Conversations That Count: Bracing for Success


Assessment Services for an Uncertain World

This blog post comes from Nannette Naught, Senior Consultant at Innovative

Folks who follow me on Facebook know I post a lot of pictures of sheep, horses, and high school kids in blue jackets. For almost 18 years, my off hours have been spent helping my husband and son tend the flock, mend fences, and compete in 4H and FFA competitions. But all that is about to change … my son is a senior this year and my husband will finish his MLIS next fall. The next steps our family has been working toward for so long, are finally here. Well, almost here. There are a few tests (ACTs/SAT→ finals → e-portfolios) and a choice or two (which specialty → what college→ which location → what job) before graduations arrive.

For almost 12 years now, my work hours have been spent helping libraries and their suppliers attend to the metadata, connect to the content, and create the relationships necessary for electronic discovery and access. But this too is about to change … RDA is mainstream, the LRM works, and the LD4 crowd has proven linked data makes sense for not just discovery of library resources on the web, but library production activities, as well. The next-generation ecosystem we have been experimenting with for so long is upon us. Well, almost upon us. For many of you, there are a few assessments (what do our constituents need → what will it cost our institution → when and how can our library make it happen) and a choice or two (which audiences → what content → which services → what platform) before streamlined workflows and new services arrive at your library.

Thankfully, for this consultant’s sanity, lessons learned in the show ring, with a judge critiquing your every move, apply to both work and life. More importantly, from this “behind the scenes” advisor’s perspective, none of this is about me at all. The choices are not mine to make. The actions are not mine to take. My role, as your Innovative Consultant, is clear:

  • Focus on Conformation. Just like selecting a winning lamb: genetics, bone structure, and attractiveness count. Be it the services you deliver to your patrons or the platform through which you deliver those services, both the individual building blocks and the organic structure they create must be sound and flexible. A lamb that looks pretty when standing, but cannot walk freely around the ring doesn’t grow well because it cannot exercise, eat, or for that matter, reproduce. A stand-alone system that functions well in your library but does not easily pass along data, content, metrics, and patrons to other systems and services does not grow and prosper. Adherence to adopted standards and commonly accepted user experience norms, breeds success in and out of the show ring. With our experienced eyes, it’s your consultant’s job to point out the strengths, weaknesses, and fitness for purpose of the components, platforms, and services under consideration at your library. As your ardent supporters, it’s our passion to help you develop your own experienced eye along the way.
  • Train in Technique. Just like a body builder, a lamb’s muscles look best “on the brace.” Whenever possible, you want the judge to see your animal flexing — demonstrating its strength, power, and prettiness. And though bred to brace (or said another way, built to purpose and well conformed), no lamb and no system for that matter, braces on its own. It needs a trained showman who understands and correctly performs the techniques needed to make it brace. Push on the neck, rather than the chest, and your lamb knocks you over. Or worse yet, you receive a red ribbon on a champion lamb, because despite excellent conformation, it had a hump in its back and together, you two, painted an ugly picture for the judge. As a trained analyst, it’s your consultants’ job to teach you, the system showman, how to best position your chosen services and systems for your judges — the faculty, students, community members, and constituencies that patronize and fund your library. As your advocates, it’s our passion to help you present the best picture possible via clear communication and accurate assessments.
  • Support the Showman. Just like athletics, successful showmanship requires access to appropriate training, relentless practice, and competent counsel. Or as I heard the kids in the blue jackets say recently, “you are who you hang with.” The best way to become a champion showman is to spend time with those who are. Take a class from one. Ask several to practice with you. Invite them and their coaches to critique your work and offer suggestions. Don’t just stand content in the middle of a small class. Sign up for an event that challenges you. Risk standing at the back of the line. And then, invite us in to help you assess:
    • What your constituents need.
    • What will it cost your institution to deliver services that answer those needs.
    • When and how your library can make it happen.

    As your guide, it’s our job to help you deliver the high-quality, sustainable services your patrons need in workflows, on budgets that work for your library. As your passionate library success partner, it’s our mission to equip you and your team to succeed.

Please give me a call, drop me an email, or pose your question through our Expert Services form. We’d love to help your library assess:

  • The strengths, weakness, and fitness for purposes of the components, platforms, and services under consideration and running in your library with a Readiness Assessment. From automating acquisitions to integrating linked data techniques in a way that makes sense for your institution and its patrons, Innovative coaches and consultants are ready to help you shift staff from system maintenance to service provision.
  • How to best design, build, and deliver new services in your library with a Needs Assessment. From content creation and repository management to user experience and project management, Innovative’s consultants and developers are ready to help you create the integrated, engaging eProducts and embedded services your students, researchers, and community need to succeed.
  • How to increase engagement and communicate the value of your library with an Impact Assessment. From student success to institutional alignment, Innovative’s consultants and strategists are ready to help you capture not just the traffic, but the repeat business (and associated funding) of the instructors, researchers, students, and community members you serve.