Showing posts from May, 2008

Evolution versus JPilot

Evolution is a Linux-based alternative to Outlook. It's an email client, a contact manager, and a calendar. It looks good, bristles with features, I have wanted to use it for years. The reason I can't is that it persists in having troubles syncing with my Palm.

I tried again today, and at first, all appeared to be working well. But then I found the old problem: when I would sync, my tasks started duplicating. First a couple, then a couple more, then a couple more. If there was a pattern, I couldn't find it. Finally, pfagh, I just restored from JPilot (I'd done a complete back up before my experiments).

JPilot doesn't integrate particularly well with email. But here's what it does do: work. It never destroys data. It never wigs out. Why Evolution can't get this right I do not understand.

Garnet VM on Nokia N800

Access Company just released an updated virtual machine for the Palm. It's very cool: still free (so far!) it reorients and expands the font size to the screen like a Palm, and I was able to copy over some of my applications (BrainForest and ShadowPlan), which work quite well. It also adds in the To Do application, missing in the previous version.


In short, Loki (my N800) could also be a Palm. Issues:

* I haven't tried to get it to sync, although some have reported success with it. I've been copying over the files from a sync to Linux's JPilot (in /home/user/.jpilot/).

* battery life just isn't as good as the Palm.

* it doesn't really integrate. That is, I don't think you can copy and paste from other apps into the virtual machine.

Note: to get the hotsync ID in the virtual machine, you need to use the following command from Xterminal:

/usr/bin/gvm/gvm --hotsyncid="Sync Name"

Pam Nissler

"Now I know that I have a heart -- because I can feel it breaking." - the Tin Man

Today I announced to Douglas County Libraries' staff and libnet (a Colorado library listserv) that one of the most extraordinary librarians and administrators I have ever worked with or known is retiring.

Pam Nissler was the director of the Bemis Public Library in Littleton, the first manager of the Koelbel Library (of the Arapahoe Library District), the manager of the new 42,000 square foot Highlands Ranch Library (in the Douglas County Libraries' district), and our first Associate Director of Community Services. She also has held many other significant leadership positions in Colorado.

When she told me she was retiring my heart almost stopped. I thought, "Irreplaceable." I have relied more than I can say on her wise counsel. Pam is more experienced than I am. She is a better supervisor than I am. She is more attentive to trends than I am. She is, I suspect, a better person tha…

Colorado Public Library Directors retreat

I just returned from the annual meeting of the Colorado public library directors. It's a cool thing. Kathy Chandler, director of the Aspen library, negotiates some incredible deals in the off-season. I stayed at the Jerome Hotel for $156 a night. In-season, it's $1100, which is incomprehensible to me. For a room, the enjoyment of which you are for the largest part of your time unconscious? Your disposable income would have to be stratospheric -- but that might apply to a lot of Aspen visitors.

I was, as I am so often, very impressed by my colleagues. There are too many celebrities to mention. Janine Reid (of High Plains Library District, formerly Weld Library District) is a rising star, launching so many initiatives that she may explode at any moment. Pam Sandlian Smith (Rangeview Library District in Adams County) is filled with a quiet pride in her staff as she seeks to make two decades of progress in two years. I bet she pulls it off, too. Claudine Perrault is turning her res…

Why public libraries matter

I got an email today from a friend, the managing editor of a newspaper out even further west than Colorado. He just wrote me about their local library, which is in desperate need of a new building. But what's going 'round in the town lately, what's picking up steam, is the idea that the library is obsolete, that "libraries are dinosaurs and the Internet is all we need now and in the future." He asked for some talking points to spin into editorials. I wrote him this, which reprises some of the other things I've written about lately, but I think starts to integrate into a nice campaign.

First, the reports of library decline are wildly exaggerated. Just to draw from some Colorado stats, more people visited Colorado libraries (58 million) in 2004 than traveled through Denver International Airport (42.4 million). In 2004, Coloradans borrowed more items from libraries (96.5 million) than purchased Powerball tickets (80.4 million). Attendance at public library progr…

The outlook for librarians

Recently, libnet (an email list of some 700, mostly Colorado-based librarians) had a lively exchange in response to a simple question: one woman wondered if we would recommend that her niece pursue a Masters in Library Science. Several findings emerged:

* a lot of librarians love their jobs, and provided encouragement.

* a lot of librarians felt that, at least to date, the investment (and the assumption of debt) hasn't been worth it. They haven't found jobs that were professional in nature; they had to move quite a ways to find employment, and sometimes that has had a steep personal and financial cost. Most of these folks were still in the starting out phase of their professional lives.

* the always helpful Library Research Service did a "Fast Facts" publication about what's really going on with new library jobs. And I see the news as encouraging: there are still lots of jobs, some of them look to be breaking new ground, and most of them are in public libraries.

I th…

When the board wants to censor...

I got a call today from a colleague, a public library director back east. Her board, appointed by the mayor, now has a majority of folks who all attend a politically powerful and conservative church. Recently, under the leadership of another church member, a petition was presented to the board demanding that the library establish a collection of materials that would be strictly forbidden to minors. Which materials? Anything involving sex.

The board thought that was a pretty good idea.

This director is very smart and sensitive, politically astute. But she, and her staff, are also alarmed. Why?

We could play this out by example: so sexual materials would be denied even to those kids working on health projects for school? Even kids who might be sexually abused by family members? Even kids being pressured by other kids to have sex, and want to know what kinds of consequences might ensue?

As I've said before, the biggest problem in America is NOT that children are reading too much. Indeed,…

OCLC - parting thoughts

As noted elsewhere, I just finished my last meeting as a representative of BCR to OCLC's Members Council. That three year term was a significant educational experience for me.

I did not run for re-election because I have to look after a public information effort about our need for increased funding. My first obligation is to ensure that my own institution has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. Right now, it doesn't.

But I do have some observations about OCLC, I hope worth recording. I didn't think about OCLC very often before I went to Members Council, and I bet a lot of other members of the cooperative don't either. So take this as insight from someone who walked into the inner workings of Members Council with no preconceptions.

OCLC has an extraordinary CEO. Jay Jordan, who just happens to have lived in Castle Rock, CO before he was recruited by OCLC, has been a remarkable leader. He just celebrated his tenth year at the helm, and in that time, OCLC has cle…

From Awareness to Funding

At my last OCLC Members Council, OCLC's Cathy De Rosa presented a fly-by overview of the new report, due in June, that first states a problem: there's a trend of failure in library ballot issues. Next, it starts talking about some solutions: in brief, our strongest supporters see us as transformational in their lives or communities. To succeed, to gain funding, we have to learn to reach out to our markets using this language.

Instead, for too long, we've postioned ourselves as far less interesting "information providers" -- a place where the competition is intense, and the experience itself is less valued.

My assistant, Aspen, found someone else's blog about this here. It's a good summary.

This study is a significant contribution to the field. And it couldn't be more timely for me.

OCLC Members Council

For the past three years, I have been a representative of BCR (a regional library services network based in Colorado) to the OCLC Members Council.

I've enjoyed it, and particularly enjoyed getting to know several international librarians -- Chew Leng Beh from Singapore, Jieh Hsiang from Taiwan, Berndt Dugall from Germany, and David Brandbury from London. I find these marvelous librarians fun to talk to -- and I learn something about their countries that is altogether different, truer, more direct, than anything filtered through media.

But this is my last meeting. My term is up, I didn't run for another. Instead, I'll be serving on the BCR board, which is much closer to home. I need to stay focused on our probable 2008 election.

But I'll take warm memories from my time here. And I've even enjoyed going to Dublin, OH three times a year, and the lovely Marriott, my home away from home.

Economic impact of libraries in Wisconsin

Terry Dawson, Director of the Appleton (Wisconsin) Public Library has a blog here with a link to one of the presentations we saw at the Wisconsin summit. Click on the entry link to see it. Researched by David J. Ward, this slideshow made some points that I'm sure apply to many libraries, and our return on the tax dollar investment. I was struck, watching it, by two things: being a Midwesterner myself, I found the pattern familiar -- from agraraian life (my grandparents' time) to industrial life (my father) to information worker (me). This parallels the change in the economy of Wisconsin -- and underscores the need for higher education as a strategy for employment and economic vitality.

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0

Jeff Donlan, director of the Salida Regional Library here in Colorado, sent me a fascinating video clip featuring author, teacher, and lecturer Clay Shirky.

You can click on the entry link to watch the 13 minute clip of his talk at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco earlier this year. He makes several points that are, I think, relevant not only to librarianship, but to the idea of civic engagement. In brief: it is better to do SOMETHING (participative) than NOTHING (mindlessly consuming television programming and advertising).

The clip is brilliant: a provocative beginning, and a thoroughly thought-provoking ending. Throughout, Shirky is articulate and cogent. He reminds me of Jaron Lanier, the first person I remember talking about the fundamental difference between the television and the telephone: the first one is passive, the second is active.

The telephone, of course, is more like the Internet -- but the conversation endures in cyberspace.

The implication for libraries is this: …

Someone is wrong on the internet

My son sent this to me. So true. (Click title of entry for source.)

KDE versus Gnome

As mentioned before, I use PCLinuxOS (PCLOS for short) as my home Linux distribution. There are two very broad desktop environments for Linux: KDE and Gnome. KDE is more Windows-like in look, and is very configurable. Gnome is a little more Mac-like, focusing on sane defaults.

I prefer Gnome.

However, a recent upgrade to PCLOS has Gnome turning on my HP computer's internal fan, somewhat unpredictably. But when it comes on, it doesn't go off. That's a bug of some kind, and I have no idea how to fix it. It's annoying.

But PCLOS isn't really a Gnome distro. It was designed for, and uses by preference, the KDE environment. This uncommon noise (Linux is usually very quiet) so irritated me I was considering installing Ubuntu, or Fedora, or Mint, over PCLOS. But for today, I just spent a little time customizing KDE, and it looks pretty good. I'd post a picture of it here, but KDE bristles with so many options, I can't lay my hands on the screenshot utility (it has …

Is anybody listening?

Blogging has been an interesting way for me to record some of my travels and library-related thoughts. But is blogging just an online journal, another memory aid, or a true communication tool? If the latter, then I need evidence: comments (of which there are almost none to date) or a site counter. So I added a tool to the blog to see if anybody is reading this.

So if you're swinging by, leave a comment! Or I'll look at the stats and see if I'm just having a swell conversation with myself. And if that's the case, I probably don't need to keep a journal for the world, when one of those little moleskin pocket notebooks works so well.

My website

I borked it, and trying to restore it, decided to remove some things. It's starting to look like time to redo everything anyhow, though. Websites need to be refreshed from time to time. Maybe I'll poke around for a template I like.

PLA presentation on evaluating the library director

I just got a message from ALA that the presentation "Evaluating the Library Director," delivered at the Public Library Association conference on March 27, 2008, is now available in a couple of formats.

There's an MP3 available. But it's huge. If you want it, email me.

Our final Power Point is here.

Ken Gordon's Rules of Legislative Conduct

Cleaning up email, I see I got something from Senator Ken Gordon. Today is his last day in the Colorado Legislature. Gordon sent out something he calls his "Rules of Legislative Conduct."

Gordon served Colorado well. And his rules are worth remembering.

Gordon's Rules of Legislative Conduct
(Suggestions for future legislators)

1. Think for yourself. If you don't have any internal values that inform your conduct here, find another occupation.

2. Leadership: You can't always be liked and always do the right thing. If you don't have the courage to sometimes do the right thing even though it will anger some person or support group, you should find another occupation. If you don't have courage, you may be an elected official, but you are not a leader.

3. If you are in the majority and you can't pass a bill that you want to pass without abusing the process, then you shouldn't pass the bill. If you can’t kill a bill that you want to kill without abusing t…

McCain's plans

Click on the entry link to get an article by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek. The nation is abuzz about what Barack Obama's former minister is saying, and ignoring what one of the actual candidates is saying.

I think Zakaria is right: McCain's stand on international relations is bizarre, schizophrenic and will lead to further escalation of world tensions.

I file this under "politics -- the unexplained." Why isn't anyone talking about where this proposed policy would lead us?

Another unanswered question for me: Guantanamo Bay is in Cuba. How did it happen that the United States of America has a prison camp in a country with which we have no diplomatic relations? How did we do that, exactly? Make a phone call to Fidel and ask if we could rent some vacant gulag? Surely we didn't just violate another nation's sovereignty and blast onto the beach and set up a prison?

What connects these two ideas: Do we have a coherent international relations policy that is transpare…

21st century librarianship

I've been spending the morning listening to my Wisconsin colleagues try to work up a five year vision. And it occurred to me that there was a more succinct way to address my keynote topic: the 20th century library was library-centric; the 21st century library needs to be community-centric.

This is not, necessarily, to be passionate advocates for social justice, although it might be that on occasion. The problem with some Big Causes is that they can paralyze: "how can we deliver quality library services when we still have poverty in the world?" And we do have poverty, and it must indeed be tackled. But the urgent issue is this: the library has to assess key issues in its community, and address those where it can make a significant improvement, not just a statement.

Similarly, there is a tendency among librarians to say "how can we go out to the community when we have yet to understand each other?" The result is that we talk only to each other, and not to our commu…

Wisconsin Library Summit

I'm writing this from the incredibly lovely Heidel House in Green Lake, Wisconsin. I was keynote speaker this morning for a "Strategic Visioning Summit on the Future of the Library," co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster), and the Council on Library and Network Development chaired by Kathy Pletcher, Associate Provost for Information Services for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

I had forgotten how beautiful the land around here can be: green, pastel blue sky, trees everywhere, and of course, Green Lake itself, which is 2 miles across and 17 miles wide.

The summit organizers have done a good job of pulling together a mix of people: academic, public, school, and special, but also some diversity of age.

My talk focused on what I thought were 6 trends in librarianship (self-service, merchandising, emergent literacy, community reference, the convergence of libraries and museums, and pa…

Waukegan Public Library

My last engagement in the Chicago area was a long range planning workshop with the board and staff of my home town library, the library that inspired me to become a librarian.

Our main exercise was "visioning" -- trying to see what a shared vision might look like for the future. And there was indeed a common vision: a library that was safe, clean, and healthy; a staff that was warm and welcoming. There were a lot of other clever and interesting ideas as well.

I find it encouraging: most of the time, when you sit down with the public to dream about what a library could and should be, they get it, they have great ideas, and they get excited about it.

I also continue to believe that after a couple generations of tearing down our public institutions, it just might be time to put them together again.

Knowing when it's time to move on or When doing things right isn't good enough

I've been thinking about another conversation I had with Rick Ashton. Again, Rick and his staff did a lot of ground-breaking and transformative work at Denver Public. Not only was there a sharp focus on customer service, but Schlessman was the first "bookstore-style" library in Colorado, a model that got a lot of attention from other library directors, and greatly informed our own library's subsequent experimentation. Denver was the first library in the neighborhood to adopt self-check in a big way, and it was a big help after a couple of disastrous funding cuts.

Rick did a lot of things right politically. But there came a moment when it was obvious that, for a variety of reasons, he was not going to be able to restore that funding. And so he did something difficult and right in a different way: he left.

I think back to my own career, and the merging of the Greeley Public Library with the Weld Library District (now the High Plains Library District). It was a very pain…

Yo Yo Ma and Allison Kraus

My wife passed this along to me -- a haunting and beautiful lullaby. Click the entry title. If that doesn't work, go to, then click on Video, then "Slumber My Darling."

Chicago Art Institute

I love that place. Yesterday, I got to see the Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper exhibits.

They're a good pair. Both could see into a scene, capturing essentials of light. Amazing to see Homer's Canadian scenes -- then tropical islands! And I love the way Hopper surrounds every object and person with a stillness of space.

When I was in high school, sometimes I would skip school to ride the old Chicago and Northwestern commuter train (now the Metra) downtown to go the Art Institute. My home room teacher was Mr. Misunas, and also taught art. Once, when I told him I'd skipped school to go look at Impressionists, he excused the absence.

Urban Libraries Council

Yesterday, I stopped by the Urban Libraries Council (click this entry title for their website) to meet the extraordinarily bright staff, and visit with my good friend Rick Ashton. ULC is a kind of public library think tank -- focusing on the topics and strategies that will ensure vital libraries.

Rick has a fiercely probing and fearless mind, and I always learn something from him. During his tenure as Denver's City Librarian, Rick focused on the foundation: customer service within the building. Some libraries are still grappling with that.

But what's next? I think there are three core trends: the first is RFID-based self-check; the second is savvy merchandising of library materials; and the third is what I call answering the community reference question -- a repurposing of our professional skills to catalog the community, to not only have a seat at the table, but to help our communities solve problems, improve lives.

Each of those is a multi-year process, requiring a lot of deep …

NSLS gig

I enjoyed it. Tom Galante runs a big system in Queens, dealing with a tremendous number of languages and communities (62 communities, if I remember right). He's also a good speaker -- direct, funny, and refreshing. Clearly a very capable director. The focus of his talk was recruitment: go for the best, and don't shy away from big stunts to get people's attention.

Pam Sandlian Smith, formerly of West Palm Beach, Florida and now my neighbor as the director of the Rangeview Library District, was a delight. It's peculiar to have to travel to Illinois to get to know my Colorado colleagues better, but it was worth the trip. I fancy that I can see Pam's children's librarianship background: she has a gentle whimsy about her -- that surrounds an administrative spine of steel. Her focus was on the establishment of a a new culture centered on customer service. I am confident that she will do very well.

Marylaine Block provided a real wealth of knowledge concerning something…