Hiring beyond the usual cast

June 4th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

Adding to our discussion from yesterday about breaking up with libraries (which is also being discussed here and here), Curt Rice recently reported on a UK study about women [not] pursuing academic jobs. Specifically, the report looks at why women are leaving academic jobs in chemistry for industry jobs, but Rice extended the findings to all academia:

Universities will not survive as research institutions unless university leadership realises that the working conditions they offer dramatically reduce the size of the pool from which they recruit. We will not survive because we have no reason to believe we are attracting the best and the brightest. When industry is the more attractive employer, our credibility as the home of long-term, cutting edge, high-risk, profoundly creative research, is diminished.

By extension (metonymically and metaphorically), I think libraries should head the same warning. This is a reverse of the situation presented by Nina. Not only should we be concerned about librarians moving into industry, we should also be asking whether there are enough non-career (i.e. fully qualified but non-MLIS-holding) librarians applying for academic librarian jobs. And if there are, are we hiring them?

While I don’t want to discourage employers from hiring from among the legions of MLIS-holding graduates, if specific positions within libraries (esp. technology, advancement, PR, and management) are not attractive to outsiders, what does that say about our field, the way me market ourselves, how we provide for our employees, how we perceive our future needs, etc.? It’s an existential question and one for all of us, but especially library leaders, to consider.

The best library blog/journal on the internets just got better

October 3rd, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

My friends know I’m a shameless fanboy for In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Today, the authors announced they are taking the journal in a new direction.

[...] we have begun the process of registering In the Library with the Lead Pipe as a nonprofit corporation. Our intention is to leverage our credibility and what name recognition we’ve acquired to raise money and channel it towards initiatives that will positively impact the world of librarianship. We want to do so thoughtfully and constructively, in the same way that we have built Lead Pipe over the last four years. Our organization will be deliberate and passionate, it will be built through collaboration and consensus, and it will make careful, considered decisions. Yet despite all this, it will not hesitate to attack those obstacles and assumptions that keep libraries from moving ahead. That is, and will always be, the mission and heart of Lead Pipe.

Knowing the people behind Lead Pipe, you can expect this move to shift the library landscape tectonicly. Take 5 minutes of your morning to jump over to their site and offer your thoughts on how they can change the world. As I enjoy my morning coffee, I will do the same.

Creating a passionate library-work culture

May 24th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

It should be no surprise to the readers of this blog that librarians are passionate. Even the most common librarian stereotypes depict us as passion-driven people (cardigans, cats, what not). But more often than not, time, workload demands, and the office environment dampen our drive. Thankfully, there are tactics library administrators and leaders can use to mitigate these darker moments of our professional lives. Paul Alofs, author of Passion Capital, offers a number of ways to create a passionate work culture in an article for Fast Company (h/t G. Hardin). These three are my personal favorites:

2. Communicate.

“Once you have the right people, you need to sit down regularly with them and discuss what is going well and what isn’t. It’s critical to take note of your victories, but it’s just as important to analyze your losses. A fertile culture is one that recognizes when things don’t work and adjusts to rectify the problem.”

In my experience, we are too quick to sweep communication problems under the rug and, perhaps, in slower technological times it was possible to wait for issues to resolve themselves. But we have the tech and the tools to create quick and easy (and relatively inexpensive) fixes to our communication problems. The first step to solving any issue is admitting we have a problem, but we can’t do that without easy-to-access channels of communication.

7. Create the space.

“In cutting-edge research and academic buildings, architects try to promote as much interaction as possible. They design spaces where people from different disciplines will come together, whether in workspace or in common leisure space.”

I’ve talked about this before. We need fewer cubicles and more break rooms (with better coffee).

8. Take the long view.

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in five years. The culture needs to look ahead, not just in months but in years and even decades.”

Jenica Rogers recently spoke about this at the CARL 2012 conference and it continues to stick in my brain. We need to think strategically in relation to where we want to go, not where we are now. There is no way we can know what the future of libraries will look like, so let’s focus on creating one we will enjoy working within.

Check out the full article.

Gamification and library organization

May 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

What if, as academic library organizations, we radically empowered our employees? What if, instead of leading our organizations through individuals or select groups, we lead through the collective energy of our staff? What if we created spaces for the free flow of information where the best of ideas could quickly take shape and immediately be integrated into our service models?

These were some of the questions I asked while watching the video above by Gabe Zichermann, author, consultant, and creator in gamification studies.

I’ve been thinking more and more about ways to use technology to improve large academic library systems that, in short, allow them to function more like small libraries: to be nimble, open, and innovative (rather than sluggish, exclusive, and obstructive). Here are some of the points from Gabe’s talk that speak to that:

  1. Games and game-like systems provide a constrained system for expressing creativity, which has been shown to inspire more creativity than unconstrained systems
  2. Gamification is about creating a process and not about badges or simply turning work into a game.
  3. Feedback. Feedback should be systematic and immediate. See Gabe’s comments on improving annual reviews (15 minutes in).
  4. Friends. Adults love social activities just as much as children. See Gabe’s comments on the company gym (20 minutes in). Also, teams must be authentic to work.
  5. Fun. People will work for free (and enjoy it) given the right motivations and circumstances. Cf. the “creds” system on StackOverflow. (Me: As academics, the idea of “creds” should appeal to us!)
  6. Don’t ignore the potential for hidden creators. Cf. the tutorials developed by Codecademy users (19 minutes in)
  7. You cannot legislate game-play or simply hire people who have game-play potential. It must be inspired from the ground up.

Most importantly, the things that motivate people are:

  1. Status
  2. Access
  3. Power
  4. Stuff

… in order from most meaningful to least meaningful. Also, from least expensive to most expensive interestingly.

As organizations, we often focus our creative energies on ways to improve the library experience for our users and ultimately this is our goal. But what if we took more time to reflect upon how we run our organizations and how we can both inspire our employees to do more (and better) and how we can create spaces where that inspiration is nurtured and encouraged? My prediction is that by creating these spaces and processes, we will ultimately need to spend less time seeking out ways to improve our services, since many of the solutions will naturally present themselves through new ways of communicating and work.

I would love to hear from you, dear reader, about any libraries academic or otherwise that have used gamification models to improve professional development, communication, and/or problem solving.

Parabiosis: Jim Neal and the future of the academic library

May 3rd, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

I started my morning off listening to this talk by Jim Neal, the Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University, about the future of the academic library and what he sees as the future needs of libraries. For the tl;dr among you: we need to invest in more collaboration. Academic libraries needlessly duplicate services that could be better managed by multi-institutional networks of library systems, like the 2CUL project at Columbia and Cornell. The individuals who lead and sustain academic library operations are smart and resourceful people (and doggone it, people like us!), but “we are a very information poor, information profession” (see Jim’s Trend #4). The potential that we have for collaboration and increased efficiency is immense if we can find ways to reach beyond our institutions.

Also, props to referencing Mel Brooks.

CARL 2012 Conference – Jenica Rogers’s Keynote

April 7th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Jenica Rogers, Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam and blogger at Attempting Elegance, spoke to a packed room about killing fear, being a leader, and getting things done. She stated that libraries have always been changing and that that shouldn’t let us stop trying to predict the future and plan for it.  Generally, librarians react … and react poorly. Rogers offered eight tactics for new leadership and action:

  1. Stop defaulting to no and start saying yes. Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?”
  2. Be a leader and “be your own damn hero.” Stop waiting for someone to do it for you.
  3. Start paying attention. You no longer have an excuse not to know about Issue X in our field.
  4. Never forget that technology is just a tool. It’s only as good as its wielders. Also, to paraphrase Ani DiFranco, any tool can be a weapon if you hold it right.
  5. Rethink strategic planning. Our strategic planning is always tethered to the now, it should be tethered to our goals. Plan for it like you plan for an airplane flight (start in the future and work backwards).
  6. Examine your timidity. Rogers asked: “Why is telling the truth now a political act?” Also, know your tell! So you can react accordingly when it happens.
  7. Acknowledge your fears.
  8. Chase inspiration. What inspires you? Go there. Hangout.

I should also mention that there were multiple reference to geekdom, including Buffy, Dune, and Amanda Palmer. Be still my heart.