Tag Archives: Librarianship

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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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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An Awesome Experience With Strategic Planning

The awesome part was working with my daughter to present something that we are both passionate about to other library professionals. Besides gaining a new appreciation for just how awesome Kimberly is, we experienced something that few parents and children get to experience – getting paid to work together.

What greater experience could a librarian have than to present a workshop with their child, also a librarian, who is now a colleague? Last week Kimberly and I spent two 8-hr days in Utah presenting our Strategic Planning Workshop to two groups of library directors and their board members.

Our workshop covered;
• What Is a Strategic Plan,
• Why Do Strategic Planning,
• The Strategic Planning Process,
• A Strategic Planning Format, and
• Details of each step in the process, with
• Breakout sessions for participants to collaborate and develop new elements of their own Strategic Plan.

Kimberly Planning

Based on our book Crash Course in Strategic Planning, published by Libraries Unlimited last August, we developed this Strategic Planning fundamentals workshop and were contracted by Utah State Library to deliver it to their first group of librarians.

Steve Goals

The icing on the cake was that the participants left at the end of the day inspired to take on developing a visionary strategic plan for their library. Some of the participant comments included;

“Thank you! I came in this morning planning on a boring lecture but you guys were great. I am not stressed about Strategic Planning now.”

“I came today discouraged at the whole thing. After the class, I feel so much better. I feel this is really a goal I can reach. Thank you Thank you.”

“It was excellent. Thank you. This is such an intimidating process and I learned a lot.”

“I was expecting to be overwhelmed and confused but I came away understanding the need for Strategic Plans. I now believe that we can put together something for our library that will be useful. Very clear and understandable. Thank you!”

“Steve and Kimberly gave a wonderful plan to follow so our strategic plan will now actually reflect the community and library’s needs in regard to the patrons’ expectations. I now have a direction to follow in developing our first long-term strategic plan.”

“I should have brought board members to participate in this.”

“It was perfect! Fantastic!”

Visit KD Matthews Consulting for more opportunities to learn about Strategic Planning.

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Librarianship Truisms

Truisms? Those are the ideas and concepts that are perpetually true, regardless of circumstances or time.

My most favorite “truism” which I learned many years ago is that: “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.” [Kidd, J. R. (1973). How Adults Learn. New York: Association Press.] In other words, a library science degree alone is not enough to be successful, or even competent, as a 21st Century Librarian. Today’s librarians require additional skills, most of which won’t be taught in Schools of Information Science. [Read Multidisciplinary – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill]

It seems a no-brainer that librarianship is THE foundation of any library model, regardless of when it exists whether 19th Century or 21st Century. So, to say that “21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries” is a truism at the heart of 21st Century libraries may seem like another serious no-brainer. But, no one should hope to create a 21st Century Library without first being staffed with 21st Century Librarians. [Read Librarianship Is The Foundation]

If something is worth doing it’s worth doing well – in the case of 21st Century Librarianship – it’s worth doing excellently! That’s what it will require in order for the institution of the library to survive, transform, and reinvent itself into the relevant institution that every community needs. Yes, every community NEEDS A LIBRARY, so….. “Go Big or Go Home!” is another librarianship truism. It’s far past time for visionary leadership and 21st Century librarianship. In the future there is no place for the timid librarian. [Read Go Big or Go Home!]

This truism came from Usher when he accepted his Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist award at last year’s AMA Music Awards Ceremony. Referring to his entire team of collaborators, musicians, supporters, etc. he made a fairly profound statement by recognizing that no individual achieves success alone. And, as artists are prone to do, he did it poetically – “Team work makes dreams work.” The same truism applies to your library’s dreams. Your library team will make your library’s dreams a reality. One leader, no matter how capable or inspiring, cannot achieve a highly successful library for their community by their self alone. It requires every single person within the organization, as well as outside supporters, to achieve the kind of success required for the 21st Century Library to evolve and flourish. [Read “Team Work Makes Dreams Work”]

“Actions speak louder than words.” is a truism that is often applied in any context, but it is especially true regarding librarianship because if you create that ideal 21st Century Library through actions, you will have very little need of words of advocacy or advertisement. Other people will do that for you. The other old truism of “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your doorstep.” is also applicable in building a 21st Century Library. When the library is the best thing in town for information access, maker space, gaming, collaborative environment, or whatever your community needs most, people will beat a path to your library door. [Read Perception 3 – Millennial Thinking]

What truisms do you know that apply to 21st Century Librarianship?


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Remember Watson?

How could anyone forget the IBM super computer that beat the world’s best Jeopardy players. In February it will be three years ago in my post Reference Librarian vs. Computer! I wrote;

…Watson will replace the reference librarian, because this computer has a million times more data in its memory, can respond to reference questions posed in spoken language, and provide a set of possible answers from which the inquirer can choose, with probabilities of accuracy for each answer. When was the last time you heard of a reference librarian giving a library customer several possible answers to a question?

Watch for yourself what Watson can do, and see what IBM has done, then tell me that reference librarians will not be replaced in the next 10 years.

Watch “Jeopardy” and see Watson in action – if you dare.

Last week the Wall Street Journal, IBM Watson’s Next Venture: Fueling New Era of Cognitive Apps Built in the Cloud by Developers, reported that IBM “announced that, for the first time, it will make its IBM Watson technology available as a development platform in the cloud, to enable a worldwide community of software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence.”

OK, IBM is trying to figure out how to recoup their jillion dollar investment, but what does that mean for librarians? Cognitive computer apps – WOW! That sounds both exhilarating and ominous. Computer and mobile apps are already amazing, like augmented reality apps 21st Century Libraries Look Like: Augmented Reality, so how much better could “cognitive” apps be?

The WSJ article goes on to elaborate that;

“By sharing IBM Watson’s cognitive abilities with the world, we aim to fuel a new ecosystem that accelerates innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Software Solutions Group. “With this move, IBM is taking a bold step to advance the new era of cognitive computing. Together with our partners we’ll spark a new class of applications that will learn from experience, improve with each interaction and outcome, and assist in solving the most complex questions facing the industry and society.

IBM is unveiling its new ecosystem vision with three business partners that have developed early versions of Watson-powered apps, targeted to enter the market in 2014:

Fluid Retail: Fluid, which builds online shopping experiences for retail businesses to drive customer engagement and conversion, is developing the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper(sm) powered by IBM Watson. The app calls upon Watson’s ability to understand the nuances of human language and uncover answers from Big Data. Consumers who use Fluid’s app will interact with rich media and dialogue with Watson, as their newfound “cognitive, expert personal shopper.” The Fluid app incorporates the information users share and questions they ask to help them make smart, satisfying purchases by putting a knowledgeable sales associate in the hands of consumers, on demand.

MD Buyline: This provider of supply chain solutions for hospitals and healthcare systems is developing an app to allow clinical and financial users to make real-time, informed decisions about medical device purchases, to improve quality, value, outcomes and patient satisfaction. Hippocrates powered by IBM Watson will provide users with access to a helpful research assistant that provides fast, evidence based recommendations from a wealth of data, to help ensure medical organizations are making the best decisions for their physicians’ and patients’ needs.

Welltok: A pioneer in the emerging field of Social Health Management(TM), Welltok is developing an app that will create Intelligent Health Itineraries(TM) for consumers. These personalized itineraries, sponsored by health plans, health systems and health retailers, will include tailored activities, relevant content and condition management programs, and will reward users for engaging in healthy behaviors. Consumers who use Welltok’s app — CafeWell Concierge powered by IBM Watson — will participate in conversations about their health with Watson. By leveraging Watson’s ability to learn from every interaction, the app will offer insights tailored to each individual’s health needs. [Emphasis added.]

Sounds somewhat Orwellian doesn’t it.

Since its introduction in 2011, IBM Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status, to a commercial cognitive computing system. Watson has gained a 240 percent improvement in system performance, and a reduction of 75 percent in the physical requirements needed to run the system which can now operate from a single Power 750 server with Linux from a cloud computing environment.

Using advances in natural language processing and analytics, Watson can process information similar to the way people think, representing a significant shift in the ability for organizations to quickly analyze, understand and respond to vast amounts of Big Data. The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to improve decision making across a variety of industries from healthcare to retail, telecommunications and financial services.

… and ordinary information access? How long before Watson begins to tackle the ever increasing and overwhelming volume of information in our every-day life? When it does it will be stepping into the librarian’s domain.

After the final results of the Watson – Ken Jennings Jeopardy challenge was over in which Watson walked away with the money, my follow-up post, And The Winner Is….., observed;

What if a Watson computer could significantly narrow the possible information retrieved from a search, rank those selections based on probability of being a match for the most appropriate and accurate information? Wouldn’t that drastically reduce the information overload? The volume of information is not likely to decrease significantly any time in the future, so having a computer to sort through relevant information, select the most appropriate and even recommend statistically which is best – isn’t that a good thing?

And concluded that post with a challenge – of sorts – that bears repeating.

While the future appears bleak for “reference librarian” functions in light of Watson computers, doesn’t it make sense to embrace the change and use it to the benefit of the library customer? (With the same spirit Bunny did with EMERAC.) Isn’t that what we’re all about? Or are we about protecting our jobs and elite “librarian” status? Are we about change and progress in library services? Or are we about trying to preserve the past elite status of librarianship?

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Here We Go Again – Now Librarians Are Immigration Advisors

Has the librarian finally devolved into an information advisor, as well as an insurance salesperson? According to LJ, Hartford Public Library Nation’s First to Be Certified by Bureau of Immigrant Appeals, Hartford (CT) Public Library staff are now immigration advisors – not just immigration information specialists, but advisors.

The Hartford Public Library (HPL) is just across the street from the United States Citizenship and Immigration services office, making HPL a common destination for immigrants who need computer access to bring up information and fill out online forms—access they often don’t have at home. To ensure that HPL staff can serve the needs of this community, HPL has become the first public library in America to have staff members accredited by the Bureau of Immigrant Appeals (BIA), so they can assist immigrants with the often confusing paperwork and online forms they need to fill out to get on – and stay on – the path to permanent U.S. citizenship.

wysmapIs this the future of librarianship in America? Are public libraries becoming an extension of the federal government? If West Yellowstone community needs more forest rangers for all the area parks and camp grounds, should the library have its employees qualified as rangers to help out?

Again, according to LJ, HPL’s multicultural services director sees the new service as being totally in alignment with the core mission of libraries everywhere – to help people access information. She reportedly says that with common fact based information so readily available on the Internet, libraries have to change the kind of services they provide to stay relevant. “We work for the community, and the community needs this service,”

So, if the community needs more DMV offices because the waiting lines are so horrifically long and the service is legendarily bad, a library should step up and start a motor vehicle registration service? If a community needs more health care professionals, the library should train its staff to provide health care services – like becoming “Champions for Coverage” for the new Affordable Care Act? Oh wait, those librarians aren’t health care professionals, they’re insurance salespeople.

The most egregious part of this situation is explained in this paragraph.

Complicating the situation is that, legally speaking, folks without training in immigration law aren’t supposed to offer such assistance, though the line between helping someone operate a browser and helping them fill out important paperwork can become murky, especially in a busy library that helps to serve a significant immigrant population. “It’s really easy to practice law without intending to. Once a person tells someone this that and the other thing about immigration forms, that person is practicing law,” said Rafael Pichardo, a lawyer who works part-time at HPL, providing low-cost legal assistance to immigrants seeking aid. “Getting BIA accreditation for the staff provides the legal authority to do it and legitimizes the institution.”

“Getting BIA accreditation for the staff provides the legal authority to do it and legitimizes the institution.” SERIOUSLY?!?! Now the library being legitimate depends on federal government certification, and librarians are not only allowed to offer immigration assistance but immigration advice! Is that what librarianship has devolved into? Do librarians want the legal responsibility or liability of giving bad advice?

The article goes on to elaborate on how appropriate it is for librarians to be counselors.

Among library staffers who see the demand for this kind of assistance daily, there’s a sense of relief that trained help will be on-hand at HPL. After all, said [multicultural services director], “for a librarian, there’s nothing worse than being behind a service desk and not being able to help someone.”

Or even worse, giving them incorrect information, an all-too common pitfall in legal services for immigrants, said Pichardo. And since immigrants who get poor or incorrect advice can often find themselves deported, they have little recourse if they’re given poor advice, the bills for which can run into the thousands.

It is totally shameful to play on librarians’ desire to help people by twisting the rationale for providing reference services into providing counseling advice. Where do librarians draw the line? What happened to the unbiased delivery of information? Is there no more distinction about what is “the core mission” of libraries? Once the norm for librarianship becomes giving “advice” to library users, will libraries be totally unrecognizable in the future?

When you add to this non-mission personal service the implication in the report that the “community demand” for this service is from people who are not even residents of Hartford and don’t pay taxes in Hartford, one has to seriously question what influences prompted the library to actually pursue this “service” at no small cost to legitimate Hartford tax payers. If I was a Board member, I would certainly not have voted in favor of such a proposal for this library service, unless the incentives for Hartford and the library were extremely lucrative. Makes one wonder, doesn’t it?

Somebody in this profession had better wake up and realize that the profession is becoming totally diluted from what librarianship was supposed to be – universal access to information – NOT counselor and advisor for personal services.


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Affordable Care Act – Librarians’ Dilemma

On August 1 I posted Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns and echoed some librarians concerns about essentially “promoting” ObamaCare to library users. Recently, I participated in a teleconference call hosted by HHS addressing issues and questions about implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

This third in a series of three calls is intended specifically for stakeholders in Utah where there will be a Federally Facilitated Marketplace for the individual market and a State Based Marketplace for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The call will feature HHS and CMS Denver Regional Office officials and an Avenue H official followed by time for Q&A. Speakers are:
• Doyle Forrestal, Acting Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• Jeff Hinson, Regional Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
• Patty Conner, Executive Director, Avenue H
Questions about the event? Contact ROReaORA@cms.hhs.gov

The first 30 minutes was a “canned” presentation literally read from scripts (you can always tell) about a lot of government acronyms that describe the many layers of bureaucracy that will bring this program to the public, while protecting your private medical information, containing lots of declarations of privacy protection, safeguards against fraud, etc., as well as a progress report on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Region 8 being ready for the October 1 deadline to go live. Once a listener gets over the $68 Million in federal grants to 51 community-based organizations in 11 states to train an unknown number of “navigators” to help people apply for healthcare, some of what was outlined seemed good – especially the requirement for Certified Application Counselors to be certified through training, be bonded like company treasurers and accountants, and licensed by a state’s department of insurance. It all generally sounded like a good thing, assuming that one can believe everything they are told by the government. [NOTE: Training for Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and Agents and Brokers will be web-based.]

During the second 30 minutes devoted to Q&A, I was able to ask a question. In a few words I asked what they saw as the role of librarians in “promoting” this federal program. Of course I prefaced my question by assuming they all knew about the President’s video presentation at ALA, other agencies promotion of libraries becoming partners in advocating the program, etc. The answer I got, in a nutshell, mostly from Ms. Forrestal, was that libraries and librarians were not expected to be “navigators” or counselors to help people fill out online applications for healthcare, but, as I suggested, they simple provide access to information like they have always done with federal income tax forms. OK, after that I was fairly satisfied.

However, the caller immediately after me was a guy who was at that moment conducting training for a county library system in my state. He thanked me for the segue and told listeners that the librarians he was training were very enthused and interested in becoming Certified Application Counselors – the people who have to be trained, bonded and certified. My reaction was not one I care to share publicly.

My reaction to librarians who embrace this “service” on such a personal level is that they must be wearing blinders to forget what libraries and librarians have been doing for the past 3-4 years – HELPING MILLIONS OF LIBRARY USERS FIND JOBS.

Remember the economic downturn that put so many people and companies out of business that unemployment became the number one issue in America? Remember the gut-wrenching library closings of 2009, 10 and 11 because the local economy was so bad? Remember the ALA and PLA and every library organization extoling the value of the local library BECAUSE IT WAS THE MOST VITAL RESOURCE HELPING PEOPLE FIND JOBS?

Are you not listening to the impact that the Affordable Care Act is and will have on businesses and jobs? Are you not aware that labor unions are no longer supporting the Act? Are you not aware that normal healthcare insurance costs are already rising? Are you not aware that Congress is debating not funding the program because it does more harm than good to the economy? Are you not aware that employers are cutting employee hours even further to get below the 29 hour level so they don’t have to provide healthcare benefits that will bankrupt their business? Are those of you who are currently working less than 40 hours a week in your library prepared to work less than 30 hours a week because your school district, city, county, state, or university can’t afford the outrageous cost of healthcare?

Do librarians not understand the dilemma they are now being forced into? First we “do more with less” and help millions of our neighbors try to find employment. AWESOME!

Now we’re being asked to become “Champions for Coverage” (yes, I had not yet mentioned that advertising hooraaraa incentive for libraries) and to again be good public servants – regardless of the impact. Before librarians jump on this latest “public good” bandwagon, I strongly encourage them to research the impact of this program, rather than simply keep the blinders on and follow the parade down the new path toward more joblessness.

Remember that the “service” to jobless library users was not a government program. It was something that libraries understood was in the best interest of all concerned. Libraries were not asked to endorse or promote a government “program.” Being asked to endorse the Affordable Care Act is not in the best interest of libraries, or librarians. We are not government pawns to be sacrificed for some greater good – especially when there is no clearly identifiable “good” in it. I still agree with commentor StephenK who commented on LISNews blog, “Alas I don’t see this ending well.”


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