Monday, December 15, 2008

Journal of Access Services Jumps the Shark, Pt. 2

As I said in my post on the matter ( I'm fond of the Annoyed Librarian as well. But I find the decision to devote a quarterly issue of a supposedly peer-reviewed journal to a collection of edited blog posts to be somewhat bizarre. For those of us who don't have access to your introductory essay, I wonder if you might explain why you think this was a sensible move?
Wayne's response:
...that's a very good question. It is bizarre, but I don't see that one satirical issue of one journal amounts to that much."

"The journal issue was the idea of the journal editor, though. I don't know the motive. I'd have to look back through emails to make sure, but as I understand it the journal already had a regular humor column. Perhaps the AL special issue was supposed to be an extension of that."
The issue editor thought is was bizarre but didn't think one satirical issue of one journal amounts to much. What?! Would any peer-reviewed journal in any other profession ever make the decision to publish a satirical issue? Would we ever see The New England Journal of Medicine decide to post a series of satirical essays from Dr. Phil? We want our profession to be taken seriously but then are willing to compromise standards. In this case, in order to get some publicity? 

Wayne's decision to edit the issue and not question the journal editor was likely out of a sense of service to the profession. However, the decision still undermines the credibility of the Journal of Access Services and further erodes the perception of Haworth Press in general. This should be of a major concern since a significant number of LIS titles are Haworth titles. As a member of a promotion and tenure committee, I do not know if I could ever again think of JAS as 'quality' publication, although some would argue that I shouldn't have to begin with.  
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is a Green Ocean Strategy Needed for Libraries?

Our medical center leadership has embraced the Blue Ocean Strategy as introduced by  W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne. As a result, our library has also begun to use the metaphor presented in the book in our planning processes. 

Red oceans represent all the products and services in existence today - the known market space. In red oceans, boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are well understood. Organizations try to outperform their competition in order to grab a greater share of existing demand. As the space gets more and more crowded, products turn into commodities, and increasing competition turns the water bloody. Picture sharks in the water.

Blue oceans represent all the products and services not in existence today - the unknown market space. In blue oceans, demand is created rather than fought over. There are two ways to create blue oceans. In a few cases, organizations can give rise to completely new products and services. But in most cases, a blue ocean is created from within a red ocean when a company alters the boundaries of an existing product or service. Blue ocean strategy is all about doing business where there is no competitor. 

For generations, libraries existed in blue ocean space. I would argue that many of the services that libraries provide now exist in the red ocean.

Let's say that a library creates a product or service in blue ocean space. For example, traditional reference services. For generations, reference librarians were alone in this information space. Along came the Internet. The tides shifted this service from the blue ocean into the red ocean. Traditional reference services now have to compete with Google in this space. The Blue Ocean Strategy suggests that organizations need move away from red oceans and should identify new service and product spaces. This approach is also consistent with Clayton Christensen's disruptive technology theory.

However, I believe that the greatest challenge facing libraries may not be in identifying new blue ocean strategies. Yes, that is a difficult task in itself. The much more difficult task may be the ability to identify when a product and service that was in blue ocean space is starting to drift into the red ocean. The problem is that while the red ocean is easy to enter, it is hard to survive. What an organization needs to either avoid, or knowingly enter, the red ocean is what I call the Green Ocean Strategy.

(NOTE 1: OK. Yes, I know. Red and blue make purple. I went with green to conjure up an image of murky, algae infested waters. This color wheel inconsistency aside, I have never seen naturally occurring purple waterways, but have seen green. NOTE 2: This concept is not even half-baked, so I am interested in feedback. NOTE 3: This is a different concept than the similarly named environmental approach also derived from the book) 

Perhaps the hardest thing an organization can do is to spot when the tidal shift between the blue and red oceans is underway. The ability to navigate through these waters requires the organization to make hard decisions. Does it complete in the red ocean, pull out of the waterway, or does it modify the product or service so that it is back in the blue ocean?

Making such decisions is complicated by the fact that significant resources and investments have been made to get into the blue ocean space.The decision to reallocate resources or eliminating products and services after significant investments have been made becomes extremely difficult to do. However, a Green Ocean Strategy would appear to be required to help guide the transition and prepared the organization to make those very hard decisions about whether when a service/product is ready to jump the shark.  

A complicating factor is that the Green Ocean has relatively calm waters. There are no rapids to alert the organization that a tidal shift has begun. The service or product simply drifts slowly into the red ocean until the organization wakes up one day, surprised, and surrounded by sharks. The organization may become paralyzed and unable to make a quick enough decision to get them back into the blue ocean.   

Lastly, sometimes an organization wears colored glasses which tricks itself into believing that they are still in the blue ocean when they are really in the red. They become so emotionally attached to the service or product they they do not see, or simply ignore the sharks. The auto industry is learning this nautical lesson the hard way. When you look at their situation, what they lacked was an effective Green Ocean Strategy.

Are libraries simply allowing too many services to drift into the red ocean and land up spending too many resources fighting off the sharks?  Instead, should we be spending more time coming up with a Green Ocean Strategy that includes concepts such as planned obsolescence or service life-cycles that acknowledges the perils of living in the red ocean? 
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Faculty Acknowledge Blogs Contribute to Scholarly Communication

One of my more recent hot topics is the need for librarians to expand how we define our own scholarly communications to keep up with changes in the practice of librarianship.  A new report by the Ithaka Group being distributed by ARL explores how (non-librarian) faculty / scholars are making use of digital scholarly resources in the course of research. In the report entitled Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication, authors Nancy Maron and Kirby Smith detail the various digital resources that expands the definition of what is a scholarly resource. Such resources include electronic-only data, e-journals, and blogs. 

The report states that blogs are “being put to interesting use by scholars” and contribute to scholarship by providing a forum for discussion. Faculty acknowledge that blog postings allow scholars to share research findings and open up a dialog that can help to further shape and refine their ideas. Blogs can add a layer of commentary to published literature and can give frequent updates of researchers’ opinions rather than just facts and can also attract well established, well known writers in specific disciplines.

While any scholar can use digital communications tools to post their ideas and share them with others, old traditions of establishing scholarly legitimacy through credentialing, peer review, and citation metrics still remain paramount. Although there have been many innovations such as open peer-review, many scholars still choose not to take advantage of these new innovations and continue to publish traditional articles.

Issues of informality and not having a traditional peer-review process are still keeping blogs and scholarly social networks from being accepted as creditable scholarly communication. Still, blogs still can offer faculty / scholars the lowest cost model for quickly communicating their ideas and to receive quick feedback. 
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