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 (http://www.osln.org/about-osln/faces-of-osln.php). 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 Slideshow.com 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 – www.searchohio.com and www.searchohio.org.

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

Friday, November 7, 2008

Innovative hiring practices

I heard Catherine Hakala-Ausperk from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library at one session I attended. She said that at that library they hire for attitude and train for skill. One of their practices involves requiring job applicants to work on a project in a group so that teamwork orientation can be observed. The applicants who show the highest level of teamwork, cooperation, and enthusiasm for working with others are the ones who are asked to return for final interviews.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Bloom Township Promise?

I thought I had heard about this before so I googled it today to check. In this Fairfield County township there is a college scholarship for any student that lives in Lithopolis or Bloom Township and completes HS there. It is not a full ride but every bit helps right? The Mabel Wagnalls Jones Scholarship was established by the daughter of one of the co founders of Funk & Wagnalls who was born in Lithopolis. According to this article, it look like they need to be spending more. Maybe a free ride is not such a bad idea.

A couple of exciting things/Innovative Environments

A couple of things really grabbed my attention:

1. Kalamazoo Promise. In a nutshell, graduate from the public schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan, get a free college education at a public university or community college. This program is funded by anonymous donors, but the whole community has become involved in one way or another, supporting these kids, 65% of whom live below the poverty level. Many help with mentoring, tutoring, food, medical care, etc. The city, in the middle of an economically depressed area, has experienced 10% growth in schools, 7,000 new jobs in the three years of the program.

2.Google Book scanning project at Ohio State University. Google works with libraries, publishers and authors. Google picks up books, scans them, and returns them two weeks later. Out-of-copyright books are available online fulltext; copyrighted books are available only in snippets. The library gets back a scanned copy of out-of-copyright works.

Google has very recently reached a settlement with publishers. Soon, in the U.S., individuals will be able to pay to download copyrighted materials (fee to vary depending on market value of the book). Universities and libraries will be able to get institutional subscriptions. Libraries will offer terminals where readers can access out-of-print books full text for free (no downloads or prints, view only).

Some attendees seemed skeptical of the advantages to libraries of participating in the scanning project. However, I see some wonderful possibilities.

First of all, Google has taken care of all of the legal settlements.

Secondly, about 7 million books will be available immediately. Some of these books may be rare items or items otherwise difficult to obtain by means such as Interlibrary Loan.

Finally—and this is the part I really love--every word of every book scanned is searchable. Anyone who has worked with indexing (as we in SBN have) immediately understands the value of this kind of access. CML could not hope to index and digitize a whole collection with Google's speed and cost. What if we could get some of our genealogy collection scanned, for example?

I think that Google Books might well alter the way libraries collect, preserve, and access materials.

I feel my neurons firing now. And that's the point of the conference, right?

General impressions/Innovative Environments

We kept hearing about the importance of being innovative. Some pronouncements were blunt and rather dire: “if you can't be 2.0, get out of the way,” “innovate or die!” I did not take this to mean that all of my prior experience and knowledge are now trash (as I heard expressed by an attendee) but that I must be willing to try new things, learn new things, and generate new ideas. As Brad Mitchell, Director of STEM education, pointed out, the new generation even thinks fundamentally differently than my generation. I may not succeed in changing my way of thinking entirely, try as I might, but I understand that I must keep stepping forward just to stay even!

The organizations and companies I heard about made a deliberate effort to foster a culture of innovation. This involved a time commitment, tolerance for mistakes, and participation of staff at all levels. Priority Designs designed common work spaces conducive to conversation and a project-based organizational structure rather than a hierarchical one. Cuyahoga County Public Library encourages all ideas in alignment with their goals.

Innovative Environments

The last two days have been inspiring!

Yesterday, after the opening session and World Cafe, I attended Managing Print Collections in a Digital Age, with Joseph Branin, Director of the Ohio State University Libraries and The Kalamazoo Promise with Janice M. Brown, Executive Director.

Today, I attended Priority Designs with Paul Kolada and Nurturing Innovation with Sari Feldman and Tracy Strobel, Cuyahoga County Public Library as well as the second World Cafe and closing session.

We had some really nice food, but, alas, no swag (sorry, ilikeswag). ;-)

I had some great conversations with table mates from other libraries as well as with my own colleagues. I'll include some highlights, impressions, and thoughts. Handouts and Powerpoints with more details will be posted on the OLC website.

World cafe

The first time I participated in a World Cafe was last year's Gathering of Leaders sponsored by the Jefferson Center and held at Columbus State. The keynote speaker at that conference was Margaret Wheatley, who was quoted in one of the sessions I attended on Thursday. Her book - Leadership and the New Science - talks about how we have traditionally viewed organizations as functioning like mechanical systems - and so what is required is control and efficiency. Her research indicates that organizations function the same way that living organisms/systems. What is required for living systems to be healthy and function well is diversity and organic growth - which requires very different skills on the part of leaders than a mechanistic organization.

The second Gathering of Leaders conference is scheduled for Nov. 19 at Columbus State. Peter Block will be keynote speaker. His book - Stewardship - provides a unique approach to empowerment. If you have any conference funds left, you may want to attend this conference. Attendees are from many central Ohio non-profits, social service and educational organizations. See www.thejeffersoncenter.org


Thursday morning, I attended a session with Dana McDaniel, Development Director for the City of Columbus, and Rick Coplin, from TechColumbus. They talked about their collaborative partnership to work with a building owner in Dublin to create a space for small business start-ups. The entrpreneurs can collaborate with each other and take advantage of the services provided by TechColumbus. The library needs to expand its collaborations - especially in the area fo facilities. For example, Northside is in an area where there are few properties available in a reasonable price range for a much needed larger branch. Possibly, we can collaborate with OSU/Campus Partners since they own much of the undeveloped properties on our part of High St. We could also collavborate with residential developers working in the area. Shared space would work on that part of High St.

Supporting Creative Types

One of the sessions I took the most notes about (OK, tweeted the most about) was the one by Paul Kolada from Priority Designs. They are a local (Gahanna) consumer product design firm. He shared some of the products they've worked on and showed a "cribs" video of the office. Very Architecture/Design firm like. Fun colors and furniture. I did see some of the furniture we have in some branches so I think we must be cool. They had the round, fit together tuffet type chairs that are in the children's area of Parsons and some of the plastic with round holes in them chairs in bright colors that we have in some of the Homework Help Centers. Although the point is it's not the environment but the culture.

One of my favorite quotes was that you should build your reputation by helping others build theirs. Very cool. What if we all looked out for others before we looked out for ourselves. He also stressed playing nice together. They form their project teams from their pool of engineers and designers. Anyone can be a project lead. If you play nice and pull your weight, it's likely other will want you on thier team. If you don't......

Day Two: Innovative Environments

Another thought provoking day. The two morning sessions I attended were about creating cultures of creativity and innovation. We did a world cafe session again (we should do at CML some time) and after lunch our speaker talked about how to cultivate an idea culture.

We were challenged to think about what we are going to go back and DO as a result of this conference. I'm still struggling with that. I haven't figured out yet what I can personally do differently do help facilitate a culture of innovation at CML. If you have any ideas let me know.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day One: OLC Innovative Environments

Wow! What a day. Ran into Belen Fernandez (formerly of CML then Franklin University and now Capital University Library) first thing this morning and caught up. Patrick did a great job with his inrto to the opening session where three really inspiring speakers, Stephen Abram, Janice M. Brown and Brad Mitchell, got us going for the morning. During lunch we participated in a World Cafe style discussion about what holds us and our organizations back from innovating. For my afternoon sessions I listened to Andrew Pace from OCLC talk about a dream to create a network distributed libray management system and then great slides of innovative ideas from Westerville Public Library, Worthington Libraries and Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library recent building projects.

Helene and I (and a couple others I don't know (yet)) are tweeting during our sessions. Go to twitter and search the hash tag #ie08 to see what we're saying. You may need to request to follow me and Helene first to see what were saying. Go to the Learn & Play list of followers on Twitter to find us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New CML Staff Blog

Earlier this year, staff attending PLA blogged about their experiences. Instead of starting a new blog to report on our experiences at the OLC Innovative Environments Conference this week, this blog has been established as a way for CML to have one place to look for all conference information moving forward. It can be used by any staff to report back about conferences, trainings or even just visits to other libraries. If you'd like to have access to post to this blog, drop Chris Taylor an email and you will be added.