Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 7, Number 4: April 2007


That’s my new book, now available exclusively at You could think of it as an extension and expansion of the July 2006 perspective Finding a Balance: Libraries and Librarians (Cites & Insights 6:9, July 2006, pp. 2-19,, but I’d rather say the book was inspired by that essay.

Here’s a little of what I said last July that applies to the book as well:

Think of this set of stories as my re-entry into the set of discussions around Library 2.0. Think of it as a follow-up to a discussion at LISNews, where I suggested that life was frequently a matter of grays rather than blacks and whites and was taken to task by two others who claimed everything was black and white if you just understood it thoroughly….

I favor change (when appropriate) and adore good uses of technology—I’ve been a change agent and technologist throughout my career. But I also favor continuity and have a healthy respect for established methods as worthy of consideration, not veneration…

I’m heartened by what I see as a tendency toward balance: More parties thinking about not only the possibilities of new services, but also the problems and the need to relate those new services to the overall spectrum of a library’s services. I see more recognition that every library is (and should be) different, that no community is homogeneous, and that libraries generally aren’t failing.

Between Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” and Finding a Balance: Libraries and Librarians, I published something over 40,000 words last year on continuity and change in libraries, although many (maybe most) of those words weren’t mine. Given the range of topics in C&I, that was more than enough focus one new topic—but I kept thinking about the issues and collecting appropriate comments. The result is this book.

Why and What

Why a book? Several reasons:

Ø      I believe the fifteen essays that make up Balanced Libraries work better as a book than as fifteen different Cites & Insights Perspectives. Some chapters can stand alone; some require the context of earlier and later chapters. It’s really too long for the ejournal.

Ø      I believe the book adds value to the ongoing set of discussions, experiments and changes in libraries and librarianship. While Cites & Insights clearly adds value, books work differently than ejournal articles.

Ø      The time seems right. Several books are coming out or have just appeared explaining various aspects of social software and “Library 2.0” tools and ideas for libraries. I suspect they’re all worthwhile. I list five in the bibliography even though I’ve only read one of the five, based on what I know of their authors’ writing and thinking. Balanced Libraries should complement these other books, working at a different level.

Ø      Print-on-demand publishing makes it feasible to do a timely book that I don’t anticipate huge sales for. “Timely” is a relative thing, but I can say that revisions to the text continued up to the end of February 2007.

As for the “what,” that’s simple. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change is a 247-page 6x9" trade paperback (including bibliography and index).  $21.95 plus shipping. Only available at www.lulu. com/waltcrawford/. There’s no ISBN. (That story was told at Walt at random.)

The book’s just over 71,000 words long, of which some 20,000 words are quotations from other people’s blogs, reports, articles and list posts. The rest is my commentary, interpretation and thinking.

I think it’s a handsome book, but of course I’m biased. The typography is similar to (but larger than) that in Cites & Insights. Thanks to my wife (not only the professional librarian in the household but a fine amateur photographer), there’s a lovely wraparound cover. It was taken July 20, 1996 in Papeete, Tahiti.

Cites & Insights 7:1 (January 2007) included the rough-draft version of Chapter 2, “Patrons and the Library,” under the flag Finding a Balance. That same flag appeared over a second-draft version of Chapter 14, “Balanced Librarians,” although the essay title was The Balanced Librarian. A third and final excerpt from the book appears in this issue—Chapter 9, “Improving and Extending Services.” For the other twelve chapters  you’ll have to buy the book.

Thinking through the title

I started working on this book last fall. It’s been a while since I’ve done a book and I wasn’t sure I’d complete this one and find it worthwhile. I hedged my bets—writing individual chapters as C&I essays with the thought that I could use any completed chapters that way if the project fizzled out. At the time, the working title was The Balanced Library: Continuity and Change.

By the time I published a draft chapter (December 20, 2006), I was half certain I’d eventually finish the project (and halfway through rough-draft chapters). That chapter yielded more positive feedback than I’d expected. By January 24, 2007, when C&I for February 2007 appeared, I was 75% confident it would happen. That chapter yielded much more positive feedback than expected. That’s probably why the project reached fruition earlier than expected: There’s nothing like positive feedback!

As I was revising the book, I rethought the title for what may be too-subtle reasons. Given how strongly I feel about the uniqueness of each library, I decided The Balanced Library had too final and “unitary” a feel. Balanced Libraries recognizes that balance will be different for each library. I added Thoughts on to the subtitle because this is not the kind of “finished statement” some of my earlier books were (e.g., MARC for Library Use and Technical Standards: An Introduction for Librarians). This is a set of organized thoughts—mine and others—offered as part of an ongoing set of conversations. It’s possible a new and substantially revised edition (or a sequel with a different title) will appear in a year or three.

To encourage those conversations, I’ll add 16 posts to Walt at random, each with “Balanced Libraries” as a category. One post is for the book as a whole, one more for each chapter. The posts will be stubs, resting places for comments. I will not remove comments because they’re negative. I will remove comments that constitute personal attacks, are slanderous, use offensive language, are simply irrelevant to the topic (or have spam URLs), or give strong indication that the commenter hasn’t read the book. I hope you’ll read the book before commenting, although I have no way of knowing who buys or reads the book.

Who’s There?

There may be a few others quoted in ways that didn’t allow for footnoting, but here’s who’s quoted in the book (and listed in the bibliography):

Andrew Abbott, Stephen Abram, Richard Akerman, Andrew Richard Albanese, Lori Bowen Ayre. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Mike Baldwin, Andy Barnett, Jeff Barry, Steven J. Bell, John Blyberg, Abigail Bordeaux, ‘Brary web diva, Peter Bromberg, Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns.

James B. Casey, Michael Casey, Simon Chamberlain, Mary Carmen Chimato, Dan Chudnov, Sarah Clark, Laura B. Cohen, Karen Coombs, Laura Crossett. Benjamin Daeuber, Lorcan Dempsey, Ryan Deschamps, Cory Doctorow, Bill Drew, John Dupuis.

Eli Edwards, Nicole Engard, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Lauren Etter, Woody Evans. Meredith Farkas, David Free. Rachel Singer Gordon, Kathryn Greenhill.

Jeff Hall, Chrystie Hill, Tim Hodson, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Kathleen Hughes. Joseph Janes, Iris Jastram. David Lee King, Keith Kisser, M. Kraft, Ellyssa Kroski.

Jeffrey A. Lackney, Steve Lawson, Mark Lindner, Don Litzer. Jennifer Macaulay, Jack Maness, Brian Mathews, Dale McNeill, Katherine Mossman, Mr. Krumpus.

George Needham, Joshua M. Neff. Steve Oberg. Marie L. Radford, Lee Rainie, S.R. Ranganathan, Chris Rippel, Angel Rivera, Amanda Robertson, Joe Robinson, Rick Roche, David Rothman.

Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran, Sarah, Michael Sauers, J. B. Schallan, Eric Schnell, Greg Schwartz, Tom Scott, Aaron Smith, Brian Smith, Alice Sneary, Michael Stephens, Jill Stover, Richard Sweeney, Michael Wagner, Stuart Weibel, Jessamyn West, Morgan Wilson. Paul Zafjen.

If you’re wondering where I quoted them from, you’ll find almost all of them in the web copy of the bibliography (excluding items not freely available online) at

PoD, Money and Downloads

I’m doing this as a publish-on-demand/print-on-demand (PoD) book for rapid turnaround and because I don’t expect it to sell well enough for a traditional publisher. I plan to do several more Cites & Insights Books unless this one fails miserably, all in areas where I believe a trade paperback is the most useful way to present a story and where I don’t believe the book is likely to sell 1,200 copies. It’s an experiment to some extent. I don’t plan to take out ads touting the book. I don’t imagine it will be reviewed in the professional media. It will live or die based on my readership and the extent to which people who read it find it worthwhile and say so.

I am not offering this book as a download, at least not initially. If I’ve underestimated the appeal of the book and it yields as much income as I received for the Library Technology Reports issue I wrote (Policy and Library Technology, vol. 41, no. 2, March/April 2005), I will add a $2 PDF download version to my Lulu bookstore, with that download version bearing a Creative Commons BY-NC license (which means you’re free to send copies to other people). I’m guessing the chances of that are small.

You’ll find a separate, informal, incomplete article about my Lulu experience elsewhere in this issue. It’s worth noting one aspect here. Lulu is not a publisher  and is clear about that. Lulu offers production and fulfillment services. I retain copyright and control. If some other publisher is so entranced by Balanced Libraries or one of the other C&I books that they want to publish it under their imprint, that’s not an issue with Lulu. Would I go along with such an arrangement? Sure, for the right price and with the right arrangements. I won’t hold my breath waiting for offers.


I can’t easily summarize each of the 15 chapters. I can list the chapter names and provide the first paragraph or so of each chapter.

1. A Question of Balance

A library system that stands still is unbalanced and headed for trouble. A library staff obsessed with Hot New Things and aiming for new users at the expense of familiar services and existing patrons is unbalanced and headed for trouble. Very few libraries fall into either extreme, but sometimes it seems as though we’re urged toward one extreme.

2. Patrons and the Library

Here’s a novel idea: Organizations should pay attention to the people who use their services and pay their bills. Here’s another one: Organizations should find ways to involve all the people within their community who could or should use their services.

3. The Library as Place

Librarians have new ways to offer services outside libraries, but libraries still serve a variety of important roles as places. Academic libraries have famously been the heart of campuses, frequently situated at the physical center in recognition of that role. Public libraries serve as one of the last great public gathering spots in many communities—and can serve as the centerpiece for growing community spaces as communities rebuild themselves.

4. Existing Collections and Services

Library services—and the library collections that support them—have always been balancing acts. Yes, you can add new services and collections without dropping old services or collections, up to a point. At some point, however, resources pose a barrier. The acquisitions and licensing budget doesn’t grow just because there are interesting new things to acquire. While librarians have done remarkably well adding new services to their workload, at some point even the most dedicated librarian must balance extra load with having a life.

5. Time and Energy

This chapter and the next three touch on barriers libraries and librarians face in working toward a healthy balance of change and continuity, recognizing that a healthy balance requires change and experimentation. For many library people, the biggest issues are time and energy—not enough of either.

6. Balancing Generations

I call it gen-gen: The unfortunate tendency to generalize about generations. I’ve also used KTD, short for Kids These Days—the idea that the newest generation is somehow composed of mutants who are entirely different from any past generation and won’t change as they grow older. It’s easy to fall into gen-gen when talking about library patrons and library staff. I believe it’s nearly always unwarranted and harmful. I recognize that my belief won’t stop gen-gen—and there are very real age-related issues for library services.

7. Pushing Back: Balance or Resistance?

As librarians seek dynamic balance for their libraries, with the ongoing set of changes that implies, you’ll encounter pushback, some of it forceful. That’s almost certain in a library incorporating new ideas and improving existing services. If you never encounter pushback, it may be a sign you’re being a little too cautious in your explorations.

8. Naming and Shaming

Do words matter? Does the choice of words matter? I believe they do and it does—and I believe badly defined terms can get in the way of nuanced discussions. That’s the “naming” part of this chapter—some notes on “Library 2.0” and related terminology issues.

9. Improving and Extending Services

[See Finding a Balance elsewhere in this issue]

10. New Services

Some of the ideas discussed in Chapter 9 will be new services for your library—and some of the ideas discussed here may be extensions or improvements in your case. Whether new or improved, these changes and extensions may offer better service for your current patrons—and could bring more patrons into the library community.

11. Promotion and Participation

A balanced library tells its story. As services change and grow, that story changes. Promotion, marketing, telling your story, public relations: They’re all roughly equivalent, and any agency that relies on people for its funding, support and use needs to do it. I prefer story telling to marketing, just as I prefer patrons to customers, but I’m using a variety of terms almost interchangeably. You should use whatever term you’re comfortable with.

12. Competition and Cooperation

When your balance starts to come undone, one reason may be a sense that your library won’t be competitive unless you act now to transform your institution. That raises an important question: Competitive with what?

13. Success! Success?

You’ve done it. Your library has started a blog, added RSS feeds for new-title lists, improved holds handling and notification, promoted online patron feedback, implemented a new frontend for your catalog that supports patron-generated reviews and collaborative recommendations—or maybe rethought needlessly restrictive policies and made the library a little more welcoming.

Now what?

14. Balanced Librarians

I’m arguing for balanced libraries—libraries that balance continuity and change, short-term and long-term needs, reaching out to new patrons and offering even better service to existing users. Balanced libraries require balanced librarians. I’m using “librarian” in a much broader sense than usual: Not only ML[I]S holders, but everyone who works in a library or who works in library-related operations and considers themselves primarily a library person. For purposes of this essay, I am a librarian.

15. Change and Continuity

There’s nothing new about change in libraries. If someone says libraries haven’t changed in a long time, they’re generally wrong. Good libraries have managed to change while maintaining continuity whenever feasible, providing a balance that serves their patrons and their communities.

Buy It, Read It, Review It

I think the book’s worth reading—otherwise I wouldn’t have written it. I believe it’s fairly priced. $21.95 for a trade paperback original in librarianship is on the low side, and from what I’ve seen Lulu produces high-quality books on excellent paper.

If you have a blog and do read the book, I’d love to see a review—no matter how that review comes out. If you don’t have a blog, there’s always the whole-book Walt at random post. If you like the book, be sure to mention it to others.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 7, Number 4, Whole Issue 88, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at OCLC.

Cites & Insights is sponsored by YBP Library Services,

Opinions herein may not represent those of OCLC or YBP Library Services.

Comments should be sent to Comments specifically intended for publication should go to Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2007 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.

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