notes on information organizations

October 1, 2010

the great disconnect: open access in your face

Filed under: change, cultural trends, information access, innovation, librarianship — Frank Cervone @ 8:11 am

For the most part, I agree with Barbara Fister in her recent blog posting The Great Disconnect: Scholars Without Libraries.  Our continuing reluctance to embrace open access publishing is slowly killing our academic enterprises. The cost of journals, which perhaps are an outmoded concept in and of themselves, continues to increase at a pace that is unjustifiable given advances in technology and the rate of inflation.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that articles like this do anything to meaningfully change that dynamic. “Why?” you may ask.

It seems that a great deal of traction in the open access movement is lost by the religious fundamentalist approach that is generally taken.  The basic jist of this argument is that, “I’m right, you’re wrong and implicitly stupid for not seeing it my way. Because of your stupidity, you are destroying western civilization.” While this might be emotionally satisfying to the person making the argument, it doesn’t do anything to advance the argument. We know from many sociological and psychological studies that this type of argument just turns people off and can, in fact, entrench people even further in their current beliefs.

Perhaps a more useful approach would be to demonstrate the benefits of open access and how it benefits both researcher and institution. If these benefits can’t be demonstrated, then perhaps some rethinking needs to be done.


July 28, 2008

developing the next generation of library leaders

Filed under: change, information technology — Frank Cervone @ 10:14 am

What we can learn from the IT industry in developing the next generation of library leaders? While it is true there are many differences between libraries and information technology organizations, there are many similarities as well. For example, just as “the next 10 to 20 years are going to be challenging” for IT, so they will be for libraries as well.

As is the case in IT, the work of librarians is shifting from being based on technical skills to more broadly focused positions where strategic knowledge is the key to long term success. Against that backdrop, library administrators need to actively groom replacements as well as the next generation of leaders who are able to integrate the role and functions of the library into their organizations.

While some of the details may differ between a library and an IT organization, the article at CIO Magazine points out the importance of mentoring, developing, and succession planning in the coming years. As so many of the baby boomers retire and the number of people pursuing advanced academic studies drops, we need to get more creative about how we’re going to work in the future.

April 30, 2008


Filed under: change, complexity, innovation — Frank Cervone @ 8:36 pm

Don Tapscott, the author of Wikinomics, recently talked to CIO Magazine for their monthly “5 Things I’ve Learned” column. While his comments were directed to the corporate sector, there’s a lot that we in libraries and information agencies can take away from his remarks as well:

  1. We are under the microscope – like corporations, libraries are being scrutinized in ways we’ve never before imagined. Evaluation of our services and the sharing of that information is occurring at levels never before possible.
  2. Transparency is power – it is central to organizational success. Open organizations perform better. As Tapscott said, we need to “undress for success.”
  3. The benefits of mass collaboration are boundless – Leaders of old paradigms have the most difficulty embracing new ones and are the most likely to engender distrust and dislike in our rapidly changing environment.
  4. Practice what you preach – use the same tools internally as you do externally. Promote collaboration throughout the library; not just for external-facing services, and
  5. Thinking forward pays off – what we see and use today will be significantly different in just a few years. We can’t become complacent in thinking that we’ve done it all now that we’ve created an avatar in Second Life. We need to stay on top of what is happening and investigate the possibilities as they present themselves.

March 20, 2008

culture clash

Filed under: change, organizational development — Frank Cervone @ 8:52 pm

The differences in expectations between Gen X, Gen Y, and the Boomers have been discussed quite a bit in various forums. For example, Stephen Abram of SirsiDynix has talked a lot about the information seeking behaviors of the millenials differs from those of us who are a bit older than them.

One aspect of particular note to information organizations is the difference in work behaviors among the various generations. In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive, these striking differences are pointed out in findings that clearly indicate Gen Y workers have a communicative style that greatly favors technology when compared to the communication styles of either Gen Xers or Boomers. In addition, the vast majority (87%) of the HR professionals surveyed indicated that Gen Y employees expect much more in terms of benefits, career advancement, and compensation than do Gen Xers or Boomers. These greater expectations include work schedules will be flexible, promotions which come early and often, vacation time that is very generous, and on-the-job technology that is state-of-the-art. On the other side of the coin, over half of the HR people surveyed who were aged 35 or greater thought that Gen Y workers do not respond well to authority and often have a difficult time following directions.

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources for explains, these workers “grew up in a technology-driven world where standards and norms have changed and [they] often operate under different perspectives than older co-workers. As companies’ cultures evolve with each generation, you see all workers benefiting from a variety of viewpoints and work styles.”

Consequently, library and information agency workplaces need to seriously consider how they will adapt if we want to bring in, and keep, younger staff members. For these younger workers, the status quo will not suffice. Some of the changes that will be required will undoubtedly include more flexible work schedules, better technology that is kept up to date, increased recognition programs, as well as competitive salaries and (perhaps) bonuses.

March 4, 2008

oh, what can we learn from this?

Filed under: change — Frank Cervone @ 11:19 am

It starts out with this, “I threw away my dictionary. Tossed it. Considered my cluttered desk and decided it was time to take a critical look at what was crowding this valuable real estate.” From there, Michelle Manafy discusses with us how the ubiquitous nature of Google, Wikipedia, and has changed her life. As the editor of a magazine (EContent) geared toward the information industry, Manafy talks about how the tools she used to use are no longer necessary given the changing nature of how (what some of us would call “ready reference”) information is distributed today. For example, while she discusses the joy of thumbing through a thesaurus, the reality is that a printed dictionary isn’t a required tool anymore because it’s easier to look up words on the web while you are writing rather than thumbing through the printed dictionary. While this article doesn’t really contain any surprises, this “slice of life” article vividly reminds us how much the world has changed, even in traditional areas such as journal editing.

February 3, 2008

the power of "influencer"

Filed under: change, influence, management, social network interactions — Frank Cervone @ 9:49 pm

Many books in the management sector are of dubious value given that they are filled with anecdotal information that has no real evidence to back up the findings. Thankfully, Influencer by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler doesn’t fall into that category. Although laden with stories, their book is based on actual research into how people successfully influence situations. In our organizations, we’d do well to put into practice some of the advice in this book such as

  1. focus on the critical behaviors we want to change and not try to change everything at once,
  2. use experience to change thoughts and actions, and
  3. use multiple sources of influence to create an environment where change must occur.

Although much of the information in the book might fall into what many would call “common sense,” it sometimes help to have that gathered up into a nice neat package that reminds of what we should “commonly” know.

January 25, 2008

taking a cue from "IT Doesn't Matter"

Filed under: change, information technology, service models — Frank Cervone @ 1:33 pm

Several years ago, Nicolas Carr made quite a stir with his article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter.” His main argument was (and still is) that while IT is essential it is not strategic. According to Carr, companies can’t gain strategic advantage from their systems because everyone is running the same systems. Over the last several years, many have either endorsed or refuted Carr’s views.

Until recently, it hadn’t occurred to me how this might relate to libraries, but after reading an article by Paul Ingevaldson, it seems to me that libraries are facing the same issues that IT does. Almost all libraries run the same systems, often with little or no customization other than changing the colors of the web pages to match the organization identity. Librarians haven’t traditionally thought about how what they do contributes to what the corporate sector calls “strategic advantage” – that is, aligning the outcomes of the library to the outcomes of the larger organization they are part of. We often see our libraries as entities unto themselves.

This kind of thinking has to change. To be successful, libraries have to differentiate their services from what can be obtained elsewhere. As has been the case in IT, a lot of the benefits traditional services provided are now commodity items that are moving to self-service models because they’re so automated they do not require the high level of expertise they did in the past. This is happening whether we like it or not.

What savvy IT departments do today is develop custom services and applications that work directly with the unique strategy of the organization. Libraries need to take a cue from this and do the same for their organizations as well.

November 5, 2007

refocusing our attention in the world of institutional repositories

Filed under: change, complexity, information technology — Frank Cervone @ 9:51 am

Dorothea Salo’s recent post in Caveat Lector is just the latest thing to remind us what we’ve known for some time now – that the successful institutional repositories (IRs) are those where the library has been proactive in soliciting content and has actively taken responsibility for doing all the work to get the content into the IR. Even so, success in IRs must be thought of in terms of modest acquisitions since no IR has truly taken off the way their planners had hoped. Part of this seems to be related to the work libraries have to do to convince faculty that an institutional repository is a worthwhile endeavor. This reluctance to engage with an IR effort seems to be mainly because the incentives to faculty just aren’t obvious to most of them. In general, faculty don’t see longevity as an issue for their published material, whether that’s reflective of reality or not. The biggest gains that have been documented in relationship to gathering faculty contributions have been in grey literature.

What I found somewhat discouraging about Salo’s post is the apparent ambivalence toward student contributions. We tend to forget that a lot of the emergent research in our institutions is conducted by students. This is reflected in the reality of most IRs where the majority of contributions are, in fact, from students in one form or another. McDowell’s article in the latest issue of D-Lib is just the latest study to document this.

Perhaps, if we focus on what is meaningful to faculty and students, rather than what is of interest to us as librarians, we might be more successful in getting participation in our IRs.

November 4, 2007

reenvisioning our processes

Filed under: change, complexity, service models — Frank Cervone @ 2:54 pm

A recent article in Computerworld documented the unexpected problems a bank experienced after installing a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Basically, the problem was that the bank was too focused on fulfilling its own information needs at the expense of its customers. Although the context in most libraries is quite different from that of the bank, much can be learned from this example. For instance, how often do we ask for more information than is truly necessary “just to make sure.” A perfect example here is the typical interlibrary loan form where we ask for so much information it makes it appear we are actually trying to discourage people from using the service. By asking too many questions, the bank started losing people in droves. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we doing the same thing in our libraries?”

September 20, 2007

on being more adaptable

Filed under: change, complexity, service models — Frank Cervone @ 8:35 am

A recent article in CIO Insight magazine talked about IT’s Bad Reputation. What is interesting about this article is that the same issues the author identifies as stifling innovation in information technology services are the same issues we face that contribute to a lack of innovation in information agencies and libraries in general.

If we are going to move forward in ways that are meaningful to our publics we have to change some things:
1) Decision making needs to be pushed down in the organization to the most appropriate level – the “trenches” as it were,
2) Even non-managerial employees must know how to make business decisions and not simply focus on the good of their local department or area of specialty, and
3) We have to make sure our colleagues understand how developments, such as Web 2.0, are disrupting the way organizations operate.

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