Come see me at ALA?

I’m going to my first ever ALA Annual this year!

Want to say hi?

Come Ride with Librarians on Friday, June 26 at 2 pm (or just meet us for happy hour at 4 pm)

Everyone is welcome – librarians, those who love librarians, those who just like to ride bikes… No one will be turned away, and no rider will be left behind.

We’ll leave from the Moscone Center then: Ride to Mission Bay Branch Library/AT & T Park ->
Ride along Embarcadero ->Ride up Market Street ->Stop at San Francisco’s Main Library ->Ride along Market Street to Valencia Street ->Stop at Mission Branch Library ->Tour Mission Murals ->Ride back to Moscone Center and ->HAPPY HOUR! at Thirsty Bear

New Members Round Table 101 on Saturday, June 27 at 8:30 am 

New Members Round Table leaders and experienced members welcome current and prospective NMRT members to the NMRT 101 session. Learn about what NMRT does, NMRT events happening at the ALA Annual Conference, benefits of membership, and how to get more involved. This will be a great place to make connections and network with new members and experienced leaders alike.

I’ll be part of a panel discussion on topics relevant to new librarians.

Lessons From Hiring Librarians on Saturday, June 27 at 3 pm

Emily Weak, founder of the blog Hiring Librarians, will reveal lessons learned from interviews with hundreds of people who hire librarians and nearly 600 job hunters. The workshop will use the Hiring Librarians survey format to also look at the job hunting experiences of attendees, in order to help develop personalized strategies for finding work.

Silicon Valley Grows: Seed Libraries Unite on Sunday, June 28 at 12:30 pm

This poster session brings together librarians from Silicon Valley Grows, a multi-library project that takes the “one city, one book” concept into the world of seed libraries.

In case you don’t know, I look like this:


National Forum on Women and Biking, Tuesday the 10th

I recently went to the National Bike Summit/National Forum on Women and Biking.

Tuesday the 10th was the National Forum on Women and Biking.  There were a lot of women!  And a lot of passionate activists.  And a lot of upcycled crafts (the”exhibit hall” was actually the hallway between conference rooms, which I thought was much more effective than the traditional style.  On Tuesday, this included the Women Bike pop-up shop, with vendors like Recycle a Bicycle and Elly Blue publishing.  There were a lot of upcycled bike part jewelry pieces, but also things like books and clothes.  It was very cool).

The opening plenary was:

A Case Study in Leadership: How Mentorship and Bold Leadership is growing the mission of Tulsa Hub

with Ren Barger, Tulsa Hub CEO and Barbara Bannon, Tulsa Hub Board Immediate Past President, President of Human Resource Investments

Ren Barger uses bikes to fight poverty, and is passionate advocate for bikes as vehicles of empowerment and community change.  She founded Tulsa Hub, which takes earn-a-bike programs to a whole new level, expanding the target demographic and educational aspects.

Barbara Bannon is a consultant on organizational structure.  She worked with Ren Barger to take her “start-up” nonprofit, and build a healthy workplace culture.  Bannon is nearing retirement, and picks her projects selectively.  She wanted to work with Barger because of her vision, passion, and because she was a risk-taker.

They worked to create  a “working board” (versus a “policy board”), with a culture of service and participatory leadership.  The organization had a small staff, so everyone needed to pitch in.  Lessons learned included:

  • Ask for help if needed
  • There’s only way out and that’s through
  • Awareness precedes choice – figure out how you’re contributing to an unhealthy organization and stop it!
  • Be what you want to attract
  • Find the right people
  • If you want to create a certain environment, you have to work to create by providing feedback, guidance, and correction

An unhealthy organization is characterized by low trust, fear, and infighting.  A healthy organization requires that you recruit the right people, create a solid organization structure, and specific bylaws.

Looking forward to the bikes + libraries presentation I would do on Wednesday, I considered the parallels between the Tulsa Hub story and what libraries provide.  Aside from the lessons about entrepreneurial leadership, which are echoed in some of the changes taking place in today’s libraries (and could do a lot of good in some of our more staid and change-averse libraries), Tulsa Hub’s vision of bikes as fighting poverty is consistent with libraries’ work to provide free resources that really help improve people’s circumstances.

The breakout session I went to was:

The Future of the Women’s Market: Product and Marketing Plans from the Industry
How is the bike industry responding to the call to get more women on bikes? Hear from women leading the industry in the development of women’s product and developing the marketing plans that will entice more women to participate in bicycling.

  • Elysa Walk, Giant Bicycle Inc.
  • Lauren Smith, Specialized
  • Maria Bousted, Po Campo
  • Jody Koch, SRAM

Elyssa Walk introduced the talk with some general discussion about the state of bicycling and marketing.  She described some results from the recent People for Bikes Rider Participation Survey: 87%  of women and 88% of men who are not current riders have at least ridden a bike at some point in their lives.  Of adults who rode in the last year 44% are women and 56% are men. 42% of those women ride “frequently” (25+ days per year) and 49% of men.  People biking for social and shopping opportunities represents a larger percentage than people commuting to work.

Current marketing for bicycling is often some version of pain/pain face, which women don’t respond to.  Men and women are different and need different marketing.

I found it interesting that while the Women’s Forum did have a focus on diversity, this presentation opened with such a traditional view of men and women as discrete opposites.  For example, Walk showed a fruit bouquet and a pizza-and-beer bouquet, as a humorous example of the difference in what men and women might want.  But frankly, I’m a woman, and now I really want a pizza and beer bouquet.

Giant bicycle Inc has created the Liv brand, which are women’s bikes.  They are designed for women in fit, form and function (based on biology such as women being stronger in legs and using those rather than arm strength). As part of the marketing for this line, they created an ambassador program.  Ambassadors are 80 women who work in shops, run rides, hold clinics, work with personal networks, and use social media to promote the Liv line.  In return they get swag and other stuff.  Women need to be marketed to in a more social way, this addresses that.  They also created a “Liv certified dealer” status.  These dealers are certified when they attain a certain number of points on a checklist – having things like clean bathrooms, dressing room, female staff members, displays of women’s items, etc.  They are added to a list of women friendly stores and given additional PR incentives.  Liv also does demos and ride camps (where people learn skills, etc.).  Has celebrity spokespeople.  Can’t afford ads (Shape magazine costs $250,000) , but can give editors a cycling experience – media camp where they learn about cycling.  Sponsors Tour de Pink – breast cancer ride.  The Today show rode the ride and then did an 8 minute segment on it.  Then they pull it all together on social media – 35,000 followers on FB.  Strategy is to engage not push.  Lastly, they employ women.

Overall message: in order to market to women, Liv engages women.  You can push men, but not women.

Specialized What we know: Word of mouth is more important for marketing to women (men = print and product reviews).  Women are social – they go on line for a brand experience, not quick information.  They don’t click on ads.  Stories are important. (***library tie-in***)

Women want to be independent yet connected to others. 71% of women think how brands portray women and girls is important, more than 50% use that as a purchasing criteria.

Strategies: #YourRideYourRules, Ambassadors, Women’s ride day – May 31, targeted website, partnerships with other brands (Lululemon for Bike + Yoga events), with professional cyclists and grassroots teams, with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.

Po Campo bags – founded, owned and designed by a woman.  Bike commuter who needed a bag that looked more professional.  She needs to make sure that there are women (people like her) that she can continue to sell bags to year after year.  So she works to encourage women to bike commute and ride for transportation. Women on a Roll survey from the League of Bicyclists ID’s barriers to riding: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence, community.  Po Campo marketing addresses these barriers.  For example, they ran a Braid bar, where you can get your hair braided so you can wear it under a helmet and not get helmet hair.  They have a series of How-to videos, such as how to fold your suit jacket and not get wrinkles, which Po Campo bags go with the bike share

A lot of the things Po Campo is addressing here are things I want libraries to address – how-tos and info that’s probably not in a book.

Their marketing aims to show how bicycling fits into the customer’s life.  They had a pop-up shop in West Elm.

Partnerships – MS society, sent kids to the youth bike summit, Bikeshare programs, world bicycle relief, new Non-profit initiative which partners with non-profits and donates a part of sales to the NP.

She also talked about wishing that bike shops were more like other shops, instead of a just a bunch of parts on pegs.  She wanted a more inviting shopping experience, and made the point that traditional shops can be intimidating or unwelcoming for certain people.

SRAM makes all of the parts you can put on a bike other than the frame.  Parts built to go on any bike.  Founder had small hands, and wanted parts that would work for him.  Turns out, that’s also good for women.  Parts are adjustable so they can be personalized – adjustable sizing.  Starting to include women in bike ads.  Marketing focused on integrating women into business.  Creating ride experiences for women riders – rides, camps, etc.  Not about racing, just a safe space to learn and socialize.  Sponsoring women’s racing too.  Women’s bike mechanic scholarship. Advocates for better infrastructure.  World Bike Relief – educational empowerment for women.  Educate a girl and you educate a community.

Normalize, don’t necessarily need to feature.  Just including women in bike ads is a step forward.

There were two lunchtime talks:

Women Ride: New Numbers
A new national survey provides insight into riding by women: how many ride, how often, types of riding and some top concerns. Commissioned by PeopleForBikes to set a national baseline on biking participation, the information deepens our understanding of our challenges and opportunities, and will help us tell better stories.

  • Martha Roskowski, People for Bikes

People for Bikes surveyed 16,000 adults, who also spoke for 9,000 children.  They determined that 104 million Americans rode a bike in the last year (that’s 1/3 of all Americans).  45 million were women, and 42 million of those rode for recreation – a smaller number rode for transportation.  Most were riding for social reasons.  More than 50% of all wanted to ride a bike more often.  Women were more likely to be infrequent riders.  Very few people feel safer riding now than they did 5 years ago.  People with children ride bikes more frequently than those without. 48% of US adults do not have a working bike.

The conference in general, and this talk in particular, made me rethink my ideas of who bikes and why.  Bicycling is strongly associated with racing and bike commuters, but women are riding for fun and to socialize.  Bike events should be social events.  Community engagement and community building are increasingly important  concepts in my professional life – here is another instance.

There is also a lot of room for providing access to working bikes.  In libraries, this could take the shape of bike clinics, making room for Bikeshare programs, and even creating bike libraries, where people could check out a bike.   

Advocacy Through A Gender Lens
When we advocate for bicycling through a gender lens, does it lead to big ideas or does it limit our thinking? Hear from women working to get more women on bikes on how and when to use gender to amplify your advocacy efforts.

This panel talk was moderated by Barb Chamberlain.  She advised people to “stay with the ride” even if the talk made us comfortable or got difficult.

  • ID people by the pronoun they prefer
  • If you hear “everyone is welcome” do you feel as welcome as “women-only space” or “women’s voices are prioritized”?
  • Rio-Jill Contreras talked about creating an event for gender queer youth of color who were bike mechanics.  Despite the specificity of the demographic, people attended, and it created a little paradise for people who are in almost every other space, an “other”
  • Be intentional about the inclusion of trans* and gender queer folks
  • Intersectionality: “People ask if I identify as a woman or an African-American. When I look in the mirror, I see both. Every time.”–Odessa Philip.  She went on to talk about how she emphasized different aspects of her identity depending on context, but how her identity was a constant.
  • The bike is a tool for connecting folks
  • Clitoral Mass

I have recently been on the fence about women-only events.  This talk reinforced the idea that this space can be very valuable, and a little paradise for people who need it.

Then I went to:

Building the Movement: Constructing a plan for Women Bike Advocacy in Your Community
How do we increase women ridership? Women working in women specific encouragement initiatives from across the nation will share lessons learned, and how to design effective encouragement initiatives driven by results.

  • Kim Foltz, City of Boston
  • Nelle Pierson, Washington Area Bicyclist Association
  • Amy George, Women & Bicycles Richmond
  • Lesly Jones, Black Women Bike D.C
  •  Tyler Frisbee, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition | Women Bike SF
  • Casey Ashenhurst, WE Bike NYC

WE Bike NYC is volunteer led and run.  A lot of their work is to find leaders in the community

35% of bikers in Boston are women is not as positive of a message as “everyday, more and more women are biking.”  Programs included a women’s bike riding festival – rebranding this year as bike and bites.  Subsidized Bikeshare members.

Ride Richmond/Women and Bicycles Richmond sponsored a women’s cycling summit.  Jump in where you are then ask for help.  Leverage your loudness – share other people’s events with your network.  Safe space in a familiar place (use popular places  to drum up participation). Celebrate the weird – ride to a donut shop (donut crawl, ride of shame), ride to look at tacky Christmas lights.

Women BikeSF (6 months old) – 34% of SF bikers are women, and 40% of SFBC members are bikers, in the Netherlands, 55% of regular bikers are women – women are the indicator species of safe biking.  Gals with Gears – women’s bike group.  Ibike initiative.  Women respond to protected bike lanes more than men, but infrastructure isn’t enough.  Women want community support and a social structure.  So, the Women Bike SF initiative kick off happened out of the SFBC office, with a social hour.  Found that women wanted a program that was bikes plus social.  Asked, “would you like to lead something in this initiative?”  They said yes, and these events are member driven. Coffee rides with social aspect, once a month with about 30 people.

Bike mentor programs.

Event-based fundraising can be successful.  One way to get around not having money is to have an all volunteer organization.  Women-run businesses  are a good target.  Have a specific ask – I need $300 for jerseys is better than I need $1000 for women in bicycling.  Breweries need to give away some stuff for the tax break.

Finally, the closing plenary was:

Our Biking Connections
Outdoor Afro is a social community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Join CEO and Founder Rue Mapp as she shares her own experience biking, African American historical perspectives,  and the many ways and existing opportunities we have today to get more people involved in leading the bicycle movement.

  • Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro

Mapp talked about her background and experiences with nature, emphasizing its transformative and healing effects.  She also talked about her experiences showing up to nature events and being the only African American present (when she found the Oakland Yellowjackets, it was a wonderful experience).  Mapp used her early adoption of social networking sites to form groups that reached out to other African Americans interested in connecting with and in the outdoors.  Some things that jumped out at me:

  • Lake Merritt is the US’ first wildlife refuge – this lake is in the center of Oakland, a predominately African American city.  It is heavily used for recreation.
  • Trust your feet
  • Nature is a powerful teacher
  • You don’t need special gear to experience nature – just go.
  • Red, Bike & Green: The city is the destination
  • Trail riding as an answer to food deserts
  • Evaluation method:  have participants stand in a circle, ask for one word to describe the experience
  • Connecting people to nature is connecting people to the opportunity for a lesson
  • Healthy risks
  • To connect people to nature, you need to connect into the family narrative (ex.  everybody has at least one relative that fishes)
  • Adults need wonder too – give the opportunity to play (ex. guy with banana slug in his hand)
  • You have to create a relationship to nature before you ask people to clean up nature – cleaning parties should not be people’s first experience
  • Healing hikes – Mapp is not really a “protest in the streets” kind of person.  After the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, she led healing hikes, where people could go into the wilderness and try to address the situation.
  • Show up when you’re needed and carry those movements forward
  • What is the relevance?  Is it the biking?  Or are they looking for friends?  Have a fitness goal?
  • Partnerships – plan together, don’t just invite someone in
  • Take the long view – not just what happens in a grant year.  Change takes a generation (look at smoking).

This was probably my favorite day of what was overall a very cool conference.  I heard a lot of stories from women who’d gotten involved in women’s biking because they’d gone to an event, looked around and thought, “those are cool girls I’d like to get to know.” Tuesday I spent a lot of time looking around saying to myself, “those are cool girls I’d like to get to know.”


Oh yeah, the World is a Rotten Pumpkin

Today I went to the Library of Congress and it made me cry twice.

My first cry was when we watched the video about all the cool stuff that’s in the LOC.  The first map with the word America on it!  A Gutenberg bible!  A picture book of Mother Goose printed in the depression that had fantastic colors.  I started to get choked up and excited about the breadth of knowledge all gathered in one place.  I loved how proud and enthusiastic the librarians were.  The tour was full!  Everyone wanted to see the library!


Then we went out on the second floor and looked at all the paintings, which glorify the march of knowledge through history, and have all sorts of symbolic representation of things like Knowledge and Science and Literature.  I can just eat that stuff up.  I love it.  We are smart!  We love to learn!  What a beautiful country!


The tour guide took us to see the exhibit of Jefferson’s library.  His library was once the core of the LOC collection.  Unfortunately, much of it was destroyed in a fire.  Now the library is trying to recreate it.  His books were arranged in a circle, and there was a cool system of ribbons to tell you if you were looking at something originally from his library, something that had been purchased later, or a placeholder for a book they were still looking for.  I got to stand in the middle of all these books, and enjoy being at the center of ordered knowledge, in attractive leather bindings.

After the tour, I went back up to the second floor to see the exhibit on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It was in the room right in front of Jefferson’s library, and I’d caught a glimpse of some Freedom Rider ephemera that looked cool.



The exhibit was really powerful.  This is the second time that I cried at the LOC today.  There were letters and photos of civil rights leaders, but there were also a lot of items that detailed our country’s history of atrocities.




Following this exploration of civil rights, the exhibit dumped me back out in that beautiful cocoon of books created by the slaveholder Thomas Jefferson.


(This is a bill of sale for a person, from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison).

*Sorry about the photos.  I’m the world’s worst photographer.

The California Museum Association Conference, Friday

I went to the California Museum Association conference, and learned that the museum zeitgeist is in a similar place to the library zeitgeist. They’re focusing on community engagement and experiences, and trying to balance what it takes to attract new audiences with what core members expect. They’re moving from the stewardship of things to the cultivation of people.

Friday I went to:
Museum Public Relations – How Museums Big And Small Can Get The Most Out Of Media
Moderator: Alexandria Sivak, Senior Communications Specialist, J. Paul Getty Trust. Presenters: Emma Jacobson-Sive, Director, Public Relations, Pasadena Museum of California Art; Sasha Ali, Exhibitions Manager, Craft and Folk Art Museum; Stephanie Sykes, Communications Manager, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This presentation brought together people doing communications in different size museums, to talk about their strategies for successful press coverage. While the LACMA is a large institution, and can shoot for starting a press campaign six months in advance, the smaller museums may run on a much tighter schedule. At the Craft and Folk Art Museum, where the press campaign is also run by the person in charge of installing the exhibit, a lot of the press may happen after the exhibit has opened. Larger museums, with dedicated communications teams, may also have more time to cultivate personal relationships with reporters. However, all presenters emphasized the importance of finding the right angle into the exhibit and that would be of interest to the reporter or outlet.

A press campaign relies on several things:

  • Timing and suspense (to build and maintain momentum)
    • relate to current events?
    • if your press release is late, why is it late
  • Novelty
    • superlatives or landmark statistics – biggest, first
    • celebrity (an accessible celebrity)
  • Access
    • special tour or interview
    • first look at information
  • Proximity
    • What’s your geographic reach? Will help determine your target outlets
  • Spokespeople (generally not the communications person)
    • someone in a leadership role in the org (may need to provide media training)
    • provide/work on streamlined message points
    • multi-lingual a plus
    • someone invested, engaged and knowledgeable about the exhibit
    • helps diversify your institution’s faces in the media
  • A Strong Image (or more)
    • needs to stand out
    • but, don’t drown out your story

Cultivate real relationships with the media. Understand the tone and interests of reporters and publication. Is the journalist staff or freelance? What is the reach and audience of the the outlet?

Timeline: Gather info, images, messaging points -> send out press release to long lead outlets – > send to short lead -> frantic week-of push.

A Press release should be 3-5 pages of fact-based information. Who, what, when, where, why, and how much, plus quotes that can begin to ID and give voice to your spokespeople.

A Media alert is just 1 page – brief, facts only.

Targeted emails can cut through oversaturation and get your message out. They need to be tailored to the reporter, and can be more effective if there is already an underlying relationship. One way to tailor is to read what reporters write, and then pitch based on their last article. You can also text your pitch – find your reporter’s preferred contact method and use it.

Emma Jacobson-Sive talked about working to get publicity for their June Wayne exhibit. She had sent out her pitch and heard nothing back, so she looked for other angles. She pitched to Jewish-focused publications and got picked up. She also pitched to the Science section (after having no luck with Arts and Home) and got picked up.

Sasha Ali talked about using the allure of access to get coverage. They offered an exclusive tour of one artist’s studio. They also do a press lunch in the gallery the week after opening.

Media outreach is different than community outreach. However, both require a sincere enthusiasm for what you are promoting, and the ability to match what you are doing to the interests of your audience.

The last session I went to was:

California Museums and National Initiatives with IMLS

Moderator: Claudia French, Deputy Director for Museums, Institute of Museum and Library Services. Presenters: Luigi Anzivino, AD of the Tinkering Studio, Exploratorium; Robin Sease, Manager of Visitor Education and Services, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden; Michael Shanklin, Chief Executive Officer, Kidspace Children’s Museum.

This session presented three IMLS grants: Let’s Move Museums and Gardens, with the Los Angeles Arboretum, Museums for all, with the San Diego Children’s Museum, and Makerspaces, with the Exploratorium.

The LA arboretum is a member of the American Public Garden Association. There are about 250 peacocks on the grounds. They don’t own the peacocks – but the peacocks are there nonetheless. They participated in the Let’s Move initiative with a lot of creative, interesting, and low-budget programming. For example, they provided a recipe of the month. They created special walks that people could do on the garden grounds – an extreme walk, with a pedometer, and the “Serpent Trail” The “Serpent Trail” was in the Austrailia section. Kids would get a new activity at each of a series of checkpoints. For example, at the Kangaroo checkpoint, they would have to hop like a kangaroo until they got to the Kookaburra checkpoint, and then they would have to flap like a bird. They also used teen volunteers to create a gardening obstacle course for kids. Activities included things like putting on gloves and knee pads, and pushing a kids sized wheelbarrow. They created a garden expedition, where kids would get stamps for completing objectives. And finally, they worked with the cafeteria to ensure that there were healthy menu options.

The Museums for All initiative provides free or heavily discounted museum entry for families with EBT cards. This initiative is year-round, and to some extent removes the “charity” stigma of free days. The Children’s Museum of San Diego has had a lot of success with this program. In 2013, they had 684 participants. In 2014, they had 11,610 participants. And in 2015, they are on track for over 22,000 participants. These are generally new visitors. The program provides exposure to museums for people who may never have thought of a career in museums or education as even a possibility. It allows museums to foster a love of learning in a larger and more diverse audience. It introduces families to museums.

The Exploratorium is participating in the Makerspace initiative with their Tinkering Studio. One program they do is the Tinkering Social club. During the Exploratorium’s adults-only nighttime hours, they invite a special guest to come to the studio and do an activity or share a current project with attendees. They also worked on a project with libraries – a marble run on pegboards that traveled to different branches of the San Francisco Public Library.

Tinkering is fun. Fun engenders engagement, persistence. It means there is no need for a “right answer. It allows people to stretch, to engage in new behaviors and experiment with new identities. In tinkering, the BIG IDEA is the participant’s idea. It encompasses science, art and technology, and demystifies and transcends them, providing mutliple access pointers for tinkerers. THINKING happens with your HANDS.

Learning is not terminal – Learning never stops. Tinkering allows people to prototype and build rapidly, iterating ideas and gaining comprehension. It is EMPOWERING and social, and builds a kind of instant community. Tinkerers don’t hoard knowledge, they share.

The tinkering process includes failure, frustration, and facilitation. Part of running tinkering activities is knowing when to intervene. The Exploratorium bakes failure into its activities. This provides fertile ground for learning and allows people to push past boundaries. Frustration is a learning activity.

Out and About

I’m doing some cool things and going some cool places!

I’m ridiculously excited to have been a guest on the most recent episode of the Silicon Valley Beat, the Mountain View police department’s podcast.  If you’re interested in how police departments work, I suggest you check out the other episodes.  The one with Karla Knightstep, who handles dispatch and emergency calls, will blow your mind.

Last month I did a maker station at the California Museum Association Conference in San Diego.  I taught museum professionals how to make bike lights out of tin cans.  Notes from the first day of the conference are here.  Notes from the second day are…still being transcribed.

Next week I’m going to the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.  I have the chance to do a 10 minute Bikes + Libraries presentation, as part of a Big Ideas panel.

I’m working with two other libraries to present a webinar called Many Paths to Conversation: Techniques for Successful ESL Clubs.  Join us on April 8 at 12 pm Pacific.

I’ve been invited to present at the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education, taking place Friday April 10 and Saturday April 11.  My presentation will most likely occur virtually on Friday afternoon.  The conference is an interesting, progressive, student-led look at successes and challenges in LIS education.  What will I talk about?  It’s a fun mystery!  (seriously though, I take requests).

I *want* to present a conversation starter session at ALA, on Bikes and Libraries.  But, we need your vote!

Oh yeah and,

I got a knuckle tattoo:



(it’s itchy.)

The California Museum Association Conference, Thursday

I’m at the California Museum Association conference, learning that the museum zeitgeist is in a similar place to the library zeitgeist.  They’re focusing on community engagement and experiences, and trying to balance what it takes to attract new audiences with what core members expect.  They’re moving from the stewardship of things to the cultivation of people.

Thursday I went to:

Meaningful Community-Centered Engagement: Lessons Learned
Moderator: Lisette Islas, Director of Partner & Civic Engagement, San Diego Grantmakers. Presenters: Rob Sidner, Director, Mingei International Museum; Gwen Gómez, Manager of Community Programs and Bilingual Initiatives, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Art; Micah Parzen, CEO, San Diego Museum of Man.

This session described how The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation worked with three museums to engage citizens from San Diego’s Diamond neighborhood.  Moderator Lisette Islas described how she had found that the arts were a great carrot for involvement; asking folks to help plan a celebration of their culture got a lot more involvement than asking folks to come to a housing meeting.

She described how a donor had asked her to put together a collaborative project that would involve Diamond Residents and the Balboa Park museums.  Initial meetings allowed people to break bread with each other and provided plenty of time to talk and plan.

Islas told a story about a Somali refugee: this woman had never been to a museum, and had no idea what they were about or how to act in one.  She would not take her kids to a museum, because she couldn’t help them with the experience – she had no context, and couldn’t help them to behave properly.  They realized they might need to provide an exhibit from the museum, outside the museum.  They realized they needed to be PROACTIVE in showing people how to experience their institutions, and in inviting people in.

Projects developed included: kids from the neighborhood made murals, and then people from the neighborhood came to the museum to see what their youth had done.  A Behind the scenes at the museum event, which created a magic moment.  A project(s) on the theme Rites of passage.

On a five year trajectory, OUTCOMES for Mingei included working toward staff parity (40% of San Diego is Mexican-American but this is not reflected in staff) and funding a Community Relations Manager – who works with staff to help them be more engaged with the community.

Some advice:

  • On Managing multiple stakeholders (aka pleasing everybody): Build consensus with who you have, then defend your process.
  • Believe in yourself, but allow yourself to change.
  • It’s uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to ask your audience, “how are we failing you and why?”
  • Make a space for others to lead.
  • You can’t please everyone, but you gotta stay at the table.
  • If we are truly committed to community engagement, this work needs to be built into the budget, not grant-funded

Audience question mentioned School in the Park which sounds AWESOME, an experiential learning lab which uses museums and Balboa park as a classroom.

Translating to libraries, and other thoughts:

What are carrots  a library can provide?  Literacy? Stories

Libraries can be community connectors too.

Find an organization that’s engaged in the community and jump on board.  Collaborate with peers in doing so.  Discuss processes openly.

Do people want to see behind the scenes at the library?

Should we bus people into libraries?

Should we invite neighborhood associations in for a tour and mixer?

  • Annually?  Meet your neighbors @the library.

Partner with a museum to create a library exhibit?

Presentation alluded to “museum manners,” the idea that there’s a certain way to behave in a museum, talking about how project worked with people so “they know how to act.”  For an inspiring presentation about a project that truly was “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” I found the existence of museum manners a bit of an anachronism.  Aren’t we working toward “be yourself” manners?  “Library manners” are a thing too, and a lot of old audience/new audience conflict surrounds the idea that new library patrons aren’t acting correctly.  We’re relaxing a lot of traditional library rules in order to meet a wider audience – the new library is not quiet.  

BUT, there’s also the idea that manners allow people to feel more comfortable by ensuring that we are behaving in a way that is not causing ourselves or another person distress.  Non-audiences might want to be inducted into “proper behavior,” might feel more comfortable and empowered if they have knowledge of the “correct” way to behave.  Breaking the rules of library manners has been a privilege of and conversation amongst those who already know the rules.

 Session 2E: Putting the Fun in Profundity: A Conversation About Compelling Museum Social Justice Work 

Moderator: Ben Garcia, Deputy Director, San Diego Museum of Man. Presenters: Lisa Sasaki, Director, Audience & Civic Engagement Center, Oakland Museum of California; Sheri Bernstein, Vice President of Education, Skirball Cultural Center.

This presentation talked about the ways that fun and the profound can appear together at the museum.  The pursuit of social justice (fair distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges) is richer and more effective if fun is part of the equation.

If we include an institutional intent for Social justice, this can often be at odds with a perceived need for neutrality.  However, social justice seeking is ok.  It’s good to pursue JOY-CENTERED work.  What is fun? Fun is: quality family time.  Fun is: pleasure without guilt.  Participation is fun Creativity is fun Generative is fun.  Balance the best and worst of humanity with a wellspring of joy.  (Anthropology’s dark history is a one-way view that is very privileged.  How do we translate to a new present? By joining the fun and the profound.)

At the Museum of Man, they put together an exhibit of Native American Skateboard art, and included a half-pipe (with skateboarders) as part of the exhibition.  This upset some of their traditionally-minded stakeholders, but brought a lot of new interest from the city.

Museum of Man has two exhibits: Beerology, 2000 years of brewing history, which includes beer tasting, and Empowering Women, which talks about female co-ops around the world.  These exhibits are adjacent to each other and in this way the earnest and inspiring and the FUN share the same space.

Their Monsters exhibit was cross-cultural, engaging, diverse, and FUN, but was it profound?  No really.

Will this be true for your visitors?  “I am inspired to seek out other transformative experiences”

The Skirball museusm, a Jewish American Cultural Center, includes as part of their mission the wish to “create a society in which everyone can feel at home.  They created a Noah’s Ark exhibit, which serves as an introduction for proFUNd experiences.  The  exhibit tells a horizontal story about all the creatures of the world – that everyone is welcome in Noah’s ark.

One exhibit they created was called “Build a Better World.”  The wooden frame of a house was adorned with cards describing families that Habitat for Humanity was building homes for.  Visitors could write a welcome card for a family.  It also included a store where kids could use play money to buy real groceries for the families.  This exhibit/activity was do-able, open-ended, and had a story tie-in.

I found this whole program compelling, but was especially moved by how Sheri Bernstein expressed the Skirball’s pursuit of it’s mission.  Her idea of fun is authentic, but open to risk taking and failure.

Museum people can tell a good story.

Sometimes you have to “make it palatable,” to create stealth social justice.  Fun can still be profound.

The Oakland Museum of California has a Friday night program which is successful.  Friday nights will include a community partner and social justice element.  The want to amplify community voices. They also have a program which is Community Healing through Song, where a musician works with a community to create an original song.

Adversity and Opposition:

  • fun is different things to different people
  • you can let go of some stakeholders
  • Embrace the critique as an INTENTION, reframe the conversation as “Yes!  Let’s talk about this.  We *are* starting this conversation”
  • People will come to fun.

Welcome is intrinsic to doing Fun & Good Work.  Identity is intrinsic to doing Fun & Good Work.  Enjoy yourself and do good at the same time.

Library thoughts:

 Libraries are supposed to be neutral too.  We need a Vatican II for libraries.

Should we do a “Night at the Library”?

Libraries, like museums, are moving from being grounded in objects to grounded in experiences.

Session 3C: Creating Meaning Through Crowd-sourced Content

Moderator: Susanne Clara Bard, Content Developer, Coast to Cactus in Southern California, San Diego Natural History Museum. Presenters: Wes Hsu, UX/UI Designer, Balboa Park Online Collaborative; Joaquin Ortiz, Director of Education and Innovation, Museum of Photographic Arts.

The San Diego Natural History Museum included crowd-sourced content in their Coast to Cactus Exhibit, including oral histories about camping in Southern California.  Bard played an interview with a little girl who had some great observations, including that camping allows you to see what life was like when we didn’t exist, and that nature doesn’t hurt your brain cells.  They also included a memory tree, where people could respond to a prompt.

Hsu talked about a project working to get people to develop their own exhibit.  They had a tile wall where people could create their own galleries.  They produced simple themes like “trees” and “my favorites”  Hsu said that the application was not shallow enough – there were too many steps and people got bored.  He concluded that people don’t want to think.  They want a lighter experience that they can enjoy with their date or family.  Libraries should keep it simple stupid.

At this point, I skipped over to a concurrent session:

Inspiring Guests to Take Action

Moderator: Amy Miller, Director of Public Programs, California Academy of Sciences. Presenters: Nette Pletcher, Director of Conservation Education, Association of Zoos and Aquariums; Charina Cain Layman, Education Manager, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Maya O’Connor, Senior Educator, San Diego Zoo Global.

World Oceans Day (at the San Diego Zoo?) was an exhibit that included Action Ask cards (asking the guest to take an action on leaving the museum), as well as an activity and story.  It transmitted the idea that small actions could influence the larger community.  Founded on the Touch the Heart, Change the Mind principle.

I didn’t stay for a lot of this presentation, but they talked about how Telling a Story can change behavior and create an advocate.  The San Diego Zoo also talked about how it’s important to inspire employees, and then they will go on to inspire guests.

Finally I caught the last half hour or so of a third concurrent session:

Using Public Programs as a Pathway to Engage Diverse Visitors: Strategies for Audience Development and Ensuring Relevance

Moderator: Stacy Lieberman, Executive Vice President and Deputy Director, Autry National Center of the American West. Presenters: Grant Barrett, Marketing Manager, San Diego Museum of Man; Robyn Hetrick, Director, Programs and Public Events, Autry National Center of the American West; January Parkos Arnall, Curatorial Assistant, Public Engagement, Hammer Museum.

The Autry Museum started a program of movies on the lawn, which were very popular.  They created exhibit tie ins, which sometimes were a reach but were ultimately pretty successful (e.g. Jaws and Dangerous Animals of the American West).  They also created a program in partnership with American Girl.  The flyer was in the American Girl store and that gave the Autry Museum a HUGE publicity boost.  Robyn Hetrick said that you need to put partners through your rubric to make sure it’s worth it, but that there can be huge returns.

This presentation explored more of the conflict between core members and new visitors.  Core members seem to be associated with staid, quiet and contemplative museums, whereas new visitors are drawn by boisterous fun and unusual partnerships.  However, increasing visibility and visits with boisterous fun can still boost attendance to the contemplative programs – for example one panelist said they were now getting audiences of 100+ at scholarly lectures.

Through the use of timing, and by having a varied portfolio of programs, a museum can still serve both audiences.  Marketing methods (social media v. paper) can help you reach the audience that’s most appropriate for your program.

They also discussed internal conflicts. Some museum have programming in more than one department – scholarly and public programs, for example, and the museum resources are prioritized in such a way that not everyone can win all the time.  They discussed the value of having a marketing voice at the table from the beginning, to help make choices that would happen at the right time for success.  ROI was brought up as an important consideration.  What is the museum making from memberships v. donors v. event tickets?  Is just holding the event enough of a success, or are you hoping for other outcomes?  Are you trying to maximize the one-time interest revenue?  Are you getting millennials into the museum?  (millennials are not museum members) They referenced the LaPlaca-Cohen study.  Are these one night stands worth it?

Ticket prices rule out some audiences.  It’s important to figure out what price your audience is willing to pay.  But, you may want to increase pricing for people who won’t become members.

The Autry museum created a successful event where people were invited to Curate a Gallery by making storyboards.

How do you track success and demographics?  Can watch who’s coming in (but demographic info is often not visible).  The audience showing up – that’s the survey.  Hold events that draw in the audience, and then fine-tune further events once you know who’s showing up.

The Hammer museum replaced security guards with Museum Experience Representatives, who were trained to see if someone was struggling with content or open to guidance.  They had training in how to help the audience appreciate a more complex work, in how to approach a visitor with kids, etc.

We carefully curate our own lives.  To be surprised is a breath of fresh air.

Good stories can take you far down the path.


I hate politics but I love voting

Today I voted at an elementary school across the street from the projects.  Everybody was super nice.  I got to vote for my favorite politician of all time, Barbara Lee.  Voting rocks.  Here is a repost of something I wrote about voting in 2011.


Photo: Bain News Service via The Library of Congress at

I hate politics but I love voting!

Normally I vote under the watchful eye of Jesus at the Christian Science Reading Room, but this time I voted at the Buddhist Bookstore.  I never thought of Buddhists as being more commercially-minded than Christians, but there you go. Anyway they are both LITERARY VENUES!

My poll workers were a teenage girl and an older woman.  The teenage girl wanted to try looking up my name in the book, but the older woman didn’t think she was ready yet.  Then I went to the privacy booth.  I used my smartphone to look at my notes about what I wanted to vote for!  I got two choices for some things, and THREE choices for others.  We have ranked choice voting. I used a special marker to make the arrows complete.  It is like taking the SAT only shorter and you have to stand. But YOUR ENTIRE FUTURE still depends on the outcome.

Then I fed my ballot into the machine, chomp chomp, and got a free sticker! I said thank you to everyone and they all gave me big smiles.  I live in a democracy!  We all do our part.

Photo: Lewis Walker, via the Library of Congress at

(Go John Avalos,  Go!)

Writing Round-Up

I’m not doing a lot of writing here, nowadays, but I’ve got some writing other places:

MVPL Bike Stop

I’m writing a series for BayNet, a local library organization, about a bikes-and-libraries initiative at my work.

Simple Steps to Starting a Seed Library

Print only, at the moment.  An article for Public Libraries Magazine.

seed liberry

What Candidates Want: How to Practice Compassionate Hiring

Some lessons from the Hiring Librarians job hunter survey.

Library Jobs Math

Refuting the idea that there will soon be a “shortage of librarians and sea captains.”  Numbers don’t lie folks.

and finally, not a piece of writing but a fun project I’m working on:

The Library-2-Library Bicycle Tour

Please join us for a morning of bicycles, libraries, and fun.



A Man Made Process

I run that blog Hiring Librarians, so I read a lot of job hunting advice.  Not just on the site, but other places too – I tend to scan for it on my library social media haunts (Reddit, ALATT, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.).

One reason I started the blog is because I kept seeing a lot of people dispense really bad job advice in a very authoritative manner.

It is easy to say “I have hired people and here is the one thing you should never do.”  It is easy to believe a person who talks like this.  Getting hired is a social process, and it is a common thing to suspect that there are hidden rules we know nothing about.  Especially if we have never done hiring, or never hired in the LIS field.  Especially if we are desperate for a job.

The person dispensing the advice often believes that they are doing a favor by explaining the rules.  For example, there’s this ALATT post where the poster provides a list of seven no-no’s for job applicants.  It’s not necessarily bad advice, but it’s just one person’s list.  Her rules are HER rules, not THE rules, no matter how authoritatively she states that they are true. For example, the 4th point, no monograms or images on a resume, comes up for some interesting debate in the comments.

Here is the thing.  The whole process of hiring, all the conventions, the idea that a resume should be a certain number of pages, the idea that a resume shouldn’t have photos, the necessity of a cover letter -we just made all of that process up.  Hiring is not something that occurs in nature, it’s a man-made process.

And, frankly, it’s often a badly designed process.  For both the hirer and the hiree.  Being able to conform to unwritten social conventions, ones that vary widely from region to region and institution to institution, is not really a good measure of whether someone is going to be a fantastic librarian.  It sometimes indicates whether someone will fit into a workplace’s culture, but the hiring process is often very divorced from the day to day – it is it’s own particular set of rules and expectations.

And if we made it, we can change it.  Right?



Beyond the Book Brand

As books evolve, so must libraries.  As information needs change, so must we.  Thus begins another chapter in As the Library Turns.

Books are intrinsically linked with libraries, in the minds of our patrons.  As much as I hate the whole concept of branding, I have to admit it perfectly describes our situation.  Books are our brand.

We must expand the brand.  You probably know that.   For a recent reason, check out the article published a few days ago in Forbes that was written by a man who thinks the Amazon unlimited subscription is a good replacement for libraries.


Some librarians are pushing to substitute the concept of “Information” in to replace books.  This is the kind of thinking that gives us “Librarians: The Ultimate Search Engine” and “Librarians: Better than Bing, but not Quite as Good as Google,” etc., etc.

Information sucks as a brand.

Maybe one reason why librarians like “Information” as a brand so much is because librarians really like information.  It fills us with secret glee.  But folks, friends, comrades, this is not normal. Loving information is a trait that is much more common amongst librarians than it is in the general population.

In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuck writes,

Information is cheap and plentiful; information wrapped in a story, however, is special.  Brands need to storytell around their content to make it enticing, not just put it out for passive consumption like a boring platter of cubed cheese. (p.86)

Books don’t just tell a story, they have a story.  They are a story.  Books inspire deep emotional connections.  They are tangible things, things we can touch, smell and taste (maybe not that that last one with the library books though ok?).  Books inspire deep love and nostalgia; in the eBook versus print discussion, the print side inevitably ends the discussion by sighing and saying, “there’s just no substitute for a real book.”

But even eBooks are more compelling than “Information”.  “Information” is vague.  It is not something you can viscerally enjoy.  Possible connotations include the informational talk your doctor gives you when your cholesterol is too high, Excel spreadsheets filled with meaningless data, and those annoying passive-aggressive emails your co-worker sends that end “Just FYI.”

I don’t know what the new library brand is.  I don’t think we will know until something has stuck, decades in the future.

Another new brand option is the place for the community to meet, the library as “third place.”  I don’t think that’s quite right either.

I think the new library brand will look something more like literacy.  And not just “I can read” literacy, but life literacy – digital skills, financial skills, engaged-with-the-world skills.

Literacy is engaging.  It is action oriented.  It is attainable by everyone.  It is improving skills and changing in a changing world.  That’s the library I’m interested in.

It’s the library where people’s stories become our story.