That library smell – it’s the smell of death

Stephen Abram recently posted Are Books Smelly? Fun read – learn all about why old books smell!

And I have to admit – I’ve been thinking about “that old book smell” that some libraries have for awhile now. Here’s why – it seems to me that the smell some of us relish in a library is:

  • the smell of books that haven’t moved off the shelves in a very long time
  • which equals =
  • the smell of a library NOT BEING USED
  • which equals =
  • the smell of death

Have that lovely smell of rotting glue and mold in your library? It means that your stuff isn’t relevant, and it’s been sitting for too long. You have two choices:

  1. pay people to move your stuff around
  2. get better stuff

OK – probably more than two choices – you could also learn to market and promote better, actually weed your collections more often (ie, we still have Windows 98 for Dummies – both copies are available!), etc.

Yep – another way to look at change, with a sorta-kinda-measurable tool (ie, the smell-o-meter). Get people using your stuff, get rid of the stuff that’s no longer moving. Left with nothing? Maybe you’re buying the wrong stuff.

Quoting Seth Godin – “change is a bear, but it’s better than death.”

pic by antmoose

Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out – recent presentations

I recently gave my Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out presentation at Lawrence Public Library in Kansas, and at three fun events in Wisconsin. A couple of them were longer, 3-hour talks, and the other two were shorter – this Slideshare slidedeck is for the 3-hour version of the presentation.

All 4 were fun talks with lots of great discussion afterwards. Lawrence and Wisconsin – thanks!

Open Mindsets

I recently read Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li (she also co-wrote Groundswell). It was an interesting book… some really good thoughts. [Charlene/her publisher sent me the book – thanks Charlene!]

Before I get into those thoughts, a couple of things I didn’t like about the book:

  • The title is misleading – the book really isn’t about social technology. At all. It’s about transforming the way you lead through open leadership. Social media and technology is mentioned a time or two … but it’s not the tech that makes the examples and the stories in the book work – it’s the leaders and the way they manage.
  • Charlene pretty much focuses on really large, international corporations. Sure, a couple of smaller (but highly visible) companies are mentioned, like Zappos. But mostly, the examples involve for-profit corporations with thousands of employees, branches in 30 different countries, etc. For those of us who don’t work in large corporations (i.e., most of you reading my blog) – you’ll have to do a bit of translation work while reading.

Otherwise, a pretty good book on a tough topic – that of guiding leaders to be “open.” Which leads me to the title of this post – Open Mindsets. From page 8 – “… the biggest indicator of success has been an open mind-set – the ability of leaders to let go of control at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount.”

Wow. Easy to say, hard to do, huh? She goes on to list some rules of open leadership (pgs. 14-15):

  1. respect that your customers and employees have power
  2. share constantly to build trust
  3. nurture curiosity and humility
  4. hold openness accountable
  5. forgive failure

… and the rest of the book gives plenty of examples for accomplishing leadership in a more open way.

Definitely worth a read! Did you read it? If so, what did you think?

How YOU Get Permission

Here’s my third post on Getting Permission. In the first post, I covered how I get permission. The second post asked for tips from you guys.

Here’s what you said (from my comments):

  • Chris Freeman: “selling the outcome of the idea as opposed to the “tool” that will create the outcome is helpful. What will be better about our services if we implement this idea rather than “hey, here’s a new idea for us to try”?”
  • Chris also said: “identify who the “informal power brokers” are in the organization. Having an influential person stating support for your plans goes a long way toward swaying those who control whatever resources you need to accomplish your goals.”
  • Michael Casey: “If you can plug your idea into the strategic plan and highlight any efficiencies the idea might offer — either direct financial savings or staff-time savings — then you’re off to a good start.”
  • Genesis Hansen: Don’t just ask for permission to do what you want, offer something in return. Our City Council was very squeamish about letting departments use social media. In order to get myself on our City’s social media policy committee and be allowed to participate in a social media pilot project I compiled a lot of research on social media policies, organized it and sent it to the Committee chair. I also offered to do social media and policy training for other departments in the City. As a result, I was included in the process, got to give input into policy formation (didn’t win every battle, but did win some important ones), and made some valuable contacts in other City departments. And now any department that wants to start using social media will go through training with library staff.
  • Genesis also said: “Always try to demonstrate the tangible benefits your project will offer. If you’re in a place where the powers that be are generally resistant, don’t phrase your request as “this is something cool I want to try” but “I think I know a way to help the library meet this particular service goal, and I’m happy to do the legwork to make it happen.” Make it as easy as possible for your boss to say yes.”
  • ananka: “talk to someone who supports me and my ideas first, bounce it off them. It helps if they have some weight behind them with admin. Sell it to them, work out some of the issues that might arise, then slowly (within reason, depending on the scope of your idea) begin telling others about it, working your way up. Pretty soon they will be asking when your program starts.”
  • David Whelan: “The most important element is to be willing to ask the question. Some of the projects I have started came about because I sat with the decision maker and said, here’s what I want to do, how can I do it? It engages them and it highlights where your plan may need work. So once you’ve asked, be prepared that you may need to ask again. Sometimes a decision maker just need to be asked and you’re good to go.”
  • Lori Reed: “start small. Starting with small projects allows you to prove yourself. So instead of a social media makeover maybe just start with a Facebook page for one branch.”
  • Lori also said: “Now for ideas…you can look outside your organization as a place to grow. The ALA Learning Round Table has allowed me to stretch my wings and gain experience with skills that I could not use (at least not initially) in my day job.”

I also received some great tips from some of you via Twitter, as well (for another post – yes, I set up a hashtag #getpremission. No, I didn’t save the thing anywhere. Yes, I forgot that tweets pretty much disappear after 1 1/2 weeks. Yes, I waited too long to post this – lesson learned. Drat).

Heather at i_librarian said this:

  • 1. Do your homework.Get evidence. Provide WHY it is valid and what it will do for your library. #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)
  • 2. Mock ups, mock ups, mock ups. People need to see what it will look and feel like. Be as concrete as you can. #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)
  • 3. Get buy-in from others who will be affected. 4. Spell out who and how the work will get done #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)

Laura J. Wilkinson said this:

  • Make it easy for your boss to say ‘yes’ to your idea – think it out and manage any risks #getpermission (found here)
  • Make the business case for your idea #getpermission (found here)
  • Identify success criteria and agree a trial period. Monitor, evaluate, review #getpermission (found here)
  • Be prepared to work on your idea on your own time #getpermission (found here)
  • Get the support of someone in authority. Give examples of what similar libraries have done (works well in Oxford!) #getpermission (found here)
  • Make it easy for your boss to say ‘yes’ to your idea – think it out and manage any risks #getpermission (found here)

Did we miss something? Some great tip on how YOU get permission that isn’t here? Please share!

Pic by JanneM

Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out Presentations

The last couple of weeks, I’ve given my Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out presentation a few times. On May 6, I gave the three-hour version at the “Social Media For the Social Good” event hosted by ohioNET and the Ohio Library Council.

I gave the two-hour version (embedded above) at Omaha Public Library on May 14. Both were fun times – lots of good discussion, and lots of nice people, too.

thanks ohioNET and Omaha Public Library!