Reaching beyond the campus: Part II

banner for Exhibit on Thinking Money
ALA’s Thinking Money Exhibit Banner

This is a brief follow-up to my post in December on my college library’s collaboration with the local public library on the Thinking Money exhibit. The exhibit ended in April and as a first-time collaborative project, I think it went pretty well. The college library acted as the go-between in setting up a college financial aid workshop at the public library for local high school students.  The college library created a “matching exhibit” on financial literacy for our students with handouts and flyers for related workshops and books at the public library. While the public library’s emphasis was on junior high and high school students, we made sure that we had offerings specifically for young adults/college students.  This was a first step in collaborating with the local public library and we are looking forward to more opportunities where we can build on our mutual strengths.

Reaching beyond the campus: First steps

In my quest to continue my blog writing after the Info 287 class, I decided to write about a recent exciting development that I hope will serve as a case study for “hyperlinking” between public and community college libraries. A branch of the county library located less than a mile from my college campus, was awarded the opportunity to host the traveling exhibition titled, “Thinking Money” created by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association to arrive in late March through April 2017. The exhibit will travel to a total of 50 U.S. public libraries to “ teach tweens, teens and their parents, caregivers and educators about financial literacy topics such as saving, spending and avoiding fraud in a way that is not only understandable, but fun” (ALA website).

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Reflecting on the Hyperlinked Library class

In thinking back on our time together this semester, I find myself going back to past readings and lectures as I encounter certain issues at work.  This class has a made me much more sensitive, empathetic and thoughtful in my daily routine.  I can be in the middle of a meeting, or talking to a fellow staff member and, suddenly, I remember something that I read that can apply to the situation.  This begs the question: What did I do before this class?

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Reflection: The Hyperlinked Academic Library

Academic libraries today are important laboratories for student experimentation and creativity. Creating an environment that is conducive to student learning and success is a benchmark that many libraries have achieved within the last decade. Northwestern University’s libraries engaged in a participatory design exercise with input from design school students, staff and faculty. The final design submitted by the design students was very similar to the designs submitted by the architects. This is a great example of what we’ve been talking about all semester: Transparency and user-centered design are key features of the hyperlinked library.

In my library, we have just invited the Interior Design Club to evaluate our technical processing area to see how it can be streamlined for better workflow. While this area is not a public space, the fact that we seek assistance from our students sends a message that we welcome student input on library decision making.

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Reflection 4: Possibilities for partnership

The concept of libraries as a space for infinite learning was a catchphrase from the lecture that inspired me, but it wasn’t until I saw that photo of the butcher dividing a side of beef in the Kansas Library’s community room that it made an impact.  It took me out of my comfort zone, but I’m now grateful for the visual because it got me thinking about ways in which I could introduce unexpected types of learning at an academic library.

Here I will focus on two areas from the readings:  What activities could be brought to the library to make it a space for infinite learning and how do we manage these activities going forward?

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Reflection 2: Transparency wake-up call

photo of busy circulation desk.
Frontline staff at Exeter Library, UK

I came away from the transparency lecture and readings with a new sense of urgency.  I first wanted to forward the readings pertaining to leadership to my dean (a great administrator, but not a librarian) to emphasize the importance of seeing how the front line deals with the day to day issues of an academic library.

I then veered off into thinking which of the articles I wanted to share with my library colleagues, but decided to hold off because they might take some of the articles like Turning “No” into “Yes” as me being on some high horse expounding new dictates to my peers. As the library’s department chair, I can see this move as being very preachy and overbearing.

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Reflection 1: Librarians as Entrepreneurs

When I heard @michael describe his encounter with a library administrator during his first few days on the job (lecture in Module 3), I was absolutely stunned. How could a person say to a new employee, “don’t disturb me” when you were merely passing this administrator in the hall? What a way to greet a person at the beginning of their career! This story triggered a memory of a similar moment I encountered at the dawn of the Internet. At that time (circa 1995) I was working for a large database company — an intermediary that sold news content to corporate and academic libraries  connecting to our content via a modem.  (For a view on how it worked see The Internet before Search Engines).

A group of us in customer relations had visited Sun Microsystems to see what they were doing with a cool program called Java and how it would radically change text based Internet content. For months we kept going to our management pleading with them to at least look at what Sun was doing and consider the implications of this new technology. We were told to
manage our expectations (another way of saying “don’t disturb me?) and that the Internet was a flash in the pan that would never amount to anything. Their fixed mindset ultimately led to the company’s demise.

Fast forward twenty years and stagnation in my workplace is happening all over again, but now my organization wants to do something about it. We want to change, but we are stymied by indecision. Brian Mathews’ article  Think Like a Startup  gives me hope. Do we start innovating now or wait for the renovation?  We want to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, but we are afraid of the effect it will have on our current services and the disruption it will cause our students.  Mathews states that libraries need disruption and instead of a strategic plan, libraries need a strategic culture, and instead of being afraid to fail,  embrace the failure and then “pivot to success”. We need telescopes to see into the future, and we need microscopes to get us through the day to day management of our facility.

Art of the Start book jacket

When telescopes work, everyone is an astronomer, and the world is full of stars. When they don’t, everyone whips out their microscopes, and the world is full of flaws. The reality is that you need both microscopes and telescopes to achieve success.

– Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start

So what are we so afraid of? There are many libraries who have gone through the same process and have become model academic libraries. Mathews cites a few in the article. What is needed is the willpower to beta test, learn, measure, beta test again, and so on and so forth.  The cycle of entrepreneurship never stops and we musn’t either.