A Response to Marcus

I wanted to write this as a comment on the blog Marcus’ World, but it requires an account to TypeKey, which I did not want to set up for one comment. I also wanted to email Marcus to let him know I responded to his post. Alas, he has no email or other contact information that I could find on his site. I could have spent time Googling him, but I decided a response here would have to do.

Marcus took from my post about virtual meetings and ALA that I hate all F2F meetings and think physical conferences are not worthwhile. That is completely not the case. I do not like F2F meetings that are a waste of time. I do owe a huge amount of my success to friends I have made at physical conferences. The other 70% * of my success comes from my virtual network of peers and blogging, but that is a different post altogether.

I think that most F2F meetings are a waste of time because we spend time reporting and discussing things that are best left to email or chat. We travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles**, to talk about something in a formal meeting that would have been fine translated to email. Sometimes we hear reporting on things that have already been sent out in email, double jeopardy. Instead of doing the majority of our organization’s work virtually and using ALA Midwinter and Annual to make major decisions (after all the angles have already been discussed online) or to have wider membership discussions, we meet to talk about committee reports, committee updates, and plan the upcoming year’s projects. All these things could happen more efficiently over email or IM.

The major benefit to F2F conferences, regardless of the organization or venue, is the people***, not the meetings. Marcus is right when he says that the interactions and networking are what make an in person conference worth attending. I did notice that Marcus was not touting the great experiences he has in meetings. It is the after meeting discussions in bars and over lunch that make a difference. Those things can never be replaced completely with virtual means.

What I am really arguing for is the ability for people to participate in a meaningful and principle way virtually in our organization. It is an argument for efficient use of my time in between meetings. It is an argument for ALA to formally allow their members to participate without going to two costly meetings a year.

It is a plea for ALA to stop living in the pre-Internet days and start living in this century. A fervent wish for our organizations, ALA and libraries alike, to realize that we already live online and we expect for you to as well. That means we expect to be able to participate virtually with all the benefits (voting rights) of members fortunate enough to be able to travel.

–Jane, has thus far been blessed to be able to travel often

*Numbers should be believed even if they are totally fictional.
**In the past year I have traveled 5,027 miles to 3 ALA conferences. Based on actual calculations and travel distance.
***Picture of actual people at Annual not in a meeting and having fun.

Control Does not Foster Innovation

Helene Blowers linked to an article from Fast Company called The New Rules of Innovation. The last rule was, of course, my favorite:

Rule # 6 – Innovation is about breaking rules, so ignore any or all of the above.

Innovation is about thinking outside of the box which often means outside of the rules as well. Do not be confused that I am arguing against rules. Rules are good things, but only when we know when they can and should be broken or bent.

If you are having a problem encouraging innovation at YPOW, maybe there are too many rules.

Perhaps there are too many hurdles, in IT, in management, in the lower rungs, in time, or money. Some things are hard to fix, like time and money, but they too can be manipulated. Both can be found be reworking priorities. We can find both, but it may be painful and librarians love, more than books, avoiding confrontations at all costs. Reworking priorities is all about confronting the unpleasant, but we must start doing this.

Perhaps, as I suggested previously, your workers feel alienated because of rules or tight regulations and thus do not want to innovate. Why would they? Too many rules and not enough freedom tells your employees you do not trust and respect them.

I think the rules should also be evaluated every once in a great while. Like policies, we sometimes forget why the rules are in place and it is time for them to go. In other instances, the rules no longer fit the lifestyle and priorities of our employees and organization.

When was the last time your organization’s rules were seriously, critically examined by all of the people from all levels?

–Jane, has been known to break rules

Top Three Ways to Alienate Your “Younger” Workers

I am writing this as a young Gen Xer so this guide really focuses on young GenXers and Millennials, but frankly, is not defined solely by age. (what is ever defined solely by age?) This list is based on my own unscientific observations, things I have read, things I have been pondering since getting pregnant, and lately considering how to juggle my work and growing family.

1. Micromanage them.
No one likes to be micromanaged but a generation that grew up being force fed group activities and independence has come to expect both. Newsflash: It is not a “group activity” if you are domineering the group.

Team members want to be trusted to get their work done. If you are really that worried about output, ask your team member or employee what they need to get their work done and then listen to the answer. Do they like timelines or deadlines? Set the dates needed and then leave them alone. If they fail to meet deadlines, then consider a harsher route, but trust first.

Libraries are especially notorious for needing quantitative output. Please realize that not all work has a product, especially in academia. We are getting paid to think about stuff for part of the day. There is no way to log that time. Technology also requires some experimenting and play time. This also has no real output, but it does result in a wider knowledgebase and well rounded employees. Nothing will stop a productive, happier employee faster than being micromanaged. Well, maybe #2.

2. Create a rigid schedule with no flex time or alternative work hours.
There have been numerous stories about the new generation of workers that *gasp* value family over work to the point that we are willing to make huge work sacrifices for our families. No job and no pay is worth missing out on the time I get on the couch with Mr. Rochester and Pullo at my feet. No job.

That means we want flexible work hours and some understanding when we ask for telecommuting opportunities. The only thing that says you do not trust your employee more than micromanaging them is telling them they have to be physically at their desk 8 hours a day. Studies have shown that no one works 8 hours a day straight. We need flexibility when we ask for it and we need to be trusted to get our work done. Rigidity says “I do not trust you and therefore must treat you like a child, not a colleague.”

Workers that know they are not trusted are not going to trust you nor are they going to want to perform at their best. Why would they? That is not the message you want to send. Some of us actually get more work done at home than we do at our desks. Before you say no, consider saying yes instead and the benefits that would come with a different answer.

3. Lock down technology.

This one should speak for itself. Many employees, especially younger workers, expect a certain amount of connectivity to get their work done. Not to mess around, but to be productive. I need music, for example, to be productive and I am not bringing my entire CD library to work with me. Do you let your team members have iTunes, use Pandora, or LastFM (provided your org has the bandwidth to support the latter two)? Before someone tells me I should just buy an MP3 player, let me respond: Why can’t I use the free tools available to me instead if me spending my money to be productive at work?

Technology saavy people also tend to like to experiment. How much leeway are you giving workers? Locking down technology says, “I do not trust you to behave yourself, though you have done nothing wrong yet.” Make some policies with consequences if rules are broken. Do not punish people when no crime has been committed.

Do you have more to add? Please share with the group.

–Jane, likes to be trusted to get her job done

ALA, You Now Have No Excuses

On the heels of Meredith and Jason, I have to throw my hat in the ring.

Jason describes a conversation we had at Internet Librarian in which we hatched the most brilliant of all schemes ever. Well, we think so anyway.

Jason describes very well the meat of our plan: ALA should offer a virtual conference at the cost of the profit they would normally net from physical attendance.

One added benefit Jason did not mention would be far fewer physical rooms and hotels needed for conferences. It is possible ALA could actually have the conference someplace nice, during a nice time of year. Milwaukee in Summer or anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line for that matter when the rest of us are boiling. We might even be able to do away with Midwinter. Oh, be still my heart!

I would only add to his description this: ALA not allowing true virtual membership and using revenue as an excuse is not longer a reason. You can not hide behind money anymore. Stop trying to do it. We all know that this is simply an excuse not to look for alternative revenue streams. In less then 24 hours, you have now had three independent members offer you alternative revenue. Think out of the box and stop torturing us with F2F meetings that are unnecessary, not to mention personally, blindingly expensive.

I also would like to take the idea a step further by wedding it to Meredith’s post. She talks about online ads and sponsorships. Not only could ALA charge the amount they would normally net from physical attendance for online participation from members, they could also pimp the vendors with everything from banner ads to sponsoring talks and themes. As Meredith said, this does not mean letting the vendors talk, it means letting them be sponsors, much like NPR does on the radio with a short little commercial blurb that does not interfere with content.

Online ads are big money and so are online sponsorships. MySpace will make over a billion dollars in ads this year. Why can’t an organization of smart professionals figure out how to do what the twenty somethings have already figured out?

The great thing about a conference with virtual content is that many, many more people will have access to it and would be willing to pay for it. I know so very many librarians who can simply not afford to go to an ALA conference, but they could afford $50 of their own money to attend a virtual conference.

Bless your heart ALA, we love you, but you really need to consider these things. Seriously. And you should do that now. Not with a million committees that will mull over it for years only producing a useless report. We are asking for some action. I believe our future is riding on the decisions that get made about this issue. Please make them soon.

–Jane, please keep in mind Jane is not very patient

Small or Big: is small really less?

With so many things in life, we have to choose between small or large, fancy or plain, sprinkles or no sprinkles. Roy Tennant’s latest post talks about the innovation of people not institutions. He also makes the argument that even though large institutions have more resources for innovation, those resources often come with more levels of decision making.

I agree with Roy. In my experience, bureaucracy often comes with less innovation because that is simply the nature of having multiple levels. In a large organization, you can not help but have many levels and many people who believe they should (and often do) have a say in the operations of the whole. This results in innovation moving at the speed of a sloth even if you are trying to be a turtle (at the very least).

In smaller places, there are less levels, but also less staff and resources. In a small institution you have to be more careful about how you allocate time and money because taking from one thing impacts other services with greater depth then in a larger library. I have heard from librarians in small places that they like the environment where they can play, come up with ideas, and only get one person’s permission before they implement something.

For those of you still in school or contemplating a move elsewhere, be sure that you take into consideration size when choosing your next job. Do you want the extra calories that a super sized meal will bring or would you rather go lean and mean?

–Jane, still deciding where she fits

We Got 2.0 Librarians, Not 2.0 Libraries

I am a bit behind on my reading for an assortment of reasons, but I just read a post today from The Other Librarian, Ryan Deschamps, entitled We Asked for 2.0 Libraries and We Got 2.0 Librarians. It is a good post, about what Library 2.0 is and why it is still important. However, when I saw the title, I thought it was going to be about something else. I thought the post was going to be about how we have produced a larger number of 2.0 Librarians, but sadly, very few 2.0 Libraries.

Here, for my ranty enjoyment, is that post.

First, a fun disclaimer: Yes, there are 2.0 libraries. Yes, there are libraries trying to move forward, but this post is not about the minority. This post is about the majority as Jane sees it.

Library 2.0 has succeeded in nothing as well as creating a group of frustrated 2.0 Librarians. L2 has done a wonderful job of educating, enlightening, and invigorating librarians to be better, to do better, and to involve our patrons. We are reaching a critical mass of librarians who are excited about what is possible. The problem is that many of those librarians are stuck in 1.0 libraries.

I know that being 2.0 in a 1.0 environment can proceed great change and innovation in YPOW. I have seen this happen. I have seen it happen slowly at MPOW. I also know, both from personal and anecdotal experience, that being 2.0 in a 1.0 library means extreme frustration with the glacial pace of change, immovable people and policies, or any other number of things that make you wonder why you bother. Sometimes it means banging your head against a wall that will never move. Being 2.0 in a 1.0 environment can foster independence, confidence, and innovative thinking. (Getting around the rules is an art form.) It can be a positive thing, a testing of your wits. Eventually though, the challenge can wear you down.

2.0 Librarians usually end up leaving for somewhere better, more innovative. This is a great option if you are mobile and able to move. Not everyone can. This “brain drain” has resulted in a hand full of libraries doing really great stuff, a few more libraries sticking toes in the water, and the majority of libraries looking around in befuddlement. I would not be afraid to guess that in many 1.0 libraries, there are 2.0 librarians working behind the scenes and those librarians are tired.

The day I am waiting for is when there are more 2.0 librarians then 1.0 librarians or at least when there are more 2.0 librarians as PTB (Powers That Be). I think then the brain drain will lessen. Then I will not rant about this particular thing any longer. There will, however, probably be a 4.0 librarian griping about the slow, dim-witted 2.0 down the hall.

On a less ranty note: 2.0 librarians do support each other well. I think for many of us, for me, there are days when the community keeps us smiling and looking for new ways to change our libraries.

–Jane, hopes she never becomes the librarian that change forgot

Meetings, Meetings Everywhere and Not a Decision in Sight

I was wondering when my lack of ideas, and lack of time to read feeds, was going to cease and a topic would come along that requires a string of crazy from me. The perfect opportunity came this morning. On the Bamboo Project Blog, Michele Martin talks about one of the things I love to hate, the f2f meeting.

Why do we get meetings wrong? More pointedly, why do we insist on having meetings for things that are much easier to do on the web?

Michele’s reasons include the following:

They’ve always done it this way.
They haven’t moved into that web-enabled mindset of asking if it’s something that could be better accomplished with online tools.
They have (in my mind, unfounded) faith that when people meet, there is actually a structured transfer of information.

I think she has forgotten a very important reason why face to face meetings persist. I think it is easier to hide the process with f2f meetings. If people do not know the process, it is much harder to argue against the result. It is a way to keep the power in the hands who have it and out of those on the bottom.

Meetings from Despair, Inc.
Image from Despair, Inc. the creators of the wonderfully hilarious Demotivators.

When you hold a meeting over chat, develop an idea on a wiki, discuss solutions to problems on a discussion board, or collectively edit a document, you leave little traces of the process everywhere. There are transcripts, different versions of documents, and there is an actual record of who made what comment and contributed what material.

In a f2f meeting, we rely on a person to take notes. We all know that Meeting Minutes are nothing more then a list of decisions and action items. Meeting minutes do not reflect the decision process, the tension a topic may have induced, or the crazy idea that got thrown on the table and very quickly was swept under the rug. Meeting minutes are the sanitized version of what really happened. Sometimes, they are so sanitized as to be completely useless to those who were not in attendance.

Conducting committee work on the web can be dirty, it can be chaotic, and, in most instances, it is open for all the world to see. Moving committee work to the web is the picture of radical transparency and that scares people. Big organizations hate admitting failure and process can look like failure.

We have to get over the idea that conducting our work in the open is bad. We have to get over the idea that f2f meetings are the most productive way to work. They are not. They never will be. Get over it already.

I believe the reason why some of our larger institutions are so slow reduce f2f meetings and increase the use of web applications is that the web will make them be accountable and transparent. *cough* ALA Council *cough* I am picking on ALA, but ALA Council is far and away not the only group guilty of pushing back on this.

I have found myself asking this a lot lately, but what are we scared of? What keeps us from doing this? If you are inclined to say no about anything, what are you scared of? Can it be overcome?

Forget creating a committee or task force to look into moving things online. Just have a conversation at your next f2f meeting. Set a time limit for the discussion. Choose a tool. Make a plan. Leave the meeting with the action item, “We will start using X to have discussions prior to meetings, ask questions, debate solutions, and draft documents and policies. If this does not work as we intended, we will discuss it, via the new system, and try something different. Department (or committee) members will give ongoing feedback and the group will be open to suggestions.”

Moving work online means that our f2f time will be more productive and meaningful. It also means we will be accountable for the work we do or do not do.

–Jane, off to a meeting

ALA Annual 2007 Reflections or Where is my next meeting?




Window of Books

Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre

This Annual can be summarized by two things for me: not enough sleep and meetings. Not enough sleep is my own fault for enjoying the company I keep overmuch, but I am not too sad about that. I was lucky enough to see some people a care for dearly and meet some great new people as well. I was even a part of the great showercap caper of 2007. The pictures can hardly contain the hilarity. I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the problems before me with new determination thanks to all the wonderful librarians in my life.

The meetings were sadly, beyond my control, and I went to far, far too many. It makes me question the bloated cow that is ALA. One may even call our conference operations a sacred cow. We, and I do mean we, need to figure out how to have a leaner and meaner conference with less programs. My liaison to the LITA Program Planning Committee is also the liaison to a group that plans 6 different programs at Annual. Six! Why?! That is why we are so bloated. Why do we not simply let each group do one program. One. Our programs may then have better quality. There is no reason, IMHO, that any committee should be planning more then one program for any given conference.

If we had less programming with better quality, we may be able to lure back the librarians that have abandoned us to rot in our own largess. But we would not stop there. Oh no. You also get theGinzu Knife 2000 along with an ALA that does its committee work virtually for your easy annual payment of whatever they just charged to my credit card. I am raising my voice to join the din of people calling for ALA to make its committee conduct their work virtually, in a tool that makes sense.

I have sat in on the LITA Board committee meetings for two conferences now and, as far as I can tell, the majority of the time they are cooped in that room they are discussing things. Discussing Things. You know, I may be young and crazy but there are so many tools that they could use to do that before conference. Maybe email. Maybe a bulletin board. Maybe a Basecamp site. Maybe group chat if you are feeling frisky. I am not picking on LITA. They are only conducting business the same way everyone else does. Maybe it is time we did not.

Even if the LITA Board did all its reporting and discussing virtually and then met in person only to vote (which frankly, can also be done virtually), the meetings would only be, at most, an hour. I know there are other groups that report to LITA Board during this time, but why could they not also report virtually?

BIGWIG, an IG of LITA, conducts all of our business online, over listservs, IM, Google Docs, and email. At our meeting on Sunday of Annual, we spent an hour talking about how we thought the showcase went, we explained what we do to the new people, we elected new officers, and took new volunteers. That is it, one hour. We did not discuss ad nauseum if we should or should not do X or Y. I typed an action item into the agenda to start discussions later, on our listserv. (yes, I know, I must type up my notes and post them, I know, I know) I have also heard rumors the the New Members Roundtable is pushing its members to do more work virtually. Good for you MNRT!

This post is very full, so I think I will leave Emerging Leaders to a post of its own.

–Jane, exists virtually

Out of Context or Being a Hypocrite

Either way, you look like an ass hat.

On Being a Hypocrite

Two things recently popped up that make my want to wash my hands of the constant hand wringing and “I am better then the common man” librarianship that seems to be the common backlash against innovation and free thought. One involves me personally.

I believe Michael Gorman was sad that we were not talking about him anymore and thus wrote the most ridiculous thing he could imagine. Jason Griffey firmly slams many of Gorman’s arguments. I would only add two things.

There is this sentence:

The task before us is to extend into the digital world the virtues of authenticity, expertise, and scholarly apparatus that have evolved over the 500 years of print, virtues often absent in the manuscript age that preceded print.

It made me wonder if Mr. Gorman ever studied coterie writing and if he found that too to be lacking. I wonder if all of the minority scholars, many of them unable to publish for years because of their gender or race, are less valuable because they were not readily accepted into the Authority of Print.

Secondly, Mr. Gorman managed to insult my belief structure as well as lambaste a form of communication which he himself used to publish this ridiculous tripe. Good Job.

On Taking Things Out of Context to Make a Scholarly Point and Thus Making Yourself Look Less Than Scholarly

This bothers me more because I was used as an example of why blogs are bad at the most recent NASIG conference. In a presentation at NASIG, the speaker was bashing blogs because of our trivial writing and cited, of all things, this post I wrote after CiL.

Updated: Here is the link to the presentation summary from NASIG. And another. (thanks to kgs and Kathryn).

I find it amusing that the speaker would use me as an example at all. There are more trivial blogs out there. My blog is semi-professional to begin with and I never claim to have any authority except over myself. But for a scholar, to use that post, instead of this one, or this, or this, in a presentation at a national conference to say that all librarian bloggers are trivial is harmful and wrong. A lie one might say.

Taking things out of context and making them more important than they truly are does nothing to prove your point. That CiL post was trivial. I wrote it that way and I do not claim to have any authority because of it. What it does prove is that you are afraid.

You are afraid that I have been given a voice. You are afraid that people actually read what I have to say. You are afraid because I am young and do not buy into your pedagogy of librarianship. You are afraid that I am stealing some power you believe you hold. You are afraid of change and the turning of the seasons. You are made of fear and you think that your fear can hurt me.

I am not afraid. You can not take away my ability to write what I choose and give it voice in a place where people can read it and respond. Your fear is what gives me authority.

–Jane, “I will not be moved.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Session


sscathai

Originally uploaded by griffey

Jason and Karen have already posted their thoughts on why we, BIGWIG leadership, chose to plan a program for ALA Annual outside of the normal operating procedure. It all started over pizza and beer the last night of ALA Midwinter.

Program planning that requires a topic set a year in advance automatically ensures that the technology presented will be old news. It is impossible to present on any cutting edge topic, technology related or not, with this structure. There is no way to plan a session that can be responsive to the needs of engaged professionals if you have to plan it a year in advance.

In order to get around this, BIGWIG reserved a “Discussion Time” at Annual, which only requires that your organization promise to use the room for something. I know that there are many groups that do this in order to create a program with less red tape. Discussion times exist outside of the realm of the normal program planning committee structure.

We wanted to create something that was engaging and allowed participation from “off site.” We decided that we should have an online conference and made a list of people we thought would enjoy participating in something off the radar, people who loved technology, and people we trusted to be creative. We gave our presenters free reign to talk about almost anything they wanted in regards to technology. We asked them to talk about something totally new or a novel way to use something “old.”

We also told the speakers their “presentation” could look however they wished. In a couple of emails, I told them they could make a screencast, record an MP3, make a collage, write a poem, draw a picture, or sing a song. We trusted our presenters to do something fun and convey whatever information they deemed important. It is all about trust.

The timeline we have is very short. I am not sure, even at this time, exactly what topic all of the presenters have chosen. I am not sure what kind of formats we are going to receive from them. We did not ask for their final content until June 11th, a mere 8 working days until ALA. We want them to have time to change their minds at the last minute should they so choose. They are adults, who are smart, creative, and fun and we trust them as such.

A lot of this project is about trust. Who we trust and who we do not. We do not trust ALA to provide official channels that can be responsive to our needs, so we created our own. We, BIGWIG, trust each other to pull this together. BIGWIG trusts the people we have asked to contribute to give us thought provoking work.

I trust that you, dear readers (if you are an ALA member or not), will find this content delivery enticing and exciting. I am trusting that at least some of you will come and talk to our presenters in person on Saturday, June 23rd from 1:30-2:30 in the Renaissance Mayflower Cabinet Room or on the Social Software Showcase wiki in the talk pages.

Come help us try something new in ALA.

–Jane, a brave new world