April 2011 Archives

Plan for Success

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I had a great opportunity to travel to the northwest this month to attend the Oregon Library Association meeting (briefly) and the Montana (combined with Mountain Plains) Library Association meeting (slightly less briefly).  I've been wanting to highlight one presentation I saw from that trip ever since I got back and this is the first free moment I've had to put it all together.

In Oregon, I was participating with colleagues Carl Grant from Ex Libris and Neil Block from Innovative Interfaces in a pre-conference on library-vendor relationships.  That sounds like enough fun in and of itself, but it's actually not what I want to highlight.  Before we spoke, Steve Shadle from the University of Washington and Steve Casburn from Multnomah County Library gave presentations on "Partnerships with vendors : case studies and lessons learned."  Each was talking about the early adoption of solutions by their libraries and gave advice to other libraries considering the same.

Initially I sat up and took notice because I have been a seeker of such early adopters for the last three years.  This has been a successful endeavor.  Nevertheless, our team has been struck by the amount of change management required even for libraries who don't fear (and those who actually embrace) early adoption.  Steve Shadle presented a step-by-step approach to increasing the likelihood of a successful implementation.  It was only icing on the cake that he happened to be talking about UW's WorldCat Local implementation.

But the other thing that struck me was not the comparison to activities at OCLC, but the similarities I saw in UW's plan to the one that was implemented at NCSU when we were implementing the Endeca catalog.  It probably seems like a truism at this point that the philosophical and political battles are much larger than the technical ones.  A successful implementation only has a little bit to do with the solution being implemented and a whole lot to do with how the organization goes about it.

I probably won't do Steve Shadle's slides justice, but I was jotting down his steps to success.  A smarter man would have asked Steve to co-author this post, but as his slides are not available on the OLA site yet and I was anxious to tell his story, here are the steps he outlined:

  1. Describe the Problem
  2. Get administrative support
  3. Brainstorm with the solution provider
  4. Develop use cases / scenarios
  5. Understand your development partner
  6. Articulate a vision
  7. Be the first on your block--use early adoption to your advantage to set development priorities
  8. Be ready to exit if necessary
  9. Know your data and your systems
  10. Understand the development culture of your partner
  11. Understand your own culture
  12. Plan for success

This is a good list (even though I joked with Steve that he had created a twelve step program).  I take full responsibility for the numbering, as he did not number the steps; in fact, since these are often not sequential, it's probably best not to think of them as steps at all, but a list of ingredients for a successful recipe.  If I had to pick my two favorite ingredients, they would be the administrative support and the planning for success.  The latter isn't just motivational.  In UW's case, it meant, planning for 59% and 101% increases in consortial borrowing and ILL traffic, respectively.  The former is a must that we all know about.  If your bosses don't support you, you have a tall hill to climb.  If I were to add one thing to the list, it would be "get staff support for administrative decisions."  Many projects have grass roots and require administrative buy-in and resource support.  An equal number, I think, start at the top and require the support of grass roots staff to be successful.

The only regret of this meeting was that there were not many, many more people in attendance.  As so much of library innovation is happening in partnerships between libraries and service providers, libraries and libraries, or libraries and the open source community, I think it would be great to have even more opportunities for presentations like the one I participated in at OLA.  But I'm cooking up an idea on that front as well.  More on that later.
Put down that mouse and keyboard!  Twenty-first century, Web-based libray management services now means finding a whole new way to interact with library data and customers.  As the team at OCLC working on Web-scale Management Services has been hammering out new functional requirements, we've had a lot of leeway in breaking new ground.  But we've really been looking for a way to take the service beyond the obvious trends of electronic content management and mobile interfaces.  That's when one of our developers hooked up his XBox Kinect sensor to our development environment and the ideas started flying faster than we could implement them.

Web-scale Gesture-based Circulation.

I recently asked one of the developers how they got started.  "The easiest thing for us to do was introduce 'gesture-based' searching in the staff interface," said Kannan Seshadri, Release Manager for the product.  Usability testers had a blast finding titles on peace, prayer, and The Fonz.  Rock, paper, and scissors also became popular search terms, but nothing surpassed the number of searches for "birds" in WorldCat that day.

Gesture search results for "birds."

"No one wants to stop at just searching," comments Product Manager, Jeff Schilling.  "Early adopters of the software have been flooding us with development ideas with gestures for 'angry patrons', circulation staff body movements for 'claims returned', and some of the most hilarious hand and body gestures for managing subject-based fund codes."

Directors and system administrators are loving this too.  We're looking to see if we can extend the functionality to not only recognize faces for the purpose of identity management, but also a way to accurately read facial expressions of the system administrators themselves so that they can rate library personnel as they are authorized to use the system.

A clever library director stretches her budget with Web-scale Management Services.

We've identified a lot of green pasture in the development of these new web-based services, but nothing has been as exciting as defining a whole new way to interact with library data.  Be sure to send your ideas and gestures to pacea@oclc.org.

About the Author

Andrew K. Pace

I am Executive Director for Networked Library Services at OCLC. I am also a past President of LITA. On occasion, I am known for pontificating "on stage, in writing, and via the web" on a variety of issues important to libraries.

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