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Author Archive | Kathy Dempsey

Using Magic-Like Muti-Touch Tables in Libraries

Librarians who are looking for high-tech, wow-factor ways to excite and engage customers should check out what’s happening in the area of multi-touch tables. A session by two Dutch librarians showed off how they are using the tables now and what new applications they’re building into the next generation.

Multi-Touch Table Presentation

Jaap van de Geer (R) and Erik Boekesteijn (L) of DOK Lab in Delft, Netherlands, have been working with programming colleague Koen Rotteveel to create new ways for people to use these surfaces. Multi-touch tables act like the touch-screen or your iPads or smart phones, except they are larger & more functional. Already in DOK, the library concept center, they’ve been using multi-touch tables for projects like one with the Cultural Heritage Center of Delft, where they’ve taken 25,000 pictures that were “hidden away in a dusty archive” and put the digital versions in the table for people to explore. Here’s a video that shows how it works, although Koen has created many more advances since this time.

Jaap told the crowd, “We strongly believe in entrepreneurial libraries.” Projects like this one, which was developed for DOK and is now being offered for sale to other organizations, prove that librarians can be developers.

Building Support for Change

One very common question is, “How can I convince my admin / staff / colleagues to change the way they work to incorporate new strategies?” So I couldn’t resist attending the session entitled Building Support for Change & Customer Relationships.

The presenter who addressed this aspect most directly was Christina de Castell, manager of online information & news at Vancouver Public Library in Canada. Budget cuts forced her to implement major changes in staffing, workflow, and the physical setup of her floor of VPL. Without going into all the changes she made, I’d like to share how she convinced staffers to work with her and to support the changes, many of which would affect them greatly.

  • Tell staff that it’s OK to try new things and fail.
  • Assign all staffers to be on one of the project’s “action teams.”
  • Set goals together; be open and transparent.
  • Have brainstorming sessions.
  • Invite and listen to feedback.
  • Have weekly progress meetings that were informative, but not mandatory.

During this project, de Castell encouraged collaboration and made the planning part of the fabric of people’s jobs. When they brainstormed, writing ideas on giant sticky notes that hung on the walls, she left those sticky notes up so everyone could see and ruminate on the ideas. The bottom line was this: Bring everyone along for the ride. Let them give opinions and work together to shape the change.

Christina de Castell

Christina de Castell

Engaging Your Community with Tablets and Social Computing

I was very interested in attending a session called Repositioning with Tablets, Social Media, & Outreach.

The first speaker, Tim Donahue from Montana State University, discussed what tablets are being used for in his library (roving reference, QR code reading, & brainstorming sessions) and their implications (since they’re easier to read from than to type on, they are “ideal platforms” for library content consumption).

The second speaker, Allen Cho from the University of British Columbia, talked about a government-funded project to gather Chinese-Canadian stories and all the community engagement it prompted. (Learn more at

The final speaker, Arlene Keller from Multnomah County Library in Portland, OR, discussed their successful Facebook page, which has more than 15,000 fans. She attributed the success to many things, chief among them was starting with good planning and policymaking and knowing what content customers want. (One way to do that is to observe how they interact with each other on the page and what they like to discuss.) They also use FB’s statistics to measure usage and ROI.

Engaging Your Community with Tablets and Social Computing

Engaging Your Community with Tablets and Social Computing

Mobile and social computing are changing everything and libraries need to keep up with their users’ expectations.

Advocacy Activity in Calif. School Libraries

The Internet@Schools track opened with a presentation on advocacy called Changing the Story: The California Campaign for Strong School Libraries. Jackie Siminitus, VP of Communication at the Calif. School Library Assoc., gave an overview of the work that went into setting up the campaign.

The “old story” was books and literacy; the “new story” is that technology is now a big part of school libraries. “We need to get outside of library land and tell that story,” she stressed.

Advocacy Activity in Calif. School Libraries

Advocacy Activity in Calif. School Libraries

Start-up activities have included logo design, podcasts, and a Cafe Press store that sells merchandise which brings in some money to help pay for promotion. The group invested in the PR Newswire service in order to have a professional platform to spread the word. They also built a campaign website at

One of the campaign’s main messages is that strong school libraries build strong students. Siminitus also discussed the importance of using the right words that fit the groups of decision-makers you’re trying to reach. School administrators and policymakers need to hear “digital” a lot (as in “digital literacy”) along with words like “job” and “career” in order to show that teacher-librarians are up-to-date and to help them connect the dots between K-12 libraries and future sucess for students.

Quite a Zoo on Sunday Night

A big crowd turned out for the Gaming & Gadgets Petting Zoo Sunday evening.

People were playing board games and sharing their tablets and other devices to discover new and interesting technology.

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Parting Thoughts, Parting Shots

As near as I can remember, this was my 10th or 11th ALA Annual. It’s been 24 hours since I got home, and I’m still mentally processing it all, but I have come up with a few parting thoughts.

I even wore sneakers to the Ritz and didn't get thrown out. (Judith Gibbons, who wrote my Foreword, wore nicer shoes.)

I even wore sneakers to the Ritz and didn't get thrown out. (Judith Gibbons, who wrote my Foreword, wore nicer shoes.)

First, I must agree with Barbara Brynko’s recent post: Have Comfort, Will Travel. It doesn’t take 10 ALAs to figure out that women should leave their high heels at home. I’m all about foot-friendly shoes, but still, in past years there were times when the final steps of my day were pure agony. Not this time! Since I recently had some foot problems flare up, this year I totally threw fashion to the wind and wore nothing but quality sneakers the entire time. And it was the first year that my feet still feel totally fine after 4 grueling days. Advice for all women: Nobody there cares what your feet look like! Do yourselves a favor and put health before haute. Or put a podiatrist’s kids through college. It’s your call.


On that same note, I want to thank Gale yet again for providing the buses that make our conference lives possible. On  one of my rides, the monitors in the bus were scrolling through Gale ads and info, and one screen shocked me: It said that Gale had been sponsoring these ALA buses since 1965. That’s as long as I’ve been alive! We love you, Gale!!

bus_300x225 As a nice tie-in, Gale also had a drawing for a (very tiny) bus full of prizes. Such a fun treat, and generous too.

I have to say what a thrill it was to launch my book at this conference! And here’s a big shout-out to the Swap & Shop committee, especially chair Sally Lederer who kindly allowed Info Today and I to have my book signing there. As far as we know, it’s the first book launch to ever happen at the Swap. We made history!

This 09 exhibit hall seemed smaller than in previous years. First I thought it was just b/c I wore sneakers, but no — ALA reports that it was smaller. I’m sorry for vendors who missed being there, but I did find it more manageable to cover!

Finally, I love it when ALA is in Chicago. Such a welcoming city, such a beautiful downtown. And such great things to see, if you can carve out an hour to see any of them.

Jenny Levine doing a demo

Jenny Levine doing a demo

BTW, I took many more pictures than I could ever post here. For instance, here’s one of Jenny Levine demonstrating ALA Connect.  If you want to see more, hop over to my Flickr site where I’ll be adding shots for days to come.

Lastly, a quick follow-up on my last post on the Closing General Session. After hearing Steve Lopez tell his story about homeless musical wonder Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, I eagerly dug into my copy of The Soloist. (Thanks again, Penguin publishing.) That was only 3 days ago, and I’ve just finished. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced through a book like this, but it’s a fascinating story and an easy read. I recommend it.

sign-2010_300x400 I hope that all of you enjoyed smooth, safe travels home, and I look forward to seeing you at the next conference!

~Kathy Dempsey

Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter