The year in review for Audacious Fizz

This is the final post on this blog.

As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on my blogging journey. I originally outlined three measures of success:

  1. 12 topics explored — not 12 specific topics, but I’ve explored a wide range of topics.
  2. at least 50 blog posts by the end of the year — most definitely achieved.
  3. a larger professional network of folks across GLAM and education sectors — most definitely achieved.

I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’ve learned what it means to explore & express my opinions publicly. I’ve learned about the behind-the-scenes technicalities of blogging. I’ve learned how I engage the discipline of writing. I’ve learned more about what the library profession means to me, and to others.

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Be zebrine : find your uniqueness

ZI had no idea that this was an actual word until I started searching for ideas for this final #alphabet post.

Zebrine = pertaining to, or resembling, the zebra.

Zebras are unique. I recently learned that a zebra’s stripes are like human fingerprints, no two sets of zebra stripes are the same (apparently it’s the same for a giraffe’s spotted coat). And yet, unless you looked closely, you’d probably say that all zebras in a herd looked the same. Taken away from their herd, a single zebra stands out as being pretty darn unique.

So what has this got to do with libraries?

Well, it’s got me thinking that we are often lumped together into one amorphous term, “libraries” or “librarians”. Similar to a zebra herd, we probably all do look the same to the outsider when herded together. And yet, it is our uniqueness that sets us apart from each other.

We might all have information & content & services, some of which might be the same or similar, however, it is the way in which we function, the customers we serve, our location(s), the services we offer,which are all unique to our specific library. We might have similar #why, #how, #where, #when we collect, and yet it is our actual existence & delivery that is unique, if you will, “zebrine”.

Absolutely, let’s stand together as a herd – share our collective knowledge, celebrate our successes, reflect on our “didn’t-quite-work” events, and tell our stories. We can share best practice, develop collaborative approaches and present a united, cohesive professional voice.

However, let us serve our communities in own our unique ways. Being closely aligned as libraries and librarians is important, but being unique will ensure better connections with our customers. Being zebrine offers us opportunities for meaningful conversations with our customers to develop the means to facilitate learning in our communities (RD Lankes’ mission statement resonates again & again for me).

So put on your zebra stripes & head out into the wild of your community. Share your adventures. Tell your stories. Celebrate your uniqueness.

Be prepared : measuring success

PWe typically associate scenario planning with preparing for worst-case events. Risk minimisation. Contingency strategies. Back-up plans. And with very good reason, because when it all turns to chaos, when people are under stress, when unknown factors come into play, you need robust plans and clear strategies in place.

Alternatively, sometimes we forget to envisage ‘best case scenario’ or ‘outrageously successful scenario’, when planning events, changing collections, refocusing customer service.

So, what does success look like? What does it look like –

  • to your customers?
  • to your staff?
  • to your community partners?
  • to your funding organisation?
  • to your CEO?

Let your imagination run wild.

What does good enough, okay, great, amazing look like? What does outrageous success look like? Are you actually prepared for success? If your amazing scenario presented itself tomorrow, are you ready?

Another important consideration is your measure of success. Is what you are actually measuring what you actually want to know? Is it –

  • one-off participation rates (5, 10, 50, 100 people turning up to an event)?
  • specific increases or decreases (more issues, less books, more members, less theft)?
  • ongoing customer engagement (return visits)?
  • follow-on service growth (offering Endnote tutorials to researchers)?

Just as we need to have contingencies in place for emergencies and worst-case scenarios, we also need to prepare ourselves for success, for improbable success, for seemingly unimaginable success. If you let yourself imagine incredible success, then it may also make you reflect and refocus on why you are doing what you are doing.

As with a disaster, wild success could happen when you least expect it, so you better be ready for it!

What if … 200 people showed up for your “Pyjamas & Pikelets” Friday night storytelling sessions?

What if … you achieved 100% pass rates for all first year student exams who took “Information Skills” classes?

What if … the internationally acclaimed author said yes to being at your event?

What if … an anonymous donor gifted $1,000,000 for a new library?

Inspiration from Making a Collection Count

Making a Collection Count book cover imageMaking a Collection Count : a holistic approach to library collection management by Holly Hibner & Mary Kelly (2010) is one of the clearest & most concise books written on collection management that I have read since I became a librarian.

This book is great way to get a handle on how a collection takes shape, what issues may impact on collection development, through to practical explanations of creating policies & measuring performance. It discusses the lifecycle of a collection, outlines collection organisation, how to streamline staff workflows and how to maximise vendor liaison. While it does lean more to discussion of physical collections, most of the ideas can be applied across to digital collections.

My aha moment : Chapter 8 : Everything is connected, in which the authors illustrate “how staff impact collections in a holistic library” (p.128).

This chapter clearly explains the inter-dependent relationship that all staff (Selectors, Cataloguers, Information Librarians, Library Assistants, Shelvers) have with each other & with their collections. It stresses the importance of sharing knowledge about collections to build greater understanding of how what you do, no matter what your current role, impacts on the information lifecycle. For example, “Selection has perhaps the biggest impact on collection quality because the succes or failure of a library to satisfy its users depends on the materials it makes available” (p. 129).

I like the analogy of hopitality that the authors refer to. If you work in a commercial kitchen, you have to understand what your role is in the “whole kitchen” to ensure that the service does not become bottlenecked. Kitchen staff need to understand what others around them do, and how their role relates to other kitchen work stations.

I’d recommend this to : a wide-range of Librarians, from LIS students to new staff in Collections teams, as well as using it as discussion book for more experienced Collections staff, to ensure what they think they do actually matches what they are trying to achieve with collections.

What if … this book served as a “Staff Book Club” discussion? Everyone in the team reads it, then a facilitator could spark discussion in a Collections team to refine & reframe Collection statements to better reflect #what & #how they do/don’t collect, and #why.

What if … your Collections team shared their knowledge with all colleagues using the Collection & Information lifecycles models as a basis for discussion? From answering questions at branch team meetings, to encouraging job shadowing, and by running training sessions.

Inspiration from How to give your users the LIS services they want

Book cover image for How to give your users the LIS services they wantHow to give your users the LIS services they want by Sheila Pantry & Peter Griffiths (2009) reiterates the value of analysing user behaviour because, as the titles clearly indicates, it really is all about what the customers want.

Your library exists because of and for your customers.

The collections, services, programmes all exist for your customers. This book gives practical advice about creating a library that meets the needs & wants of customers, including tracking customer usage, involving customers in planning & improving processes, and auditing your existing services.

The authors remind us that we need to frame the data & information about our services & collections through our customers eyes. For example, by asking meaningful questions in surveys.

Instead of asking “which of the following databases have you used in the last 6 months?” (how many of your customers actually know or care that it is called a database?) and because really, you should instead be able to get this kind of data from your database statistics.

Ask customers to list their top five priorities for library usage in the coming 6 months.

Or ask your customers to identify the barriers they face – what stops them using the electronic resources – is it lack of knowledge about what is in the resource, or is it a lack of confidence in searching, or are they confused about which resource is the “best” one to use? Determine where information skills & information literacy is lacking.

Set out to make the learning pathway easier for your customers.

This book serves as a solid base to think about LIS services from a customer perspective. It also offers some creative inspiration to think broadly about how to “think outside the box” for future LIS services. It’s a good place to start your journey to flipping your thinking into a customer-centric, UX-inspired frame of mind.

I’d recommend it : to new managers, solo librarians, institutional librarians (from schools to tertiary).