Presentation to the Retired Men’s Club of Arlington

I had the great pleasure of being invited to the Retired Men’s Club of Arlington on January 8th to speak about libraries.  I had such a wonderful time and absolutely loved the club. I am many years away from retirement, but I want to join the club as soon as I do retire! Here is a description of the presentation and the slides:

With the rise of the internet, the recent popularity of e-books and the prevalence of smartphones in today’s society, are the days of the public library numbered? Absolutely not, according to Ryan Livergood, Director of Libraries for the Town of Arlington and Treasurer of the Massachusetts Library Association. Libraries are busier than ever, and Ryan believes the public library has never been more vital to the community it serves. Ryan will tell the story of how today’s 21st century library is different from the library of the 20th century, and the stories of individuals that are using today’s libraries to improve their lives. He will also discuss how the story of today’s library parallels the story of the rapidly changing world we live in today…how not just libraries, but all organizations, will have to adapt to meet the changing habits and needs of the individuals we serve.


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Serving our unique communities

In an effort to drum up focus group participation for our strategic planning process, I wrote an Open Book column for the Arlington Advocate and the Robbins Library blog discussing how public libraries are unique from one another, and need to be unique to serve the specific needs of their communities: 

When I am traveling, whether around New England, across the country, or even internationally, one of my favorite things to do is visit the public library in the community I am visiting. I do this for a lot of reasons, sometimes to take advantage of free internet access, and sometimes to learn more about the place I am visiting. However, the main reason I visit these public libraries is because I am fascinated by how all libraries are so unique from one another in so many different ways. For example, you just never know what you will encounter inside a library. I will never forget when I visited the Provincetown Public Library for the first time and discovered a half scale replica of a fishing schooner inside!

Sometimes you will discover a library pet in residence, such as a cat, guinea pig, dwarf bunny, hermit crab, or fish. Public library buildings are often so interesting, and they vary greatly from one another. On one end of the spectrum, there is a refurbished 1960’s English telephone booth that has been converted into a library in Clinton Corners, New York. On the other is a former Walmart that has been converted into perhaps the largest single story public library in the country located in McAllen, Texas, complete with a full snack bar called “The Hungry Scholar”.

You can create a beautiful library out of an abandoned Walmart!

Many libraries have unique collections; items that various public libraries across the country circulate include such things as musical instruments, telescopes, cake pans, fishing gear, and even seeds. Think the only types of programming you will find at public libraries across the country are storytimes for children and book clubs for adults? Think again. From hog-butchering demonstrations to libraraoke (karaoke at the library) to competitive LEGO robotics competitions, there are certainly some unique programs you can discover at public libraries everywhere. Many public libraries offer services like technology help or job search assistance, but a growing number offer digital media labs where patrons can share and create videos, music, and other digital projects. Other public libraries have opened makerspaces, like the Westport Connecticut Public Library MakerSpace, where people can collaborate and create art and inventions using high-tech tools like 3D printers.

Oak Park Public Library has turned an abandoned library space into an “Idea Box”, which they describe as “space that each month provides a new and dynamic participatory community experience”.

Why are public libraries so unique from one another? Sometimes, it is out of necessity, but more often than not, public libraries create their uniqueness in order to best serve their unique communities. How do public libraries know how to serve their unique communities? Through learning about their communities by soliciting feedback and listening to the people in their communities. At both the Robbins Library and Fox Branch Library we always welcome feedback from our community, and we provide several ways for individuals to provide feedback. In fact, there have never been more ways for you to provide us feedback. Whether you want to come by and talk to us directly, give us a call, send us an e-mail, send us an instant chat message, post on our Facebook page, send us a tweet, or anonymously drop a comment into our suggestion box, you certainly have lots of options. Next week, we are providing another way for you to provide us your feedback, feedback which will help shape the future direction of our Libraries. As part of our strategic planning process, we are holding a series of focus groups next week on Monday, October 28th and Wednesday, October 30th. You can find more details on the times and locations of these focus groups here. Your participation in the focus groups next week would really help us better serve you in the future.

So please, consider taking a little time to help us out and provide your feedback on what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and what we might do to improve. Maybe you think the library is perfect and doesn’t need to change anything at all, or maybe you think the library needs to improve by adding a seed lending collection and a full snack bar. Either way, we want your feedback! And remember, the next time you are traveling out of town, stop by the local public library and have a look around. You never know what you might discover!

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Our eBooks/eContent challenge and what we are doing to address it

Here is a column I wrote for our award-winning “The Open Book” Arlington Advocate column recently that discusses the challenges we face with eBooks/eContent (including challenges with pricing, access, and dealing with growing demand). It was originally published in the Arlington Advocate and can be seen on their Wicked Local Arlington website here. Check it out below:

Recently, I received an e-mail from a patron concerned about the limited availability of ebooks in the Minuteman Library Network.

He did an investigation and discovered that the Boston Public Library has more library ebooks available than Minuteman, and he also discovered that several bestsellers weren’t available from either Minuteman or the BPL in the ebook format.

His observations are absolutely correct, the state of electronic books, and eContent in general, isn’t as good as it needs to be in the Minuteman Library Network. Unlike the collections at our individual libraries, all the Minuteman libraries go in together as a group to purchase our ebooks collection although there is an exception to this which I will mention momentarily.

Despite the tremendous increase in library ebook usage we have seen over the past three years, finding the funding to keep up with this growing demand is a major challenge. Unfortunately, ebooks for libraries are expensive. Douglas County Libraries in Colorado release a report each month that illustrates library pricing versus consumer pricing for ebooks. You can view the report by visiting

Libraries often pay four times what consumers pay for ebooks, and in some cases, even more. Additionally, many publishers don’t even allow libraries to purchase ebooks in the first place. Thus, the two major reasons that there are not more library ebooks available for patrons are: 1) many publishers don’t allow their ebooks to be purchased by libraries, and 2) ebooks are very expensive for libraries.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the American Library Association and institutions such as the New York Public Library, the major publishers are starting to come around and are slowly starting to make their ebooks available to libraries. However, the existing model for library ebook purchasing, which perhaps I should be calling library ebooks licensing, because libraries can only license ebooks at this point, is broken and needs to be fixed.

Here are some of the things were are doing to address our challenges with ebooks:

1) The service that provides ebooks for Minuteman, the Boston Public Library, and most other libraries across the country is called OverDrive. Even though Arlington goes in with the other libraries in Minuteman and makes a group purchase of ebooks, OverDrive has provided an option for individual libraries to opt into called OverDrive Advantage, which is the exception I referred to above. The way OverDrive Advantage works is that individual libraries can purchase ebooks and downloadable audiobooks that only their residents can access. To see what OverDrive Advantage titles we have, you first need to log in to your library account at, and then you can see the titles we purchase that are available exclusively for Arlington residents.

2) The Massachusetts Library System is working on a statewide ebook platform project which will hopefully address some of the cost and availability issues libraries have with ebooks. You can learn more about this project by visiting The Robbins Library is serving as one of the 50 beta libraries for this project.

3) We are also a partner library of a grassroots nonprofit called Library Renewal you can learn about by visiting Library Renewal wants to build a new platform to help libraries acquire eContent at sustainable prices.

4) We always like to remind our patrons that there is another library ebooks collection they can access to expand their options. Residents of Massachusetts can sign up for an eCard with the Boston Public Library. This eCard provides access to all of the Boston Public Library’s electronic resources, including ebooks. You can learn more about the BPL eCard by visiting

Libraries across the country are struggling with the challenge of satisfying the growing community demands for ebooks and eContent. We are actively addressing these challenges and I am optimistic that we will do a much better job of meeting the ebook needs of our community in the future.

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2012 NELA Annual Conference

The 2012 NELA Annual Conference was fantastic. Not only did I give a presentation discussing our experience as a partner library with Library Renewal, but also I had the chance to sit on a great panel and give a presentation on some of our successes using social media to connect with patrons and promote library services. You can check out my slides on social media, essentially the top ten guidelines for connecting through social media (learned through a few successes and several failures) below:


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SEFLIN 2011: America Runs on Mobile

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend and present two breakout sessions at the SEFLIN 2011 Bridges to Technology Conference. It was nice to get a chance to see old friends, meet new people, see a great keynote presentation by Maurice Coleman, and exchange ideas with a excellent group of individuals. I had a wonderful time!

I’d like to say thank you once again to SEFLIN for inviting us to present at the conference. And a special thank you to my former MDPLS colleague and SEFLIN member Julio Granda for all his help with making sure everything went smoothly during each breakout session. Here are the presentation slides:

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Getting that first library job

Did you just graduate from library school? Congratulations! Hopefully you have found a job, but if you haven’t, I am here to help! Inspired by PubLib, the LinkedIn ALA Discussion Group, and my fellow craft brew loving colleague the BeerBrarian, I thought that I would share some advice for newly minted library school grads looking to land that first library job. It is such a competitive job market right now and I continue to hear or read about some really obvious mistakes that new MLS/MLIS graduates make when applying for jobs or going on interviews, so I really feel compelled to share some advice and try to help. Our profession needs bright, young talent with enthusiasm and fresh ideas, and I want you to get hired!

When applying for jobs…

1) Please, please, please, focus on that cover letter and resume!

This should be obvious, but you need to be sure that your cover letter and resume are flawless. You want your cover letter and resume to stand out, but not in a bad kind of way. Yeah, I know you are applying for multiple jobs, but please focus the cover letter on the opportunity with my organization and don’t just copy and paste stuff from another cover letter. And if you do, please, make sure that you aren’t copying and pasting the wrong information about the organization! If the director’s name is Raymond Santiago and you address your cover letter to Ginnie Cooper, you are instantly eliminated right there. If you are an out-of-town candidate, explain to me why you are applying for a job here. Originally from the area and moving back in with your parents after you graduate? Great, but make sure you tell me that in the cover letter and don’t assume I will figure that out on my own. For more cover letter advice, check out this link that BeerBraian mentioned in this post.

2) Do your research on my organization!

Why do you want to work for us? Because we are the only library hiring in your area? Well, maybe, but don’t tell me that! Give me a reason you are interested in this position that will catch my interest. Show me that you have done your research. Look at the website. Read newspaper articles about the library. Read the Board of Trustees meeting minutes (they are almost always online, and give you fantastic insight into what is going on at the library). Look at the library’s statistics. Use this information to guide you with crafting your cover letter.

3) Tell me why we should hire you…sell yourself!

Use the information you know about the library and sell how you can help us. Remember, this isn’t so much about you, this is about what you can do for us.

4) If you are still in grad school, intern at a library. If you have already graduated, find some way to get library experience.

You need some experience. Get it. Anyway you can. Volunteer at your local library. It might even lead to a paid position there down the road, you never know. If nothing else, you will gain valuable library experience (there are just some things you can’t learn about working in a library without on-the-job training) and add to your professional network.

5) Be active with professional development.

Join professional associations. Can’t afford to join ALA (join the club!), try some local associations. And don’t just join them, be active with them! Read librarian blogs, follow library professionals on Twitter, get active on LinkedIn (there are some great library-related groups you can join on LinkedIn), join listservs, and read professional journals. And start a blog! One of the ways my library’s YA Librarian stood out during the job application process was that she had a great YA books blog and she told us about it. If I had any doubts about her knowledge of YA literature, I certainly didn’t after checking out her blog.


This guy is totally going to get the job after listening to my advice :-)


When you get an interview…

1) Dress up!

Unless you have an interview with Google, wear your best business attire. Looking great, in and of itself, probably isn’t going to get you a job, but it will help you make a great first impression, which is huge. This is very basic and very common sense, but it still amazes me how casually people dress for interviews.

2) Be sure to do your research!

Oh, wait, I already mentioned this. But it is important! You are probably going up against candidates that have more experience than you do, so you need any extra edge you can get. If you have done your homework on the library and the other candidate hasn’t, this will definitely help your cause.

3) Do a practice interview (especially if you haven’t done it for a long time).

Yeah, I know, this is not the most comfortable thing to do. But, it really helps to find some sample interview questions for the job you want, get a friend to be the interviewer, and do a practice interview. Practice makes perfect!

4) Sell yourself!

I mentioned this above as well, but be sure to do it in the interview. Tell me why we should hire you and what you can bring to the organization. Also, sell your personality. Everyone that I am interviewing can probably do the job, so keep in mind that I am also looking for someone that would be a good fit for our team and our culture. Be professional, but not so formal that you don’t allow your personality to shine.

5) “Do you have any questions for us?” Of course you do!

If you have done your homework (and I know you have), you should have plenty of things to ask us. Don’t close the interview by telling us you don’t have any questions!


Good luck!

Remember, no matter what, try to stay upbeat and positive! Working at the library is awesome, and all the hard work and effort you put into getting that first job will be totally worth it!


Photo credit: morgueFile


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