Handling change in our industry was the theme at several sessions on Tuesday. Mary Ellen Bates talked about Special Library challenges, including the graying of the profession; special libraries competing with other departments with the organization; and attracting Generation Y.
She also said that library schools are not teaching some critical skills for special libraries: value-added online searching; post-processing analysis; marketing the library; leadership skills; communication & collaboration skills; teaching & speaking skills.
I hope there will be more on this session posted on the News Division web site, I plan to go back and catch up with the second half of her presentation since I had to leave early.
In another session called “Pumping Iron,” News Division members reviewed results of a survey sent to members in April. About 70 members responded. The presentation gave loads of specific numbers for staff reductions and hiring practices in recent years. The librarians discussed how essential it is to be proactive in offering services to the newsroom and to the public.
- Anne Holcomb, a solo librarian at the Kalamazoo Gazette, said she keeps on target by scheduling her day. Mornings for archiving, afternoons for long-term research, with deadline requests breaking in as needed.
- Ginny Everett of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said libraries need to be poised to meet unanticipated demands. Her example was a film clip that was on the AJC web site. When readers started asking to buy it as a DVD, she was able to respond quickly.
- Michael Meiners of the St. Louis Post Dispatch mentioned keeping his researchers front and center in the newsroom by seizing opportunities for researchers to train the newsroom.
- Debra Bade of the Chicago Tribune talked about working with other librarians in a chain of newspapers to share ideas and info.
I expect more on this session to be posted to the Intranet as well.
Jim Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch told me he has been digitally recording most of the News Division presentations here in Baltimore. He said podcasts will be available on the News Division web site once the conference concludes. Very cool!
News librarians need not fear programming, says Derek Willis of the Washington Post. He showed us how he uses programming like Python to create easy-to-use databases. To get a quick grasp of what he’s doing, check out this Congressional votes database. This database is available to the public, but Derek has created similar databases on different subjects (Washington mass transit, the Pillsbury Bake-Off) for reporters to use inside the newsroom.
We should view this type of programming as not altogether different from Boolean searching, he said. It’s just another way for us to capture and view information. It may seem intimidating, but it gets much easier the more you get into it.
Derek said he’ll be posting notes on his presentation later today at his website, thescoop.org.
My two cents: I would have found this presentation near incomprehensible over a year ago. What helped me “get it” a little more easily was learning to blog with Blogger software and using an RSS reader, that helped get me more familiar with html and ways of manipulating it. Programming in Python seems like a couple of steps up from blogs and RSS — hard but not inconceivable. So if you’re clutching your head at the idea of Python, you might want to look at those two things as a way of getting comfortable with some of the terminology. Plus it’s fun!
This post waaaaaaay oversimplifies things but I’m blogging this on the public workstations at the conference, and there’s a 10-minute time limit.
I liked Monday’s wiki presentation a lot too (see Derek’s post below). Wiki means quick, I learned, and describes how easy it is to contribute to a wiki. I was impressed by the different uses the news libraries found for a wiki.
- The Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer uses theirs to share documents during breaking news stories.
- The Columbus Dispatch has created a city almanac of people, places and timelines — a geographic specific ready-reference resource.
- At the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the library uses a wiki to host a department handbook that includes best practices, i.e. how to background a person, how to distribute the daily papers, etc.
The panelists said their Power Point presentations would be available on the News Division web site in about a week. I’ll definitely be checking those out.
I also heard great reviews of the digitization panels they had yesterday, though sadly I did not attend.
Monday night, the highlight of the Proquest reception was the auction of a T-shirt from that said Times-Picayune: We publish come hell or highwater. (It sold for $80!) The whole room applauded after remarks about the work of news librarians and journalists during Katrina.
Gwen Ifill of PBS’s Washington Week and Jim Lehrer’s The NewsHour was the keynote speaker at last night’s opening session. She started out to cheering when she revealed, “Once upon a time, I wanted to be a librarian.” She said she learned to love reading at the library, and it was a place to meet boys and gossip with her girlfriends. She discussed how researchers at the NewsHour help her look good by prepping her for each day’s unexpected topics.
She then reflected on how journalism is seeing highs and lows right now.
The good: Journalists are in all parts of the world reporting on international events. Recent investigations have exposed secret prisons and wiretapping programs. Sept. 11 has renewed interest in government, and people want to now how government works, and what happens when it doesn’t work.
The bad: Journalists are under attack. Sometimes it’s reasonable and sometimes it’s not. She mentioned the U.S. Justice Department seeking the late columnist Jack Anderson’s papers, and the Wen Ho Lee case, where news organizations settled because they feared the courts would force them to reveal confidential sources.
Also, the proliferation of news outlets has led to an increase in “infotainment” style news. People know who TomKat’s baby is, but they don’t know what’s going on in Darfur. This development puts some responsibility back on the audience. “You have to take greater responsibility to get the news you need.”
Gwen also said that many of the politicians she’s met are “honorable people” trying to do good public service. The media does not do a good job of showing this, because it’s not usually news when people do the right thing.
Nevertheless, Gwen said she remains idealistic. “Are we under fire? Probably. And I think that’s a good thing. How else are we to be held accountable?”
Afterwards, Gwen took questions from the audience. On PBS’s independence, she said she feels like it is solid. The wall between journalism and underwriting has not been punctured. She also discussed her moderation of the vice presidential debate. She said she had to be very, very careful not to tell anyone what the questions were or what order she would ask them. (Jim Lehrer gave her that advice, she said.) She also said the audience knows when the candidates don’t answer the questions, as when Cheney and Edwards avoided her question on growing AIDS cases among heterosexual black women in America. Their non-answers speak for themselves, she said.
She spoke before a huge audience in the main ballroom, there were four giant video screens so everyone could see.