Monday, December 26, 2011

Planning next year

I spent some time yesterday (after a low key but fun Christmas with both kids at home) thinking through not just my work projects for 2012, but also what tool or tools to manage them with.

For a long time I've used Notecase Pro, a very full-featured and actively developed two-pane outliner. I hadn't really been paying a lot of attention to all the updates, though. Over the past year or so, it has turned into a remarkably capable project manager.

So I played with the idea of using it as a "dashboard." What I like about it, as opposed to Outlook, is that Notecase Pro is multi-platform (accessible from Linux), and allows for the hierarchical nesting of tasks or information. That arrangement helps me think. On the other hand, Notecase is NOT available on my Palm Pre or iPad, which requires some thoughtfulness about notes (Google Docs, mostly), and Hiveminder (a great to do manager with apps for the Palm Pre and for the iPad).

The layout of my first Notecase Pro draft looks like this:

* To Dos (tasks and dates on the left pane, details and notes on the right - I like that just tapping the space bar marks one as "done"). This is the daily work space.
* Big Goals for the Year (the four or five big things I will try to get done in 2012)
* Key meetings and organizations (I mapped weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings by organization: my administrative team, the board, the Partnership of Douglas County Governments, the front range public library directors, state and national library association conferences and committees, and OCLC)
* Quick contacts (this is a little duplicative -- info that exists in a couple of other places, but is handy for the management of my tasks and projects)
* Miscellaneous notes that I keep needing to look up, and finally think it would just be easier to have them right there.
* Talks (dates, places, topics, arrangements for my speaking engagements: goal 1 a month)
* Journal (this consists not only of transferred tasks that have been completed, but any other musings I might have. I think that this kind of mindfulness of my job, and not only my job, makes me more thoughtful and consistent.)

I haven't tested it yet, but it seems promising: a compact screen that keeps the important things at the top of my mind.

So what ARE the big projects for 2012?

The big institutional goal is still to develop and disseminate our model for the management of e-content. My staff has three big pieces of this well underway: (1) finding publishers willing to sell us at a discount files that we manage with industry standard DRM; (2) developing a system for the acquisition of e-content; and (3) identifying a couple of partners (Marmot and Anythink) to further test and promote our model in the state of Colorado.

My piece of it is to look more deeply into the frontier of our system: library as publisher. As I've written elsewhere, there's an explosion of self-published content that libraries just don't know very much about. As I've been thinking about my goals in this area, it comes down to:

1) helping would-be authors to write better. This might include links to writer's groups, programs and workshops we either link to or deliver locally, and lists of resources for everything from graphic designers and copyeditors to writer's guides and tools.

2) defining some collection management strategies. Should we set some collection goals for the percentage of resources dedicated to commercial versus independent publications? What strategies should we use to identify or accept non-commercial content? To what extent can or should we involve the community in selection or review or weeding? DOES e-content have to be weeded, or can it/should it be just moved over to an inactive archive?

3) working out some financial models. Suppose we require all self-published authors to post their works someplace like Smashwords or Book Brewer. Then we just pay those go-betweens, instead of thousands of individuals. That way, we might also get some percentage of the sales initiated by our patrons, which would then go to the purchase of additional materials. No doubt there are other models. (The creation of a used ebook store?) But this is not a trivial issue. At present, DCL makes about $500,000 a year on fines, and about $200,000 a year from the sale of used books. But e-books don't have fines, and right now, we don't have a way to sell them, either. Finding a replacement revenue stream seems prudent.

A related goal is the propagation of our model. To that end, I intend to do some writing and speaking around the country on this. My goal is to encourage others to replicate the model, thereby assuring that more and more publishers are willing to sell to us because there will be more customers to the product.

Beyond e-content, I have a couple of HR issues that are fun at this point in my career (succession planning and mentoring).

Finally, I'm feeling the need to write another book -- maybe to dive really deep into these waters of self-publishing. Topic? Probably the reclamation of the public sector. But the audience for this is not just librarians. Librarians already know this. The target audience is the larger society, which is still tearing down our shared infrastructure.

I've been growing a little frustrated with my weekly newspaper column. It may be time to set my sites a little higher.

At any rate, I love the end of the year for precisely this reason: I take the time to reflect about what did or didn't work well during the past year, and think about the next one.

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