This Week in LIS - 4 December 2009

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Information Technology Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Headline of the Week: The “Stop Doing” List

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last gave a keynote address at this year’s EDUCAUSE in Denver in which he discussed much of his research into excellence, particularly as translated into the higher education market. In concluding his talk, he laid out a series of critical factors that when executed well can help achieve excellence. One of those items was a “Stop Doing” List. The idea is not new. Collins wrote about this in 2003. Collins wrote:

In cataloguing the key steps that ignited the transformations [for companies that went from good to great], my research team and I were struck by how many of the big decisions were not what to do, but what to stop doing.

In perhaps the most famous case, Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark — a man who had prevailed over throat cancer — said one day to his wife: “I learned something from my cancer. If you have a cancer in your arm, you’ve got to have the guts to cut off your own arm. I’ve made a decision: We’re going to sell the mills.”

At the time, Kimberly-Clark had the bulk of its revenues in the traditional paper business. But Smith began asking three important questions: Are we passionate about the paper business? Can we be the best in the world at it? Does the paper business best drive our economic engine?

The answers came up: no, no and no.

And so, Smith made the decision to stop doing the paper business — to sell off 100 years of corporate history — and throw all the resulting resources into the consumer business (building brands such as Kleenex), which came up yes, yes and yes to the same questions.

Gutsy call to make, and not one without risk, but one with significant reward. In fields seeing rapid changes and evolution, this assessment becomes even more critical. The field of information support is certainly one that fits these criteria. We cannot afford to assume the priorities we held 100 years ago are the same as they are today. Honestly, we cannot afford to assume the priorities we held 5 years ago are the same as they are today. We spend much time thinking about the new services and innovations we need to pursue, and we need to be equally fervent to think about things to stop doing, even when doing so may be risky.

At this week’s LIS General Meeting, we brainstormed briefly a list of candidates for a “stop doing” list for LIS. Some of these items are included below.

  • Stop storing so much paper / deploy and move to digital storage and document imaging
  • Stop providing so many expensive computer lab seats / deploy lab software virtually over the network
  • Stop providing residential telephone service to students
  • Stop subscribing to so many print periodicals / move to electronic formats
  • Stop purchasing print reference books / move to electronic formats
  • Stop providing a dial-up modem bank
  • Stop using Track-It! for LIS work order tracking / use KBOX instead
  • Stop using land-line telephones / move to mobile
  • Stop circulating VHS tapes
  • Stop binding non-academic journals
  • Stop providing H Drives for students / provide portable or third-party network storage
  • Stop using paper forms / move them to the web
  • Stop providing reference/research help services when people are not typically using the library

This is a good list, and while some work is already underway to sunset these items, we should probably prioritize more of these things for retirement. I was struck after looking at this list that many of the items are “stop doing” items, but they also include or imply doing something differently than we did in the past, but not altogether stopping something. There are fewer things that are truly “stop doing” items, where we believe we can just move on. I think this may betray a timidity in how we approach this question. Can Kimberly-Clark serve as an example of asking and answering this question on a fundamental scale?

For LIS staff, I’ve opened up a Google doc with our full list to everyone to comment on this list, and to add new things that we come across. I’ll look forward to your input and thoughts.

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. Among the topics discussed this past week were:

  • Reviewing for the LIS General Meeting which included:
    • Plans for increasing campus bandwidth in February to 120Mbps up from 85Mbps thanks to new service from the ICN
    • Upcoming wireless upgrades in Olson which will test some new hardware under consideration for use in the Towers
    • Recruitment updates (App Dev search entering interview stage, Library search still in planning)
    • Announcement of Laurel Womeldorf’s upcoming retirement in March
    • Copyright website heading off for review
    • LIS is working to engage cell providers to improve campus service
    • Carillon replacement is complete
    • Comments from our student advisory panel (see below)
    • Planning for a “stop doing” list

The User Perspective on LIS Services: LIS Student Advisory Panel

For the second year, LIS has gathered a group of students to meet over dinner and share thoughts about LIS service to students. These students have self-selected to participate or been invited randomly and no topics are off the table for discussion. The perspective gained through these periodic meetings is very beneficial, and for this week’s user perspective, we’re including a brief rundown of topics covered in our fall meeting just before Thanksgiving break.

Small group study spaces

  • Better airflow in group study spaces is needed. The rooms get too hot and stuffy for comfortable use
  • Media capabilities should be added (e.g. wall-mounted televisions, connections for laptops) to foster collaborative use of the spaces
  • Whiteboard walls in some of these spaces could also provide an innovative collaborative thinking and design space

Planned Collaborative Space for the Main Floor in Preus

  • Media capabilities should be added (e.g. wall-mounted televisions, connections for laptops) to foster collaborative use of the spaces
  • Flexible and active furniture (e.g. whiteboard tables)
  • More electricity to power mobile devices, particularly laptops


  • The students reported no significant issues or complaints with our new print management system GoPrint. The general consensus was the quotas were sufficient, and we discussed the ability now to request an increase if academically necessary.

Computer Labs

  • Aisles in the new library lab feel more cramped and difficult to navigate, perhaps because they are longer than they used to be
  • Boot times on labs still is too long and unwieldy


  • KATIE remains one of the most popular and critical services provided by LIS for students.
  • There is strong interest in a mobile interface to KATIE as many students now access the site via phones and small screen devices.
  • Some calendar integration between KATIE, my.luther, and Norse Calendar was also suggested as a big possible improvement.

Cell Phones

  • Overall, better service is needed across campus for multiple providers
  • Luther should develop more mobile interfaces to web-based services (e.g. my.luther)

H Drives

  • Why not use network-based services instead? Value of local Luther-provided H drives is diminishing

Emergency Notification System

  • Students have concerns about how data is updated and how the system is used in emergency situations

MISO Moment: KATIE (Luther’s Learning Management System)

Click through for full size

Click through for full size

Click through for full size

In order to assess information service at Luther, Library and Information Services participates in the Merged Information Services Organization Survey administered by Bryn Mawr College. Luther has administered the survey twice in 2007 and 2009 to all faculty, staff, and a random sample of students.

Each week, we profile a datapoint from the survey that illustrates how the Luther community currently uses LIS services.

NITLE Opportunities

As a member of NITLE (National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), Luther has the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of developmental and training programs intended for faculty, librarians, and information technologists. Events listed at the link below are currently open for registration by Luther participants. LIS Staff who are interested in participating in an event should speak with Christopher Barth. Faculty who are interested in participating should speak with Lori Stanley. Participation is contingent upon available funding and program acceptance.

A full list of events (sortable by registration deadline) is available at

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
New Faculty Teaching Group Faculty Development Dec 7 2009 – 2:45pm 3:45pm Dahl Centennial Union – Nansen Open
History Day Visit Library Instruction Dec 16 2009 – 12:30pm 2:30pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed
History Day Visit Library Instruction Dec 18 2009 – 12:30pm 2:30pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed

Internet Resource of the Week: The Book of Odds

Book of Odds is the world’s first reference on the odds of everyday life. It is a destination where people come to learn about the things that worry or excite them, to read engaging and thoughtful articles, and to participate in a community of users that share their interests and ambitions.

For over three years we have been building what we believe is the missing dictionary, one filled not with words, but with numbers – the odds of everyday life. It contains hundreds of thousands of Odds Statements, from the odds of being the only one to survive a plane crash, to the odds of having a heart attack, to the odds of having ever eaten cold pizza for breakfast. Book of Odds not only allows you to search for those odds that concern or interest you the most, but also to understand probability by comparing the odds of unfamiliar events to others you have personally experienced. Book of Odds was built for you, and we hope you’ll enjoy it.

If you like to while away time on the Internet, here’s a bookmark for you. The Book of Odds contains all sorts of numerical data showing how likely or unlikely things are to happen. They are careful to note they can’t predict the future, and odds, are odds (and sometimes odd), but it is a growing and notable database of statistical information. Lookups are possible by topic, or by odds. They employ faceted searching once you initiate a search to hone down what you’re looking for, and they also have a visual search option that graphically displays data. There’s even a button to instantly order a particular statistic on a t-shirt.

Who knew:

  • Odds: 1 in 10 that an individual is afraid of a crowd
  • Odds: 1 in 100 that a man between the ages of 20-29 is at least 6’ 5” tall
  • Odds: 1 in 1000 that a black female 50 or older will die of breast cancer within a given year
  • Odds: 1 in 10000 that a person has situs inversus

On the web at

Quote(s) of the Week:

  • “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • “[Google’s ] success is not about whether a lot of people use Chrome OS, but whether a lot of people end up using Web applications.” – VentureBeat
  • “Natural ability without education has more often attained to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.” – Cicero
  • “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage
  • “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” – Henry Ford

Image of the Week:

The British Library’s £26m Additional Storage Building at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, boasts an air leakage rate of 0.5m3/m2/h, one twentieth of that required by Builidng Regualitons, and is also the first of its kind in the world to incorporate automated storage and retrieval systems, optimum environmental controls, and pioneering low-oxygen fire prevention technology in a single building.

The fully-automated building comprises 262km of shelf space (enough to stretch from London to Manchester) for the national collection which is currently expanding at a rate of 12.5km of linear shelf space per year.

The Additional Storage Building will house low-use material including patent specifications, books, serials and newspapers in 144,000 storage containers of three different sizes. When users of the St Pancras Reading Rooms order a particular item, the fully automated system will identify the container holding the document and bring it to a library operator for retrieval.

Although sprinklers are usually the preferred fire prevention solution for libraries – wet books can be freeze dried – the British Library has adopted a low-oxygen system which sees oxygen levels kept to just 14.8% – fires can only break out if oxygen levels are at 17% and above.

» via Building

Video of the Week: Sports Illustrated – Tablet Demo

Links of the Week

Where’d the links go? TWILIS will going forward reduce the number of links reproduced here to a slightly larger version of the QuickPicks (above). But if you’re a link-lover, no worries … the full link feed (even more than appear in TWILIS) is now available by Daily Email Digest or RSS. If you want the whole enchilada, sign up for either of those distribution tools.infoneer.pngThe links and media above are selected from material posted to, which gathers links and comment on the worlds of libraries, technology, higher education, culture, intellectual property, copyright, information, ethics, design, professional identity, leadership, and the future. Subscribe to RSS
This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Christopher Barth, Executive Director of Library and Information Services at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa for the Luther College community as well as those interested in information services and higher education.This issue is Volume 4, Number 12 (#139)Content is made available under Creative Commons license. Creative Commons License