PLA 2016

Officially the conference theme was “Be extraordinary, extraordinary libraries build extraordinary communities” an additional common theme I noticed running throughout various sessions, topics and contexts is the key role of empathy and the importance of building relationships. Remember you can tune in to the virtual conference using the login info I shared by email. DBS

(italicized parts are my questions or thoughts)
Full day preconference: for Experience: Reimagining Spaces and Services
Presenters Richland Library Executive Director Melanie Huggins, Margaret Sullivan owner and principal of Margaret Sullivan Studio , and Patrick Quattlebaum of Adaptive Path shared principles of customer experience and service design. They used Richland’s process of reimagining spaces and services to reach the Library as Studio concept based on “learn, create, share” as a model to frame the day. RL's development has taken place over the course of 2 years (and counting) and has looked at everything through the lens of customer experiences. Their slides are not on the web, but I’ve got a copy of them, so I’m happy to share, just let me know.
• We need to stop managing our services around our materials if we want to be our brand to be more than a warehouse and design around activities, rather than around shelves.
• We need to know who we are, say who we are and be who we are. They started their process with a deck of cards with various qualities (innovative, empathetic, curious, etc.) as a starting point, and narrowed it down to key concepts for them. For RL it’s all about learning.
• Focus on buckets-we cannot be everything to everyone, if we try the result is mediocrity (like Steam Whistle’s do one thing really well approach) Experiences designed for everyone satisfy no one. Move from adult, sr, teen, children to designers, entrepreneurs, nannies, artists, students—personas (with names) vs. broad categories. (our approach often ends up being shotgun, and scattered, perhaps we need more intentional planned targeted (sniper rifle, more effective?)
• We have no unique product, only unique experiences.
• RL deliberately markets to women as the key decision makers for what to do with their family’s free time.
• Customer experience is not the same as customer service. It begins before the actual interaction with a customer, and continues after they have left. Begins with them needing to accomplish a task, ends with their task accomplished. Where do we have touchpoints to have a relationship with them and help improve their experience along the way? (touchpoints fall into categories of people, places, processes, and promotions)
• They look at all their processes from user p.o.v. (Why do we make new borrowers fill out a form when they register? One more hoop to jump through. Are we making that many errors? Could we read them the legal info at the bottom, or add it to the card they sign? Could we look at moving to an online registration, where they actually get a LC number immediately, in their jammies, on Saturday night, so they can start searching DB, borrowing ebooks, placing holds?)
• RL took note of and changed little things. Example: when someone asks about setting up an account they now first smile and say “welcome” instead of first asking “Do you live in Richland County?” which is a response that sends the message we are trying to weed you OUT.
• Being fair keeps us from being exceptional. Treat each experience as unique to the person and situation. Every action strengthens or weakens our relationships.
• RL’s expectation is all staff will treat all people like family and friends they are happy to see. We all have favourite regulars, and people who are not regulars notice when we treat regulars differently than we treat them.
• Their onboarding takes place over the course of a year.
• Ideas from photo tour of their spaces (how can we make nursing room pleasant inviting space vs. locked cell? Photos as stack ends (historic photos, or modern colourful, vs. our Tiit and SC designed dewey guides.) Turn top of curvy shelf in CAF into activity table for lego, puzzles, games, or painted town for cars with photos of Whitby..)
• Instead of just looking at problem areas, they also looked at the processes people already love, like holds, to see how they could be better.
• If so many of us claim to be innovative, how come libraries all look the same? How do we design the space to make the vision for our library come to life?
• Among the many examples of innovative, experiential spaces: Hjorring Library, Scholars Library, Idea Box, MoMA art labs, Bubbler,, General Assembly.
• Service design is a mindset to improve interactions between customer and provider-what do we want the customer to become? If good service design, customer should see performance only –front of house. If we find ourselves explaining back of house requirements, processes as explanations or excuses, something is not working. It is stealing the “magic” of the experience and is akin to “showing your corporate underpants”. SD needs to be cooperative and collaborative to ensure that all employees share and implement the same vision.
• We need to design not just spaces (virtual & physical) but operations, service models, moments, touchpoints and interactions.
• Shared variety of techniques used by RL in its service design: design research, service safaris, journey mapping, ideation, envisioning, blueprinting, modeling, prototyping, piloting, storytelling, ethnographic observation,
• Each table worked through creating a service vision, a design exercise for our defined Studio and a service blueprinting model.
• Don’t start w. process (e.g. how patron will place and pick up a hold) start w. what want customer to experience. (e.g. getting the title they want in a convenient manner)
• Library needs a “north star” to follow. (is this one of our problems? Language presentation, messaging of strat plan is confusing and makes north star hard to see in the constellation, let alone follow?)

There were a number of author/publisher events:
Booklist presented "Book buzz" (think Dewey Divas) with reps from Macmillan, Norton, Random House & Harper Collins. The Book Report Network shared results of their book group survey, which indicates an overall preference for newer release titles. The main speaker was the key driver behind, which includes more specialized sections for kids, teens, graphic, audio, 20something, etc. The presenters said they would post the results of their 2015 book group survey, but I don’t see it there yet, so you may want to stay tuned. One suggestion to increase use was to create a display space (I know physical space is at a premium in CAF), for book club kits. I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to find the physical space to merchandise these sets, but maybe we could create a large poster to occasionally go in the glass bulletin board, and any branch boards, to showcase covers of titles we have, or perhaps we could do a bibliocommons or home page carousel, similar to the one we had for zinio showcasing magazine covers. For busy, overcommitted readers, they recommended a "one book book group" kind of like what we do with NF bookclub to catch more people by minimizing their committments. Other alternatives to suggest, is topic, vs. book based book clubs, eg. one month discuss books they've read about afghanistan, books with a strong female role model… If we're looking for ways to reduce our time committment to BC and increase reach, could be a way to have monthly/weekly drop in, talking books; September could be great books I read over the summer, and those present could suggest topics, supplemented by staff. Could be rotated amongst core group of staff who like RA, w. a laptop to look up titles, make a biblioC list to share with those in attendance. Other sources: and the first look book club, where you can see books flogged at the Pile-High Book Buzz, as well as, and library display posters and authorless event kits at, including a resource that might give some programming ideas for November Noir. I wasn't aware of the Thursday #Askalibrarian activity on Twitter, between 12 & 1, where readers can get RA advice from librarian's across the twitterverse.

Make it Extraordinary!
Author, creator, podcaster, marketer all around creative type Kari Chapin challenged participants with different ways to make the conference extraordinary, and to carry the energy and ideas into concrete actions after we return to our everyday busy lives. Listen in through the PLA podcast. She authored a workbook given to all participants with different tools for planning, brainstorming, and getting things done. I could see a number of creative and organized people around here liking some of her tools. "An idea without a plan is just a wish".

An interview with Anderson Cooper, was the opening plenary. If you've caught one of his many interviews on his current book tour, this was pretty similar. His experience with correspondence enabling conversation, allowing him and his mother to broach topics never talked about provide an interesting counterpart and parallel to Friday's BIG Ideas speaker Sherry Turkle.

Big Ideas with Vern~a Myers
Definitely spend the time to listen to the TED talk by this “big ideas” speakers. Her talk @ PLA was a bit broader, encompassing class, gender, sexuality, but her premise was similar. Passionate and powerful. Again, the importance of empathy. Get rid of the golden rule. Stop treating people how you want to be treated; treat people the way they want to be treated. If we don't notice differences, we can't make a difference. Get curious. Recognize and accept that we all have biases, then work to move beyond them. If you misstep, aplogize. Connection is more important than perfection.

Tech Assistance for Cutting Edge Communities
Four CO librarians discussed different ways they've approached the increasing demands of providing technology related help to patrons and "generalist" staff. Among the tightropes they walk is to offer specialist help while avoiding staff passing off any or all technology questions to the specialist; the idea is to raise the knowledge and capacity for all staff. All departments in one Araphoe include one tech skill at their monthly meetings, and schedule "tinker time". Attention learners and trainers: all lesson plans and handouts for Denver PLs 100+ classes are available for use, sharing, (credit if you use w. public). Also available from their ideaLAB is a series of ready to go techy project cards. There tech experts have created a written knowledge base that's available to all staff even when the specialists aren't available (like our OD, zinio etc. handouts). Among the challenges are the more that is provided, the more that is expected, and it's a constant monitoring (in fact "boundaries" is a standing agenda item @ DPL staff meetings) to figure out how far to take help. All staff need to be comfortable learning along with patrons. They take the teaching to use vs. doing for approach. Ideally the tech specialist leads the organization. PLs role in this vs. retail applications, objectivity, vs. selling something to patrons; some paid services prey upon lack of knowledge, whereas we are about increasing customers' capacities and digital literacy. We've always been @ supporting literacy, DL is the new literacy. Some of their maker spaces have designated times for teens only, adults only and open access. Technical competencies change so quickly, they can become quickly dated; it may be better to focus on understanding basic concepts vs overly specific checklists; Denver's from 2012 are on webjunction.

Everything is Awesome! Reimagining Library UX Before formally presenting anything, Dayton Metro Libraries set participants to work addressing three UX situations, (see slides) asking us to use lego, drawings and notes to model what the ideal space to best meet the particular info needs. This was a scaled down version of how they have been reinventing their spaces to meet the library and community's strategic goals, from the UX p.o.v. As libraries we constantly need to learn, unlearn and relearn. Signage can limit the use of space. They aim for a consistent approach, without being cookie cutter. Fewer, larger locations works better for their situation. Their entry's are a sampling of all their offerings. Be conscious of your "curb appeal" (the first thing people see when they walk in Central's front door is security gates (we don't trust you, and they don't work anyway, garbage cans and a book truck parking lot. Their strategic plan is positions as Strategies for Impact, and are clearly articulated and widely shared. They rewrote their job descriptions to mirror these strategies. As more techonolgy moves into people's homes, there is an opportunity to focus on the experience with people. They have built "opportunity spaces" into their designs; these are spaces as incubators, pop ups, areas to test-drive & pilot new ideas for the library and community groups. Each month something else is going on-a display or activity and is a way to help the community be successful.

We are Tech Workers: cultivating a library technoculture Upon my return, I discovered that Andi had attended this same session at OLA, so I refer you to her excellent notes in the OLA section of the wiki. A couple of additional points…Beware of scope creep. It's easy to want to include everything and things can get unwieldy. Through the process they identified that troubleshooting ebook questions is an ongoing challenge and source of stress and frustration for staff and customers (hmmn, sounds familiar!). In response, they had an ebook troubleshooting blitz, and stressed the process is very much like a traditional reference interview. They had staff self-evaluate/identify gaps. The problem with this is staff under or over identify abilities, and if a mandatory/show me/testing type process, is not done right for your org. it can have a negative impact on morale.

Big ideas with Sherry Turkle
Author and psychology professor Sherry Turkle built upon themes discussed in her 2012 book and TED talk to address the "flight from conversation". Real conversation is open ended, spontaneous, tangential, present and vulnerable. We're at a moment of friction where we still have a love affair with our phones but are also not comfortable with the place they've taken in our lives. She observed that her students don't take advantage of her generous office hours, favouring instead the perfectly crafted email, and expecting the same in return. She sees this as a lost opportunity because in conversation, questioning, building ideas from each other is where learning really happens. (important note for WPL where because of shifts and location, and habit, so much communication happens by email. Our uncomfortability with "the lull" drives us to our phones, and away from connection and deeper investment. She sees it as a "new silent spring" where the loss is an assault on empathy. She cited a study showing a 40% loss in empathy among collet students over the last 20 years, and argued that we can only relearn empathy we put down the devices that distract attention from those we are with, and the role of conversation as a cure. Having the capacity for conversation depends on the capacity to be alone with ones own thoughts. She shared the example of a PhD. colleague who found herself no longer able to read a novel because of her habits of mulitasking; she had lost the ability to focus on a single and complex idea, and had to train herself to read in this way again. Conversation has the ability to build connections. We are the empathy app. We need to emphasize relationships and not move to transactions just because technology allows us to do so.

Play Your Way to an Engaged Staff
You can tune in to this session through the virtual conference, or view their slides. Caution—if you do, oh, my goodness, you too will want to send your resume to ImagineIF libraries. They were the 2015 John Cotton Dana Award winner and the 2015 Montana Library of the year. With expenditures less than %50 of those of US peer libraries, and %20 less than MT peer libraries, they knew if they wanted to achieve the goals of their strategic plan, they would need their staff to be engaged and committed. Presenters surveyed the science backing up the importance of play for creativity, learning, engagement, health. Slides have a great bibliography. Play is: Self-directed, Intrinsically motivated, Creative, Imaginative, Alert, active. They have built their culture of staff engagement through play on: happy hour, an all staff retreat, a staff recognition program, no formal performance evaluations. Happy hour is an hour a week that staff get to-are expected to-play and explore. They host an all Staff Retreat where most of the day is not programmed at directly Library related content. Their Staff Recognition Program is not expensive, but is personalized and aims to surprise and delight, with 2 team celebrations each year. Finally they have replaced formal performance evaluations with weekly 1/2 hour check-in/coaching sessions between supervisors and staff. Because it is informal and based on conversation, rather than a form or checklist, it has developed into authentic relationships with an opportunity to learn from each other. They explore and learn outside Library Land; children's staff attend children's museum conferences.

Hospitality: The Essential Ingredient The delivery of this session didn't live up to it's promise; I think we have a lot to learn from those in the hospitality industry about customer experience. Presenters stressed the difference between service and hospitality and referred us to Danny Meyer and his book Setting the Table. When hiring they screen for passion and empathy. Anythink Libraries elimated fines, as the cost to relationship w. customers and to staff morale was more than the fines recovered. They stressed the need to operate from the heart as well as from the head.

Inside the 2015 New Landmark Libraries.
This was a good oooh, ahhh session to wrap up a Friday afternoon. It was a highly visual survey of the libraries featured in Library Journals Landmark Libraries Content mirrored very closely that of this linked article.

Bite-Sized Staff Training: Transform Staff Development for Busy Employees
Another one available through the virtual conference site. We've all felt there is more to learn than there is time in which to learn it. Staff can be stretched too thinly and learners feel overwhelmed, distracted and impatient. Training needs to be untethered, on-demand, collaborative and empowering. We can use existing content, reconfigure content or buy new content. In order to build a learning culture, we need to learn daily, celebrate milestones and share learning. If reconfiguring, look for ways to chunk content into small 5, 10, 15 minute bites. Frame as "just one thing". Topics that are great for microlearning: a new process, a new technology or software, trends, customer service. For bigger learning, perhaps introduce as workshop followed up with quick daily "newsletter". Engagement is key. "What did you learn today?" "Tip of the Day?". Successful training results in a change in behaviour. Behaviour that gets rewarded gets repeated. Perhaps look at 1/2 day staff How-to in 10 with different stations led/hosted by staff?

Put Learning First: Developing a Staff Learning Philosophy Another session by the impressive Richland Library (see preconference) this one sharing their experience in creating and maintaining a culture of continuous learning, as they shared how they created and maintain their learning philosophy. This philosophy is informed by their strategic plan's vision, mission, promises, and goals. Organizations and learners need to recognize that their are different types of learning and learners: Visual, Audio, Read/Write, Kinesthetic. They have scalable tech competencies for staff, use a "tech buddy" system, and stress that I don't know is just a starting point. They also have a #staffitup program where staff learn by sitting in on/attending existing programs across the system, so they have a better understanding of suite of offerings Freaky Fridays? Failure is an option; trying is not. They share learning graciously and practice lifelong learning, as a vehicle for change, for the Library and community. They embrace every moment as a learning moment. One interesting comment by a participant during the session: "Don't get so far out in front of the troops that they mistake you for the enemy". Participants in small groups worked through exercises to identify goals and values as a basis to craft a draft document; this process could be easily adapted to lots of different outcomes.

Designing for Patron Behaviors
I tuned into this as a virtual conference, so since you can too, won't repeat too much, but some key "write downs". Reclaim some staff space for the public. 90" shelves are stupid. 60" should be the max for openness, access and moving away from the book warehouse brand. Recommends staff using the front door(s) as opposed to the staff entrance to get the patron point of view (there's that call to empathy again) and recommends "back of house" staff, spending a few hours a week "front of house" even if that is doing their back of house work on a laptop in a public area, again to see things from the point of view of the public. People are looking for spaces (physical and digital) that are convenient and destinations. The key causes for anxiety among customers is navigational, and choice, which means libraries have some work to do, as we are places where people not versed in our secret codes of acronyms and dewey are presented with an overwhelming number of choices.

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