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CLA Poster: Culling the Herd in Hard Times

Culling the Herd in Hard Times: Implementing an Evidence-Based “Big Deal” Cancellation Support Tool at Vancouver Island University

 Poster developed by: Jean Blackburn, Dana McFarland and Kathleen Reed, Vancouver Island University

Consequent to a series of tightening post-secondary budgets in British Columbia, Vancouver Island University librarians recognized the need for an evidence-based tool to support decision-making regarding cancellation of major package deals and resources. Librarians must be able to decide with confidence and to justify our decisions to renew or cut resources to ourselves and the wider institutional community. To assist in this process, VIU librarians recently designed and implemented a collections rubric that examines factors beyond traditional usage metrics and price. Previous to the implementation of the rubric, collections decisions were based on commonly-used, generic factors and were not formally situated in a broader information context. This made it difficult for librarians to get a holistic picture of collection development and to make thoroughly informed, well-documented decisions regarding specific resources and their relation to greater objectives.


Reed - Culling the Herd - CLA Poster



“Libraries – Have a sense of urgency”

By now you’ve probably seen the TedX Charleston video of BibliLabs CEO Andrew Roskill talking about libraries. If not, here it is.  Seeing libraries through the eyes of those in business is, and always has been critical. We look at libraries as libraries, as public institutions, as inherently beneficial for communities.  Yet how easily the public positioning of libraries can - and IS – being corroded. Look no further than the UK and the US where funding has been severely cut. Severed, in fact. And while no public libraries have been closed here, we work in a vast array of libraries throughout Canada and see the constant negotiating for funding, especially in small or rural communities. Libraries compete every day for people’s attention. Jane and I have talked for years about the need for libraries to think, plan and act as businesses: in how they operate, build relationships, measure and report.

So does Roskill.  He compares Publix to Whole Foods, pointing out that while Whole Foods does not have the selection or pricing of Publix, it does have the appeal, service and elegance that attracts and retains customers.  “Be the Whole Foods” he says to libraries. YES!  “Have a sense of urgency,”  he encourages. YES!  He then looks at how libraries can be an essential element in helping people cross the economic divide by building their digital skills – the digital literacy so important to work and live today.

How can libraries regain their prominence in communities and in people’s ‘attention’?:

  1. Be mobile
  2. Ensure services and spaces are easy, elegant & engaging
  3. Focus on content not available else, the “green fields” that people can’t explore elsewhere, from local authors, small presses, etc.
  4. Curate. Oh thank you Roskill! YES! Curate by building collections that put content, images, and sounds into context — particularly context that is tailored to your unique community
  5. Leverage your physical presence.  This is what Amazon and Google don’t have. Physical places where people can work, read, study and gather.  Host special events that bring people in, and amaze them with what you have when they arrive.

Roskill’s concluding remarks should underpin any library’s relationship building and positioning.  He encourages the audience to go to their library, “This is your tax dollars at work, and usage drives priorities.” True.  Too true.  There’s a sense of urgency to drive the usage and lift the priority.  It isn’t enough for people to “think” public libraries are important (see the Pew Research).  Their experiences with public libraries need to demonstrate that libraries are important. 

There are all kinds of opportunities for you to draft a plan for your library that seizes this sense of urgency and builds on Roskill’s 5 points:

At CLA’s conference in Victoria, participate in Driving Change for Community Impact –  for $65 (which includes lunch) on Saturday May 31st;  register onsite or contact

At SLA’s conference in Vancouver, participate in Building the Future: Thinking, Planning, Doing on Friday June 6th; register here.

And to draft the measures your library needs to drive those priorities join Moe Hosseini-Ara (Director of Culture for City of Markham and Director Service Excellence at Markham Public Library) and I to work on your Strategy, Influence & Measures: Practical Tools on Wednesday May 28th; register onsite or contact

In the meantime, here’s Roskill:


Why Libraries Matter: thank you The Atlantic

An incredible video from The Atlantic’s video series on “a day in the life” of New York Public Libraries. Nine minutes of absolute bliss on library programs making a difference and changing lives, and no makerspace is in sight. Any public library can use this approach. Thanks to NYPL and to The Atlantic. This is a library system in action. Made me so proud to be a librarian.

CLA Poster: Professional Development Beyond LIS Education: Building Bridges for Success

Professional Development Beyond LIS Education: Building Bridges for Success

Poster developed by: Marni Harrington, University of Western Ontario and Annick Lapalme

Library and Information Science graduate students are advocates of lifelong learning and access to information. But what happens after graduating from a Canadian LIS-accredited institution? Does access to LIS resources continue for recent graduates to support lifelong learning? Continuing education often means self-directed learning, which includes staying abreast of research and publications available only through costly bibliographic databases. Questions are raised about access for LIS grads and professionals: Who has access to LIS resources and how is it supported?




CLA Poster: Eureka! 2014 TD Summer Reading Club

Eureka! 2014 TD Summer Reading Club

Poster developed by: Lisa Heggum, Toronto Public Library

Stop by the TD Summer Reading Club poster and check out the resources that have been created to help your library offer the TD Summer Reading Club program to kids in your area.  When you participate in the program you receive promotional materials, online resources for librarians and great materials and activities for kids!


CLA Poster: Balancing Tradition and Modernity

Balancing Tradition and Modernity: Keeping the Library Relevant at Bishop’s College School

Poster developed by: Christine Smith; Bishop’s College School

This poster highlights the collaboration tactics, policy developments and key initiatives implemented at the Peter G. Holt Memorial Library at Bishop’s College School. Through a year-long programme, the Library has developed campus-wide collaborations with the aim of best serving the school’s educational and recreational needs. The poster will evidence best practices for balancing an organization’s rich heritage while moving into the future.





Thinking Strategically: good organizationally & cognitively

“Our brains are wired to be inspired,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHeath and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas. “One of the key differences in our studies from other interventional research aimed at improving cognitive abilities is that we did not focus on specific cognitive functions such as speed of processing, memory, or learning isolated new skills. Instead, the gist reasoning training program encouraged use of a common set of multi-dimensional thinking strategies to synthesize information.”   Source: Science Daily’s feature article this week, Strategic thinking strengthens intellectual capacity.

Jane Dysart has known this for a long time. Now there’s research to prove it: our brains are wired to be inspired.  Every conference program and workshop she puts together is about inspiring people.  The research cited above not only confirms her conviction about inspiring thinking, it confirms that thinking strategically – “synthesizing information using multi-dimensional thinking” is not only imperative for librarians, information managers and knowledge professionals organizationally, but cognitively too. A bonus.strategy words

Strategic thinking, as Jeff Weiner of LinkedIN says in Fast Company (a journal I highly value), takes time — time we need to aggressively schedule and intentionally pursue. 

“… you (will) require more time than ever before to just think: Think about what the company will look like in three to five years; think about the best way to improve an already popular product or address an unmet customer need; think about how you can widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap, etc.”  He then goes on to deconstruct the elements of such horizon-seeking. To do it well, Weiner says, you require:

Jane & I hadn’t even seen this research or Weiner’s comments when we designed Building the Future: Thinking, Planning, Doing. It’s a day for you to reflect, learn practical techniques  for thinking and planning strategically and see “the big picture”.  Join us with Dave Pollard  to practice  ways to consider and understand strategic contexts, and scan for impacts and influences. Then consider these techniques in intensive discussions and apply them in a case study. You’ll leave the day with supporting resources for thinking strategically, aligning services with organizational strategies, and perhaps most importantly, tips for implementing.  

Enjoy the day, including lunch,  at the Vancouver Club on Friday June 6th in beautiful downtown Vancouver,



Tools for Measuring, Influencing & Planning

If you are in Victoria, BC on Wednesday May 28th, Moe Hosseini-Ara and I will be working with a group to use practical tools for measuring, influencing key stakeholders and for long-term or strategic planning.  This is a pre-conference workshop for the CLA and BCLA conference – and registration includes breaks and lunch! It is always such a fulfilling experience to work with Moe. He is on secondment from his job as Director, Service Excellence, Markham Public Library and is currently Director of Culture, Culture Services, City of Markham.  He brings a stakeholder perspective to the templates and approaches for determining and conveying appropriate strategies and measures.  I bring the academic, corporate and government perspective to these approaches and tools.  And Moe and I are doubly proud that Ulla de Stricker, who can’t join us because of prior commitments, has sent along her work for us to use with the group.  No one influences like Ulla!

To register, contact Wendy Walton at CLA: 

Below is one of the templates participants will be working with. Come join us!

Strategy, Influence & Measures: Practical Tools

Information professionals and all those in management roles in libraries use a range of technical tools in their daily activities with our customers. What tools, though, do we use with our stakeholders or decision-makers to move forward progressively – and successfully?  This workshop covers the components of four practical, critical tools and invites participants from government, corporate, academic, public and non-profit sectors to discuss: 
1. Influencing with Information Audits & Business Cases
2. Strategic Planning
3. Performance Measures

Participants have the opportunity to take away:
• an understanding of the roles of, and relationship among the tools 
• templates and guidelines for using these tools 
• pointers for using the tools in planning, managing, measuring, and communicating now

Stakeholder Template 2014_Page_1


Measures bloody measures

Dr. Bill Irwin I owe you. You talked about performance measures and the logic model work by the Kellogg Foundation in February at OLA’s Superconference, and I didn’t follow up on it. Thankfully you were one of the highly informative speakers at Designing New Metrics for Libraries this past week and you again talked about Kellogg. This time I looked into it. BAZINGA!

Moe Hosseini-Ara @ City of Markham and I have been working on measures and, more specifically the logic model, for libraries for the last number of years. In fact, we are teaching a course on planning & measures at CLA on May 28th, and as a “working” course those attending will actually “work” on measures for their library (academic, public, government or whatever type of library).


There are many sources and tools to refer to as you are assessing services and programs, including articles Moe & I wrote for libraries using the logic model last summer.   But it is so important to see how other organizations offering similar information-based services develop their measures. Have a look at the report shown here: IMPACT: A Practical Guide to Evaluating Community Information Projects by the FSG Knight Foundation.  Better yet, follow FSG’s works.

Impact – that’s what we want. Community Information – that’s the business we are in, and certainly want to be seen as being in. So what can we learn from FSG? Lots.

“This guide will take you through the essential steps for designing an evaluation of your community
information project. These steps explain what to do and consider at different stages of the
evaluation process.”  The difference in how they design and develop their program or service from the way that many libraries develop their program or service is that they build evaluation and measurement in at the design phase.  If you already take this approach, then congrats – you are ahead of the curve.  But many libraries do not.  Evaluation is a critical element of any program or service.

The questions FSG asks as they develop a program can be, and should be asked by all those in the community change business – and that’s libraries, correct? In fact, the project FSG addresses is one that is so dear to the heart of many libraries: “residents are hungry to contribute to local news and information and engage in community issues but lack the tools to do so…… the project will  provide training, platforms and support to residents in order to empower underrepresented voices among the people of the specific community.”  

The questions they address as they design the program are the questions libraries address:

  1. What change do we want to see in the community? 
  2.  What is the issue? Who is affected by it? Why are you taking action? 
  3.  What will we do to address the issue?  And, I’d add here – Who else should we work with to address this? 
  4.  Although FSG asks “If the project is successful”, we should ask “When the program succeeds, what change, among which members of the community, do you hope to see?

And then we must ask:

What resources do we need?
How do we best use these resources? 
What activities need to occur? What are the tangible products of these activities?


FSG doesn’t ask some of these questions, but I encourage you to ask,

What’s our pilot phase? 
What changes do we expect to occur within the short term? (and define “short term” – 3 weeks? 3 months?)

 What changes do we want to see within the mid-term? (define mid-term)

What changes do we hope to see over time? (yep – define long-term or over time) 

This tool, and many of the tools from FSG are very valuable as we learn from other, community focused organizations.  Keep FSG in your sights. Keep Bill Irwin in your sights.

Oh – and don’t forget.  The last question you should always ask as you design a new service or program is:

“How will we celebrate when we complete our pilot phase? ” 

Just as we tend to forget to factor in evaluation and pilots into the design, we also overlook the celebration. And in this profession, we need to celebrate. A lot.


Thank YOU!

St George dayOver the last several weeks I have had a tremendous number of “thank yous” for putting together programs for recent events — Computers in Libraries 2014 in DC with the  theme Hack the Library! and Defining New Metrics for Library Success in Toronto.  It really gives me a blast when topics resonate, conversations abound, and directions are influenced!  Learning and growing is so important to me just like the image of today’s Google doodle for St. George’s day — it’s my dragon.  I am so lucky to have the opportunity to put together events that make that happen.   It is gratifying to see comments on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs about the events — positive comments are really appreciated but also suggestions or gaps — I really do try to build on feedback!   At this moment, on an event high,  I want to thank all those who help me put together programs, speak about their experiences, insights and ideas, lend their expertise to communicate and share with others, suggest topics for new events, attend the events and find them valuable.  You know who you are — almost everyone I know!  Thank YOU!