Customers/Members/Clients Rule! Or Not!

Many years ago (mid 70s to early 90s) I worked for a large bank with nationwide branches in all major cities and most significant communities including Wawa, Ontario!  In those early days of my career bank branches and their staff were members of the community and they took care of the farmers, business people, and all members of their town. Bank staff tried to make things work for their customers. Customer centric before the words were de rigueur.

My experience yesterday at another large bank branch requires me to speak out (and vent) about customer service.  I have found over the last number of years that banks are making it harder and harder for individuals (especially seniors and those with limited time) to accomplish what they want at their bank in a short amount of time.  It seems banks want us to fit with their policies, technologies and efficiencies, whether it works for us customers or not. Well the last straw for me, yesterday, was when I went into my mother’s bank branch where she has been a customer for 60 years to cash a U. S. cheque as she has been doing for probably 30+ years.  “Sorry, we have no cash, we are only an advisory center now.  You can deposit the U. S. cheques in the banking machine at the door and take out Canadian cash.”  I want US cash.  Can you set up a U. S. account to which I can deposit and withdraw in U.S. cash? “Well, yes, but we will need to do a credit check (even tho’ my mum has $1000’s on deposit with them) if you don’t want 10 day holds on those cheques (who says digital is fast???)”  And they did but it took almost an hour!  Sigh, as I said customer service in banking is dead it seems to me, unless you want to do things their way.  However, I now have things set up so I never have to go to my mother’s branch again — so much for customer relationships!

This is so different from libraries, as I said in my last post about community hubs! In the 70’s many public libraries were not known for their customer service, they were often about rules and policies that were perhaps not customer centric.  Today the world has changed.  Public libraries (as well as other types of libraries) definitely engage all levels of their communities — from babies and youngsters (storytime) to teens (makerspaces, idea & innovation or media labs) to seniors (new tech, social discussions & lectures), civil dialogue sessions for adults and more!  Libraries are the hubs of their communities, they ARE customer centric (here’s an example of one library) , and they provide terrific customer service — they care, as once the banks and their staff did.  If your experience is different, or similar, let me know!

Hub for Community: All About Engagement!

More and more people are seeing libraries as hubs for community.  And there are many way of doing this — as key makerspaces like Fayetteville Free Library or Innovation Labs like Innisfil IdeaLab & Library, St. Petersburg Commuity College Innovation Lab, or  DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library.   Recently a retired teacher, colleague of my mother, sent me a note, “our local Midland library will let high school students have a private room for study during exams AND give them drinks and protein bars, etc. to keep them going. Our grade 10 granddaughter Maya and a small group of friends studied there each afternoon during exams. And by the way, you can sign out a fishing rod as well as all other regular library stuff. They’ve really made it a community hub.” Thanks Judy! Stories like this are now popping up in lots of places.  For instance, this two part series about the South Shore Public Libraries in Nova Scotia.  The first article, entitled Trust, Engagement & the Future of Libraries, refers to libraries as “the cornerstone of any community, a place to access endless resources for learning, a helping hand, a quiet place for self-reflection, access to amazing technology and social connections.”  The CEO and Community Engagement Manager discuss engagement, trust and the vision for libraries.  Here’s their strategic plan for 2027, In the second article, Storytelling – Community Driven News & History through Codex, they focus on storytelling, technology and how libraries can be the hub for community driven news and history.

So if you have a community engagement story to tell, regardless of the type library, please consider sharing your story as a speaker at Computers in Libraries 2019, March 26-28 in Washington DC.  Our theme is User Engagement in the Digital Age.

Human Face of Search: Danny Sullivan

Just read some great pieces about Danny Sullivan whom I’ve known since we, and the Internet, were young!  His good friend, and former colleague, Barry Swartz wrote about Danny’s role at Google where he landed last fall after retiring. CNBC’s Jillian D’Onfro writes about Danny’s role in reassuring people Google isn’t evil!

When I first knew Danny: “Sullivan is credited with popularizing the term “search engine marketing” and has been described as the father of the industry. His search career started in the mid-90s, when Yahoo owned the space and Google didn’t even exist. Sullivan was enthralled by the emerging web and quit his job in newspapers to join a friend’s web development company. He wrote his first guide to search engines in 1996.”

Since librarians have also been very interested in search for a very long time, Danny became a popular speaker at Information Today conferences, especially Internet Librarian. BTW, Google founders attended Internet Librarian in Monterey CA in it’s early days!

Danny himself says: “My personal mission statement is to provide reasonable explanations as issues come up…Not as an excuse but to help people understand why something happened. If something has gone wrong, we explain why it went wrong. Otherwise, people assume things that didn’t happen. It’s about taking ownership over an issue that comes up, understanding how we’re going to improve it, and then actually improving it.”

And learning from our mistakes, something else librarians are trying to do these days.  Learning from our successes, sharing those with each other, but also learning from our failures.  Always engaging our customers.  Librarians are among the most trusted people according to Pew research and Danny is helping Google in that regard too. Even if as Google Liaison he says, “We’re not a truth engine. One of the big issues that we’re pondering is how to explain that our role is to get you authoritative, good information, but that ultimately people have to process that information themselves… We can give you information, but we can’t tell you the truth of a thing.”

As Pual Edmonson, CEO of HubPages, says, “I think Danny always wanted to hold Google accountable in the right ways… I would gladly trade a journalist covering search for someone inside of Google who has empathy for people creating content for the web and who has the greater good of the ecosystem in mind.”

I say go, Danny, go and not just in a galaxy far, far away! Keep up your great work!


Cybersecurity: July 19/20 @ iSchool, University of Toronto

Coming up soon!  Get immersed in the things you need to know about keeping your organization, library, museum or home secure.  The line-up of experienced and knowledgeable speakers will answer all your questions.

What do you need to have in place to have a secure library? What do you libraries need to recommend to their clients so they are safer online? No matter what type of library, public institution, museum or community organization you are with, you need to be prepared and knowledgeable about cybersecurity. Join our knowledgeable practitioners and leaders in discussion about cybersecurity to up your game in your organization.

Key Topics covered:

Cybersecurity: Top Issues for Public Institutions with Bo Wandschneider,  CIO, U of T
What does it all mean?  What are the key parts we need to know about?

Top 10 Tips for Security Awareness Training
Tracy Z. Maleeff, aka @InfoSecSherpa, Cyber Analyst at GSK & Guest Editor, InfoSecurity Magazine

Greatest Organizational Exposures + Solutions
Frank Cervone, Director, IT & College Information Security Officer, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

Risk Assessment, Policies & Programs
Frank Cervone, Director, IT & College Information Security Officer, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago
Practitioners Panel: Top Cybersecurity Issues
Paul Takala, Chief Librarian/CEO,  Hamilton Public Library; Tracey Maleeff, cybersecurty analyst, GSK

The Dark Side: Privacy, Dark Web & Hacker Devices
Brian Pichman, Director, Strategic Innovation, Evolve Program

Cybersecurity Challenges & Solutions Forum
Brian Pichman, Director, Strategic Innovation, Evolve Program
A chance to ask any unanswered questions, share challenges and solutions, and discuss top of mind issues relating to cybersecurity.  Bring your own issues to share with participants and speakers.

Current Events Facilitated Discussion
Touches on Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, DNOS attacks, etc.

For more info & to register, click here.

Thought About Your Strategies Lately?

This article, Why Popular Strategies Fade, is a great reminder about strategies through the last 5 or 6 decades.  I am borrowing liberally from it!  “A great strategy is unique, specific, and complete; it stands on the shoulders of a big idea; and it is owned by a leader who is ultimately responsible for its implementation.”  “Great strategies answer five critical questions (“the strategic five”) in ways that are unique to your company: (1) What business or businesses should your company be in? (2) How should you add value to your businesses? (3) Who should be the target customers for your businesses? (4) What should be your value propositions to those target customers? (5) What capabilities should differentiate your ability to add value to your businesses and deliver their value propositions?”

With the speed of change in our world we need to ask ourselves these questions at least once a year as we set our path forward to change with the needs of our communities and with the opportunities provided by new technology.  We also need to grab those big ideas and opportunities when they pop up.  Libraries like to think they were at the heart of the “third place” movement, but Starbucks made it extremely successful. “Starbucks’s strategy to create a nationwide chain of coffee shops as a “third place” between office and home originated in Howard Schultz’s big idea to re-create the Italian espresso bar experience.” So what can we learn from them?

“Great strategies always go against the grain of accepted wisdom. Markets and organizations have powerful immune systems that erect multiple barriers to implementation. Leaders who own their strategies are more likely to persevere through such resistance, and prevail. Great strategies take leaders who believe enough in them — and the ideas they depend on — to be willing to fight their own organization and the broader market for however long it takes to realize the strategy…Larry Page and Sergey Brin sought to “organize the world’s information” with their idea to rank Web pages the way academic publications are ranked. They started Google because no one would buy their idea.”

Strategy can never stand still. A great strategy can quickly become mediocre in a dynamic market. You should always be seeking ways to open your eyes to new possibilities for your strategies. Strategy concepts are one such way if they stimulate your thinking without substituting for it, and if they enhance your strategy without becoming it. Those are two big ifs. To exploit strategy concepts without allowing them to take over, consider each one that comes along to be an opportunity to challenge and improve the strategy you already have. If you don’t already have a strategy to which you are truly committed, you are particularly vulnerable to being captured by the latest strategy fashion. If you do, ask how a new concept can enhance it. But never let that concept become a shortcut: a way to skip the hard work of identifying the big idea that will power your company’s strategy; of formulating a unique, specific, and complete set of answers to the “strategic five”; and of owning your strategy through thick and thin.”

Artificial Intelligence & Libraries: Prepare Yourself

A huge thank you to Lise Brin. Program Officer / Agente de programme @ Canadian Association of Research Libraries/Association des bibliothèques de recherche du Canada for compiling this list of pertinent, thought-jarring items on #artificialintelligence and the implication for #libraries.  We’ll be discussing this @ CFLA-FCAB’s National Forum, May 2nd in Regina (co-located with Sasktachewan’s Library Conference). Read, reflect, and ready yourself to provide input and inform the CFLA-FCAB Board for positioning libraries in the age of #AI.

1  How can Indigenous knowledge shape our view of AI? (Karina Kesserwan, Policy Options, February 16, 2018)


2.  Bias already exists in search engine results, and it’s only going to get worse (J. Snow, MIT Technology Review, February 26, 2018)

3.  Here’s how Canada can be a global leader in ethical AI (F. McKelvie & A. Gupta, The Conversation, February 22, 2018)


4.  Libraries in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Ben Johnson, Information Today, January 2018)

5.  Artificial intelligence and the library of the future, revisited (Catherine Nicole Coleman, Stanford Libraries Digital Library Blog, November 3, 2017)

6.  The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions (Rodney Brooks, MIT Technology Review, October 6, 2017)

7.  Who Trained Your A.I.? (April Glazer, Slate, October 2017)


8.  The AI-Enhanced Library (Norman Jacknis, Medium, June 21, 2017)

9.  How libraries might change when AI, Machine learning, open data, block chain & other technologies are the norm (Aaron Tan, April 9, 2017)

10. What happens to libraries and librarians when machines can read all the books? (Chris Bourg, Feral Librarian, March 16, 2017)

11.  Libraries in an Artificially Intelligent World (Kristin Whitehair, Public Libraries Online, February 11, 2016)

12.  Thriving in the Age of Accelerations: A Brief Look at the Societal Effects of Artificial Intelligence and the Opportunities for Libraries (K. Arlitsch & B. Newell, Journal of Library Administration, 57:7, 2017)


Entrepreneurial Thinking: Essential Skill for Everyone!

It’s often difficult to describe things you do instinctively.  I once put together a panel of SLA members asking them to describe themselves by discussing ”how do I know what I know?”  SLA member Anne Mintz, at Forbes magazine at the time, told me it was one of the hardest things she had to do!  My business partner, Rebecca Jones, talks about me as being curious, I am but I just found a better description in a book by Amy Wilkinson, The Creator’s Code: Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs.   The first skill is one I have talked about in workshops I’ve done for SLA on seeing the big picture and strategic planning; Wilkinson calls it Finding the Gap and I had called it, Looking for Opportunities or identifying pain points and finding a solution.  Here’s what Wilkinson says:


By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts. I characterize creators who master these approaches as Sunbirds, Architects, or Integrators.

In innovating, reinventing, experimenting we do things differently, in a new way for our environment as a creator or entre/intrapreneur.  I find I learn a lot from others in other industries, organizations, etc.  One of the strengths of SLA has always been that those planning conference events bring in practitioners from their specialized fields so we learn from them and can apply their strategies and techniques in a new way in our environments – transplanting ideas across divides. This also happens at Information Today conferences whose programs I design and of which SLA is a prominent sponsor (Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian).  At these events we transplant ideas across different types of libraries.  Years ago as a special librarian, I didn’t believe I could learn anything from public and academic libraries; Ha!  It is amazing what public libraries do to engage their customers and how special librarians learn from them: i.e. setting up a Pokemon Go in a government library, setting up makerspaces/innovative places spaces in a corporate workplaces, creating book clubs in organizations.

As an entrepreneur and consultant, I am always looking for new ways to move forward and create new designs that will engage our audiences and clients.  Focusing on what might be ahead, creating visions, looking a differences scenarios, giving people something to think about when they consider the future and how their organization or library has to evolve to keep up.  For example, take my granddaughter Logan who is now a year and a half old.  What will her life be like as a young adult?  Consider that she may never learn to tie a shoelace (as there is now Velcro & new types of laces), she may never learn to drive (now that driverless cars are coming online), she may never learn cursive writing since everything is done with computers today, more and more by using our voices!  So if these types of kids are our future clients, what should we be planning in terms of programs and services to stay relevant?

And certainly mashing things up to try different approaches to programs and services is happening everywhere, especially with content and new tech tools: using Paper Li to create a current awareness product on the fly, using bots to reduce repetitious activities, creating online tutorials which can be watched at the point of need or “in the flow” as APQC calls it.

Entrepreneurial thinking is for everyone in every environment.  Do it by keeping an open mind, observing different organizations and places, listening, grabbing ideas from others and trying them out (experimenting), paying attention when someone has a problem/criticism because there is definitely an opportunity/gap there!

Libraries Matter. A National Voice Matters. CFLA-FCAB Matters.

Look out. I’m passionate about this. And I’m concerned at the quiet surrounding CFLA-FCAB: Canadian Federation of Library Associations. Quiet means no one is paying attention. Quiet means no one is talking. Quiet means no one is debating, prompting, urging, moving forward. Quiet means those who are louder about certain issues will be heard. Bring your voice.

Alix-Rae Stefanko, new Chair of CFLA-FCAB, is phenomenal, and she’s leading the charge for the National Forum, May 2nd in Regina. Come – join us – inform our national thinking, positioning and policies on intellectual freedom and artificial intelligence.

Join us in Regina, Saskatchewan, for our first National Forum to be held May 1 – 2, 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre, 1975 Broad Street, Regina; the opening reception is the evening of  May 1 and the National Forum is May 2. The National Forum program is designed to blend informative sessions with challenging roundtable conversations. It will carefully consider and debate Intellectual Freedom and Artificial Intelligence, and how Canadian libraries sustain their critical value of freedom of information in the evolving societal shifts. The day’s outcome will be a National Forum Paper informing CFLA-FCAB’s positioning.

Contribute with colleagues from across Canada in focussed dialogues that will consider some of the most critical challenges facing libraries. Contribute towards crafting outcomes that will advance the state of libraries and the Federation.

Here’s the program – with an important addition:

Bruce Walsh will be the keynote! Canadian publishing is @ the heart & soul of Canadian libraries, and Bruce is a respected leader and Canadian publishing visionary. His establishment of the University of Regina Press, championing of freedom of information, and appointment as a Trudeau mentor are incredible. As a Trudeau mentor he will talk with us about “building bridges between research and the public arena, fostering a better understanding of critical issues for Canada, and working toward sustainable solutions”. Never before has the library sector so needed sustainable solutions.



Walsh in the morning, Mohamed Fahmy at night and in between distinguished panels who will make our heads hurt and our brows furrow. 

Complete the registration form here.



Ethical AI: What Will That Look Like for Libraries?

At a January 2018 Girl Geeks Toronto event on Ethical AI, we listened to 3 articulate, brilliant women discuss the engineering feats and ethical vulnerabilities of current and near-future artificial intelligence. The recording is very high-quality, and I encourage you to grab a hot beverage and watch it – and listen.  Listen very carefully.   Inmar Givoni (Autonomy Engineering Manager at Uber Advanced Technologies Group),  Karen Bennet  (VP Engineering at Cerebri AI) and Anna Goldenberg (Member of the Vector Institute, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Department of Computer Science, and Scientist at the Genetics and Genome Biology Lab at SickKids Research Institute), each focus on different areas of engineering and may not share common experiences or opinions. But one thing they do agree on is that it is a problem that ethical and societal policies regarding AI are not keeping pace with the technologies. Not keeping pace! These policies aren’t even in place in Canada. There’s no point in pointing fingers or wringing hands; we need to grasp hands and join in leading the way.

It’s no secret that I am intrigued and concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence on public and academic libraries. It’s one of the reasons I’m involved in planning CFLA-FCAB’s first National Forum in Regina on May 2, 2018. Whether you agree that AI will bring significant shifts to the library landscape, you no doubt think about the shifts AI is and will bring to your communities, your life and our campuses and education system. As librarians we have a responsibility to ensure that Canada’s policies and standards shape AI as a positive force in our society.  Sounds grandiose, I know. And yet, since we all agree that libraries are an integral part of our society, then it follows that we have a professional role in the deliberation, creation, implementation and stewardship of policies guiding AI in our society.

Be part of informing the policies for our Canadian library landscape. Be at the National Forum and be prepared to contribute. Oh!! And be prepared to eat too! (Registration includes food 🙂  ) And to hear Mohamed Fahmy




Artificial Intelligence: AI – All In @ #CFLAFCAB2018

Save the date! May 2, 2018CFLA-FCAB’s First National Forum @ Saskatchewan’s Libraries Conference! Be a part of history – be a part of informing Canada’s library policies on Intellectual Freedom & Artificial Intelligence#cflafcab2018

Why #ArtificialIntelligence? #AI stands to impact all parts of our lives, our work, our communities and our education. And since libraries – whether they are in the public, academic, government, school or corporate sectors – are an integral part of people’s lives, work, community and learning – AI is a significant issue with which we in the information and library sector must be involved. We can’t just be impacted by AI. We must use AI.

AI is all about data. Libraries have data. Lots of data. Are we using it? Mining it? Gaining deep insights from it? Using it to build AI tools? C’mon – admit it. We may be using our data in traditional ways, such as for operational decisions or reporting, but we are not mining our data to identify patterns and use for decision-making.

MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s magazine lists the Top 10 Breakthroughs expected for 2018. While all 10 have a ripple effect for libraries, 3 have

significant implications for information-intensive services and work:

  • Sensing City (see below)
  • AI for Everybody
  • Perfect Online Privacy

Let’s take, for instance, Sensing City. Given that I’m sitting just north of Toronto, and given that Toronto is the city used in the example, this seems reasonable. Quoting from the zine:

“Numerous smart-city schemes have run into delays, dialed down their ambitious goals, or priced out everyone except the super-wealthy. A new project in Toronto, called Quayside, is hoping to change that pattern of failures by rethinking an urban neighborhood from the ground up and rebuilding it around the latest digital technologies.

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, based in New York City, is collaborating with the Canadian government on the high-tech project, slated for Toronto’s industrial waterfront.

One of the project’s goals is to base decisions about design, policy, and technology on information from an extensive network of sensors that gather data on everything from air quality to noise levels to people’s activities.

The plan calls for all vehicles to be autonomous and shared. Robots will roam underground doing menial chores like delivering the mail. Sidewalk Labs says it will open access to the software and systems it’s creating so other companies can build services on top of them, much as people build apps for mobile phones.

The company intends to closely monitor public infrastructure, and this has raised concerns about data governance and privacy. But Sidewalk Labs believes it can work with the community and the local government to alleviate those worries.

“What’s distinctive about what we’re trying to do in Quayside is that the project is not only extraordinarily ambitious but also has a certain amount of humility,” says Rit Aggarwala, the executive in charge of Sidewalk Labs’ urban-systems planning. That humility may help Quayside avoid the pitfalls that have plagued previous smart-city initiatives.

Other North American cities are already clamoring to be next on Sidewalk Labs’ list, according to Waterfront Toronto, the public agency overseeing Quayside’s development. “San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and Boston have all called asking for introductions,” says the agency’s CEO, Will Fleissig. —Elizabeth Woyke


Why It Matters:

Key Players:

Availability:    Project announced in October 2017; construction could begin in 2019



While there are many articles and posts surfacing in the library sector about AI, do have a look at Chris Bourg’s What happens to libraries and librarians when machines can read all the books?  Director of Libraries at MIT, Chris is astute – a deep thinker, and she pulls no punches.  We have no time to pull punches; we need to be involved – intricatly involved – with AI. Not as users, as players.

We need to be at CFLA-FCAB’s National Forum. The panel leading the discourse on #AI (I prefer discourse to discussion as we do need to provoke our thinking, and discourse just sounds a bit edgier…) is Danica Pawlick-Potts, MLIS student and soon to be PhD candidate in AI, and is Coop librarian at U of Guelph; Scott Hargrove, CEO Fraser-Valley Regional Library System; Michael Ridley; PhD. Candidate in Artificial Intelligence, Librarian, Former Chief Information Officer, University of Guelph; and Brent Barron, Director, Public Policy CIFAR: Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Speaking of which, CIFAR is a major player in Canada’s AI. Dr. Elissa Strome, Executive Director of CIFAR’s Pan-Canadian AI Strategy leading a international team of incredible experts, implementing the $125 million strategy announced by the Government of Canada last year, in partnership with the three newly established AI institutes – Amii in Edmonton, the Vector Institute in Toronto and MILA in Montreal.


CFLA-FCAB National Forum

May 2, 2018: Regina

Be there. Be a part of informing the library associations’ policies regarding AI: All In.