Thursday, June 18, 2009

ULC Webinar audio conference

Yesterday I attended a Webinar about the Future of the Library User Experience presented by the Urban Libraries Council. The audio conference was held in the Carnegie Room at Main Library.

The presenter was Nate Bolt. He had some good insights. Although his presentation focused mostly on the future of an online experience, the reaction panelists talked a bit about contributions from the public services side, so there was a blend. Interestingly, there was a poll question asked about who is responsible for user experience in an organization. It was difficult to answer with just once choice, because really the user experience is dependent on all facets of the organization working together with a common vision.

Everything I'm reading pretty much matches up with what was presented. The future of experience will be that services are easier to use, easier to share, easier to customize and easier to integrate into other things people are already using. It can take libraries awhile to catch up, but we are getting there.

A few points really stood out:

  • Logic does not equal intuition.

  • This idea is not traditionally part of the thinking of librarians. The entire structure of a library depends on logic. Librarians are thinking, "How do we teach our customers to use the system?," and customers are thinking, "Why isn't someone making this system easier to use?" Nate says that by necessity libraries will need to move away from system and logic and move toward intuitive experience.

    You will know you are doing something innovative when...

  • It has been done before in a more rudimentary way.
  • It upsets people. Anyone heard anything lately about some cheese being moved?
  • It can be hard to get buy-in.

  • Finally, Nate reminded all of us (library or not) that the best way to create a user experience is to observe your users and then act based on their behavior instead of what they are saying or what you are thinking they want. That may be a new way of thinking, but I believe it is certainly a good one.

    Post audio conference Patrick led a discussion with the group. He asked, "What is CML doing well when it comes to user experience and what could we do better." We also talked about what the user experience looks like as we continue to move to digitial formats. What are your thoughts?

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Nurturing Innovation

    I attended the Nurturing Innovation session presented by Sari Feldman (Director) and Tracy Strobel (Deputy Director) of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. I thought it would be interesting to hear what the #2 library in the country has to say! They have adapted the concept of “Good to Great” from the business world to the library world. Their attitude is- even though we’re always ranked highly, we can still do better.

    Here’s a cool thing- they are working closely with Nancy Pearl. She spends a week each month with them, training their staff on reader’s advisory and conducting programs for library customers!

    I came away from this session (and the entire conference) feeling pretty lucky to work for CML, mainly because what other library systems consider innovation, we consider business as usual. Not to minimize the accomplishments of Cuyahoga County, but almost everything they mentioned, we already do! They stressed that ideas can come from all levels of the organization, and they’ll try anything, as long as it fits in with the library’s mission. This culture of nurturing innovation is something that I see everyday. For example, when I got back to work from the conference, I found that Dragana Pjevac, one of our CSS’s at Whetstone, had created a staff wiki! Immediately staff members started jumping in, adding documents, and collaborating. Learn & Play has given our team the confidence to create, share, and help one another without hesitation.

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Some Of My Notes

    Kalamazoo Promise – any youth who attends school in Kalamazoo, graduates and meets the basic requirements for acceptance at a public college/university in Michigan, will get their tuition paid. This is innovation. A group of people got together to plan for the future of the Kalamazoo area way in to the future, because the fund for this will be supported in perpetuity. It is about the future of the area because it generates an educated population that generates an interest in the area for jobs as most employers want an educated population base with which to work. This stimulates the economy in that area. It brings stability. Communities from all over will be watching Kalamazoo for the next 20 or more years to see how this promise perpetuates long lasting change in the community.

    Dr. Brad Mitchell of Battelle spoke about a lot of things besides the STEM program during the opening address, but the items I wrote down were thought provoking (for me): “Are we up to the thrill of our days?” and “Strategy of re-invention”. He was speaking too fast for me to take notes, but I figured I get the notes off the website when they were posted. I also figured I’d visit the STEM site ( This led me to the term Systems Engineering which is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, and then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem.
    While touring the STEM site, I decided to visit the lounge and thought this was really a great use of transparency. Here you have the opportunity to weigh in on what they are doing. They want you to. We could do this for the 20/20 vision and levy projects.
    Anyway, this was a great example of how one thing leads to another.

    Stephen Abram’s Trendspotting: Weak Signals for the Future talk was seeded with things I knew and things I did not know about. I had to check out Now Public, Mozes, Webkinz, TechCrunch, and he reminded me to check to see what’s happening with Bibliocommons. He also talked about Google-caching.

    Google-caching is their new service. You may notice when you do a search on Google it now says “customized for the Columbus region”. If you did the same search in LA or NY you would probably get a different mix of hits. I thought this was great for us because they left the door wide open for us to find those nuggets that they decided our region would not want, or for us to show customers how to navigate the web better – beyond Google.
    (An aside – it strikes me funny the number of PowerPoint presentations I’ve seen at a conference on innovation. I guess I expected to see new applications of Flickr or or other new technology. I think I may tie innovation to technology too much). Innovation can incorporate attitudinal change – CHUH (Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library) suggested the BUS concept. The bus is headed in the right direction because the passengers are the staff and the driver is the customer. That’s an attitudinal shift.
    They also:
    *Have a drive up pickup window.
    *Are using the lockers for retrieving reserves 24/7. These are also drive up.
    *Have phones on the wall for customers to use to page staff on that floor (Georgetown U. had this back in the early 70’s. I guess this is the renew part of the definition of innovation).

    I heard the term Search Ohio and I thought it was some sort of alliance between 23 public libraries and OhioLink, so I tried it as a web site. I discovered two new sites, neither of which had anything to do with libraries, but may be good to know about – and

    Priority Design. I’m glad I stayed for the entire program because in the beginning it was hard to understand what his goal was. I thought his message was to provide the appropriate environment to get the results you want. Don’t worry about conventional or traditional themes. Do what your customers (internal and external) want – aka the ends justify the means. In this case, this is physical space design 9rock wall, foose ball, the latest tools of the trade, etc, ability to personalize work areas). The cultural aspect of business is also different. Roles change and the staff s pretty equal with project based design – today you are the leader and tomorrow you are the doer, but it all works well as everyone shares responsibility. This reminded me of the Geese V formation culture.
    · Mistakes are learning opportunities
    · Everyone is a salesperson – they find clients and own them
    · Life balance is important
    He also spoke about the Universal Archetype (Jung) and its applications to define the categories for each type of product or where your company fits into the categories. This helps you fine a niche in your market. For instance in the Hero category you will find Nike, the U.S. Army, etc. We, like them, fall in the Caregiver category. “Build your reputation by helping others build theirs”, was one of his quotes that made me think of us – we do this everyday.

    Critical Elements to Innovation

    From Janice M. Brown, Kalamazoo Promise:

    1. Passion: people have to have a fire in their belly
    2. People who are willing to get outside of their box.
    3. Persistence
    4. Personal persistence---you have to know that your idea is truly the right thing to do
    5. Creativity: indispensable in today's world. Kids also need to practice creativity in order to be innovative in tomorrow's world. The power of our brains is what will get us out of the mess we're in today.

    Innovation and libraries

    Need to look beyond libraries to learn about innovation.

    Several speakers said the same thing: "Innovate or die!" Or as Stephen Abram said, "How quickly are librarians marching toward irrelevancy?" when they choose not to participate in the Library 2.0 revolution. He scoffed at librarians who create a Facebook account and then choose to remain anonymous and only become friends with their kids or family members. These same librarians then complain about not being taken seriously as a profession. His sarcastic comment, "That's what I want my lawyer or my surgeon to be: anonymous."

    With all the new technologies (Blackberry, cell phone, Kindle, Ipod, etc.), people have to find an excuse to visit a library. Otherwise, the library has little relevance to a technologically-connected person.

    Thoughts From the Conference

    (Perhaps I should preface this by saying that this was a really good conference, but it led me to think that we are still hiding our light under a basket. I heard a lot of what is considered to be innovative, yet, was somewhat old news to some of us.)

    Change, or innovate. That is the question. What are we really doing? Changing or innovating? I found several definitions of change all of which implied to alter or modify something that already existed. Innovate was a little different. Initially it meant to renew or alter. Now, it means to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. There’s that change word again.

    I think because we are pretty innovative we do not realize it. For us, maybe innovation and change are close cousins and whereas change may generate fear and uncertainty, maybe innovation generates giddiness and impatience (which may lead to fear and uncertainty). What’s next? When is next coming? Why are we still here? How come others are just now trying things we’ve pretty much perfected? Who can we learn from? What else should we be looking at? Are all questions that could be exciting (leading to impatience and giddiness) or scary (akin to fear and uncertainty). Innovate or change.

    Maybe we should avoid using either word and just do it – let’s not refer to “it” as being innovative or making a change – staff and customers can come to their own conclusions – if it’s good, they may just call it a great idea and if it’s not, well, they may call it something else.

    Innovative Environments, My Takeaway

    Innovation is fun and exciting; hearing about it is very inspiring. Yet, it can quickly become overwhelming. I heard some people start to make excuses about why they "can't do that". But, here's what I heard: "DREAM BIG, THINK SMALL" To me, anything is possible when this is the mantra. We can dream big and get there. The trick is to be really clear about what our end goal is first. This is harder than it sounds, but is the key to it all. Then we figure out the tool to get us there. And take it one step at a time to reach the end. We can't reach the end of a big dream in one or two steps, so we need patience AND persistence.

    Which leads to the other key thing I took away from the conference. The traits that are critically needed for innovation to happen:

    • Passion,
    • People
    • Persistence,
    • Personal persistence
    We have to deep down believe what we are doing is right and be persistent in the pursuit of it. Persistent to overcome all obstacles - and obstacles are very attracted to innovative ideas. Passion is the fuel for persistence. Without passion, obstacles will likely triumph over innovation. So, let's all find the thing we are passionate about and let's all allow others to be passionate. I think sometimes passion is "punished" @ CML. Passion is not the problem, but sometimes the behavior it inspires is...well, ineffective or inappropriate. So, I hope that rather than squishing passion, we can coach the passionate to display it effectively and appropriately.

    Finally, "Innovation is a means to re-invention; innovation is not an end." I think someone said something like, "all things have been done before, innovation is about doing it differently." That makes innovation less overwhelming to me. We just have to make good things fit in the current context of our society. Hmmm. DREAM BIG