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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More thoughts on consulting

One of the challenges of my new consulting career is finding the succinct summary of just what it is that I do.

Here's my latest attempt: I'm a full time public library thought leader. I've decided that the profession I love (librarianship!) is at a tipping point. With some attention on just the right things, I think we can earn long term mind share and support. The point isn't just to benefit libraries, it's to benefit the communities we serve. Libraries just happen to be an extraordinarily effective way to do that.

So just what, exactly, are the "right things" to focus on?

Right now:

  • planning. After PLA (where I offered some free consulting to the library world, and met some fascinating people), I spent some time thinking about processes to move quickly and precisely to true "strategic" planning -- not just a list of stuff to do, but a narrow focus on the things that matter most.
  • trend tracking. Really, this is just a subset of planning. But so many librarians are caught up in the moment. They just don't have the time to lift up their heads, look around, and glean patterns. I love to have this conversation with them.
  • building design. This is another subset of planning. But it's also one of those moments when libraries can really connect with their communities, and help them decide where they want to go. I'm not an architect. But I do know how to talk to staff, boards, and community groups to lay out what libraries are up to lately, and to help communities figure out what's right for them. (I can also help them negotiate common ground when there are some differences among those groups.) I work with one of my "associates," the gifted Roger Thorp, who is an architect.
  • epublishing. We are already over the crest of a publishing revolution, a transformative and disruptive moment in the development of human creativity. Librarians have a choice: we can be players, or we can be victims.
  • advocacy. One approach is the "branch management audit" (for which I've teamed up with David Starck, one of my former board members and a graphic designer, to perform). I'm also interested in the more general staging of a long term effort to shift the public perception of a library. For too long, libraries have allowed others to define us. It's time that we identify the true civic leaders in our community, and arm them with the talking points and language to make the case for us.
  • organizational development. Here, one of my associates is Sharon Morris. We talk about (among other things), "talent management," succession planning, and leadership development. 
  • other. There are organizations and individuals who have big ideas, and just need a little assistance teasing them out into the world. I already have two clients who blow me away with their energy, insight, and ambition. It's a privilege to be part of their projects.
These might all look like very different things. But I don't see it that way. They are the same thing: a focus on the factors that do and will define our future, both as a profession, and as a society.

At any rate, these are my thoughts after a long walk through a beautiful Colorado day.

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