Category Archives: Leadership

March 31, 2015, 3:37 pm

TOOLS FOR LEADERS: 5 Tables To Expand Your Thinking

I have an assortment of tables, graphs, and charts that I have been collecting related to leadership and problem solving. Here are a few that I have found particularly useful:

1. An organizational hierarchy of IT needs

Table1_needs

This comes from John Borwick, Director of IT Services at the Virginia Tech Libraries. He adapted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into an IT context. The gist is that if you want to get involved with strategic conversations then you must ensure that basic needs are met first. “If IT cannot deliver a reliable production environment, no one is going to want to talk with IT about anything else.”

This applies elsewhere. If I want to talk with faculty about new services or their pedagogical practices, I need to ensure that their basic library needs are covered. If an instructor is upset because of something we are doing (or not doing) then she will be less open to…

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March 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE (scaling the commons beyond the library)

I wrote earlier about serving on a Student Experience Task Force. This was a yearlong project that brought together students and faculty with people from the budget office, facilities, student affairs, the Provost’s Office, and other units. It was an eclectic mix resulting in many diverse conversations. Personally, it was a perception-shifting experience and I learned to appreciate different challenges across campus.

Here is the final report.

The most glaring aspect we encouraged was a spectrum of disparity. Students in a living learning community had different encounters than those in older residential halls. Students attending classes in upgraded facilities had completely different experiences than those in older rooms. It was interesting to witness how a sense of place directly impacted emotional connections and output. Our charge was to consider ways to reduce the existing…

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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 …

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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…

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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…

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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 …

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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…

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July 24, 2014, 10:42 am

LIBRARIAN AS FUTURIST: Changing the Way Libraries Think About the Future

I recently published an essay in portal. It explores the mindset (and toolkit) of futurists and attempts to connect that to libraries. I blogged about it earlier with the idea of “change literacy”—which I still think is a fascinating concept.

Librarian_as_Futurist_preview_imageThe portal version is fine, but I can’t legally post their PDF – so I made my own. Besides that, academic publisher prints always look a little stodgy and grayish to me, no offense. I prefer a more uplifting wrapper for my words. Design is a vital part of the communications process and I  like to have some control over how my ideas are presented.

Here is a snippet:

Librarians could discuss ad infinitum the predictions, proclamations, worries, fears, hopes, and dreams about what libraries are becoming. In fact, as a profession librarians are obsessed with talking about our future. Books, articles, blog posts, conference sessions, an…

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July 7, 2014, 5:59 pm

SHIFTING FROM A KNOWLEDGE SERVICE PROVIDER TO A COLLABORATIVE PARTNER: notes from an ARL strategic thinking session

I highly recommend reading:  “ARL STRATEGIC THINKING & DESIGN – membership meeting Columbus May 5–8, 2014.” It is one of the most thought-provoking items I’ve seen from library-land in quite a while.

As someone on the younger side of library leadership, I sometimes worry about my role over the next few decades. Will it involve dismantling the print collections that librarians have invested the last century building? Will budget cuts greatly reduce staffing levels? Will we be constantly justifying our existence since everything is online?

arl_listThere is a general bleakness about the future of higher education itself so it is easy to worry about the long-term stewardship of our organizations. That’s what I appreciate about this document from the ARL sessions —  it presents an optimistic and opportunistic, bold vision for the future. Thanks ARL.

Here are some highlights:

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June 5, 2014, 5:44 pm

IMPRINTEDNESS: shifting from a service to partnership mindset

I’ve been thinking about the phrase organizational imprinting a lot. The idea goes that organizations are formed around the economic, political, social, and technological realities of their time and that it is challenging to move on from the starting premise. It’s another way of saying “but we’ve always done it this way.”

This imprinting concept appears frequently in the retail literature: “the lens through which an organization views the world can be so badly obscured by its founding context that the organization becomes unable to change.”

Doug Stephens (consumer futurist) offers these examples:

  • Best Buy, founded in a world without the Internet, struggles today to find relevance now that online retail is ubiquitous and product selection has been redefined.
  • Blockbuster video was born during a time without streaming digital content, and became victim of web-based…

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