Interesting comments on the future of B&N, reading, and libraries

With Christmas coming soon, I’ve been thinking about abandoning my Nook Color and going with an Amazon Paperwhite.  I’ve got several years in the B&N Nook ecosystem, but I honestly don’t know how many Christmases the company has left.  In looking for pundits’ thoughts on the future of the company, I found the comments from this post –more about libraries and reading than the Nook itself– interesting.

nookfuturelibraries

What can library managers learn from the WordPress official creed?

wordpress-logoAutomattic, the company that owns WordPress.com, is an interesting study in organizational culture, hierarchy, and work.  The Year Without Pants, a book I’m currently reading and learning a lot from, shows the inner workings of this very different (and very cool)  company. In the book’s pages, I picked up on the WordPress creed, which can also be found on Matt Mullenweg’s blog.  Looking at this from a library manager’s point of view, there’s a lot we can steal from those words.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

I will never stop learning.

  • We should cultivate a culture of continuous learning whereby employees have access to exploration and experimentation, readings, webinars, conferences, professional development, and lively discussion with colleagues.

I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me.

  • We should empower employees to work beyond their comfort zone and encourage work with colleagues outside their department.

I know there’s no such thing as a status quo.

  • We need to know that change is always on the horizon, and we should do our best to welcome (and encourage)  change, while also helping employees adapt to change.

I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers.

  • Libraries  have to be a customer-focused business in order to remain relevant.  Our strength these days is not necessarily in our resources, but in how we care about our communities.   The people who use our libraries are our biggest advocates, so we must be passionate about listening to our patrons to understand their needs.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

  • There actually is an “I” in Library, but still.  Good teams get things done.  Bad ones just get in the way.

I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.

  • Libraries are one of the most powerful ideas of any generation.  What we do is for the common good, to educate, to make the world a better place.  No one gets rich being a librarian,  but they reap their rewards in other ways.

I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.

  • Communication with colleagues, patrons, peers, neighbors, customers, vendors, IT support, library boards, politicians, stakeholders,  etc.  is an essential function of our profession.  We need to make sure our staff are good at talking and writing.

I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.

  • It’s not a sprint, but that doesn’t mean you should dawdle either.  Our profession continues to change rapidly, and if you aren’t at least moving, you’ll be left behind.

Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

  • In libraries, no problems are insurmountable given enough time, staff, or money. Unfortunately, we don’t often have enough of either, so we have to get good at improvising and solving problems with creative solutions.

What if everyone had to do support work

Scott Berkun, in The Year Without Pants, discusses his first few days on the job at WordPress.com.  At WordPress, all new employees had to start first by answering customer support tickets.  This was true learning on the job, whereby they learned about the corporate culture, how to deal with customers, and how the WordPress support system worked.  Rather than listening to someone tell them “here is how you fix it”, Scott and other new employees actually did the fixing.  Scott compares his “training” at WordPress to his training at Microsoft.  At Microsoft, he monitored customer service calls or read follow-up reports to learn.  Scott writes:

These efforts were useful, but they were impersonal.  Listening to someone else or reading a report doesn’t put a fist in your gut the way being the person responsible for fixing the problem does.  Making everyone work in support forces everyone to take customers seriously, which we should since they pay our salaries.  Despite my distaste for it, the idea of making all employees participate in support, regardless of their distaste, was fantastic. p. 13

What  if everyone in your organization had to do  support or customer service work every now and then?  How would that change how we treat our customers/patrons and each other?

Get your knowledge out of your inbox and on the web

In only a week, my answer is now #6 on Google

In only a week, my answer is now #6 on Google

In his book, Trust Agents, Chris Brogan describes how people can become experts by sharing their answers on the web with more people.  I believe librarians should be doing this as often as they can in order to showcase their expertise, and it’s something I try to do whenever practical.

Brogan describes the process as follows (pp. 25-26):

  1. Receive a question requiring your expertise via email.
  2. Respond with an email but put answer in a blog post as well.
  3. The answer is out of your email and on the web for others to learn.
  4. Repeat this process many times.
  5. Your answers are now in Google.
  6. Now you’re an expert on the web.

A week ago I received an email from a student looking for market share and brand share information of the energy and sports drink market.  I recognized that this would likely be a question others were interested in, so rather than simply replying via email, I put the answer on my Business Blog and sent him the link.  He replied back a few hours later with his appreciation (which rarely happens, btw).

In a week’s time, my answer to the one patron has been viewed 103 times and currently sits as the #6 Google search result for “energy drink market share” and #7 result for “sports drink market share.” While all of the resources listed in my answer are from subscription databases (it’s impossible to get a good data on this topic without them) I do suggest that non-OHIO patrons check with their local libraries.  Hopefully my post will send other libraries some business while also demonstrating librarian expertise and the value of libraries.

Is it worth coming to the office?

“Coffee and email” by me

I’m currently reading Remote:  Office Not Required.  From page 47:

Worth counting too is the number of days you spend emailing someone who only sits three desks away.  People go to the office all the time and act as though they are working remotely:  emailing, instant messaging, secluding themselves to get work done.  At the end of the day, was it really worth coming to the office for it?  (my thoughts:  very good question!)

Look around inside your company and notice what work already happens on the outside, or with minimal face-to-face interaction. You my be surprised to discover that your company is more remote than you think.

Of the three meetings that I have had today, two of them might have been somewhat easy to do remotely via Skype, WebEx, or Google Hangouts.  Other than the three meetings, I’ve spent the bulk of my day responding and sending emails (yes, to folks three desks away) as well as reading/researching in library literature.  I would bet that the solo tasks of reading and emailing could have been a bit more productive without the occasional office interruptions, though I would have missed the side conversations and the ability to interrupt/talk-to others.