Thoughts on foundational readings: Take-aways and mullings
I so appreciate that this class has exposed me to these foundational readings. I may have picked up the articles by Brian Mathews (2012; 2017) on my own but, based on the publication dates alone, I would never have read either Buckland (1992) or Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) pieces. While these two pieces are older, it is interesting to see how some things have changed and others not. When Buckland defined the purpose of libraries as providing “a service: access to information” I immediately thought about how we could change or expand on this based on what libraries are doing today. However, I love his focus on the user and the way he distinguished between the means and the ends. While Casey and Savastinuk mention a few things that are outdated like MySpace, the framework of their method is still solid. I feel that both articles are still very relevant to where we are now and I’m glad I was exposed to them.
A few take-aways:
There were so many great ideas to think about in these readings. Here are just a few that I want to hold onto:
Focus on the mission: All of the readings made a point of saying that change should not be made just for the sake of change. Change should be made with a specific goal in mind. This entails knowing the difference between the ends and the means and focusing on your users’ needs. This also means that you need to know your users well.
Don’t rule out any options even if they are set aside for a time: If the focus is on what we want to accomplish, we shouldn’t rule out any method of getting there no matter how crazy it may seem at first or if it has been rejected in the past. Everyone’s ideas should be taken seriously no matter where they come from.
It’s not about having one spectacular idea; It’s about community and creating a culture of innovation: Everyone within the organization should have the opportunity and be empowered to be involved. This means creating an environment where people feel safe to put forth their ideas and have the mechanisms in place to do so. It is also about a culture that allows for and encourages collaboration. I am continuously asking my student workers about their ideas and perspectives on things from a student’s point of view. I really should establish a way that they could provide input anonymously.
Communication is key: In order to encourage participation and buy-in, everyone needs to understand the what and why of changes in the institution. Thinking of my own department, this can be a challenge. When you have individuals working multiple shifts and days with little overlap, finding ways to communicate should be a priority. Add the complexity of multiple departments and this becomes even more important. Finding ways to create teams from all over the organization and putting them in one place would definitely be ideal.
Rethink/reevaluate everything: When it comes to improving library services, nothing should be sacred. In his introduction Buckland points out that “we adapt to what we adopt. What is familiar tends to be transparent”. It’s so easy to cling to what we’ve always done without even realizing we are doing it. Perhaps this is where having an outsider’s perspective is important.
Things I’m still mulling over:
Strategic plans: Both Mathews and Casey and Savastinuk were against the idea of using strategic plans. I understand their point of what a huge production the process can turn into sometimes creating a tome that ends up sitting on a shelf. Additionally, institutions would not want to be tied to it as a to-do list that cannot be deviated from. Looking at it from the lens of an institution that currently has no mission statement and needs a major overhaul, however, it seems like a strategic plan would provide a good starting place.
While I’ve read about ways that the strategic planning process can be misused, these articles were the first time I had read criticism of going through it altogether. It seems like, if done intentionally, it could still be a good process to go through on a cyclical basis if only, in the case of an academic library, to better align the library with its parent institution’s strategic planning. I believe that Anne Marie Casey (2015) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University provides an example of what can be accomplished using strategic planning especially when you bring the entire staff in on the process. I wonder how their decision-making and assessment policies align with the Library 2.0 idea?
Library organization: The other thing that I am still working through in my head is the idea of changing library organization to better enhance the culture of innovation and assessment. Mathews remarks that he felt like organizational structures in libraries were akin to “running an obsolete operating system” (2017, p.13). From my perspective, I believe that this sentiment is true. At my library we have certain people who are sitting around with little to do and others who can barely keep up. Part of the problem, however, may be that we are unionized. The only way that I have seen the library be able to update job descriptions is when someone leaves and when positions open up, they go first to whoever has the most seniority regardless of whether they are best suited for the job. I’m not sure what the best way is to work around this. Another part of the problem is that some people enjoy the low expectations and hide behind the outdated job descriptions. There has to be a better way, though.
Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Retrieved from http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/sunsite/Redesigning%20Library%20Services_%20A%20Manifesto%20(HTML).pdf
Casey, A. M. (2015). Grassroots strategic planning: Involving library staff from the beginning. Journal of Library Administration, 55, 329-340. doi:10.1080/01930826.2015.1038935
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today.
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&isAllowed=y
Mathews, B. (2017, September). Cultivating complexity: How I stopped driving the innovation train and started planting seeds in the community garden. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/78886