Ending a chapter

12 05 2008

I can’t believe the whole semester has flown by already. I had my last class on May 2, and I’ll graduate on May 17th. I had an amazing capstone experience at the Austin Public Library that has really shaped how I view library programming and strategic planning.Photo of Kathleen Houlihan, presenting her poster on the Strategic Initiative Toolbox, at the UT School of Information Poster Session, May 2008

The project ultimately was a guidebook for strategic program planning, with three strategic initiatives created to demonstrate how the guidebook operated. The three initiatives we chose were

  • Greener Austin, an environmental awareness and education campaign
  • Latino American Cultural Awareness, an educational and cultural celebration campaign
  • Financial Health & Wellness campaign.

The guidebook/toolbox discussed the different components of strategic initiative planning, and how to work through the planning process in such a way that the library could ensure that these programs not only helped accomplish a set goal or mission, but also demonstrated value within the community, and ensured the library’s place at the table with local government.

For those of you interested in the details, there’s more behind the cut…

Read the rest of this entry »

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A brand new me

18 01 2008

This last semester was an intensely challenging one for me, and one that ultimately changed the way I relate to the world, particularly the library world. I took a Nonprofit Strategy and Entrepreneurship class, a course in Research Methods, and a phenomenal course called Leadership for Community Change. I did a lot of soul searching and learned a great deal about myself and how I interact with the world and my field, and what part I want to play in all that. The semester also armed me with an abundance of tools for strategically positioning libraries (and librarians) for success.

I also continued volunteered at Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic (first as a “director” and now as a “reader”) for two hours a week, and, as part of my class project for NP Strategy, did an extensive review of their volunteer practices, and developed a series of improvements to those practices which might help them increase their production studio’s efficiency. I also started volunteering as a reference intern at the Austin Public Library… every single day I work there, I am more convinced that I’m in the right place. I’m particularly interested in working for a large urban public library system in adult services, and APL is a great introduction to that world (both the good and the bad). On top of all that, I was also the student liaison to Stepping Up: Library Leaders for the 21st Century, and held two information sessions for applicants to the program and I was Co-Director and Webmaster of the “blanket” student organization for the School of Information (SASI). It was all worth it, and I even got myself selected for the 2007 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities (toot that horn!)

Out of this fall semester grew my professional experience project (“Capstone”). I decided to plunge headfirst into administrative work, particularly with regards to strategic positioning of libraries. I’m interested in adult programming, so I decided to look at the City of Austin’s strategic planning documents, chart out their goals, and then develop programs for the library which would help the city achieve those goals. In this way, the library will be better able to demonstrate the value they provide to the community (in particular when it comes time for funding dollars to be distributed). Once we’ve narrowed the scope to the top three programs, I’ll create a toolkit for each program: resource needs, funding sources, volunteer management, potential community partners, and evaluation and measures of success. I’m calling it (tentatively) the Strategic Initiatives Toolbox.

And that capstone is what I’d like to talk about today… I’m going to make a small shift on this blog (not too difficult because I’ve been absent for so long that I’ve indubitably alienated any readership I had) and spend the remainder of the spring documenting my progress on my capstone project, in addition to the work I’m doing in my other two classes: Collection Management, and Nonprofit Audiences (a class offered by the School of Advertising).

I’m working on a recap of the work I’ve done this past month, but I’ll be shooting for one update a week (more often when I’m in the thick of things) describing the challenges I’ve experienced, as well as the successes. Like the title says, my experiences last semester have irrevocably changed the way I perceive the library world and the challenges it faces (on a number of fronts). Not all of these are related to my capstone, but I have a feeling you’ll be hearing plenty of them in the weeks and months to come.





Community Outreach

4 09 2007

Whenever I mention to a colleague I don’t know very well that I’m taking a course in Nonprofit Strategy and Entrepreneurship, along with another called Leadership for Community Change, I always get the same reaction: Do you want to start a nonprofit?

The question behind the question is: What do nonprofits have to do with library school?

Quite a lot, in fact. I’m particularly interested in the nonprofit as a representation of a segment of our communities… ie: a patron with clearly defined information needs (it’s in their mission statements!). Nonprofits exist in a community, particularly the small scrappy ones, because they have identified a need within that community – they see a segment of the population who are being underserved, mistreated, or generally not getting a fair shake. Doing something about that is their mission in life. Helping them fulfill that mission is my mission in life.  I want to help give them the information tools that their segment of society needs.  Going beyond the reference desk… not waiting for someone to be bold enough to come up and ask me a question… but going out there into the community and answering the questions that are being asked all the time.

Beyond that, I decided to participate in the Nonprofit Studies program because I am so keenly aware that Library School often does not do enough to teach librarians how to be managers, or how to be leaders.   In the NP program, I can take courses in marketing for NPs, management, leadership… all the things I have a passion for. And everything I learn applies to libraries! We’re so very much closer to nonprofits than we may realize. Certainly libraries are often government organizations… particularly academic and public libraries. But funding is slipping all the time… we seek out private and corporate sponsorship. We have boards and volunteers… we operate successfully in large part due to the tremendous public trust in libraries. We also both rely heavily on public support, and advocacy/marketing/grassroots support (whatever you’d like to call it) must be a part of our plans for the future.

In this time of change and growth for libraries, I am particularly interested in seeing how the future leaders and CEOs of nonprofits seek out public support. My classmates are inspirations to me… each and every one will help build public support for a cause they believe in. And so will I. So can you… Keep your eye on nonprofits. They know where they’re going, and they have a good idea of how to get there.





Good works

25 08 2007

It’s been a whirlwind summer for me…who said anything about a break?  Over the past two weeks, I launched a new website for my student organization, created an FAQ for new students, am in negotiations with iSchool IT services to create a wiki for our school, launched an online store to sell our Evolving Librarian shirt to librarians at large, went to a meeting for an IMLS grant whose goal is to recruit more diversity into the librarian profession (I’m the student liaison…the person our recruits will go to when they want to see a friendly student face), solicited feedback and advice from iSchoolers on tips for getting in to the program (for that IMLS grant), and spent an entire day at new student orientation + happy hour , telling people what our student council was about, what projects we’re working on, and dispensing general advice about their first weeks in the program. On top of all that, we’re gearing up for Fall in my library, and that means we’re processing hundreds of items for regular and electronic reserves, and showing new professors the ropes. I’ve also got an interview next Thursday for a volunteer reference intern position at the downtown branch of the Austin Public Library.  The most exciting news is that Jenny Levine has put Karin and me in touch with some folks at ALA to try and get a marketing wiki/social network going … I’m very excited about this project!

Now that orientation is over, the two sites are launched, the FAQ is done and the iSchool wiki is moving forward, I feel such a sense of accomplishment, but also feel as if a burden has been lifted since those were occupying every spare moment of time I had. I’ll be back here more regularly now, especially once my classes start in the fall and I find new inspiration from my colleagues and friends.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!





Lessons in Marketing

5 08 2007

Today I was reminded of how small the library online community is, and how important it is to plan for the unexpected.

My friend, Lea, and fellow co-director of the Student Association of the School of Information at UT, took some photos of a new shirt designed by a recent graduate of our program. The design is called Evolution of a Librarian:

Informationus Primatus, represented by a gorilla with a pair of reading glasses; Informationus Scriptor, represented by a medieval scholar scribbling away with a quill; Informationus Shushimus, represented by a female librarian with a bun, busily shushing patrons; and the final evolution: Informationus Professionus, represented by a young female librarian in jeans and an Antelope/information? tee (see below), carrying a laptop, a book, and listening to an ipod.

She posted the photos on her flickr page so I could grab them easily to put up on our our blog. SASI has been printing shirts for as long as anyone can remember as a way to get funding from the Graduate School Assembly (GSA) and the Student Senate, that we can turn around and sell at a small profit in order to support student activities and community-building. I had intended to get the photos up sometime this weekend (or maybe next) and then send an email out to our school’s listserv to let students know they were available and when/where they could buy them.

But this morning when I woke up and checked my RSS reader, I found that Library Stuff had linked to her photo of our newest shirt design. We had always dreamed of coming up with cool shirts that we could sell to the library/information science community at large to support our school activities, and here was opportunity staring us in the face, and I didn’t even have a site set up yet! Worse, when I tried to log on to the iSchool servers, I couldn’t gain access. I couldn’t get on to the servers until a half hour ago (finally got the support site up here at SASI Swag). But even without that, we didn’t have any way of accepting payment. We hadn’t set up a paypal account and had only ever taken cash and checks in the past. We didn’t even know what to charge for shipping.

This entire experience was a great learning process for me. Technology failed us, and we failed to plan for a big enough response to our idea. This was a small glitch, something easily fixed, but we were franticly emailing and im-ing eachother and the iSchool technology folks trying to get our site back up, and figure out what to do in the meantime.

I wonder how much worse it would be for the library who fails to make arrangements for the unanticipated… I hope I’ve learned my lesson on this front.