The “Agile” in Agile Librarianship

Agile “is a set of methods and methodologies that help your team to think more effectively, work more efficiently, and make better decisions.” (1)

Well, you might say, that could apply to practically any business process and to most non-business activities, and not just to software development.  And you would be right.  We’ll say more later about Agile applications to librarianship project management and to teaching and learning methodology (#digped) in subsequent postings.  For today, we will focus on some of the Agile founding documents.

Here is the language of the original 2001 “manifesto:”

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.(2)

And here are the twelve principles, hammered out by the signers of the original manifesto, originally at the same 2001 conference, but refined at subsequent meetings:

We follow these principles:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.(3)

If you are thinking that this, again, could apply in many instances, and not just to software development, you would be right again!  That is the whole point.  I look at it like this:  in the past twenty years so much energy and effort have been applied to getting software right, that in the process, industrial processes have been developed that are generally applicable and that work, too!  The same (or similar), of course, can be said about all the effort that has been poured into warfighting against non-conventional forces in the last 15 years, i.e., that processes have been developed that can be successfully applied to other fields of endeavor, and we’ll get to that in just a second…

But for the moment, back to the topic at hand.

Every library I have every been associated with, as a librarian, as an intern, as a student worker, as a student and researcher, and merely as a member and a patron, while on the surface may appear to be a very calm and peaceful place, behind the scene is a veritable factory of projects, processes, and activities, a true site of productivity. These projects and processes, including but not limited to acquisition and procurement, disposal, cataloging, contracting and leasing, repair and preservation, circulation and interlibrary services, strategic planning, instructional design and delivery, and research and reference services, all exist on various timelines and with various objectives. They require a wide range of skills, talents and training, not necessarily limited to what one may consider the traditional skill set of the librarian.  It is an area ripe for Agile applications and methodologies distilled from years, from decades of software development.  This is where we are…

OK.  So let’s just take the deep dive.  The work of librarianship is nonlinear because the output of the system is greater than the sum of its parts when the parts are isolated (superposition) and when the system multiplies, its output multiplies more than proportionately (homogeneity).(4)  Library workers and software developers will know what I am talking about, as will war-fighters.  Work (production) is going on all over the place, at different rates of speed and in different directions.  And wise, strong leadership is required to steer this ship on a steady course, so to speak.

Let’s sum up.  Agile is a management style, and a leadership style, and a way of thinking that provides effective and efficient control of what might otherwise be considered an unwieldy and even chaotic set of industrial processes that exist in a nonlinear system.

More on Thursday…

(1) Stellman, Andrew and Jennifer Greene. 2014. Learning Agile.  O’Reilly Media, Inc.  Sebastopol, CA.

(2) The Agile Manifesto accessed on August 24, 2015 at www.agilealliance.org

(3) The Agile Manifesto accessed on August 24, 2015 at www.agilealliance.org

(4) Lynch, Justin. 2015. Nonlinearity and the Proper Use of Buzzwords. Small Wars Journal. Accessed on August 24, 2015 at www.smallwarsjournal.com.

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Blogging 101 – Moving legacy content from Blogger to WordPress

Many folks (like me)  have legacy blogs and content in Blogger that they would like to transfer to WordPress. Yes, it is possible, and actually quite easy.  It’s basically a two step process of preparing the blog contents for export in Blogger, then importing that package into WordPress.  I will outline what I did here.

First, go to the blog you want to export in Blogger.  Click on “design” in the upper right corner, then click on “settings” at the bottom of the left side, then click on “other.”  At the top of the next page, under Blog Tools, select “Export Blog.” The contents of your Blogger blog will be downloaded to your default place with a name that looks like this: “blog-month-date-year.xml.”  That will be the end of the export stage.

Now go to the destination blog site in WordPress.  Click “My Sites” in the upper left corner, then click “WPAdmin,” then “Tools.”  Under the Tools menus, click “Import,” then “Blogger,” then chose your file from the location where you downloaded it.  Then the magic happens, and your old Blogger content populates your new WordPress site.

Easy peasy!

This also works for exporting from other legacy blog platforms.

And today’s Epictetus quote:

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 09.33.31

Blogging 101 – Day 14: Extend your brand

Day 14 task is to extend your brand, using a custom site icon, a facebook fan page, or a custom image widget.  I chose to create a facebook fan page, though later I may also add a custom image widget because so many folks are swearing off of Facebook. these days

So, I created the fan page and invited over 400 facebook friends, and at last count I had 18 fan page likes.  I think I’ll get a few more when we hit facebook drive time, around 6pm when folks get off work and check their facebook feeds.  Here is what the facebook fan page looks like so far:

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 14.10.28

Still got some work to do on its appearance, but we are on the way!

Below, because there has been so much talk about the 14th amendment to the US Constitution by Republican candidates, I decided to reproduce it here for y’all to check out.  The language is pretty unambiguous:

14th Amendment

14th Amendment

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

I took a constitutional law course many years ago at #FAMU that the University President taught.  He (President Humphries) said there were three amendments we had to know cold: the 13th that freed the slaves; the 14th that conferred on them citizenship; and the 15th that gave them the right to vote.  And there were three Supreme Court cases we had to know cold: the Dred Scott decision, that said blacks, freed or enslaved, had no rights; Plessey v Ferguson, that enshrined American Apartheid (separate but equal accommodations), and Brown v Board of Education, that abolished Plessey V. Ferguson.

And following yesterday’s tradition, a new quote from Amilcar Cabral:

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 14.39.36

Blogging 101 – Day 13: Try (another) Blogging Event – #reblogwednesday

Our Day 13 task is to join a different blogging community and follow their prompt (or something like that).  I chose #REBLOGWEDNESDAY after hearing an interesting interview on the radio.

We are radio listeners, normally, almost always erring on the side of public radio stations. Some days we hang out with #NPR local affiliate, #WAMU, and some days we listen to a local C-SPAN station, and some days, especially mornings, we go straight to #WPFW, a local non-commercial community radio station that we support.  Today we started with Democracy Now on WPFW, which was much more interesting, at least today, than the regular dribble on NPR (which used to be cutting edge, but now, it seems is pretty much MSM).  It was followed by an interview with a local activist who mentioned a blog post that gave a different slant on #BlackLivesMatter.  Well, I was frankly looking for a different slant, because the current slant was doing nothing for me.  You know what I mean?

The blog mentioned was #FreeTheLand, maintained by a PhD student at one of the DC universities, and the post was entitled “Six Lessons #BlackLivesMatter Can Learn from Amilcar Cabral.”  It captured my attention for two reasons.  One, reading about Amilcar Cabral as a teenager influenced my decision to go to his country, Guinea-Bissau, many years later for my first foreign service assignment.  And that is definitely a story for a different blogpost.  The second reason was that I had been thinking those people needed some lessons from somewhere, and this seemed like a suitable source.

Well, one thing led to another, and I started thinking about my time in Guinea-Bissau, which led my to a different blog to find out what was going on there these days, Ditadura do Consenso, where I learned of the country’s present political turmoil.

So, joining a different blogging community can lead to all sorts of interesting twists and turns!

p.s. Today’s very stoic quote comes from Amilcar Cabral:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 17.06.32

p.s. For purposes of nostalgia, purely, here is a link to a poem I wrote at the end of my tour in Guinea-Bissau, just for context: My Return to Mother Africa