Does COVID-19 Survive on Library Materials?

There is much we know and still don’t know about COVID-19. Most public libraries closed in response to the pandemic, with many of them still not reopened. Among the diverse questions librarians had to consider in their reopening plans perhaps the biggest one is how long COVID-19 survives on library material. Most libraries like mine in Palm Beach County choose to quarantine items for three days out of caution. This was based on general studies of the lifespan of the virus on similar types of material.

Now we have a study conducted that specifically looked at the virus and library material. The REALM Project is a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs. In the first round of testing five types of library items were studied to determine how long the virus lasts on these surfaces. The results came in last week.

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According to the study, “Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.” In fact for many items the virus was undetectable after only one day. This shows that libraries which practice the three day quarantine method are providing safe materials for the public.

See the full results of the initial study on the REALM web site.

The Art of Stress Free Productivity

Today I want to share a classic David Allen video.

When I first discovered GTD back in 2011 I searched for anything related to David Allen and his teachings. One of the most impactful pieces was a video of his first TEDx talk from Claremont College. I have lost track of the number of times I have watched it, but it always yields something new on repeat viewings.

Right off the top, David shares a central theme of GTD. It is the idea of appropriate engagement:

“Getting things done is not about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with what’s going on. Appropriate engagement is the real key here. Many times not getting something done is the way to appropriately engage with it. … There is some key, something unique about being appropriately engaged. Why does a crisis get us there? Because it forces us to do the behaviors that get us there.”

The video is twenty two minutes, but it is time well spent. Share in the comments your biggest insight from watching it.

A Personal Awareness

Back in November, 2019, which seems like years ago now, I had the honor of meeting Shola Richards at the Florida Public Library Director’s meeting in Tallahassee.  I was deeply impressed by his energy and enthusiasm for improving our work spaces and our lives.  He was funny and deeply moving at the same time. We are having him come virtually to Palm Beach in the summer to work with my library staff.  

It turns out that Shola and I have a lot of things in common.  We are both happily married to awesome women who are also our best friends.  We are both fathers, Shola to two daughters and my one daughter, all around the same age.  We are both at first reluctant, and but now enthusiastic, dog owners.  We both live in beautiful parts of the country.  We are both passionate trainers who want to change people’s lives.  Although I will admit he is much more handsome than me!   However a couple weeks ago Shola shared in his weekly email message one profound way that our lives are different.  It is something that I take for granted every day.  For him, it could be a matter of life and death. 

The title of his message was Why I’ll Never Walk Alone.

Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem noteworthy, but here’s something that I must admit:

I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will). …

When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling.

But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). Its equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of possibly being targeted.

Reading his post had a deep impact on me.  Every day I step out my front door to walk to the mailbox, or roller blade around the block, or walk my dog without a hint of concern.  All my life I have felt comfortable walking through city streets without fear of being profiled.  I take for granted how the color of my skin gives me freedoms that others do not have.   

At the library we have a mission to connect communities, inspire thought and enrich lives.  Racism and violence are in direct opposition to it.   It is impossible to connect communities when racism and violence create barriers to trust.   It is impossible to inspire thought when racism and violence shut down understanding.   It is impossible to enrich lives when racism and violence favor some groups of people above others.  

Shola’s description of what he feels is necessary to do to stay safe on a simple walk through a peaceful community is heartbreaking.  Let us all commit to building a world where everyone feels safe walking the streets of their neighborhood and where the color of our skin does not keep us from stepping out our front door alone.  

As human beings we owe this to each other.

To learn more about Shola and his work, please visit his web site for more information and videos of him in action.

How Leaders Make Decisions

Leadership at one of its most basic levels is the science and art of decision making. To be a leader is to be someone who makes decisions.

This past week I had the honor to present a webinar for PLAN titled “How Leaders Make Decisions.” The webinar explored ideas such as “kind” vs “wicked” environments, the dangers of decision making fallacies, and how to bring a team together around a decision. The script of the talk is available in the Articles section of my web site.

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Here is a short sample of what I discussed:

We make decisions constantly ever day of our lives.  Most of our decisions are small and only affect ourselves.  However, leadership decisions directly affect others, ranging from a small few to an entire organization.  Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the art and science of decision making not only for themselves, but their colleagues and customers.

Decision making can be very challenging for leaders because of the impact.  Since leadership decisions often have public implications, leaders are subjected to second guessing regularly.  Psychologically the very act of making a decision is stressful because of the risk of making the wrong choice.  Every decision we make means all other options were rejected in favor of one choice.  This sense of finality can be scary.  Sometimes people avoid making a decision altogether.  However, not making a decision is a form of decision making with consequences in itself.  Deferring decisions may be useful at times, but often there comes a point where making a decision is unavoidable.

Read the rest of the article to learn more.

Palm Beach County Library System Reopening on June 1

Just a quick note that the Palm Beach County Library System is reopening on Monday, June 1 after a ten week closure due to COVID-19.

The Library is opening with limited hours to start. A full listing of the services and resources available when we open can be found on the PBCLS web site.

If you are visiting the library this week, please thank the staff for all their hard work over the past two months. During our building closures, library staff continually served the public by phone, email, chat, and most recently with a walk-up service. Staff members also participated in several food distribution services, assisted with emergency operations, and hosted virtual story times with the School District. They have also been trained to assist residents with re-employment.

We look forward to seeing our members return to the library. please remember to use a mask and keep your visit to less than an hour. We appreciate your cooperation in these challenging times.

Are You Being Tricked (By Your Own Mind)?

Here is a quick test. Which would you prefer to receive: $150 today or $180 next month? When this experiment is run most people would rather take the smaller amount now than wait one month. But consider this fact, if you were able to invest $150 now at a 20% rate of return, you would have $180 the following month. In the world of investing, a 20% return is massive. Yet for some reason our minds discount future money, even if it is worth more. This is a prime example of a cognitive bias.

In The Atlantic a while back, Ben Yagoda wrote an article diving into the many cognitive biases that affect everyone. He notes that there are over 185 different biases listed on the Wikipedia page. While not all are important, some affect us more frequently.

The gambler’s fallacy makes us absolutely certain that, if a coin has landed heads up five times in a row, it’s more likely to land tails up the sixth time. In fact, the odds are still 50-50. Optimism bias leads us to consistently underestimate the costs and the duration of basically every project we undertake. Availability bias makes us think that, say, traveling by plane is more dangerous than traveling by car. (Images of plane crashes are more vivid and dramatic in our memory and imagination, and hence more available to our consciousness.)

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In the article, Yagoda’s explores the question of whether it is possible to educate ourselves to avoid cogitative biases or if we are doomed to always fall for them. To learn his findings, please read the full article.

Deal or No Deal Mr Hall!

I have always enjoyed game shows. Although I have never been on one it is fun to think about different strategies to win.

Recently I was listening to a episode of a great podcast series called Choiceology. It is about how we make choices especially focusing on the factors that lead us astray in those decisions. The specific episode dealt with how framing decisions in terms of potential loss leads us to different decisions than framing them in terms of potential gain. In the episode they interviewed a contestant from the show Deal or No Deal.

I finished the episode not only pondering how we frame problems, but realizing that the contestant made a huge mathematical error that skewed his thinking even as much as the framing. In fact, it is a problem that is encountered on other game shows including one called Let’s Make a Deal.

To explain why a poor grasp of probability not only hurts our ability to win game shows but also to make other important life decisions, I wrote an article to explore the topic. The core of the piece discusses a classic puzzle known as the Monty Hall Problem.

Here is the puzzle. You are a contest on Let’s Make a Deal. Your game is to pick one of three doors. Behind one is a new car and behind the other two are goats. (For purposes of play assume you want the car.) Monty Hall invites you to pick a door, so let’s say you choose Door #1. Monty, who knows what is behind each door, opens Door #3 to reveal a goat. Then he gives you the opportunity to switch your choice to Door #2. The question: Are your chances of winning the car better, worse, or no different if you switch doors?

Read the entire article to learn the correct answer to this problem and how the Deal or No Deal contestant should have behaved.

Building a Second Brain – The Podcast!

Just a quick post to share news about a new podcast from a thinker who has been featured on the Efficient Librarian. Tiago Forte has created a podcast series based on his signature work, Building a Second Brain. In the podcast, Tiago summarizes and explains important aspects of his work. Even better, the episodes are purposefully kept short for easy listening.

Here’s the official description:

Overwhelmed by consumption? The Building a Second Brain Podcast gives you the tools to thrive in the Information Age. Tiago Forte teaches you how to turn your notes, bookmarks and unread articles into completed creative works. Learn how to build your own “Second Brain” – a trusted place outside your head where you can collect your most important ideas and insights, and use them to do your best work. You’ll discover why many myths about the creative process hold us back, and how replacing them with a modern approach can unlock our true creative potential. You’ll be amazed at what you can create with the right frame of mind.

Listen to the Building a Second Brain podcast by downloading it on your favorite device.

Productivity Guilt

I have come to realize that this is a pandemic is a strange time to evaluate productivity. Our society is in a weird space were many people are over worked due to the essential nature of their jobs. Conversely, many people are now under worked due to being laid off or furloughed. It is the very few whose work continues unaffected by the disaster.

No matter where your work lies on this continuum, the changes in the world around us have an impact on our mental state. With so much of the future unknown a new definition of productive is needed. With this in mind I came across an article by Scott Young titled, “What is Productivity Guilt? (And How Can You Prevent It?)” In the piece he provides advice on how to be easier on yourself to avoid productivity guilt. For example:

Accept that you’ll always be imperfect. That’s okay. Everyone is. Nobody, including me, does everything perfectly all the time. … I go through phases where my habits evolve. Old ideas I wrote about get replaced with new ones. Not always because the new is better than the old, but because I’m always changing (as will you). If you see, instead, that everything I’ve written about is a static and permanent part of who I am, when you sum it all up, you’ll get to something that’s probably unmanageable as a whole.

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Young goes on to provide the following advice when facing the specter of productivity guilt:

The real source of the guilt, however, isn’t because the standards imposed are too unrealistic or even undesirable, but because there’s always a gap between how we see ourselves and how we would like to be. The right move to make is always one that pushes you a little, but takes where you are as a starting point. That also includes your psychological strengths and weaknesses.

The rest of the article is available here.