The Story of Telling: Future-Proofing Libraries, Brendan Howley #InternetLibrarian

Brendan Howley, BothAnd

Library asked them to “show me the heart of my community.”

Why are flamingoes pink?  To look stunning, also recursiveness.

Mind-controlling zombifying tapeworms cause crustaceans to turn pink, who get eaten by flamingoes.

It’s a feedback loop (recursiveness)

Tapeworms come out the back end of the flamingoes, where they reproduce.

If you want to grow community networks through storytelling, you have to build stories people want to share. Recursiveness make stories people want to share.

A virtuous circle of sharing and yet more sharing.

When people share stories, they also share behaviors.

How we share stories tell us who we are.  Shared stories are intelligence tools.

Relevancy: why should I care about your library programming?

Currency: Is this story about your library important to me now?

Intensity: Does this story about your library “have legs”?

[Howley promises to post this online, so I will take less detailed notes.]

“The Story Engine”: the best stories aren’t one-offs, they’re non-linear.  Complex stories interweave with themselves.

Libraries have great brands, most trusted than almost anyone.

Sustainable stories keep telling themselves.

Either infectiously funny or so human, so wise, so moving we can’t help but share them.

Idea: Find the funniest person you can and have them make a video about the library.

Make heroes of your users, you cardholders.  It’s not about you, your storytelling should be about your community.  Use on social media and people keep telling their stories.  Recursive, virtuous circle.

“The library digital relevancy index.”

Most library mobile apps have a bounce rate of 50%, which means people come twice and don’t come back.

People don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Empathy is the goal. (See yesterday’s keynote.)

Every company wants to change the world.  Libraries really do change the world.

Regular content updates.  Good content now is worth more than perfect content on Friday.

Don’t sell them news, sell them a relationship.

Think snack size: what people will see on their phones.

Someone needs to own your social media presence.

Created OpenMediaDesk

Agile process, failing as fast as we can to get to success.  Treat Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts like tests.  Again, a recursive pattern.

“Nobody knows anything.”

Test, fail, reassemble, re-test. Open source photography you can re-use.

Libraries sharing ideas. One library had a comic book giveaway program that drew 12- to 18-year-old boys and shared idea with other libraries.

Friend Brendan Howley or M’lissa Story on Facebook to follow along with what the libraries are doing.

CXI: tool for library data to demonstrate social ROI.

Every expectation and interaction a cardholder has with your library, its services and staff.

The end (flamingo backside)

Another blog post about this session:


Open Access Initiatives: Blockchain #InternetLibrarian @griffey

Jason Griffey on Blockchain

One use: The data source that keeps track of Bitcoin transactions.

Similar to a ledger or a database.

Many authors at the same time.  They can even write contradictory things.

No centralized location.  No point of failure.  No way to censor it.

Validation: you know the same person made two transactions, even if you don’t know his or her name.

Resistant to manipulation after the fact.

Blockchain being used for:

Smart contracts

Educational projects

“Distributed web”: faster, safer, more open (IPFS = interplanetary file structure)

Three possibilities for libraries:

1. Provenance: chain of ownership

2. Distributed bibliographic metadata, a “decentralized OCLC”. You could see records for a certain library or a certain cataloger.

3. Digital first sale: you could keep track of the owner of a digital book.  Libraries could lend them, people could sell them, etc.

Libraries and the new education ecosystem, Lee Rainie, Pew Research #internetlibrarian #il2015

Lee Rainie, Pew Research

People like and trust librarians.  People think libraries level the playing field, provide services that are hard to get elsewhere, have become tech hubs.

Libraries at the crossroads.

People who used libraries in the last year down slightly from three years ago.  Senior citizens less likely to use libraries. Parents love libraries.

People say the library has a major impact in the community, but fewer people say the library has a major impact on their own families.

People believe libraries have kept up with technology, millennials most of all.

people think libraries promote literacy.  People think libraries help find info in various subjects, including health, new tech, community info, jobs.

new findings from survey still in the field:

most people believe they are lifelong learners.  These are potential library users!

they are reading, going to conferences, etc.

they want to learn something new, help others, earn income, help kids.

people don’t know about many of the services libraries offer, such as e-books.

libraries could help with online certification courses.

other ideas, with various amounts of support: help businesses, have 3-d printers, teach about privacy and security online.

on the other hand: people still want places for quiet and solitude.

No idiot-proof way to march into the future.  Everyone’s struggling with it.

Exploring roles and directions: creating, failing, learning #internetlibrarian #il2015

Ilana Ben-Ari, 21 toys

innovation, etc. hard to teach or assess, but toys are the new textbooks. Creative genius fades in early childhood, but problem solving is most valued by business.

empathy toy.

Not just filling a room with iPads.

Erin Mulcahey, littlebits

tech devices 11 hours a day, but most don’t understand.

empower everyone to invent.

like Lego, color coded.

Liza Conrad, Hopscotch

programming for mobile devices. Drag and drop, no typing.

Response to question: engineering is not just infrastructure and tech, but also art and creativity.  Separating ego from work.  Experimentation, failing and trying again.  First question: why?  People don’t want toasters, they want toast.

Kids don’t necessarily need to be expert coders, but we need to understand what our tech is doing.  Coding is good for jobs, problem solving, even as an expressive medium, a tool for others to create with.

Need to keep talking to customers about their needs.

Word prototyping: tell people about your idea and get reactions.

One teacher objected to kids’ projects on Hopscotch with poop emojis.  Decided that was ok.

Why should libraries think like a startup?

Feeling you have agency to be creative and do new things.

Being scrappy, being creative.

Jumping out of a plane and building the plane as you’re falling.  Have guts, have chutzpah.  Redefining failure as feedback

Virtually Interacting with Books and Exhibits #internetlibrarian #IL2014

[Belated notes from a session at Internet Librarian.]

John Shoesmith, of the University of Toronto rare books library, talked about their efforts to put their exhibits online.  Physical exhibits only work for those who can get to the library while they are going on, but online exhibits can reach people far beyond the library and long after the exhibits are over.


  • Drupal: mirrored existing site (require hand-holding byt IT staff)
  • Omeka: open-source content-management system.  Used its exhibit builder plug-in for display.
  • Islandora: tools.
  • Fedora: repository.

For labor: museum studies students.

Juan Denzer, Binghamton University library

Their library director heard about how the National Library of China has a newspaper reader that works with gestures from the user.  They replicated the system to create 3-D models of rare books, allowing the user to view them without actually handling them.

Library Support for Digital Scholarship at Harvard Business School #internetlibrarian #IL2014

[Belated notes from a session at Internet Librarian.]

Michael J. Hemment of the Baker Library, Harvard Business School

The university is studying the faculty research cycle.  The law library is working on a digital archive on the history of the law school.  The university is thinking about students’ needs 20 years in the future.  Does the library help them get a job?

Question for a (any?) database project: try to get everything or concentrate on quality materials?

The library produces 118 information products: research guides, e-mail newsletters, etc.

Journalists write about Harvard research in a section of the web site called Working Knowledge.

Information management services: helps other university web sites improve their visibility with taxonomy, etc.

The library is trying to understand customers’ needs and work backwards from there.  “We librarians make assumptions about what our customers need and don’t talk to them on an ongoing basis.  Needs may change.”

Talking to users, observers.

Ongoing analysis on requests: matching them to existing resources.  If nothing exists, they identify a gap.

Web site on the research lifecycle: advice for each point.  Another one on the teaching lifecycle.

Surveys led to a redesign of case studies on their web site.  Also, use speaking with faculty and students, web analytics.

Leader 360: case studies on business leaders.

13 e-mail newsletters to MBA students on major industries.

Column on library special collections items in the Harvard Business Review (“Vision Statement”)

Helping faculty create e-books.

Updates on case studies (e.g., on Internet companies that may have changed considerably in the last few years).

Future of Libraries: Challenges & Strategies #internetlibrarian #il2014

Ken Haycock

Beyond the pandering, nostalgia, etc. Other people moving into traditional library roles: community centers doing preschool, senior programs. University deans say they could let students study in the cafeteria for lower cost.

Libraries are moving into others’ spaces — makerspaces, etc.

We can’t spend two years studying the integration of two desks. Industry would do it in two days.

What is our unique value proposition? Public dollars and a demonstrable return. What is our staff’s expertise that others don’t have?

We are just about the only sector that doesn’t have a common success metric. High customer satisfaction is not enough.

Is the library one system or a collection of neighborhood services?

How can the sense of entitlement of our staff be broken?

Panel: Corinne Hill, Chattanooga Public Library; John Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library; Donna Scheeder, Library of Congress.


Return on investment. People don’t value culture, but they will pay $150 for one football ticket.

Need to align with organization’s goals. Police and fire do better, because fear wins out. Align yourself with education, youth, public safety. Tell politicians, “Let me tell you how you can achieve your goals while you’re in office.”


“Delightfully frustrated at the opportunity to hit homeruns.” Leveraging that warm fuzzy. It’s not the only thing, and it won’t last forever. Leverage points of contact. Become heroes, essential players, special sauce. (Lot of metaphors here.)

Deal with relevance and marketing.


What are the trends in society that impact libraries? IFLA study. The future is now. Personal, educational level; organizational level (aligned with society); national level (e.g., net neutrality); international level (copyright agreements, e.g.).

Any goal includes information: health policy, economic policy, etc.

We provide information to people for free and the guidance to empower themselves to better their lives.


We could have too many opportunities. What’s the best one to go after?


We need to be tuned into community needs, not just air-conditioned places where cool stuff happens. Information empowers people.


Have to say no sometimes. Building adjacencies to things you already do well. The company that makes ATMs went into self-checkin at airlines.


Have to determine what success looks like. You’re helping people be the best they can be. What is the most pressing need? How do I go about doing what my community needs?

Have people who can tell the story of how you helped them.


Staff boots on the ground have to know what the goal is (“take that hill”) and be empowered to make changes as needed.


Using data vs. using stories? Both are good, but you have to know what resonates with your funders. Politicians like to talk about “school readiness.”


Using national educational standards to make decisions about programming. Number of people who came in is a proxy for its value.


Statistics about how people who can’t read are likely to be unemployable and problems for society.


How do we change library culture? We want to study things and roll it out across the system, rather than letting individual branches just do it?


We have to do both. It takes 3-5 years to change the culture. Hire for attitude then train for skill. Get people with tech skills. They know what an Adobe upgrade is and don’t need a training class.


Give staff flexibility to pick from a menu of initiatives. Be as innovative as you can without going to jail.


When new leadership comes in, it’s a chance to try new things. Let a thousand flowers bloom, but you have to make a garden at some point.


The percentage of professional librarians has gone down.


When I interview librarians, I find very few that are interested in taking risks. Removed college degree from library assistant job description.


We get greater flexibility from paraprofessionals. I want MLS people to be flexible and innovative, etc.


Library education is evolving. We should stop making a distinction between traditional and non-traditional librarians. It’s evolving.


Predictions for 5-10 years.


How closely we work with our communities. We will relinquish some of that elitist expertise.


Strategic partners with formal education. 0-5, k-12, MOOCs, lifelong learning.


Academia doesn’t see that MOOCs will disrupt their business, the same way news and publishing have been disrupted. Digital divide can get greater, not smaller. Libraries can make the difference.

Edited to make things clearer.