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The Closing Keynote: Trust, Facts, and Democracy: How Libraries Fit Into the Biggest Issues of These Times

Lee Rainie and Jane Dysart

Lee Rainie and Jane Dysart

Popular and frequent CIL speaker Lee Rainie, Director, Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center, keynoted the final day of CIL2019. Some of Pew’s primary stakeholders are librarians and are parodied regularly on The Onion. Since the 2016 election Pew has paid attention to the cultural stresses going on. There is an interplay among trust, facts, and democracy; libraries intersect with these factors.


Trust in the Federal government is stuck at a historic low. There is little overlap in the sources trusted for political news, and audiences have changed. Many users see social media as an especially negative venue for political discussion compared with face-to-face; they are much more angry. People will do things on a computer that they would never do publicly. 41% have experienced harassment; 66% have witnessed it. Libraries, the military, and firefighters do a great job of keeping things civil. 63% of people say that libraries are greatly important to their community. Here is some data on people’s trust in sources of information; notice that librarians have a special place.

Trust in info sources

Trust is very localized; people have the hope that community discussions can be a solution.


The interplay between trust and facts is close. Most say that Clinton and Trump supporters cannot agree on basic facts. Fake news is seen as a problem; 23% of people report sharing fabricated news. Political awareness, digital savviness and trust in the media all play large roles in the ability to distinguish between factual and opinion news statements. Younger Americans are better able to distinguish. Gen Z is now in college and entering the workforce. The misinformation problem is now a personal one; 26% of Americans have had false info posted about them. Critical posts get more likes, comments, and shares than other posts, so the attention economy rewards angry posts. It is hard to push back against that. Most people say that fake news leaves Americans confused about the facts.

Libraries have contributed to their communities because they help people decide what information they can trust.

Library contributions to their communities

People understand how valuable libraries are in many ways; 75% of them say that local libraries serve their learning and educational needs well.


Democrats and Republications are more divided than in the past. 3% of Republicans are consistently liberal and 6% of Democrats are consistently conservative. Trump’s job rating is more polarized than for any president dating back 6 decades. The country is viewed as falling short on a range of widely supported democratic values. People are in despair about political issues and think that democracy is not working. There is a rising antipathy toward the other political party. People don’t just disagree with people on the other side; they hate them. More people now expect things to get worse; most have little or no confidence in the political wisdom of the American people.  The public is broadly pessimistic about the future of America.

What people say they want or need is like a playbook or profile of librarians, who are the best coaches of all.

What people want

People see libraries as a way to upgrade their literacy. They want protection in the complexities of privacy and guidance about how to be smarter citizens. Libraries are well positioned in the culture. It is a daunting task but people are hungry for the special sauce that libraries can deliver to them.

From Collection to Connection: Engaging Community Spaces: The Wednesday Evening Session

(L-R) Jane Dysart, Carmen Pereira, Fedele Canosa

(L-R) Jane Dysart, Carmen Pereira, Fedele Canosa

This session by two highly qualified architects from Mecanoo Architects dealt with libraries’physical spaces. Libraries are very significant buildings in the fabric of a city and are literally an extension of public space. They embody the society and culture of the communities they serve and have changed from book collection places to spaces connecting many of the services they offer.  They try to draw their audience into the areas they serve. We have gone from a passive model to an active multifunctional one which has a major influence on the design of the buildings.

Mecanoo is headquartered in Delft, Netherlands, with offices in Asia and the US. It has 120 employees, 40% of whom are female. Its approach to design is people, place, purpose, in that order. People are the constant throughout any project, and hopefully will influence the design of the buildings to be pleasurable.

Mecanoo design philosophy

Although they work on new construction, they are increasingly being asked to do renovations. Through their projects, they learn about libraries as an emblem of the city.  Libraries interact with us over the whole course of our lives: many different groups use them, which is both a challenge and an inspiration.

Here are 4 recent library projects; many more are described on the Mecanoo website.

Delft Library

Delft Library: The roof is a landscape that gives back to the community. It is a meeting place for people. It is in front of a conference center which creates a balance. The library has become a tourist attraction. The cone is an iconic landmark, which makes the library a cathedral and an unforgettable space. It is open from 8 AM to 2 AM and is heavily used by students, especially at exam times.

Birmingham library

Library of Birmingham, UK. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and has many identities and a young population. To understand how people move through the city, start by visiting other buildings to see cultural attitudes. The library is a vertical building; how are people brought up through it? The journey through the building is a way of exploring it and triggers curiosity for new visitors.

Dream for Birmingham library

All the functions wanted to be on the ground floor, so the building was extended tod let people pass over the roof and see the activities of the library even if they don‘t actually go in. In the rotunda, many different functions take place. On the rooftop there is a garden that is maintained by volunteers–a balcony for the city.

Mid-Manhattan Library

Mid-Manhattan Library renovation: The original building was a department store built in 1915 and was not a pleasant place. There was no daylight because windows had been blocked up.

Mid-Manhatan Library goals

More space was added for more books, seats were added, and low shelves were installed to create more capacity for other activities. The building was transformed. A roof terrace became a public space.

MLK Memorial Library

MLK Jr. Memorial Library renovation. Some people wanted the building removed; others wanted to keep it. It was used a lot by homeless people.  It was necessary to think about how to create a safe space. People were scared to use the stairs because you could not see any other areas of the building. The books got the daylight, not the people.

Daylight for people

The solution was to create 2 “cores” for public and staff with open stairs. A slide for children was added next to the stairs. There were 2 ramps to the underground parking garage. One of them was removed to create a corner cafe. A wall along the sidewalk was taken down so the inside became visible. Space for informal performance seating was added. A function space (fab lab) was created on lower level. The auditorium was moved to the top level so people had to go through the library to get to it. A Great Hall at the entry with seating and an open Grand Reading Room have lots of daylight. In the future, there is capability to add a rooftop pavilion with a public terrace and garden.



NOAA Institutional Repository as a Catalyst for Organizational Change

Jennifer Fagan-Fry

Jennifer Fagan-Fry

Jennifer Fagan-Fry, NOAA IR Manager, NOAA Central and Regional Libraries, said that NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce, and its research covers from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the sun. The central library is a network of over 20 libraries across the country. It collects current and historical NOAA publications and data and maintains the collection inherited from NOAA’s predecessor agency. The NOAA IR includes over 18,000 NOAA authored publications and sponsored ones, and grey literature (Technical Reports and Memoranda) dating from 1970 to the present. The IR is open to the public. NOAA has an IR to comply with the 2003 White House Office of Science and Technology policy memo that mandated public access to research.

Before the IR: NOAA was formed in 1970 and consisted of 6 different areas of research. The research was organized into “Silos of Excellence”. There was a lack of agency-wide policies and procedures and little communication between the offices. Access points were isolated. Publications were scattered across the web: on journal publisher sites, on NOAA office and program sites, in university IRs, and on social networking sites.

After the IR was established, it became the primary place for NOAA publications. OA publishing increased and is now a requirement for some grants. There is an easier submission process to the IR so people are encouraged to publish in OA whenever possible. There is a movement towards standardized publishing process. The IR is designed to provide long term access and preservation of research. Communication between offices has improved. Data sets have been linked as have been publications, R&D projects and outcomes, and grant information.  Coordination between offices for submission has improved so duplication has decreased.

The library’s role: increased profile and services. It has become more vocal and is doing more outreach. Anything in the IR is not in the library catalog which has caused a shift in cataloging practices. The IR is indexed by Google, but the catalog is not.

The biggest change for the library and IR is enforcement of Section 508 which requires electronic information and technologies to be available for people with disabilities. It was not enforced at NOAA prior to the IR. Now, all submissions to the IR go through 508 quality checks, which caused a lot of resistance and a drop in submissions. A LibGuide was created, and submissions increased and have exceeded previous levels. This was the biggest cultural shift in the agency.

Ongoing challenges:

  • Getting buy in from stakeholders, authors, etc. and creating an enforcement mechanism for submissions or participation.
  • Resources: tools, staff to process and manage submissions.

Going forward, the library will become the publishing clearninghouse for NOAA, data sharing, ORCID integration, and internal reporting tools will be established.

ILS Migrations

(L-R) Mei Xie, John DeLooper, Lotta Sanchez, Devlyn Courtier

(L-R) Mei Xie, John DeLooper, Lotta Sanchez, Devlyn Courtier

This panel described some experiences in migrating Integrated Library Systems (ILSs). John DeLooper, Web Services/Online Learning Librarian at Lehman College, said that ILS migrations are hard but doable. There are 5 key lessons to be learned (each of the panelists discussed one of them). The history of ILSs is important because we can learn from it. As computers evolved, so did ILSs, and this has continued. People have been doing ILSs for 50 years; approximately 800 libraries change every year. It is a normal part of the library operations process.

Here are the lessons learned:

  1. Lotta Sanchez, Library Technology Associate, Hudson County (NJ) Community College (HCCC): Know your needs and whether migration is right for you. Do you need or want to migrate? Ask yourself the cost/benefit question and know that there intangible costs. Staff might ask why a migration is happening; be sure to cooperate and answer them. It is important to get their support. Look at the future and see if the new ILS will meet your needs. Make sure you have the budget and time to do the migration and that you can do it without affecting current circulation.
  2. Devlin Courtier, Library Associate, HCCC: Know your people and your vendors. Things will be different but don’t worry. How much time will this project take? What do your users want and expect? If they like something, don’t get rid of it. Do you need a vendor? Larger libraries may not. How reliable is the product? Make sure support will be provided when you need it. See what is in the product that you need and what you don’t. Be aware of local laws regarding bidding, privacy, and OS requirements.
  3. John DeLooper: Make a plan but be ready for change. HCCC’s migration took about 2 years from start to finish. Changes such as unexpected issues, finances, and a new library Dean will occur.
  4. Mei Xie, Technical Services Librarian, HCCC: Data is key. Conduct testing on test server.  It was more challenging and more complicated than expected, so an experienced vendor was needed to facilitate the process.  (They chose Koha.) Data cleanup is time-consuming.Data cleanupMake sure every field and subfield in the MARC framework are defined and added when needed.

    By experimenting on the test server, they learned Koha better and established an efficient communication channel with their vendor.  With vendor support, they saved time, guaranteed a smooth migration, and became more confident with the new system.

  5. Lotta Sanchez: Identify legacy processes and opportunities to improve. Public services/circulation: Koha vendors provided training. The old system and new one were used separately side by side which provided comparisons. You must expect mistakes with something new so must be flexible and learn.

Post implementation and conclusions:

  • Use test servers and add them to the new ILS package; they will continue to be useful. (Many vendors have this as an option.)
  • Change continues.
  • Migration is a huge process.
  • Systems track things differently and it can be hard to migrate them.