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Monday, June 20, 2011

23 CPD

I took part in the 23 Things on a Stick a number of years ago. It was great! I learned a lot and have forgotten most. I look forward to going through the CPD and updating those skills.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Library Management Hell’s Kitchen Style: Adding a Little Spice to your Library

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."

Though these famous words were penned by the Irish poet and novelist, Oscar Wilde, over a decade ago, they still ring true. However, our modern day "art" is displayed via media streams in the comfort of our homes. Here’s a news flash: Reality TV is everywhere. It has permeated our society for over a decade now and seems only to grow more outlandish with each passing year. Alan Funt’s Candid Camera was one of the landmark reality TV programs that graced the airwaves. Now, reality television is everywhere. You seemingly can’t throw your remote five feet without hitting an episode of Amazing Race, Project Runway, Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, or any other plethora of programs. Americans and the world in general seem to be fascinated by the human drama that plays out on any given night of the week.

Americans love to see how others deal with difficult, sometimes embarrassing, situations. Many viewers sit back and laugh as someone, who has a delusional sense of their own talent, is dismissed by a surly Simon Cowel or engross themselves in the awkward break up of John and Kate. Some shows have an almost inspirational effect, like America’s Biggest Loser, while others border on mindless drivel, like Paris Hilton's My New BFF.

So what does any of this have to do with libraries? I would submit that for all their foibles, there are some interestingly poignant programs that may even get the average couch potato to sit on the edge of his seat. One program that is particularly interesting is the Hell’s Kitchen spin-off, Kitchen Nightmares. Both shows are based on the exploits of the internationally known British chef, Gordon Ramsey and bring introduce the viewer to the inner workings of the restaurant world.

I'm most interested in Ramsey's second attempt Kitchen Nightmares. In each episode, Chef Ramsey hits the road to seek out restaurants where the staff, food, and service are in total disarray, usually nearing bankrupcy. Like a modern day Lone Ranger, Ramsey swoops in firing silver bullets of profanity and brutal honesty in all directions, whipping the staff and management into shape.

The show works on a whole other level. There are a number of leadership and management aspects that make themselves apparent during each episode. Unlike the back-stabbing, cut-throat boardroom tactics of NBC’s The Apprentice, Kitchen Nightmares allows its viewers to see how a group of restaurateurs can work together to form an effect and efficient team. Through this ordeal there are a few essential elements of management that transcend the restaurant business and can be applied to the cozy confines of the average or above average library environment.

Ambiance: To look good is to feel good

Kitchen Nightmares is extremely formulatic. There is a clear and apparent order to each episode that borders on ritual. Chef Ramsey starts by sitting down to sample the menu. After being thoroughly disgusted by the crab cakes or funnel shaped dessert, Chef Ramsey heads off to inspect the kitchen, the dining area, and the front of the building. Usually, the establishment is so desheveled it should really be on an episode of Extreme Home Makeover. In many cases, there are rodents or insects in the kitchen,waterspots in the ceiling, and mold in the refridgerators.

This begs the question: what type of impression do your patrons get from your library? Does your library give off an inviting aura? Ask yourself, what is the first thing that draws the patron’s attention when she walks through your front door? Is it the clean, creative book display, or is her eye drawn to the wide open door of the cataloging room with books and loose papers stacked in uneven piles? As with any fine dining establishment, the ambiance sets the mood and contributes mightily to the culinary experience. Creating an atmosphere that fits the menu is a crucial component. Does your children and young adults section include vibrant artwork or colorful wall hangings? Do you offer quiet places to read or study?

In each episode of Kitchen Nightmares, a magical transformation occurs that turns a rundown, back alley “dive” into a pleasant, pristine eatery. Librarians can take a page out of the Chef Ramsey book on décor and incorporate some of those time tested elements. Improving the look of your library doesn’t have to be a budgetary strain. First, make sure everything is nice and clean. Get rid of cluttered workspaces. These only serve as distractions for the library user. If you work in a smaller library, a fresh coat of paint, a few pieces of art strategically placed, and some new or refurbished furniture can go a long way to improving the atmosphere of your library. If you consider for a moment that many library users (of all ages) spend much of their day sitting in uncomfortable hardback chairs; it only makes sense to include a coach or two.

Unfortunately, Home Makeovers: Library Edition is most likely not destined for primetime or on the radar of many Hollywood moguls (however, it may make for some interesting transformations…), many libraries can still incorporate tactics to spruce up their décor for a reduced cost. Now, libraries shouldn’t have to open a Starbucks franchise in the foray to get patrons through the door; though it may help, it isn’t required.

Too many Chefs spoil the Broth...and other organizational realities

In any succesfull restaruant, the head chef, sous chef, manager, host, and wait staff all have defined roles. If one of them is out of step, the team falls into dissaray and the whole experience for the customer can be ruined. An evening of entertainment and fine dining can go right down the drain with one miss-step. In most cases, the staff are protrayed as lazy, over bearing, set in their ways, or unwilling to change. Anyone who has eaten out expects prompt, attentive staff. Someone greets you when you walk in and asks “how many” and “booth or table?” These are the qualities of any good retaraunt. However, in Kitchen Nightmares, the owner is either sitting at the bar or walking around with cocktail in hand. If you have a board member or library director who is continually browsing the stacks while slurping on an apple-tini, you may have bigger issues. Libraries also have defined roles, and it is important that each employee understand their unique responsibility within the organization.

Organization and preparation are essential for any effective restaraunt. In fact, much of the work happens before the doors open. The chopping, mincing, and preparing are done hours before the even customers arrive. Libraries also rely heavily on organization and prepartation, but their preparations fall into the category of stratetic planning. Before initiating programs, there should be careful consideration as to who the program will serve and how will it be managed.

Each library, whether it is academic, public, special, or school, serves a specific community. It is up to those libraries to examine their specific niche and how best to serve that segment of their community. In each episode, Chef Ramsey assists the restraunteers by surveying their community and, in some cases, change their makeup to take advantage of a specific culinary deficiency within the community. For instance, he transformed a below average café into an upscale pizzaria.

Chef Ramsey continually stresses the importance of quality ingredients. He makes sure that produce is brought in daily from local growers when available so that the patrons are treated to fresh, vibrant cuisine. Good library managers will take the same tact when they look at their services from the patron’s perspective. How do your services “taste”? What are you doing to keep your ideas fresh, vibrant, lively? For libraries, fresh and vibrant usually refer to technologies that leverage Web 2.0. Is your library on Twitter or Facebook? Do you have a resident blogger?

Ramsey comes across as audacious, temperamental, profane, and confrontational. However, he is always passionate. It is an aspect of Kitchen Nightmares that is evident in every episode. brings with him. Does your library have passion? Can you feel that sense of Along with flavor comes passion. You have to have a passion for what you do. It comes through in the food and your patrons will catch on to this and what to frequent your library.

Attentiveness: A watched pot never boils; A forgotten pot leads to disaster

Libraries and restaraunts are both service indisustries; the customer experience is the driving force behind their success or failure. One constant scene in every episode is the obligatory shot of a disgusted patron waiting to be served. Their eyes glance from left to right, they fidget, and someone pipes in “what’s taking so long?” This usually happens right after Ramsey has arrived and the staff is embarking on the cathartic stage of integrating new menu items. How does this transfer to library services? Ask yourself: are our patrons receiving prompt, polite service? Are we able to customize the service they are receiving?

If the staff is unwilling to change to meet the desires of the patron, Chef Ramsey forces them to or forces them to find employment elsewhere. Is there a willingness to change your library services to meet the needs of your patrons? Successful libraries have the abilty to take an honesty, truthful look at themselves and the services they provide. In Kitchen Nightmares, there are some employees who are unwilling to change because they are convinced they have the best idea. Unfortunately, like any good restaurant, there needs to be an infusion of fresh, new dishes to keep the customer coming back.

Most chefs would say that the more often they prepare a dish, the better it gets. Repetitoin leads to compentency. It helps to build speed, precision, and timing. The same can be said for all restaurant staff. Constant repetition and practice leads to better quality and service. Part of a staff’s ability to meet patron needs is addressed through continuous training opportunity. A trained staff serves to increase the quality experience of the patron. A trained workforce increases the quality experience for the patron as well as boosting the morale of the staff and decreases the need for supervision by management. Libraries can particularly gain through continuing education opportunities as they not only serve to keep librarians abreast of new technologies, but they also serve to invigorate them as well.

While reality television doesn’t give the viewing public a wide array of programs to choose from, there are a few diamonds in the rough. Though there are a lot of lessons to be learned about self-sacrafice and teamwork in shows like The Apprentice or conflict management in shows like Operation Repo, Kitchen Nightmares gives you a great insight into putting together a successful organization.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AUTC's 8th Annual Academic Conference

Argosy University's Twin Cities campus presented it's 8th annual academic conference this past thursday. This year's theme was titled The Learnins Environment and included a number of fascinating speakers. This year the keynote speaker was Sarah Dennison who spoke on the importance of assisting students to "learn and prepare to grow a career" and gave the AU faculty a few pointers on how to facilitate and support them. The afternoon was comprised of two breakout sessions.

Don St. Dennis lead one session entitled "The Multiccultural Classroom." Mr. St. Dennis' program focused on interpersonal communication issues in a multicultural environment. He touched on a range of topics that included stereotyping, intercultureal competence, cultural values, and verbal & non-verbal communication.

I had the unique opportunity to lead the other breakout session which focused on Web 2.0 tools for educators. We discussed blogs, wikis, social networking, social bookmaring, microblogging, and photosharing. The Student Centered Cutlure Task Force also presented a panel which included a number of representatives from all areas of the campus.
video

Monday, April 13, 2009

Optimists and Pessimists...



I was recently going through some of my old PowerPoint presentations and came across a great story I'd like to share. It's a little fable imparted to me by one of my classmates in the Argosy University Doctorate of Education program...I think it's entitled the Horse or something; either way, it is a great illustration of the difference between optomists and pessimists...

There once was a father who had twin sons. One son was an optimist, the other a pessimist. On the twins’ birthday, while the boys were at school, the father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist’s room he loaded with horse manure.

That night the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly. “Why are you crying?” the father asked. “Because my friends will be jealous, and I’ll have to read the instructions, and I’ll constantly need batteries and my toys will get broken," answered the pessimist.

Passing the optimist’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. “What are you so happy about?” asked the father. To which the optimist replied, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”


I think this speaks to the fact that life is what you make of it. If you look for the good, guess what you find: good things.

If you choose to look for the bad, guess what you find: the bad.

Sometimes, however, you have to look reeeeeaaaallly hard to see those good things. Even through all of the "stuff" life has to throw at you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Atlanta Residency - Days 3, 4, and gone!


Well, I've finally arrived home after spending the weekend meeting a number of online students and faculty at the AUO Atlanta residency. It was a blast and extremely rewarding. I figured I should finish what I started. Here is what happened on Saturday

Day 3
On the second day I set up shop and waited for a number of appoints that had been scheduled the night before. Of the 11 who signed up for sessions, only 6 actually came in. Day 3, however, was a whole different story. I was going from 8 am to 2:45 pm with students coming in every 15 minutes. I was able to see 17 students over all and answered questions ranging from specific reference research (mainly students in the psychology program) to APA style. I also found out that there ere 280 students at the conference; 110 in the psychology program, 90 in the education program, and the rest were made up of Business (DBA) and Organizational Leadership. I also gave two presentations that afternoon, one to the Residency II students (those who have either taken comps or will soon) and the Psychology students.
After the day had concluded, the cadre had a very nice dinner at the City Restaurant (I think that was the name of it), which was formerly a Federal Reserve building (lots of marble). It was great!

Day 4
The last day of the residency was as smooth as can be. I had two presentations in the morning and headed to the airport around 12:30. My flight didn't leave until 3:30, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to grade some papers. On the way home, I listened to 80's music on the XM satellite and took pictures of the clouds, the ground, and the cabin (I actually got a window seat!). The other passengers probably thought I was a little off with all the snapping that was going on.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Argosy Online Residendcy - Atlanta!!!

Wow! I'm psyched that this is my first bonefied blog posting! It's nice to finally have a reason to impart those thoughts and reflections. I've chosen as the first assignment to write about my experience teaching Information Literacy skills at the Argosy University Online residency in Atlanta.

Day 1
Actually, yesterday was the first day, which was spent mostly on a plane. Once I arrived at the hotel (Renaissance Concourse), I had the opportunity to sample some finger food, drink some wine (merlot hit the spot), and mingle with faculty and students. Eventually, I made it to my room and started to settle in. I was ecstatic to have internet access, but was way too tired to attempt to grade papers for my English 099 class (of course I set the alarm clock for 4 am, which for me is a good time to start the grading process). I also realized how close I was to the airfield...the planes literally take off and land in my back yard! I spent some time on my patio watching them while drinking a cup of coffee (yes, it's always coffee time).

Day 2
Right now, I'm sitting in the "Library," which consists of 4 chairs, 4 tables, and a pitcher of water. It's 10 am, and I've got a full slate of students (11 to be exact; I get one every 15 minutes!) that have signed up for one on one assistance with our library resources between 1 and 3:30 pm. So, I've got some time to kill. I plan on catching up on email, going over my presentation, and, of course, having another cup of coffee. My first presentation is at 4 pm with the students in the Doctorate in Organizational Leaderhsip program. It'll be a hoot! Anyway, more later. I'll get some pics up in a bit...I must be on the Delta side of the airport...

video

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thing #23!!!

Go back to your thoughts/ideas about Library 2.0. Has anything changed as a result of this experience?
I've become more aware of the enviornment, that's for sure! I'm planning to finally start incorporating this technology into the library where I feel it'll be most effective.

What were your favorite Things and discoveries?
Widgets! I love the ability to do live reference in that manner. I like Wikis too.

How did you connect with others doing the 23 Things On a Stick?
I didn't really...I checked out a website or two, but never really bonded with my classmates.

Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
Twitter is interesting...being able to let people know where you are at the virtual drop of a hat.

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or content?
Nothing. I was upset with the directions for adding videos...it didn't look as it was described, but other than that...nothing. Maybe some screenshots to give a better representation.

If we offered a 23 More Things On a Stick program like this in the future would you participate?
You bet'cha!

How would you describe your learning experience in one word or in one sentence, so we could use your words to promote 23 Things On a Stick learning activities to others?
A fast-paced roadtrip through the in's and out's of the information superhighway (does anyone call it that anymore?)