Category Archives: Personal

My Recommendations for the ALA Elections 2013

Because this post is going to be about people for whom I think you should vote, I will begin with a disclaimer: The opinions below are mine, and mine alone, and I am not speaking in any role other than as an ALA Member with thoughts about the best choices for office.

Now that that little prelude is out of the way, here’s my take on the upcoming elections. These are the people that I think could make a difference in ALA, will make good decisions and guide the organization well, and are the most likely to leave the thing better than when they started. I also think that they represent the best parts of libraries and librarians, and would be positive role models for this, the professional service aspect of our job.

I don’t have opinions on every election outcome, because boy-o there’s a lot of them. But the few that I do care about, here’s who I will be voting for, and who I recommend you vote for as well.

ALA President

Always a big decision, but not always such an exciting set of candidates. This time around, I am thrilled beyond telling that Courtney Young is among the candidates. Courtney is smart as a whip, understands the issues, and will bring a new perspective to the office that gets me excited to see what she will do. I think Courtney would make an great ALA President. I hope that I get the chance to see her as such.

ALA Council

The list here is long, as always, but I think that the following are a great set of librarians who I want to empower to help run our organization: Lauren Pressley, Erica Findley, John Jackson, Kate Kosturski, Chris Kyauk, Coral Sheldon-Hess, and Patrick Sweeney. There are probably more that I’m forgetting, but I’ll add them as I find them on my ballot. :-)

EDIT: Additional Council candidates that I would recommend: Loida Garcia-Febo, Kevin Reynolds, Edward Sanchez.

LITA Board of Directors

Oh, this is tough. The LITA board slate (Andromeda Yelton, Jason Battles, Brett Bonfield, and Jennifer Reiswig) is an amazing group of people. There are, truly, no bad choices in that field, and I think that’s great for LITA. You can’t go wrong. Me? I’m going to be voting for Andromeda and Brett, for a ton of reasons, but mainly because I think the two of them bring interesting perspectives to LITA that could broaden its horizons in ways that are needed.

So there’s my thoughts on the ALA elections. Democracy in action, people! Make sure you vote!

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013This past Saturday, I and Bo Baker represented the UTC Library by taking part in the 2013 Chattanooga Maker Day. Held on the 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, this event was the first in what I hope to be many examples of the awesome tech potential and talent found in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013The theme of the day was a “3D Throwdown”, with Makers bringing their 3D printers and printed objects, setting up demos of 3D design, local businesses that were related to 3D technology doing demos and answering questions…it was like a mini-Maker Faire just for 3D printing. And the turnout of people was incredible. From 11am until 4pm when we closed up, it was a non-stop parade of people, kids and parents and grandparents, all who came out to ask questions and see how this tech works.

I will say, from my perspective, the most amazing moments at the event were the kids who were just wide-eyed at the objects these printers could create. The printers themselves whirring and beeping and generally sounding like droids from Star Wars made the kids aware of a part of their future they didn’t know existed, and it was incredible to see their mind light up with the possibilities.

As far as MPOW, we had dozens of UTC students come through, all of them with the same two exclamations on their lips. First was “You guys are from _the Library_?” and second “The Library is gonna have _this_ for us to use? NO WAY!”. It was a great way to show off the direction that the library is taking, moving into the creative spaces that are so ripe and ready to bloom. We’re still 9 months from opening the new building, but I’m so excited about what that space is going to enable us to do with and for our patrons.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013But Maker Day was about more than just our patrons. It was about showing people the potential of Chattanooga in this new manufacturing space. It was about showing them the building blocks for the future of the community. Chattanooga has The Gig, it has incredibly talented people, and it has a chance to be one of the great technology hubs of the United States. We just have to put all the pieces together the right way, and the groups that put on Maker Day (the Public Library, Co.Lab, and many others) are printing those pieces of our future.

State of the Union 2013 Tag Cloud

State of the Union 2013 Tag Cloud

Above is the weighted tag cloud of the text of President Obama’s State of the Union 2013 address. This is part of a series that I’ve done over the last 7 years, starting way back in 2007, as part of a visualization of what is on the minds of Americans. It’s fascinating to see what changes over the years, and what stays steady. Check out  200720082009,  2010, 2011, and 2012 linked for your convenience. The issues are stark as you look across the years…from security and terrorism to jobs and the economy over the last 7 years.

My CES2013 Hangout

As a sort of wrap-up for my CES2013 coverage, I decided to advertise and present a live, interactive online webinar driven by Google Hangouts. That happened today, and this is the resultant video presentation. The first 57 minutes and 30 seconds or so is me talking through a slideshow on trends and the effect said trends may have on libraries, while the last half-hour is me taking questions from the chat room, twitter, and from the brave souls who took time out of their day to join me in the Hangout and ask questions.

As I said in my initial plan for attending and covering CES2013, “…for the very first time decided to experiment with crowdfunding something I’m doing and ask for donations. Or, to put it a different way, I’m becoming a busker for the trip.” This trip had no sponsors, and while I haven’t gotten the full stats on how many people watched the Hangout, watched my video reports, read my blog entries, or just laughed at some of my pictures, at this point many dozens-to-hundreds of people have seen my work. Of those, exactly 4 have decided that what I was doing was worth paying for.

This isn’t me complaining about that! This was and is an experiment, and if I don’t let people know the results, then it’s not really an experiment that others can learn from. I promised transparency, so here it is: I received 4 donations from 4 individuals: $10, $20, $20, and one incredibly kind soul for $50, bringing my grand total for donations to $95.30 after Paypal fees. I find this a fascinating response, given that it is routine for educational opportunities exactly of this sort (literally, I have given them) to cost many hundreds of dollars. This was free, available for anyone…and yet. And yet.

Lots to think about! But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to produce content and write and speak and read and think about technology and libraries. If you think what I’ve done here is worth paying for, I’m going to leave the donation option open for a bit longer, just to see if people finding this after the fact decide to chip in. I will, of course, continue to report on the experiment. Thanks to everyone who watched, commented, joined in, or hopefully learned something about the tech of CES2013.

How CES works

I don’t think I’ve ever written about how CES works. It’s primarily a “business” show…it isn’t open to the public, and to register to have to show that you are somehow affiliated with the consumer electronics industry. There are a range of registration “types” but the two that I know librarians have used to get in have been to register as Press (which I have done for my trips) or as a “Industry Affiliate” (of which I am unsure of the requirements). The other registration types are more business oriented, such as exhibitors or buyers, and are unlikely to be used by libraries or librarians.

The best way to think of the show itself is as if one were visiting an unknown but interesting city. There are neighborhoods organized roughly by product type on the exhibit floor (Carville, Audiolandia, and Mobiletown, for example). There are also a ton of peripheral events, somewhat like suburbs, that spring up and feed off the sheer mass of CES proper (events like Digital Experience and Showstoppers, both large Press events that are not officially affiliated with CES). I don’t believe it is truly possible to see everything at CES, even with a large team of people covering the show…and individual can, at best, see just the very tip of a very large iceberg hidden beneath the waves.

Since I’ve attended as Press, I’ve got that attendance experience to draw from. Most of the big Press events are invite only, so unless you’re on The List you aren’t getting in to either the press conference or the parties, but there are dozens and dozens of events that are both open and easier to get into. On the other hand, Press have a few benefits that are really useful, like having access to the Press room, free wifi, wired connections when needed, and help with all sorts of navigational issues.

My first couple of days here at CES 2013 have been all about Press events, trying to gather info in smaller meetings and events. The last 2 days will be all about the Big Halls, roaming the exhibits looking for trends and new exciting things that might be overlooked. I’ve already got a huge backlog of content, mainly video, to edit and push out…but need better bandwidth and more processing power to do so quickly. I will get that out as quickly as I can, everyone.

Trend #1 – Sensors everywhere

I have talked before about the lowering cost and ubiquitous appearance of small sensors…accelerometers, compasses, and more. These are exploding right now in the form of health and fitness monitors, but are starting to expand into toys (Little Bits and ATOMS) and other lower price point devices. Combine these with 3D visual sensors like the Leap and the Kinect (always keep in mind that anything that acts as a controller can also act as a sensor) and you’ve got the potential for measuring more and more things about the world and people in your libraries.

One of the recurring themes that I’ve seen thusfar at CES2013 is just that _everything_ now has robust digital sensors that measure movement, tilt, direction, and even heat and pressure. These are showing up everywhere, and the fact that they can be sold in a toy for about $10 should show that their ubiquity is likely to keep growing.

I’ve talked about my idea for building a “watch the shelves” system from a Kinect and a small server, and remain convinced that there is something about to happen regarding the ability to generate and analyze new and interesting pieces of data about the physical spaces in libraries. With more and more ways to easily and cheaply measure movement and interaction within our spaces, there is the potential for better and better use of the spaces in question. Of course, the flip side of that is that we may discover that some of our sacred cows aren’t nearly as valuable as we imagine them to be.

If you COULD measure movement of people inside your library, what would you measure? Movement through stacks seems the most obvious, but what other uses could we put cheap people counters to? What other information should we be collecting?

Packing, Technology, and Covering CES2013

This is my 4th trip to the International CES, and as I packed for the trip, I was amazed at the difference in the technology that I’m taking with me. Each year I’ve tried to bring along any technology that I thought I might need to report something that happened at the conference, whether it be creating text, photos, videos, or some combination of the above. In my estimation, I’m now able to do better content creation with about ¼ of the equipment as 4 years ago.

4 years ago, if I wanted to capture decent photos and videos, I had to have a camera and a video camera. There were cameras that did well at both, but they were largely SLR or other extremely expensive and hard to use pieces of equipment. They were also well and out of my budget. So at that point, I traveled with a Canon point and shoot for still shots, and a Flip camera for video. To edit what both of these captured, I needed to carry a laptop, and at the time I had a 13 inch Apple Macbook. I also carried a Zoom h2 audio recorder, because neither of those were any good for pure audio capture, and my cell phone at that time (the iPhone 3G) didn’t have the best audio either.

Now? My iPhone 4S can capture HD quality video, is an amazing still camera, and is a great audio recorder. I am carrying my laptop, but at this point it’s a 13 inch Apple Macbook Air, at half the weight of my old Macbook. If it really mattered to me, I could edit the audio, video, and photos exclusively on my iPhone and leave the Air at home…or compromise, and trade the Air for my iPad just for the screen size. The “stuff I need to carry to cover an event” is now totally capable of fitting in my pocket, even if I decide to bring along a better microphone for the phone. It’s a bit easier with other gadgets in the workflow, but it’s an amazing change in just the last 4 years.

CES 2013 and Experimenting with Crowdfunding

Time for an experiment! I’m heading to the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas tomorrow, the largest consumer technology show in the world. I’ll be tweeting, photographing, videoing, and otherwise throwing content at Libraryland from CES for the next 5 days. I set up a website and for the very first time decided to experiment with crowdfunding something I’m doing and ask for donations. Or, to put it a different way, I’m becoming a busker for the trip.

I’ll provide tweets, videos, photos, and hopefully some insight into the technology trends for the next 12-18 months. If you think that’s valuable, donate some money to the cause. As a bonus, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on January 16th at 2pm Eastern time where you can listen to me talk about the trends I saw, cool new products, and things to keep in mind if you are doing technology planning for your library. I’ll also be upping the interactive component, and will be pulling people who are interested into the Hangout with me, where we can talk, you can ask questions, etc.

I think all the info you need is at the Griffey @ CES2013 website, but if not, there is a contact form over there you can use to let me know what I’m missing.

Obviously, I’d love to know what everyone thinks of this…it’s a huge experiment, so any feedback is awesome.

Thinking about Organizations

I haven’t written much recently about MPOW, but we had a really interesting retreat before the holidays about organizational structure that I thought might pique some interest. We’re a growing library at UTC, but we’re growing in ways that seemingly aren’t typical for libraries in the US. Whenever I read about changes in structures for libraries, it tends to be in the direction of fewer professional librarians, more staff, more temporary/part time work…the same deprofessionalization that drives labor practices in the corporate world. I’ve even seen reports of public libraries going the Wal-Mart route, and hiring “part time” people just under the full-time limit in order to not have to pay them benefits…which may keep libraries open, but at a much larger cost to the stability of the workforce, I would think.

So when we started examining our own structure, and the changes that have been happening organically for years now, it was somewhat of a shock to see that our library is doing the exactly opposite of this. We are small, but even at our size the traditional ratio of staff-to-librarians is very different than at every other University that I am familiar with. When I was hired almost 9 years ago, there was a very small majority of staff-to-librarians..something like 18 staff to 14 or so librarians. The numbers at most of the institutions we looked at were much closer to 2-1 or 3-1 staff-to-librarians. The interesting part to me is that over the last almost-decade that number has shifted significantly, but towards the professional positions, the faculty positions. With our newest set of faculty hires, we are going to be something like 18 librarians to 13-14 staff…and in most cases that I can think of, the increase in librarian lines has come through the attrition and combination of staff lines.

We are in a position in librarianship where the “traditional” staff positions are being more and more disintermediated by technologies. When we moved our library ILS to OCLC Worldshare, we knew that it was going to have an impact on our departments. By eliminating the traditional copy cataloging functions, smoothing out acquisitions workflows, and other efficiency gains, we’ve been able to reposition a huge amount of hours towards more professional work. It’s allowed us to begin to expand in ways that we couldn’t without those efficiencies, and every time we’ve asked the question “What do we need to be a better library?” the answer to the question has been “Someone to head up this new thing…a librarian that can handle X”. So in almost every case we’ve had, we’ve chosen to go the route of creating more professional positions, and not less.

CAVEAT: This is not to draw massive distinctions between LIBRARIANS and NON-LIBRARIANS in some insane hierarchical or judgmental way. It’s simply that my library operates under the auspices of the UT system, and for us, hiring staff means a lower payscale, less flexible responsibilities (changing the job responsibilities of a staff member vs a faculty member is more difficult) and we are tied to those things and really can’t change them. These are the rules of the game we play in order to make the best organization we can to serve our patrons.

So with this move to a new library, we have a different set of challenges. We’re reaching a size now where communication and management is becoming more difficult, and we’re struggling to maintain a flat structure when the pressures of hiring seem to be driving us towards more levels of management. We don’t necessarily want that, and prefer a structure that keeps as many of us “on the front lines” as possible, without the reporting/management hierarchies that can bog down operations. But it’s a struggle to see how that can be done given how and where our growth is occurring.

So, libraryland: How do you handle growth of an organization that actively wants to prevent increasing the complexity of structure? Is anyone else seeing the growth of professional positions at the cost of staff or paraprofessional?