Thursday, December 20, 2007

Librarians, Got Information Literacy?

Over at ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick writes,
Imagine a future when you go to the library with a 5 minute video you've just made about last night's Presidential debates and that librarian says to you:

"You should upload it to YouTube and tag it with these four tags - two broad and two more specific to existing communities of interest on YouTube and the topic of your video. Then you should embed that video in a blog post along with some text introducing it and linking to some of your favorite posts by other people who have also written today about the Presidential debates. Make sure to send trackbacks to those posts!

"Now, I think this is a particularly good video on the topic, so if you're interested I will vote for it on StumbleUpon (as a sexy librarian I have a very powerful account there) and give it a good summary explanation. Any of those are steps you can take that will make your work all the easier for people to discover."
I've previously made the point that all librarians should understand RSS because it's an information literacy issue. Reading Marshall Kirkpatrick's post made me wonder how well the average librarian would do if asked to help someone embed a video and catalog, er, I mean tag it, digg it, furl it, stumbleupon it, or otherwise advise on how to make the information discoverable.

Aren't these also information literacy issues? And if librarians are going to be relevant and help our customers kick ass, don't we need to know how to do this stuff (or at least know enough to figure it out quickly on the fly?

In days of yore librarians took pride in our information literacy knowledge and in our ability to instruct others, and help them navigate through the myriad of resources and finding tools (indexes, handbooks, specialized encyclopedias, etc.) I am hopeful that we can tap into that shared professional passion for connecting people and information and continue to manifest it by learning how to navigate through the NEW myriad of resources and finding tools.

I agree with Marshall when he says, "wouldn't that be great." Yes it would. And sexy!

Added 12/21: Kate Sheehan, the Loose Cannon Librarian, has a great take on this. Check out her post "literacy is hawt".

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My First Year in Lines (Pete)

Taking a cue from Kathryn Greenhill's meme, here are the first lines from the first posts for each month this year. (The fun thing about this, is I forgot ever having written most of it. So if I ever repeat myself, that's why!)

January: Thanks to Amy for tagging me in the "Five Things" meme.

February: Check out this amazing video,"Web 2.0... the Machine is Us/ing Us," created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Cultural Anthropology Professor at Kansas State University.

March: Zuula ( is a newish metasearch engine that I’ve been enjoying.

April: Maria Palma over at "Customers are Always" recently posed the question, "What would make you stay loyal to a supermarket?"

May: I had the mind-blowing pleasure of attending Imagination to Transformation, the Mid-Atlantic Library Futures Conference, on Monday and Tuesday.

June: File under, "Tootling one's own horn" In this case mine.

July: A few months ago I started taking Improv classes in Philadelphia on Monday nights.

August: As requested, here's the link to the Wiki that supports the Magical Mystery Tour:

September: If you get any invites from Quechup, delete them immediately.

October: David Lee King has offered up a new song/video Social Digital Revolution.

November: In my last post on The Human Touch I discussed how a warm, caring human being trumped a crappy, highly inconvenient system.

December: I started a little meme on Twitter on Thursday, which David Free picked up on and posted about over on his blog, David's Random Stuff.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bill & Ted Had It Right!

When I first decided to return to school to become a librarian, I had a pretty narrow view of what a librarian was:

A librarian was the lady (yes, in my head and in my experience, they were all women) who helped me navigate the stacks and find books I would like to read. She answered every question I had and seemed to know everything, or be able to find out anything she did not know very fast.

I wanted to be that woman-a kind, helpful, friendly person who knows everything! While I knew intellectually that there was more to the profession, what appealed to me about the job was working with the public. Librarians had made a huge impact on my life and I wanted to do the same. In fact, I had always wanted to be a librarian, but graduate school wasn't a possibility earlier in my life. Stuck in a corporate job that I didn't find challenging, I craved human contact and returned to school to become a librarian.

Peter's post about customer service brought this memory back to me. I, and many of my fellow MLIS students, want to be librarians because we want to help. We want to provide answers. We want to make a difference. Customer service is a regular topic of conversation which often sounds something like this:

"if 'they' dislike working with the public so much, why are they in this profession? Why are they here? If 'they' left, maybe then those of us who actually want to help people could get a job".

I am the first person to admit, these goals and the desire to 'help' may be naïve and our conclusions about job availability could be disputed. However, the reality is, many library science majors feel this way. In fact, many college students feel this way. On several occasions while working reference, I have been explicitly thanked for providing help and instruction and told about how the 'other librarian' was so 'mean' (in the defense of the other librarian, no one who has complained has ever been able to attach a name to the complaint).

With my business background, I know that customer service is the only way for a business with limited resources to survive and compete against organizations with relatively unlimited resources. Google, Yahoo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.-compared to most libraries, are competition with virtually unlimited resources. Libraries and Librarians need to remember that no matter what kind of day we are having, no matter how difficult the patron, it is in our own self interest to treat the patrons well. If we library science students want to have jobs available when we graduate, there needs to be thriving libraries in our communities.

With this in mind, as I start my career of library work, I pledge the following:

  1. No matter what is happening in my personal life, while at work, I will smile at every person I come in contact with.
  2. When a patron apologizes for bothering me (as is often the case), I will assure them that it is no bother-I am here to help them and happy to do it.
  3. I will remember that the person asking me for assistance has chosen the library over many other resources. I will do everything I can to make them happy about making that choice.
  4. When I am not at work, I will promote libraries every chance I get. If anyone tells me of a bad experience, I will encourage them to try again-most librarians are in the business because they want to help, they want to make a difference, they like people.

I encourage all library staff-regardless of title or time in-to make a similar pledge. I encourage library science students to speak openly with professors, co-workers, and one another about customer service. Finally, I encourage everyone to follow the advice of 'Bill & Ted': Be Excellent to Everyone!

Welcoming Cynthia to the LG Blog Team

When Pete, Robert and I originally discussed Library Garden one of our original goals was to have voices on the blog team that represented a spectrum of views about libraries and librarianship. In particular, we wanted diversity in terms of types of libraries and also years of experience to ensure that we could have a variety of perspectives to add to our conversation.

We talked earlier this summer about adding a blogger that would represent the voice of a current LIS student or recent graduate and we have finally found one who is willing to join us. The bloggers of LG e are pleased to welcome Cynthia Lambert as our "newbie" voice.

I asked Cynthia to send me some biographical background information to put in her welcome post. Here is her response:

In brief:

Cynthia Lambert
Former Cubicle Dweller
MLIS Candidate at Rutgers
Loves to knit, geocache, scrapbook, read, and spend time in the garden.

A bit longer:

Cynthia is a part-time library assistant at Princeton Public Library while completing her MLIS at Rutgers. Her focus is on Adult Reference and User Instruction. Prior to entering the library profession, she was a financial analyst for ten years. Cynthia loves to knit, geocache, scrapbook, read and spend time in the garden with her husband and giant cat Bocce.

I hate to tell Cynthia that her days as a cubicle -dweller may not be over. I am a librarian and I dwell in a cubicle most of the day. Do you?


Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Hanukkah from Everyone at LibraryGarden!

Non-Crappy Starring You! eCards on JibJab

You too can make a fun, funny, free greeting card at Jib Jab. My sister made several the other day and then I just had to try it! All you need is your Internet connection and some digital photos - it's actually very easy and the site guides you through just a few quick steps. Try it!

We all here at Library Garden wish a happy and healthy holiday season to everyone, no matter what you celebrate, or if you don't even celebrate, and all the best wishes for the upcoming new year!

Okay, one more, I just couldn't help it! Be sure to turn up your volume! :)

Non-Crappy Starring You! eCards on JibJab

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Five Questions that will improve your effectiveness

I recently stumbled across a wonderful little book called Leadership Simple: Leading People to Lead Themselves, by Steve and Jill Morris. It's based on Dr. William Glasser's "Choice Theory" (which suggests, among other things, that the only person whose behavior we control is our own) and Glasser's "Reality Therapy" (which suggests that we choose our actions and we are responsible for our choices.)

The authors use a fictional case study written in narrative format to illustrate the process of "Lead Management", or "self-evaluating, and leading other to do the same." The principles are also presented in bullet-point format in an appendix, which makes it very easy to quickly review the main points.

The Lead Management process involves walking oneself (and later others) through five basic questions:
  1. What do you want?
  2. What are you doing to get it?
  3. Is it working?
  4. What else can you do?
    (I like to throw in an extra one here: "What am I willing to do")
  5. What WILL you do?
The authors suggest that when using the process, we spend the majority of our time on steps 1-4, thinking, talking, analyzing, generating options and generating more options. Finally, we decide what we WILL do and commit to an action.

I've realized that in the past I've sometimes rushed through steps 1-4, failing to think deeply enough and generate enough options. But more often I've spent too much time on steps 1-4, enjoying the process of exploration and never getting to a commitment to action.

What appeals to me about this process, and the underlying philosophy, is that it is deeply grounded in personal responsibility. Consider this quote from the book:
"You are accountable for the meaning you place on the information you receive. for what you want, and the behaviors you choose to get what you want."
And this one:
"People are going to do things. Events will occur. In essence, whatever happens outside your mind is information. You get to choose what that information means, what importance you place on your perceptions of that information, and how it fits with what you already know."
One value in adopting this perspective is that it takes us out of victimhood. We can't simultaneously take responsibility for the meaning we ascribe to events and to the behavior of others AND feel like a victim. This is highly empowering. Victimhood, whether experienced individually or as an organizational or professional culture or belief system, gets us nowhere. When we perceive ourselves as victims we are less likely to invest our energy in trying to change or influence events. However, when we take responsibility for our perceptions and the meanings we ascribe to them, we become grounded in a place of power, and we are more likely to make conscious choices regarding our behavior. We are more likely to take concrete steps and try to exert our influence on outcomes.

The commitment to action (the "what we WILL do") is the final step in the Lead Management model. The process, however, is circular. This means we can choose to go back to earlier steps and re-evaluate what's working, what's not, and generate more options. We may even decide to re-evaluate at step 1, and look at whether or not we still want what we originally wanted. We may discover that our original goals have shifted over time in the light of new experience and knowledge.

The Lead Management process is designed to beused for self-coaching and the coaching of others. But I think the process of working through the five questions could also be effectively used to guide decision-making for departments and organizations by re-phrasing the questions:
  1. What do we want to achieve? (What is our mission? What is our goal?)
  2. What are we doing to get achieve our mission/goals?
  3. Is it working?
  4. What else can we do to achieve our mission/goals?
    ("What are we willing to do")
  5. What WILL we do?
Over the past year I've been acting as a personal coach to a friend/colleague (and as I move into 2008 I will be doing more, and will begin receiving formal training from a professional coach.) Coaching, as opposed to mentoring, is about asking questions, not giving advice. So far my experience with coaching (both as a coach and coachee) has been very positive, and I can see how the five questions of the Lead Management process could be integrated into an effective coaching session.

Now maybe it's a bit early to be making New Year's resolutions (although tech support people are already wishing me a "Merry Christmas") but maybe I can set a New Year's Intention:
  1. What do I intend?
    I intend to learn to effectively coach myself and others.

  2. What am I doing to get it?
    Setting up agreement to be coached by (and trained by) an experienced professional coach; Setting up agreement to coach a colleague.

  3. Is it working?
  4. What else can I do?
    Read books listed on coaching bibliography provided to me by an experienced coach.
  5. What WILL I do?
    TBD... Share my coaching experiences on Library Garden!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Meme: Twitter is Like...

I started a little meme on Twitter on Thursday, which David Free picked up on and posted about over on his blog, David's Random Stuff. I thought I'd add a little (brief) backstory and fill in some of the tweets that David missed. (One of the interesting things about Twitter of course, is that depending on who we follow or who follows us, we all saw - or didn't see- different responses. )

Like David, I'm not naming names, but I thought it would be interesting to add timestamps to give everyone an idea of how this played out chronologically. I think there were some brilliant comments, so I hope the authors step forward and take credit.

Brief backstory: Janie Hermann and I were chatting about the lack of recent posts on LG and Janie jokingly suggested that maybe Twitter, the great sucker of time, was to blame. I threw out the comment that "Twitter is like therapy... without the progress." Janie suggested (dared?) that I share that thought on Twitter. I thought it might make for an interesting meme so seconds later (at 11:10) I threw it out there to the 50 or so people in my twitterverse. This is what transpired:
  • NEW TWITTER MEME: TWITTER IS LIKE... (I'll go first) Twitter is like therapy... without the progress. (11:10)
  • Twitter is like ADD without the Ritalin (11:19)
  • Twitter is like Jaiku.... I'm bad at analogies (11:23)
  • Twitter is like whippits (11:24)
  • Twitter is like a celestial bulletin board. (11:24)
  • Twitter is like a crack addiction without all the mugging, prostitution, and running from the cops. (11:26)
  • Twitter is also like Paris Hilton: slutty and unfortunate. 11:26)
  • Twitter is like your drunk uncle at Christmas, sometimes you want the madness to stop, but you still wanna see where it's going. (11:30)
  • Twitter is like passing notes during class. (11:31)
  • Twitter is like [name redacted] - You don't like it until you try it (11:32)
  • twitter is like the background noise of the universe, kind of a low murmur that lets you know you're not alone (aww!) (11:37)
  • Twitter is like cheating on your blog (11:38)
  • Twitter is like crack for procrastinators. (11:41)
  • Twitter is like sex without a condom. Sure it's fun, but you will probably regret it later. (11:42)
  • Twitter is like.... so. y'know. ... What was I doing? (11:43)
  • Twitter is like compressed infobursts, effin ay! (11:45)
  • Heck, Twitter *is* compressed infobursts (11:45)
  • Twitter is like an inside joke: no one gets why you do it unless they do it (11:46)
  • Twitter is like sucking out my braaains... (11:46)
  • Twitter is like being stuck in a massive kaleidoscope- ooh something shiny! (11:56)
  • Twitter is like drinks with @dwfree - makes you feel all nice and warm inside (12:04)
  • Twitter is like drunk sex w/ a friend: not nearly as intimate as you expected it to be, but still sexy & satisfying. (12:04)
  • Twitter is like drunk sex w/[the person who just posted about drunk sex.] (12:09)
  • Twitter is like being in a room with your "friends", saying something really loud, and hoping that someone hears you. (12:18)
  • Twitter is like having 10 IM windows open at once. (12:27)
  • George Costanza: "It's like going to the bathroom in front of a lot of people and not caring." Jerry: [pause] "It's not like that at all." (12:28)
  • Twitter is, like, another reason I, like, totally, looove innovation (12:39)
  • Twitter is like a party in my phone! (12:39)
  • Twitter is, like, totally awesome. (ok really i'm done. lunch over) (12:43)
  • Twitter is like the sound a tree makes when it falls in the forest -- whether anyone is there or not. (12:48)
  • Twitter is quotidian packet hops (12:51)
  • Twitter is like finding out your favorite candy bar now comes in smaller easier to eat packaging...for free (12:55)
  • Twitter is like is like a bus full of crazy people talking to themselves. Except you get to choose who is on the bus. (1:12)
  • (Twitter is instant gratification.) (1:12)
  • Twitter is like a dry skin condition. It itches, and the more you scratch it, the more it itches. (But it feels soooo good to scratch...) (1:22)

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Do we encourage our employees to leave?

If someone leaves your system for the same job in another (i.e. lateral move), that should get you thinking.

If the average new-employee retention is less two years before they move on to another position, you definitely want to take notice.

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn't brag that "they started off in this system." It should raise questions as to why your system couldn't seem to hold on to him/her.

Employee retention has always been difficult in our profession but, sometimes, we unknownngly encourage people to leave.

The list below is a compilation of reasons I've heard Librarians give for leaving their positions. If any of these sounds like a familiar complaint of former employees, you may want to consider it, especially from the employee's perspective.

Pay- Bosses, Directors and Board Members tend to roll their eyes when this issue is brought up. However, this is going to be a key factor for applicants. If two positions are posted and one offers more money than the other it is no surprise which will get more applications. Furthermore, I know several people over the last two years who have earned up to ten thousand dollars a year difference in pay simply by moving, laterally, into another system. How much of a difference can that be? How about the difference of affording your own rent or having to live with someone else.

Vacation and/or Holidays- Some New Jersey Library systems offer 10 days of vacation a year while others offer 24+ days. This does not include federal, personal, floating holidays or sick time. If everything else is equal (pay, benefits, etc.) which system would you rather work for?

Hours and/or Nights- How many nights a week do you require your librarians to work? How many Saturdays and/or Sundays a month?
Yes, we are in public services but we are also highly educated professionals with families, friends and social needs. On the nights that I work I don't get to see my children or wife. One night is tough enough but two nights a week would be nearly impossible and a bigger strain on my family as it means my wife would have to feed, bathe and put both kids to bed by herself. The effects of working multiple nights are further reaching than just the employee's schedule.

Professional Investment- Some systems have a budget for training and others do not. Some systems encourage employees to pursue professional interests and others look for a homogeneous staff. Employees who feel invested tend to support their systems and be happier as they know they may not get the same treatment elsewhere. This can also be a big draw for new employees as it shows the system's interest in professional development. And consider this; the more an employee can pursue their interest, the more they are noticed in the professional realm as an expert in that subject which, in turn, is good for the system's noticability.

Advancement- A professor once told me that Librarians tend to have to promote themselves and that means they leave the system they are working in. Obviously, we cannot promote everyone as there are fewer positions the higher up we go. But, other than steady employment, what are we doing to encourage these people to stay?

If employees leave because of these reasons it doesn't necessarily mean that they are in a bad system but it should rasie a warning flag. As systems, we are in competition with each other to employ the best possible professionals. Although we may hire that professional, what are we doing to keep him/her?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tetris, Library Arcade and Brownies

I was going to save these for a little "Friday Fun" at the end of the week, but I have a few spare minutes between meetings so I am sharing early. Here are three totally unrelated items that in the last 24 hours have made me sit back and go "Whoa, is that ever cool".

The first is library-related: The Library Arcade at Carnegie Mellon University Libraries. I have not had much of a chance to play, but will definitely be trying to master both of these games at some point.

The seconds is just pure geek fun: Mikontalolights created by students in Finland who transformed a school dorm in to the world's largest Tetris game. Here it is in action:

And finally, a little something that I have added to my holiday wish list. I am an edge lover and Baker's Edge is like an answer to my prayers (and I also wonder how come I didn't think of this myself!). Isn't it a think of beauty?