Saturday, December 3, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Hipster in a headdress

This is the ninth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

I love TED talks. I know that I have posted or linked to a bunch of them in this series. I'm a visual and auditory learner so they have been a great resource for me. Here is one that I thought would be fascinating, but I actually found that I had some issues with it. Its David Logan, talking about his theories on Tribal Leadership:

Logan discuses his five levels of tribal groups: 
Stage one: Life sucks. These are gangs, criminals and loners who feel that life sucks and life will always suck.
Stage two: My life sucks. His example is a long line at the DMV.
Stage three: My life is great. Emphasis on my.
Stage four: Unify individuals. Looking at tribes of highly desirable corporate jobs, like zappos or google.
Stage five: Life is great. Unifying everyone. Such as the reconciliation of South Africa.

Logan's definition of leadership is nudging your organization towards the fifth stage.

My disappointment lies in the fact that I started watching this video with some pretty high standards. I thought this was going to be coming from the perspective of a anthropologist, looking at actual tribes. Instead, this was a business professor talking about organizational culture. Which is an important conversation to have. But why can't we just call it organizational culture? I guess tribal leadership is a bit sexier, but if feels like cultural appropriation. Kind of like a hipster in a headdress.

I think an actual examination of leader styles would be fascinating. As an undergraduate student, we discussed Ujamaa, which is African Socialism. Ujamaa is a swahili word for extended family. African socialism grew out of the idea that what is good for the tribe is good for the individual. European socialism tends to focus more on the relationship between the worker (proletariat) and the factory owner (capitalist). Comparing the two is a look at industrial tribes versus non-industrial tribes. There is a lot to learn from both, but personally, I like to think of the library organization more of a family setting than a factory. And so ideas of Ujamaa makes more sense. What is good for the individual library worker is good for the organization. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Dance dance revolution

This is the eighth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.
- Emma Goldman

The above video clip is awesome. For many reasons. First, its goofy and makes me laugh. Second, it was filmed at the Sasquatch music festival, which is held in The George Amphitheater, which is the most amazing music venue in the world. Most importantly, it is a video clip of a young man with a lot of courage. It takes a lot of guts to be yourself and, as they say, march to the tune of your own drummer. That is why its so awesome to watch others join in the dance party. The young man is a leader, and he appears to be bringing some joy to a lot of people. 

And I'm glad that I am not the only one who thinks so. Derek Sivers gave a Ted Talk, titled How To Start a Movement. Below is a youtube video, overlaying his theories on the dancing guy video. Check it out: 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OWS Library Solidarity

 Photo Credit: David Shankbone

The Occupy Wall Street Library movement seems to be getting it's day in the sun. Following my last post, I thought I would share some updates here:

Hack Library School has put together a great post with the library student's perspective on the Occupy Wall Street movement and the roles that libraries are playing. Click on over to check it out.

Rachel Maddow + OWS + Libraries = my head exploading with delight! Watch here.

And here are some more links talking about the current state of the grass-roots movement from around the country. Well, mainly NYC and PDX: 

As these libraries find new homes, I will try and keep updating!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Finding my voice

This is the seventh post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

One of our class readings was the chapter "Find Your Voice" from The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. The reading focused on the fact that authentic leadership is effective leadership. The authors offered many exercises that allowed the readers to "find their voice," and approach their organizations with a strong sense of self. One of the exercises was comprised of a list of questions. I found my self thinking about potential answers I would provide, and thought that a selection of these questions would make an excellent post for this series. Without further ado: 

What do you stand for? Why?

Uninterrupted access to Human Rights. Because every person porn on this planet regardless of nationality, race, gender, beliefs, ability, sexual orientation or economic status deserve dignity, respect and opportunity. And I count the freedom to access information and the right to information privacy as human rights.

What do you believe in? Why?

Sense-Making. Following in the footsteps of Brenda Dervin, I believe that information seeking behavior is an individual attempting to add meaning to their experience.  And I feel that this is the foundation of what librarians do: whether it is finding a good book, writing a term paper or finding services and resources, we assist individuals in their process of adding meaning to their experiences.

What are you discontent about? Why?

I am discontented about how current changes in communication technology are affecting the information management industry. Will google searches leading seekers to "good" information? Will we be able to archive digital communication for posterity?  Will politicians claim the internet is why we no longer need to fund libraries? I also feel that these changes are creating new opportunities for librarians to insert their reliance as an important community resource. 

What brings you suffering? Why?

Powerful people, organizations, institutions and governments denying rights, dignity, opportunity and respect to those who are not as powerful. Because it's not fair. While I recognize that life is not fair, we don't need those on top to make it any less fair for everyone else.  

What makes you weep and wail? Why?

Library closures. Denying marriage rights. Environmental degradation. Obtuse and hypocritical politicians. Animal cruelty. Any and all forms of bullying. Because I am a die-hard liberal. 

What keeps you awake at night? Why?

Fear. Specifically I fear that I will succumb to my shortcomings and  fail. I know that I am not alone in this fear, and it is perhaps more universal than we realize. While this might keep me up at night, I try and use it as a motivating factor during the day.

What's grabbed hold and won't let go? Why?

Social networking, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogging. Because sharing equals caring. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Occupy Your Bookshelf

I've been thinking of ways to support the Occupy Wall Street movement. I would love nothing more than to join their ranks and camp out, but between finishing school and juggling various jobs, I haven't had the opportunity.

I have been very impressed with the role that librarians have been playing, with the creation of Occupy Libraries in various cities. The OWSLibrary in Zuccotti Park has over 4500 titles, the OccupyPortland library has close to 800 title, and even OccupyMaine has a library with about 50 titles.

While I don't have any books to contribute, I did want to at least make a recommended reading list intended for protesters, participants, observers or anyone who is curious about the movement and and its mission. The list is long, about 50 titles, but Occupy Wall Street is a growing movement that is bringing attention to the economic inequity in our country - a multifaceted and often confusing issue.

I have the list broken up into four categories: The first category contains books that speak to economic and social theory, philosophy and history; the second looks at how our economy got to be where it is; the third contains books that deal with activism and possible alternatives economic models and the final category contains a bit of everything. I put out a call on Facebook, Twitter and Google + asking folks what they might recommend for an #OWS reading list, and some amazing titles were shared and I wanted to be sure that they were included.

I'm very happy with this list. I feel that there is something for everyone. I understand that it contains material that is pretty left of center, but that's where #OWS tends to hang out. Do you think anything is missing from this list? Is there anything that seems out of place? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Without further ado, an occupy reading list:

I. Getting a Good Foundation: Theory, Philosophy and History

Author: David Orrell
Illustrator: Borin Van Loon
Year: 2011
Publisher: Totem Books

Author: Dan Cryan
Illustrator: Sharron Shatil
Year: 2005
Publisher: Totem Books

Author: Donald A. Ritchie
Year: 2010
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Author: Richard Bellamy
Year: 2008
Publisher:  Oxford University Press

Author: Bernard Crick
Year: 2003
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Author: Herbert Marcuse
Year: 1964
Publisher: Beacon Press

Author: Henry David Thoreau
Year: 1849

Author: Jonathan Swift
Year: 1729

Author: Mahatma Gandhi & Bharatan Kumarappa
Year: 1961
Publisher: Schocken Books

Title: Empire
Authors: Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri
Year: 2001
Publisher: Harvard University Press

Author: Howard Zinn
Year: 2003
Publish: HarperCollins

Author: John Brooks
Year: 1999
Publisher: Wiley

Author: Edward Chancellor
Year: 2000
Publisher: Penguin

Author: Noam Chomsky
Editor: Anthony Arnove
Year: 2008
Publisher: New Press

Author: James S. Kunen
Year: 1969
Publisher: Random House

II. What happened: Context of the Economic Recession and the Current Distribution of Wealth in America

Editor: Katrina vanden Heuvel
Year:  2009
Publisher: Nation Books

Author: Arianna Huffington
Year: 2011
Publisher: Broadway

Author: Lawrence Lessig
Year: 2011
Publisher: Twelve

Author: Glenn Greenwald
Year: 2011
Publisher: Metropolitan Books

Authors: Fred Magdoff & Michael D. Yates
Year: 2009
Publisher: Monthly Review Press

Authors: John Bellamy Foster & Fred Magdoff
Year: 2009
Publisher: Monthly Review Press

Author: Ron Suskind
Year: 2011
Publisher: Harper

Author: David C Korten
Year: 2003
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Author: Thom Hartmann
Year: 2007
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Author: Chris Hedges
Year: 2010
Publisher: Nation Books

III. Moving Forward: Activism and Alternatives

Authors: Donatella Della Porta & Mario Diani
Year: 2010
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Author: T. V. Reed
Year: 2005
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Author: Anthony M. Orum & John G. Dale
Year: 2008
Publisher; Oxford University Press

Authors: Jerome Armstrong & Markos Moulitsas
Year: 2006
Publisher: Chelsea Green

Author: Saul Alinksy
Year: 1989
Publisher: Vintage

Authors: Michael Ratner & Margaret Ratner Kunstler
Year: 2011
Publisher: The New Press

Author: David C Korten
Year: 2010
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Author: Kelly Coyne
Illustrator: Eric Knutzen
Year: 2010
Publisher: Process

Authors: Scott Kellogg & Stacy Pettigrew
Year: 2008
Publisher: South End Press

Author: Paulo Freire
Year: 2008
Publisher: Continuum

Editor: Howard Zinn
Year: 2002
Publisher: Beacon Press

IV. Miscellaneous

Author: Mark Hersgaard
Year: 1999
Publisher: Broadway

Author: Abbie Hoffman
Year: 1995 (25th Anniversary Edition)
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Author: Pablo Neruda
Editor: Ilan Stavans
Year: 2005
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Author: George Oppen
Year: 1968
Publisher: New Directions

Author: Starhawk
Year: 1997
Publisher: Beacon Press

Author: Naomi Klein
Year: 2008
Publisher: Picador

Author: Naomi Wolf
Year: 2007
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing

Author: Elaine Brown
Year: 1993
Publisher: Anchor

Author: Audre Lorde
Year: 2007
Publisher: Crossing

Title: The Lorax
Author: Dr. Seuss
Year: 1971
Publisher: Random House

Author: Munro Leaf
Illustrator: Robert Lawson
Year: 1936
Publisher: Viking

Editors: Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers & Jeff Jones
Year: 2006
Publisher: Seven Stories Press

Author: Mark Rudd
Year: 2009
Publisher: William Morrow

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Window and the mirror theory

This is the sixth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to be involved with the blog Hack Library School as a contributing writer. For my post this week, I thought I would combine efforts, sharing my post on leadership with readers of both blogs.

I love theory. The ideas that disciplines and professions are based off of. The bedrock of our world views. The base of our ideologies.

Some of my favorite courses in library school were the foundation courses. At the time they were frustrating, because I wanted to be working in a library. But now that I am working in the field, I appreciate those theory courses the most.

I find LIS theory to be a fascinating creature. We have our own theorists (like Ranganathan, Dervin and Kuhlthau) but we are also a discipline of adoptive theory. Communication, education, business and management, sociology, gender studies, even engineering theories (HCI and UX principles are starting to take over the profession) are all relevant to LIS.

One of the last required foundation classes I took was Management and Leadership in the Library Industry. While most of the class discussions were focused on Taylorism and Scientific Management versus more current humanist approaches to management, our instructor provided a very interesting recommended reading list. On it were authors whose books are typically found on the shelves of business sections: Stephen R. Covey, John P. Kotter, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel H. Pink and Peter F. Drucker. I’ll admit: at first I scoffed at these books. Having a background in sociology, I want my theorist to be a bit grittier (and a bit more European): Foucault, Durkheim, Marx, Marcuse and Weber. So I pretty much stuck to the required reading and was none the wiser...

...until recently. I had a good friend (and non-librarian) recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins. This was a title that was on that recommended reading list, and one that I normally pass over. But the friend who recommended it was not someone I would think of as reading it: she spent a number of years selling fair-trade organic coffee, has spent a fair amount of time traveling in Africa and Latin America (including Chiapas, land of the Zapatista) and only recently started working for a corporation (Whole Foods) because of the horrible economy. Not exactly your rank-and-file corporate worker. So I had to check this book out.
Much to my surprise, I am really enjoying it, and finding much of Collins’ ideas surrounding leadership 100% applicable to libraries.

The most relevant lesson taken away so far is what Collins calls "the window and the mirror" theory:

"[Top-tier] leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well....At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly. The comparison leaders did just the opposite. They’d look out the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went well. (Collins, Good to Great, p. 35)"

Collins uses steel producing companies to exemplify this idea. CEOs of mediocre companies would look out the window and see internationally produced cheap steel as the reason why their companies were not reaching their potential. While the CEOs of top steel companies saw the internationally produced cheap steel as an opportunity. The competing companies would have to ship the steel to the US at exorbitant prices, giving the American companies a distinct advantage. Likewise, these top companies look at their own operations for ways to improve their business, rather than blame outside factors for their failures.
I think the window/mirror theory is an excellent mindset not just for individual leaders, but for the library industry as a whole. We could look at declining circulation counts or reference questions as a factor out of our control that is pushing our services to the periphery. Or, we can look at the changing information searching behaviors of our patrons as an opportunity to offer innovative services and resources that exceeds our users expectations.

For example: In 2009, Project Information Literacy released a progress report, with findings that describes course readings, Google and instructors as the first resources students turn to when researching topics for their school work, and librarians as an overlooked resource. Looking for external factors to blame for lack of library use, this study could be a shining example. Instead, we should look at the fact that students are rarely seeking out librarians as an opportunity to create new services (such as embedded librarianship or collaborating with instructors and faculty) to better assist students. And we should be looking at our current services for potential areas of improvement.
It is widely know that we live in a time of change. Libraries of all types are facing major budget cuts, and we are fighting tooth and nail for what resources we do receive. Rather than being Chicken Littles about it, looking out the window to avoid falling pieces of the sky, we should be looking at the changes we face as the new reality and continue to offer excellent services and exceed our users expectations. Now is the time to ensure our place as leaders in the fight for a citizenry who is not just information literate, but information fluent.

I know that this book has been out for over a decade, and some of the companies that Collins have listed as "great" companies have been the most affected by our current recession (such as the now defunct Circuit City), but Good to Great is still an excellent read. It's worth checking out. But, as my hero Levar Burton often said: "You don't have to take my word for it..."

You can read more of my writing over at Hack Library School by clicking here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Getting infront of the puck

This is the fifth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

Go in peace, Mr. Jobs.

We recently lost a great man, a visionary and a global leader when Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, passed away on October 5th.

There has been much that has already been said about him. Examining how Apple is in many ways the model for the personal computer industry, how Jobs as a major player in revolutionizing cinematic animation and the music industry. Steve Job was a very public figure, and his passing is global news. As a library student writing a series of blog posts on leadership, it would be remiss to not say a few words on Steve Job as a leader.
 "I skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." - Wayne Gretzky

Steve Jobs said the the above Gretzky quotes has always been on of his favorites, and his success seems to support philosophy. When Jobs rejoined Apple in the late 90s, after decade long schism with the company he co-founded,  it was struggling. With a few short years the iMac and the iPod were released and the company was once again a global leader in the technology industry. Today, many companies seem to be constantly chasing Apple's tail coats, while Apple always seems to be right where the puck is going to be.

Much of this success is attributed to Jobs, who was a very hands-on CEO of the company. He was known for design excellence. As new products were developed, he was know for demanding simplicity and that all excess be cut out. Apple is also famous for creating experiences that exceeds their customers experiences. Jobs certainly offers a lot that anyone, but especially librarians, could learn from.

Jobs was not a perfect leader. He was known for demanding perfection, being an aggressive manager and even controlling. But he ways also heralded as today's Henry Ford. The world would be a different place with his influence, and his presence will be missed.

I have found his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address inspiring. I hope you do to: 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

InfoCamp Seattle Recap

I shot off a quick post the other day from the middle of a session at this year's InfoCamp Seattle, but now that I am home I wanted to sit down and report back on my time there:

Opening session at InfoCamp Seattle 2011
Kane Hall, University of Washington 

For those of you who aren't familiar with InfoCamp: it's a user experience unconference. User experience (UX), in very broad terms, is a look at how users/customers/patrons are interacting with the systems that are created for them. These systems include, but are not limited to: web sites, databases, software, programs, catalogs, etc. Probably 60% of the participants were from more technical industries (web designers, programmers, coders, developers) while 40% were from the library community. The "unconference" model is one where breakout sessions are organized as the day progresses, so anyone who shows up who would like to present would have the opportunity. It adds a grass roots feel to the event, which is pretty awesome.

The Keynote was given by Nishant Kothary, a writer, entrepreneur and Microsoft employee. His talk centered around the importance of failure, and included insights about behavior, neuroscience, design, economics, and, of course, cute dog photos. It was excellent. 

 Taco Time!

I attended some great sessions. The highlights included discussions on how to enter into a UX career, how to use tweets as a data set in quantitative and qualitative research, and how to incorporate UX principles into academic libraries. I also volunteered, to help cover the cost of the conference, and it was awesome to interact with folks at the registration table.

View of Mount Rainer from the University of Washington Campus.

The location was beautiful. I never realized how awesome the University of Washington Campus was. Not only was it a perfect setting for InfoCamp, but it was so much fun to spend the weekend in Seattle, seeing some old friends and eating some amazing food.

Librarian Extraordinaire, Kirsten Himes, trying to decide on which bowl of pho is for her. Don't let the sign dissuade you, it was an amazing meal. 

The highlight of the weekend, other than InfoCamp, was spending my birthday weekend with some close friends. Below, you can see Pfeif (our gracious host) preparing an amazing birthday dinner: tamari-maple-almond salmon with green beans and salad from her and her boyfriend's garden. It was great to spend a weekend out of town, with friends, learning about better ways to meet and exceed the expectations of our patrons.

InfoCamp was both invigorating and inspiring. I feel a renewed momentum to help get an InfoCampPDX started! We have a space booked in February 2012. So now it's time to roll up our sleeves and make it happen. if you live in the area, and are interested in helping out check out this wiki and feel free to drop me a line (

Special thanks to the organizing team of InfoCamp Seattle for an amazing weekend, and to Serenity Isben for letting me share her wonderful photos on here!