LJ article “what we need”


As promised, here’s a link to the article Meredith Farkas and I wrote about library journal “movers & shakers” and institutional support for their work and innovations. An excerpt:

What do organizations need to do to help innovation happen? We asked these Movers directly, and their answer was clear: continue to make time and resources available for professional development, thinking, and experimentation. They asked explicitly for listening, leadership, and collaboration from their institutions. They also wanted room and allowances for failure. “Some ideas die, and some don’t,” they said. “Identify resources for innovative test bed projects and let’s see ‘What if?’”

Most of this group longed for leadership, particularly in the area of risk. They saw encouraging “risk-taking” as part of their organization’s leadership role and called for an organizational culture that rewarded risk-takers “among all staff members.” “Model creativity and risk-taking as leaders,” said one, “reward risk-taking,” “provide admin support for risk-taking,” and “create a better sense of unity and vision,” said others. “Specifically address innovation and practices for producing innovation…make innovative work an organizational effort,” said another. “Show us how to handle failure.”

Other points of leadership came around clarity and communication. Movers & Shakers want to know what their organizations encourage and what they don’t. “Often it’s guesswork..,” said one. Several respondents wished for more trust, more conversation, and “just listening.”

And, finally, very simply, “make decisions faster.”

Thanks to the Movers who responded so candidly to our survey. Thanks to Meredith for working with me on it. Thanks to Marilyn Mason for encouraging us to write it. Thanks to Rebecca Miller for turning all of this into a single piece.

(Yay. An article that I co-wrote is on the cover of LJ.)

speaking of movers & shakers

Meredith Farkas and I have an article coming out in Library Journal next month that reveals the findings of our recent survey to Movers & Shakers (the cohort from 2004 – 2007).  Here’s the background behind our article:

In 2007 Meredith and I happened to sit next to each other during the Mover & Shaker lunch at ALA. It’s a nice thing that LJ does for people who have been recognized and I appreciate hearing from their guest authors at every one I’ve been to. I also appreciate the opportunity to connect with some of my colleagues just as ALA is getting underway. Anyway, Francine Failkoff spoke at the event, noting that we were now 250 strong – the lot of us – and that we should consider what we might want to do together.

Later that same conference, Marilyn Mason (my boss at the time), Meredith, and I were talking at the Blog Salon and I mentioned that I had heard from a number of my “mover & shaker” colleagues that they had not been well-received by their local colleagues and/or library directors when they received the Mover & Shaker recognition. I was so surprised by this because my employer (OCLC) had been absolutely supportive of me, very congratulatory, Jay Jordon (our CEO) asked me to his office and called me “our little rockstar”. I have to say, it was nice. But I also think that they were genuinely happy to support the recognition of my accomplishments. They also knew I wouldn’t have been able to do as much without the support I’d received at work, so why wouldn’t they be happy for me? It was recognition for them too!

I mentioned that I wanted to delve further into these mysterious reports I’d heard. Why do some institutions welcome this particular reward or recognition when their employees receive it, and some others don’t? Meredith immediately said: I want to work on that with you! A year later, here we are.

I’m happy to report that we didn’t stick with that question exactly. Instead, we went about it another way: by asking Movers to tell us about their experiences across the board. They shared with us their career goals, their visions for future libraries, and their needs as employees of their organizations and as innovators in their field.

The results led us to findings that we can all draw from. For example, whether we’re “official” movers & shakers, or just simply moving and shaking on the home-front, there are some things we can all do to “pitch-in” when times are tough for our organizations – it’s not always about innovation. For our colleagues and mentors, there are things we can ask you to do to ensure we don’t lose sight of both the practical and the possible, but also in supporting us as we’re thinking “outside” of our daily tasks or roles.

Altogether, we can make libraries more relevant and sustainable. I’ll post a link when the full article’s out.

interview with Meredith Farkas

Well, it occurred to me today that one thing I can do on the blog without cutting into writing time too much is share excerpts. So, here’s another sidebar – an interview with Meredith on her work with Five Weeks. Thank you Meredith for your time on this! 🙂


Meredith is the Distance Learning Librarian at Norwich University in Northfield Vermont. In the spring of 2007, Meredith was also the Chair of Five Weeks to a Social Library, a free online course designed to teach social software to librarians who would otherwise not have access to this type of continuing education. You can follow Meredith’s Information Wants to be Free blog at http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/.

What do you think are the major challenges library staff face in their jobs in the coming year?
I think most librarians are incredibly busy. One major challenge we all have is making continuing education a priority. We have so many day-to-day responsibilities and wear so many hats; it’s often difficult to justify going to a conference or reading an article when there are so many other things to do. However, continuing education is absolutely vital to our providing the best possible services to our patrons; how else can we learn about the latest trends in libraries or technologies available to us?

Tell us about Five Weeks to a Social Library. Why did you decide to do it?
Five Weeks to a Social Library is an online course designed by six librarians who wanted to teach other librarians who would otherwise not have access to continuing education about social software and how to apply social technologies in their libraries. My goal when I originally conceived of the course was to show others that high-quality online education programs could be designed on the grass-roots level and without spending a lot of money. While there were some required components, a lot of the material and activities were optional, so participants could do as much or as little as they were able to. All of the course materials were available after the course so students could later read or watch things they didn’t have time for during the five weeks.I wanted to develop a sustainable model that others could replicate in the future to make online education more accessible to librarians. We designed the course to be an extremely rich and interactive experience, with participants not just listening to lectures and reading articles but blogging, chatting, and actually using social technologies. These active and reflective learning activities helped students really engage with the tools and consider how they could be used in their libraries. This is a course that could very easily be adapted for different groups, different subjects and different time-frames. With the exception of Web conferencing software, all of the tools used in the course were open source and therefore a cost-effective option for any institution.

How did you measure success for this project?
I think a course is successful if participants are able to take what they learned and apply it in their libraries. To evaluate the effectiveness of this course, we asked our participants to reflect on their learning experience (on their blogs in response to our questions), and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive. By simply reading our student blogs, we could also see that the majority of participants were really engaging with the course materials and tools, and were questioning how these technologies could be used in their libraries. A number of the individuals in the class have already implemented social software tools in their libraries, either during or right after the course. Three months after the course, I plan to send out a survey to participants to find out what they’ve accomplished, in terms of implementing social software tools at their library since the course ended.

What’s next for librarians who want to take an active role in their own professional development? Any predictions?
These days so many educational opportunities — blogs, webcasts, forums, and more — are now freely available online. At the same time, the technologies themselves have become more accessible. It’s so easy now for anyone (without tech-savvy) to start a blog, try a wiki, or play around with social bookmarking. The tools are all there for anyone to develop their own continuing education program; the only major barrier is finding the time. Fortunately, I think more and more libraries are looking at implementing in-house training programs, which will make continuing education more reasonable for library staff who are pressed for time, and this will help to build a real learning culture in the organization.


I believe that this interview fits best into our sustainability chapter, which also manages to deal with staying connected and relevant as library professionals. Comments?