Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

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Leadership Discussion Group forms submitted

I am so pleased with how many people supported the creation of a Leadership discussion group within ACRL. The petition has been submitted, and the ACRL Board will discuss it next month at their meeting. I’ll let folks know what I hear!

In case you’re interested, here’s what I submitted to the Board, in addition to the text on the petition itself (now closed)

Developing and supporting Leadership in Academic libraries is an area of strategic importance for ACRL, but is a community gap that ACRL does not structurally fill at this time. Academic libraries pose different paths, challenges and opportunities for leadership and management than other types of libraries, and these qualities deserve the focused attention that an ACRL group can afford. There are sections within ACRL with leadership/management committees; the existence of these can be read to support a need for a leadership forum for all types of groups within ACRL. Acquiring 58 signatures in 24 hours on the Petition to create a Leadership Discussion group within ACRL also speaks to the demand.

While ‘management’ frequently refers to a position with authority, ‘leadership’ refers to a set of skills, abilities, and actions that can be exercised by people in any job category within an academic library. Leadership skills are desirable in working with peers, as well as with people in different employment categories, regardless of whether they fall laterally or above or below a leader on an org chart. Leadership skills are also essential in working within professional organizations at committee level as well as working within the overarching organizational structures; ACRL’s (laudable) movement towards virtual meetings complicates communication and community building, and multiplies the need for developing leadership abilities in ACRL members.

There is a special need for ACRL to focus on leadership skills: academic libraries staffs are frequently (and uniquely) constituted of faculty and civil service members. These categories of colleagues cannot be managed in the most common sense, as the structures of those categories lack many incentive and disincentive options. ‘Managing’ faculty and civil service requires leadership skills, and addressing the needs of ACRL members in organizations with these populations can best be accomplished in undiluted conversations and fora.

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LLAMA webinar on Academic libraries

Owning and communicating the value of academic libraries is a major initiative in ACRL right now (see the Oakleaf report).  It looks like LLAMA is also taking an interest in the topic.

I’ve just received an email about a LLAMA webinar pertinent to academic libraries. It’s a webcast of a session LLAMA held at ALA NOLA, “Return on Investment in a Tough Economy: Defining the Value of the Academic Library”.

This webinar will highlight two projects to help academic libraries apply return on investment (ROI) principles to demonstrate their value and impact on users and justify the expense during challenging economic times. Presenters Jon Cawthorne and Irene Herold will explain the application of Triple (people, planet and profit) Bottom Line Accounting (TBLA) to ROI.

The webinar will be held Wednesday, September 14, 2011, from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Central Time.

Fees: LLAMA member: $49
Non-LLAMA member $59
Register online at

ROI isn’t something I know much about, and I’m not sure if I’ll attend this. If you attended at ALA, or plan on attending this webinar, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the LLAMA session, and how it intersects with ACRL’s Values report (perhaps as a guest blogger?)


Help me create an ACRL Leadership Discussion group?

I have put together a petition (with assistance from the always awesome Beth DuPuis!) for the creation of a Leadership Discussion group within ACRL.

I envision this group having 2 sessions at each ALA, one discussion group and one program.

Creating a Discussion Group requires 10 signatures from ACRL personal members, so, if you meet those qualifications, please sign the petition!

The text of the petition is as follows:

The Leadership Discussion Group provides a forum for conversation, communication and collaboration about leadership and management issues important to academic librarians. Leadership and management challenges in the higher education environment are unique in many ways from other non-profits or corporate arenas. Developing a platform for sharing our experiences, insights and challenges is important for enhancing librarians’ skills and developing future leaders and managers. This group embraces leadership in the broadest sense including topics such as leading from the middle, leading project teams and informal groups, leading within professional organizations, career paths for leaders.


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Julian Treasure on Listening

I just watched Julian Treasure’s TED talk on listening, and found it fascinating.  I have so deep in thinking about listening as a part of communication between people, as a key element in team work and collaboration, as a feature of varying strength in the various DISC personas, I forgot about listening as an active action. Attention, attending, being present are all such important behaviors, and I am so glad I took the time to let Julian Treasure remind me of them

On a  disappointing note, though, he spoke about his book on listening, and I wanted to check that out. It looks like the book is about the ways businesses can use sound to improve their business, which to me is not the same thing as listening at all! Have you read the book? Is it worth the time, if what I’m interested in is listening as a social act, about communication, not sound applications for profitability?

Here’s the talk.

5 ways to listen better

pretty cool

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My personal innovation challenge: write more!

I’m laying down a challenge for myself here.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about innovation and leadership, and thinking about organizational culture. But I haven’t really been sharing the thinking.

The Harvard Business Review blog recently “asked the most progressive thinkers and radical doers from every realm of endeavor to share a story, a hack, a disruptive idea, or an experimental design that illustrates how the web can help overcome the limits of conventional management and create Management 2.0.” That page links to their top selections and also to the entire tonnage of solicited responses.

Here’s the challenge I’m setting for myself. As I read through the hacks and stories and innovations, I will post my responses and thoughts here. I’d like to try for 2 each week, but that seems both optimistic and painfully slow, so we’ll see.

I’ll be tagging the ones I plan to read in my delicious feed (my Leadership tag bundle has been newly added to the right).


Day in the Life, 7, day 2

Today started before my normal arrival time with a planning meeting for an email migration for ~300 staff that was supposed to happen tomorrow. We have not been getting the communication we need to ready staff (and ourselves) for the migration, so we will hold off until we have the answers we need. I have small niggling fears that the noncommunicative unit may just go ahead and migrate us anyway, but we’ll see (fingers crossed!). I have reminded myself that I need to pull the training materials together and get all that organized

Got into my office, booted everything up, and made sure that the software I need for the (first!) one-on-one training I’m doing this afternoon has been installed, and confirmed the meeting. Found some graduate assistant help for preparing to send out training materials to the folks scheduled to migrate.  Spent an hour going through various emails and social networking accounts and browser tabs left open for my attention (yikes! some have been waiting for over a week!). Sent out training announcements to library staff, printed out a few calls for papers, and filed some interesting new articles that came across my search alerts.
Productivity gave way to collegiality when I had a nice surprise visit with a friend and colleague who has been on a long vacation. Chatting is an important part of workplace social glue, you know.
Began prepping to show a colleague how to use SnagIt. It’s been ages since I used it. And to refresh myself, I took the video tour. Wow. RTFM indeed — I learned an awful lot in a very short time! Which is great, because my colleague showed up 30 minutes early. The session went well, she got what she needed to get started, we discussed some other tools that might do what she needs, and she knows to call me if she needs more help.
I spent a few more minutes going through the interwebs and culling interesting stuff into the various places I send or keep track of things (Google Plus, Delicious, Twitter, Evernote, OneNote, Read It Later…). I came across a librarian blogging her personal 23 Things and found myself inspired! (ah, magical inspiration, that mythic leap from point A to point S with no traceable path:) Maybe it’s the Grateful Dead jamming away int eh background? Who knows?) . I’ve been wanting to set up a perpetual hybrid 23 Things-type ongoing training, and I think I know how now! I’ve put together a OneNote on the subject and am typing as fast as my fingers will let me — my brain is outpacing my wpm :)
A nice, slow, summer day in the life of a librarian.

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An infographic of me

My friend Courtney just posted her cool infographic and I decided to see how I came out. Pretty interesting (if you don’t get me started about the Disney-esque parody of the female form in the infographic). Except for the tiny fact that I am apparently not very interesting on my twitter stream! Consider the gauntlet thrown, and the challenge accepted twitterverse! Time to get freaking interesting!

(if you make yourself one, let me know in the comments)

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ALA. New Orleans. Crazy town

ALA is coming up fast, and I really need to get my schedule in order. Actually, I think this is a desperate plea for ALA to extend back to a full 5 day conference. Why do I think that’s the way to go? Um, well, see for yourself (for best effect, scroll to 6/25):

Um, pretty please? An extra night or two in the hotel would make me so much happier than spending all this money and not getting to participate in fully 2/3 of the programs I want to attend. ALA is a great conference,  and I for one would rather spend more time there than have a schedule and set of choices like the one above.

If anyone is interested in coordinating sessions and notes for any of my quadruple booked sessions, let me know. Training, transliteracy, technology & learning, and Commons development & evolution are the general topics in conflict. Well, that and amazing speakers, great film opportunities, and Guy Gavriel Kay!!!

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Outreach Technology

One of the things that carries through from developing the Learning Commons connections to being a Staff Technology trainer is the outreach, and the exploration of the most fit tool for the job. Any tool. Any job.

It’s really all about knowing your audience, your clientele, your users. How do they use information resources? How do they manage their information workflow? And what tools best match those uses, as well as their interests and your goals?

In the Learning Commons, the answer for many things was Twitter, with minor side forays into Facebook and blogging. For Training, I’ve decided the answer was a blog, and specifically a blog instead of the campus hosted and inflexible install of Moveable Type.

Why? Some of those answers are in my latest post there. Go check it out! And if you’re a trainer, come back and talk to em some — are you using technology for outreach and training with your users? what are you using? How are you assessing?



The Technology Trainer is in

Today marks the start of my 2nd week as Technology Trainer.  Although I still have no furniture (beyond the desk) and it took 3 days to get a working computer, last week was just out-of-the-park productive. I facilitated 6 hours of Excel training (this week is Access, which may well cause my brain to melt!) and set (and made progress on) a few priorities.

I now chair the Technology Training subcommittee, and I hope those poor souls won’t revolt when they see the agenda in their inbox this morning! In the past, this group has been advisory to the Coordinator of Staff Training, and responsible primarily for putting on our 23 Things program. That’s a lot of work, in a compressed time. But since Tech Training is now a full time gig for someone (me! me!) obviously there’s going to be more going on. Part of that is deciding the role of the committee.

Essentially, last week I set my priorities for the next 3 months. These include:

  1. Outreach. Creating (and then maintaining) a blog to gather training opportunities, in-house and from outside, and raise awareness of the training resources we already provide. Weekly news blasts. Office hours-on-the-go (your office, not mine)
  2. Clarifying (and then updating) our in-house experts list
  3. Planning & implementing staff management and training for 4 major software updates this summer
  4. Creating an eBooks task force to bring public services and technical services into closer communication and improving the finadability of ebooks on our campus
  5. Developing Technology Proficiency baselines
  6. Determining essential trainings, currently only password management (with all the changes this summer, I’m afraid to push much more)
  7. Start more conversations among staff and librarians around technology via social media brownbags  and a tech toy petting zoo
  8. Investigate options for incentivizing training
  9. Work with IT to compile a list of approved and forbidden software license click-throughs (this is a huge problem here. We aren’t supposed to ever click OK on a download, because that constitutes signing a license for the state. But someone somewhere must know whether or not it’s OK to click through on Dropbox, iTunes, Evernote, Mendeley, Firefox & Chrome extensions….)
  10. Including as many webinar platforms as possible on the above list
One of my ongoing problems is never knowing what “enough” looks like. What do you think? Is this insanely optimistic for three months? Or is this just the first half of my summer?
Have you done any of these things? Do you have any tips to offer, or documents or websites to recommend (especially for points 5, 7, and 8)?



Finally indeed! After many many weeks in process, I am finally able to announce that I am now UIUC’s Technology Training Librarian, in Staff Training and Development, working for the marvelous Beth Woodard.

I enjoyed my work in the Learning Commons, and hope to have the opportunity to do more in the future. I love the Commons movement, and think it is truly the future of Library.

The Undergraduate Library Learning Commons has now been operationalized into the daily flow of the Undergraduate Library, under the direct administration of the UGL Head. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish in that position (even though I still have a growing wish list of things to develop and implement there!), and happy that most of it has been refined to the point that it no longer requires my hand on the till.

We have big big changes coming the technology pike this summer, and I am looking forward to helping it all unroll as smoothly as possible. I’ve spent the last 4-6 weeks preparing for this move, and have been immersing myself in leadership, facilitation, and change management literature (as much new software as we’re expecting this summer, I see myself doing as much or more anxiety management as skill training). Beth and I have been brainstorming and I have just been chomping at the bit to get started.

In additional to meeting the immediate operational needs (we’re moving to Lync, Win7, Exchange 2010, and Office 2010 this summer, all at once, yikes!), I’m especially looking forward to some specific things:

  • Working more closely with staff, getting to know their needs, and the ways that technology impacts their work. I’m also oddly looking forward to studying the civil service rules, and identifying  room in them to incentivize training for civil service staff.
  • Working in explicit and defined partnership with IT, in some sense becoming an outreach member of the IT team
  • Trying to implement emerging technology, developing digital branch tools, and trying to make sure we remain relevant and useful are still core goals for me.

This last point is especially important to me.  I’ve become very aware that we (the Library)  can’t evolve and grow into robust providers of the digital infrastructure and outreach environment incoming students will increasingly expect unless all members of the library staff are comfortable in a technologically changeable environment. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this work, but one of my strongest hopes is that I will be able to work out a way to train for change. Really, I’m just talking information literacy here, or transliteracy, or 21st century skills (whatever you want to call it!). Aimed at adult learners who may see little in it for them, but that’s just a node on the digital divide, and I am so excited to see what I can spin from it!

I’m new to training, and both excited and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities moving ahead. there will be much more in this space as I move into it!

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Post-ACRL resolutions

I find conferences invigorating. I’m a true extrovert (and an intellectual), and very little recharges my batteries like a 3 or 4 day stint of seeing old friends, making new friends, and absorbing new ideas and new takes on old ones. Throw in a change of locale, an excuse to indulge my inner foodie, and the escapist novel I allow myself when traveling, and I’m in bliss. Pure bliss I tell you!

It’s like New Year’s Day.

In honor if that feeling, I’m going to make some post-con resolutions

  1. More blogging! I mean it. I miss my blog. I miss the daily writing. I miss the opportunity to speak and be heard.
  2. More blog reading. (Commenting on same may constitute more blogging…). I don’t need to travel to listen to wonderful marvelous brilliant you. I can read your blog. So I’m going to.
  3. More TED talks. I just bought myself a Roku, and it has a TED channel. I’m not just going to bury myself in your brilliant words, but I’m also going to dive deep into the random and magnificent thoughts that stream out of TED. (and blog about it…)
  4. I am going to read more. Not just stuff for my research, but that ginormous list of tangentially-relevant non-fiction? gonna read it. All those books about libraryness that I want to read and never do? gonna read ‘em. Um, and blog about them.

Some things on that list:


On Eeyores

I just read Gretchen Rubin’s (The Positivity Project) Tigger/Eeyore post, and I think the article, the concept, the insight, is fascinating, but there is one (central) point that rubs me wrong. Rubs me so wrong that I think it may make the whole scenario miss the point, and certainly it gave me enough pause to prevent me from sending it to my colleagues (oh boy are we ever in a Tigger/Eeyore scenario at MPOW! And we could certainly use some help thinking through our dynamics). What do you think? Does this resonate – either my read or Gretchen’s?

There is no doubt in this scenario Gretchen draws that I am an Eeyore. But here’s the thing: I’m not negative. Let me finish please! I’m critical, in the sense of ‘a critic’, performing critiques. When presented with something, I start tugging at it, holding it up to the light. Does it stand up? Where are the weak points? What needs strengthening? How can we tighten it up and make it better?

This is NOT negativity. This is me being invested in the project. If I think your project is irrelevant, unnecessary, or irredeemable, I won’t put my energy into it. This is my being supportive — and I want and expect the same from you. In fact, I find it deeply irritating and uncollegial if, when asked to be a stakeholder, you nod and smile and say it looks great. I need you and your stake, or I wouldn’t have asked. When I’m asked for input, I am showing you respect, support, and enthusiasm by giving feedback and adding my knowledge to your mix. Because you asked me.

I find the absence of this critical approach to be not ‘positive’ but ‘cheerleading’. Are any or all of these three dyads accurate? Tigger/Eeyore, Positive/Negative, Cheerleader/Critic? Do any more accurate phrases occur to you? Am I full of it?

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desperately seeking easy answer to impossible web design wish

My web skills are stuck in 4.01 transitional, so my desire to have a dynamic version of the below as my learning commons homepage graphic is quite frustrating. Do any of you dear readers have any idea how I might be able to make it so? And have the nodes rotate, so the one I select would move to center and throb slightly? and the smallish label that I have not typed into each node would enbiggen and hover out a description of what lies behind that node (ie, the linked to page)?


A Vision, articulated

In my last post I mentioned that I had written up a version of my Vision for my job, for my Learning Commons. My Dean had asked me for this, and I was thrilled to provide it to her.  I’ve spent a few days on various versions, and ultimately wrote up this quick and dirty, dense, management-ese version. There’s so much in here–each bullet could be a several page section of a larger article (and hopefully will be, but it’s hard to write about something  so dear to the heart).  I’d love feedback on this ; does anything about it inspire you? What parts are unclear, or make you want to call bullshit? What do you think?

Learning Commons Vision

Creating library spaces that evolve to remain relevant to undergraduate student research & study modes, while applying emerging and mature technology as useful, and leveraging the unique role of the library as a non-disciplinary academic space on campus.

Doing this requires not only maintaining and growing student services partners, but developing & strengthening relationships with academic units on campus and with subject librarians

  • Addressing study space needs of undergraduate students – collaborative & single, quiet and dynamic, late night
  • Explicitly acknowledging & supporting the truth that knowledge does not just sit on library shelves, but is actively created in libraries, and providing the software and support required to create students’ chosen final form of knowledge creation
  • Tracking the need for, and implementing as needed, changes in technological support for student coursework & intellectual engagement
  • Engaging the intellectual curiosity of students and growing their awareness of the potential for intellectual engagement of a wide variety of subjects
  • Helping orient students to the overwhelming array of library resources available to them
  • Leveraging the innovative impulses of the Undergraduate Library for technology and other areas to other libraries as suitable for their populations
  • Choosing Commons Partners with potential synergy for intellectual engagement, and supporting these partnerships through programming and collections support.

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An interesting day

Today was an oddly librarianly day. Which is to say, that most of my days don’t look like I’m a librarian, I could be any manager. Like, yesterday I had a meeting about personnel issues, a meeting with my boss, and 3 hours of reference work. And I checked email and managed a to-do list. Could have been any job

  • Today though. today I felt like a librarian, and a manager.  I had a meeting about faculty status and collegial behavior,
  • a meeting wherein the webguy & I may have found a way for me to build the flash-heavy website I (flash skills free…) want while also meeting accessibility needs.
  • I attended a TED Talk my committee hosted at the library school, and had lovely conversation about choices, and the differences between network design and hierarchy in organizational design. The Talk met the committee goals of drawing in students, faculty and staff from a wide range of departments, and was so well attended I thought the room had been double-booked!
  • I worked 1 hour on the reference desk, and answered a whole lot of actual reference questions. Two in particular: a class of 100 Chicago 7th graders wanted to see the library. (They stood in front of me while they asked this. ) And one of our students asked me to pull this month’s issue of Vanity Fair because it included an indecent photo, a nude of Marilyn Monroe.
  • An informatics minor interviewed me for his library school application. His initial contact to me came  over Twitter :)
  • I wrote a very dense version of my vision for the Learning Commons here and sent it off to my Dean.  It’s wonderfully management-ese, but still says what i want it to say. And pulling it out of management-ese would be a fantastic article!
  • Had an IM discussion about my Library’s crime rash, which has finally made the local news. Trust is really an important part of running a library, but you don’t realize that until it’s broken,
  • there was very little email today, but most of it was action oriented — I added 6 meetings to my next week

Is it weird that a day like this makes me feel more like a librarian than yesterday did?

So, do you want to see my Vision?Ii’m gonna give it it’s own post.

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Library Day in the Life, part 5, Monday

Hi! I’m Rudy Leon, Learning Commons Librarian at the University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I tweet at rudibrarian, you can get me at that name on AIM as well. I have gotten very sporadic in my blogging, but I’m constantly struck at how different every librarian’s job looks, and am always happy to participate in Library Day in the Life events. For more Library Day in the Life participants, check out the wiki.

Today is my first day back in the office after a week out for research. I’m impressed with how completely I disengaged from the day to day during the past week, but it’s time to dive back in.

I arrive at work a touch after 9, early for my technically 10-6 day. It is now 10:11 and I have sorted through a week’s worth of email (so much easier to do over the summer!), checked over the automated test migration of my calendar (imperfect, but I think I can live with it), cleared time on my calendar for working on my portions of the Undergraduate Library’s Unit Annual report, and made a list of agenda items for my 11:00 meeting with my unit head.

This afternoon I am meeting with our newest staff member to introduce him to our loanable technology cataloging contact and make sure he has all the information he needs for taking on this responsibility. He’s a go-getter, tons of initiative and problem solving, and I am out of my league in understanding the relationships between his solutions and various things Cataloging and I have set up for automated report running and maximizing exposure of the loanable technology items. Cataloging is the area I am least knowledgeable and comfortable with and I wish there was a way I could stay that way and still do my job.

Meeting with Unit Head was productive, some issues around project management and graphic design were resolved, and we strategized how to become a battery recycling point for campus. We also decided to not promote our space as a polling space for the November elections and discussed details surrounding how to set up management of our two large displays, and also agreed on the main points for the inaugural meeting of my Learning Commons Council tomorrow.

Post meeting, I looked over email, dealt with the cataloging (again!) side of my lost DVD replacement workflow, and learned of a hitch in the current year replacement project, which has not yet gotten underway. Sent out an email about that, and then with lunch in hand got back to the computer.

Major emails of the morning included much excitement over the DMCA reinterpretation of Fair Use, finalizing the elections results for two Library committees, setting up a meeting about turning two quiet study rooms into video production booths, selecting protective cases for the iPads.

This afternoon will be the loanable technology cataloging meeting, a meeting to check in with my practicum student about her last two weeks of work, and then 3 blessed hours of work time. I plan to build the agenda for the Learning Commons Council meeting tomorrow, work on my contribution to the Annual report, and deal with some project management details. We’ll see what actually happens…

More later

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Librarian’s Day in the Life- round 4, day 1

This blog has been super quiet of late, but I’ve decided to resurrect it for Librarian’s Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life 4

Today, I got in at 9:00, whichis technically early (I’m officially  on a 10-6 schedule). I turned on computer, added to the to do list while it was booting up (added: input Haiti LibGuide information, remember to tweet about last day of voter’s registration, check on some feedback from Internet Librarian conference, get SA feedback on OBOC)

Sent out a tweet about the Voter Registration Kiosk in the UGL, and today’s primary deadline.

About 5 minutes after everything opened and I scanned my calendar and my email, windows wanted to reboot. I decided to elt it and went to the ladies. Came back, sent in a facilities request about the broken lights in the Ladies.

Went upstairs to ask a staff member a question, spent several minutes chatting with 6 staff on  my way to and fro.

Put together a poll of the One Book One Campus nominations selections and sent out to our Student Assistant listserv for their input. I’d really their feedback before I pick my three (but I think I’m going to select Logicomix even if none of the SAs go for it, we’ll see). This was my first time using Google Forms.  It’s pretty easy to use, I think I’m happy with it.

Answered an email from my brother who really needs a law librarian at his firm!

Consulted with a couple of colleagues about the text I drafted for the website, defining the Learning Commons. We do Learning Commons a little differently here, so the language is really challenging. Some progress, and agreement about the challenges.

Went through my email, responded to 13 emails (including the looking over the nominating ballot results for Faculty Senate)

Added several events to our UGL Recommends calendar, reprinted and reposted this weeks calendar at the reference desk

Added the Study Abroad partners to permissions for the computer at the Connections desk

This afternoon I have 1 hour on the reference desk, when I hope to start inputting the content my GA gathered for the Haiti Libguide. I then have my weekly meeting with my boss, and a meeting to discuss signage in the library

The to-do list for the week will probably not get much more attention after today — tomorrow is a research day, at least until the Collection Development Committee meeting. Wednesday is solid meetings (Librarian’s meeting, research agenda discussion, and a division meeting) and the reference desk from 10-4. Thursday I am taking a statistics workshop, and then have 2 hours on the reference desk and have scheduled 2 hours to work on my annual report. Friday is 2/3 research day, and at some point this week I have to wrap up my ACRL-IS obligations around Midwinter.

A pretty usual day, and a pretty usual week!


Collaborative workspace in the digital library?

I’ve spent most of the last two days in an online conference that didn’t really work for me. The whys and wherefores and ponderings I’ve had about online conferences may become fodder for another post, but not this one. This one is about the good thing that came out of attending a conference that didn’t match what I wanted: I put some energy into articulating what I had been hoping to learn.

The conference was about building collaborative learning environments. Much of the conference was billed as happening in their virtual Learning Commons, which is what explicitly led me to sign up for the conference; I wanted to see what a virtual Learning Commons built by Educause would look like, how it would behave (It ended up being a Ning community).

One of my greatest strengths is that I see new ways to solve problems, and new ways to move forward. A long time ago I stopped being surprised that no one else was seeing what I was seeing.  I am generally accustomed to that most frustrating search, for something that doesn’t exist. But I never get used to that feeling of being all alone. I want to lean on work done by other people, I want to move small increments forward. I like being on context, I thrive on being in community. Far too often professionally I’m seeing a way through that no one else has acted upon or written about.

Today? What I wanted from this conference were tools and ideas for creating non-classroom based virtual collaborative spaces. The digital component of the Learning Commons, the online space where students gather to work on classwork, passion work, student organization work. The workspace of the digital library. With collaborative tools in place, access to the library’s resources, IM and document sharing, video conferencing, storage to leave work in a safe space…

Does it sound self-evident as a next step to you? It started to for me. And now, now I’m seeing that this may be huge leaps into the future. I’m trying to see what the baby steps might be, and starting to think about how to flesh out my assumptions about the desirability of such a space, and its applicability. I’m starting to feel a touch overwhelmed at the thought of creating this (I breathe more easily when I think maybe all I need is a particular sort of LMS, like Moodle or Blackboard).  I feel over my head, and am hoping I’m not really a couple laps in front.

Are you working on a project like this? I’d love to see what you’re doing!

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A day in the life …

Wow, today is a completely crazy day to do a Day-in-the-life post. It’s the end of July, and that means three important things:

  1. My new Unit Head has been here long enough to settle in
  2. Most folks are recovered from ALA
  3. The start of semester is suddenly looming large in folks’ heads.

This morning, my day looked like 4 meetings and a video interview with the student paper about @askundergrad. In the end, it was only 3 meetings, and no interview. And I feel (wrongly) like I got very little done, but let me fill you in on the details.

I generally get to work between 9:00 and 9:30, and today was here around 9:00. I checked voicemail while booting up the computer, one vendor call I will have to vet through a friend working on the project the vendor was asking me about. Once the computer was up, I spent about 20 minutes checking in with my emails, twitter, and FriendFeed. I discovered my 10:30 meeting was canceled, and decided to check out some of the Table of Content alerts I get. By 9:45, I have 22 tabs open on my browser. Gmail, FriendFeed, and 5 articles from the TOC alerts, the rest are articles Twitter or FriendFeed tipped me to.

Before submitting more ILL requests for articles from Library review, I sent an email query to our LIS librarian wondering why we don’t have it. The answer was pretty stunning — the journal costs over $10K a year. I submitted my ILL requests.

I checked out an article on twitter in libraries, saw that my library’s twitter stream was mentioned, and misrepresented. Queried the twitterati, and decided to follow up with a letter to the author (or the publisher?); I later worked out (after discussing with a colleague) that the article was written 8 or 10 months ago, and decided not to bother correcting it. And also, that I really need to get my article on the pedagogy, libraries, and Twitter written!

I spent a few minutes catching up with a colleague back from vacation, and we discussed some fun search topics for GA training and/or student sessions for fall

Reality definitely derailed my plan to spend 2 hours writing this morning, and so by 11:00 I was prepping for the three back to back meetings of the afternoon. These are about prioritizing the suggestions gathered by my new Head from the Undergrad faculty & staff for implementation; developing an overall signage strategy, tone, and design; and re-imagining our annual Homecoming week research rally (which will also probably include discussion of our Quad Day plans – the day before classes start. They used to start midweek, but now on Monday, which makes Quad Day a Sunday, which makes it more difficult).

In the process of searching email for the (properly filed) list of suggestions, for my 2:00 meeting, I found the details I need for moving some current books from the Main Stacks to the Undergrad. We have a non-duplication policy, and care deeply about having the right books in this particular library for this audience, so moving current, Undergraduate-appropriate titles on AIDS and HIV from the Stacks to Undergrad would help our students. I spent about 25 minutes removing excess formatting from the WorldCat list of titles (from 54 pages to 11– being an environmentalist sometimes feels like an enormous time cost burden!)

By 11:45, I was sick of my desk, took a long walk to a colleague’s office (outside, even!!) to pay her for the local blueberries she picked up for me at the farmer’s market when I was out of town this weekend. I wish I’d thought to ask for heirloom tomatoes  :(

Got back to my desk, saw a tweet about Star Trek playing at the local opera house this week, invited a few friends, realized that I now have plans for every single night this week, and promptly got exhausted, then removed grocery shopping from my to-do list

Around noon I followed up with another colleague on determining if any of the presentation mice owned by Library IT can click links, or if they are all ppt mice. Turns out they are all PowerPoint mice, and so I began the process of asking IT to buy some that I can use in teaching. Budget details haven’t percolated far enough down yet for IT to be able to let me know, but my request is in the queue.

My phone rang, I answered, it was a vendor call. Created a GMail folder for the emailed vendor stuff. Sigh. I asked for it, specifically, at ALA, but now it feels like junk mail again (some day I’ll get to refurbish my Learning Commons with appropriately sized tables, and create the sort of cool seating vignettes that i want, and I spent time at ALA getting furniture vendors to start sending me catalogs)

Ate a quick lunch at my desk at around 1:00. This was my third meal on this particular restaurant leftover. It was tasty, I’m glad it’s all gone now! I saw my mailbox had a huge package in it, turns out it was a catalog, more vendor mail, which I had indeed asked for. Make note to create physical file space for vendor mail I need to keep

Read a couple news articles about ebook readers (the Apple tablet looks awfully pretty, but I am not enthused that it is being reported to run iPhone as its OS) and make a mental note to move the ebook reader pilot project to the next step, which leads almost automatically to guilt about the dropped state of the Career Services Support working group I’m chairing.

My new boss had asked me for a prioritized wish list, so I spent some time with my Learning Commons wishlist. It’s a pretty unspecific list at present, and I am trying to turn it into a concrete, prioritized, actionable list of items. Like, instead of “materials to display art” I now have three items. They still need a lot more detail and definition, but it’s a start. You wouldn’t believe how many different kinds of challenges have arisen over my desire to display student art work. Not people challenges – everyone likes the idea- but around how to hang it, and how to protect it, and I’m currently leaning towards digital displays, but will need to follow up with several stakeholders, and that will almost certainly lead to more questions than answers. Maybe by Spring we’ll have art?

Finally, 2:00, and the suggestions meeting. When the new Head started, she met with everyone in the Undergrad, and this group was formed to work on implementing the ideas that she pulled out of all of those meetings. We’ve added a few, primarily about facilitating the ongoing sharing of ideas. Hopefully I’ll have some time tomorrow to write up the notes and pull out which we are each responsible for.

My 3:00 meeting was about signs (and also part of having a new sherrif in town), and that went so much better than I had expected! I’m not sure we’ve got a whole lot of action items yet, but we have agreement in principle about style and tone and attitude, and a shared will to change some of the policies that we feel aren’t necessary. Excellent, all around.

My 4:00 meeting was about programming for Research Rally, our Homecoming Week event, which is widely advertised, but could be much more exciting and muscular. My proposal went over well, and I’m really excited about. I’m not sure we can pull it off as I imagine it — a day long series of 15-50 minutes workshops — since it will involve convincing 5-7 more folks to play along and teach a session or two. But it will be great.

This colleague and I agreed to hold off on a proposal I just dropped the timeline on, and we chatted a bit about what we’re going to do for Quad Day, which is held the day before classes start. Classes now start on Monday, so Quad Day is Sunday, and the library isn’t usually open. We’ve decided to be open, and now we have to work out what we should expect.

When I’m done with you all, I will write up the First Day FAQ we brainstormed for Quad Day, I will work my way through the 15 open FireFox tabs, the 7 Word docs, and check my email before heading out the door to meet a friend for pool, beer, and fries, not neccesarily in that order. Tomorrow I plan on wwriting a proposal for an article, meeting a colleague for lunch, taking 90 minutes for a doctor’s appointment, and then fleshing out the suggestions committee’s suggestions. I hope I will also get my Wishlist fleshed out with brands and dollars, but I suspect that’s wishful thinking. Tomorrow will be capped off by an evening of trivia and cocktails, and if we do well, karaoke. Wednesday is blissfully unscheduled (except for lunch) — we’ll see what that brings!

Are you exhausted? I’m definitely ready to start my end-of-day processes!


Do libraries make people feel like this?

After months of trying to find a new phone that would meet my needs and not overwhelm me with more than I need,  I finally upgraded my phone, my life, my plan, to an LG Xenon. I waited with baited breathe for the UPS man, and after taking the package from his hands, and ripping it open, my excitement started leaking like a 3 day old helium balloon.

Nothing about this is fun.

Nothing about this makes me happy.

N0thing about this is remotely the way it should  be.

The phone arrived uncharged– a major deterrent to immediately diving in and playing around. The directions for authorizing the phone, for changing my phone number, for setting up my voicemail — none worked as described. I mean, the reps I spoke with were great, but I spoke with 4 of them. They were all also mystified about how to proceed with someone who only had the cell phone. Do most people do this from work?? I mean, landlines are scarce amongst the company I keep, are we really that abnormal?

Every step along the way has been ugly and unpleasant. Nothing has worked according to direction, and everything that seemed intuitive has caused a problem somewhere else down the line.

And while I am siting here, seething and pouting, in the back of mind I’m wondering:  is this the library user experience?

  • We  have sexy tools
  • They are far too complicated
  • Our help systems — vendor and librarian –do they meet the challenge? Do they assist with the actual problems our patrons encounter?
  • Are the help tools a poor match to the systems as the currently exist?
  • And, do we put way too much emphasis on assuming (requiring?) the user will come talk to us? Us, lovely, helpful, kind, librarians. But such a hassle to sidetrack from the task at hand to talk to, and too bound in procedures and checking the work to offset the waste of patron time having to ask represents.

Do we make out patrons feel the way AT&T and LG are making me feel right now? If the answer is yes, it’s unacceptable. How do we, how can I, start laying out an agenda towards developing better, more intuitive systems and implementing far better and less intrusive help?


What am I doing this summer?

There’s a meme gaining steam around teh interwebs and since it matches what’s been on my mind, I thought I’d chime in. What exactly does a librarian do in t he summer time? Well, this academic librarian has a few things on her plate!

  • Working on focus. I’ve gotten much better at limiting the continuous partial attention, but this summer offers a vast panorama of un-meeting-ed time, and I am developing exercises to force myself to focus for ever longer times without distraction
  • Work with my Undergraduate Research Methods Project team to analyze our data and get at least one article written
  • Immerse myself in the literature on learning commons, on the impacts of the interactive web on cognition and learning  styles, and learning spaces. Overly optimistically, on privacy, ethics & libraries too.
  • Frame  out an article, maybe even write one
  • Pull together a pilot personal librarian program with a couple of stakeholders
  • Get to know my new unit head, and start working towards the future
  • implementing the processes and technology pieces that will allow us  to turn our twitter stream interactive; develop the training for all the parts; train staff and GAs on the new processes
  • Figure out how to selectively tweet to our Facebook page. This is much more of a challenge than I ever would have guessed
  • Talk to stakeholders and develop three pilot proposals for e-book readers. This will include working out the pros and cons and capabilities of each of the readers. I’m really excited about this one, have a couple  of great ideas for the pilots projects
  • Read the One Book selection and develop a plan for physical and virtual discussion groups on the book for Fall semester, and on related themes (or books related by themes) for the Spring.
  • Reconnect with some of the Learning Commons partners that have fallen off my radar
  • Make sure that Learning Commons partnerships are on the minds of the new hires replacing the 2 partners who left to follow their bliss elsewhere.
  • Lay the groundwork with a stakeholder for a re-purposing of a particular space in the building
  • Now that the IT reorg has started to settle in, start building the relaitonships I need formore effective partnering with campus IT
  • Work with EdTech to start to resolve some of the technology training issues that have fallen through the cracks on campus
  • Work with stakeholders on integrating (or not) the workshop series I’m launching in the Fall with an existing workshop series aimed at a different audience
  • A handful of web page updates and a couple pf entirely new pages, including one that will involve creating a whole new communication process for a bunch of folks across campus
  • Do a better job at leading my working group, get the next phase rolling and the lib guide up
  • Visit (and photograph) each of the (40some?) libraries on campus to get a sense of the variety of spaces we call “library”
  • Make a point of having coffee or lunch with a librarian I would otherwise not interact much with at least every 2 weeks. These conversations are always rewarding and inspiring.
  • Deal with the logistics of the party a colleague & I are throwing for my friend and soon-to-be-former unit head to celebrate her election to ACRL vice-president/president elect.

Wow. That’s exhausting. I had actually been feeling like I didn’t have enough going on this summer, but maybe now I’ll be a bit more able to cut myself some slack!

How about you? What’s your summer look like?


Who shapes culture for the future?

One of last year’s LOEX sessions ended with a Q&A that centered on librarians judging their directors harshly and how directors aren’t being very transparent or inspiring of the line librarians reporting to them. That conversation has stayed with me, and I’ve spent a lot of energy and time over the last year pondering  the roles and responsibilities of library directors, Deans, and other high level administrators. I’ve also been looking at a lot of Administrative changes in the past year — a new job (new Unit Head, and anew structure which includes a Library Dean/UL), the Director at my former place of work announcing her retirement, a colleague being raised up in her place, and now an imminent transitioning of my current unit head, — leadership in all its flavors has been on my mind a lot.

If you ice that cupcake cake with the knowing that I’ve been reading strategic plans to analyze for SWOTS identified therein (for my Marketing class…) and filter all that through the byzantine maze that is my inner workings, you find me asking one question:  How does/how should organizational culture fit into the responsibilities and visi0ns of high level administrators?

I’m sure it does fit, but I’m not sure I’m seeing how it is being positively and actively shaped from on high. I’m also left wondering if my own sense of what a healthy, dynamic, vibrant, organizational culture looks like might be very different that the optimal culture as seen from the Administration offices.

That LOEX session urged more transparency and charitable viewing of what directors do, so it’s in that vein that I am posing this question — do you see your Dean, Director, Unit Head, University Librarian, as having a role in creating, developing, changing or sustaining organizational culture? In what ways? Do you see them taking on active roles in shaping it? If so, how? If you are an administrator, how do you deal with this? Help me see it!


AskUndergrad on Twitter

New jobs are full of important accomplishments that are largely invisible. I’m really happy that in my first few months on the job here I’ve got at least one loudly visible accomplishment.

I feel like I’ve figured out how to make Twitter work for my library. How to use it to connect our patugltwitterron base to our collections & services. And I’ve been able to use Twitter to support the philosophy I’m building my job around: connecting undergraduates to their intellectual life via library services.

What do I mean when I say that? Well, if you look at the screen cap to the right you can see the three main types of tweets I’ve been training the grad assistants to develop. The blue one is aservice tweet.” A research study I’m involved with (based on Nancy Foster’s Rochester Study – link is a .pdf) has been revealing that our students don’t know what they can do in our library. We’re trying to tweet at least one service a day, from our 24/5 hours to the existence of typewriters, color printers, and scanners, right on down to the nitty gritty of reserves searching and the OPAC itself.

The purple one is a “partner tweet“. My Learning Commons has a number of student services and campus partnerships that we host in an effort to both be “the campus in the library” and hopefully develop intellectual and library connections with units like Study Abroad, Career Center, undeclared advising, and One Book One Campus.

The use I am most excited about though is the “this day in history tweet.” These are connections between a historical event and library resources. The links are to pre-canned searches in the OPAC or database, or to a LibGuide, and are designed to make the connection between something interesting and library stuff, and hopefully build critical thinking skills as well as basic library awareness. We also do variations on these tweets with campus & community events, film series, festivals, and current news. My secret wish? That the Google calendar we use to make note of interesting events will eventually be maintained enough to make public, and that campus & community program planners will seek out inclusion on the UGL Recommends calendar!

I’ve been considering this semester an experimental roll-out, where I am working out training issues, fleshing out the wiki we’re using for guidelines and content, getting folks used to tweeting regularly and using the variety of tools we need to pull this off (we use Twitter, a PBWiki, a Google calendar, a link shortener with analytics, a canned search generator for the OPAC, a website with instruction for creating proxied search pURLS for the databases, and we’re looking into a tweet scheduler and Google analytics!)

The biggest challenge has been that we’re broadcast only. Our Twitter is embedded in the UGL home page (that’s why every entry is dated), and we’ve been using it in such a way that no one needs to understand twitter to get some advantage. I now have to solve a very luxurious problem though — we’re catching on, and the number of actual UIUC undergraduate students who follow askundergrad has shot up. I like having the feed on the homepage, but I also want to get interactive! I’m thinking about using a hashtag and embedding that, but am leery about losing more precious characters. It’s a fantastic dilemna, and I’m looking forward to solving it!


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