Sunday, 8 January 2012

Some inspirational quotes and thoughts for 2012 to get things moving

At this time of year people often take a step back, have a summer holiday and then with a clear head start thinking about their resolutions for the year ahead. For me this has also been a time to clear out my work and home office’s in preparation for a move to a new job. I seemed to have accumulated an awful amount of paper over the last 5 years. This is largely due to a habit I have of either printing out, or writing down things I think to be important. As a digital librarian I still haven’t made the shift to a paperless office, preferring instead to keep important things safe on paper.   

In the sorting out I found a number of quotes I had written on pieces of paper, which either inspired me in my work, or that I used in presentations. Some of these I have used a number of times now. They all have a common theme for me and that is ‘how can we as librarians shape the future of digital libraries so that they meet the needs of our users?’ I am constantly wondering what library users really want from us and how we can achieve this and work together. Interestingly not one of the quotes comes from a librarian! So here are my most often used quotes of 2010 and 2011:
“Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control.  Freedom is about what you can unleash.”

Harriet Rubin. I used this quote at the GLAMWiki conference to suggest that cultural heritage institutions should focus on opening their data for user collaboration and move away from control and into freedom in projects such as the Newspaper crowdsourcing. It got tweeted a lot at the time.

"The Internet runs on love"
  “We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia. Suddenly big things can be done for love.”
Clay Shirky. Clay has many good quotes but this is my favourite since so many newspaper text correctors when asked why they do it simply say ‘because I love it’. Clays book ‘Here comes everybody’ is a jolly good read. Not many people know it but his mother was a librarian. After this he wrote and spoke more about the potential of the ‘cognitive surplus’ as he calls it for crowdsourcing projects and the common good:
“This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects.” 
Charles Leadbeater wrote an essay called the the ‘Art of With’. It developed almost a cult following and Charle’s message was

“Learn the ‘The Art of With’ ”

which means ‘learn how to do things WITH people, not for people or to people’. It was aimed at the British Library, the BBC, and large cultural heritage institutions. Charles referred to the old style institutions who turned out a service as boulders on a beach – large and immovable, and noted that the beach is now made up of pebbles – the user community who quickly create, and deliver services together as a community that challenge the boulders.

“The Library has to think it’s leading a mass movement, not just serving a clientele”.

Was his message to the British Library Strategy Day, meaning get the users involved.

 My friend Paul Reynolds always challenged me to go the next step and move forward. At a time when everyone else was congratulating me on the success of the Australian Newspapers text correction Paul said to me

“Just enabling users to do stuff on your site is not enough, it has to be more than that -engaging, challenging, exciting, demanding. Enabling users to collaborate and create is just the first step, there’s a lot more to go.”

He didn’t want me to rest on my laurels but continue to search and deliver more for users. So I decided to take up the position of Trove Manager.
“I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail, than attempt to do nothing and succeed.” 
Robert H Schuller. I got this quote in a Christmas cracker at work just before starting my job as Trove Manager, and kept it stuck on my whiteboard for 2 years. There were several points at which it looked like Trove may not succeed, partly because of the huge suck it had on staff resource at time of budgetary constraint, and also because not everyone was bought into the single search concept.

In December 2011 the author Peter Macinnis when interviewed on ABC Radio National talked about Trove and he said

“As the twig bends, so the tree bends. A future built on COLLABORATION relies on people who gain a quiet joy from contributing gems, nuggets and crumbs to future generations, whimsical folk who amuse themselves by committing acts of anonymous scholarship.”

He inferred that people collaborate because they get feelings of personal satisfaction and reward from it. He confirmed that the success is due to the users not us and he solidified the view I hold that many amateur hobbyists are actually scholarly experts in their fields and so their contributions are very important.

On the same week the British Library asked me if I could shed any light on a quote that an anonymous member of the public had given them which they didn’t understand. 

“The British Library should replicate the Glastonbury Festival feeling and at the same time provide the great scholastic silence”.

I thought I understood this perfectly since it is exactly the sort of thing that Paul Reynolds would have said. To me it meant the users want a scholarly reflective space to be in physically, but at the same time they want to feel surrounded by the virtual crowd, engaging, participating with digital services that really have the ‘wow’ factor.

So hopefully you are now inspired to get on and take action to develop your digital library services to meet the needs of users. If you need to rally the troops, get them fully motivated and generate some momentum to move forward here are two readings which should help.

Jorgensen, J. 2007. 21 proven motivation tactics. Pick the Brain.

If you want to make things happen the ability to motivate yourself and others is a crucial skill. At work, home, and everywhere in between, people use motivation to get results. Motivation requires a delicate balance of communication, structure, and incentives. These 21 tactics will help you maximize motivation in yourself and others.

Maxwell, J. 2010. Momentum breakers vs. momentum makers. Giant impact.

It is never the size of your problem that is the problem. It's a lack of momentum. Without momentum, even a tiny obstacle can prevent you from moving forward. With momentum, you'll navigate through problems and barely even notice them. As a leader, your responsibility is to understand momentum, to get it moving for your organization, and to sustain it over time. The goal of the article is to give you handles so that you can better recognize how to generate momentum in your workplace.


  1. Thanks for putting these comments into your blog. A great start to 2012. Michael Lascarides from NYPL referred to Trove at the NDF in Wellington last year. He also commented that he sees blogs as the ecosystem for the web. The NYPL crowd sourcing project, 'What's on the menu' - is well worth visiting too. Jane

  2. Rose, thanks for those inspiring words. So great to have Paul Reynold's words to remind us all what it's all meant to be about! Theresa