Thursday, December 13, 2012

Preserving America's Legal Materials in Print

I'm thrilled to be working in collaboration with the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) on PALMPrint, a project aimed at collective ownership and stewardship of state and federal legal materials in print. During this 3-year pilot our focus will be on retrospective materials, although we're exploring models for prospective collecting as well. We hope to develop a model that allows libraries to insure ongoing access to print materials held by the collective, while shifting local collection priorities and expenditures to digital resources. For more information on this exciting and ambitious collaboration please visit the NELLCO website.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thinking in Parallel

On the Friday before the AALL Annual Meeting in Boston last month, the NELLCO Board of Directors was invited to participate in an all-day workshop to learn about the process of parallel thinking. I had been introduced to the concept by Laura Freebairn-Smith of Organizational Design and Development, a consultant whom we have engaged several times in the past. This past spring, the NELLCO Board needed to reach a complex decision and I turned to Laura for advice on how best to facilitate that decision-making process with a 25-member Board. Laura suggested using the Six Thinking Hats, developed by Edward De Bono, as a tool for this work.

Since I had never heard of the Six Hats, or Edward De Bono, immediately after my call with Laura I did what any good librarian does; I bought the book. It's a quick read and more than worth the price of admission. The Six Thinking Hats may be the most brilliant, simple concept for group work that I've ever encountered. If well implemented, I think it has the potential to radically alter the way we work in groups, the efficiency of meetings, and the productivity of staff/teams/groups.

In a nutshell, the process is based upon the idea of six different colored hats, each of which has a particular role in focusing thinking in a particular direction.

The WHITE hat is facts and figures.

The RED hat is emotions.

The BLACK hat is logical negatives.

The YELLOW hat is logical positives.

The GREEN hat is creativity.

The BLUE hat is process control.

Once I read through the book, which goes into depth on each hat's uses, I knew this was a tool I wanted to share with the NELLCO Board. The Six Hats offers an alternative to our culture's standard way of discussing an issue. Think of the most recent meeting you attended. What happened when a new idea was raised? The naysayer of the group probably said something like "well, that won't work here because. . ." and the friends of the idea generator said "that's a great idea!" and the person who's job would be most affected by the new idea didn't say anything but thought "gee, I'm scared that would put me out of a job," and so on. Everyone in the group is thinking of the idea from their particular perspective. Using the Six Hats method you ask everyone to 'think in the same direction.'

So, now I'm a convert. I think everyone should know about the Six Hats. And those who attended the workshop in Boston seemed to feel the same way. Not only could they see how it could work for us as a Board, but they could also see its value back in their own workplaces. That led to a decision that we will be offering Six Thinking Hats training for library staff as part of the NELLCO Symposium 2013, which will be held on March 14-15, 2013. Stay tuned for more on that!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Harvard Libraries Reorg: What's the Takeaway?

Yesterday many of the librarians at Harvard attended one of three town hall meetings organized by the library transition team there. And from all outside appearances, all hell broke loose. The twitterverse had a field day! #hlth is the hashtag for the backchannel and information and misinformation are still flying today. The most extreme statement was an obviously emotional tweet posted by one attendee, Abby Thompson, who stated that Harvard had effectively fired all of their library staff. As you can imagine, that got people's attention. It should be noted that Abby later pled that she was a victim of the 'drama llama,' but nonetheless the claim made for good fodder. The blogosphere is humming with the news. (See The Feral Librarian, The Jersey Exile, and Lisa Federer.)

Today there is a lot of damage control being orchestrated by the administration and the transition team. (See The Chronicle, The Harvard Crimson, and see the meeting script here. The script was just posted today, labeled as a transcript, but it does not reflect the Q&A that followed the official script.) Obviously Harvard has a vested interest in putting the best possible face on the situation. I imagine the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.

While I can only imagine the impact that this sort of thing has on the morale of an institution, and on the lives of those who will be directly affected by the coming changes, I can't say I'm entirely surprised by this move. I am surprised and disappointed at the way it's being handled, but that's another issue. The reorg itself, in a massive library system that is probably rife with inefficiencies just given the nature of a system with so many independent libraries, can hardly be unexpected in an economy turned south. And this has been a process, begun in 2009, that while clearly suffering from a poor communication strategy, was hardly a secret.

Whatever the outcome of the particular situation at Harvard, what does this mean for libraries? One tweet deemed it a death knell for the academic library. I understand these emotional responses. Librarians are passionate about the profession. But you can't have turned a corner in the last year or two without bumping into a webinar, a blog post, a conference program or an article about "The Future of the Library." Yesterday, that future smacked us in the face. It's a future defined by a few truths.

Truth #1 - Library budgets are being hit.
Truth #2 - Libraries are acquiring more digital content and less print content.
Truth #3 - The resources needed for the care and feeding of digital materials are different from those needed for print materials.

In addition to these truths, what are some of the the buzz words and themes in our industry today? Innovation, collaboration, change management, strategic planning, library 3.0. The writing is on the wall! And yet the whole time we're mouthing the words "library of the future" we're putting our heads in the sand and digging in with both feet, paralyzed by the past.

Harvard's radical reorganization is not akin to the day the music died, but it is a harbinger of things to come for many libraries of all stripes. Shift happens. So what I'm asking myself today is, "How do we get out front of this? What can we do as a profession to be change leaders, rather than its victims? How can we minimize the fallout?" Do you have any ideas?