Don’s Conference Notes: The 2021 Computers in Libraries (CIL) Connect Conference

by | May 10, 2021 | 0 comments


By: Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Editor and Conference Blogger)

The 2021 CIL Connect Conference on March 22-24 and organized by Information Today, Inc. (ITI) was ITI’s second virtual conference. 


Jane Dysart and Tom Hogan, Sr.

In his opening remarks, Tom Hogan, Sr., ITI President and CEO, said that he hoped it would be their last virtual conference. The conference featured 140 speakers and moderators and 16 exhibitors in the virtual exhibit hall. It drew over 1,000 attendees. On each of the 3 days, Erik Boekesteijn Senior Advisor, National Library of the Netherlands, began the day with a “Talk Libraries: Stories From Around the Globe” interview with an information professional, which was followed by an opening keynote. Each day ended with a keynote session. Between those events, the conference was organized into 5 subject tracks. The conference ran very well on the PheedLoop platform.

Talk Libraries With Barbara Lison 

Barbara Lison, Sr. Library Director, Bremen City Library, Germany and IFLA President-Elect, said that in Germany, libraries are the most frequently visited cultural institutions in their communities. There are about 10,000 libraries in Germany housing almost 375 million media and loaning about 410 million items annually.  The main concern of libraries is how to reflect diversity of society within the library and the staff.  The librarian profession is very highly regarded.

On March 16, 2020, most libraries closed their doors, and the concern became how to loan physical items to people when the library is closed. The Bremen library solved this problem by creating “Library To Go” bags; users ordered their books online and then the staff collected the items so that users could come and pick them up.  Users loved this program, and the staff got their exercise by doing weight lifting with books.

Opening Keynote

R. David Lankes

The opening keynote by R. David Lankes, Professor and Director, School of Information Science, University of South Carolina, and Author, The New Librarianship Field Guide (MIT Press, 2016), was very challenging. Entitled “Libraries Leading the New Normal”, Lankes asked what we want the new normal to be even as we hope we are nearing the first phase of the end of the pandemic. Consider:

  • The January 6 riots were the result of a year of frustration.
  • Who thought masks could make a political statement? 
  • Healthcare workers dealt for hours with an unknown.
  • We had unemployment.
  • What is safe for our children as we have suddenly become educators?
  • What is the role of librarians?
  • The images we have of 1 million people dead are startling and hard to understand.

We have begun to think about life returning to normal and must ask ourselves what is normal, and do we want to go back to it. We see an increasing partisanship and a rise in misinformation; people are comparing their lives to what they seen on a screen, which leads to depression. Librarians are encountering the need for compassion every day: our people are not all right. This year has hurt and we need healing. 

We are now all data producers, and we need to think about access to our data, permissions, and the need for ethical AI. We must think about what is local in our communities and not shy away from what is political because it is vital for our communities. How is your institution helping you and the community? How do we support the second responders? We are an essential part of the infrastructure, and we must promote trust through principles and transparency, not through the illusion of neutrality. 

Using Disney Magic for Extraordinary Library Customer Experience

John Formica spent 10 years at Walt Disney World and managed their hotels and resorts in the midst of a big expansion. Now known as the “Ex-Disney Guy”, he discussed how organizations can create a “Disney-like” culture, especially as it relates to libraries. Customer service is important, but we must also focus on customer experience because most people will spend more to get a better customer experience. If we create a great experience, the perception will be that we are worth it when budgets and bond issues arise.

Here are Disney’s 4 digital goals:

Marketing is no longer about selling products and services, but about the stories that are told. We always remember people more than products and services, so make sure to have good people in your organization.  They are more than a job; they are the face of the company. The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.

Digital First: All Library Planning Starts With Digital

David Lee King, Digital Services Director, Topeka & Shawnee Country Public Library said that many of us have had to reset some of our perspectives and focus on the digital side of things rather than the physical. See the Wikipedia entry for Digital First. Americans spend many hours a day connecting with screens. A company with no digital presence has a very low chance to connecting with such users. 

If you have to create something fast, start with the digital version which might mean some big changes. Focus on convenience, find the things that work best digitally, and make them as easy as possible for users.  

The Covid-19 Infodemic: Corona Beer Doesn’t Cause Coronavirus

Amy Affelt, Director, Database Research Worldwide, Compass Lexecon, presented an informative overview of fake news related to COVID-19.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an “infodemic”: an overabundance of information that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance. There are 2 types of fake news: misinformation—fake news shared with no ill will—and disinformation—fake news shared with an intention to deceive.  

Only a few people create fake news. It is always important to consider the influence of bots; for example, 100 types of false coronavirus tweets by bots accounted for over 80% of those made by the top 50 influential tweeters. Many times fake news is labeled as satire (to avoid fact checkers) when it isn’t. We need to be aware that statistics can be manipulated. For example, one recent headline claimed that air travel had increased 123%. But few were traveling, so this headline made it seem like air travel had recovered after COVID.

How to analyze content:

  • If it is a report on a scientific article, find the original article and study it. Check the captions and make sure they are not misleading; sometimes they will say the opposite of what the text of the article says.
  • Ignore the first source that reached you. Look for the best source or multiple reliable sources because something important will not be reported only once.
  • Look for a consensus of experts. 
  • Be careful of “people like you also thought this” and similar efforts to attract attention.

Here is an example of misinformation.

It may seem humorous, but 38% of beer drinkers responding to a survey said they thought you could get COVID by drinking a bottle of Corona beer and would not buy it under any circumstances, and 14% said they would not order a glass of Corona when they were out in public.

Fake news can kill people; 800 people died and 5,800 were hospitalized after drinking things like bleach, methanol, cow urine, or overdosing on vitamins.  

See “How Do We Persuade People What Too Believe”, Harvard Business Review. Here are some tips for combatting fake news:

  • Disseminate briefings containing agreed-upon facts (“pre-bunk rather than de-bunk”) and refuting false arguments.
  • Ask a “know it all” to explain how things work.
  • Ask questions of a stubborn person to overcome their defensiveness.
  • Find the right way to praise a narcissist.
  • Disagree with the disagreeable.
  • Consult fact checking sites like Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck, and Fake health news can be spotted by consulting Health News Reviews. Be careful about misleading stories about vaccines.

Ensuring that algorithms work correctly is a good job for librarians. Finally, see Amy’s book All That’s Not Fit to Print (Emerald Publishing, 2019).

Day 1 Closing Keynote: The Internet Archive: Robust Global Resource

Brewster Kahle

Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and Founder of the Internet Archive (IA), presented this keynote address. The IA was founded in 1996 and now serves 1.5 million library visitors per day. It has moved into mass digitization and has partnered with libraries to digitize their collections. 

As the world moved from paper to electronic media, Brewster saw that technology provided an opportunity to build a library of everything so that anyone anywhere could have access to all the published works in the world. At the beginning of the IA, a web crawl was done once every 2 months; now 3,000 crawlers are in continuous use. The biggest challenge Brewster had to overcome in the early days was that most people thought he was crazy or wondered “Why bother?” They have been proven wrong; the web is the publishing medium of today. 

The IA’s most widely known product is the Wayback Machine, which is the foundation of its mission to provide universal access to all knowledge. About 1 billion URLs are collected every day. Today, the Wayback Machine is a robust global resource providing access to an impressive collection of content: 475 billion web pages, 28 million book pages, 2 million TV news programs, 4 million movies, 14 million audio files, more than 475,000 digitized records, and 580,000 software titles. is a books interface and contains catalog records of libraries. 

A library is more than a shelf of books; it is a center of the community. When a college closes, what happens to its books? Who can be trusted with them?  Marygrove College in Detroit which closed in 2019 had 70,000 books that had been collected over 100 years. They were donated to the IA, digitized, and made available to be loaned out, which has meant a lot to the alumni of the college.

The IA is a free interface and is working to find different ways to make all resources freely available to everybody. For example, all the references in Wikipedia have been turned into live links, and broken ones (14 million of them) have been fixed, so if one clicks on a reference to a book, it will open right at the correct page.

Many libraries start acquiring physical materials and then go to digital. The IA did the reverse; it started archiving the web, then TV, then books. Now it is working on microfilms and microfiche. Nobody likes them, but they contain a lot of information. People are starting to donate them to the IA; they are being digitized and brought online through a pilot project with RapidILL. 

Is today’s internet the same as it was in 1996? In many ways it is much better. We need to make the open world trustable, and some of the disinformation campaigns are worrisome. Libraries can help reshape how the internet works and become people-centered. 

The IA is trying to become more useful, more global, and blend in more to make some of the old ideas such as Memex, Xanadu, Cliff Notes, etc. happen. One of the answers for disinformation is better information. Digitization costs only 12 cents per page, so please send unwanted books to the IA. To get donating information, send an email to [email protected] 

Talk Libraries With Peter Kok

Erik: Boekesteijn’s guest on the second day of CIL was Peter Kok, CEO, LocHal, in Tilburg, a city of 220,000 in the Netherlands.

The LocHal won an award in 2020 as the best library in the Netherlands and is regarded as one of the best libraries in the world. It is a place for citizens to collaborate and has more than 300 workspaces. Seats to Meet is a space to rent for meetings, etc. 

Upon entering the building, one sees reminders of Tilburg’s former main industries: textiles and locomotive repairing. The area used to be quite rough, but the LocHal has changed it and has become the city’s new living room. It has 16 labs: a game lab, 2 general spaces, makerspaces, a food lab, etc. The library works together with other organizations such as the university and the local government, and everyone is welcome to come to the LocHal to meet and discuss their problems. Homeless people are part of the community and are welcome in the LocHal. It is easy for the LocHal to hire staff because people want to work there. 

Second Day Keynote

HRH Princess Laurentien

The second day keynote was presented by HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands. She is married to a brother of King Willem-Alexander and has a long record of combatting illiteracy in the Netherlands and internationally. She is the author of several children’s books. She began her challenging keynote address, entitled “Literacy, Libraries, and Innovation”, by listing 3 things about technology—digital inequality, reach, and human-centered government—as well as the roles of libraries and the importance of collaboration. A collaborative approach is the only way to achieve societal mission-driven progress. Complex issues require generations to solve, and many different players are needed. Poverty, especially child poverty, is a generational issue. How can we break its cycle from one generation to another? There are many chains of command: government, different services, and a fragmented field of players operating in their own perspective. Many players want to do different things to fix child poverty; we need to be very clear about whose role it is in the chain of command. 

Many solutions are developed in ivory towers, and the players have never spoken to the people. Those who have pieces of the puzzle must be included. Literacy is not about lack of reading and writing skills; it is a sense of shame that someone cannot participate fully in society. If we want to connect the players to help people overcome a sense of shame, we will build different things besides a house of learning. Some people have invisible handicaps, and we must come out and help them. There are a many dynamics, but libraries have a special and unique position because they are the only independent space where people can be who they really are. We must be very close to the people concerned. The inequality is tremendous, and we should not forget that.

The technology world forgets that many people cannot embrace society because they do not have the right devices to access the internet independently. The 3 major groups of these people are families in poverty, people with no literacy skills, and the elderly. Many people are nearly invisible in society, but libraries have the ability to serve them all. 

Libraries are information points for governments and provide training on digitalization. Will you reach out and go to where the people are instead of requiring them to go to the library? Look at your collaborative partners who are close to the lives of those people. Do you know who the invisible people are? Are you conscious that you may have blind spots?  Do you see yourself as the center or a springboard to the people?

Government may no longer be a friend of citizens. It wants to be there for them, but does it think about co-creating needed services? Are people coming to the library to get those services? How can we help citizens and give them the right support in their lives? Services need to be human-centered. Is the government being responsible? Libraries can be a connector between the government and its citizens. 

We need to realize the role and tremendous potential of libraries for vulnerable people. Think of people not systems; without a collaborative approach we can never solve things.  Go the distance to learn more and go out into the community. If we are proposition-driven we are self-centered, but we should be demand-driven. People need health, literacy skills, financial capacity, etc. We should connect with all of them, not just a few. Libraries can become the hub of systems around the people, which is a strategic role. Adults need help, but it is also important for children and young people to be taken seriously. Child participation is symbolic of how we look at people and is a leadership issue. We need to harness group intelligence from children who have a different way of looking at the world. Many people in leadership need to be more humble and admit they do not have all the answers. The notion of distrust is very worrisome.

Digital First Enterprises: Experimenting and Resetting

Cindy Hill, Sr. Manager, Research Library and Bank Archives, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, described how the Federal Reserve Bank has shifted to a digital first environment and how we can thrive in it. After everyone was sent home, they had to learn how to do work there. What equipment did they have? How good was their internet access? Now we are thinking about returning to work: how will that occur; will everyone come back on the same day; etc.?

COVID was a forcing function that made the staff move fast to survive in a virtual world. It challenged them and forced them to do quickly what would have taken a decade or more. Where is work? Anywhere can be an office if you want it to be; 20% of people want it not to be at home; 25% want it fulltime at home; the rest want to have an occasional 2-3 days a week at work. 

Virtual is our new reality, and we need to design a space for our online presence. Even if we are back in the office, some of our colleagues may not be. The library should play a consulting role as a trusted partner. Here is the process that the Federal Reserve library went through in designing for digital access.

In 2019, library staff members were asked to write their strategic plans with a digital focus. Then in 2020 they were sent home thinking that they would be there only for a few weeks. However they soon were informed that they will not be coming back until at least January 2022, which has raised questions about their physical collections and getting access to them. Do we need the space we have today? Are ILLs still relevant? What do our colleagues need and want? Is it an “either/or” or an “and/plus” environment?  In 2020, the library instituted a digital first policy, which involved many transitions to be considered:

  • Do we flip to a predominantly digital environment?
  • Is what we need available digitally?
  • What don’t we need any longer?
  • Are there any policies that need to be created or updated?
  • How do we get access to our physical collection? Will access be the same when we return? 
  • How do we strengthen our skills, maintain our development, and grow? In a digital world, how will we gain skills for professional and technical development?
  • What is the impact of digital first on our budget? What should we stop doing? What new resources are needed? 
  • How do we stay connected?
  • What is our marketing strategy?
  • Does the hybrid model really work? What does it look like?  Working from home is isolating. 
  • We must pay attention to what is happening to long-term contracts.  

Success factors include the ease of transitioning between working at the office and working at home, using the right information at the right time and in the right mode, and establishing and deepening our relationships and interactions. Time lines are getting shorter; people want information faster.

We need to think about the “new next”, not the “new normal”.  It is not getting back on track; it is creating our new tracks as we go through the digital first process. It is a vision, but we also must not forget the physical.

Library App for the Contactless Market

John Richardson, Director, Solus North America, said that Solus is a mobile app provider and a partner with SirsiDynix, and it has about 450 contracts representing 6,500 worldwide locations. It supports 20 ILS platforms and has developed Click & Collect, a curbside pickup application for libraries. Many public libraries use a reservation system for scheduling curbside pickups, but it may entail significant delays, especially with no-shows and cancellations. The Solus development team modeled their app based on what consumers are accustomed to for groceries and other purchases. Curbside pickup will probably be a continuing service, even after the COVID pandemic is over. 

Sara Teas, Digital Interfaces Coordinator, Fort Vancouver WA Regional Libraries (FVRL), a SirsiDynix library, described her experiences with Curbside 2.0, a contactless consumer-focused approach for libraries. FVRL serves both urban and rural areas in southwest Washington. Here is the timeline of their approach to curbside pickup since March 2020. 

The initial response to the pandemic was to shift to an online system and emphasize e-books and digital resources. Early after closing, they realized that they needed some type of curbside pickup so that their users could continue getting books. They implemented a reservation system, and simultaneously began working with SirsiDynix on a non-reservation system. When curbside pickup began, the staff was worried about being overwhelmed by demand.

The reservation process was not useful because of the problems encountered. Patrons had to wait about 30 minutes to talk to a staff member, which was very stressful. If a patron did not show up, they had to empty their bags, check the books back in, and reshelve them, which was very time consuming and stressful. By September, all libraries had abandoned the use of reservations. 

The library began participating in a strategic partnership with many other libraries and Solus to develop a contactless app. Patrons of FVRL were told to use Click & Collect and then call for pickup when they got to the library, which made the phones more available and freed the staff to do other tasks. Messages appearing in the app could be customized based on the type of library and its location; for example, Spanish and Russian messages were added. Patrons can be contacted by text when books are ready and can also request library samplers for which the staff chooses an assortment of books for them based on their interests. Items are not checked out until the patron is there to pick them up, which is a big time saver for the staff.  They plan to continue offering curbside when they reopen; patrons may not want to give it up.

Planned enhancements to the app include the ability to create sessions for other things besides requesting books, such as printing a file, or using the app so that the library can limit the number of people coming in simultaneously.

Libraries Supporting Local (& Not so Local) Scholars

Barbie Keiser, President, Barbie E. Keiser Inc. and Adjunct faculty, Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University, described a survey by ExLibris on what scholars and libraries contribute to supporting academic research. Libraries are capable of assisting scholars in many areas, and a changing research ecosystem offers new opportunities. Technology has now advanced to the point where anybody can get a website up and running without having to do coding. Libraries are perfectly positioned in the research ecosystem to help others because they are on both the content side and the technology side, so now they can offer our services to others and also to their institutions. How will we change from past traditional roles and use new tools and approaches to extend our services and take on new roles that will expand our impact? 

Institutions value 4 major capabilities:

  • True collaboration to benefit projects and the organization, achieved by informal and team efforts. Many granting agents are making partnerships a requirement of funding. Librarians are used to collaborating; they work with multiple faculties and multiple departments. Publishers are partnering as well.
  • Eliminating barriers between national and online scholarly communities that use social media. We are embracing an interdisciplinary approach and embedding librarians into departmental faculties. 
  • Accessibility, transparency, and inclusivity. Reproducibility of results, open peer review, citizen scientists, and engaging with the media are important trends.
  • Engaging with the media and social media and helping researchers expand their online presence and author profiles.

We used to think about the publication cycle, but the research cycle is where we are now.

Think about people working in the library, not as librarians but as information professionals and what they do: 

We need to think more about the globalization of this effort with scholars, publishers, and community expansion, and understand the modern scholarly environment. Think about librarians as stewards who can encourage sharing to increase citations to an article by 30%. Librarians understand data retention requirements and how permanent references are created. 

New tools and approaches include deciding where to publish, finding an appropriate reviewer, adding keywords to improve discoverability of a publication, open abstracts, partnerships with publishers, making the publication ready for printing, and managing the post-publication process.  Peer review is changing and becoming more open, and reviewers are waiving rights to anonymity. Consider creating 2 abstracts: one for scholars and another for the public, and the same for press releases. 

Scholars need help in creating research with impact and then telling if impact has occurred. Here is how that can happen.

The Emerald study on academic culture gives us a prescription for moving forward. 

Day 2 Closing Keynote

Beth Rudden

In her keynote address, “Demand Proof: The Urgent Need For Data Lineage and Provenance”, Beth Rudden, IBM Distinguished Engineer & Principal Data Scientist, noted that she is a modern-day cognitive scientist and a modern day social scientist that puts philosophy, psychology, and computer science together. We make investments in technology, and then we do a lot of experiments and find that we cannot reduce all costs in the organization. About 80% of the costs in a company are for labor. There are no shortcuts for hard work, and we should demand evidence for everything. We need to design the relationship we want with AI, and then invest in human beings.  

The closer you are to the source of data, the better you are. Everyone has a mental model of all their experiences, which is a distinctive system that only humans have, and that is what makes us unique. We go from curious to surprised to shocked. Change is hard and science is inefficient by definition, but change is necessary. Science demands replication, oversight, and record keeping, and its integrity depends on it being replicable. Change and comfort cannot coexist.

COVID helped us see inequity, and it is directly related to how we keep notes and records. Our ability to predict something is directly correlated by the rigor with which we do science. Information must be trusted by a human; knowledge must be curated from a trusted source and wisdom requires a common language. Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance; data are artifacts of human behavior. Predictions are not working well because we are in an unpredictable time. We are borrowing this world from the next generation; one in three internet users are children. We are allowing science to make predictions without demanding proof. The library is a place where we must offer assistance in response to any human question; the nuances of the human brain to organize information are a distinctive fingerprint. Does a librarian’s mental model of information vary significantly from other mental models?

We must teach machines what we value. AI systems must be trained with trust and transparency in mind and not as an afterthought.  Accountability must be present for humans to trust a machine. We must understand how machines arrive at the answers they provide and make sure that they are furnished with good information and know where it comes from. We are not self-made but are dependent on one another. Admitting this is not an embrace of mediocrity; it is a liberation and an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves, but to simply begin.

Talk Libraries With Nick Poole

Rebuilding & Resetting 21st Century Libraries with 20th Century Infrastructure

Erik Boekesteijn’s Talk Libraries guest for the final day of the conference was Nick Poole, CEO, CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), who said that there must be equitable access for everyone. One thing holding us back is our legacy view of libraries. We need to start looking at where we are going, rather than where we have come from. Why has digital transformation been so slow in England? 

There is a fundamental belief in the power of information and a skill set to know what users need. The challenge is how to take the national scale down to young users feeling safe and welcome. The most important thing is to keep kids reading. The library is a value to the community. We must make sure we do not lose our identity as libraries—they are not just another kind of community building. There is no point in closing libraries and then being surprised that people are not information literate. 

We must build back bolder and not try to go back to the way we were. Don’t stop at just reopening the doors; get into the right place in people’s hearts and minds. The new normal for librarianship is about the people, organizing the knowledge around them, and decentralizing our services. We have an opportunity to make a massive difference, but it is a difficult transition to involve our users in thinking about our services. 

Day 3 Keynote

Phaedra Boinodiris

Phaedra Boinodiris, Trust in AI Business Transformation Leader, IBM, began her keynote address “Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Tech, and Ethics” by noting that the Cambridge Analytica event in 2018 filled her with horror, and she wanted to learn how something like it could be prevented from happening again. AI is used in many high-stakes decision-making applications, but just because a decision is made by AI does not make it morally or ethically squeaky clean. For example, Amazon used a secret recruiting tool that had a bias against women, and Boston released an app to detect potholes in the streets, but they did not think that affluent people living in lightly traveled areas would be its main users, so they did not get many pothole reports.

Everyone has biases and we need to be very aware of them. What does it take to understand a decision by AI? Is it fair? Is it easy to understand? Has it been tampered with? Is it accountable?  These challenges cannot be solved by technology alone. Trusted AI depends on 4 pillars: fairness, explainability, robustness, and transparency. Here are 5 steps to creating a center of AI excellence:

  1. Deliberately connect groundswells to data scientists and find pockets of interest
  2. Flatten the hierarchy.
  3. Source your force.
  4. Begin teaching trustworthy AI training at scale.
  5. Work across uncommon stakeholders.

Bias in organizations is like an iceberg; a lot of it is hidden.

IBM’s guide, “Everyday Ethics for AI”, contains advice on what we should be asking ourselves so that our own biases are not having an effect on decisions. Tools are available to detect bias. AI Fairness 360 is the most comprehensive open source toolkit for explaining models and data; it tells why a model came up with its decisions. We need to create an AI governance board similar to the well-known Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. We must demand trustworthy AI and recognize that cognitive bias and its implications are everywhere; we are doing ourselves a major disservice by not advocating for this kind of knowledge. It is very important to think about the culture of your organization; we cannot do it alone, and we cannot turn back time.

AI will have a tremendous impact on workers and skills, but CEOs seem to be out of step with their boards; they think CIOs and CTOs are responsible for AI in the organization. Investing in training employees to work with AI will be critical to maintaining a quality workforce.

Having Fun: Free and Unique Internet Tools

Laura Solomon, Library Services Manager, Ohio Public Library Information Network, said that the pandemic has made us anxious; sometimes we need some distraction and some happiness. Here are some things to try.

Music & Sounds

Expanding Library Services During/After the Pandemic

Amy Jiang, Head of Emerging Technology & Digital Initiatives, University of La Verne (a liberal arts college located 30 miles east of Los Angeles) said that anything physical is gone as a result of the pandemic, so there is no access to physical collections. Many other campus units are loaning laptops, cameras, physics lab tools, computer lab devices, which is an opportunity for libraries because they can become the central campus point from which to circulate everything.  Using the library has these advantages:

  • It is the only system on campus that can handle a large volume of materials, issue reminders, and track overdue items. 
  • Each item had to be identified with a barcode and cataloged by the library staff. The library took a leadership role and serves the widest audience.
  • The catalog is cloud-based, so no software needs to be installed on any personal device. 
  • The libraries are the only campus organization that is open long hours to serve all campus groups—faculty, students, and prospective students.
  • The SpringShare suite used by the library gives users a smooth online experience.

The pandemic has accelerated the application of technology and has enabled the library to reach out to more audiences and connect to more people. According to ALA, Public libraries have also expanded their services and have responded to the pandemic similarly.

After the pandemic and for the next year or two, we will be in a time of change. Some temporary services will become permanent. The pandemic has raised challenges, but it also has given us many opportunities. 

Remote Leadership & Productivity

Meghan Kowalski, Outreach and Reference Librarian, University of the District of Columbia, reviewed management lessons learned during the pandemic and working remotely, and discussed how to move forward. She began with some hard truths:

  • Do not require cameras. They put more stress on your employees who are at home and are entitled to a sense of privacy.
  • Do not require time tracking. 
  • Do not use electronic monitoring. It is usually a racist technology and breeds mistrust. People always find a ways around it.
  • Do not expect 24/7 availability; which is a recipe for burnout and resentment. Nobody is required to respond outside a period of working hours.
  • Do not micromanage. Set deadlines and expectations and then step back.
  • You are not everyone else. People are individuals. Have empathy and compassion.
  • Why are you busy? Don’t glorify busy; glorify done.

What you can do:

  • Trust, listen, and provide tangible actions (create a “to do” list).
  • Set clear and reasonable expectations. Don’t try to push the team; it sets them up for failure. Live in reality.
  • Facilitate and aim to help. Be flexible. Some deadlines are meant to be pushed back. Let your team come to you with ideas. Give them a sense of ownership.
  • Let life get in the way. Roll with it. Interruptions happen.
  • Motivate and promote. Lead by example. Create “water cooler moments” and let people chat. Empower people and let them reach their goals. It’s OK to cancel meetings.

The Bad Apples:

  • Don’t punish everyone for the actions of one.  Bad apples will exist. Create an action plan. Be clear in your communication. 
  • Provide a way to improve and then follow through on the consequences.

Let’s talk:

  • Follow through and help.
  • Productivity is not about getting more done; it’s about what gets done.

Methods and Tools:

  • The “Eisenhower Matrix” sets priorities. Make a list of everything you do and sort it into a box. If it’s not urgent or important, why is it on your list? 
  • The Pomodoro Technique is a good time management method. It forces focus with built in breaks to help you recover, eliminates multiple tasking, and helps to capture what has your attention.
  • Timewatch is good for prioritization and focusing. 
  • Kanban provides transparency in project management and helps to determine why things are stuck? 
  • Trello: To do lists, project management, scheduling, collaboration. Instead of a To Do list, have a “done” list to see what is finished. 
  • Evernote: note taking, file management, create notebooks.
  • Google Drive: File management, note taking, to-do lists, collaborate
  • Todolist: Collaboration, scheduling, time blocking, see what you can do in a day or a week, etc. 
  • Toggl: Time management, collaboration, time blocking, categorize what you are working on. Good for calculating billable hours. 
  • Bullet journal: Whatever you want it to be. Logs, custom collections, great for people who like pen and paper.

Towards Open Access and Sustainable Cost

Rice Majors, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources, University of California (UC) Davis Library, discussed UC’s strategy and experiences and its recent contract negotiations with Elsevier. With 10 campuses and 5 medical centers, 280,000 students, and 227,000 faculty and staff, UC is the largest public research university in the US. Its authors publish about 10% of all US research publications.

UC decided to use its size to negotiate with publishers. In 2013 it had a system-wide governance structure which enacted a policy of green OA, and in 2018, its contract with Elsevier expired. Negotiations for renewal ended in 2019, and in July 2019, access to Elsevier articles stopped. In June 2020, negotiations resumed, and a settlement was reached in March 2021. The negotiating team was 2 people from the library and 2 from the faculty. 

UC wanted to reduce costs, establish the default for all UC authors to be OA, and establish a transformative agreement integrating publishing and reading. UC wanted subscription fees to balance its publishing costs (authors were paying over $1 million/year in OA fees to Elsevier) and leverage money from research grants for cost control across the whole university. 

During the time without Elsevier publications, alternatives for access were established, and communication with the faculty on negotiation strategies was maintained by Faculty Senate meetings, broadcast emails, town halls, website banners, and an FAQ page. There was a lot of public support in the press, and hearing about the situation from newspapers or public websites was very helpful. The following quotation from Chemistry World is typical:

“31 members of Cell Press editorial boards at the University of California (UC) have suspended their ‘editorial services’ to Elsevier as part of an on-going dispute between the university and publishing giant over the cost of journal subscriptions and open access. Among the signatories is Jennifer Doudna, one of the original developers of the Crispr gene-editing technique.” [Doudna is a 2021 Nobel Prize winner. –DTH]

How did they get through? Many faculty members reduced or stopped their work with Elsevier on editorial boards, etc. Turn aways, where a searcher is turned away by a paywall, experienced a 10 fold increase in 1 year, but ILL was barely affected. The university suggested finding OA versions of articles, and some faculty members used ILL as their way of access. A 6-month impact poll of 8,000 respondents from all campuses found that there was some impact of the loss of Elsevier articles, which was strongest in health disciplines. If an article could not be obtained by alternate means, many people simply proceeded without it. Some people enjoyed opportunities to contact authors and ask for a reprint. There was strong support from respondents of the university’s actions, but 14% were frustrated (mainly those in the health sciences). 

In March 2021, UC and Elsevier reached an agreement.

The faculty was interested in authors retaining IP rights, and this deal is responsive to faculty principles. 

Elsevier now has 9 transformative agreements with various institutions, which represent 35% of all UC corresponding authors publishing.  In OA negotiations, know where you have to yield and what you must have, and make sure that the whole campus knows what is happening and why. It is wonderful to see a library using its power and benefitting other organizations. The default in the Elsevier deal is that the library pays the first $1,000 of APCs in a Gold OA journal. Researchers that do not have research funds can ask the library to pay the entire APC from subscription savings, and the library typically agrees. 

Closing Keynote Panel: Libraries’ Biggest Challenges and Solutions For the Future

Panelists introduced themselves and their library.

Bryan Alexander

Bryan Alexander, Futurist and Consultant, The Future of Education Observatory is not an academic librarian, but he is a fan of libraries. Most higher education libraries have been affected by budget cuts. There is still a push for OA; the financial hit to families makes OA much more attractive.

Carolyn Foote

Carolyn Foote, District Librarian, Westlake High School was a librarian at her high school (she just retired). Literacy promotion, reading, and research have all been impacted by COVID. When the shutdown was announced, there was a mad panic to obtain resources, and the library became the funnel for access. Free access from the vendors helped very much. The lack of a unified platform caused lots of headaches for the IT people. Access was a challenge for elementary school students, but the public library was a little more able to pivot to curbside delivery. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are prominent now.

Craig Wingrove

Craig Wingrove, Director, Global Information Procurement & Access, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) manages a vendor portfolio of databases. Major concerns are

  1. The importance of a good self-service research program, 
  2. Understanding internal client needs and how they will use their data to create derivative works. Protecting intellectual property has become more important, and 
  3. Work-life balance. Projects have increased; if you are lucky, your resources are flat, which is likely to continue. We always want to please, which has become harder. Managers may have to say no, so we may have to create alternative projects.

Susan Broman

Susan Broman, Assistant City Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library has had many challenges:

  • What is a library when you do not have access to books? 
  • Getting the staff home safely was important. Some of them immediately began virtual programming. 
  • How do we give the staff a sense of community when everybody is at home? 
  • The library is facing many social distance issues.
  • Making the library safe for everyone and connecting them to what they need. 
  • They used their makerspace to make equipment for hospitals. 
  • Access to amazing digital resources is not evenly distributed. 
  • How can we preserve the story of our community?

Following the introductions, Jane asked the panelists a series of questions.

What are your biggest challenges and biggest opportunities going forward?

Brian: Challenges: Short term: what happens to enrollments this fall?  Longer term: depending on how long the pandemic lasts, there will be a different population to serve because many people are over 60.

Carolyn: How do we deal with trauma? Some students are forced to go to school and be around peers again. Some trauma is related to learning, and there is workplace trauma to teachers and staff who may be forced to do hybrid teaching. Libraries are positioned to be a helpmate. 

Inequities are seen across the entire profession. How will governments deal with them? All of us are facing diversity and equity challenges, and the dialog is rapidly changing. Fires are inflamed by social media. Partially virtual environments and technology weariness are also growing. Digital resources are a problem, but many people have discovered things they did not know were there. High school students do not want any more time online. We need to decide what to keep and what to discard because it was just for the emergency situation. 

Susan: Challenges: professional development and training. Online meetings are exhausting. We need staff members to participate in decision-making on many subjects. A focus on work-life balance will be something to bring forward as well as making sure we have what we need to help the team and the community. 

An important challenge has been our role as a community convener and working out what that means. How will we bring people back together, and how can we rethink how we will do that? There is an end to this; a time will come when we have 100 kids in a room for story time. We have an opportunity to think about how we will gather. See Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering (Riverhead Books, 2018). We will be working with our communities on recovering.

Craig: Challenges and opportunities are the same. Budgets will be a problem, and we will need to create metrics. The value of our portal and the effectiveness of training have become a lot more important. Working smarter and being agile are important takeaways. Adapting of skills is also important. How we bring multiple sets of data together applies in a modern work —environment. Opportunities are way outside of traditional areas: knowledge, IT, marketing, etc. 

What are your positive final thoughts going forward?

Brian: I am struck by the sheer ingenuity and passion in the library world. What happens to libraries of all kinds in an age of climate change?  

Carolyn; Librarians are capable and ready to be digital leaders, but they need to be set free from the minds of administrators who think they are defined by their physical state. Some students benefit from hybrid models, but parents may prefer not to do that, and we need to be prepared for that long term. We need to find ways to preserve the stories of students. Although the library was a hub for the school, our school has felt a lack of community.

Susan: People want to experience the library, and they need different things from it. There is no wrong way to interact with users who have not been in a library for a year. Helping people navigate technology is a key thing to do.

Craig: Be a compassionate leader, whatever that means to you and your organization—we are in a service industry. Take care of your teams but do not forget to take care of yourself. Everyone is dealing with challenges in different ways. Be safe; we are starting to see the end of the line, but we cannot let up. 


CIL 2022 is planned for March 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency, Crystal City, Arlington, VA.

Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI website. He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 50 years.


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