CIL 2010: Black Ops Ninja-style Tech Projects

Speakers: Amanda Etches-Johnson, John Blyberg, & Sarah Houghton-Jan

One of the frustrations people have is that there are all sorts of exciting projects you could do, but often they are blocked by things that may be confusing to you. If you’re persistent, you can find ways to get around them.

We need to change the hearts & minds of the stakeholders in order to effectively implement something new. "Because we’ve always done it that way" might be a frustration and source of some amusement, but the reality is that we all have some attachment to established routines and processes. Make sure whatever you implement fits within your institutional strategic plan.

Often you can make changes without anyone noticing, and when they do, it’s already established. Start planning in advance – if you know you want to implement something, get people familiar with the idea or tech before introducing it as something to implement locally. When it’s no longer a foreign or new thing, then they will be more likely to go along with it.

You need to provide a counter-vision for people to latch onto. You need to have a vision that you know will be successful and that people will get behind you on it.

Evidenced-based librarianship requires due diligence. Do a literature search. Ask your colleagues about their experiences. If there is no evidence to support it, do it anyway. Make sure to collect the evidence as you go to share with others.

Try not to step on any toes as you are moving forward on your project (avoid collateral damages). Talk to everyone – you need to know where your project will impact other people, and you don’t know what you don’t know. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A MEETING. You can do this virtually.

What if the thing you want to do isn’t right? Give it a try and fully commit to success, and if it fails, that’s okay. You learn more from failure than from success. Figure out what went wrong and why. Don’t be discouraged.

Timing is everything. It may be too soon, so hang on for a bit and deploy when it’s most effective. No right now doesn’t necessarily no six months from now. Don’t get discouraged with nos.

Project teams can be a force for good. The team needs to buy into the process, and having specific goals/tasks can help.

When do you get buy-in from stakeholders versus just going forward with it? Use your best judgment. You often know when you will get unreasonable resistance, so sometimes it’s okay to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but be ready if it backfires.

Trust yourself. You know what you’re doing.

Know when to quit. Evaluate your situation, and if the returns are diminishing, then it’s time to move on to something else, even if you’ve invested a lot into it already.

Make sure you take care of the infrastructure first. You will have trouble getting stakeholder support for your project if the day-to-day stuff is falling apart. Unless your project is designed to fix infrastructure problems.

Keep some cards hidden. Let people feel like they’ve made suggestions for something (that you’ve already planned to implement) or put off implementing some features unless you or your team have time to do them.

[Sarah recommends drinking heavily, also.]

Update: Sarah has posted a list of the tips, if you would like to consume them unfiltered.

movin’ across the country… again

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

As I indicated a while ago, I have a new job. Starting December 10th, I’ll be the Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Richmond. They already have me in the staff directory, so it must be true. My time at Central Washington University has allowed me to grow and explore both professionally and personally, and it has given me the knowledge and experience I needed in order to make the decision about where I would like for my career to go.

One major thing has been the realization that I do not have any interest in participating in the tenure process, at least as it stands at Central. I am a practitioner first, and a scholar only in the most liberal sense of the word. I do have a desire to share my knowledge with anyone who is interested – I have had a blog for five years, and it’s not always just a bunch of naval-gazing posts about nothing – but the method of dissemination and the content of that knowledge is not what this university expects from its teacher/scholars, and I suspect that may be true elsewhere, as well.

I want to be a librarian. I want to come into my job every day knowing that the work I do will directly benefit my users. I do not want to spend time outside of my 40 hours worrying about whether or not I will have enough publications in journals no one actually reads (seriously – when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed library publication for anything other than a literature search for your own article or book chapter?) just so I can keep my job.

I can be “just” a librarian at the University of Richmond, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also excited about moving back to Virginia. When I left to go to grad school, I thought I’d be back soon. When that didn’t pan out, I gave up that dream. Now I’m going back, albeit not to Harrisonburg, but Richmond is close enough. Plus, I am closer to my family and friends, and it won’t cost me a $400 plane ticket to see them whenever I want to.

The moving process has begun, but I’m starting to freak out a little because I haven’t nailed down an apartment yet, nor have the movers responded to my queries. I do, however, have real moving boxes this time, and once I get some packing tape, I’ll be good to go with the daunting task of sorting through my stuff to determine what comes with me and what stays in Washington.

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

grrr…

Yay!: Coming up with a great idea for a research article.
Boo!: Doing a literature search and discovering that someone else recently published an article on the same topic.

Oh, well. Back to slogging through email and end/beginning of fiscal year paperwork.

luddite with a heart of gold

Chuck Munson has a soapbox pronouncement that is sure to burn through the ranks of librarian bloggers as quickly as Michael Gorman’s anti-blog people essay. However, unlike Gorman, Munson doesn’t come across as an elitist ass. He makes some good points and some points that others are likely to quibble with. I hope he is heard, and in return hears his critics. My own quibble is with the following statement:

“These tech savvy librarians are also the ones responsible for the disappearance of books and other printed materials from our libraries. They want to turn libraries into everything but LIBRARIES. They want fancy new buildings to showcase technology. They slash periodical budgets so more tech can be brought into libraries.”

As the Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian, my responsibilities are to provide our users (students, faculty, and staff) with the best information using the most appropriate format within the limits of my budget. In my book, there are two types of periodical publications: those that need to be browsed in print and those that are used for research where only one or two articles are needed. For the latter, electronic subscriptions and full-text aggregator databases make sense. For the former, print subscriptions makes sense. I also take into account other factors such as the inclusion of illustrations and format when choosing electronic subscriptions over print. The reality is that most undergraduate students prefer to download and print articles on demand, rather than pulling the bound volumes off of the shelves and making photocopies (not to mention a total aversion to anything in microformats). A quick literature search will reveal a number of articles on user preference regarding print versus electronic.

If the periodicals budget is getting slashed, that is only because the university isn’t funding the library to the level it should. In fact, the biggest problem I face is the annual subscription price increases, regardless of format. I’d like to implement some cool tech toys that will make it easier for our users to locate information, but my budget can barely cover what we already have.

I think that Mr. Munson’s rant is motivated by his personal experiences and does not necessarily speak to the library profession at large. While we tech librarians love to congregate around the virtual water cooler and geek out about the newest tech toys, our musings about library implementation of those toys does not imply that we want to turn libraries into some sort of Matrix-like cyberworld. Anything that draws in users and provides them with tools to find accurate information is a good thing in my book.