This Week in LIS - 12 April 2013

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Headline of the Week: Change to What?

Very early in my career IBM began holding department and area meetings on “change.” Information was presented about how the status quo was unsustainable. Statistics and evidence were presented to help staff understand the dynamics of the environment and the nature of competition. These meetings were generally effective at getting some folks fired up and motivated to be part of “change.”

Usually there was a second part that focused specifically on the nature of change itself and the nature of people as they consider change. Change is hard. Change takes time. Some, by their nature, are more receptive than others to take on the risk associated with change. The motivations from the first part were connected to the uncertainties of change and there was a sort of alter call to be a part of change or to be left behind.

Minds around the room were fertile to hear about the specific ways in which we needed to change. We were ready to hear part three of the agenda. Just what changes were we being tuned up to take on? We were as ready as we could be to hear about the future and try to see how it impacted us as individuals and as an organization and to development plans to respond to the articulated changes.

But, there was no part three. That wasn’t a part of the meeting. There was no part outlining the picture of the future for our specific department or even our functional group. I was disappointed and frankly frustrated that leadership didn’t have an answer to the obvious question, “Change to What!?!” It felt like we were all dressed up with nowhere to go. It seemed irresponsible of leadership to get us all revved up without specifics.

It was naïve on my part – a consequence of youth and inexperience. I did not appreciate the complexity of the real world and the dynamic system that is a company operating in the technology space with competition everywhere. I did not understand that no one person understands how it all works. There was no one that understood all the relationships in and between parts of the company, let alone all the connections to the environment outside the company with customers and suppliers and competitors and partners. My frustration was misplaced.

Indeed figuring out the answer to the question, “Change to What?” required the participation of many people and time (even though the evidence for the need to change suggested time was of the essence!) It required a process and that too was a bit ad hoc. Thousands of organizations needed to process the environmental dynamics, think about options, explore them, model them, experiment with various approaches and levels of investments and at various levels of the company. Learning had to occur. Unintended consequences needed to be uncovered. New information needed to be gathered and processed informing new ideas and yet more proposals. It was iterative. It was not random. I can safely say the messy, organic process of change occurred for all 30 years I was with IBM and continues today. “Change to What” emerged from this iterative process through time based on, at most, some high level strategies and principles. Leaders at all levels contributed to this process of inventing and defining what and how their work might fit into those very high level ideas.

We might think of higher education in a similar fashion. Higher education status quo is largely argued to be unsustainable. As an industry, there are issues with cost, outcomes, and access. New competitors are emerging. More need to be served. Luther College is a participant in this dynamic process.

This week I completed reading “The Innovative University – Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out” by Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring. This book, like IBM’s “change” meetings, starts out explaining why the status quo is unsustainable. It then goes on to tell the story how Harvard evolved over time and how its “DNA” is the basis for many institutions today and that they are (mostly) unlikely to be able to continue as they have in the past.

It then goes on to provide an example. It tells the story of Ricks College (Idaho), its history and its journey from a two-year college to a four-year college and now to a unique and differentiated hybrid now named BYU – Idaho. Today it offers programs both in a traditional campus setting and through distance learning technologies. It has made changes that deal with the students it targets, the subjects it teaches, the role of scholarship and many other changes in structure, offerings and processes. It feels that it is on a good path to a more sustainable position. It believes that it is doing a job that its students and family want done that is differentiated in ways for which students and their families are willing to pay.

It is interesting to think about the framework the text offers to evaluate a higher education institution going forward. It is further interesting to think about why they made the choices they did. One can experiment in the mind with the choices they made and how they might or might not be useful in other situations. One can think about the consequences they experienced as a result of their choices and whether they would be similar or different for other institutions in other contexts. It is also interesting to think about the environment Ricks, now BYU-Idaho, is in and the change dynamics related to all the constituent groups including students, faculty, staff, executive administration, the board and the broader church body of which they are a part.

This sort of reflection seems useful in preparation to our own “Change to What” questions.

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

“The Innovative University – Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out” by Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring

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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:

  • LIS Operational Agenda
    • Council members will be reporting on LIS operational views (metrics for processes and status of projects) regularly at LIS Council meetings. This week’s reports included the following:
    • Archives
      • Rachel shared statistics that showed the use of the Archives increased in March compared with February. Student traffic was the chief driver, with faculty second. Reference makes up the vast majority of questions, both for the past month and for the year to date. March brought more long interactions.
      • The “Journeys to America” Final Report was submitted on April 1, 2013, documenting that all six project objectives had been met.
      • The Midwest Archives Conference is next week. All the staff will be gone. Student staff will be covering, split between mornings and afternoons.
      • The team continues to work with Tabita on the design of the Archives website.
      • A session was held for the community called “Archives Research 101.” Eleven attendees participated.
    • Software Development
      • No report this week because Marcia is at Ellucian LIVE in Philadelphia.
  • New Items
    • Library Open House
      • We are preparing to meet students and their families coming to campus to take an additional look at Luther on their path to deciding where they want to go to college. The open house is Monday, April 15, from 11:45am-1:15pm. Admissions has shared that 37 families have signed up for this “Destination Luther: Admitted Student Visit Day” event. Eddy and his student workers will staff the Circulation Desk, Matt Hughes and Carsten will staff Technology Help, John, Rachel, and Jennifer R will staff Research Help and John, Lindy, Andi and Diane will serve as greeters. New and updated brochures were printed and will be available for students. They will also be distributed at the May and June registration days.
    • Library Hours
      • A Student Senate representative asked if it would be ok to conduct a survey at the Circulation Desk regarding library hours. LIS requested that the student provide proposed questions and timeline prior to administering the survey.
    • Help Desk Lead Transition
      • Carsten starts Monday as our Help Desk Lead. He will continue to support some events in the CFL yet this semester before fully transitioning to his new role.
  • Returning Items
    • LIS Website Migration to Reason
      • We’ve begun work on transitioning Help Desk content to Reason. A meeting has been set up with Tabita, Brian, and Steve to talk about additional to-dos.
    • Digital Media Proposal
      • Paul presented the Digital Media Proposal to academic department heads this past week. We expect feedback from the Cabinet at the end of April.
    • OCLC WMS
      • LIS Council will review the scope statement at a future meeting.
    • Sophos
      • LIS is recommending that Luther faculty, staff, and students acquire their own antivirus product (there are free options available) for their personally-owned computers. For the past several years, Luther has provided Sophos for faculty and staff home use, but that requires the password to be updated every time your Norse Key is updated which leads to periods of time during which antivirus is not current and protecting computers. This change will also save the college money. LIS will be assisting faculty, staff and students in this transition and providing more information in the coming weeks.

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
Who are you According to the Internet?: A Guide to Managing Your Online Reputation Workshop Apr 16 2013 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Update on Summer 2013 Faculty Computer Roll-out Faculty Development Apr 24 2013 – 1:30pm 2:30pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
Update on Summer 2013 Faculty Computer Roll-out Faculty Development Apr 30 2013 – 11:00am 12:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
Zotero Workshop — Grab your research with a single click. Workshop May 1 2013 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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