IL 2012: Engaging & Inspiring Staff

“Leadership” by Andrew Becraft
Speaker: Michelle Boule

Crowdsourcing without a purpose is like unleashing a horde of zombies.

There are three things you need to do to engage staff with crowdsourcing: give them a goal, let them choose their own weapons (technology and methods used to accomplish the goal; group organizational structure), and celebrate both their successes and failures.

The easiest way to get staff engaged is to involve them in the process, and listen/respond to the input they provide.

Keep in mind that this only works if your organization is not so wedded to hierarchy that they can’t set that aside to get the work done. A way to handle that kind of work environment is to have a moderator to keep those staff involved, or remove from the group the managers that cause the problem.

Speaker: Lisa Hardy

About four years ago, they put together a team of eight to plan for leadership development, board engagement & strategic planning, and staff engagement. One of the keys to the group’s success was that it had closure — it was not an ongoing committee, but rather a task force with a specific goal and timeframe.

One of the outcomes was a “Future Action Think Tank,” which was not mandatory for all staff, unlike other events of that nature. The staff had to submit an application/essay explaining why they wanted to attend, and almost all attended. If they didn’t submit an expression of interest, they were turned away.

They started the day with a futurist faire, where staff talked about the things they were doing in a poster session style setting. The biggest part of the day was the field trip. They had several different location options around the city, and each of the places visited talked about their particular challenges and what they were doing to meet them (university digital library, zoo, science center, immigrant serving agencies, youth serving agencies, volunteer agencies, etc.).

There were other events that happened after it, and the second one actually came directly from administration. They had staff come and pitch their ideas to the administrators, and one was given funding to go ahead. Kind of like an entrepreneur TV show in Canada.

20% of staff are always open to change, and are willing to follow/lead anywhere; 20% of staff will stand in the way of change; and 60% will go either way. Where will you focus your energies?

Audience member suggested using Belbin for assessing potential roles when forming a group, and this may help avoid some of the issues of organizational hierarchy impeding staff involvement.

CIL 2011: In Pursuit of Library Elegance

Speaker: Erica Reynolds

Elegant solutions/designs are often invisible to the user. Observe what is happening, and look at what could be removed (distractions/barriers), rather than what needs to be added.

Simple rules create effective order. The more complexity in an equation, the more doubtful that it is true.

Another aspect of elegance is seduction. Limiting information creates intrigue. Libraries could play more on curiosity to draw users to information. Play hard to get, in a way. Don’t be so eager to dump information in response to user questions.

Restraint and removal can increase impact and value. Encourage people to use their brains. Why do we act like they are so stupid that they need signs everywhere in the library?

Limited resources spark creativity and innovation. The creative tension at the center of elegance: achieving the maximum effect with the minimum of effort.

The path to elegance begins with: resisting the urge to act; observe; ensure a diversity of opinions and expertise are heard; carve out time to think and not think; get away from your devices; get some sleep; and get outside.

Speaker: John Blyberg

The primary intent of our website may not be about getting you from point A to point B. It could be about building community and connection.

They found that when they removed the fortress that was the old reference desk, it was much more popular and approachable. Like Apple not including a manual with the iPhone, your library should be intuitive enough to use with minimal signage or instruction. Digital signage can evolve and be interactive, which will spark curiosity and inquiry.

NASIG 2009: What Color Is Your Paratext?

Presenter: Geoffrey Bilder, CrossRef

The title is in reference to a book that is geared towards preparing for looking for a new job or changing careers, which is relevant to what the serials world is facing, both personnel and content. Paratext is added content that prepares the audience/reader for the meat of the document. We are very good at controlling and evaluating credibility, which is important with conveying information via paratext.

The internet is fraught with false information, which undermines credibility. The publisher’s value is being questioned because so much of their work can be done online at little or no cost, and what can’t be done cheaply is being questioned. Branding is increasingly being hidden by layers like Google which provide content without indicating the source. The librarian’s problem is similar to the publisher’s. Our value is being questioned when the digital world is capable of managing some of our work through distributed organizational structures.

“Internet Trust Anti-Pattern” — a system starts out as being a self-selected core of users with an understanding of trust, but as it grows, that can break down unless there is a structure or pervasive culture that maintains the trust and authority.

Local trust is that which is achieved through personal acquaintance and is sometimes transitive. Global trust extends through proxy, which transitively extends trust to “strangers.” Local is limited and hard to expand, and global increases systemic risk.

Horizontal trust occurs among equals with little possibility of coercion. Vertical trust occurs within a hierarchy, and coercion can be used to enforce behavior, which could lead to abuse.

Internet trust is in the local and horizontal quadrant. Scholarly trust falls in the vertical and global quadrant. It’s no wonder we’re having trouble figuring out how to do scholarship online!

Researchers have more to read and less time to read it, and it’s increasing rapidly. We need to remember that authors and readers are the same people. The amazing ways that technology has opened up communication is also causing the overload. We need something to help identify credible information.

Dorothea Salo wrote that for people who put a lot of credibility in authoritative information, we don’t do a very good job of identifying it. She blames librarians, but publishers have a responsibility, too. Heuristics are important in knowing who the intended audience is meant to be.

If you find a book at a bargain store, the implication is that it is going to be substantially less authoritative than a book from a grand, old library. (There are commercial entities selling leather bound books by the yard for buyers to use to add gravitas to their offices and personal libraries.) Scholarly journals are dull and magazines are flashy & bright. Books are traditionally organized with all sorts of content that tells academics whether or not they need to read them (table of contents, index, blurbs, preface, bibliography, etc.).

If you were to black out the text of a scholarly document, you would still be able to identify the parts displayed. You can’t do that very well with a webpage.

When we evaluate online content, we look at things like the structure of the URL and where it is linked from. In the print world, citations and footnotes were essential clues to following conversations between scholars. Linking can do that now, but the convention is still more formal. Logos can also tell us whether or not to put trust in content.

Back in the day, authors were linked to printers, but that lead to credibility problems, so publishers stepped in. Authors and readers could trust that the content was accurate and properly presented. Now it’s not just publishers — titles have become brands. A journal reputation is almost more important than who is publishing it.

How do we help people learn and understand the heuristics in identifying scholarly information? The processes for putting out credible information is partially hidden — the reader or librarian doesn’t know or see the steps involved. We used to not want to know, but now we do, particularly since it allows us to differentiate between the good players and the bad players.

The idea of the final version of a document needs to be buried. Even in the print world (with errata and addenda) we were deluding ourselves in thinking that any document was truly finished.

Why don’t we have a peer reviewed logo? Why don’t we have something that assures the reader that the document is credible? Peer review isn’t necessarily perfect or the only way.

How about a Version of Record record? Show us what was done to a document to get it to where it is now. For example, look at Creative Commons. They have a logo that indicates something about the process of creating the document which leads to machine-readable coding. How about a CrossMark that indicates what a publisher has done with a document, much like what a CC logo will lead to? created a Firefox plugin to monitor content and provides icons that flags companies and websites for different reasons. Oncode is a way of identifying organizations that have signed a code of conduct. We could do this for scholarly content.

Tim Berners Lee is actively advocating for ways to overlay trust measures on the internet. It was originally designed by academics who didn’t need it, but like the internet anti-trust pattern, the “unwashed masses” have corrupted that trust.

What can librarians and publishers do to recreate the heuristics that have been effective in print? We are still making facsimiles of print in electronic format. How are we going to create the tools that will help people evaluate digital information?

how the university works

My review of Marc Bousquet’s book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation has been published on Blogcritics. It took me a few months of reading a little at a time to get through it, and I will admit to skimming quite a bit. I also had to put it down several times because it was too depressing to keep reading.

The stereotype of the tweedy professor — older, male, and white — is one that continues to be the common perception of academics in American culture. The reality is that this stereotype is such a minority, it might be a candidate for the endangered species list. It is this stereotype that prevents the average American from seriously considering the plight of college and university educators. Bousquet blasts that stereotype out of the water with his accurate and thorough descriptions of the true working conditions in higher education.

ala midwinter seattle day one

How much swag is too much swag?

I arrived in Seattle yesterday around noon, thankfully without incident. I opted for taking the shuttle rather than taking my chances that the pass would be okay both going and returning. Plus there’s the whole finding and affording parking in downtown Seattle.

After getting checked into my hotel room, I went up to the convention center and picket up my badge holder and packet. ALA has got this conference thing down to a science, it seems. I haven’t been to an ALA conference since 2002, and I had forgotten how organized it is. The signage is very helpful and well placed.

My first official event was the Innovative Users Group meeting. The first part was all about the upcoming IUG meeting in Chicago, which I’m not attending, so it wasn’t of much interest. I took that time to make use of the free wifi and catch up on email. After that, Dinah Sanders did a presentation about III’s upcoming “discovery services platform” called Encore. It looks really good – lots of Library/Web 2.0 widgets done in a helpful and tasteful way. It’s not meant to be a replacement for the OPAC, just a different layer for delivering resources for basic information needs. Seems like something public and undergraduate libraries would find very useful, if they can afford to purchase the product. Knowing the pricing that tends to come with these things, it may take a while for it to catch on, no matter how cool (and useful) it may be.

After that, I attended the author’s forum. It featured three science fiction and fantasy authors talking about the rise of sf/f since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They all agreed that the premise of the talk is a bit off, since sf/f was already on the rise when that happened, but that world events leading to the attacks and the rise in popularity of sf/f are linked. Two good reasons are that sf/f presents a relatively non-threatening way of discussing current problems and possible solutions, and that readers are able to escape (in a good way) for a little while to a world where at some point there will be a resolution of something. Of course, depending on the series and author (*cough*Robert Jordan*cough*) that resolution may not come at the end of the book.

The grand opening of the vendor hall followed the author’s forum. This was yet another ALA conference — specifically ALA midwinter conference — event that I was not prepared for. Apparently this is a free-for-all get as much swag as you can while chowing down on the finger food event. I now know to leave the laptop in my room along with my heavy winter coat before embarking on that quest. By the time my group was ready to go to dinner, I was dragging from the weight in my bag, and I really didn’t take much of the swag.


Just out of curiosity, does anyone out there know of a bindery that is able to handle a shipment of about five or six boxes of journals and/or theses without making mistakes on 25% or more of the bound items?

Just out of curiosity, does anyone out there know of a bindery that is able to handle a shipment of about five or six boxes of journals and/or theses without making mistakes on 25% or more of the bound items? My institution has used three different bindery services in recent history, and all of them seem to slip into shoddy work after the honeymoon period has passed. I’m wondering if this is an industry standard or simply our misfortune.

soothing tech envy

I admit it. I’m envious of my contemporaries who are more technology equipped than me.

I admit it. I’m envious of my contemporaries who are more technology equipped than me. I’ve had twinges of envy every time Jenny brags about her Treo 600. I’ve longed for a better laptop so that I could experience the wonders of WiFi and be able to complain when library conferences aren’t set up for it. Then I read an essay by Anthony Caruana that compares and contrasts smart phones v. PDAs with the perspective on who really needs the features of each.


I missed listening to NPR All Things Considered last night because of my Wednesday evening class, but a friend sent me a link to one of the commentaries, which I just listened to. The point of the commentary was that this guy Aaron Freeman wants his daughters to be open and aware of the world around them. So, along with sending them to Orthodox Jewish summer camps (they’re Reform Jews) and watching Fox News every so often, he’s sending them to San Francisco for a few weeks to be indoctrinated by the lesbians.

folk is lesbian music of choice, over-paid librarians, and other modern myths

My friend Anna sent me a link yesterday to an article about folk music having become the sound of lesbian culture. I have noticed this phenomenon, but I had never really thought about it specifically. You can read the full article yourself, but it will require a free registration with the New York Times.

“We’re seeing the coming together of a way of life and a form of expression that’s kind of primary,” says Lisa Merrill, a professor of performance history at Hofstra University. “This doesn’t happen often.”

A county in Washington State wants to dissolve the entire county library system, according to this New York Times article. So far, petitioners have managed to collect enough signatures that it might actually make it onto the ballot. Aparently some folks are upset that they pay an average of $38 per year in property taxes to keep the rural libraries up and running. <sarcasm>Gee, that sure is a big chunk to be taking out of some family’s budget.</sarcasm> Seriously, folks, don’t you think that is a small price to pay to have access to free books and computers?

“I home-school my kids, and our four library cards are maxed out at 40 books at all times,” said Linda Arrell, who lives off the electric power grid with her family north of here. “They say everybody is on the Internet, so we don’t need a library. Well, some of us don’t have credit cards, and some of us don’t have power.”

Oh, and that bit about the head librarian’s salary being too high? Let’s put this in perspective here, folks. Ms. Robinson is responsible for nine library branches, which includes all of the staff and budget issues that any large organization spanning a geographic area that size would have. If she were in the corporate world, she would be making three times as much.