Where public education meets private funding: Reflections on SXSWedu

I loved attending SXSWedu 2014. It was well organized, and the different topic tracks were up my alley: design thinking, achievement gap, technology and many more. But perhaps most importantly, there was a lot of energy – shall we call it – flowing between the educators and the technologists. It was exciting to be somewhere with a little bit of tension in the air. That tension means that people are actively engaged in figuring tough things out.

Continue reading “Where public education meets private funding: Reflections on SXSWedu”


What I learned at d.school

This summer (yes, I’m just writing about it now) I attended An Introduction to Design Thinking at Stanford’s d.school. I’m not new to design thinking, but to be a good design thinker, you have to approach the problem as though you’re new every time. So, starting from square one is very good practice, especially when the professional world is often insisting on expertise and quick turnaround.

Here’s what I learned at d.school this summer: Continue reading “What I learned at d.school”


UVA Library communications director Charlotte Morford on the value of being an outsider

The internet introduced me to Charlotte Morford via a design blog.

One of my first charges after I arrived at the library was to put together the annual publication. In my research, I discovered the amazing University of Virginia Library annual reports. Have you seen them? They’re gorgeous and informative and inspired.

Charlotte is the Director of Communications at the University of Virginia Library and among many other things, hired the design firm Design Army to produce the publications. Luckily, she’s been very kind in sharing her experiences with me, and now, with you.

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Journal impact factor: more trouble than it’s worth

When Karen and I kick back and talk about libraries over a large Yogurito on the rocks (Japan’s #1 yogurt based liqueur), one of the themes that we find ourselves returning to is that librarians put ourselves under too much pressure. By claiming expertise in so many disparate fields, we can’t possibly do more than bluff our way through many of them. Our answer is that we need to take the pressure off and give each other permission to not know stuff. Continue reading “Journal impact factor: more trouble than it’s worth”


An interview with Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper about user centered design for libraries

When David and I launched Maths and Arts a few months ago, we asked our friend and colleague Sarah Faye Cohen what library-y blogs she likes. She named Walking Paper by Aaron Schmidt as one of them. Then she said, “Karen, you’re going to like that one because he’s all about design.” She was right! Thanks, Sarah!

See, before coming to the library I was working in art and design, which I also loved. Design thinking + creative process + memorable user experience + beauty = where it’s at.

So I emailed Aaron and asked if I could interview him about his view of the library world through a design lens. He was game! Here is our exchange:

Continue reading “An interview with Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper about user centered design for libraries”

Named one of 50 influential Movers and Shakers

Last month Library Journal announced their annual cohort of Movers and Shakers, and I was super excited to be among the group of 50 people selected from more than 225 nominations received from throughout the country. It’s awesome company to keep.

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Telling the library’s story, for real

I love stories! We all do. Which is why I’m bummed that story is becoming just another way to say market, advertise and brand. These three things are important in communications, and stories are a part of the complete package. But there needs to be a special place in our hearts for honest-to-goodness storytelling. Stories that have people at the center. Continue reading “Telling the library’s story, for real”

Respond to what’s really happening

“Respond in the field to what’s really happening.” – Sebastian Thrun. Not coincidentally, this is also a law of good improvisation.

Ideas can distract

At the 99u conference (yes, I’m still writing about it) Thrun said that we must always reinvent ourselves – any long term company or organization must. He recommended rapid prototyping to keep moving forward. Here’s the video of his talk.

“Solve societal problems first (and the money will come later).” Of course, this is easy to say when you have significant money up front to experiment.

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A new role in academic libraries: communications and public programs

I am responsible for communications and public programs at an academic library, and my librarian friends say this is an unusual position. I’m glad to be one of the first, but I hope I’m not alone in this role for long. (Are others out there? If so, please let me know!)

It’s a fabulous role to play, making memorable programs and shining a light on the library. This role is one way that our library addresses the prevalent question:

How do we show the campus and community we are a valuable partner?

The showing not telling is a very important distinction.

Continue reading “A new role in academic libraries: communications and public programs”

Collection development for the less than special

You are a unique and special person; an independent thinker who does not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. I used to think that too until I read about “fifty quid bloke” many years ago and realized that I was not so special after all.

Admittedly, fifty quid bloke has moved on to be replaced by “Top Gear Tiger” which is definitely not me, but I’m sure there’s a marketing guru out there who knows me better than I know myself. Continue reading “Collection development for the less than special”