Showing posts from August, 2015

the Wisdom Within These Walls

Recently, I read the galley proof of my friend Anne McGhee's book The Wisdom Within These Walls. You can pick it up from Amazon here.

I happen to have been around when Annie first started gathering the stories that form the core of the book - interviews with real people in the area. She found some incredible people. One woman was a police dispatcher in Dallas, and on duty the day Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. One man actually helped get us to the moon. Another tells the heartbreaking story of the Pacific theater in WWII.

Back then, Annie turned the interviews into brief, very powerful monologues. Then, she put together a readers theater group to perform them. These "plays" remain some of the most moving moments of my life.

But she has continued to think about these stories, and her book is about just what wisdom means. Her definition is a gem: "Wisdom is our capacity to take in the experience of life, infuse it with intention, and return it to the world for the …

Diversity in libraries

A decade ago now, one of my libraries opened a teen area. The manager of the branch (Greg Mickells, now the director of the Madison WI Public Library), had an idea. Why not hire teens as staff - not just as shelvers, but to staff the service desk, answer questions, assist in collection purchasing, and generally have parity with the adults? I admit I was a little dubious. But I went along.

It was a staggering success - and not just because we hired some very bright young people who took their positions seriously and did a fine job.

More to the point: some 10 years later, they all came back. As librarians.

I've been thinking lately about our failure as a profession to reflect the growing diversity of our society. The problem, I think, is that we pounce on candidates who have already run the MLIS (Master's of Library and Information Science) gauntlet. It's too late. If we really want to pull more diverse candidates into the pool, we have to get them while they're still in…

Values in the library

Recently, Tim Miller, the director of the Pines and Plains Library in Elbert County Colorado, reached out to Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development for the Colorado State Library. He was looking for a workshop based on the idea of organizational values, and knew that Sharon had just finished her doctoral dissertation on just that topic. Sharon and I have done a number of workshops and classes together so she invited me to team up to help develop and deliver this new one. We're still working on the final title, but it's something like "Our Values, Our Culture: Purposeful Libraries for Community Impact."

Here's a broad overview of the premises of the day:
Individuals have deeply held values that they bring to the work place.Often, people can discover that they hold a key subset of those values in common.When you think, talk, and reflect on that, you not only become more mindful of how you show up at work, you become more intentional about the culture of your…

Interview techniques that work

I have been working over the past year and a half with several folks, mostly new library directors, as a coach. One of my clients just hired a key person for her team, and was curious enough about a hiring technique I have used in the past to give it a try herself.

Mostly, this is a version of the "assessment center" technique known as the "leaderless discussion." (You can find out more about the assessment center here.)

The core idea is very simple. First, know what you're looking for - at least in the sense of demonstrable skills.

Second, create a scenario or exercise in which that skill must be demonstrated. In the case of many leadership positions, a leaderless panel discussion, large enough to promote real interaction (at least five people) and around some relevant job topics, is a rich source for observational data.

Third, have multiple observers, who have been coached about how to observe people's communication behaviors (I give them a chart with hea…

A new planning priority: rest

I had breakfast this morning with my dear friend and colleague Monique Sendze, now director of IT and innovation for the Tulsa City County Library. It sounds like a terrific job, a terrific library, and I know she'll be successful there.

She and I wound up having a conversation I've had three times over the past two days, so it might be worth digging into it a little deeper.

The larger frame is that institutions have rhythms: they focus outward, they focus inward. Institutions breathe, too. Sometimes library leaders get curious about their environment, explore it, build relationships, investigate themes and needs. Then they turn in to do something about it - sometimes to strengthen a core that suddenly needs some attention, sometimes to implement a project or vision identified in the outward-looking phase.

Then, after that project is done, the possibilities branch.
Institutions stagnate. They remain inwardly focused, incurious about their environment, disengaged with larger the…

Self-publishing and collection development

Recently I was asked to read and write a blurb for a new title. It's called Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries, edited by Robert P. Holley. Purdue University Press: West Lafayette IN 2015.
I wrote, "This outstanding compendium makes several important points. First, self-publishing is out of its infancy -- now accounting for over half the intellectual output of our culture. Second, this explosion of literature has finally gotten our collective attention. Self-publishing has forced us to look afresh and more critically at the value and costs of editorial processes, book design, pricing, distribution, bibliographic control, marketing, reviewing, and library relations with authors. Third, most of the pieces here are from colleagues who aren't writing from the outside anymore. Astute vendors, public librarians, academic librarians, and even librarians who are also self-published authors now are in the thick of things, eyes o…


Last week I had the distinct honor of participating in the first RIPL: Research Institute For Public Libraries, held at the stunning Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs. The institute was a joint project of the Colorado State Library and the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC). Its Vision was to "create a culture shift in public libraries to be purposeful in gathering, analyzing and using data for decision making, strategic planning, and to prove library impact." It was also described, by several program presenters, as "a data boot camp." A deep thoughtfulness of instructional design was on display: the institute was incredibly interactive.

There were many wonderful speakers about many aspects of the use of data. Some of my favorite speakers were from Colorado (although there were some other standouts, among them Pew's Lee Rainie - see my American Libraries blog about one aspect of that talk here - Danielle Milam from Las Vegas, and Deirdre Costello fro…