Category Archives: TTW Guest Posts

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

Look Like your People – A TTW Guest Post by David Wedaman

People used to need the help of library and IT staff to do things like find articles, edit videos, create databases, install a VOIP phone system, etc. This is changing. People are increasingly sophisticated users of digital media and computers. Third-party software applications and web-based services (read: not made or vetted by your local library and IT staff) are increasingly accessible.  Obvious, I know, but it bears repeating.

People don’t need us as they used to; yet we librarians and IT staff sense we can still be helpful (good for us!).  Our challenge is therefore this: we have to A) figure out new ways to be helpful and B) let our users see us being helpful in those ways (they won’t buy into the idea until they see it).

This is easy enough to say, but how do we do it?  I’m not sure.  Here’s a proposed rule of thumb: If you want to understand what someone needs, you can’t go to far astray if you start by doing what they do.  Look Like your People.

To put it another way: in a world of change our compass is the things that aren’t changing: people will still need to learn, teach, do research, and produce scholarship. How they will do these things is evolving. How we will help them do these things should be evolving, too. We need to be involved to evolve.  Not involved as external supports doing mystical things inside an organizational black box but as integral partners shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers and learners in the trenches.  We need to “embed [our] resources and expertise into the systems and tools students and faculty use in their daily lives,” to quote library visionary David Lewis.

If we engage in things that look and feel like teaching, learning, research, and scholarship, we’ll be ok.  If participating in these activities doesn’t immediately solve the problem of how we’ll be helpful to the academic mission, it will at least help us be much more familiar with and engaged in the core of that mission, and being present is the first step.  Opportunities will follow.

Some examples from our own work place.  Trying to figure out how to teach the academic use of multimedia, we partnered to develop a semester-long, hands-on course carefully integrated with an established Journalism course. Eventually our media course was recognized as a legitimate product on its own, added to the course bulletin, and our “teacher,” to that point a regular old Library and IT staff member, was honored with a faculty appointment, and is now an actual teacher. This would be an example of us looking like a teacher.

Another: trying to learn how to engage students meaningfully at the point of need — their class project — we’re testing out what we call a “project studio:” our staff join opt-in work teams with students, and the team decides what its learning goals will be and how it will go about meeting them.  We’re a partner and we learn with and from the students, adding library and IT know-how where necessary, learning new know-how constantly.  Result–we’re looking like a student.

Do these two projects solve the question of how IT and library organizations can be relevant to their communities in an era of change?  Not fully, of course. But they are helpful now and they might grow into something bigger.  And the staff involved at the very least will be in a wonderfully preferable position as we slouch further into the digital era–that of seeing teaching, learning, and scholarship from “within” those activities.

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

Using Netflix at an Academic Library – a TTW Guest Post by Rebecca Fitzgerald

Our academic library in New York started a Netflix subscription last Fall. We started out with one account allowing for the maximum number of DVDs, 8 at a time. By the middle of Spring semester, we had two accounts. The New Media professor took over the prior, and we made the new one for all other courses. New Media requires many movies for students to watch. Our library has a very limited budget when it comes to film purchasing, especially popular titles. Netflix has saved us an enormous amount of money (around $3,000) by allowing the physical rentals as well as instant play. The streaming movies have been a great success; instead of students waiting for the one DVD on reserve, they can go to the computer or into the library’s film viewing room, where we have a Roku player set up, and watch the movies on our flat screen TV. The amount we save just having the instant play is significant; it’s almost like having multiple copies of the movie on reserve.

The other departments are taking awhile getting used to the Netflix idea. Most professors seem very happy when they see educational videos available, especially those from PBS. There are hundreds of interesting documentaries available for instant watch, and many more offered in physical form. Even though we have this program, we have still exhausted our DVD budget. For the first time, we are able to purchase high quality educational (Insight Media and Films for the Humanities and Sciences) films that enhance the classroom experience as well. Since we are not paying for any of the popular titles and national released documentaries, we can focus our budget on these more academic materials. I hope many libraries, who are facing hard economic times, consider Netflix as a valuable option. It continues to be cost-effective and easily accessible for the students. It is very rare when you see faculty and students praising a new library program.

UPDATE – Comment from Rebecca: Thank you all for your comments. There have been no legal repurcussions involving our Netflix accounts. The Netflix is addressed to the library and paid with a college credit card. No one from Netflix has questioned this. Our library is not the first to use this program. In an article from Library Trends, Volume 53, Number 3, Ciara Healey, talks of all the benefits a Netflix subscription has to offer an academic library. The article is called “Netflix in an Academic Library: A Personal Case Study,” if any of you are interested in reading it. She does mention the fact that Netflix does not offer institutional subscriptions, so her library resorted to getting their own credit card. I really recommend you read the article. It’s great stuff!

Rebecca Fitzgerald is Acquisitions Librarian/Office Manager at the Scheele Memorial Library Concordia College, New York.

On the Zukunftwerkstatt Kultur und Wissensvermittlung – Future Workshop in Germany

From Michael: Christoph Deeg of the Zukunftwerkstatt in Germany agreed to do a guest post for me outlining the origins and philosophies of this group. I spent an incredible day with the group in Berlin – and learned so much from them.  I was honored to be asked to participate as a founding member last March and am pleased Christoph agreed to write for TTW – in English!

The Zukunftwerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V. is a non-profit-organisation that brings people together who are active in public institutions or private enterprises dealing with future possibilities of mediating of cultural and scientific topics. It is the aim of our organisation to develop and realize concepts that will make knowledge society come true.  We are open to people and their ideas and consider ourselves mediators between institutions, enterprises, people and products, while not pursuing any financial interests. We are guided by the desire to find and support people of vision who believe – as we do – that cooperation at all levels will unfold new and exciting possibilities for all participants and hence for all customers or users.

Dividing lines between learning and playing, between education and entertainment are breaking down. New virtual worlds and leisure time options are evolving. Interaction, multi-optional, individual and global communication systems are gaining ground. Negotiation and utilization of knowledge in the fields of science and culture will become essential. If we acknowledge the overall scheme of things, a new means in communication will emerge with new networks and unique possibilities of cooperation: Users will gain global access to cultural and scientific subject matter. Enterprises and institutions, if cooperating closely, will gain access to millions of interested, creative and openminded users and customers. Never before have so many opportunities been better for such complex cooperation at all levels between public institutions such as libraries, museums or private enterprise as for example the games industry. And never before were we closer to realizing a knowledge and culture society, without the partners in cooperation having to give up any of their own goals.

We believe that libraries will play an important role in conveying knowledge and culture in the future. But they won`t be able to define themselves as simply providing access to knowledge, because nowadays they compete with a whole range of alternative suppliers. Libraries depend for their legitimization on the advantages, which the society that finances them draws from their services: preserving cultural heritage, promoting literacy and serving as mediators and managers of media and information.

We also believe that computer games and Web 2.0 will have a huge influence on the way cultural and scientific content will be imparted in the future. Therefore it is important to understand the culture behind these new media which is based on cooperation, transparency, interaction, trust, sharing, and having fun.

The best way to describe the modern internet is to show a picture of an soccer-stadium like the one here. The stadium itself is useless. What makes it alive are the people, the teams, the fans. All the different platforms that you can find in the internet like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Youtube are useless without the people that upload and share content. It is all about people not about software and it is not possible to understand anything of these new platforms only by a theoretical discussion. To understand the people the way they work and communicate, they way they care and having fun we have to become users and gamers.

While at the moment most of the libraries are trying to follow and understand trends and technologies they have to become their designers not in a technical but in a content and service orientated way.

We do not think that there is any kind of “rat race” between the traditional and the future library or between the books and the computers. There is neither a competition between gaming and seriousness. But we found out that if you start this exciting journey you will have to work hard, learn a lot and you will have fun.

Our story began in 2008 in Mannheim where we (Julia Bergmann, Jin Tan and Christoph Deeg) met at the celebration dinner in the occasion of the Bibliothekartag which is the biggest library conference in Germany and probably in Europe. We all have different backgrounds. Julia is a librarian and works as a trainer for information literacy. Jin is also a librarian. After working in a huge library in Berlin he is now on his way back to china where he amongst other things will develop new intercultural projects for the Zukunftswerkstatt. Christoph is not a librarian. After studying Jazz drums he worked  in the range of marketing and sales for the music – and the games industry. All together we come from different worlds and cultures and we still believe that this interdisciplinary background is very helpful for our work. But lets go back to that evening 2008 in Mannheim. After we had dinner we we started talking about libraries, gaming, the web 2.0, the future a.s.o. And while we where exchanging our experiences the idea was born to do something at the Bibliothekartag 2009 in Erfurt. And so the story went on.

The first idea was to create a little space for the visitors of the Bibliothekartag 2009 conference in Erfurt to try out the Web 2.0 and the world of computer games. We wanted the librarians to try out these new technologies and to discuss their experiences and ideas. From our point of view most of the librarians in germany did and still do not have much experience with gaming and the web 2.0. This is by the way not only a problem in libraries. You can find the same situation in institutions like museums, operas, universities and even private enterprises. And this is probably comparable to most of the countries worldwide. We started to present our idea to librarians, companies and institutions and we were happy to see that we got a lot of support. Companies like Electronic Arts, libraries like the ETH-library in Zürich, universities like the University of Applied Science in Potsdam and last but not least a huge number of librarians helped us. The result was a bit different to the first idea but in positive way.

We had our own exhibition stand where we introduced our visitors to the world of opportunities and possibilities arising from the use of computer games and Web 2.0 applications. Everybody was invited to try out the aspects and possibilities of new media, computer games and diverse web tools and to gain a better idea of the vast potential of these devices for the development of their libraries. Our visitors had also an opportunity to learn from best-practice models so far in use in libraries worldwide, where Web 2.0 applications were enhancing their services to their customers. The librarians could also experience the chances of including computer games, internet communities and social media into their services and of course we shared our enthusiasm with all the visitors at our exhibition stand. We had speeches and a very successful panel discussion with librarians, game-developers and futurologists about the future of libraries. To get an little insight about Erfurt 2009 we created a little trailer. Enjoy yourself :-)

After one year successful voluntary working together we found ourselves again at the celebration-dinner of a Bibliothekartag. And while we where celebrating our success we where asked to go on with our work. Today we have an legal form that goes with our activities. We started a research programme and we are teaching librarians how to use the Web 2.0 and computer games as part of their daily work. At you can find our interdisciplinary online-community which is open for everyone who wants to think about the question how we will impart cultural and scientific content in the future. We are also talking to companies and politicians to make them understand how important it is to support the libraries on their way in the future. Beside this we started to found an own research-institute. Furthermore we are realizing a roadshow which is a mobile-future-library. But the most important thing is we are activating people to try out these new technologies.

In 2010 the library-conference was located in Leipzig. Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm from the University of Applied Science in Potsdam who had been with us from the first activities in Erfurt 2009 told us that there was the possibillity for the Zukunftswerkstatt to present Michael as speaker at the library-conference in Leipzig. It was the Embassy of the United States that made this possible. Prof. Dr. Hobohm also  had an great idea. As mentioned before we found a legal form for the Zukunftswerkstatt that goes with our activities and structure. Our legal form is an registered non-profit association. We wanted to found it officially during the libraryconference in Leipzig. In Germany you need 7 people to found such an association. Generally who can ask everyone to become a founder. But we wanted to have founders that identify to our project and our activities and that will support us. Prof. Dr. Hobohm asked Michael to become the 7th founder. Michael accept our invitation and so he became and he still is a founder of the Zukunftswerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V.

From left to right: Jin Tan (Zukunftswerkstatt), Christoph Deeg (Zukunftswerkstatt), Dr. Rudolf Mumenthaler (ETH Zürich) , Julia Bergmann (Zukunftswerkstatt), Michael Stephens, Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm (University of applied science Potsdam) und Hans-Jürgen Schmid (librarian emeritus)

We are very happy that we were able to gain Michael Stephens as a founder of our association. During the day that we spent with him in Berlin we were able to learn a lot. Sharing and discussing ideas and visions is important. It was fascinating to find out the similarities and the differences between our two cultures. But we also found out that we had much more similarities than expected. We believe that the future of libraries is not based on countries or areas. Everyone can learn from each other. Our little association has founders in the USA, China, Germany and Switzerland.

We would like to invite you to become part of our interdisciplinary and international community. Talk to us! Talk about us! Lets have fun…

Christoph Deeg

Music Like Water: A TTW Guest Post by Katy Hite

It is not hard to see that technology has been changing the way we access music.  In The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, David Kusek and Gerd Leonard propose a world where music is delivered wirelessly, based on music preferences, for a fee (similar to paying for electricity, gas, or cable television).  With the growing popularity of the iPod, the prevalence of WiFi, and peer to peer MP3 file sharing of music, access to digital and internet technologies is necessary to stay current with popular music culture.  For those communities and individuals with limited to no access to computers, a significant divide is likely; libraries need to explore digital trends in music and allow access to these services in order to curb the digital music divide.

Libraries have historically offered the chance for self-education and attempt to preserve the whole of the human record while also acting as community center, gathering place, education center, and ‘hangout.’  As digital information has become more prevalent and online presence is part of everyday social interaction and communication, libraries are providing patrons with access to Internet and computer technologies to stay “in the loop.”  By providing computers, connectivity, and user instruction, libraries are (almost by default) charged with bridging the digital divide.  Unfortunately, there is a lack of literacy and provision when it comes to digital music because copyright and digital rights management (DRM) restrictions on music recordings have made library services in digital music difficult.

We seem to be moving in the right direction, as illustrated at the 2010 Public Library Association Conference:  some public libraries are exploring DRM-Free downloadable music using the “Freegal” music service, which offers library patrons access to hundreds of thousands of songs in the Sony library.  It is a good sign that Sony is willing to work with libraries to begin providing accessible, downloadable music, and that libraries are in turn consistently looking to improve services.  By promoting Web 2.0 technologies in the library, offering extended music downloading and streaming capabilities and teaching literacies in these areas, libraries will help patrons stay connected when music is truly “like water.”

Note from Michael: Katy wrote a wonderful paper on the book for LIS768. This post is an edited down version. It amazes how the future model Kusek and Leonard presented in their book has become so real.

MediaBank for Libraries: A TTW Guest Post by Elizabeth Ludemann


As self-service and 24-hour access become new paradigms in information consumption, libraries are constantly looking for ways to extend their services to meet their patrons’ needs and desires. One very interesting new technology is the MediaBank.

Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin recently opened its first branch, the Rakow Branch, on the west side of town. The new branch is home to a MediaBank unit–an external DVD and video game dispenser which operates automatically and is open 24 hours a day. According to the library’s website, the unit is one of the first of its kind in a North American library, and it will be especially exciting to see if this kind of technology takes off.

Much like the popular commercial kiosk Redbox, MediaBank is essentially a vending machine for DVD rentals, and it allows users to rent using simply their library cards. The machine uses a touchscreen interface to let users search and browse its collection. In addition, users can browse the Gail Borden MediaBank from home online here, where they can actually place a short hold on an item, which they can then retrieve.

This is a great way to continue to offer materials, even when the library is closed. For many patrons (and potential patrons), coming to the library during operating hours may be inconvenient or even impossible. The Rakow branch has limited hours and is closed two days a week, so housing their AV collection in the MediaBank is a fantastic option for them. Utilizing the MediaBank technology is a step toward expanding service and removing barriers keeping the public from making the most of their library experience. Implementing this type of technology for other uses, including books or music, would be quite easy and would no doubt open up the collection to increased usage.

Elizabeth is in her final semester in the MLIS program at Dominican University.  She currently volunteers at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin and works part time at the Kraft Foods Knowledge Management Library.  She hopes to bring her skills and education to a career in a public library when she graduates.

Note from Michael: The company that distributes this technology is

Independent Study Project: The Book Advisor – A TTW Guest Post by Maggie Ryan

In January of this year, I began an Independent Study under the guidance of Michael Stephens. On February 14, 2010, I posted that: “The purpose of this study is to create readers’ advisory tools that utilize Web 2.0 technology.” During the past four months I have spent time: reviewing literature that is relevant to the topic; studying public library websites to ascertain what RA services are currently available and to determine what types of RA 2.0 other public libraries are providing for their patrons; and surveying library patrons to learn what services they believe would benefit them. While working on the study, I had the opportunity to learn about Drupal, a content management system and I made the decision to use Drupal to develop Web 2.0 readers’ advisory tools. The outcome of all of this effort is The Book Advisor, a prototype for a library readers’ advisory website.

As I mentioned, over the course of this project I spent a fair amount of time reading and reviewing literature that relates to readers’ advisory in a library 2.0 world. The list of readings includes the titles:

  • Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service by Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
  • Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger

All of these titles provided me with an in-depth analysis of how the digital revolution has forever altered how we communicate and organize both ourselves and the information we provide to each other. I also read a number of articles that looked at how libraries can and are utilizing Web 2.0 tools to provide readers’ advisory. The list of articles includes:

  • Peterson, Glenn & Sharon Hilts McGlinn, Building a Community of Readers: BookSpace
  • Stover, Kaite, Stalking the Wild Appeal Factor: Reader’s Advisory and Social Networking Sites
  • Wyatt, Neal, Take the RA Talk Online
  • Wyatt, Neal, 2.0 For Readers
  • Zellers, Jessica, In Blog Heaven: A Painless New Approach to Readers’ Advisory

Readers’ advisory, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a service of providing book suggestions for a reader based on information provided by the reader. It is a conversation between the reader and the readers’ advisory that focuses on what the reader likes to read. As I read through the articles about RA and Web 2.0, I repeatedly encountered the same thoughts and ideas based on the premise that utilizing library 2.0 tools for RA is a natural progression.

I created a short survey, Readers’ Advisory Survey, using the Web tool Survey Monkey so that I could informally survey the patrons of my local public library to learn what Readers Advisory services would benefit them. I distributed the survey to a group of library patrons and received 25 responses. I then evaluated the responses to determine what tools would best meet the RA needs of the patrons.

The Book Advisor is, as I stated, a library readers’ advisory website. It is a site that utilizes many Web 2.0 tools to provide readers with the information they are looking for, and the tools and resources they need. The site features an online book discussion blog, contact forms, and various places for visitors to make suggestions and leave comments, all of which allow patrons the opportunity to be active creators and participants in the library experience. The site also offers patrons the chance to be part of a group on the social book sharing site, Goodreads, where they can share their reading interests with other Goodreads members. The site currently includes RSS feeds that patrons can subscribe to for the book discussion blog and if the site were a live library active site and not just a prototype, it would also feature RSS feeds for new titles in the library collection as well as a presence on Twitter and Facebook.

I would like to mention that I found much of the inspiration for my prototype on public library websites I visited while working on this project. It is very gratifying to see that public libraries are increasingly developing services that incorporate Web 2.0 tools. I feel that through the implementation of services such as these, libraries in the 21st century are responding to the ever-changing landscape of technology as well as the diverse and changing needs of their patrons.

Please feel free to visit the site: The Book Advisor

Note: This site was created for a class project. Any copyrighted image or content is being used for class purpose only.

Maggie is a May 2010 graduate of the GSLIS program at Dominican University. She has worked in public  libraries for the past fifteen years, the last seven years in the Adult Services department of Fremont Public Library in Mundelein, IL.

Note from Michael: Maggie graduated on Saturday! Congrats to here and all of our 2010 graduates.

Social Media Best Practices for Libraries: A TTW Guest Post

This post was written by Kasia Grabowska for last semester’s LIS 768: Library 2.0 & Networking Technologies class. Kasia has allowed me to repost it here.

After doing brand monitoring research for the past few weeks, looking closely at Skokie Public Library (and not so closely at several other libraries), I decided to put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for librarians on successfully utilizing social media.

This is what I learned from doing brand monitoring and what I personally would recommend to libraries that are getting started with social media.

Tip #1: Learn how to monitor your brand

Join the RIGHT conversations at the RIGHT time. In other words, stay on top of what people are saying about you and make sure to respond, to let people know that you are listening and willing to join the conversation.

Tools to utilize for brand monitoring include RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Technorati, and staying on top of your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts. This is definitely the number 1 lesson I learned from this assignment.

Tip #2: Learn from your brand community

You’re already engaging in conversations, why not ask people for some feedback? There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get good information that will help you keep learning from what you’re doing and improving the process as you go along. Just make sure not to overdo it; remember to always engage in conversations as a person.

Tip #3: Have a game plan

Set goals, measure and iterate your social media efforts in order to continue to grow and improve your efforts. Make sure everyone who is involved in your social media strategy clearly understands the role and goals of this initiative. There’s nothing worse than joining a social network with no purpose, plan or a way to measure what you’re doing.

By using trackable links (like or to help track what your users are responding to, you will be able to measure your efforts and make improvements.

Tip #4: Promote, promote, promote

I noticed a lot of libraries who do wonderful things on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr yet they don’t include links to their social networks on their websites. Or libraries that use Twitter often but don’t follow anyone; that’s not a good way to start a conversation.

A library website should be an entry point to social media; you need to create awareness. People should not have to search for you on Facebook, or Twitter, you should reach out to every member of your community first.

Tip #5: Allow open, yet governed access for your employees

This is where a social media policy comes in. By making sure everyone who is involved in your efforts understands what to do (what they’re allowed to say, how they should respond in different situations, etc) you won’t have to monitor what each person does. Instead, you will be able to focus on making improvements.

One tip about your social media policy — make sure it’s succinct and to the point, otherwise no one will want to read it.

Tip #6: Stay relevant and be helpful

Use social media to build trust, credibility and awareness in your community. Instead of broadcasting information, try creating conversations. Remember, speaking doesn’t always result in being heard.

Be helpful, stay relevant and focus on your community’s needs. It’s also important to humanize your efforts; don’t hide behind your library’s logo, allow your users to get to know you as a person.

Tip #7: Give your community room to grow

Focus on small, consistent and ongoing change. Let your members decide how they want to use “their” online community. Listen to what they have to say and change your goals and objectives based on how your community wants to utilize social media.

Tip #8: Remember, you’re not alone

By building relationships with key people within your community who also utilize social media you can leverage your efforts and obtain better reach. People who are influencers, those who are natural communicators or leaders in your community can help your social media efforts immensely. Identify these people and ask for help. Word of mouth can be very powerful.

Tip #9: Go where your users are

Remember, you don’t have to be an early adopter. It is much better to wait for your community to start utilizing the technology before adding it to your social media arsenal. In short, go where your users are. It’s much easier for someone to join you on Facebook or Twitter if the person actually uses the technology.

Tip #10: Lead change

This is important, especially for libraries that can be very resistant to change at times: if you want to lead change, find one thing you said no to in the past and give it a try.

This is actually something I heard at a digital marketing conference I got a chance to attend last month, but I think it applies great to libraries and social media.

Kasia Grabowska is currently working on her MLIS at Dominican University. She is a website manager for Train Signal, Inc and the editor in cheif of a blog focusing on IT training and certification.

TTW Guest Post: Academic Librarians Participating in International Exchange

Working in a university library, as with any type of library, means a dedicated service focus which supports the goals and directions of the parent company or institution.  While each individual university will have their own priorities and strategic directions, there are some themes that seem to resonate across the board.  One such area is the recognition of the need for universities to internationalise.  Internationalisation benefits a university’s staff, students, research, and institutional profile and competitiveness, to just skim the surface of its influences.

I work at Flinders University in South Australia, which has established a number of ways to incorporate internationalisation.  One strategy is through strategic partnerships, including being a member of the International Network of Universities (INU).  Within this network, a Special Interest Group for University Libraries has been established, and stemming from this affiliation the University Librarians (otherwise titled Head Librarians) discovered that they had much in common with regard to their services and how they were attempting to deliver them.  The directions they were heading and their plans regarding negotiating future directions, looking at future concerns, issues, etc. also displayed close similarities.  From this beginning came the idea of establishing a staff exchange program.  Since that time, the library at Flinders has been involved with a number of staff exchanges, in particular with Hiroshima University Library, Japan.  Hiroshima staff member Tomoko Sammi has just finished a 2 month staff exchange to Flinders, and in the next 6 months there will be visitors from Malmo University Library in Sweden, as well as another staff member from Hiroshima.

For my part, I went for a 3 month visit to Hiroshima in August to October, 2008.  It was an amazing experience.  I started with being a ‘Facilitator’ in the INU Student Seminar on Global Citizenship and Peace in my first week in Hiroshima, which was a great learning experience in which I got to engage/ connect/ network with students and staff from the 11 Universities constituting the INU.  After this time, I worked for 11 weeks in the Central Library of the Hiroshima University Library service.  This involved both space for learning as well as hands-on work.  I was able to meet all of the different ‘Chiefs’ of the work teams at the library, and from this gained an understanding of the work conducted and the work flows of the system.  In terms of hands-on work, I spent a good deal of time with the Digital Repository team, the Special Collections team, had a set desk shift at the Reference Desk serving students and also conducted some presentations about the Flinders University Library and academic libraries in Australia in the name of information exchange.  However, substantively I was employed in the Academic Information Service Group of the library, and within this the major project that I worked on was constructing and conducting information literacy tutorials for international students with the Information Navigation Section.  Chief Sho-San and her staff were great to work with and being part of a project like that really did help me see and learn a lot about the service in a very practical, as well as theoretical, way.

While at Hiroshima I was asked many questions about different aspects of library services at Flinders, and was lucky enough to have the support of staff at home feeding me information from their areas of expertise as required.  The collaboration and teamwork that I was involved in on both sides was really positive.  This process continues to grow through continued connection and collaboration that grows with further staff exchange, and staff members from both services continue to grow their available network of people and support, a process that is positive for both the library services involved as well as for the professional development of individual staff.

With Flinders University as a whole focused on internationalisation, it is important for the library to be similarly focused if it is going to successfully support the needs of its university community.  On this university-wide level staff exchange helps this process.  It also helps attain a higher visual presence on the competitive international academic stage.  On a library service level we are able to learn much more about any number of areas of interest, one example being a greater understanding of the needs and expectations of international students studying at Flinders University.  On a personal level, it was an unforgettable experience, providing an opportunity that I could not have received otherwise.  In essence I feel that the range of benefits delivered through staff exchange programs such as I experienced is significant.  If you or your service is thinking about an exchange, then I hope this has given a bit of food for thought.

Chris O’Malley

Guest Post: Good to Great and Library 2.0, A Case Study

Claire Steiner
Dominican University


During my days as a MLS student, I have heard the phrase “running a library like a business” too many times to count. So many times, in fact, that I have decided to examine what exactly this concept entails and the effects it may have on libraries and the inevitable implementation of Library 2.0 technologies. The reality is that many libraries are being run like businesses these days, however, they are still not living up to their potential. So it begs the question, how does running a library more like a business make it a more successful institution? Also, what kind of business should a library be modeled after? There are a lot of businesses out there, some better than others, and so it is important to keep in mind that libraries should not only be run like a business, but run like a great business.

In 2001, Jim Collins revolutionized the way people think about business with his bestseller, Good to Great. Collins examined several key concepts that appeared consistent in his five years of research on mediocre companies and their “great” counterparts. With the help of 21 researchers Collins set to work examining thousands of pages of financial reports, stock returns, interviews, and articles of 28 carefully chosen subject companies. Of the 28 companies, 11 of them were considered great, 11 were considered good, and 6 were companies characterized by unsustained success. Each of the great companies were matched up with one of the good companies. The pairs were each from the same industry with similar backgrounds, challenges, and assets. However, one company made the leap to becoming great, while the other remained mediocre. The data supports that several principles and concepts were consistently found in great companies and lacking in mediocre ones. These concepts include:

  • Level 5 leadership
  • Getting the right people
  • Confronting reality without losing faith
  • The Hedgehog Concept
  • A culture of discipline
  • The Flywheel and Doom Loop

Each one of these principles proved vital to making a good company great. The concepts are supported by evidence pertaining to for-profit businesses and so would create the argument that libraries, being non-profit institutions, would not be subject to such parameters. The answer to this argument is addressed in Jim Collins’ follow up monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, released in 2005.

The social sectors are thought of as being in a completely different world from for-profit businesses. This is simply not true. Non-profit organizations are still organizations that need good employees, discipline, well-envisioned goals, and leadership despite differing bottom lines. The Good to Great concepts can be easily adapted to any organization regardless of the organization’s specific goals. In Good to Great in the Social Sectors, Jim Collins stresses the fact that “thinking more like a business” is an incorrect approach to creating an efficient and successful environment within the social sector. These principles should not be thought of as “principles of business,” but rather, “principles of greatness” (Collins, “Social Sectors” 1).

Soon after its release, businesses all over the world began comparing their practices to Collins’ Good to Great principles. Some changed, some didn’t, but most became more aware of how details that may have seemed insignificant could make or break a great company. Collins’ monograph brought on numerous articles illustrating the results of incorporating GTG principles into schools, libraries, and other non-profit organizations.

In his monograph and the articles that followed, Collins and his admirers enlightened readers with how the GG principles could make any organization successful. However, most of the material I found on social sectors was focused on organizations that did not include libraries. In fact, none of the interviews or articles even mentioned libraries as a potential subject of the successful implementation of the GG principles. However, I heard about a public library that implemented the GG principles into its business plan and found a great deal of success in doing so. Marie Liang of the McCracken County Public Library in Kentucky, was more than willing to assist my research into effective implementation of the GTG principles in libraries. I spoke with her extensively on how the library administration adopted the principles and improved the functioning of the library.

In 2002, the McCracken County Public Library staff set out to explore new opportunities in effective library management. They scoured articles about award winning libraries and visited many of them in the hope of picking up new ideas. 2003 came around and the MCPL still had not implemented significant changes in any department. That is, until Joe Framptom, CEO of Paducah Bank, introduced the library board members and library staff to Jim Collins’ principles. Each week, the administration came together to discuss the principles of Good to Great and how they could be incorporated into the . They called themselves the “Good to Great Council”. After a year of discussion and the rise and fall of hundreds of different ideas, the GTG Council presented their plan to the Library Board. Upon approval, the Council set forth to begin implementing their research and ideas into the library.

I have reflected on each concept below through its context in the original Good To Great book followed by its interpretation in Good to Great in the Social Sectors. I then illustrated how the McCracken County Public Library incorporated each principle into its management practices and services. I sum up each principle with further elaboration on its importance to the efficient and effective functioning of a great library. Of course, there is a lot more to implementing useful services and managing an effective staff but Collins lays down some great groundwork and starting points for managers and employees to dissect, discuss, and tailor to fit their own work ethics and institutions.

Concept #1- Level 5 Leadership

Level 5 leadership in Good to Great was characterized by professional will and personal humility. Level 5 leaders have an unwavering determination to be the best and never settle for less. Level 5 leaders are intelligent, savvy, fair, decisive, and determined However, they lack the excessive ego and flash that can be attributed to many existing CEOs. Their ambition lies with the company’s welfare and not the amount of wealth they can accumulate for themselves. They recognize the attributes of their employees and never build themselves up as the reason for the company’s success (Collins,2001).

Good to Great in the Social Sectors backs up Good to Great’s description of Level 5 leadership but it also expands to cover the fact that many social institutions require a more legislative governance. That is, while for-profit companies usually put one person in the highest level of leadership, social institutions diffuse the power between the head of the organization and the other branches. There is no one in the company that has the power to make the most important decisions on their own (Collins, 2005). Great leaders in social sectors, however, are clever and persuasive enough to make the right decisions happen even if they don’t hold the power to do so on their own. The most important part of doing that is for a leader to be able to show those around them that their motivation comes from their desire for a successful institution and not their own glory or reward (Collins, 2005).

McCracken County Public Library is a great example of diffused leadership. There was a library director but each department had its own leader that made many of the decisions on their own. Dave Denton, Library Board Chairman, was the first to take the lead in 2003 and introduce GTG to the library staff. From there, Marie Liang took over in leading the library staff through transition to success. Ms. Liang had only the progress of the library as a concern when she began implementing changes. Her interest was serving the public to the best of her ability, and her dedication inspired the staff to follow suit.

Level 5 Leadership and Library 2.0

Making Web 2.0 a successful part of every library requires the hard work and dedication of a level 5 leader. Technology changes in a library are often slowed down by nay-sayers and tired employees that are only interested in keeping the status quo. My experience in libraries has shown me how hard it can be to progress to the next level of technological proficiency. Collins’ comment on how negative power can hold things up is apparent in many social institutions, especially libraries. Though this negativity is extremely detrimental to success, I have also seen the presence of a great leader provide the encouragement needed to overcome such negativity. It takes a strong leader to implement change in the social sector but when it is done the reward is that which makes a huge difference in quality of service. Library 2.0 is about creating that quality and improving a library’s ability to serve.

Concept #2- Getting the Right People

According to Good to Great, before any project can get underway there must be a complete analysis of employees. No system will become profitable if the right people are not involved. This could mean rearranging staff into different and more suitable positions, or hiring new people to take the place of those that are not proving themselves as invaluable to the organization. Collins stresses the importance of not hiring out of the fear of facing the possibility of more work for others due to an empty position. In the long run, hiring the wrong person will create more loss and difficulty for the company than waiting until the right person comes along (Collins, 2001).

When it comes to social sectors, “getting the right person in the right seat on the bus” may prove more difficult than with for-profit businesses. For-profit businesses are able to buy their talent or get rid of under-performing employees more quickly. Social sector institutions may run into more red tape when trying to weed out unproductive staff. They often do not have the budget to attract great people with big salaries or perks. However, there are other ways that the social sector can make an organization more desirable to a job seeker. Selectivity will make positions more attractive, while appealing to those who want to make a difference in their community will draw dedicated applicants. The more of the right people an organization has, the more attractive it becomes to potential fundraisers. Having an organization of disciplined and dedicated people can make up for lack of money but never the other way around (Collins, 2005).

The McCracken County Public Library recognized the importance of hiring great people right away. In 2004, Liang and her staff implemented frequent performance evaluations, revised job descriptions, and staff incentive programs. They revised their interview questions to include

asking the candidates as to why they want to work at the library, as well as, what they are most passionate about. They did not fill a vacancy just because it needed to be filled but took their time to make sure that they hired the right person. Liang also took early assessment seriously by hiring staff from temp agencies for three month periods. This allowed staff the opportunity to work with a candidate before bringing them on permanently. Liang created in-depth exit interviews for departing team members in the hope of improving the staff dynamics.

Getting the Right People and Library 2.0

Library 2.0 can be an overwhelming concept for many library employees. It is important for libraries to evaluate staff frequently to avoid problems that could face a staff adapting to change. Of course, there is never going to be a transition without set backs, however, if the staff is carefully chosen and made to be aware of the certainty of change beforehand, it will provide a smoother process and a happier, more well adjusted team. On top of being able to adapt to inevitable change, great library employees have a knack for seeking out change. Great librarians should always be looking for a way to improve their services. In this day and age, a great deal of library service improvement comes from taking on new technologies. Those individuals that seek library employment should be trained in innovation, and those employers seeking new staff should expect nothing less then candidates with a drive to improve and succeed.

Concept #3- Confronting Reality without Losing Faith

Reality can come as a blow to a lot of companies. Whether they are facing financial difficulties, impending layoffs, product failure, or hostile takeovers, it can be very difficult to stay positive. Even worse, companies that ignore reality and continue as if the outside world has no influence on their success will inevitably result in massive loss and the reality of a failing company. Collins takes on this issue in GTG, Chapter 4: Confronting the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith). The most important lesson in this concept is keeping the staff aware of the company’s strengths and weaknesses through honest questions, debate, and the ability to recognize red flags. Collins also stresses the importance of staying positive, even in a situation that seems hopeless. There will always be a company or organization that has faced worse and prevailed (Collins, 2001).

The most common issue facing the social organizations pertaining to this concept is the attitude that the entire system is broken and nothing can improve until that system is fixed. Yes, the system is often broken, however, giving up is not the answer. The system will probably not be fixed for years and people will continue to rely on social institutions despite such obstacles. This is an obvious roadblock in health care and public education but closing these institutions is not an option (Collins, 2005). Closing doors should not be an option for libraries either, whether they are facing budget crises, natural disaster, under-use, or irrelevancy. Facing the reality of the problem is the first step in overcoming. The second step is getting over it and moving forward. Cutting costs, cleaning up, promoting services, and getting in touch with the community and its needs are ways to stay dedicated to making a serviceable contribution.

The McCracken County Public Library began their Good to Great Journey in 2002. They were still working on implementing principles in 2006. Today, they continue to search for new ways to uphold Collins’ principles. The staff at the MCPL recognized the great things that would come from staying true to the concepts, and did not let the lack of immediate results waver their resolve. Instead, they held regular meetings to measure success and they never stopped believing that they could accomplish what they set out to do. Seven years later, the MCPL has won several awards for outstanding customer service.

Confronting Reality and Library 2.0

Library 2.0 is the reality of future libraries. For some, this would translate to the loss of faith in books and other print resources. However, this is not the case. The books aren’t going anywhere. 2.0 is about giving people the opportunity to reach out to others, overcome differences, and make the world seem a little smaller. There is no reason why 2.0 cannot coexist with other formats and media. The more people who understand 2.0 and confront the reality of its usefulness, the faster librarians can move forward and embrace all that it has to offer.

Concept #4- The Hedgehog Concept

Good to Great treats the Hedgehog Concept as the turning point in making a good business great. It can be tied into all of the other concepts and is a culmination of the core values, passion, and economic drivers. The HC is illustrated by three interlocking circles. The circles represent an organization’s passion, what the organization can be the best at, and what drives their economic engine. Ideally, an organization will function in at the height of where these concepts intersect (Collins, 2001). Collins further elaborates explaining that the HC is not a plan or strategy, but an understanding a great company has about its abilities and purpose (Collins, 2001).

The Hedgehog Concept translates to the social sector except for one fundamental difference. Social institutions do not have an economic engine. The root of their existence is not based on how much profit they make (Collins, 2005). Social institutions must recognize what they can be the best at, what they are passionate about, and what drives their resource engines in order to be at the top of their success. The resource engine is further broken up into three parts: time, money, and brand. While all organizations need money to pay the bills, social organizations also need the support of time from volunteers, and the ability to cultivate support and goodwill through an institution’s brand. All three of these aspects will build a strong engine to drive an institution’s ability to obtain its goals (Collins, 2005).

The McCracken County Public Library recognized the need for a Hedgehog Concept and, through committee collaboration, came up with one that they felt would drive their library to success. The MCPL recognized that their resource engine was driven by the community in which they served. They were passionate about giving the community a valuable personal experience, and felt that they could be the best at providing the best collection possible to facilitate that experience. The MCPL focused on collection building and service rendering within the boundaries of their HC. By 2006 they had built up enough community support to renovate their Adult Services department, reduce fine and card replacement costs to patrons, implement a new and innovative website, and increase the amount of pubic computers throughout the library.

The Hedgehog Concept and Library 2.0

Library 2.0 should be incorporated into every library hedgehog concept. This is because Library 2.0 is about providing better service to a community. It builds the library brand as more innovative and patron oriented while providing new ways for the library to fulfill its passion for service. Keeping libraries relevant is an important part of brand building and providing for a community of potential supporters. Social networking can grow a community base and open up new opportunities for a library to strengthen its ties and grow its collection of products and services.

Concept #5- A Culture of Discipline

The culture of discipline in a GTG company comes from the ability of its leader to stick to the Hedgehog Concept no matter what. Leaders must be able to say “no” to opportunities that present themselves if they don’t fit into the HC. Discipline also means having employees that can follow a hedgehog concept but still have the freedom to produce their own ideas and interpretations of the three key points of the HC. Great companies have employees that are able to govern themselves and take accountability. Bureaucracy is the result of undisciplined staff (Collins, 2001).

Social sector institutions can relate very easily to the for-profit culture of discipline. This concept is not necessarily about making money, but supporting an institution through hard work, dedication, responsibility, and accountability. If the staff of an organization is working to uphold their HC while “operating with freedom within a framework of responsibilities,” success will surely follow (Collins, 2005). The advantage that social sectors have with this concept is that there is less executive greed driving decisions. Most decisions stem from the desire to do good things for a community. However, the personal desires of donors should be managed appropriately and not allowed to overshadow the true purpose of the organization (Collins, 2005).

Marie Liang incorporated a strong sense of discipline in her staff. The administration rewrote job descriptions to elaborate on the responsibilities and expectations of staff while further training programs were implemented to help the entire organization become more disciplined in public services and team work. By 2006, 14 members of the staff were KDLA certified, and the library was able to significantly increase technical support for staff and patrons. Coverage was no longer an issue and the community was able to truly experience the valuable personal service that the library had been striving for.

A Culture of Discipline and Library 2.0

Remaining dedicated to a goal such as implementing Library 2.0 is part of creating a culture of discipline within a library. There will be times when tools become tedious or difficult to manage and staff must remain diligent in the effort to provide the best social networking opportunities to the public. Committees or groups of staff dedicated to the incorporation of 2.0 can build up enthusiasm and understanding of the benefits. Leadership is also important to sustaining discipline through times of struggle. Laying out plans of improvement and working out the bugs in 2.0 implementation can help those reluctant to change come around to seeing how their own work will improve and become more efficient.

Concept #6- The Flywheel, Not Doom Loop

Creating momentum for improvement is the last concept that Collins reflects on in Good to Great. One of the most important ideas within this concept is that great change does not happen overnight. Momentum is built one step at a time and increases as more changes are implemented. If an organization is implementing change according to the previous principles, the momentum will build up to a point of breakthrough where all aspects of the business will fall into place and continue to improve at a faster pace. For many companies, this breakthrough took many years to reach but the discipline and dedicated staff provided the drive to persevere through the slower years of progress. The Doom Loop can be illustrated by an organization that is too impatient to wait through slow and steady progress and opt for immediate and dramatic change. The result is usually a quick upswing in business and profit followed by a steady decline. (Collins, 2001).

In social sectors, there is not a financial bottom line to measure the progress of change, however, building the brand creates better support for more change and increased utilization of an organization’s products or services. Channeling such support will make the flywheel of change move faster and more efficiently. The profit mechanism isn’t there, but the progress mechanism and the resource engine is still in need of increasing amounts of fuel to sustain results (Collins, 2005).

The McCracken County Public Library understood that what they were taking on in 2002 would be a slow but rewarding process. They collaborated consistently and implemented changes that would provide an environment for more change. Their slow but steady progress became faster as the staff became more adaptable. Eventually their flywheel resulted in an abundance of awards and an organization that was truly dedicated to providing the best personal service to patrons. Their successes opened up new opportunities to build the brand which resulted in more funding for new programs. The entire process took several years, however, the library is still reaping rewards and passing the benefits on to the public.

The Flywheel and Library 2.0

Incorporating Library 2.0 into a library often requires smaller implementations while the staff is getting used to the idea of change. Once the staff is adapting more easily to technology, the flywheel can move faster and larger programs can be implemented without overwhelming the staff or the public. The momentum of change is dictated by all of the Good to Great concepts. There needs to be great leadership to start the drive forward, followed by dedicated staff that recognize the usefulness and necessary implementation of 2.0 technologies. The reality of the future of libraries and technology should be recognized as a force that will change the public’s concept of libraries. The hedgehog concept will provide structure for improvement while discipline will keep the focus on the best programs and most beneficial uses of 2.0 technologies. The flywheel culminates with the blending of all the concepts and can stop moving completely if any of them are taken away.

Running libraries like businesses is not the answer to how to create successful institutions. The success of an organization goes much deeper than such a simple concept. We must understand what makes a great business and adopt those principles into their own organization. Jim Collins created a great outline for success. We have yet to see these principles disputed by a great company or a great library. Library 2.0 technologies have brought the need for change management and project efficiency to the forefront of current challenges in libraries. Recognizing successful practices is important to being an invaluable addition to any type of organization. Library 2.0 is an ally to great libraries and should be utilized to the fullest possible advantage. Only then can libraries truly show their dedication to serving the public to the best of its ability.


  • Collins, Jim, “Core Values, ” Leadership Excellence (2009): 5. (accessed March 29, 2009).
  • Collins, Jim. Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer. Topeka: Topeka Bindary, 2005.
  • Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.
  • Liang, Marie, telephone interview, March 27, 2009.