Author: yestoknow

I'm Tony Tallent and I am the Chief Program and Innovation Officer for Richland Library. I like to talk about writing, libraries, arts and communities. Contact me if you'd like to do that, too.

Boutique-ing: Know Your People

The idea of boutique-ing programs or projects can fly in the face of what seems like big success. We often think of success as being larger, more people, more. Boutique-ing isn’t so much about numbers as it is about creating something that is memorable to individuals–no matter how many (2 or 2000).

One key thing to remember when boutique-ing a program is get to know your participants as much as possible before the start date. What are their needs, expectations and reasons for putting your event or program on their calendars? How can you find more about them without being prying or obnoxious? What questions can you ask–not simply to ask questions, but to help make a connection with the person and and happening?

Be gentle, kind and real when asking questions of your potential participants. Encouraging interest  can make room for humor, creating a helpful bond between all participants and those behind or in front of the scenes.

How can we make this happening more memorable, easier, more boutique-ed?

Good Stories, Lonely Stories

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Recently, I came across this short article I wrote some time ago, musing on writing and the loneliness. As I re-read this piece, I thought about how in many ways there is a distinct type of loneliness that can surround our writing and often infuse our writing, particularly when we are working character struggles. I made a few edits and send this refreshed focus on the good, lonely writing back out.

Often we think of good story scenarios as being ones that have multiple characters and clear, obvious and perhaps predictable happenings. We long for happy endings even in the mire of worry and worrisome scenes.

Good stories can sometimes be lonely stories as well. What I mean by lonely is that the story can be focused mostly on a singular character. The cast of characters are not there, filling out a storyline or bringing the layers to the tale. Sometimes the story is a singular one. A story that is about one, single character–one single person’s reactions and responses to the world that is happening to them.

Often a singular story turns outs to be a poem. Or poem-like.

No one wants to be trapped inside one character’s mind for too long. It becomes too insular. And still there are singular stories. The stories of what happened to me when I crossed this milestone. Or the story of when the world came crashing in on a singular character.

There will be lonely scenes when expressing these moments. Allow that loneliness. You may want to bring an outside character in to bring another insight or perspective. As in real life, we are so often left to figure it out for ourselves. This is lonely business.

There are still colors, light and rare shadows in loneliness.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be drab business.

Boutique-ing It

Any experience that is built to serve everyone and anyone really serves no one. I have been thinking, talking and acting on the idea of boutique-ing programs and services for a while now. It is about customizing to real people. It is about creating commitments between providers and consumers. It is about making what we do more real and deeper for all those involved. Stay tuned for more about Boutique Programs.

We learn how we live

Learning is the constant disruption of an old pattern, a breakthrough that substitutes something new for something old. And the the process begins again.

– Cathy N. Davidson , Now You See It

I have pondered this quote for a few months now. It reminds me that as our habits of living, communicating and engaging have changed, of course, so have the ways we learn. Indeed, we learn how we live.

Find out a little more about the fascinatingly practical approach Cathy Davidson takes to learning, unlearning and to conceptualizing a new approach to  living, collaborating and dealing with our world of disruptions and learning moments in this article “…Fixing the Future of Distraction.”

Ebb and Flow, stop and go. ebooks.

We all work within various projects, systems and work arenas that have either natural or adapted ebb and flow. Our days start (generally) around the same time. Our correspondences take on a cadence and tempo that, whether they are working well for us or not,  become what we know to be natural or at least the norm . Then there are jarring moments. These moments are mostly colored in a shade of out-of-the-blue. Sudden can be good. It can be what we need to get our minds around the matter in a new way. Suddenness can  breathe some life back into a stagnant system.

In my world, I was earnestly focusing on learning more about the world of ebook delivery through public libraries. So many matters involved: evolving my own expectations with clunky parameters (DRM), growing an e-collection that was enticing and within budget, coordinating to help get my colleagues trained to know more about how to make the flow of ebooks easier to the public–setting them more free to the world. Lots of work went into that . Lots of time, learning, relearning, communications (emails! about efiles!) and some  roadblocks and victories along the way. Enter the  Overdrive letter about Harper Collins (at the time “unnamed publisher”) changing their check-out allowances. The carpet we were carefully stitching was  pulled t right out from us– our Nooks and iPads clinging to our chests as February came to a close. That was a shift.

I know this didn’t bloom over night. I’m sure of that. However it felt as if it came down like that.  There were folks in on figuring this out…advocating for the library user, right? At least responses from the companies say that.  But where are those folks now? Who were they? Who are they (not counting the blog commenters, here).  Did they at least receive some vendor swag for sitting in on a conversation about this?  I’m surely not the only one wondering: were you one of the librarians who sat in on the discussions with HarperCollins before the big announcement? Tell me, how did that conversation ebb and flow?

In less thatn 4 months, through our focus to create more easeful ebook deliver, we  increased usage by  almost 70%.  That 70%– where will it go, how will it grow now? An ebbing question that lingers.

There were many craggy moments but we knew where they were. Beyond that there were the few days from February 24 to March 7 to start a new rhythm. And  still with only an emailed letter, the ebb and flow shifted. Some think for better.Some think for ultimate doom, it seems. Whatever comes from this, a new wave was thrown in during  a time of earnest work, causing confusion, some anger and some thoughts of just throwing it all out by people across the library community.

How has the letter changed your ebb and flow? Processes, productivity?

I’m still figuring that out… ebbing back to flow forward.

I know there is much of this going on. How interesting that such and out-of-the blue, seemingly informative and somewhat celebratory letter, can change the coarse of thinking and spiritedness about a matter.

How has your ebb, flow or zest for ebooks changed? Within your system? Within yourself?

5 Why-Nots: Playing with Language-Rich Spaces

In the field of youth services, we often talk about creating language rich environments for young minds. These are spaces that reinforce and encourage recognition and meaning of words, create conversations or even invite guests to craft stories as well as strengthen language development and enrichment.  This has been a concept that has long appealed to me and I know that many library and youth serving staff work to  create spaces that encourage imaginations, word discovery and word play every day. The concept of  language rich environments has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. We encounter words in very different ways. We also interact with words differently (think about how the very word “text” has taken on new meanings and conjures new images and actions). 

Language/Word-rich environments are not only beneficial for young minds. All ages can benefit from a space that plays with words, directs imaginations with language and encourages conversation. Here are 5 Why-Nots for having fun with words in your space. Why not try them? …

1. Why not sprinkle your space with questions? Just like a good speech, a good space can earnestly stir up questions in visitors’ minds. “Why did they paint that wall tomato red?” “Why are these particular books and dvds on display?” Why not simply write the questions you think may be going on in the minds of customers and post them? Questions will get answers–or at least conjectures. Conjectures can lead to conversations.

2. Why not use a portion of your storytime to invite children and their adults to simply talk with one another? Give them a start up question to ask the person next to them. How about “What is the most unusual word you can think of?”

3. Why not take a note from Pee Wee’s Playhouse (yes, it’s OK to admit to loving PWP just a little) and do a “Word of the Day?”  Send kids and adults looking for the word hidden throughout your library or facility, on titles and in the articles of magazines. (Screaming at the top of your lungs when the word is said aloud, is optional, of course).

4. Why not overhaul your signage or at least one type of signage to send a really clear message that “we want you to be a part of this space?” Take a look at Leah White’s article on signage for some inspiration.

5. Why not have an area of your library or department where talking is promoted. Even if it is for limited times only. The “talking” could be in the form of selections from talking books, on-the-spot poetry or quote readings, or timed ramblings on a given topic. Think of it as a creative take on London’s Speakers’ Corner.

Each day we have opportunities to interact with our customers in deeper ways. What we want to get at is creating spaces–whether real or digital–that are drenched with the human element. Inviting involvement through play with words and conversation starters is one way to turn the human element up. Why not?