January 22, 2008

What makes a great team?

I have been given the privilege of sponsoring a team responsible for implementing the Libraries' content management system. I spent some time with the team today and started to wonder, "what makes a team a great team?"

Team members on this team come from two different organizations, the Libraries and Digital Library Technologies, a unit within our campus IT organization. Within the Libraries, they come from the IT unit, Cataloging and Metadata Services, Public Services, two of the Campus Libraries, and Library Administration. This is truly a cross functional, cross generational, cross cultural team. However, they have managed to all pull together and do an excellent job of completing the first phase of a very difficult implementation.

Why was this group able to work so well? Several of them had different ideas. "We compromise" said one of the DLT team members. "We work hard and have fun" said one of the folks from the Libraries. "I've been on lots of teams, but this has been my best experience" said yet another. "I can't wait until we move to the basement so I can be next to Janis and Lance" said one of the folks from the Libraries IT unit.

I wish I could replicate this recipe for good teamwork. It seems like they have a few things going for them: 1) an empowering team leader; 2) a common goal and mission (to get this system up and running) and a sense of purpose 3) genuine fondness for one another 4) a variety of necessary skill sets, and finally, administrative and budgetary support.

So, here's hoping that the next phase of implementation goes as well as this phase. Congratulations on a great job.

Working in a Consortial Environment

I'm writing an article for the journal "Technicalities" on working in a consortial environment. Throughout my career in librarianship, I've worked in one consortia or another. The first was in OhioLink which is a fantastic consortia. Led by Tom Sanville, OhioLink is the best example I know of a multitype consortia that has saved millions of dollars for taxpayers in Ohio. Which leads me to the one reason why consortial arrangements are beneficial: it can be economically advantageous. Tom negotiating for all of OhioLink can strike better deals than any library could do beneficially. Next, I worked in Illinois, in the ILCSO, now CARLI consortia. Additionally, the University of Illinois at Urbana, like Penn State, is a member of the CIC. Which brings me to another reason why consortia are great: wonderful colleagues. If I have a question about something and I need an answer both quickly and trustworthy, I can query my CIC colleagues and one or more of them will share their expertise, their knowledge.

So, I pose the question to any of you: what benefits do you see working in a consortial environment? Are there any downsides?

January 13, 2008

ALA Part 1

I've spent the last three days attending preconferences or meetings here at ALA. I spent Thursday at the Taiga forum, designed to bring Associate University Librarians or Assistant or Associate Deans together to talk about issues of the day. This is the third forum and the second that I attended. My colleague Mike Furlough was also their along with 78 other library administrators. In preparation, we read Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger, the keynote speaker . He is an advocate of he digital environment and user control. At the end of his talk, someone in the audience asked him about his use of libraries and he said he didn't use libraries -- that he got an advance for his book and if he wanted a book, he just bought it.
This is one of the few spaces in which librarians at the same level and of different backgrounds can meet and talk about concerns and I hope it continues. The planning committee did a great job and Beth Camden was a perfect host.

Committee meetings started in earnest on Friday. The AULs for Technical Services in the large research libraries met Friday morning. The set up was fair, though the Philly crew snapped right into action when asked, the topics interesting and there were about 200 people in the audience. This was my first meeting as chair and I confess to being a bit nervous, but it went fine.

I'm watching and reading John and Elyssa's blogs with interest as they bring their cool hand helds to the conference and will be interested in hearing the results of their use. This conference more than ever has shown me how woefully outdated my laptop is and how useful a small device to take notes, get my email, phone, and text messages would be. Ah, and that I could listen to music on while I walk and take pictures for my Facebook site with. Hmm, sounds a bit like an IPhone, doesn't it?

December 30, 2007

Christmas Traditions

I don't write about personal things too often on my blog, but thoughts are running through my head as I'm putting away some Christmas decorations.

Before my brother died, he started giving me Spode Christmas dishes for a Christmas present. Each year for about three years, he'd send me something new -- a place setting, salad plates. My parents contributed some pieces too. After Chris died, I started buying a little at a time and I was always thrilled to find it at TJ Maxx - a piece here and there. Pretty soon my friend Karen started buying some -- a lovely bowl, a bread tray, some serving pieces, a wooden tray with Spode tiles. I get excited thinking about what type of piece Karen might contribute to my Spode Collection. Finally this year, I opened some lovely Spode wine glasses from my friend Lauri. After almost twenty years, I have a lovely collection of Spode and everytime I use it, I think of those family members gone, like my brother Chris and my mother, or friend Karen and now Lauri, who have added to this wonderful collection.

When we all lived in the same town, Karen and her family would join ours for dinner on Christmas Eve and we'd eat off the Spode. Now, since we're traveling back to Illinois for Christmas, the Spode is put away, except for a piece that I took with me to Illinois. I missed using it this year -- not because I love the dishes so much, though I do, but because shared so many wonderful meals on them during times we were together in our house at Christmas.

I think next year, I'll pull the Spode out at Thanksgiving so that when the kids come East, we can use it then. When Lauri comes in December, it'll be out and ready to go. Someday perhaps Karen, Bob, Winn and Heather will join us in State College in the Winter. The Spode and I will be ready for them.

December 12, 2007

One reason I love this profession

My best friend is Vice President of the HSBC (a large international bank). I would bet a hundred dollars that if Chase or Wells Fargo were working through a process, figuring out best practices and workflows, etc., she could not, would not, would never dream of, calling her counterpart and say, "We're just getting started with this new program and we wondered if you could share your insight with us?"

This is exactly what I did two months ago as we are beginning to prepare for the Google Book Project. I emailed Martha Sites at the University of Virginia and asked if we could visit them. We got here yesterday and will leave later today and it's been a great experience. The faculty and staff here have been terribly helpful. We've learned so many things that we will be able to use in our project at Penn State. I think all of us who came have been impressed by the care they take in this project. So, thanks to all of the Virginia folks who have taken the time out of their schedules to meet with us and teach us what they've learned. Someday, we'll pay it forward.

November 17, 2007

Future of Bibliographic Control

Before the American Library Association midwinter meeting, the Future of Bibliographic Control Working Group will issue a final report. In advance of that report, the Working Group presented a draft report to the Library of Congress this past week. The Library of Congress has made this podcast and it is available for viewing at:

The charge of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic control was to:
* Present findings on how bibliographic control and other descriptive practices can effectively support management of and access to library materials in the evolving information and technology environment
* Recommend ways in which the library community can collectively move toward achieving this vision
* Advise the Library of Congress on its role and priorities

The Working Group was appointed in November of 2006 Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services at LC. Working Group information is available at:


This report will most likely be discussed widely at the American Library Association meeting in January. The Directors of Technical Services in Large Research Libraries will be talking about this at our meeting at ALA. If people are interested, we could have a discussion here at Penn State about the recommendations after their final report is issued.

November 16, 2007

Polite students

I wanted to write a blog entry dedicated to the terrific and polite students that I run into in the library everyday. Since I work on the 5th floor, I ride the elevator several times a day. Often when i get in the elevator, I'm joined by 1-6 students. Sometimes they have earphones in their ears and then it's a pretty quiet trip. However, if they don't have earphones in, I talk with them. And the wonderful thing about our Penn State students is that they talk with me back. We'll talk about the weather, what they're studying, if it's cold/warm in the building. But they talk...cheerfully. And when they get off the elevator, more times than not, they say, "Have a nice day."

Another evidence of the politeness of our Penn State students is that both the young men and women hold open the door for me when I have full arms. Each time, I'm surprised, and each time, I say "thank you." I really appreciate their thoughtfulness.

So thanks, Penn State students. Thanks for being polite to a middle aged woman who often has her hands full. It's a pleasure to serve you.

November 14, 2007


I had the opportunity today to take part in a meeting with some folks from ITS and the Libraries and talk about areas in common and how we can work together. Areas such as repository development come to mind because both of us have a sets of expertise that are very complementary. I started thinking about the Knowledge Commons that the Library is creating and the Digital Commons that ITS is creating and how both of those initiatives are opportunities to enhance teaching and learning and to increase our relevancy to our students. We're trying to create inviting and engaging learning spaces and also to say to the students, "we'll come to you" by setting up reference areas in Smeal and other locations and to also bring subject guides and the CAT searching to Facebook and into other Web 2.0 environments. There certainly is, as my friend Barbara says, no end to the good work we can do here.

November 11, 2007

Charleston Conference Part 3

I didn't anticipate the Saturday programs being as good as they were. "Librarians are the interior decorators of structured serendipity" declared Joann Sparks from Sloan Kettering. She showed several cool things that they're doing and one of them was to show an image from a publication of a Sloan Kettering researcher on the library's website. The image changes all the time. I think that's a wonderful idea and seems like something very doable for us here at Penn State. That would be a great thing to show on our plasma screens too, wouldn't it? The next two speakers talked about ways in which to foster innovation in libraries, be it infused throughout the organization or centered in a "skunkworks" type of atmosphere. Finally, Lynn Connaway from OCLC talked about the research her group conducted on peoples perceptions of libraries. As my friend Barbara Winters used to say, "there is no end to the good work we have to do here."

I left Charleston with some perceptions. First, the conference is so different than it was fifteen years ago. This time it was about users, and uses of libraries, assessment, books, ebooks but all geared towards engaging our users and facilitating their work. Gone forever, really, are the days of public and technical services being different -- we all have the same goal. I also am excited about the creativity of our profession. We are doing some amazing things regarding reaching out to our students in social networking environments to creating new open source library systems, to our digitization efforts. There are lots of cool things going on. It was fitting that I spent 45 minutes at the airport talking to my daughter about her assignments at GSLIS at U of I. Doing things like brushing up on SQL, creating programs to examine search transaction logs to see how users are searching, learning about the economics of information, and possibly going to Sao Tome to create a computing lab. Whoa, what amazing graduate school experience she's having. Talking to her, and listening to the programs at Charleston, and finally getting excited about my own research agenda was well worth the trip.

Hopefully my luggage will join me at home today.

November 9, 2007

Charleston Conference Part 2

The Charleston Conference is almost over. Several of the presentations were excellent. It was great to see old friends and to make new ones. This conference used to have about 400-500 people in attendance; it has grown to over 1100. It seems like it was bursting at the seems, but people had a good time and there was a wide array of program choices.

Yesterday, Four CEOs talked about the greatest challenges to the scholarly communications. They talked about developing new business models, the rise in social networks and communications, and consumerism in China. China, they said, will have a huge impact, and is already having a huge impact, on scholarly communications output. They also talked about the Espresso book machine http://www.ondemandbooks.com/ which they predict will have a huge impact on scholarly publishing. Inexpensively created books, on demand.

Then Chris Matz from Christian Brothers College did a wonderful session about using the libraries annual report as an outreach tool for faculty. While he was at the University of Memphis, he wrote 38 different annual reports, each tailored to a specific discipline. I thought he was very industrious, creative, and probably pretty tired since he did that all in 7 months. He cited an article by our very own Bernadette Lear (Tis Better to be Brief than Tedious)...way to go, Bernadette.

This morning Ann Okerson moderated an excellent panel discussion on "What Do Users Want". Lucinda Covert Vail talked about the mechanism they went through at NYU to gather information about the "primitives" -- basic process of faculty and grad student research through surveys, focus groups, and interviews with faculty in order to discover their research process so that the library could discover ways in which it could best meet their needs. Cecily Marcus, the CLIR Postdoc Fellow at Minnesota talked about the new library portal geared to assist undergraduates.

Our talk was this afternoon comparing the approval plans of two large ARL libraries (Penn State and the Univ. of Illinois.) We looked at cost/use by publisher and subject and drew some conclusions. Almost 70% of the books purchased at Penn State and 62% of the books purchased at UIUC circulated at least once in an up to two year period. We have some great data that i'll post soon. We view this as a starting point for collections assessment and we have three or four more studies we either want to do together with Illinois or along. Bob Alan from Penn State and Lynn Wiley, Leslie Rios, and Tina Chrzastowski from Illinois worked on this with me. It was so much fun and we got some great comments.

There were a few other programs that I attended and the conference will continue through tomorrow (I leave about noon.) It was great seeing two of my ARL fellow colleagues (Stanley Wilder and Steve Smith) and we went out for a beer and caught up on what each other was doing.

If you ever get a chance to come to Charleston, I'd highly recommend it. It's a lovely city and you never know who you'll see here. I shook John Edward's hand at the Farmer's Market here once upon a time.

January 2008

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