“Devaluing” the MLS vs. respect for all library workers


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I’m sure some of you remember the big push last year and early this year to require the MLS for the Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA) — if you don’t, here is an article, column, and blog post about it. One big argument I kept hearing was that we needed someone who understood and had experience in libraries. What I found interesting was a lack of recognition that someone could be a leader of major libraries or library consortia and not have an MLS. It was almost as if there was no understanding of the fact that we have people who spend their entire careers in librarianship who do not have an MLS. Many, many ALA members do not have an MLS, yet somehow the idea of someone without an MLS representing the ALA was repugnant to some (and to others signaled the death knell for our profession). What became clear from this debate was that a good number of people — those nearing the end of their careers seemed to be the most outspoken — felt that we needed to defend our professional credentials against those who do not value libraries and do not see us as a profession. Here’s what John Berry of Library Journal said on the issue:

Now a growing chorus of “experts” from outside the field tell us that libraries and the professionals who administer them are obsolete. In truth, the profusion of information sources coupled with the erosion of the quality of the information they provide has added urgency to the fundamental work of the librarian. We collect and disseminate the facts of humankind after careful evaluation of sources as to their currency, accuracy, depth, breadth, biases, and prejudices. No other profession has that mission. The MLIS credential is one signal that the holder has at least studied and considered these issues and understands the need for an institution and a professional cadre to serve and protect the rights of all people to accurate information. ALA’s leaders, and indeed all librarians, must be holders of that important degree. We must not abandon it now.

How the Executive Director of the ALA not having an MLS actually detracts from our professional cred is still beyond me. The people who say libraries are obsolete are not thinking of librarians at all (or if they do, they are old ladies with buns) and many probably don’t even realize we have a professional Masters’ degree. I assume the search committee would make sure the Executive Director can adequately communicate the value of the profession to others. Whatever the argument, the motion did not pass in the election and the MLS is now a preferred qualification for the position.

But that sense of our profession being under siege and needing to barricade our professional doors was echoed in other things I’ve read recently and in experiences I’ve had. And, frankly, that attitude makes me ill.

I first read Peter Murray’s “Anxious Anger – or: why does my profession want to become a closed club” in which he describes a far-from-inspiring closing keynote at the Re-Think It conference given by Julie Todaro (just past past-president of ALA) and Jim Neal (just now past president of ALA):

I started taking notes at the beginning of their talks expecting there would be uplifting ideas and quotes that I could attribute to them as I talk with others about the aspirations of the FOLIO project (a crucial part of my day job). Instead, Julie kicked things off by saying the key task that she works on at her day job is maintaining faculty status for librarians. She emphasized the importance of credentialing and using the usefulness of skills to a library’s broader organization as a measure of value. Jim spoke of the role of library schools and library education to define classes of people: librarians, paraprofessionals, students, and the like, and that the ALA should be at the heart of minting credentials to be used (I think) as gatekeepers into ‘professional’ jobs.

Peter goes on to say that he knows many people working in vital roles in libraries who are well-steeped in the values and ethos of the profession and don’t have the MLS. I do too. And I’m frustrated as hell that people think that we need to create and enforce class boundaries in our field in order to protect our own status. People might have different roles in our libraries based on their skills and credentials, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated like full and valued partners in the growth and improvement of the organization. Too often though, librarians feel like we need to protect our turf by marginalizing our colleagues without the MLS. And how is that anything less than discrimination?

I remember working as a library assistant while I was working on my library degree and I remember how marginalized those of us in the position were. I worked in circulation (at the check-out desk and upstairs information desk) at a small city public library in a county that had a branch in another part of our city. Often, if we didn’t have a book, we would end up looking to see if the county library had it for the patron. I had the simple, non-earth-shattering idea of creating a computer shortcut to the county library catalog on the circulation and information desk computers; an idea that my colleagues in Circ were in favor of as a helpful time-saver. I remember suggesting it to my supervisor and how tremendously dismissive she was of the idea and me. It was clear to me that I was in a class of people who were not paid to think of ways to improve the library, but just to do the tasks associated with their job. It was demoralizing.

I’m sure there are people working in staff positions in libraries who don’t see it as a career, but I know so many who do. And what do we do for those passionate, dedicated people working in our libraries who do not have the MLS? A friend of mine recently left libraries for a non-library job. She was an incredible go-getter who was full of ideas and committed to doing the work to make them happen. Only she rarely was in a position to make her ideas happen because she was a “paraprofessional” and in many libraries, paraprofessionals are not empowered to suggest projects or improvements the way “professionals” are. She was an exceptional employee who couldn’t afford to go to library school, and there weren’t really opportunities in her job for her to take on new challenges or get more autonomy, much less to advance. In a situation like that, what’s a dynamic, passionate, improvement-oriented person to do?

Kendra Levine has written three brilliant posts about people working in libraries without the professional credential and our responsibility to stand up for their rights in solidarity as library workers:

Her posts are on fire with their righteous awesomeness!! Here’s just one excerpt from her second post:

Librarians need to eat crow and apologize for past slights and insults. We need to begin with reflection and self education. Recognize the importance and dignity of all work, and embody that belief. Libraries are complex systems and operations that need lots of different kind of workers to function. When I hear librarians laughingly plead ignorance about bib records because why should they actually need to worry about them, it’s embarrassing and offensive. (And also reflects the deprofessionalization of tech services…) So think about what you are going to say and be careful with how you say it. I know for a profession of people who tend to be driven by words, we can often be very pedantic and precise with our own, but also carelessly punch down. So much that I think most people don’t think they’re going to do it.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen people punch down at people in non-faculty positions, faculty librarians without tenure, and people in “paraprofessional positions.” I’ve seen people get their backs up when a “non-librarian” makes a suggestion about something that is the librarians’ domain and yet librarians in non-supervisory roles feel perfectly comfortable telling people in access services or technical services how to do their jobs better. I’ve probably been guilty of being territorial myself and I feel no lack of shame for that. I’ve seen the class divides everywhere I’ve worked, even when I’ve worked with people who were warm and wonderful and all liked their jobs. These divisions keep libraries from being a team environment where everyone feels like they are working towards a greater goal. Workers who are marginalized tend to focus only on their small area of the big picture because they aren’t empowered to think beyond it. They may have valuable insights and ideas that we will never learn about because we don’t value them.

Being territorial with our colleagues is not going to strengthen our profession or our libraries. If anything, it kills library workers’ passion for their work and their sense of being a member of a team. And if treating our colleagues with dignity and respect and advocating for them to get a decent wage will make people decide not to get an MLS, I think it’s on MLS programs to assert their value or improve what they offer. We shouldn’t have to prove the value of our professional credential by shitting on our colleagues.

I feel like Kendra’s third post speaks to my friend’s situation. The best supervisors learn what an employee’s goals are and help equip them for and move them toward that goal. Not all libraries have ample advancement opportunities, but I think a manager can do a great deal to support a direct report in developing leadership and other experiences that will help them move to a better job elsewhere. My library director at Norwich University absolutely saw this as her role and she gave me so many opportunities to grow and lead. This should not only be something that managers do for those with an MLS — all employees deserve to be seen as whole people with the desire to grow.

I honestly don’t know why those without the MLS are members of ALA, an organization that does not seem to have their interests at heart if the past two presidents’ attitudes are any indication. Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by ALA’s lack of focus on the needs and labor issues of people working in libraries. ALA wants to strengthen the institutions (libraries) and the structures (our professional credential and the caste system it creates), but there’s little focus on the the rights and well-being of library workers (and thank you, April Hathcock, for suggesting that change at ALA Council). ALA-APA (which is supposed to be focused on library employees) is an unempowered, undersupported afterthought, but it doesn’t have to be.

Those of us who work in libraries are all professionals. We may work in different roles, but we all deserve equal dignity, respect, and a valued voice in our workplaces. We will strengthen our libraries by making sure that everyone working in libraries is valued and that doesn’t require “devaluing” the MLS.

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Statement From ARL on United States’ Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty


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From Krista Cox at the the Association of Research Libraries (ARL):

On June 28, 2018, the United States Senate ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled and passed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) by unanimous consent. As an organization dedicated to achieving enduring and barrier-free access to information, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) celebrates this historic moment, which comes almost five years to the day that the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted the Marrakesh Treaty.

The Marrakesh Treaty requires countries to ensure minimum copyright limitations and exceptions for the creation and distribution of accessible formats and cross-border sharing of these works. Cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty, which could greatly alleviate the “book famine” problem, a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind has estimated that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.


“The Marrakesh Treaty promotes information access for those in developing countries as well as in the United States,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of the Association of Research Libraries and vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “Individuals with print disabilities in the United States will see significant benefits from cross-border exchange of English language materials with Australia and Canada, as well as exchange of foreign-language works from other Marrakesh Treaty parties, including nearly 50,000 accessible items from Argentina.”


Now that the Senate has acted, the House of Representatives must pass the implementing legislation and the bill would go to President Trump for signature. ARL applauds the US Senate for unanimously approving the Marrakesh Treaty and urges the House of Representatives to pass the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act.

See Also: United States Senate Greenlights Marrakesh Treaty and Implementing Legislation (via National Federation of the Blind)

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Why it’s a positive thing to say no in your career (opinion)


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Too often, we imagine career discernment as a straight and narrow path. Once you choose the path, you continue down it. Once you gain experience, you apply that experience to the next related position.

The problem with this pathway metaphor is that it doesn’t account for the many experiences that teach us what we don’t want (not only what we do). It doesn’t account for experiences that are meaningful and point us in an entirely different direction. It doesn’t account for the importance of saying no — of excelling in a particular type of work and yet still choosing differently.

When we find support for career discernment in academic settings (still far too infrequently), we typically find tools for determining when to say yes (e.g., “Using Your ‘Strong Yes’ to Guide Career Decisions”). It’s equally important, I believe, to spend time considering when and why to say no.

At its core, saying no is actually saying yes to something else. Sometimes it’s saying no to let what needs to fall away, fall away. Sometimes it’s saying no to imagine something different or to build toward something new. Sometimes it’s saying not yet or not in this way. Simply put: yes and no are related. Both can block, and both can build. Both are powerful for making career moves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship of yes and no, as I’ve been trying to honor the wisdom “The absence of a strong yes is actually a no.” I’ve been focusing on this wisdom during what has been a turbulent year for me: being promoted with tenure and yet still choosing to leave academe. This decision has come through career discernment, involving meditation, consultations and reflection through writing — over many months.

Last spring, when I was experiencing extreme exhaustion (which I finally recognized as burnout), I decided to make a list of everything I liked about my job. As a writer and writing teacher, I often recommend free writing as a way to engage in self-reflection, to recognize patterns, to process information and to make decisions. So I decided to follow my own advice and engaged in several writing exercises to identify how, where and whether my commitments and priorities were aligning with my time. What I found shocked me.

I made a fairly long list of activities I truly enjoy as a faculty member. The list included:

  • building relationships with community partners and contributing to racial justice work in Milwaukee and beyond;
  • meeting in one-with-one conferences with writers fired up about their work;
  • writing with an activist agenda to share insights from research and lived experience;
  • blogging and translating research and writing for nonacademic, public audiences;
  • mentoring undergraduate researchers, grad students, faculty colleagues and others;
  • and more!

I could see almost immediately what was missing from this list: teaching for-credit courses, serving on committees, writing for in-field publications and navigating the brutal review process. In other words, the nonnegotiable core of my faculty position was missing from the list. Moreover, the nonnegotiable core was causing me to feel that my time was misaligned with my priorities. In contrast to earlier times when I found curriculum development and in-field research especially meaningful, I discovered that I was now spending hours on work that felt not directly related to — and, at times, as if it undercut — my commitments to social and racial justice.

The list surprised me because I’d been justifying that my faculty job was allowing me to do the work I felt most called to, when, in reality, it was the faculty job that was keeping me from aligning my time with my priorities.

This realization felt similar to others I’ve gained through trying different sorts of work. As an undergraduate, I had various internships, all of which taught me about what I enjoy (and don’t). Even those I didn’t like taught me what jobs not to pursue and how to identify misalignment and to make change. In graduate school, courses, assistantships and service assignments provided similar learning. For example, I realized through rotating in and out of committees that I enjoyed reviewing scholarship and nominating representatives, but not coordinating conferences or planning events. Such learning was important for informing future decision making: for learning when and why to say yes and no.

I share these stories because I’m recognizing more and more that we have wide-ranging reasons to say no: not only personal enjoyment, liking or calling but also larger commitments, social responsibilities and the potential impact of building or blocking. It’s often only through experience — weeks to months to years of lived experience — that we discern where the pathway is taking us and whether we want to continue walking that path.

Through making my decision to leave academe (saying no to the straight and narrow path so typically ascribed in graduate school), I’ve noticed that yes and no work in relationship — as a push-pull dichotomy. Saying no has the potential to open new opportunities, creating yeses not even articulated. I’m already seeing, for example, new relationships, publishing and learning opportunities emerge. And as new opportunities arise, it’s important to remember priorities and listen for the “strong yes,” as there’s a larger yes behind every no.

Saying no can also signal a change in direction, a choice to tread another path, a journey into pathless woods or an attempt at redrawing/revising the path altogether. I’m hopeful that conversations about alt-ac and non-ac careers will help expand imagined career pathways, as will more images of people creating their own career trajectories, where trajectories haven’t previously existed. I’m hopeful, too, about the possibilities of pursuing knowledge (an ultimate, underlying goal of higher education) in new ways, along new routes.

Individual decision making can impact community understandings of available decisions, so in addition to personal reasons for saying no, there’s potential behind every no for interrupting straight and narrow paths. Saying no can inspire others to see the value of experience as far more than building credentials. Saying no can build courage, too — not only for ourselves but also with and for others.

Here’s to saying no for modeling, rousing, disturbing, encouraging and shaking up/off inherited ways of being. Here’s to saying no for disrupting straight and narrow pathways. Here’s to saying no for learning to walk yet-to-be-imagined pathways.

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6 Leadership Strategies To Build A Bulletproof Business


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road to excellence



It’s the focus of every leader. It’s the aspiration of those who seek to make a mark.

How to achieve organizational excellence is the subject of a new book by David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training. THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE: 6 Leadership Strategies To Build A Bulletproof Business is the result of his research and experience as a CEO of a global organization. I asked him to share some of his leadership insights as well as some blind spots that can catch business leaders off guard with potentially disastrous consequences.


“Effective leaders are always in recruiting mode, not just when an opening appears.” -David Mattson


The first part of your book spotlights the blind spots that many have in building a culture of excellence. Of these 14, what blind spots do you see leaders making most often when it comes to leadership excellence?

The most common mistake – and it seems to be universal across all industries – is the failure to make recruiting the very best people an ongoing, continuous priority. Effective leaders are always in recruiting mode, not just when an opening appears. They build up a bench of talent, so that when there’s an unexpected departure by a key person, there’s no crisis that threatens the entire organization. If you look at the top-performing companies that dominate, you almost always find that they’re the ones that have made recruiting the very best people an ongoing organizational priority. You are always, always looking for the best talent.


“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” -Orison Sweet Marden


Know the 6 P’s

Let’s talk briefly about the 6 P’s. Planning. When a leader does this well, what does it look like?Road to Excellence Cover

Effective leaders think about where the business can and should be over the next three to five years. They think about the markets and the direction they’re headed in.

They think about where the company should focus their attention, about what they want to do – in short, they think in the future tense about each and every part of the business. That means they create a plan of action, complete with benchmarks. They look at the roadmap and identify the best possible route toward their future goal, and they get key people in their organization to participate in the discussion so that there is buy-in on the journey. They don’t let their present situation hold them back. They take off the blinders.

Their biggest challenge may be communicating the plan, because you need to continually communicate the future goals and the plans to get there in multiple modalities. Just sending out an email about the plan isn’t enough. You need face time, you need podcasts, you need video, you need everything … and you need it over and over again.


“Once people understand what is important, and why it makes sense to measure that, they’re more likely to be engaged, and they’re more likely to succeed.”-David Mattson


How about the second P, Positions? Organizational structure and required skill sets for each position are important. Given the speed of change, how often is this assessment done for optimal results?

This part focuses on the organizational chart. The idea is to sit down and consciously design what your company will look like when it’s aligned to the key goals you’re pursuing. This is an objective process, something that you separate from any emotional connections there may be with individual team members. You say, “Here is what the company needs to look like in order to achieve X … now, what needs to change, and what positions do I need to fill?”

Again, it’s ongoing. You should create an ideal SEARCH (Skills, Experience, Attitude, Results, Cognitive Traits, and Habits) template for each position, and then recruit to that template. And you should create a customized onboarding program for each position. That seems like a lot of work, but it’s actually a net time savings, because you’re far more likely to get the right person in the right position.

It’s important to remember that this is something you need to do continually. Major change in your company can happen before you are done going through all 6 P’s, which means you may need to adjust the org chart. Basically, any time you adjust your plan, you should expect to adjust the positions that support it.


“Leaders need to be congruent – meaning the words the leader uses in the workplace and the actions undertaken within the working relationships always need to match up.” -David Mattson


Let’s move on to the next P, People. What do “excellence leaders” do that makes them stand out in terms of hiring and retaining the best people?

Excellence leaders hire to a specific, clearly defined role, and with specific KPIs in mind.  They are very clear on the Skills, Experience and Results that the person doing the job would need in order to succeed. This knowledge gives them the ability to make the best hire possible.

Beyond that, some of the important best practices here are never to hire on gut instinct (it’s wrong too often), to incorporate other people in the interview process, to onboard properly, to set clear expectations, never to “blue sky” the job and create false hopes, and to look for ways to tie the individual’s unique personal goals to the goals of the company. Again, many managers think they don’t have time for that last one, but it’s a definite time-saver over the long term.


The next P is Processes. In your book, you point out that great leaders have processes for most everything. Some organizations grow to a point where process chokes progress. How do you know you have the right balance?

People usually cringe when they hear the word “process.” I don’t believe anyone needs to be smothered in process. When a process loses sight of the intent that led to its creation, that’s when it’s time to re-evaluate. Really, this is a cultural issue. You want people to have a sense of “how we do things here,” and to be ready to share and document best practices that others can follow. This is more of a playbook approach than a “death by paperwork” approach.

Some companies make process more of a compliance issue; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about checking to see how your organization can improve by asking people – and particularly new people – about what areas they need more explanation and support on in order to do a good job.

I’ve noticed something interesting about this. If you say, “Make sure you have a good playbook,” as opposed to “Make sure you have a process,” most people will buy into the idea of a playbook. They leap at the chance to capitalize on existing best practices and not have to figure out everything on their own.


The next P is Performetrics. I like the term. Why is this so critically important?

When it comes to execution in all the different parts of the business, you need to have a view into what is both important and measurable. That’s true at the organizational scale, where you track the right KPIs to see how the business as a whole is doing, and it’s true at the individual scale, where you aim to give people a performance metric they have personal control over that connects to their own personal performance target.

The various parts of your plan should all have metrics that allow you to determine whether you are on track – and, if you’re not, that provide the right type of data so you and your team can determine what needs to happen next. The keys are to check often, to adjust, and to share what you’ve learned about how you’re doing with the rest of the team.

Give people a clear sense of WHY a given metric is important, both on the personal level and on the team level. Once people understand what is important, and why it makes sense to measure that, they’re more likely to be engaged, and they’re more likely to succeed.


“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Passion. That’s the last P. How do the best leaders ensure that everyone shares it?

Dave MattsonTo sustain passion throughout the organization, the leader needs to have a deep personal conviction that the path the organization follows truly is the right path — and needs to be comfortable sharing exactly why that is so — in terms that will resonate with others. The leader must be prepared to continually communicate where the company is going and why.

The leader needs to be congruent – meaning the words the leader uses in the workplace and the actions undertaken within the working relationships always need to match up.

The leader also has to be willing to give coaching and support to emerging leaders, because developing people is a critical organizational priority.

If those pieces are in place, and if the leader is willing to commit to the 6 P’s process on a continuous basis, then the leader’s passion for the plan will become contagious.


For more information, see THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE: 6 Leadership Strategies To Build A Bulletproof Business.



This article is copyrighted by Skip Prichard, republishing is not permitted. Please share, but don’t repost in its entirety.

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SJSU Seeks Self-Nominations for Blockchain Technology Forum


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The San Jose State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) has received an IMLS grant to investigate ways that blockchain technology can be used by libraries as a community anchor to partner with other organizations and to support city/community goals. Some suggestions for blockchain applications in libraries include building an enhanced metadata center, protecting Digital First Sale rights, supporting community-based collections, facilitating partnerships across organizations, and more.

The year-long project will provide three opportunities for a national dialog among technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning and members of the information professions to discuss ways that blockchain technology can advance library services to support city/community goals.

  1. The project website and blog includes information and resources about blockchain technology, potential uses of blockchain technology by libraries, and project updates along with a blog to foster open dialog.
  2. The National Forum scheduled for August 6, 2018, in San Jose, California, will be comprised of 20-30 technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning to identify and discuss key opportunities for libraries to serve as community anchors using blockchain technology.
  3. The Library 2.018 conference, Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession, is designed for presentations and discussion on the uses of blockchain technology in libraries. Registration in this open online conference is free to the profession and public. Scheduled on June 7, 2018, the call for proposals is located on the conference website.

SJSU is seeking nominations of individuals to represent professional associations (including ACRL) and information organizations by participating in the upcoming National Forum. Funding provided by IMLS is available to support most of the expenses (travel, lodging, meals) for invited participants. ACRL encourages interested members to self-nominate to participate in the forum.

Nominations (including self-nominations) are due online by February 15, 2018. Nominees should be knowledgeable about blockchain technology and libraries in order to have an impact on the recommendations that will be made and discussed during the Library 2.018 conference and National Forum.

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