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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

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 resort library (in Estes Park) into a model for the new century. Anne Mojo (Louisville) is on the cutting edge of the embedding of interactive high tech museum exhibits in the public library setting. (I have to study up on that one. I'll start with a meeting with Anne.) Monica Kirby (Spanish Peaks Library District in Walsenburg) has gotten frighteningly competent in grant applications and administration. Mary Anne Hanson-Wilcox of the Grand County Library District has developed a fundraising prowess that awes and inspires me. Shirley Amore, City Librarian of Denver, passed along words of wisdom about building teams: successful teams have two characteristics. First, they are open. Second, they have affection for each other. Isn't that both lovely and profoundly insightful?

In truth, every single director there was up to something remarkable. And the trust among us has grown through the years. We don't just brag about what we've done right; we let each other know what worries us.

But here's the thing that matters: Colorado's public library directors have identified a primary technological need. We all want a better ILS (Integrated Library System). A lot of us are at, or near, the end-of-life of support of our current platform of library catalog / circulation / acquisitions / etc. operations. Just possibly, we're ready to build a statewide consortial system.

It could be that it's based on Open Source -- like Koha or Georgia Pines. But that isn't a given. Maybe it's based on OCLC's WorldCat, with other modules bolted onto it.

Finally, it's based on this: a public library community that sees itself as a community, as one thing.

I spoke with Gene Hainer, our State Librarian, and Nicole Steffen, director of the Library Research Service to make the first step happen: determining how much we spend right now on our many ILSs. A survey is forthcoming TODAY, one day after the meeting in which the request was first imagined -- a remarkable response.

It may be that there's a more cost-effective alternative.

Here's how it begins: we figure out what we spend on an ILS right now. Then, we decide how much money we can redirect to something better. Then, we make it happen.

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