Category Archives: Strategic Planning

Back to Business

Jeeze, I just notice that it’s been almost a month since my last LIT blog. Well, I’ve been busy! I’ve been working on the Phase 3/4 planning, ordering staff computers (which took way longer than expected because of the  local interpretation of the Governor’s directive), upgrading student computers, overseeing the Pharos Printer changeover, changing the public computers into student/1 hour logon computers, building our LAMP server and shepherding the Learning Cave project.


See, that’s why there hasn’t been a blog!

But that’s about to change. I’m going to start using the blog to disseminate some information about some of the changes as they come out. Specifically, coming up will be a blog about the LIT Tours, the Pharos changes, the Learning Cave, the new Library web site, the new student/1 hour logon computers, and any public info about the Phase 3/4 planning that I need to tell you about.


So, stay tuned and I’ll see you all tomorrow!


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Filed under Building planning, collaborative learning, Learning Cave, problems, Strategic Planning, Technology Pulse

ACRL Webcast: Coming of age online

I’m sort of liveblogging (without the snark) from the ACRL Webcast of their study called “Coming of Age Online.

A couple of highlights so far:

They mention that they found students use what they call “cell phone culture” to kick off their research.
Basically, the students would call friends and family and ask “what do you think of this topic?” Given that the most trusted, accurate, and desired recommender systems are friends and family I kind of think of this as a recommender system for research topics. I wonder if we could ever implement one of these in a library? A system where students could input their research topic and get recommendations on it? That might be helpful.

Also, I noticed here that there was a lot of and a strong desire for peer to peer education. This is in direct contrast to my desires. I’d rather be taught by someone who understands the topic. But that’s just me. Kids nowadays…

I’ve been thinking for a while now that demand for desktops in the library would go away. Their study showed that desktops in places like the library are still important because even though most students owned a laptop they didn’t feel like lugging it around. So they used desktops to check email, write papers, and so on.

There was a large portion of the program dedicated to study spaces and some of the recommendations were obvious (flexible, food friendly, technology rich, various types of spaces) and some not so. Specifically, there was a recommendation that less users in the library can be a better thing.

This articulated with some of their findings about student’s habits. They used a mapping technique to track where and when students were performing various activities during their days and they found a couple of interesting things: students were using technology everywhere, they stayed up later than most people expected, they ate food at odd times, and they had a very full schedule.

When they started to redesign their library, they did some neat brainstorming activities (sort of like what we’ve been doing with our Phase 3/4 design stuff) and asked students to think creatively and totally openly about new spaces for the library. They had to bribe the students with money and food, but hey! They got them to do it.

They incorporated the suggestions, the findings, and some other factors and created basically what everyone is creating now: a learning commons. They also stayed open later a few days a quarter, allowed food in the library and basically transformed the area into an open, welcoming commons for inquiry.

I was surprised that they found that allowing food in the library meant more custodial services. It’s obvious when I say it, but I guess I never really thought about it. The other thing I found interesting is that night time reference doesn’t generate more clients (which all of our studies show it won’t), but it did generate more in depth reference help. Night time reference: quality over quantity.

They also are applying some of their research techniques to their homepage redesign. I think I’d like to incorporate that idea into our pending redesign.

Overall the presentation started super slow and built into an interesting presentation.

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Filed under Building planning, Strategic Planning

Lynda Gratton: Competition or Collaboration?

I was up late a few nights ago because (I don’t know if you know this) my pregnant girlfriend has a bladder the size of a pea. I guess carrying around little Bostelle 2.0 tends to squish up all the other organs. Any way, she needs to get up every hour or so, and since I’m kind of a light sleeper, I get up when she gets up.

Occasionally, this means I can’t get back to sleep. Such was the case the other night. I don’t even remember which night this was because they are all sort of blending together in one long blur of sleeplessness. Usually when I get up early like this, I work on research and listen to the BBC world service via KUOW (94.9 in Tacoma). Well, the other night I was sort of drifting in and out of consciousness and there was a fascinating interview on the Beeb with a woman named Linda Gratin. She was talking about the importance of collaboration as the new model for businesses and made some key comparisons between this new model of cooperation versus the old model of competition. Going so far as to suggest that competitive people should be fired if they can’t learn to cooperate!

So, I googled her… nothing. I tried looking her up on the BBC web site… nothing. Linda Gratin where are you???

Turns out her name is Lynda Gratton and she’s quite well known in the business world, if only you know how to spell her name. Ah the joy of analog technology: too bad the FM signal can’t beam an RSS feed to my news aggregator. Anyway, after looking her up in Proquest and checking out some of her articles, I’m really intrigued by what she has to say.

The article I’m currently reading is called “Building bridges for success” (UW Restricted Link) and was originally published in the Financial Times. London (UK): Jun 29, 2007. In that article she outlines some of her basic ideas about the importance of collaboration on innovation, leadership’s role in creating a collaborative environment, formal and informal collaboration, and the importance of stamping out competition.

What’s shocking about this article is its relevance to strategic planning here on campus and in the library. One of the things that I think most people identified as a problem on campus was the idea of “siloing:” where units were working in competition for resources. According to Lynda Gratton, this environment stifles innovation and fosters mistrust.  Well, of course it does… especially in academia.

I’ve seen this in action in myriad ways but I’ll give you a sports analogy if you’ll indulge me: football (soccer to some of you). On a football team, the most important aspect of the game is cooperation. To the layman, it looks like attacking players only attack and defending players only defend. In the past this was more or less true, but there was a revolution in football in the 70’s when the Dutch national team, led by their charismatic and one of the most talented individual players ever (Johan Cruyff), popularized something called “total football.” In some ways, Total Football was a response to Cruyff’s insistence on being all places at all times, it was heavily reliant on one, very competitive man and his desire to do all things on the pitch. But what grew out of that was something collaborative, beautiful, and one in which all the parts worked seamlessly together to form a whole. Defenders were no longer relegated to defense; if the attack required a player to come down the wing, anyone could do it.

Today, my favorite team (Arsenal) plays a faster paced more expansive version of the same concept and they do it without the benefit of a real superstar (their best player is a 20 year old). Their movement and reliance on each other to pick up when someone else has moved into a different position is universally recognized as some of the most beautiful football ever played. And no I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan. Arsenal, in many ways, epitomizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration.  They make hundreds of passes in a game where even a great team makes dozens, everyone is constantly in motion, supporting the attack, defending from the front, covering, and always looking for their teammate.

No, it’s not perfect (Arsenal are currently in third place and have no real hope for a trophy) but the team they have built, the innovation that they are laying down for future footballers, and the trust that they all have for each other is truly special to watch.  And yes, I am saying THAT as a fan, but I’d bet most football fans would agree.

Now, I’m by no means suggesting that that environment of “siloing” and internal competition still exists here at UWT or in the library. Rather, let me suggest something different, a more positive approach if you will; that those of us interested in innovation make sure that we are reaching out to others across campus, building diverse teams for our projects, and creating collaborative efforts. I think that if we (continue to) do that then we could turn UWT into what Lynda Gratton calls a “Hot Spot” for innovation.

And that would be real cool if you ask me!

Until tomorrow, Cheers.


Filed under Building planning, Strategic Planning, Technology Pulse

exabytes, zettabyte, yottabyte, oh my

It turns out that human being are creating a LOT of data.  180 exabytes in 2006 to be exact.  And we’re creating data faster than we can keep up with the storage medium needed to store it, much less the people needed to maintain and protect it.

Which makes me wonder about libraries, librarians, and librarianship.

70% of the world’s data is created by individuals.  70%!  I thought this number was awfully high until I reflected on the  proliferation of inexpensive, high quality, computers, cameras, and video recorders.  Just think about two things: cameras and movies.

When I was a kid and we wanted to take photographs, we got out the little camera (my family could only afford a 110 camera until I saved up and got my first real camera: a Pentax K1000) and took maybe 4-5 pictures.  Then we’d put the camera away until the next event (4 months later) and we’d bust it back out (complete with the odd little square flash!) take 4 more pics, put it away and so on until the whole roll was used.  Then we’d take the roll to Wallgreens and it would be like Christmas when the photos were ready a week later — you never remembered what you took pictures of so opening that package in the parking lot was a crap shoot.  Hey!  That’s my birthday!  I remember that!  Hey!  oops!  Put those pictures away!  The point is that it took several months to shoot 24 pictures.  And typically we never reprinted them and if we wanted to share them with Grandma we either had duplicates made or we bored everyone at a dinner party.

Now?  people shoot probably thousands of pictures in a year.  On their cell-phones, on their digital cameras, on their laptops.  And sure, most of it’s just memories or “look at what Johnny was doing when he was drunk!”  But the point is that everyone is taking so many more pictures now and they are storing them or emailing them to their friends or just deleting them that it’s pretty easy to see the insane proliferation of data creation over just 10 years ago.

And what about movies?  Again, even 10 years ago, if you wanted to record a movie or own a copy of a film, you had to get out the VHS tape and duplicate it.  The average consumer was not making a lot of recordings and storing them in their library.  My family was a little odd in that whenever pops sprung for HBO (usually once a year when they made some kind of special deal like buy 2 months get 2 months free) my mom would record all the movies she saw.  ALL OF THEM.  Growing up, we had probably the most eclectic collection of VHS tapes known to man: everything from Wolfen 2 (Electric Boogaloo) to One Crazy Summer.   But even still, she could only amass maybe 100 movies.  And we had (I still have it) exactly ONE home movie — a strange tape that has the only video of my late brother.

Now?  with TiVo and other DVRs complimenting our DVD collections; YouTube junkies who record every aspect of their life, minute long snippets from people’s cell phones and on and on.  Video is quickly becoming the next step in user generated content and user generated storage.

So, what does all this mean for an academic library?  Weeeeeellllll, first of all, I think there’s an important component here: the content is user generated.  There’s no expert who is mediating this content creation.  The user creates the content and has to figure out how to store it and send it his or her self.  The middle man is cut out.  I don’t need someone to develop my photographs for me anymore.  The same thing is happening with digital music and (importantly for us) with academic publications.

As all this content creation has grown and the middle-man has been cut out of the content creation component technologies like Google came along to help with the second part in the life-cycle of data: search.  Google didn’t organize the data.  They just created the bots and server farms that facilitate search for the data.  And they are wildly popular.  But note that Google is a middle man.   Just as libraries are the search middle man for a lot of data.

Then there is a third component here: management of the data.  There are libraries, there are Web 2.0 technologies, and there are other content management systems (heck Gmail combines all three services in one!).

I think (and here comes the controversy) the user is going to find a way to cut out the middle men when it comes to search and management.  And I think it’s going to happen with end-user technologies, like Flickr, combined with production technologies, like Lightroom.  Something is going to emerge that will do all of that; produce, package, market and index data.

And when it does, I wonder what the library will look like?

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3 meetings later…

I have had three meetings about the new space and right now there’s so much stuff swimming around in my head it feels like it could explode.  But I guess I can report this:

  • The Architects are very familiar with building libraries.  They are here to assist and I am in contact with them through Catherine Vogt.  If you have questions about the building, please send them to me and I will funnel them through Catherine Vogt, who will funnel their responses through me and back to you.  I think this system is designed to minimize the number of contact points with the Architects, who are very busy.
  • The next steps are for the library to start working on our needs, in the context of the UWT adding 600 fte and one program per year over the next three years.
  • The projected growth for UWT over the next 10 years is 7% per year (100% growth in 10 years).  Sometime down the road (and thus, something we should keep an eye on during out planning) is the big picture for the UWT library within the context of this growth.
  • Your UWT Library Building Planning team is pulling together some examples of learning commons.  Got one you want to share?  Send an email to Serin, Suzanne, or Beckie, they are the subcommittee working on that.
  • We all need to kind of be thinking of spaces that can blend with TLC while simultaneously thinking of spaces that need to be separated!  Think that’s complicated?  Try doing it in the context of knowing how much it will change the UWT Library if we even move ONE service out, much less a whole host of services.  Or how about if we add new services?  What happens to our identity?  OMG!!!?!!  OK. STOP…   Best not to think of these things yet, but maybe keep them in mind for:
  • The Building planning meeting on the 11th.  I’ll be meeting with Renee from HR/OD to go over some of her thoughts on the meeting that the library staff are all having on the 11th.  Until then, no peeking.
  • I have gotten a sort of firm-ish boundary for the amount of space we’re looking at; 15,000 asf.  Yay!  Is that one or two floors? Is that plus or minus the TLC’s current space?  Bridge or no bridge?  Can it hold compact shelving?  Can it hold regular shelving?  Yeah, all that and more, already asked.  Got any other questions I dshould ask Catherine?  Ask me!
  • Jennifer gave a stirring speech on collections space and how hard it is to pin down predictions for collections space.  She’s still going to try to predict something for us.  By March 3rd.  Which is awesome.  I will not be posting that without her approval because right now it’s an internal document.

Honestly, I don’t think that’s everything.  Somehow I just know I’m leaving something off.  If any of the committee members want to add something, please feel free to comment here.  That’s it.  That’s where I’m leaving it for now, or my head might explode.

Until tomorrow!

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iPod Touch, bigger bandwidth, and your cable company

One of the emerging trends in the cable industries is toward differential charging for internet usage.  In other words: give you all the pipe that you can afford.  Already Time-Warner is trialing hard bandwidth caps and tiered pricing for data in Texas (is Texas the harbinger of ALL evil?)  where they limit downloads and charge more if you want to cross that cap and download another song.  For today’s average consumer?  This probably doesn’t effect them.  After all, Time-Warner’s own internal memo “claims that (only) 5% of subscribers use over 50% of the total network bandwidth.”  That number isn’t a surprise to most tech savvy people.  After all, only 5% of the population has the inclination to use a Slingbox or download HD movies from iTunes or use the web version of Netflix… right now.  The problem is that as these devices become more popular, more extensible, and more widely available due to price cuts (the iPod touch just announced a 32GB version for $499) more and more people are going to be putting more and more demands on bandwidth suppliers.  And so, the industry sees an opportunity now, while the vast majority of users are still just plodding around checking their email and messaging each other on Myspace, to change the rules.  And by the time they get it done, people will be clamoring for more bandwidth.

So what?  How does this effect the library?  Well, it’s always been our purpose to loan that which should be shared.  And I see bandwidth as a resource just like any other.  Actually I think of bandwidth as a technology, like binding, which allows for knowledge creation.  If the binding corporations wanted to increase the cost of bindings because they saw that the future was going to be filled with bigger books libraries would be in an uproar!  Now imagine if all the binderies had been built by the government…

Furthermore, I see disk technology dying.  DVD’s, Blueray, Hard Drives, etc, they’re all great and they have served, and will serve, us very well for many years but flash is much better.  A copy of Star Wars: A New Hope doesn’t have to be transferred to another solid medium before it can be shared.  I don’t need a special bay on my handheld in order to play that movie.  If I drop my flash drive it doesn’t break as easily.  And on and on.  Disks will be around for a while, but we’re seeing a major shift now that the price/storage capacity of flash memory is moving more or less in sync with Moore’s Law.

All of this is to say, that given the speed, quality, and availability of movies and large chunks of data across the network,  combined with what I see as the inevitable choking down of home bandwidth, we as libraries have a great opportunity to become datacenters for our clients.  I see a future where the student will come into the library, browse the catalog, download a movie from our catalog onto their handheld device, watch the movie wherever they want, and then use the movie in a group interaction where they collaborate with the film and say a 60″ plasma screen in order to complete an assignment from their professor.  And it has to be libraries: Constitutionally, culturally, academically and realistically, libraries are the only place in the country where a person could do that and not have to charge the client.

And so, to that end, any new buildings that I get online will, hopefully, have the infrastructure to handle that type of internal data transfer.  External transfer, while important, won’t be the end-all , but internally the pipe will be massive.  Hopefully.

Ok, I have more reading to do…  Look for some blogs on Learning Spaces, Information Seeking Behaviors, Space Issues and so on as I delve deeper into our future.


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Learning Caves

I met yesterday with Beckie Etheridge and Stern Neill in order to talk about their idea to apply for a Founder’s Endowment Grant that would transform some spaces in the library into “Learning Caves.”  Basically, what they want to do is take the area currently housing the maps collection and the ADA workstation (and a few tables) and add some movable furniture and some pretty neat technology in order to

Develop and implement a space where students can create and apply knowledge… (and) to enhance student learning through the development of a semi-private, reservable space where individuals and groups can develop meaning, understanding, and/or solutions.

The technology we are currently looking at is a small server, a large LCD screen, and software called TeamSpot.  What the TeamSpot software does is allows multiple users to connect to and control a single, large, collaborative screen.  The technology is currently at use in OUGL and several other places on the Montlake Branch.  They call the spaces “collaboration studios” we would call them “learning caves:” branding is the only real difference here.

I’m really sold on the simplicity and functionality of TeamSpot and so I have recommended to the ad hoc committee that we propose the cadillac program have two of these in Lib 122 (the maps area), the slightly downgraded version has just one in LIB 122 and the Broke Down Coupe DeVille version retrofits the room upstairs but includes the TeamSpot software.

Check it out and you’ll see why I’m so excited by it.

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Literature review for building planning

As William S. Burroughs once famously said “Well, this is insane.”

I can’t believe how much information there is available on the Information Commons (Learning Commons, etc)  idea.  So many places have been ramping up on and studying this idea since it first burst on the scene in 2004 (ish — it’s actually a much older idea) that there is literally an overload of information.

I have started gathering some of the links and resources here but I’m really going to need a sub-folder called like “gems” or something in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.  For example, Suzanne rightly pointed out The Media Lab at MIT who say things like:

The Media Lab is a place where the future is lived, not imagined… The Lab’s language of invention is the demo: working examples that blend sophisticated technologies, emerging business models, and human expression.

Wow, and they have been doing this since 1980.  So, they have longevity, resources, the brightest minds, a clear vision and a building designed by I.M. Pei and we can’t compete with that.  But what I’m hoping we can do is take some of these and other places’ great ideas and do them with the resources, time, and brilliance we do have.

As I work my way through this huge pile of documents I’ll try to pull together some thoughts and put them up here.  Stay tuned!

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So much stuff for a Thursday!

Hey, yeah, I’m BACK.

I have a meeting in 20 minutes to get trained on how to do the one-on-one interviews that the library is going to be conducting for our strategic planning process. I planned on blogging about strategic planning and to that end created a Strategic Planning category in the blog. But then I was stricken with stupidity and hurt my back yesterday. So, today will be the very first official Strategic Planning blog. There will be more following this one today (probably on the training ans a collection of resources that we are looking at and some thoughts on those resources) so let’s just get started.

I took a look at the mock student survey and I have to say I am deeply disappointed in the survey as a whole. Particularly in the way the survey writer so obviously views the library as a sort of tertiary, brics and books, service on campus. But also with the lack of critical questioning of computer labs and what students are doing in those labs. In fact, throughout the survey I can’t really tell what they are trying to find out; the drive of the survey seems lost in politics and an overarching concern for sports, teaching, and technology — remind me some time to talk about the rise of jock culture at UWT. Maybe that’s just it, maybe they want justification for adding more sports, more unfunded programs, and more technology that’s used for things like Facebook.

If I was crafting the survey I’d want to know what students are actually doing with technology across campus, at home, and at their jobs. I’d want to focus on what they see as the main activities of campus technology (is it printing or are they spending all their time on Facebook?). And then I’d want a breakdown by campus technology unit and technology type as to what the students are doing with that technology. Then I’d want demographics (do you own a desktop at home, a laptop, an iPhone, etc) so that I could cross reference with the activities that Tacoma users are using Technology for. Also, cross referenced by program demographics so we could see data on which programs students are studying harder and ways that they are using technology. A good jumping off point for this type of survey is the PEW/Internet Libraries Report and several other PEW surveys on students and technology use.

That’s a thumbnail sketch of how I would do a campus survey of students right now.

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