Reflections on #LOEX2016

I was lucky three times.  First, a colleague from my former career, who is now also a reference and instruction librarian, told me in a Facebook message, “Ray, you must go to LOEX!” Thank you Meridith! Second, several of the librarians I work with were planning to carpool to LOEX2016 in Pittsburgh, and I got plugged into their network.  Third, they convinced me to apply for conference/travel funding, even though I was/am only part-time.  And I got funding! Here is a photo of the AU delegation:

au delegation.jpg

We arrived in time for the Thursday First-Time Attendee Orientation.  Brad Sietz, LOEX director, gave a talk that was simultaneously the history of LOEX, the history of library instruction, and the latest in current trends and developments in librarianship. It was a warm and enthusiastic crowd. I tweeted:

Thursday night I joined a group for dinner at the Original Oyster House in Market Square.

Friday opened with breakfast and the keynote address by Dr. Sheila Corrall from Pitt.  Lots of material and lots of references but she kept my interest.  Her comments on “reflective practices” and “blended librarianship” in library instruction really caught my ear. Will be reviewing her slides as soon as they are posted.

The sessions I attended Friday were all interesting and informative.  Lots of tweets, lots of good sources.  So cool to finally meet face-to-face with people I’ve only “known” through twitter chats, esp. the #critlib folks.  Speaking of #critlib, a colleague mentioned that LOEX is the whitest library conference she’s attended.  If true, I don’t think that is the fault of the LOEX conference folks: applications to attend are not racially screened.  So are librarians of color self-selecting out by not applying?  Perhaps an economic decision gets made to go to ALA or another of the big conferences, and no funding is left?  Maybe library instruction is considered less important ( I am still amazed that Information Literacy and Instructional Design was just an elective at my LIS program, and offered only once a year, but glad I took it as an elective).  Should it even be interesting that a largely white profession (librarianship) has even whiter sub-professions (library instruction) offering essential skills and competencies for success in the overall profession?

Also, speaking of #critlib, shouldn’t information literacy/library instruction/instructional design occupy a more prominent place in critical librarianship discussions?  I would think that the way we teach, and the extent to which our teaching is successful/effective is a very significant part of our identity as information professionals.

Favorite sessions. A toss-up between Rhetorical Reinventions, Everything We Do is Pedagogy, and Concept Inventories: Teaching IL Like a Physicist. (Hyperlinks to follow, I promise!)

OK.  Friday night dine around was so much fun.  I got on the list for Nicky’s Thai Kitchen with the #critlib folks.  Seating was tight but the food was delicious! Here is a pic from a tweet:

Saturday morning we had pancakes for breakfast.  And the lightning round of presentations has some fascinating ideas (even though my own didn’t make the cut). Favorite lightning round talk: The Human Library (gotta get one at my institution!). We skipped the afternoon sessions and got an early start on the road back to DC.

Hoping soon to pull together the live tweets (Kelly has a good one here, and there may be interest in building a bibliography of greatest hit sources from the excellent presentations.



what does the agile librarian do between library jobs? Pt. 2

No longer between library jobs. Big Yay! Started a new part-time library job last week. But continuing the discussion of Agile application to HR issues.  (Don’t fret, we’ll bring the Agile discussion back to librarianship soon enough. In the meantime, taking this HR detour might eventually be instructive). Today, we are going to take a brief look at the history of Agile methodologies.  Later in the week we will look at some considerations when converting or transforming existing processes to Agile ones.

Agile History

It is easy to trace the history of Agile to the Agile Manifesto of 2001 and the twelve principles that followed in its wake.  Easy but far from sufficient.  We need to look at a few of the antecedents to that 2001 gathering to know what is really going on.

Lloyd Wilkinson, in Agile Development: A Brief History, traces the roots of agile project management thinking to Toyota process in the 1950’s, more specifically, kaizen, or continual improvement in automotive manufacturing processes.  In case you haven’t already clicked on the link, kaizen is a Japanese word that is translated as “continuous improvement.”  In lean, or just in time manufacturing systems, the process itself must “continuously change in order to deliver value to the customer.” Before we take a deep dive, it is necessary to say that one might make an argument that HR systems bound by rigid rules and regulations are not capable of continuous change.  I would argue (1) that the multiplicity of rules and regulations, all overlapping, is precisely what opens the door to flexibility and dynamism and (2) what manufacturing process was more rigid that automotive assembly line production, and yet, Toyota’s introduction of Kaizen practices made it a world leader in the automotive industry.  But back to the subject…

Kaizen has a few foci that are particularly relevant to HR processes.  First is the Kaizen 5S concept: sort, or removing anything from the space not needed for daily operations; straighten, or placing the essential things in the right place for optimum operations; sweep, or removing anything that is clutter and repairing anything broken; standardize, or codifying best practices; and sustain, or establishing new, more efficient standards and resisting the tendency to return to old ways of doing things.

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Second is the concept of employee involvement supported by employee trust. Specifically, this concept has as its antecedent, the work of Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect (please click and read!).  Very briefly, Mayo concluded that

  • The aptitudes of individuals are imperfect predictors of job performance.
  • Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
  • Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
  • Work-group norms affect productivity.
  • The workplace is a social system.

A moment here on James Martin and Rapid Application Development (RAD). James Martin, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his 1977 book, The Wired Society: A Challenge for Tomorrow, introduced in 1991 an approach to RAD that involved iterative development and the construction of intermediate prototypes. These two elements would play a critical part in Agile project management thinking in subsequent years.

For extra reading, this article also looks at the history of Agile thinking: The roots of Agile project management.

Later in the week we will look at some of the challenges and possible pitfalls of adopting Agile thinking to existing processes.  And to raise eyebrows, we will call the next post: “The Road Less Taken, or, People are software in any production process.”

In the meanwhile, a bit of Sarah Vaughan for the Labor Day Weekend:

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

(3) The Agile Manifesto accessed on August 24, 2015 at

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

Blogging 101 – Day 11: Blogging around a prompt – community service

Today’s assignment is to build a blog post around a prompt, and the prompt provided is community service:

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Part of my post (a big part, quite possibly the only part) is going to be to define my community.  Where to start?  I have my birth communities: my families (the Maxwells primarily of Guilford County, NC, along with the Rankins, and the Hairstons of Rockingham County, NC and Pittsylvania County, VA); and the churches and church-sponsored activities in Greensboro where I grew up; and my racial community, African-Americans, expanded later to include all people of African descent of whatever race.  Then I have educational communities that I am presently involved in: the Woodberry Forest Alumni group; the Stouffer Scholars group; the NC Governor’s School Foundation group.

pause …. catch breath…

College alumni communities’ fundraising efforts won’t let me forget them, and frankly, I love my alma maters: FAMU (BS), SOAS (MA), CUA (MSLIS).

“And reverence the wombs that bore you; surely God watches over you. ” Holy  Qur’an 4:1Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.34.04

One finds oneself connected socially and even politically to professional communities, which, in my case, include submarine, and in general, Navy veteran groups, and foreign affairs groups like AFSA and ADST, and Diplopundit readers and supporters. And most recently, by virtue of my recent entry into the library and information science profession, an entire new librarianship community emerges, a community of practice that also includes instructional designers, information architects, critical (and hybrid) pedagogues, and rhizomatic practitioners.

And finally, there are hobby communities that last a lifetime.  These include the community of poetry lovers (and writers and readers), the related community of life-long learners and MOOC enthusiasts, the community of gardeners and beekeepers, the community of art museum devotees and, in general, artists of all stripes.

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Blogging 101 – Day 3: Getting to know the blogosphere neighbors

Day three’s assignment was to find five blogs and five tag topics to follow.  New thoughts are always swirling around, so it was a pleasure to nail some of them down and in the process, see what other folks are blogging about in the neighborhood. Here is the list:

Black Mountain School
critical pedagogy
lyric conceptualism

And some blogs I followed and subscribed to (pretty much at random)

Art at Hand
Kwame Som-Pimpong
london-brussels one-way or return
Appalachian Prospectors Gold Prospecting Adventures
Heart and Harp Strings

Here we are at our favorite Lisbon hangout, Martinho Da Arcada: IMG_0276

And a selfie at Mount Vernon:

selfie at mt vernon

In the meantime, the job search is going a bit slow. Educational, but slow. I met two lovely ladies yesterday at a “body shop” that will remain unnamed.  By “body shop” I mean they place bodies in jobs (I used to call them “head shops” but a colleague told me a head shop was something entirely different!). Anyway, I knew I had blown it when the lovely lady asked me to share any job seeking I was doing outside their shop, just in case they had some contacts and could “expedite” the process, and I responded, “you mean you could be my pimp?” Blew it!

“We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black.”

Epictetus quote for today:

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Blogging 101 – Day 1: Introducing myself to Blogging U

First assignment: Who am I and why am I here? We like to define ourselves in terms of who or what we used to be, what we do on our jobs, what schools we went to, and where we hope to be in the future. It works if it works, but it doesn’t interest me right now. I want to introduce myself in terms of the things that I am passionate about, the things I have always been passionate about, the things/thoughts that bring me pleasure and peace of mind. Those things/thoughts will identify both who I am and why I am here.

It is really quite simple, quite uncomplicated. I like reading poetry. I like writing poetry. I like seeing things grow in dirt. Art inspires me. All art. Music inspires me (which is also art). A package of seeds inspires me. Science is the ultimate turn on for me. Physics. Astronomy. Botany. Biology. Mathematics and reasoning. All the stuff you get in high school. I had all those merit badges in the Boy Scouts. It goes way back, that far back.

I never made Eagle Scout. I wouldn’t go for the “right” merit badges. Curiosity was my only, truest motivation. Then sports became important for me. Football and track, middle distances. I came late to cross-country, substituted it for football in the fall and loved it, loved the team, loved the interaction with nature, running through the woods, watching the seasons change. Rushing back to my room to write it all down in poetry.

After high school I decided I wanted to do something radically different, to break away from the pack. I joined the Navy, requested submarine duty. I got it. It was definitely different. I dug it, but I wasn’t seeing the world, just dials and pressure gages and thermometers. So I applied for a commissioning program at my enlistment’s end. I got it. Went back, finished school and got a reserve commission. Fell in love with the sea. Four years passed quickly, I took a test, and landed in the Foreign Service, where I spent 20 years. But there was no change there, just a smooth transition from one deployment to a series of deployments. And lest I leave it out, more poetry, more poetry, and in different languages, in Portuguese, in Arabic.

Took an early retirement. Time for a real change. Did a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Learned HTML. Learned a lot of stuff. Got a job as a librarian, and a second job, and a third job. Took a MOOC poetry course, and a second, and a third. Fell in love with Whitman, and Dickinson, and Brooks, and many others. At last I recognized and acknowledged “the ambrosia that nourished my soul.” There is more poetry to be written, more souls to save. More gardens to plant, to weed, to pick what grows. Blogging is keeping notes, chronicling the ofttimes imperceptible changes that occur.