Monday, October 31, 2005

If you had a chance to enjoy the hospitality of La Crosse area librarians, you may enjoy this collection of articles from the Sunday La Crosse Tribune:

and this editorial:

Friday, October 28, 2005

Well, I hope everyone made it home safely. Rick K. and I had a pleasant trip back across the state, enjoying the beautiful late fall weather.

Russ Feingold did, in fact, appear and delivered a rousing address, describing librarians as "warriors" in the battle to protect privacy and civil liberties. We gave him four or five standing ovations and generally "showed him the love" as Dave Weinberg-Kinsey would say.

Finally, a big WLA thank you to Kelly Krieg-Sigman and the entire conference committee. They did a terrific job on behalf of the entire association and we appreciate it. Thanks, guys.
Friday morning:

Nothing like starting the day with a business meeting. The Library Research Round Table is a small but sincere group dedicated to supporting and promoting library research (duh) -- and we always have entertaining business meetings. LRRT sponsored or cosponsored 5 programs at this year's conference -- close to the record, I'm sure.

One of the programs we sponsored was "MLIS Student Perceptions on Field Work Experience" in which Elizabeth Buchanan and Stephanie Reister presented some research about how fieldwork works out for MLIS students. The audience was a good mix of LIS faculty, students, practitioners, and people who had supervised fieldwork, so we had an interesting discussion. Generally, fieldwork seems to be a good thing but opinions are divided about whether or not it should be required. My own reference practicum at Middleton Health Sciences Library (about a hundred years ago) was very positive for me, but now I wonder how it was for the poor librarians who had to supervise me.

The last session of the conference I'm attending is "The Seven Million Books Project: Google Floods the Digital Plain" with Abigail Potter and Rebecca Dunkle. Google's digitization partnership with the University of Michigan (among others) has been pretty controversial but hearing this talk made me feel like this might just work - and even be a good thing. Many of the details about the project are confidential but you can find out more at It sounds like Michigan will be a good steward of the immense digital resource which is being developed.

The President's Luncheon is the final event of the conference and we've heard some pretty interesting talks over the years. As of late yesterday, we were still expecting to have Senator Russ Feingold as today's speaker. You never know, but it sounded pretty hopeful. I'll let you know.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday pm:

Louise got us brainstorming in the afternoon: what do we value about libraries? who do we want to tell? how are we going to tell them? what stories are we going to tell? It got me thinking about all the cool things libraries mean to so many different people -- it's not just what libraries do for people but what libraries mean: they're a refuge, a place for independent learning, a jumping off point for new adventures, a place of hope and imagination and community....

The last session I attended today was, "Throw Me a Life Rope! Record Retention Strategies for Public Libraries and Public Library Systems" presented by Anita Taylor Doering, archivist at La Crosse Public, with the help of the ad hoc committee that developed the draft records retention schedule. Basically, this was a chance for the committee to talk about what they had done and to get some feedback on the draft. It was very interesting to me as a system trustee, as someone who needs to help get a records retention schedule implemented on our campus, and as a library historian. Records retention is all about deciding what you can throw away when and it's really useful to have a recommended schedule that's as complete and well thought out as this one.

The WLA/WLAF business meeting rounded out the afternoon. Nothing too controversial there; just a chance to get to hear how the association and the foundation are doing (both pretty well). Ron McCabe adjourned the meeting with a rendition of the old classic, "Some Enchanted Meeting..."

Had a nice walk downtown to the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries fundraiser at the City Brewery Hospitality Center: beer tasting and good food in the shadow of the World's Largest Sixpack. Got to hear the Oktoberfest Singers -- a very fun group. And, of course, it's all for a good cause...
Thursday morning:

It was foggy and cold this morning in La Crosse, but once the fog burned off it became a gorgeous day.

Started out this morning at Kathy Pletcher's talk on "Leading to Excellence." As usual, her talk was well organized, well presented, and filled with good advice about becoming a better leader and manager. She recommended a couple of books, "Breaking the Rules," and "Good to Great" about excellence in management.

Followed that with Fred Heath's presentation about LibQUAL+, the library services evaluation tool. We've talked about using it at our library and it was good to find out more about it from "the source." One of the points he made was, "Only customers judge quality; all other judgments are essentially irrelevant." The idea of having some standard data that can be compared with other school's data is very apealing. His presentation is available at (select the Wisconsin La Crosse Powerpoint).

Louise Robbins gave an excellent talk after the WLTA (Wisconsin Library Trustees and Advocates)luncheon: "The Value of Libraries: What Research Tells Us". She presented a summary of some of the research on the value of libraries to their communities: it's all about the outcomes. One of the resources she mentioned was ALA's ROI (Return on Investment) page, which is a useful collection of citations to research on this topic. I'm looking forward to seeing many of these resources linked to from once it gets up and running.

One thing about the new WLTA name: Wisconsin Library Trustees and Advocates. I really like that this change makes the group more inclusive, welcoming Friends, Friends groups, and any other library advocates. We benefit from having more voices telling the library story.

And speaking of the library story: I'm on the floor in the back of La Crosse Center D, getting ready for Louise's followup presentation about "The Value of Libraries: Telling the Story." More later.
Wednesday PM

Well -- the wireless connection kept cutting out on me last night, so here's a belated report from yesterday afternoon and evening.

After lunch, I attended Paula Ganyard's fun (and informative) program, "Browser Wars," all about the differences and similarities among the major web browsers. She gave a brief history -- it's amazing to think that Mosaic was just 12 years ago. I remember how much fun it was to see pictures from the web; now I wish most of them would go away. Ah well. Paula's outline is on the web (of course) at

The WLAF program, "The Campaign for Wisconsin’s Libraries: What’s In It for Your Library?" was "an overview of the exciting new "Campaign for Wisconsin’s Libraries," an ongoing state level campaign to promote a wider understanding of the value and importance of Wisconsin’s libraries." The (developing) website at:
The tagline they're using is "Support Wisconsin Libraries: Keep us all in a better state," which works pretty well for all different kinds of libraries. I'm really impressed with the work of the Foundation and hope we can help them reach their (ambitious) goals.

So then I had to go over and put a couple of bids on things at the WLAF Silent Auction. There's a lot of fun stuff there and, of course, it's for a good cause.

The keynote speaker, Martha Teichner, from CBS News, was great too. Her talk, about libraries she has known and loved, was a good reminder of what libraries mean to people. Plus, she has a terrific voice.

Stopped in at the SLIS/SOIS reunion in time to see most of "The World's Fastest Librarian," a DVD by the fun folk at SLIS. It's worth seeing if you get the chance.

The Awards Banquet is always a highlight of the conference. As just about every recipient noted, even the individual awards are about group efforts: it takes a lot of people to create, maintain, and support an award-winning project or library or (even) librarian. Celebrating all the great stuff we do is always worthwhile. More on the awards at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Blog the Conference!

It's lunchtime on day 1 of WLA 2005 in sunny La Crosse. I'm hiding out in a corner with our laptop and wireless connection. Conferences seem to be mainly about meetings and programs -- but they're really about catching up with your colleagues.

I made the point in my program (first thing this morning) that the convergence of events in 1876 (the founding of ALA, the founding of Library Journal, the publication of the 1876 Report, Public Libraries in the United States...) meant that, for really the first time, library workers actually had colleagues they could communicate with and ask questions of and get information from. Now we take that kind of communication for granted, but then it was a new thing.

So I'm going to programs, but also doing the "schmooze-o-rama" in the hallways and Exhibit Hall.

I attended a program this morning called "Where Have All the Journals Gone? UW-Madison’s Response to High Priced Subscriptions," ably presented Jean Gilbertson, Jeanne Witte, and Rachel Watters.

The program description:
This program will present data from a UW-Madison Libraries pilot project: subscriptions to selected Wiley and Elsevier journal titles were cancelled, but access to those journals was still available to UW-Madison patrons, due to the library purchasing articles from the publisher’s web site. As subscription prices soar and library budgets shrink, this project is an experiment to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing articles as needed from the publisher rather than through journal subscriptions.

You gotta be a librarian to love this kind of stuff, but they're doing some very interesting things at UW-Madison that will help us all figure out how to deal with the serials crisis. As Jean noted at the end of the talk, we have to be willing to "think different" about the future of our libraries. How will we provide access to scholarly stuff that we only need once a year or that costs as much a car for a year's subscription?

Gotta go check out the exhibits...