Category Archives: Leadership

July 15, 2015, 10:22 pm

My Final Blog Post

May 22, 2006. That’s when I started The Ubiquitous Librarian Blog. I wrote before at Alt-Ref where I explored new approaches for reference and instruction. But I felt too boxed in. Ubiquitous gave me freedom to roam.

It ends today. Right here.

 407 posts

9 years  1 month  23 days

When the Chronicle of Higher Education informed me that they were dropping the Blog Network I was sad. But after a few days I got over it, mostly. I realized they had given me a gift. This was a chance to move on and do other things.

I’ve probably written and presented too much over the last decade. I’m looking forward to letting that taper off. I want to focus on Virginia Tech and the great people, projects, and programs we have here.


Me as a soldier in the name of greater library experiences.

Rick Anderson says we…

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July 15, 2015, 8:46 pm

Leaning Circulation. Kaizen with John Borwick.

Lean Startup had a strong influence on me. I had wanted to blog more about lean principles across library organizations, but that didn’t work out.

I’ve benefitted from some conversations with John Borwick (Director of IT Services at Virginia Tech Libraries) who is well versed in continuous improvement and project management. His blog explores how IT can effectively deliver more value while minimizing waste.

John approached my team about conducting a lean activity and examining some of our processes. Here are some notes:

Why Circulation?

John wanted to explore the laptop check-in, check-out process. A lot of people care about this service. It is valuable to patrons. The laptops are always in demand so there seems to be a sense of urgency to improve.

On one side it seems like an IT Services matter since it involved computers. But circulation views it as a workflow…

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July 15, 2015, 7:25 pm

Value Proposition Design For Librarians (a quick overview)

Of course I have to dip back into the business literature one more time.

I really like the value proposition design tool. Stephen Abrams blogged about it a few months ago and it’s something we’ve been working on here at Virginia Tech. Slowly. It’s a low priority. But the value to me is less about the output (a nice fancy report) and more about the process of having these conversations and thinking differently (more broadly) about how libraries can engage more fully.

Here is the 5-minute version. Please see Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want for full version.

My advice. Make this about individuals, not broad categories (ie: all undergrad students or all faculty.) Talk with a few assistant professors working on tenure. What’s different and what’s the same between them? How are their experiences and expectations different?…

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July 9, 2015, 3:51 pm

Meditation & Data: toward greater well-being

A month ago I started meditating. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I recently returned to Apple with an iPhone 6. It included the Heath App, which I had not seen before. It’s basically a pedometer although it has other features as well. I was curious about how far (or actually how little) I walked each day. I discovered I was only covering about two miles. Simply having that data propelled me to walk more.

It’s addictive! I started using stairs and going the long way. Anything to get a few extra steps in. I realized though that I didn’t always have my phone and felt my numbers were inaccurate. And if I forgot my phone then I didn’t want to walk too much because I wasn’t getting credit.


fitbit tracking miles

This led to me purchasing a fitbit in mid-May. Since then I have walked at least 10,000…

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June 29, 2015, 4:05 pm

Football, Leadership, & Libraries: an interview with Scotty Walden

Scotty Walden, offensive coordinator at East Texas Baptist University,

I read an article last fall about Scotty Walden – a young and exciting football coach at East Texas Baptist University.

Here is the gist of piece:

In the summer of 2012, Sul Ross State football coach Wayne Schroeder wanted to shake things up for a sluggish offense that averaged 207.5 yards per game the previous season. So he handed over the keys to a 22-year-old graduate assistant. The results were immediate and dramatic. The reenergized Lobos offense would go on to lead the NCAA with 581.9 yards per game and 48.8 points per game. Scotty Walden, now 24, has since moved on and is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Texas Baptist University, a small Division III program in the East Texas town of Marshall. (bleacher report)

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June 22, 2015, 2:03 pm

WHAT DID LIBRARIANS WANT IN 1945? Many of the same things we want today.

Photograph of check out counter of the East Branch on Jane Street of the Bridgeport Public Library ca. 1945 copyright Bridgeport Public Library Historical Collections.

I’m going to post these quotes without any commentary; I think they hold up well on their own. Some background: 70 years ago at an ALA Executive Board Meeting (October 1945) they devoted a morning to discussing the future of librarianship. The conversation was summarized and published in the A.L.A. BULLETIN from February 1946. Here are a few notes that I found interesting and still relevant today:

If the profession seems to lack dynamism some of the responsibility rests with administrators. All too many still hold professional members to routine work and give what seem valid reasons why all must take their turn at essential clerical tasks.

Any dynamic…

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March 31, 2015, 3:37 pm

TOOLS FOR LEADERS: 5 Tables To Expand Your Thinking

I have an assortment of tables, graphs, and charts that I have been collecting related to leadership and problem solving. Here are a few that I have found particularly useful:

1. An organizational hierarchy of IT needs


This comes from John Borwick, Director of IT Services at the Virginia Tech Libraries. He adapted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into an IT context. The gist is that if you want to get involved with strategic conversations then you must ensure that basic needs are met first. “If IT cannot deliver a reliable production environment, no one is going to want to talk with IT about anything else.”

This applies elsewhere. If I want to talk with faculty about new services or their pedagogical practices, I need to ensure that their basic library needs are covered. If an instructor is upset because of something we are doing (or not doing) then she will be less open to…

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March 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE (scaling the commons beyond the library)

I wrote earlier about serving on a Student Experience Task Force. This was a yearlong project that brought together students and faculty with people from the budget office, facilities, student affairs, the Provost’s Office, and other units. It was an eclectic mix resulting in many diverse conversations. Personally, it was a perception-shifting experience and I learned to appreciate different challenges across campus.

Here is the final report.

The most glaring aspect we encouraged was a spectrum of disparity. Students in a living learning community had different encounters than those in older residential halls. Students attending classes in upgraded facilities had completely different experiences than those in older rooms. It was interesting to witness how a sense of place directly impacted emotional connections and output. Our charge was to consider ways to reduce the existing…

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November 11, 2014, 3:25 pm

Outreach is Empathy. Outreach is Entrepreneurship.

facebookI have a new paper to share with you: Engines For Change: Libraries as drivers of engagement. This essay is based on a keynote I gave at Entre Lib: Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians back in May 2013. The theme of the conference was Social Entrepreneurship in Action. It has taken me a long time to write this because it is the most personal of my papers.

My talk was 90 minutes so the first half explored the concept of social entrepreneurship, while the second half applied that to libraries. I tried to use the same structure in the paper but it was over 10,000 words. I chopped it down to 4,000, but I probably should have broken it into two separate papers. I regret editing out Bill Drayton, but I’ll do a whole blog posted based on his work.

I wrote 80% of the paper last summer and then sat on it for a year. Over the last month I have been reflecting on my time at UC Santa …

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September 30, 2014, 3:53 pm

Learning to Pitch (make it hard for me to say no)

At conferences I often end up in conversations that go like this:

“I want to do this innovative thing but my administration won’t get onboard—what can I do?”

This is difficult because there are so many factors that need to be unbundled. A common problem I’ve realized is that librarians never learn the art of pitching. [Note to ACRL: I’m willing to do a free webinar on this topic sometime in Summer 2015.]

In the entrepreneurial world there is a lot of talk about recognizing the difference between ideas and opportunities. That’s the real challenge—separating things that might be cool from things that might help people succeed better.

An example. A dentistry librarian once told me we wanted to offer 3D printing but that his boss shut him down. As we talked I realized he had just asked about the idea and didn’t pitch the opportunity. It was as simple as: “can we…

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