Playing the Victim #alaac14

There seems to be a constant at ALA no matter where the conference is held. Librarians complain. They complain about weather. They complain about walking. They complain about cost. They complain about lines.

When did we learn to play the victim? This is the same victim role we play when it comes to funding and perception. Do you want sympathy from us? Do you need us to validate you?

I feel lucky and fortunate to get to attend #alaac14. I get partial funding to be here. I’ve gotten to see some amazing places while attending ALA. I get to see old friends and make new ones. I get to hear all about some amazing stuff other librarians are doing. I have a job. I get paid reasonable well. Most of you are in a similar boat, so what’s the problem?


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For the next few months I will posting here very infrequently.  I will be taking a sabbatical of sorts.  Most of my energies will be devoted to which is the class blog for my maker space course this summer.  I hope that you can join along our journey with us.

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Librarians Mind Your P’s & Q’s

I love the saying mind your P’s & Q’s.  Perhaps because I know what it really means, or because it is just solid advice. Mind your P’s and Q’s means mind your pints and quarts.  It comes from the 17th century tavern world.  It was a way for bartenders to remind their customers to not engage in drunk and disorderly conduct.

But why do librarians need to heed this advice?  Well, I recently attended the Minnesota Book Awards.  It is a great event put on by the Friends of the St Paul Public Library.  It highlights the best MN books of the year.  It is a huge gala with almost 1,000 attendees.  There I overheard a couple of librarians, perhaps with a few too many cocktails, launch into a diatribe against a particular book.  I also saw, what I will assume is a library patron or member of the general public, get that look of embarrassment and shame while overhearing the same conversation.  I can only assume that they were a fan of said book.

Witnessing this broke my heart.  So much so that I promptly went into my reference class and publicly apologized to my students for making fun of a well read romance novel.  A reader should NEVER feel embarrassed or ashamed for their reading preferences.  Even worse, that shame should never be the result of a conversation between two librarians.  If we turn off or turn away just one reader we have failed.

Ranganathan’s 5 laws of library science are so incredibly wise.  It wasn’t until this event that I think I fully grasped his second and third laws: every reader his or her book, and every book his or her reader.  His laws apply to more than just access to books.  While we no longer physically chain books to the shelf, we may be emotionally chaining them.  If we put a social stigma on a book or genre we are, in essence, restricting access to them.

You are the keeper of the book.  Your patrons defer to your judgement on books.  They look up to you on all matters book-related.  And here is the real sting, you are a librarian whether you are on the clock or not.  Even more, your patron base extends far beyond the library you work for.  When you are in a bar or on a bus hundreds of miles from your work, you are still a librarian and the reader sitting within earshot is still your patron.

So may you critique books in a way that doesn’t put down or shame their readers.  May you applaud, encourage, defend and lift up all reading preferences, and may you remember to mind your P’s & Q’s.

*side note. Why do we mostly poke fun at Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, romance and Christian fiction? Do we not see the misogynistic tone this takes?*

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Maker Space Course Coming to St Kate’s

I am so excited to be teaching a brand new course at St Catherine University.  The course is focusing on maker spaces and digital media labs in libraries.  Thanks to St. Kate’s I will be purchasing a 3D printer and Silhouette Cameo.  The working course description is:

This course is intended as an introduction to DIY culture and the maker movement. It focuses on developing creativity and learning through play and tinkering.  This is a hands-on course in experiential learning. Students will explore both physical and digital content creation including: music production, video production, 3D printing, computing, laser and vinyl cutting, and other tools.  Emphasis will be placed on the implications of the maker movement in libraries and the library’s role in STEM education.

We will explore 3D printing, paper and vinyl cutting, music production (Audacity), video production (iMovie), graphic design (Inkscape), photo editing (Gimp) and apply all these lovely skills to libraries.  Much of this class will be geeking out with this cool equipment so we can help patrons create the world they interact with.

These are the books I think we will use:

Anderson, C. (2012). Makers: The new industrial revolution. New York: Crown Business.

Hatch, M. (2014). The maker movement manifesto: Rules for innovation in the new world of crafters, hackers, and tinkerers.

Itō, M., & Antin, J. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Lang, D. (2013). Zero to maker.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.

As I haven’t found a similar course anywhere, I’m very eager to hear peoples impressions, ideas, and suggestions.  Please feel free to share them with me.


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Customer Service is Dead: Long Live the Customer Experience

It has been some time since my last post.  I have been thinking about, reading, and researching the customer experience.  Technology, cultural shifts, and emerging trends have had a deep impact on what is traditional called customer service.  Good customer service is no longer enough.

When most of us now describe good customer service, we are actually describing a good customer experience.  Customer service, in the common sense, is dealing with customer problems.  This is only one part of the overall customer experience.  For example, I may go to a grocery store.  During my trip I may find everything I want, the prices might be fair, and I may encounter a problem with checkout.  During my problem, a manager can come over to help remedy my issue.  In this case, I likely received good customer service.  I have no real complaints about the transaction, but I doesn’t mean that I have a good customer experience.

Customer experience, grounded in the participatory culture we live it now, means so much more.  Customer experience expands beyond the problem solving typically found in good customer service.  To create another analogy, the seat belt is like customer service.  It serves its function to keep me safe and alive.  But just because my car has a seat belt doesn’t mean that I drive an AWESOME car.  The same is true with good customer service.  Just because you solved my problem with a smile on your face, doesn’t mean I had a great experience.  Truth be told, if you had to solve my problem in the first place, odds are I had a bad overall experience.  In other words, customer service is reactive, while customer experiences are proactive.

Customer experience includes the customer’s perception of the organization.
Am I proud to frequent the establishment?  Does it give me some sense of meaning or pride?  Not in the, oh I buy Apple look at me, but in the, I shop local to make a difference attitude.

It also includes the interaction with the organization.  Have you ever sent an email to an organization, not of a problem but of a suggestion, only to have that email fall on deaf ears?  Customers want to participate in organizations now a day.  I don’t mean being shareholders or voting members, but they want to be able to make a suggestion and see some action.  They want the organization to recognize the time they took to make a suggestion, and they want to organization to view them less as a revenue stream, and more as a partner with benefits to both sides.  Customers want relationships with the organizations they support.

Customer service usually focuses on an event, typically a problem.  Customer service, on the other hand, focuses on the feeling of the customer from start to finish.  In other words, customer service deals with a single transaction, while customer experience deals with the duration of the relationship between the customer and the organization.

I am always skeptical of an organization that has a customer service department.  It’s a telltale sign that an organization is committed to the wrong things.  Customer experience is a philosophy that is deeply engrained in the organization culture and DNA.  A customer service department means that good service isn’t everyone’s job.

I will write a follow up post to this in a few weeks that discusses employee empowerment, organizational culture, and customer participation, but I leave you with this question: Do you want to frequent an establishment that doesn’t recognize you as a human with a heart before it recognizes you as a revenue stream?


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The Day We Fight Back

I encourage all of my readers to take a moment out of your day to fight back against mass surveillance.  Please go to to call and/or email your representatives.
// Screenshot 2014-02-11 at 12.58.27 AM

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Spring 2013/14 Syllabi for St Catherine University

If you are interested in reading a draft syllabus for the Spring 2013/14 semester for my SCU MLIS classes here you go

7040 Syllabus Spring Weeknight 2013-14 for my Tuesday Night Class

7040 Syllabus Spring 2013-14 for my Sunday Afternoon Class

Please note that these syllabi are subject to change.

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