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Quiet? Libraries?

U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, will be interviewed this morning by Paul Holdengraber (New York Public Library). Wonder if they’ll mention this New York Times article about libraries and quiet? Opinions seem to differ on whether libraries should be quiet places for study and reflection or whether introducing a little noise isn’t all that bad an idea

Two Story Tellers Converse About Libraries of the Future

Paul and Erik talk libraries

Paul and Erik talk libraries

Paul Holdengraber proved to be witty, engaging, and feisty when he interviewed Vint Cerf at the opening keynote. On Day 2 he was the interviewee and was even more insightful and delightful. I talked to Erik Boekesteijn before the start and he was a man on a mission to elicit Paul’s story about libraries and engaging people—how public conversations can make libraries “irresistible.”

(While Jane has already posted the archived video of the 45-minute conversation, I just want to convey some highlights and key quotes here. Permanent link:

Paul, as director of public programs at the New York Public Library, is founder, curator, and voice of “LIVE from the NYPL.” He pours his energies into creating stimulating programs to bring books, ideas, and people together. His role is to make the Library’s lions roar—to “oxygenate” the library. People ask him how he comes up with his ideas for conversations in the library.

“I’m porous—I spend a lot of time listening to people. I spent a lot of time at the dinner table arguing with my father. I bring people together—and have the library become a place for exchange of ideas.”

What an eclectic and knowledgeable guy! He told Erik, “I believe in the friction of dialog. If you ask me any difficult questions, I will relish them.”

He basically hitchhiked around the world and spent an enormous amount of time in his childhood exploring with words. He’s not a librarian. He taught at many universities, worked at the Getty Museum, and began a program at the Institute for Art and Cultures at the Los Angeles County Museum. He was then recruited by NYPL.

First he changed the name – from Public Education Programs, PET, to Live from the NYPL. He actively worked to gain a younger audience. He changed the program times so people could come after work. He changed the format. He works to make the programs surprising, entertaining, exciting—it’s a happening. While he says it’s a struggle to pull it off every day, it must look effortless and easy. “You have to be passionate about what you do. Get to know your audience.”

He brings very large groups together – and makes the extremely private experience of reading public. He calls it “cognitive theater.” He brought Norman Mailer together with Gunter Grass. The program also has an artist in residence – Flash Rosenberg – she does absolutely wonderful, witty “conversation portraits.” Check it out at

The push to provide gaming and popular activities, as espoused by Erik and others, strikes him as somewhat desperate – why should the library give young people the same as what’s on the street just to get them into the library? Give them something new and exciting.

Paula J. Hane

ITI News Bureau Chief

Twitter Day @ CIL

Wow what a day!  We, our conference twitter bunch using #CIL2009 in our tweets, are a top trending topic on Twitter today!  We rock!  Follow the Twitter stream for CIL here.  We figure there about 60 tweets a minute from CIL.  Amazing.

Following this morning’s keynote, I was walking with our keynote speaker Paul Holdengraber of NYPL who was checking his blackberry.  He showed me a message from a NYC friend that said, “You really wowed them at CIL”.  Paul said to me,”This came in  not a half hour after my talk.  How did she know?”  I said, I suspected she saw it on Twitter.  I shared with him the stream of comments about his talk.  He was most impressed with everyone’s comments.  Apparently the NYPL has been trying to talk Paul into twittering and suggested he would have lots of followers.  Well, Paul, we know you’ll probably have at least 2000 information professionals who will be following you as soon as you sign in and probably many more thousands around the world.  See on Twitter soon.

Jane Dysart, Conference Program Chair

Instant Gratification

Jane and Paul study the feedback after the keynote

Jane and Paul study the feedback after the keynote

Talk about instant gratification… right after the keynote with Paul Holdengraber, he and Jane Dysart search the Twitter feeds to see what attendees thought of his interview.