Category Archives: leadership

Trouble at Boston Athenaeum

As reported in the Boston Globe.

Strife has erupted at the Boston Athenaeum, a venerable redoubt of Brahmin culture better known for afternoon teas and Beacon Hill reserve than for workplace clashes that spill into the public realm.

Even as the private library has courted younger members and improved fund-raising, it has been rocked by internal divisions and widespread staff departures: Nearly half of the Athenaeum’s roughly 55 employees have departed in the past 3½ years — a striking turn at an institution where tenure is often measured by the decade.

In more than a dozen interviews, current and former employees, board members, and longtime supporters of the Athenaeum described an institution in turmoil, as director Elizabeth Barker seeks to modernize the tradition-bound library she’s led since October 2014 while being accused of disregarding its essential character and expert staff. Read the rest.

The Institutional Repository Landscape in 2018

Choice teamed up with the Taylor and Francis Group to produce a white paper on the current landscape for institutional repositories (IR). While the report aims to survey the entire landscape, I should note that 93% of respondents were from academic institutions.

You can read the entire document HERE. Below, I’ve pulled some highlights from the report.

IR instances

there are at least 600 IRs in an estimated 500 organizations in North America.

Market Share

The Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) indicates that DSpace and Digital Commons (bepress) are the most widely held in North America.

More than half the survey respondents had an instance of Digital Commons (58%), while more than a quarter had CONTENTdm (27%) and/or DSpace (26%).

Institutional Preferences

Larger libraries with technical staff prefer to customize software while smaller libraries depend on a service model (such as Digital Commons) that provides IR and publishing capabilities with less impact on staff requirements. Recent growth among smaller institutions favors a service model.


Although half of institutions indicate that faculty and students make deposits, it is clear that the majority of content is mediated or deposited by library staff. Nearly half of the institutions have one or less than one equivalent staff working on the IR. The average staff for an IR is one or two people.

University Presses

About 20% of university presses report to the library, and a larger number are developing partnerships with the library.


Jerry Jr. and the future of Liberty University

Inside Higher Ed recently ran an in-depth profile on Jerry Falwell Jr. and his plans for the future of Liberty University.

Like most leaders, Falwell has a complex relationship with risk. He’s clearly not afraid of the big gambles, like investing in football or backing Trump. But when previous risks pay off, he can be conservative with the proceeds.

Liberty has invested a low percentage of its endowment into equities, between 20 percent and 30 percent, according to Falwell. It’s taking risks instead by pouring profits into its campus.

Construction on Liberty’s campus isn’t just limited to its athletic facilities. The university is in the midst of a $1 billion campus construction plan funded in large part by its online profits.

Projects include academic buildings, dormitories and a 275-foot-tall tower topped by a replica of the Liberty Bell. The tower, which will hold the university’s School of Divinity, sits on an academic lawn that tour guides say is larger than the lawn at the University of Virginia. It is named the Freedom Tower. Some students have referred to it as the Tower of Babel.

Read the rest here.

Image Credit: Murat Tanyel

Managing Oneself

I can scarcely recommend this book strongly enough. First written as an article in the Harvard Business Review, and then re-published as a longer booklet, Peter F. Drucker’s masterful Managing Oneself succeeds on every level.

Drucker focuses on the following key points and questions.

What are my strengths?

  • To discover one’s strengths use “feedback” analysis (e.g. write down your key decisions/actions and check results in 9-12 months).
  • Focus primarily on your strengths (as change is difficult/impossible)
  • Improve your strengths
  • Uncover where your intellectual arrogance is creating problems and work to eliminate.

“Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization.”

How do I perform?    

  • Am I a reader or listener?
  • How do I learn? Some folks learn by writing, others by talking and others by reading or listening. Learn how you learn.
  • Am I a loner or do I work well with others?
  • Do I produce better results as the decision maker, or as an advisor?
  • Do I perform well under stress, or do I need lots of structure?
  • Do I function best in large organizations, or small organizations?

“Do not try to change yourself – you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform.”

What are my values?

  • What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror each morning?

“Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible . . . They do not need to be the same, but . . . close enough to coexist.”

  • Where do I belong?

“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transfer an ordinary person – hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre – into an outstanding performer.”

What should I contribute?

  • What does the situation require?
  • Given my strengths, my way of performing, and values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
  • What results should be achieved to make a difference?

“A plan can usually cover no more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific”

Responsibility for Relationships

“Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships”

  • Others are as much individuals as yourself.
    • To be effective, one must know the strengths, performance modes, and values of your co-workers.
  • Take responsibility for communication.
    • You must communicate your strength’s, values, and performance style, and proposed contribution and find out the same about others.

The second half of your life.

“Knowledge workers are not “finished” after 40 years on the job, they are merely bored.”

  • There are three ways to develop a second career
    • Start one (e.g. moving to a new organization, change lines of work, etc.).
    • Develop a parallel career (e.g. volunteer for a non-profit, begin consulting, become more involved in the community, etc.).
    • Become a social entrepreneur (e.g. start a charity, etc.).

3 Tips for a Writing a Great Self-Study

Institutions of higher education (IHE) take self-study documents seriously, and they should, because the selfstudy is one of the most important parts of the accreditation process. Across the past several years I’ve had the privilege to be involved in a number of self-study processes for initial and re-affirmation of accreditation, at the regional, national, and programmatic levels. I have served on and chaired self-study committees and have also been on several site visit teams. In short, I’ve read quite a few self study documents and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t lie.
The accreditation and self-study process is often stressful for the host institution or department. The outcome of an accreditation visit may mean the difference between a dean or department head receiving kudos or condemnation. In extreme cases, someone may even lose their position. Nevertheless, avoid the temptation to cover up programmatic or institutional weakness with dishonesty. Most writers are honest and ethical people and so this is rare. However, it does happen and when it does it can jeopardize the credibility of an entire program or institution. Better to acknowledge a program or departmental weakness than cast doubt on your entire university and jeopardize your career.

2. Write to the standard, the whole standard, and nothing but the standard.
The best way to approach a standard is to break it into its constituent parts and ensure that each part is correctly assessed and answered. Simple and straightforward writing to the standard is the best way to clearly communicate a program or institution’s strengths to a visiting team member.

3. The most parsimonious answer is probably the best answer.
Resist the temptation to “fluff up” portions of the self-study with extraneous detail or jargon. Folks who are reading your self-study will thank you. I’ve never been a part of a peer review team that wishes to do anything other than correctly validate the self study’s findings and make recommendations that adhere to the standards. Self-study documents that are fluffed up with acronyms, irrelevant data, useless details, and/or jargon make the team reviewer’s job needlessly difficult.

By way of example:
Just for the sake of discussion let’s say that a particular standard demands that “at least 75% of program X’s most recent graduates demonstrate the ability to count from 1 to 4.”

Poor Answer:
“Nearly all of our program graduates know how to count from 1 to 25, and many can count even higher. For example, a recent alum demonstrated that she could count from 1 through 1,000. We are so very proud to count her among our alumni family. In a recent counting demonstration, 25% of our students could count from 1 to 4 in less than 30 seconds…”

Better Answer:
“Recent testing shows that 89.3% of the most recent graduating class in program X demonstrate the ability to count from 1 to 4 (Citations for Assessment Measure 1; Assessment Measure 2; Assessment Measure 3).”

Cookies and Mental Strength



Most librarians are, by nature, helpful. Librarians tend to gravitate toward this profession because they want to help others find resources and, in the long term, success. Their job is, in some part, to assist others to success. This is a job that, on its good days, delivers a steady stream of small rewards, the kind that come from helping and supporting others.

But even librarians can fall victim to the negative mental habits of feeling sorry for ourselves, resisting necessary change, dwelling on the past, and fretting over things we don’t control. Even jealously or envy can creep in. It’s easy to wonder if the hours spent helping a faculty colleague find the best resources for their research, is time better spent on our own. In his famous address at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace reminds us of how easy it can be to begin to see others as simply obstacles to our own happiness. 

So, how can library professionals maintain a positive and caring attitude about those we are responsible to serve, even when we’ve fallen victim to negative mental patterns? Well, just gritting your teeth and trying to be polite sometimes has to do the trick, but it’s not a very sustainable way to operate and often it says more about us than it does about others. Sometimes a bit of reflection about our own limitations and imperfections can remind us to cut others some slack and prompt us to slow love and kindness. So,if you’re asking  yourself . . . when do we get to the cookies? Your wait is over! Valerie Cox has written a funny poem that can help us remember that sometimes, the problem isn’t other people . . . it’s us.

The Cookie Thief

    A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man beside her as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As this gutsy “cookie thief” diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”

With each cookie she took, he took one too.
And when only one was left she wondered what he’d do.
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

    He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh brother,
This guy has some, nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!”

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look back at the “thieving ingrate.”

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his and he tried to share!”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!

Valerie Cox, “The Cookie Thief” in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Photo Credit: Lloyd Morgan

Free Professional Development


ALA Poster  (ca. 1918)

One of the most important parts of being a professional (in any field) is staying up-to-date with the literature and technical/hard skills required to thrive in your field.

Librarians, like all professionals, should continue to both hone their current skills and develop and learn new ones.

Additionally, library managers and supervisors may wish to use online professional development to train new support staff and para-professionals or to cross train seasoned staff.

Here are some great online (and free) professional development sites for librarians and archivists.

Connecting to Collections Care (Resources)

Digital Public Library of American (Public Library Partnerships Project)

Idaho Commission for Libraries (Continuing Education)

InfoPeople Webinars

Library of Congress (Librarians and Archivists)

OCLC WebJunction

Utah State Library (Webinars)

UW-Madison iSchool Webinars

Wyoming State Library Training Calendar
(up-to-date calendar of professional development training opportunities)




Image credit to Boston Public Library

Leadership Matters


Sweet Briar College, 1930s

Historic institution, Sweet Briar College, received a record number of applicants for the 2017 academic year. If you’ve not heard of Sweet Briar College, it’s the college that nearly closed in 2015. According to the previous board the college faced “insurmountable financial challenges.” Turns out, the challenges weren’t insurmountable, the current leadership just wasn’t up to them. A large number of Sweet Briar Alumnae rose to the challenge, raising $30 million in 100 days, and launching a legal battle was won after moving all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. The college had just overhauled their library (more here). The current president, Phil Stone, relates the fascinating story (one year later) in this recent piece in the Roanoke Times.


Image credit to Boston Public Library.