2017 Speaking Engagements

February 7: Webinar Presenter, Circulating Unusual Items, Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies, Online

March 28-30: Panelist, Directors Speak Out, Computers in Libraries, Arlington, VA

March 28-30: Presenter, Tech Tour, Linux Laptops, Computers in Libraries, Arlington, VA

May 4: Speaker, Library Directors Roundtable, Connecticut Library Association, Groton, CT

May 22-24: Speaker, Library Assessment Crash Course, Massachusetts Library Association, Hyannis, MA

May 22-24: Speaker, Library Directors Roundtable, Massachusetts Library Association, Hyannis, MA


This is a cross-post from LibFocus.

To help library directors – especially new ones – succeed in their jobs, I created LibraryDirectors.org. We have a growing list of resources – books, articles, webinars, videos – that directors have told us are useful, and a listserv for library directors to share experiences and advice. We hope to list director job postings soon.

I started this group around the time I completed my first full year as a library director and announced it at ALA MidWinter in Boston. It’s a resource I wish I had had on my first day.

LibraryDirectors.org is intended for library directors, no matter what kind of library they direct and no matter where they are located in the world. If you know of a resource that you have found useful, please share it with us.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, but LibraryDirectors.org is our main platform.

Computers in Libraries

Bright and early yesterday morning, I flew down to Washington, DC to give a presentation at Computers in Libraries about Millis’ Linux laptop program. I gave my talk and was thrilled to have a large, interested audience. I answered a lot of questions and talked to a bunch of people after – giving suggestions for their libraries, receiving some really great suggestions (thank you!), and making some great new connections. I bumped into my friend Jessamyn (we each only knew a couple of people at the conference, so it was great to see her), had lunch, attended a fascinating talk about university maker spaces (they’re doing some amazing stuff at the University of Nevada at Reno), and then flew back home.

I had a wonderful time. Thanks for having me, CILDC!

You can see my slides here.

How to Set Up an Ubuntu Computer for Patron Use: A Quick Start Guide

Step One: Download Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS

Ubuntu is one of the main versions of Linux and is put out by Canonical, Ltd. Ubuntu 14.04.4 (known as Trusty Tahr) is the Long Term Support version of Ubuntu, which Canonical guarantees they will support with security and maintenance updates for five years.

Download it here: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop


Step Two: Create an Ubuntu install disc

Create an install disc from the downloaded Ubuntu installer.

Learn how to do that here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BurningIsoHowto


Step Three: Change your boot order

Access your computer’s BIOS and change the boot order so that your computer knows to start up from the install disc. Learn how to do that here: http://www.howtogeek.com/129815/beginner-geek-how-to-change-the-boot-order-in-your-computers-bios/


Step Four: Install Ubuntu

Follow the on-screen instructions.


Step Five: Customize the Guest Session

Add a new administrative user called “guest-prefs”

Log into guest-prefs and set up the account to be the way you want for your patrons

Open a terminal window and enter:

sudo mkdir /etc/guest-session

sudo ln -s /home/guest-prefs /etc/guest-session/skel


Step Six: Hide the Grub2 Menu

Open a terminal window and enter:

gedit /etc/default/grub

A window will open up. Modify the relevant lines to match the following:






Step Seven: Modify LibreOffice to use Microsoft Office formats

Note: you need to be logged in as guest-prefs in order for these changes to affect your guest session users.

Open LibreOffice. In the TOOLS menu, select OPTIONS. In LOAD/SAVE, select GENERAL. Under “default file format and ODF settings,” select a document type from the “document type” drop down menu and match it with the corresponding file format in the “always save as” drop down menu, as follows:

Document Type: Text Document

Always Save As: Microsoft Word 2007/2010/2013 XML

Document Type: Spreadsheet

Always Save As: Microsoft Excel 2007/2010/2013 XML

Document Type: Presentation

Always Save As: Microsoft PowerPoint 2007/2010/2013 XML

2016 Speaking Engagements

January 10: Panelist, LITA New Technologies Panel, ALA MidWinter, Boston, MA

January 11: Speaker, Challenges Facing New Directors, Ignite Session, ALA MidWinter, Boston, MA

January 11: Speaker, Flexible, Affordable, Easy, Secure: An Open Source Solution for Patron Computing, Ignite Session, ALA MidWinter, Boston, MA

March 8: Speaker, Rethinking Patron Computing, Computers in Libraries, Washington, D.C.

April 27: Panelist, Linux Laptops and Unusual Items, Minuteman Library Network Tech Fair, Natick, MA

May 11: Webinar Presenter, Linux Laptops for Libraries, NCompass Live, Nebraska Library Commission, Online

May 17: Panelist, Reference in the Digital Age, Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference, Hyannis, MA

May 17: Speaker, New Administrators Roundtable, Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference, Hyannis, MA

May 18: Speaker, Simplifying Reference, Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference, Hyannis, MA

May 25: Speaker, Library Lockdown, Rhode Island Library Association Annual Conference, Lightning Round, Warwick, RI

August 10: Panelist, Career Development, Project SET: Skills, Empowerment, Talent, Massachusetts Library System, Marlborough, MA

September 7: Webinar Presenter, Simplifying Libraries, LibraryLinkNJ, Online

October 16-18: Speaker, New Director’s Roundtable, New England Library Association Annual Conference, Danvers, MA

October 16-18: Speaker, Library Lockdown, New England Library Association Annual Conference, Danvers, MA

September – November: Co-Leader with Krisi Chadwick, Non-Traditional Items Workshop series, Massachusetts Library System, Fall 2016

How to Become a Library Director

This is a cross-post from LibFocus.

When I was just starting out in libraries, I took advantage of resume review workshops, attended career fairs at my library school, asked my professors to talk about the job market, and reached out to working librarians for career advice. A few years later, I’ve reviewed resumes at workshops, spoken at career fairs, devoted class time to job search strategies as a library school instructor, and been approached by young librarians looking for career advice.

Having now been on both sides of the job search education issue, I have realized that what would have been most useful to me when I was just starting out is if librarians were willing to spend time considering what job search strategies worked for them and then shared those strategies.

I’ll start. Here’s how I landed my dream job, broken down into five broad steps.

1. Read lots of job ads.

Job ads don’t just tell you what positions are available, they also tell you what skills, experiences, and traits are needed in order to get the job. As soon as I realized I wanted to be a library director, but long before I was qualified to become one, I began spending time each week reading job ads, and I made of list of the qualifications I saw most often.

2. Build your resume.

Once I had a list of qualifications, I went about earning them. I could earn some items on my own outside of work – technology skills, for example. Other items could be practiced constantly, like being cool under pressure or being an excellent communicator. But the process to earn the biggest items – like facilities, budget, and staff management – was more prescribed: I had to start with tiny projects in order to earn small projects in order to earn medium projects in order to earn large projects. For example, a minor facilities project at one library – having a built-in bookshelf removed and the plaster behind it repaired – led to a larger facilities project at another: planning and overseeing the installation of new electrical and data ports in order to update an older building without a major renovation. This larger project helped convince my supervisors at that same library to let me take point when the roof sprung a leak.

This was a time-consuming and somewhat daunting process – the list of qualifications I had put together was long – but it was also a fun, or at least a satisfying, process. My enjoyment of the work and the time it took to earn these qualifications made me more confident that I wanted to be a library director, and that I would be a good one.

3. Have a specialty.

While gathering the qualifications I identified by looking at job ads, I also established a specialty that would both set me apart as a candidate and help me succeed as a director. I worked to become skilled at library assessment – gathering and interpreting data, both qualitative and quantitative, to identify where a library is doing well and where it has room to improve. I paired my assessment skills with my experience teaching to become someone who can not only gather and interpret data, but also explain it in a compelling way to a non-expert audience.

I enjoy assessment and I enjoy teaching, so it made sense for me to concentrate on these areas. To identify a specialty that might work for you, I recommend staying on top of our field: Read LibFocus, LibraryJournal, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, and INALJ. Follow librarians on Twitter. Join ALA Think Tank on Facebook. Subscribe to /r/libraries on Reddit. Identify libraries and librarians doing exciting things and keep an eye on them for inspiration. Go to conferences. Find something in libraries that you’re interested in and become an expert.

4. Apply.

Don’t wait until you’ve gathered all your qualifications and have become the perfect candidate before applying for your dream job. We’re never finished building our resumes (how boring would that be?) and no candidate is perfect. So when you find a job you’re interested in, apply for it. You might get it. But even if you don’t get it, the application process is enormously helpful. Like anything else, applying takes practice. Tailoring you resume and cover letter to specific jobs, knowing what to wear, becoming confident in your skills, listening and speaking well during your interview – all of these are skills that you need in order to become a library director, just like facilities, budget, and staff management.

5. Ask for advice.

The most useful thing I did when I was about to apply for my first directorship was ask a director at another library to look over my resume and cover letter and give me feedback. I had met this director only once before – we traded cards at a conference – and I was a little nervous to ask her for help; we were essentially strangers. But librarians are a generous and helpful group, used to answering questions and giving advice. And the advice I received from my now-colleague was invaluable. When you are applying for your dream job, ask a librarian for help. And, when you are in a position to help someone else, do so.

If you’d like me to take a look at your resume or cover letter, connect with me on Twitter.


I was at the New England Library Association 2015 Annual Conference this weekend and had a blast. It was my second time going. Last year, I didn’t know many people. This year, I knew a lot of people and it was great to see them again.

I gave two presentations. On Monday, I spoke about managing library facilities repairs. On Tuesday, I spoke about circulating unusual items. My talk about unusual items was sponsored by the New England Technical Services Librarians group. You can see the slides from my NETSL-sponsored talk here.

Small Libraries Forum

I was a featured speaker at the Small Libraries Forum in Sturbridge on September 23! This conference is put on by the Massachusetts Library System and is one of my absolute favorites. I spoke to an audience of over 100 about how you can drastically improve patron technology and get more out of a small building by switching from desktops to laptops and from Windows to Linux. You can view my slides and watch a video of my talk here.

Librarians: Fail Fast and Prosper

I had a great time talking about my first day as Director of the Millis Public Library at the Massachusetts Library System’s Spring Conference, Librarians: Fail Fast and Prosper. You can view my slides and watch a video of my presentation here.

21st Century Libraries (Cross-post from LibFocus.com)

LibFocus Post

I recently received a scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Library Association annual conference. In my application, I was asked to imagine that I was looking through a powerful telescope at a distant planet inhabited by an advanced alien race and describe their libraries. Here’s part of what I wrote:

I see a great diversity of libraries. Tiny libraries serving communities of less than a thousand and giant libraries serving nations of millions. Virtual libraries serving billions. I see libraries that are silent and libraries that are loud, and both hum with activity. I see libraries that are housed in treasured landmarks, their buildings telling as many stories as the materials they contain. And other libraries, in plain, inexpensive buildings whose patrons come daily, working to re-write their own stories.

Some libraries have laboratories where patrons experiment and build and break and fix and learn by doing rather than just by reading. Other libraries do not. Some libraries have books. Other libraries do not.

The libraries I see – including the library tucked into the corner of a subway station and the library taking up ten city blocks – are diverse because they match the needs of their communities, and their communities are diverse.

I intended this piece as a mild criticism of the idea most commonly expressed via the term “21st century library.” I have two objections to this term. The first – which I did not discuss in my application – has to do with precision of language: all libraries today are 21st century libraries, and have been for 15 years. When people use the term “21st century library,” they mean something more than “a library that exists between the years 2000 and 2099.” I think they mean a modern library, or a successful library, or a top library. We need a new term. Give some suggestions in the comment section.

My second objection has to do with the meaning behind “21st century library.” It seems to me that use of this term suggests a homogenous understanding of libraries. Some examples even read like the author is suggesting that there is a single 21st century library:

“In the age of e-books and online content, what’s the role of the 21st century library?” (Source – emphasis mine)

“[T]he 21st century library is competing with numerous web-based resources.” (Source – emphasis mine)

“[This book] provides an up-to-date picture of what the public library is today… the library [has] reinvented and repositioned itself [since the latter half of the 20th century.” (Source – emphasis mine)

Now certainly, the authors of these examples do not think that there is literally only one library (although, with interlibrary loan, participating libraries do function, in a sense, as a single global library, but that’s another blog post).

But I think it’s fair to suggest that when we talk about the 21st century library (or, less objectionably, about 21st century libraries) we are implying that there are certain traits that successful libraries have: flexibility, simplicity, patron-centeredness, collaborativeness, technological sophistication, etc.

I disagree with this implication. There are “21st century libraries” that are struggling. And there are “20th century libraries” (perhaps even “19th century libraries”) that are successful.

I have a single criterion for successful libraries: a successful library must meet the needs of its community. That’s it. For some libraries, that may mean maker stations, online courses, and circulating ukuleles. For others, it may mean a silent room filled with books. And that’s okay. Our world, like the alien world I explored in my application, is diverse, and so are its libraries.