Tuesday, December 27, 2005

JoCoLibrary's Winter Gaming Tourney

This is a really quick post about something that I was lucky enough to experience today ... the Johnson County Library's Winter Gaming Tournament (JoCoWGT)! Though just a pilot program (a precurser of cool things to come!), we brought in thirty 15-19 year-olds to play for the JoCoWGT championship ... it was completely fantastic!

My job was your typical administrative fare ... walking around talking to teens, parents, and the media. We got great coverage from KMBC Channel 9 and the Kansas City Star, and everyone really had a great time. In fact when it was over, some of the participants were still hanging out asking us when we were going to do it again.

My favorite story was from a woman who's son came home with a flyer for the event, and asked if he could play. His mom (already a JoCoLibrary booster) told him she would let him play, and would even take off work and drive him to the library ... but there was a catch ... he needed to get A's and B's on his report card. The young man answered that because he was going to a really good school, C's should be considered good grades. His mom stood firm ... A's and B's ... or no gaming. Well, the kid took it to heart ... he got all A's and B's ... and in the end finished second in the JoCoWGT to boot!

This is the kind of thing we should be doing ... giving people great places and opportunities to have shared experiences for learning, interaction, and engagement ... While some of the participants brought their parents, others came with friends, and some came alone ... by the end of the day, everybody (regardless of age) talked and joked like old pals ... there was energy in the room and it passed through all of us. I don't know if it was "Library 2.0" or not, but it was definitely "JoCoLibrary.NOW"

Cyber Six-Pack, High Octane Boot Camp, and the Kelsey Study

In his post to the Community Engine, Bud Gibson mentioned a Kelsey Group/ConStat study that said that :

“70 percent of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source
when shopping locally for products and services—an increase of 16 percent since
October 2003. This puts the Internet on par with newspapers as a local shopping
information resource, with the Internet likely to surpass the impact of
newspapers in the very near future.”

He then talks about setting up the High Octane Boot Camp for MBAers at U of Michigan to proactively change the way people search for local info ... let me say that again ... a class to proactively change the way people search for local information ... (are you getting chills?) ... Linking these classes to the Kelsey/ConStat study, the assumption is that we can teach business folks to better design their services so that people can find them locally on the Internet. As a 4-year old in my daughter’s pre-school class said the other day, “Tasty!”

And so we should do the same ... Sarah Handgraaf, one of our Web Content Developers has set up something similar for our library staff and patrons ... the Cyber Six-Pack is a series of (wait you’ll never guess ...) six mini training sessions on tools like Flickr, del.icio.us, RSS, blogging, etc ... stuff that is already part of the mainstream techno world, and which is now quickly catching on in the real world, and by extension, the library world. She and her boss, Erica Reynolds, figure that the best way to help patrons find the local information that they want and need is to train librarians and local service providers on how to extend the reach of their content through the stuff covered in the Cyber Six-Pack classes. Just like the super minds of GE always said, education and awareness are the best PR an organization can buy.

Sarah and Erica have only just begun with this approach, but I think that we’ll see their work pay off for local government, commerce, and of course individuals as we head into 2006.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Community Intelligence and the Library Role

Found this article about Community Intelligence (what I like to call Library-Initiated/Sponsored/Created Community Information) by Jennifer Rice on her What’s Your Brand Mantra blog the other day ... for those of you who hate to think of libraries within the same context as business, you might want to read something else (even though you are the ones who need this the most) ...

Jennifer mentions an article in Reveries in which Yahoo’s Jeff Weiner talks about the “evolution of search” writing itself as a play in three acts. Act One is the story of the public web ... what we’re all used to browsing and searching using our search tool of choice; Act Two is the story of our own private hard drives ... searched and browsed locally with tools that may in the future become part of Act Three; and Act Three is the story of community searching ... “where the results are improved based on the successes of other people’s searches for the same information.”

I personally think that this plays perfectly into the whole Library 2.0 thing, as our organizations seek to become less about being the container for information (an idea that shifted long ago, at least in Internet years) and more about facilitating the creation, access, upkeep, and renewal of locally relevant content.

I’m not a tool creator ... but an adopter of tools ... I’ll use what someone else creates to get my work done, and I’ll switch tools depending on my (and my users’) needs. And, of course, I’m a librarian, so I love the idea of libraries using whatever technology is available to help real people turn information into knowledge and then turn knowledge into action that changes the their lives and their worlds. And it’s really not that hard ... we just have to decide to do it.

Stuart Hinds, one of our web content developers and a local history librarian of some renown, thought it would be cool if we developed a DSpace-y type set-up for local citizens to save the stuff they want to have available to then always ... a big hard drive for locally created content. The academic world has already embraced this approach and we could too ...

And what if we focused on being the binding tissue that enables peer-to-peer sharing and indexing (there’s an ‘ole timey word) of locally relevant content ... what if ... instead of focusing our efforts on creating new library-specific tools, we focus on getting people to contribute ideas, questions, things that inspire others, and activities that result in community engagement. Training and encouraging folks to share content for the betterment of communities using existing (and relatively mature – it’s all relative!) technologies seems to me a great fit for our skills and positions in the community.

If we do that, we become the library for the next generation ... active ... involved ... distributed ... and conversant in the whats, whys, and hows of the whole information-to-knowledge-to-engagement thing ... in the words of Jennifer Rice ...

“You might consider thinking of your business as a facilitator instead of an
all-knowing entity that must retain control over every aspect of the business.”


Sunday, December 25, 2005

"Something about Humanity" from Kevin Harris

Wow ... that’s all I can say ... Kevin Harris posted yesterday on his Neighbourhoods blog, which if you hadn’t guessed, is a site devoted to “neighbourhood relations and social capital” based out of the UK ...

Using BBC 3’s Bach Christmas series as a backdrop, Kevin talks about how things with deep meanings to people often can carry an equally deep, and sometimes opposite meaning for others. That’s pretty poorly put, so I’ll let him say it:

“thoughts about things global and local, universal and private - how Bach could
represent such diversity to so many, how he could unite people in peaceful awe,
how he represents a stable co-existence - the notion of the civil - with the
possibility of radical expression and mystical vision.”

Beautiful, Mr. Harris ... beautiful!

A little change of pace

Don't freak! ... This is that same great InfoCommuner that you've grown to know and love, it's just taken on a smoother look ... got tired of the bland orangy set up ... so ... hope it leaves you wanting more ...

Humility, "No," and Keeping Everybody Satisfied

Way back on October 31st of this year (yeah, yeah, yeah ... so I’m a little behind in my posting ...), John Windsor of BrandShift posted about creating more satisfied non-customers ... the gist of it was that by saying “No” and not spreading yourself too thin, you not only create more satisfied customers (because they’re getting you at the top of your game without additional stress and distraction), you also ensure that those to whom you say must say “No” are not unsatisfied by the distracted, burned-out, and tired old version of you (or your organization) that you’d present to them because you stretched yourself beyond your capabilities.

I read the post and felt comforted ... ahhh ... I am not the only one who feels this way from time-to-time ... thanks for the companionship, John. And yet, I have to admit, I don’t always I recognize my need to say “No” in the heat of the moment ... sometimes, I need to be reminded, prompted, or straight-out told ... so here’s my lecture on making sure you surround yourself with people who are not afraid to tell you when you’re off your nut ... when you need to slow down and wait for reality to catch up ... or just that you’re being jerk.

I love my job because the one thing I’ve truly strived to do is to make sure that the people in our organization are not afraid to tell me the truth. When I propose a project or initiative that goes off the rails a shade (or an entire color), they let me know. That doesn’t mean that I’m such a benevolent guy that I always remember to invite critique ... but I’ve tried to build the trust into our relationships that allows them to say ... “Um ... Tim ... you know there’s not a chance in Hell that that’ll work without killing morale in the process ...” And then I rant and rave for a couple of minutes until I finally realize that they’re looking at me with eyes that ask “Are you almost done?”

I guess what I’m saying is that the ability to say “No” is usually about humility, and that’s something that few of us have too much of. John was right when he said that the only way to preserve our long-term customer and non-customer (also known as future customer) relationships is to learn when to say “No.” I ‘d like to add that the only way to ensure that we can develop and maintain the entire spectrum of customer relationships is to invite all of the people who work with, for, and around us to be organizational humility touchstones.

A friend of mine once told me that failure to successfully lead people is guaranteed the minute we stop trusting them or start thinking that we’re smarter than they are ...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Learning Ecologies (thanks to Nancy and Darren!)

Lifted this (like some earlier things) from Nancy White at Full Circle ... she tends to come across the coolest and most poignant thoughts on communities, and specifically communities of practice (CoP). If you haven't yet, check out her stuff ... I love her brain!

Okay, so anyway, she came across the idea of learning ecologies from Darren Kuropatwa ...

An ecology is an environment that fosters and supports the creation of
communities ... A learning ecology is an environment that is consistent with
(not antagonistic to) how learners learn ... The Instructor plays the role of gardener.

What are the needs of a learning ecology? Learning/knowledge is more than
static content. It's a dynamic, living, and evolving state. Within an ecology, a
knowledge sharing environment should have the following components:

  • Informal, not structured
  • Tool-rich
  • Consistency and time
  • Trust
  • Simplicity
  • Decentralized, fostered, connected
  • High tolerance for experimentation and failure

And Nancy adds her own flavor ... that ecologies have to possess a high tolerance for ambiguity and diversity.

Lapping it up, I thought of my library's own coming-of-age journey as an environment for learning and knowledge ... our attempts to set up a leadership institute have met much of the same hesitancy and sideway glances that a recent gaming project have ... and the reasons ? ... Well, we've probably paid too little attention to Darren's (and Nancy's) components ...

The two projects I referred to above have to this point lived only on the internal synapses of our organization ... so it's not hard to see why we run square into turbulent seas when the winds of changing identities blow across our paths ... Libraries that take up the challenge of being more than a collection of books to lend need to think about how they will create and deliver new (but still on-mission) services by adhering to the ecological components ... failure to do so will simply lead to ... well, failure.

Thanks again to Darren and Nancy! Cheers!