Yes, I will Learn with you. . .

When I wrote my “Technology requests ought to begin with a ‘yes'” post, my intention was to highlight a dialectic between those who want to fight the so-called “culture of ‘no'” and those who want to emphasize the need for planning and sustainability. My argument was that technology has changed (and I stated the reasons) and that our thinking needs to be altered somewhat to go with it. I suggested that a technology request ought to begin with a “yes,” but insisted also that after that “yes” there needs to be modelling, planning, priorities and so on.

My harshest critic was Mark Lindner, who said (here):

“But what he actually said about saying yes immediately is extremely simplistic and also ill-advised from a managerial perspective. Do anyone want a manager who immediately says yes to things and then after asking a few questions retracts that yes? Does anyone want to be that manager?”

It’s funny, because I went to David Lee King’s presentation at CIL on change management and asked a question: “Ok. So I have alot of priorities and work to be done, and certainly not enough resources to do it all. I don’t want to say “no,” but i sometimes come off as if I am saying ‘no’ simply because I note a whole number of kinks that need to be worked out first. How can I take on the “culture of ‘yes'” under those conditions?” [not a direct quote]

David put the question to the floor and Halleluah! doesn’t the very first responder say “well, you should start with a yes and then openly and honestly address the idea in a list of priorities.” [also not a direct quote]

So, as a quick response to Mark, yes — I do want to be that manager and I believe that the generation of librarians coming up want precisely that kind of manager. Or at least they want something different from a manager who immediately says “no” or “man, that’s going to take alot of money and work to do” first. These folks understand change; they will understand how “yes” can become “no” as priorities shift, resources deplete and the devil-details bare their horns — and, if you believe the literature, they have the same sort of feelings about their employers. Loyalty means less than lifestyle and meaningful work. But more than anything, they want a chance to show that, actually, it doesn’t really cost that much (in staff time or money) to host a good many technologies.

I’m also going to re-state something I said before. Some technology ideas do not get the same interest as some very expensive and resource-intense non-tech things, like renewing online resources without getting any use for them, or putting on a program, or scheduling a whole slate of “how to use a database” classes, or creating large quantities of print promotions or participating in local events or purchasing large collections of books or setting up a society newsletter or engaging in a newfangled partnership or building a new central library. The list goes on and on.

Yet, for some reason, when a “tech” solution comes out, the starting point for many librarians is “no.” You get “no.” Then you have to “change manage” your way into even the slightest consideration. This is not to say that the non-techie things should not be done, but it does mean that I believe technology things need to be given the chance to show their merit. Starting with a “yes” will go pretty far on that one.

I offer “yeses” all the time and I think I am liked for it. And sometimes I do have to say “ok. Maybe that needs to sit down on the priority list for now as we take care of other issues.” But of course, this is a too literal interpretation of my “begin with a yes” post. I am talking about opening the door to passions and possibilities, rather than controlling the pace to protect people from anxiety. I think this approach can help people want to put the effort behind their projects.

In the library world we need more possibilities and less fear — definitely less fear — about technology.

Asking someone to write a one-page brief on what they want to do, for instance, is alot more fun for staff when you have a “yes” attached to it. The brief may get bumped on the priority list, sure — but in the end, you have that brief in your files (or a tweaked version of it) just waiting for the opportunity to happen . Your staff have an opportunity to know their passions are being listened to and are being given their fair shake at being implemented. And god forbid, a manager — or dare I say “leader” — might learn something along with it.

And that brings me to another point. As managers we talk alot of about training and life long learning, yet sometimes in our daily rush we refuse to do a simple Google search when someone comes up with something we never heard of. So maybe my “yes” doesn’t really mean “yes” purely, but “yes, I will learn this with you.” Truly, madly, deeply, the library world needs administrators who will demonstrate their appreciation for technological change. That takes learning, and frankly, while the tech world moves quickly, the tools are there (Google, blogs, Wikipedia) to help us learn technological things fairly quickly as well.

And if there is anything that social software has taught me, its that learning is alot more fun when you have a cool group of people doing it with you. Wouldn’t it be nice if that cool group for librarians included the people who are supposed to lead the organizations we work in to success?

DrupalEd is released!

I just did a test install of DrupalEd, a learning management system recently released. As per usual, I am willing to let people play around with it with a level of forgiveness that can only be reserved for things that have no corporal substance.

So far it looks pretty neat, but then again, I haven’t really got my elbows into the dirt yet.

Just let me know if you want to try it.

Heart’s All A-Twitter

Well, I’ve had a twitter account for a while now, I just haven’t been ready to use it very much. I didn’t add friends or etc. and probably more confusing, I used my long-lost moniker “Greebie” as my login.

(Aside:  I’ve had “Greebie” as an alias since the 80s.   Back in the BBS days, I was called “The Grblyn.”   Friends would call me “Greebie” for, erm, short.   I’ve used it ever since.)

As mentioned before, I really felt that Twitter really helped people connect during the CIL conference.

Well, I’ve started and I’m ready to go! It reminds me alot of my old chat room days, just much more friendly and convenient.

My CIL Impressions

I’m going to try and say alot of things over the next week or so, but I thought I’d summarize some key thoughts for now.

  1. Meh.  It was a conference.   It was a good conference even.  But sitting through the good and average in terms of presentations, I realize that I want conversations that matter more and more.     I think I want to hear more of and about the unconference world, because I think libraries need that much, much more — especially where Library 2.0 stuff is concerned.
  2. Nothing really changed my thinking in any significant way.  This is a bit of a shame, because I’m always on the look-out for that one keynote or major presentation that is just going to blow me away, in a perspective sense.   It didn’t happen.   Steven Cohen was close, but his topic was RSS tips, which really isn’t a “blow you away” sort of presentation.
  3. Highlight presentations.    My favs were Steven Cohen (as I said before) on RSS, Roy Tennant & Tim Spalding on the Future of the OPAC, er catalogue.   David Lee King‘s presentation on change management in libraries was great too.   Steven just has a great energy for presenting that kept things interesting.   Roy and Tim were dead on, and I saw a good many audience members drooling at the prospect of a “fun” and “fun-ctional” catalogue.   David did a great job engaging the audience in discussion.  I also went to Michelle Boule & Meredith Farkas‘ presentation on the 5 weeks project.   It was good, but having spent so much time watching that project flourish, I probably should have went somewhere else.
  4. Greatest Decisions I Made:  Setting up a meeting with Jessamyn West.   We had a great talk over coffee on everything from “Slow” Libraries to my hometown to what it’s like to work for rural libraries (great, but a hard push to get technologies implemented).
  5. Worst Decision I Made:  Not bringing my laptop.    Poo on the whole “turn off during the conference” thing.   With all the twittering going on, it really seemed like I was missing the “real” conference.   The laptop comes with me next time.
  6. Great people I met:  David Free, Meredith Farkas, David Lee King, Helene Blowers, Jessamyn West, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Nicole Engard, Steve Cohen and Ellyssa Kroski.   I really didn’t get a chance to talk to a few other bloggers like Rachel Singer Gordon and Iris Jastram, but at least got to see them and say “hello.”   On the whole, I think it was the networking stuff that was most useful to me.
  7. Most fun at the conference:  Dinner with Ellyssa and her husband.   Tapas and Spanish beer!  Yum.
  8. My suggestions:  Allow for fewer longer presentations and more time during the day to network etc.    Have real mingling opportunities, like some kind of gala or something.   Bigger venue, if possible.    Arrange for some wireless love for the conference if possible.

A List of Pre-CiL things Before I Head to Washington

  1. Yes, I will be at CiL and definitely want to chat with you.   Just say “hello!”
  2. I just got my copy of Walt Crawford’s Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.  What I didn’t realize is that a good lot of Other Librarian posts are cited in there.   So, obviously I’m going to review and obviously I’m going to be positive.  Unless Walt disagrees with me of course.  🙂
  3. As a addition to #2, I think Walt’s approach to blogging and publishing is very interesting.   It is an excellent idea to go back on the biblioblogosphere and see where the contradictions, predictions and ideas go in the long run.   To a degree, blogs (ones that are regularly updated, anyway) are necessarily a reaction to the environment.   It is nice to reflect on what is hiding under all that fog in the end.
  4. Eye allergies started today, just in time to go see a whole lot of people I admire.   I’m hoping very much not to have to be drugged for any amount of the presentations.
  5. Our son has been throw-up-y this evening, just in time to make us anxious about leaving him for a couple of days.   He seems in good spirits and we suspect is has to do with a bunch of chocolate he ate today.   We hope so!
  6. I’ve decided not to bring my laptop to Washington, so I will not be blogging during presentations.   I will post my notes after the fact, though — maybe with some thoughtful analysis too.   I might pick my three favs and share those instead of blogging *everything*.   That’s because a) so many people are likely going to be blogging as well and b) a good lot of presenters are the types who would share their powerpoints anyway.

Google Earth and International Social Justice?

Although this is an early media thing, it appears that Google is using its Google Earth tool to highlight atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.

I have to reserve judgment here if only to grasp what I think about this.   My initial reaction is to think this is a positive thing — where our governments and the international community appears to be silent on these issues, Google and other large corporations may be able to pick up the slack — if only by highlighting the reality of what is going on.

I hope this embarrasses the heck out of the leaders of Sudan, and starts a call to action in politicians in that region.

This also makes me wonder about what librarians and libraries could do about social justice issues internationally.   Right now I am reading Jeffrey Sach’s The End of Poverty which, to my surprise, is high on action, inspiration and optimism which goes along with the only conclusion one can really make about a good lot of countries in Africa — there is a big problem there;  the problem is our fault;  we have the ability to fix it and we do not.

That said, the sword that swings at Darfur can swing at anyone.     Assuming Page and Brin do not live forever, where does this power end and who will end up with it all in the future.    Is being spied on by the entire Internet any better (or worse) than being spied on by governments?   This will be a hard question to answer in the not-so-far-ahead future.

Again, I still have to reserve judgment, because I am not convinced that I have all the details here.   It is a definite area that I am interested in, though.