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This video pretty much shows the spirit of librarians and their commitment to libraries – they will survive. But we need libraries that do more than survive. Libraries are vital to our democracy (blah, blah, blah, if you’ve read anything I’ve written on this blog, you’ve already heard all of my arguments so I’ll not bore you further.)

The point is…BECAUSE libraries are vital to our democracy, shouldn’t they do more than survive? You are still surviving as you take your last few breaths. How close to the thin line between surviving and dying do we want to push our libraries/democracy?

Sigh!

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For the past three months, I have been working on an AmericaSpeaks project, Our Budget, Our Economy. OBOE will link 19 sites across the county in a National Town Meeting about the Federal budget, specifically the unsustainable growing debt. We recently got some great press from a blog from Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist.org) on the SFGate.com City Brights Blog. But there were three words (four if you count a hyphenated word as two) that struck me.

Please fact-check me

I started to think back on how many times I’ve suffered writer’s block or felt incapable of joining a conversation because I was afraid I didn’t have enough information or that someone would expose my ignorance. How often have you sat quietly in a lively conversation unsure about whether or not you had enough information to fully participate? Have you ever chosen silence because it was more comfortable than taking the risk that you might be wrong?

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt?

I worry about those silent masses who are too overwhelmed by the details of public policies and too insecure to speak up even though they may be adversely affected by decisions made on their behalf.

But I also worry about those who have no problem belting out unsubstantiated “facts” carefully selected to confirm their previously held conclusions. With mind made up, they readily find data that proves their point while blindly missing anything that should cause pause and reflection. Their positions seem questionable, but their declarations are so assured that no one mounts a serious challenge. Or they are confronted by someone from another side equally armed with a set of “facts” that they vehemently use to prove exactly the opposite “truth”.

So what could perhaps help change the conversation in the midst of a “fact war” that silences some and incites others to hysteria?

What if we quit fighting about who’s facts are correct and started talking about what we value and share? What if we had an “out” that would allow the inhibited to speak from the heart without fear of being called a fool? And what if we were less focused on fighting for our preferred version of the facts and more open to different interpretations? What if we could find a way to move forward and not get mired in the details?

On June 26, thousands of people across the country will gather to talk about our federal debt. AmericaSpeaks has worked with an impressive team of National Advisors and a smaller content team to construct printed materials that will provide a Federal Budget 101 education for participants and a discussion guide (forthcoming) that will frame the conversation. These materials have been vetted for fairness and balance by institutions and individuals of diverse perspectives. And the materials explicitly address the assumptions and rationale for the projections that have been used in the framing.

These materials will be valuable for people willing to study and able to grasp the complex intricacies of our federal budget process. And I commend the crew for tackling this behemoth task. Job well done. But it won’t be enough – could never be enough – for many of us to feel like we are expert enough to propose solutions. Others may read the materials finely picking through the data to make sure that their “obvious answer” is supported. Not finding a strong argument to support their preferred solutions, they will be ready to pounce.

So here’s what I propose…

On June 26, let’s add another element to this already grand and challenging experiment. Let’s allow ourselves to just say, “Please fact-check me.” This could provide an opening for those who feel less informed to share their concerns and ideas without fear of ridicule. It would remind the falsely self-assured that NO ONE really has all of the answers, especially when we don’t agree on the issues or the circumstances that led us here.

Please fact-check me.

But please do it later. In the meantime, let us get on with the important deliberation about what we value, how we will make tough decisions, what message we want to send to our elected leaders, what kind of economy we want to leave to our kids, and what kind of sacrifices we are willing to make to get the results we want.

Yeah, the facts, the data, the projections are all important. But let’s not let our obsession with being right and being an expert keep some silent. And hopefully, those who hold strong opinions based on their slice of expertise will be willing to suspend the need to be right long enough to entertain new possibilities.

As I understand it, the consequences of inaction on the federal budget are too dire to let the problem continue while we engage in a fact war.

But please, fact-check me.

Lately I’ve been caught up in books and articles about bias and how our biases affect our thinking in subtle and irrational ways.

Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely explores the hidden forces that shape our decisions – why we spend more on certain products, why we refuse to cut loose and keep doors open long after it makes sense, how our preconceived expectations influence what we see (or what we choose to see) and how we choose to interpret events. Warning #1: You may not have as much control over your decisions as you think! Warning #2: If you take a class from Professor Ariely, it sounds like you’ll have a ball, but don’t trust him. You might be the unwitting participant in one of his wild experiments! Then again, it might be kind of fun and definitely enlightening, if you can drop your justifications and biases long enough to learn about your own foibles.

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson documents why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Why would I ever own up to a bad decision if I can rationalize why it was the right decision at the time. ooooh, “at the time” is a convenient rationalization!

I’ve not read “Nudge” a popular book by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, but it looks like an appropriate third act to the two prior books. According to the NY Times Magazine article about Sunstein (May 16, 2010) this book explains why conservative economics (people are rational, therefore the role of government should be as guarantor of a fair market and nothing more) do not always work in the real world – people are not rational. We are subject to biases and quirks. (What? We’re quirky?) But our quirks are predictable. We are, predictably irrational.

I’m not going to argue behavioral economics vs. conservative economics. The PBS Nova production of Mind Over Money is your best source for the exploration “Can markets be rational when humans aren’t” and it’s available for you to view online.

But I am going to argue that we can all be better consumers, team players, parents, volunteers, students…heck, better human beings by being aware of our own biases. Again, I’m going to rely on an expert who produced a video to help his Advanced Placement High School students learn about cognitive biases for a psychology class. Take it away Mr. Wray…

So the next time you make a purchase or some other important decision or pass judgment on another person or on an event, ask yourself, “Is my Cognitive Bias Showing?”

Below is an e-mail I received from a friend and former student who is the library director for Palisades Park Public Library in New Jersey. Many of the services that will cease to New Jersey residents are similar to those we receive in Texas. Thus far the Texas State Legislature has only requested a 5% budget reduction from state agencies, including the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, but there is no guarantee that this will be the last of the budget cuts to libraries. Read below for an example of what will happen if states are no longer able to fund the statewide institution that enables large and small public libraries to pool resources and enjoy economies of scale.

_______________________________________

NJ Gov. Christie’s budget calls for a 74% decrease in funding for statewide library services. 

This cut includes the elimination of ALL statewide library programs and services.  This will affect all types of libraries in New Jersey. Once state funding is eliminated, NJ will lose $4.5 million in federal funding.  Once state and federal funding are lost the impact will be felt by all residents.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Have you ever requested a library item that was sent to your library from another library?  Delivery of materials is severely threatened in Governor Christie’s proposed budget.

  • NJ resident’s access to electronic databases such as RefUSA and EBSCO will cease
  • Statewide interlibrary loan and delivery of library materials will cease.
  • Libraries will lose 50% of state aid at a time when demand for services is increasing dramatically.
  • More than half of public libraries will lose access to the Internet.
  • Many libraries will lose email service.
  • Many libraries will lose their websites or access to them.
  • The Talking Book and Braille Center (known as the Library for the Blind and
  • Physically Handicapped) will close.
  • Group contracts which bring down the cost of other electronic resources purchased by libraries will cease.

At the same time the state is eliminating funding for library programs. Assemblyman John DiMaio has introduced A2555 which eliminates the minimum local funding requirement for municipal public libraries.

The library programs eliminated from the Governor’s budget represent little more than $1 per capita in state funds.  Library programs have been flat funded by the state for 20 years so it is hard to believe these programs have caused the state’s current fiscal crisis.  Fatally weakening these programs will not solve the failures of legislative and executive decision-making of more than 30 years.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you have not already become a Library Champion for the library and automatically a BCCLS champion, please consider doing so. Click on this address for the registration form. http://www.bccls.org/champions/

For lobbying at the state level go to http://capwiz.com/ala/nj/home/ This will plug you directly into your elected officials at the state level

Help the statewide lobbying effort specifically by using the Facebook Save NJ Libraries Group.

Thanks again for all your past support and continuing use of one of democracy’s greatest inventions: the public library.

Your help is crucial for keeping New Jersey’s libraries funded.

Yours,

Palisades Park Public Library
257 Second Street
Palisades Park, NJ 07650
201-585-4150
http://palisadespark.bccls.org
…encouraging a lifetime love of learning

I’m swimming in alphabet soup registering my business for federal and State of Texas contracts. My head is about to explode so I thought I’d document the process and save others from blowing a gasket.

Federal CCR Registration

  1. To do business with the federal government, you must be in the Central Contractor Registration database. Register here: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/Default.aspx
  2. But, getting a CCR requires that you have a D-U-N-S Number, a unique nine digit identification number, for each physical location of your business. Don’t worry, it’s free. Get that number here: http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/index.jsp

  3. But, before you can get a DUNS number, you have to get an EIN and the business name you enter in your DUNS application must be exactly the same as the business name on the EIN award letter you get from the IRS. To get an EIN, go here: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html

So actually, what you need to do is the last three steps in reverse!

State of Texas

Now to register as a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) in Texas and get on the Comptroller’s Centralized Master Bidders List (CMBL), just download the appropriate pdf form from here complete, print and mail to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, P.O. Box 13186, Austin, TX 78711-3186. That’s pretty easy if you can answer all of the questions, like what your NIGP code is and you have $70.

So I am now in CCR with a DUNS and CAGE, and an EIN. And I’ll be a HUB on the CMBL as soon as I figure out my NIGP and drum up seventy bucks.

I think I need an aspirin!

The American Library Association is hosting a webinar on how libraries are using social media tools (puhleeze, let’s get away from the Web 2.0 talk – we’re way beyond that!) for advocacy.

But what about using these tools for authentic community engagement? (i.e., the members of the social network actually contribute knowledge, are a part of the community, have equal status, and are engaged in working on something meaningful together)

I can’t attend this seminar, but I’d love for someone to attend and report back on the possibilities. How can we use the ability to connect people to institutions and to each other online to foster relationships, interactions, group information-sharing, group problem-solving?

See details below. If you can participate, please add your insights to this blog.

Events<http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?cat=7>,

Believe it or not, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and other Web 2.0
applications are becoming more and more effective tools for library advocacy
efforts. Join Dr. Curtis Rogers (South Carolina State Library), Kristin
Murphy (ALA Washington Office) and Stephanie Vance (Advocacy Guru), for this session on how libraries can use social media techniques to capture the
attention of policymakers and the public they represent ? from townhall to
Washington, DC! If you?re wondering how to use Web 2.0 to get heard on
issues that matter to your library, this is the place to
be<https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/132869762>!

*When: *Tuesday, October 27, 2009 ? 4:00 PM ? 5:00 PM EDT

Register Now: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/132869762>