Have Passport, Will Travel

passportAnd now from the “If only this had happened just a bit sooner” file….

MPOW will officially become a Passport Office on Monday August 10th.  Ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate will take place at our East Columbia Branch at 11:00 am that Monday.

Oh, how I wish either my trip to Spain had been a bit later this year or that the Passport Office had been ready a bit earlier.  Having to take the MARC train and Metro to the Regional Passport Office in Washington D.C. was not fun.  I had to go there once myself and my husband went the next day for me to actually pickup the passport (name change and it had expired).

The residents of Columbia, Howard County and Central Maryland don’t know how lucky they are.  They won’t have to fight commuter traffic to go to D.C. or stand in line at the post office bored out of their mind.  Instead if they do have to wait they have the whole library at their disposal to keep them occupied – books galore, plenty of computers with access to the Internet, periodicals, newspapers, books on CD, Playaways and lots more.

This is just another in a great line of services that we offer our community.  Makes me proud.

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National Library Week

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Many libraries across our country are celebrating National Library Week.   Some are asking the public to let them know what the library means to them others are acknowledging the hard working staff that serve the customers day in and day out.  I tried to think of a way to celebrate my library this week.  So I decided to try and capture moments each day of the library I work in.

Tuesday of this week was also National Library Workers Day.   I was pleased to see so many of my co-workers get nominated as Stars.  Congratulations to all our stars at Howard County Library and libraries everywhere.  We are truly important members of each community.

Teresa from a public library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because Teresa answers each customer question thoroughly, professionally and kindly. Her dedication and energy are legendary. To me, she is the stellar member of the staff. Thanks to Mary for this nomination.

Anne from Howard County Library library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because she is always “doing.” Whether it’s helping a child find the right Princess book, or creating a craft for a special event…whether it’s leading a kindergarten class on a tour of the library, or teaching kids about butterflies in the library’s garden … whether it’s helping out a co-worker by taking an extra shift or learning Spanish on her own time…. Anne is active, interested and always has the community’s best interests at heart. Her co-workers are happy to work with such a STAR! Thanks to Anonymous for this nomination.

April from Howard County Library library in Ellicott City, MD, is a Star because so often it’s the squeaky wheel who gets the attention, while the very competent, but quiet staff person goes unnoticed. April falls into the 2nd category. She’s a creative, hard-working, team player with an enviable work ethic who adds a great deal to our overall excellence – and she does her job with never a complaint! I just want to use this forum to THANK April for all that she does! Thanks to Fritzi for this nomination.

Amy from a public library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because She is a visionary in leading us into the next generation of technology by using Open Source Software on public as well as staff computers. Thanks to Donna for this nomination.

John from a public library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because he works extremely hard to efficiently and quickly help keep the circulation department running smoothly in our library system’s largest branch. He never shies away from doing hard work and often goes beyond the call of duty to help patrons find exactly what they want. Every branch could benefit from having one of him around! Thanks to Jessica for this nomination.

Harryet from a public library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because She makes every single one of her coworkers feel appreciated, wanted, and cared about, including hourly student workers! She goes FAR beyond the call of duty to include everybody, make everybody (workers and patrons, alike) feel at home, and improve the work environment during tough times. She is truly a star! Thanks to Anonymous for this nomination.

Cynthia from a public library in Ellicott City, MD is a Star because Cynthia is my colleague. She is the nicest person in our branch library. She provides wonderful customer service to customers as well as creates helpful and friendly environments for colleagues. Very responsible and Calm in dealing with difficult situations. Especially her work ethic and noble personality is something every librarian wants to learn from. Thanks to Young-Ju for this nomination.

Maryann from a public library in Columbia, MD is a Star because Maryann gives her all as a Customer Service Specialist and is a supportive and energetic co-worker. Thanks to Loretta for this nomination.

Suki from a public library in Columbia, MD is a Star because Suki takes great pride in her library branch and treats all customers and staff as old friends. She has a particular challenge with unruly children in her branch after school hours, but handles the pressure with imagination, grace and patience. Thanks to Jacquelynn for this nomination.

Suki from a public library in Columbia, MD is a Star because Suki was a ‘newbie’ and non-librarian who truly stepped up to her managerial plate. Every day she has proven that she has, not only incredible ‘game’, but a love of books that makes her a star. Thanks to Anonymous for this nomination.

Amy from a public library in Columbia, MD, is a Star because Amy’s unwavering passion when it comes to libraries, technology and especially open source is something to behold. Her focus is how to make the experience for our customers better, easier, more enjoyable. She manages a team of 8 by allowing them to shine in their specific areas. Amy not only talks the talk, she walks the walk. Amy received a staff achievement award for all that she has done with open source (and how it has provided better service for our customers while saving the library lots of money). Thanks to Beth for this nomination.

Community Partnerships – We Are All In This Together

103_0474Building Community Partnerships: 25 ideas in 40 minutes given by Kathy Dempsey, Editor of Marketing Library Services Newsletter. 2nd live blog attempt so pardon the spelling and grammatical errors.

what makes sense for public may not make sense for government, special – pick what will work for your particular library needs

don’t rely on just money alone – trade for inkind services

join local chamber of commerce, lion’s club, make contact – someone who knows you is less likely to slash your budget

partner with grocery stores – story times love it – book drops – open small branches in the grocery store – not an extra trip to go to the library – they need food

annual book sale at local mall – empty stores gave them spaces for the books

mall was happy because it brought more shoppers in

find groups that are in similar situation – other groups – historical society – what you do someone else is doing it – partner instead of compete

are you targeting support staff? assist to dean? when they need info for bosses they come to you and have some influence with those hire up – same with county commissioners – they are looking to do better work for their bosses

trade deals with small business – local flower shop in kind donations – flowers w/publicity – it is small but building a relationship with another person and business

IT experts – they are busy – want to run ideas or bounce off ideas – or maybe trade some services for personal or library’s needs – do work for you exchange research for them

college professors – even if not academic library – assign class projects that are work for the library – need a new logo – or branding campaign, – helps the teachers as well – helps them not give the same thing year after year – gives the student a real world assignment

scout troups – boy/girls – work to do for badges, build bookshelves, garden, physical tasks that could become an assignment for a group like that – takes heat off troup leader to come up with it all

form alliances with video game stores – grab teens, see what you can trade – give kids credit or coupons – for X number of books they read in Summer Reading Game, gives you more street cred, gaming club at schools – partner with the ones already in the schools – helps both you and the other gaming club to not be afraid you are working togethr ( you may have more space – meeting rooms)

trade training with other trainers – in between conferences do something more local – don’t over look your local experts – anyone who has skills that your staff or customers want – trade inkind – don’t be afraid to ask to trade services

meetings with liaisons w/government officials – get to know the staff members – gives you and in for the legislators – they will ask their aide , put a human face on the library a lot of what partnerships are about

AARP need a lot of information – go to trusted sources – become a trusted source – let local AARP to have meetings in libraries – get on their agenda to help promote yourselves, they think of other groups first – get in there and make sure they think of libraries as well

Choose your influencers – your message will get spread easier

have conversation with them – ask them first

Senior Citizen centers ask them for something in return – volunteers, to do storytimes, help other people, do inventory, writing grant applications

Getting involved w/local politics and staff members – as regular citizen join political action groups, even just the city planners, they have a lot to say about your budget – get to know you as a real person not just a building – never under estimate the power of personal relationships

offering research services to government officials – roads, new intersections – if you know what is going on in the community – offer your services for traffic accidents stats for ___ to help you write your plan

Make alliance with everyone in the community – want to join and do something that matters – don’t always have thousands of dollars but even just 10 will help, sponsor trees (like the angel trees at Christmas) – spell it out for them make it easier

birthday party – book plate – donated then story time around that story – got to feel special – for just $10 that would live in the library for the future

Reporters – they need happy stories – ESPECIALLY NOW – local reporters know you are available not just your press releases – need a quick last min. picture – senior at computer, kid happy w/book, it fills space and put some happiness into the news, offer to write columns about what is going on at the library – you can do research for them too (reporter on deadline – fact checking)

causal advisory boards – get buy ins, best way to make programs/classes instead of guessing is talk to them – never any reason to guess – ask them – don’t make it a formal advisory board – drop ins – you want us to do something for you – what is it? what are the best hours, what interests you? then let them go out into the community they (libraries) are here to serve us – feel ownership and personal relationship with you – parent story time adv. board – what time is best? what craft? do you want to be parental advisor for story time – doesn’t have to be staff time let them work with you (may know other parents and draw in others) building advocates and saving money on glue!

SOCIAL NETWORKS – David Lee King’s blog post – who should you friend and why should you friend others than just other libraries – how to friend people on Facebook – don’t just toss it out there – give them a reason to join you – have a reason to have a page

Parents – are partners – not just sit here for an hour after school – tell them what you have and what the library can be to them as a family or to their children – education

tell as many people the most basic things – what you think they already know – they have no idea

building alliances with k-12 – talk to school teachers, what are the kids working on, what are their plans for the fall- what can we do to help them? conversation – more recognition, align w/education – makes a difference. Howard County Library is considered part of the education budget because our Executive Director and CEO Valerie J. Gross firmly believes that what we do is education and just as important as what the schools do. By aligning ourselves with the schools we have a different budget and more respect in the community.

Consultants – reciprocal relationships where you work for each other – they need information

Approach people – don’t ask like your asking for a favor – we are as valuable as any business out there – start with someone you know or comfortable with – if you know someone from other events start there – role play with colleagues to get comfortable – have a starting line in mind – be the human face of the library – spoof official sponsorships everyone has an “official sponsor” these days – talk to people all the time – on trains, in lines – have some documented facts in your back pocket – use the facts that have already been gathered for you – start at the end and build backwards – what do you want the outcome to be.

Photography Leads to Micro-Blogging

Last night I volunteered to help my photography mentor with a class she was instructing in how to use Flickr.  With a hands-on class it always helps to have an extra set of eyes, hands and legs to walk the room and help students.  I was more than happy to help.  Not only did I coerce…umm, suggest that she teach the class but it gave me yet another chance for her to impart her years of photography experience on me.

When the class was over I wound up talking to several people and registering them for her next class (sure sign things went well).  She had billed me as “the web 2.0 guru”, a name I wear proudly and several ladies asked me when I was going to teach my web 2.0 class.  One woman in particular wanted to know if I would teach about Twitter.  I was thrilled to hear that word (one of my favorite web 2.0 sites that I feel has such potential).  So when I got a tweet from Mashable, I thought how timely.

10 Ways to Build Your Blog Community with Twitter stressed many of the points I would have made.  The first 3 bolded paragraphs are just a start but each of the ten bullet points bring home good reasons to use Twitter as well.  I’ll be passing this blog post along to my photography mentor.  Why you may ask?  Because she is also the editor of our readers advisory blog at the Library, Highly Recommended.

On a Wing and a Prayer

I was asked by my boss to fill in for her filling in for the original speaker at the Third Annual ACS Conference.  I was happy to do so even if I didn’t have much notice.  I had to take slides from the original presenter and talk about how Howard County Library has implemented 4 different Web 2.0 applications (blogs, Facebook, Wiki and Google Docs).  Web 2.0, right up my alley!  I wrote up some quick notes this morning and knew that my passion would carry me through “winging it”.

It was great to be part of a panel that presented how our different organizations were using Web 2.0 to reach their customers or constituents.  Sites like Digg, Technorati, Facebook, My Space, Google, StumbleUpon, SlideShare, Delicious, Scribd, Yahoo, and Issuu were mentioned.  Tools such as widgets, wikis  and Twitter were also mentioned.  I loved hearing how The Horizon Foundation was using widgets to important Yahoo feed or Delicious bookmark feed into their CERN site.  Columbia Festival for the Arts uses YouTube and the Internet to research artists instead of being inundated by tons of press releases, cds and dvds.  The participants asked lots of questions and they appeared to eagerly lap up all the information the presenters had to give.  I walked away with a warm fuzzy knowing all that Web 2.0 can do for non-profits organizations was shared today.

Although I’m sorry for the family emergency that kept the original presenter from being here today, I was thrilled for the opportunity.  Not only to present about my favorite topic (Web 2.0) but to see what others in our community are doing with it.

Photos from ACS Conference

Tips for Those Going Through an ILS Migration

I suddenly feel lighter than I have in weeks. All thanks to Debra Denault of Liblime for coming to Howard County Library and helping those of us involved in our migration from SirsiDynix‘s Horizon to Koha to get a grasp on things.

This is not the first migration I’ve been a part of but certainly this one was a lot different. Last time we basically changed from one product offered by a vendor to another product. This time we were going with an open source ILS and support would come from many places (our data migration company – Liblime and the whole Koha community). I often wasn’t sure if I should submit something to the community, chat with the developers in IRC or just what was my first step. I was not only learning how Koha worked (I am creating content for the testing or discovery phase as well as helping with creating the training for staff) but I was learning a completely different way of getting answers or help.

Change can be scary for most folks but I’ve often found it interesting. Change gives me something new to focus on, play with, explore. This time, however, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit scared. This time it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. At one point this week I Twittered that I knew there was a lesson in here somewhere for me to learn but it wasn’t revealing itself to me just yet.

But that has all changed. Something clicked. Something stopped being scary. Something lightened my load. I think it was having someone, Debra, who knew the product inside and out be here to walk us through things. Debra’s calm nature (although she swears there is a Type A personality underneath), her depth of knowledge, her ability to get answers immediately from folks at Liblime was the perfect mix to calm nerves, soothe the worried SysAdmin in all of us.

Debra along with Darrell Ulm of Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, another Koha library, helped me not only get my head around things but helped me put things in perspective.

So I’d like to pass along to you some tips for getting through a migration:

  • “That’s a bug!” is a good thing. Both Debra and my boss, Amy De Groff, have helped me to see this one. At first I felt like “Oh great, another problem.” But now I can see what they see “Oh great, we can fix it!” Lesson being that the first step to fixing any problem is recognizing what it is. Once you can do that fixing is easy.
  • Collaboration eases any burden. Many of the things we had grown to expect from previous software weren’t part of Koha. Nice thing is since it is open source anyone can contribute to the success of Koha. Better yet, find another library (or 2) that want the same functionality as you and share the cost. Collaborating not only is a great way to give back to the community (as well as have another set of eyes give you a different perspective) but it eases the burden of cost.
  • Ask, don’t assume. We all know the old adage “Don’t assume because you make an ass out of U and Me”. Ask about everything, don’t assume you know the answer or that someone will think you silly for asking. Nothing is too small or too large. If we hadn’t asked some of the questions we did we may have never figured out some of our problems were caused by us.
  • Take your time. An old boss of mine used to drill into our heads “With accuracy, comes speed”. That is true with migrating as well. Don’t hesitate to say this is going too fast. Don’t hesitate to say you want to do it right and being rushed only stresses everyone. Stressed staff make more mistakes. By stepping back and examining things we slowed down and we now feel when we roll this out it will be a really great product instead of something we just rushed out. This will be a ILS system we can be proud of.
  • Reach out. Whether you have the benefit of the open source community or a list of other libraries using your vendor – reach out to them. This one didn’t come easy to me at first. I’ve exchanged several emails with the aforementioned Darrell Ulm. He has pointed out somethings. All the experts in the world are great but talking to someone who uses the product is invaluable. He also reminded me of the next tip.
  • Stay calm. This wasn’t always easy but Darrell was right, panic never helps anything. He shared that he had his share of panic about his migration and it actually set him back at times. He said that Liblime pulled through their migration quite well. Staying calm helps to keep things in perspective. So if you need help, follow my next tip.
  • Step back every so often. I found myself getting so wrapped up in Koha that I couldn’t focus on much else. I was coming home exhausted, going to bed early and arriving the next morning no more rested than I had been the night before. I insisted one night that my husband and I turn off the tv, unplug the computer and sit outside in front of a roaring fire in our chimenea. It recharged my batteries and gave me a clear head to face things the next day. Do what you need to do to step back and recharge.

So if you are going through a migration, I hope my tips have helped. I’d love to hear some more tips that helped or are helping you to get through.

FriendFeed – the new RSS aggregator?

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t learn something new. Not unlike Nicole Engard’s blog “What I Learned Today“, I could keep a list of neat, interesting, exciting, frustrating, a-ha moments. Yesterday was no exception to the rule.

I took part in the maiden voyage of T is for Training a podcast show hosted by Maurice Coleman (aka (almost) baldgeekinmd. The first topic of discussion was information overload. How, as trainers, do we deal with all the RSS feeds and information coming to us on a daily basis? I believe, forgive me if I credit the wrong person, Stephanie Zimmerman that mentioned she does what I do — let my friends aggregate for me via FriendFeed. She talked about StumbleRead which I had not heard of before but immediately started using. StumbleRead allows you to pop out a small frame that feeds you all the activity going on your FriendFeed.  So you can have FriendFeed going without taking up one of your tabs in your browser.  It allows you to see feeds/posts from your Friends or Everyone and you can share from within the application (powered by Google App Engine).  Ooh, just love hearing about a new product, software app, or web site I can play around with.

I’m not trying to be lazy. It’s just that I can subscribe to over 300 feeds (like some on the show) but I’d never get through them all. Or I can pay attention to what the library community is talking about on social networking sites like FriendFeed. Because FriendFeed not only allows you to post directly into it but also import information from 43 different sites (plus the ability to import RSS feeds from any site) – I can keep up to date on all kinds of information due to the diversity of my “friends”. If they don’t have an area of interest that I do than that is a feed I can subscribe to and hopefully post about so they can learn from me as well.

For me, FriendFeed keeps me up on politics (the discussions about Obama, McCain and Palin have been interesting), fashion (found several other Project Runway fans there), library news (everything from LibraryJournal to WebJunction to individual library’s feeds), and many other topics.  So who really needs an aggregator when you have your friends?

Give Peace a Chance

A phrase was used the other day at a meeting that just didn’t sit right with me.  “Not to start the open source wars again….

This bothered me because I don’t see any reason or need for there to be a war, battle, skirmish, contention whatever.  Why can’t we all just get along and accept that different open source products work for different people?  So you prefer Ubuntu or Suse or Koha or Evergreen or Joomla or Drupal…I’m just happy that you are thinking about, exploring, using an open source product.  Do I care if your library prefers one of these over another?  No, and nor should you.

One of the beauties of open source is the community.  But it doesn’t help if the different factions of this community are more concerned with their product being number 1 or the best that they can’t learn from each others product of choice.  What does Product X do better than Product Y – take that idea and incorporate it into Product Y to make it better for you then share it with the rest of the community.  What works for me may not work for you and your library – that needs to be acknowledged and accepted.  Difference of opinion is beautiful when done correctly.  When you share with me your ideas (not cram down my throat or proselytize) and let me decide what works for me then true collaboration can take place.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, call me a flower child but all I’m saying is give peace (and open source a try).

Happy Anniversary IBM

IBM reflects on 10 years of open source

Thanks, IBM.  But more thanks to the whole open source community.  Can’t tell you how often you’ve answered questions, saved my hide or just made me look good.  Some day I hope I understand enough to be able to give back to the community.