Change Happens: Paula Singer, Leadership, and Tools for Positive Long-Lasting Results

Overcoming the stress caused by continual change seems to be a major battle for many of us—leaders and potential leaders alike—so the lessons Paula Singer offers in her new full-day Infopeople workshop are designed to help attendees develop the tools needed to engage in positive and long-lasting changes which improve library services.
“Building Leadership Skills: Leading Change,” which is underway and continuing in California libraries through February 25, 2009, is the latest offering in Infopeople’s Eureka! Leadership Program series, and “Leading Change” will remain available as a contract workshop through Infopeople for those who are not able to attend the currently scheduled sessions.
“Change is inevitable. It’s ongoing. It’s critical to learn how to lead change because we’re living in an age of permanent white water, and we all need the skills to help ourselves and others deal with change successfully,” Singer acknowledged during a recent conversation.
“Leading Change” has two basic parts, she added: “We look at the internal aspects of change, how we handle the emotional challenges created by any change, as well as how to make change happen.”
The rapid rate of technological change, the existence of four distinct generations of staff in the library, and external factors including the worsening state of the economy all contribute to the pressure that leaders and other members of library staff are facing. Singer provides tools and improves students’ skills by guiding workshop participants through their own change projects. By engaging in conversations with their fellow students and learning from what the instructor brings to the classroom, participants are working through the steps that will enable them to lead their projects from successful start-up through successful implementation. They return to their libraries with plans which can be explained and promoted in positive ways and immediately applied.
Those completing the day-long workshop “learn different ways of dealing with resistance to change. They also create a vision for their project and devise a message to communicate it from the head and the heart. They learn how to create a sense of urgency about the project, assess the barriers, and create strategies to overcome them—how to sell it, how to implement it, and how to sustain it,” Singer concluded.
N.B.: Registration ($75 per person) for the latest offerings of Eureka! workshops is continuing on the Infopeople website under the heading “Building Leadership Skills.” Instructors include Steve Albrecht; Stacey Aldrich; Joan Frye Williams and George Needham; Suzanne Merritt; and Marie Radford. Sessions of “Leading Change” are scheduled for Buena Park Library District (2/17/09); San Diego County Library Headquarters (2/18/09); Arden-Dimick Library in Sacramento (2/20/09); San Francisco Public Library (2/23/09); and Fresno—Woodward Park (2/25/09).

TED@Palm Springs: Learning at the Speed of Light

I have always been amazed by the amount of learning which quickly occurs in a one-day Infopeople workshop, a four-session Infopeople online course, or even a one-hour Infopeople webinar. And I’ve been equally fascinated by how much can be absorbed through an 18-minute TED (Technology, Education, Design) talk. So to watch nearly 50 of those offerings and countless other brief (three-minute) sessions as they were being delivered in a four-day period during the 2009 TED Conference simulcast event in Palm Springs last week has left me nearly numb. Overwhelmed. Exhilarated. Exhausted. Inspired. And looking forward to discussing and digesting them with friends and colleagues in the weeks and months to come.
TED organizers, as mentioned in an earlier Infoblog posting, have already begun adding the 2009 talks to those previously available at TED.com. The talk by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was online even before any of us had left the Long Beach and Palm Springs sites, and Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s well received and moving “A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius,” in which she explores the theme of how a writer deals with unexpected and tremendous success and the realization that one’s greatest work might already have been produced, is also now available for those who missed the original—or simply want to see it again. And again. And again.
Other bloggers have done a great job of temporarily and copiously filling the TED gap by posting summaries and highlights of many of the sessions—Global Voices Co-Founder Ethan Zuckerman’s is one of the most detailed I’ve found; just when you think you’ve read everything on a page, you see that there are links to additional pages which cover earlier TED 2009 sessions. And one “TEDster” from the United Kingdom, in addition to providing glimpses of what she had attended, went so far as to write a complimentary piece about those of us who were working at the book-selling operation in Palm Springs—her point being that even the TED bookstores (“part literary haven, part neighbourhood hang-out” and organized by Neal Sofman of Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco) were a vital part of this community of learner-thinker-activists who gather to be inspired and then return to countries all over the world ready to be part of the process of creating positive change.
A community of learners at this level is an astonishing thing to see. It’s a gathering where neurological anthropologist Oliver Sacks starts off a day with a description of a sight-impaired woman’s visual hallucinations, and is later followed by Elizabeth Gilbert on the theme of the creative muse. Then architect Daniel Libeskind provides a whirlwind tour of his work, and later that afternoon polymorphic playwright Sarah Jones does variations on a presentation currently available for viewing on YouTube. That evening, astronomer Jill Tarter leads us through the stars and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, oceanographer Sylvia Earle takes us in the opposite direction to explore the depths beneath the surface of our oceans, and Venezuelan conductor Jose Antonio Abreu shows us how young musicians are made. We explore the world of molecular biology and innovations in the study of viruses; learn about high-rise (vertical) farming in cities rather than in more traditional agricultural settings; and spend part of another evening with Bonk author Mary Roach telling us “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasms” (and may not have wanted to know, when you get right down to it).
And before you know it, four very intense days in a community of learners are over. But, like any great learning experience, the pay-off is just beginning.

TED@Palm Springs: Ideas, Communities of Learning, and Dancing as Fast as We Can

To be working at the TED (Technology, Education, Design) Conference simulcast event in Palm Springs on a day when Infopeople announced Linda Demmers’ “Creating Learning Spaces in Your Library” webinar is yet another reminder of how wonderfully intertwined our various communities of learning have become in an onsite-online world.
Demmers, through her online Infopeople presentation, will be helping viewers explore how libraries can play larger educational roles in their communities. TED, in its 25th annual gathering of dynamic and innovative speakers, is bringing members of its worldwide learning community together in its new Long Beach home; those live Long Beach presentations (with approximately 1,300 attendees present), combined with the simulcast version here in Palm Springs (with an additional 400 people viewing and discussing the live large-screen presentations), is a trainer-teacher-learner’s dream come true.
The usual wide range of inspiring speakers on a variety of topics included futurist Juan Enriquez (author of As the Future Catches You); P.W. Singer (Wired for War); Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talking about philanthropy and, in the second half of the talk, the importance of supporting great teachers; and, Seth Godin, drawing from his book Tribes to discuss how everyone has a leadership role in a Web 2.0 world.
Two talks with film previews were among the highlights of the late-afternoon/early evening session. Producer Jake Eberts provided a stunning nine-minute preview of Oceans, a beautifully moving underwater follow-up to Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s Winged Migration (scheduled for release in France this fall and a U.S. premiere on Earth Day—April 22—in 2010), and introduced Perrin to the audience. We didn’t even have a moment to catch our breath before Earth From Above photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand introduced his upcoming feature-length film Home, which will be released in its entirety online for free downloads in June 2009 and will also be distributed in a variety of other ways. Which raises an interesting question for libraries interested in creating learning spaces: might those with meeting rooms or more formal auditoriums plan ahead and access the free downloads so that library members and guests can gather to view the film and then engage in discussions immediately following the presentation? In an onsite-online world, the possibilities are increasing every day.
This being TED, surprises were the order of the day, and the Palm Springs version didn’t let us down: the first of the four days of TED talks ended with a brief and lively training session led by YouTube “Where in the Hell is Matt?” celebrity Matthew Harding, whose tongue-in-cheek videos show him dancing (intentionally) badly in visually stunning settings all over the world. Harding later confirmed, in a brief conversation, that his efforts to teach the nearly 1,700 audience members split between the two Southern California TED locations a few simple dance steps from India was his largest attempt to date. And even if we couldn’t dance to save our lives, we would have had to have been pretty curmudgeonly to not walk away from this “blended” joyful learning experience without large smiles and a sense of even better presentations waiting to be heard when everything reconvened this morning.
N.B.—To view TED talks, please visit the TED archives online; to participate in Linda Demmers February 18, 2009 “Creating Learning Spaces in Your Library” Infopeople webcast, please visit the Infopeople site.

ALA Midwinter Conference: Communicating with Library Members and Guests

While Infopeople continued responding to new requests for sessions of Cheryl Gould’s “Fully Engaged Customer Service” workshop in libraries throughout California, attendees at the American Library Association (ALA) 2009 Midwinter Conference in Denver earlier this week were talking about a different aspect of reaching library members and guests: through increasingly sophisticated online tools. Halfway between what we commonly refer to as Web 2.0 tools and what earlier in the conference were called Web 3.0 offerings, the more advanced of these innovations might leave us feeling as if they sense our information needs and are ready to meet them without formal prompting.
A rapid-fire and broad update on creative ways of reaching library members and guests was at the heart of OCLC’s 90-minute “Communicating with Your Users in Their Space” session Sunday morning, beginning with Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Digital Branch & Services Manager David Lee King’s summary of how libraries are using what he called “outposts” (Facebook pages, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and others)—those places where libraries go beyond their own web pages to reach their current and prospective customers. Those interested in viewing King’s examples will find his presentation on SlideShare.
Cindi Trainor, Coordinator for Library Technology and Data Services at Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, continued the session with an introduction to LibX, a free browser plug in which leaves us feeling as if the tool knows what we want even before we do—and proceeds to nudge us toward finding it much more quickly than we otherwise would. Of particular interest are the LibX “context menu,” “browser cues,” and “magic button,” which help users find resources they might otherwise miss both within their library and through offsite providers.
WebJunction Senior Manager, Partner Services Rachel Van Noord brought us back to customer service basics through her “Engage Your Community: Five Principles for Developing Online Learning Communities” presentation (accessible from a link on the right-hand side of a WebJunction documents page). And Slide #18 in the presentation—a “continuum of engagement” chart which illustrates the levels of participation through which we pass (exploring, connecting, responding, personalizing, consuming, contributing, collaborating, facilitating, and leading) offer a great overview of how we move from working as individuals to serving as part of a collective to “help others get the job done.” It also might serve as a useful tool for any of us wondering how engaged our members and guests really are. And what we might do to engage them more fully.

ALA Midwinter Conference Postscripts: It’s a Girl @ Denver Public Library

Denver’s Central Library this morning delivered the ultimate example of great customer service as the American Library Association (ALA) 2009 Midwinter Conference was nearing its conclusion: a newborn girl.
A security officer, assisting a woman who had gone into labor, put his coat on the floor so the mother would have a soft place just inside the east entrance to the building, and other staff members held up blankets to provide the woman with as much privacy as was possible. They remained in position while paramedics delivered the child, Denver Public Library Training and Development Coordinator Sandra Smith confirmed this afternoon. The mother and child reportedly are doing fine; no additional information was available out of deference to the mother and the latest Denver Public Library customer; and there are, without doubt, going to be plenty of online stories about the library staff’s quick reaction to something they probably did not study in library school.
It was already clear, even before I learned why Library Public Information Officer M. Celeste Jackson was being interviewed by a local news camera crew in the lobby of the building early this afternoon, that this is a library system with a commitment to innovation and customer service even in difficult financial times.
There is a colorful easy-to-read map available in the building’s lobby for those who want to take a self-guided tour. Staff in the first-floor children’s, reference, and popular materials (fiction, videos, DVDs, books on tape, and CDs) areas are well positioned to answer questions. And clean, easy to read signage provides quick guidance to how the library’s resources are spread throughout the building.
It doesn’t take long to spot a wonderfully retro solution to the perennial problem of not having enough staff to provide immediate face-to-face assistance. Where Ohio University Libraries has been experimenting with the creatively high tech idea of using Skype so in-building users can talk to staff without having to find a reference desk, Denver Public has, under signs with the words “Ask A Librarian/Pregunte A Un Bibliotecario,” hung phones on walls throughout the building.
Picking up one of these hotlines, I learned from a member of library staff that the service was instituted when staffing cutbacks prevented the library from providing the level of service they wanted to deliver. The system, he added, is generally well used and there have only been a few crank calls from those picking up the phones.
It’s also obvious that the Library somehow avoids a problem which plagues many large urban library systems: library users who routinely have to be forcibly removed from buildings for disruptive behavior. There were few signs of this problem at the Central Library today, and a few frequent library members and guests confirmed for me that they are feel safe and comfortable using the facility.
Smith credits it to the well trained Security staff and the policy of encouraging anyone displaying disruptive behavior to review and sign the Denver Public Behavioral Contract so they can remain on the premises: “With each individual, it spells out a plan that emphasizes the message that DPL will work to encourage and facilitate the customer’s return to the library after the specific concerns have been addressed. These contracts are supported by city attorney and local courts,” she noted.
It is clear, from talking with the library’s training and development coordinator, that there is an institution-wide commitment to customer service and the prerequisite training; all staff are currently in the process of attending in-house “Crucial Conversations” sessions, and a well developed curriculum of workshops on a variety of topics is at the heart of the system’s commitment to developing and nurturing a community of learners.
N.B.—For a California-based example of innovations in customer service, please visit the Infopeople website page for Cheryl Gould’s “Fully Engaged Customer Service,” being offered both in open-registration and contract versions.