Contact me

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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Planning next year revisited

So I used it for awhile today, and quickly realized it had to be simpler.

* To Do, as I first set it up, was a comprehensive list of all my tasks. But I already have that in Hivemind, and don't want to try to duplicate things just so I can get to them on various devices. So instead, I'll leave everything in Hivemind, then begin each work day by reviewing, and pulling out the four or five that I intend to tackle that day and putting them in Notecase Pro (from now on, NP). But I eliminated the whole "To Do" heading.

* Journal. Dragging things from To Do to Journal was an unnecessary step. Now I just have one heading: "Daily Log." I open a new node, use Shift-Ctrl-T to insert the date, then (as above), plan my day from consulting Hivemind and my calendar, and cross them off as I complete them. That gives me a work record without having to drag things anywhere.

* Goals and Projects - just cleaned it up and renamed it from Projects. The idea is to keep those big ideas in front of me all day.

* Key Contacts. Dunno how much I'll use this. From my work computer, I already have contacts where I'm likely to use them (email, etc).

* Misc is now just three little reminder notes, mostly logins. (NP is encrypted, so I don't worry about security.)

* Organizations. This might still be handy. It's hard to remember what I've promised to all of those institutions sometimes.

* Talks. This one is very handy. But I need to consistently use a tag for my calendar to help me track this more consistently. (I just went back and did that!)

So Daily Log, Goals and Projects, Key Contacts, Misc, Organizations, and Talk gives me a tidy list of just six things. And - the best part - it's in alphabetical order. Joy.

But overall, yeah, this will work. Oh, and another little trick. NP lets you toggle between three screens: just the leftmost outliner pane, just the rightmost text pane, or a split screen. Toggling between the outliner and text pane seems to aid in focus.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Planning next year

I spent some time yesterday (after a low key but fun Christmas with both kids at home) thinking through not just my work projects for 2012, but also what tool or tools to manage them with.

For a long time I've used Notecase Pro, a very full-featured and actively developed two-pane outliner. I hadn't really been paying a lot of attention to all the updates, though. Over the past year or so, it has turned into a remarkably capable project manager.

So I played with the idea of using it as a "dashboard." What I like about it, as opposed to Outlook, is that Notecase Pro is multi-platform (accessible from Linux), and allows for the hierarchical nesting of tasks or information. That arrangement helps me think. On the other hand, Notecase is NOT available on my Palm Pre or iPad, which requires some thoughtfulness about notes (Google Docs, mostly), and Hiveminder (a great to do manager with apps for the Palm Pre and for the iPad).

The layout of my first Notecase Pro draft looks like this:

* To Dos (tasks and dates on the left pane, details and notes on the right - I like that just tapping the space bar marks one as "done"). This is the daily work space.
* Big Goals for the Year (the four or five big things I will try to get done in 2012)
* Key meetings and organizations (I mapped weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings by organization: my administrative team, the board, the Partnership of Douglas County Governments, the front range public library directors, state and national library association conferences and committees, and OCLC)
* Quick contacts (this is a little duplicative -- info that exists in a couple of other places, but is handy for the management of my tasks and projects)
* Miscellaneous notes that I keep needing to look up, and finally think it would just be easier to have them right there.
* Talks (dates, places, topics, arrangements for my speaking engagements: goal 1 a month)
* Journal (this consists not only of transferred tasks that have been completed, but any other musings I might have. I think that this kind of mindfulness of my job, and not only my job, makes me more thoughtful and consistent.)

I haven't tested it yet, but it seems promising: a compact screen that keeps the important things at the top of my mind.

So what ARE the big projects for 2012?

The big institutional goal is still to develop and disseminate our model for the management of e-content. My staff has three big pieces of this well underway: (1) finding publishers willing to sell us at a discount files that we manage with industry standard DRM; (2) developing a system for the acquisition of e-content; and (3) identifying a couple of partners (Marmot and Anythink) to further test and promote our model in the state of Colorado.

My piece of it is to look more deeply into the frontier of our system: library as publisher. As I've written elsewhere, there's an explosion of self-published content that libraries just don't know very much about. As I've been thinking about my goals in this area, it comes down to:

1) helping would-be authors to write better. This might include links to writer's groups, programs and workshops we either link to or deliver locally, and lists of resources for everything from graphic designers and copyeditors to writer's guides and tools.

2) defining some collection management strategies. Should we set some collection goals for the percentage of resources dedicated to commercial versus independent publications? What strategies should we use to identify or accept non-commercial content? To what extent can or should we involve the community in selection or review or weeding? DOES e-content have to be weeded, or can it/should it be just moved over to an inactive archive?

3) working out some financial models. Suppose we require all self-published authors to post their works someplace like Smashwords or Book Brewer. Then we just pay those go-betweens, instead of thousands of individuals. That way, we might also get some percentage of the sales initiated by our patrons, which would then go to the purchase of additional materials. No doubt there are other models. (The creation of a used ebook store?) But this is not a trivial issue. At present, DCL makes about $500,000 a year on fines, and about $200,000 a year from the sale of used books. But e-books don't have fines, and right now, we don't have a way to sell them, either. Finding a replacement revenue stream seems prudent.

A related goal is the propagation of our model. To that end, I intend to do some writing and speaking around the country on this. My goal is to encourage others to replicate the model, thereby assuring that more and more publishers are willing to sell to us because there will be more customers to the product.

Beyond e-content, I have a couple of HR issues that are fun at this point in my career (succession planning and mentoring).

Finally, I'm feeling the need to write another book -- maybe to dive really deep into these waters of self-publishing. Topic? Probably the reclamation of the public sector. But the audience for this is not just librarians. Librarians already know this. The target audience is the larger society, which is still tearing down our shared infrastructure.

I've been growing a little frustrated with my weekly newspaper column. It may be time to set my sites a little higher.

At any rate, I love the end of the year for precisely this reason: I take the time to reflect about what did or didn't work well during the past year, and think about the next one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

farewell Freddie

Last night, and today, was tough. Freddie (13 year old border collie/Bernese mountain mix) was in a lot of pain. As I did so many years ago when he had surgery to remove a cancerous mass, I slept downstairs on the couch so he wouldn't have to negotiate stairs. This time, he couldn't even stand up without help. So I was up maybe 8 or 9 times in the night. Most of the time, most of the night, inside or outside, he whined. I've never heard that from him. Pain.

Today, I took him to the vet to put him down. Just the two of us (and the very compassionate vet). The end took just 15 seconds (saline solution, anesthetic, stop-the-heart, flush), $300. He sighed - in relief, I think. But I was with him, telling him to the end that he was a good boy.

My wife volunteered to come with me (a very kind gesture), but she had to work. I couldn't have that hanging over me all day, so I took him in after my son got up and said goodbye to him. I wrote this poem:

The pain
of the baby being born
is not the pain
of the mother

The pain
of the mother dying
is not the pain
of the child

The point being, I suppose, that although we may and do witness another's pain, ultimately, that pain isn't ours. But Freddie was a good and sentient being, and I feel his loss keenly.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beaux Foy video on getting a library card

I was recently in North Carolina, where I heard about this wonderful video, made by rocker volunteer library spokesperson, Beaux Foy. Absolutely wonderful. Rock on!