There is a Time for Everything Thursday, Jul 8 2010 

In the words of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season” (Chapter 3, verse 1 New Living Translation page 506).

How does this relate to this blog?

On April 1, 2008 I started “Moorman’s Musings”. It was part of my effort to increase communication with library staff, the community and the world at large. At that time it seemed that blogging was the in thing. Thus, I gave it a try.

In the succeeding twenty-seven months I have posted thirty-four blog entries. This post will be entry thirty-five.

What have I learned in this process?

1. Finding something relevant to say or comment on is increasingly difficult as time progresses.

2. Preparing the posts takes up considerable time that could be better spent on  more important matters both job related and personal.

3. The blog is of little interest to other individuals and the world at large. It receives few hits. If thirty individuals look at it during a months time it has done well.

With the above in mind this will be the last post for “Moorman’s Musings”. As noted in Ecclesiastes there is a time for “every activity under heaven”. It is time for me to proceed to other things.

I have learned much from this experience and do not regret it in the least.

Good bye!

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Snapshots Thursday, Apr 1 2010 

I sit here in realization that another month has passed. Beyond being another month older and not much wiser, it means that another blog entry is due. What should I ramble on about this month? Maybe a yearning for the good old days when all I had to deal with was a typewriter, a notepad, and a phone. Now I have a presence on Facebook, Twitter,  and Linkedin, as well as this blog and the numerous e-mail that I receive and send on a daily basis.  Granted my Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin presence is minimal and I often go a week or more before checking in, still they are a presence in my life.

Seriously, would I want to go back to the “good old days”? Hell No! With electronic communication it is much easier to reach individuals and conduct daily activities in a timely manner. Anyone who has ever had to use correcting fluid on a typewritten document can attest to the wonders of word processing and spell check, although you still need to proofread before sending anything out.

While technology is wonderful it can be problematic when it does not work. This past month my office computer suffered a hard drive breakdown of monumental proportions. For almost a week I was without decent computer access at work. On one afternoon, I even went home where I had working computers to get basic work accomplished.

After getting the above rant out of my system, the concept of snapshots comes to mind. Why, you may ask?

The computer failure  of the past month is but a snapshot of a small period in my life. Each of our lives are full of snapshots encompassing the wide variety of experiences that each of us has as we journey through life.

Budgets are also snapshots, as I have had to constantly remind myself in the past month as I dealt with local governments concerning the library’s funding for FY11. While they are real and have an influential impact upon your institutions present and future, they are only a part of the total picture at any one time of what an institution is and what it can accomplish in service  to its user community.

During the month Ileen and I were blessed by having our family together. While the reason for this was a memorial service for her mother, it gave us time to catch up on happenings,  share remembrances, and observe the growth of our grandson who will be four in August.  A snapshot that is fleeting but one that will be cherished and remembered.

Another snapshot from March comes to mind. Two local non-profit organizations put together a “Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars” fund raising event. Nine brave local celebrities volunteered to dance as a part of the event. I had the opportunity to make observations as one of four judges. The event was a tremendous success as over $50,000 was raised and close to 800 people had a wonderful time hooting, hollering, and clapping for over two hours. Seeing such a widely diverse audience having a delightful time while supporting two organizations was wonderful. Again a snapshot to be remembered and treasured.

This month the Virginia Library Association will be conducting “Snapshot: A Day in the life of Libraries, Virginia’s Cardinal Asset”. Libraries will be choosing one day between April 19 and 30 to collect information and photos that illustrate the impact that Virginia libraries make on their communities on a typical day. I look forward to what this program will show about how residents of the Commonwealth use and treasure their libraries. When the New Jersey Library Association did their Snapshop day over 1,000 photo were collected showing people using their libraries in a wide variety of ways.

What snapshots do you value and remember?

So long for now!

Thoughts At Year’s End Tuesday, Dec 29 2009 

Ileen and I recently returned from a trip to Indianapolis to visit our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. In a state of recovery from the hassles of holiday air travel my thoughts now turn to the year fast passing.

After observing how much our 3-year-old grandson had changed since our last visit with him in October, I am reminded that change is more evident if you are not watching something on a daily basis. In the light of daily activities it is often difficult to notice change.  As a library administrator I often have to remind myself that patience is a virtue that I should try even harder to cultivate. Ileen, after seeing my impatience at airline difficulties during our recent trip, would encourage me in this pursuit!

As the year ends I am in the beginning part of  my term as president of the Virginia Library Association. It is a great honor to have been elected to this position by my peers and I hope to return their trust before my time ends next October. The coming year will bring many challenges to both the Association and to libraries throughout Virginia as funding at all levels is being cut  resulting in service and staff reductions. I prefer to look at this as a challenge that can be successfully dealt with. Now as to the four columns that I have promised to write for Virginia Libraries, only time will tell!

I remain ever grateful that I am part of a wonderful public library. Twice this year the Williamsburg Regional Library has been honored by Library Journal as a five-star public library. This recognition has been received by only 85 libraries out of the over 12,000 public libraries in our country. This honor was made possible by the excellent financial support provided by our contracting entities and by a talented, dedicated staff that continually seeks new ways of meeting user needs. On a regular basis, I receive positive comments by community members on the service that they receive from their public library.

As president of the board of the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program, I have seen an increase in both community understanding of local adult literacy needs and in financial support for this essential community service. During the year the Program completed a fund drive to enable it to move into the new  College of William and Mary School of Education facility. This move, anticipated by summer of 2010, will enable easier access to program services and activities by clients and their tutors as well as giving staff needed space for operational activities. The Program looks forward to working more closely with School of Education students and faculty in its new location.

I have been a member of Rotary for over 25 years. My current club  the Rotary Club of James City County,  in which I serve as treasurer, has had a good and active year. Scholarships to assist local high school graduates to attend college were increased so that now $8,000 is given on an annual basis.  Fund raising efforts enabled over $25,000 to be provided to various non-profit agencies to assist them in providing essential community services, both here and abroad. Through interesting weekly programs (7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning is early for some) and activities such as road clean-up, assisting with the construction of a local playground, and  social events club members became better acquainted with each other.

The year leaves me older, somewhat wiser and maybe a little more patient. I look forward with anticipation to what next year will bring!

So long for now!

Thoughts On Assuming A New Position Tuesday, Oct 27 2009 

Your first thought upon seeing such a title to this month’s blog entry might be “where is he headed now?”. However, I am not leaving the Williamsburg Regional Library.

Last year in elections held by the Virginia Library Association, I was elected to the position of vice-president/president elect. Since October of 2008 at the end of the Association’s annual conference held in Williamsburg,  I have had a year to become acquainted with Association activities, programs, budgets, concerns and fellow executive board and council members. Hopefully I have learned something and am now prepared for my year as president of the Virginia Library Association.

As I look forward to this week’s annual conference (again being held in Williamsburg) and the opportunities that this brings for networking, listening, learning and the sharing of ideas, I am struck with how short a time a year is. Maybe this is the result of advancing age.

In any case, what can I realistically hope to accomplish during my tenure as Association president? The president chairs both the executive committee and the council. These bodies meet four times a year. In addition I have already selected a conference committee chair for next year’s conference (in Portsmouth, not Williamsburg) and will be a member of that committee as it works during the year to plan the conference. Most committee chairs and committee members are appointed by the second vice-president so I have only suggestion opportunities here.

At our annual executive committee retreat to be held on November 12 and 13 we set a plan for the year and prepare a budget for the Association. As a part of this planning I have prepared, as have presidents before me, a designated agenda for the coming year. Much of this is boiler plate as the Association must continue to perform  routine maintenance  items in order to provide members with the expected publications, meetings and services. Where my emphasis will be is on seeing what can be done to recognize more members for service to our profession,  in continuing efforts to reach all segments of our library community and continuing the effort to educate all Virginians on the importance of libraries in their daily lives. This is vitally important as the coming year looks to be one of financial hardship for all types of libraries in Virginia.

In sum, a year is a short time and a president has limited opportunities to install new programs or ideas, even if they are warranted. What I hope to do during my year is be a good spokesperson for the Association when called upon, enjoy my time as its president, and leave the Association in as good shape as I found it. In short do no harm. Although, I do leave open the possibility for a little tinkering along the way!

So long for now!

March Meanderings Wednesday, Mar 25 2009 

As spring slowly pokes its way along the Virginia horizon several observations come to mind.

First is the difficulty in getting individuals and organizations to properly acknowledge the library in print. I have been here over 8 years.  During this period I have lost track of how many times Patrick Golden, our program services director who handles media relations, and I have worked with local organizations to correct how our name is presented in publications and programs. You would think that one communication with each organization would handle it, but it does not work that way. Just the other day I went to an event where the library’s name was actually correct on one page of the program but totally wrong a few pages later. This organization has been strongly reminded on several occasions in the recent past as to our correct name. Maybe I should count one out of two as progress.

Second is that it is becoming difficult to separate the essential from the non-essential in how the library communicates with our public. The Williamsburg Regional Library is currently undertaking a thorough review of its web presence with the goal of introducing a new web site in 2010. While our current web site continues to receive recognition for its clarity and design, we acknowledge that it needs to be better. Any new web site must  incorporate  technology such as RSS feeds, podcasts,  and improved searching options  to more effectively reach and inform all individuals within our community about library programs and services.

This process brings up the question of how far does the library go in employing technology in communicating with our public.  Does the library use  technology such as Facebook, Twitter or Second Life simply because it is there and embraced by some in the profession and in our user community? I am not sure that this way of dealing with technology is either wise or the best use of limited resources. I am also concerned that individuals, and institutions, can spend too much time “communicating” and not enough time in accomplishing the essential tasks necessary to provide quality library service to all our users whether they come to us through the Internet or in person.

Third is as I look out of my office in the Williamsburg Library and see city grounds crews at work trimming bushes, planting flowers and cleaning up library grounds from the winter slumber, I realize how lucky the library is to not have to deal with outside maintenance at either of our facilities. Both James City County and City of Williamsburg grounds maintenance staff take pride in maintaining library grounds. For that I am immensely thankful.

The final observation at this time of awakening hope that it will finally become warm enough for the duffer in me to lose golf balls again (I do not do winter well) is how wonderful it is to be part of a  staff that takes pride in giving quality service to all library users.

So long for now!

Vacation Observations Friday, Nov 7 2008 

My wife and I just returned from a recent vacation. During our time away we spent six days on the American Queen on a river journey on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Such a journey provides you with ample opportunity to relax and observe the world as it flows by. Some observations from our trip:

During a tour of the boat’s pilot house we learned how the vessel navigates and the rules of the river. Boats coming downstream have the right of way over boats coming upstream. Part of this right is determining on which side of an upriver vessel the downstream boat will pass. Our guide indicated there is no river rage. For one who is going downstream now will shortly be returning upstream.

Ship captains continually communicate with each other and beyond sharing job related information learn about lives and families.  Over a period of thirty years they may never meet in person but they will acquire a  deep respect for, and knowledge of, each other through their repeated passings on the river.

During the week we observed many 15 barge tow units going up and down the river. I had never thought how much traffic is on the river and what quantity of goods are conveyed by this method of transportation. One of these tow units can carry as much material as two 100 car trains or 879 large semi trucks. I now better understand the need for new and updated locks and the continual maintenance of river channels and facilities. Hurricane Ike had more of an effect inland than I had realized. The dock at Mount Vernon, Indiana had been swept away by Ike.

We took several side trips when the boat was moored at various communities along the way. We visited a wonderful public library in Mount Vernon, Indiana, saw an excellent exhibit of modern American Indian painting and sculputure in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and visited the Earthquake Museum in New Madrid, Missouri.  It was interesting to see how various communities defended themselves against periodic river floods. Floodwalls in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky displayed interesting murals depicting aspects of their community’s history.

We came back from this vacation refreshed and ready to re-enter our normal world.

Thoughts From a Visit Tuesday, Sep 9 2008 

Over Labor Day my wife and I visited with with family in the Midwest. Our grandson just turned two and is a delightful young man (it would take several columns to tell you how delightful). During our visit he demonstrated mastery of the word “mine”. At this stage in language development heavy use of “mine” is normal.  I remember our three children as they worked through this stage and how important this concept was at this time in their lives. As growth continues “mine” will be less of a prompt response to everything around our grandson.

As I returned to work and began dealing with grandson withdrawal, I thought further on this topic. Sometimes, as an administrator, I feel that we need to have some of that childlike adherence to “mine” when we see situations that we should be a part of but decline to be involved. In my years as an administrator I have lost count of the times I have heard “That is not my responsibility”; “That is not in my job description”; “Why should I assist (place name here) with that?”

Library work, as with any organizational employment, is a team effort. Each of us has basic work expectations and responsibilities as outlined in our job description. A good job description however, should contain the phrase “other duties and responsibilities as required”. This is where “mine” comes in. When we see something that needs to be done, be willing to be a part of the solution. In other words make it “mine”.

The Williamsburg Regional Library is in the midst of an excellent example of staff making it “mine”. Recently we have had an unusual number of shelvers leave. Thus, the re-shelving of returned materials has become backlogged. This is a problem as our standard of service includes prompt replacement of returned material to the collection.  We also have minimal space for material storage. In response, staff from other library areas are pitching in to assist our shelving staff until new staff are hired and trained. We have established a “cart a day” assistance program. As a participant in this effort, I have learned things about our collection that I normally would not have. I am also reminded of the importance of each of us to the successful operation of the Library.

What around you should you consider making “mine”? Think about it?

So long for now!

Nomenclature Wednesday, Aug 13 2008 

I knew when I agreed to try writing a blog that there would be times when the mind would not want to cooperate in this endeavor. This is one of them. I have been searching for the topic for my next post and coming up short, very short in fact.

Maybe part of the difficulty is that it is August and I am here while some library staff have left for Austria, Texas and other points of the compass. O well, my time will come and I am looking forward to a trip to see our grandson the end of the month. It will be nice to see the terrific and terrible two’s from a non-responsible position!

So, why nomenclature?

In recent years, as we ponder the changing world around us, librarians have had discussions on what should we call those who use our facilities.The most common term for those who enter our establishments is library patron.

As libraries and librarians are made aware of the newest operational trends, many of which speak of the library in business based terms and encourage adoption of the business related model of the moment, the question arises as to what is the proper term for those who enter our premises or find us through our on-line or virtual presence? Are they now users, customers, members, or something else? I have been to presentations in recent years where all of the above have been suggested. It has also been suggested that individuals who do not have library cards should be referred to as guests.

What is more important to me than how we refer to those who use us, is how we treat those who enter our doors or find us through other means. Are we giving the best possible service? Are we treating each individual as a person and not a number? Is our facility clean, well maintained and projecting a welcoming presence to all? Can individuals easily locate what they came for? Can they easily access us (are we on public transit routes or have adequate on-site parking)? Is our web presence easy to navigate and does it contain access to needed information? Do they leave us happy with their library experience or do they find us lacking?

If we can provide positive answers to these questions we will be a success! Most individuals do not care how they are referred to if they are receiving excellent personalized service from pleasant knowledgeable library staff.

I will grant you though that the term library patron does not sit well with me. I prefer the term user or customer, but that is only my preference. What is yours?

So long for now!

Privacy Thursday, Jul 31 2008 

In today’s technological world where new information sharing devices and systems are developed on what seems like an hourly basis, the ability to keep ones personal information to oneself is becoming increasingly difficult. For some this is not a problem. For others, such as myself, it is of concern for I have lived long enough to see what serious harm can be done when personal information is used for misguided, immoral, unethical, or illegal purposes.

What is privacy? and Why do many individuals place such a high value on maintaining personal privacy? Roger Cook an Australian who has studied in this area for many years states that,” Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organizations”. This is as good a definition as any.

As each of us is a member of society our desire for ‘personal space’ must be balanced by the society’s need for personal information in order complete the transactions needed for the society to exist. Taxes must be paid, living places acquired and maintained, health and welfare information gathered, essential functions of commerce provided for and so on. Each of these requires that we as individuals give personal information of one type or another to other organizations in order to function as members of our society.

Libraries are in the forefront of any discussion of privacy as they have historically protected the right of individual users to maintain privacy in what they read, view, or see in the Library setting. Library records in most states are protected by confidentiality statutes that require that a court order be obtained before the library divulges information concerning the individual’s use of the library.

Recently in my role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association, I have been involved in an effort to begin a National Conversation on Privacy. As an initial step, small discussion groups have been held in all areas of our country to gather information from citizens on what privacy concerns they have. Information from these meetings is being evaluated and work is progressing towards the development of a format for this National Conversation.

Some of the questions asked in these small discussion groups are ones that all of us need to think about as we look at how our society influences our ability to maintain our ‘personal space’ in our daily interactions. Think about the following:

1. What is important to you personally about privacy?

2. What information about yourself are you comfortable in giving out?

3. How do you feel about privacy? What concerns do you have about privacy?

4. What types of information could hurt a person if made public?

5. What information about others do you feel you need to know?

6. What trade-offs or compromises would you be willing to make with your privacy?

Think about these questions and how you would address each one. Discuss this with your family and friends. I will keep readers informed as to the progress of the National Conversation on Privacy.

So long for now!

Core Values – First Post Wednesday, Jun 18 2008 

In my May 16 post I promised to discuss the Library’s core values. As it is now mid June the time has come to deliver on that promise.

What is a value? The Free Dictionary defines a value as “a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable”. This is as good a definition as any. In reality, a value is something that is held in high regard or esteem by an institution or individual. Values drive anything that an institution or individual does whether they are stated or unstated.

In committing to a set of values the Williamsburg Regional Library is declaring the institutional basis for its programs and services.

The current Williamsburg Regional Library strategic plan lists seven core values. They are :

  • We value free and confidential access to information.
  • We value all residents in our community.
  • We value a literate community.
  • We value strength found in diversity.
  • We value our staff.
  • We value ethical, fiscally responsible stewardship of public resources.
  • We value working cooperatively with groups in our community.

In this post I will briefly discuss the first four of these values, leaving the last three for a later post.

We value free and confidential access to information – The Library’s mission statement indicates “free access to information is a foundation of democracy”. In fulfilling our mission statement the Library supports the right of residents to select the information appropriate for their individual needs. Access to this information is not restricted, except where required by law, and the library through its confidentiality policy and procedures ensures that this access will be remain private.

We value all residents in our community – The Library pledges to provide each individual with courteous, respectful, and friendly service. We value individuals input regarding all that we do. I enjoy receiving “Ask the Director” Comment Cards and have had many delightful (and to be honest, some not so delightful) discussions with individuals as a result. As we look into future revisions of our strategic plan this value may be clarified to define community to being the residents of our funding jurisdictions. As recent events have shown, the Library is not able to provide full service to non-residents of our funding jurisdictions.

We value a literate community – As our strategic plan indicates, “Literacy is important to the successful functioning of a democratic society”. It is also essential to the successful operation of a public library. Without literate users, libraries cease to exist. Through all our programs, services and collections the Library promotes lifelong literacy. One of my community services, as mentioned in an earlier post, is serving on the board of a local adult literacy provider. This service has given me an increased awareness of the value of literacy to both individuals and society at large.

We value strength found in diversity – Our community is a diverse community embracing many cultures, values, and lifestyles. The adult literacy provider mentioned above had as students in the past year individuals from 50 countries speaking 32 different languages. Each summer brings many international student workers to the library on a regular basis. Through personal interactions with the many members of our community we are enriched and become a stronger and more vital institution.

So long for now!

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