Monday, May 5, 2008

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 passing the torch), and at least two big ideas (a Wisconsin Library Card, and enabling legislation for public district libraries). They were all well received, and led smoothly enough into some preplanned categories for brainstorming.

Both Big Ideas are hardly my creation (nor are the trends, for that matter). We've had them in Colorado for years. But the Colorado library card idea was actually easy enough to do (aside from politics!), and cost almost nothing. The library district has been clearly shown to be the most effective kind of public library, because it ties the funding to the actual users.

The real attraction of public speaking is that it forces me to think things through. It was a challenge to try to package all this for a state-wide discussion. But it also clarified my own thinking about what works, and what's significant.

I'm catching up on work email this afternoon, but look forward to seeing what these good people come up with tomorrow morning.

I'm also looking forward to going home. My own staff is pretty creative, too, and they've been doing good work, it seems, in the area of civic engagement (specifically, voter registration).

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