The rain appears to have (mostly) ended, temperatures are closer to normal and libraries have kicked off their summer reading programs - that means it must be summer! This winter brought back memories of years past, when things were typically more severe - we've been spoiled by recent milder times. But there was still some traveling, including a fun week in western Montana with my colleague where we ended up staying in Missoula while a blizzard raged outside. But the hotel internet was great, and we could still get a lot of work done. Offline conference in February, Federation meetings, new director trainings - all great opportunities to network and meet up with folks I haven't had a chance to work with before this. The annual MLA conference in April was a new experience for me as a state library representative instead of a public library employee. Next year I hope to be able to present a session or two.
More fun: a complete set of new gadgets for our TPZ collections! I spent the week setting up the iPad mini, Samsung Galaxy Tab3, Kindle Fire, Google Nexus and my own personal Asus Transformer; an additional Dell tablet will also be added later.Since I'll be heading off to the ALA conference next week this will be a good time to choose one to take along. TPZs won't be loaned out to libraries as in the past, now they are designed just for the consultants to become familiar with the various devices out there so we can help others.
Suddenly there are more learning opportunities too: MOOCs to keep me occupied this summer! "The Future of Librarianship" seems like an obvious topic I need to be following, and I'm looking forward to attending this course with David Lankes. I also signed up for a course on copyright, something I've always wanted to know more about. It's a class designed for teachers and librarians so should have useful information. Before that, however, is the ALA conference. Several sessions I'm interested in have handouts available; I need to get those downloaded to whatever device I'm taking so I'll be prepared! I've never attended ALA, and suspect this will be completely overwhelming, but I'm looking forward to the experience(and Las Vegas with 20,000 librarians is sure to be fun!).
The State Library has a collection of Technology Petting Zoos (TPZs), created as part of the BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities) Program, which allowed libraries to experience all sorts of new gadgets and devices without having to actually purchase them. This was great when the ebook and tablet revolution exploded - we all needed a chance to try downloading to a variety of devices, as each seemed to have its own little quirks, and every patron seemed to choose a different one! Nooks, Kindles, iPads and iPods - the list goes on. Over time (less than 3 years if you think about it) technology has changed enough to make some of the earlier devices obsolete (first generation iPad, I'm thinking of you) and the software and process of downloading a little less difficult.
I recently tried to download a new app on the iPad in my TPZ, only to get a message that it needed to be upgraded. Going through the process (which involves an iTunes account, something I needed to create since I didn't have any account information from the previous user) I got the message that my device was up to date - but not enough, apparently. This has led to a complete reconsideration of the TPZs and what they should contain. Last week I pulled out all the devices to see exactly what I had: 2 Sony ereaders, an iPad and iPod (with keyboard!), an older Kindle (but not the original - this wants to think it has wi-fi), 2 Google iRiver devices (something I admit I'd never heard of!), a Nook color tablet, a Sansa SanDisk MP3 player and another device for low-vision users HumanWare Victor Reader - a digital talking book reader according to the website). Trying out the Kindle reminded me of the frustrations early users ran across - it found the wi-fi network but trying to navigate to enter the password was an ordeal, and it wouldn't connect.
The bottom line from this exercise: not much is really useful. The question is what should we have? If our goal is to help users (librarians and their patrons) become familiar with downloading e-books and audiobooks, the list of compatible devices (from OverDrive, what most patrons would be using) is still fairly extensive - we can't possibly have all of them. But as patrons become more familiar with all this technology, maybe we don't really need to have a collection; we just need to be able to help them with their own device. Even OverDrive has developed a program where libraries can check out devices to patrons to try out the procedure, and all information is deleted from the device when returned.
I'm going to try out the Nook Color now - that seems to be the most up-to-date gadget in my kit. I bet it still involves creating some sort of account!
Here's to great things in the coming months! No, I don't have a clue as to what might come along but the wide-open possibilities are always exciting, like getting in a car with a full gas tank on the open road with no destination in mind. Maybe that's why I enjoy traveling - even if there is an end-point to a trip, the unknown is always out there and anything can happen. I'm avoiding resolutions; instead I'll consider options and goals (which can be similar: I can resolve to post more here, or set a goal of more posts each month - the result would be the same).
One goal will be to increase my involvement in various library associations, specifically MLA and MPLA - I have more time and flexibility and miss the interaction with those governing boards. This might be the time to get back to them. Attending more regional and national conferences is another goal, especially ALA now that I've joined! PLA is every other year, so that could be an option 2 years from now - it seems a bit soon to get to that one in March this year. Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian - more possibilities!
Becoming more familiar with all the issues facing Montana libraries is another goal. Trustees, directors, forming library districts are all topics I haven't had much experience with up to now and have been working on learning about them so I can be a resource. There is so much information available! I'm at least becoming familiar with where to find answers, even if I don't yet have it all stored for instant recall.
Visiting all the libraries in my federations and geographic area is another goal for the year, one that will be great fun (and goes along with my travel interest!). I can't wait to get started.
I was thinking I hadn't yet accomplished much in my new job, when I stopped to consider it's only been 2 months since I started! Sitting in meetings where others had great progress reports on various projects led me to think I wasn't stepping up, but a reality check reminded me it takes time to settle in - it's been a long time since I've been the "newbie" anywhere. It's not like I've just been sitting home, waiting for something to happen (although the possible October government shut-down did cause a little concern!). I've traveled to at least 10 libraries, participated in a few board and director trainings, met a lot of new folks and dealt with some interesting issues, all while becoming familiar with standards, laws and other procedures I wasn't familiar with. The holidays, when things seem to slow down a bit, are a good time to regroup and make some definite plans. I've attended webinars and trainings, including the ContentDM series for the Montana Memory Project - I'd seen some of that in action but going through the complete set really helped in understanding the process of creating a collection. There has been new grant money allocated to that so I'm looking forward to helping libraries with their preservation plans. Another project is a Lifelong Learning and Community Outreach idea - it could be 2 separate goals or we could find a way to combine things. An early idea involved the creation of traveling kits libraries could borrow for recording patron stories and experiences; this might involve training in the use of the equipment and how to share what was collected. Partnering with community groups would also be a big part of this. That's a discussion we'll have next month.
So I will remind myself to be patient and see what new challenges and opportunities come along in the next few months!
We've entered the Week of the Deep Freeze here, with day time temperatures barely getting above zero. Reports say this type of extended sub-arctic freeze hasn't happened for 40 years - it brings back memories of my Alaskan days! So, it's time to get in to hibernation mode and take advantage of the opportunities the internet offers. Lots of online learning sessions are noted on my calendar now.
Yesterday I learned about the Impact Survey from TechSoup, available to public libraries as a way to gather data from users. This will be a great tool for Montana's libraries, allowing them to learn how their patrons are using library computers and databases. This information can then be used to demonstrate the library's value in the community, an important consideration when budgeting and funding discussions come up. Library standards specify feedback should be gathered every 2 years - often a difficult task for libraries to manage. The survey will make it much easier. It's as simple as inserting some simple code into a website, and will result in valuable data that can be used for comparisons with other similar libraries. I'd like to be able to help all libraries take advantage of this.
Today there are a few more learning opportunities, one specifically on rural libraries and how they can be promoting innovation in their communities. Not every library can manage to create a maker space but there are probably other ways to be creative - I'm curious to find out what options might be out there! The state library has a grant we are looking at using for life-long learning and community outreach programs, and I'm hoping some ideas from today's session will be useful in supporting that.
Another idea for the grant is to develop a traveling "story-gathering" toolbox so libraries could record local community experts and stories, like the LibraryYOU program. I would love to learn more about video recording and editing, and be able to train others to do the same. This sounds like it could be so much fun!
This could also be a good time to play with the various gadgets in the Petting Zoo, just to make sure I'm familiar with all the available features in case someone asks. They are just sitting here, and an unused gadget is a sad thing!
It's been a month in the new job, and I've learned so much already! Trustee training, new director visits, things I never paid attention to in the past. It's been fun just getting out to explore the state - I've dropped in to visit several small libraries just to say hi on my way to another destination. Libraries are all so different, and it's amazing to see how they manage to do so much with limited resources.
Working from home is a new adventure too. I've got a nice office space set up - two monitors and a docking station (eventually, right now it's a laptop and monitor), comfortable chair the works with the counter height where everything is placed. Business cards, phone, all the necessary accessories are there. The State car is a nice addition too, although the one drawback is the cassette player - luckily I still have some cassettes I like to hear.
With winter coming along, travel will slow down but we can do so much online it doesn't make too much difference.
Sometimes opportunity comes along when you least expect it. Occasionally a job posting will be announced in an email; if I see something interesting, I pass it along to my unemployed-librarian son. So when a position with the State Library was mentioned I went to the post to send him the link. In addition to that job (and I don't remember what it was) the position of Statewide Consulting Librarian was listed. I had to look twice to be sure I was reading it correctly - that has always been my Dream Job! So, after taking a deep breath I checked the post for more information. It had just been posted with a deadline about 3 weeks away. Applications are done completely online, so this was a new experience. I spend an agonizing weekend perfecting my job experience document, updating my resume and filling out the application, then submitted everything and prepared to wait. I did check the job site once and it seemed to show my application hadn't been submitted - moment of panic! I emailed the contact person, who confirmed she'd received everything, so I could relax again.
So, after the closing deadline (and Labor Day, when I knew nothing would be done) I waited. Just when I was afraid I was out of the running I got the phone call about scheduling an interview. Whew! They were scheduled for one day a week later, so I had time to prepare. Interviewing has never seemed to be a strong point of mine, and I really wanted to do well, so let the research begin! We tried to think of possible questions, prepare answers, look at job skills sites - anything that might help. Finally the day before the interview my "coach" (AKA: hubby) grilled me on specific questions until I was beginning to think I'd never get the job. I emailed a colleague who gave me some very practical and reassuring advice; I spent a little more time on the State Library website and felt much more prepared.
Interview Day: we arrived at the State Library (a 2-hour drive on a pleasant day) early, the committee was all people I know and have worked with so it was a very comfortable setting. Ten questions on a variety of topics related to statewide projects along with the predictable "Why do you want this job?" Since I really wanted this, it was easy to give a very enthusiastic and passionate response! After 90 minutes we were done. In the past I've had the "wish I'd said that!" experience when reflecting on the interview, but this time I couldn't come up with any improvements to responses. It was time to just wait; since this was a Thursday I expected it would be the following week before I heard anything.
So, when the committee chair called the following afternoon I was almost afraid to answer, and prepared myself for the "Thanks, but we've offered it to someone else" speech. What a relief to hear "We'd like to offer you the job" instead. We talked for a few minutes more, then I had to refrain from running down the hall, shouting the news! It was later Friday afternoon, so I told just a few of the people who would need to know before heading home to celebrate.
Gradually the news spread, an official announcement came out the following week, and now I've reached my last day at Bozeman Public Library. It's been 16 1/2 years, and I wasn't looking to leave, but this was too good to pass up. As a Statewide Consulting Librarian I'll be working from home as well as traveling to libraries, helping with statewide projects, going to conferences to discover more exciting things to bring back to Montana. I'm looking forward to the new experience and exploring the state!