Monday, November 24, 2008

Moving Towards an Innovative Library

I have been working for a couple months on a graphic that represents the elements of innovative library organizations. The one I came up with was inspired by that which appeared in The Game Changer.

The graphic below depicts a continuum of six concepts which are vital to building a more innovative organization.

Inspiring Leadership

In trying to determine where the continuum in the above model begins, I decided it begins with leadership. Leadership sets the tone for everything that a library does. Innovation is all about change. During times of change an organization will be unstable, characterized by confusion, fear, a temporary loss of direction, reduced personal productivity, and a general lack of clarity about the organization's direction and mandates. A time of change can be a period filled with emotion, with employees focusing on what is changing and being lost and therefore unable to look into beyond the present and into the future. Employees not only need to have confidence in their leadership so they have someone to look to during times of change, they need to be inspired by them.

While a director or formal management group may be the most visible leaders, most library organizations have leaders throughout. Innovative organizations would also seem to have a higher number of change agents and idea champions. As Helene Blowers points out, Innovation starts with 'I.' The challenge is identifying innovation leaders, cultivating their potential, and empowering them to act. While these individuals may not be leaders in the hierarchical sense, they are extremely important leaders in building staff buy-in and moving ideas ahead. It therefore takes inspiring leadership to spot and cultivate organizational leaders.

Courageous Culture

If leadership is the starting point of the innovative continuum, then creating a courageous culture is the foundation. A climate and culture that conducive to innovation will generally be open to change, willing to take risks, tolerant of debate and disagreement, playful, will stress flexibility, adaptability, and celebrate both individual and group achievements and failures.

When it comes to implementing innovative change, there is an inevitable resistance as individuals discover that they may be giving something up. In many organizations, simply suggesting a change is often met with a negative attitude. Nothing is more deadening to the innovative process than having idea shot down even before it has a chance. A change in culture, behavior patterns and how change is approached are critical to moving towards an innovative organization.

Training and Development

Sir Francis Bacon is quoted as saying "Knowledge is Power." Indeed, innovative organizations have knowledgeable staff equipped with the skills they need to innovate and perform. An organization looking to become more innovative should expect, no, require that it's staff advances their understanding and broaden their point of view beyond their individual responsibilities.

To that end, many library organizations are moving towards a competency-based assessment system which recognizes individualized learning styles and methods. In this model, every employee and their supervisor should be accountable for continuous learning with training goals spelled out in annual performance reviews. Exploring and refining new skills, ideally outside of their area of expertise, should be of high value to the organization.

Enabling Organizational Structures

Most mature organizations, and libraries certainly are that, reach a sustaining level where the focus is on efficiency. Employees are slotted into specialized roles and are gathered together in social groups based on those roles and the resulting processes. Therefore, each employee's web of social connections mirrors the way their work is organized. As Chris Trimble points out, most social connections are made with others with closely related specialties, which share similar perspectives, and are shaped by the demands of the same customers.

Being a part of a particular social network for a prolonged period of time does influence individuals in significant ways, such as internalizing the "ways of thinking" (groupthink) of that network. Yet, innovation initiatives are often most successful when there is an unusual interaction between employees. How do many brainstorming or strategic planning sessions start off? By counting off and creating new groups. Otherwise, people tend to organize into the same social groups.

Organizations that are unstable, or responding to instability, are also more likely to innovate. A constant of slight discomfort gets individuals out of their comfort zones, gets them talking to one another, and can create new connections where none previously existed. Trimble states:
"Breaking networks is the only way to prepare an organization to take innovation efforts beyond mere ideas. You can train an individual about what an innovation is and why it demands different behavior, but you can't retrain an organization simply by training the individuals within it. The individuals may acquire knowledge, but organizations are more powerful than individuals..."

Streamlined Processes

Andrew Van De Ven observes that people and organizations are largely designed to focus on, harvest, and protect existing practices than paying attention to developing new ideas. The more successful an organization is, the more difficult this becomes. Clayton Christensen echoes this theory. While the process of conceiving an idea may be an individual activity, innovation is a collective achievement of pushing and riding those ideas.

Transforming innovation into practice involves so many individuals that those involved may lose sight of the big picture. Innovation transforms the structure and practices of an organization. The challenge is creating a culture where process does not get in the way of innovation.

Resource Reallocation

Many innovative ideas die simply due to limited resources. While resources are often equated with dollars, resources also refers to the reallocation of time, people, materials, existing equipment, and assistance. To become more innovative, inspired library leaders need to reposition staff to support innovative projects and programs, through new hires and reassignments where appropriate.

The efforts of staff that develop successful systems should also be rewarded. Innovation activities need to be recognized when decisions are made about merit increases, promotions, and even tenure decisions. If such rewards exist, then more staff will be interested in engaging in innovative activities. In the end, participation in the development of innovative solutions needs to become a vital part of the librarian's career track, and as such, should be reflected in how the librarians work, and resulting scholarship, is defined and evaluated.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Journal Of Access Services Jumps the Shark

I may be in the minority that feels that (tenure track) librarians need to change how we define scholarship. Until there is a paradigm / culture shift, the peer-reviewed journal will remain one of the gold standards. However, the integrity of the entire system is built upon maintaining the quality of our journals.  

It is of great concern when I see a refereed journal, either intentionally or inadvertently, set aside their standards. This appears to have happened with Haworth’s Journal of Access Services. The journal's editor recently decided to dedicate all of Vol 5(4) to  a series of essays written by an 'anonymous' blogger. [I refuse to acknowledge this person by pseudonym]

[For the purpose of full disclosure, I am unable to independently assess the quality of the issue's content since the electronic version title is currently embargoed. Doing so would be like reviewing a movie without screening it. However, I am not focusing on the content but the editor's decision.]

When I put on my hats as both a scholar and the the Chair of our promotion and tenure committee, the decision by the editor and publisher creates a crack in the foundation of our profession's scholarly communication. It is as if the editor of the American Psychologist decided to dedicate an issue to the essays of Dr. Phil.   

There are so many problems with this decision that I do not know where to start. I think I will let others highlight them for me.

Chadwick Seagraves observes: (make sure to read his entire post!)

Ponder this. This Journal now gives legitimacy to an anonymous writer, in a professionally sanctioned and sponsored serial...You know, you come to expect some level of authority from peer reviewed journals. Does this mean I can submit articles under my own pseudonyms and be potentially accepted for publication in the Journal of Access Services? Apparently it does...the beginning of the end of the authority of peer review is now here
Rudilibrarian notes:
Has scholarship in librarianship grown so weak that AL is now the best of what’s out there? Is this what passes for reasoned argument? Is Access Services so devoid of smart people doing interesting work that this is the best the journal could find to publish? It seems like one of the premier publishing houses in the field of LIS thinks so.

 Mary Carmen Chimato comments:

I would like to take a moment to thank the Journal of Access Services for driving home the point that the work we do here in access services is ripe for the mocking

From Colleen Harris:

You have just admitted that you are not a scholarly journal to be taken seriously. And as someone moving back over to Access after a long stint away, I'll be certain to send my work to the Journal of Library Administration, the Journal of Academic Librarianship, or hell, even to that cute little kid 'zine Highlights before I let my professional work be associated with you.

Karen Glover is saddened: 

I assumed this was a joke but am slowing beginning to realize the seriousness of it. I will not begin to complain about what this does to scholarship. I will, however, complain about what this does to Access Services... I am left feeling like the butt of a library joke. It saddens me that the one avenue of thoughtful discussion on subjects in my area is reduced to an extended tirade
At least one of the editorial board members was even unaware that this decision was made before seeing the issue themselves. 

My guess is that that the editor a) decided to take advantage of the recent attention given to the 'guest' author to promote their journal; or b) was duped; or c) seriously thinks the author offers a fresh voice.  The impact this decision could have on the state of our scholarly communication could be profound, assuming anyone notices, or even cares.  It makes our 'profession' more amateurish. 

Lastly, I applaud the bloggers quoted above for not hiding their opinions behind the veil of anonymity (although it took digging to identify Rudy Leon).   

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Personal Health Records Need MARC/AACR Approach, I Think

I attended an IT Innovation in Healthcare conference in town today. Practically the entire morning was spent talking about the personal health record (PHR) and related electronic medical record (EMR). While the EMR is information about your health compiled by your health care providers, the PHR is maintained by you.  The ideal PHR would  gather data from many sources and making this information accessible online to anyone who has the necessary electronic credentials to view it.

The discussion centered around the fact that it is very difficult to move information between systems. The challenge is the lack of standards. The various PHR and EMR systems don't talk to one another. This got me thinking. The health care industry needs to take some lessons from the library community and establish some data standards.  

Libraries got over the hump from a paper-based to an electronic catalog in part since we had two tools to work from; AACR and MARC. AACR covers the description of, and the provision of access points for, all library materials. MARC provides the protocol by which computers exchange, use, and interpret bibliographic information and is responsible for the foundation of the online catalogs we have today. Add on top of this Z39.50 like functionality and we have a basis for a PHR system which could do what it is envisioned to do; harvest and syndicate content between other records systems. 

There is, however, a bigger challenge. As I bounced this concept off of a CIO of a major academic medical center, they said those standards are in place. They have SNOMED

The librarians out there will immediately see the problem with the response.  For the CIOs out there, well, please have your librarian explain it to you. 
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Monday, November 10, 2008

100 Days Until Analog TV Turns to Snow

100 days from today the television broadcast technology that has served us for nearly three generations will be shut down. On February 17, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the US will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital.  

The first television image was broadcast back in 1924, John Logie Baird transmitted a picture of the Maltese Cross. The TV system he developed was a mechanical system with a resolution of only 30 lines. It was the disruptive technology of the day. His 1928 trans-atlantic transmission of the image of a human face (right) was a broadcasting milestone.  

In 1936, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) adopted a technology using the electronic television technology of EMI and began the first regular high resolution service of 405 lines per. It was the technology that won over Baird's.

Cable television was started by appliance store owners John and Margaret Walson in the spring of 1948 in the Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Local residents had problems receiving the three nearby Philadelphia network stations with local antennas because of the region's surrounding mountains. Walson erected an antenna on a local mountain to get signals from Philadelphia and connected the antennae to his appliance store via a cable and modified signal boosters. Eventually the signal was sent to his customer's homes. Sphere: Related Content