30. November 2014 · Comments Off on Unplug, Read a Book, and the Benefits of Liberal Arts · Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking about Doug Belkin’s WSJ article entitled, “How a Liberal Arts College Survives”. I found the final question/answer response of Belkin’s interview with Brian Casey, the President of DePauw University, to be encouraging. Casey appears to be advocating the need to periodically unplug from a constant electronic “fast-food” style consumption of information in order to spend time actually reading a meaningful book that can change how one thinks about the world.

Please see below for the full quote:

“WSJ: If you could wave a magic wand and make one problem at your school disappear what would that be?

CASEY:I would like to wave a wand and for just some portion of every week have some students removed from the Internet and from telephones, smartphones and social media, and buy themselves time to read. Students these days aren’t natural readers of longer books, and I can recall from my own college days those moments when you fell in love with a book and sat for a sustained period with an important work and lived with that author for a period. They are bombarded with short bits of information constantly, and I would love to free them from that for just a short period of every week. I think they would discover more about themselves, they would learn how to engage with complexity in ways they avoid in certain ways now. They would experience the act of being quiet and alone with their thoughts.

I would also urge readers to check out Casey’s argument on how today’s workforce can benefit from liberal arts graduates. Casey cites employers who want creative staff, employees who can deal with complexity, staff who can think independently, and who can work with others. I also think that liberal arts institutions have an important role in society as they empower people that want to “humanize” the world through art, music, film, foreign language, design, and service to the community.

24. November 2014 · Comments Off on Dinner, A Movie, and Building Community at the Library · Categories: Uncategorized

With Thanksgiving right around the corner I thought I would focus on an idea that librarians could use to facilitate community interaction and meal sharing.

What’s this idea that I have in mind?

A pot luck dinner held at the library followed by a movie shown in the library followed by a discussion or interactive program held either in the library (or in the local community).

Where did this idea come from?

Earlier in the fall I got handed the May 2014 issue of Sojourners Magazine. When I was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) one of my community members had a subscription and used to get the magazines in the mail on a monthly basis. The publication’s subtitle: Faith in Action for Social Justice matches the values of JVC and provided ideas for discussion and thought. It had been a while since I had seen one of these, but it brought me back to my JVC experience.

I turned to page 41 and read Gareth Higgins column entitled “If I were a Rich Man.”

The column starts out with noting that author James Patterson (every library will have his books on their shelves) generously established a million dollar fund to support independent bookstores. Please note that my last posting discussed the role of private individuals, in particular venture capitalists willing to lose their investments as highlighted in the WSJ article, as possible funders of “crazy projects” that librarians may have. Higgins is dreaming as well in his article, but with an emphasis on brick and mortar independent theaters.

So what would Higgins like to see with a million dollars worth of funding?

A movement away from big box industrial style movie theaters with “shoebox” seats and “25 minutes of advertisements” would be top priority. Higgins wants the movie viewing experience to “invite a sense of home” and he would upgrade seating, lighting, audio, projection, and just about everything else to make it happen.

Potluck dinners would be held at 5:30PM, the movie would show at 6:30PM, and then interactive style activities would take place after the film. Higgins notes a few examples. After seeing Jaws there could be a discussion of humanity’s “role in the destruction and after seeing Singin’ in the Rain the audience could dance.

Are libraries out there building community with film? Are we working with local independent theaters to reach our communities? Perhaps it is time to test run Higgins’ ideas. Even though we may not yet have the funding to do what Higgins wants we can take baby steps in that direction.

14. November 2014 · Comments Off on Research and Development: Who Funds It and What Libraries Can Learn About It · Categories: Uncategorized


(Photo of Bryan Johnson taken by Jason Henry for the Wall Street Journal)

The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims wrote an article back on October 21, 2014 entitled, “Our Last Great Hope: Venture Capital”. This is an important article dealing with funding. See http://on.wsj.com/1FD39L1.

Simply put the article discusses the funding trends for research and development in the U.S. from the 1960s onward. In the 1960s the federal government took on the role of the primary funding source of research and development. However, as Mims writes the federal government was never supposed to the sole funding source forever and private enterprise was designated to pick up where the federal government left off. Today the federal government funds one third of the research and development in the U.S. with the private sector funding the rest.

The problem Mims points to is that big businesses now are primarily funding development and not research. “Long gone are the days when large corporate research campuses like Bell Labs came up with the fundamental breakthroughs like the transistor.”

In order to carryout research many companies simply buy out start-up firms. As the article says, “Acquisitions are the new R&D (research and development), and “acqui-hires” are the new staff development.”

So who funds the start-ups that do the bulk of the risk taking on research and development? The answer is the venture capitalists. One in particular is the center of Mims’ article. Enter Bryan Johnson, who has committed $100 million, to fund “crazy” projects. As Mims writes, these include projects to capture an asteroid and mine it, increase and lengthen human life, and create self-flying drones. What does Johnson get out of it? According to him, “I may lose all this money, but the goal is to try and build a better world.” Granted this is certainly not normal as most venture capitalists are looking for a return on investment, but the comment should get us thinking about private individuals who are willing to fund projects regardless of success or failure.

I wonder in library land if maybe we should be looking at funding through the lens that Mims describes? Those librarians who find themselves coming up empty when asking for traditional funding from government and big name private sources could possibly look to private individuals for funding or at least guidance. What “crazy” projects do librarians have that would warrant interest from the venture capitalist community? What are our dreams and goals? Looking to private individuals is nothing totally new. Did not Carnegie and Pratt help finance public library systems in our major cities?

03. November 2014 · Comments Off on Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull · Categories: Uncategorized

creativity_inc._cover(Book Cover from Amazon.Com)


I met with a number of librarians the other day to talk about Ed Catmull’s book Creativity Inc, Simply put Catmull described how to best manage an organization that needs to innovate and change constantly in order to succeed. Instead of a formal book review I thought I would post a few of my favorite quotes and some of the notes I took from the book to give you a flavor of what to expect.

P.22 Have total confidence in the people that you hire.

P. 23 When faced with a challenge get smarter. Hire people who are smarter than you.

P.24 “Giving a ton of freedom to highly self motivated people enabled us to make some significant technological leaps in a short time.”

P.51, “You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.”

P. 64 “People talking directly to one another, was more efficient than trying to make sure that everything happened in the “right order” and through the “proper channels”.”

P. 76 Find, develop, and support good people and they will find, develop, and own good ideas

P. 104 “Telling the truth is difficult, but inside a creative company, it is the only way to ensure excellence.”

P. 108 Embrace failure as an important part of learning

P. 110, “It is important to keep moving forward. If you stand still and just float morale plummets and the captain is treated with doubt and trepidation.”

P. 111, “Leaders should talk about their mistakes and their part in them, then you make it safe for others (to do so).”

P. 118, “Being too risk averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance.”

P. 132, “When I advocate for protecting the new, then, I am using the word somewhat differently. I am saying that when someone hatches an original idea, it may be ungainly and poorly defined, but it is also the opposite of established and entrenched- and that is precisely what is most exciting about it. If while in this vulnerable state, it is exposed to naysayers who fail to see its potential or lack the patience to let it evolve, it could be destroyed. Part of our job is to protect the new from people who do not understand that in order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so greatness.”

P. 146, “There is no growth or success without change.”

P. 154, Being overwhelmed by well-intentioned rules drains the creative impulse.

P. 171 Managers need to be aware that people only present their best selves to the manager. The manager’s access to accurate information changes the farther they as a manager move up in the organization.

P. 224 “Real confidence is knowing that together we will figure this out. Creativity demands that we travel paths that lead who knows where.”

P. 228 The director or leader can never lose the confidence of his or her crew.