March 25, 2006

PLA Public Library Association session notes

PLA Sessions
Curtis Rogers
March 22-25, 2006 ~ Boston, MA.
Note: some of these session PPT slides or handouts are available from

Session 1: Funding, Politics and Standards: Realities in Public Libraries.

Sylvia Mora-Ona _Assistant Director,, Miami-Dade Public Library
Raymond Santiago _Director, Miami-Dade Public Library
Donna Schremser _Director, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
William Deitz _Director,Human Resources, Queens Public Library

Funding, politics and standards-- Realities in Public Libraries. "Who's on first?" This program presented three perspectives from large and small libraries and provided library directors, administrators and boards with information on how to secure library support in their communities.

I wasn’t able to get to this session on time, however, what the last two speakers referred to were all of the aspects on dealing with politicians and how to correctly secure funding for their libraries through marketing and PR with local government officials… The direction of the Miami-Dade library talked about a wonderful PR campaign where they used the “Read” posters with local politicians in them instead of the usual national celebrities and he said that it was extremely successful – to the point that the posters began showing up at bus stops! One of the other points this speaker made was to always have a camera ready or someone who takes photos on hand so that photos of events with politicians can be used in any PR needed for funding drives, etc.

Overall this session was beneficial to me because it reinforced the importance of working with politicians – even though I don’t like to do this, it provided me with information and ideas to relay to public library directors.

Session 2: New librarians/Emerging Leaders: Give them tools, get them involved!

Connie Paul _Exec Director, Central Jersey Regional Library Coop
Patricia Tumulty _Exec Director, NJ Library Assn
Karen Klapperstuck _Director, Bradley Beach Free Public Library

NJ Library Assn's inexpensive leadership training program was discussed which gives new librarians tools to jumpstart their professional involvement at work and in the association. 78 graduates of three Emerging Leaders programs are advancing in their libraries and are involved in many NJLA committees.

They talked extensively about their coaching program where seasoned librarians were provided training on how to be coaches to younger and new librarians. They produced an actual gift certificate to emerging leaders that provided them with 3 months of coaching where the coach was paired with a new librarian to answer questions, meet with, etc. They surveyed the past participants in the EL program and got many positive responses and information about how the program changed their lives and careers. People are self-selected but have to get approval to attend from their libraries or supervisors. However, some of the attendees are recommended by other library administrators or leaders. In their institute, they do bring in people from the outside to talk with the students such as mayors, and other community leaders – they also give a tour of the state library and the state librarian talks to the students and they also get to meet the state library staff.

Session 3: Administration/Leadership, Staffing: Challenging the Status Quo: Keeping Administrators on Their Toes.

Margaret Danziger _Deputy Director, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
Dorcel Dowdell _Main Library Manager, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
Nancy Foth _Extension Services Manager, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
Jeannine Wilbarger _Manager Circulation Services, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library

This session addressed how experienced administrators face the boredom that occurs when every day duties become routine. Five Toledo administrators showed how a leadership book discussion led to more book discussions and a six-month job exchange, which enhanced the Library's energy, creativity, and collaboration. They talked about the book titles, which were keys to vitality and change.

One of the important things mentioned was that department heads got to the public service desks and began working at those desks at least once a week – this opened up many communication lines among staff and afforded the department heads more insight into what actually takes place. Personally I think that we should do this more at SCSL – I think it would be helpful for people like Catherine to work at the reference/circulation desk. One of the speakers said that she would never look at a clerical staff member the same way again because of her experience. This session helped me learn why a job exchange was chosen as the best renewal for Toledo Public Library. One department head mentioned that the whole process has brought them closer together and has made them more clearly understand each other’s jobs and departments. The deputy director did emphasize how important it is for managers to be people persons and that it’s very important to socially interact with staff.

Session 4: Administration/Leadership: Good To Great: How to Rethink, Reconfigure and Revitalize your Library into Greatness!

Cate McNeely _Deputy Chief Librarian, Richmond Public Library

How do you go from being a good library with typical circulation, hours & services to a Great Library? Richmond Public Library (British Columbia) re-thought, renovated and restructured everything they do to meet this challenge. The speaker provided a powerpoint presentation of the process they took to understand what their patrons wanted and how to do things differently. They have something very interesting that is a DVD Vending machine. She basically reinforced doing things we all know we should be doing like talking to our customers and asking them what they want – making the library look more like a book store…

Session 5: Seven Tools for Improving Your Workplace

Barbara Spruill _Branch Manager, Gwinnett County Public Library--Collins Hill Branch
Sara Laughlin _Independent Consultant, Sara Laughlin and Associates, Inc.

In this fast-paced session, we were introduced to seven practical tools that will help us gather, analyze and present data about the library.

Through using affinity diagrams and a Pareto chart, we used various complaints and customer inputs, to figure out how to fix library services. Next we used a “fishbone” chart to look at the causes and effects – causes consisted of Methods, People, environment, Machines, and Materials. You start with the Effect (what’s going wrong) then all of the other categories are causes. Some of these causes can overlap in the categories. Using the Cause Analysis worksheet, you take the problem, then in three columns, using a 1-10 scale in three categories, you find out what needs your attention the most – you multiply the columns to see which has the largest score. The Force Field analysis is used to rank important issues.

Session 6: Wake Up Call: What Our Customers Are trying To Tell Us If We’d Only Listen

Cori Jackamore _Cluster Manager, Family Libraries, Denver Public Library
Susan Kotarba _Cluster Manager, Children's Libraries, Denver Public Library
Gwendolyn Crenshaw _Cluster Manager, Contemporary Libraries, Denver Public Library

This session took a look at how libraries can learn about their communities by utilizing demographic and community analysis techniques. However, they pointed out that we often overlook the profound conclusions we can draw directly from customers’ usage of our libraries. This session looked at how a deep understanding of customer needs drove Denver Public Library toward targeted service designs that leave behind the one-size-fits-all library.

Market segmentation was discussed by using The Gap as an example in that the Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic are all the same stores. They looked closely at their ethnic demographics and family composition, college education, etc. They made a point of talking about the extensive use of computers in the library and the expectation of wifi hotspots in libraries. They also mentioned there is a newer demand for more AV, web services, Spanish-language materials, and computers.

Session 7: Bollywood, Bhangra, and Books

Gail Mueller Schultz _Collection Development Manager, Hennepin County Library
Jeffrey Gegner _Popular Materials Specialist, Hennepin County Library

From Bollywood musicals to Indian art films, from Pulitzer Prize winning fiction to chick lit, from movie music to Bhangra beats – Indian film, literature and music are entering the U.S. mainstream. Explore this exciting trend of movies, music and books whose appeal reaches far beyond the South Asian community. This was just a session that I wanted to attend because I thought it would be fun and interesting. They provided a set of handouts with many resources. They showed a series of film clips of Bollywood music clips. There are a number of handouts they provided on where to purchase Indian film, music, and books.

Session 8: Demonstrating Results: Using Outcome Measurement to Plan and Assess the Impact of Public Libraries to their Users

Rhea Joyce Rubin _Independent Consultant, Rubin Consulting
Elissa Scudder _Coordinator, ESL Services, Danbury Library
Victor Dyer _Director, Ipswich Public Library

This session addresses the following types of questions: Do you have favorite anecdotes of users who changed their lives in some way after library program? How many other users have been similarly affected? Want to demonstrate the effectiveness of your programs? This session first addressed what it is and how public libraries are using Outcome Measurement to plan and assess programs for impact. The handouts have a lot of good information in them. One of the speakers mentioned that this is also known as OBE but she said that she preferred OM because it’s not only just evaluation, but also assessing user needs, and other related types of measures to identify what additional services or changes to services are needed.

Outcomes are from the users’ perspective.

There was much mention that many federal, state, and local government funders are requiring this form of evaluation. The two librarian speakers discussed ways they questioned program attendees which are outlined in the handouts – consisting of pre/post questionnaires, surveys, etc.

Session 9: Growing Our Own....Library Leaders for the 21st Century

Carole McConnell
Staff Development Officer, Broward County Library
Jerome Myers
PULSE Project Manager, Brooklyn Public Library
Consuelo Hernandez
Human Resource Manager, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
Alan Harkness
Staff Development Manager, Gwinnett County Public Library

The graying of the profession, along with the growing diversity of our communities, continues to increase the need for a new generation of leaders. Staff development professionals shared innovative programs and educational partnerships that have been created to recruit, educate and train the next generation of diverse library leaders.

The moderator mentioned a Human Resources Staff Training in libraries listserv but didn't mention its specific name.

All of the speakers addressed ways that they're doing innovative things in staff development to "grow your own" librarians.

in GA at the Gwinett Co Public library they have a full tuition reimbursement program and even pay for student books. There were some in the group whose friends groups help to fund tuition reimbursement. They sent 25 staff members to PLA. He mentioned that it's important to get the new staff members to conferences. He had us raise our hands and repeat after him: "it is better to train your people and have them leave than to not train your people and have them stay."

In Toledo OH, the speaker discussed their retention problems and how they solved them through growing their own - training and promotion is how they retain employees. The speaker mentioned that she speaks at the nearby library schools to recruit new students. They also provide tuition assistance for staff in an undergraduate program.

In Brooklyn NY, the speaker addressed their PULSE program Public Urban Library Service Education is an IMLS grant to fund tuition for students in library school. The speaker brought 20 library school students to PLA who attended the session.

The last speaker from Broward County addressed their recruitment and tuition reimbursement program. They do have a graduate intern program.

Session 10: Community Building Through Your Web Site: Library Blogs and RSS Feeds

Celeste Choate
Clinton-Macomb Public Library
Jenny Levine
Internet Development Specialist, Metropolitan Library System - Author of the Shifted Librarian Blog.
Michael Stephens
Special Projects Librarian, St. Joseph County Public Library

Libraries are central to our communities but our web sites haven’t achieved comparable visibility. By linking to local institutions, providing dynamic library content to community web sites, and hosting conversations on issues of local importance we turn our web sites into community information hubs and increase visibility of library resources.

The word of the year last year was Weblog! Michael mentioned that technorati is the leader in indexing weblogs. He also showed one small library's weblog and showed one of their postings about their attendance at this conference from two days ago...

Biiblioblogosphere is a word that he mentioned which relates to library blogs on the web. He also mentioned that photo-blogging is a great way to show your library. Flickr was mentioned where libraries have photos from their library.

Jenny talked about the importance of getting community input and allow them to post them on a blog or community forum. She talked about Drupal and how it was integrated it into their online catalog at the Ann Arbor Public Library . They have no problems with profanity but if they do, they just edit them for publication by using asterisks. They also have a very active teen blog that talks about gaming and other related library issues. Flossmoor PL also has a blog. Local history library blogs are quite helpful to other researchrs so that the community can post information about local history.

Small Pieces, Loosely Joined is a book that was mentioned which talks about the social aspects of blogging.

There was additional discussion of RSS and what it means and how it can be used in a library setting. It was mentioned that RSS feeds were being used at the Kenton County PL within their catalog to give live updates of new titles in the catalog.

Suprglu was discussed as how it could be used with library web sites.

Sirsi has announced that RSS can be integrated into their catalogs.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was also mentioned about how global online conversation is changing the world.

Some of the comments by patrons shown on the blogs were quite powerful! This was by far one of the best sessions! The main point is to OPEN web sites up to patrons for discussion. The session notes for this session will be published at

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