Tag Archives: Business

Public Libraries must take a Stand with the Big 5 on eBooks


Library Journal “ALA, Publishers Talk Ebook Lending Terms for Libraries

I saw the headline and thought “Excellent! I hope this means ALA has made real progress toward open access to ALL content regardless of format!” and then I read the article.

“ALA highlighted the valuable role of libraries in the publishing and reading ecosystems and thus why more flexible and favorable terms for library eBook lending are in everyone’s best interest.”

Publishing ecosystems? Huh? Where’s the mention of providing equal access to information regardless of format?

“This visit represents ALA’s ninth such delegation effort over the last several years.”

Ninth delegation!? Seriously? And yet here most of us sit with abysmal title selections and outrageously priced contracts. I don’t think the strategy is working…whatever it is.

“Libraries have a prominent role in the discovery of books and authors, whether in the physical or virtual worlds.”

True. We all love our reader’s advisory and putting those new books in people’s hands.

“Indeed, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store by Amazon is a major acknowledgment that physical place is important, even for an online-based service. “

True…Library as 3rd space. We have been saying this for a decade. Wait…is the delegation saying these publisher’s should think of the libraries as their “brick-and-mortar” presence for their eBook trade? Hmm..starting to feel a little uncomfortable… where is this headed?

“In our meetings, we came away with a few possibilities for strengthened collaboration with publishers to promote discoverability as well as reading and literacy.”

OK- even less comfortable. Let’s break down this sentence. So in addition to promoting reading and literacy which we all do and love…the delegation is suggesting we promote discoverability…of the publisher’s eBooks. Why is it that this sounds a bit more like promoting for revenue than simple reader’s advisory?

“One idea that received some traction is tying discoverability with a particular subject matter, such as health or workforce issues. Library services or programming in an area would be developed and highlighted on a national scale, and publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured. Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.”

I’m sorry…what? Let’s read that part again “publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured”. And…“Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.” Now I’m officially uncomfortable and we have turned into shady ethical territory. Consider this: It is one thing when we host a children’s program with a magician and then put out a display of books on magic. It is ENTIRELY another when a book seller comes to the children’s librarian and says “If you will pay to put on a program with a magician- I will SELL you these books on magic at a discount and then you agree to ‘feature’ those books at the program”. How many of us would pull back from that offer instinctively?

But now we read an article with ALA is actually presenting this as a serious idea. ARE YOU KIDDING!?? Libraries are not peddlers of the publisher’s product! Libraries are not about free advertising for authors! Taxpayers do not give Libraries their hard-earned tax dollars to have us craft services and programming to promote a for-profit venture.

“Most fundamental, however, for these meetings is to further develop the library–publisher relationship at the executive and national levels. Publishers and libraries have similar overall goals—to promote and advance reading and literacy—and are allies in many respects.”

And why is it that each time I read about Library/Publisher talks or pilot programs I always see the same New York area libraries represented? Why are the New York area Libraries driving the national agenda and conversation on eBooks? Why are they some of the ONLY libraries to have ‘deals’ with the publishers? Proximity? Hogwash!! We all know how to get on an airplane. I have as much or more respect for NYPL and its neighbors as anyone (I’ll admit it may nearly bordering on a bit of hero worship); but I would like to see a broader spectrum of folks invited to the table for these negotiations.  Perhaps this is a banner that the new Librarian of Congress or ALA’s new Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and Freedom to Read Foundation, Jamie LaRue. With his appointment, I have the first high hopes I’ve had for awhile when it comes to serious progress from ALA.

And lets not overlook the bit about similar goals.  Unless it’s a charitable tax write off or a form of promotion, do we really believe the Big 5 have any other goal at the end of the day other than to make money? What better way than to get one of the most trusted of public institutions to hawk their products?

Let’s stop kowtowing to the Big 5. Stop telling them how good we are for their product and begging for scraps. Please ALA, do not sell the soul of the Public Library – the public trust that Libraries are one of the only remaining ‘commercial-free zones’- for a better price on the latest best seller. We are not the pawn of the Publishers. We are not their salesmen. Instead stand up for EXACTLY the reason we Public Librarians are here! To ensure that all Americans, regardless of their means, have access to ALL content/information REGARDLESS of format.

THAT SHOULD BE OUR MESSAGE TO THE PUBLISHERS. We will NOT allow them to throw our ability to create open access to information back into the dark ages because the technology of this bright new century allows them to maintain a strangle hold on content. Access to information is a right of all. NOT just those who can pay. That is why the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY was created. How DARE we let these publisher disregard this basic tenant of our democracy!

Perhaps in the 10th meeting Libraries will make a stand.

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The 21st Century Library Director is a CEO


I have to play solitaire to go to sleep.

I didn’t use to. I would watch tv, read, dozing and drifting to quiet my mind. And eventually I would drift off.

But that doesn’t work anymore. My mind races. To-Do lists fill my head. Conversations rehashed or practiced. Strategies and plans. Budgets and contracts. They barrage my mind until I’m making notes into the wee hours. Sending emails. Making lists.

Why? What has changed?

 

My job.

 

I started as a librarian. Moved on to management. And then into administration. I always thought that jump from management to administration would simply be a natural progression of steadily increasing responsibility and challenges. But I simply had no idea. Being the Director (if you are in an autonomous agency and doing the job correctly) is to be the CEO of your library.

But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in library school. I also have an MBA. And surprise. They teach you a whole lot about money, marketing and business. But they don’t teach you to be a CEO in Business School either

So when you find yourself in the job and realize that none of your formal education has given you the tools necessary to do the job, what do you do? As any good librarian, I started researching.  I found hundreds of books, articles, and online resources on the subjects; because IN FACT they don’t teach you to be a CEO anywhere.

 

So how do you learn to be a CEO?

 

After asking a great many professionals and doing a great deal of research I have come to the conclusion that the majority all learn the same way.  They get dropped in the deep end of the pool and either drown or swim.

And what does it mean to be the CEO of a Library? What does the job look like? How is it similar or different than being the CEO of other types of organizations?

 

So what do my days as the CEO of an urban public library look like…?

Many of my days take on a life of their own and a trajectory that on great days I shape, on good days I wrangle, and on bad days I just hang on and pray a little.

I simplify life. I tell people when they have done well or when they have failed. I refocus energies on the goal. I remind people of the path. I listen and summarize in the hopes that my synopsis might provide the clarity for others to reach a decision

Other times I complicate life. I explain what is missing and request more to be done. I explain why a project is not complete though it is presented as such. I add necessary details or new information that reshapes a project. I add new requirements I only now realize are necessary because of the progress made thus far.

In some people’s story I am the champion. In others the villain. And none, if any, know the whole story even when they believe it is their own. I take blame and give credit. I have broad shoulders and thick skin to withstand the barrage when it will shield the innocent and ensure the goals are accomplished.

I make sure that everyday I am exactly the kind of employee I want to have. I work harder, longer and better than I expect anyone else to do. I don’t ask anyone to do anything that I would refuse to do or have not done in the past. I model every attitude and every behavior I ask my staff to have. I hold myself to a higher standard than I would anyone else. I create the culture of my organization. I build my team. With that team, I define the vision and set the direction of my organization.

I never raise my voice.    I admit when I’m wrong. I ask for, listen to, and implement better ideas than my own. I try to surround myself with people who are smarter and better than me. This makes some staff love me.

I am decisive. I know my own mind and my vision for my organization. I believe we can be better. So I do not accept the present as good enough. I tell people when they are wrong and demand they do better. This makes some staff dislike me.

And at the end of the day if the organization is better I have succeeded. If it is worse I have failed.

And at the end of the day- I am responsible for everyone and everything.

Because that’s what being a CEO is. And that’s why they don’t teach it in any school or classroom. Because they can’t. It’s not a job or a profession. It’s not even a career.

It’s a way of life.

My job is to hop and juggle and prioritize. Like a circus performer, keeping all my plates spinning on their sticks. And just when they start to fall, give them a good spin in the right direction with all my focus and attention for a split second before I move to another set of plates and do the same. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

When does it stop? When does it get easier?

Never.

 

Why does it matter you may ask? Why do we need to understand that a Library Director is a CEO? Defining the position helps us identify the skills, education, and measures of success for the job.

How do we gauge the success of a Library Director?  How their staff feels, patron feedback, increased material circulation?  We know the CEO of a corporation is successful based on the companies bottom line and growth.  How do we determine the success of a Public Library and therefore its Director? In a Library there is no fiscal bottom line, instead we use numbers that are more fluid, testimonials of patrons, budget ups and downs, etc.  So how do Boards and Citizens evaluate the work of their Director? Do they? Shouldn’t they?

And if we are going to start using clear criteria to determine the success of our Library CEOs, are we providing them with the skills necessary to BE good at the job?  Or are we simply taking good Librarians and promoting them hoping they will also be good administrators?  We are overflowing with leadership programs in LibraryLand – but is growing leaders the same as training skilled CEO’s to lead our Libraries?

This year the 21st Century blog is going to spend time exploring the issue of Library Director as CEO.  This incudes:  training, tools, skills, challenges, measures, outcomes, and more.  I hope you’ll contribute to this important conversation.

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21st Century Librarians Make Allies of the Press


As a 21st Century Librarian, if you are innovative and cutting edge…the day will come when the press knocks on your door. Sometimes that is positive – sometimes its negative…and sometimes, if poorly handled, it can be DIRE!

Dealing with the Press (print or television or bloggers) is a situation that may cause even the most capable librarian or director’s blood to run cold. “The newspaper is on the phone for you.” Or “The channel 6 news van just pulled up outside.” is enough to make any of us want to run for the bathroom and hide. Especially if you do not know why they are there! However by keeping a few key things in mind (and with some experience) everyone can use their relationships with the press to their greatest advantage.

  1. Never Let ‘em See You Sweat!
    Whether it is a positive story and the reporter is there at your request or a surprise visit asking for a comment about some new political/policy/budget situation, remember that you are in control of YOU. Take a deep breath-focus on the questions being asked- decide what you want to say and then say it confidently! If you need a moment, take it. YOU run the interview. Do not BE run.
    There is nothing worse than finding out news FROM the reporter! Things like “SO! How do you feel about losing that $2M from next years proposed budget allocation?” Speechless doesn’t begin to cover the possible reactions!
  2. Have a Designated Library Spokesperson.
    This is not about being controlling or hampering freedom of speech. It is about controlling the message that comes from the Library. That message should convey the spirit of your culture and ethics in every phrase.
  3. Talk in Sound Bites & Manage You Own Story.
    No matter how comfortable you are with a journalist, it is never wise to talk unreservedly. When you are on the record, give them the information they need but attempt to talk in short meaningful sentences or ‘sound bites’ that will simply be too good for them to pass up printing! As you hone this skill, you can almost be assured that the journalist will pick up on your sound bites and those will be what they use. Ready-made sound bites make their job easier and help shape the story that YOU want told.
    Manage the story yourself. Do not rely on the news journalist to present the story the way that you think that they will. Or the way that they should. Make sure that you present the information that you would like to see the story reflect by crafting your responses in a way that you give the information you want highlighted.  This will give a better chance that the story will cover the ideas that you’re wanting to highlight.
  4. Go “Off the Record”!
    In addition, just as you hold your ethics dear on patron privacy, freedom to read, etc., a true journalist holds the “off the record” statements made to them very dear. If you feel that additional context would be helpful to the journalist in writing their story but you do not want to risk being quoted on delicate back stories, ask the reporter if you can talk to them off record to provide them with greater detail and more context. Almost every time they will jump at the opportunity to gather more intel even if it’s something that they can’t directly use. In employing this tactic you garner their trust, their goodwill, and maybe even a few brownie points if you point them in the right direction to gather more information for their story. However, the greatest benefit of this tactic is that it provides the reporter with the appropriate context for the story and if, as you should, you have done nothing inappropriate that the newspaper is covering, such as unethical handling of the patron, policy, or financial issue, etc., then you have nothing to fear. In addition, giving them a deeper understanding of the situation will often lead to a more empathetic slant of the story toward the library – if appropriate.
    In addition we all know that much of what we do is a matter of public record. If the journalist is requesting information that you know exists in the public record such as board meeting minutes agendas or other documents don’t make the reporter dig for this information. Rather – offer it up! There is a good chance they will eventually find it and if you have given it to them rather than making them work for it garners a spirit of trust, collegiality and teamwork that will often times result in better press for the library.
  5. Use the Royal “We”.
    When you’re being interviewed make sure that you refer to the library administration and Board of Trustees rather than to yourself personally as making decisions. Not only is this good form and probably completely accurate, this will give your sound bites the ring of authority. In addition Board of Trustees members love to see that credit given to them in publications, and it will go a long way in garnering good will. In addition, always remember that you are not being interviewed as an individual, you ALWAYS represent the organization. Speaking ‘on behalf’ is your job as the spokesperson. In that sense, referring to the organization with the Royal “We” is completely acceptable and expected.
  6. Don’t Get Punked! At least not on camera!
    When it comes to a television interview, ask the reporter what questions they will be asking you BEFORE they begin filming. More specifically, BEFORE they even get the video camera out of the bag! Tell them you want to talk “off the record” before you begin. If there is no hidden agenda, they should have absolutely no problem in telling you their interview questions. And trust me, they do have the questions that they intend to ask long before they arrived at your location. If they say they are just going to “wing it” that should send up a red flag for you and then you need to push to find out what the questions are and exactly what the point of the story is. Never be shy about asking any reporter what is the point of the story they’re writing. It is entirely possible that the story may change for them over time as they gather information but it is totally appropriate for you to ask the angle that they’re planning for the story. Remember: It’s your organization.
  7. When Necessary, Be “Unavailable” instead of “No Comment”.
    In some instances you will be contacted for a story that you either for legal reasons cannot speak about or would simply prefer not to because it does not seem that there is any upside to giving a comment or statement to the press. These could include a story that you are unprepared to address, has legal ramifications of any statements, or is a personnel matter that should not be discussed. Always use “No comment” as an option of last resort. Remember when you are reading a newspaper article what no comment looks like to you. Inherent in the statement no comment is a statement. What does sound much better is “The library spokesperson was unavailable or could not be reached for comment”. Use this tactic wisely. And only when you feel that you have truly ruled out that there is any acceptable statement that can be made. Consider the statement “The library is greatly distressed/disappointed/concerned that this has occurred. We are hopeful that there will be a satisfactory resolution for all concerned.” This is a broad open ended and empathetic statement that can realistically be applied to almost any distressing situation. While this is a useful tactic, be aware that you also give up the opportunity to add your organization’s perspective to the piece. Only you know if silence is better.
  8. Press Response Should be Part of Every Plan!
    Plan Ahead!! Know your response or sound bite before the reporter ever knocks on your door or rings your phone. For example – Make sure that you know how you’re going to present that fabulous new $60,000 innovative service in a time of deep budget cuts. How will you answer the tough questions? How will you explain your decision making? Can you? A basic truth: If you Can’t defend it…Don’t DO it! If you follow this basic rule, you should never worry. Not everyone will always agree with your choices but at least they will understand them and have faith in the integrity of your decision making process.
  9. You will be Misquoted! 
    Most important – always remember that you WILL be misquoted. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’. How to respond becomes the question. If it is a significant issue that needs a retraction or correction, address it with the reporter and if you do not get an appropriate response be sure to contact the editor. However, unless the error is so substantial that it simply MUST be corrected, shrug it off and remember that this is a part of the game of playing with the press.
  10. You need the Press and They need YOU! Play Nice!
    Remember that the newspaper or television reporter needs you as badly as you need them and often times more. Yes – you need them too when you want them to cover a big piece of news or new program or award. But your story is their bread-and-butter, especially when the story isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. When those tough political, policy, or budget stories come, all the press outlets will be knocking to get the best and first scoop. With this thought in mind it is safe to consider that it is not in their best interest nor should it be their desire to make an enemy out of the library. This means they should try not to misquote you, surprise you or position you in a way that is (unnecessarily) harmful for the library. (That does not mean that it will not show up in the press if you do something really stupid! They are in the business of the “public’s right to know”.) If it feels like you were dealing with a journalist who has no goodwill toward the library, or seeks out harmful angles to create a more “sensational” story, you have one option – Don’t deal with them again. Become dramatically unavailable to them for any of their stories. Invariably, they will either realize they have to deal more fairly with you or, if the breakdown in the relationship causes the paper or channel to miss a good story or scoop, it is likely the editor will assign another reporter to your beat.And if, dear reader, as you are reading this blog you were thinking “Well, that’s all well and good but the only time I ever have to talk to the newspaper is to get an article in about storytime or summer reading”. That way of thinking will leave you vulnerable when the unexpected and unfortunate day comes when there is a big story and you need a relationship with the press. When a branch closes, a policy is attacked, a budget is cut or you are being sued, these are the times that having a reporter that you already know and have a trusting friendly relationship with covering that story will be invaluable. Treating the journalist as a colleague can be extremely helpful to you by allowing you to state the Library’s position publicly or giving you good PR for things that are happening in the library. That said – never forget that at the end of the day they are a journalist and they are there to get the story.

Because this is a tough topic…One more tip for good measure:

Be Gracious! Take the High Road.
Libraries are like Girl Scout cookies – everyone loves us. What they do not love is when public figures or groups start slinging mud. They may enjoy reading it but they will never forget that that is the type of person that you are and ergo the type of organization the Library is.

The only thing that slinging mud does is get you dirty too. If the story they’re reporting is a Library budget slashing by the City Council, take the highroad. Give them a soundbite of: “The Library understands that the city has serious financial challenges and that tough decisions have to be made.” Then gently make your case for why and how this is going to impact the library – again, without slinging mud or throwing someone else under the bus. Never take the offensive approach, because it doesn’t read well in print, and in a television interview you simply come off looking bitter. In addition, by attacking others you give the “opposition” something to attack you with. A gracious response will allow the public to have a spirit of goodwill and empathy toward the Library that all the fist pounding in the world cannot illicit.

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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

AF
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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A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face


In October of 2011, I wrote Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face and outlined these five challenges.
1. Broadest Spectrum of Library Customers in History
2. Information Literate Millennial Customers
3. Computers that Replace Librarians
4. Transition to Digital Content
5. Devaluing of the Library’s Benefit to the Community

In the past two years I have not seen or read anything that revises my opinion about these five challenges. Almost 5,000 reads in just the past year (8,500 since posted, about 100 a week) have not resulted in any opposition to those five challenges. Although, in January of 2013, I posted an update to 21st Century librarianship, 21st Century Librarianship – Revisited, in which I wrote about (a very slight) change in librarianship education.

And fortunately, there does appear to be a slowdown in the worsening of Number 5. Library closings have slowed and are less in the headlines, which seems to indicate that, if there has been any improvement in the economy, libraries are benefitting from better local budgets along with other community entities. That’s the good news! Still, the bad news is that the local library must reinvent itself to be more relevant to its community, if it expects to survive, and certainly if it hopes to thrive.

The sixth challenge every librarian must face is the personal development of new skill sets – the kind of skills they don’t teach you in library school. I have long advocated that the 21st Century library must be more business-like to meet the multitude of challenges that running a library faces. (Read and The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like and More Business-Like? Absolutely!)

Based on my assertion that 21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries, it follows that the 21st Century librarian must also have the business acumen in order to run that 21st Century library – 21st Century Librarianship – Part 4, Business Acumen. That business acumen includes the skills to be successful at such tasks as:
• Conduct continuous assessment
• Be service oriented
• Employ marketing strategy
• Implement continuous innovation
• Develop flexibility
• Be highly responsive to every environment
• Become nimble in operations

These are traits and skills not traditionally associated with librarianship. Which means the forward thinking and innovative librarian must develop these skills on their own motivation, effort and resourcefulness. Not only those business skills are required in the 21st Century, but many other skills not traditionally associated with librarianship.
• Cloud Computing
• Customer Targeting
• Crowdsourcing
• Digital Discovery
• Gaming
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Social Networking

And, as if that wasn’t enough change, in 2000 Alvin Toffler gave us a new understanding of literacy in the 21st Century: “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” Which means we must also develop new learning skills and master skills such as how to:
• Learn and re-learn
• Use constantly changing technology
• Master new ways to find Information
• Efficiently problem solve
• Effectively communicate
• Create strategic collaborations

21st Century Librarianship is faced with MANY challenges that can only be overcome through new ways of being a librarian, using new skill sets, and imbued with a new understanding of what being a librarian means today – and in the future – if our profession is to have a future.

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21st Century Public Library As Business Incubator – Seriously?


As much as I encourage libraries to innovate and become something more, I am highly skeptical of this idea. This article at Atlantic Cities Why Libraries Should Be the Next Great Start-Up Incubators has some interesting ideas, but it goes way out on a limb in trying to fabricate a new mission for the 21st Century Library.

Since it’s a short article, it is copied below in its entirety so there can be no accusations of taking anything out of context.

Co-working spaces are often treated today as a novelty, as a thoroughly modern solution to the changing needs of a workforce now more loyal to their laptops than any long-term employers. But the idea is actually as old as the public library.

One of the world’s first and most famous libraries, in Alexandria, Egypt, was frequently home some 2,000 years ago to the self-starters and self-employed of that era. “When you look back in history, they had philosophers and mathematicians and all sorts of folks who would get together and solve the problems of their time,” says Tracy Lea, the venture manager with Arizona State University’s economic development and community engagement arm. “We kind of look at it as the first template for the university. They had lecture halls, gathering spaces. They had co-working spaces.”

This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.

Why not, Lea suggests, put these two ideas together? Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network.

Participating libraries will host dedicated co-working spaces for the program, as well as both formal classes and informal mentoring from the university’s start-up resources. The librarians themselves will be trained by the university to help deliver some of the material. The network will offer everything, in short, but seed money. “As we develop this pilot and start to scale it out,” Lea adds, “we would like to be able to direct people on how to find those resources.”

Libraries also provide a perfect venue to expand the concept of start-up accelerators beyond the renovated warehouses and stylish offices of “innovation districts.” They offer a more familiar entry-point for potential entrepreneurs less likely to walk into a traditional start-up incubator (or an ASU office, for that matter). Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge; now they could do the same in a start-up economy.

“We refer to it as democratizing entrepreneurship,” Lea says, “so everyone really can be involved.”

Whoever dreamed up this idea is stretching the facts to fit the situation. Asserting that “… philosophers and mathematicians and all sorts of folks who would get together and solve the problems of their time” is inaccurate to say the least. They got together to share and discuss ideas and philosophy and never solved a single thing. That’s not the purpose of philosophy! Academicians solving problems is a modern invention. And, twisting the Alexandria library community into the modern concept of co-working spaces is another unfortunate distortion to find some support for the program they want to implement. Why anyone would go to such lengths to justify their actions only calls into question the efficacy of the endeavor. Why not just state; “we think this is a good idea for our communities, so we’re going to give it a try”?

There are numerous subject matter experts within the university library setting, that’s the way it is configured. There are history reference and research experts, literature, science, and of course business. But that’s not the way public library staff are organized. Anyone with a subject specialty has developed it on their own and in many cases don’t even have a venue within the public library to exercise that expertise.

Trying to make public library staff into business development subject experts is a recipe for disaster – for both the “would-be entrepreneur” and the library. Business expertise takes years of study and practice, and constant professional development to keep up with recent practices and innovations.

Unfortunately, this particular idea seems beyond the capabilities of a vast majority of public libraries. While most communities today could use as much boosting to their local economy as possible, the notion that libraries are capable of offering “professional guidance” for “a 21st century innovator” is grossly exaggerated. Either the author is horribly misinformed, or the person pushing this initiative is blatantly unfamiliar with the current librarianship professional.

If public library staff were capable of offering professional guidance to innovators and entrepreneurs, their own organization wouldn’t be in the desperate position libraries find themselves today – seeking a new mission. Public libraries offering Internet access – of course, offering co-working space – sure, offering reference materials – absolutely! But, professional business guidance – that’s delusional.

The Bayonne (NJ) Free Public Library and Cultural Center’s seminar to help growing small businesses seems much more appropriate – offering a venue to promote small business and providing access to creditable resources. “The seminar, entitled “Starting and Managing a Successful Business,” is presented by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).”

“The librarians themselves will be trained by the university to help deliver some of the material.” In university language, deliver means teach. Most people who want to start their own business have no clue where to begin, and helping them get to the point of actually investing their own, or someone else’s money, is a huge liability. Not to mention that as soon as some disappointed, angry and bankrupt “would-be entrepreneur” decides it was the “professional guidance” they received at the library that sank their business, the library will be in for the lawsuit of its life. Libraries continue to be sued over much less.

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Library Leadership…


… in the 21st Century.

Now seems like an excellent time to highlight and re-emphasize 21st Century Library – “Rebooted” Into Relevance that highlighted an exceptionally thought provoking article by Scott Corwin, Elisabeth Hartley & Harry Hawkes – “The Library Rebooted” published at Booz & Company website strategy+business.
Because the article contains the authors’ insightful
7 Imperatives for Library Leadership

    1. Rethink the operating model
    2. Understand and respond to user needs
    3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation
    4. Forge a digital identity
    5. Connect with stakeholders in ways that pure internet companies cannot
    6. Expand the metrics
    7. Be courageous

Let’s seriously consider changing the status quo and make the 21st Century Library relevant again.

1. Rethink the operating model.
Many of the old assumptions about running a library — that the measure of a library’s quality is the size of its book collection, that there’s value in keeping even infrequently loaned books on the shelves, that library staffing decisions shouldn’t be questioned — are outmoded and need to be set aside. This is not to say that libraries will be able to re-create themselves as purely digital, service-oriented organizations; …. But many libraries today, operating in paper and film, haven’t changed some of their operating practices since World War II. Their role as the preservers of recorded history means they have to spend a lot of their resources just maintaining the assets they already have. … They should … explore new ways of serving users more conveniently, effectively, and efficiently. Perhaps they can create an online reservation system that patrons can use for a small fee if they want to have a book waiting for them at the front desk when they arrive. … Such analytically enabled improvements are necessary as libraries come under increasing budgetary pressure.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11, 2010 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: 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

2. Understand and respond to user needs.
“Libraries have only the most general information about their users — how many of them there are, what they do when they are at the library, and what they borrow. … [Due to] some provisions of legislation enacted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. … the solution most libraries have settled on — namely, to avoid gathering any detailed information about users’ needs and activities — is far too timid. Libraries should develop advanced capabilities to build aggregated profiles of users, or what retailers call customer segmentation analysis. Who is visiting the library and how often are they coming? What are they doing once they get there? Which books do they borrow most often? Which books never leave the shelves? Which services get used most often; which least? Merchandisers and retailers have tools to help them answer these kinds of questions. Libraries, too, should adapt or create these and similar tools.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11, 2010 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: 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.

3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation.
“This is not the time for libraries to shy away from new strategies. Library executives need to do more than innovate, however. They need to approach the innovation challenge with an entrepreneurial mind-set: test, measure, refine. And if something does not work, they must go through the process again: Test, measure, and refine using new ideas and concepts. The innovation doesn’t have to be of any one type; it can happen across the whole library value chain. For instance, changes might be operational — like the Toronto Library’s use of radio frequency identification (RFID) readers to bring a measure of self-service to the checkout function … Changes might be atmospheric, such as the background music the Seattle Library now pipes into its domed young-adult sections. Finally, there might be changes in format, including the opening of smaller library “outlets” in what is essentially a variation on a theme already being practiced by retailers like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Tesco. Libraries should appropriate the many traffic-building enhancements that retailers are making to their stores.” [Emphasis added.]

(Read my March 11, 2010 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like RE: Innovation, and my August 10, 2011 Post Perpetual Beta – The Real 21st Century Library Model?.)

4. Forge a digital identity.
“Clearly, there is no way that libraries could transform themselves into leading-edge Internet organizations even if they wanted to. Nor should they aspire to that. A great many things are in flux, and a library that goes too far with a digitization initiative today runs the risk of creating data structures that will be incompatible with future standards. But some experimentation is in order. Should libraries let people reserve books remotely, from their home or office? Should they adopt a convenient delivery-to-home model, à la Netflix? Should they make their librarians available at all hours to respond to online inquiries? And to the extent that they do these things, should they (as part of rethinking their operating model) charge for some of these services, as the Toronto Library does with a fee-based custom research service? Finally, should libraries pursue these initiatives alone or in concert with one another?”

(Read my September 30, 2010 Post 21st Century Library Collaboration.)

5. Connect with stakeholders in ways pure Internet companies cannot.
“Libraries can’t provide faster online data retrieval than a search engine, and that’s not where they should try to compete. What they can do, on the community library side, is take advantage of their local strength…. Community library leaders who get out and make connections in the community will successfully transform their institution into a fulcrum for many of the issues and concerns that touch local residents. Their programs, services, and offerings will all be better off as a result of this outreach and connectedness.”

In June 2009 Librarians Matter Blogger Kathryn Greenhill of Australia posted some valuable and intriguing ideas about “Getting deeply local at our libraries”.

6. Expand the metrics.
“… Keeping track of the number of monthly and annual physical visitors … monitoring the number of books … in circulation” must give way to “online-specific metrics … especially as libraries invest more resources in digital initiatives and put bigger parts of their collections online. And it will be important … for the measurements to move beyond the strictly countable … into attitudinal areas like level of engagement and customer satisfaction. … [I]n the bigger context of changes, this resistance to [measure staff performance] should be easy to surmount. Institutions that proactively measure performance, embrace change, and look for ways to serve users will have an easier time getting financial support in an era of reduced public resources and private donations.” [Emphasis added.]

7. Be courageous.
The library “… world has changed — a lot. … the environment in which libraries operate has certainly shifted, and the challenge for those running them is to figure out the evolutionary path they should follow. There is no one answer, which may provide an advantage to those with an appetite for intelligent risk taking. After all, nothing nowadays — nothing at all — is written in stone.”
[Emphasis added.]

It’s far past time that library leaders understand it’s a new world and 21st Century Librarianship is essential to recapturing our relevance to our communities!

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