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Conference News 2
ALA Annual Conference 2014
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago
In Iran, whoever goes to jail because of what they write is a hero in the eyes of the people,” author Azar Nafisi says. Through her 2003 memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, which spent 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Things I’ve Been Silent About, as well as her presentations about literature and culture, she has elevated public discourse about the political nature of reading. Educated in Iran, the UK, and the US, Nafisi returaned to Iran in 1979. She moved back to the US in 1997 and became a citizen in 2008. She is a lecturer for the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. American Libraries spoke with Nafisi as she was completing Republic of Imagination, which is scheduled for publication this fall.
AMERICAN LIBRARIES: Your efforts to promote literacy and books of universal literary value are directed primarily toward young people and adults.
AZAR NAFISI: Oh, definitely. They are directed toward readers in general. I think that readers have so much in common no matter what background they come from or what age they are.
Where do you see the need being most pronounced?
That is a very difficult one because I think the need belongs to each and every one of us. You know, Joseph Brodsky, the Russian-American Nobel Laureate, talks about how writers are persecuted or imprisoned and we can protest that. But the worst thing that can happen to an individual or a nation is becoming indifferent to reading. So right now, this is not a matter of one group, although we should always pay attention to the youth because they are the hope of the future. Our efforts and focus should also be very much directed toward how we have our children read books, both the way we encourage them at home as well as when they go to school.
In an interview you did with Huffington Post that was published February 3, 2014, there is a quote from you: “It’s not so much this generation’s fault that they have become indifferent toward the sort of complexity that is needed in order to enjoy a great book.”
Definitely. Time and again, especially since I started thinking about this book I am currently writing [Republic of Imagination], I keep asking myself about what my generation did. You know, I have a lot of complaints about the state of education. I have a lot of complaints about how we do not pay enough attention to the treasures of this country as well as the heritage of the world, which is our libraries. I think the fault lies not with the children who come into the world very innocent but with the legacy we leave them. Especially since I returned to the US in 1997, I’ve noticed a negative dominant attitude toward the idea of reading, of humanities and the liberal arts that was rather shocking to me—although not among the whole population. I’ve traveled over the past 15 years to 34 or 35 states, and when I talk to the young people, I see how much they crave passion, how much they crave meaning in their lives. When they talk I see that urge in them. And I ask myself whose fault is it if that urge is not satisfied?
If that urge isn’t channeled. . .
Yes, it has to be channeled. I mean we can’t just expect our youth to instinctively go to the libraries, or to have a love for books. But children have a natural curiosity and there is in each and every one of us this urge to know. And although my experiences are very different from my daughter’s, we share the same human urge. And where do you go to satisfy that curiosity? One of the first places you go is a library. It is a public space. A library is one of the best gifts society can offer its citizens.
I was in Montreal for a book tour and my escort was telling me that she was an immigrant from Eastern Europe who had nothing when she and her loved ones came here. They were just barely making a living and during the daytime her mother would take her to the local library and leave her there. She told me that what gave her the will to love life was just sitting in that library and picking up books and reading them. So that instinct for survival is mixed with the instinct for knowledge. It’s just sad that people don’t take that seriously.
What role do you see librarians having in helping students think more critically?
Libraries have become a second home to so many children, and especially a place where people talk about books and reading and learning almost as luxuries. I remember when I was speaking at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and people were telling me how mostly children coming from the inner city, whose parents both worked and did not have enough money for a nanny or private school, took them to libraries. That’s just another world because children have access not only to books but to a community. And I think how libraries have been in the forefront of using the internet in the best way possible—showing us that it has uses other than tweeting what you’re wearing right now.
But when you go to a place like a library, you see how every space, both physical as well as virtual, is used to genuinely connect. When I was in Iran I did not have access to this sort of thing and the only library I could use was that of the university where I was teaching. Since I returned to the US, one of the first things I did was to check my local library. At first, we lived in Potomac, Maryland, and I wrote most of Reading Lolita in Tehran in the Potomac Village Library. And later when we moved to D.C., again the first thing that I did was check out my local library, the West End Library. I know almost every single person in that library. When I go there I still feel that pang of excitement, like when I was a child and my father would take me to the bookstore. I love to talk to my librarian and we have so much in common. And the library is in every sense of the word, a portable world.
So that is what I try to tell friends and students and people around me, that one of the first things we should do is support our local libraries. To us—to me and my family—it means a lot. Usually before buying a book, I check it out of the library, because I had so many personal libraries at different times at my home, and each time I had to leave the books behind. And so I guess that makes me even more attached to the community library.
You often speak about promoting literature that has universal literary value. What are your standards for judging how a book has universal literary value?
People talk about the canon but I think the standard is how books or works of imagination endure throughout the ages because of readers. It is very difficult to define a standard. But the great books, no matter what background, what country, what nationality they come from, appeal to our basic humanity. And that is why, you see the same theme, the same story in Sophocle’s Antigone, written in Greece 2,000 years ago, repeated in a television program like Boston Legal. That is what amazes me. Or Vīs and Rāmin (The Story of Love) in Iran. From the 11th century on, we have had at least three versions of what we call the Romeo and Juliet story, and it is said that one of the 11th-century Iranian poems that has been translated into English was the inspiration for Tristan and Isolde. Isn’t it fantastic that a student who was born in the Islamic Republic of Iran (not even the pre-revolutionary Iran) would read Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet or Zora Neale Hurston and empathize and her heart breaks? And a student in Washington, D.C., would read the great epic poet Ferdowsi or Dante or Jane Austen and the same emotions come through her. This is the most important aspect of imagination, that it knows no boundaries, and as readers we have a responsibility to keep books alive.
As you know, libraries collect a great deal of material that does not endure. How do you feel about libraries collecting a lot of popular works that don’t necessarily have that value?
Many of the books in a library are a reflection of books that endure. But there are so many genres that I enjoy. For example, I love mystery tales. Actually in my new book, I talk a little bit about my most favorite mystery writer Raymond Chandler. And I talk about how Chandler did for mystery writing what Twain did for the novel in terms of the kind of language, the kind of sensibility he brought. In one sense a great mystery tale also has a moral center and focus to it. It makes us curious not just to find out who the murderer was but it makes us curious about the world around the victim and the criminal, the complexity of these characters.
Vladimir Nabokov used to say “Readers are born free and they ought to remain free.” So I feel that readers should have freedom of choice. I hate to make statements that are a complete affirmation or negation but in this case I’m pretty sure that readers will choose books that will endure in libraries. After all, who was the audience for Greek tragedies? Who was the audience at the Globe when Shakespeare first came into being? Or Dickens? Who read any of these great authors who now have become part of the canon? It didn’t start in universities. That is why I would like to focus on the readers because we should have respect for the readers. And with respect and freedom of choice for the readers comes responsibility. It is not just up to the writers, the librarians, the bookstore owners to preserve books and the integrity of books. It is up to us. I would like to reach out to communities. If we live in a democracy, especially in this democracy where we talk about the people, we can’t only rely on the elite. If we want the government to do something for us, we have to show that we really want it. Nobody is going to give it to us. So, coming from a society that was ruled by a government that never listened and closed the libraries to us, I feel that I have to do my share.
Your father took you to bookstores as a child. Was there a public library system?
When I was a child, even, libraries were very small.
Were they private?
Yes, they were private. When I left Iran in 1997 I had become the keeper of three libraries—my father’s, my own, and my brother’s, which we sort of gave away after I left. There was the National Library but it was very difficult to go. Some schools had small libraries, and then later on at the end of the 1970s when libraries were flourishing, especially for children, the revolution happened. And as you know, liberal arts and humanities are the canaries in the coal mine. Whenever freedom of expression is threatened, it comes with banning books. And so that is what happened in Iran. And after the revolution even more so. Both my children and us, we were dependent on these private libraries. And when my brother and I were children, my father would give us books as a gift. If we were good for that month, then we would get a certain number of books as a reward. So I always looked at books as a reward, not as a task. Reading was never a task.
It’s a wonderful way to teach the value of books.
Oh, definitely. And that is why the library plays such a role. Because first of all, it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, what background you come from, the library belongs to you. It is important for children to learn that everything they want to have or that is precious in life should not be all privately owned, that the community is concerned enough not just about their bodies but about their imaginations, that the library provides a community center for them. I love the idea that my children go to a place where other children are, and I love to think of libraries as a meeting place for children because usually libraries have these spaces where children play or read. And sometimes when I go to the library I look at those faces completely immersed in the pages of a book and it is beautiful to see that.
Yes, it is.
Well, you know far more than I do because you have always had that experience. For me stories became very much like Alice’s story, where wonderland is in your backyard. You don’t have to get up and go. All you have to do is pick up a book. And each book has its own voice, its own texture. It is like meeting all these different individuals.
What drew you to a career in teaching and writing about literature?
Like all good things in life, I really don’t know. Part of it was that I was born into a family where some were writers and historians. Even for those who had other professions, writing and reading were part of their lives. I was 9 when I started writing my diary, and in my family, especially my father’s family, we had this game we played with my cousins where we would both write poetry and recite our poetry to one another. So, when I went to school, at first I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher when I was 13. Then I just instinctively—I went to school in England—I took my O level and A level in literature, both Persian literature and English literature and then when I went to college, it was obvious that I would be taking literature. So it wasn’t so much that I chose these professions. It was in a sense that they chose me.
When I was first teaching, I was scared of publishing anything. But when I went back to Iran and I started teaching, there were so many things I wanted to say. And as you know, it is very different when you write for yourself or when you write for an interlocutor, when you write to have a conversation, which is what I wanted. So I just wrote. You know, it’s like love. You never know why.
It just exists.
It just exists. I regretted many things in life and the way I’ve gone about things, but what I have never regretted, never looked back on, is my profession and I connect to people through it. I find people who are strangers to me become intimate strangers. It is very existential.
You share and they share in return.
Yeah. Some of the most genuine relationships I’ve had are with readers and myself as a reader. Because if someone talks to you, not just because they love your book but sometimes even when they hate your book, it is authentic. How many people I’ve heard say they hate [Henry] James, they hate Nabokov. What do you see in Austen? You know. Genuine like or dislike of books comes from the heart. And that is what I enjoy, that affair of the heart.
You’ve been in the US long enough to know that there’s a belief here that it’s impractical careerwise to get a degree in literature. How do you respond to that and is there a difference culturally in Iran?
Well, first of all I think Iran is a little bit like Latin America or some European countries like France where literature and humanities as a whole are very much respected. People will go to jail for it, not just because of what they have written but what they have read.
That’s a huge sign of respect in itself.
That is the highest respect a regime can pay. I remember the first time I saw Salman Rushdie. He very generously came to my table to tell me that he liked my book and I was sort of tongue-tied. What I wanted to tell him came out as if I was saying you deserved to die. But what I meant was they bestowed the highest honor by wanting to kill you because in Iran, whoever goes to jail because of what they write is a hero in the eyes of the people. And if the tyrants want you to be eliminated, hopefully nothing will ever happen to you, but that is a sign of their weakness and your strength. Rushdie didn’t want anyone dead. He just wrote a book. So that comes from the inner confidence of a writer, that you write the truth. Your loyalty is not to any state. It is to the truth of what you’re writing. But for them, this truth is so dangerous that they want to eliminate you and your book alongside of it.
The fact is that Iranians have poetry very much at the center of their lives—even among people who are illiterate. I mention in several of my books that my father always told me that Iran is an ancient country and it has been invaded so many times, but what maintains our identity as Iranians is our poetry. People in the traditional coffee houses in Iran read poems by the great epic poet [Ferdowsi], whose 1,000-year anniversary of his book was in 2010. Frequently, truck drivers in the back of their trucks have a poem by our great poet Hāfez-e Shīrāzī. When our children are born, we sometimes open the book of the poet Hāfez to ask him about the future of our children. When I was a child and I still couldn’t read, I could recite the poets because my father would teach this classical and very difficult poetry to me. And many of the squares and streets in Tehran and other cities are named after the poets. We have Hāfez Street and the street named after the agnostic poet [Omar] Khayyám, a street name that this regime couldn’t change even though it hated him. We have statues of poets in the middle of our squares. And it’s not just that you see Mark Twain if you go to Hartford, Connecticut. You see the literary statues everywhere.
So, as far as how the Americans view literature study as impractical, that’s something beyond your experience.
Yes, but not just as an Iranian. No. This is as a new American. This is a reflection on American society. The most important job in the world should be the job of a teacher, or the job of a librarian, or the job of a museum curator. These people are the reason we progress, why we move forward. Literature is not just an escape from reality. It is showing you the depth of reality that you cannot see. And to deprive our children of imagination—I don’t know what these people think. They think we can remain a great nation and not be able to think and imagine? And that is what worries me. And they talk about these same founders, most of whom read Greek and Latin? Even George Washington, who was a soldier, talks about having a national university in the capital, and that literature and science are the basis of a nation’s happiness. He doesn’t segregate literature from science. They go together. So we have a lot of problems right now.
How are we to get back a sense of balance?
We should not be defensive because we have nothing to defend. People who are so shortsighted, who think you can have innovation without imagination—those are the people who should be on the defensive, even if they have a lot of power.
You write quite a lot about removing threats to personal freedom in society. What threats do you see these days?
One thing is that the world is in a period of transition in economic terms, as well as the changes in technology and so many other things, which puts us in a very dangerous period. It can also be very exciting. We are creating a new future and this is partly why we have this crisis. It is dangerous if we ignore the legacy that world civilization and each of our nations has left for us. And the great danger I see today in America is that, in the name of the American dream, we worship crass materialism. When we tell our children that they go to college, not because they have passion, not in order to have meaning in their lives, not in order to give back to their society but to become part of Wall Street or achieve success at any cost—then it becomes really dangerous. Money should not be the goal but the means to other goals. And that is not why people like me come to this country.
There is this misunderstanding that if you’re poor, then literature and art, imagination and ideas, become a luxury. This is furthest from the truth. Some of the most amazing people I have met through my books and some of the most amazing places I have been, have been the inner-city schools. People, no matter where they come from, whether they’re rich or poor, want a better life spiritually and intellectually as well as materially. And a lot of times they live in their imagination. This crass materialism and lack of imagination really worries me. Even our president, who is accused of being an elitist, in his State of the Union address talks about science, technology, and engineering, and doesn’t make any mention of humanities and liberal arts , that these fields are interdependent and that we should encourage our children.
That is what worries me most—when learning is talked about as something elitist. Americans should be very much insulted by that because it suggests that only the rich both deserve and need to go to museums, to have access to books, to be able to read poetry, and not be limited to what is called today informational texts. As if you can have information and use it critically without thinking or imagining. That is the basis of information. Information is not knowledge by itself. And these are simple things which our elite seem to have forgotten. They should go and read their John Adams.
In some circles, it’s elitist to suggest that. People seem to think you’re getting on your high horse.
Yes, and people who are talking about museums or libraries—all these public spaces that the public needs to nourish their minds and their hearts—they talk about all of these things as if the public doesn’t like it. The jewels in the crown of this nation are the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress and the monuments all around. First of all when you go to the monuments, when you read what Lincoln or Jefferson or Martin Luther King had to say, their language resonates with Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible. And then when I go to the National Mall and the Smithsonian, crowds of people come and none of these people belong to Congress or the very rich. They’re just ordinary people. To turn imagination and thought into a luxury in a democracy—I can’t understand it. Maybe imagination and thought were a luxury in the Soviet Union or in a country that is under tyrannical rule, where the rulers keep the best things for themselves, but for heaven’s sake, you know, don’t talk about it as if you are a defender of democracy.
I always quote Frederick Douglass’s speech when he was at the opening of the school in Manassas for African Americans. What he said really stayed with me: “We need to work with both our hands and our heads.” So what he’s talking about in that speech is that the head and the hand go together, and that is what I used to think of as American pragmatism—not the hand alone or the head alone, but the unity. And what we have now is American utilitarianism, and that is not what this country was founded on, and I think the American people should take it back. I mean all these small liberal arts colleges I’ve been going to and giving talks at, they were all built by either religious missions or the farmers. They’re in the middle of an Ohio farm. Or I was at Mount Holyoke or the Emma Willard School, and in all of these, you imagine those women at that time, how hard they worked in order to have one school for girls. It all seems to be in the past. But I hope not.
How does your forthcoming book Republic of Imagination continue the dialogue you’ve been having through your other books?
This feels like the last in a trilogy. When I was in Iran, I wrote a book on Vladimir Nabokov, and I wanted to talk in that book about the relationship between reading Nabokov and the realities under which I read him. But I couldn’t write it because of the censor. I couldn’t talk about it in an open manner, so I wrote a book that was basically literary criticism but I tried to experiment with it. And through that literary criticism I let the reality of Iran at the time sort of shine through. And then when I came to America, I really wanted to talk about this because in Iran I couldn’t do so directly. In Iran I had started this diary in which I had written about the reality of going to a concert in Iran, reading Jane Austen in Iran, reading Lolita in Iran, and beside it I had put my experiences of those books that related to it. And I was giving talks here about reading Lolita in Iran, and it turned into that book.
Republic of Imagination is based on a comment that a young Iranian man made to me at one of my book signings in Seattle. He said, “These people over here don’t care. They don’t like to read books.” And I asked the question, “Can a democratic society survive without a democratic imagination?” Out of that thought this book came out. My memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About, was a sort of farewell to my parents and the country of my birth, the country that I had loved. And it was both a love letter and a bitter love letter as well. And I felt with Republic of Imagination, I was greeting this new country that has welcomed me. Because of that, I want to talk about what kind of an American I imagined myself I would want to be. And I cannot imagine myself being the citizen of a country that does not appreciate or respect or love imagination and ideas.
I said earlier we shouldn’t be on the defensive. I mention in Republic that when you love a place, you start grumbling, because you want it to be perfect. If you want to call a place home, then you’re concerned about that home. And when I felt in America that I was uncomfortable, that I wanted certain things changed, I knew that I was feeling at home. Everywhere I’ve gone in the world, including America, before I went to the real place, I had an imaginary map of that place. And so I’m talking in this book about that imaginary map and the real one and where they intersect because I think the country that has produced Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson and Ralph Ellison is not a country that could reject imagination and thought. Actually some of the more poetic statesmen, when you read Jefferson or Adams or Lincoln, or when you read John F. Kennedy’s statements on the importance of art and culture on the walls of the Kennedy Center, you think, “God, this country is so poetic.” And we should remember the poetry.
I think it still does inspire people and hopefully we’ll see more evidence of that.
Yes, and that is why we worry. We worry when we have hope because then you want change. So I’m quite hopeful.Issue: July/August 2014Category: AdvocacyTags Vocabulary: #alaac14
Multiple platforms in the ALA exhibit hallby Marshall Breeding
The exhibit hall at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas provided both a respite from the weather and a chance to learn about the latest developments in library technology. As the world’s largest exhibition of library products, the ALA Annual Conference continues to be a unique opportunity to assess current technologies from an almost comprehensive representation of library vendors.
A somewhat smaller exhibit floor this year illustrates the fewer number of vendors that registered compared with last year in Chicago (5,607 vs. 6,125). But the numbers were still ahead of the 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, California (5,124). Exhibitors mentioned that the traffic in the hall was busier than usual, with many attendees opting to stay close to the convention center during the day and venture out in the evening for networking at receptions, restaurants, and other venues.
The diverse array of products at the conference reflects the reality that libraries face today: managing collections that comprise all media and formats. New platforms and evolving systems help libraries manage higher proportions of electronic and digital materials, even as they maintain their print collections. The stakes are especially high with discovery services that function as the primary portal and provide key touchpoints with library users. Developments in discovery products are expanding the universe of available content, providing more sophisticated search capabilities, and—above all—making it easier for patrons to find things and increasing their engagement with the library.
The strong presence of suppliers of self-service stations, book sorters, and other automated materials-handling equipment on the show floor demonstrates that libraries continue to manage extremely high volumes of print materials. The proliferation of digital scanning equipment on display supports the efforts of libraries to create digital collections.Expanded services
The ongoing rounds of mergers and acquisitions have taken its toll on the numbers of booths in the exhibit hall. The acquisitions of Polaris and VTLS by Innovative Interfaces stood out as one of the top news events surrounding the conference. Current and prospective Polaris customers were keen to visit Innovative’s booth to learn more about the implications of the acquisition on the Polaris product line, which Innovative insists will remain intact. VTLS came into Innovative’s fold on May 30, so shortly before the conference that its booth arrangements had already been set, though the shift in corporate branding was apparent.
Innovative representatives showed off the latest versions of Sierra (the company’s new library services platform that is racking up new implementations at a vigorous pace), Encore Duet (a discovery interface integrated with EBSCO Discovery Service for article-level search), and the Polaris ILS, as well as many other products and services. Along with its expanded European operations headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and a support and development center in India, these strategic acquisitions represent a major development for the 36-year-old company.
SirsiDynix, another library automation giant, announced BLUEcloud Campus for academic and school libraries. This new offering builds on the web-based BLUEcloud components—deployed through a multi-tenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform—that have been the company’s recent focus of development, integrating electronic resource management components provided by EBSCO Information Services. While SirsiDynix has seen a resurgence with public libraries, evidenced by the recent purchases by the Chicago-area SWAN consortium and the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service in Salem, Oregon, the company is developing BLUEcloud Campus to strengthen its position in other sectors.
Also on display at the conference, eResource Central provides capabilities for the management and delivery of e-content. SirsiDynix’s acquisition of EOS International in 2013 translates into yet one less booth at the conference, but the special libraries–oriented EOS.Web is now on display through SirsiDynix.
As a company specializing in technology for academic and research libraries, Ex Libris is now promoting its new library services platform, Alma, full bore, with its initial development complete and many deployments now live in many regions of the globe. The implementation of Alma underway at the Orbis Cascade Alliance consortium in Eugene, Oregon, continues to generate attention as a precedent-setting model of shared infrastructure among a diverse set of academic libraries. Ex Libris continues to showcase Primo as its strategic discovery service, providing article-level access through the Primo Central index. One of the newer developments announced at the conference was a collaboration with YBP Library Services to streamline processing of acquisitions performed on the GOBI3 platform with workflows in Alma.
The Library Corporation (TLC) demonstrated the latest versions of both families of its automation products, Library.Solution and CARL.X. The LS2 PAC interface has been recently redesigned to provide a more elegant experience for library patrons, with a responsive design that accommodates smartphones as well as tablets and full-sized computer monitors.
The company continues to develop and support CARL.X for the largest tier of municipal libraries. Its selection by the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma City reflects its ongoing viability in the marketplace. The biggest news at TLC related to its announcement of CARL.Connect, a new-generation product based on CARL.X that provides new web-based interfaces for all the staff functions of the CARL suite of products. It will ultimately replace the current set of Windows-based clients. The company also announced its second generation of APIs for the CARL platform.
ProQuest announced at the conference the foundation release of Intota, a new cloud-based platform designed to provide discovery and management of all types of library resources. This initial release includes the capability to manage e-resources, including support for demand-driven acquisitions; a new knowledgebase of metadata describing the universe of electronic, print, and digital resources; and collection analysis and assessment tools, integrated with the Summon discovery service. It does not yet include the functionality to manage print resources, currently expected in 2015, that will allow a full transition from a library’s legacy ILS.
ProQuest also introduced a new version of its 360 Link, sporting an improved approach to connecting users to full text through a feature it calls “Index-Enhanced Direct Linking.” The company also previewed its new ebook reader initially deployed for ebrary, and its intent to create a single ebook platform that consolidates ebrary and Ebook Library. In addition, Serials Solutions has now been fully integrated with ProQuest, though its ownership status has been longstanding.Beyond content
EBSCO Information Services, like ProQuest, has become heavily involved in the technology realm in addition to its flagship content products. News related to its EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) included the release of a new Hosted Curriculum Builder plug-in to create and manage course reading lists in a learning management system based on resources available through EDS. Leveraging its recent acquisition of Plum Analytics, the company announced that PlumX has been extended with the capability to include usage statistics from its own databases and those available through EDS.
Following the release of a new practice recommended by the National Information Standards Organization, Open Discovery Initiative: Promoting Transparency in Discovery, the day prior to the opening of the conference, EBSCO issued a statement asserting its support.
The Follett island in the exhibits space reflected the recent internal consolidation of the company, with a more unified structure for its products and services oriented toward preK–12 districts, schools, classrooms, and libraries. A unified business, Follett School Solutions now offers print and electronic textbooks, ebooks, the Titlewave procurement platform, Destiny Asset Manager (device inventory), Classroom Connections (digital instructional tools), and the Aspen student information system. On the library front most relevant to this conference, Follett has recently enhanced its Destiny Library Manager, used in more than 55,000 schools in the United States, to include a Universal Search feature that provides discovery of collections of print materials as well as digital resources available to students and teachers from a wide variety of vendors.
As always, OCLC had a massive presence at the conference, both in the exhibit hall and through its many sponsored events. In addition to its many metadata and resource-sharing services, OCLC featured its WorldShare Management Services (WMS) and WorldCat Discovery service at its booth. Just prior to the conference, the University of Delaware became the first ARL member institution to deploy WMS in production. The new WorldCat Discovery consolidates both WorldCat Local and the FirstSearch services, and provides a new central index for more than 1.5 billion resources.
A new report developed for the OCLC membership, At a Tipping Point: Education, Learning, and Libraries, provides statistics, observations, and analysis on the habits and perceptions of information consumers regarding online learning.
Auto-Graphics, a company specializing in automation and resource-sharing products for public libraries, showed off the latest release of its VERSO 4 integrated system. The system has been redesigned to run on tablets, allowing staff to perform tasks away from the service desk and library patrons to access the online catalog remotely. Auto-Graphics has also reworked the user interface design; a new user experience module provides tools for librarians to modify results pages and create widgets that can be embedded in resources. The company also has a partnership with ChiliFresh to integrate social interactions, book reviews, and other features seamlessly using the APIs of the two respective platforms.
A first-time exhibitor, the Danish company Reindexknowledge came to introduce their fully web-based integrated library system for small libraries in the US. Around 150 libraries, primarily in Scandinavia, currently use the Reindex system, and the company is hoping to attract interest in other regions.Open source
Companies providing services surrounding open source automation products were also well represented at the conference. Equinox Software, the dominant support vendor for the Evergreen ILS, demonstrated its new Sequoia hosting platform, designed to provide a scalable and robust hardware environment and support services for open source products including both Evergreen and Koha. Equinox also had on hand FulfILLment Version 1.0, its new interlibrary loan product.
ByWater Solutions, which specializes in hosting and support services for the open source Koha ILS, demonstrated its latest features, including an advanced cataloging module. ByWater emphasizes that it works in close partnership with its customer libraries as well as a global community of Koha developers.
LibLime, a division of Progressive Technology Federal Systems, previewed its new DLS 3.0, which consolidates the functionality of Academic Koha with digital content management. DLS 3.0 also includes a new cataloging editor, a geospatial discovery tool with support for GeoMARC, and a map interface in its discovery layer for search and retrieval of geo-tagged records.
BiblioCommons demonstrated an ever-expanding set of capabilities in both its BiblioCore discovery platform for public libraries and its BiblioCMS environment, a comprehensive virtual presence that replaces the entire library website. One of the earliest companies to provide full integration of ebook discovery and lending, BiblioCommons has completed its API-level integration to support libraries that subscribe to the ebook services from OverDrive, 3M Library Services, and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360. It has also partnered with Zola Books to integrate its “Bookish Recommends” service that offers reading suggestions to patrons based on an algorithm that taps into a database of 500,000 titles and 1.7 billion relationship elements. BiblioCommons has also extended the capability for library staff to create recommendations and reviews.Ebooks
The ebook arena is bursting with improvements by the primary lending services, full participation by developers of online catalogs and discovery services for the smooth integration of ebook discovery and lending, and tools for library staff to manage procurement and demand-driven acquisitions. The ReadersFirst initiative has clearly made an impact not only in improving the availability of ebooks from publishers for library loans, but also in improving the ease by which patrons can discover, check out, and download titles to read on their devices. Technologies related to ebooks were one of the hottest areas of interest of the conference.
3M Library Services launched its new 3M Cloud Library app that provides a completely redesigned user experience for patrons to search, browse, and check out ebook or audiobook titles. The app offers new features, such as the ability to create personalized categories for organizing content and to tag favorite genres. 3M has continued to expand the volume of content available through new publisher partnerships, resulting in a catalog of more than 300,000 titles from which libraries can select ebooks to offer to their patrons. The company also continues to improve its family of products related to self-service and security of a library’s physical collections.
OverDrive, a pioneer and the dominant provider of ebook and audiobook lending services to libraries, featured its “eBook Lending Roadmap,” which outlines its recent accomplishments and ongoing developments. The company continues to expand its content offerings and the lending models available, and it has released a series of APIs that enable the integration of its platform with library catalogs and discovery services. OverDrive announced an upcoming improvement in the way that patrons use the service through eliminating the need for activation of the Adobe account, which has notoriously added to the complexity of ebook check-outs.
A new widget, called the OverDrive Readbox, helps connect libraries to their users by offering samples of materials that can be obtained from any local library with an OverDrive subscription. Libraries can embed ebook samples in their local environments. In a move that bodes well for an even greater impact on public libraries, OverDrive has made agreements with The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Bing to embed book excerpts in articles using Readbox.
OdiloTID has developed a lending platform that allows libraries to purchase and manage their own titles in addition to integrating with those accessed through subscriptions from OverDrive, 3M Library Systems, and Axis 360. The statewide ebook pilot project eVokeColorado has adopted the company’s OdiloConsortia. Odilo also supports the ebook lending environment for the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries. While fairly new in the United States, the company is well established in Spain and has expanded into Latin America.Mobile apps, scanners, and RFID
A robust trend to deliver library content and services through smartphones and other mobile devices, both through products shown in many of the vendor booths and through a pavilion in the exhibit hall devoted to showcasing mobile products, was pervasive at the Las Vegas conference. The pavilion offered a schedule of presentations allowing vendors to demonstrate their mobile apps. Given that mobile access to the web exceeds that of desktop computers in many contexts, the emphasis on mobile technologies was exceptionally relevant.
A number of vendors offering digital scanning hardware and software showed an impressive assortment of products for both patron self-service and library staff involved in digitizing projects.
- Kodak Alaris demonstrated a variety of products that enable high-volume scanning and processing of digital images. At this conference, the company emphasized its new software drivers that allow Macintosh computers to use its scanning equipment, expanding beyond its longstanding support for the Windows platform.
- Digital Library Systems Group, a business unit of Image Access, demonstrated an impressive array of scanning equipment in its prominent booth. Its product line ranges from its Click and BookEdge scanners that allow patrons to copy or digitize library materials to the Bookeye scanners for high-quality library digitization projects and the WideTEK models for large-format materials.
- The Crowley Company offers both a full range of scanning equipment and services for libraries interested in outsourcing some of their digitizing projects.
- Scannx provides a variety of scanning products designed for libraries, but also offers a cloud-based platform designed to enable more user-friendly and efficient workflows for scanning. Its Book ScanCenter provides an electronic document management system with a variety of options, while Scannalytics allows libraries to improve their scanning productivity through analyzing metrics gathered during system operation.
Technologies based on RFID tags also continue to prosper, especially among busy public libraries.
- EnvisionWare demonstrated its RFID self-service and theft-detection systems based on RFID technology as well as products to help libraries manage access to public computers and printers. The company integrates with the patron databases of any of the major integrated library systems for authentication and fee management.
- D-Tech, a European firm that recently expanded into the United States, offers a variety of library self-service based on RFID and other tagging technologies. The company recently introduced holdIT, which enables patrons to securely pick up requested materials from designated drawers in a self-service kiosk, allowing unattended fulfillment of reserves.
- Bibliotheca, an international library technology firm, featured a variety of products including self-service kiosks, mobile tools for inventory, and products for the automated return of library materials.
- For libraries with high-volume circulation interested in sorting and automated materials handling, companies such as Lyngsoe Systems, mk Solutions, P.V. Supa, and Tech Logic all brought impressive products to see in action.
The many vendors who invest in the conference by participating in the exhibit hall make an important contribution, not only in their financial support, but also in lending their time to engage with current and potential customers. This year it was particularly impressive to see not only the capabilities of the products on display but the individuals staffing the booths who were able to provide a high-level overview or answer in-depth questions. As always, the exhibit hall complemented the extensive ALA conference programs to create an excellent opportunity to learn about the state of the art in library technology.
MARSHALL BREEDING is an independent consultant, researcher, and author.Issue: July/August 2014Controlled Vocabulary: DigitizationProfessional DevelopmentTechnologyTags Vocabulary: #alaac14
The ScoopOn Mary Russell and the joy of librariesBy Mariam Pera
Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 23 books, known for her detective/mystery fiction, including the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli mysteries. She spoke Monday at the United for Libraries Gala Author Tea during the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition.
American Libraries: What kind of books did you enjoy reading when you were younger?
Laurie R. King: If there was a genre, it would have been science fiction. When I was very young, I of course did the whole girl thing of horse books and Walter Farley was my great fantasy. But as soon as I settled into a genre, I became very fond of science fiction. If you told me 30 years ago that I would be a writer, I would’ve assumed that it was going to be science fiction, but as it turned out, no.
AL: What sparked your interest in religion and theology?
King: I’m a child of the 60s. Enough said? [Laughs.] I started in on it when I was at the University of California–Santa Cruz, which is a very interdisciplinary school, and was interested in what the Hindus call "the thread that runs through the world’s religions"—the common themes you look at in various world traditions. So I did my bachelor’s degree in comparative religion, and then I wanted to more closely focus on my own tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition, so I did my master’s in Old Testament theology at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, looking at mostly the Old Testament and specifically the role of women and the feminine in God. It’s quite interesting how Mary Russell the character has interests that are similar to mine. It’s extraordinary how our tastes are close. [Laughs.]
AL: Tell us a bit about introducing Mary Russell to another fictional character like Sherlock Holmes versus a historical figure.
King: I tend to do one or the other in books. A couple of the books have real-life characters. Some have fictional characters like Kipling’s Kim. But then you get down to Sherlock Holmes, and you say, “Are we dealing with a fictional character here?” [Laughs.] I was interested in how the mind is a kind of engine that can be used to power a number of different motors, machines. If you take that engine of the mind, a habit of thought, the interaction of the senses and analysis, and you put it into an upper-middle-class Victorian male, it’s going to look like one thing. If you take that identical motor and put it into a woman of the modern era, it’s going to look very different. That was what really interested me in the books at first; how the two of them can be so very similar and yet come out so very different. I think that’s something I keep exploring, that the two of them see the world in such a similar way.
AL: You mentioned during the tea that PBS was responsible in part for your inspiration of incorporating Sherlock Holmes.
King: I can’t remember what series was playing on TV; this was 1987, and I couldn’t tell you what programs were then being broadcast, because they worked their way through the [Sherlock Holmes] stories fairly quickly. But I’m relatively certain that it was going on at the time because it put Holmes into my mind in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Because I didn’t read Holmes, I didn’t watch a lot of old film; obviously everyone is aware of Sherlock Holmes and what he looks like, what he does. But the immediacy of the character would not have been there in my mind for ready use if it hadn’t been for the Granada Film Television series that happened to be playing. I think it was a happenstance of a series of events that happened to come together. And if it would’ve been someone else, I might’ve written Mary Russell meeting someone entirely different.
AL: How are you interacting with libraries today?
King: If it comes for just pleasure reading, modern stuff, I tend to buy it. I tend to support my books because I think it’s my responsibility as a writer. And I also love books, and a lot of them, if they’re not books I want to keep permanently (because at a certain point you run out of shelves) I donate them usually to the Friends of the library and they can either use them or sell them. But I do use research libraries a lot, because there’s an awful lot of the stuff that I do that isn’t available. Theoretically, there’s a lot of stuff available that’s been scanned in the Google Project. In practice it’s sometimes really tough to get at it, and it’s not a really friendly way of using them. You can’t just flip through an e-manuscript. So I depend very heavily on the availability of a lot of books from my time period—I’m writing two series now set in the 1920s. So I need books that are reflective of that time, not looking back or an analysis of what was happening. Sometimes those are helpful, but for the most part, I need something that gives me what’s going on then and there. And that’s libraries.
AL: How has your writing process changed over the years after 23 books?
King: I think that really between 20 years ago and now, the basic difference is I’m now writing on a computer. I used to write with a fountain pen, and as soon as you could actually sit with laptops on your lap, I shifted over to them and I began to actually compose on a screen. Always before, I’d write something out and then transpose it. I think, too, having 20 books makes me aware that I always go through certain phases in books. I always get to about page 200 and I feel that the book only has another 20 pages to it. That’s not a novel, that’s at best a novella. And I get in a panic. Well, every book has been that way. So after awhile, you begin to say, “Yeah, never mind. That’s okay.” So to just not panic is very helpful, and to know that everybody has their own writing style. Mine happens to be what to an outsider looks very disorganized. I don’t outline. Often I don’t know exactly where the book is going. I know where it starts, but because I don’t do a formal outline, it looks to somebody who does outline as though I’m just winging it. But I think for those of us who don’t outline, there is the machinery of the outline process, but it’s in the back of our heads. I know that somewhere back in my brain I know very clearly where this book is going, because if I start to push it elsewhere, the brakes are screeched on. If I am writing and I discover that I so hate what I’m doing that I’d rather go clean the oven, that kind of writer’s block is usually a sign that there is something about to go wrong in the manuscript. And it tells me I need to go back and check to see where I’ve started to paint myself into a corner. That tells me that there is an organizing principle back there, it’s just not in the front of my head, and it’s not on paper on my wall. But it seems to be fairly efficient.
AL: Do you have a quota or page count for how much you’d like to write in a single day?
King: When I have a first draft going, I usually have a rough word count that I aim at. Any kind of self-employed job is hard enough without being a bad employer on top of it. So you have to give yourself a break, take days off. There are certain times when you need to go care for grandchildren or need to fly somewhere so honestly you just can’t write today. But I do try to do however number I’ve set myself. It partly depends on how close I am to deadline. If I’ve got a very generous length of time, I will aim for 1,000 and usually hit 1,500 words a day. If I’m really pushing it, I’ll aim at 2,500 and not always get there, but that’s where I’m aiming. And I think it helps keep the pace at a certain production. I’m fortunate in that I’m a fairly rapid writer, so it doesn’t take me 10 hours to do 2,500 words.
AL: Do you have any specific library stories that you’d like to share?
King: My mother was actually a librarian—not trained. But we lived in a small community outside Tacoma, Washington, called Dash Point. And Dash Point was not an incorporated town; it had two little markets and a community hall where basically everything the community did happened in this multipurpose room. They had a kitchen for potlucks, chairs, and a stage, and one of the rooms had doors along three sides of it that folded together and locked with padlocks. And when you opened the doors, there was your library. And my mother was the librarian three afternoons and one evening a week. So I got to go and get my hands on all the new books, because it was part of the Tacoma library system so they would send out new books. It was a treat because I’d be there helping Mom stamp the cards and I could get my hands on the books first. That was my introduction to the joys of libraries.
The ScoopBy Julie Cai
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
Libraries for the win!
B. J. Novak lit up the stage and Twitter!
Attendees got fit over the weekend exploring all Annual and Vegas had to offer!
Saying goodbye to Vegas and hello to reality:
Back to your masters!
Thank you for a great conference, everyone! We couldn’t have done it without you! See you in Chicago for Midwinter 2015!
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopLibraries and Little Mercies at the Gala Author TeaBy Mariam Pera
Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence and Little Mercies, was featured as a speaker at the United for Libraries Gala Author Tea at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas. She sat down with American Libraries to talk about her love of reading, her writing process, and the importance of small gestures.
American Libraries: What were your interactions with libraries growing up?
Gudenkauf: I grew up the youngest of six, and the library was definitely a place that I sought out and really enjoyed getting my books. I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, which is famous for being the inspiration for The Music Man. Part of that story involves the librarian and the footbridge that leads to the library. I went to a school that was very close to that footbridge and library, so once a month our teacher would hand out our library cards and we would make the trek several blocks, cross over the river on the bridge, and go to the library where the librarian was waiting to read us stories about faraway places and help us pick out the books that were just right for us. So that was always a really good memory for me.
You mentioned a story about reading in your toy box as a child.
I was born with unilateral hearing loss, which means I’m deaf in one ear. The difficulty is I can’t tell where sounds come from. And when I’m in a crowded situation like a classroom, I miss a lot. It would be like hearing every third or fourth word in a sentence, so you can imagine I was always the kid who was a few steps behind. School was exhausting because with this kind of hearing loss, you have to really work hard to attend to what’s happening. I would come home exhausted. And I have great brothers and sisters, Mom and Dad, a house full of pets, but I was tired. I would take my stack of books from the library, pull out all the toys from the toy box—which was a gift to my father who was a counselor at an Indian reservation in south Dakota, and my mom was a school nurse there when I was very young, and his students made this for our family—I would climb in with my pillow, a flashlight, and my books, and that’s where I really learned to love to read. Then down the road as years passed, I outgrew the toy box but still loved to read. When I got married, my parents had the toy box repainted a really pretty cream color, stenciled flowers on it, filled it with towels and linens, and gave that to me as our wedding gift. I still have it in our house, and my kids played in it. I’m sure I’ll pass it on to somebody.
How did you transition from education into the writing field?
I’ve been in education for more than 20 years. I still am a Title I Reading Coordinator for our school district, so I work with at-risk schools and their reading programs. But for a long time I was a classroom teacher, and as a teacher we always encourage kids to follow their dream. At the end of our day, with my 3rd and 4th graders, we had a rhyme that they had to recite every day that encouraged them to dream big. And I thought, "Well if I’m telling them to follow their dreams, then I should probably do that too."
One summer I packed up my classroom, bought a really pretty journal, and my family was going to a little trip around Iowa, and I wrote in longhand the first 50 pages of the Weight of Silence. And by the end of the summer, before I went back to set up my classroom again, I’d finished my first draft. Then I stuck it in a drawer, waited until winter vacation to decide what I was going to do—was I actually going to send it off somewhere or keep it in the drawer? I did end up sending it off, and it worked out in the end. Really it’s my students. By encouraging children to do what they wanted to do, I had to try to do that too.
Can you describe your writing process now? Do you still write during summer vacation?
I still work for our school system, and I do write during summer vacation, but I try to write all the time if I can. Family comes first, and I have three teenagers now, but I try to set some time aside to write every day. It could be 10 minutes or three hours, depending on what’s happening in our lives. But sticking to a schedule is really important for the book to get done on time and also for the flow of the book. I write whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I can—even sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to get out of basketball practice.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
People who may never end up seeing their books for wider audiences do have an audience, whether it’s themselves or someone close to them, and I think that’s important. The audience can be yourself, and if it’s important to you, do it. You find that time and you set aside those precious minutes to write. That’s my biggest advice: Just to do it. Sit down and finish whatever inspires you. Write about what you love, because you don’t want to spend time doing things that you aren’t passionate about. And read. That really can help inform writing, so read far, wide, and deep.
Not expecting miracles is a big theme in Little Mercies. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of that idea?
I think when we’re faced with challenging circumstances, we tend to think, “Oh, if only they would just be cured of a terrible disease,” or “If I would just get that big job,” and we think that might fix it all. But sometimes we get so caught up in the big things, the life-changing situations, that we forget it’s the little things that make all the difference in taking that next step forward when we are in difficult situations.
Sometimes you’re living day to day, hour to hour, or even minute to minute. Sometimes just a little smile or pat on the shoulder can get you to the next minute. I think that’s what the book is about: recognizing those small gestures, and whether we’re giving them or receiving them, knowing they can make all the difference to people.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopBy Phil Morehart
Paul Rusesabagina’s last name translates to “he who disperses his enemies” in the Kinyarwanda language. There is no more fitting name for the man responsible for saving 1,268 Tutsi refugees from certain death at the hands of Hutu soldiers during the Rwandan genocide.
Rusesabagina was the featured speaker at the always popular Alexander Street breakfast, held Sunday morning during the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Rusesabagina, whose harrowing story was depicted in the Oscar-winning film, Hotel Rwanda, gave a riveting, heartbreaking talk about his life and the events that would forever change it. He detailed the socio-political and historical background of the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis that escalated into horrors that would take the lives of much of Rusesabagina’s family, his friends, and an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans. The stone-silent audience hung on every word.
“Within a period of three months, our whole kind of life completely stopped,” he said. “One-hundred percent. The whole country was smelling of death. You could see the flies and dead bodies on the roads.”
Rusesabagina’s surviving family members begged him to leave the county. Upon seeing the devastation, though, he knew that he had to stay and help. “I heard my conscience say, ‘If you leave these people here, you will never sleep.’” Rusesabagina offered safety to refugees in a hotel that he managed in the city of Kigali, using his persuasiveness to divert those who might come to harm them.
“Words are the most important weapon in a human being’s arsenal,” he said. He also credited his belief in the goodness of man for saving lives. “No matter how hard a heart is, it has a soft spot. You have to find it.” By appealing to his enemies’ hearts, Rusesabagina saved lives.
“Each and every one of us on Earth has a mission,” he said. “Every day I live is a bonus.” Rusesabagina uses his days now to speak to audiences about the genocide and by working with the Rusesabagina Foundation. It’s ongoing work, and Rusesabagina didn’t mince words detailing the history of the struggle to raise awareness. When asked what his advice would be to possible US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Africa and genocide, Rusesabagina turned fiery. He places much blame on President Clinton and the United Nations Security Council for turning blind eyes to the genocide in 1994 despite pleas for help from Rwanda. “Clinton swallowed it all,’ he said. “If he had intervened, these people—my grandmother and her six grandchildren—would still be alive.”
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
By Phil Morehart
Card tricks. Sleight-of-hand magic. Props. Audience participation. No, this isn’t a description of a hot new show on the Vegas Strip. These are a few highlights of the United for Libraries President’s Program, held Monday at the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas.
Philippe Petit, the high-wire artist best known for his infamous tightrope walk across the World Trade Center in 1974, which was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, was the featured speaker and he delivered a high-energy, often hilarious presentation on creativity and the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to achieve maximum results.
“There is no creativity without rebellion,” Petit said. “You have to be free to create freely.” Petit’s philosophy on creativity and the creation process is outlined in his new book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, and the book was a focus of his talk. He wasn’t making a sales pitch, however. Petit was self-deprecating as he discussed his work, stressing that it contains no recipe on how to be creative—the book is only about his own process, which he hopes will serve as inspiration. He said he hates the self-help creative book industry and was determined not to write a book in that vein.
Not surprising, breaking the rules to find creative inspiration is a major component of Petit’s philosophy. Upon entering the hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, audience members were given a plastic fork. Together, Petit and the audience used the fork to discover new ways of using the utensil beyond its intended use: hair comb, shoe horn, picture hanger, Morse code device, and a dozen more. Petit encouraged the crowd to step outside of their comfort zones daily; to go to places that they would never go to find new ideas; to walk barefoot in places that require shoes; to close their eyes and walk around their homes. Retraining your brain to operate on new levels is key, he said.
“We take ourselves much too seriously,” Petit said. “We need to play, be silly, and remember our childhood.”
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopBestselling author discusses how quiet influencers can change the worldBy Mariam Pera
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
Appearing as an Auditorium Speaker on the ALCTS President’s Program on June 30, bestselling author Jennifer Kahnweiler said she has been an avid library patron ever since she was a child. In fact, her father led the renovation of the library in their hometown. “The library was like the other sibling in my life!” she said, laughing.
Author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, Kahnweiler argued that many ideas and solutions are not being expressed simply because someone in our work or personal life who is introverted may not be speaking up to offer input. She called them the “quiet 50%.”
So how do you know if you’re an introvert? Kahnweiler said a good indicator is that an introvert is someone who “recharges from the inside,” like a battery. Extroverts get their energy from the people and places around them and may be anxious in very quiet situations, whereas an introvert needs that down time.
Some of the strengths of introverts include a quiet/calm demeanor, thinking before speaking, and the ability for reflection. Kahnweiler believes that introverts need to stop trying to mimic the characteristics of extroverts in order to become effective leaders or move ahead in the world. Instead, she suggests they play to their natural strengths and exert quiet influence.
Quiet influencers, Kahnweiler said, are people who toss a pebble and create ripples in our lives, but they don’t necessarily see them. In turn, we go out into the world and influence other people, she said. At this point, she asked the audience to think of a quiet influencer in their life and share it with the person next to them.
Kahnweiler included personal anecdotes as well as examples from people in leadership positions on how best to work with introverts. She discussed five things that often prove challenging for introverts:
- People exhaustion
- Making fast decisions
- Working in teams
- Selling themselves
- Putting on a happy face
Introverts need alone time, so being around people for long periods of time is challenging, especially when those people are extroverted. Working in teams is generally a good thing, Kahnweiler said, but as a society we do this too much, which doesn’t leave time for reflection—something introverts need.
“The best thinking is done in solitude,” she said.
Applying her ideas to libraries, Kahnweiler discussed some of the challenges librarians face today—maintaining relevance, shifting to linked data, generational shifts in the workplace—and then offered six strengths of quiet influence:
- Quiet time: the source of an introvert’s energy and creativity
- Preparation: giving you an opportunity to prove the “value of your proposal”
- Engaged listening: a chance to build rapport and understand someone’s concerns on a deeper level
- Focused conversation: a way to position your ideas and float them out to others. The honest dialogue becomes a giving/getting of feedback but can also be used to address conflict
- Writing: being clear yourself before talking to someone and making your case
- Thoughtful use of social media: be conscious and deliberate in how you use it
“When we [introverts] only listen, we create a perception gap,” she said. “That other person projects ideas on you because you’re not saying anything else, and you become overlooked as part of the conversation.”
She added that either only listening or talking is often a way to avoid conflict and suggested several listening tips:
- Don’t multitask
- Bracket your thoughts and come back to them when you’re interrupted
- Ask what you can learn from a situation
- Move your body
Kahnweiler stressed the significance of quiet influence and what it can achieve in the world: “When you give a ripple power and direction, it becomes a river.”
Watch an exclusive American Libraries interview with Kahnweiler on the qualities of leadership and how introverts can build on their quiet strengths:
And how libraries are where "dreams endure":
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopBy Mariam Pera
On Tuesday, ALA got a new president. Courtney Young began her term as 2014–2015 ALA President after being inaugurated at the Closing General Session by now Immediate Past President Barbara K. Stripling. During the Inaugural Brunch, Young thanked Stripling for her mentorship and the chance to develop a friendship she hopes will continue to help move the profession forward.
“Thank you for being the kind of librarian I want to be when I grow up,” Young said as she presented Stripling with personal thank-you gifts of jewelry.
The brunch was a fun-filled event with food, a DJ, and dancing. But Young became emotional while thanking her mother who passed away a few years ago, and her father who was in the audience. She expressed excitement for the year to come, and said she really wanted to focus on communicating the value of membership to other librarians.
Young also welcomed the new division presidents. They are:
AASL – Terri Grief
ALCTS – Mary Page
ALSC – Ellen Riordan
ACRL – Karen A. Williams
ASCLA – Kathleen Ann Moeller-Peiffer
LITA – Rachel Vacek
PLA – Larry P. Neal
RUSA – Joseph A. Thompson, Jr.
United for Libraries – Christine Lind Hage
YALSA – Christopher Shoemaker
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopBook clubs engage patrons beyond the libraryBy Mariam Pera
On Sunday afternoon, programming librarians shared their ideas for “out-of-the-box” book clubs.
Janie Hermann, public programming librarian at Princeton (N.J.) Public Library (PPL), shared some of the success stories and troubles her library has had. She stressed the importance of getting to know your community and offering variety, because what’s boring to one person may be interesting to another.
Hermann gave an example of the kind of programs that happen at PPL, including authors attending book clubs on their books. “We found it really quashed discussion,” Hermann said. “People didn’t feel like they could be honest, and it becomes about the author as opposed to the book.”
One of PPL’s book club series, “Book Journeys,” involved choosing themes that would interest patrons the library wanted to attract. For example, PPL had a “Books on Tap” book journey that drew in the 20–30 age demographic library staff members were hoping to capture, but also a variety of other age groups. The series has been on hiatus, but Hermann said that there is nothing wrong with letting a series be temporary.
“Not everything is permanent,” she said. “It’s fine to let something run its course. You never know when it may come back.”
PPL also did book club programs on cooking—especially as foodie fiction grows. “The key to programming is food,” Hermann said. PPL worked with a local chef and author who made fresh pasta (what her book was about) for the book club, which they then got to eat.
Hermann also said it was important to promote your book clubs and their variety in your different channels, including newsletters and social media.
Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer from the Library as Incubator project, whose presence is mostly online, populate their website with art made at libraries or by librarians or library patrons that is inspired by books. They started the idea of a book-to-art book club and have a strong social media presence.
Damon-Moore facilitates the local Library as Incubator chapter at the Madison (Wis.) Public Library. She reaches out to book club participants and asks them to prepare ideas on what they may want to make during their session on a given week, even sending Pinterest links for ideas.
In these two-hour meetings, participants bring their art supplies to supplement what the library provides, and start making even as they discuss the book. Damon-Moore keeps some coloring book pages for adults on hand in case people come without a particular idea that night, or someone walks in off the street and wants to participate. Other chapters have more structured setups, depending on the preferences of the book club members.
Knowing her community was very important to Erin Shea, head of public programming at Darien (Conn.) Public Library, where most of the population commutes to New York City for work. Noticing that residents were not participating in book clubs or other library activities, Shea decided she’d take the library to them.
“Attendance in our clubs was starting to drop, and staff were spending a lot of their time preparing for them. So we had to try to figure out something new,” Shea said.
She began standing on the train platform and around the train station, giving people copies of the book that was being read in book club and set up the meeting place at the bar right outside the station, to make it easier for commuters.
“It’s less a commitment if you don’t have to get in your car and go anywhere,” she said.
Depending on the book, the demographic shifted. When the club read Lean In, it attracted the 20–30 year-old demographic. But sometimes the chosen title was a business book, which you don’t necessarily need to read cover to cover; people in their 40s starting coming to the book club and networking. “These book clubs became networking events, and that’s how we began to market them,” Shea said.
DPL even had a “Back to the Future” ebook club, at which library staff taught patrons about public domain books available for e-readers and copyright. Shea recommended public domain as a great option for ebook clubs since most of them are free or very inexpensive.
The ScoopProgram teaches tips on crafting a successful grant proposalBy Jennifer Whitley
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
Sharon Skinner, national president of the nonprofit Grant Professionals Association (GPA), presented tips for writing a successful grant proposal at a June 29 program at ALA Annual Conference. Skinner’s advice provided skillful guidance for any grant-writing novice. For experienced writers, she offered reminders and tools to get at the heart of any proposal.
These skills are especially relevant today, as library budgets diminish and many of us form partnerships to provide services, programming, tools, and equipment for our users. Skinner discussed these partnerships during her introduction, telling attendees that this type of team approach is a smart way to tackle new library initiatives. Why not leverage community partnerships for increased success in the grant-writing arena as well?
Skinner suggested that librarians and potential grant writers join forces to serve on grant-review teams and become certified in grant writing. The experience of evaluating grants—learning about scoring rubrics and guidelines—would only strengthen the skills required for writing your own proposals, she said.
For more information about certification and grantsmanship as a profession, visit GPA’s website.
JENNIFER WHITLEY is media coordinator at Tanglewood Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14
The ScoopBy Phil Morehart and George M. Eberhart
In 1977, the American Library Association decided to get into the movie business. Produced by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), The Speaker follows the aftermath of a high school group’s decision to invite a controversial scientist (loosely based on William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor and an outspoken eugenicist) to speak on campus. The scientist believes that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. News of the speaker’s engagement sends the school and community into an uproar, but the group holds firm to the scientist’s right to speak at the school, regardless of how they personally feel about his views.
The Speaker rocked the Association upon completion, with members accusing the film and ALA of racism. Schisms were created that persist into the present day. “Speaking about The Speaker,” a panel discussion held Monday at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, confronted the controversy head-on.
Moderated by Julius Jefferson Jr., information research specialist at the Library of Congress and president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, the panel consisted of Mark McCallon, associate dean for library services at Abilene Christian University; Beverly Lynch, professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA; and Robert Wedgeworth, ALA executive director from 1972 to 1985. Each explored the film, its reception, the controversy, and the lingering impact. The Speaker was also screened twice as a part of the Now Showing @ ALA film series to allow members an opportunity to see the film in advance of the discussion.
Drawing from resources gathered from the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, McCallon presented a historical overview of the film, from its inception by the IFC and approval by the ALA Executive Board in 1976 to its tumultuous reception at the 1977 ALA Annual Conference in Detroit. The details were fascinating and reveal an Association struggling to defend and explain a film both admired and reviled by its membership. A rare 1977 segment from 60 Minutes detailing the controversy was shown, with Dan Rather interviewing Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Judith Krug (who served as producer on the film), former ALA President Clara Jones, and others, interspersed with footage from the heated Detroit membership meeting on the film.
Lynch uses The Speaker as a case study about the complexities of the ALA in an intellectual freedom seminar that she teaches at UCLA. She hopes her students will understand the differences of opinions found in both the film and the Association by seeing the film. Interestingly, Lynch noted that she was unable to locate a copy of the film and had to procure a copy from Krug’s personal collection. (The Speaker can now be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. The discussion guide (PDF file) that was included with the film in 1977 was readily available, however, and served as an invaluable tool in both creating and teaching the seminar, she said.
Lynch noted that the majority of her students don’t find the film to be racist, but they do find the film difficult to watch. One student blamed the library press for some of the controversy, saying that their continual coverage fanned the flames and kept the issue alive. (AL’s July/August 1977 cover story on The Speaker can be found here (PDF file).
“I’ve never spoken publicly about The Speaker,” Robert Wedgeworth stated at the beginning of his panel segment. “Even my friends were reluctant to discuss it with me. It was a dream turned nightmare.”
ALA executive director during the controversy, Wedgeworth recounted invaluable first-hand testimony to the events as they unfolded in 1977. His retelling of a private screening held for the Executive Board after the film’s completion foretells the uncertainty that would soon envelop the Association.
“When it ended, not a person moved,” Wedgeworth said. “That’s when I knew that we were in uncharted waters.”
Ultimately, Wedgeworth was sympathetic to all sides involved in the controversy. “I didn’t think there’d be such a big controversy. I regret the film caused so much anguish amongst our members,” he said. “I’m not here to defend The Speaker. I’m not here to defend Judith Krug. However, as executive director of ALA, I’m responsible for whatever will happen after. It pitted friend against friend; colleague against colleague.”Comments from attendees
Wayne Wiegand, LIS professor at Florida State University, thought that a comment by 1976–1977 ALA President Clara Stanton Jones was characteristic for the times. She had said, “What has ALA done for African Americans?” He noted that it’s possible that Judith Krug did not have the long struggle to desegregate libraries in the South from 1954 to 1968 on her mind at the time.
Trustee Leontine Synor said that “we still need to have a discussion about this movie. Our different backgrounds influence how we perceive things. I have a right to express my views openly, whether we agree or not.”
Former ALA Treasurer Herb Biblo remarked that there have been only three issues in ALA’s recent history that caused so much controversy as The Speaker: the Vietnam War, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the issue of South African apartheid.
Former ALA Councilor Mary Biblo said she had just joined ALA in 1977 when the controversy erupted. “This is what got me started,” she said, “and I haven’t stopped since.” She agreed with Wiegand, saying that there were fundamental differences in Clara Jones’s and Judith Krug’s backgrounds. “Some of the things we as black people face, you will never face as white people.”
Another African-American librarian summed it up for many in the audience: “The big question was why ALA at this moment in history, when blacks had just become an equal part of the organization by joining committees, would turn around and publicly humiliate them?” She added, “The film in essence did make the statement for Shockley: Blacks are inferior to whites.”
Robert Hubsher, executive director at Ramapo Catskill Library System in Middletown, New York, remarked, “As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I would love to deny Holocaust deniers the opportunity to speak.” However, he added, “by closing that avenue off, we open the door to the possibility of denying access to our own thoughts and ideas.”
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
Philippe Petit, the subject of the Academy Award–winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire, talks about creativity and how he became a high-wire artist. He says the process of creativity is often chaotic, but the key to success in anything is passion. “There are no recipes of how I do it,” he says. “I love it, that’s how I do it.”
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
The ScoopAs social media continues to impact our way of life, libraries have been using these tools to expand the way they reach out and communicate with library usersBy Jennifer Petti
It’s quite common to see libraries on Facebook and Twitter, but many institutions have gradually been branching out to Tumblr. This social media platform is fast becoming a vibrant online community where libraries and librarians connect with peers and patrons. These “tumblarians” are using the platform to promote collections, perform readers’ advisory, and start conversations about our profession.
At the June 30 TumblarianTalk conversation starter, six tumblarians shared a bit of background on their respective Tumblrs and gave insight on how they approach content sharing.
First, Ian Stade from the Hennepin County (Minn.) Library spoke on tumbling images and information from his library’s special collection and digital archives. He highlighted how staffers focus on tumbling timely topics and guest posts from interns and volunteers, and how they use Tumblr to cultivate partnerships with local researchers. Because the collection is becoming more well-known, the library has changed its rules on who is allowed to view the special collection in person, making it a more inclusive collection.
Colleen Theisen, outreach and instruction librarian at the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and University Archives, shared how the special collections Tumblr operates as an umbrella for four others, all of which focus on specific collections within the library. Theisen also commented on how her library’s Tumblr success has led to much more foot traffic in the library, both from people within the community as well as outside the state. She echoed Stade’s sentiment that having an open and accessible special collection is important.
Katie Anderson runs the Tumblr for Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers University. She has noticed that many libraries don’t have questions enabled on their Tumblr blogs and that even fewer accept submissions. These are missed opportunities, she said, to connect with our communities.
Rachel Dobkin, coordinator of the Government Info/Docs Student Interest Group, spoke about how every librarian is a government information librarian, and she strives to engage users with timely posts that highlight government documents related to current holidays, heritage months, etc.
Daniel Ransom runs a Tumblr that mixes his professional interests with his personal ones. Ransom said he was drawn to the platform because he saw it as an alternative to Twitter and a place where character limits did not define engagement. Ransom highlighted the importance of tagging your posts so that those in related communities who may not follow your blog are able to find their way to your content.
Finally, Molly Wetta spoke about how her Tumblr for the Lawrence (Kans.) Public Library has engaged many teens in the local community. Wetta uses the social media platform to focus on readers’ advisory that’s a bit outside the box. She recently gathered materials about women in art to serve as a companion to a local young women artists show.
It was great to hear from a variety of tumblarians about the Tumblrs they run. If you’re interested in getting involved on Tumblr personally or professionally, I recommend jumping in. I have found the community to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging. Plus we throw a mighty fine conference party. I hope to see some new blogs on the #tumblarian tag soon.
JENNIFER PETTI is a recent Kentucky graduate. You can find her shelving books in Seattle, as well as tweeting and tumbling @sassafrassj.
See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
The ScoopBy George M. Eberhart
On Tuesday, comedian, actor, director, and author B. J. Novak offered some entertainment at the Closing Session of the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. In addition to having the “honor of addressing an audience of more than 1,000 librarians in Las Vegas,” Novak quipped that it was a “specific sexual fantasy.” He put up a photo of himself and a phone number on the big screen with the caption, “Hey librarians, call me.”
Novak said the first thing he ever wanted to be was a librarian, because the library in his school was a place where “no one told you where your mind was supposed to be.” He loved that everything was “cataloged and ready to go.” Now, as a writer of adult and children’s books, he described the process he used to create books that he hoped would be useful contributions to everyone’s libraries.
After spending several years as a stand-up comedian and a writer and actor on NBC’s The Office, Novak said he needed something that was entirely in his own voice and with more depth. So he began developing short stories that were “all comedic, but balanced with other elements.” For what became One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (Knopf, February 2014), Novak “workshopped” each story at his comedy programs by “reading the stories to audiences and editing them, pen in hand, depending on the laughs.” Anything that wasn’t sufficiently entertaining was dropped from the finished product.
For his first children’s book, The Book with No Pictures (Dial, forthcoming), Novak said he wanted to create a book that adults could read to children with amusing and perhaps embarrassing results for the reader.
Noting that the rule of reading out loud is that whoever is reading must say the actual words that are in the book, he decided to turn that rule on its head. Again, he workshopped his manuscript by reading it to his friends’ children and watching other parents read it to their kids and observing their reactions. He played a clip of himself reading The Book with No Pictures to a roomful of schoolchildren. The reactions were riotous when he came to read “blork” and “blurfff,” a song that goes “glug glug glug, my face is a bug,” and “My best friend in the world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt.”
Novak said his intent was to show that the written word alone can make the world an exciting and fun place for kids and that maybe other text-only books could offer them joy and empowerment. He finished by saying it would be a “huge honor to have the book in your libraries.”
The ScoopBy Mariam Pera
ALA Council met for its third and final session at the 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition on Tuesday, July 1.
The Intellectual Freedom Committee presented 14 action items (CD#19.3–19.17) as revisions to the Intellectual Freedom Manual, which is set to be published later this year. After a motion to refer the section on labeling and rating systems (CD#19.12) failed—though not without much discussion and in a very close vote—Council passed the package with an edit to CD#19.11 as a matter of housekeeping. The 10th bullet point, which details “a service philosophy . . . that affords equal access to information for all in the academic community with no discrimination” adds two groups: people with gender identity issues or with sensory or cognitive disabilities.
Council heard from the Committee on Legislation and passed two action items on the Digitization of US Government Documents and Reaffirming Support for National Open Internet Policies and “Network Neutrality” (CD#20.6 –20.7).
Council approved CD#40.1, adopting Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics. It also heard a report from the International Relations Committee and passed a resolution that directs ALA to become a signatory to the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development (CD#18.1–18.4).
Breezing through most business—including memorials to Eliza Dresang, Marilyn Lea Miller, Emily Stewart Boyce, Margaret Mary (Maggie) Kimmel, Birdie MacLennan, Nancy Garden, Esther Crawford (MD#12), Crenetha Session Brunson, and Ernie DiMattia, and a tribute to ACRL on its 75th anniversary—Council passed an FY2015 Budgetary Ceiling of $64,078,221 (CD #13.2).
Council also heard reports (CD#12.3) from John C. Sandstrom, chair, Council Committee of Tellers, on the winners of the elections for the Council Committee on Committees (COC) and the Council Representatives to the Planning and Budget Assembly (PBA).
The winners of the COC election were: Ann Crewdson, Karen E. Downing, Jim Juhn, and Susan F. Gregory.
The PBA winners who are Councilors at Large were Loida A. Garcia-Febo, Matthew P. Ciszek, and Ismail Abdullahi. The Chapter Councilor winners were Stephanie Braunstein and Regina Greer Cooper.
ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels reported that Annual Conference attendance was 13,019 registrants and 5,607 exhibitors, for a total of 18,626.
The ScoopBy Jennifer Petti
“Welcome to planet Tatooine. That’s what it feels like outside.....”
Star Wars nerds and public librarians united on Friday for a hilarious and important panel about managing a circulation desk with moxie to match the Rebel Empire at “Boba Fett at the Circ Desk: Library Leadership Lessons from The Empire Strikes Back,” sponsored by the Public Library Association. Library directors Brad Allen, of Lawrence (Kans.) Public Library, and Susan Brown of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Public Library, shared the important lessons learned from The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) and how we can apply those to managing employees. Their goal? To fight the “imperial” status quo.
Both Allen and Brown are relatively new in their directorships and found themselves relating to ESB because they themselves are sequels. They follow in the footsteps of the directors that came before, and they are laying foundations for whoever will follow. However, they maintain that just because you are a sequel, doesn’t mean you have to suck. They encouraged attendees to stay true to their unique vision as, chances are, they were hired to be bold.
So how do you get employees excited about your vision? First, seek out your Solos. While Han may start out as a gun for hire, he is transformed by the hero’s journey. Allen and Brown are emphatic in their belief that you have Solos in your library right now. There are people who are ready to help you out and fight for your vision.
Second, good communication is critical. In the Battle of Hoth, you see a dichotomy of leadership styles. The Empire is closed off; you have to interrupt Lord Vader to convey information, there is no conversation, and the staff understands that speaking up or asking questions is dangerous. The Rebels are completely opposite. As we see them preparing for battle, they are constantly talking with each other and their leaders. The Rebels are also given critical and inspiring information when necessary to motivate each other in their work. Their command structure shows that there are leaders all throughout the Rebel Alliance. In contrast to Vader, General Rieeken is subtle and soft-spoken. He recognizes he can’t do it all and has developed leaders to execute his strategy.
Allen and Brown believe this should be emulated in the library. There are informal leaders in your institution who are waiting to be noticed and developed.
“But wait! Didn’t the Rebels lose the Battle of Hoth?” you ask. Yes, they did, and this is Allen and Brown’s next point. It is important to embrace failure. Beyond that, it is critical to reassess and offer new ideas. When Han, Leia, and friends are escaping Hoth, C3PO knows there is a problem with the Millennium Falcon and has the solution, but is ignored. If we get bogged down by the minutiae of the crisis, we can miss potential solutions. It’s important to ask everyone for ideas.
After the battle, Luke finds himself stranded on Dagobah, where he begins his training as a Jedi. Yoda informs Luke that it is easy to turn to the dark side. “Fear, anger, and aggression are quick to join you in a fight.” When things go wrong in our libraries, it is essential that we challenge the negativity. We all have the instinct to share our frustrations about our workplace by griping with our friends and coworkers, but as Yoda says, we must unlearn what we have learned. We can raise our metaphorical ship.
Lastly, we return to the title character of this session. Boba Fett is an ancillary character in the Star Wars world, yet his actions have incredible repercussions on our heroes. Much like Fett, there may be people at our institutions who are not on board with the mission and vision. Their attitude and actions have the potential to impact our coworkers and patrons in a dramatic fashion. It’s critical to be aware of these possibilities and work to bring them into the fold.
Overall, it’s important to celebrate the humanity and success of the “rebels” we work with. The library mission won’t always be easy, but the tools to succeed exist within ourselves and the people on our side. May the Force be with you.
JENNIFER PETTI is a recent Kentucky graduate and enjoys mac and cheese. Like, a lot. You can find her shelving books in Seattle, as well as tweeting and tumbling @sassafrassj.
The ScoopBy Julie Cai
The odds of having fun were definitely in the favor of all those who attended the Library Games!
Here's what happens in Vegas...
And the award for best tie goes to…
It’s time for most to pack up and head home…
From one extreme to another…
Awesome people say awesome things…
Now read all the Top Tweets from #alaac14:
And see, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.
The ScoopBy Julie Cai
Even if you weren’t there to witness the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, living vicariously through those in the twitterverse was just as enthralling!
The ALA Left Behind are holding on…