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The scientific method has long reigned as the trusted way to test hypotheses so as to produce new knowledge. Shaped by the likes of Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, and Ronald A. Fisher, the idea of replicable controlled experiments with at least two treatments has dominated scientific research as a way of producing accepted truths about the world around us. However, there is growing interest in design thinking, a research method which encourages practitioners to reformulate goals, question requirements, empathize with users, consider divergent solutions.
I saw a change recently at the library I used to work and I got happily excited. It was a BIG change! It had nothing to do with my time working there and the change was wholly delightful.
It got me thinking...
The best part of librarianship for me is the way we are always pushing forward. While change is anathema for many people, I find it refreshing.
Some people see change in confrontational terms and so fear it. Rather than looking at change as expanding our knowledge, it becomes easier to feel threatened, think in terms of "this vs. that" and trot out worn-out tropes to try and put on the brakes. We've all seen discussions like this - fear of using apps with kids; fear of re-configuing a children's area or collection; fear of having diverse award winners; fear of creating breaks in programming. It may be only a voice or two but that fear of change is front and center.
If we didn't make changes, evolve our service and experiment to find better models, we wouldn't see the transformations that libraries of all types have been going through. And we wouldn't be serving the ever-changing demographics and needs of our community. We would simply stand still. Our professional growth, our service to our community would be frozen in a drop of fossilized resin.
I think often about change. As a career-long change-agent, I like to see work flow from a place of discovery, to a place of experimentation, to a place of knowledge that leads us inevitably to a place of discovery that starts the cycle all over again . It's that "pushing the envelope" that helps us adapt and create.
That envelope is seldom pushed alone. Co-workers and peers around the country may lead us or may follow our lead. We discover in a million big and small ways - through journals, social media, CE opportunities, partnerships or information outside of librarianship that awaken us to new possibilities - how we can tweak, and finangle, and build and tear down.
Change is done with reflection, planning, big sky visioning and preparation. It is also accomplished through patience, attention to detail, training of staff (and patrons!) and research. Combining the big and small helps to bring staff and patrons on board for success.
And most importantly, change never belongs to just one person. It is an accumulation of many threads woven together from many sources by many hands. Successful changes almost always owe a long line of people profound thanks for their efforts and foundational thinking.
I take great pleasure in watching sea changes happen at my former libraries after I leave any job. I am a huge believer in no one - and nothing that they have done or created - being irreplaceable or unchangable. Seeing how approaches, thinking, methods and models are grown differently, mightily and through new vision and ideas delights me.
While not all change is earth-shattering, all change is transforming. And that transformation is what pushes us from the past to meeting the future.
Oh, and what transformed that got me this excited at the library?
The new Kid Lab wall at La Crosse (WI) Public Library - a eye-catching, kid-catching magnetic chalkboard that gets school kids right in the action
Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. Our guest today is Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, a colleague at LPL who joined our team last August. Kelsey is a thoughtful, let's-work-on-this-together visionary who is active on the Friends of the CCBC board and in library work. Before she joined us here she worked in a library in a small community (pop. 5000) in WI. In this post she shares thoughts about the path to change in your SLP based on a workshop she did for librarians in our system.
What comes to your mind when you think about SLP? Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also a busy time of year, and sometimes stressful – for you, for other library staff, and sometimes even for patrons. While SLP maybe never be a smooth, stress-free zone, we can do a lot to make it easier on ourselves and everyone around us.
Let’s start by considering what we’re really trying to achieve - what YOU are really trying to achieve at your library. Promoting reading during the summer, of course. But what do you aspire to when it comes to your own SLP? Spreading the word about the importance of early literacy, and getting parents with babies to participate? Showing middle-grade readers that books can be funny and interesting? Just getting more people in the door? Being thoughtful about what YOU want to do with YOUR SLP will give you purpose, common staff goals, and direction. The Harwood Institute, currently partnering with ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, has a great worksheeton thinking about aspirations. Though the worksheet has a broader community focus, it can easily be adjusted to focus on SLP.
Another important step is to simplify. Do we really need so many sheets and rules and procedures when it comes to participation? Do we really need so many prizes and incentives to get kids to read? Or can we come up with ways to keep SLP fun and fresh and literacy-focused without jumping through so many hoops? Last summer, at my previous library, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make SLP work better for patrons and more sustainable for ourselves. We simplified procedures, reduced unnecessary elements, and cut way back on incentives. The results were that kids continued their enthusiastic participation, parents were happy to have less plastic junk, and staff had a much easier time registering participants, explaining the program, and answering questions. Streamlining made everyone happy. Making things less complicated doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy or letting our patrons down. It means we’re being realistic about what we can accomplish, and being thoughtful about sustainable practices.
Finally, let’s talk about prizes. Lots of libraries use them, and that’s okay. There is no prize-shaming here. But are there better ways for us to use incentives when it comes to SLP? I’ve recently noticed several libraries changing the way they incentivize SLP, with fantastic results. Some are thinking about ways they can incorporate altruism, with the “prize” being a Friends-funded donation to a community organization of the child’s choice. Some are giving away books as an incentive. Some are doing away with prizes altogether, focusing on recognition and activity. This past summer in La Crosse, kids could add a sticker to help cover a paper robot on the wall. Research shows that extrinsic motivation, which is the drive to do something because of an external reward, is far less effective than intrinsic motivation, which drives us to do something because we love it. Prizes tap into extrinsic motivation, and while that’s not bad, I believe we can find more effective ways to get kids engaged in literacy. Ways that remind them reading is a fantastic experience in itself.
Like most of you, we look closely at our collections, their arrangement and their kid-friendliness. We successfully morphed our Picture Book collection into Picture Book City "neighborhoods" and stopped fighting board books and made them 100% browseable in easy-to-access bins - both great "accessibility" decisions.
Since Alan, our new head of Collection Management (CM), started two years ago - and we changed our ILS - these types of changes have been far easier. Why? He has two kids and he really "gets" youth services. He knows how challenging big collections are for children seeking information and favorite books. The Dewey Decimal and multiple fiction collections with strange letters and symbols sitting atop author's last names and so.many.books.everywhere. can make a library visit overwhelming.
Our newest collection update was something that Al suggested as soon as he started working here. "Why," he mused, "don't you just color code the spine labels for your different fiction collections (early readers, graphic novels, chapter books, illustrated fiction)?" Why indeed. This coincided with an observation I made when I had first started. Since our catalog clearly spells out what particular fiction collection a book is located in (thank you automation), why do we need to even have a suffix (+, P, E, jgn or jif) as part of the call number in the catalog? We could save cataloging time by simply going suffix-less in the call number field.
Then, like peanut butter and chocolate running into each other and producing a peanut butter cup, we realized that if we took our two ideas (colored labels and no call number suffix on both books and in the catalog) we would save a ton of processing time and reach a hoped for goal- easy kids access. Al's idea sparked us!
We designated unique colors for each of our fiction collections - and while we were at it divided out our chapter book collection into tween and chapter books: early readers = pink; jgn = red; illustrated fiction = purple; chapter = green; tween =orange. Then we simply added the appropriately colored overlays to our existing collections and did global changes to wipe out the suffixes in the catalog's call number field (there's that slick new ILS!). All new books come down from CM without a suffix ((E, +, jgn, jif) - the spine label simply has the first three letters of the author's last name or main entry. YS staff quickly determines which fiction collection each belongs in, puts on a colored overlay and batch updates the catalog.
Colored overlays show what collection books belong to. Top three books display sleek new suffix-less labels!
Kids (and shelvers!) more easily can spot the types of books they are looking for.
The colored collections make a quick shorthand way for desk staffers to direct kids to books ("Let's find that in the red section where graphic novels are.") ,
Our Collection Management catalogers and processors no longer have to agonize over exactly which collection a book fits in or do small batch processing to cope with the differences between fiction collection labels.
If we think a book would be better in a different collection, we simply make a quick change in overlays and a catalog update.
The overlays themselves - which we have used on other collections around the library - are long lasting but still peel-offable if we want to do a reclass of individual books.
The Economist has recently popularised the notion that patents are bad for innovation. Is this right? In my view, this assessment results from too high an expectation of what should be achieved by patents or other intellectual property. Critics of intellectual property rights seem to think that they should be tested by whether they actually increase creativity.
The United States faces a paradox: being on the cutting edge of technology seems to have in recent years only a marginal effect on job creation. The history books and our traditional economic theories seem to have failed us – whereas before, technological revolutions usually led to tremendous growth in both GNP and employment, now, on the eve of some of the most impressive innovations we’ve ever seen, the economy and employment are recovering since the 2008 “Great Recession” at the slowest rate since the Depression.
Innovation is a primary driver of economic growth and of the rise in living standards, and a substantial body of research has been devoted to documenting the welfare benefits from it (an example being Trajtenberg’s 1989 study). Few areas have experienced more rapid innovation than the Personal Computers (PC) industry, with much of this progress being associated with a particular component, the Central Processing Unit (CPU). The past few decades had seen a consistent process of CPU innovation, in line with Moore’s Law: the observation that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every 18-24 months (see figure below). This remarkable innovation process has clearly benefitted society in many, profound ways.
A notable feature of this innovation process is that a new PC is often considered “obsolete” within a very short period of time, leading to the rapid elimination of non-frontier products from the shelf. This happens despite the heterogeneity of PC consumers: while some (e.g., engineers or gamers) have a high willingness-to-pay for cutting edge PCs, many consumers perform only basic computing tasks, such as word processing and Web browsing, that require modest computing power. A PC that used to be on the shelf, say, three years ago, would still adequately perform such basic tasks today. The fact that such PCs are no longer available (except via a secondary market for used PCs which remains largely undeveloped) raises a natural question: is there something inefficient about the massive elimination of products that can still meet the needs of large masses of consumers?
Consider, for example, a consumer whose currently-owned, four-year old laptop PC must be replaced since it was severely damaged. Suppose that this consumer has modest computing-power needs, and would have been perfectly happy to keep using the old laptop, had it remained functional. This consumer cannot purchase the old model since it has long vanished from the shelf. Instead, she must purchase a new laptop model, and pay for much more computing power than she actually needs. Could it be, then, that some consumers are actually hurt by innovation?
A natural response to this concern might be that the elimination of older PC models from the shelves likely indicates that demand for them is low. After all, if we believe in markets, we may think that high levels of demand for something would provide ample incentives for firms to offer it. This intuition, however, is problematic: as shown in seminal theoretical work by Nobel Prize laureate Michael Spence, the set of products offered in an oligopoly equilibrium need not be efficient due to the misalignment of private and social incentives. The possibility that yesterday’s PCs vanish from the shelf “too fast” cannot, therefore, be ruled out by economic theory alone, motivating empirical research.
A recent article addresses this question by applying a retrospective analysis of the U.S. Home Personal Computer market during the years 2001-2004. Data analysis is used to explore the nature of consumers’ demand for PCs, and firms’ incentives to offer different types of products. Product obsolescence is found to be a real issue: the average household’s willingness-to-pay for a given PC model is estimated to drop by 257 $US as the model ages by one year. Nonetheless, substantial heterogeneity is detected: some consumers’ valuation of a PC drops at a much faster rate, while from the perspective of other consumers, PCs becomes “obsolete” at a much lower pace.
The paper focuses on a leading innovation: Intel’s introduction of its Pentium M® chip, widely considered as a landmark in mobile computing. This innovation is found to have crowded out laptops based on older Intel technologies, such as the Pentium III® and Pentium 4®. It is also found to have made a substantial contribution to the aggregate consumer surplus, boosting it by 3.2%- 6.3%.
These substantial aggregatebenefits were, however, far from being uniform across different consumer types: the bulk of the benefits were enjoyed by the 20% least price-sensitive households, while the benefits to the remaining 80% were small and sometimes negligible. The analysis also shows that the benefits from innovation could have “trickled down” to the masses of price-sensitive households, had the older laptop models been allowed to remain on the shelf, alongside the cutting-edge ones. This would have happened since the presence of the new models would have exerted a downward pressure on the prices of older models. In the market equilibrium, this channel is shut down, since the older laptops promptly disappear.
Importantly, while the analysis shows that some consumers benefit from innovation much more than others, no consumers were found to be actually hurt by it. Moreover, the elimination of the older laptops was not found to be inefficient: the social benefits from keeping such laptops on the shelf would have been largely offset by fixed supplier costs.
So what do we make of this analysis? The main takeaway is that one has to go beyond aggregate benefits and consider the heterogeneous effects of innovation on different consumer types, and the possibility that rapid elimination of basic configurations prevents the benefits from trickling down to price-sensitive consumers. Just the same, the paper’s analysis is constrained by its focus on short-run benefits. In particular, it misses certain long-term benefits from innovation, such as complementary innovations in software that are likely to trickle down to all consumer types. Additional research is, therefore, needed in order to fully appreciate the dramatic contribution of innovation in personal computing to economic growth and welfare.
I love technology even when I'm less than facile with it. Having come from the horse and buggy days when overdue notices were handwritten, check-out cards (by the thousands) were hand alphabetized for each due date and slowly searched to unite card with returned item, and phone notices ate up a morning each week, how can I not love?
Back in the day, to reach out to your colleagues meant a drive or a long-distance phone call. It wasn't unusual for a director, sweating the bottom line, to ask you to use snail mail. Not exactly conducive to a conversation.
Technology has been powering our work and connectivity since the '80s. Each year it gets better, faster and more interwoven. Social media gets us brainstorming, learning, commiserating and celebrating with pals, new and old, near and far. Travis Jonker just wrote this article on power-using. Combine that with chats, google doc collaboration and we can be right there with each other all the time. I'm with you, buddy!
Bringing technology into our work with kids has also been great. Watching parents using iPads with their kids, kids gaming and solving in Minecraft, kids learning animation, coding, filmmaking, using iPads for trivia/scavenger hunts on tours and more in libraries (check out Jbrary's recent post on iPad programs) has been way exciting. I will never be the Luddite that screams "Books! Books! Nothin' but books!" There is room for all the ways to interact with print and discover and learn information.
So where is all this going? Well with new iPhone I bought last night in hand, for the first time I am free to blog wherever and whenever. So I did, just to see if I could!
Sigh! Technology I heart you!
[Although I couldn't *quite* figure out how to get the links and photo in...more study ahead!)
Hi, folks, as promised my amazing chicken doodle project will be featured at the end of this post! I am over the top busy right now, but that is a good thing. This week I continue my "Chicken by Chicken" series. This week's topic I'm talking about this Mess: "book products," Kindle, and why I feel there is big time mucking up going on with something I love. I'm in a ranting/ramble mood. I hope something in here resonates with you.
I'm totally not against writers making money. In fact, I am totally for it, but the technology books has sort of ruined books for now. I have this thing called the Kindle. I buy books on said Kindle. I sell books on the Kindle. I use it daily. But I am as not as happy as I could be! I have formed an opinion. I love this Kindle technology, but I hate the business side of the Kindle, that has turned book selling into a big box store enterprise with a store interface that is over the top annoying. The wonky Kindle interface makes finding good books VERY difficult. You can't trust the reviews because businesses exist to make reviews. You can't trust the ratings--people pay for stacks of ratings.You can't trust the search or rank features because Amazon is a publisher too and, yeah, they want to sell their books most-est....
So I'm stuck in a bookstore that has an agenda, and that agenda is to deliver me the content they love (cough,they've negotiated the best deals with the publishers), and curtail my access to any other content. Let me say this here: superior technology is not ruining the pleasure of buying books, it's the inferior book business of the book technological innovators. These technology gurus have invented an awesome way to deliver books to us all. I totally cheer that, but dang it, they are not content delivery innovators. If I could buy a Kindle and rip out their "buyer" interface I would do it in instant. I want Kindle to change.
I want to buy books from whoever I want on the Kindle, from Mom and Pop Bookstore on the Kindle. Period. I should be able to put what ever book buyer interface I want on my Kindle! You remember when every had to use Explorer? That is so over. Currently, I use Google to find books. I use bloggers to find books I want to read. I ask my friends what is hot. It's a way better method than the Kindle store. My method is OK but not great. Technology innovators please figure out a way to separate the book interface from the store interface! Can you imagine if the printing press had locked up selling only specific content back in the day? Boo, Kindle. Boo.
Here's the best way to buy books. Every reader in the world knows this. Mom and Pop decide to open a bookstore. They decide to make it a fun place to serve coffee and offer books. They do not sell tons of toys, games, and Doctor Who cookie jars (Okay, I will allow the cookie jars because I am a fan.) Mom and Pop read all the time. All their friends read. They love to chat up books. Their employees read. This crowd does not care who wrote the book, who published the book, how much marketing was spent on the book. They care that they like the book. They care that they offer books they hate too because these folks ought to have a free speech flag flying above their door. I love Mom and Pop.
The downside of Mom and Pop, they sell a book for $20 that can be purchased on the Kindle for $3. Overhead is a problem. Listen to me, we all have fewer dollars to pass around. This is a growing trend. I hear Marie Antoinette telling me to eat cake if I don't have bread, and we all know how it turned out for her. We need an innovative online way to sell content to readers on the Kindle that respects that some of us lack moola. And for me from small city Texas without even an independent bookstore,
I need everyday folk access.I want independent stores on my Kindle. Allow the middle man into your business, kind of like channels on TV. Make it happen.
Okay, rant is over. I feel better. I will be back next week with more of my series.
Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. This series of posts looks at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. Where are we going and how do we get where we want to be? That's a question I ask myself all the time - and most especially, in thinking about summer library programs. Two decades ago, I felt like we were on a treadmill of summer madness - how could we get off and change how we did the program to a model that was fun and worthwhile for kids and staff?
The people I worked with joined me in asking questions and looking at the answers as well as the hopes we had. It has led to twenty years of reformatting and evolving the way we do SLP and that change has been part of our planning in every job I've had ever since.
It starts with questions for which no one answer exists. Each library is unique in how the library and community come together. Here's a few questions and some suggestions on what you might do to guide your change process towards making SLP more meaningful at your library.
Begin (or continue) to ask questions:
Are you reaching the age groups you want?
Running registrations for storytimes or events that add to workload?
Constant programming or could you add more breaks?
Are programs generating increased use/circ by kids?
Is your registration or reading record process cumbersome?
Is what you are doing fitting in with library goals or school goals?
Are the kids focusing on reading or prizes?
How competitive do you want your program to be?
Think about what you are doing now and why you are doing it :
* it satisfies kids
*you've always done it this way
* it satisfies you
* it satisfies parents
* it works
* it doesn’t work but staff or administration REALLY like it
Think about your goals and the outcomes you want and how they can be accomplished.
For instance, if you want to:
1) Reach out to as many kids as possible?
In person contact to spread the word on SLP is vital (School promo visits/spring school visits or class visits)
Cooperate with PTOs to spread word
Get info to schools (bookmarks) prior to parent teacher conferences
Involve families (parents, preschoolers & readers in program to spread the word) Spread the word at other community spots where kids are: child care centers, Boys and Girls's Clubs etc
2) Give the kids a fun experience
Simplify paperwork so focus is on kids who come in, not busywork
Take time for events you and kids enjoy (booktalking; programs); cut down on other unnecessary programs or requirements
Experiment with the theme and delivery – or not - of prizes or rewards
3) Get the kids reading:
Do lots of reader’s advisory special displays
Let kids review books
Do lots of “seat-to-feet” service rather than hugging the desk Create experiences that put kids and books together (books at programs for check-out; stealthy games)
4) Make the program low-stress for kids
De-emphasize or eliminate competitive aspects (most books read, etc)
Let kids read at own pace and in own interest areas Consider library use and experiential activities within the library as an achievable outcome
Allow a break from school-year type demands
Let kids read at various levels and formats
Recognize the importance of being read to for preschooler & poor readers
5) Make the program low-stress for staff
Keep record keeping simple
Think about whether elements like oral reports; genre reading; prizes are necessary to the successful accomplishment of encouraging kids to read in the summer
Look for ways to encourage cooperation with the community or schools to support kids & reading (mutual booklists; beginning of school rewards; programs; Park & Rec)
6) Be creative, inventive and have fun
Recognize that libraries are more than books Embrace the many formats (inc. digital) and ways that kids come to literacy - it isn't just about reading
Picture yourself as a promoter and less as a record keeper
Imagine yourself as marketing guru and your product as reading
Give yourself permission to innovate
Finally, learn when to say when!
It’s important to recognize when elements of your program are no longer effective and to begin planning to change
Establish parent/child focus group to talk about summer
Talk to school colleagues for scuttlebutt on SLP
Don’t be afraidto end elements that no longer work or seek innovative solutions How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power Shaking Up SLP - School Power Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change.
In the past, only summer reading program attendance was recognized and counted. You did a winter reading program? Too bad. Not reportable. You did a fall or spring reading program? So sad.
But after discussions with youth librarians around the state, Youth Services and Special Needs consultant Tessa Michaelson Schmidt and her Department of Public Instruction (DPI) colleagues took a different approach - one based on what is really happening in libraries around the state and what research indicates are ways in which programs in libraries are evolving. Now we can count any reading program - summer or not (referred to as "literacy offerings").
That same discussion with frontline library youth staff and careful thought resulted in some deep thoughts and research into reading programs - summer, spring, winter or fall. Last year, DPI published an amazing document put together by Tessa - Offering Library Reading Programs: Top Ten Tips for Librarians - that is quietly knocking the socks off librarians in our state. Reading choice?!?! No prizes?!?! Aligning the reading program with the schools' and public library's mission?!?! Oh yeah, baby!
Best of all the links here point us to research to buttress what we are doing when we start changing how we go about evolving our summer library program. Research and writing on change ease our work in evolving library reading programs by guiding us into tested "this is why this works" and give us needed ammunition to change hearts and minds of our co-workers and management.
This document and the research links can serve us as we shake up our SLP.
Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change.
Today's post is from Leah Langby , the Youth Services Coordinator for the Indianhead Library System, a ten county consortium in northwestern Wisconsin. She is also a savvy, supportive and sharp-as-a-tack library advocate and leader who isn't afraid to open the door and gently offer information that leads to change. She is active in many arenas and is currently chair-elect of YSS, our WLA youth section. Check out the system blog she oversees - Keeping Up with Kids - and get it on your feeds!
Every year in the dead of winter, one of the brightest spots is getting together with youth services librarians from around the region for a face-to-face enthusiasm-and-idea-generating extravaganza, known as the Summer Library Program workshop. For years, we’ve had a great time at this workshop, laughing together, getting inspired with ideas for projects and programs and promotions. Having a roomful of youth services librarians is a definite recipe for plenty of energy and collaboration, and talking about the summer programs seems to bring out the best of that.
This year, I wanted to nudge us all along a little bit more, thinking about the Summer Library Program in the context of all of youth services, preventing burnout, and re-thinking some of the things we’ve always done. Prizes or no prizes? How much time to spend on those decorations? How can we simplify? How can we reach out to our community for collaboration, and to reach kids who might not be getting to the library? How can we make our efforts intentional and effective? I wanted to do that, but still maintain the festive, energetic, collaborative and mutually supportive atmosphere that sustains us all through the long winter months.
Some of my colleagues in the state who have been thinking about all of these SLP/youth services issues in a smart way were generous enough to come to my system to talk about some of those big issues. A HUGE shout-out to Shawn Brommer and Sue Abrahamson for gently and humorously helping us feel mighty, consider our aspirations and our strengths, and think about the “sacred cows” we could consider putting out to pasture. After a two-hour session exploring our super-hero powers with Shawn and Sue, we had several break-out sessions.
I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of the amazing librarians in our system who stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park, presenting panels on everything from teen volunteers and programs to collaboration to outreach to stealth programs to the whys and hows of decorations and performers. Two of the breakout sessions were also hosted by a local maker-space denizen, who showed us some playful ways to interact with problem-solving with kids. I tried to provide presenters with clear expectations beforehand (this is a new development for me, and it is pretty revolutionary how well it works!). Almost all of these sessions were about the summer, but also so much more! It was amazing to tap into the skills, know-how, and experience of the people right here in our system.
I’ve had more positive feedback from this one workshop/mini-conference than about any other workshop I’ve ever had in my entire 10-year history of planning and implementing workshops (of all kinds). People were stopping by my office, nearly floating off the floor with excitement about ways they were planning to make their programs last year-round, reach out to their communities, and get more people engaged with the library and reading. Hooray! It might be that there is no going back!
Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. Sue Abrahamson is a children's librarian at Waupaca Area Library in Wisconsin. She is a smart, compassionate librarian and leader who isn't afraid to tilt at windmills and slay a few sacred cows Here are a few she described slaying last summer: little or no SLP decorating; extending the SLP from 8 weeks to the entire summer; only books for prizes (when the staff solicited community partners for money specifically to buy books, the library received $2375!);set up an experiment-a-day to engage kids in the SLP theme; did away with bulletin boards. In this post she shares a deeper connection to year round literacy that is the result of - and sets the stage for - outside-the-box schoolage summer reading reading success. By changing how they approach summer reading, Sue and staff have created a richer, deeper connection to the schools - one where the schools know exactly how the library supports the school's work with literacy and reading.
Good Morning Friends! Please fill your coffee cup and spend five minutes reading my story. Waupaca, WI - January 20, 2015 Today is the one day set aside in January that I spend the day (my co-worker, Jan, spent 2 hours, too) at our local elementary school reading to classes as part of their PBIS reward system. Students earn "Rascal Tickets" by working hard, doing great things, and following the "Rascal Way." They can spend their tickets in many ways, but one way is to save them up and redeem 25 tickets for the public librarian to come to read a story to their class. Teachers can sign up for Public Librarian Visits on a Google Spreadsheet that is shared with all school staff and public library personnel.
On this day, Sue read in 7 classrooms; Jan read in 3 classrooms. Sue also scheduled three sessions to meet with school personnel: The gym teacher needed help figuring out how to download ebooks from the library on her new iPad; the Reading Specialist talked about testing and the upcoming school sponsored family reading night that now has the "Every Hero" theme; and the Principal and Vice-Principal met with me to talk about RtI and the relationship they have with the public library and to give me some of their thoughts for our upcoming summit.
The Principal told me that our success first came by his understanding of what we do at the library and how it helps his students and their families. As a new principal, (and new, too, to elementary school) he heard from bus drivers, teachers and parents about things happening at the public library. He felt he needed to understand what sort of relationship was already forged and why it was so critically important that people would be calling him about it so often.
He also commented that he thinks having a librarian with a background in education was helpful. (I worked at the school before taking the job at the library.) Repeatedly he credited my personality and enthusiasm for working together. He said that it was clear to him that my experience, my passion for helping his students and families learn together outside the school day, my involvement with the Parent Teacher Group, and that I took every opportunity that availed itself to make the school and the public library visually connected demonstrated clearly that we had a shared vision.
The Vice-Principal spoke from the heart about how their PBIS program works to create a culture of support for learning, not just at school but everywhere in the community. This includes everything from character development to literacy skills, helping students grow and learn their whole lives long into healthy, successful adults.
I read John Rocco's book, Blizzard, to all the students today to introduce the "Every Hero Has a Story" theme. It was the perfect story to tell for a variety of grades. It gave us the chance to talk about what makes a person a hero. It gave students the opportunity to think of people they know who act heroically. It told the story of a 10-year-old hero who thought outside-the-box to problem-solve in a crisis situation, who put the needs of other ahead of his own, and who grew up to be an author and father who shared his personal story so others can find the hero in themselves. Hope you can read it soon!
Youth librarians have a tool belt full of skills that make us successful working with kids. I'm thinking programming, eagle-eye/mind youth literature chops, organization and planning, creativity, advocacy, child development and behavior management know-how, budgeting, PR, partnership-making, IF, digital chops and far-future seeing.
But I have to say the one that is perhaps the dearest to my heart and present in the very most successful youth librarians (and really anyone who works with kids) may be the simplest and the one most taken for granted - translating adult concepts into readily understandable language that kids "get" immediately.
This isn't talking down to kids in a babyish or patronizing way. It's simply taking something complex - whether a word or concept - and making it kid-friendly/understandable.
It's easy when we get into any occupation, hobby group or organization, to quickly become submerged into the jargon associated with that activity. I mean it's just the shorthand used with those we are in close contact with so we can zip through what we're doing. I would for-instance ALA's many unit acronyms that, while they scare some librarians, are really a quick way to communicate.
I applaud youth librarians who come up with great ways to let kids know how our library works or to introduce a concept. Here are a few samples from our shop.
How This Whole Library Thing Works: During field trips, we ask the kids who the books belong to (the librarians? Nooooooo; the library? Noooooo; You? YESSSSS!!!!) The books belong to and are shared by all the kids and grownups in the community! Then we tell the kids them the library is like a house that the books live in. But books love to visit with kids at their house. With a library card, children can take home materials for a nice visit. And, just like a visit from a friend (we all know that visiting friends don't stay forever), the books have to return home to the library after a few weeks so they can visit with other children.
Old Maps = Google Earth? During a tour with middle schoolers of our amazing archives, our archivist was showing the kids a huge old map book used for fire insurance purposes. Peeking over her shoulder, it struck me how to make the experience connect for the kids. Our archivist facebooked: "Shout out to my colleague Marge Loch-Wouters - when I was showing groups of 7th graders a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, Marge summed it up by saying "This map is like an ancient Google Earth image." Nailed it!"
The Animals Made Us Do It When we closed off a running/jumping/general amok portion of our big boat, the preschoolers were a bit taken aback. But our colleague Brooke came up with a great way to navigate them through the change. She shared with the team: "I’ve started calling it our animal boat. Because all of our animals decided they needed a place to live, so they picked the boat. The other side is our “people boat”. If they say they want to go up to the giraffe I just ask, 'Are you an animal? No, you’re a person, silly!' "
How to Say It So Kids Listen/Understand In her "Management with an Iron Fist" series and soon to be taught CE course and day-to-day work, colleague Bryce breaks down how to communicate in a way that kids can easily understand and get the behavior you expect. These now classic posts break it down.
What do you say to help kids understand how and why the library works that translates into real-kid-world understanding?
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For me, one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager is working to reach beyond what is in front of us and visioning out towards the future. It is so deuced easy to start slipping into the quicksand of desk work, deadlines, tough patron interactions, cranky colleagues, and the day-to-day grind. As we slip further in, energy is expended in just trying to get through the hour, the day, the week, the month.
Vision? I got no time for that!
Yet, it is this big picture thinking that really informs and advances our services. Staff at all levels at libraries of all sizes that practice big picture thinking and visioning create innovative, reflective, responsive and deep library services.
I have been thinking alot about this over the past month since attending the School Library Journal Think Tank. The speakers, the library leaders I chatted with and worked with that day and the think tank itself were all helping us focus on that larger picture. Inspirational? Oh yes. Transformative? Uh-huh? Usable? Absolutely.
Our keynote speech was by Pan Sandian Smith of Colorado's Anythink Libraries. Her words lit a fire for me. Joanna wrote a blog post at So-Cal Library Connections on the day summarizing speakers and including reports from the Think Tank unconference as well. Other reports came from Amy at Show Me Librarian (here, here and here) and Michelle at Lit Chat for Kids. Those big picture thoughts surrounded us and enlivened us. They gave me more than food for thought. Linda Braun's recent post at YALSA also underscored the importance of thinking big and deep and far beyond the day-to-day and into the future.
All these resources helped me focus and re-commit to the big picture at our library. We have now formed three "mini-teams" in our department. Each two person team focuses on an age group - preschool; school-age; teen/tween. We meet weekly and are discussing all aspects of service to each age group from programs, collections, outreach, reader's advisory, and stealth programs to PR, special initiatives, focus and dreams. We share the notes from the mini-meetings among us and have already begun the delightful work of visioning and big picture thinking. We'll plunge into summer with a much clearer picture of where we want to go and how we might do it.
In fall, we'll bring all the team together off-site for a half-day to reflect, brainstorm and bring these big picture views together and see where we want to go as a department. I am excited to help bring this focus further out.
While I am fond of my nose, it seldom brings me to a larger view of the youth librarianship world. Thank goodness my colleagues help inspire me so that I can help all of us look farther, longer, deeper and fresher!
Today, I’m participating in the blog series, “Show Me the Awesome!” that was started by Kelly, Liz, and Sophie. It's a chance to step up and talk about something special that you've done or want to promote, for instance. For more AWESOME, please check over at their sites for the official link-up. Also, don’t forget the tag #30awesome on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and/or Instagram if you’re liking what you’re reading and want to talk about it!
One of the things I'm proudest of in my career is my success building partnerships and working with public schools in my communities. I didn't think too much about it until I started to tune into the fact that colleagues seemed to have far fewer happy collaboration stories than I did.
Not only far fewer happy stories but also far more horror stories. Did I just always luck out and get jobs in great communities with uber-responsive schools? Hmmm. I don't think so.
My secret has been confidence, dogged persistence and patience. Each time I move into a community, I make appointments to meet individually with all the principals for a chat. I also meet with school media colleagues. If I have a question about the reading curriculum, I meet with the reading teachers. If I am wondering about a policy or subject being taught with third graders I reach out to those teachers. I drive wherever in the school district I need to go to be there rather than asking the staff to come find me.
What is the subject of most of these meetings? I introduce myself. I ask, "What can I do for you?" and we chat about the library and their dreams, concerns, pressures and how we might work together. I don't bring ideas as much as let my colleagues know I am there to support them and make magic happen when they are ready.
Everybody is my potential partner and colleague - not just LMC colleagues - but everybody.
I work with and will put together or join in meetings with reading coordinators, LMC folks, curriculum folks, principals, grade level teachers to talk about mutual concerns and mull ideas. If I can't get my foot in the door, I enlist my director or a board member with strong school ties to help me open the door.
One director set up a meeting with the principals, curriculum director, LMC folks, superintendent that resulted in decades of positive collaborative work (mutual programs, schools presenting programs at the library, school vans delivering library materials to the schools, shared collections and more). The tenor was so positive that staffers took it for granted that we would be there for them and the partnerships were dynamic - kids won far more than we did in this situation.
I also chat with classroom teachers who come into the public library - listen to what they need and ask for suggestions for what we might do to help them in their work. I make sure that I have at least one school staff advocate for the public library in every school and we build from there. I make sure that I am there for them as much as they are there for me. Ideas have to be created equally and honored equally. Listening and creating together is key.
If the relationship works, I also meet with our school superintendent as a colleague - not as a lesser asking to speak with someone far above me - but as an equal. I make the case for our mutual work in literacy and how the public library is the school's best friend. And on we go from there.
Is it easy? No, it takes time, the ability to listen and understand needs far different than our public library needs. It takes commitment and the ability to keep knocking on doors until the first one opens. Once that starts, more doors open and then more. Partnership ideas sprout up and success builds on success.
Another key ingredient: I don't make demands or work on a proposal before I meet with school folks. First we just chat and look for mutual areas of benefit. From that point we start to explore ideas for action . It's a delicate dance to honor both of our needs and perspectives but once started, it just keeps rolling. I often hear people say "Well, I created this and brought it to the schools, and nobody liked it or wanted it." Creating on your own in a partnership isn't a collaboration- it's looking in the mirror. It may please you, but will it really answer a need that schools have?
When I moved to my present job almost five years ago, I had alot of trepidation. I left a hugely strong collaborative partnership of decades at my last job. There was a little collaboration happening at this new job with the schools. Could I start all over to strengthen the ties and encourage my team? The answer is a resounding yes. First with one principal who opened the door to others. Then with a couple of the LMC people who met and planned with us. Now with classroom teachers. Once more the partnerships and collaboration are growing and strengthening. My team is stepping up and out as partners and developing even stronger ties and initiatives.
I think my mantra on this is from the Galaxy Quest movie: "Never give up; never surrender". It's what has made the collaboration with schools an ever-present awesome in my work. To see more tips, stop by my recent series on real-world, real-life suggestions for collaborative work. It can be done and we all can be awesome at it!
You did it!! You've got it! Lotta hard work in back of you. Lotta hard work ahead. But really, it's all good. You are going to be stepping up and out and showing your stuff. Digging into a job - hopefully sooner rather than later. Digging further into learning and networking. And truly, I hope you'll be showing your stuff to us all.
I'm always inspired by the energy, new passions and thoughtfulness of new librarians. And I want to echo what R. David Lankes wrote to the Syracuse graduates in his recent post: don't wait to break barriers, invent new ways of doing library work good, or pushing the envelope of fantastic. Leap for it, push for it, do it. Do it now.
We sometimes get lost in the minutiae of our masters work and easily believe that we aren't really learning anything..."I could teach myself this!" kind of attitude. You get out, get that first professional job and think, "Whoa, I really didn't learn what I needed to know to face this crazy person or this screaming dad!".
But you did learn exactly what you needed to be successful - research skills, problem solving, the big picture of librarianship and it's history, how to learn more on any subject and skill and a critical eye to determine which way is best to go to make libraries more..better...indispensible. And you did it in that atmosphere of higher learning that surrounded you with mentors, peers and discussions that formed your library worldview.
Now take that knowledge and keep building on it and push ahead and lead now. Don't wait until some old guy like me says, "Well, I think you're ready to be listened to." Go out and grab the brass ring now and shine, shine, shine.
Don't wait for permission - start that blog or tumblr. Leap into Facebook's ALA Think Tank group or Friend Feed's Library Society of the World or Flannel Friday. Start collaborating within Google groups or Twitter. Propose programs. Share thoughts. Pursue big ideas.
Fail. Learn. Try again. Succeed. Fail. Retrack. Tinker. Try again. Succeed. Listen, listen, listen. Learn, learn, learn. And lead and imagine and invent. And then share, share, share.
I am learning so much right now from current MLIS students and shiny new librarians of one, two, three, four and five years experience. After thirty seven years in the biz, you all are rocking my world and keeping me fresh and energized.
So give yourself permission to be that innovator, that mover and shaker and emerging leader. Don't be shy. Step right out, step right up and show your stuff. The library world is waiting for you.And so am I! Image from Pixabay http://pixabay.com/Display CommentsAdd a Comment
Materials ready for one of our small branch libraries
The time is nearly here. The supplies are laid in, the publicity out, the school promo visits just about complete, the database ready, contacts made with groups who come with kids-in-care to get them oriented and staff keen-eyed (or steely-eyed as the case may be). But as prepared as we are, I still like to see what's out there that you all are doing. As I was reading my feeds (here we pause for the image and book that inevitably pops into my head when I think about my RSS feeds), I came across a colleague's description of her summer reading programs. While it was pretty darn nice to see that she had adapted two of the formats we have been using over the years there was a better bonus for me: she shared two other designs for programs (daycares and super readers) that were new to me and that I like quite a bit.
I really appreciate hearing and reading about what other librarians are doing to make summer fun for kids - and staff! Besides reading blog posts, I am lucky enough to travel widely when wearing my hat as an itinerate workshop presenter around my state and region*. And while I share ideas we have tried, I also pick up ideas others have used to make their summer reading or library programs better and more effective.
And how do we get at effectiveness - especially during summer when our days are filled with families, kids, daycares, slp and programs, programs, programs?
I look for posts or listen to people who tell me about how:
a decision has resulted in more participation by the kids
registration has been simplified or tossed out and the result
how prizes have been considered and the results of any change
strategies that have providing staffing relief really worked
value has been added to a program through a simple innovation
You, my friends, are my guides to change and making SLP more fun and less onerous. These 8-12 weeks should not over-run our thoughts, energies, and ability to create powerful children's and teen services magic year-round. When we share our stuff, we make it easier to keep summer in perspective and bring great joy to the process.
Here's hoping you summer is joy-filled, kid-filled and a time to rise above the chaos to see just what good work you are doing for your communities. Now let's dig in!
*In the spirit of May's 30 Days of Awesome posts started by Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen and Liz Burns, I share that I present half and full day workshops and presentations for systems and at conferences that include Rethinking Summer Reading; Programming Mojo; The Big Link: Successful School Public Library Partnerships; Stealth Programming; Everyday Advocacy; Creating Amazing Youth Services; Undoing Dewey and anything else that helps me guide participants in the Marge-way of delving deep into why we do what we do and how to do it better.
The concepts of creating school-age programs that take a reasonable amount of preparation time, are engaging and lead to literacy, and allow kids the freedom to explore within the program have been buzzing around in my conversations with colleagues and tweeps over the past few months. We all are exploring how, in a period of tight budgets and staff time, we can make the fun happen without killing ourselves. How can we "unprogram" ourselves - and our programs?
Program preparation for school age programs is important but where is the line drawn when the time spent preparing is two, three, five, or even ten times more than the actual program length itself? Are we, as programmers, leading the charge in the program or empowering the kids in their exploration - are we guides or drill sargeants? Is there a way to organically link the books and materials that surround us every day into the programs and then back again to the collections so that kids understand the fundamental amazingness of the library and its resources?
These questions have led to many conversations and ideas. One of the people I have looked to during this conversation is Amy Koester over at the Show Me Librarian. And now Amy and I would like you to join this conversation at ALA in a few weeks. We will be presenting a 45 minute "Conversation Starter" on Monday July 1 at 1:30 pm at the Mc Cormick Center Rm S102D.
During this time we want to explore with you ideas on making programming more rich while keeping preparation in perspective. We'll also share resources that have helped us free ourselves and keep programming and preparation in perspective in our necks of the woods.
We think it's high time we start talking about this...how about you?
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I've been conferencing a loooonnnng time at ALA. I agree with colleagues posting and tweeting, this conference was a win in every way for youth librarians.
Maybe because this is the first newly compressed conferences - fewer days and fewer sessions sponsored by units and almost all programs held at the conference center itself. This seems to make it possible to attend more events than ever before.
Maybe the addition and continued support for member-driven content (ignite sessions, uncommons, conversation starters) that resulted in great youth presentations. The unit-supported content was pretty amazing as well.
Maybe because groups of librarians connected through blogs, the twitterverse and groups like EL, ALATT and Flannel Friday reached the perfect storm of connectivity creating kismet meet-up moments and IRL chat.
So, despite substantial time spent fulfilling my responsibilities as ALA chapter councilor for my state, I have to say that this conference was an amazing, robust and energetic one for youth librarians.
This doesn't even begin to address the ALSC and YALSA supported programs, the exhibits, committee work, the auditorium speaker series...and just everything.
There was energy and innovation and excitement - not just to see each other but to strategize what else we can do to be uber superhero librarians back in our communities and looking at the future. I talked about this kind of collaborative energy here and here.
And while I celebrate attending conferences, I also think we do so much outside of conferences to stay fabulous and tuned in and inventive. So whether you were at ALA or not, the doors are open for you to walk through!
Mel from Mel's Desk gets at the core of what I LOVE about this at-conference-and-not-at-conference paradigm in what I believe will be THE blog post on personal learning, connecting with those who share your passion and empowerment for the next decade. Conferences like ALA are one way to connect and learn - but there are so many other ways too that happen everyday when we reach outside our workplace and connect. Let's go and let's do it.
Those fabulous youth services leaders Amy Koester, Cory Eckert and Kendra Jones have just "officialized" Guerrila Storytime in it's own fabulous website, Storytime Underground
Not content to just invent Guerilla Storytime and premiere it at Chicago ALA, these ninjas have created a space to share storytime tips and tricks, best practices and materials and all-around support each other around a service that the vast majority of libraries offer - storytime!
Stop here and get excited about sharing YOUR mad storytime skillz in this new movement!
“Organized” and “innovation” are words rarely heard together. But an organized approach to innovation is precisely what America needs today, argue Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter. We sat down with the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity to discuss why American ought to organize its innovation efforts.
Why does America need a more organized innovation system today?
An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades — where US universities focus on basic research, and industry concentrates on incremental product development. At the same time, the stakes have risen around technology invention and commercialization. Innovation has become more central to the economic health of nations, but the rate of US innovation is slowing while that if other nations is accelerating. Since 2008, the number of foreign-origin patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted annually has surpassed the number of domestic-origin patents. Between 1999 and 2009, the US share of global research and development spending dropped, while the share of Asia as a whole rose and exceeded the US share in 2009.
What’s behind this innovation gap?
In a nutshell, history and a set of myths held by many in the United States. The gap dates to the 1970s and 1980s, as big US companies retreated from basic research and focused on incremental product development. The shift had to do with a greater focus on short-term financial results, as well as increased competitive pressures. Research fell to the universities, but academic research often remains within particular disciplines, conducted in a vacuum that minimizes societal needs. Too often academic research does not make the leap beyond the lab to the real world. For years, observers have noticed the widening gap, but it has not been addressed. We think that has much to do with three myths—that innovation is about lone geniuses, the free market, and serendipity. These myths blind us from seeing that we tolerate an unorganized, less-than-optimal system of innovation.
What do you propose as a solution?
We call it Organized Innovation. It is a blueprint for better coordinating the key players in the US innovation ecosystem: universities, businesses, and government. The solution taps the power of both the private and public sectors to generate groundbreaking innovations—the kinds of new technologies that create good jobs and improve life for everyone.
The solution has three main pillars:
Channeled Curiosity: steering researchers’ fundamental inquiries toward real-world problems.
Boundary-Breaking Collaboration: tearing down walls between academic disciplines, and between universities and the private sector to better generate novel, high-impact technologies.
Orchestrated Commercialization: coordinating the various players involved in technology commercialization—including scholars, university administrators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and corporations—to translate research insights into real-world benefits.
The Organized Innovation framework already has proven effective in closing the innovation gap. It is inspired by our nearly decade-long study of a highly successful but little-known federal initiative, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Centers. These university-based centers require researchers to link basic science to social and market demand, require interdisciplinary and industry-academic collaboration and encourage the creation of proofs-of-concept to demonstrate that a lab-based technology has commercial potential. From 1985 to 2009, about $1 billion in federal funding was invested in the centers. They have returned more than 10 times that amount in a wide variety of technology innovations.
What is your favorite example about new technology generated from the Engineering Research Center program?
Our favorite case is about Mark Humayun and his artificial retina. Humayun is a fascinating individual, and his team developed a device that captures video from a camera embedded in eyeglasses and wirelessly relays digital signals to an implant placed directly on the retina. The artificial retina, called Argus II, is approved for use in the European Union and won US FDA approval in early 2013. Humayun’s device is changing lives — restoring useful vision to people blinded by retinal diseases.
You propose that the US government changes its approach to funding research and development. What is your message to policy makers?
We propose that federal and state funding agencies devote funds to research programs that embody Organized Innovation principles, which may translate into more funding for research with practical significance or innovation outcomes. The key advantages of our model are that we can maximize the public’s return on research and development investments. Both political parties can support this approach; it is fundamentally bipartisan.
Organized Innovation goes against the grain of widespread doubts about the ability of universities, business, and government to work together to solve problems, especially amid growing public deficits. But we’re convinced Americans will have the courage to see the value of such investments in our future.
Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter are the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity. Steven C. Currall is Dean and Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. Ed Frauenheim is an author, speaker, and associate editorial director of Workforce magazine, where he writes about the intersection of people management, technology and business strategy. Sara Jansen Perry, Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Houston-Downtown, earned her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston. Emily M. Hunter is Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University after earning her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston.
It is great fun to launch an initiative - the planning, the grant-writing/funding piece, the gathering of material, the publicity, the roll-out and then the public's happy (we hope) reactions. This was definitely the feeling when, three years ago, we debuted our Early Literacy Area - Play Learn Read (PLR).
Careful thought and preparation went into it. Despite that, we immediately began tinkering to make it better, solve problems and navigate unexpected challenges. Things we thought would work, didn't and things we were sure would fail, succeeded. Here's a glimpse into our process of change!
Challenge 1 - Tables We had plenty of small tables in the area. Since this was the first area people saw when they walked into the library, the tables immediately became coat racks (you might glimpse a coat pile on the right of this photo). They also became homework tables - despite their small size. People would put the literacy activity on the floor and spread out their stuff. Solution: we moved all the large tables out and purchased tot-sized tables that let kids sit on the floor. No more coats. Fewer non-tots using the area.
Challenge 2 - Chairs We had a few comfy chairs that began to be heavily used by sleepy men. Again, since this was the first thing people saw when they came into the room, older caregivers sat and snoozed while the children they were with used the rest of the Children's area. It was not an inviting sight and discouraged use. Solution: we kept just one comfy chair and moved it into the corner farthest from the door facing into the PLR area. We added stools for kids and parents to sit on. No more sleepers; fewer non-tot/parent pairs using the area.
Challenge 3 - Magnetism! Planners were delighted by the thought of using baking pans as magnetic boards for children to interact with and to contain the pieces of the story. Sadly, the pans purchased were far from magnetic and so the point of having them was...pointless. Solution: In an "aha" moment, planners finally just purchased a magnetic white board, mounted it on the wall and voila, magnetism for all the story pieces.
Challenge 4 - Many Ages Even though we changed out chairs and tables to preschool-friendly size, we still would get bigger kids taking over the area - and by their presence, discouraging preschool/parent use. Much like in the Teen area that adults would camp-out in (and that we finally designated middle and high school kids only to stop that), we felt it was important to establish a space for the toddlers Solution: For a year or so, until the area became clearly marked in people's minds as a toddler early literacy area, we added a sign that simple said "Parent Tot Spot". It did the trick.
Challenge 5 - Frequency of Activities Changing While we started out with a bang, changing out activities became a real challenge. Some pieces stayed the same for months; some changed out monthly; some were fragile and needed replacing bi-weekly. Solution: We made a commitment to change out activities monthly, varying the weeks. So new puppets went into the puppet theater in week 1; new magnetic board story in week 2; new pillar activity in week 3; new bathroom activity in week 4.
Challenge 5 - Fragility of Material The story pieces - even when done of card stock and laminated - turned out to be too fragile for the use they were getting. The delicate cutting to get the cow's legs cut out was all for nothing when kids bit them off. Solution: We began cutting the shapes with a big circle of white space - without arms, limbs, and slender shapes sticking out the pieces lasted far longer.
Being open to evolving and changing an area or service keeps it responsive to reactions from the public and staff. It's fun to solve those problems! Stay tuned to Part 2 over on Brooke's blog Reading with Red where she tackles more solutions!
What are the optimal conditions for commercializing technology breakthroughs? How can we develop a common framework among universities, government, and businesses for generating fundamentally fresh insights? How can the government maximize the public’s return on research and development investments? Innovation is a important topic in both the public and the private sectors, yet no one can agree the best path forward for it. We present a brief excerpt from Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity by Steven C. Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily M. Hunter.
Professor Mark Humayun and his colleagues have created a small device with a big story to tell. It is an artificial retina, whose electronics sit in a canister smaller than a dime, and that literally allows the blind to see. The device also reflects a new approach to innovation that can help America find its way to a more hopeful, prosperous future.
During the late 1980s, Humayun was in medical school preparing to be a neurosurgeon. But his grandmother’s loss of vision put him on a quest to create technology that would help people see again. He switched his focus to ophthalmology, earned his MD, and imagined an implant to send digital images to the optic nerve. But when he asked biomedical engineers to help him develop such a device, he found they spoke a different language.
“I remember trying to tell them I wanted to pass a current to stimulate the retina. I wanted to excite neurons in a blind person’s eyes. They looked at me and said, ‘What?’” he recalls. “I couldn’t communicate what I wanted.” So Humayun did something that remains rare among American researchers: he crossed over into a different discipline. He earned a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina.
By 1992 Humayun and his team of fellow researchers, then at Johns Hopkins University, had a rudimentary prototype of an artificial retina. But they still had a long ways to go. In 2001, Humayun and his key collaborators moved to the University of Southern California to continue their work on the retinal prosthesis. Humayun also helped form a start-up company, Second Sight, which aimed to commercialize the implant. And in 2003 Humayun and his colleagues won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to launch a research center to pursue retinal prostheses and other potential medical implants.
The Argus II artificial retina can restore a form of sight to patients with retinitis pigmentosa. Image courtesy of Second Sight Medical Products.
That center—the Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems program—is part of a broader National Science Foundation initiative called the Engineering Research Center (ERC) program. The ERC program embodies government research funding as well as principles of planning, teamwork, and smart management. And it has quietly achieved remarkable success, returning to the US economy more than tenfold the $1 billion invested in it between 1985 and 2009.
The USC-based ERC prompted researchers to put their basic research projects on a path toward commercial prototypes. It also cultivated connections between academics and private- sector executives, as well as between researchers of different disciplines. And it provided funding for ten years—much longer than the typical academic grant.
During Humayun’s leadership of the ERC, his team hit several milestones. Most visibly, the artificial retina won approval from regulators in Europe and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and began changing people’s lives. The BBC broadcast a segment of a once-blind grandmother playing basketball—and making shots—with her grandson. The video went viral.
As Humayun and his team expand into other applications of artificial implants, the possibilities resemble science fiction—for example, improving short-term memory loss, headaches, and depression. In short, Humayun and his ERC team remind us that America can achieve fundamental technology breakthroughs—the sort that improve lives, launch new industries and create good jobs.
But we must improve our innovation efforts. Global competition has intensified in recent years, as other nations have ramped up their technology commercialization capabilities. At the same time, the U.S. innovation ecosystem has devolved into an unorganized, suboptimal approach. An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades, where U.S. universities focus on basic research and industry concentrates on incremental product development. This book aims to give U.S. leaders a blueprint for closing that gap and improving our ability to compete.
Based on the successes of the Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems center and other ERCs, we have developed a framework we call Organized Innovation. Organized Innovation is a systematic method for leading the translation of scientific discoveries into societal benefits through commercialization. At its core is the idea that we can, to a much greater extent than generally thought possible, organize the conditions for technology breakthroughs that lead to new products, companies, and world-leading industries.
Organized Innovation consists of three pillars, or “three Cs”:
Channeled Curiosity refers to the marriage of curiosity-driven research and strategic planning.
Boundary-Breaking Collaboration refers to a radical dismantling of traditional research and academic silos to spur collective creativity and problem solving.
Orchestrated Commercialization means coaxing the different players, including researchers, entrepreneurs, financial investors, and corporations so that they make innovations real for global use.
If we can recognize the importance of Organized Innovation, we are confident the United States can restore its vision as a technology leader, revitalize its economy and employment levels, and help to resolve pressing global problems. We are confident, in other words, that America can produce many more big breakthroughs like the small device created by Mark Humayun and his colleagues.
Steven C. Currall is Dean and Professor at the Graduate School of Management at University of California, Davis; Ed Frauenheim is Content & Curation Specialist for the Great Place to Work Institute; Sara Jansen Perry is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Houston-Downtown; and Emily Hunter is Assistant Professor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. They are the co-authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity, published by Oxford University Press.
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