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Reflecting on Transparency

Reflecting on transparency – perhaps that should really be “reflecting vs. transparency.” I found myself focusing most on our readings about transparency. Perhaps this is because of my past non-profit management experience where transparency is so very important, yet so hard to achieve. It was interesting to read that libraries of all stripes can also struggle with this issue.

In INFO 200, we had the opportunity to participate in a forum with Aaron Schmidt who authored some of our readings for Module 4 in this class. Since then, I’ve appreciated his insights into User Experience (UX) and how that applies across so many areas, including transparency. I agree with his views that it’s important that those we serve know what we are doing and why. Being as transparent as possible about our governance, policies and decision-making encourages our patrons to become more involved in the library. Transparency promotes participatory service and vice versa.

I have encountered situations where organizations feel they are being transparent because “we are telling everybody what we do.” To which, I’ve had to ask the question, “but are we listening to what our customers have to say?” In my mind, transparency without some type of input stream is merely reflection. Transparent windows don’t allow only one-way vision – you can see me and I can see you. If  patrons can only see what we are doing, but have no input and get no response to their inquires or questions, it can create distrust. Trust and connection can be developed by recognizing and interacting with the people on the other side of the glass.

When you ask my father to draw a picture of a dog, you get this: (Yes, this is really a painting done by my father.)

 

When you ask me to draw a picture of a dog, you get something like this:

My dad is an artist and art instructor by profession and a semi-professional guitar player as a hobby. My mother was a practiced pianist and seamstress while working as an attorney. My sister is a social worker by day and dancer in her spare time. I can sing, but play no musical instruments. I cannot sew and my dance moves, while enthusiastic, wouldn’t be considered skillful or graceful.  The joy of being part of a family of very talented and creative people is you get to celebrate their accomplishments. The downside is I’ve spent my entire life comparing myself to them and convincing myself I am not a creative person – that I somehow didn’t inherit those gifts, those genes, etc.

In their book Creative Confidence, brothers David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley (2013), reach out to people like me who struggle to recognize and nurture their creativity. The book addresses what they call the “creative myth” – that creativity is an inherited, fixed trait. To boost  creative confidence, they  re-frame the way we think about creativity – “it is a natural and human ability within all of us.” They also highlight the importance of creativity in all types of personal and professional settings and provide exercises to get those creative juices flowing.

This TED Talk video featuring David M. Kelley gives an idea of the heart and direction of the book:

 

 

 

Creative Confidence presents examples of the magic that occurs at the intersection of creative thinking, empathy for users of products and services, and technical skill. One example was of an individual who implemented an improved MRI machine design. Upon observing, however, that a young child needed to be sedated because they were terrified of the machine, he set about the task of doing another re-design to make it less frightening to children. A serendipitous moment of empathetic understanding resulted in fewer children requiring sedation for a standard MRI. In fact, some children had such a great experience they even wanted to go through the machine again. Throughout the book, the term “delight the customer” or “delight the user” was emphasized in relation to creative, user focused design. This focus on how creativity can have important impact in our world helps readers realize that nurturing and encouraging creativity isn’t a selfish pursuit – it is vital to bringing about positive change.

The ideas and suggestions in this book resonated deeply with me especially after reading our foundational readings and learning more about the hyperlinked library model. In our class readings, the recurring theme I noticed for an evolving library is that of constant, purposeful change (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). In Creative Confidence, the authors also encourage the practice of allowing staff to champion and roll out creative changes with a less than perfect version with the understanding it can be adjusted and improved as feedback is received. This “Fail Faster, Fail Smarter” practice, as pointed out by Matthews (2012) will be vital if libraries hope to grow, evolve, gain user input and better match their needs. Kelley & Kelley (2013), present the convincing argument that this type of innovation will only take place when individual creativity is nurtured in a supportive environment.

Many of the individuals in this class have shared other sources who are sharing the news that libraries are realizing the need to embrace this approach of creatively combining innovation and empathy. In his blog post entitled, Library as Civic Square – Hyperlinked Libraries (2017), @will1 shared a report from the Aspen Institute written after a 2015 Leadership Roundtable in Library Innovation. In the report, they discussed a library’s potential to “transform communities.” Three action areas were developed by the group with the intent that, “each focus on libraries embracing technology as a means of anticipating and addressing community needs.” (Aspen Institute, 2015).

As we have seen with recent national incidents like Charlottesville and impacts such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma, a communities’ needs are constantly changing and can change in the blink of an eye. Fearless creativity partnered with empathetic connection will be the mechanism through which libraries can anticipate and meet those ever-changing needs with user centered design solutions.

References:

Aspen Institute. (2015). Executive Summary. [Web page posting]. Retrieved from http://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/Dialogue-on-Public-Libraries/2015/report/details/0152/Libraries-2015

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. London: Facet Publishing.

Kelley, D. (2012). How to build your creative confidence. TED2012. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence

Kelley, T. & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence. Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York: Random House

Mathews, B. (2012, April). Think like a startup. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1

Will. (2017). Library as civic square – hyperlinked libraries. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/hyperwill/2017/09/10/library-as-civic-square-hyperlinked-libraries/

 

When I saw that we’d have the option of writing this reflection either on the Foundation Readings of Module 2 or the Hyperlinked Library Model of Module 3, I told myself I should blog about the foundational readings. I assumed that while important, those readings would be less exciting than those in Module 3 and blogging about them would help me better retain the information. I do confess here and now – I was wrong! I discovered the foundational readings to be every bit as exciting as those in Module 3.

In Think Like A Startup, Matthews (2012) shares this quote, “The library is not a building, a website, or a person; it is a platform for scholars, students, cultural enthusiasts, and others who want to absorb and advance knowledge.” That quote got my my mind spinning with a variety of images of what a library could be. I just completed an assignment in another class about manuscripts in Western Africa. Through that, I learned that long ago universities were not large edifices that housed professors, books and students. They were informal gathering places where students and mentors met and had interactive discourse and debate in order to promote learning. This kind of environment where the free flow of ideas and exchange is nurtured and promoted seems an ideal fit for an evolving library. Throughout his writing, Matthews discusses the nimbleness and adaptive nature of start up thinking and how this can apply to libraries. He promotes the idea of rolling out ideas quickly, testing and improving them. He acknowledges that change can be disruptive, but could ensure the best outcomes for patrons.

In contrast to Matthews, the quote in Buckland’s “Redesigning the Library: A Manifesto” (1992) that caught my attention was, “The central purpose of libraries is to provide a service: access to information.” He calls attention to the importance of strategic planning, the possible over focus on new information technology and the fact that libraries probably have more experience for strategic plans than they think. Initially, I thought Buckland’s assertions ran counter to the start-up philosophies presented by Matthews. As I continued to read, however, I realized his descriptions of various types of libraries established a framework for how evolution or hybridization of these formats could occur.

I was glad I read Library 2.0 after the other two pieces.  Casey and Stavastinuk (2007) really brought it together for me. With their focus on constant and purposeful change and user input, they gave me an understanding of how the nimbleness and adaptability promoted in Matthews’ book could co-exist with the structure of Buckland’s guidance.  It gave great examples of how worthy changes could be managed and marketed to various stakeholders in order to minimize the disruptive impact.

References:

Me – at this moment!

I always struggle with what I should discuss in these introductory pieces. I feel like I already know so many of you since we’ve had classes together or I’ve assisted you as a class assistant over the past year or so. Because of that, I elected to share how my experience with a Faculty Led Program to Salzburg, Austria that I was selected to participate in has impacted and begun to inform my evolution as an LIS professional.

In June, I traveled with 10 other SJSU students and an instructor to Austria to attend a Global Citizenship Alliance seminar. While I knew this trip would help me develop evidence for our iSchool Competency O – Identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities, I didn’t realize how keenly this program would illustrate to me the vital role information professionals in their communities and in the world.  One of the days was spent at the Dauchau Concentration Camp Memorial Site which while educational, broke my heart into millions of pieces. That evening, we participated in a lecture about  how the impact propaganda and misinformation, targeted toward youth, led to the rise of the Nazi party and the atrocities that followed. Since then, my head has been swirling with questions like, “What if people had been educated on how to better analyze the information they’d received?” “What if librarians had been able to educate young people about evaluating sources?” “Was conflicting, accurate information readily available?”

Prior to this summer’s experience, I was uncertain as to whether my new chosen profession could truly have a global impact. Now, I know it can. That’s part of the reason I’m so glad to be involved in this class and hope to learn ways technology improves our inter-connectivity and how that influences our ability to help people get the the information they need in the format they need at the time they need it.

Feel free to check out the blog I kept during my Austria experience which dives deeper into my experience and includes many photos. Also, since I know I strayed away from a traditional introduction, feel free to ask me about my hobbies, interests and family including my awesome furry family members!

 

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