No More Cruise Control: Driving Change with Students, Staff, and Space

Last month I gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference. I love this conference!–it’s my regional peers, in a small setting, sharing creative and practical tips from their libraries.

Description of the presentation: 
Adapt or die. It’s a mantra we hear, but libraries have always been about change. The key now is to be in the driver’s seat. Librarians from Carroll University will discuss four ways they have embraced change:

1) a workflows assessment to analyze staff duties,

2) a ʺkindness auditʺ to examine barriers to library services,

3) an enhanced patron count to determine how to best utilize library space,

4) a survey to report how students use the library.

Combined, these initiatives position the library as a change maker. Learn about these practices and take the wheel to share your experiences with change, too!

 

I tend not to do the death-by-bullet point PowerPoint, so a little info may be lost outside of the presentation. What it all boils down to are four things my library has done to respond to and anticipate change. Some focus on students and improving library spaces and services, while some focus on staff duties and how to best position the library for the future.

If you have any questions about it, let me know!

 

Post-Truth and Fake News

Earlier in the year I was tasked with creating a resource guide on “post-truth” and fake news. It’s not something I was clamoring to do. To be honest: I was still in the post-election malaise–and my heart was just not into it.

Rarely would I label any of my work tasks as “edicts,” (I like the flexibility and creativity of my job) but this time it was. As part of a broader campus-wide discussion, the library needed to play a part. I began by facilitating a meeting with the librarians on the topic of:

What do we want students to know about post-truth and fake news?

My colleagues are great brainstormers! Too great in fact. Here’s what we came up with:

Post-Truth and Fake News

From this, I had to develop a guide. How do you narrow it down to something manageable? Here’s the guide I created: Post-Truth and Fake News.

After sharing it with library staff for feedback, we then solicited feedback from campus faculty.

I decided a checklist approach, like the CRAAP test, doesn’t really work with post-truth/fake news. It takes time to critically evaluate and a checklist approach won’t suffice. You need to think, analyze, question motives, and question your own assumptions too.

Instead, I went for more a introductory approach that attempts to tie some of these related topics together: How does the information bubble work? How can our own bubble lead to confirmation bias? How does that make us more susceptible to fake news?

What does post-truth mean?

The Information Bubble

What is fake news?

Then I added some resources that faculty can use with classes, including links to teaching materials:

Lastly, I included a lesson. Frankly, it’s hard to keep up with post-truth/fake news developments in the political realm. I took a different tack when it came to “Evaluating Claims.” Knowing that a majority of our students end up majoring in the health sciences, I picked a health “fad” to evaluate: buttered coffee. Is it good? Is it bad? Somewhere in between? Using the NCSS statements as a starting point we could evaluate claims for and against by having a class discussion.

Takeaways: A guide like this can’t possibly cover all of the various themes. It’s a complicated, messy, and ever-evolving topic. But it can be used for an introduction and to provide instructors and students with some good resources to use.

Link to guide: http://pioguides.carrollu.edu/posttruth

What is Your Leadership Style? Ask Your Colleagues!

Happy New Year! I’m currently enjoying a brief break from working on my master’s in education before classes start up again in late January. So far, I’ve completed 7 out of 11 courses!

The experience has helped fill in gaps that my master’s in library science lacked — that degree was all about library content (books, journals, databases), but surprisingly lacked anything about people. To me, libraries are *all about people* and that’s been the focus on this master’s in adult and continuing education.

This past semester, one of the courses I enrolled in was a management and leadership course. I don’t often take time to consider my leadership style. I’m a manager, but to me, any employee regardless of supervisory responsibilities can (and should!) be a leader.

Leadership Assignment

One assignment I worked on was a concept paper to examine my leadership style through the perspectives of colleagues and friends and then identify the leadership style of a “famous” person that I wish to emulate:

Use five original quotations from your friends or colleagues on how they see you as a leader: write a 3-page paper 1) describing the leadership you demonstrate in practice, and 2) compare and contrast your personal traits and characteristics with an effective public leader of choice (living or dead).

The text of paper is below.

Leadership Styles

Whenever I take a “find your leadership style” quiz, the result is usually the same: I never fall strongly into one category. So hopefully that means I bring in skills that touch upon multiple styles?

In browsing online for leadership styles, I first read Rooke and Torbert’s (2005) classification of seven leadership styles: Opportunist, Diplomat, Expert, Achiever, Individualist, Strategist, and Alchemist. I was not attracted to this classification, since several of categories indicate a leadership deficit. After doing some Googling, I found that many sites and articles reference the following common styles: Charismatic, Participative, Quiet, Servant, Situational, Transactional, and Transformative (Chen, 2006). I like this schema since it plays to people’s strengths.

Feedback from Colleagues

I wasn’t exactly sure what kinds of quotes I would get about my leadership style when I emailed my co-workers and asked professional colleagues on Facebook. I knew by me asking, I wasn’t likely to get anything critical; this is not an anonymous evaluation or performance review. I actually got “warm fuzzies” from a few of the comments.

I’ll start with the simplest:

“Have fun; it’s just work.”

This was from a current co-worker and I know where she was going with this one: As a leader in a workplace setting that is not life-and-death, I emphasize the “fun” aspect as it goes against the grain of the traditionally stuffy world of libraries. The library should be a creative and expressive place–even noisy, at times. The days of being a silent book warehouse are over. Libraries need to adapt and change.

A former student responded to my plea for quotes via a Facebook post:

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“I always felt that your leadership style suggested ‘one of us’ as opposed to ‘us vs. them.’ As an instructor, I never felt like I was assigned work, but more like I was taking part in something as a group. It was always a pleasure.”

Even before beginning the M.Ed. program, I knew my style was collaborative, but now I know the power of facilitating–I do not desire to be the sage on the stage. Each group member has something worthwhile to share, I like to build relationships with groups to tap into that.

Conversely, a former supervisor described me as:

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The part I focused on was:

“find[ing] it just as easy to do something yourself as to delegate.”

Although I have learned to delegate more in the past few years, I do have a hard time letting go. I have a picture in my head of how something should look and I can be a perfectionist in that regard. However, time has told me that reaching out to get additional perspectives is important and can help improve an idea that I already thought was “perfect.”  

A current co-worker stated:

“I would say you lead by example. You do what needs to be done, you behave in a manner which others seek to emulate, and your work ethic sets the bar for others to meet.”

This seems like common sense to me. I’m a person who likes steps and examples, so that’s my natural leadership style: modeling the way for others. In fact, that’s what frustrates me sometimes as a supervisor: If expectations and examples are laid out clearly, why do we fail?

My current supervisor focused on decision-making:

“Above all else, a leader must be able to commit to making a decision. Joe is capable of making decisive decisions, when needed, even in hectic moments.”

My first thought was, “I’m glad my boss feels that way!” because I don’t always. In my mind, I do a lot of back-and-forth when it comes to decision making (pros and cons, potential outcomes). I also feel strongly that you can also change your mind on decisions if presented with new information. I don’t call that “waffling” or “flip-flopping”: it’s adapting to changing situations.

Rachel Carson: Quiet Leadership

In regards to a leader I admire, I chose environmentalist Rachel Carson (1907-1964). Despite being able to facilitate and engage in transformation, I am, at my core, an introvert. After reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and watching the author’s TED talk (Cain, 2012), I started thinking about leaders who fall into the introvert category. Carson sticks out to me as a quiet leader. She did serious work that led to lasting change–much of it coming posthumously. She also didn’t seek the limelight.

Koehn (2012) describes Carson as a person “who preferred walking the Maine shoreline to stalking the corridors of power.” That is true of me: I like to get away and be outside. I want time to think about big projects before acting. Like Carson, I’m not a cage rattler, preferring to do my research and influence people with my findings. However, perhaps unlike Carson, I also recognize that a “just the facts” approach won’t work with everyone. You need to weave a story and touch both hearts and minds.  

With Carson, I’m struck by her “no complaints” lifestyle. Her family had financial difficulties putting her through college and was not able to finish her Ph.D. She cared for sick relatives, took in an orphaned family members, and had her own health problems. She often had to put aside her own work to take care of these matters. Work is important, but it’s not everything. I identify with this needed ability to be flexible with life and work.

People equate introverts with shyness. I disagree. Carson used her leadership skills to develop a wide network of associates (government, nonprofits, higher education) to help her with her groundbreaking environmental studies and stood up to the chemical lobby when needed (Koehn, 2012). I admire this ability to use quiet leadership to stand up for your convictions. Rachel Carson’s tenacity combined with modesty, preparation, and problem-solving are qualities I seek to emulate.


Post-Assignment Note

This assignment helped me see my leadership attributes through the eyes of my colleagues. It’s important to step back and see how others view you. In identifying a “famous” person whose leadership style I admire, I was attracted to Rachel Carson’s “quiet” leadership style. Perhaps predictable for a librarian, but a powerful style nonetheless.


References

Cain, S. (2012, February). Susan Cain: The power of introverts

Chen, S-S. (2006). Leadership styles and organization structural configurations. Journal of Human Resource & Adult Learning, 39-46. 

Koehn, N.F. (2012, October 27). From calm leadership, lasting change. The New York Times

Rooke, D., & Torbert, W.R. (2005). Seven transformations of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 83(4), 66-76.

3D Print Your Own “READ” Business Card Holder

3D printed READ business card holder

I’ve been coordinating 3D printing at my library for about a year. It’s sort of a side thing from my main duties as a reference and instruction librarian. Now that November is almost over and infolit stuff has winded down, I’ve had time to focus on a back-burner project that I had to let go once the academic year started up again.

I wanted to be able to design my own 3D printed business card holder.

Why Did I Want to Do This?

Well, yeah, I’ll admit I wanted something cool for my desk. But also:

  • I wanted to use a program like Tinkercad to design my own file. For the most part, our users come with pre-made files they downloaded online. However, we’ve been getting a few more “how do I design this?” questions, so I wanted to become more well versed.
  • I also wanted to do something with the design post-printing: like painting it. Something I hadn’t tried yet.

How I Began

It started with just wanting a business card holder. So I began by browsing Thingiverse. Here are a few designs I looked at:

Design Process

Then I went to Tinkercad (you can create a free account) and started playing around with basic shapes like squares and rectangles: making them larger, smaller, thinner, wider, etc… Until I had formed a basic business card holder design.

My business cards measure 88mm across–which I’m assuming is standard (just shy of 3.5 in), so I made sure to plot out the space carefully. The finished product could end up accommodating a card that’s a few millimeters wider.

I was still looking for something book/library themed when I found this particular book design on Tinkercad. I thought it was the perfect theme! You can actually re-mix files directly in Tinkercad by downloading them, but I decided to create my own book design based off of the one I found.

For my design, I made the letters spell out: “READ.” Then I used the book to “bookend” both sides of my business card holder design. And there you have it, a perfectly themed business card holder for any library or book lover!

READ Business Card Holder in Tinkercad

READ Business Card Holder in Tinkercad

Design Files: Print Your Own!

I have uploaded the “READ” business card holder to Thingiverse with a Creative Commons license–so do to it what you’d like:
Thingiverse – READ Business Card Holder

If you want to “tinker” with the design (re-mix, edit), it’s also on Tinkercad with a Creative Commons license:
Tinkercad – READ Business Card Holder (you will need a free account)

Both links will give you a .STL file that you can use to print it out. Again, you don’t need to ask permission…just do it and have fun!

3D Printing Process

I printed my file on my library’s Ultimaker 2 3D printer. Here are a few notes with the printing process:

  • I printed the file with both a brim and supports. You probably don’t need the brim (it helps keep the object attached to the print bed), but the supports are useful for printing the raised “READ” letters.
  • Infill: 20% (a standard for a lot of hobbyist 3D print jobs).
  • Used PLA plastic filament since that’s what my library has.
  • I knew I wanted the color to be something in the blue family, but I didn’t particularly care for the shade of blue that the library had. So I printed it in white with the end goal of painting it.
  • Cost: Since this was for personal use, I paid to print it. My library charges $0.10/gram. At 27.3g, the cost came to: $2.73.
  • Time: Between 5.0 and 5.5 hours to print.

Post-Printing Clean-Up

After printing, I removed the brim and supports using:

  • Pliers,
  • Tweezers, and an
  • X-Acto knife
Have tools to remove brim and supports from your 3D printed item.

Have tools to remove brim and supports from your 3D printed item.

Here’s what the business card holder looks like (printed in white) before the brim and supports are removed.

Smooth out any rough edges using:

  • fine-grit sandpaper, or
  • a nail buffer

Use a toothbrush to remove any remaining dust particles.

Have tools to smooth out rough edges and remove dust particles.

Have tools to smooth out rough edges and remove dust particles.

Here’s what it will look like after the brim and supports and removed, and everything is smoothed out:

My item printed with a few tiny holes along the tops of the books due to incomplete layering. If you’re a perfectionist, you can fill this in with an epoxy.

If you’ve printed your READ business card holder in a color suitable to you…then you’re done! However, if you printed it with plans to paint it, read on!

Painting a 3D Printed Item

In researching how to paint a 3d printed item, I found these sites useful:

At my local Lowe’s, I planned on purchasing a spray primer and a spray paint in a color I liked. Make sure and choose one thay says it works with plastic.

I saw that Valspar had a 2-in-1 primer + paint, so I ended up choosing that. I was drawn to their Pool Party Blue, plus it had a glossy finish to it.

Make sure and lay down newspapers and spray in a well ventilated area. Give your item time to dry in between coats. I did 3 small coats.

Here’s the paint I used:

Valspar "Pool Party Blue" 2-in-1 primer + paint.

Valspar “Pool Party Blue” 2-in-1 primer + paint.

Spray painting a 3D item was surprisingly easy and now I’m thinking of different projects I want to do!

Here is the finished product: My 3D printed READ business card holder:

3D printed READ business card holder

3D printed READ business card holder

Now go off and make your own!

Oh, Greta! The Library’s Real Role on Campus

This morning, media personality Greta Van Susteren tweeted out:

A vanity project? Hah! No library I’ve ever worked in could be called a “vanity project.”

The tweet was in response to a Yahoo Finance article: College is Still Getting More Expensive: What Can Stop It?

No real surprises here: College is too expensive and yes, debt is a concern for most students and families–something that most of us agree with.

The comment about smartphones? A flippant remark that reveals a real lack of understanding about academic research and how information is accessible to students.

But a vanity project? A 2012 article on InsideHigherEd.com reported that library budgets as a percentage of the total university budget had fallen from a high of 3.83% in 1974 to 1.95% in 2009. Let’s face it: Academic libraries are small potatoes when it comes to the larger pot of university money.

In terms of outrageous college spending, there are a lot of examples–other than a library–to point to: the University of Oregon has a $68 million football facility – donated by the Nike founder. Imagine if that money was used on academic resources or scholarships instead? There’s also Louisiana State University’s “lazy river” – funded by recreation fees that students voted to approve, but add to the cost that students pay (while others have commented on the physical state of their libraries). High Point University (they have a steak house!) is arguably winning the college amenities “race,” by targeting affluent families who can pay for these amenities. Where does that leave other students?

It boils down to this: The library is not an “amenity”–it’s the academic heart of the institution. You need it to access books, articles, and other resources to complete assignments and projects. That may not necessarily mean using the physical library space, but it’s still popular and well-used.

In fact, research has shown that in term of campus facilities, the library can be the 2nd most important factor (facilities for the student’s major is number one) in choosing a college. On a campus tour, the library ranks as the 3rd most important site after facilities for the student’s major and residence halls (Source: Library Assessment in Higher Education, 2nd ed.)

Excerpt on importance of the library as a facility from Library Assessment in Higher Education, 2nd ed.

Excerpt on importance of the library as a facility from Library Assessment in Higher Education, 2nd ed.

Side note: I don’t have access to the full copy of the above book, because it’s behind a paywall…see the point on “Access” below.

So what are academic libraries all about? Here are five of our most important roles on campus:

  1. Access: Van Susteren is correct in saying that the “library” is on your smartphone, but there’s a big caveat: Are you affiliated with an academic institution? If not, then most academic information (articles and books) is behind a paywall. Libraries license the information to provide access to its students. Although I would like to see more things go open access, right now, you’re going to need this licensed information provided by the library to be a successful student researcher. Oh and guess what, after graduation, most students lose access to that academic information…but that’s a whole other topic!
  2. Learn: So you have all of this information at your fingertips, but how do you navigate it? Academic libraries are all about learning and discovery. With their information literacy programs, academic libraries partner with classes and professors to help navigate the information landscape, find and evaluate sources, and build relationships with librarians for expert help.
  3. Collaborate: The James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University may be one those “vanity projects” that Van Susteren was mentioning. But again, she’s missing the mark. Step inside and you’ll see what the modern academic library is all about: collaboration. The library has a makerspace, digital production studios, 100 group study rooms, and a special graduate student area. The library is all about creating opportunities (both planned and unplanned) to collaborate.
  4. Study: Students still need places to study and they need a variety of study spaces. In my library, we generally have about one-third of students who prefer silent studying in our quiet Reading Room, while another one-third prefer the collaboration spaces of our Information Commons, with the final one-third preferring a noisy and “anything goes” atmosephere like our coffee shop.
  5. Socialize: Yes, it’s OK for the academic library to feel like the campus living room. From therapy dogs to welcome back parties for students (note: all usually done on a shoestring budget!), libraries continue to dispel the notion that they are only for studying. Everyone deserves a break now and then!

These roles firmly place the library in the center of the academic institution. It’s not vanity, it’s necessity.

Voting: Information is Power!

Election season in the U.S. is dragging along. I feel like we’re always in a perpetual election cycle. All the news channels have that incessant election countdown box: 20 days, 19 days, 18 days…

Make it stop!

This year, staff at the library where I work at have been trained by the city clerk’s office to register voters. This has been an amazing civic experience. I work with college students; many are first-time voters.

There’s something different about this election year (understatement, much?).

We have registered so many more voters this time around. As soon as I would sit back down at my desk, a student worker would come and get me to register a new voter. Not a complaint, by the way! We ended up setting up a registration table in our lobby for the first time…one new voter after another!

One potential voter walked by and said:

I don’t know who to vote for. I don’t like politics. Who are you voting for?

My first reaction:

Really, I thought:

How could you not know? Based on the issues that are important to you, isn’t there a candidate that interests you?

But not everyone is tied into all the issues. And politics can be a downright turnoff for most people.

The first thing I did, was keep my mouth shut (as hard as it might be!). I’m not telling people on the job who I’m voting for. Politics, like religion, is your own personal business.

I just told the person:

I’m not going to share my personal political opinion because in this situation I’m not here to advocate. I’m here to simply provide information. 

I provided the person with a link to our Election/Voting libguide:

Election/Voting LibGuide

Election/Voting LibGuide

Then I directed the person to a few sites that might help them figure things out:

As much as I would like to bring voters over to my side, that’s not part of my job in this scenario. I can, however, give them the tools to make an educated decision.

Young voters, in particular, get derided for lack of knowledge. I’m guilty of thinking like that too. But throughout our voter registration drive I’ve seen many interested and engaged young people. It makes me feel better the future.

And I need something to feel good about in this election.

Seattle: Seattle Public Library

Travel on the Side

Why did I visit a library on my vacation? Well, I am a librarian, of course!

If I see a library, I like to pop in and check it out. The Seattle Public Library Central Library is an architectural wonder. Soaring high, lots of glass, shiny escalators, natural light.

Are there books? Yes! But for me, a library is all about people. Lots of library patrons were on the computers researching, getting job help, reading, studying, and socializing.

One of the cool things I saw was near one of the circulation desks. Above was a monitor featuring a map of keywords of recently returned books.

Seattle Public Library Seattle Public Library

Travel tip: When you’re on vacation, a visit to the local public library is a good way to get restaurant recommendations and tips for “non-touristy” sites. Librarians are there to help…and they know EVERYTHING!

Below are some more photos. For the…

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