Future of Libraries

Tim at LibraryThing has a short – and very to the point post at Thingology.

I have seen the future of libraries: It is to spend the future discussing the future of libraries.

I had to give a sad giggle at this post …

I don’t have much to add, but I do agree with commenter James:

Luckily I think there are some great libraries out there implementing rather than talking about the future. It does feel like there is a lot more talk than action though…

It does get tiring talking about change when there aren’t any signs of change actually happening. On a personal plus side – my library is taking a huge step towards change … a pretty cool change. I’m referring to the use of XQuery for our digital collections. As soon as I’m done moving I’ll make sure to write much more – but for now, this teaser will have to be enough.

Follow up on Change in Libraries

At CIL David Lee King gave an amazing talk on Guiding Information Pros Through Change.

I mentioned in my summary that David started out with a few questions for the audience:

First, I asked if attendees had learned something innovative or new at the conference that they'd like to take back to their libraries. Almost everyone raised their hands. Then I followed up with this question: how many will take that cool, innovative idea back to their libraries, and hit a brick wall with administrators when they try to implement that idea.


The fact is that what Helene said was right – a lot of innovative people were at Computers in Libraries absorbing as many neat ideas as they could – but all with the fear in the back of their heads that they’d have to battle to get any of them implemented. In David’s reflective post How Can We Change the Unchangeable, or David's Rant he asks administrators a few good questions:

I have a question for the library administrators who sent staff to Computers in Libraries, but who also don't plan to do anything with the new knowledge their staff gained from the conference. Why did you send them? Why did you pay good money for the conference, for the hotel, for the food, for the flight"¦ probably $1000 or so – to go to a conference that's geared towards sharing best practices for implementing emerging technology in libraries?

Why send them if you don't plan to do anything with their new knowledge?

Which touches on Julian’s comment to my post last week – maybe this is why so many people at these conferences just seem to be going through the motions.

Looking for some answers? Check out the comments on David’s post and add your own.

My notes? Well, I found that after my presentation on using blogs and wikis for project management, that attendees in my room had a similar but different problem – getting staff to use new technologies. I’ve had more problems in this are than in the admin area – maybe I’ve been lucky. The fact of the matter is that change hurts and scares and exhausts people – all people – even the techies – but it’s going to happen. I like how David summed up his talk at CIL, by telling us that if we resisted change we’d miss out on a lot:

Most importantly, you'll miss out on the possibility of shaping your new destiny and reality – don't get me wrong, it will be shaped, the question is who do you want to do it – you or someone else?

Seems like a simple question …

My personal solution for dealing with change? Well I posted it a few weeks back – I have a song I listen to over and over (The Wood Song by Indigo Girls).

the thin horizon of a plan is almost clear my friends and I have had a hard time bruising our brains hard up against change all the old dogs and the magician now I see we're in the boat in two by twos only the heart that we have for a tool we could use and the very close quarters are hard to get used to love weighs the hull down with its weight but the wood is tired and the wood is old and we'll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we'll have missed the point

Bittersweet CIL Summary

Helene Blowers has a great post summing up what she learned at CIL – and it’s not pretty.

My CIL experience this year was bittersweet and I find myself personally leaving with a lot more unanswered questions and frustrations than new ideas and inspirations.

This type of frustration I heard echoed in almost every conversation (but thankfully not all) I had over the past three days. And given that this is about the 3rd Computers in Libraries conference highlighting the same tools and trends (wikis, blogs, user-generated content, the long tail etc), I'm beginning to wonder if what the profession really needs is just to give some administrators a good swift kick in the head. Those that I spent my time talking with clearly got all the 2.0 concepts, in fact they were apostles. But after trying to move their libraries forward for the past year or so, they felt stippled and oppressed by stale management and old world politics.

My heart melted a bit every time I heard a story from a passionate librarian whose gallant efforts to provide new and fresh services were crushed by the old guard. Clearly things need to change"¦ but I'm struggling even myself with exactly just how?

Like Helene, I had many such talks with librarians. In fact – I actually had the (sad) opportunity to sit near some of these people who have probably held back their passionate staff members. What were they doing at a conference with the “Library 2.0″ theme? They probably just come every year and go through the motions. Also like Helene, I got to talk to tons of passionate librarians. I learned just as much from librarians after hours as I did during the sessions.

I agree with Helene – we have to keep up the enthusiasm and battle for change as best as we can because in the end it will pay off:

It's hard to fight battles through small change, but with enough small battles, it creates some erosion. And the thing about erosion is … that if it continues long enough, it eventually leads to an avalanche of new opportunity!

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Abram on Change

I’ve been writing about change a lot lately – and while at CIL this year I was informed of an article by Stephen Abram titled “Change – Arrghhhhh!.” I shared the article on my Facebook page and was promptly pointed to a post that links to all of the people who weren’t happy with Stephen’s article.

Sometimes people just see the worst in things – I recently read Out Front with Stephen Abram (a collection of articles and presentations by Stephen). After that I can’t see this article as a company ploy as some think – it’s just Stephen (he has many similar articles out there – and he has always been up front – and sometimes blunt – which I love)!! I was happy to find that Helene Blowers (another person I respect) was also impressed with what Stephen had written.

I’m even more impressed with Stephen’s response to the negative people out there:

We all have our personal definition of what comprises professionalism. I sometimes fail. I’m not perfect – far from it. If I have offended anyone with this article, then I apologize. My intent was to share a personal experience in a difficult time. But then, that’s just me.

Either way, I will continue to carry myself the same way in all my roles.

I’m not in a library that uses Sirsi – but I’m all for a company that will let its employees express themselves on the front page of the company newsletter. I’m used to being in a library with an ILS vendor who does everything to prevent putting on a human face – or allowing human interaction! And as someone who respects Stephen, I don’t think this was any more than he said it was – an intent to share his feelings.

Guiding Libraries and Info Pros Through Change

David Lee King gave an amazing talk on handling change within our libraries. He started by asking a few questions and reading a few quotes. The first question was how many of us have had a hard time changing things in our libraries – lots of hands were raised. Then what kinds of change are hard – tech or other? Both! How many of us had to change ourselves while trying to implement change? A good number.

David, like a few others, recommended reading Stephen Abram’s article in OneSource on change within libraries.

He then read a quote from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins which basically said that spending time to motivate people is a waste of effort – the right people will be self-motivated – but the key is to not de-motivate them! What a great quote!! I don’t have the book, so I can’t write the exact quote, but the gist is right.

Change is gonna happen whether we like it or not – just take a look at librarian want ads these days – they’re all full of new (fun sounding) jobs.

So what is change? Change the old way:

  • leaders simply ordered changes
  • goal: getting the change accomplished
  • when it failed the leaders would review change to see what went wrong

The problem is that they were looking in the wrong place (within their organizations) – because change is external. Transitions (reorientation people have to go through inside before the change can work) however, are internal. The reason most changes failed was because leaders focused on getting the change done instead of getting people through the transition.

Saying Goodbye

So, what are the stages of transition?

  1. Saying goodbye (letting go of the way things used to be)
  2. Shifting into neutral (in between state – full of uncertainty and confusion)
    This is where you focus on the details. You have to want to change to get past this phase and unfortunately, some people get stuck here. These people don’t let go of the old ways. On the other end of things, some people get frightened and leave
  3. Moving forward- requires people to begin behaving in a new way

Of course there is going to be resistance to change, in fact, “nearly 2/3 of changes in corporate environments fail”, but resistance isn’t the problem – management’s reaction to resistance is the problem – resistors aren’t seeing it as resistance – they see it as survival!

Three levels of resistance:

  1. info based – not enough info with the new thing, don’t understand, disagree with the idea, confused
  2. physiological & emotional – job threatened, future with organization threatened, respect of your peers at risk (loss of power – feelings of incompetence) – all in your head (but still real!)
  3. bigger stuff – personal histories, significant disagreement over values, etc

So, how do we navigate through change?

Tips just for leaders & techies:

  • remember that you’ve already come to terms with the change, but others still have their own stages to go through
  • understand why people might not want to change
  • understand that it’s the transitions, not the change, that’s causing waves

Steps to take in helping change run smoothly:

  • describe the change succinctly (1 minute or less) change and why it must happen
  • plan carefully
  • help people let go (explain why they have to let go – why it’s a necessary change)
  • constant communication
  • create temporary solutions when needed (things to make the change move smoother)
  • model new behavior – practice what you preach, don’t say we need a blog and then never contribute
  • provide practice & training in new things)
  • if you want staff to use web 2.0, you better have an RSS reader and you better be actively using it and reading blogs etc etc

David than reminded us not to do these things:

  • don’t confuse novelty with innovation
  • don’t confuse motion with action
  • don’t keep something going if it still has a “few good years of life left”

More tips & reminders for techies:

  • you might be able to change quickly
  • there are areas where you don’t change quickly (it departments have to stop saying no first – think it through)
  • always share too much… (and do too much training) it should feel this way to you – cause you’re not the user
  • technojust(ification) – make sure it makes sense (the opposite of technolust)

After all of this if you still won’t change, you need to remember that refusing to change will lead to missed career opportunities and missed changes to expand your network and meet new people (like I do at conferences and through my blog). Most importantly, you’ll miss out on the possibility of shaping your new destiny and reality – don’t get me wrong, it will be shaped, the question is who do you want to do it – you or someone else?

Some final pointers from David:

  • learn all there is to about change
  • break old habits
  • work on stress management strategies
  • whine with purpose (constructive criticism is good)

What an awesome talk!!! I hope I did it justice in my summarization – and I hope you’re all motivated to change the way you handle change in your institutions.

[update] See David’s Slides [/update]

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The Library Director’s Perspective: Beyond Survival

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a Library Connect event hosted by PALINET. The topic was “What’s Next? – Embracing Change” – the perfect topic for me!

In his introduction, John Tagler, VP of Customer Marketing, Academic & Gov’t Libraries at Elsevier said we’re all dealing with change and we have to “face it and embrace it or we’ll all fall behind” – what a great way to start the event and such a true statement.

The first speaker was Rush Miller, University Librarian at Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh. The title of his talk was: “The Library Director’s Perspective: Beyond Survival”. Rush is so passionate about change that he sometimes made me cringe! That said, he was an awesome speaker and the fact that he went off on tangents didn’t seem to bother the audience (or myself) one bit.

Rush started us off by talking about how librarians handle change. He told us this great story of how when he was given his first director job, the technical services librarians all brought him back to the storage room and said “Now if there is a fire, we all run in here and grab the shelf list”. Apparently, this shelf list was nothing to scoff at – big and heavy. Years later when electronic catalogs were available, people still kept their shelf lists because they didn’t trust the new technology. Rush asked a great question – did the librarians really think that if the library had a fire the administration was going to re-order every book that was on the shelves? For years, librarians fought change – it was technology that forced it on them.

He told a great story of how a friend gave him a disk years ago and said “here, you’ve got to try this, it’s a graphical interface for getting on the internet” – that disk had Mosaic on it – and Rush was unable to install it on his work computer because he didn’t have Windows. Why not? Cause his IT staff it took up too much space and was a passing fad! See – it’s not just librarians how fight change – we all do – we fight until we’re bruised and broken and then we have to give in – wouldn’t it be easier if we acknowledged that change is scary and that we’re terrified, but go with the flow anyway??

He talked about how he hated going golfing without a full group of friends because eventually someone was going to ask – “so what do you do” and he’d have to tell them he was a librarian. This would lead to a discussion on whether people actually use libraries anymore – if they’re really necessary and so on. The fact of the matter is – that if we don’t start making the right arguments – people are going to believe that they’re not necessary!! Here’s where Rush and I part ways a bit. Rush feels that it should all go digital – that books are on their way out – slowly – but on their way out. He mentioned that at Pitt they’re closing departmental libraries with no opposition from the departments – he said that book usage is going down (a stat that is the complete opposite of another I recently read).

That said – his next point is right on track – constantly claiming the value of libraries and making arguments is not going to get things done – we have to demonstrate to others how it works.

He then proceeded to give us 8 ideas for changes:

  1. User-centric not user-focused
    Provide multiple channels for information delivery and rethink our processes and services. What’s important is what they think not what you think!
  2. Re-think our mission
    It’s not about books anymore and it’s not about organizing information, it’s about connecting people to what they want to learn. In short – it’s about people!
  3. Re-engineer our operations
    Stop worrying about the quality of the data in your catalog – it’s not the center of the universe
  4. Re-think how space is used
    Allow cafes in the library – stop worrying about the stupid carpets! (I actually thought it was worries about the books that made us stop people from drinking in the library – but when we did our renovation it was also about the carpets – why???)
  5. Collaborate and innovate
  6. Communicate our message
  7. Build expertise
  8. Change the culture of our libraries
    Stop rewarding the people who won’t change in your library and start supporting those who will. Rewards should not be given on the basis of who’s been there the longest.

So, overall – a great presentation by Rush!! And lots of great info. I’ll provide a link to his presentation as soon as it’s available.

My Change Mantra

We all talk about change, but what encourages you to push through the pain and fear associated with change? I have a song by the Indigo Girls that got me through a lot of tough times when I was younger and has stuck with me through the years. The song is The Wood Song. I want to share it with you.

the thin horizon of a plan is almost clear my friends and I have had a hard time bruising our brains hard up against change all the old dogs and the magician now I see we’re in the boat in two by twos only the heart that we have for a tool we could use and the very close quarters are hard to get used to love weighs the hull down with its weight but the wood is tired and the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s were i need to go no way construction of this tricky plan was built by other than a greater hand with a love that passes all our understanding watching closely over the journey yeah but what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside but we get to have some answers when we reach the other side the prize is always worth the rocky ride but the wood is tired and the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s where i need to go sometimes i ask to sneak a closer look skip to the final chapter of the book and maybe steer us clear from some of the pain that it took to get us where we are this far but the question drowns in its futility and even i have got to laugh at me cause no one gets to miss the storm of what will be just holding on for the ride the wood is tired the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s where i need to go

Lyrics found here.

When I was in high school a friend of mine and I sat down and deconstructed the song – we didn’t understand the lyrics, years later it seems so simple. Change is hard, but it’s going to happen whether we want it to or not – “but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point” – I love that line.

So, if you have a friend with the CD, give it a listen or pay the $.99 to your favorite MP3 store and listen to it over and over as I have through the years – if you don’t have a mantra, it’s a pretty good one.

“…but what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside but we get to have some answers when we reach the other side the prize is always worth the rocky ride ” — How can that not encourage you??

Feel free to share something that helps you push through change – maybe it will help others around you (maybe you know some old dogs or magicians).

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