Being from a small farming community I have a particular soft spot for public libraries in small towns or rural areas – and for their boards. I was honoured to work with a small public library which, like so many small public libraries, is doing amazing amazing things. And I was doubly honoured to also work with their board members. I make some very basic assumptions about members of non-profit boards (which includes public library boards). My base assumptions are that the individuals on a non-profit board:
- want to make a difference
- are prepared to make a difference, meaning they are competent and willing to invest their time & talents
- believe that the organization (in this case the Library) can & does make a difference to the community
- each have different perspectives and different perceptions
- and, finally, that they want their board experience to be fulfilling
Very briefly, they have three key responsibilities:
CEO: select and have a meaningful, respectful relationship with the CEO; the CEO is their one and only employee
Strategy: set the direction for the organization and oversee its implementation by delegating this to the CEO
Public Standing & Ethical Integrity: ensure the organization’s value and reputation for the community by providing financial oversight and building effective relationships with key stakeholders and decision-makers.
I understand very well how difficult it is for board members in small towns to keep their attention at the organization level and not the operation level. They have often known staff members for years and no doubt have been – and continue to be – loyal library clients. Yet as soon as an individual becomes a board member they need to recognize that they now have authority. As the adage says: “What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear a word you are saying.” It is most unfortunate when board members become embroiled in a ‘he said;she said’ with staff and the CEO. Just like municipal Councillors, board members must not direct staff or discuss issues with staff; they need to practice telling staff – no matter how long they have been neighbours or friends – to take the issue to the CEO, and express their trust in both the CEO and the individual staff member that “they will handle it effectively.”
I also understand that board members find it difficult to keep up with the many trends and developments impacting libraries. However, they are responsible for the library’s strategic directions. Strategic planning isn’t just an activity to “get done” every 4 or 5 years. It is an ongoing, dynamic process. Boards need to have a ‘strategic issue discussion’ or ‘generative discussion’ in each meeting – even if that is only for 15 – 20 minutes. The board can then either look at one of the library’s strategies or goals, or ask the CEO to prepare one trend or issue for discussion.
Here are the slides that guided our board discussion; the websites we discussed as part of the generative discussion item were, of course!, the brainchild of brain Gary Price. Thanks Gary – you keep me current and for that I am forever grateful!
The Future of Libraries
The Future of Libraries
Nov 12-13, Vancouver
has been a topic of conversation for many years, but some of think there is a greater sense of urgency surrounding the topic these days. With the extremely fast evolution of technology, the scarcity of resources of all types including money, and the shifts in culture and society, our world is changing very quickly as are the expectations of our stakeholders and customers. Are libraries adapting, innovating, and changing at a fast pace too? Some are, most are not. We have started a Facebook page
and LinkedIn group
to talk about The Future of Libraries
. We hope you will join us in the conversation.
In addition, Dysart & Jones is working with Ken Haycock & Associates to offer a new two day event at the Vancouver Club in Vancouver, Nov 12th & 13th, called The Future of Libraries: Do we Have 5 years to Live? A great line-up of speakers is being featured, so check it out here. We hope that lots of you will be able to join us for the conversation in Vancouver, but if not, certainly join the conversation on LinkedIn and Facebook. See you there!
Many libraries want to curate content, particularly content that is unique for their community or campus. But when the library begins to implement a curation strategy they find that the library staff who will be involved in the implementation have little understanding of content curation or how it fits. The marketing sector is way ahead of libraries in curation content. Here’s a good overview of content curation, with links to case studies. It’s worth watching and discussing at your next staff meeting:
The University of Toronto iSchool Institute Creative Making in Libraries event in Toronto in July was a terrific learning experience for me. The biggest Ah HA! for me was the link to KM (knowledge management). Everyone has their own definition of KM, but mine is simple — anything that helps people share knowledge and learn — a process, a technology, a space, a technique, a program. Public libraries are now building community expert databases, as organizations with KM programs have been doing for years. Public libraries want to find the experts in their communities to invite them to share their expertise as “creative makers” for a week or month or a special event. The library becomes a platform for another avenue to learning, one that is being embraced by many communities. I am wondering when universities will do this too — build expert databases of their academic communities and showcase those experts in events, programs, or “creative makers” in residence programs. Or perhaps they are, and if so, please let me know!
Every year at Internet Librarian, Information Today sponsors an opening networking and welcome evening which features games and gadgets. This year it will also feature posters of library makerspaces or hackerspaces or creative making programs. We hope that libraries will share their experiences and that we will all learn from each other about making these programs successful in our communities. So if you are planning to attend the Internet Librarian conference and have a makerspace program, please bring a poster, a picture, and your experiences. Look forward to seeing you!
If you were unable to attend the U of T iSchool Institute symposium on Creative Mkaing, or follow the twitter feed, you may want to check out many of the presentations at the conference website.
I find this year’s look by Educause at IT issues particularly interesting. They “reflect the increasing interconnections among external forces, institutional strategic priorities, and information technology in higher education.” ”The boundaries between academia and the rest of the world have never been more porous. These external forces are shaping the strategic priorities of higher education institutions.” Here is the list:
1. Leveraging the wireless and device explosion on campus
2. Improving student outcomes through an approach that leverages technology
3. Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy to help the institution select the right sourcing and solution strategies*
4. Developing a staffing and organizational model to accommodate the changing IT environment and facilitate openness and agility
5. Facilitating a better understanding of information security and finding appropriate balance between infrastructure openness and security
6. Funding information technology strategically*
7. Determining the role of online learning and developing a sustainable strategy for that role
8. Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring your-own device*
9. Transforming the institution’s business with information technology*
10. Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes*
*these were also in the 2012 list of IT issues
New Strategic Priorities:
A real challenge for academic libraries (and most other types of libraries and organizations as well). I like the fact that this article helps to build the sense of urgency — things have to change, and change fast. I’ve been looking for good examples in the academic field of libraries who are achieving the kinds of things listed in the priorities above. Not easy. I wrote about one recently at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia. And the University of Nevada – Reno Science & Engineering Library has been doing some interesting things with white board paint on their walls, creative rearrangement of student and staff spaces, and will be discussing this more at Internet Librarian (C101 on Monday Oct 28th in Monterey CA). There seem to be many more examples of public libraries who are doing innovative and creative things, but I’m looking for more academic examples. Please let me know if you have some!
In the meantime, these are all issues that library leaders will be discussing at the Digital Strategy Summit in Monterey CA in a few weeks, and at The Future of Libraries event in Vancouver next month. Stay tuned for more info! Hope you can join us.
Thanks Halinet 2013 for asking me to keynote your incredible day discussing “It’s Okay – It Won’t Explode”! It was an honour. And it is a great topic for all those in public libraries. The Halinet organizers pulled together an incredible program for 170+ people from schools and public libraries.
The “it” that won’t explode is the technology, devices, and applications prevalent in our communities but not so prevalent in libraries or among library staff. Not only will “it” not explode, but the “it” is now your new favourite thing. Know about “it”. Experiment with “it”. Many public libraries have missions or brands about being places of discovery, for exploring, for creativity. And, yet, how many library staff see themselves as explorers? how many of the job descriptions or role descriptions outline that the incumbent’s role is to be an explorer or at the very least a “guide” for those who are exploring?
Those in public libraries must see their roles as that of guides, concierges and scouts. How would that impact what we see as the “core capabilities” for library staff? One of the most important capabilities is to be curious – to want to know about “it”, about the public you are working with, and the best way to help them solve their problems or accomplish their assignments. The “web” and e-resources are essential tools for public libraries. To keep current, follow @Infodocket and every presentation you can from Gary Price</strong>. Find out what Gary knows about how the web is working and how we can make it work better for us – and for our patrons.
Europe’s youngest city is now home to Europe’s largest public library. With nearly 40% of its population under 25, the Library is designed to “deliver a learning & cultural experience in the 21st Century.” Take a look at this video on Youtube.com: