Friday, February 23, 2007

Does Your Library Promote Innovation, or Inhibit It?

Does your library promote or inhibit technology innovation on your campus?

I will be participating on a panel session at the 13th National ACRL Conference (Baltimore March 29 - April 1) discussing innovation in libraries. Please take a moment to respond to this short survey about innovation in libraries. The results will be reported in the special features section of the ACRL blog and discussed at the panel session. (Sat March 31st, 8a-9).

The panelists will discuss from the different perspectives of technology innovator, administrator and user:
  • The benefits and disadvantages of introducing disruptive technologies;
  • Successful methods for fostering technology innovation in libraries; and
  • Best practices for planning and implementing innovations in libraries.
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lockout Software that Locks-In Customers

As an open source/standards advocate I have communicated the evils of vendor lock-in. I came across this example tidbit in Ed Foster's 2/13 GripeLine column in InfoWorld:

In 2003, the U.S. Air Force held an open bidding for a post-warranty service contract on about $80 million worth of Eaton Powerware UPS (uninterruptible power supply) equipment it had purchased. Air Force officials were surprised when Powerware informed them that proprietary service software is required to fully maintain the UPS equipment and that Powerware would not provide that software to any of the third-party bidders or to the Air Force itself.

The Air Force had no choice but to award the contract to Powerware, costing taxpayers more than $20 million over what other firms were prepared to bid.

The lockout software is essentially a laptop-based replacement for the physical instrumentation and controls that used to come on UPS equipment and is required for getting complete internal readings and calibrating performance settings. According the the report, the requirement is not disclosed in product literature, their web site, or anytime during the purchasing process.

While I have not heard of any library vendors that have resorted to this tactic, it does go to show what a vendor can and will do to protect market share and revenue stream.

As the tools to create applications become more mainstream, and standards become more open, this strategy is one that libraries need to be aware of. Those encountering such undisclosed licensing issues need to communicate their experiences to the rest of the community in order to prevent other libraries from falling prey to such tactics. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Innovative Approach to Institutional Learning

Once again our innovative friends up north in McMaster U's Emerging Technology Group have come up with a way to get library staff involved with learning emerging technology. The have created a program entitled Learning 2.0 @ Mac. Learning 2.0 is a hands-on, immersive learning program that provides library staff an opportunity to explore Web 2.0 tools as well as the impact they are having on libraries & library services.

Over a 12 week period (starting February 12, 2007), staff will use tools such as Blogger, WordPress, Bloglines, and to complete a number of activities. Each week focuses on a specific type of tool and activities will provide their staff a chance to explore the tool and consider the ways in which it can be used in a library environment. Participants are encouraged to use a blog to discuss their thoughts about and reactions to the tools and technologies they explore.

At the end participants who have completed all the activities will receive an MP3 player and entered into a final draw to win a laptop.

82 staff has signed up to participate.

What a great idea! Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who's That Calling Me? Again!

This has to have happened to all of us at one point or another. The phone rings, most likely during dinner. You look at the Caller ID and do not recognize the number. It only says "NAME UNAVAILABLE", "TEXAS", etc. Sometimes the number calls seemingly everyday, such as the 10 calls I have received from 361-992-3070 in the past few weeks.

I came across a neat little service called Who Called Us . Who Called Us is a user-driven site in which phone numbers are registered and tracked in terms of frequency and geographic occurrence ( a Google Maps mashup).

In looking up 361-992-3070 I uncover that I was one of 82 people that reported that number. While my caller ID listed the call as "Texas," Who Called Us also indicates that others report the caller ID as "FutureMarket Te." Based on this information it looks like the number is some sort of a telemarketing firm.

Since contributors can also leave comments, I also uncovered that a contributor answered a call from the number and someone with "a foreign accent claiming to be with the American Diabetes Association" asked them to collect money and mail it to them. Hmmm. So, is the caller legit or not?

A quick Google search later I uncovered information about the ADA from the State of Washington. At the bottom of the page was a section entitled "Commercial Fundraisers or Co-Venturers Utilized." In that section was a listing for FutureMarket Telecenter. Sure enough, they are located in Corpus Chisti, TX.

The site also indicates that
this telemarketing service is also used by the American Lung Association, American Lung Association of Washington, the Cooperative for Assistance & Relief Everywhere, Inc., and the National Childrens Cancer Society, Inc.

So, it looks like they are a legit operation, but an annoying and persistent one nonetheless.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Do Organizational Learning Styles Affect Innovation?

In preparation for upcoming presentations at ACRL and MLA, I have been reading a lot about characteristics of innovative organizations.

Libraries are confronted with environments that are dynamic and uncertain due to the accelerated pace of technology and the changing nature of what we do. For libraries to survive I feel we must be able to adapt to rapid changes, not by making small changes to the way we do things, but overhauling the learning styles and behaviors of our organizations in order to enhance our ability to innovate.

It has been suggested by King and Anderson that the main factors that help or hinder an organization's ability to innovate are people, structure, organizational environment and climate and culture. An innovative organization is characterized by one that advocates change, takes risks, is creative, and has a willingness to experiment and tolerate failure.

Drawn from the works of Argyris and Schön as well as Miles and Rudolph, Proactive learning is when an organization bases innovation decisions on prior experience. The proactive organization makes its plans based on the anticipation of likely problems. They weigh all the the options, calculate the consequences of each, and then evaluate those consequences. For example, the proactive library may be more apt to perform usability testing using representative from primary user groups. Enactive learning is when an organization learns from action. They test innovations in the real environment amid real contingencies. They learn from experience through selective trial and error. An enactive library may be more apt to test its new web site by placing it into the public view and make changes based on feedback from customers that use it.

While a balance of these two styles is normally employed the enactive style may be more important when organizations are trying to become innovative. However, library organizations tend to be more proactive in approach. When working on a project we tend to think out and plan for every possible contingency. We want a complete solutions before they are implemented. A potential solution may not be considered simply because it didn't work in the past. Perhaps the underlying reason for the proactive approach it is at the core of why we became librarians: we like order. Libraies are relatively slow to adapt to change, we take only calculated risks, we tend to limit our experiments, and have a low tolerate for failure.

Innovative organizations do not only need to learn enactively , but how to modify their organizational behavior. Some organizations respond to problems by simply adjusting procedures or processes, but fail to recognize or deal with those problems which may challenge fundamental aspects of their organizational culture. There is often a strong pressure to suppress open discussion on such problems especially since innovative ideas are more likely to challenge the existing organizational culture, norms, objectives, and policies. When an innovation challenges the bases of an organization's culture, norms, objectives, and policies the organization needs to be prepared to discuss, reconsider, and if necessary make fundemental changes.

Sphere: Related Content