Changing Leadership Strategies for Libraries
Stephen Abram, MLS
Lighthouse Consulting, Dysart & Jones
OLA Education Institute
Wednesday, November 22, 2013
Sooooo, what strategies do we need to change for changing times?
Leadership requires that we deal with ambiguity in times of continuous
Let’s name just four big issues
Are our users aren’t finding the resources they need as successfully as
they should and could. (Hint - they aren’t… )
Are we organized for the 21st Century?
Are we engaging with our communities as effectively as we could?
Are we using numbers strategically?
These are our issues to solve . . . And this is just a 60 minute overview!
And this requires us to apply our leadership skills…
Suffice it to say that we can’t solve any of these issues one library at a time.
We need a sector wide, provincial or national strategy.
1. Are Our Users Finding Our Online Reference
• Are we in the search business or the answer business?
• Are we recognizing the split between answers and
• Are we co-creating the tools we need?
• Where can we lead and how –
management, marketing, partnerships?
A. Understand the difference
between Search and Find
• Roy Tennant and I have been saying for years: “Users want to find not
• Librarians enjoy the challenge of search and try to create mini-librarians.
• Information literacy is different than contextual information fluency.
• “Search” is not a single skill and Boolean is a crazy first step for the average
end-user – the real competency being taught and hopefully learned here is
learning, research and decision-making.
B. Understand the difference between
the roles of discovery services and
• Search is the identification of potential objects to read or view in
either a known item retrieval scenario or – more importantly – an
immersion environment where choices are made.
• Until recently, we handled immersion environments in the context of
defined subsets of content (a single database or small group).
• Discovery services are one step before search – the identification and
discovery of the resources (databases) that are worth searching.
Double a penny every day for a month =
Over $1 billion in just 30 days
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
And the Algorithm Understanding Failure
The power of algorithm is
in the target user
needs, the institutional
needs, and the behavioral
. . . Not the underlying
Are there any real national
initiatives to understand
and differentiate library
end user behaviors from
constructs? (yes but …)
C. Get the naming and labeling
• Vendors must develop unique names and brands for their services to meet
positioning, marketing and sales needs to you.
• There is no need for you to fall in line and pass through these names – or
worse try to train end users to know hundreds of them!
• Can anyone defend using these titles to be the single most important label
for end users? MLA, Scopus, Compendex, ABI/Inform . . .?
• Honestly! The needs of trademark law don’t match the needs of users to
LEAD: Make choices and brand
our portfolios well
D. Stop trying to emulate Google –
• Are you SEO, SMO, ad, geo-tag, and link bait focused? Do you want
algorithms that display content based on commercial priorities?
• Do you want your algorithm to display the paid-for term and
questionable quality content spam?
• Are your services (digital and personal) about Who, What, When and
Where – ready reference? Or do you focus on Why and How – research
• Clearly know how you’re different not a pale copy.
2. Context and Culture rule
• Describe and map your user’s real workflows and not just
our understanding of the small segment we see.
• Seek to understand how learning, research and / or decisionmaking happen.
• Finding the resource is insufficient – especially if I must print
it, can’t easily cite it, have difficulty loading it agnostically on
any device . . . etc.
Are we organized for the 21st Century?
• When was your last reorganization that was planned around strategy
and not staff turnover?
• Was it predicated on relationships being more nimble, customer
process-oriented, cross-functional and externally focused or was it just
an org chart?
• What are your investments in team work and management training (as
compared to technology…?
3. Are we engaging with our communities as
effectively as we could?
• How well do you really understand your community?
• If your public library still segments on kids, teens, adults, &
seniors . . . Then . . .
• If your academic library still segments on undergrads, grads and
faculty . . . Then . . .
• We’re doing it poorly. We need to move beyond shallow
segmentation and work towards need-based behavioral
segmentation for portfolio marketing.
Invest in persona development
• Segment by behaviour and goals . . .
• Does anyone really prioritize content and answers by
format? Then why are our offering so 1999?
• Are we viewing the workflow or learning flow or life
stages through a camera hole?
4. Are we using numbers strategically?
Statistics versus measurements
Satisfaction and Impact
Visual versus data
Stories build on data springboards
Impact: Your Strategies and
What should libraries do?
Modest technology leadership options
• Stop seeing ‘search’ as a single goal or solution
• Put targeted content experiences in the path of the
user, learner, researcher… in learning management systems, social
media, intranets, etc.
• Develop better and stronger partnerships with IT support and user
• Start a massive shift to the “Cloud” and not just software . . .
• Build a library of shared APIs, frameworks and code and start to
integrate the ILS with fulltext, Google, DPLA, OCLC WorldShare and
your own and other repositories as well as OpenURL and CCC FindIt
• Get better at shared analytics (including geo) to build experiences
• STOP displaying digital resources based on the shelving and format
needs of physical resources
• Build ‘real’ consortia that rise above buying clubs and really offer
cost-effective, rugged platforms (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, with ILS/LMS) for
Modest people leadership options
• Organize on a matrix – a least two dimensions.
• Develop real cross-functional teams
• Meet more, communicate more, but do it in shorter bursts. Avoid
multiple agenda meetings. Build matrix communication tools across
• Stay focused in meetings and separate the operational from the
• Adopt project management practices including Scrum and Agile
methodologies and get faster sprints and iterative development with
better understanding of milestones.
• Build solid trans-institutional cooperative frameworks – like OCUL.
• Investment in persona development and targeting the end-user
experience in workflows and research flows and learning flows