Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brainstorming the library of the future

I was speaking to someone (Greg) last night who works for a company that works with libraries. He'd like to set up a time his group to interact with library and information science students, and I'm happy to comply.  This morning, my mind started thinking about what that meeting (lunch) might entail  and an exercise from the R-Squared Conference came to mind.  I'm using this blog post to document my idea, not only to share it with him, but also so you might use it too.

Creative SpaceAt this lunch event, I would like to gather as many of this organization's employees as possible. Then I would like invite two students for each employee. (So twice as many students as employees.)  Why? Students are used to thinking creatively and I want to "up" the creative thinking in the room, but not totally overwhelm this organization's employees.

When participants "sign in", I would ask them to put their name and their favorite animal on their name tag.  This will give people something to immediately discuss, especially if I tell them their their favorite animal can't be a dog or a cat (easy choices).

Participants would be encouraged to sit at tables were there are at least two employees and four students.  Each table would have a big piece of butcher paper (or newsprint paper) with markers, pens, and crayons.  Once settled in - and perhaps after eating lunch - each table would be assigned a brand (e.g., Apple, Chuck E. Cheese, Disney, Las Vegas, or Starbucks) and would use that brand's point of view to brainstorm these questions:
  • What would a new library look like?
  • What services would it have?
  • Who would use it?
  • How would it function?
  • When would it be open?
  • Where would it be located?
Participants would first be encourage to quickly share what they know about the brand, then move into the questions.  With a big piece of paper in front of them, they could write or draw their answers.  They would be encourage to come up with one vision per table - based on the brand that they were assigned - but individuals could capture ideas that didn't included in the final vision.  (Those notes could be interesting to review later.)

That 10-15 minute brainstorming session would be followed by a debriefing where each table would present its ideas.  We would mark those components that resonated with others in the room.  All of the notes would be captured for later use (including photos of the drawings, etc.).

Better safe than sorry may be the most dangerous thing ever saidWhen we did a similar exercise during R-Squared, my table was tasked with designing a Starbucks influenced library. The hub/center of the library was the cafe, with music/media being close to the cafe, then the books. Music is piped into the space. Seating is comfortable in order to encourage people to linger. People can download media easily, including ebooks. People can even download parts of ebooks, which means they can select specific chapters that they want to read. In addition, people can combine books with music, so that a book could have a specific soundtrack.

The library would have extended hours, opening early and staying open late. And it would be a kid-free zone. This is keeping the way people use Starbucks, where you don't find kids hanging out. It is a place for adults only.

We didn't talk in detail about what furnishings and other stuff would be in the library and I wish that we had.  I think it would have been good to talk about the environment on that level. that I've gotten this written, time to spring my idea on Greg!

Monday, September 17, 2012

#RSQ12: More final thoughts

I thought I was through writing about the R-Squared Conference, but then I looked through my tweets and realized that I'm not.

Libraries organize the information that comes to them in many different forms, but we don't reach out into our communities to organization the information and knowledge that is resident in its people and organizations.  (I should note that some libraries are doing this, but most are not.)  Would libraries be more irreplaceable if they did this?  Would they be more central in the community?  Would it become the major connector between everyone?  Yes. Yes. Yes.

The tweet above came during the final keynote with Tamara Kleinburg.  Near the end of her talk, she advocated that we remove limits by breaking rules.  Now while she isn't saying that we should break the law, it is true that sometimes the rules in our head limit what we do.  Think about the rules that you follow everyday, often unknowingly.  What would happen if you challenged those rules or even changed them?  Could that lead to more innovation?

I tweeted this (above) during the final keynote. This totally resonated with me because of a change coming to the daily newspaper in Syracuse, NY.  Like other daily papers, the Post-Standard is moving to publishing on paper only specific days per week, and publishing web-only editions on the other days.  I suppose that many of knew this day was coming, but had ignored the warnings.  What warnings are libraries ignoring?  What challenges are libraries not meeting head on?

Topher Lawton (@hieanon) said the above quote in a blog post about the conference.  One piece that people may gloss over is the phrase "don't be shy."  The group that gathered at R-Squared was definitely not shy, in fact, I would say that they are all ready to make waves.  They are not going to be shy about what they learned.  And some (like me) were likely charged to go to R-Squared, learn, and then be ready to change their organization.

Change does require being willing to fail and fail big!  But we shouldn't fail because we're ignorant risks.  We to do our research - do our homework - and then charge ahead. Whether we succeed or fail, we need to remember to learn from what we do and use what we learn on our next project.

Okay...I think I've now written my last R-Squared blog posts....!

Friday, September 14, 2012

#RSQ12: Final thoughts

The Risk and Reward Conference (R-Squared or R2) has thrown down the gauntlet for other conferences.  It has said, in essence, "yes" people do want an interactive and immersive experience.  Yes, people are willing to stay in the same track in order to have that experience.  Yes, keynotes can be interactive.  Yes, you can dress down and still be professional...and learn.  Yes, we are ready to move away from the current conference mold.

Wizard. Genius. Explorer.What worked well:
  • The registration process.  Each person was able to provide information about themselves, which was then used to create a nice online list of who was attending.  Now we can use this list to keep in touch with each other, especially if more people add contact details.
  • The emails that were sent in advance.  The R2 team didn't inundate us, but they used email to help set the stage for the conference.
  • The use of Twitter and Facebook before and during the conference.  The conference had its own Twitter account and their is a Facebook page too.  Two of the evening informal events were coordinated through Facebook.
  • The location worked extremely well because it is a small, safe community that allowed us to take risks.  The amenities in the area and the gondola were real pluses.  Also the people were genuinely friendly and helpful.  (As a side note, commuting by gondola is definitely the way to go!)
  • Josh Linkner was an excellent opening keynoter, who set the bar high for the the remainder of the speakers.
  • Having four interactive tracks was a nice way of organizing the days.  I liked that we had to register for our experience (track) in advance. 
  • The interactivity in all of the sessions worked well, at least from my vantage point.  "Doing" can be a very good way to learn new concepts (or brush up on old ones).
  • The interactive zone was a nice ice-breaker on Sunday evening. 
  • The audio interviews and blog posts that the conference team did (and continues to do) are awesome.  What a nice way of sharing the conference with others!
  • Some info from the tracks will be going online and that is a nice touch, since we'll be able to see what other tables, etc., did.
  • The conference swag was nice and a bit different! And the sessions gave away different swag, which means that we all didn't come home will all the exact same stuff. [Pins, coasters, metal water bottles, adventure sling (type of backpack), bumper stickers...]  
    • The card (above) was given to everyone at the closing keynote.  I've received some feedback about the words that were used on the card from those who were not at the event.  I wonder if others have found that wording doesn't resonate with everyone?
  • The way the conference program was done was cool!  I know that it is an idea that was done at DrupalCon.  Each person received a lanyard with a small booklet on the end, which had the person's name on the outside.  Inside -and printed so it was easy for the wearer to read - was the conference program!  (added 9/14, 8:17 p.m.)
What might be tweaked:
  • If this event is done again, the organizers should define who should attend it and the specific experiences.  That could allow people to select experiences that are more appropriate for them.
  • The time spent in the experiences could be tweaked.  Could some of that time be used, for example, to have people share across tracks?
  • When we registered, people who have dietary needs could state them.  While that worked well, those who didn't have dietary concerns seemed to like the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, which caused some problems.
  • It would have been helpful to have a map of the area in advance, in order to know where events would occur (and in relation to the three hotels). For example, while it was easy to get around the area, knowing that the convention center was in Mountain Village, while some of the events were not, would have been helpful.
  • Telluride is an awesome location, but difficult to get to.  Knowing travel options (which airports one could use, for example), would have been very helpful.
  • I know that among the questions for the future is whether they would use Telluride again.  That is something for the team to consider as a way of lowering the cost of the conference.
  • The word "conference" didn't really convey what this was.  The team might use the word "experience" for the entire event or "immersion."
  • The final keynote was "okay".  It could be that our minds were too full.  Dunno.  
  • The nighttime events were fun (and optional), but they were on top of really full days.  The team might consider what really makes sense to do or for others to propose. 
Tweaking, by the way, means that there will be another R2.  At this point, we don't know if that will occur.  I know that a lot of effort went into this one, and they will have to think hard about whether they can do that effort again. And if they do another, do they want people to come back and do a different track?  Do they want people to come back for a different level of engagement? Do they want a whole new group of people?
That all said...WOW!  This conference brought together 350 librarians ( public, academic and school), trustees, folks from library consortia and associations, and staff from state libraries.  People came from across the United States, including Alaska.  One person came from Sweden, who was in the States on an exchange program. There were also a few people who work with libraries (e.g., architects and software vendors).  And I believe that no one was disappointed.  We each learned something.  We each left R2 changed.  Now we need to change those who could not travel to Telluride.

I have placed photos from Telluride and the conference in Flickr at  Below are a few as a teaser.

Mountain Village gondola station View of Telluride from the gondola

Artist working in the middle of Colorado St. Horses at the R2 opening reception

#RSQ12: Abundant Community

Abundant Community
At the Risk and Reward Conference (Wayback Machine version), each participant selected an experience (track) and I selected "Abundant Community":
Discover how libraries can strengthen their roles as catalysts for social engagement. Lead by example through creative partnerships and innovation in our ever-changing, hyperlinked world where everything is connected.
As with the other tracks, this was a full-day "immersive experience." The track was led by Dr. John L. McKnight and John Creighton, both of whom have worked with communities to become connected. Their overall message is that we should not use labels to group members of our community together.  Instead, we need to see our communities are being made up of individuals, who have different skills and passions.  To that end, we did three exercises where we talked about our skills, passions, and topics we could teach.  What we learned is that we're more complex than how we tend to acknowledge.  I'm looking forward to duplicating this exercise with my students and colleagues.

In understanding our community, and the assets that make up our community, we need to look at:
  • The individual and each person's assets - skills, knowledge and gifts of local residents.
  • Associations - These are groups of people come who come together because of something that they have in common. In an association, it is the members who do the work.
  • Institutions - Our institutions are hierarchical.
  • Physical space
  • The exchange of goods and/or services.  This exchange does not require money.
  • individuals, associations, institutions, physical space, exchange. 1st three are people. Associations are held together by care.

I cannot convey in words my understanding of the relationship of these five areas.  However, I can tell you that when you begin looking at the skills of people and the associations to which they belong, you begin to see the assets that are available in the community.  These are not monetary assets, but rather skills and connections.  (And connections can help the library obtain money.)

Our homework on Monday night was to conduct community interviews, the results of which will be used by the public library in Telluride. In the community interviews that we did, we used a Community Asset Survey:

Community Asset Survey page 1 Community Asset Survey page 2

Afterward, we discussed how we might alter this survey for our own community. We also discussed that this type of survey would likely be one of many activities that we would do in order to understand our communities better.

We did compile our survey results (in small groups) and it was amazing what we learned.  I'm confident that anyone who does this will learn from it.  Of course, the next step is to use what you learn!

Two books mentioned during the session were:

Two parting thoughts:

Many feel that libraries should be places of learning through teaching.  Imagine if we turned to our community members and asked them what they want to learn AND what they can teach?  And then imagine acting on that information! the word "client" isn't what most people would use, but it is what Dr. McKnight used.  I do like this sentiment.  We need to engage the members of our community and get involved with them.  We're not in a lab running "hands-off" experiments...we're trying to change lives and improve our communities.

Edited 2/8/2024: Book URLs and R2Q URL updated.

#RSQ12: Josh Linkner

I had not heard of Josh Linkner (@joshlinkner) until I registered for this conference. Linkner's goal is to make the world more creative.  His keynote demonstrated how other organizations have been creative, crafted new messages, and in some ways reinvented themselves. During his talk, Linkner led us in several activities and it was with those that I developed my take-always from the session.

First, Linkner talked about the five steps to encourage creativity:
  1. Get curious
  2. Encourage courage - One idea is to use a "get out of jail free card."  Most of us know this card from the Monopoly game. Some organizations use a similar card that allows an employee to fail and to not have that failure count against them.  For example, what if you encouraged your employees to do new things.  What happens if those new things fail?  Do you want to reprimand an employee for a failure, where the person likely learned from that failure?  What if you allowed each employee the forgiveness of one failure per year?  Would that help people be more creative?

  3. Challenge assumptions - For an example, watch the Chrysler commercial below.
  4. Think small - have the mindset of a startup.  You don't have to be small to think small.
  5. Shatter conventional wisdom - For an example of this, watch the Dove commercial below.

The pike syndrome. Letting an imaginary barrier get in the way of progress.

R2Then, Linkner led us through these three ways of generating new ideas:
  • Role storming - Each person selects a character - based on a real person or fictional character. Each person then brainstorms from that character's point of view. At my table, we had Genghis Khan, Mark Cuban, Mary Poppins, and several other characters. It was very interesting to brainstorm using someone else's point of view.  It was liberating and it did produce interesting ideas. While none of those ideas were exactly what we needed in order to solve our problem, we did generate ideas that in the real world would have been investigated further.
  • The opposite -With this technique, you consider the exact opposite of what you would normally think or do.  For example, libraries are considered safe places.  What is the opposite of being a safe place and what ideas does that generate?  This can lead to some wild stuff and also some very interesting ideas that would be worth investigating.
  • The long list - We generally brainstorm a short list of ideas.  With this, you brainstorm as many ideas as possible.  We were told to get as many down on paper as we could and to push ourselves beyond 30 ideas.  My group generated 103 ideas!  Linkner contends that the first 20-30 ideas are easy and that real creativity occurs when you get past those.  
I am anxious to try those brainstorming techniques with my colleagues.  I can see each of them working well and producing ideas worth considering.

Linkner used media very well during his talk, including several videos, including "dove evolution" and the videos below. (09/23/2022: One video link has been removed because it is no longer available.)

#RSQ12: Tamara Kleinberg (and the Starbucks library)

The closing keynote for the R-Squared Conference was Tamara Kleinberg, the founder of imaginibbles and author of Think Sideways: a game-changing playbook for disruptive thinking. Kleinberg talked about engaging our imagination and led us through several creativity exercises.

I believe the hope was that Kleinberg would get us interacting in a way that allow people from the four experiences to share what they had learned. Unfortunately, that didn't occur. Rather than the creativity exercises that we did, we might have created cross experience teams to brainstorm solutions for specific library situations. That brainstorming could have included her one exercise which was to take on the persona of a company (Disney, Starbucks, Chipolte, or a few others) and design a new library.

My table was tasked with designing a Starbucks influenced library and that was fun! It led to a very different layout and focus. The hub/center of the library was the cafe, with music/media being close to the cafe, then the books. Music is piped into the space. Seating is comfortable in order to encourage people to linger. People can download media easily, including ebooks. People can even download parts of ebooks, which means they can select specific chapters that they want to read. In addition, people can combine books with music, so that a book could have a specific soundtrack.

Better safe than sorry may be the most dangerous thing ever saidThe library would have extended hours, opening early and staying open late. And it would be a kid-free zone. This is keeping the way people use Starbucks, where you don't find kids hanging out. It is a place for adults.

When I tweeted an overview of the library, I received responses from a few people who liked the idea! We only took 10 minutes for the exercise, so imagine what you team could come up with if you did it. Imagine brainstorming a new product idea as if you were Apple or some other company that creates experiences.

I began reading Kleinberg's bookon one of my flights. The book includes many stories and exercises that you can do in order to spark your creativity. It's a book that can read in bits, allowing you to tap into specific exercises or ideas. I need to consider what exercises to share/use with others, as well as who I might recommend the book to.  (Actually, there is a new person in my school who is very focused on creativity and who might like this book.)  The book is definitely a quick should be able to read it and use it quickly.

#RSQ12: Gondolas and airplanes

Mountain VillageOne of the joys of the Telluride and Mountain Village communities is the free gondola that connects them.  Rather than driving from the hotel (Mountain Lodge) to the convention center or to Telluride proper,  we took the gondola.  The gondola is fast and efficient!  It is also a challenge for those of us with a fear of heights, like me.  I've been on a gondola before at Masada and liked it, so I was looking forward to the gondola in Telluride.  What I didn't expect was that the gondola would go over a particularly high  mountain and an area called St. Sophia.  The St. Sophia gondola station is at 10,500 feet above sea level.  Going from St.Sophia down into Telluride (8,700 feet above sea level) provides a beautiful view, in the daytime, at night, and even when it is foggy!  I must admit that the first five seconds descending from St. Sophia provide an OMG moment for me and I had to close my eyes, but after two times, it all seemed normal. (BTW in contrast, Syracuse, NY is at 380 feet above sea level.)
View of Telluride from the gondola

Part of R-Squared was about getting outside of your comfort zone.  For some, that meant petting worms and snakes.  For others, it was the 19 seat aircraft from Denver to Telluride (and what a gorgeous view of the world!).  And for some, it was asking strangers on the street about their skills and passions.  I feel as if you didn't get outside your comfort zone during this conference, that you missed an opportunity to do it in a safe and supportive environment.

Getting to Telluride meant a long flight for me, with three segments each way.  Going and coming were both "adventures."  (I suffered a slight delay on my flight to Telluride, but had an overnight delay on my return to Syracuse.)  If this has not been such a phenomenal conference, I would be gripping more about the travel than I am.  It is a testament to the conference organizers and their vision that ~350 people figured out how to get to Telluride and were willing to put up with the conference hassles. 

It would be interesting if airlines used creativity exercises to re-think what they do and their customer interactions.  What if they - and the airline industry - created a new vision of what their services are and how they delivered them?  What if they put aside their assumptions? I could only hope that it would improve our flight experiences.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

#RSQ12: R2 Voices > Jill Hurst-Wahl

Chris Enjy did a series of interviews with Risk and Reward Conference participants, including me. This will give you an idea of what was on my mind as the conference was coming to a close. 5.35 minutes.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

#RSQ12: Doing the right things differently

Last night and today, I have spent time walking about both Telluride and Mountain Village, and one thing stands out to me - This is an area that believes in doing the right thing.  For example:
  • There are recycling containers everywhere.
  • There are places for disposing of dog waste everywhere, too.
  • They have tried to limit people's use of cars by having free public transportation. The area is also geared for the use of bicycles.
  • There is an emphasis on sustainability.
  • There is an emphasis on being environmentally friendly.
Lots of areas believe in those things, but this area is putting its beliefs into action.

So let's think about libraries.  Are we willing to truly live our values?  I can hear you yelling, "Jill, we do!"  Consider these questions:
  • Has your library documented its values using terms that your community members can understand? 
  • Are your activities aligned with your values?
  • If your library is talking about topics such as sustainability and entrepreneurship, does your collection reflect those conversations?  Do your actions reflect those conversations? 
You might want to take these questions to a staff meeting or to a conversation around the coffee machine and discuss them.  If you're not living your values, now is the time to change that.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

#RSQ12: The Risk and Reward Conference

As the third week of the semester begins, I am at a new conference, rather than on campus.  Those who conceived of this conference wanted it to be different that a normal library conference and it is.  Each participant was  asked to select an "experience."  We might envision each experience as being a conference track, but with no moving between tracks.  Some tracks had prework!  We've been told to dress comfortably and to be ready to "do." One of the tracks reportedly will have an "amazing race " like component to it.  Pretty cool!  

Why is this the Risk and Reward Conference (or R-Squared) and what does that have to do with libraries? We need to get out of our element and out of the echo chambers that exist in our organizations and in regular conferences...and into environments that help us think about innovation.  Innovation comes with both risks and rewards.  We don't cultivate risk taking, rather we often want to play it safe.  This conference hopes to spark innovative thinking and activities, through its different activities.  To that end, there will be a pitch-fest on Tuesday night, where conference participants will be encouraged to pitch new ideas and find collaborators.

The evening events are quite interesting and have a bit of self-organizing to them.  There is a happy hour on Monday evening (something that most library conference have!).  Tuesday we are all seeing a special showing of a documentary  (I am) that should spark interesting ideas about making a difference in the world.  After that, there is a happy hour and the pitch-fest, which will happen at midnight.  I  imagine that at midnight our inhibitions will be low and the ideas will flow more freely.  

So why am I here? While this is focused on libraries being innovators, my hope is that I will  learn things that I can bring into the classroom for our future library professionals.  I may also learn things to discuss and implement with the faculty.  But I must admit that it feels odd to be heading to an event without knowing exactly what I will be learning or what might be transferable to others.  However, I am sure this conference will not disappoint.

View from my hotel room in Telluride This conference is in Telluride, CO which is a bit out of the way.  
(Ah yes, three flights and new stories about airlines.)  The conference organizers select this location for a variety of reasons, including that the environment should inspire us.  With these views, who couldn't be inspired!

I'll be sharing what I learn at this conference as quickly as I can, here and through Twitter.  You can follow the conference happenings on Twitter with the  hashtag #rsq12. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Open access and the cost of academic journals

ABC Radio National in Australia did a 30 minute radio program in June (2012) entitled "Academic journals and the price of knowledge."  This podcast does an excellent job getting at the heart of the debate over journal prices and the responses from both sides about what to do.  Obviously open access can play a huge part in creating a solution, and that is addressed in the podcast

I do not believe that the podcast uses the word "copyright" at all, but clearly the licensing of content is a key part of the discussion.