Monthly Archives: January 2014

On the 4th Anniversary of Blogging

It seems like a very short time since I began this Blog, but it has been four years. I have covered a lot of material, enough on Strategic Planning to co-author a book Crash Course in Strategic Planning published by Libraries Unlimited in August 2013.

Some other stats are below, but I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported my efforts, and especially those who have shared their thoughts and experiences. Much appreciated!

This is Post number 309, or about 6 each month.

There have been over 225,000 views to date, or about 4,750 per month average, and over 300,000 words. WHEW!

The top viewed pages and posts are;
Home page 36,050
Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face 11,153
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Vision Statement 10,614
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Goals and Objectives 10,097
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Mission Statement 6,347
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Forecast 5,843
Why Not a Bachelor’s in Library Science? 5,475
Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century 5,256
Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders 3,482
Customer Is The Purpose 3,233
21st Century Skills, Libraries and Librarians 2,819



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You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

Over two years ago I wrote Are You a 21st Century Librarian? and proposed the following six behaviors that would describe a 21st Century librarian.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

1. Are Creative – …

2. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit – …

3. Are Customer Oriented – …

4. Embrace Technology – …

5. Are Business-like – …

6. Adopt a New Library Paradigm – …

I also wrote that there are definitely more than six characteristics of a 21st Century Librarian and more would follow. Life is what happens while you’re doing something else.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

7. Develop New Skill Sets – These are the skills they don’t teach you in library school; team building, collaboration, application of cutting edge technology, conducting training, individual professional development, applications of social media, crowd sourcing, open innovation, and many more. The point is to recognize what skill set is needed now and next year and develop it within yourself – on your own time if necessary.

8. Build A Great Team – In the 21st Century Library everything is done through collaboration, strategic partnerships and team work. Having the skills to bring people together through a shared vision and clear advantage in a joint venture is crucial to being successful in the 21st Century environment.

9. Think Strategically – Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library [as of 2011]. The Fayetteville [NY] Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things.

Smedley says she plans on adding other equipment as well, including a CNC Router and a laser cutter. Smedley helped her library win a $10,000 innovation grant at the recent Contact Summit in New York and is also raising money via an Indiegogo campaign. She’s reaching out to local science teachers, as well as encouraging those already active in area hackerspaces and makerspaces to get involved.

10. Are Creative – “You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone.” [Jack Andraka, age 15, Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize Winner] The point is librarians MUST be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries. Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” during the first decade of the 21st Century in the same way it has been done for centuries. The reason the old way does not work is because the environment, conditions and library user’s expectations of libraries have all changed drastically. Without a new perspective of librarianship and the ability to create and implement new ideas to address new challenges, as well as old challenges, libraries will never reach their 21st Century capabilities.

11. Give Exemplary Selfless Service – “The needs and mission of the organization ALWAYS come first. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about the staff. I am responsible to see that this organization functions at the highest possible level of efficiency, responsibility, accountability and integrity. My job is to always meet that expectation and see to it that everyone else gets as close as possible.” [The Highly Successful 21st Century Library Director]

12. Make Your Library Relevant to Your Community – This is the ONLY thing that truly matters in the end analysis. You can have all the bells and whistles, all the latest technology, the best customer service in the world, but if the products and services your library is offering to your community do not “connect” with what the community wants – you will still not be relevant. PERIOD! End of story! End of library?

[Read also: Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders

A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face

A New Perspective of Librarianship

Re-Imagining The Public Library

21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

Please contribute to this list with ideas and experience of your own.


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Millennial Library Users Need … What?

Last August I found the MTV study – Young Millennials Will Keep Calm & Carry On – that surveyed Millennials in greater detail than ever before.

MTV set out to understand the younger end of the Millennial demo, 13-17 year olds, who will soon move into the “sweet spot” of MTV’s core target demographic of 18-24 year olds. This is a landmark generational study that builds on MTV’s long legacy of deeply understanding our audience, as part of an effort to constantly reinvent ourselves and stay at the bleeding edge of youth culture.

katniss2. The Hunger Game’s trailblazing survivalist Katniss Everdeen (the younger end of the generation, peeking into Gen Z). This second wave of Millennials, today’s tweens & teens, have known a very different youth. They came of age in an economic downturn, seeing college grads struggling with huge student loan debt and living through a cascade of social media-amplified tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook. For them, life has always been a 24/7 social media show.

It’s a challenging world to traverse, and like Katniss from the Hunger Games, they are navigating life by honing specialized, self-taught (often Internet-acquired) survival skills. They are also utilizing the advice of their pragmatic Gen X parents, who don’t say “the world is your oyster,” but rather “you have to create your own oyster.”

I used MTV’s assessment to make the point that libraries who ignore their younger users do so at their own peril.

As libraries try to figure out how to become relevant to their community, it is critical to understand the patrons/customers/ members/users who are growing up to be the ones who either support your library and become engaged with it, or ignore it as having nothing to offer them. When young people dislike something, it’s nearly impossible for parents to convince them that it is “good for them,” which means the parents may no longer support the library either because it can’t meet their family’s needs.

A recent assessment of Millennials’ purchasing habits claims that their changing interests and behaviors are having detrimental effects on retailers. This is another eye opening example of how libraries must understand their younger users or face the consequences of irrelevance to their community, just like clothing retailers are facing commercial irrelevance. Fast fashion retail eating into American prep’s sales

You won’t find any clothes with Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle logos in Morgan Klein or Stephanie Friedman’s closet anymore.

The twentysomethings prefer the fast fashion route these days – looking for trendy, less expensive clothes at retailers such as Bebe, H&M, and Forever 21.

“I feel Abercrombie is more preppy, and that’s not what I wear anymore,” said Klein, who worked at Abercrombie in her teens.

Friedman holds a similar view. “Everything says Abercrombie all over it, and I don’t really like it,” said Friedman. “If the logos weren’t all over a lot of things, I would probably give it a try again. I think some of the fits are nice and the materials.”

Wall Street is taking notice of teenagers and young adults shying away from brands that used to be a wardrobe staple. The so-called big “A” retailers, Abercrombie, Aéropostale and American Eagle, are slipping out of favor. These stocks are all down by double-digit percentages in the past six months, while the S&P 500 has risen 11.5 percent.

“All you have to do is spend five minutes at an Abercrombie & Fitch and then walk across to an H&M. One striking difference is that Abercrombie is still selling clothes from 1995, but tailored,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief market strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. “H&M has a broader mix of very fashionable apparel at an unbeatable price.”

“The shorter product lead time, basically from design to seeing it on the sales floor, entices the teen each time they are in the mall and online,” Sozzi wrote in a research note on why traditional teen retailers are losing a war. “Kids nowadays don’t want to be boxed into one look like a robot, they want to mix, match and standout.”

H&M, which is part of a growing number of fast-fashion retailers, is adept at getting trends from the catwalk to the sales floor quickly, and at much cheaper prices. It’s a practice traditional chain stores find challenging to adopt, as they place their orders much earlier than fast-fashion stores. For example, many traditional retailers place their holiday orders in April and May, while fast-fashion retailers’ model allows them to order closer to the season.

This retail fashion report tells me two things. First, Millennials are going their own direction away from the “name brand” clothing purchasing trend of the past couple of decades. Retailers used to be able to hang their hat on the fact that young people were unalterably attracted to wearing THE name brand clothing items from head to toe. It made the retail fashion industry rich. Maybe not so much in the future.

Second, the “fast-fashion retailers’ model” has become the new game in town. In recent years in business operations we have seen the “just in time” production-to-market model become the norm. Being able to quickly respond to changing consumer habits has enabled some business to thrive, while those unable to respond wither. A company’s survival depends on its ability to change rapidly in response to its customers’ demands.

The 21st Century Library should be no less customer driven, and no less responsive to their customers’ needs and wants. Being in touch with library users’ interests and habits is more essential to a library’s relevance to its community than ever before.

Understanding the business of the library is paramount to understanding the library’s users and being able to provide them what they want from their library. Without the agility to adapt, libraries will suffer the same decline in business as retail business, because libraries are in the retail business – direct customer service.

[Read: Multidisciplinary – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill

21st Century Libraries and Librarians Look Like: Innovation

The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like]


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Watson Come Here – We Want You

Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer. But they tell the story much better than anyone at their website. Visit it before you read on. Even the Watson website is impressive. How great must the computer be. Watson

A January 14 article from SmartData Collective – IBM Bets a Billion to Mobilize Watson Business Unit and Monetize Cognitive Computing – explains that IBM has now made Watson front and center in its empire.

Until now IBM Watson was important but had neither this stature in IBM’s organizational structure nor enough investment to support what the company proclaims is the third phase of computing. As IBM tells it, computing paradigms began with the century-old tabular computing, followed by the age of programmatic computing, in which IBM developed many products and advancements. The third phase is cognitive computing, an area in which the company has invested significantly to advance its technology. IBM has been on this journey for some time, long before the IBM Watson system beat humans on Jeopardy!. … Now IBM Watson is focused on reaching the full potential of cognitive computing.

I’ve been following IBM’s progress on Watson for some time, because it WILL have a profound affect on the role of librarians. Since I first ran across the brief article in early 2011 I knew that the world was on the brink of experiencing “thinking” computers. We have all seen movies about cognitive robots, Orwellian world domination by computers, and now there’s even a TV series with a robot police partner that has a soul – of sorts. So we have been fascinated with thinking computers for over a century. There’s even a movie in theaters now about a guy who falls in love with his smart phone – and it falls in love with him. [eyes rolling] As I’ve stated before, Jules Verne wrote “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” so it should be no surprise that the thinking computer is now reality.

If IBM is right that cognitive computing will be the next wave of innovation in the industry and a new phase of computing, it has placed itself at the center of a substantial new market opportunity. Even at the most basic level to simplify the process of making information more available is what IBM Watson provides and our information optimization research finds is very important to 65 percent of organizations. [Emphasis added.]

IF IBM IS RIGHT…? Seriously! Did that young man just write that? How could ANYONE doubt that cognitive computing IS the next wave of innovation in computing? It is what the world has been waiting for with anticipation and dread. It will spell the beginning of awesome new capabilities for the individual, as well as businesses.

At the launch of the IBM Watson business unit, IBM Research’s Dr. Guruduth Banavar brought forward some of the latest thinking on cognitive science and the ability to teach machines to reason and … how it will impact roles and businesses in the next decade.

As it begins to scale its offering, part of IBM’s challenge is to manage the continuous information feeds that effectively make IBM Watson smarter. While IBM does not talk much about the content aspects of what is required, it is clearly more than just loading files, and these efforts are just as important as librarians are to libraries, whereby they are not just stewards to a collection of books but ensure the value and improvement of the library.

The author is stretching his expertise a bit to assume what the importance of the librarian is to the library, but it provides a great segway into how Watson has the potential to eliminate the reference librarian, and potentially other aspects of the library as well.

WatsonMedData This issue is not without controversy. On the Watson FB site is the diagram of Watson using natural language and evidence-based learning to crunch the world’s medical data. This obviously raises the age old question of security and privacy of individual medical records. The data has to come from somewhere. Is it possible that computers will decide they don’t need inferior human input? Yes, it probably is. Will it happen in the next 100 years? Who knows. The reality is Watson exists and it will change the way the world views information.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

This impending revolution in how people find information reminded me of Peter Brantley’s article from February, 2013 – You Have Two, Maybe Three Years… in which he stated;

The most serious threat facing libraries does not come from publishers, we argued, but from e-book and digital media retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Google. While some IFLA staff protested that libraries are not in the business of competing with such companies, the library representatives stressed that they are. If public libraries can’t be better than Google or Amazon at something, then libraries will lose their relevance. It’s good that the library e-book issue has heated up over the past year, and not just in the U.S. but globally.

But libraries have dithered for far too long – it is now time for action. No matter how glorious the vision of local 3D printing, community gaming, or how critical the literacy training and job assistance libraries offer, reading lies at the heart of the library mission – and as the world goes digital, we cannot let the library become a pile of dusty books. We must make the library the most cool and awesome space it has ever been.

But absent immediate innovation, libraries are going to be increasingly unable to meet the expectations of their patrons, and if such a breakthrough cannot come in the next two or three years, libraries risk losing their central place in the world of literature. That would be a great loss. [Emphasis added.]

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

[Read: Reference Librarian vs. Computer! February 16, 2011

And The Winner Is….. “The information seeker in 2015.” February 17, 2011

Remember Watson? November 18, 2013

The Future of Librarians? June 28, 2010

Technology Game Changers for Libraries June 26, 2012]


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Five Answers to Successful Strategic Planning

One of the hardest parts of doing strategic planning is just getting started. Where to begin? What approach should we use to pursue strategic planning for my library? Do I just tell the staff; “Next Monday we will have a managers meeting to begin our next strategic plan.” BOOM There it is. We’ve started! Sure. Go ahead and do that – IF YOU WANT TO ENSURE FAILURE.

If you stop to consider what all is in involved in conducting strategic planning, you’ll realize that it may not be the most complicated process, but it does take some deliberate organization and preparation. Expecting your staff to know what needs to be done to pursue a new strategic plan is expecting a lot, unless you have a highly motivated, highly collaborative, visionary and experienced staff. Those dozen or so libraries that meet this description have no worries. For the rest of us, we need to think about what we’re getting into BEFORE we open that can of worms.

Strategic Planning does not just “happen” as a normal part of staff activity. Not that it shouldn’t, we just never have embraced that approach to doing it. And another reason we don’t do strategic planning well is because we don’t start off well prepared. There are a few fundamental questions we should answer before we simply begin.

These questions need well thought out answers in order to begin effectively with high expectations for success. The sequence in which you answer these questions is also important because the answers at each step will influence the answers to subsequent questions.

1. Why do we want a new strategic plan?
That may seem like a nonsense question to begin with, but you might be surprised at some of the reasons why libraries develop a new strategic plan. Sometimes it’s as simple as a mandate, either from the library’s jurisdiction, or the board, or some other regulatory agency, like the state library, or to get funding from a grant. If this is your reason for doing a new strategic plan, save yourself and your staff a lot of time and headaches and just do it yourself. Use your own best judgment about who your library is and why you exist and create a reasonable mission, vision, goals and objectives and get back to work. Put it back on the shelf where it’s always been until next time you need a current plan.

If you want a new strategic plan because the library wants to be better, wants to be more, and wants to be relevant to its community, then you want to make significant changes in your library operation and organization. You MUST recognize that going into this process. You are talking about change from a business as usual, status quo posture to a 21st Century Library – something not yet envisioned by most libraries. If you – the library director and person responsible to make this strategic planning process result in a successful strategic plan – want to instigate major change, you must be prepared to face obstacles.

2. What are the obstacles to achieving a successful strategic plan?
There is not a single worthwhile effort that does not have to overcome some obstacles. Creating a successful strategic plan is no different, so it is important to consider what those obstacles are before you begin. Each of your potential obstacles should be addressed extremely realistically. This is not the point at which you can afford to whitewash anything.

How much support or resistance can you expect to get from your own staff? It depends on your organization’s culture and whether the staff experience is very positive or very negative toward strategic planning. How much support or resistance can you expect to get from outside stakeholders? This depends on whether or not the stakeholders have been included in past strategic planning, or might welcome being included now. How much change do you want to accomplish with this new strategic plan? Depending on the past experiences, and whether strategic planning for change is something new for your library, you may be considering something radically new for your organization. In this case you can certainly expect more obstacles. More changes = More obstacles. When you determine what likely obstacles you face, you can better answer the next question.

3. Who needs to be involved?
Why is this issue important? Because, you want to ensure that the people working on this project actually accomplish something. You can choose to begin with everyone, or you can begin with a few select individuals. What you want is a core group of people – from where ever, either internally or stakeholders from outside the library organization – who will understand what you are trying to accomplish and work toward that result. You cannot accomplish anything with people who only want to talk and not do, or only want a venue for their agenda instead of doing the work, or who get bogged down in making everyone feel like a valued participant. Getting the correct group of people involved from the beginning will ensure you actually accomplish your planning process.

It is entirely likely that this beginning group may change over time and as the process progresses. That is as it should be. Your intent in getting the planning process started is to begin with as much potential for success as possible.

4. How well do I intend to resource this strategic planning process?
As we all know, any project or effort that is not well resourced is not likely to achieve as much as it otherwise could, or more likely to fail completely. Assuming that you are attempting major changes, the rule of thumb is that the more change there is the more resources will be required – whether fiscal or personnel – you must commit adequate resources to be successful.

As the director, how much of your own time and energy do you intend to devote to making sure the strategic planning process is on track and moving toward a successful conclusion? How much of your library’s resources do you intend to divert to this project? How much political capital might you need to spend? How much training might be required? Do you need the services of an outside consultant?

This is a major resource consideration because many library directors and boards believe that strategic planning is best done internally. But, that assumes several factors exist about your organization – from top level leaders to bottom level employees, including stakeholders. First, that everyone fully understands the planning process, and knows their part in it. Second, it assumes that leaders are familiar with a proven strategic planning process, and have the time necessary for shepherding the process to a successful conclusion. Consultants are expensive, but consider your staff capabilities before you decide which process to use.

5. What strategic planning process format should we use?
There are many planning processes to choose from. Should we use a very analytical approach and assess everything from Mission to SWOT to operating environment to marketing plan thoroughly using scientific analysis? Should we take a “customer centered” approach where we view all operations and programs from the customer’s perspective? (Remember when that approach to everything was popular about five years ago?) Should we use a highly detailed and elaborate process to ensure as many aspects as possible get included?


Should we use a process that is compatible with our staff, expertise and experience? Undoubtedly, the answer to this question is YES! Regardless of what format that may be, like the one in the illustration below, you need to know where your strategic planning process is taking you, and it needs to be one that you can effectively implement and that everyone understands.


The key to success for any project is to begin properly. Strategic Planning is important enough to warrant an excellent beginning. Give your next Strategic Plan the best chance for success and consider these five fundamental questions before you begin.

[For more information about Strategic Planning visit: KD Matthews Consulting. ]


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Complete These Statements …

The 21st Century Library is…
The 21st Century Librarian does…
This is not a quiz. It is not rhetorical. We all need to share our ideas and understanding about our future. Isn’t that why you’re reading this Blog? Because you care about the future of your profession. Please contribute to the conversation.


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A New Perspective of Librarianship

What I’ve been trying to elaborate over the past many months and posts is that our profession needs a new perspective of librarianship.

A TV comedy show (of all things) sparked the following spot-on analogy. One of the new TV shows this season is “The Crazy Ones” starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michele Geller who play a father-daughter advertising team.


In the most recent episode Dad is trying to teach Daughter an object lesson about coming up with an ad campaign for a potential client.

thinker1 Dad says; “It’s kind of like viewing a sculpture. Rodin’s “The Thinker” for example when viewed from the front is contemplating life.
thinker2 When viewed from the back is a guy on the toilet.”

This Blog is essentially all about questioning how we view and practice “librarianship” in the 21st Century. Some librarians are still viewing and practicing it from the front which is how it’s been viewed and practiced for centuries.

Shouldn’t we be viewing it from a different perspective, a new perspective so that we get a different understanding and new way of practicing it, a new vision, a new inspiration of what librarianship means, and what it can be in the 21st Century? ABSOLUTELY!

[Read: 21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

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