Stacey Aldrich, Libraries, and Planning for the Future

Acting State Librarian of the California State Library Stacey Aldrich will be helping current and prospective library leaders use current tools to explore the future in her Infopeople workshop, “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future,” scheduled in libraries throughout California in June 2009.

“We’ll be looking at what kinds of sources you should be scanning for clues to the future and why; what kinds of triggers you should be looking for; and how you ask the right questions about the future,” she said during a conversation earlier this week. “The key here is that the more tools that you have for thinking about the future, the more proactive you can be about creating the future. This workshop is an opportunity to learn and practice some future-thinking tools and then spend some time thinking about the future so you can find opportunities.”

Included in the curriculum are explorations of scenario planning, a concept explored by futurist in his book The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World; environmental scanning; and top trends which library leaders need to watch.

“We need to look outside of libraries for the forces and trends that are changing people’s expectations about information, technology, and community,” Aldrich says. “If we’re asking the right questions about our future, we can keep developing services that meet the needs of the people we serve.”

Among the sources she cites are the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences with talks which are archived at Ted.com; the Pop!Tech conferences with similarly archived materials at Pop!Tech.org; and trendwatching.com, which offers a variety of resources including free monthly “trend briefings.”

Using these tools will help library leaders engage in more effective environmental scanning and scenario thinking. Environmental scanning, she suggests, is “taking an interest in observing the world around you…reading and observing things you may never do,” and scenario building, “in its simplest terms, is creating stories about the future to help your library think about possible futures, and then build strategies that will help you thrive in each of them, and to help your library create its preferred future.”

The workshop is the latest offering in Infopeople’s multi-stage Eureka! Leadership Program with its “Building Leadership Skills” series, and it will remain available as a contract workshop through Infopeople for those who are not able to attend the currently scheduled sessions. Registration ($75 per person) for “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future” and other “Building Leadership Skills” sessions is continuing on the Infopeople website; instructors for other sessions in the series include Marie Radford and Steve Albrecht.

Sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future” are currently scheduled for Buena Park Library District (6/4/2009); San Diego County Library Headquarters (6/5/2009); San Francisco Public Library – Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room (6/11/2009); Belle Cooledge Library in Sacramento (6/12/2009); Fresno – Woodward Park (6/16/2009); and San Jose Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (6/23/2009).

Suzanne Merritt, Creativity, and Solving Workplace Problems

Overcoming challenges in the library workplace involves a mixture of creativity and fun, Suzanne Merritt suggests in her new full-day Infopeople “Building Leadership Skills: Stimulating Creativity” workshop sessions being offered in libraries throughout California from April 10-24, 2009.

“I think the important thing that people will come away with is a boost in their own confidence, in their creative abilities, and that they can apply that in any area of leadership,” she predicted in a conversation earlier this week. “I feel it is important for anyone in a leadership role not only to have a boost in their own creative confidence, but to pass that along and encourage to those they lead to believe in their creative abilities as well. Together they can solve any problem that comes along.”

Merritt is no stranger to the topic of how creativity helps improve the workplace and produce results. Through the work she does through her own company, Ideas With Merritt, she provides participants with tools and skills which translate inspiration into workplace innovation on a daily basis. These skills are divided into three interrelated elements: collecting experiences, connecting those experiences to the workplace, and creating growth by generating, judging, and refining ideas.

“Every human being is creative,” she notes. “Our creative contributions matter. As leaders, part of our job is to bring out our own creative potential and bring that out in the people that work with us. When we do that, people have fun…When people have fun, they are creative. Everything’s so serious right now; it’s a great time to revitalize your own creative energy.”

Material presented during the Infopeople workshop is designed to help library leaders and others—including library business managers, public information officers, systems staff, facilities managers, and volunteers—find creative solutions for handling the increasing workload they face, attracting new audiences and funding sources, and restructuring existing services.

She will introduce participants to her own model, the C.U.R.I.O.S.I.T.Y. model, in which each letter in the term “stands for something specific that people can look for in the world around them to look for sources of inspiration.”

“I don’t want to be listed as one of those ‘these are dire times’ speakers. This is about possibility and positive energy, and having some fun while you do your work,” she concluded.

The workshop is the latest offering in Infopeople’s multi-stage Eureka! Leadership Program with its “Building Leadership Skills” series, and it will remain available as a contract workshop through Infopeople for those who are not able to attend the currently scheduled sessions. Registration ($75 per person) for all remaining “Building Leadership Skills” sessions is continuing on the Infopeople website. Instructors include Stacey Aldrich and Marie Radford.

Sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Stimulating Creativity” are currently scheduled for Arden-Dimick Library in Sacramento (4/10/2009); San Diego County Library Headquarters (4/13/2009); Buena Park Library District (4/16/2009); Fresno–Woodward Park (4/20/2009); San Jose Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (4/22/2009); and San Francisco Public Library—Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room (4/24/2009).

Linda Demmers on Limited Resources and Effective Use of Library Spaces

Managing a public library building is managing the public trust creatively and economically—often with extremely limited resources, Libris Design Project Manager Linda Demmers reminds us in her new Infopeople workshop, Low Cost Space Planning and Remodeling. “You’re managing the physical assets of a city. If you have a 10,000 square foot library…you are basically managing a public asset that is worth over $6 million. It’s your responsibility that the public get the maximum return on that investment.”
Through her workshop, which will be offered in San Francisco (March 19, 2009), Buena Park (April 3, 2009), and Contra Costa County/Pleasant Hill (April 16, 2009), participants hear about and see images of innovative, low-cost remodeling efforts which Demmers has documented through her extensive travels and experience with library renovations. The result is that library staff, facility managers, and design professionals interested in planning a small or large library remodel walk away with “terrific ideas” from the course materials as well as from the experiences they share with each other, she said during a recent conversation. “The idea of the low-cost remodel is that it can be either an immediate or an intermediate solution to physical problems in a facility…One part of the workshop is what I call putting lipstick on the pig…if you are planning on a new library in the short-term, you don’t want to spend a lot of money (on the current one). A lot of what I’m showing in the workshop is things you can do at no cost.”
Among the topics covered are how to begin without the services of a consultant, which includes learning how to evaluate options, simplify the space-planning process, and test options before proceeding. Participants also discuss quick fixes including creative use of color to repaint a space; inexpensive replacement of outdated signage; merchandising; and sustainability which includes simple Green strategies. “Getting down to the nitty-gritty” is next on the agenda, with discussions about scheduling the project, budgeting for it, and evaluating it once it is finished. An in-class group project helps participants solidify their awareness of teamwork, decision-making, and presentation essentials.
With a goal of assuring that everyone with a stake in the process will be heard, “I do a lot of community meetings with stake holders so that people feel enfranchised through the process,” Demmers noted. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It’s pretty common in facility planning (and) a lot of communities have gotten familiar with the process of doing a needs assessment.”
Those interested in learning more about using their limited resources to improve their libraries in ways which better serve library members and guests will find registration ($75 per person) continuing on the Infopeople website for sessions of “Low Cost Space Planning and Remodeling.” Additional design planning resources are available in the Planning Documentation section of the Libris Design website.

Thinking Strategically: Joan Frye Williams and George Needham on Seizing Opportunities

Two of the library community’s leading consultants and thinkers, Joan Frye Williams and George Needham, will be providing guidance on how all of us can better understand and respond to the goals and priorities of our communities, employees, and colleagues through the latest offering in Infopeople’s “Building Leadership Skills” series.
“In tough economic times, knowing how to be strategic in decisions about where to cut and where to spend is more important than ever. Because we travel all over the U.S., we can offer strategic skills in the context of what we know about successful practices in other libraries,” Frye Williams noted recently in talking about the “Building Leadership Skills: Strategic Thinking” sessions which she and Needham will be offering in libraries through California from March 9-27, 2009.
Strategic thinking focuses on identifying and seizing opportunities to make a difference, and choosing one’s actions accordingly. Emphasizing day-to-day strategic thinking rather than how to develop comprehensive strategic plans, Frye Williams and Needham will guide participants in a pragmatic exploration of leadership and strategic thinking, taking the long view, leveraging a library’s existing assets, identifying strategic opportunities, and overcoming objections to a proposed course of action.
According to the instructors, strategic thinking should be part of everyone’s job. This course, therefore, is designed for those who are interested in positioning themselves, their work group, or their library for greater success. The session is also open to people who are new to the library field, and to others—fundraisers, grant writers, marketing staff, and public information officers – who do not have an extensive library background.
Enrollment to date shows that library directors, assistant directors, and board members will also be among the attendees, making this “an excellent – and affordable – opportunity for team building and horizon expanding,” Frye Williams observed.“Participants will learn practical criteria and techniques for making tough decisions and we’ll provide tips for how to continue moving forward even when resources are limited.”
The workshop is the latest offering in Infopeople’s multi-stage Eureka! Leadership Program, and it will remain available as a contract workshop through Infopeople for those who are not able to attend the currently scheduled sessions. Registration ($75 per person) for all remaining “Building Leadership Skills” sessions is continuing on the Infopeople website. Instructors include Steve Albrecht; Stacey Aldrich; Suzanne Merritt; and Marie Radford.
Sessions of “Strategic Thinking” are currently scheduled for Arcade Library in Sacramento (3/9/09); Fresno—Woodward Park (3/12/09); San Diego County Library Headquarters (3/23/2009); Buena Park Library District (3/24/09); Pio Pico Koreatown Library in Los Angeles (3/25/09); and San Francisco Public Library—Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room (3/27/2009).

Change Revisited: The Future is Nearly Behind Us

It’s one thing to write and post an Infoblog article on the subject of change, as I did last week. It’s an entirely different and far more visceral (learning) experience to observe projected changes occurring so rapidly that they are in place before we have time to digest predictions regarding their impending arrival.
One day after writing about Paula Singer’s current full-day Infopeople workshop— “Building Leadership Skills: Leading Change,” which continues statewide through February 25, 2009—I had moved on to a different endeavor: reading the 2009 Horizon Report, posted online on January 20, 2009. Having been introduced to what the annual Horizon reports offer trainer-teacher-learners shortly after the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE posted the 2008 version, I was looking forward to seeing updated predictions on technological innovations which “are likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression in higher education” over a five-year period.
The topic was already on my mind because I had heard predictions about Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 while attending a session at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Denver late last month. One of the speakers at that ALA session had mused about the possibility that our mobile devices would soon be able to provide information including where the nearest Whole Foods market is, and would also notify us if one of our friends was in a Starbucks coffee shop two blocks away from us. Audience members’ reactions to the latter possibility ranged from “wouldn’t that be cool?” to “that’s creepy”—or, as one friend asked, “isn’t that cool and creepy?” Regardless of the reaction, the underlying message was that this was an idea to watch for over the next few years—a period which immediately shrinks when we read the 2009 Horizon Report.
Among the technologies evolving rapidly and which are meant to reach a new level of maturity over the next year, according to the Horizon authors, is mobile technology, and interesting innovations are already in place: “Applications designed for mobiles can…record a photograph of a CD, video, or book, then identify the artist or author and display that along with reviews of the piece and information on where to buy it” (p. 8). (Watch out, Whole Foods; our mobiles know where you live.) Furthermore, “(a)n increasing number of mobile and web-based services can respond to geolocative data in creative and useful ways…Mobile Twitter clients…add the user’s location to tweets (postings via Twitter), indicate nearby friends, and show messages tweeted in the user’s vicinity” (p. 15). (Watch out, Starbucks, we know who is Twittering at your tables and counters.)
So as I read that January 20 report in early February and thought back to predictions I heard at the end of January about what was literally on and in the Horizon, I suddenly understood at an emotional level what Paula Singer had said about “living in an age of permanent white water” and needing “the skills to help ourselves and others deal with change successfully.” And how much all of us can gain from Paula’s workshop and the recognition that the future is nearly behind us at times as change occurs even before we have heard that it is coming.
N.B.: To register for remaining sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Leading Change” —Arden-Dimick Library in Sacramento (2/20/09); San Francisco Public Library (2/23/09); and Fresno—Woodward Park (2/25/09) —please visit the Infopeople website.