I haven’t written anything in over a month, two months, because I haven’t had too much to say, just very busy with life and living. Oh, and there is the blackout walking home for lunch, and the breaking of the wrist in the resulting fall, and the lengthy recovery and the therapy to learn to use my wrist again. More detail here. Do y’all know how versatile a joint the wrist is?
But back to librarying. During my recovery, I have been maintaining a part-time schedule at the reference desk of a nearby university library. It’s been a distraction from pain, but it has also been an instructive period of the semester when students are cranking out research projects and leaning heavily on the librarian at the desk. And I have learned a thing or two, about research design theory, about ethnography and user experience (which necessarily includes librarian experience), and about using QuickTime, ScreenFlow and Youtube, all of which has informed my agile practices in the library. So it has carried me off in a different direction, in several different directions. For starters:
1. Digitization/electronification of information has liquidified the learning resources/assets that used to be part of our domain. We used to be “administrators” of learning assets. No more. Now information is being accessed everywhere and all the time. The definition of “the library” has changed.
2. As librarians, we were pretty much content with getting students started with developing their research question and initial search terms, then setting them free to conduct the iterative research process. No more. Now students have an expectation that we will provide them information support throughout the research process, and we have an obligation to do so. The identity crisis is over. The librarian, like information, is and has to be everywhere and all the time. The definition of “librarian” has changed.
3. User experience has necessarily become ethnographic. Correspondingly, ethnography emcompasses both the learner and the teacher/librarian, the interaction, the form and structure of the interface, and how both sets work together to accomplish the learning goal/objective.
4. The learners are not just the students, and faculty/staff/librarians are not exclusively the teachers. We are all learning entrepreneurs, putting together various combinations of factors of learning production, some that succeed, others that fail, but all that expand the boundaries of previous static thought. There are no traditional monopolies. And the sage on the stage is no more. Both the classroom and the library are “flipped” in unique and fascinating ways.
5. Learning is rhizomatic, decentralized, and resistant to regulation. It exists everywhere and all the time.
A student came to the reference desk with some questions about research design models. I told her that was not my area of expertise, but I would help her with her research if she would teach me the models. After about 20 minutes of conversation (it was a slow Saturday) she said, “Thank you, this has been very helpful.” I was floored, because I learned a lot more in that 20 minutes than she did.
This is the journey.
In between library jobs, I was able to focus on agile applications to HR processes specifically, and to what I gingerly refer to as overall bureaucratic engineering operations in general. I am back in a reference librarian position, although only part time, which affords me the opportunity to re-examine the application of agile thinking/management/leadership to business and instructional processes in a university library and in higher education. So we begin…
A blog I discovered, maddimclark.workpress.com, maintained by LIS student Maddison Clark at Durham College, reminded me of the centrality and criticality to LIS studies of Ranganathan’s Five Laws:
- Books are for use.
- Every reader his / her book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism.
I like the way Maddison expanded the five laws:
- Books are for use.
- Resources, location, faculties and location are now more accessible to people
- Longer hours of service ( open Saturdays and Sundays , Winter/ fall hours, Summer/ Spring hours )
- Digitalization – books are being downloaded to E books, audio books, DVDs , computers access, Free Wi-Fi, larger print ( etc.)
- Select the materials the patrons will used
- Having libraries near or in other services ( example: sport centres)
- Every Reader his / her Book
- Diverse interests – different genres, nonfiction and fiction satisfy patrons
- Access to all information and readings
- To understand Patrons needs/ wants , librarians must find what they want
- Have a fair amount of multiple collections ( not too much of one subject)
- To have books for all patrons
- Every book Its reader
- A book is useful for every individual
- Every book has its own place/ belonging
- Organize in a way patrons can access quickly & efficient
- Librarians should announce new books with newsletters/ posters/ websites
- Have the proper classification for the type of library
- Save the time of the Reader
- Librarians should have the books in area that is quick access to all quickly and effectively
- Have library classify into the three main classifications ( Dewey, Colon, Library of congress) to find books for user’s quickly
- Provide guides and booklets for patrons that are efficient and easy to access for materials, books, texts and audio and video
- Have the proper staff that are available and know their library
- The library is a growing organism
- The library is always growing with new materials of fiction & non fiction
- Digital / visual reference desk service
- New programs and events
- Growing and developing of content of information and knowledge
to be continued…
And just because I like it:
No longer between library jobs. Big Yay! Started a new part-time library job last week. But continuing the discussion of Agile application to HR issues. (Don’t fret, we’ll bring the Agile discussion back to librarianship soon enough. In the meantime, taking this HR detour might eventually be instructive). Today, we are going to take a brief look at the history of Agile methodologies. Later in the week we will look at some considerations when converting or transforming existing processes to Agile ones.
It is easy to trace the history of Agile to the Agile Manifesto of 2001 and the twelve principles that followed in its wake. Easy but far from sufficient. We need to look at a few of the antecedents to that 2001 gathering to know what is really going on.
Lloyd Wilkinson, in Agile Development: A Brief History, traces the roots of agile project management thinking to Toyota process in the 1950’s, more specifically, kaizen, or continual improvement in automotive manufacturing processes. In case you haven’t already clicked on the link, kaizen is a Japanese word that is translated as “continuous improvement.” In lean, or just in time manufacturing systems, the process itself must “continuously change in order to deliver value to the customer.” Before we take a deep dive, it is necessary to say that one might make an argument that HR systems bound by rigid rules and regulations are not capable of continuous change. I would argue (1) that the multiplicity of rules and regulations, all overlapping, is precisely what opens the door to flexibility and dynamism and (2) what manufacturing process was more rigid that automotive assembly line production, and yet, Toyota’s introduction of Kaizen practices made it a world leader in the automotive industry. But back to the subject…
Kaizen has a few foci that are particularly relevant to HR processes. First is the Kaizen 5S concept: sort, or removing anything from the space not needed for daily operations; straighten, or placing the essential things in the right place for optimum operations; sweep, or removing anything that is clutter and repairing anything broken; standardize, or codifying best practices; and sustain, or establishing new, more efficient standards and resisting the tendency to return to old ways of doing things.
Second is the concept of employee involvement supported by employee trust. Specifically, this concept has as its antecedent, the work of Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect (please click and read!). Very briefly, Mayo concluded that
- The aptitudes of individuals are imperfect predictors of job performance.
- Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
- Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
- Work-group norms affect productivity.
- The workplace is a social system.
A moment here on James Martin and Rapid Application Development (RAD). James Martin, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his 1977 book, The Wired Society: A Challenge for Tomorrow, introduced in 1991 an approach to RAD that involved iterative development and the construction of intermediate prototypes. These two elements would play a critical part in Agile project management thinking in subsequent years.
For extra reading, this article also looks at the history of Agile thinking: The roots of Agile project management.
Later in the week we will look at some of the challenges and possible pitfalls of adopting Agile thinking to existing processes. And to raise eyebrows, we will call the next post: “The Road Less Taken, or, People are software in any production process.”
In the meanwhile, a bit of Sarah Vaughan for the Labor Day Weekend:
My relocation created an employment gap of sorts and I found myself between library jobs. But luckily for me, my old, former career reached out and steered me towards part-time employment focusing on finding solutions to HR challenges in a federal bureaucracy. Little did I know initially that that opportunity would open doors to fascinating potential applications of agile thinking and agile methodologies. (I’m hearing a combination of two tunes, Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, and Stephen Stills, Love the One You’re With. Will include the you tubes at the end of this post.)
There are striking similarities between HR work and the software development challenges that gave rise to agile thinking. Various types of HR work exist in a dynamic bureaucracy and each type has various phases. We will focus, for example, on the onboarding process, i.e., bringing new employees onboard for the first time.
Initially, the customer or client, in the HR case, the manager decides she/he needs a new position to fill the expanding needs of the office. Ideally, that manager will work closely with his HR colleagues to define the requirements of the new position, i.e., what work they will actually perform, and the skills any prospective employee will need to accomplish the work. A position description results.
The position is advertised. Hundreds of applications pour in. The HR staff winnows down the applicants whose qualifications actually meet the position requirements. Traditionally, this is a phase that is pretty much accomplished exclusively by HR. But we all know that excellent applicants get weeded out unnecessarily during this process.
Managers are handed a bundle of applications and a list of names for assessment. They make their selection, HR makes sure everything is in order, and the person is hired.
So why does this process take 4 to 6 months in government? The waterfall method may have clues!
A busy HR section may have several positions being filled at once, all at various phases, similar to software products being developed. And there are various places where “stacks of things” pile up, i.e., in HR as well as with the manager. And in the absence of a constantly updated tracking mechanism, no one can say for sure where the roadblocks in the process are located. As a result, managers blame HR for slowdowns in the process, and HR blames managers for their slow responses, and problems don’t get solved, until eventually, six months later, a person is hired (though not the best applicant, because she, exasperated with the process, finds just as good a position elsewhere).
So how can we apply the agile method to onboarding to make the process simpler, quicker, and just as efficient?
How about a picture!
From previous posts, we know the agile method values individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. Nice words, but how do we “do” this?
The first “principle” of agile software mentions early and continuous delivery of valuable software. From the HR perspective, this means program managers have to take the time to consult with HR staff about the new position, and HR staff have to make the time to consult with program managers. If it is the case that program managers already have a candidate in mind (and we know that happens!), that should be communicated to HR staff. As applications pour in, there should be regular comms between HR and the program office, expediting that winnowing process. The point of the matter is constant communications that lead to greater efficiencies.
The second principle addresses changing requirements and harnessing change for the customer’s competitive advantage. This may be a bit difficult, HR-wise, because positions are posted to USA.gov, which allows little alteration in the process. But locally, if requirements do change, there is no need to “re-create the wheel.” Again, the key to applying slight requirements changes is communications between HR and the program managers. This could be a bit tricky, but it is manageable.
The third principle: deliver software frequently. Traditionally, HR units pile up stacks of applicants (time consuming), then pour through them (time consuming), then deliver winnowed stacks to managers after a period of time (time consuming). Then managers postpone going through the stacks, and hopefully eventually go through them (time consuming). In an agile environment, that feedback loop is tightened through frequent engagement. But the onus is on both HR staff and program managers to reduce the wait time at each stage and to reduce the repetition of stages themselves through efficient communications.
OK. There are nine more principles and you can find them here (The “Agile” in Agile Librarianship) in a previous post (your homework assignment, dear reader), all relevant, and all pertinent to HR processes. If we go through them all here, we will never get to the videos!
OK. Dessert at the end of the meal. The videos:
So, a lot has happened in the past week…
First, I just stumbled upon a MOOC, Thought Vectors in Concept Space, and I’ll have to go back to my “history” to figure out how I got there, but it dove-tails nicely with some research interests I have, so I decided to check it out. So, I went to the site, and lo and behold, discovered some very cool librarians there. Then went to the first week readings and found Vannevar Bush’s essay, “As We May Think,” an essay I tussled with in my first LIS course two years ago, and that caught my attention. So here we are.
I will continue to blog here on my new obsession/concept, Agile Librarianship, but will change the tags and categories appropriately.
OK. More new stuff. Completed the first week of my return to my old job (already blogged previously). Three days a week. Did some interviews. Typed up some notes. Sent them to my boss (for whom I am serving as a senior advisor). Off to a pretty good start.
Got notified of a new job that I will start this coming week, two days a week, part-time reference and instruction librarian at a local school, American University. I am very excited about this job, even though it is part-time and only two days a week, because it keeps me connected to librarianship, my career choice for the next phase of my life. Let me say here that I am and will forever remain grateful to Western Carolina University and Hunter Library for my first career library job and I continue to miss those mountains!
So I am going to stop here and take the plunge into “As We May Think,” and see if I can find my notes and presentation from LSC 557 at #CUA_LIS. See ya later, alligator!
p.s. Some cool music from the archives for a Sunday afternoon:
Late entry: just caught this on C-Span and updated my Facebook status: