Josie Parker on Libraries and Librarianship


Josie Parker of @AADL Presents at #UMich #UMLib

This morning at the bus stop, a young woman started chatting with me, and the conversation quickly veered to books. We like the same ones. Eventually, it came out that I am a librarian and she is in library school at Wayne State. There is a certain glow of mutual respect and admiration when two booklovers and librarians meet for the first time. She wants to be a children’s librarian. My eyes got wide, and I said, “Go for it!” I also wanted to be a children’s librarian, but it didn’t work out.

I told her I was on my way to hear Josie Parker, the Director of the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) and former children’s librarian, talk on campus. I try to hear Josie talk whenever I can. I love the AADL, and tell people it is the most innovative public library I know of, that it is utterly phenomenal the things they do when they are just a library from a regular sized town, not New York or Chicago or Detroit or Los Angeles. I see Josie, her vision and policies and personality, as being what makes that possible, what enables and empowers her staff, and through them the library, and through the library the community. The library student was so sad that she couldn’t make it. I thought I should try to take good notes, which for me, these days, means livetweeting.

Livetweeting means more people see the tweets, more people think about the ideas, more people share them. The ideas Josie talked about (and which I tweeted) that were most popular (retweeted, favorited, commented on) included little free libraries, the benefit to the community of diversification of services, designing library space, beauty in libraries, patrons as responsible persons, gaming to engage the public, transparency and honesty and privacy in staff communications, and (most popular!) the ethic of public good. What stuck most in my mind was Josie’s oft-repeated phrase “a culture of generosity” and her emphasis on service.

Upon leaving the event, someone from the Hatcher Library asked me, “How are things at Taubman?” I told them how lucky I feel to be in what I believe to be the most innovative branch library on campus, and for many of the same reasons that AADL is exceptional. But there are so many cool things going on in my library that it is hard to have a clear sense of what all is going on. Even when I talk to the managers, I find the interesting activities I’m doing doesn’t always percolate up, and the interesting activities my peers are doing don’t always hop over the cubicle walls to where I sit. I told her, “I go to work, and sit in my cube. I stand up and see the cube farm. But the cubes contain galaxies.” I had the feeling that Josie might feel a bit like that in her own library.

So, closing my thoughts on that note, here are my tweets (minus retweets) from Josie’s excellent and passionate presentation. Remember, as tweets I might have gotten numbers or specific words not exactly right. I go for what I remember, and hope that the general gestalt, the sense of what was intended is hopefully close to what was actually said.


pfanderson At Librarians Forum waiting for Josie Parker from @AADL to speak. They are one of the finest libraries in the country. Excited! #umlib

pfanderson Interesting. Most states pay more for #education than for prisons, but the opposite is true for #Michigan. #umlib

pfanderson Josie starts her talk by praising librarians who have graduated from #umich and stayed here, then greets her MANY friends #umlib

pfanderson The #AnnArbor public library has connections to >30 units on campus. Wow! #umlib

pfanderson #umlib “Public libraries operate differently in proximity to major academic centers” Millage as funding diff from what academic is used to

pfanderson #umlib Josie Parker “What we needed to do was recreate trust in the public library” ” We developed a culture of generosity” @aadl #libraries

pfanderson Circulation has gone from 1 million to 9mil in a decade. Internet traffic, door counts, program attendance (< gets them in trouble) #umlib

pfanderson #umlib “Whatever their reason for being there, I can’t imagine that more people in the library is a bad thing”

pfanderson #umlib Lifelong learning, communication, access to the public … “Our goal is to be where we need with tech BEFORE our patrons get there”

pfanderson There’s been a large increase in college student use of the public library, probably due to wifi and beverage policy #umlib

pfanderson I can’t keep the bugs out of the public library! There is no way I can do that! (laughter) #umlib

pfanderson Rule book cut from 6 pages to 2. “The can’ts and the won’ts and the nos. … We try to get to the Yes.” #umlib

pfanderson You cannot lose what you never had. You can lose good will. #umlib

pfanderson It’s a real challenge to stay ahead of people with technology. Especially in the 21st century. #umlib

pfanderson Q abt @AADL ‘s free books. Withdrawn, Friends of the Library, given to jails, doctor offices, then put out for free. #umlib

pfanderson little free library versus recycling http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/ Would you rather give a book, or pulp it? #umlib

pfanderson RefUSA discussion http://www.referenceusa.com/Home/Home @AADL also has Overdrive http://www.overdrive.com/ #umlib

pfanderson Asking if Freegle http://www.ilovefreegle.org/ Freading http://www.freading.com/index have sustainable model. Zinio for libs $$ http://beta.zinio.com/www/ #umlib

pfanderson Book Power!!! Data from Amazon showed in Ann Arbor 4th in purchasing books from Amazon; @AADL ranked fourth in lending books #umlib

pfanderson Josie Parker on library space: “As much square footage as we can apply to public space, we do. They’re beautiful.” #umlib

pfanderson Lib space: “Most people don’t have access to space as beautiful as these libraries. When you give it to them, they take care of it.” #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “To have 120 children in a storytime as ROUTINE. Routine? And 7 or 8 times a week? But we do it.” #umlib

petelg RT @pfanderson: “little free library” versus recycling http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/ Would you rather give a book, or pulp it? #umlib << I love these

pfanderson Q: How do we keep the library inclusive w/o alienating the more well off people? A: Josie tells wonderful stories about real people #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “The conversation abt poverty is a rly hard 1 in #AnnArbor. We deal w/ troublemakers the rt way. They aren’t allowed 2B there” #umlib

pfanderson Agree 1000% > Josie on poverty among library patrons: “It’s a poor excuse not to vote for [a new library].” #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “We budget from staff UP. That’s why we’ve re-orged twice in the past ten years. It comes from the strategic plan.” #umlib

pfanderson Q: Where do you see new tech going in public libraries? A: Ppl said we don’t need more tech, so we don’t need a new building. #umlib

pfanderson We have iPads at storytime. Not everyone can buy them. Not everyone understands how they can be used. Introduce tech in subtle ways #umlib

pfanderson We allowed people to pay fines online with credit cards online, and our fine revenue jumped to a quarter of a million dollars. WOW. #umlib

pfanderson Summer game had 10,000 people play last summer. WOW. 9 folk in IT for the public library and R&D. Everything open source. #umlib

pfanderson The @AADL geeks blog for what’s in development and open source http://www.aadl.org/devblog #umlib

Leighbra @pfanderson enjoying your tweets so much! #umlib

pfanderson Can’t pick things up? They’ll check it out to you, put it in a locker w/ door on outside of bldg, and you can pick it up after hours. #umlib

pfanderson @Leighbra I love hearing Josie Parker’s visions, always. She’s amazing, and makes the local library amazing @AADL #umlib

pfanderson The Channel is staff IM system to chat and ask questions. Boss doesn’t listen (per @ulotrichous) A culture of being able to ask #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “Always telling the truth. That’s something I do. If I can’t answer a question, I tell them that.” #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “Young staff PRESS us to be good, to not be complacent. Spices it up. I like that.” #umlib

pfanderson Q: Data-driven library, impact on programming? A: We report to the state lib. Collect required data. Survey program attendees. #umlib

pfanderson People always tell us there’s no parking, so we ask them where they parked. 85% of patrons PAY to park. #umlib

pfanderson We’re the only public library … allowing staff to speak online directly with public without intermediation. Only 2 asked to change #umlib

pfanderson Patron comments database. < awesome. #umlib

pfanderson Anonymous comments logged, but not replied to. Reply wanted, tell us who you are. Ditto, ID req for computer use. #umlib

pfanderson Public library involved in NIH grant via Taubman Library @MLibraryHealthy Partners important. #umlib

pfanderson #umlib Threat to the fundamental mission of public libraries by making information available freely.

pfanderson #umlib For the 1st time ever, information is being made available to the public that is NOT available for purchase to public libraries.

pfanderson #umlib This is a threat to the existence of public libraries. A threat to those have-not’s. An ethic of public good that is being lost

pfanderson I grew up with that ethic of public good. We help other people. The public library was a way for that to happen. #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “We’re not just losing public good. We’re losing the idea of it. And we are, as a society, complacent about this loss.” #umlib

pfanderson Josie: “It has to be the interest of the public in the FRONT of the issue that brings this to the attention of Congress.” #umlib

pfanderson We’re not asking for handouts. We’re not asking for something we don’t have now. We’re asking for this to be part of our service. #umlib

pfanderson Josie Parker’s presentation now done. I will blog the tweets. It was recorded. I don’t know if it will be available. #umlib

pfanderson Update. I asked. Josie Parker’s presentation was videotaped, but is not currently planned to be accessible to the public. #umlib

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