Monthly Archives: March 2010

21st Century Librarian Profession

While watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” last night (current 30-minute daytime version with Meredith – DVR’ed of course), my wife and I watched in bewilderment as three young contestants in a row, all between the ages of 27 and 22 (conservative guestimate), bombed out before they got to the $25,000 safe level – because they used up all their life lines! I’m sure most people understand how Millionaire is played, so I won’t get into technicalities, but we were both amazed at the questions these young people did not know.

As an example, one of the questions (remember the first five are so simple that they are considered common knowledge GIMME questions to get to the $5,000 safe level) was: (paraphrased) “Instructions on most common hair products state “wash, rinse” and what?” In all fairness, she was the youngest contestant who had to ask the audience for help on that question, and found out that 97% knew the answer is REPEAT! Wash, rinse, repeat! (I won’t even get into all the ramifications of why a young person might not “know” that bit of common knowledge.)

If what most observers say about Gen Y Millennials is true, that they are “generally considered the “Trophy Kids”, due to the “everybody’s a winner” approach to group activities, and as a result tend toward generational consensus building, like to work collaboratively” (my post of Feb. 17 – 21st Century Patrons – Generation Y, the Millennials), then that may explain why these young contestants were so uncertain about what over 95% of the audience knew – on the question they each referred to the audience! Their confidence comes from collaboration. So, what happens when they are left on their own to problem solve? Not very successful. They were also given questions that most people (at least Boomers in my opinion) could have figured out by simple deductive reasoning, but they had to resort to a life line. (Yes, I know it’s always easier sitting at home than sitting in the hot seat.) Another observation about these young people is that they were not risk takers.

I couldn’t help but think about Jason Dorsey, “The GenY Guy” and his plea that “BabyBoomers, please never retire. You have all kinds of skills that we don’t. My favorite – long division.” And he is SO right, there are generations of knowledge among librarians on the brink of retirement that these younger Millennial librarians will never know, if we don’t pass it on. That’s the point of this post. We librarians have to learn to work together across these generation gaps in order to pass along the institutional and professional knowledge that we have to the Millennials that think it’s not important because – if they don’t know it – they can Google it! GONG! Wrong Answer!

Just in case there are some of you who have not yet been introduced to Jason Dorsey, you are in for a real treat!

If you watched all of Jason’s 10 minute video, you learned a lot about Gen Y people in the workplace. And, you got some good laughs, but this is actually a serious situation, mainly because people are serious in the workplace – especially Boomer and GenX librarians. Librarianship is serious business. We have to preserve the history and culture and literacy of humanity – all by ourselves! Don’t we?

All those self-actualizing issues aside, what we need to do is preserve the profession, in whatever form it takes in the 21st Century. We – ALL OF US – Greats, Silents, Boomers, GenX, GenY and whoever follows – MUST recognize that we are first and foremost the guardians of the librarian profession.

Our librarian ancestors are the ones who actually worked hard to make librarianship a “profession” when other professions did not want to recognize it as such. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who built academic programs for librarianship at the masters level. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who designed the classification and cataloging systems we use today. Our librarian ancestors are the founders of ALA and other worldwide organizations that support libraries and librarianship. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who created the great libraries of the world, and the small community library that still operates in that 100-year-old Carnegie building.

We in the profession today are the ancestors of the 21st Century librarian, and we must all work together to help shape this century of librarians, help identify their librarian place in society, and determine our librarians future. So, let’s talk. Let’s figure it out. Let’s do something besides debate the same old questions decade after decade. PLEASE – let’s have state, regional and national conferences that are more than resurrected programs from 5 or 10 years earlier. Let’s develop some 21st Century thinking. Let’s have some 21st Century dialog. PLEASE!


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21st Century Library Issues – Revisited

One of my first posts on this Blog was about the issues facing libraries and librarians in this 21st Century digital society – the Information Age. The issues I listed then were these simple questions.

21st Century Library
What does it look like?
How is it different from yesterday’s library?
What does it offer?
What role does it fill in the community?
Who decides?
21st Century Librarianship
Is there a role for librarians in the 21st Century? What is it?
How are we different from and similar to yesterday’s librarians?
What do we do?
What role do we fill in the library?
21st Century Librarian Skills
What skills do we need?
How do we acquire the necessary skills?
21st Century Library Patrons
Who are they?
What do they need in library services?
What do they want in library services?
How do we attract them into the library?

After reading and responding to another blogger’s post yesterday, it now seems clear to me that I definitely over-simplified the issues.

Andy, at “Agnostic, Maybe” commented on the explosion of data and associated management issues in his post The Reports of Our Professional Death have been Greatly Exaggerated. Andy believes “This presents an emerging opportunity for information professionals (such as librarians) to shift gears in the way that they approach and treat information.”

My reply to Andy’s post included the following.

I certainly agree with you that; “… this new data world will need sherpas. And that should be us.” It should be us, but perhaps you might want to revise your headline from “Greatly” to “Somewhat” Exaggerated, when you consider the 21st Century Skills movement in education, and look closely at what elementary school kids are being taught regarding ICT (Information, Communications and Technology).
Access and Evaluate Information
•Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
•Evaluate information critically and competently
Use and Manage Information
•Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
•Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
•Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

The American Association of School Librarians has published standards for school librarians to teach elementary school kids information literacy skills.

INDICATOR 1.1.5: “Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.”
In the 2nd grade, this equates to “Recognize and use facts that answer specific questions. Interpret information represented in pictures, illustrations, and simple charts.”
In the 12th grade, this equates to: “Evaluate historical information for validity of interpretation, and scientific information for accuracy and reliability of data.
Recognize the social, cultural, or other context within which the information was created and explain the impact of context on interpreting the information.
Use consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information from other sources.

Sound familiar? Like what you studied in your MLS graduate program? Being taught to elementary school kids!

It appears that librarians in the 21st Century have more to be concerned about than just the massiveness of data being generated, or about providing technology based services, or dealing with the diversity of patrons from “Traditionals” to “Digital Natives”. I think we need to be very concerned about the high level of information literacy that will be commonplace in another 10 years among the Digital Native library patrons, and society in general.

Don’t take me wrong, I have no concern over increased information literacy. In fact, I agree that it is a good thing for people and society to become better “users” of information. Nevertheless, my concern comes from how that increased and widespread information literacy impacts the librarian professional in 10 years.

Recognizing that we have been for many years dealing with the explosion of the Internet, and the multitude of automated tools for information access (OK, I’ll say it – Google), we finally realized that the Internet did not “totally” replace the librarian, as many of us feared 15 years ago. Librarians today at least still have a slim lead in the skills for evaluation of information, sources, accuracy, validity, value, bias, etc., and can therefore offer those services to the Digital Immigrant patrons, and some less well skilled Digital Natives.

That slim lead we hold in being the “experts” of information literacy, as far as the general public is concerned, appears to be coming to an end, based on the initiatives of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, AASL, and even business ( San José State University, School of Business Information Competency Initiative: “C.1.3.a: … The librarians in partnership with the business faculty will instruct students to define, locate, evaluate and organize this information.”)

This perspective of the future regarding information literacy certainly gives me more cause to pause to consider the future of librarianship, and the librarian’s role in that future, not to mention making the issues facing 21st Century Librarianship much more complex. I think we are talking survival here!


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The 21st Century Library is More: Service Oriented

In the previous post, I stated several principles that businesses use to drive their organization toward achieving a competitive advantage that results in success and sustainability. I wrote, in part:

Service Oriented –
Customer Service Competitive Advantage: Competitive Business Solutions “If we strive to only be as good as our competition, we are doing a disservice to our customers – and setting ourselves up to lose some of them. What is needed is for us to go above and beyond what our competition is doing. … Move [customers] out of the zone of “customer” into the zone of “trusted friend.” Go above and beyond what you’re expected to do and you’ll find that your customers will drive past the competition to come to you. …”

As I was reading recently about new 21st Century Library building construction that seems prevalent among communities that can afford such things (and God Bless their good fortune), it struck me that realistically the vast majority of libraries are locked into their existing brick-and-mortar facilities with no reasonable vision for future expansion or modernization. And that’s OK! That’s reality, and reality is what we deal with. Librarians, among the multitude of professions, are probably THE MOST creative, innovative and can-do people who serve the public. (That’s why we’re having conversations about Library2.0+ and the 21st Century Library.) We’re seeing many libraries re-organizing, re-arranging and re-energizing their libraries and staff to address 21st Century Library services and patron interests, which brings me to the point of this post. I want to relate an experience from many years ago.

In the post-Vietnam U.S. Army there was money available to modernize installations as troops were being withdrawn from Vietnam to Stateside installations, and the Army was “re-tooling” itself so to speak. As an Army officer, I was stationed in a major Army post with my wife and young daughter. Being in our late-20s, naturally we were very social, and the Army of that period encouraged “Happy Hour” type socializing, so naturally we were at the Officers Club most Friday nights. The club was outdated and inadequate for the many officers and families being transferred into the post at that time, so we were all ecstatic over the news of a brand new Officers Club, and we waited with great anticipation (hoping it would be opened before we were transferred out to a new assignment) until it was completed.

When the great day arrived, we all flocked to the new Officers Club frequently with great expectations of parties of all kinds, from casually impromptu to militarily formal. After about six months, the “new” wore off the new club, and interest and participation declined sharply among most of the younger officers and their “dates”. Why? We figured out that the “system” had simply moved the old Officers Club into a new building. The food was no better, the service was no better, and the music and entertainment were no better. The only thing that had changed was the décor, because the old club persisted in its new surroundings.

This was my first experience with change being not at all equal to progress. And change simply for the sake of change is probably more disappointing than change that misses the mark. Trying to make real progress and improvement through change is a desirable thing, where change that simply masks stagnation is disappointing and usually wasteful.

So, what’s the connection between my little vignette and the 21st Century Library? Efforts to create a 21st Century Library include change at every level, beginning with a 21st Century Library mindset, a commitment to improve library services, development of patron-centered library services, applications of technology that make a difference (not just lipstick on the pig), and business-like measures of success to mark the achievement of YOUR vision of YOUR 21st Century Library.

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The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like

As you read the following excerpts from various businesses, consultants and sources, think in terms of your library, and how these ideas could apply to your library operation. Mentally replace terms like; “executives” with your decision makers (whether Board, Director or managers), “customers” with patrons, “business” or “company” with library, and “technology” with something akin to Library2.0. I believe you will find that virtually all of the ideas and business principles discussed are applicable to making your library more – more 21st Century.

Here are some of the ways a 21st Century Library can operate more like a bottom-line type business, in addition to incorporating selected Library2.0 technology tools, in order to be more competitive. (Knowing your competition is a whole other story, and if you don’t think you have competition for library services, you really need to think more outside the box.) The excerpts are not intended to be definitive, but just exemplary of the principle listed.

Continuous Assessment –
“The control comes from measuring performance through a set of “Key Performance Indicators,” or KPIs. … Most companies already measure their performance in sales, profitability, and other areas they consider “key.” The two major differences between traditional business measurements and KPIs are their connection to the business strategy and their ability to measure processes and activities rather than just financial results. … your business processes should be designed to work away at those Critical Success Factors [Goals and Objectives from your Strategic Plan], every day of every month of every year. But here is one part of the mystery revealed-many entrepreneurs develop a good strategy and do not adjust their processes to fulfill it. How would they know their processes are thwarting their strategy? They wouldn’t, unless they had a set of Key Performance Indicators that measured the progress of their CSF. … Non-financial measures of time, activity, inventory, etc., are often more difficult to obtain, but they can connect much more strongly with CSF in the business strategy. They often make better KPIs because they actually drive the financial results. KPMG International Cooperative (audit, tax and advisory firm)

Service Oriented –
Customer Service Competitive Advantage: Competitive Business Solutions “If we strive to only be as good as our competition, we are doing a disservice to our customers – and setting ourselves up to lose some of them. What is needed is for us to go above and beyond what our competition is doing. … If your competitor knows their customers’ names, you should know their names and their birthdays. If your competitor knows their names and their birthdays, you should know their names, their birthdays, and their children’s names. If you want to make a preemptive strike against your competition, make a list of the many things that you’d want a good friend to know about you and start learning that about your customers. Move them out of the zone of “customer” into the zone of “trusted friend.” Go above and beyond what you’re expected to do and you’ll find that your customers will drive past the competition to come to you. … Is it a lot of work? Absolutely it is. But the sooner you catch it, the more likely it is that you can turn it around and take your business to the next level. If it’s left too long, your customer base will erode to a state of “convenience shopping” and you’ll have to work doubly hard to get them back.”, created in 1994, is an award-winning, one-stop resource website for entrepreneurs.

Marketing Strategy –
“The more difficult the economic climate, the greater the imperative to have systems which provide the firm with market focus, the ability to differentiate itself from the competition through innovation, and the processes to manage scarce resources.” United Kingdom Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Supporting innovation services Executive Summary August, 2008.

Innovation –
“The [2006] study found that today CEOs are focusing nearly 30 percent of their innovative efforts on business model innovation. Some admitted giving it as prominent a place on their agendas as more traditional types of innovation. Even CEOs who did not see a reason to focus on business model innovation before now believe the time has come …” IBM Global Services, Business model innovation – the new route to competitive advantage.

“A blend of culture and operations, this most fundamental element is the cornerstone responsible for making all workflow activity purposeful; and for delivering outcomes that are aligned with your objectives. Brainstorming, ideation, co-creating, collaborating, voting, analyzing, developing, testing, validating, monetizing, implementing and measuring benefits – that’s where the battle for innovation is won.” BrainBank Inc.

Efficient –
“Even with an economic upswing on the horizon, the focus on doing more with less won’t fade away. In fact, some say the paradigm of productivity has changed. Smart companies are moving beyond the basics -empowering top talent to implement creative solutions and finding innovative ways to free up cash and lift operating performance.” Deloitte Development LLC

Flexible –
“A business environment characterized by rapid and radical change puts a premium on continuous business model innovation to deliver novel, sustainable and competitively viable customer value propositions. In establishing the agenda for digitization of their enterprises, technology executives must recognize that their companies can create viable e-Business models only by attending to the fundamentals of agility and flexibility.”
Intel E-Business Strategy White Paper, June 2001.

Responsive –
“…imagine my surprise when today I got a text message from AT&T telling me that one of my family members has exceeded $10 in data/mobile web charges this month. It also had a toll free phone number to call for more information. This is a good example of being instantly responsive…sending me an alert that my expenses are higher than I normally would have expected. The amount, $10, is not much given the total amount on my bill, but I greatly appreciate knowing that this expense is higher than normal. And I’m impressed with this service.” March 9, 2010
AT&T Defies Expectations and Responds Instantly

Also, “Social business strategy is the vision and plan around social media, social networking, social support, social innovation, and the infrastructure components of social technologies and social liabilities.” February 2, 2010
Six Conversations for the CIO around Social Business Strategy
Designing and Leading Instantly Responsive Organizations Blog by Dr. Keri E. Pearlson, an expert in the intersection of information systems strategy, organizational design and business strategy.

Nimble –
“In today’s highly competitive and fragmented business environment, successful businesses must be absolutely customer-focused and market-driven. Otherwise, customers will simply choose to take their business elsewhere. Organizations have to be fully committed and pay considerable attention to what customers are asking for and actively demonstrate understanding and a willingness to change to meet customer needs. Business agility is the ability of a business to adapt to a dynamic environment and provide solutions to ever-changing customer needs.”
ensynch, an award-winning provider of IT infrastructure consulting services.

………to be continued………

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The 21st Century Library is More:

The 21st Century Library is more than anyone ever thought a library could be!

The concept of 21st Century Library is more than simply technology, or catering to Digital Native patrons. As Kathryn Greenhill wrote, her Library2.0+ envisions libraries that are “… the flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centred library.” The 21st Century Library begins with a mindset that the library of the future is not just responsive, but proactive, that it is more than anyone ever thought a library could be!

Flexible, nimble, evolving, and customer-centered are strategies commonly used in business for many years. It is often said, that these attributes are where a business gets its competitive advantage. If we believe that public libraries are being overcome and made obsolete by Internet services, eBooks, eAudio books, “eMedia” of all kinds, on demand information, and other 21st century technologies, then libraries need to find their competitive advantage. Simply appealing to society’s good opinions of public libraries, or its demand for library services, is not enough to ensure survival, let alone occupy an integral place in our communities.

There is much that can be learned from business about leading any organization. All of the marketing, R&D, and service activities accomplished by the most successful businesses can be applied to libraries. Despite what some claim is impossible to measure in a government operation where there is no profit-loss bottom line, there are returns on investment measures that libraries are now understanding as valuable tools in measuring a library’s value, if not its success. (Not to mention, when it comes time to justify your library’s budget to your funding jurisdiction, what better argument than your latest ROI study.)

Return on Investment is a valuable tool being employed by more public libraries all the time since one of the first in 2004 (See State Library of Florida 2009 ROI Study, Library Research Service, Return on Investment for Public Libraries, and “IMLS Grants To Support ROI Study…” )
In December 2008, Utah State Library conducted a pilot study of the State’s Public Libraries ROI and found that for every dollar of public tax support, the return was $7.35. ROI is just one of the many “business” tools that has application in public libraries.

………to be continued………….

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21st Century Library vis-a-vis Library2.0+

Librarians Matter Blogger Kathryn Greenhill of Australia posted an intriguing concept on her Blog way back in April 2007. (And thanks much for permission to quote liberally.) She posited that:

What is Library2.0 and Library2.0+ ?

I think Library 2.0 is used to describe two concepts. One is applying Web2.0 at your library. The other is the flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centered library, kickstarted by Web2.0 concepts and attitudes. One day the second will have its own name.

To me, there are two concepts called “Library 2.0″ – at the moment more or less covering the same libraries doing the same thing, but which will diverge at some point. The second concept will one day need its own name. I have buzzword fatigue and I’m happy to call it Library2.0 for now, but only for now. To differentiate it here, I’m calling it Library2.0+, but I think it deserves something that will date it less and is friendlier.

CONCEPT 1 – Library2.0 – Web2.0 in your Library
In the first concept, Library 2.0 definitely involves the elements taken from Web 2.0 and the attitudes and expectations it brings – but not all of the time and not in every institution if it doesn’t fit their community.
• 24/7 access
• Social networking
• Read/Write web
• The ‘net, not a single PC as a workspace
• User controlled tagging
• Collaborative creation
• “Humanized” institution where you can hear the voices of real people inside it
• Focusing on the needs of the user, not what suits the organization best
• Mashing up and value adding on top of available software
• Focuses on open source, not proprietary software
• Profiles, ratings, reviews, chat, “friending”
• Perpetual beta
• Tools like RSS, wikis, blogs, forums, photo sharing, SMS
• Access via many devices – mobile, handheld, desktop, telephony
So, one version of Library2.0 is “Web2.0 in a library”.

CONCEPT 2 – Library2.0+ – Flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centered libraries
The second concept involves some of what we have always done, and some rethinking. Web2.0 is a catalyst, but not the only element of this.
For years, libraries have worked in a collaborative, user focused way, implementing high usability standards – we are already Library2.0+ in some ways.

Some of Library2.0+ is tossing out a few of our traditional core functions because they have been replaced (e.g. Google and reference work – not quite!) or sharing our core functions (e.g. Google Scholar). We are putting centre stage previously unnoticed functions. The academic library as study hall and social space is an example of this. This fits in with Laura’s idea of “timeless adaptability”.
Ideas like “going where your users are” have been sparked by Web2.0 that created forums and spaces where it’s possible to interact online instead of waiting for our users to come to us. Library 2.0+ extends “going where the users are” beyond our PCs – like Ryan’s suggestion in his Top Ten Zero-tech Library 2.0 “no brainers” for Public Libraries that we volunteer in the community.

Web2.0 brings us the informal voice of blogs and web site architecture focusing on the users’ needs. Library2.0+, sparked by this change, is applying it elsewhere and takes it further. We are changing signage, re-writing paper forms, rearranging our collections, reconsidering our overdue policies and even how we talk to our users.

Restating, Kathryn wrote; “I think Library 2.0 is used to describe two concepts. One is applying Web2.0 at your library. The other is the flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centered library, kickstarted by Web2.0 concepts and attitudes. One day the second will have its own name.

I suggest that the term 21st Century Library may be that term. With the emphasis on 21st Century Skills in education that has been progressing for several years now, it seems that at least school and academic libraries are moving in that direction to support those efforts, and develop services to meet the needs of their staff, faculty and students that support the 21st Century education model.

AND, if we in the public library sector think about it, even briefly, we will recognize that many of our patrons are, or will be influenced by that new education model. Our Millennial patrons are products of an education system implementing 21st Century Skills. It’s no stretch to imagine that those patrons will never flock to the public library if they are confronted by a 20th Century services model.

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