Butting In: A TTW Guest Post by David Wedaman

I stumbled across an old presentation (December 2009) and I liked it, so I thought I’d share.  It’s called “Butting In” (click here for the PPT).

“Butting in” is the idea that we in the Library and IT world are in what I call the “Cloutterdammerung,” or the Twilight of our Clout. We have a little window of time to use this clout to get ourselves inculcated into the places in our schools where the futures of teaching, learning, and research will be decided (or to help create these places if they do not already exist).

Our advantages: people mostly like us and people are looking for partners. Our disadvantages: people don’t totally understand what we do and don’t see us in the role of leaders of the future of teaching and learning and scholarship. They don’t expect us to show up in the places where this future is forged.  Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, though, and they show up anyway; so should we.

I propose 10 ways we can get ourselves a seat at the big people table.  These are repeated below.  They read like a Political Organizing 101 sort of brochure, and that’s the point: libraries and IT should focus on (re)becoming part of the learning polis.

1. Get into the places where the future of your institution is being figured out.

Find the conversations or host them.  Talk to influential people.  Sit on Committees.  Convene committees.

2. Be unified.

Don’t let one branch of you undermine another branch of you.  Let the grass-roots knowledge from one root feed the other roots.

3. Invest in R&D.

Use your research expertise to understand where teaching, learning, and research are going.  Contribute from a position of knoweldge. Develop and propose new ways to teach and do research (someone is going to).

4. Paint a vision of your institution’s future.  Put yourself in it.

If you frame the picture, make sure you’re in the frame.  Note: being in the picture of the future probably requires you to look different.

5. Don’t use jargon.

Library and IT gobbledygook ain’t gonna cut it.  Frame your position in terms of learning, teaching, scholarship.  Adopt the institutional perspective.

6. Cause projects to be that are symbolic.

Create new, achievable things that can symbolically represent you and the institution in your future roles.  Projects that help answer the questions about where the school is headed.

7. Develop street cred and presence and allies.

Appear in all aspects of student and faculty and staff life.  Be helpful.  Do things on faith.  Help people do things that they would not otherwise be able to.  Help people who are dispossessed.  The relationships will pay off.

8.  Leverage space.

While people still come to us, let them do things in our space they can’t do elsewhere.  Things that tend to answer questions about how we will teach and learn and do research in the future.

9.  Open your books.

Don’t ask people to do your thinking for you.  But let them into your decision-making process.  Share your strategic desires and challenges.  They have desires and challenges, too.  You will likely discover you share the same desires and challenges.

10.  Learn from politics.

Pay some attention to the things that make political campaigns successful.  This isn’t necessarily bad, or disingenuous, or anti-academic.  It’s about having a clear message, making a value proposition, organizing yourselves to work together, being in the right places.

David Wedaman is Director of Research and Instruction Services, Brandeis University, and sits on the board of NERCOMP (the NorthEast Regional Computing Program) and on the advisory board of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

He blogs at http://wedaman.wordpress.com

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