NOTE: I have a new My Word's Worth column available, "Short Memory," at http://qconline.com/myword/memory.html
INTERVIEW: BRENDA BAILEY-HAINER
I had occasion to interview Brenda Bailey-Hainer recently as background for an article for Library Journal, and I was so interested in what she had to say that I wanted to pass on some of her remarks to you. As Director of Networking and Resource Sharing for the Colorado State Library, she has primary responsibility for the Colorado Virtual Library, http://www.aclin.org/.
MB: Given what's going on the Washington, where the governor wants to pare the budget by eliminating the state library altogether, what do you do to create an awareness of the value of the state library in your own governor and legislators?
BBH: Being part of state government, we are well aware that the same scenario could crop up in our state at any time. The situation in Colorado is slightly different than in Washington. We don't have a real collection that is available to the public (though we do house state publications), and so we don't have the same level of visibility that Washington State Library has.
Also, we are part of the Department of Education, so our public relations efforts are directed both inward, to the Department of Education, and outward, to the rest of the state government and to the library community as a whole. We participate actively in Department of Education activities, such as providing one State Library staff member to each of eight region teams that provide assistance to schools. We attend as many meetings as possible within the department (our Deputy State Librarian Nancy Bolt is a whiz at ferreting out opportunities), and get more actively involved whenever it makes sense. For instance, a study group on e-learning was created and Nancy prepared briefing information for the State Board of Education, including why online library resources are important to support e-learning.
We have other staff members who are active in Early Childhood Education and Literacy initiatives, and I monitor state government level activities related to state networks, telecommunications, and digital government. All of us try to make sure the word "libraries" is mentioned at any government meeting we attend. In a way, we are promoting not just the State Library but all of the libraries in the state.
In addition, the Colorado Library Association has a very active legislative committee. We participate in this, and are active in their Legislative Day activities that include lunch with senators and representatives and talking with them about key library issues -- though we have to take a day of vacation when we do this, since we are not allowed to lobby. These key issues include funding for my virtual library budget, our state resource center, and the regional library systems.
MB: How did your previous work for CARL, UnCover, and OCLC help prepare you for this job?
BBH: Every job I've held in my library career has helped prepare me for this one at the State Library. My position as Director of Networking and Resource Sharing involves three areas: 1) oversight for maintenance, support and development of the Colorado Virtual Library; 2) working with statewide committees on group licenses for online databases; and 3) coordinating statewide resource sharing initiatives. Integrated library system experience (CARL) is quite helpful when you are trying to connect to 33 servers that represent over 300 library catalogs and 12 different ILS vendors. Seeing hundreds of RFPs and learning how to respond to them taught me how to put one together and make it easy for the vendor to respond instead of seeing it as a competition. Understanding how vendors price their products and negotiate with groups has been incredibly useful in strategizing for negotiations for statewide licensing agreements for online databases and other software products. For about six months at OCLC, I was director of a unit that developed, marketed and supported software that provided Z39.50 gateway and database creation tools. That's basically the same responsibility I have now at the State Library, and at OCLC I learned how to work with developers from a management perspective.
MB: What kind of future do you foresee for electronic database services? More fragmentation or greater concentration? Will we someday see a common interface that allows us to search our catalogs and all our databases simultaneously?
BBH: Like many other people, I'm concerned that a few of the large companies are buying up all the smaller ones, which gives them a tremendous amount of power in terms of pricing. I see a trend away from modest pricing schemes, such as ones based on simultaneous users, in which the consortia have some control over costs, to ones for unlimited access. And while my ultimate goal would be unlimited access to databases with nor turnaways for users, it is not necessarily economically feasible in the troubled times that lie ahead for state government agencies. Just about every state that I know of has taken a budget cut this year and already has one slated for next fiscal year.
I would love to see a single common interface to all types of resources. It is possible to do so now with a number of products on the market. The problem is that it takes an incredible amountof human effort to maintain the connections to the non-Z39.50 resources -- and most groups can't afford the staff or the fees that the software provider charges to maintain the connection in their behalf.
MB: What accomplishments in your career give you the greatest pleasure?
BBH: My greatest pleasure came when the Colorado Virtual Library went live in May, 2000. Previous to that, an ASCII telnet-based interface was in use. Users went to a single menu, but then had to telnet out to each library catalog one by one. I started at the Colorado State Library in October, 1999. On my fifth day on the job, I had to address a statewide resource sharing meeting. I oultined my plans for the next couple of years and my boss (Nancy Bolt) put me on the spot by asking how soon I would complete the web-based virtual library. My answer was, "six months," and with the help of some very talented and dedicated staff, we were able to achieve that goal.
And it was wonderful to travel around the state showing off the new interface. At several meetings the audience literally gasped when they saw the new graphical interface and capabilities of the system. I'm hoping that six months from now I will feel just as pleased with our statewide interlibrary loan system -- SWIFT -- and also with another project we are starting that involves geographic information system software.
I also feel significant pleasure not just in the highly visible accomplishments, but also simply in the day-to-day activities I take part in. I am blessed to live and work in Colorado with a library community that has a long history of resource-sharing across all types and sizes of libraries. My role is to bring projects together and coordinate them. Every time that we move one step closer to coordinating our efforts into a whole that is greater than the sum, I feel great satisfaction and a simple pleasure that I have the honor to work with this group.
For more information about the Colorado Virtual Library, see these articles:
- Brenda Bailey-Hainer. "Supporting K-12 education with Web resources--the Colorado Virtual Library for Kids." Colorado Libraries, Fall, 2001, 9-11.
- Paula Busey. "Colorado Virtual Library and the future of statewide resource sharing." Colorado Libraries v. 26 no2 (Summer 2000) p. 39-41
Bonnie McCune. "Building and Marketing a State's Virtual Library." Information Today, April-May, 2001, http://www.infotoday.com/mls/apr01/
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The visionaries keep telling us that help is just around the corner in the form of intelligent agents, systems that will figure out our interests and tastes and take us unerringly to exactly the information we are looking for. But it's clear that the people who glibly describe these things haven't ever watched a flesh and blood librarian manage to extract a sense from the incoherent mumbles of the customers who present themselves at the reference desk. It's true there will be tools to make navigating the net a lot easier, but in the end users are going to have to spend a lot of time learning to meet the technology halfway . . . That's one thing the visionaries didn't realize about cyberspace: spelling counts.
Geoffrey Nunberg. The Way We Talk Now.
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