What Usability Says About Your Organization

For many reasons, not the least of which was extremely bad customer service, constantly rising prices, and what I now know is an inferior product, the Rochester household is… wait for it… canceling cable.

I will not go into great detail, because Mr. R did a mighty fine job over on the family blog (and with far fewer sputterings and angry diatribes than I would have managed, I might add). The fact that we canceled cable is not the only story. Secondary to our ousting of Comcast as our cable and DVR provider (we are still paying them for Internet, alas), is the fact that we now own a TiVo.

After four years of renting a DVR from Comcast (you are neither allowed to buy it outright or buy your own. if you did how could they fleece you for $15 a month?), I was not expecting TiVo to do anything other than record my shows in a reasonable way with reasonable reliability. After years of dubious service from Comcast, I was setting my expectations understandably low. How much different could one DVR be from another?

TiVo is to the Comcast DVR what a ripe bing cherry is to that imitation red stuff they call cherry flavoring. There is no comparison.

Why is TiVo so wonderful? Usability.

It is obvious the moment you open the box that TiVo expects real people to use their product. The set up is simple: connect it to your TV and turn it on. TiVo them walks you through the set up. There is no large instruction book. Just some simple instructions on the screen.

Once you have the initial set up complete, there is a set of tutorials pre-loaded onto your TiVo that teach you how to use some of the basic and more advanced functions of the TiVo. The menus are easy to read. The options are easy to understand. TiVo groups my programs by title and type (what a concept!). It is easy to find new programs. Adding new programs on the old DVR was excruciating when searching by name or channel. With TiVo, it is so easy, even a sleep deprived, barely functioning mom can handle it.

I have been won over with my TiVo. Couple that with the fact that the over the air HD channels look worlds better then the HD I was shelling out over $80 a month for and I am a happy, Comcast free lady.

This tale of two DVRs tell a larger picture. With my first DVR, it was clunky and, though it got the job done, it was obvious that Comcast neither designed or cared about my satisfaction with the product. And why should they? If I wanted to use a DVR with their service, I had to use theirs. While it is possible to use a TiVo with cable (lots of people do and now I know why), I would still have to pay for the TiVo service on top of my huge cable bill.  I was given one option with Comcast;  they had no incentive to offer me a better product.

The inferior product I was given by Comcast and allowed to “rent” reflects what they thought about their customers. I associate the terrible usability with the terrible customer service. Not only was the usability of the DVR bad, but their website left a bit to be desired as well. During Hurricane Ike, we were without Internet or cable for almost a month and there was no information on Comcast’s site about the outage. All the other utility companies were very forthcoming with information, but getting information from Comcast required a huge amount of effort and energy on the part of the consumer. Usability, they have little. Customer service, they have very little of that too.

I have never spoken to anyone at TiVo, but I have used their website and now their product. Everything I have seen from them is simple and well explained. There are multiple options that, not only fit my budget when purchasing, but that fit my recording needs. I can hook TiVo up to the Rochester house wireless network and watch YouTube videos or recordings I have downloaded in shared folders on the network. It is a beautiful thing.

The usability of the product and the customer service make me believe that TiVo cares about me, as a person and as a customer. It does not matter if they actually do care; it only matters that I think they care and thus I am willing to give them my money and shout their praises.

For any organization, that is what you want. You want customers who are not only loyal, but are willing to sing of you from the rooftops. Positive word of mouth is better than thousands of dollars in advertisements and it is definitely better than one person with a bad experience spreading word of your failure as an organization.

Next time you are considering the usability of your organization’s website, catalog (OPAC), product, or building, ask yourself what these things will say to your customers and users. What message are you sending them with the products you are giving them? Do they leave frustrated or happy? Do they feel like you care about them? Are you offering an inferior product for a need they can get filled elsewhere in a better, more comfortable, hassle-free fashion?

–Jane, likes being a customer with whom great care is taken

Suit – n. – A set of matching outer garments

Last week, I briefly saw a blurb on CNN about President Obama changing the dress code at the White House away from suits and ties to a more casual atmosphere. (link is actually to NY Times article where I am assuming CNN got their story as they had no page of their own.) My initial thought was, “Way to go!”

Since then, I have repeatedly thought about this story. The dean of my former library was a lady who believed in wearing suits. I know that if she would have had her way we would all have worn a suit, pants or skirt complete with hose, to work every day. There was no dress code at work; we were expected to be presentable and most took that to mean business casual. My former dean, whatever she wanted or thought, knew she would never be able to get her staff to comply and so she let us wear what we would. It mostly worked out fine.

In the Fall, my church held a congregational meeting about changing the worship schedule at our church. During the meeting, an older member stood up and stated that the pastors had said that they would begin wearing ties after Labor Day; It was now well past Labor Day and why were the pastors not wearing a suit and tie on Sundays? Now, this meeting was not about ties, suits, or attire at all, but this was the most pressing problem on this member’s mind – that there was no way our pastors could preach the word of God in polos and khaki pants. For those of you that care to know, when the weather cools off, the pastors usually begin wearing suits and ties again, trading it for simpler, cooler attire as Spring and Summer approach again. I wonder if after Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount people were like, “That was profound, but did you see his robe?! There is no way he could be speaking the truth in an outfit like that.”

These two stories have a few things in common. It is generally, but not always, the case that the older you are the more likely you are to believe that a suit and tie is business apparel and that is just that. But it is not just about age. How you appear does give other people an idea about you. Appearances are important. Good grooming is important. Whether you have tattoos, a suit, or your hair cut a certain way says things about you. We choose to groom a certain way because we want to be seen in certain lights. However, the fact that I have a tattoo does not affect my ability to be a librarian, wife, mother, or friend.

I think this is a multi-faceted issue that has been rearing its ugly head since man put on the first animal skin. I do believe in being well groomed, but I do not think the only way to do business is in a suit. I do believe that you should occasionally concede and wear the uniform of the group you are trying to infiltrate. I would strongly advise against trying to change the norms of a group by yourself from the bottom of the food chain. Not only will you further isolate yourself, you will bloody your forehead against that wall to no avail. You need allies if you are on the bottom. On the top… well that is another matter. You can use your power as you see fit. President Obama has the power to affect the dress code of those around him; the page boy does not.

A dress code is like a uniform. It says, “You belong to this group because you look the same.” It is called a business suit because people who do business wear them. If you see someone in a suit, you think business person. We all want to belong, but many of us chafe under sameness or strictness.

At my former library, business casual was the uniform. Many of us dressed down a bit on Fridays, declaring that day casual to ourselves and damn the consequences. There never were consequences as there was no “official” dress code. On Fridays, I usually wore what I wished I could wear all week. If I had my choice, I would have gone to work everyday in jeans, a nice shirt, and a corduroy jacket or sweater (that is me with the camera). I am, in my heart, a jeans and t-shirt girl.

All this blathering so that we come to this conclusion: We spend a lot of time worrying, talking, and obsessing about clothes. The Situation Room had a whole segment on Obama’s dress code policy for Pete’s sake when we are at war and in a recession. *eyeroll* We make policies, we have rules, we draw lines in the sand and still, for many, there are no conclusions about what is or not appropriate attire.

If your place of work has clothing issues, the Powers That Be should consider a few things before making irrevocable laws. What should be the most important is that the staff appear well groomed and that the staff do their jobs well. I am not sure a boss could ask for more than a job well done (defined how you will) by a recently showered human being wearing clothes. Wouldn’t you rather have everyone doing their jobs well and have an array of attire than only a handful in suits getting things done?

–Jane, she sure would

GTD on a Virtual Team

A friend of mine recently asked what advice I would give to a virtual team. Here is, in essence, my response:

One of the things about virtual teams that some people do not realize is that they have a lot in common with f2f teams. All those problems that in person groups have, like motivation, direction, goals, lack of leadership, etc., are present in virtual groups only they tend to cause a lot more problems. What could be a simple annoyance in a physical setting can derail an entire online project. Because of this, it is important to confront problems early and honestly so that they do not fester.

Group dynamics are magnified once you move them to a virtual setting. In order for a group to work, you need to be a team, work like a team, and communicate like a team. Feeling like a team and fostering this atmosphere is important to the success of a virtual team. Things that seem silly, like making a name for your team or using a lexicon that is unique to your group, create a team atmosphere. Getting the members to feel like a team actually can contribute to the work ethic of the team because people feel like they belong to something and thus they will be more invested.

Regular interactions help people feel like they know their team members and are then less likely to let them down. It seems like common sense that if everyone is doing their business the business will get done faster, better. People know this and yet it does not always work out quite like that. Everyone has been on a team, virtual or physical, that failed miserably because the team did not do the work expected of them.

My last bit of advice dealt with deadlines. As with dynamics, deadlines also loom larger in a virtual setting. It is easier to ignore things that are not physically before you so it is important that goals be set early. Team members or the team leader then has to hold the members accountable for the agreed upon end goals. Periodic check-ins and group chats can help foster team relationships and help team members keep to their deadlines.

–Jane, likes virtual teams

BIGWIG Becomes a Transparentocracy

(I said Friday for big news, but I suppose I am unable to read calendars. This is the big announcement. Enjoy.)

People fear and worry about the unknown.

The PTB, Powers That Be, in most organizations perpetuate fear by having closed meetings, by distributing meeting minutes that have no substance, hiding or disguising the way decisions are made, and not explaining any of the above to the people whom these decisions invariably effect the most. These practices create worry, fear, and gossip mongering because the lower levels of the organizations are kept, unintentionally or deliberately, in the dark. Who does this system protect? Certainly not the people on the bottom.

I believe that information is power and it is time we give it back to the people.

In an effort of experimentation, truth, and transparency, the leadership of BIGWIG will henceforth be practicing Radical Transparency. We want to model how radical transparency can change the work of an ALA group. We want to show that transparency breeds loyalty and productivity. It does not produce chaos. We discussed this at ALA Midwinter with the group and everyone was in favor of moving forward.

How will this work?

BIGWIG has registered its own domain called Your BIGWIG. There you will find different areas for discussion, work, and projects. We will strive to publicly discuss all projects, from the bottom up. The first item up for discussion and work is the Social Software Showcase planned for Annual. Well, it is not so much planned yet. We want the people to plan their own program.

We are not creating a democracy. We are creating a transparentocracy. The chairs of BIGWIG will still have final decision powers and will be true leaders of the group, but everyone will know what is going on, what is coming down the pipes, and how every decision is made. People will know because decisions will be made on the web for all the world to see or they can search the archives later).

Transparency is the future. It may be the medicine that ALA needs to regain and restore faith to their members. BIGWIG, the tiny IG unlike any other, wants to show ALA that it can be done. If you want to play, come on over, and sign-up for the fun.

–Jane, always happy to be the bearer of good things

Do we practice what we preach?

I am still trying to figure out how to plan my work, house, and napping needs around the hours of my day. I think I am finally getting an idea of what is and is not possible in a 24 hour period for the stay-at-home Jane.

I am catching up on some much needed reading this morning and read Meredith’s post (finally) on Building 21st Century Librarians and Libraries. Meredith points out that it is not just SLIS schools that are to blame. As I have stated many times in frustration, our organizational cultures are not equipped to be flexible enough to allow for the growing need of tech skills in ALL our public services staff. Meredith says:

It’s also the way organizations are structured. So many libraries have a 1.0 org chart for a 2.0 world. They’re not structured to support public services technologies like blogs, wikis, etc. They’re not set up to allow for the sort of experimentation and agile decision-making that is required to meet the changing needs and wants of our users. So I don’t know that in an environment like that, hiring an emerging technologies librarian or a 2.0 librarian or whatever is the answer. You’re just putting a band-aid on a problem that goes to the heart of how your organization is structured and how decisions are made.

How do we make our organizations more nimble?

I think we have to start with the belief that all public services staff should have some level of tech skills. We have to stop relying on those one or two people to figure things out and then hopefully find time to teach the rest of the staff. We should all be learning and sharing with each other all the time or we should have someone on staff to train and plan for technology.

That kind of sharing is how the online tech oriented librarians learn from each other. We learn and share all the time. I certainly do not know everything and see all the cool stuff first. I am linked to a plethora of really smart people that I keep my eyes on, librarians and non-librarians. That is the only true way to “keep up.”

Not only do we need to believe that public services staff should know how to use technology, we should require it. Our users, our customers expect us to know it; we should expect it of ourselves.

This also begs the question: If an organization is unwilling to devote time and money to training its staff in technology skills are they really trying to be flexible and innovative? If an organization does not allow time for their staff to learn new skills are they really supporting continued learning?

–Jane, put your money where your mouth is

Thoughts on Academic Librarianship, part 2

General Disclaimer: My soon-to-be FPOW is by no means unique when it comes to academic libraries. After talking, and sometimes grumping, with librarians from many different academic libraries, I have come to the conclusion that MPOW is the middle of the pack when it comes to both good and bad organizational themes. It is not my institution that drives me insane at times, but they way academic libraries work in general. For many of these problems, it is simply the size of the organization that works against it. These observations are based on my experiences in my academic library. Your experiences may vary.

I have written this post so many times in my head that when I finally was able to write it, I could not articulate the words. I have always wanted to be more transparent about MPOW in this space, but I never felt like that was an option. I am leaving my library now and I no longer have to play the politics that keeps up outward appearances above all else. I do not see this post as bridge burning by any means. I think it is honest, fair, and I hope the administration accepts it in that spirit.

The introduction leads me right into the first issue: lack of transparency. One of the most frustrating things about this issue was that my administration was usually under the impression they were being transparent. As long as things looked ok from the top they must be ok. The problem was often a communication breakdown somewhere on the totem pole and the people on the bottom are rarely asked if everything is actually going OK. When you have an organization of any kind that is large, transparency is hard simply because it must travel through level after level of employees. We did receive meeting minutes from all the managerial type meetings, but they were bulleted lists of decisions and explained nothing about the why. I am not asking for a tome, but if the decision effects my work or me, I want to know why certain things were decided, not just the outcome.

Transparency can be a hit or miss affair. Sometimes things were handled fabulously. I think our original Strategic Directions process was very transparent with information coming out in many different formats and with many opportunities for participation from the library. However, I am sure there are differing opinions about it from someone who was displeased with the flow of information. Transparency is sometimes about perspective.

Transparency was even more complex when it involved a mistake or something was not going quite right. Then everyone was talking about it, except all the managers, and we peons were all left wondering why no one would just own up. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second is actually addressing the issue.

Academic libraries want to be innovative, they think they are, but processes keep them from ever doing anything remotely cutting edge. In order start a new, innovative project you have to, at the very least, complete the following steps more or less in this order:

  • You have a brilliant idea, X, and you tell your boss about it.
  • Boss tells you to research X to see if anyone else has successfully done X because you need proof of concept and ROI first. (This immediately assures you that X is not a new idea since what you are conducting is a literature review of research articles.)
  • You present findings to managers/admin and argue for X being implemented.
  • Your managers/admin decide it might be worth trying so they create a Task Force to investigate the idea and write a report.
  • The Task Force does the research and writes a report.
  • The report goes to admin and they approve it.

  • Admin creates an Implementation Committee.
  • Implementation Committee goes over report, does more research, makes more plans, and writes their own report.
  • Report goes to admin.
  • Admin approves of monies to spend.
  • Implementation Committee starts the process of actually implementing X.
  • All these process often take a year at the very least. By that point, anything you wanted to do is so past being new that everyone is already doing it – except academic libraries. We make committees for everything and the committees are rarely efficient. It is also hard to have transparency when so much of the work of the organization is spread out in countless committees. Sounds a lot like ALA, yes?

    Academic libraries are very inflexible when it comes to traditional roles of librarians or allowing librarians to grow into different jobs. Once you get hired to do a job, that is your job. You may get work duties added to your position, but you will rarely get to recreate yourself, even if it meets an expressed need at YPOW. If you grow as a professional, the only way to move into a new position is to move up, often into management. There is no way to move sideways, to become more expert at something and be compensated or promoted in the same fashion as if you were moving up the ladder of the organization. Not everyone wants to or should be a manager.

    My work situation is a perfect example of this. I was hired as a Social Studies Librarian. I was hired to do collection development, reference, and instruction, but over time I became more interested in technology and training. There was no one on staff to do troubleshooting, exploration, and training of staff in regards to technology. We had a Systems Department, but that was not their job nor did they have time to train people. At first I did the extra stuff because I loved it and I argued that we needed a full time person to do this job. Training was added to my current job, for which I was compensated, but I still had regular duties to do. I was doing, in my opinion, two full-time jobs and eventually, I was doing neither well. I was only one person, after all. I declined a renewal of the training duties so that I could focus on my core job responsibilities. I told my managers that I was unable to do what I considered two full time jobs with limited time in a respectable manner. It was my way of telling them, I would be a band-aid for this problem no longer.

    There is still no one doing technology training at MPOW, nor will there be any time soon though the need is most definitely there. It is just not a priority. In my previous post, I said that there was always money in the bank and there was, for things. There was never money for people. We could always buy books, furniture, and shelving, but rarely new people. In my opinion, we need the people more and they are more important than things. Unfortunately, budgets do not work the way we would like and thus, no new positions. If my admin had moved me into a different position, they would have had to hire someone to replace me in my old position. I am assuming that there was just not money for everything and admin made a hard choice.

    In the end, I just do not think my personality and big bureaucracies are a good fit. I am continually frustrated by the red tape, the sacred cows, the lack of transparency, lack of flexibility, and the politics. My library was great for me because it allowed me to find something I love, technology and teaching. With monetary support to go to conferences with infinite networking opportunities, I was able to make enough contacts to enable me to seek my own career path. I will be eternally grateful to my first professional job for the fostering I received. I have outgrown my position and so it was time for me to move on. Baby or not, I have been considering my options for a long time.

    –Jane, needed a little more room to fly

    Why Quitting for Kids is Not So Bad

    Penelope Trunk wrote a great post on why women are not as concerned with “taking time off” to have kids as some people think.

    I am not expecting “time off” from anything. Raising kids is a full-time job. I do not agree with everything Penelope Trunk has to say on her blog, but much of it resonates with what I have observed and what I feel to be right.

    At least one person online and multiple people off, have expressed sadness/concern that I am not staying to climb the traditional ladder or that getting back into “regular” librarianship will be harder then I realize. I do not want the traditional ladder. I want to build my own. The traditional ladder looks incredibly boring from where I am sitting and I do not have the patience for boring. Scenery aside, I am also smart enough to know that I am not cut out to be a full-time 9-5iver and a full-time Mom. That situation would make for a very unhappy and crazy Jane and an extremely unhappy family.

    As to the concerns about getting back in, as Penelope Trunk points out, starting one step below where I left or taking a different kind of job is not such a bad deal. It just means I will have diverse experiences. Having those formative years at home with my kids is more important then the job title I end up with when I retire. You can’t take it with you. Besides, I may end up doing something completely different then what I am doing at this very moment (which is sitting at a reference desk, answering directional and simple reference questions). I dare say that something will likely be much better then telling people where the stapler is located.

    –Jane, the corporate ladder, ur doin’ it wrng

    Midwinter Round-up, the not so good bits

    The not so good bits being two things I did not see but heard a lot about about one thing for which I was present and accounted for.

    Most of my complaints about ALA Midwinter are about things having to do with the division in which I spend most of my time: LITA. As we say down South, Bless your heart. Bless your heart, LITA, I know you try, but let us consider the ways in which the brain was left behind in the planning of some of the aspects of ALA Midwinter 2008 and how your members have lost touch with reality and the word leadership.

    In the past, LITA sponsored a Blogger’s room, which has become more popular as more people found out about it’s existence. At Annual 07, there were always people hanging out in the room, chatting, blogging, and surfing the internet whenever I chanced by. The room had multiple tables, chairs, wifi, and many power strips. BIGWIG usually has its meetings in this room because it is available, convenient, and has all the equipment we needed (wifi and power strips). At Midwinter 07, the room was bumped back to only be a couple tables in the back of the ALA office, but it still included power strips and wifi. Members of LITA have been thinking of ways we could use this service of a plug and wifi as a way to market LITA as a technology provider guru to ALA at large. I think this is a wonderful idea and an even better service.

    (As a disclaimer, I did not see said table, but I did hear about it from multiple people. I wanted a picture, but ran out of time on Monday. If anyone snapped a picture, please share it in the comments.) This year the idea of the room or properly equipped tables seems to have gone awry somehow. This year, we again had a Blogger’s Table at Midwinter in the ALA office. But it was one table with two chairs, no power strips, and no wifi. Welcome bloggers, you would be better off sitting on the floor by a plug in the hallway instead of using this service we have not put much thought into providing. I am not sure who thought this would be a good idea, but clearly it is not useful and a waste of space besides.

    The Blogger’s Area should be something, by now, that LITA leadership and admin have realized is a “good thing” for their image, but BIGWIG has to ask and advocate for it before every conference. It should be something that LITA wants to provide, not something they must be cajoled and prodded into doing.

    At Annual, LITA, I will not be there to enjoy it, but please provide a real room, with numerous tables, chairs, power strips, and wifi . We know it costs money, but think of it as much needed advertising to all the techies hiding in other ALA groups that see you not as a technology leader or innovator, but as an innovator and leader that has forgotten what it means to do so.

    I again must write a disclaimer as I was not present at the following meeting, but I did hear about it after the fact from multiple people. At Midwinter, the Top Tech Trends Panel holds an open discussion meeting in which they throw out ideas about new trends and the audience is able to comment on the panel’s assumptions. Other then the President’s Program, the TTT Panel at both Midwinter and Annual are the most popular LITA events. The thing that makes the Midwinter program stand out is that, instead of the panel talking to the audience, as they do at Annual, the panel talks with the audience about tech trends in libraries.

    You would expect that such a largely attended and well received program would not have the problems getting the right room and equipment they need from LITA to hold their events. Indeed, they should not have the kind of problems a little IG would have, say getting a blogging area, but the TTT Committee had similar connectivity and set-up issues. It is possible that these issues were a problem with the conference staff and not LITA. If I am wrong in my assumption, I want to be corrected. Someone, please correct me!

    Instead of a large room, set up for a lively discussion and debate, the room TTT was given was small and set up for a traditional committee meeting with a table in the center and chairs around the table. The chair of the committee, Maurice York, had to run around, fetching as many extra chairs as he could cram into the room. During the discussion, the room overflowed into the hall. LITA – we do not have room for you.

    The connectivity in the room was not wonderful. One of the committee members, trying to participate virtually on Skype, had issues connecting to the group because of the wifi. Wifi can be problematic, so I am hesitant to really lay that on LITA’s door. I applaud the committee for trying Skype. Who says ALA does not have virtual participation?

    Lastly, the LITA Town Meeting ended in a debate over which we should be: Innovative Leaders of Technology (in which we often blaze the trail as the first) or Leaders in Technology (in which we do not care about innovation but instead create best practices and know the best tools in hopes that others will seek out our expertise). The conversation made me want to cry, scream, and rip my hair out. It is the conversation I hear repeated in MPOW and in libraries all over the nation. It is the reason a lot of libraries talk about doing something but never actually get around to doing anything at all and thus never lead anyone anywhere.

    Why try to be first, when you can be last? I have a news flash for the people in LITA who think we should give up trying to be first and be the ones who make great policies and practices. All those groups who blazed the trail we are sauntering down, already created all the policies and best practices they need because shortly after being first, they realized they needed some guidelines. When you wait for others to do all the dirty work and then step in later to save the day, you only look like an attention grabber and no one believes you have anything to contribute that is worthwhile. If you did have something meaningful to say, you would have said it at the beginning, when the innovative group was hacking through the jungle, not later when the road is built.

    I am not bringing this up to say that age is the factor, but someone asked all of us under 30 to raise out hands and there were less than 5 of us in a room easily holding about 60 or 70 people. I know LITA used to be the leader back when they had the Internet room for people to use and you were all young. I know because you tell us about it all the time. I am proud you blazed that trail and it is part of our history. You know what though, you are the only ones who remember that and that remembrance is not enough for the rest of ALA to keep believing you are a leader of anything. One good idea will not ensure your status as an innovator. It just means you had one good idea.

    People no longer see LITA as a leader in technology because we are not. Not in innovation, policies, or best practices. If we really want to reclaim our position as a leader in technology we have to actually lead the way to be taken seriously. I want LITA to be great. I want us to blaze a technology trail others can walk down. I want us to partner with other divisions who are also using technology in innovative ways so we can be leaders again. We do not always have to be the first ones down the trail, but we should try to be in the lead group, leading.

    –Jane, not ready to sit back and let others have all the innovative fun

    My LTR is Out!: Changing the Way We Work

    I wrote the first 2008 issue of Library Technology Reports on how technology has changed the way we do business, in libraries and outside of them. It includes case studies, tool reviews, and best practices for organizations, team leaders, and team members. Here is the blurb from the ALA TechSource site:

    The way of work in the Information Age continues to be commuted by the Internet. The interconnected, collaborative functionality the World Wide Web provides, when implemented and utilized, can help individuals, as well as working groups, achieve greater flexibility and productivity, reports Michelle Boule, the author of the first issue of Library Technology Reports in 2008.

    A social sciences librarian and technology trainer, Michelle Boule (Univ. of Houston) examines how technology—which in Boule’s report is defined as “any tool that can be used to communicate and collaborate over the Internet”—can and has impacted libraries in her issue “Changing the Way We Work.”

    I am very excited about this report. Even in the business community, this information is non-existent or hard to find. I hope that people find it useful.

    –Jane, loves the potential for technology to create a revolution

    Tips for High Turnover

    In the past year and a half, over half of the librarians and all of the staff (except one) in my department have left, for various reasons, including all three of our managers. When a department has this level of turnover, there are many things that happen. Some questions should be pondered by the other PTB in the organization, even if the employees left for better jobs or reasons beyond the control of others.

    Questions like: Why do we have good people leaving for better jobs? What opportunities did they have or not have here? Is there something wrong with the atmosphere of that department or of this organization? How are the remaining employees coping? How will training of all the new people take place?

    Some of these questions are best answered by the PTB. I, as a peon in the structure, have very little control over many of the questions above. There are some things though, that even the lowest staff member should keep in mind in a department where the turnover has recently been high.

    You are no longer new. You may have once been the newbie, but you may suddenly find yourself the old hat with the institutional knowledge. Occasionally, when new policies or programs are discussed, someone might ask what has been done in the past. Try not to show your surprise if everyone looks at you. You may be the only person in the room who knows.

    Get out of the rut. Along the same lines as the first item: If you are an “oldie,” do not sing the, “we always did it this way” song. Having a slew of new people in the department also means new ideas. You may know what used to be done, but do not let that knowledge keep you from embracing new ideas. This may be the chance your group has needed to do something new and exciting, even if new only means moving the mailboxes. If you look around and realize you are the only one clinging to the neck of that sacred cow, you may want to ask yourself why. Release your arms slowly and move along.

    Be welcoming. In a group with a lot of new people, everyone is responsible for creating the sense of team. I think the older members should lead the way and make the new people feel at home and welcomed. However, if turnover is really that high, even an employee with a couple months under their belt may not be the newest kid on the block. Turnover disrupts the team atmosphere of a working group and everyone will have to work to redefine their place in the new structure and the new team identity.

    Listening does wonders. New people frequently means new managers. Adjustments have to be made on both sides. Old employees should be willing to help their new managers and be understanding while they learn the culture of the organization. New managers should listen to their employees and try to catch up as fast as possible. Managers should ask what employees need from them and follow through. Employees and team members should do the same thing for their managers and each other. A simple, “What can I do to help you be successful?” goes a long, long way in creating a good team. Especially, if you take the time to listen and actually do what you can to fulfill the needs of those around you. Listening is a skill we should all improve upon.

    –Jane, Mr. R is always asking her to listen with her whole brain instead of half or a quarter