Category Archives: General stuff

The Olympia library should stay open

And, frankly, I’m surprised that anyone is suggesting that it close.

The situation in Olympia certainly has gotten worse over the last few months, but I don’t think it is isolated and or even centered on the library.

I also disagree strongly that the staff in the library being at fault for unlawful acts at the library. I especially wouldn’t blame people who work in the library every day. I know they’ve been working hard to make the library a welcoming and safe place.

I also think one of the worst things you could do would be to shut off the library to the vast majority of the public who still depend on the library, despite what has been going on.

After the stabbing downtown earlier this summer, our reaction wasn’t to shut down Intercity Transit or Sylvester Park. We continued to try to draw people into our city with Music in the Park, Lakefair and the Pet Parade.

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Reminder on anonymous comments and a link to the state’s whistle blower statute

Just a couple of thoughts this morning:

1. Here is the “rules of this blog” page where I’ve spelled out that people who comment here should use their real names. Its not a hard and fast rule, but its something I like to stick by.

2. Also, Washington State has a law regarding the rights of whistle blowers in local government. In the end, if you feel there are illegal or unethical activities going on in any local government agency, you can report it to the county prosecuting attorney or the state auditor’s office.

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A thought on public official blogging and losing steam on this blog

Its obvious I’m posting a lot less here. And, it’s certainly not because I like blogging less or that I’m thinking less about libraries. Actually, the opposite is true in both respects.

I think I’m hitting a wall that a lot of public officials must hit when they try to sustain a blog and do their work at the same time. This is especially becoming apparent in the last two months since I’ve become board president.

I just spend a lot of my time thinking and acting in email and phone conversations about the district and preparing for meetings. Also, the change seems so incremental, it seems like I’d be repeating myself if I posted another blog. By the time I’m done with those or something has changed, I’ve lost inertia.

But, this is exactly the sort of situation that I’ve not liked about public officials in the past. So, hopefully by calling myself out I’ll blog more.

Here’s hoping.

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If you laid out out all the bookshelves in the Timberland Libraries

And, of course, based your assumptions on some else’s false data, you would end up with a pretty cool picture:

Joho the blog explains a bit more and here is the tool. And, in case you were wondering, I tried to put the center on Capitol Peak, as best I could figure it.

Here’s also the data from 2008 which puts Timberland’s collection at the fourth largest in the state, behind only King, Seattle and Pierce.

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New email address (and public records thoughts)

We recently did away with trustees using our personal email addresses for library work. So, from now on, please email me at my new Timberland account: eoconnell (at) trlib (dot) org.

For me, the reasoning for requesting a email account based on a Timberland server was my own privacy. As we’ve seen in the Shoreline case, what is a public record is blurred when records become digital.

When I started as a trustee, I started using a different computer, separate blog, twitter and facebook account than for my personal or work use. I do this so I can be certain that nothing not Timberland related can ever be considered a public record. On the flip side, I can be sure that everything Timberland related can be properly archived and easily found.

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Seattle Public Library survey and patron generated content

The Seattle Public Library recently released the results of an online survey of its patrons (pdf link). While the results are biased by the same problem that infects most surveys like this (you’re usually only looking at answers from your fans), there are some interesting results.

For me, the interesting part what the results regarding non-traditional media like library-created and patron-created content.

Lets get to the idea of patron created content first.

While reception of other sorts of social media are positively lukewarm to negatively lukewarm (+50 percent to around 37 percent), I think those responses are skewed. Like I noted above, Seattle Public only asked users of the library that would respond to a survey about the library what they thought about patron created content.

Since the group they asked is likely the group most bought in to the library as it is, a lukewarm reception to a drastic change in how the library sees content would be expected.

Imagine if they went to the people already creating their own content (not for monetary goals, but for the love of creating content) and who don’t already use the library. Ask them if the library should become a locally based resource, forum and archive for their work, I think you’d get a much better than 54 percent affirmative.

If you want to get a good idea of what people who don’t respond to this kind of survey are thinking about, you should look at what everyone is using, not just patrons that respond to the survey say they’re using. Look at the ebook/audio book downloads vs. podcasts.

Podcasts are vastly more popular than other downloadable media available from the Seattle library.

Even though Seattle Public didn’t include all podcast downloads in their data (they removed the single most popular podcast for some reason), the total podcast downloads were ~550,000 in 2009, compared to ~125,00 other digital audio/ebook downloads. Even without the most popular single podcast, they still outpaced normal downloads.

This is likely because podcasts are tapping into the broader non-library using population. People get podcasts from various places, and they generally might not be direclty interacting with the library website. They might be using iTunes, searching for their favorite authors name or following links from Facebook or Twitter.

On the other hand, if you want to use the libraries downloadable media, you either need to sign in with a Seattle library card to see what’s available or go through the steps that Overdrive requires you to take to download and use their media.

This same sort of phenomena can be seen in the library’s claim that they’re website is very popular. You likely like the website of an organization for whom you’d fill out an online survey. What they didn’t measure is how popular the site is compared to other websites (local, other library websites, etc…).

Currently the Seattle library’s website is well-designed but generally static resource for users who’d like to reserve books and pick them up, and probably learn about upcoming events at the library.

But, in terms of a place where patrons could generate their own content, help others improve on their content, it isn’t. But, it probably could be and would draw in new users that don’t right now see the library as a resource.

Even the relatively mild act of recording events at the library and posting them on the internet has drawn the largest digital crowd the library has. If they opened themselves up even further, providing a place for local zinesters, authors, and artists to interact, I think the response would be even larger.

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Why I blog and what you can expect

This is probably something that’s been due for awhile, but since we’re discussing use of internet by TRL board members on Thursday, I’ll just write it up shortly tonight.

Most basically, I’ve been blogging in various forms for almost ten years, oftentimes on very political topics, and for me blogging almost completely equals transparency.

If I was to write a list of the most influential books I’ve read, the Cluetrain Manifesto would easily be in the top five. It significantly changed the way I think about organizations, government and communication. I react less emotionally to it now than I did the first time I read it five years ago, but the core message still rings true to me. By the way, you can read Cluetrain free online here.

To me, the cental thesis of Cluetrain is found in this chapter “Markets Are Conversations” by Doc Searls and David Weinberger:

The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: “Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm.” “The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?” “Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today.” Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer, Brewer, Fisher, Shoemaker, Smith.

For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. “Markets were conversations” doesn’t mean “markets were noisy.” It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work.

Obviously, this book is written from an MBA/business point of view, but for me, this has always related to government as much as it had to commerce. Government serves best when the people being served have a good idea what public officials are thinking. And, the more citizens hear it in our own voices, and have the opportunity to react, the better.

Now, I laid out rules for this blog a few months back, and they totally only cover what I expect from you, the community. Here’s a few short things you can expect from me. I’ll probably edit these later and add them to the current “rules of the blog page.” Also, these rules apply to what I do here or anywhere else on the internet in my role as a library trustee.

1. I’m not going to violate any state laws. So, in short what happens in executive session stays there. I’m only going to blog about general topics of library management and about actions or discussions in public meetings. Anything else is strictly out of bounds as far as I’m concerned and state law as I understand it.

2. Once a decision is made, its been made. After the board of trustees has voted on any particular topic, I’ll say why I voted a particular way, but I’m not going to beat a dead horse week after week. I’ll respect the decision of the board, support it and move forward.

3. Aside from generally recounting comments in public, I won’t characterize statements or rationals by other trustees. I can only speak for myself.

There are also dangers to this sort of venture, some real thorny legal ones, and I’ve been mindful of those. In the end, I’d be remiss not to give props to Walter Neary, a city councilmember from Lakewood, and Ramsey Rammerman who have done a lot of serious thinking on these issues. Their webinar back in January (more here) is practically required reading in this regard.

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