November 18, 2014, 3:27 pm

In the Act of Service: social entrepreneurship in the classroom

As a follow-up to last week’s post I want to tell the story of one of my colleagues. We talk occasionally about social entrepreneurship and I thought it might be helpful to explore that context through a library instruction effort.

“There will be 50 groups selling lemonade. They’ll be competing to see who can make the most money.”

I was instantly intrigued by this assignment. I imagined clusters of students hawking lemonade all across campus. The lemonade stand represents the classic business model, challenging students to be creative. When everyone is literally selling the same product you have to think differently to gain attention. This is how one of our librarians first presented this course to me and I was curious to see what would happen.

The Context
Our business librarian, Ellen Krupar, served an important instructional role within this course. Since she herself…

Read More

November 11, 2014, 3:25 pm

Outreach is Empathy. Outreach is Entrepreneurship.

facebookI have a new paper to share with you: Engines For Change: Libraries as drivers of engagement. This essay is based on a keynote I gave at Entre Lib: Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians back in May 2013. The theme of the conference was Social Entrepreneurship in Action. It has taken me a long time to write this because it is the most personal of my papers.

My talk was 90 minutes so the first half explored the concept of social entrepreneurship, while the second half applied that to libraries. I tried to use the same structure in the paper but it was over 10,000 words. I chopped it down to 4,000, but I probably should have broken it into two separate papers. I regret editing out Bill Drayton, but I’ll do a whole blog posted based on his work.

I wrote 80% of the paper last summer and then sat on it for a year. Over the last month I have been reflecting on my time at UC Santa …

Read More

November 5, 2014, 2:58 pm

Can instructors become unenrollable?

Our Dean’s Advisory Council meetings are always enlightening. On Monday we held small group discussions on teaching and research practices. (Ralph Hall blogged about his experience.) I have enough material for several posts but today I am reflecting on the concept of faculty who could become unenrollable.

 

Rob Stephens (Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Professor of History at Virginia Tech) shared this concept with me. He feels that websites like Koofers and RateMyProfessors are having an impact on course enrollment. Rob believes that there is a correlation between low headcount and faculty reviews online. (Translation: students avoid difficult professors whenever possible.)

“Frightening, threatening, and inevitable,” were the words Rob used to describe the situation. But he isn’t necessarily against…

Read More

October 28, 2014, 8:50 pm

Beyond books… thinking about the “living tradition” and the “virtual research environment” of scholarly discourse

I met with a group of students earlier this month and the topic of eBooks came up. They unanimously expressed a preference for print. I was curious. What I found was that none of them had read a book on an eBook Reader. Their exposure was limited to viewing content via a web browser on a laptop. I don’t consider that reading an eBook.

Here’s the thing: it’s been a few weeks now and I’m still thinking about those students. Somehow I feel responsible for their development. I don’t necessarily want to convert them all into Kindle customers but I’m thinking about their careers. The question that is nagging me:

In ten years will students be at a disadvantage if they are not proficient with various forms of digital content?

It’s one thing to prefer print, but if you are completely uncomfortable and absent in the digital ecosystem, does that hurt your prospects?

While I…

Read More

October 9, 2014, 5:33 pm

Residual Learning Environments: “Students never leave my course”

RH2I’ve worked with Ralph Hall (Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs & Planning, Virginia Tech) related to Google Glass in the past. He has explored different ways of incorporating the hardware into his teaching practices. See: Teaching Using Google Glass and Apps.

RH3_communityWhile Glass inspired him to think differently the game-changer seems to be the portfolio of Google Apps. Ralph recently remarked that students stayed connected to his course even after the semester is finished.

This is a powerful idea. I keep thinking of residual value or appreciation. Your primary value is taking the course, but afterwards—after the grading is done – students continue to gain value as evidenced though continued use or contribution. Just as you might watch a TV show or a game and then go back later to enjoy episodes or highlights. The value extends beyond the original occurrence—beyond the prescribed…

Read More

September 30, 2014, 3:53 pm

Learning to Pitch (make it hard for me to say no)

At conferences I often end up in conversations that go like this:

“I want to do this innovative thing but my administration won’t get onboard—what can I do?”

This is difficult because there are so many factors that need to be unbundled. A common problem I’ve realized is that librarians never learn the art of pitching. [Note to ACRL: I’m willing to do a free webinar on this topic sometime in Summer 2015.]

In the entrepreneurial world there is a lot of talk about recognizing the difference between ideas and opportunities. That’s the real challenge—separating things that might be cool from things that might help people succeed better.

An example. A dentistry librarian once told me we wanted to offer 3D printing but that his boss shut him down. As we talked I realized he had just asked about the idea and didn’t pitch the opportunity. It was as simple as: “can we…

Read More

September 19, 2014, 2:15 pm

Why do people who love libraries love libraries?

Why do people who love libraries love libraries? This has been on my mind a lot lately. Whenever I find a patron who is passionate about their library I try to decode those tangible and intangible qualities that made the experience so powerful for them.

Our library’s feedback form a great source of insight. Each semester we have a handful of students point out customer service problems, confusing policies, or facilities issues. They are telling us these things because they care and want us to improve. We address matters when we can. For example, one student suggested a new software configuration in our scale-up classroom that we enacted and it greatly improved usability.

This week I had a student share an opinion about our bathrooms. She was frustrated because while we are renovating some parts of our library we are not upgrading the restrooms. Our original building is from the 1…

Read More

September 10, 2014, 4:04 pm

Wait. Stop. What is a photocopy? Three insights from our Library Student Advisory Board

The mission of our Library Student Advisory Board is to help us gain a better understanding of the student experience at our university. We talk about a lot of different ideas and issues. I want to share three that surprised me.

Photocopying? We were talking about printing and I asked the students if they ever photocopied (we have all-in-one machines that do printing, copying, and scanning) and the students were silent. After some strange looks someone finally asked what’s a photocopy?

Apparently everything is a print these days. Reproduction of a page of paper doesn’t seem to be a very common activity. I explained what it was and felt like I was describing a telegraph. I guess with journals migrating to predominately digital formats that most undergrads do not need to photocopy articles. Most of their own content is digital as well — so there is no copying notes, forms, or…

Read More

September 3, 2014, 8:59 pm

The Distance to Ideal? That’s what I need to know

A glimpse at my whiteboard:

distance_to_ideal

This is a tool concept that I want to explore. The blue line represents “everything we want to do” in our ideal state. This requires looking across all services and removing (or sunsetting) the ones that are no longer essential. The objective is to gather everything that represents what we should be doing.

The red line then indicates what we can do – this is our current state.

If we can quantify these two elements it helps us frame new conversations.

For this example I set us at about 25% capacity or basically we are only able to do about ¼ of what we should be doing based on current practices and priorities. I have no idea where my group actually is at yet — this is just an illustration of the concept.  This opens discussions around where we are today and why vs. where we want or need to be. It provides a visual indicator that is easy …

Read More

August 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

Is your org changing? Two book recommendations (and some new directions at Virginia Tech)

This summer my library went through a strategic realignment. We had the convergence of numerous retirements and other departures that presented us with an opportunity to look across the entire organization and consider some adjustments.

The driving factor behind this effort was to better align the library with the University’s strategic directions. New priorities are emerging across campus and we needed to position ourselves to participate and partner more fully. And yes, I’m aware that’s admin-speak.

One theme we focused on was research. Previously we had two areas that shared this same word:

Research and Instruction Services
Research and Informatics

We decided to define our concept of research around activities such as data curation, scholarly communication, publishing services, repositories, and technology development. This is very different from the traditional…

Read More