Posts Tagged 'leadership'



A kinder, gentler Taiga

A few months ago I agreed to join the steering committee of the Taiga Forum. The Taiga Forum is perhaps best known for its (in)famous Provocative Statements, which have not been universally well-received by the library community. In fact, I have been a bit critical of past Provocative Statements myself.

So, why would I agree to join the steering committee? Because I do believe in the potential of a group of AUL/ADs from across types of libraries and across functional areas to make meaningful contributions to the key conversations about libraries. I want there to be a forum for AUL/ADs to engage with one another and with the broader community of folks who care about higher education and the role of libraries. I want to be part of a thriving community of practice, made up of leaders from different types of libraries and spanning every functional area within libraries. And I decided that if I wanted something like that to exist, I ought to be willing to try to make it happen.

I am excited about the launch of the new collaborative Taiga blog, Gentle Disturbances (for an explanation of the title, see my initial post); which I see as a sort of library version of the Scholarly Kitchen (but with better gender balance). While the members of the steering committee have all committed to blogging regularly on topics we hope will spur productive conversations, we also hope to have plenty of guest bloggers from the broader community of library (and library-related) leaders.

I am also pleased that Taiga is looking to engage with the library community in a more diverse set of venues–expanding beyond our current presence at DLF Forums and at ALA meetings to include other relevant major conferences and meetings. My goal is that Taiga will provide programming and conversations that are useful not only to the AUL/AD community, but to the broader community as well. To do that, we need feedback and input from everyone, and we need to be willing to listen and to engage.

I am convinced that the members of the steering committee are all committed to a new, more interactive approach to leveraging the perspectives of the Taiga community for the good of libraries.  But we do need your help — if you are going to ALA, please consider dropping by our “happy hour” on Friday, June 28 between 2pm and 4pm at the M/X bar in the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place (next to the McCormick Place. North Building).  Please also follow us on twitter, follow the blog, and leave your comments over there.

This was not Plan B: My #altac story

There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and probably just as many in the academy. There are stories warning you not to go to graduate school, and stories warning you not to pay attention to stories that warn you not to go to graduate school (I like the latter stories better). And there are great stories about people who went to graduate school and chose an alternate career path (dubbed altac).

This is my story.

First things first: This altac career path of mine was not Plan B. Taking a job as a social science librarian as I finished up my dissertation, then staying on for more than 10 years now in various library jobs, was not a fall-back* decision because I didn’t think I could cut it on the tenure-track market. I applied for my original library job because it sounded like interesting work that I might be good at. I have accepted subsequent jobs and promotions within the Stanford Libraries, and am committed to a career in academic libraries, for the same reasons — I think the work is important, interesting, and challenging; and I think I have something to offer.

I came to Stanford to pursue a PhD in Sociology because I didn’t learn everything I wanted to learn in college, or in the 10 years after college. I went to a very good school for my undergraduate education (and paid for it by selling my soul, and many years of my life, to Uncle Sam, but that’s a story for a different blog post), but I was a really crappy student. I needed a B average to keep my scholarship, so I did exactly as much work as I needed to, and not a bit more, to earn that 3.0. Years later I realized that a 3.0 GPA at Duke puts you in the bottom half of your graduating class. Thank god I’m good at standardized tests.

Anyhoo … after doing fairly well at regular Army officer type jobs for 4 years (and helping us win the Cold War), I was fortunate enough to be selected to teach at West Point. The assignment was preceded by an all-expenses paid two-year trip to the University of Maryland for an MA in Sociology. A bit of maturity, a lot of fear, smart and passionate fellow students, and the incredible support and patience of my advisor Mady Segal, combined to ensure that I actually took graduate school seriously. And lo and behold, I liked what I was learning, and I liked the process of learning. It turns out you can learn a whole lot more if you actually go to class and do the reading. Talking to other students and to faculty helps too. I honestly didn’t know that as an undergrad.

Those 2 years at UMd were personally transformative for me. I learned how to think critically, I became a feminist, I started (slooowwwly) questioning my sexuality. And then, just like that, the 2 years were up and off I went to West Point to teach leadership and sociology to future Army officers. Those 3 years at West Point were awesome and awful in approximately equal measure. And when that assignment was done, I knew it was time to get out of the Army and go back to graduate school.

I pursued a PhD in Sociology because I wanted to learn more and grow more and challenge myself intellectually in ways that I had been challenged in my MA program at UMd. I wanted more of that. I had enjoyed the teaching part of the West Point assignment, and thought maybe that’s what I would do when I finished my PhD. Along the way, it became clear that I was actually supposed to want a very serious tenure-track job at a real reasearch university. And while I toyed with that idea from time to time, I never actively pursued it.

Starting in my 2nd year of grad school, I worked part-time in the Stanford Libraries’ Social Science Data and Software (SSDS) group, doing statistical software consulting. I always worked at least 10 hours a week, and when I didn’t have other funding, I worked 20 hours a week, and 40 hours a week during summers. I was a single parent by now, so I was basically working as much as possible, because graduate student stipends are calibrated for very very frugal, single, childless people.

As a grad student in SSDS, my job included individual consulting with students and faculty, teaching workshops, and (as I became more senior), planning and leading our consulting, teaching and outreach services. I had gotten a pretty good taste of leadership as an Army officer, and knew that it was something I liked and was good at. I quickly realized that whatever I did after graduate school, I wanted it to be something that allowed me to leverage my academic training and my leadership skills.

Towards the end of my 4th year of grad school, my dissertation advisor asked me if I wanted her to recommend me for a tenure track job in a top-tier sociology program, at a public university a little south of here.  The fact that I had yet to have a serious conversation with her about my plans for going on the job market was probably a pretty good clue to both of us that I was likely not headed in that direction. But I appreciate that she asked, and I figure she must have thought I would be competitive for such a job.  Around the same time, one of my colleagues at SSDS asked me if I had considered applying for the social science librarian job that was open right here in the Stanford Libraries. As soon as I realized that the only thing making the tenure track faculty job seem at all appealing was what other people would think, while the content of the work and the people I would work with were what made the library job appealing, the decision was easy. The rest, as they say, is history.

That’s my story. It is likely neither particularly unique, nor especially generalizable. But it is true. And I do know that there are plenty of others for whom an altac career path is not plan B. Add my story to the dataset.

* My fall back job is junior high basketball coach. I did it for 1 season as a high school senior and we won the league championship. So I got that going for me.

No streaking in the library

Last month, Stanford Libraries and Stanford’s Department of Public Safety stopped members of the Columbae co-op from walking naked through the library during finals week. Predictably, many disagree with our actions and think the Columbae run is a tradition worth keeping.

I am on record as being a fan of many of the ways in which the Library is seen as a social icon on campus, and the nude run fits that notion in some ways. But I think we made the right, though unpopular, decision in this case.

We put up with some student traditions and pranks in the library — the book-slamming exercise that was part of New Student Orientation this year, for example — but we draw the line at activities that cause damage (Band Run) and activities that violate the Fundamental Standard.  The Columbae nude run is problematic for the simple reason that some patrons and some library staff are uncomfortable with being approached by nude students. We have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students, and to make sure that our staff and our patrons are not placed in a situation that creates a hostile environment. The rights of students and staff to not be approached by nude strangers outweighs the dubious rights of the Columbae residents to streak thru the library.

If an individual slammed a book in the Lane room, we would simply ask them not to, but we wouldn’t throw them out of the library. If an individual stripped in the library and then started handing out candy to patrons, we would certainly ask them to leave. In fact, we have over the years responded to complaints from students of other patrons in various states of undress, and we have responded appropriately to protect the right of our patrons to study in an environment free of harassment. And although it may sound prude, it is not such a stretch to say that being offered candy by a naked stranger is a form of harassment. The fact that the Columbae run is a tradition that consists of a group of students rather than a single patron makes little difference in our responsibility to our staff and our other patrons.

My suggestion to the Columbae co-op is that they find a way to keep their tradition alive in a space where others are free to choose whether they want to be a part of it. The library is not that place.

“Just stand there in your wrongness” and other lessons from The West Wing

The ACRL/LLAMA Joint President’s Program Committee is hosting a “leadership moments” competition:

Using an example from a book, film, play, TV show, presentation or any other context where a “leadership moment” might be found, participants are asked to define and discuss how that moment contributed to their own conception of great leadership or inspired their own development as a leader.

West Wing

I loaned out Season 1, and never did get Season 7

My favorite pop culture source of leadership lessons is the TV show The West Wing. First up is the scene in Season 1 of the West Wing (The White House Pro Am) when Abbey Bartlet concedes she was “wrong about the thing”, but tries to slip in a “however …”. The President responds with “No. No ‘however’. Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.”

When I’m wrong, I try to remember to just admit it and move on. No “howevers”, no equivocating, no excuses. I think a willingness to “just stand there in my wrongness” is important because it takes some of the drama and the power out of being wrong. None of us is perfect, and in fact, most of the leaders I know think it is important to create a culture where staff aren’t afraid to fail. Another by-product of a willingness to “just stand there in my wrongness” when I’m wrong, is that it helps me stay open to learning from my mistakes and learning from others.

Speaking of willingness to stay open to learning, in addition to being a fellow Dukie, Sam Seaborn was always my favorite character because of the way the show consistently portrayed him in learning mode. A favorite example is the wonderful scene in Hartsfield Landing where President Bartlet uses a chess game to teach Sam about international relations. I also love the exchange in that scene where Sam says “I don’t know how you do it,” and the President responds with “You have a lot of help, you listen to everybody, and then you call the play.”; which is a pretty good approach to leadership. There are any number of scenes in the West Wing where Sam’s job requires him to learn just enough about something — usually quickly — to advocate for it; for example, in Dead Irish Writers he has to learn about the super-conducting super-collider from his former college physics teacher.

I’m not nearly as smart (nor as good-looking) as Sam Seaborn, but my job often requires me to talk about things and advocate for projects and programs where I’m not really the expert. One of the most useful tactics I’ve learned in those situations is to ask “what do I need to know about X to effectively advocate for it?” Like the scene where Sam has to learn enough about partical physics to defend funding for the super-collider, this question allows me to learn what I need to know without pretending to be an expert and without wasting my staff’s time or insulting them by pretending that I could become an expert in their area after a few quick conversations.

Finally, my favorite West Wing lesson is “What’s next?“, Bartlet’s signature phrase signalling that it is time to move on. “What’s next?” conveys an attitude of forward movement, and of executing on a decision once it is made instead of continuing to rehash the arguments.

So there you have it — everything I know about leadership I learned from the West Wing.

How to throw an awesome work retreat

We took our leadership team to Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center for a 2 night retreat recently. Our overarching goal was to develop a shared understand of how we define ourselves as an organization; especially in the context of the changing landscape of higher education. The retreat was quite simply awesome. We have already gotten tons of feedback (solicited and unsolicited) indicating that the retreat was inspiring, fun, and “the best retreat ever!”. My own impression is that it was all of that … and productive to boot!

So how did we pull it off? What are the key ingredients? I suspect that the 2 most important ingredients are a good location and awesome staff. I’m convinced that a location that incorporates natural beauty in a casual setting is most effective. I just think we are more creative, more open-minded, and more collegial when we’re wearing jeans and walking on the beach together (or watching the Giants win 2 games on their way to a World Series championship in the small coffee shop that is home to the only TV). And I simply can’t say enough good things about our staff — we have really smart people who care deeply about the future of libraries and of higher education. To a person, they were fully engaged in this retreat — taking the exercises seriously, and making a point of connecting with colleagues they don’t usually interact with.

Looking at our agenda and how we organized things, a few things stand out:

  1. For the formal parts of the retreat, we had people sitting at tables of 7-8. We were very careful in setting up the table groups to make sure that the groups represented a good mix of units, but also that no one was at a table with their boss.
  2. We limited the amount of time spent passively listening to presentations and maximized active participation and discussion.
  3. The group activities that we used were fun, were open-ended, and were meaningful and realistic (at least for us).
  4. Even the first night ice-breaker question (“What is your best Halloween memory?”) worked well, as we all learned about a colleague’s clown pajama costume and another colleague’s “underwear on the outside” party.

My favorite group activities were:

  1. “The library just received a $5 million increase in our budget. What would you do with the new funding? Put together a proposal.”
  2. “Come up with a marketing and outreach campaign for the library, complete with slogans,logos, etc.”

Both these exercises capitalized on the amazing creativity of our staff, and helped us clarify our vision as an organization.

Notes from brainstorming

Brainstorming at Table X

Our challenge now is to keep the excitement, the relationships, and the ideas that were generated at the retreat alive and to spread them to the rest of the organization.

Stanford already thinks like a startup

On Saturday morning, I’ll be part of a panel discussion at ALA discussing Brian Mathews’ white paper “Think like a Startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism.” (pdf) It’s a very good paper, full of fresh thinking and great ideas and examples about how to encourage innovation in libraries. I decided to jot my pre-discussion notes down here.

My first thought (and I’ve struggled with how to say this without sounding like an arrogant jerk), was “Great ideas .. but we’ve been thinking like a startup here at Stanford for years now.” My second thought was that I’m proud to work at a university described as “the germplasm for innovation”, and in a library described as having been “a juggernaut of innovation over the last 20 years”. So I’ve decided that I can take the panel as an opportunity to share with others what has worked for us at Stanford and what lessons we have learned along the way; and hopefully I won’t sound like an arrogant jerk while doing so.

I think Stanford’s success in producing innovation is a great example of Mathews’ assertion that real innovation requires a “strategic culture instead of a strategic plan”. Mathews rightly emphasizes the role of library administrators in fostering and inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit. I would add to that the fact that the Stanford Libraries have benefitted from a university administration and a general university culture that encourages and supports strategic innovation.

One major factor that supports innovative thinking and action at Stanford is the fact that we have the resources to innovate while also maintaining excellence in core services and resources. For example, although we deployed SearchWorks, our next generation discovery environment based on the open-source platform Blacklight out of UVa, in Fall of 2009; we have continued to maintain our legacy catalog, Socrates. Because we have the resources to maintain both systems, we can add innovative features (like the ability to load non-MARC metadata for digital objects and an image view for example) more quickly in SearchWorks, while not worrying (yet) about making sure that SearchWorks replicates essential functionality in Socrates.

Another lesson we have learned is that innovation has to be context-specific. For example, Stanford isn’t likely to adopt demand-driven acquisition models anytime soon (if ever); not because we aren’t innovative, but because we’re committed to collecting and preserving the scholarly record as broadly and deeply as possible. And 3d Printing isn’t something we are likely to start doing at the library, because Stanford has an innovative Product Realization Lab that has that covered. On the other hand, we’ve been doing visualization services for a while now, in part because we have faculty across many disciplines doing ground-breaking research with visual components.

I like what my boss says in the American Libraries article about why we innovate:

“The big idea isn’t innovation for its own sake, but rather, the question that we ask ourselves everyday is: ‘What opportunities and assets do we have that can make scholarship and learning better?’”

The focus on leveraging our assets is really key. When we make choices about what ideas to pursue, we look for places where we have unique talents and resources to offer. Rather than shifting away from what we have always done well, we build and expand on our traditional strengths in ways that support new research efforts. The Super Enlightenment Project is a great example of an innovative project that tapped curatorial expertise, traditional collections, technical expertise, and faculty interest.

When you have been thinking (and acting) like a start-up for as long as we have, you also have to find ways to sustain those innovations that continue to support research and teaching. One key aspect to that is making sure that our efforts are integrated, coordinated, and complementary. We are a big complex organization, with innovations happening in all corners, so making sure we build on each others’ successes rather than reinventing wheels is important. Making sure that we innovate openly helps, and our Library Concierge Project is definitely designed to promote collaborative innovation across the organization.

Hope to see y’all at the Think like a startup panel.

Library Concierge Project: Initial assessment

Our Library Concierge project is in full swing, and because we included an assessment plan in the project from the start, we can already report some decent results.

To recap, our Library Concierge project is an ambitious initiative designed to promote exceptional public services across the Stanford Libraries, and to empower and equip all staff to provide that service. It refers to both a service perspective and a set of training experiences for all library staff. The training experiences are designed to increase staff familiarity with the full range of resources and services our organization offers, so that they can provide better public service, give more effective referrals, and can take advantage of opportunities to serve as fully informed ambassadors for the Stanford Libraries. Ultimately, our goal is to maximize Stanford scholars’ knowledge of and access to our resources and services; but we know we have to start by providing ways for our own staff to learn about the services offered by their colleagues throughout the organization. For a more thorough introduction to the project, you can watch this 8 minute video from our Introductory Session.

The core part of the project is our monthly Concierge sessions for library staff. Each session is designed to expose staff to some part of the Stanford Libraries and give them enough information about that service or resource that they can provide basic information to a patron and/or make an effective referral. We hold 3 sessions for each topic, which allows us to reach 150 staff each month with the live session. We also video each session and provide the videos on a secure CourseWork site dedicated to the project. The CourseWork site also serves as the home for discussion forums and supplemental materials on each topic.

Since our primary goal is to increase staff’s knowledge of various library resources and services, so that they can more confidently provide Concierge-level service to our scholars, our assessment plan consists of a series of pre-and post-test surveys assessing staff knowledge and confidence about the topics convered before and after the sessions on those topics. We also ask several questions designed to gather feedback on elements of the project itself, including suggestions for future topics.

To measure the impact of the training sessions on staff knowledge, we asked folks to answer the following question on a 1-100 slider scale:
“How confident do you feel in providing basic information about the following topics:”; and then we list both upcoming topics (pre-test), and past topics (post-test). We plan to deploy the surveys quarterly, so each survey will provide pre-test data for 2-3 topics, and post-test data for 2-3 topics.

We have now completed the initial baseline pre-test survey, and the first post-test survey, measuring change in staff knowledge for our first two topics: Copyright, Licensing, & E-Resources; and Numeric & Spatial Data Support. Preliminary results are very encouraging. On Copyright, Licensing, & E-Resources, average staff confidence in basic knowledge went from 40 before training to 46 after training. For Numeric & Spatial Data Support, average staff confidence ratings shot up from 21 to 44.

Library Concierge Project: Basic Knowledge Pre & Post Session

Write in comments on the Copyright, Licensing, & E-Resources session indicate that the smaller increase may be due to many staff coming away from the training with a realization that Copyright issues are more complicated than they had previously thought.

We employed a panel design, which will allow us to match individual answers over time (by means of an anonymous, randomly assigned ID). This means we will be able to look not just at aggregate change (which could be due to selection bias — e.g. people who felt they learned something may have been more likely to fill out the survey), but also at individual knowledge change over the course of the project. We also collected data on what parts of the training staff engaged in (live session, video, discussion forums, chat room, supplemental materials, etc.), what part of the organization they work in, and whether their job involves direct public service to scholars; so we will have the opportunity to do more sophisticated analysis (and better charts!) as we have time and more data. As always, stay tuned.

(Wrote this post on CalTrain, finished it up at the ballpark. Go Giants!)

We’re tweeting, now what?

I know we are a bit late to the game, but Stanford Libraries now have an official Twitter account and we are tweeting away. I started the account several weeks ago, and have been single-handedly trying to nurture it to some reasonable level of viability.

How it feels to nurture @StanfordLibs. Photo credit: flickr user basykes

Although I’m not someone who thinks every initiative needs to be evaluated for Return on Investment, I do want us to build up a reasonable following to make it worth the staff time it will take to feed it. I’m not at all sure what number of followers = reasonable, but we are over 100 now and I’m heading out for an actual 5-day vacation, so I’m turning over the care and feeding of @StanfordLibs to some colleagues. I’m also not a fan of strict Social Media policies, but figured they might want some guidelines. Here’s what I told them:

  1. Tweet several times a day.
  2. Tweet any and all library events.
  3. Tweet links to stories from The Stanford Report, Clayman News, other campus news-lists you might be on.
  4. Tweet or re-Tweet any book-related, library-related, higher education-related, academic technology related links and news that you hear about through your own network.
  5. Set up Twitter searches for “stanford library” “stanford Libraries” “green Library”, etc., and retweet and/or respond to anything that is really about us.
  6. Respond to anyone who tweets to us or re-tweets us — Just a simple “Thx for the RT” is fine.
  7. Follow back the real followers — check profiles so you aren’t following back spammers, but generally good idea to follow back. Feel free to send a reply to someone who follows us “Thx for the follow”; but only to “real followers”.
  8. It is OK to tweet something light & humorous once in a while. Keep it tasteful. I would use the “imagine your mother reading it” standard, but my mom’s sense of humor can be pretty raunchy. Imagine Michael Keller‘s mother reading it. (I’ve actually never met Mike Keller’s mother, so have no idea what her standards are — which is the point. And I know picking on “mothers” instead of “parents” is at the very least implicitly sexist, but my father is dead, and I liked the parallelism of my mother and Mike Keller’s mother.)
  9. Tweet links to Stanford Library job openings.
  10. Tweet about cool things we are doing –even if they aren’t new. I have tweeted links to the Special Collections blog and the Digital Forensics Blog. We should definitely tweet links to some of our cool digital collections — especially the publicly available ones.
  11. Try to reflect our personality — part of a great research university, stewards of great collections, leaders in digital library development, smart, serious, and willing to be a bit quirky.

My implicit social media policy for Stanford Libraries is to pick smart people to be in charge of the social media, and trust them to use it well, but it seems everyone likes a bit of guidance. Plus, to be honest, I need something to say to the people who I didn’t pick, but who want to tweet for us anyway. Trying to be inclusive, but I want to make sure we have some kind of relatively recognizable “Stanford Libraries” voice.

So, if @StanfordLibs sounds like someone you want to follow, you know what to do.

Share everything. With everyone. Most of the time.

Earlier this year, I promised/threatened to write about transparency and leadership. But whenever I think about writing that post, it feels a bit overwhelming — too big a topic for one blog post. So, let’s hope that this is the first of several posts where I write about some aspect of transparency and leadership.

For me, an important aspect of transparent leadership is sharing information — as much as possible, as soon as possible, and as widely as possible. When deciding what information to share and how wide an audience to share with, I try to make the default be “share everything with everyone”, so that any decision that falls short of that has to be justified. Some examples of information I decided early on to share widely are my calendar (open to everyone. In fact, if anyone wants to see it, let me know and I can send you a link), and professional travel allocations (open to all of my staff).

There are plenty of circumstances where sharing everything with everyone is not possible, or not advisable. Sometimes there are legal or privacy reasons to keep quiet–in fact someone told me once that the higher up you move in an organization, the more secrets you have to keep. And there may be times where sharing incomplete information might actually be harmful to staff morale if you aren’t able to answer questions. Waiting until full information is available is sometimes better than sharing partial information right away. Most situations require careful judgment to figure out what to share, when, and with whom. But for me, assuming that “share everything with everyone” is the starting point, and then working back from that when necessary helps me be more transparent. It has also turned out to be a great way to get my colleagues to articulate any reasons they might have for not sharing information widely.

And here’s the thing — I really, really want to be a transparent leader. And I really want to share information widely and quickly. And despite my best intentions, I still have to work at it, and I have to remind myself constantly to do it. Because our cultures are not built around that kind of transparency, and because the default is usually to share on a “need to know” basis.

For example, we have email lists which divide the organization’s members into neat little sets, precisely so we can share information with only some people and not everyone (I’m guessing we aren’t the only large academic library with a crap-ton of email lists). I think when most of us think about sharing information with our staff (or with external stakeholders), we start by thinking about who to share the information with and add on to that; instead of starting with the assumption that we will share with everyone then back off from that when/if needed. And I am constantly being cautioned (sometimes by a voice in my own head) to be careful about not flooding people’s email with information not directly related to their jobs. But, I prefer to err on the side of flood rather than draught. I want to trust my staff to monitor their own information consumption, rather than deciding for them what might be interesting or helpful to them.

So, that is part of what transparent leadership means to me. And to be completely transparent, I will confess that my ulterior motive in posting this is so that it will serve as a reminder to me to follow my own advice and to provide me with a sense of public accountability.

Library Concierge Project: Session 1

Our Library Concierge Project is now in full swing, and we have completed our first training session(s).

Despite some concerns about the appropriateness of the term Concierge, we stuck with that name for a couple of reasons– first, staff were already using the term; and second, no alternate term emerged as a clear front-runner (insert Republican primary joke here). So, the project is officially known as the Library Concierge Project (LCP).

We decided to set up a Library Concierge Project site in CourseWork, Stanford’s primary course management system (based on Sakai). I really wish I could give public viewing rights to the project site, but all of CourseWork requires Stanford authentication.

Key elements of the project and the project site are:

  • Sign ups: Over 250 staff members (about 65% of our total staff — everyone from Subject Specialists to catalogers to mailroom clerks to system administrators to …. you get the picture) have joined the site and are participating in the project. That figure alone is pretty exciting to me. Yes, we have made a big push among staff and managers about how important this is, and how valuable it will be; but I’m still extremely pleased that such a large number of our staff are participating in something that is not explicitly required. We are running at least 3 sessions for every training topic, with max enrollment at each session capped at 50 (so that we can use our own instruction room, and to maintain the possibility of interactive sessions). The Sign up tool allows us to require folks to sign up for one of the sessions and ensure we don’t exceed the Fire Marshall’s posted room capacity limits.
  • Course Materials: For each session, we can add supplemental materials and presentation slides. For example, the next topic is Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues, so we have already linked to the 2011 Charleston Conference “long Arm of the Law” presentations. We are posting all presentation materials on the site after the sessions as well; so we will are building up a nice repository of materials. Future new staff will be able to go back and review old session materials when they arrive.
  • Session Videos: We are committed to filming every topic and streaming the video on our project site. I want to share as much as I can about this project with a very wide audience, so despite the fact that I hate how I look and sound on video, here is an 8-minute clip I uploaded to YouTube of me introducing the Concierge Project and our goals. Unfortunately, I am the only 1 mic’ed up, so there are moments where I nod along knowingly to answers and comments you can’t hear. At the end of the clip, the camera guy’s cell phone rang — which was ironic given how important he told me it was that I take my iPhone out of my pocket during the presentation.
  • Chat Room: We used the Chat Room to provide a backchannel for online discussion and questions during the sessions. Any questions or comments in the Chat Room that don’t get addressed during the session are answered later in the Forums.  For Session 1, the Chat Room was pretty active with a great mix of comments, questions, and answers — it was a great way to have people talking to each other (which is one of the implicit goals of the project).
  • Forums: We are hoping that the Forums will turn into a rich source of conversation and peer learning in between the monthly sessions. We already have over 70 messages in the Forums, so we seem to be off to a decent start.

Because we are using CourseWork so extensively for the project, and because CourseWork support is part of Academic Computing Services, with is part of SULAIR (the acronym for our full organization: Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources); we included an overview of CourseWork in our introductory session. Future topics are likely to include:

  • Copyright, Intellectual Property and Licensing Issues for Libraries
  • Numeric and Spatial Data support
  • Digital Humanities Support
  • Special and regular collection development
  • Multi-media and other technology support
  • All about e-books
  • Digitization programs (Google, HathiTrust, plus our in-house programs/projects)
  • Instruction and reference
  • All about Technical Services

We are actively soliciting topic suggestions from our staff, and expect the list of topics to keep us busy with this for some time to come.

Responses to the project from our staff have been primarily positive, with suggestions for additional topics and requests for examples of good Concierge moments. One staff member asked me if we could keep a public tally of Concierge moments — my response so far is to post them in the Forums for all to see and celebrate. We may also start a Concierge of the Month award of some sort. It really is quite satisfying to be working on a project that is generating such interest and feedback from staff; and which I firmly believe will ultimately benefit our patrons.
So, please wish us continued luck, and stay tuned for more news as the project rolls along.


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