This is Circulating Ideas. I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Michael Perry. He’s the Collection Services Project Manager at Northwestern University Library. You can find him at his blog at libraryproject.info, or on Twitter at @michaelrperry6.
All right. Michael Perry, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
We’re gonna talk about a lot of things today, but the first thing I want to talk about is — you have a new blog that you started, a new website, about project management. Can you tell us, basically tell the listeners, what project management is?
So, project management as a discipline really came into being in the ’50s, especially manufacturing projects. And one of the things that really kick started a lot of it was the Manhattan Project. Really, I think organizations were tasked with completing these massive projects, where before, you could have one person that had that vision in their mind and all the things that you needed to do to get there — as these things became so much more complex, we realized really quickly, one person can’t keep all of that in their mind. It’s just simply not possible. So project management is a discipline that came about in the effort to try to codify, as it were, a system where you can break these things apart into more discrete, manageable parts, and then that way, make sure that your project is on task, on time, and under budget, hopefully — and then end up with something that’s a little bit more manageable in a day-to-day sense. It became exceptionally popular as computers became such an integral part of our day-to-day lives, because software development projects are among some of the most complicated things that we’re engaged in, especially on those large enterprise levels. So, trying to develop new software really requires so much work from so many different people handling so many different aspects. The thought of trying to keep all that, one person in mind, managing all that, is almost impossible. So, developing those systems that the Project Management Institute has codified into what they call the project management body of knowledge, as well as the development of software tools — things like Microsoft Project or Trello let you easily align tasks to individuals, track the progress of them, and then look at them compared to the benchmarks that you set for the actual project.
You mentioned the body of knowledge, and I was going to mention that that was one of your posts you had on the blog. And that seems insanely complicated to me [laughs].
It’s one of those things that I really struggle with, to try to write a snapshot of that as something that can be easily approachable. They have what they call five process areas, which are sort of the stages of a project, from planning — or from inception, planning, the actual doing of the work, the monitoring of the work, and the closing of the project. So, you get the complete package right there. However, within those, they have 10, what they call, knowledge areas, which are the areas that you should be paying attention to and managing throughout the course of the project. And then within them, individual processes. So, it creates this giant matrix of 47 points when you look at everything. Which I think is indicative of how, when I was talking about projects becoming complex, project management itself has become exceptionally complex, to the point where I think sometimes it can be really difficult or even daunting for people to try to start thinking about it, because so much of it is based on writing — or based on those derivations of that idea, of the matrix of 47 points.
Well, and it seems like a very — the whole thing, project management and that body of knowledge in particular, seems very librarian-y to me, in that it’s classification, it’s breaking things down and then putting things in order, basically.
Yeah. I think that was one of the things where I ended up in this — doing project management work out of the work that I was doing that was quasi-library-related. Because there is a whole bunch of overlap. It’s really, you know, breaking up things and then putting them into categories, as it were. So, the work of the actual, you know, that sort of old, traditional library work that we think of, really is almost identical to project management in a lot of ways, because what you’re seeking to do is identify and then categorize things. So, the better you’re able to do that, the better sense of the plan of your project that you’ll have. And then I think the better results you’ll end up getting at the end. One of the other drivers for project management is really that a huge percentage of projects fail. I want to say it’s something like under 37 percent of projects are actually successful, by measures that people establish themselves. So, you’re really rolling the dice when you engage in a large project like that, so implementing a lot of project management methodologies can make sure that you’re getting good results and then actually completing your project successfully.
I never see a lot of — when your blog came out, I was a little surprised, actually, to go back and think about it — I don’t see a lot of librarians talking about this a lot. And it seems like something really important that we should be talking about. We obviously have these ongoing projects, and we have these limited-time projects that it would help us with, and I’m surprised, given how catalogue-y it is, that we don’t talk about it very much.
Yeah. That was one of the things that I was really shocked at. When I started the idea of trying to codify some of this in an accessible way for librarians, I started looking and I’m like, “Well, is anyone actually teaching this?” And I could not find any library schools that really had it. Someone mentioned a school in Florida, and which one is escaping me right now, that did have part of a class that addressed project management. So, it seems like that’s the best-case scenario of where we’re at. And the reality is, a huge chunk of librarianship is projects. All of your programming and those type of things — they are technically projects. It’s something you engage in once and then it has an actually finite time and an actual finish. So that we don’t integrate any of that into the LIS curriculum, I think really does new graduates a disservice. Because when you read between the lines of a lot of job descriptions that get posted these days, what they’re looking for is project management experience. They often just don’t know that that is what they’re looking for.
Right. Yeah. So, there’s a lot of new — before, I assume, a lot of this project management you’re talking about starting almost 100 years ago now [laughs] — I guess not 100 years ago, 80 years ago now — I assume that was all done on paper, on spreadsheets, things like that. But nowadays, we have technology to help us with that. Can you talk about a couple of the apps and things like that, that you’ve found have been helpful for you?
Certainly. I think — and what I tell people when they’re getting started with project management — often think about this in the context of your personal life, because I think it’s a lot easier to wrap your head around. If you jump into it immediately with “I’m doing this huge, massive project so I wanna think about it in those contexts,” you’ll get overwhelmed really quickly. So, think about a small, individual aspect of your life or things that you do that are kind of “project” in nature, and use that as an example, because you’ll have a lot more understanding of the issues and tasks and things that go hand in hand with that. So, when I started thinking about a lot of tools, my own personal thing was — we brew our own beer — my home-brewing stuff. Each individual brewing thing is a project, so that’s what I use as a base mark to teach me how to use these tools and concepts. So, I’d start with, you know, think about a good example and not necessarily a hugely complex project. The one that I recommend to everyone when they ask, “What’s the best one?” — that’s usually what people ask for — first and foremost, the best one is the tool that you’re actually gonna use, and if you’re working on a team, the tool that the whole team can use. So, you gotta make sure that everyone’s on board with it. Otherwise, it just becomes a thing where information goes to die, and we certainly don’t want to see that. To that end, I think Trello’s probably the absolute best starting place. It’s free and it has free group functionality too, so you can get a whole team up and running with it without actually investing any money. They do have a freemium and new-business model that they rolled out, if you want some added features. But all of that tends to be really icing. All of the actual meat-and-bones of the project that you need, you do have access to straight out of the gate — which I think is, again, really great as well. It uses a card-based interface, so the idea being you generate a board, which has a bunch of individual lists. By default, you get a to-do, doing, done list. And then within each list, you can populate cards. Those cards represent the discrete chunks of work, as they were. And this is where I think you get into one of the struggles with people new to project management — is scoping work into those individual cards. What you really want is something that has a clear “done,” something that you can point to and say, “This is what we need to do, this is what it looks like when it’s done,” so then that way you know and you can easily make that flow from to-do, doing, and done. The one thing I like about Trello is, while the cards appear on their face to be really straightforward and a simple text box, there’s actually a ton of information you can add to them. So they can be assigned to individuals, for easy tracking of work, so you can log on, get a clear sense of who’s working on what particular things at the moment. You can add checklists to them, so discrete — what we traditionally call “sub-tasks.” So, if this is the thing that you need to get done, and it has these four discrete parts, you can enter those in and then people can check them off as they’re done. You can get a nice little percentage complete as it goes on. You can attach files to it, so it’s good for housing documentation that might be necessary for the team to access, and it also integrates with a lot of cloud systems like Drive and Dropbox, so you can tie it into those document storage areas as well. The other thing that’s really good is, it offers a great tracking mechanism for work. It never really gets rid of anything, so once you complete something, it just disappears, but you can always get back to that individual card, so you can look at that audit trail if you ever need to find out who did something at what particular time.
It seems nice, because it forces you to do what I think project management is trying to do in the first place, even — of it’s trying to focus you — that’s a good term, I guess, just focus you, on this one project. Like, don’t get so distracted by all these other things going on — that you have a beginning, middle, and end, and you can track the progress and you can see when you’re done, you’re done, and then you get to move on to the next thing.
Exactly. That’s one of those things. The concept that comes out of what they call “agile project management,” which is a sub-test [sounds like] that looks at iterative processes and designs. So, the idea being, instead of looking at the whole massive project, you work through small iterations where you deliver individual chunks of work. But a concept that they have in that is called the “information radiator,” which is something that — it’s very librarian, again. And something that I think a lot of libraries could use in other contexts, but the idea being that you can look at this thing and you can get a clear sense of the overall project just by looking at — glancing at it, as it were. So, that’s one of the things that I really like about it, is that I think it functions great with that. Once you set it up — and it does require a little bit of shepherding, especially when you’re getting new people on board with the concept of logging stuff into a system like that — but once you do and people go in there and can see it, it really becomes a powerful tool, because anyone in your organization can take a peek in there and see, like, “Ah, I know exactly where we are in the process. That’s what this person’s been doing. This is what that person’s been doing.” So, it becomes really great in that regard, for informing people about the status of things.
And is Trello just a web app or does it have Android or iOS or anything like that?
It has apps for all the different phone builds. They’re really robust; you can do almost everything on the website that you can on the app, both for tablets and phones. So, it’s really nice if sometimes I’ll be in a meeting and I’ll be like, “Oh, OK. We need to actually do that? Well, I need to drop in a couple more cards.” You can do it really quickly from your phone. So, it’s nice to be able to not only peek on stuff from there but then also quick-add things.
And you also talked, a little while ago, about another app that makes it a little more fun, the HabitRPG. Can you talk about that one?
Yeah. That is — they tend to call it a to-do app, and it’s one of those things that I think is so closely related to project management. At its core, Trello is just this hyper-complicated to-do list, more or less, for a huge group of people doing a rather massive thing. This tends to be much more individual for that particular person. So, one of the things — I’m always hunting for that perfect to-do app that’ll integrate with everything that I do seamlessly, and it’s something of a fool’s errand, because I’m never going to find that one perfect one, but when I stumbled on HabitRPG, what struck me immediately was, it might not have all the features and bells and whistles that people do, but oh my God, it’s so unbelievably fun. The idea is sort of, you create an 8-bit little sprite character. It has a traditional, again, list-based approach where you have a habit, dailies, to-do, and rewards category. So, the habits would represent things that you’re hoping to change about your personal behavior. For example, I have ones for “take the stairs instead of taking the elevator.” So, it has a little plus/minus button. If you do the good side of it, you get a little reward; do the bad side, you get a little negative action. Your dailies — and this is the big driving force for me — are things that you need to do every day. And then, you can actually tweak the response time if it’s something that’s perhaps every other day. That was something that I thought would be common of to-do apps, but often really isn’t, and when it does, it’s usually exceptionally difficult to actually get down exactly. So, there’s a fair amount of things that I need to do every single day, and there are some that I need to do maybe every other day. And this lets me really lay those out, and then stop worrying about remembering those things. So now I can just log it in and check it and I’m like, “All right, those are the three things that I need to do.” I credit that in creating a daily habit about watering my office plant, for keeping it alive for over a year — which I think is a record for me. I usually last about a couple of months.
And then, the final one is your super-traditional to-do list. You add things in there, check ’em off. As you check them off, you get golden experience for your character and you level up and you can buy equipment. And the fun RPG-type role playing game elements to it that really make it interesting and hook you into it. I’ve had a lot of debates with people about the concept of gamification and whether or not that’s even a thing. It’s very obvious this was built on a lot of those ideas of gamification. And what really does work — there are some times where I’m like, “Uh, I guess I could just wait to do that,” or “I’m not feeling particularly motivated,” and I’ll look at that and be like, “Well, if I do, like, two more things, then my character’ll level up and I’ll get some stuff,” so yeah, I guess I might as well do it. So, it’s a wonder what those little tricks can do for your own personal productivity.
Right [laughs]. So, before we move away from the blog on project management, what made you want to start it in the first place? Did you just see that need out there, that you were looking for that information and it just wasn’t there? How did you come up — why did you decide to jump in and do it?
You know, it really was that I saw that there was a giant hole that was out there, that people weren’t really talking about that information. When I started the job at Northwestern — it’s kind of a weird thing where I’m technically a librarian but my job is really a project manager, so I have a profession within a profession. So, right out of the gate, I was like, “Well, we have this whole body of LIS literature out there; there has to be stuff about project management in there.” And there’s something like three articles that I think I found. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but digging through a lot of the common places to find that, that information’s just really not out there. And a lot of times when it is, it tends to focus on the exceptional details of one library’s individual project, and less so that general sense of how you did that, because what worked for them in that exact, specific case might not be what another library’s trying to accomplish or do. So, what I really realized that I wanted was something that was a much more general bird’s-eye view of project management in libraries. And that was something that really didn’t exist. And then I realized I had enough experience doing these things — perhaps I can fill that need. So, that was what I was hoping to accomplish, and it seems like some people have reacted really positively to it, because they too saw that it was really a hole that no one seemed to be filling.
We talked a little bit about how project management taps into that classification part of the librarian brain, that we want to break things down and categorize it. And that leads me to something that you are doing at your library, that you are — I think you said you think that you are the only large research library in North America that still uses Dewey.
Yeah. I’m pretty positive. I think there’s some in Europe that still do, ‘cuz Dewey’s much more popular over there. But yeah. We are almost certainly the sole remaining large research library that is dedicated to Dewey. So, we get a fair amount of — especially new — faculty members or graduate students that come in, that are mystified because they’ve been at institutions for however long that all use Library of Congress classification, just because it is ubiquitous in an academic research library. So, we’re sort of that exception to that rule. So, as we’re going through all these other projects to try to modernize and make more efficient a lot of our workflows, one thing we realize that was — because we were the only Dewey library in that class, we created a lot of additional work for ourselves. And one of the things that we always look for is, is the work that we’re doing something that can help other institutions? Is the cataloguing work that we’re doing something that someone else will be able to utilize so that they don’t have to repeat the same thing? With this Dewey stuff, a lot of that was, we were spending all this time generating call numbers for things that no one else will ever use. So, it ended up being work just for the sole sakes of ourselves.
Like an obscure academic journal getting a Dewey [laughs] number. Doesn’t happen very often.
Yeah, exactly. One of our special collections — we have the largest collection of Africana materials, I believe in the world. And a lot of that ends up being original cataloguing work, because it’s materials that simply no one else has. Well, then, we’re doing all this on the off chance someone else gets it — they’re still going to have to do a lot of work to generate a call number that would work for their institution.
But you guys are gonna make the switch, I think you said?
Yes. We’re looking at doing that now. So, the idea is to basically stop cataloguing new materials in Dewey and then start at LC. We’re hoping to do that at the beginning of 2015.
And do you think you — are you gonna go back and try to re-catalogue any of the old stuff, or is it just gonna be a split?
Right now, we’re looking at it as a split collection. We’re trying to identify what the criteria might be for when we want to go back and reclassify things. I’m sure that’ll happen from time to time. However, in the midst of all of this, we also built a large offsite storage facility. So, we have a lot of stuff that’s going there to be requested. So, we’re sort of in the middle of all of these changes, and looking at the work that would be required in reclassifying it — our collection’s, I think, just north of five million books — would be an exceptionally long and costly process. Probably measured in the millions of dollars and years. And so, when we were looking at that, we’re like, again, what’s the real — and I hate to use those kind of management terms sometimes, but what’s the return on investment in that work? Are we spending all of that time and money in getting something that’s really going to help people? Or are we doing it just so that we get away from that idea of, like, “Oh, the same materials might be in two separate places”? Because when you start talking about — we have a collection here, and then we have multiple campuses, and an offsite storage facility — the stuff tends to already be in multiple places. So, once we really realized that, it became abundantly clear that we had to deal with this book collection. So now, it really becomes informing our users about what’s going on to the best way possible, so that we’re not disruptive to them.
Well, speaking of large projects, you’re also working on a new ILS, moving to a new ILS. And I think you said that’s the project that you were hired to take care of?
Yeah. That was — once the library had agreed to make this move to a next-generation, cloud-based library system, they realized that it was going to require a great deal of coordination within the library, and that it didn’t really fall squarely in the domain of anyone that they currently had on staff. So, they had some open positions, and decided to reclassify one into what became my job — the collections services project manager. Part of that was because, not only do we have the ILS migration, but the library knew, in tandem with that, to get some of the benefits out of a new ILS system that let you better control workflows, we really needed to make that switch to Dewey as well — or switch from Dewey, rather. So, that was another project that was closely tied to it. Related, we had a discovery system that we were using — well, as part of that, that would also have to get migrated from a locally hosted one to a cloud-based system. So, there was this one large project that was the ILS migration, that had all these connected, orbiting other projects that needed to be completed either before or after, as that were [sounds like] going. So, it was really one of those things where I walked in and thought it was just like, “OK, we’re getting this system up and running,” and then realized that it actually had all of these interconnected other projects that we needed to be managing.
It’s been a lot, and especially as my first library gig, as it were, it was a lot to walk into, but it keeps me on my toes and is hyper-interesting. So, I’m thankful for that.
Well, and one of the interesting things that you mentioned about the project to me, before we started recording, was that you’re not gonna have an OPAC?
Yeah. That is one of the interesting things. I had mentioned the discovery system, so we’ve had that up and running for — I wanna say about four years now. But as part of the new cloud-based system, what they really wanted to do was try to minimize the interconnected and outside systems of those. When you’re dealing with someone else’s server, often a data center, you want to try to really — well, you have to — control how that information’s flowing in and out of there. So, one of the things that they wanted to get away from was trying to manage that other, outward-facing website, where people could go and look up materials and do all of those things. And at the same time, they had a discovery system that they were promoting. So, from their perspective, the really easy thing was, we won’t develop an OPAC for this; you simply use the discovery system. It’s been an interesting change, because while they seem on their face like an OPAC and a discovery system are the same thing — you’re typing in searches and you’re getting results — the way they go about it is so fundamentally different that it really has brought up some interesting philosophical discussions about how you can expect one to work versus the other. Because a discovery system’s really designed to cast the widest net possible, so it works really good for general research. Whereas, the OPAC is often designed to return to you that exact one thing which you are known to be looking for. And that’s where a lot of complaints that we hear about the discovery system is, “Well, I’m doing a known item search, so it should just return that one known item.” And while I get that, because that’s what the OPAC would do, the discovery system’s a little bit different; it wants to give you that item and then, perhaps, book reviews about that item and articles that were written about that particular book, and other things that might be related to that. So, you’re not getting that just one item, you’re getting that whole Google-like results set that you have to then sift through. So, there’s been a really big change for a lot of staff and users, and you can see some people — and I think if you’re really familiar with that Google-ization of information and how we expect to receive and ingest it — if you’re familiar with that and comfortable with it, it works great. You’re getting a lot more stuff, you’re getting results that you might not have seen otherwise. If you were looking at it more in that OPAC perspective, where “This is the book that I want. Tell me where that book is” — you’re probably gonna be unhappy, because you’re gonna get a whole bunch of other stuff as well.
But it seems like that’s the way students in particular want to get that — I mean, if they’re doing a paper on something and they want that particular book, they want to know other things like that, so I think that’s great for students.
Yeah. You know, by and large, undergrad students love it. Absolutely love it, because they’re like, they’re familiar with the concept and they get all of the stuff. When you get into very specifically focused researchers who are looking at one particular area or discipline, then they end up getting a lot of that other stuff, and they have to sort through that, and that’s where a lot of times they’re like, “You know, this isn’t ideal for me; there’s all this other stuff that I don’t want to see and I don’t want to deal with.” But you kind of do. And I think that’s — that one Google search box to rule us all — it can be kind of problematic, because sometimes you need a lot more options than that, and as you begin to add those in for some people, it’s gonna make it more difficult for others.
Yeah. It’s a blessing and a curse [laughs].
[laughs] It really is.
So, before you came to Northwestern, you worked at a law firm. Was that right before Northwestern?
Yes, that was.
And what did you do there?
I was a supervisor of the Conflicts of Interest department. So, it was an interesting and rather different job. I started there as a conflicts analyst, probably about six years back now, while I’d also started library school. So, it was a good fit at the time. It gave me some good actual experience. A lot of the job was just running really old-school Boolean searches, and then sifting through results sets. So, it was interesting in that regard. And we’d do a great deal of records management work as well. So, seeing that perspective of things was really interesting. I eventually became supervisor of the department, and one of the things that we did was worked at rolling out an automated intake system for attorneys to submit client requests. So, if you get a new client or you’re working on new work for a client, instead of filling out a paper form and printing it and sending it through the rounds to us — which is how we got a lot of things — or emailing it in, you had an intake form that you filled out, and did all of those things. That was the first time where I really was like, “I need some way of trying to figure out all of this massive amount of work that I’m doing.” And as I started looking through, I was like, “Project management is what I want.” So, I started reading up on my own about that to better control the work that we were currently doing — fully not aware that after I’d finished library school, and then after I’d got this new service up and running at the law firm, that I’d see this job posting that was, you know, in a lot of ways very similar to what I had just done, but in a library. And I think that goes to the hole we were talking about before, in LIS education. I never really would have thought project management was a job that I would have gotten in a library, and where I was now. ‘Cuz it just really didn’t seem like something that was out there. So, working at the law firm was really interesting, because it provided me a great deal of experience — both actually managing people, managing projects, and then really dealing with information. I ended up evaluating research providers for the corporate research sources that we used, so it was really great, and a corollary to my library school education. And it was one of those things where — when it had finished, I was at this position where I was, “Do I continue doing this? I just finished library school, and the idea was always to eventually work in a library, but I’m doing library-like stuff now, and do I want to continue to do that?” So, luckily I saw the posting that led me to my current position, because that was something that I was really at an impasse with, what I wanted to do, or what I thought I really could do. We know the status of the library job market, as it were. So, I was looking at a lot of things where I’m like, “Do I risk leaving a full-time job with great pay and benefits?” Because there’s a lot of disadvantages to working for a law firm. You know, I was almost on-call 24-7. But you are certainly rewarded for that kind of stuff. So, it was kind of a scary prospect to think about leaving, so that’s why I’m, again, so happy that I ended up in the position that I did. In a lot of ways, we even ran a ready reference service, because attorneys would call, and they were like, “Hey, I’m gonna go meet this client for lunch. Are we gonna have a problem if I take on this work? Should I even bother meeting him?” So, I’d get into our database and run some queries and figure out if we had any open cases or anything with them, and let them know. So, in a lot of ways, we were doing a very hyper-focused version of library service for attorneys. And it was one of the things where I’m like, these are the jobs that are out there — that, we hear them talk about the on-library jobs all the time as a vehicle for new graduates — but I often find they’re not really, “Well, here is a specific job that you could do.” So, it was kind of interesting that I almost stumbled into one.
Because it was like, “Yeah, this is really great. A librarian would do great at this job.”
Yeah, and it seemed to prepare you perfectly for your current job. I mean, it is obvious that you accidentally fell into that, but —
Yeah, and that’s one of the things — you know, I’ve had some people ask me about recent grads and advice and those type of things. I always struggle with that, because I’m like, “My situation is really non-scalable to anybody else.” A lot of luck, and a lot of privilege went into ending up where I am. But I really stress to people — if you can get a job that, even if it’s not even library-like, but lets you do things like, perhaps, manage people or deal with the public in a really, more deep, meaningful way than a traditional retail job, those are great things. And honestly, I think you’ll learn so much more that will better prepare you to work in a library doing those things, than perhaps a job that is library-like but has you doing filing work or those type of things. That’s another one of those things that is really hard and is often a gap in what library schools teach people — is the concept of customer service, or even management, both in actually managing people and how to deal with an organizational structure.
I think you should write another post for Jessica Olin’s Letters for a Young Librarian, and just say “just luck, I guess” and then the little shruggy emoticon guy.
And that’s the entire post.
[laughs] I feel so bad telling people that, but I’m like — I’d be lying if that wasn’t one of the primary considerations, and I think that’s true of a lot of people and a lot of situations. You know, it’s really just luck. Someone had said — it’s escaping me who — that one of the best qualifications for a library job was a willingness to move somewhere, and I thought at first they were being facetious, but I think there’s really something to that. Like, if you’re just like, “Yeah, I’ll go move and work anywhere,” that puts you above quite a few people and really makes you accessible [sounds like] in a wholly different way. So, it’s kinda weird, the things that now enable one to get a job, especially in this field. And that’s really one of those areas where I’d love to see more out of our professional organizations, doing things to — I know it’s almost an intractable problem they can’t solve, but do something to make sure that people are informed of the situation, the reality of what the job market and prospects look like. But then really, provide resources for people that, “So you want to be a librarian, but the job market is prohibiting you from doing it — there are other things out there that are similar, that’ll give you good skills, that’ll help you land in a library.” But unless you really know, and often by someone who had a job like that, like my case, that tells you that, it’s exceptionally hard to find those things. So, that’s something I’d personally like to see, is a better set of resources for those individuals.
Yeah, no, that’s a great thing. And I think there are a lot of good blogs out there like Jessica’s, that we just mentioned, and things like that, that people are giving that information out little by little here and there, for people who find it. But yeah, it’d be nice if it came from a large organization that can push it out, on a much larger platform.
Exactly, and never talk about people retiring again.
[laughs] Yeah. I admit, I went to library school 12 years ago, and they were talking about that then, so.
Good times. So, I wanted to talk about something else that was on your site, you mentioned. And you actually have a separate tab for it, ‘cuz you did that — “how I work” kind of thing where you answer this [inaudible] questions — I forget where that originally came from. Was that —
I was gonna say, Lifehacker. And I was like, “Is it Lifehacker?” Yeah. So, what made you want to do that? What made you want to share — not only share that as just a blog post, “Here is something for me to put on my blog,” but you actually put it as a tab up there at the top, that you wanted to make sure and know people can see?
You know, it’s one of those things, I think — especially in the library world — we tend to focus solely on the outcomes or results of the things that we do. “I did this thing, so here’s this thing that I did. Isn’t it so great?” And you can learn a lot about that, and people get inspired to tackle similar projects. But what I’ve always found much more interesting is, “OK, you did this thing and that’s amazing, but how did you do it? What was the process there?” Because at its core, if you take that outcome and someone tries to replicate it, well, if you don’t know the steps that arrived you there and the process that got them there, you can end up making a lot of mistakes and you might not be successful, despite the fact that you modeled it off of a successful program. And I’m sure that’s something that so many libraries have dealt with, where you saw an idea and you were like, “This is great,” and you try to implement it, and all of a sudden it doesn’t work and you can’t really figure out why. So, one of the things that I wanted to do was be very transparent about how I do the things that I do, because I think that informs why they are successful or why they fail. And then hopefully, I’m giving people not only that sort of, “Here’s the end result and thing that we did,” but more importantly, “Here’s the process and the tools that I used to get there.” So, that way, people can really be empowered to take those, in perhaps a similar project, or perhaps a completely different project. But you have a skill set and some tools now, to better enable you to successfully complete them.
Right. And what technology are you using, and just even lighter things, like what you’re listening to [laughs]. Just gets you more into your head.
Yeah, exactly. You know? And I think that’s important stuff. And it’s those odd questions that you’d never really think of asking someone, but what you listen to while you’re in crunch time trying to get something done, I think can really say a lot about you as a person, and the way in which you get stuff done. So, that’s why I think it’s really interesting. And hey, sometimes you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know about that particular thing. I’m gonna try it.” And that’s great. So, it gives you a — I hate to say we’re the sum total of the things that we use, that hyper-consumer view — but at the end of the day, the things that we use really inform a great deal about us as people.
Yeah, no. Exactly. The last thing I wanna ask you about is, I know you’re in a writer’s group with a couple of other librarians.
And I’m wondering if there’s anything you think that you’ve taken, that you’ve learned from being in this writer’s group that you’ve been able to apply professionally — either at your current job, your old job, just in a larger sense?
Some things — it’s helped immensely. Not only exposing me to the ideas of others and then getting that very real feedback on my writing, which is valuable and I personally never really had an output, or a means of doing that, so it’s been really refreshing in that regard. But especially at my job, one of the things that’s helped immensely — I’ll often have to create messages for outward-facing users about system changes or things that are going on with all of these changes we’re implementing. To be able to kick that to someone outside of our organization and get it a little, “Does this make sense to you?” You’re not familiar with the systems that we use that are in place. You’re still a librarian, so you have the overarching concept and everything, but as a outside party, is this message clear? Is there something else that could be included in it? Are there any questions that you have immediately coming out of it? So, I think being able to reach outside of your organization and tap into the collective wisdom of some other people is really great.
I’m assuming you mostly write fanfic about, maybe, Illinois governors or something like that.
Absolutely. My governor slash fic, though.
Completely locked down and private, and you will not be finding that anywhere.
That’s a challenge, listeners [laughs]. All right. Michael, so where can people find more about you online?
Exactly. Well, I have my blog, where I talk about librarianship and project management. It’s at libraryproject.info. I’m on Twitter almost constantly, perhaps to my detriment, at @michaelrperry6. And then you can also find me on Google+ or via Gmail at the same handle.
Thanks a lot for being on the show, Michael.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
All right. Bye.
‘Cause that would probably be useful to record the call.
There you go!
Here is 30 minutes of silence.
We talked about a lot of super interesting things. You have no ideas. We solved all the library problems.