How Steampunk can Save Librarianship: Libraries Redefined (Part 2)

Steampunk Guitar
As I am continuing to explore the experiences that are changing how I view librarianship, I came across the steampunk movement. What is a steampunk you ask? Well, steampunk is a genre of speculative futurist fiction where the world is powered by steam and the design of the future is modeled after the Victorian craftsmanship of the 1800’s. Yet, in this steam powered world, all of the conveniences of a modern world exist. Things like digital watches, computers, airplanes and spaceships. Each of these things, while being futurist in nature, in melded with the design and power of the past. Each of these things still benefits society in the same way that they are designed to and as we envision them. It’s just that they’re powered by a different energy source and look Victorian in nature.

steampunk laptop
So, it seems to me that in the same way that steam punk is creating the future with the power and design of the past, libraries are trying to provide the future of information with the power and design of our informational past. We’re providing modern technology such as computers and Internet access within the framework of an organization that is designed for the information access of the past. We are trying to power and design libraries with books and physical collections (steam) while providing the same benefits to society with the future digital forms of information such as mobile technology.

Because this parallel only occurred to me yesterday, I haven’t had much time to think about it. I put the thought out to twitter and received a positive response. In fact, Rudibrarian provided me with this definition of a steampunk movement within libraries – “Hi-tech futuristic gears keeping the old style functions of learning and research moving forward!” While I think this was a fairly accurate definition, I did take some liberties and changed it as follows to more closely fit what I am getting at-

Steampunk librarianship- Old style gears keeping the futuristic high tech functions of learning and research moving forward!

I hope she isn’t too mad at me for changing her words, but I couldn’t have come up with my definition without her. So thank you!

Steampunk Catalog
So why am I inclined to say that this concept can save librarianship? Because, perhaps, we can start to think about libraries in terms of steampunk ideologies to help us understand how we can live in a world where the technologies and designs of past can power the organizations ability to provide the services of the future. We no longer need to argue about whether or not books power libraries, or if its computers and technology that power libraries, and we can agree that there can be a successful melding of the two and that this melding can create something entirely new and exciting while still providing the same kinds of benefits to society.

I would like to point out that I think a lot of our libraries are already working to achieve a successful melding of old vs new and I would love to see more libraries finding ways to more successfully meld the two. As I wrote this blog post I realized that I had actually visited, took pictures of, and wrote a blog post about a very successful steampunk library. This happened while I was at CLA in Pasadena last year and the title of the blog (while not being familiar with steampunk) was “Tour of a Library Cyborg.”

Recap of a Week’s Worth of Awesome #library

This last week has been especially awesome in the world of libraries. If you were following along on Facebook or on Twitter then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. For the three of you librarians who somehow missed this stuff… Here is a quick one-stop recap!

Old Spice Vs. New Spice

Andy Woodworth of the blog Agnostic Maybe and the Ben Jerry’s Librarian Flavored Ice Cream campaigns as well as the Save New Jersey Libraries Campaign (yeah he’s done all that) can now add getting this amazing video made for libraries by the Old Spice guy. I love this advertising idea! Just latch on to a meme and remind people to go to the library. I love it. Here’s the video;

Coming in with an equal level of rad (I think I need to use the word rad more often) is this video completely hanging on to the tails of the Old Spice ads.

In management news…

Here is a video about the surprising motivation of employees found tweeted by @annacreech. I have to say that I’m not completely surprised that it’s not…. Spoiler Alert… Money. After ALA in Washington at the Think Tank and spending time just having the freedom to be creative with some drinks and with uber smart librarians I can say that I was way more motivated by that experience than by money.

Guerilla Libraries

Now here is a concept I’m very excited about. These students, when faced with the closing of their library during critical time on campus (finals week), created their own library in a guerilla “Viva la resistance” kind of way. This is something that a few of us at the Think Tank have been thinking about for a while now. Guerilla Librarianship.

Non-Librarians blogging about libraries!

One of my favorite things to find online are blogs written by non-librarian folks who are either praising of condemning libraries. In this case, its praise and that just warms my heart. This is a family where two of the members (father and son) have Asperger’s Syndrom and spent the day playing chess at the library.

Blogged: Libraries and Online Social Capital in a 2.0 World

While I was playing around with and finding all kinds of library awesomeness, I decided that I would post one of my own. This presentation isn’t finished and I want to write some blog posts to go along with it because I think I might be on to something.

Yeah, I know there is a large amount of text on this presentation, but that is so that it makes more sense without me speaking. When I finally get the courage to submit this to a conference to present I’m going to remake it without the text.

This presentation about the concept of Online Social Capital and how libraries need to be thinking about it when they are creating their online profiles. I haven’t read about anyone thinking about online social capital but everyone is kind of dancing around the subject in various ways. I hope that this concept helps to clear up the question of “Why libraries should be involved in online networks.”

I won’t go into too much detail in this post and I hope that you get the information you need from this presentation, but expect some future blog posts that expand on some of the key concepts here. Let me know what you think.

*I am a little frustrated with figuring out how to get the pictures in the presentation to load. Right now there are photos that say that Quicktime and a Decompressor are needed to view the photos. If someone knows how to get that to work I’m all ears.

So Much To Do… What Should I do First?

So I’ve been complaining about not knowing what to do next. I have my personal life goals sorted out as in this post, and I’m still figuring out my professional goals, but I’m just not sure where to start within my library system because there is so much that I want to do. There are quite a few large projects that I want to take on at the branch I work at right now, but I have no idea what I would do first. So I created this list because people asked me what it was that I wanted to do and also as a way for me to keep track of all my ideas. Let me know what you think!

Volunteering Program
Fully develop a volunteering program that establishes job roles and duties and outlines a training program. Implement this program to create a “staff” of volunteers to relieve staff of some of the day-to-day duties of maintaining the branch to allow them to perform larger duties with more significant results.

Graffiti Arts
The library needs some more modern art… Badly. Currently, the art on the walls was put there in the 80s but its from an African Art collection from far earlier and its representative of the culture of the community as it was about 25 years ago. Since then, the community has drastically changed and some new art needs to be displayed. The Police had a program that encouraged young graffiti artists to use their skills more positively. I would love to partner with this group to paint a graf mural on some of our blank walls.

Establish a Friends of the Library Group
This library has not had a FOL group for approximately 10 years. There are a number of barriers to establishing the group but I believe the need for community outreach and the ability to expand programs and services far outweigh the hardship of the barriers.

Create a Community Newsletter
A community newsletter could help to bring in more patrons for programs and services that are offered as well as notify patrons of new programs and services.

Improve Wayfinding and use of Space
The current configuration of the library does not currently lend itself to efficient wayfinding for patrons. Movement of furniture and better signage can create a useful library space as well as allow access to some of the “hidden” collections.

Simplify the Organization of Digital Information in the Library System
Currently the library system uses a wide number of information systems for communication. For example- staff email, Blogs, Servers, Websites, are all provided via different methods and therefore require a number of different passwords and access systems. Are each of these necessary? Can it be simplified?

Centralized Ordering
Develop and implement a plan for standardizing and centralizing the office supply ordering. The savings to the library system could be significant through the purchase of supplies in bulk and through re-negotiated contracts for larger orders.

Development of instrument collection and system wide music programs
The library could work to provide a collection of musical Instruments for check-out. Specifically, I was thinking guitars but this could be expanded or changed. For example in the library it might be hugely successful to check out Ukuleles. These check-outs would be in conjunction with a series of group classes lasting 8 weeks, during which time the students would have the instruments checked-out to them.

Roaming Reference and Mobile Devices
Develop and implement a plan to utilize mobile technology such as PDAs, smart phones, and other hand held electronic devices to assist in roaming (mobile?) reference and check-outs “on the go.”

Development of a Social Media campaign
Create a more robust online profile for the library system utilizing many of the online social networks and static sites to increase the library’s level of Online Social Capital. This could be done through the creation of a plan at the branch level to increase community involvement, or by creating one larger profile for the entire system.

Text Book Collection
There are a number of schools in the surrounding community served by the library. The library should establish closer partnerships with these groups and provide the services and materials needed by the students. These materials include research, book reports, and textbooks.

QR Codes
So, I’m not sure where I got this idea but I’m pretty sure I didn’t come up with it. I want to place QR codes around the community in significant areas where people can scan the codes to find more information about that place (or activity that occurs in that area) in the catalog. So, for example, books on hiking on mountain trails linked to a QR code placed at the head of the trail.

Awesome Friday Library Fun! #library #ala10

Alright team… Say you’re sitting in your office or at home and need to waste about 30 minutes on some library “related” videos. For this, I have just the thing you need. May I present Silent Library? Silent library is a Japanese game show set in a library where contestants must partake in humorous antics without making any noise. Because… Ya know… They’re in a library. I’m pretty sure that it’s the least complex game show of all time and it will only take you a couple of seconds to figure it all out but this first video will give you the general idea.

This is my favorite one…

But for more hilarity and library antics here’s the link to the youtube search results for Silent Library. Have fun team.

Does Library circulation = library sales? What do you think?

First, let me say that I absolutely love the idea of libraries following a bookstore model so I’m already coming from a biased opinion. I think that, in general, libraries have a lot to learn from all retail businesses about getting our resources off our shelves and into the hands of our patrons. In fact, I would even go so far as to relate an item circulating in libraries making a sale in retail. It seems to me that having the objective of increasing the number our library materials coming off of our shelves in an efficient manner is the same thing that retail stores are attempting to do with their sales. If that’s true, and a library wants to increase its circulation or its “sales” maybe I should just start calling the circulation of library materials, library sales?

There are, of course, quite a few differences between library materials and retail products. For example, people have to return a library item and the item is owned by

Are we increasing Circulation or Sales?
Are we increasing Circulation or Sales?

the people of the community as whole through the government purchase and distribution of it. The item can be “re-sold” a multitude of times and people only pay for the item if it is lost, damaged, or returned late. We try not to let the market dictate too fully about which items are purchased. And I’m not suggesting that we are competing with bookstores or retail markets because I think we serve fundamentally different purposes. But really, I think that the actual process of getting the item off the shelf and into the hands of the patron is the same as making a sale and many of the techniques of making more successful sales can be applied to increasing circulation.

In the end, I don’t think that anything would really change about the actual circulation of library materials by simply calling it a new name except that we might begin to look at circulation in a new way and our “sales” would hopefully increase. By renaming the process we might look more closely at the vast number of more refined techniques that retail stores (not just bookstores) use to get their products into the hands of the people in their places of business. Perhaps by simply renaming the movement of the library materials we will get librarians to start thinking about using some of those techniques more often. So maybe from now I won’t “check out books,” instead I’ll “make sales.”

Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Libraries… Use get clicky is a great web analytics tool that is not only free and easy to use but extremely powerful. You can see who is visiting your website, from where, where they go on your site, and what operating system and browser they use. This can allow libraries to make better educated decisions about the design of their websites. Take a look!

If you find better websites or use getclicky please email or comment and let me know how you use it. And, as always, comment, criticize, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Working in a library is like the Matrix

I always feel like working at a library is just like the Matrix because everything we need to do our job is right here for us at our fingertips. Anything we want to learn from languages to marketing to budgeting is available to us at all times on our shelves. So it always surprises me when I see that libraries are not at the forefront of technology, innovation, and design. I think its time that we, as librarians, take the responsibility to take the time to learn everything we need to do our jobs better. After all, how can we expect our patrons to learn when we don’t do it ourselves. So this is my challenge to all librarians – find out what you need to learn to do your job better, then learn it.

Of course, I might be totally wrong here. If I am, take the time to comment, criticize, and don’t forget to subscribe, and let me know how you feel. Thanks Team.

And as always, if you have a couple bucks laying around…. Why not donate it to the Coastal Education Project and give the gift of education to coastal communities around the world.

Libraries Made me Healthy

Alright team… Here’s a short one.  There’s a great article in this month’s issue of Woman’s Day Magazine (Yeah I read woman’s day magazine) about the importance of libraries to a communities health. If you want to read the whole article, here is the link;

If you have a couple dollars laying around feel free to donate to

As always, comment, criticize, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Create a searchbox for Webvoyage 7.0 on your library homepage

Every library website should include a quick OPAC search box.  They’re easy to create and easy to use for your patrons.  Now, with a little help from my brother, I created a quick searchbox for webvoyage 7.0.  I’m going to shamelessly plug his company that helped me –
To see or try out this searchbox in action check out our library’s website at
Here is the code for the search box
Here is the top ten or so webvoage hacks
And of course, if you would like to contribute to help education and literacy in coastal communities, feel free to donate to my California non-profit at