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Continuous Innovation & the Future

Steve Denning

Steve Denning

Steve Denning gave a great opening keynote today at Computers in Libraries 2015 in DC on Continuous Innovation & Transformation.  As he says, with the Internet came a shift from seller to buyer and with that shift came new ways of thinking and doing — a new dynamic.  A new dynamic requiring a change in mindset enabled by computers — one where management is all about enablement not control, about continuous improvement.  It is also a new dynamic for all in the organization, where everyone in the organization has a clear sight of the customer.  Where it’s all about delighting the customer — an outcome not an output.  Iterative customer-focused improvements — continuous innovation and transformation.

It’s not easy to make this shift though so there has to be lots of horizontal conversation and storytelling to get to the new mindset.  It is very easy to revert back to traditional styles of management which are hierarchical bureaucracies.  Bureaucracies are like morphing  viruses that keep finding ways to come back!

So what is the future of libraries? It isn’t about computerizing existing services or applying 21st century technology to save money, and it certainly is not about building apps!  It is about meeting customer needs, delighting them and enhancing value.  Also about asking the right questions:  How can we delight our users & customers?  How can we manage our libraries and organizations for continuous innovation?  What will makes things better, faster, cheaper, more convenient for our users and customers?  What needs to they have that they haven’t even thought of; what would thrill them?  To do this you need “new eyes” or perspectives, so keep talking to people in other fields, observing other industries, trying new things.  Thanks Steve for making us think!

And here’s Don Hawkins’ wonderful coverage of Steve Denning’s talk too!

Games & Gadgets!

If you are attending Computers in Libraries in Washington DC next week, you should check out Games, Gadgets, and Makerspaces on Sunday, April 26th from 5:30-7:30PM.  Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation for the Evolve Project, is bringing the attendees of CIL a chance to experience all the latest and greatest in innovative technology.    Come for refreshments, laughs, and a quick tutorial on how to build robots, circuits, 3D print, code, and so much more! Within minutes, you will be creating and making.

Along with Brian are several special guests: Ginger Butcher from NASA, Joshua Zimmerman from Brown Dog Gadgets, and Tod Colegrove and team from University of Nevada – Reno.

Ginger will be building NASA activities with the littleBits components. In 2014, she worked with littleBits Electronics to co-develop NASA activities to accompany their commercial Space Kit product. These activities are excellent springboards for engaging kids in science both in formal and informal education settings.

Joshua invites you to come create your own custom light up name tag courtesy of  Etch your name into an acrylic blank and light it up with colorful LEDs.  This simple project is just one of many hands-on electronics projects designed for young learners.  Joshua will be sharing some of his other fun activities that are extremely affordable and engaging.

Tod will be showing off augmented reality through the Oculus Rift , displaying open source computer boards called, and much more! If you want to chance to experiment with some extremely high tech gadgets, he is certainty the person to talk to.

About Ginger Butcher

Ginger Butcher is an award-winning Science Writer and Education Specialist with over 15 years experience developing children’s activities for NASA. Publications of note include The Adventures of Echo the Bat (1999) that teaches kids about interpreting satellite imagery and NASA’s Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (2010) that brings the various science disciplines involved in NASA’s missions to a level approachable to the public. Ginger’s passion is to demystify the complexity of NASA Science through engaging hands-on activities such as how to engineer a satellite or how NASA instruments can measure gases in Earth’s atmosphere. She is currently exploring ways to engage libraries to co-develop activities that would work well within existing library programs like badging and Summer Reading Programs.

About Joshua Zimmerman of Brown Dog Gadgets:

Created by a former science teacher, Brown Dog Gadgets is dedicated to creating high interest and engaging electronics projects for kids and adults. With a focus on early education and alternative energy, Brown Dog Gadgets has a project for everyone. We understand that budgets are tight which is why we have a wide range of inexpensive “make and take” projects for elementary and middle school as well as reusable robotics and solar projects for older students. Ask us about getting an educators discount or about how to use our wide range of lesson plans and activity pages.

OLA Posters: David Lankes' Inspiration

David Lankes gave the Bertha Bassam Lecture last week at University of Toronto’s iSchool. He was, as usual and as expected, fantastic. Outside the event a small group of iSchool students showed their poster inspired by his noteworthy Atlas of New Librarianship. They developed a library-based program for pre-release female inmates to ease their integration back into society through professional and personal development. In essence they wanted to help these women “scape” the atlas of their new lives. Their goal was to create a conversation about the role of librarians in improving society and serving socially-excluded individuals.

Atlas of Your New Life Prison Pre-release reintegration

OLA Posters: Evaluating & Measuring

Performance measures – outcomes – impacts – you name it, there is an urgent need for valid ways of identifying if and how library initiatives make a difference in a community, campus or company. 3 posters at the OLA Super Conference addressed evaluation & performance measures:

1. The Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto (HSICT) has created an online toolkit, “Measuring the Value of Health Library Services”: 

PS11 Health Library Toolkit

2. askON compared its virtual reference services evaluative measures with those of other online virtual services – OCUL’s AskALibrarian and BC’s AskAway, presenting both a poster (below) and a presentation (even further below). 

Evaluation & Performance Metrics Comparing Virtual Reference Collaboratives Performance Metrics AskON


Plus, a brief audio overview:

Here’s the link to the presentation: askON








3. University of Guelph-Humber developed a blended framework to evaluate the effectiveness of their information literacy program. 

Ps21 information literacy outcomes

Three Part Harmony: University of Guelph-Humber Maps Scalable Information Literacy Outcomes



Strategy Smackdown: Organization vs. Technology

I spoke at the recent Future Tech Strategies for Libraries organized by Jane Dysart & Stephen Abram on the fact that Technology is one of the Enablers of Digital Strategy, and is to be aligned with the organization strategy. Well, that’s what I was supposed to speak on. I was supposed to remind people that the organization’s strategy drives their technology strategy.

I used to believe that. The organization – in our case, the library – analyzes trends impacting its community or campus or parent organization, consults its markets or communities to understand their challenges & dreams, and then maps a strategy to move the library forward towards a meaningful, desirable future. And where was technology in that discussion? It was an enabler: you determine what you want to do and use technology to do it.

But now I’m not so convinced. Technology not only transforms work and operational processes, it opens up incredible new worlds of service concepts and deliver channels for us. So maybe we establish our technology strategy first? and then map our organizational strategy to align with it? This is the ying and yang of powerful drivers for libraries. There is a positive tension between the technology strategy and the organizational strategy – and that’s healthy for the library. Grasp your hands together and first try to pull them apart; breath into the pulling. Then, keep grasping your hands and push your hands together as hard as you can; keep breathing into it, and feel the breathing into your shoulders. Then let go. This is a normal quick warm-up for your arms and shoulders prior to working out; the push and pull releases tension and readies your muscles and tendons, oh – and increases flexibility. It’s just one little part of a warm-up, but look at the results – in fact, feel the result. You can feel the difference in your upper body.

So this positive tension is pretty good for the library too: it increases the flexibility and readies the library for the work ahead. Not a bad habit to get into, is it? Here’s the slides, which include the most recent Did you know? video.

OLA Poster: University Students’ Perceptions of Services

In May 2013 University of Waterloo Library introduced a Service Desk Models Pilot to assess student discovery of services, awareness of self-services in both physical and virtual spaces, and the effect of desk models on staff and students perception of service. See below for details of the usability testing conducted on students and staff, the protocols, methodology and assessment. Click on the image to enlarge.

PS1 Testing Quality Service Standards


Co-dependency of Re-organizing & Re-focusing Libraries


Credit: keetra dean dixon @

by Valerie Ridgway.

Thank you, Val, for creating this blog post.  For those of you who may not know Val, she was formerly Deputy CEO at Pickering Public Library and is an expert in terms of HR practices, policies and management. During the past 15 years she has developed the initial collective agreements for large public libraries, created their staffing competencies and can write role descriptions in her sleep. I’ve had the absolute honour of working with Val on three organizational structuring projects for progressive public libraries who know they must align their organization and roles with their strategies if they ever hope to execute those strategies. In other words, Val knows her stuff, and is delightfully candid, as demonstrated below:

Ongoing reorganization of library staffing structures and relationships is a fact of contemporary life. Or it should be. Libraries embark on new strategies and exciting initiatives, but the restructuring so critical for implementing these is often deferred, diluted, dreaded, distorted, deserted, and with good reason. Employees en masse, in almost all organizations – not just libraries – are inherently conservative:  people will agree that change is needed, but when moving from the general to the specific changes for them as individuals, raise objections and barriers. It’s sometimes very difficult for employees to see the “big picture” driving the changes and, most importantly the WIIFM factor, “what’s in it for me”. Let’s face it, even those employees who exclaim “I love change!” only embrace those changes for which the WIIFM factor is clear. Yet without staff on board, the reorganization will stutter and need constant life-giving care, and the refocusing will be blurry for both the library and its users.

Having faced this dilemma in many workplaces we’ve employed the following tools to manage the solidity of staff resistance and, slowly but surely, develop staff engagement among the majority of employees:

  • Use conventional approaches (individual and/or group discussions – hopefully as conversations; surveys; town halls; collaborative virtual spaces, etc.) to discuss what’s driving the changes, gather staff insights and build understanding and acknowledgement of upcoming changes
    • Hopefully a strategic plan, based on a solid environmental scan, is in place and is the principle catalyst for organizational changes
    • If there isn’t a current strategic plan, use staff input to develop a multi-year service plan
    • Use this to identify the known changes, but also to highlight the “unknown unknowns”, likely to be our future, and to highlight the service concept underpinning constant renewal, i.e. this is not one re-organization every 7 years, but the first in an ongoing process; as the environment changes, our services change, and so do our work processes, roles, competencies and structure for accomplishing this work.
  • Identify those individuals who can break out of the masses; new staff, older staff who have shown an interest in new technology or services; staff with non-library backgrounds and perspectives. They can become key supports and help educate and involve their colleagues.
    • If you are fortunate, there may be one individual who can be entrusted with change management to lead or co-lead through the initial phases.
  • Consider having a specialized and cross-functional unit that will take on all pilot projects and innovations. The unit staffing should not be permanent and static. Project staff can be brought in as their skills match the tasks at hand.  This is also a way to use individual staff who are change-positive.
  • Make use of pilot projects: this is useful in getting staff used to a different mode of doing things – as well as teasing out any problems with the service change.
  • Move at a realistic pace: it is sometimes better to use a multi-year approach to take advantage of staff vacancies,  building or IT changes, etc.,  and to introduce changes piecemeal than to do it in a shorter period of time, with the entailed disruption and stress.
  • Re-assess all job descriptions: the specifics of today will become the dinosaur tasks of tomorrow!  Content should be light-touch, general and articulate roles, not tasks – there may not always be a desk, or a department, or permanent methods of doing anything.  All professional job content should include research, outreach, performance measurement and proper professional development requirements.  Job descriptions are within management’s autonomy, so they can be changed with consultation.  For new hirings they can be developed unilaterally by management.
  • Ensure that competencies are spelt out in job descriptions – they will take you further than an inventory of tasks. A flexible, self-assessing professional will be open to new directions and tasks.
  • Do look for professionals outside the library world – those educated and experienced in social work,  IT, recreation, retail, business, marketing and publicity all provide the skill sets libraries need now.



Seizing Opportunities

strategyWow!  This article from Strategy + Business, How to Seize the Opportunities When Megatrends Collide, has articulated what I like to do! “… tap into people’s natural curiosity about external factors, to broaden and deepen the resulting conversation; and to translate the general understanding of megatrends into a more practical framework that companies could use to seek opportunities and reduce risks.”  For years Rebecca and I have talked  and taught about the big picture and thinking strategically.  Here’s an earlier post on the topic too!

More from the S+B article:

“The megatrends framework can help any private- or public-sector leader think more clearly about complex external trends, and help develop an ordered, prudent, and proactive strategy for facing them. Its basic building blocks are five historical patterns active in the world today that have left their mark on all aspects of the world’s economic and social fabric.

1. Demographic and social change: the combination of greater life expectancy, declining birthrates in many parts of the world, and unprecedented rates of human migration, accompanied by a gradual increase in the status of women and greater ethnic and social diversity within most countries.

2. Shifts in global economic power: in particular, the much-noted expansion of prosperity in emerging economies at faster rates than in the industrialized world, leading to momentous changes in consumption patterns and a rebalancing of international relations.

3. Rapid urbanization: the massive expansion of cities around the world, through a combination of migration and childbirth, with major implications for infrastructure, land use, traffic, employment, quality of life, and culture.

4. Climate change and resource scarcity: the rapidly increasing demand for energy, food, and water, in a finite world with limited natural resources and even more limited capacity for carbon dioxide and a wide variety of other effluents.

5. Technological breakthroughs: the transformation of business and everyday life through the development and use of new kinds of digitally enabled innovations in fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, fabrication (including 3D printing), cloud computing, and the Internet of Things.”

The article goes on to discuss where those megatrends intersect, or “collide, with disruptive or transformative changes rippling out into nearly every industry around the world.”  It examines “four collisions in more detail: the global Sahara, the pop-up enterprise, supercompetitive cities, and global women rising. Like most of the collisions, they are just now beginning, and can still be influenced.”

I am happy to see that libraries have already recognized the “megatrend of shifts in global economic power [that] has also combined with technological breakthroughs. One of the most noteworthy results is the spread of pop-up companies—businesses that operate for only limited periods to complete specific tasks, and that reinforce (and benefit from) a looser, less draconian overall business environment.” Libraries are popping up in parks, community centers, as well at events to showcase their products and services where their customers are.

The majority of people now reside in cities. “The megatrend of rapid urbanization has accelerated the spread of some social problems such as traffic, crowding, tensions between rich and poor, difficulties in raising children, food and water shortages, crime, and government corruption. But it has also improved the world’s economic growth, environmental sustainability, and cultural viability. Cities that face their challenges effectively gain a high quality of life and strong social networks; they become hubs of prosperity. Cities that don’t manage themselves well spiral down into social and economic decline.”  Libraries are helping to improve their community environments — just look at Library Journal’s 2014 library of the year — Edmonton Public Library!  World class and a great role model.

With respect to “Global Women Rising”, it will be interesting to see if the “changes will lead many companies to shift their diversity-oriented practices, from a compliance-based system aimed at meeting regulatory requirements to a proactive approach that seeks to attract skilled women employees whose high potential might not have been fully realized in the past.”


1. “The first step is to look for your own collisions, aimed at your own industry. What might happen over the next 10 to 15 years when demographic and social change collides with technological breakthroughs—in healthcare, energy, automobiles, or consumer products? How might your company get out in front? What investment would be required? In what time frame?”

2. ” Develop new management skills… become better listeners, better interpreters of meaning, and better catalysts for change. This could mean stepping out of[your] comfort zone on a regular basis and encouraging others to do the same. It could also mean trying new business models or collaborating with other companies, seeking different ways of looking at the world. It almost certainly will mean experimentation, creativity, and modeling the open behavior that they want to encourage.”  or continuous transformation & innovation as I said in an earlier post!

I hope this article makes you think as much as it did for me!  Good luck, may the future be yours!  Can’t wait to hear if this piece sparks some ideas.



OLA Poster: Librarians Co-Teaching 1st Yrs

These librarians co-taught 1st year Pharmacy students at U of Waterloo, focusing on drug and medical information and critical thinking (click on the 1st image for a large view; click on the video below for an interview with Shannon and Kate.)
PS8 How two librarians became coinstructors

Getting to Yes on Conference Attendance!

Conference season is coming and how do you make the right choice for you?  I’m adapting (sharing) this post from one entitled, How to: Sell Your Manager on Attending a Conference.

“Find the best conferences for you. It’s very tempting to attend an event because it’s in a fun location or because all the cool kids are going to be there. If money is no object, then by all means. Conferences need to produce a return on your investment. So think about what you want to learn and then start searching for the right events.

Ask the right questions. Reaching out to respected colleagues about conferences to attend could be a good idea. The important part is asking the right question, “What were your takeaways from the event?”. If you get a blank stare, that doesn’t necessarily mean the conference isn’t worth your time. But do try to find out the value of attendance.

Learning takes place in many ways. Speaking of learning, it’s important to understand how you like to learn (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic). For instance, there are certain topics that I want to learn by reading a book. I would not attend a conference for those topics. But others, I want to learn differently and a conference is the perfect format.

Learning happens in many places. Yes, learning happens during educational sessions. Don’t forget that learning also takes place during networking and on the expo hall floor. And occasionally at the bar with colleagues.

You’ve done your research and identified a conference you’d like to attend. Before going to your manager, be prepared to answer some questions. These are the types of questions that my manager used to ask me:

  1. CONFERENCE: What organization hosts this conference? How long have they been around? How often do they have conferences? Do they offer regional events? Are you a member?
  2. COST: How much will attending this event cost? How much is registration versus travel? Are you prepared to share in the cost of the trip?
  3. TAKEAWAYS: What do you expect to learn? Is there another way to learn this information? How will it impact your job today? And how will it impact the company?
  4. WORK: How will your work be handled while you are gone?
  5. FOLLOW-UP: What is your plan for sharing information when you return?”

And here are some more tips from Tracy Z. Maleeff on Taking Your Significant Other with you to Conferences.

Do you want to attend Computers in Libraries 2015, April 27-9, in Washington DC?  If you need help justifying your attendance go to the conference site and click on our draft memo, Convince Your Boss!  See you there!

Addendum:  Here are 10 Insider Tips on How to Best Prepare for a Tech Conference!