Champions.

13/01/2012 § 8 Comments

First of all. Let me just say. This day came way faster than I thought it would.

Here I am at the close of my career as a library student and the start of my career as an informational professional. Hack Library School has played a significant role in my professional development. As my scholastic experience ends, it gives me pride that there are some great new writers coming on board to carry on the banner. However, as I transition out of my role as a contributing writer, I’ll take this opportunity to look back and look forward.

Starting this journey as a returning student and a brand new library worker I was pretty fresh-faced, yet excited. I had a broad philosophic understanding of librarianship – knowing that free, open and protected access to information is a foundation of democracy. However I had little practical knowledge of the inner-workings of libraries. Cataloging standards, metadata schemes, and the battles surrounding DRM all felt like a foreign language. And the icing on the cake was watching rapidly developing technology coincide with a rapidly deteriorating economy. All of these factors made me feel like I was standing in a snow globe after a good shake – and I was trying to guess where the flakes would land.

During school, there was doubt and frustration. But there were some important lessons that kept the excitement burning. I learned that the exact technology that seemed to be drawing patrons away from the library also unshackled the librarians to meet users on their own terms. Embedded librarianship, virtual reference, and digital collections created the opportunity for librarians to insert their relevance into the 21st century…as long as these systems and resources were well designed that created an experience that exceed the users expectations. Moving forward, there is no room for mediocrity. « Read the rest of this entry »

HuffPo: Helping or Hurting?

21/11/2011 § 12 Comments

I’ve always been a fan of the Huffington Post. It’s been a great resource for (liberal) news and staying on top of viral videos. That’s why I was initially excited when I heard that the site started a page dedicated to librarians. Until I clicked over. Go ahead, check it out but come right back…

…personally, my excitement quickly turned to  frustration. This site feels overly sensationalized. Yes, libraries are fighting an uphill battle in terms of funding and many libraries are facing many barriers to staying open. But calling the site “Libraries in Crisis” makes it sound like the whole industry is doomed. Which it’s not.

The stories featured on this site seem to fit two molds: profiles featuring libraries that are on the verge of closure or tales of the incredible effort of communities who gather donations or signatures to keep the library open (with a good mix of literary celebrities adding their voice to the cause) . It’s wonderful that libraries who need help are getting their stories out and tales of success are being shared. But this site provides too narrow a view of what is really happening. We live in a time where many libraries are adapting and providing innovative resources and services for their patrons, and thus thriving. Where are those stories? Why when I read over the Huffington Post’s page all I feel is sense of panic?

I was speaking with fellow library student Alyssa Vincent (and previous guest poster here at HLS), who made a great point comparing this page to HuffPo’s book page. Even though we are seeing radical changes to the publishing industry, including the closing of bookstores across the country, we’re not seeing alarms going off or stories that only focus on the book store closures. Why does this have to be a “libraries-in-crisis” page and not just a “library” page?

Over at The M Word, author Kathy Dempsey brings up a great point: that the stories featured on this page are an excellent starting point for discussions. We can read the comments to see what patrons are saying, what they want from their libraries and why they visit or don’t visit their local library. She advocates that we don’t sit on the sidelines but become active participants in the discussion. I couldn’t agree more. I think that this is an excellent opportunity to try to shift the public perception of what our libraries offer.

I hope that this page has a long shelf life on the Huffington Post, but only if it evolves. I understand that stories of library closures are much sexier than the latest controversies with Overdrive, but if we want to see the libraries as a national tradition continue, we need to step away from the extremism and start proving what we are capable of. Let’s see some library success stories on this page, too.

But this is just one librarian’s opinion. Maybe I’m off base. Maybe this is exactly what the public needs to see to get them more interested in caring about their library. Please share you thoughts, we’d love to know what you think!

Leadership in the Library Industry

17/10/2011 § 6 Comments

View of the British Library Reading Room. Photographed by Hugh Chevallier. Posted here under a Creative Commons License.

I love theory. The ideas that disciplines and professions are based off of. The bedrock of our world views. The base of our ideologies.

Some of my favorite courses in library school were the foundation courses. At the time they were frustrating, because I wanted to be working in a library. But now that I am working in the field, I appreciate those theory courses the most.

I find LIS theory to be a fascinating creature. We have our own theorists (like Ranganathan, Dervin and Kuhlthau) but we are also a discipline of adoptive theory. Communication, education, business and management, sociology, gender studies, even engineering theories (HCI and UX principles are starting to take over the profession) are all relevant to LIS.

One of the last required foundation classes I took was Management and Leadership in the Library Industry. While most of the class discussions were focused on Taylorism and Scientific Management versus more current humanist approaches to management, our instructor provided a very interesting recommended reading list. On it were authors whose books are typically found on the shelves of business sections: Stephen R. Covey, John P. Kotter, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel H. Pink and Peter F. Drucker. I’ll admit: at first I scoffed at these books. Having a background in sociology, I want my theorist to be a bit grittier (and a bit more European): Foucault, Durkheim, Marx, Marcuse and Weber. So I pretty much stuck to the required reading and was none the wiser…

…until recently. I had a good friend (and non-librarian) recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins. This was a title that was on that recommended reading list, and one that I normally pass over. But the friend who recommended it was not someone I would think of as reading it: she spent a number of years selling fair-trade organic coffee, has spent a fair amount of time traveling in Africa and Latin America (including Chiapas, land of the Zapatista) and only recently started working for a corporation (Whole Foods) because of the horrible economy. Not exactly your rank-and-file corporate worker. So I had to check this book out.

Much to my surprise, I am really enjoying it, and finding much of Collins’ ideas surrounding leadership 100% applicable to libraries.

The most relevant lesson taken away so far is what Collins calls “the window and the mirror” theory:

“[Top-tier] leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well….At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly. The comparison leaders did just the opposite. They’d look out the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went well. (Collins, Good to Great, p. 35)”

Collins uses steel producing companies to exemplify this idea. CEOs of mediocre companies would look out the window and see internationally produced cheap steel as the reason why their companies were not reaching their potential. While the CEOs of top steel companies saw the internationally produced cheap steel as an opportunity. The competing companies would have to ship the steel to the US at exorbitant prices, giving the American companies a distinct advantage. Likewise, these top companies look at their own operations for ways to improve their business, rather than blame outside factors for their failures.

I think the window/mirror theory is an excellent mindset not just for individual leaders, but for the library industry as a whole. We could look at declining circulation counts or reference questions as a factor out of our control that is pushing our services to the periphery. Or, we can look at the changing information searching behaviors of our patrons as an opportunity to offer innovative services and resources that exceeds our users expectations.

For example: In 2009, Project Information Literacy released a progress report, with findings that describes course readings, Google and instructors as the first resources students turn to when researching topics for their school work, and librarians as an overlooked resource. Looking for external factors to blame for lack of library use, this study could be a shining example. Instead, we should look at the fact that students are rarely seeking out librarians as an opportunity to create new services (such as embedded librarianship or collaborating with instructors and faculty) to better assist students. And we should be looking at our current services for potential areas of improvement.

It is widely know that we live in a time of change. Libraries of all types are facing major budget cuts, and we are fighting tooth and nail for what resources we do receive. Rather than being Chicken Littles about it, looking out the window to avoid falling pieces of the sky, we should be looking at the changes we face as the new reality and continue to offer excellent services and exceed our users expectations. Now is the time to ensure our place as leaders in the fight for a citizenry who is not just information literate, but information fluent.

I know that this book has been out for over a decade, and some of the companies that Collins have listed as “great” companies have been the most affected by our current recession (such as the now defunct Circuit City), but Good to Great is still an excellent read. It’s worth checking out. But, as my hero Levar Burton often said: “You don’t have to take my word for it…”

[Series] Library School Starter Kit – Questions and Advice

19/08/2011 § 12 Comments

This is a collaborative post between Teresa Silva, who is entering her first year of library school at the Pratt Institute of Information and Library Science, and Turner Masland, who is entering his final semester of Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management.

Teresa: Finally, after months of waiting, I’ll be a student once again. I’m excited and eager to get going. Following various blog source recommendations including a recent post, I’ve started a blog, I have a twitter account, and after years of having a cell phone solely for dialing and texting, I’ve upgraded to a smart phone. I’ve registered for my classes, all core, which I figure will give me a better idea of what I’d like to concentrate in, so come second semester I’ll be able to take classes with more of a focus. Now it’s just a matter of attending orientations and various introductory activities before school at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science officially begins on August 29th.

The next two years will be dedicated to learning as much as I possibly can about the realm of information and library science. I’d like each class that I take to be challenging, to learn how to effectively relay information to the public in which ever concentration I choose, to be able to engage with my professors and classmates and develop strong professional relationships, and to reach my goal of graduating and finding a job in something that I enjoy.

Now, I’d like to ask my fellow collaborator, Turner Masland, some questions about his first year experience. « Read the rest of this entry »

Hack Your Certificate

22/07/2011 § 6 Comments

As a student with Emporia State University’s MLS program, I am not fully satisfied with my educational options. I want a certificate in web design, but such a program is not offered. We have excellent certificates in archives and a youth services. But in terms of emerging technologies we have just the few, basic class offerings. Before for I get ahead of myself, let me explain where this desire comes from…

…I had an a-ha moment about a year into my program. After completing the required web design program, I attended InfoCamp Seattle, a unConference where all sorts of people gather to talk about user experience (also known as UX). To be honest, I had little user experience knowledge before attending, so I had to give my self a bit of a crash course: UX is a way of looking at how patrons (or users or students or customers) interact with your systems. While not limited to technology, UX has really grown out of the studies of human-computer interaction. InfoCamp brought together  people interested in marketing, design, information architecture, design, programming, everyone (or so it seemed). « Read the rest of this entry »

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