Category Archives: Uncategorized

Showing Emotion? Keep It Real

You’ve no doubt had that experience where you go to a store, hotel or some other setting where you receive service, and the person (or people) serving you is doing all the right things to be nice – but you know it’s an act being put on for your benefit. We accept this because we know the person is doing their job and the management expects them to put some kind of positive emotions into the service. Just the same, it may leave us feeling a little weird. Should businesses expect their employees to fake emotions with you? This question is raised is a column titled “The Coming Point of Sale Revolution” by Grant McCraken. He understands the strategy but has a problem with it:

One of them is the American conviction that your emotions are your own personal business. Generally, we believe emotions are a private matter and that it is wrong to ask the employee to use them for public, commercial purposes.

McCraken shares the story of Dolores, a clerk at a busy 7-11 that sells the most cups of coffee of any other similar convenience store in America. Try to watch the video of Dolores in action. There’s nothing fake, contrived or insincere about the way she greets the customers and makes them welcome. While many of our service desk-based interactions could be described as impersonal transactions, I believe that we too have our “regulars” that we chat with, share a story or greet warmly. In other words, we put our emotions into those relationships – and the community members know it is sincere.

McCraken goes on to suggest that service-driven businesses should go out of their way to look for people like Dolores, or even those who have the capacity, through staff development, to be more skilled at what he calls “reading people and responding to them in real time” – the opposite of which is always avoiding eye contact, being sullen or professionally cold or aloof. I have no idea if that works for academic libraries. We talk about the importance of customer service, but when hiring and developing new librarians what do we tell them about connecting with community members when at a service desk or in consultation situations. Should we be asking or suggesting that academic librarians engage with everyone in a more personal and emotional manner – or at least be more adept at reading people and sensing at what level they desire personal engagement? It’s not necessarily a skill we all have.

Perhaps the important thing for all us who connect with community members in one way or another, at a desk, in a classroom, in offices or wherever, is to be thoughtful about the possibilities for building relationships. They can start with an enthusiastic greeting, sustained eye contact or simply demonstrating that we care. We should avoid at all cost communicating that the interaction is no more than an impersonal or bothersome transaction we perform in order to survive our time at the desk until we can get back to whatever it is we’d really rather be doing. Putting some emotion into our work can be a good thing. Do we all need to be Dolores? Of course not. Faking it, in fact, may be far worse.

Collaboration In Librarian Scholarship Part II

Thanks for all the comments on my earlier post How Do We Evaluate Collaboration in Librarian Scholarship?

Here’s what we came up with at my place of work as a revision (still a draft) for our disciplinary standards for Librarian scholarship. We wanted to honor both sole-author and collaborative works:

“First or sole-authored works are highly valued but the nature of work in librarianship is often collaborative. Collaborative scholarship between librarians within the field of librarianship and interdisciplinary collaboration between librarians and scholars in other fields is common, encouraged, and highly valued. The sole-authored work is not necessarily the benchmark…but multi-authored works require the candidate to document the extent of their contribution and the nature of the collaboration.”

If anyone else has statements addressing collaboration in their campus documents and is willing to share I’d be interested to see them.

For more on collaboration, the first article below documents the increasing collaboration in librarian scholarship over the years, and the second has some good advice for how to document collaboration so that it can be evaluated.

Alice Harrison Bahr and Mickey Zemon, “Collaborative
Authorship in the Journal Literature: Perspectives for Academic Librarians Who Wish to Publish.” C&RL 61 (2000): 410-419.

Elizabeth G. Creamer, “Promoting the Effective Evaluation of Collaboratively Produced Scholarship: A Call to Action” in Advancing Faculty Learning Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 102, Summer 2005.

Q & A With The Librarians Who Made That Winning Video

While I can’t say enough about the importance of video as a communication and learning tool, I’m hardly enamored with most librarian videos – especially the ones that involve lip synching to pop tunes. That’s why I was particularly impressed by the creativity and craftsmanship demonstrated by the now well known video that won top prize in the ACRL 2011 Video Contest, the Strozier Rap Video.

The Florida State University Libraries Strozier Library team did a great job with their video, and I wanted to learn more from them. So I sent them a few questions and they were kind enough to answer them. Here’s the interview with:
Michelle Demeter, Academic Partnerships Librarian
Job Jaime, Technology Center Coordinator
Suzanne Byke, Undergraduate Outreach Librarian

Where did the idea for the video come from?

We are fans of Lazy Sunday from SNL! Based on the criteria for the video we felt that modifying the Lazy Sunday video would create a really cool, fun ACRL promotion.

What video equipment did you use?

The video was recorded using a Sony HDC-3 camcorder, Sony Vegas for video editing and a basic lighting kit. For audio, we used Audacity audio editing software. We used both Adobe Flash and Photoshop for animation. All of the equipment and software is available from Strozier Library to the Florida State University community. We also provide assistance using all of the software to any student, faculty or staff at FSU.

Was this your first library video or have you made others?

As a team, this was our first video. The library does have many videos that have been created by individual members of the team. Check out the Club Stroz video which was created by two undergraduates that now work on promotion for our Undergraduate Commons.

How long did it take to create the video?

Here are approximate times: writing the rap 3 hours, filming 7 hours, sound recording 1.5 hours, animation 3 hours, sound and video editing 9 hours, and endless laughter watching it! We took many takes. Between the perfectionist director and our inability to rap on cue, we took more takes than we can count…but we had FUN!

What suggestions do you have for other librarians who want to make cool videos?

A creative idea, or stealing from pop culture, and a team of awesomely talented audio/video geeks that are willing to give up their free time to help you!

What’s your take on lipsyncing to pop songs in videos?

Seriously, it’s harder than it looks! You need to have a sense of humor when singing or rapping if it’s not your thing and don’t give up your day job until you get a record contract. You also can’t let the comments on YouTube crush your dream, haha!

So, would you do it again?

You betcha! While it was a lot of work, it was definitely worth it! We were so happy with the final result!

Thanks Strozier Team. If we need some suggestions for our next library video we know who to call.

Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

How Usage Shapes Technology Application

Scanning the October 2010 issue of The Charleston Advisor I came across a review of the web-based movie making site called Xtranormal. Even if you didn’t know that name, you’d instantly recognize one of the movies created on the Xtranormal site. The review, by Ellen Metter is well done, and seriously considers the value of Xtranormal for instructional movie making by librarians. However, between now and when the review was submitted a few months ago, I wonder if any academic librarian is still seriously considering using Xtranormal to make a library-related video. The problem is that the software has become the leading contemporary technology for mocking, ridiculing or just plain bashing just about any topic you can imagine, from following printing instructions in libraries to tea party followers. It’s practically synonymous with sarcasm. You’ve probably seen most of the “So you want to be/go….” series – all incredibly sarcastic.

At this point I am wondering if any academic librarian would use Xtranormal to create an instructional video. If you did, would anyone take it seriously or would you be hoping that your target audience is woefully unaware of how Xtranormal is being used by the masses. What I find interesting is how the crowd is shaping the use of and perceptions surrounding this particular technology. I’m sure there are lots of well thought out Xtranormal instructional productions on there, but at this point would anyone take seriously these animated characters? I think not. What do you think? Still willing to use Xtranormal for serious learning or waiting for the next best thing?

No Library-Related Articles in The Chronicle’s Top Ten

Whenever there is a library-related article in the Chronicle I like to keep tabs on the “most read” and “most e-mailed” sections. To me it somewhat indicates the degree of interest in reading about library issues, and usually the library articles are highly read and e-mailed. Quite often these articles are at the top of the chart for several days. That’s why I was surprised to find that not a single article about academic librarianship made it to the top ten most read Chronicle articles for 2010. You academic librarians need to start reading the Chronicle a whole lot more.

Here’s How It Works People

I was amazed and astounded to learn that nearly 50% of the librarians who submitted proposals for the poster sessions at ACRL 2011 included information about their institution or library – and in some cases even named names – in the proposal. Over 400 proposals for posters were submitted and 160 were accepted. The selection committee members were puzzled by the unexpected high occurrence of librarians who didn’t appear to understand the concept of blind peer review. Yes, you do submit your contact information during the submission process, but that doesn’t mean you should include it again in your actual proposal. The two get kept separate so the reviewers won’t know who is submitting the proposal or where it’s coming from (and folks, we often know each other just by the names of our libraries). If there is any profession that should have a firm grasp of how blind peer review works, it ought to be us guys. Let’s see if we can do a better job in 2013. BTW, proposals were not eliminated or penalized for mentioning an institution or library. Next time, ACRL may not be so kind.

Wanted – Young Librarians Only

Perhaps you share my concerns about the future of professional library associations like ACRL. So any study that offers recommendations for how to retain existing members and recruit new ones should be of interest to us. So I was eager to read a new report from a group seeking to encourage member engagement. While this Task Force idea is a good one, I can’t say the same for the name. The ALA’s Young Librarians Task Force has issued the report that repeatedly refers to “young librarians” as it discusses ways to encourage them to become better advocates for ALA and the profession. There is one reference to “new/young” members, which to me is the sensible way to present this demographic. A case of ageism? Anyone who’s been teaching in an LIS program in the last few years knows that we still have a fairly sizable contingent of mid-life career changers entering this profession. To organize a Task Force around “young librarians” seems likely to dis-engage anyone over the age of 25. What age is young anyway? Can I be on the task force if I’m over 30? To be slightly cynical, I guess that if an association is going to throw time and effort into a recruiting campaign it is better to focus on young people because the older ones will die sooner – meaning less lifetime dues. If ALA signs up a 25 year old and retains them over 40 years – well that sure does add up. So perhaps I’m nitpicking a bit here, but in an organization that is perhaps the most politically correct on the planet, you have to be wondering why they decided on this name.

ACRL Update: Change Ahead

Before getting to the core of this column, how about a round of applause for the newest winners of ACRL’s top awards, Academic/Research Librarian of the Year and the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. They are:

2011 Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Academic/Research Librarian of the Year
Janice Welburn, dean of university libraries at Marquette University

2011 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award
Luria Library at Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, Ca.
Grinnell College Libraries, Grinnell, Iowa
Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

ACRLog congratulates all the winners on their amazing accomplishments.

When ACRL isn’t doling out awards, it’s busy trying to advance the association into the future. At ALA Midwinter I heard more about these initiatives, and now is the time for members to share their thoughts about two important developments. First is the new version of ACRL’s strategic plan, the Plan for Excellence. This plan is currently in draft format and input is being sought from the academic library community. The first thing you’ll notice about the Plan for Excellence is that it’s far shorter than its predecessor. Whereas the old plan had quite a few goals and multiple objectives – and went on for several pages – the new plan is streamlined. It consists of only three goals, and each goal has but four objectives. This is a welcome change, and our colleagues who developed the plan should be applauded for coming up with a document that will likely be more practical and realistic to implement.

I’m not going to rehash the goals and objectives here; you can link to the ACRL Plan for Excellence and look it over. In brief, the three goals are (1) Value of Academic Libraries (2) Student Learning and (3) Research and Scholarly Environment. I don’t think any ACRL member would argue with the importance of these goal areas. The related objectives leave plenty of room for innovative project development. Where I am somewhat disappointed is with dropping membership growth as an ACRL goal. What I heard is that membership and some other prior goals were dropped because they are now perceived as the routine work of ACRL, and are no longer considered truly strategic in nature – and that ACRL needs to have a manageable set of goals and objectives that are within the scope of what we can actually accomplish with our limited (and potentially decreasing) resources.

I agree that the association needs to be careful about how much it takes on, but you only need to take a look at pg. 633 in the December 2010 issue of College & Research Libraries News where you’ll see a chart in the ACRL Annual Report that shows the percent change in membership from 2009 to 2010. There are many more minus signs then I’d like to see. It’s true that total membership is only down a few hundred members but this is a trend we can’t afford to ignore by eliminating its strategic value. Retaining existing members and recruiting new ones is the lifeblood and future of ACRL. When you bring into this picture the reality that many newer-to-the-profession academic librarians can build their own professional support system through social networks or seek newer alternatives such as SLA’s new and growing Academic Libraries Division, it seems to me that we do need a strategic approach to growing ACRL’s membership. My suggestion is to add a new fourth goal called “Organizational Sustainability” with the following four objectives:

* increase the membership by 5% by 2014
* study association needs of academic librarians with fewer than five
years in the profession and identify strategies for developing next
generation leaders
* identify strategies to make association membership and conference
attendance more affordable for new members
* continue to build opportunities for virtual membership

By adding this fourth goal ACRL keeps the retention and recruitment of members firmly in its vision as a vital issue that does require a well thought out strategy.

And speaking of membership, the other big change being advanced by ACRL is a Bylaws revision that would change how a dues increase would occur. Currently, the timing and amount of a dues increase is somewhat arbitrary. Dues only change, typically upward, when the ACRL Board decides that it needs to and by what amount. Then the full membership must vote on that increase. The whole process is time consuming, and the increases are usually approved. As a result, the ACRL Board has only moved to increase dues, because of its unpopularity, sporadically and it results in less frequent but larger increases. For example, the last dues increase was in 2005. Dues went from $35 to $55 for a 57% increase which is pretty substantial. The new proposal seeks to eliminate this from happening again – and after five years we might be due for an increase – by shifting to having the Board consider a dues increase annually. The increase would be tied to the HEPI meaning that the Board could only increase dues by the percent amount increase in the HEPI. Over the last 20 years if ACRL dues had been tied to the HEPI the maximum annual increase would be $3 (and less in 2009 and 2010). That doesn’t mean the Board would increase dues annually. The revision would just give it the power to do so without a vote by the membership. A vote would be required only if the amount of the increase needed exceeded the HEPI. According to my calculations, between 2002 and 2008 the HEPI averaged 4%. The obvious advantage to the revision is that it will allow the Board much greater flexibility in increasing dues as needed so that we avoid these huge bumps every 5-7 years.

While I support this revision to the bylaws, my opinion is that we need to look at restructuring the dues all together. Right now we all pay the same, and this is true with ALA dues as well. This puzzles me because it would seem to make more sense to connect dues to salaries. This is the method used by most state library associations. Why am I paying, after 30+ years in the field, the same amount as the new academic librarian who is making far less than I am, and is no doubt loaded with student debt? For me, dues and membership are intertwined. If dues are keeping new-to-the-profession librarians from joining ALA and in turn ACRL, that ultimately weakens the organization and is threat to its future sustainability. There was a similar conversation recently concerning ALA conference attendance, and I made the point that I’d be willing to pay more so that attendance would be more affordable for our newer colleagues, especially those lacking employer support. By no means is this a simple issue, and I don’t doubt that even considering it would cause some organizational turmoil. It’s complicated by the fact that ACRL dues are connected to your ALA dues payment. But even a modest step in this direction would make a statement, and perhaps encourage current non-members to consider joining. Would a change in this direction be more likely to encourage you to join ACRL – or do you support the current dues structure?

Whatever direction the change in ACRL takes us, I hope that more of you ACRL readers will consider being a part of that change (if you are not already positioned to do so), by becoming an ACRL member and helping to guide the association into the future.