Michael Stephens and Michael Casey

This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guests today are Michael Stephens and Michael Casey, formerly the writers of the “Transparent Library” column in Library Journal. Michael Stevens is an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University and is the writer of the Office Hours column in Library Journal. He also created the Tame The Web blog. Michael Casey is the Information Technology Director for the Gwinnett County Public Library in Metro Atlanta and is the co-author of Library 2.0 A Guide To Participatory Library Service.

Michael and Michael, welcome to the show.

[Michael C] Hi there, hello.

[Michael S] Thank you Steve, happy to be here.

The first thing I wanted to talk about how did you guys meet? I’ve, you guys had your column together, I know you guys are friends, you guys have worked together a lot. I don’t know how you all first met each other.

Well okay, Michael, tell me, I think I’m right, I think it was September of 2005 that I discovered your blog, at the time one of your first blogs, Library Crunch and I discovered your use of the term Library 2.0 and that started us chit chatting.

Yes, it was was and I remember, I think the first time I ever heard from you is shortly here at our library we had an event called Rock The Shelves and I posted a bunch of photos of that event up on our Flickr account, or on my Flickr account rather, cause we didn’t have one for the library at the time and that caught, that caught your attention and we, I believe we emailed a couple of times about it and you, I think, reshared a photo or two on Tame The Web if I remember correctly.

Right and I used one of your photos, beautiful black and white photo in many, many presentations at that time.

Thank you, yeah. It was a dark environment and it was in early days of digital and everything was high ISO and so it looked, it all looked better in black and white, and I.

It was beautiful.

I think we first met in person at Computers In Libraries if I remember right.

Yep and then the first thing that we ever did together was August 2006 when Helen Blower’s launch Learning 2.0 at the public library Charlotte in Mecklenburg County.

Yeah, that was exciting too. Those were exciting times.

Yeah it was, that was a big deal.

It was, that was the kick off of what would become huge program for her.

Right, right and a global phenomenon.


In libraries and beyond now really.

Yeah, well and it still continues to this day, so.

Right, yeah and that’s a really good point to make, just that it is evolved, it has grown, we had 23 things for professional development and now mobile 23 things which I’ve been doing a lot of research around the original program, so it’s really exciting and how many years has it been? Seven. To see something have that, to be that ongoing and that strong, that really makes me happy.

Yeah, she’s done great things with it and has shown a lot of people.

Yeah, shout out to Helen.


Absolutely. And all of the folks that jumped on, jumped on that and have offered it at their libraries and then made that a way that learning continues and I think those, that’s the best way to implement that program.

Yeah, the program itself has kind of lived on better than, Charlotte’s had their own misfortunes, but the program has lived on, so.


Right, very true.

Yeah, Charlotte’s been through some difficult times, but they seem to be doing better now, so that’s good.

Yeah, that’s good.

It’s nice when libraries can weather the storm and come out strong from the other side, so. The next thing I want to talk about was the origins of not only Tame The Web, but Michael, we’ve got two Michael’s here so Michael Casey, the, your online work as well. But, I wanted to concentrate on Tame The Web first because I don’t even know if Michael Stephens, you know this or not, but this podcast actually comes out of Tame The Web in a circuitous way in that my first, the first thing I really did online after being Facebook, Twitter, all that kind of stuff I was doing was the first thing I did. I wrote an essay for Leah White for her project that she was doing on Tame The Web, the Young Librarians series and then I, out of that spun the idea of wanting to do this in the first place and so it kind of goes back to you in a way.

Nice! Well that, I appreciate that and that’s nice to hear. Wow. Nice! The origins of Tame The Web and I’ve written a bit about this. We actually celebrated 10 years this past April, so April 1st 2003 that I had, I had a brand new Apple laptop sitting at Panera Bread very early in the morning and I launched a blog. How did the name come around? Very interesting, before that, before blogging and this goes back into the 90s, I was doing technology training in the public library and I was doing extra trainings for nearby public libraries where I lived at the time in Indiana. So to give a place for people to go to find out what kind of classes I could do, like searching the internet and understanding the internet and all of those things, I put up a little website with my internet provider at the time and this was probably 96 maybe, 97. And I decided to call it Tame The Web because that was, at that time, that was when we were trying to figure out how librarians and libraries would fit into the landscape of the burgeoning web and the name kind of came along with me and I, I think it still fits. I think it’s always going to be Tame The Web.

And has its mission or vision changed for you over the years? Or is it still kind of what you were thinking of when you first started?

Oh well I, what a great question. First and foremost  I always said this, first and foremost it is always my own personal information manager. If I put something on my blog, I, somehow, it always stays in my mind that I knew that I could find it there. Over the last few years, and if you look at just how the blog has been, as I have gotten more involved in my teaching and scholarship, I have not been, I have not sat down and written a huge, gigantic, you know, Ten Things That Can Be About Libraries Today, type post in years, just because I haven’t had the time. So I would say, I think the mission has changed a little bit, it kind of changes along with my focus and, but what’s interesting is I think my focus has always been on a sort of understanding how things work and learning and training and teaching, so I thinks it’s still that vibe underneath and it continues.

Well if I can just say one thing here. First of all, I too want to point out that Michael, your blog was the first blog in the library world that I ever was reading and it was, it was always influential to me also.

What I love about what you’ve done is you’ve taken this blog which is always been very informative and helpful from a single voice to many voices and even though by your own admission you’re busier now, you’re doing more things, you’re spread thinner, this is not, like so many blogs that we’ve seen, including my own, it’s not something which has slowed down, in fact it’s probably gotten richer because of the content that, that is now being created by the people that you’re working with and bringing into to populate it. So it’s gone from a voice of one to really something more along the lines of a magazine or a newspaper in that you’re presenting a lot of information from different vantages and different people and it’s more relevant today perhaps than it ever has been.

Oh, thanks for saying that Michael. I want to quote Jessamyn West here. This is important, Jessamyn said to me many years ago, we were talking about blogs being popular, Tame The Web has just consistently seemed to have a lot of reach and she said, “Michael, use your blog powers for good.” And I’ve always, I’ve always done that. You will never see advertisements. I sometimes will say oh I really like this, please consider looking at it. But you will never see an advertisement, I will never ask for money and I will never have a sponsor across the top of my blog. But, for using the powers for good, to me that is pulling in the voices that speak to me and those are the, I have contributors who are ongoing, I have Tame The Web guest posts, like if I meet somebody at a conference and their stuff just knocks me out, sometimes I hand them my card and say please contact me, I will publish a guest post on Tame The Web, I love it, love it, love it. And then a new thing I’ve been doing since I got to San Jose, I think just because San Jose’s so supportive and encouraging and in the online environment I have been asking students if I can reprint some of their student blogging. And that’s a relatively new thing the last couple of years, but that has also, I think that’s been very useful and it also gets their voices out there as they are still in their program and I think that’s another way that we can do good.

Yeah, I think the listeners to the podcast I think know that I am a fan of yours because if you look at the contributors on your site, most of them have already been on previously. Leah’s been on a few times, Justin’s been on, Troy Swanson’s been on, so I’m, I’m a big fan of what you do.

They’re great folks and if you, there’s a couple of those contributors that actually have full access to, they can publish, they can, and I don’t even have to be told about it, there’s that much trust so.

It’s great and I love what you’re doing with the students. I mean there’s nothing that’s more of a moral boost for a young student, or a new student in library science to, to write something and then you tap them and say can we publish this and then they see their work on the most popular library blog out there. That’s really encouraging.

Yeah, it is and that’s a pretty cool thing.

Well that ties into something that I wanted to talk about anyway, which is that there’s a gap that’s between getting our MOS when we’re educated there and then as a working professional which and I think we can tie this into your MOOC a little bit, that there’s great opportunities out there for continuing education, but everything is scatter and unfocused because we don’t have, like in law and medicine, I mean there’s continuing education that they have to get. Specifically they know what they have to do to go forward, whereas we’re kind of much more, the state will say you have to say 10 hours but you can do whatever you want. Do you think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in that kind of continuing education? And do you think things like your blog and your MOOC can help with that?

Well absolutely and this comes back to what I call professional development with teeth. That yes there should be this great opportunities and I think reading blogs can be a really good one, personal learning networks, having, surrounding yourself with all this great stuff, the MOOC, of course, which we can certainly talk about. But, it needs to come back to library administration. That instead of just saying oh yeah, it’s staff institute one day a year and everybody’s, the learning is over until we do this again, or we did 23 Things and that’s done and now we’re going on and everything goes back to the way that it was. I think we need to formalize and this is something that I called for in a column that I wrote called Learning To Learn. We have to formalize these things and Steve, just like you said, that doctors and lawyers they have to continue their professional development, they can’t not and I think we should be doing the same thing. That it should go into performance evaluations. If you did take the hyperlink library MOOC you should be able to take that to your supervisor and that be a big deal. If you get this certificate, then that should count for something because that shows you applied yourself and you did it and I think one of the examples I used is, doing, and I’m doing air quotes everybody, doing your professional reading at the desk from 1 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon, that to me is not learning.

I would say here too I think, I was very lucky in that I was able to participate to some degree in this MOOC that Michael Stephens and San Jose had and it was absolutely fascinating to watch because I, all due respect to training, trainers who purchase these wonderful management systems and they’re chock full of a lot of very good courses, but it’s like sometimes walking into a Target or a Walmart and it’s just a lot in front of you and there’s no direction necessarily to it. The beauty about the MOOC as a learning tool is that you have directed readings, but there is a social environment involved, so you have other people taking the courses and being able to communicate with them and talk with them and run ideas by them and read about their ideas and their individual blog posts is such a richer environment. I mean, I’m fortunate, I’ve got a Masters degree which I earned on-site in the old-fashion way and I have a Masters in Library Science which I earned remotely. And when I did my remote Masters, we had nothing like the tools that are now in this MOOC and that we see around us and other online learning environments and doing this MOOC with San Jose this fall was so much, so reminiscent of earning a degree on-site, on campus because you had all these opportunities to interact and socialize and talk with and share ideas with your fellow students and your professors that you often times don’t have in other learning opportunities and especially when you just log onto something and you watch a video, or you read something and you take a little test after it, professional development is so important to tie that in with the social side of learning and not just reading something like Michael said from 1 to 3 o’clock for your professional development. So, I just want to point that out because that, that part of the MOOC environment as a learning opportunity was superb.

And let me give a shout out real quick to Kyle Jones who is my co-instructor at the Hyperlink Library MOOC. He designed the site architecture that made it so social and so participatory and a huge shout out to the administration of the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State for getting behind us and giving us a beautiful, giant server that worked well and providing time and resources for us to do what we did and the absolute wonderful students who served as participatory learning guides and homeroom leaders. We had homerooms in the MOOC, who really made all of this come together and finally all the guest speakers who came in and Michael was one of them and gave up their time for us.

Well with, with your MOOC I thought it was really interesting because there were the two, the two big library MOOCs this year. Yours and David Lankes’ and what was kind of interesting in the difference was Lankes’ was a little more focused on this is library school education and yours seemed focused more on continuing education. You know it’s like his was bringing the course work online and yours was more about bringing people who are already out in the field back in for continuing education. I don’t know if you intended it to be that way or if that’s just the way I’m seeing it, but that’s how it felt to me. That they were both valid in their own way, but they were kind of coming at it from different directions.

Oh yeah, right. We were very much a C MOOC which is the connective or collaborator, it’s one of those good C words. It, where there’s much more participation. I think the other one might have been more of an X MOOC which is more a lot people, a lot of folks and they’re reading and viewing. We did go into the Hyperlink Library MOOC knowing it would be a professional development opportunity, but the content ported over, the original foundational content is exactly what I teach in a class at San Jose called the Hyperlink Library. So, it was, it also was like taking a class, a for credit class.

And how many participants did you end up having?

I know those numbers, I can share those with you. We had 1,300 and some folks express interest. Because it was a pilot, because we wanted to test the WordPress system, we capped at 400. We sent. No we capped at 300, no we aimed for 400, we sent I think 600 emails inviting people to register and we had 363 people register with the site and set up their user account.

Do you feel like it went well?

I do and I can speak a little bit to this cause I’ve seen the post-MOOC survey data. I can say a few things and I actually talked with Library Journal about this for an article that just went up on their website called Opening Up Next Steps From MOOCs.

Out of the 363 of course we had people that we called in inactive. Maybe after the first week things change, they didn’t have time, so we might half that, may 175 folks or so kept going and maybe toward the last bit, and it was long, it was 12 weeks, there might, we might have maybe 100 people that were active, seriously active throughout the time. But looking at the survey data, our first question was: Do you feel you’re successful in this MOOC? Because that, that to me is really what it comes down to. And we had three categories – yes I was successful, I was somewhat successful and finally no I was not successful. And overwhelmingly I think two-thirds of the people who took the survey and I think it’s a little under 200 people, they said that they were successful or somewhat successful, so. And this goes back to research I’ve done on Learning 2.0 which we sort of started with, started this recording with. One of the things we found in the research I did in Australia and even to some degree when I did some pilot research here in the United States, a completion does not imply failure because folks report and I even see it in the data we have coming out of the MOOC, that oh yes, I got exactly what I wanted out of it, I did a lot reading, I watched some great videos, I just chose not to blog, or I just chose not to do the assignments. So I would say yes, from my point of view, very successful and from the point of view of other folks that did that post MOOC survey, I think we’re gonna see a high rate of success. And we also asked them please define what you mean by success, so we have this huge amount of qualitative data to analysis which is going to be exciting.

And Michael Casey, can you talk about participating in that. Of how you, how did you get, did Michael just come to you and ask you? Or did you ask to be involved? I mean how did that work and how did that experience work, do you think from your end? And how do you think it was received?

I am honestly blanking on how I was asked, so I will let Michael Stephens answer that.

Well Michael, it’s because you’ve always to talked to my classes. That’s one reasons.

Oh, yeah, exactly. I mean that’s true, in fact I think maybe when you first asked me I just thought this was a regular class. No, I am, I am very lucky in that Michael regularly gives me an opportunity to talk to his ILS students and MLR students, sorry I’ve got ILS on the brain, we’re doing a migration. And that is always so personally encouraging for me, I mean Steve, you know, you work in a public library, you got the day-to-day grind and just from doing these interviews, for you, I’m sure this is very refreshing and being able to talk to people in other parts of the profession and I feel the same way when I get to talk to MLS students. What I took away from the MOOC a little selfishly was that this is something, this is a type of structured social learning that we could bring back to a medium or large size public library and do it internally. I remember the first, I think on the first, cause I think we did two videos for this MOOC. The first video when we were trying to set it up I think, we couldn’t get it working and I’m not sure what was going on and we, we just decided to jump over and do a Google Hangout and we got the video on the YouTube I think and in fact I think we even had a couple of people join us live that we didn’t know about.

I think Kyle or somebody, Michael you know better than I. And at the time my organization here at this library, we were also just, we were beginning to realize the worth of these Google Hangouts on air and seeing how, how Michael Stephens in San Jose used this open source WordPress platform and used, we used the Hangout tool for our videos, all of these tools are available to everybody out there and if you’ve got a library that, that perhaps passes a certain size threshold, I want to be able to use this internally for us to have a structured socially interactive learning environment that we can begin using to train our staff on new things and keep them up-to-date on their professional development and create a more exciting learning environment than perhaps we’ve been able to have in the past. So, from a very selfish standpoint, that’s what I took away from this MOOC. Now I will say I’m, I’m thoroughly encouraged to hopefully participate in some future MOOCs, not only maybe talking, but even as a student because to see what these students were writing in their blogs and the reports that they were putting up online in their, the director’s briefs that they were writing and several other things was absolutely fascinating. It was a very different experience that I had in library school, it looked a lot more fun than I can remember it being. So I’d like to do it again from the other vantage, from the student’s position.

And would you, Michael Stephens, plan to do it again? I know it’s, that we’re recording basically right after you finished, but do you have plans for the future to do it again? Or do you have any other next steps in mind?

We’re going to look at all of our data and we’re going to see what could be improved, what could be changed, we did all those classic questions. You know, what was the cool thing in the MOOC? What didn’t work out so well? And I hope that in the future we will offer the MOOC again. I would be very excited to do that. The core group of active folks in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC sort of all picked up and moved over and made a Facebook group for themselves as well as they established their own blog, so it’s kind of taken on a life of its own as my part finished. So it’s fascinating to watch, so they’re calling it the Hyperlinked Library MOOC Alumni, you know, like an association or whatever, so it’s so exciting to me, it’s just so heartening to. So yes, I hope to offer, I hope that we will offer it in the future again.

May I ask a quick question here?


Michael, I’m curious just given all that we’ve seen about MOOC software and trials and tribulations of that across the country in different attempts to make it work, how happy were you with using WordPress for your MOOC? And would you use it again?

I was very happy with using WordPress. I think, I know I would scale up, I know we, you could have more bodies in the MOOC. We could have a thousand people all blogging in this WordPress install, whatever. What I’m concerned about and one of the things I experience is that I guess I set myself up early on that I felt I should read every single post and make a comment on every single post and that just, I could not up that pace.


That said, I don’t know if anybody can keep up with a thousand, if everybody was active, with a thousand librarians blogging, I think we would have to have multiple instructors, or limited and I kind of get the idea that maybe limiting it would be okay. Maybe 200 people or so, 300 people, somewhere around there and that I think, I think that would be a good way to do it with that platform and I don’t think I would use, I would have to really be sold on another platform cause I would not go to something that, for example, is behind a firewall or behind a password where nobody else can see it. We had, and I’m sorry I’m jumping around a little bit, we had authors, we had David Weinberger who really inspired the whole concept of my thinking about the Hyperlinked Library as well as some of the other great thinkers back in that time. We had Weinberger actually tweet about the MOOC and actually I believe he left a comment. I think I have a screenshot of that somewhere on a student’s blog. That is a huge, huge deal because, because we chose to make it open, as open as possible, I think that’s one of the benefits and that, and WordPress enabled that.

Well, that leads right into what I wanted to talk about next. Participatory Library Service, particularly in the way that Michael Stephens, how you kind of define the Hyperlinked Library and Michael Casey, how you defined Library 2.0, can you talk about that a little bit? Of how you came to those individual concepts and how you see that as a beneficial thing for staff and for our communities.

The Hyperlinked Library as a title is something I started using in presentations probably around 2007. And to be very honest, and this is probably the first time that I’ve thrown this out there this way, one of the reasons that I did that, I was very inspired by Weinberger’s chapter, the Hyperlinked Organization in The Clue Train Manifesto, please everybody go read it. But I also was taking a step away from the Library 2.0 term because I felt the Hyperlinked Library was broader. Maybe it didn’t have as much that came along with it that Library 2.0 did. I did those presentations, I was very lucky to, to do the Hyperlinked Library, the big three hour version of the talk in Australia in five different cities in 2008 and then it kind of became a thing and one of the things that I learned at my doctoral studies is if we do modeling, if we model something, it will help us understand it, it will help us describe a phenomenon, so that I sort of formalized it then. And this is when I was ramping my scholarship side and I discovered future research which is trend spotting and environmental scanning and I formalized it and when I brought the class to San Jose, I’m sorry I’m talking so much. When I brought the class to San Jose, it, we, I finally got to call it the Hyperlinked Library because before that, it was called Participatory Service and I introduce it to the students in just the way we did in the MOOC as the Hyperlinked Library model and we’d look at various facets of the model.

So it’s a way, now, just to understand my view of what’s happening in libraries, how libraries are changing, very much grounded in Michael’s concepts of Library 2.0, we use his book, his and Laura’s book as our text and we actually use that in the MOOC as well.

You know Participatory Service was always an important and probably the biggest component of Library 2.0 and I took, I took the term and then I’ve said this before in writing and other interviews that it really derived more from what we saw going on in the business 2.0 area than in the web 2.0. The components of what was coming for libraries wasn’t so much the, the technology and the tools, because you use them to fulfill your goals and the purposes you set out to achieve. It really was the new model of relationships that organizations, whether that was a commercial or nonprofit or government, or whatever type of organization it was, we saw them making new relationships, both internally and externally and driving business based upon those new relationships and that really formed the basis for participatory service, which was the subtitle of the book, by the way, that I wrote, Library 2.0 subtitled Participatory Service. The idea reaching into your community more than just to the top level funding agents and more than just to your friends, groups, but using the tools that are available to you and those tools have only gotten better since we started, first started writing about this 7, 8 years ago. Using the tools to reach into your community to find out exactly what was important to those people, what is it that the library can do for them and what are they looking to the library for. And also participatory leadership on the inside of the library, reaching out to your staff and getting their take on as many things as possible and incorporating your goals into what staff are doing, are being trained on, being developed for, it really is an organic thing so to speak, but it’s much more of an operational behavior than it is technology tool. I don’t know if that goes to what you’re asking, but.

No, that’s exactly what I was asking cause I, and that’s why I wanted to phrase it with talking about participatory service because I think a lot of the, I almost want to say 100% of the criticism that I’ve heard of those models has always been, oh look they just want libraries to get on Facebook and Twitter and then we’re current and that’s really not what it’s about. I mean those are tools for accomplishing a goal and that’s not the end goal at all.

The, Steve, the thing that I do and students sign up for the class and the people signed up for the MOOC and I think they, you know to some degree, they’re thinking oh it’s going to be a technology class, but guess what, when they get in it’s really about people and it’s about humanism and it’s how we can reach into our communities with all those things that come along with being human.

Yeah and I think Twitter and Facebook and social media, all that, helps do that, but again it’s not the reason for doing. It’s not just the oh look something shiny let’s go do it kind of thing.

Michael, that’s why I continue to use your textbook and or your book and I guess we should should out to Information Today because they gave the book for free to everybody that signed up for the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and I did some writing back in the day about the different tools, but the beautiful thing about the participatory service book is it’s a philosophy of service. It’s not a these are the tools of the day, they may be mentioned, but it’s not just oh here’s how you blog, here’s what a Wiki is, here’s how you use RSS, cause that, that comes and goes so quickly.

It does and we are very lucky in that the tools have become easier to use. I think, Michael, one of the things you speak to and I think we see it in organizations that try to operate in a participatory manner is that the more these individual relationships the organization can build with people in the community, the easier it is for that organization to tell its story. And we, libraries have numbers, we have a lot of numbers available to us, how many books check out, how many people come into the library, but as we all know, when you’re talking to, to your community and to your funding agents, some people respond to numbers. Other people respond to stories and the more, the more people you can reach and the easier it is to tell these stories to your community through all the various tools that are available to us now, the better you’re really going to be. And a couple of, I think when we started in 05, I’m not even sure if you could join Facebook if you weren’t a student, but the growth of the tools, what we see you doing with the MOOC and the WordPress installation, what we see ourselves here in our own, in my own library being able to do in creating a small little learning environments in Google Hangouts and repurposing that video for later on, we have so many more opportunities as an organization to reach out and touch people in the community across multiple platforms. That there’s really no excuse for not making that effort.

Yeah and I think that data is really important to have, but it’s sort of, it doesn’t tell the right story. I mean what you, what you need to convince your stakeholders is why you’re important and data doesn’t tell anything about why. It’s just.

It’s just a component.

Yeah, it’s look we have this door count, but why is it important that we have this door count. Why is it important that we circulate this many items and I think that’s really what’s key to our future. You all wrote a column together for Library Journal for a couple of years called The Transparent Library. Can you talk about the general concept of what you think of as the transparent library and why transparency is important, sort of within and without. Like why it’s important in an organization and why it’s important to be to the outside world as well.

I think a lot of it stems from what we just spoke about which is a participatory library. You can’t be in the community as much as we need to be if you’re closed off, if you’re walled. One of the fundamental tenets that we saw developing in the last decade in the business world and in government is transparency and transparency breeds trust, transparency allows you to communicate and talk to your community in a manner which you perhaps weren’t able to in the past. Transparency on the inside of an organization breeds better moral and trust, top to bottom, administrators to front line staff and I think if you look back at the columns that we wrote, so many of them deal with in one fashion or another, relationships in an organization from the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. So Michael, I’ll let you fill in there, but that’s how I see it.

Oh absolutely and what I realized, I think maybe half way through those two years we got to write was so much of it was aimed at administrators. I think we were even subconsciously writing hopefully for the library directors, the library deans, all those folks that might read it and be inspired and I know a case where we aimed things at dear frontline staff and things like that, but yeah.

I think we even wrote to the directors directly in one of the columns.

Yeah we did, dear directors [laughs]. What fun was that. I so enjoyed that and that’s why when that, the book thing broke in Urbana I got Michael, I said, oh wow, I wish we were writing the Transparent Library, would you please give me a quote for office hours, so nice to come back to that.

It was, it was and hopefully, I think, shall we mention what we’re working on now?

I think, I think you, yeah go ahead and mention that, I think it’s kind of interesting.

We’re spinning the column into an e-book and we’re going to put in a couple little other content also from outside, just the column itself, a few other things we wrote and I think we’re going to add a new essay or two along the way and hopefully that will be out in early 2014.


And do you guys remember back when you first started it, how, not only did you, how did you just start it, with getting in the relationship with Library Journal. But how did you decide that was going to be your, like you decide okay we’re going to write a column together. How did you decide that’s going to be our topic.

I seem to remember Library Journal reaching out to us and asking if we would write a, am I wrong Michael?

I think that we were, I think we were approached, yeah. I think we were approached by a couple of the, a couple of the big library magazines shall we say and we went with Library Journal.

Yeah, that’s right, there was a little bit of a, yeah.

Yeah, a little bit of back and forth, but yeah.

One was a little more open at the time than the other.

And it came to you with the idea already of this is what they wanted from you? Or did they just say we want Michael and Michael.

That’s really I think what they said, they wanted all this stuff that we had been doing on Library Crunch and Tame The Web.

Yep. Yeah cause we went back and forth on what to call the column. That was, that was not set before, before we started writing. You know the great thing was we, and we weren’t the only to by any stretch or others talking about these things also, but we were, we were definitely talking about some similar things in the world of librarianship and libraries and I think, I think the voices complemented each other in that regard and I think that made it a successful, almost three-year run.


Well something you guys talked, you talked about in the guest lecture that Michael Casey, you did for the MOOC was something that I have been interested in in the past as well and I actually wrote an essay for another site about it, is failure as a learning tool. And I wonder if you could about that as a concept cause I think that’s really important to accept that you’re going to fail and not just wallow in your failure but to learn from that and move forward.

Well, I’ll just say one thing and then I’ll let Michael Stephens talk on it, but going back to one of the earlier things that I ever spoke about, we put it in the book, was this process of constantly reviewing things. In fact we even had a model for putting teams in place that would include a review team to take a look back at what was created and ask the very fundamental question of what’s working and what’s not working and that really is tied into being accepting of failure and recognizing that everything we do doesn’t have to be the zero sum equation. If your library puts a service in place, if it isn’t meeting whatever metrics you laid out as defining success and hopefully in the earlier parts of the process you did define some metrics that you could measure against later on, you don’t have to kill the service if it’s, you just have to accept that it wasn’t set up in the right way to begin with and then restructure it. Failure, we meet failure almost every day. It cannot stand in the way of moving forward and making change and becoming successful in what we are doing. We have to get comfortable and I think Steve you’re a parent, I’m a parent, teaching kids to be okay with failing in something is one of the most important things we have to do and if you let failure stop your progress, if you see failure as an absolute deal breaker, you’re not going to get very far.

Absolutely. And Michael you said that very well. I wouldn’t have much more to add, but learning from mistakes, we had Justin from Chattanooga and my colleague Warren from Australia do a Google Hangout for the MOOC on the same topic, about how they were learning from when things didn’t go the right way.

Yeah and Justin did a post for Tame The Web about when he broke the 3D printer.

Right, right, yeah. Yeah. That was a pretty good picture. Given the economy we were just in, I think we, we are in the middle of seeing a whole lot of case studies on libraries dealing with setbacks, reorganizing, redefining what they want to do and how they define success and moving forward again. So, in the not too distant future we’re going to have a lot of interesting case studies to examine regarding what was, what failure was and how people responded to setbacks.


And Michael you mentioned, I think it was the, the weeding crisis up in Urbana which will be another case study to look at in time.


Well I wanted to talk about one more thing sort of related to 3D printing I guess now that I’ve brought that up. I believe Michael Stephens you wrote about this some time recently, or it was in the Hyper, it was in something that I read when I was researching this [laughs]. It sort of striking a balance between techno-lust for emerging tech, but then also what’s practical, so you don’t just, you don’t just get a 3D printer because it’s a 3D printer and hey I got a 3D printer. You have an idea in mind of what you’d like to do with this or you have sort of some structural underpinnings for that, that you’re not just getting it because it’s nice and shiny and balancing that with the fact that. Like with the new Pew results that came out, the people still, 80% think we’re about books and reading, that you. That’s important to remember and to keep in mind that you don’t just say well forget you people because that’s not what libraries do anymore. We are that, but we’re also these new things and we have to look for ways to overlap and embrace new technology without making those other people feel like they’re not included any more either.

Absolutely. It is a huge balancing act and I think one of the things that when there was pushback about all of these discussions we were having about blogs in 2006, about Facebook in 2009 or whatever, was people jumped to the conclusion that the speakers, the writers were implying that that means, we’re getting rid of the books, or we’re getting rid of the story time, or we’re getting rid of all of the things that we’ve done. But, I don’t think it was every that way, it was just finding new channels to, to reach out to folks. And as I said in the, in that column that you mentioned, I think I had been a little, I was very vocal about saying well it’s not the collection, it’s not the collection, it’s people, it’s getting people, it’s community and all those things, but it is also the collection. And having that balance is going to be important as long as there are printed books and as long as there are things that we can purchase and collect and put in our buildings, absolutely, we’re going to have to take care of them.

The last subject I wanted to talk about was sort of relating them back to education. In that a lot of our continuing education comes from mentoring and especially earlier in our career when we’re learning how to be librarians, we try to find people to latch onto and learn from, though I think that continues on in our careers, it’s nice always to have somebody to look up to and try to emulate. But, I talked to Leah White about this and she helped me frame this question of how do you transition then once you feel you’re confident in your field. How do you transition from being a mentee to being a mentor.

Wow, that’s a great question.

Cause I know Leah especially was feeling that because she mentioned you specifically as somebody she thought of as a mentor, but now she’s feeling that she’s been in the profession for a few years now and she’s looking to take opportunities to be a mentor herself and so it’s kind of an odd transitionary period.

Oh and you know that’s true because her work is there and you can, we see what she has done and it’s, there’s good stuff, she done some great things and that, that’s a really interesting thing and I think what came to my mind about it is there, once you do become the mentor there’s some responsibility that comes with that, that if you are, if people do seek you out and people do ask you questions, that you might want to devote some time to people that maybe resonate, their work resonates with you, or whatever. But, it is a serious thing and if you become kind of a big deal in our tiny, tiny, little world, I think it is imperative that you set a good example. And if you think about it, it comes back to professional development with teeth. Maybe mentoring, can we formalize it in some way? Can it be part of the process as a librarian that you are a mentee for a certain number of years, or as long as you think you need it and then maybe it is expected as part of your service to the profession. And I think we should be really  serious about service to the profession, that you should mentor and that might take different, it might be virtual mentoring, it might be mentoring in your workplace in the library working or the information environment or whatever, but maybe more formalization would be a really interesting thing to explore.

Looking at it locally, maybe we don’t remember this enough and by we I mean if you’re in administration or if you’re a chair of a team or something like that. What, when you’re at the table with a team or with your staff, I do think you should keep a mind, and I fail at this sometimes, I think I don’t remind myself of it enough, that you really are, you’re modeling behavior and you’re modeling a leadership style and you’re modeling professionalism to those people and while it’s not a formal mentor/mentee relationship, it is a type of relationship where you have to, you do need to keep a mind and realize that how you model yourself, display yourself and how you act is seen by others and then often times that, they’ll learn from that, whether it’s directly or indirectly, that is how such a team chair, a leader, an administrator behaves. So even on the local level, I do think we need to constantly remind ourselves that we’re, we’re setting examples to others and we need to act accordingly. You know, when your organization goes through difficult times, you don’t want to sit at the head of that table and pretend as if nothing’s wrong. You want them to have a realistic framework, a realistic idea of what’s going on so you, it is a balancing how much do you share, you don’t want your team, just like you don’t want your kids to think everything is fine and dandy when in fact the emperor’s got no clothes. But it’s very difficult sometimes to lead or to set examples in those more difficult, trying times. But, you do have to keep it in mind.

All right, well, Michael and Michael, thank you so much for being on the show today.

It’s a pleasure.

Thank you for having us.

Oh thank you, it was fun, it was fun.


All right, well thanks a lot, guys.

All right, take care, thank you, thank you.

Take care.

All right, bye bye.




Can I, can I invoke the, could you cut that last bit out?

Yes, we can do that.

We should really try to get some swearing in.

Get it in now, get it in now while we’re editing it out, so. [laughs]