Archives For Innovation

Collaboration is Hard

Kevin King —  February 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

collaboration-mindsetIn the library world, conflict is avoided more than it is embraced. I have noticed that when faced with a situation in which you would like to verbally disagree with a colleague over an idea or plan, most people stay silent. This response only leads to stagnant innovation. Collaboration is hard. Overcoming this difficulty happens when a team can establish a trust-filled, safe environment where everyone on the team has a voice, great things happen.

Author Liane Davey, an expert on teams in the workplace, writes:

Collaboration is crumpling under the weight of our expectations. What should be a messy back-and-forth process far too often falls victim to our desire to keep things harmonious and efficient. Collaboration’s promise of greater innovation and better risk mitigation can go unfulfilled because of cultural norms that say everyone should be in agreement, be supportive, and smile all the time. The common version of collaboration is desperately in need of a little more conflict.

Davey goes on to explain ways in which teams can develop ways to make collaboration and conflict. Her methods include:

  1. Discussing team roles before the team tackles a new idea.
  2. Use a personality assessment tool to highlight team members differences.
  3. Set ground rules around dissension.

I encourage you to read more about each of these methods here. Teams that contain members that trust one another, understand the personalities at play and have established the guidelines for engagement will not only realize that collaboration is not that hard but also more innovation than you can manage.

book and skull with title The Almost Dead Experiment

What’s a rational weeding philosophy? When is a book really dead? 6 months? 2 years? 4 years? More importantly: how do we know? Progressive, cool libraries stick to a 180 day weeding target, while old, stodgy libraries pile books to the rafters (’cause hey . . . we got the space). And some libraries (ahem, East Lake County) hate weeding so much and so blindly that they create a fake patron account to “save” books. All of these beg the same question: what data are these decisions based on?

In my new position managing the adult collection at KPL, I’m in a complex situation. While we tend to have a more conservative weeding target (4 years at main downtown library), I personally found myself leaning towards the more aggressive end of the spectrum – I just assumed that if a book sits on the shelf for 2 or 3 years, it’s probably not getting checked out.

Until now.

CollectionHQ, an evidence-based collection management tool designed for libraries (recently acquired by Baker and Taylor), is normally used for weeding and selecting. But my favorite tool, called “experimental placement,” allows you to track particular books or collections and see how they perform over time. I ran an experiment 7 months ago, the results of which completely blow my mind. It turns out that, at my library, books that haven’t been checked out in three years – three years! – are still not dead yet.

Looking at the Dewey ranges 000-550, I was able to find 907 books that hadn’t checked out in three years (our weeding target is currently set at four years). I put those 907 Almost Dead Books into a CollectionHQ experiment, and I waited.

Out of 907 books in the experiment, a whopping 232 (25%) were subsequently checked out by patrons. That is to say, 1 in every 4 Almost Dead Books were checked out. And of those 232 that were checked out, many were renewed multiple times and/or checked out again by someone else – making a net total of 469 circulations from Almost Dead Books.

Before the experiment, my prediction was that 1-5% of the Almost Dead Books would circulate again. I had to double check the numbers. I even checked the ILS at most of these titles, just to be sure actual real physical people were checking them out. Indeed.

I predict the second half of the Dewey ranges would do markedly better (550-999: diet, workout, cooking, business, crafts, travel).

This data sort of justifies our “conservative” target – clearly people still want some of these books. You could argue that weeding Almost Dead Books would actually lead to more total circulation by freeing up space for newer books.

I don’t want to oversimplify things. Weeding isn’t a simple 6 months vs. 4 years decision. Every Dewey range and every genre of fiction should  be treated differently, and there are myriad other considerations. I just wanted to repeat the buzzword because it matters so much in our profession: data-driven decision making. Whatever you do at your library, try to get data to inform the decision. You might be surprised.

Questions about how to do these experiments in CollectionHQ?

Reading Reignites!

Kevin King —  August 8, 2016 — 1 Comment

Last week I facilitated a book discussion for people who work in libraries on the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. It was a very lively discussion centered on Carr’s idea that prolonged use of the Internet is causing our brains to change. Carr suggests that the result of this change is that it has become more difficult for humans to engage in deep, contemplative reading. The Internet has become a “distraction machine” and society may suffer over time. His suggestion is to take time out every day to practice reading the printed word.


In an article on writer Nicolas Cole listed his favorite novels that spark creativity. Cole writes, “Reading a masterful novel and immersing yourself in the story is a workout for your brain. You’ll be amazed how much richer your creativity will be after finishing a classic piece of literature.” The idea that by simply reading you can feed your creative juices seems to support Carr’s theory that the printed word exercises the parts of the brain that encourage deep thinking.

Do you have a list of books you turn to when you are stuck in a creative rut? Please share with the other LL&F readers.


Considering the myriad reasons that people find themselves working in or visiting libraries, it is little wonder that librarians and library staff experience an interesting workplace personality dynamic. Introversion versus extroversion, as well as differences in self-monitoring (one’s ability to regulate one’s behavior and accommodate social situations), often leads to clashes that have repercussions in a library workplace setting.

For example, extroverts tend to find renewed energy in working at a reference desk; introverts may enjoy that interfacing, but still face burnout without appropriate recovery time away from others.

How does one successfully navigate relationships in a workplace where many people are personally fighting burnout while others must combat the burnout of those around them? How do we lead and unite a staff that represents the full spectrum of relational preferences with very different approaches to communicating with their colleagues and interpreting the organization’s goals?

How does a manager inspire staff who are so diversely motivated and energized?

In search of some answers to these questions, a group of librarians at the Bryan and College Station Public Library System in Texas is hoping to form some insights and coping strategies by using data from as wide a sample as possible. We invite librarians and library staff to take part in an anonymous survey that will provide information about each participant’s personality, self-monitoring abilities, and job satisfaction. We appreciate any and all responses we receive.

Spark Up in Denver!

Kevin King —  February 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

Compressed-air-horn-4d4939ffccf31_hiresDo you have an idea that you have been dying to tell the library world? Looking for a forum to share your brilliance? Going to the PLA Conference in Denver, April 5-9? (Tired of blog posts that start with a bunch of questions?) Due to popular demand, PLA is bringing back one of its most popular events from the 2014 conference, Spark Talks! The first Spark Talks event attracted a standing room only crowd. Participants were treated to idea after idea in five minute increments. Anyone going over the allotted time was subject to the sweet sounds of an air horn. It was fun.

The skill of being able to share an idea in a short time is one that all leaders need to learn. You never know when you are stuck in an elevator with someone who has the power to move your idea forward. The ability to succintly summarize has helped me get many ideas off of the ground. The opportunity to witness others trying to do it in a high pressure setting should help you learn what and what not to do.

I am calling upon all LL&F readers going to Denver to consider giving a Spark Talk. You can apply on the PLA Spark Talk page. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that I will be your host for the event. Let’s Spark it up!