Monthly Archives: April 2010

Humility Is A Form Of Presence Too

Management and leadership issues, while of interest to a good many academic librarians, are just one of many topics we cover here at ACRLog. We do so mostly when it applies to some issue of the day or a debate within higher education. In the past we’ve talked about being an “involved library administrator“, creating the next generation of leaders, reflections on leadership, decision making, and most recently discussed the value of having presence as a form of expressing leadership qualities. Yet I received some e-mail requests that ACRLog should continue to offer occasional posts about management and leadership topics, since many academic librarians are new to positions requiring these skills or want to learn more about them. To those folks I suggested subscribing the the Lyrasis Library Leadership Network, but we appreciate receiving the suggestion and ACRLog will continue to offer posts about management and leadership topics from time to time.

Where else can aspiring leaders look for advice on how to acquire the skills needed to do the job? I’ve become a regular reader of “Corner Office”, published in every Sunday issue of the New York Times, and authored by Adam Bryant. Corner Office features an interview with a different CEO, business leader or start up specialist each week (you can subscribe to the RSS feed). The quality can be a bit uneven but in general I always find something fascinating in any column. I’ve picked up new ideas about interviewing job candidates, strategies for getting things accomplished when there’s too much to do and being sensible when taking risks. Just recently there was an interview with Andrew Cosslett, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group. I was quite impressed with the InterContinental I visited in Chicago this past July during ALA. So I wanted to see what Cosslett had to say. He came off sounding quite confident in himself, to the point that I might say he sounds like the type of leader who has presence – and I’m sure he does. But in a good way?

I suppose that was the question op-ed columnist David Brooks had in mind when he wrote the column “The Humble Hound.” Referring back to the interview with Cosslett, Brooks makes a point that extremely self-confidant and charismatic leaders can produce volatile results. I won’t try to repeat what Brooks says here, but he too gives some quite poignant advice for would be leaders:

The humble hound leader thinks less about her mental strengths than about her weaknesses. She knows her performance slips when she has to handle more than one problem at a time, so she turns off her phone and e-mail while making decisions. She knows she has a bias for caution, so she writes a memo advocating the more daring option before writing another advocating the most safe…Because of her limitations, she tries to construct thinking teams…She tries not to fall for the seductions that Collins says mark failing organizations: the belief that one magic move will change everything; the faith in perpetual restructuring; the tendency to replace questions with statements at meetings.

The message: be humble, be persistent and be patient. Brooks paints a rather different picture of a leader, but in my view it’s one in which there is still a great presence – just in a different way.

So what’s a future leader to do, especially if going out on interviews for leadership positions? On one hand it’s important to demonstrate self confidence; who wants a wishy-washy leader? Be clear about your vision and values. Show what you believe in and how your behavior supports your beliefs. Do so with an assurance that demonstrates inner strength and faith in yourself. All of that needs to be balanced with humility, an appreciation for the support of colleagues and co-workers, and the good that inspired teams can achieve. There are different ways to demonstrate presence. An accomplished leader is able to express the right type of presence when and where it’s needed.

Envisioning the Academy’s Digital Future

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic symposium: The Digital University: Power Relations, Publishing, Authority and Community in the 21st Century Academy, held at the CUNY Graduate Center here in New York City. The day was chock full of presentations and conversations on the implications of digital technologies on teaching, learning, research, and scholarship. Academic and research libraries featured prominently in discussions throughout the conference.

The day began with four small workshops each organized around a specific theme relevant to digital scholarship. Deciding which workshop to attend was a tough choice, one that, judging from the Twitter stream (hashtag #du10), many of us were torn over; I chose the Academic Publishing workshop. There was a diverse group of academic publishers, faculty, librarians, and graduate students which made for an interesting and lively conversation.

Not surprisingly, we spent most of our workshop discussing the crisis in scholarly publishing (both journals and monographs). While there’s an enormous amount of money in the academy allocated towards scholarly publishing, it’s primarily spent on scholarly journals published by commercial publishers rather than academic presses (which are under extreme economic pressure) or open access journals. Workshop participants agreed that the entire community of stakeholders must come together to address these issues, including academic administrators, who often seem absent from these discussions. On a positive note, while scholarly publishing has been slow to adapt to digital technologies, many suggested that the current economic situation may begin to speed collaboration and change.

Academic authority was another recurring theme of the conference, and especially the implications of digital scholarship for the tenure and promotion process. Faculty participants in the two afternoon panels discussed their own efforts in pushing for change in “what counts” for tenure, though that may be perceived as risky for junior scholars. Of course the scholarly publishing crisis and academic authority issues are intimately related, and as they evolve will likely continue to influence each other. Many also pointed out that the more open and accessible our scholarship is, the more widely it can be seen and read, which has ethical and moral implications as well, especially for federally-funded research.

It was great to see academic and research libraries so well-represented at this symposium. There was a lot of love for what we do and how important we are to the future of the academy, which for me was a nice counterpoint to the recent Ithaka Faculty Study. I sometimes feel that while librarians talk a lot about open access and related issues, it can be hard to gauge how much they resonate with faculty in other departments. While the symposium attendees were a self-selected group of academics interested in digital technology, it’s heartening to see so many faculty and graduate students who do embrace open access to research and scholarship, and who are interested in pushing these boundaries in their own scholarly work.

Ways To Engage With ACRL

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Next up in the series is a personal reflection on ACRL 101 from Hui-Fen Chang, Assistant Professor, Humanities & Social Sciences, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University – Stillwater.

Hi, I’m one of the ALA Emerging Leaders for ACRL 101. As a new-to-the-profession librarian, I joined ACRL less than a year ago. So far I only have good things to say about the organization.I became a member because ACRL is the leading professional organizations for academic and research librarians. Through my involvement, and especially through my work with the Emerging Leaders program, I’ve become more aware of all of the practical and useful resources for professional development for academic librarians.

When I attended my first ALA Annual Conference last year in Chicago, I started out by going to the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting where I was able to meet with the ACRL leaders and section representatives. I also found out about various ways to get involved in ACRL (like volunteering to serve on committees), and useful tips for making the most of the ALA Annual Conference. Overall it was a useful and informative orientation for me as a first-time ALA Annual attendee. It inspired me to select the ACRL 101 program within Emerging Leaders. I strongly recommend it to this year’s first timers at Annual 2010.

Between now and then though, if you’re at all like me, you’ll probably want to start planning how to get involved so you can make the most of your conference. In addition to blogs like this one, ACRL publications such as College and Research Libraries and College and Research Libraries News have helped me stay current with scholarly research and with issues germane to academic librarianship. With regard to getting personally involved, ACRL has 17 sections each with committees eager to add new members. In ACRL volunteers are always welcome to serve on committees. I really found committee work an excellent way to network and gain professional experience. I sent in my committee volunteer form, and the next thing I know I’m working with other academic librarians on the Instruction Section Research & Scholarship committee. Through committee work, I get to learn more about the structure of the organization, and how a committee functions and operates, not to mention that I actually get credit for contributing to national projects and publications.

What are some of the other resources worth noting?

* 7 interest groups and 42 discussion groups to join and network with librarians

* OnPoint Chats , blogs , wikis, Facebook and other interactive resources for librarians to communicate and share ideas 25 standards and guidelines on topics of academic librarianship such as information literacy and collection development

*A variety of online seminars, webcasts and courses like Instructional Design for Online Teaching and Learning, Creating Usable and Accessible Web Pages and Copyright and the Library

ACRL National Conference, March 30 – April 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There is still time to submit your proposal (by May 10, 2010)!

If you are new to ACRL and want to learn more about ACRL resources and ways to get involved, consider attending the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting at ALA Annual. In addition, our group of Emerging Leaders is hosting three ACRL 101 mini-sessions for prospective ACRL members and first-time ALA Annual attendees in the ALA pavilion on June 26 and 27 (in the Exhibit Hall). Participants will get to meet with ACRL members and representatives, and to hear about these insiders’ experience with ACRL. It’s as useful and interesting for us to meet new people as it is for you, so we hope to see you there!

Breakfast of Librarians

I feel guilty that I haven’t posted in a while. Weekly deadlines for Library Journal columns have kept me hopping. I should take notes on how Steven Bell manages his deadlines. He’s the ultimate kept-up librarian.

But I thought I’d share something fun we’ve been doing this spring at my library – we started a journal club. A couple of times a month, we gather for breakfast in the college cafeteria on a Friday morning to discuss a common reading chosen by one of us. These include preprints of College and Research Libraries articles, articles from Communications in Information Literacy, or (most recently) the Taiga Provocative Statements coupled with the Darien Statements.

We’ve been joined by an intern, who brings a fresh perspective from a student who is about to go to library school but is still close to the undergraduate experience. (Maura, we’ll miss you when your internship is over!) We also have recently-hatched MLS who has a sharp mind and has been an excellent sabbatical replacement. (Anyone looking for a top-notch young librarian? Let me know.)

These have been such fun conversations, and they have been productive, too. Out of one of these informal get-togethers, we come up with a plan to hire and train some peer tutors to work at the reference desk between ten pm and midnight. Because we’ve had a lot of interest from students in doing internships, and we have a good example of peer tutoring in our Writing Center, we think we adapt some of our materials for interns into training, and provide some reference service at a time when the librarians are ready to call it a night but our students are finally getting a stretch of time when they can concentrate on their research.

Our journal club has proven to be a low-stakes, simple, and fun way to do a bit of professional development. Are there things you do at your library to foster good discussions among the librarians or share new ideas? Do tell.

(photo courtesy of arvindgrover)

Designing A Library For Learning

We would all agree that learning takes place in an academic library – and other library buildings too. When members of the user community are at our libraries using a computer to find information it can result in learning. When student groups prepare for an assignment in a library study room it can facilitate learning. When they sit in a quiet space and contemplate reading material students will engage in learning. Then again, if learning is defined as a permanent change in behavior, we really never know if any actual learning happens in the library. But what if we could design the library building environment that facilitates “intentional” learning and brings people together in new types of communities for education and relationship building? We’d want to do that, right?

I recently had the good fortune to attend a presentation by Scott Bennett on the topic “Libraries and Learning: A History of Paradigm Change”. You may know Bennett as a library space planning consulting and Librarian Emeritus of Yale University. I was somewhat familiar with the topic because it is based on Bennett’s article in the April 2009 issue of portal:Libraries and the Academy [note: portal is now providing public access to forthcoming articles but has not yet done the same for the back files]. In the presentation Bennett explained the three paradigms, reading, books and learning. Early academic libraries were reading centered and featured grand reading rooms, such as the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library Reading Room. That’s a well known example of a library space intended to offer the community a place for contemplative reading. The next great academic library paradigm was book centered. My own research library, built in 1964, is a good example as the design is cleared intended to maximize book storage and browsing over the needs of people using the library and those who work there; the two are kept apart.

Bennett spent the bulk of his talk on achieving the new learning paradigm. There’s been some evolution here. The Levy Library at USC. The growth of the information commons. The hallmark of this paradigm is greater proactivity about creating spaces where intentional learning happens. Bennett was quite adamant that we needed to design spaces for intentional learning, not simply adding cafes and lounges because it is trendy but because the design will be learning centered – and we’ll think in advance about the purpose of each space and how it can contribute to learning. But what do we mean by intentional learning and how would spaces make it happen – what about librarians? Our job is to think more like educators than service providers. In closing Bennett showed us a chart based on his many studies of library building programs on which there are just two columns. The left represents resources dedicated to “library mission” and the other represents learning mission. It’s clear that the library mission – resources dedicated to providing services – is much greater than the learning mission.

So how do you design a building that supports intentional, or what I might call, authentic learning? We may have to wait until Bennett shares news from his next exploration project in which he’ll identify 12 behaviors that contribute to intentional learning – and how the library’s design can stimulate and support those behaviors. The more we know about what helps students learn and what’s important to them, the better able we are to design the space to support it. To my way of thinking Bennett struck me as a constructivist who would have students spend more time in study rooms learning on their own or from each other. But after some discussion we found common ground on connectivism where the learning is achieved through relationships and community. Students also learn when they create, and libraries designed for intentional learning should offer spaces where students synthesize existing information to create new ideas and course projects.

After hearing Bennett I am cautiously optimistic that it is indeed possible to design a library building that promotes intentional learning. That said, for a new library building it is also possible and even desirable to evoke the past with an eye-catching reading room – or some modern variation on it – and blend that with some book-centered spaces. A library for the 21st century can blend the two paradigms of the past with Bennett’s new one for the modern library.