Recent Events

Library Futures

In this morning’s Talk Libraries, Erik Boekesteijn interviewed Matt Finch, whose  website describes him a consultant whose “work spans scenario planning and foresight, policy consultation and strategic direction, community outreach and content development, plus facilitation and training for staff at all levels.” He began his talk by stating that “All roads lead to libraryland, particularly when you’re talking about the future.”

Matt uses scenario planning to discover blind spots as organizations and governments try to foresee the future. He is not in the prediction business, preferring his role to be that of a listener. Reminding us that since we don’t have any actual data from the future, we have to recognize that the future is uncertain and can’t be adequately represented by a graph. One thing that is clear, however, that life after 2020 will be different, due to the pandemic and an economic downturn. Libraries, he thinks, are very likely to encounter drastically reduced funding.

Given that scenario, Matt recommended asking what your library can give up. You can’t continue to add services without the money to support them. Another recommendation: Look for partnerships that can help with the funding issues. Also, become friends with your procurement department. Procurement will be vital going forward.

As user experience, buildings also need future thinking. Matt applauded the National Library of the Netherlands for showcasing the library building to Parliament.

What is the future of the written word? Just think about a future where technology has perfected speech to text and text to speech. What would that mean for libraries, given that their mission is very tied to written to word. Whose voices have power? Who gets heard and who doesn’t?

Reimagining the digital experience raises difficult questions. If librarians are just gatekeepers, why does anyone need us? Librarians can be seen as obstructing value not adding it. When it comes to news, are librarians viewed as paternalistic, telling people that we can differentiate between true and fake news. He also noted that law librarians are becoming knowledge managers.

Librarians used to swim among the physical shelves of their libraries. But we have a different power dynamic from, say, physicians or lawyers. We create place where people can swim by themselves. Now we are swimming in new information environments. The trick for libraries: How do we help people navigate information without saying we know what is right and what is wrong?

We should respect that people have different perspectives and help a movement to a more compassionate world.



The Story on Storyhouse

Here are some highlights from this morning’s interview of Alex Clifton, Artistic Director of Storyhouse, by Erik Boekesteijn: Storyhouse is in an art deco building in Chester, a mid-size U.K. city that serves about 138,000 people. It is a combination of library, cafe, theatre and cinema, open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The building integrates all those elements and has no lockable doors. Alex says it’s full of life,  a busy and playful place where people can discover new ideas. It puts poetry on its walls and floors.

Before the pandemic, it has 2,000 activities and 1 million visitors. Now that it offers many services online, it hosts 80 events every month. To deal with the inevitable digital exclusion, it sends materials, such as arts & crafts activities for children, through the mail. Volunteers on bikes also deliver materials.

The library is a hybrid organization that reflects its vibrant and diverse city, empowering minority communities. It works with 113 charities to do this.

Intriguingly, Alex once performed Storyhouse’s annual report on stage. The Young Leaders program gives marginalized youths the opportunity to build program activities within the building, giving them full access to the building. That has also moved online.

Storyhouse has a very local focus and believes relationships with local libraries are very important.

Google’s Dan Russell on Search

According to Google researcher (who also calls himself a cyber-tribal-techno-cognitive-anthropologist) Dan Russell, most people learn how to search from friends (and a little bit from classes) and they remember stories. He tells stories about what he’s learned from searching in his book The Joy of Search (MIT Press) and his wonderful blog (

People have mental models about libraries and what the library does. Is Google omniscient?

How people search, identify, locate, evaluate sources.

How does Google work? Is it: Completely keyword search; Fulltext indexing; Partial text indexing; Link anchors; Blended results; What’s covered in the index?

When he asks people to draw a picture about how search works: 33% have the word “magic” in them.

Without a mental model, you can’t make predictions. What breaks your mental model of Google? It has a staggering amount of books, video, images, and documents.

But there are still difficult questions

What was the population of Japan in 1490?

How much apartment housing should San Francisco have?

It’s good to know what you can and cannot search. You can search on symbols, images

He can search on an image of what looks like an insect bite and surrounding rash on his son’s arm, but it’s not likely to tell him much

There’s an app that will identify mushrooms but how reliable is it? (only survivors get to rate the app)

Aerial photo of building in Palo Alto from years ago– Use time slider on Google Earth


What can you search for? What’s possible? Where to look? Google StreetView, Earth, others

Go through various iterations to get to answer.


He then told two search stories based on his experience, one about a phone number in Warsaw and the other a historical account of Perry on Delos. These are taken from his book and well worth reading.

It’s important to remember that not everything is on the web

Use CTR-F to find on a page. Surprising to me, Dan claims that 90% of people don’t know this trick.

Know the conventions of the culture:

Spoof sites (part of genre of internet culture is creating spoof sites

You tube is where people go to learn – do we know how to point people to high quality videos


The way we’re asking questions is changing

It’s always been a skill

Now it’s a critical skill

An interesting trick to find information about a website without going to the website is to search sitename –site:sitename

Site assessment is a basic skill

EPA Facts ( versus Environmental Policy Alliance

We need to design info systems to support informacy and continual learning

We need to teach our students about how to use all of our information systems

Augment skills of ordinary people

Search is not intuitive.

The latest post on SearchResearch is all about how  and how often searchers fact-checked. Well worth the read!



Erik Boekesteijn interviews IFLA Prez Christine Mackenzie

In the first of stories from around the globe, and showing how global librarianship really is, Erik Boekesteijn from his office at the Royal Library of the Netherlands in The Hague interviews IFLA President Christine Mackenzie, who’s in Melbourne Australia

How did Christine get interested in libraries? She grew up on dairy farm as one of 8 children. Her great loves are reading and cooking. Devoured books so she could be in other people’s lives. She’s been a librarian for over 40 years. Biggest influence on her career:

1.A job exchange in 1990 at the Baltimore public libraries, changed her whole focus about customer service and what libraries could be

2.Did management course and was challenged to do something you can’t do: She jumped out of an airplane (with a parachute on). “Well, then I can do anything.” (Erik still hasn’t parachuted out of a plane

3.Bertelson Foundation of public librarians around the world – led to her interest in international librarianship

IFLA ( has been around for 93 years. What does it mean to library world? It’s the global voice of libraries and very involved in advocacy work.

IFLA Global Vision

Strategic Plan

Structure to support strategy

IFLA Roadmap is transformative

SDGs (U.N. Sustainable Development Goals)– how should we move toward sustainable libraries

Librarians can make people aware of goals. We should all learn about SDGs

Library Map of the World

Her presidential theme: Let’s work together: Great examples of libraries and library associations working together and working together with government and industry. Great barrier to working together is us. We need to have an open mind. Removing the barrier that is us and become part of solution. People loved learning new things when she initiated the 23 Things project in Australia.

Encourages librarians to take what they need from the strategic plan.

We are becoming location agnostic. Librarians’ role in 3D, AR, traditional ways of cataloging, describing may not be appropriate.

She would love to be able to travel again, see other libraries, and talk to colleagues in person. Great advance in virtual conferences and workshops and we’re getting better at it. It is very exciting time.