Category Archives: R&D

July 15, 2015, 10:22 pm

My Final Blog Post

May 22, 2006. That’s when I started The Ubiquitous Librarian Blog. I wrote before at Alt-Ref where I explored new approaches for reference and instruction. But I felt too boxed in. Ubiquitous gave me freedom to roam.

It ends today. Right here.

 407 posts

9 years  1 month  23 days

When the Chronicle of Higher Education informed me that they were dropping the Blog Network I was sad. But after a few days I got over it, mostly. I realized they had given me a gift. This was a chance to move on and do other things.

I’ve probably written and presented too much over the last decade. I’m looking forward to letting that taper off. I want to focus on Virginia Tech and the great people, projects, and programs we have here.


Me as a soldier in the name of greater library experiences.

Rick Anderson says we…

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April 10, 2015, 2:15 pm

7 Classrooms: library as pedagogical incubator

Three years ago we had two classrooms in our library. They looked like this:


The former “training-based” classrooms at VT Library. Photo: R. Miller

These were suitable for training-based instruction but our program has evolved. Librarians wanted to be able to reach more students (larger class sizes) as well as utilize many different teaching methods. We’re upgrading both rooms this summer.

One is based on Steelcase Verb:

The other will be a Node classroom:

This all started with a partnership between the Library and VT’s College of Science when we built a SCALE-UP classroom together.


Scale-Up – VT Library

Shortly after that we introduced a Multipurpose Room….

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April 6, 2015, 5:01 pm

Think Like A Startup: 3 Years Later


Three years ago I published a white paper: Think Like A Startup. A lot of people downloaded it.


Over the weekend I reflected on the essay and I’d like to share a few thoughts:

Mental Model
“Thinking like a startup” is meant to be a mental model, not a business model. This confuses people who didn’t read the paper. I had been hearing from administrators around the county who were frustrated because they could not motivate their employees to embrace new directions. I wanted my paper to help with strategic planning and related conversations. It’s a chance to say—ok, for this afternoon let’s change our lens. Instead of thinking like a library, let’s consider how a startup might approach this service. What are we not doing? How would they operate? I viewed the paper as an invitation to brainstorm and a process that provides safety while encouraging experimentation and team …

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November 24, 2014, 2:58 pm

Libraries as Problem Shapers: some thoughts sparked by Brian Croxall (five things that we mean when we say digital humanities)

A few weeks ago I met Brian Croxall and learned about Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship. I thought it was interesting that it began as a research commons for faculty and graduate students… but that it went underutilized. They re-worked the concept and built a co-working environment filled with experts in data, gis, digital humanities, pedagogy, educational technology, and other specialties. The team works together in shared space, but also offers open work areas for faculty to come in and collaborate with them.

Increasingly I’m hearing more about librarians-as-consultants: how we can help guide your teaching and research activities in new directions. Here is a snippet from the Center’s website:

 “…provides consultation and support for digital teaching, research, publishing, and preservation. We offer faculty and students the space, expertise, and project…

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September 18, 2013, 5:09 pm

Moving From Data-Driven to Design-Driven Innovation

I was tweeted into a conversation about assessment and I wanted to take a minute to comment. Elliott Shore (ARL) recently called for a radical change in library assessment—with the gist being a move from descriptive to predictive. I’d like to push it further into the realm of innovation-generation.

I tried to contribute my part to that conversation at last year’s Library Assessment Conference with a paper Too Much Assessment, Not Enough Innovation. I wasn’t booed off the stage, but I definitely felt avant-garde compared to the mainstream assessment crowd. But of all the papers I’ve written recently that’s my favorite one because I enjoyed digging deeply into places like PARC and Bell Labs.

Anyway, twitter isn’t ideal for long-thought sharing so I’m dashing this off over lunch. I’ve been reading the October 2012 issue of Fast Company (yes, I’m a bit behind) and…

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May 29, 2013, 7:02 pm

How Embedded Are You?

What does it mean to be embedded? We have workshops, blogs, and books, but I’m not sure that we have a common definition. Perhaps it circles around the act of taking content or services outside of our traditional framework (spaces, websites) and integrating them into the natural habitat of our users?


But that feels too vague. If I provide office hours in a classroom building or if I interact with a class via the course management system— am I embedded? Technically, yes, but this is a gray area to me. There are different degrees of experiences.


roleThe more I think about embedded librarianship, and I will confess I have not read much of the emerging conversation, the question I’m having is with depth. How engaged are we? Are we simply serving a traditional librarian role in an nontraditional environment or is there something else to it? Are we changing our context or are…

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April 23, 2013, 3:37 pm

Hubs and Centers as a Transitional Strategy

We’re still in the early stages of reshaping the role of our library but I wanted to share a document that outlines some of our thinking. Julie Speer, Tyler Walters, and I co-wrote a paper for the International Association of Technological University Libraries (IATUL) Conference.


Here is a piece from the intro:

Libraries of science and technology universities worldwide are adapting to a changing environment where cyberinfrastructure, eResearch, and new technology-intensive approaches to teaching and learning are transforming the very nature of universities. While many have adopted new technologies and the resources and expertise to manage them, this is only an initial step. Libraries are experimenting with organizational models that will transform their work capacity and expertise. The goal of these libraries is being an entity that feeds and produces collaborative synergies…

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April 2, 2013, 2:56 pm

The Art of Problem Discovery (Invited Paper, ACRL 2013)


I was invited to present a paper at ACRL based upon my entrepreneurial writings. I decided to write about the pursuit of good problems, which has become a guiding philosophy in my work. I think it’s going to be a good talk. I’m having fun putting the content together and it addresses a different piece of the innovation discussion.


Friday, April 12, 1:30PM, Wabash 2-3, Indianapolis Convention Center


Here is the closing thought that sums it all up:

Our intention should never be to give people what they want. Rather, through the art of problem discovery, we can design and develop the capacities, service models, and solutions necessary to deliver what people need in order to accomplish the outcomes they desire.  (more)



January 28, 2013, 3:34 pm

Dear Mark Cuban… some thoughts I’d like to share about libraries


This is an actual note that I sent:

Dear Mr. Cuban,

I’m a fan of Shark Tank. I’ve learned a lot from watching the panel evaluate business prospects. Thanks for making the show exciting and educational.


I wanted to share a note regarding your recent post Will Your College Go Out Of Business Before Your Graduate? There are a lot of conversations right now about where higher education is heading. I appreciate your focus on the business model aspect. As a father myself, the affordability of education is definitely on my mind too.


I’m writing because of a comment you made questioning why anyone would construct new libraries. Today, libraries are some of the busiest buildings on campuses across the country. As more and more information migrates to online platforms, library spaces are transforming into knowledge or content creation centers. They are hubs for…

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January 14, 2013, 3:17 pm

FOCUSING YOUR FOCUS GROUPS: Ten Ways They Can Enhance Discovery

I saw that there was a session at midwinter talking about focus groups. Since I won’t be there I wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts. I don’t have the original announcement, but I was disappointed with the phrasing. It asked something like are focus groups effective? I would prefer a conversation around how to use focus groups effectively.


I have found thematic conversations with various user (and non-user) segments to be an important component of my discovery strategy. Focus groups often get knocked because of three main things: loud people dominate the discussion, people tend to tell you what they think you want to hear, and people can’t imagine breakthrough change. Those are all legit criticisms, however, if you plan according you can neutralize those issues.


Students working through an…

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