about Google+’s collection of this data specifically because they are in the search, metadata, and ad business. My first thought was how my friends’ classification of me in circles would affect search results for my public online identity (PC Sweeney) that I spent a lot of time constructing. Would it be completely upended because people started putting me in the “douchebag” circle? Would it be possible that whenever someone searched for “assholes” I would rise to the top of the search results because that’s how people had classified me? Or, would I simply continue to be put in the “librarian” circle? Or even… dare I say it? That searches for “awesome” would bring me to the top of Google searches?

But, ok… Let’s just say that I’m put in the asshole circle, twitter list, and facebook list (because that’s more fun). How will that affect my job search or my career advancement? People potentially could see my online brand through search results, and people’s classification of me that I am branded as an asshole. My boss, or future boss could learn about this and it could ruin my career.

While, I think this would be mostly funny, I wonder about larger companies that have been branded by these lists such as BP, PG&E or Walmart. How can they control it? I don’t think they can either. They could try to avoid social media all together to try to limit their classifications. But then what about FB Places or Yelp that automatically generated a social media space for that company? Avoiding social media would be wrong too.

So what is the solution? In the future, starting now, it is going to be more and more important to not be an asshole and more important to just be awesome.


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Death to Grassroots Library Marketing!! Start a Library Franchise!

Ok, here it is. I’m absolutely and totally fed up with grassroots library marketing. Now, I’m not saying that some folks aren’t doing awesome things with it, I’m just saying we can do better. I think it’s about time that the library starting some real fundamental advertising and marketing. I mean the kind of awesome commercials you see during the super bowl or at the very least prime time television. Or, at the VERY VERY least, late night or midday commercials. But really, what I would love to see is one of those hour-long infomercials like you see for those products that slice and dice and make some kind of fries. But wait! There’s more! I would also like to see billboards, street signs, signs on buses and popups on the Internet and the whole litany of regular advertising in use by major corporations. Why can’t we do that?

Ok, I’ll tell you why. Its because we all work so far apart from each other and our networks aren’t tied together like a franchise where we can do real resource sharing, where our friends groups can work closely together, and where we can share costs on such extreme projects. I think it’s about time that we start these kinds of projects. That we start coming together as a profession to really start a library franchise with a brand name that we can plaster our cities, televisions, and intertubes with. Maybe then we can finally get away from this crap grassroots (read cheap) marketing, start playing with the big boys, and getting the word out to Joe Public about what libraries are and what we have become.

While we’re at it…. Can I beg you to please, at the very absolutely total complete least, knock off the eight and a half by eleven colored paper with clipart and comic sans font that so many librarians pass off as adequate marketing?

*added* I just recently discovered these library marketing blogs. I was going to write more but these folks pretty much cover it all.

Marketing Matters for Librarians

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries


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Rebooting Libraries Back to Issue #1

I was just thinking about DC comics idea to reboot all of their comics back to Issue number one. As part of the news they are also reissuing all of the #52 comics in the reboot in digital format starting with Justice League. Now, I was a HUGE comic book fan when I was kid, and my super hero of choice was Firestorm (also by DC comics), so this whole idea got me thinking about this concept for libraries.

What you have to remember is that, while they are starting the comics at number 1, they are not republishing the first comics. They are retelling the stories in different ways. There will be new storylines, new ideas, and bigger and better concepts. Or, as DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio told USA Today;

“We really want to inject new life in our characters and line. This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”

So basically, they are not doing away with the core of their product. They are not changing Superman’s powers, or the speed of The Flash, they are just re-examining the story that they are telling.

What if we could reboot libraries back to issue #1? What would we change about our story now? If we could rewrite our library’s stories for today’s audience and inject new life into our characters what would we say?


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