Monday, July 27, 2009
The reality is that - all too often in libraries- we've kept the webmaster a role separate from the person who administers library-specific systems, such as the ILS, databases/electronic resources management systems, and so on. That kind of division no longer makes sense, if it ever did. Here at MPOW, I'm declaring the end of the library website and the beginning of the online library, with its many facets of web presence. I'll let you know how it goes...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
- See Tim Berners-Lee's report on Putting Government Data online - http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/GovData.html
- "Google Recommends RDFa & Microformats" from L2.0 guru Casey Bisson - http://maisonbisson.com/blog/post/13988/google-recommends-microformats-and-rdfa/
- Linked Open Data In a Changing World - http://www.jenitennison.com/blog/node/108
- The Linked Data Brand - http://iandavis.com/blog/2009/07/the-linked-data-brand
- SMS-based virtual reference - My InfoQuest Txt 4 Answers Launches today (7/21/09) - http://liswire.com/content/my-info-quest-txt-4-answers-launches-today
- Handheld Librarian Online Conference - next Thurs., July 30 - http://www.handheldlibrarian.org/
- Mobile Devices, Policy and Library Panel from ALA annual - a nice writeup at The Shifted Librarian - http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/2009/07/12/mobile-devices-libraries-and-policy-panel.html
As a librarian you MUST care about this - http://thesocialopac.net/
Why? Because for the library user, this is a system that ensures that you're more engaged and that you get more out of the online library catalog experience. It meets (& perhaps even exceeds?) your expectations of a library catalog, bringing it more into line with what we see offered on popular sites like Amazon & LibraryThing ... Get it? Got it? good!
More on Open Source:
Not just SOPAC, but...
- An InfoPeople webinar on Open Source Library System Software: Libraries Doing It For Themselves - today, Tuesday, 3-4pm Eastern - http://www.infopeople.org/training/webcasts/webcast_data/338/index.html
- Over 40 Must-Have Open Source Resources - http://ostatic.com/blog/over-40-free-must-have-open-source-resources
Monday, July 20, 2009
Last week, I got invited to a meeting of MPOW's Digital Collections committee. Though meetings do take up additional precious time, it's so important to participate when you get an opportunity. One of the key issues that our usability testing raised was the difficulty our online users had when they were taken from our website and plunged into ContentDM. The two systems - the website and digital collections have thusfar existed separately and seemingly unaware of one another.
At the Digital Collections meeting, I think we began to shift toward our leader's new vision of an integrated virtual library. Finally! We all knew it needed to happen. Old structures, things that were due to the history of the organization, but didn't meet the changing needs of our users, had to fall away. Our budget crisis & the mass retirements caused the ground to shift beneath our feet. Now, we can all talk to one another. The walls are tumbling down! And it will be the best for our end users, and thus for our organization.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I know that you're decent folks and have a great social conscience. That's wonderful. But - unless it relates to things like library's budgets being cut, better marketing & spokespeople to help libraries publicize their value so they DON'T get cut, pushing for less restrictive copyright legislation, getting database and other vendors to make their licensing more standardized and their systems less proprietary & expensive, opposing the censorship of books/information resources, (library-specific concerns... and there are plenty of them out there) - I don't want to hear about it at your annual conference.
If members want to be involved in getting troops out of Afghanistan or Iraq or whatever, they can feel free to do so. There's an array of organizations designed to deal with those issues (have you heard of Moveon.org?).
For as long as ALA distracts itself with geopolitical concerns that are not related specifically to the library profession, it's taking its eye off the ball. Since there are still such huge concerns out there to contend with as the role of libraries in the future (and even whether or not there is one, let alone what it will look like), I think ALA can't afford to spend its time on these matters.
- portability and modularity of the resources we develop for the web
- support for linked data, the Semantic web, use of RDFa - we should concentrate on publishing out our unique resources in a way that others can take advantage of them more easily, mash them up, add value to them, gain meaning by relating what we've created to other bits of information
- community creation - the library is often the heart of a community, be it a community of people who live in a specific geographic area, who are part of a specific academic institution, or people who have interest in specific areas. We've identified some of the "communities"/user types we serve, now we have to facilitate not only the conversation with them but also amongst them
Monday, July 13, 2009
- we lost 19% of our full-time staff to retirements on July 1st, many of them being managers & supervisors
- there is still a hiring freeze on
- the budget reductions
- impact of web technology
- changing pattern of library usage
(in-house usage on the decline in the past decade while online usage has seen a considerable increase) - clearly, our users are migrating to the online environment
When you've lost 3 of your 5 top managers, the hierarchy necessarily breaks down. So, though our leader had been working for quite a long time on an orderly succession plan, he's had to be a bit more creative to try and hurriedly create an organization that can still ensure we serve our mission with such a lean staff while:
- being more responsive to change
- increasing collaboration among employees
- delivering more of our services and collections via the web
- offering a more user-centric / self-service approach with patrons
- eliminating the siloes
- looking at the library as a whole, the organization
- replacing the hierarchy with a matrix-based organization
- empowering staff
- seeking greater efficiency, use of technology/tools (e.g., online meetings)
The matrix is divided into service groups and functional units. It attempts to address the need for fluidity and collaboration, while providing enough structure to continue in our mission. I've heard that the big organizations, like Microsoft, work in a matrix-based environment. Projects are often led by someone who's not necessarily everyone's supervisor. Still, the project team leader has the ability to harness the time and talents of a group of colleagues. It's not like each move the project team's members engage in must also be approved by each member's supervisor. I think our leader foresees that committees will come and go over time and participants will be designated more by their technical skills relevant to the task at hand than by their official title.
Personally, I'm very excited by the ideas our leader was articulating. He has this powerful vision that brings the organization more in-line with today's reality. A decade ago, it might not have been so needed, but honestly, the web has changed everything. And those changes = opportunities...
What strikes me most about these changes is that they respond to the needs I've heard articulated by so many of my colleagues throughout the organization since I began here 3 years ago, the needs that are so glaring among the newbies on staff. So I believe that our leader both heard us & addressed our concerns in his plan.
The challenge for all of us will be to be really supportive, flexible, and open to these changes. We'll have to carry these ideas to fruition.
Friday, July 10, 2009
“These are the times that try men's souls.” - Thomas Paine (English born American Writer and political pamphleteer, whose 'Common Sense' and 'Crisis' papers were important influences on the American Revolution. 1737-1809, http://thinkexist.com/quotation/these_are_the_times_that_try_men-s_souls/149846.html
To that sentiment, I would add the more useful Obama point about using a crisis as a transformative opportunity. My mom would call it - "turning lemons into lemonade". Sounds trite, but it is probably the most important (of so many important) lesson(s) my mom has given me.
For MPOW, the crisis has become more of a perfect storm - budget cuts (potentially severe), hiring freeze (since over a year ago, I might add), edict not even to print (which has me instead going through pens & yellow legal pads by the ½ dozen... taking more time, too, darnit), and the loss of more than 453 years of institutional knowledge through the mass retirements that took place at the end of the fiscal year. If MPOW's leader has lost 3 of his 5 top managers, and all of us have lost the extra manpower, and "boots on the ground" that make things as elemental as staffing the reference desk (and other places where we provide services) a great challenge, how do we survive – or better still, thrive?
And MPOW, like so many other places of work these days, is only a microcosm of the stresses of a rapidly changing world. The whole issue that our profession has been struggling with in recent decades – the role of our libraries in a world of ubiquitous information – creates a similar perfect storm. I'm writing this while seeing a stream from the ALA Unconference today (twitter hashtag #unala2009 - http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23unala2009), in which Steve Lawson tells us that Jason Griffey is “saying that he believes that libraries branding themselves as providers of "quality information" won't be enough to distinguish ourselves”... It seems that Griffey is telling us that we'll need to focus more than ever on providing services and that our former raison d'etre is no longer sustainable. We have to build on something else...
I normally adore change, but even for those people who get bored with status quo, change is stressful (even when it's a good stressor). So I offer the following, both as a reminder to myself and my colleagues in this profession. To get through our crises, we'll all need to manifest – more than ever – the following qualities:
- patience & faith – At MPOW, we need to show patience with and faith in our colleagues, our leader and those managers/supervisors who are left... they are all working on the issue of how we get the job done in these circumstances... Rome wasn't built in a day & this is a really big ship. (In the profession at large, I think a little impatience/sense of urgency is probably functional, since there's that much more work to be done to get the whole profession to change. In an individual organization that's undergoing a major change already - one that is led by people of good will & vision - extending some patience & faith is required.)
- flexibility – we have to be able to roll with whatever comes our way. At MPOW, our leaders may be experimenting with how to fill the many gaps we've been left with. They are constrained by all sorts of arcane bureaucratic restrictions, I'm guessing, that we don't always understand
- innovative spirit – we'll need to figure out newer, better ways of doing things – faster, more automated means of getting things done. We'll need to deliver information AND services digitally. At MPOW, we need to empower more staff to participate in innovation.
- Collaboration, cooperation, and sharing – an unprecedented level of cooperation will be required to “build Rome” (or rebuild, as the case may be). We have to support one another, at none of our colleagues' expense. In a library (or in the profession as a whole), of all places, we should be sharing information, not hording our special store of knowledge and skills. Professionals should put the interests of the organization (or the profession) ahead of their own personal ambitions and fears. Though, in defense of folks who have behaved in dysfunctionally territorial ways, these behaviors can arise from an aspect of an organization's culture that may need to be dealt with on the leadership side of the equation. If people feel like their jobs are in greater jeopardy or others are getting rewarded for their work because they've shared information, they're not going to share again in the future. So from the management perspective, you've got to figure out where the real “go to” people are, even if they are too timid to point it out for themselves. You've got to recognize & reward them so they know that they are valued all the more for their willingness to share. It doesn't matter what their official position is in the organization. For the individual worker, collaboration and cooperation means having back-up people, documentation. and cross-training. Let's rethink how we look at things – maybe, just maybe, if an organization is going to fall apart when you leave, you haven't done a very important part of your job. (And supervisors/managers – to avoid future disruptions in service, you may want to make documentation and training a required part of your supervisees' workflow. Maybe every year, before each person's review, they should do a writeup/revision of their documentation and training of colleagues... just a thought)
- communication – to support said collaboration, we need to remember to talk with one another. Talking is far better than email – it's the quickest way humans can share information and it's the way least likely to intensify/create conflicts. We all modify our tone and words in real time conversation based on the feedback we're receiving. That allows for diplomacy. It's not as possible through mediated formats like email and even through IM, tweeting, blogging, etc.
- compassion – we'll need to understand that we're all doing the best we can in our own little way & to be patient with our colleagues to reduce the inevitable points of conflict. We need to respect one another's strengths (and shall we just call them, challenges?), because, after all, we're all imperfect beings.
- Optimism & hope – another aspect of my mom that I've always admired is her ability to see the silver lining in ANY situation, no matter how dire. Optimism isn't easy work – especially when it's not the pollyanna/stick-your-head-in-the-sand kind of optimism, when it is, instead, the look-reality-in-the-eye and still insist you can turn those lemons into lemonade kind of optimism.
BTW, for those of us (at MPOW, that's all of us) – NOT at ALA this year, you can follow the tweet-stream out of ALA at #ala2009 - http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23ala2009.