Learning. It’s become a habit – and I’m grateful

You know I’m no longer standing beside you in the profession, right?

But what I find, constantly, and sometimes annoyingly, is that librarianship never leaves you. You can try to leave it, only to find that it’s become irrevocably embedded. In your psyche. In the way you reflect. In the way you practice.

Librarians embody learning in the most emphatic way. We spend our days learning – to stay ahead, to get alongside, to facilitate, to encourage, to model.

Even if we don’t start out as exemplars of life-long learning – it is what good librarians become. Shining examples.

But beware. You can’t leave it behind. Those seeking, learning, sharing behaviours? They become a mindset.

Maybe that’s a strategy the library world should consciously adopt? Train them, then set them free to inhabit the world.

The world would be a better place. And maybe I can still stand beside you, out there?

Posted in Reflections from the outside | Leave a comment

Taking the library to our users on Towel Day

towel dayLibraries are working really hard to reinvent themselves, expanding their vision of what they are and what they do. Part of this is a need to change the community perception of libraries.  At my library, we have been working hard to recruit a different skill set in order to take hold of the digital, and use it to help us reshape our image, and find a new and different audience.  The video below is our first nudge into this (for us) new space.

Our current users will recognise the faces and spaces.  The uninitiated will hopefully find the humour appealing, and be encouraged to go there.  The bonus is that it’s done in a medium that appeals to an audience we are working really hard to attract.  It’s guerilla marketing, and we want to do more.  Have a watch, and do tell me what you are doing that is different, and provides a refreshing take on your place and people.

Posted in Techy, geeky stuff | 2 Comments

Presenters and speakers-in-public – this share is for you!

Full credit to the guys @slidecomet for their excellent compilation. Minimalistic, elegant and to the point. There’s nothing quite like learning from the masters!
For me, the biggest challenge in making a memorable presentation lies in finding, taking or creating the stellar images required to make it so – and in fairness, that’s probably because I devote more time to preparing and practising the presentation itself.  What’s your bug-bear?
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Using plain language to communicate with customers

Today I’m on the hunt for tips and tools to support us as we begin to refine some of our online documentation to better meet the needs of our customers.  Terms and conditions of membership spring to mind – hard enough to convince our users to read them, without expecting them to navigate complex language and badly structured text.

As I search, I’m just going to add some of the tools and tips that I find useful, with maybe a little commentary as I go.  This post is mainly for my own benefit, as I intend to put together some specific training for staff around writing for the web, social media sites, and other promotional materials.   If, however, you find it useful, or you have other tips and tools you’d like to share, please add links and suggestions in the comments.  Here goes!

The first tool I found was a nice little video sharing six simple tips to help ensure your text is easily navigated and read. Thanks to the folks at Transcend.

I also found this great little tool, currently displaying in beta, that allows you to paste your current text in, and it runs a programme that checks readability against several well-known measuring tools.  The attached image shows the results for a body of text I copied from another library’s documentation.  That library’s website includes a statement indicating that their writing standards aim for plain language and better readability.  In comparison to the scores shown when I dumped our current documentation into the programme and ran the test, the scores were significantly different – and the score we need to aim for ain’t higher!  Thanks to Writeclearly.org

This document explains some of the reading tests, how they measure readability, and what the test scores indicate.

Just one of many excellent posts on Copyblogger, this one has specific tips that aim to increase your chances of having your content read.  In full.  Now wouldn’t that be nice?  If this topic does interest you, skip on over and read some of their stuff.   You might even want to thank Copyblogger by becoming a constant reader, like me.  Subscribe to their blog here.  And no, I don’t need to declare a vested interest.  Just fanship!

I’ll push the publish button now.  It’s time to get out of the analysis paralysis, and do as R. David Lankes suggests.  Just do it.

Posted in Writing | Tagged | 2 Comments

Science or art? The recombinant DNA of cross-functional teams

If you have previously stopped by you will know that I’m a fairly recent recruit to a public library management team, and you will also know that I’m an avid fan of collaboration in any context.  The two have recently intersected and I’ve been working with a colleague to draw cross-functional teams together to work on some projects of interest.  The desired outcomes were improved customer service through consistency and clarity across library departments, and improved communication between staff in different departments.

Let me describe one of the projects.

Let’s imagine that a number of years ago, when Esmerelda reigned supreme over the children’s library, she was possessed of a fascination with storytelling.  Thus began the development of a truly wondrous collection of picture books that might be used  to enthrall the young at heart.  At this point Esmerelda mandated that mere members might not borrow from this collection, as she would be mortified to face a small group of listeners who had already heard her stories, and were now possessed of an infectious fit of the yawns…

Of course, one day Esmerelda departed for pastures wild and new, and her successor went on adding books to this fabulous collection.  Meredith, however, wasn’t able to avail herself of Esmerelda’s wisdom, and could only use her own judgment in adding to the ever-growing store.  And because she was a librarian, she disagreed with many of her predecessor’s selections, and made lots of executive decisions about what did and did not now belong in the collection.

Now you can imagine, over the years, many different Esmereldas and Merediths came and went, and there may even have been a Mortimer or two (though it seems unlikely, given the demographic of this particular group!)  Each had their own wisdom to bring, and mark to make.

Now, let’s shift our attention upstairs for a moment, and examine a small vignette.  Veronica has just been handed a picture book whose location is to change.  Again.  For possibly the fourth or fifth time.  Veronica is a cataloguer of some experience, and long enough in the tooth to remember at least three of the previous changes.  Please insert your own dialogue at this point – and feel free to take a moment to be precise.

Feel better now?

You will be beginning to appreciate the issues at play.  A project team was brought together to deal with the poor communication and lack of firm and relevant criteria.  The team consisted of a group of people who did not normally work together day-to-day, most of  whom hadn’t previously been given the opportunity to develop criteria for selection and placement within the wider collection.  The group comprised:

  • Cataloguers
  • Collection development specialists from Children’s
  • Managers and middle managers
  • Customer service specialists
  • Skilled storytellers
  • (Of course some of these roles were shared and combined)

Initially, we redefined the purpose of the collection – to support storytelling within and outside the library (and, yes, it is now available to members).  We worked together to negotiate the depth and breadth of the collection, the intended audience, and agreed that the over-riding criteria was that each book must read aloud well – acknowledging that each of us would bring our own perspective to that criteria!

We moved on to other small pockets of the collection that, over the years, had been drafted out and placed in isolation for a variety of reasons – mostly, we found, for our benefit, not our members.  Most were disbanded and are being re-integrated into the main collection.

Finally, over the following weeks, we examined some of the specific genres within the collection (such as sophisticated picture books).  We pulled out specific works selected to spark healthy debate on intent, placement, intended audience and so forth.  The debate was intense, but did allow us to develop robust criteria and genre descriptions that allow staff to be more clear in their selections, and cataloguers to support discovery with relevant data and consistent allocation to collections.

The work is ongoing, and the outcomes so far have been outstanding.

  • Clear documentation now provides criteria for all parties – and it is agreed that these are living documents, open to negotiation and amendment
  • Staff making selections have a clearer understanding of the impact of seemingly small decisions on the workloads of others
  • Most importantly, choices made were customer-centric. Each decision was examined through the lens “Who are we doing this for?”
  • And staff got a real kick out of working this way.

Still to be done?  Much!  This is a new way of working, but we have established that cross-functional teamwork really helps communication, ensures that clear and shared understanding exists, and provides opportunities for getting a little more than a sniff of what others do – and that’s got to be good for career paths and  succession planning.

As a management team, we used this voyage of discovery, in combination with what we were reading and discussing at the time, to firm up some new objectives and intended ways of working.  We’re now talking about service delivery chains (which implies cross-functional teams), measurable customer service outcomes, and much more.

In reflecting on cross-functional teams and their place in a modern library (or workplace of any kind), I am pondering the difference, if any, between this example and the term ‘interdisciplinary’.  What, if any, are the points of difference?  How might one draw comparisons or define the contrasts?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – and please share examples of the ways that you are fostering the recombinant DNA of the teams in your workplace.

Posted in Cross-functional teams, Interdisciplinary teams | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Getting kids to read: advice from Judy Blume, and a confession from me

I am, I confess, a con artist.

I raised two boys.  Let’s call number one Action Man.  He never sat still so reading to him was purely a pain down under.  Number two was the Collector, and still is judging by the  ‘stuff’ on every horizontal surface of which he considers himself the occupier.  You know who I’m talking about, right?  Neither was a reader by inclination, much to the disgust of their mother.

So what did I do?  I conned them, of course.

I paid them to read.  Not in money exactly, but by points earned that went against the monetary value of big-ticket items.  The new bike that was already on the Christmas shopping list was a classic example.  Their innocence meant that they didn’t realise they only got what would have come their way in the natural course of events.  They just read voraciously, especially after we established that the bigger the book, the more points you scored.

Soon it was Harry Potter, and that’s where it did cost me.  I had to buy two copies of every book in the series, and still wait my turn.

The real reason I love to tell this story, though, is the priceless moment when Action Man woke up.  He had just finished another book, and had obviously had a light-bulb moment. He said, ” [Expletive]  I know why you did that now!  You wanted to turn us into readers!”

The point?  Do whatever it takes.  Bribe them.  Con them.  Lie.  Tease.  As Judy Blume says:

“Before you give your child the beloved book, leave it lying around the house, preferably on your nightstand. Then, when your daughter asks about the book, tell her that you picked it up for her, but now you’re not sure she’s old enough for it.”  (You can read Judy Blume’s other pointers here.)

Mine are both in their early twenties now, and don’t find as much time to read.  They have busy lives, and you and I both know how many alternatives they have open to them.  I take comfort, though, that when they go on holiday there is always a new book in tow, and they always want to tell me about it when it’s done.  So, if I’m being honest with you, that’s what I really did.  I read the books they read, we talked, we argued, we fell in love with the characters, and sometimes we cried.  Well, I cried.

That’s how I know I turned my kids into readers.  And became a con artist in the same breath.

How did you do it?

My thanks to Carrie for her post on the Services to Schools Southland Network group – linking to Judy’s advice above.  Great inspiration.

Posted in Life, Reading | Tagged | 7 Comments

Collected magazine: NZ school librarians talk evidence based practice

The latest issue of SLANZA’s flagship publication here in New Zealand has hit the eSphere – Collected #7 focuses on evidence based practice.  Having been involved once again in editing this edition, I can tell you that blood, sweat, and not a few tears give substance to the pages therein, and I urge you to read and ponder, share and discuss.  The amazing Dr Ross Todd has blessed us with his professional expertise, and he shares space with some of the shining lights in the school library sector in New Zealand.

SLANZA is not the only organisation taking on this topic.  New Zealand Public Libraries have just published their strategic vision for 2012 – 2017.  Point two on their list of strategic national priorities reads, “Develop an evidence-based model of measurement that demonstrates value and contribution to outcomes”.

Neither of these publications claims that it will be easy.  We will need to adopt different mind sets, and find new ways of measuring the difference we make.  Cross-sector collaboration may be key – as each of us, at some point, seeks to work with the clients of the other!  It seems to make sense that we collaborate, share ideas and strategies, and successes as we find them.

Take particular note of Senga White’s contribution in Collected, Keys to effective collaboration.  It is a model for success, and the work that Senga is doing in the area of preparing senior secondary students for tertiary study is ground-breaking.  Her presentation at a recent international conference on information literacy was very well received, and her work may well be a model to guide many of us in our journey towards improved evidence based practice.

Posted in Reflective practice | Tagged , | 2 Comments