Notes from the March Manager’s Meeting

We had a manager’s meeting this month and talked about the following items:

1. Communications: We had a lengthy discussion about how we communicate within LIS, and continue to debate the relative merits of creating a private blog just for LIS, of re-introducing an email version of LISt, and in general the challenges of keeping people up-to-date about what’s going on within LIS, both so that we have the information we need to do our work, and so that we can know what conversations and decisions are on the horizon in order to have a chance to have input in advance. We’ll discuss further at an upcoming staff meeting before we make any changes. (Feel free to weigh in here via comments or via email if you have thoughts on this.)

2. Project Directory: We looked at the project directory and committed to getting the data updated in time for an April launch.

3. Priorities: We discussed a draft of a document entitled “LIS Priorities: Spring 2010 and beyond” which I created to help communicate the major projects and activities that we are focused on right now. That document lives at http://docs.google.com/View?id=dhb56n4x_129f9pmqt7g . The hope is that by publishing such a list quarterly that we as an organization can all know what the top priorities are. (We are still working on figuring out a reasonable process for actually establishing these priorities in consultation with the rest of the Middlebury community. More on that later!)

— mike

19 thoughts on “Notes from the March Manager’s Meeting

  1. Ian McBride

    Thanks for these updates.

    1. My attitude on the use of the blog as a communications tool won’t surprise anyone: I think it works great and would like to see more updates available here. I don’t think we need to have a separate place to communicate internally about LIS. In fact, I think people who subscribe to information about our organization through this blog would welcome more internal LIS news as it gives them a better idea of what we’re working on in-the-now, how we do our work, and what they can expect in the future.

    3. I would like to suggest adding “MiddLab” to the LIS Priorities as one of the services. This will be a major project this spring, summer, and fall. Thanks for sharing this draft of the document.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Merz

    Likewise, my comments are not too startling. LIS staff hold a range of views: from Ian’s to “I don’t like blogs & I won’t read them”. Also there’s a range of what we say we want: from “be aware of what’s going on all over LIS” to “don’t waste my time if it’s not about my job”. I’m sure there are people concerned with privacy, but it’s not a something I’ve heard in all the comments about blogging pro & con that have come my way. I believe that adding the complexity of two blogs will do nothing to encourage most non-participants to join in. I think pushing out selected items via a LISt e-mail would help, as would greater participation in the blog by managers.

    Reply
  3. Ken Pierce

    I like the idea of LIS having a blog or some source for information to let the employees outside the department know what is going on. I rely heavily upon you all in my daily job. I have started to develop great relationships with some of the employees in LIS and as a side note you all are AWESOME in your support!! I just upgraded dining to the Microsoft Office Suite 2007 and am finally receiving this blog in my inbox. So I am just finding out what a great resource this is.

    If the plan is to use some other method for communication I would love to be on the list. It would be great to know ahead of time if there is going to be work done on my servers or the wireless infrastructure so that I can let dining employees know. I am implementing a wireless inventory system that relies heavily upon the heights server and the wireless system. Once I have it implemented it will run more efficiently as it will transfer the information when it has a signal instead of relying on constant contact with the server for the data during implementation.

    I enjoy the monthly emailing from LIS but I definitely need more information on at least a weekly basis (with also having a “heads up” to things coming in the months ahead). In my position I have everything technology related asked of me. My position covers the web for dining, computer upgrade/maintenance, server updates, maintaining CBORD/EventMaster/NetHIMS, the POS System in the Retail Operations and the list goes on. I love what I’m doing and I try to triage everything before it is sent to the Helpdesk.

    Please let me know what I can do to help you all serve us better in dining. I have setup and implemented a lot of new protocols in dining for computer maintenance and started using Steady State on the “time entry” computers so I hope to drastically reduce the amount of virus’s and malware on dining computers.

    Again thank you for the forum for a voice and more importantly (at least for me) to have more of an idea of what’s going on in LIS.

    Reply
  4. Jess Isler

    My personal mantra regarding blogs (sorry if you’ve heard it before): they can be an efficient way for internal and external members of a community to stay connected and informed, but they are not and should not be considered the answer to all communication needs. I strongly suspect that two blogs would do nothing to encourage the skeptics to adopt this platform as a means of communication.
    My personal view is that the blog is a great way to communicate certain types of information—internal and external news and updates, news about accomplishments and service changes, news that affects multiple groups and areas within the organization, etc. It may not be so good for things (hopefully obviously) like personnel issues, sensitive or secure information, or confidential matters… but those types of matters are best addressed in person, in meetings, or with phone calls anyway, in my view. Our current setup with this blog provides everyone within LIS (and our MIIS colleagues, and other members of the College community, like Ken Pierce above) a forum in which we may share timely news and information about the work we do, on our own schedules, and in the manner we deem appropriate. Essentially, I agree with Barbara—there will always be people who don’t care about hearing the news from across LIS, but we shouldn’t stop using the blog because some people do not want to use it—it is undoubtedly filling a need for many, and doing so in a way that allows transparent and open conversations about our work. Hopefully the value of a conversation as opposed to a one-way flow of information is obvious.

    Reply
  5. Michael Roy Post author

    Here’s what I’m told is an option if we decide to have both a public and private LIS blog. We can feed all of the public posts into the private blog, so that LIS folks would have only one blog to check to keep current. We would have to decide which blog to post to. The concept behind having an LIS-only blog is that certain topics/issues are sensitive and/or not-fully-formed and we need a safe space to explore these. (For example, this thread is public, and there may very well be people within LIS who would not want to post their thoughts here, but would feel comfortable if the thread were available only to LIS). I’m not sure exactly how we get a definite answer to this question.

    — mike

    Reply
    1. Joseph Watson

      If I understand this option correctly, the public would only see one blog and LIS staff would only see one blog. (because everything from the public blog would feed into the LIS private blog.) The difference in the blogs is that one is for public consumption and one is for work communications. This seems like a very sensible solution to me. Posters would need to consider which audience they were writing for, but that’s the only extra layer of bureaucracy in this system and that seems worth the trouble to me.

      -Joseph

      Reply
      1. Jess Isler

        LIS Staff would only see the posts on the private blog if they voluntarily logged in each time they visited it (and if they don’t use RSS or email notifications). I think if they didn’t log in they would see only the content duplicated from the public blog. So if we’re asking people to log in anyway, why not use the private post option here, which also requires logging in?

        Reply
  6. Jess Isler

    Why don’t we just use the currently-available private post option here on this blog? All you have to do to view a private post is log in. The only reason the LIS Website team steered clear of recommending this was (correct me if I’m wrong, team) the effect having lots of private posts would have on subscriptions (I think the issue was that private posts wouldn’t get fed to the feeds we had set up), since that’s a big part of why using the blog is so convenient. If we can push out private posts through subscriptions, then I see no reason why we should not use this, and no reason to pursue a separate blog. Those who aren’t using subscriptions and are only viewing this blog page itself would have to log into the separate blog you propose in order to view posts anyway (right?), so I’m not sure why it would be better than just using the private post option here.
    That said, I think people who dislike using blogs are not going to be won over by having to log in to view a private blog or private blog posts. I don’t think the issue for people who dislike blogs is about privacy so much as about wanting less information flowing their way (or at least greater control over the flow). The LIS Website team tried to set up options for people to tailor this and adjust the volume of blog updates to their own preferences (via subscriptions to Categories and Tags), but some users still haven’t adopted it, or choose not to use it.

    Reply
  7. Carrie Macfarlane

    I rely on the blog to get and share info about LIS. It seems many others do too. On most weekdays, there are about 100 visits, and when the monthly eNews goes out, there are about 5x that amount. Those numbers don’t include logged-in administrators, and I believe they don’t include people who read the content remotely through feed readers. At last count, about 50 LIS staff had contributed content.

    Since so many people are using the blog as it is now, I think it would be a mistake to tinker with it too much. Adding a second blog would muddy the waters. There could potentially be only one place for LIS staff to find updates–but would the updates work with an RSS reader? And perhaps the root of the perceived communication problem is that people don’t share information often enough. Adding a layer of complication to the sharing (“which blog should I post to?”) would exacerbate that problem.

    When I’ve heard people express resistance to the blog, their reasoning has been that they don’t want to have to go to yet another place to get information. They have said that email updates would be desirable.

    I would like to keep the blog as it is and encourage people to use it more, through management, training and tools. Managers should share information here. People who haven’t set up feed readers or even simple email alerts should be able to learn how to do so. People who don’t have Office 2007 (which allows feeds to be delivered through email) should be encouraged to get it.

    Perhaps this can be discussed at an all-LIS meeting so that those who don’t want to read a blog can state their reasoning in their own words.

    Reply
  8. Jess Isler

    I think Carrie’s point about encouraging use through management is an important one. I suspect that another part of the problem is that staff members are so busy with other responsibilities that they feel they haven’t the time to read it, and perhaps having encouragement and support from their managers would help. I’m operating under the assumption that reading the blog is considered a work responsibility, but maybe that’s not true, or hasn’t been emphasized to all parts of LIS. I’m assuming it is a work responsibility because it’s a way to stay informed and communicate across LIS about the work we do, but maybe it needs to be said explicitly.

    Short of an explicit statement, the only other reasons people would be likely to use the blog would be if they find the content interesting, or if they find the content essential to their jobs. I can imagine that I would have little incentive to read the blog if my managers and colleagues never posted, and if I found little that seemed relevant to my own personal work.

    By the way, everyone in LIS can view the Blog Stats Carrie mentions by logging in, clicking the Dashboard, and clicking Site Stats.

    Reply
  9. Carrie Macfarlane

    Good points, Jess, and thanks for sharing the path to the site stats too.

    I wanted to add one thing about private posts: Let’s make sure they work with RSS readers before we choose to use them. Otherwise, those of us who have come to rely on RSS readers will have to find yet another solution for keeping up with what’s going on in LIS. I think email, phone, and in-person are fine supplements for somewhat-private communication.

    Actually, I guess I want to add another thing about private posts: unless people get in the habit of logging in every time they read the blog, they might sometimes miss a private post. Last I checked, private posts don’t appear at all — not even as a heading — unless you’re logged in.

    Reply
  10. Ian McBride

    Private posts do not appear in RSS feeds and do not appear on the blog unless you are logged in. Private blogs also don’t supply RSS feeds without an additional plugin and, even then, have to supply an authenticated feed which will not work with several RSS feed readers including Google Reader. Registered Users (i.e. people who have user accounts associated with the blog) will receive private posts via the Subscribe2 plugin in their email and the same is true for private blogs. I vastly prefer RSS as a delivery method to email, but I wanted to mention all the options.

    In my personal opinion, public facing websites are a poor choice for private communications. I would suggest the use of the lis@middlebury.edu email address for discussions that need to remain within our department or face-to-face meetings. For the same reason, I suggest placing documents that need to remain within LIS on MiddFiles, rather than hosting them on a protected page on the website, blog or wiki.

    Reply
  11. Brenda

    I think part of the problem is we don’t all have the same level of understanding of the technology. I only found out about this post because Carrie emailed a link to it. I thought I had subscribed to the LIS blog via email and was getting all posts, but apparently not. Maybe I just get the essentials and often posts aren’t put in that category. New categories get created without people even knowing about them. When I follow a link to the post from my email notification, it puts me in a view that doesn’t show the second column with the categories and authors, so I didn’t even realize there were all these other categories. Rather than addressing this at an all-LIS meeting, it would help to have workshops where people can set all this up on computers and have someone there to help guide people. Also this is the first I’ve heard that we should upgrade to Word 2007 – I’m using Word 2003. If we want all of LIS using the latest word, then send us all a message telling us how to get this.

    As for 2 separate LIS blogs – internal vs. external, I can agree that it adds to the confusion. But Areas and workgroups within LIS should be able to have separate, private blogs you have to login to (and have permission to see). If the info is something that can be shared widely, then someone can make a post for the main LIS blog that is suitable for general consumption. Once you share something outside your area or workgroup, its practically public knowledge anyways. Yet to carry out our work, we need a place to debate our work before results go public and a place to share what we are working on with just our immediate workgroup and supervisor.

    Reply
  12. Arabella Holzapfel

    When I first started in the work world, we were informed via memoranda printed on paper, delivered to our staff mailboxes. Due to the relatively intense use of resources (the time of the administrator dictating or typing the memo, the time of the executive assistant to type, make copies and distribute them, the paper, toner, etc.), we didn’t get informed about much.

    Then came email – it was a lot easier and it used fewer resources, so it was used more frequently, and we became better informed. (Some may say “too well informed.”)

    In my view, a blog is simply the next step in this progression. It has the advantage of informing those you may not otherwise think to inform (like Ken, above) and is no more troublesome to check than email messages, particularly with RSS functionality. I have to say I really do not understand the resistance on the part of some.

    Reply
  13. Arabella Holzapfel

    Regarding the migration to google apps (item 2 under the first category in the linked document) – there is a current thread in liblicense-l regarding the difficulty of participating in listserv discussions through Gmail. I know that a number of us in LIS (and probably across campus) monitor, participate in, and learn a lot from listservs so I hope that aspect is investigated in the google apps exploration.

    Reply
  14. Bryan Carson

    In keeping with the theme “No surprises about my opinion”, I would also advocate one blog. That minimizes confusion about where to post. If your post needs to be private, use the private post feature. Keeping one blog will help minimize the proliferation of the blogs, and get LIS looking in one place. Blog fatigue anyone? ;-)

    Reply
  15. Elin Waagen

    The web team developed a single LIS blog on the recommendation of and with the support of Mike and the AD’s last fall. It was designed to reduce the number of public blogs within LIS – some of which were quite dead in the water. It was set up with categories to give the reader and the writer a way to control the flow of information, and to give all LIS staff the ability to share news about their work with others in LIS and with our users. It was never meant to replace other forms of written or verbal communication used to facilitate discussion and conversation.

    As one component of a larger suite of communication methods, the hope was that it could be an easy to use, web-based platform to keep each other and our users informed about our work, and one that would allow for open discussion and interaction. The team has completed the task of setting up a single blog for LIS, and will continue to offer support and training for using web-tools. It is now up to LIS to decide how to best use the blog, if at all.

    The blog is only one form of communication, and I can’t imagine that it will replace the need for using other web-based platforms, email, face-to-face, or phone. All have their place.
    The web team would like to propose to the Area Directors that we devote time for a discussion about LIS communications at the next All LIS staff meeting.

    As a manager in LIS, I find the blog to be a useful and easy way to communicate updates, changes and developments within my workgroup – without flooding email in-boxes. Also, when I forget what so and so said about this and that, I can easily find it again by searching the blog! :-)

    As an employee, I find that blogs are a perfect way for me to stay informed about issues across LIS and Campus, and allows me to easily participate in professional and personal forums. Using a feed reader allows me to control when and what I want access to, reduces the overload in my bulging inbox, and saves me lots of work checking websites for updates. As an information and technology organization, I think it is the personal and professional responsibility of all LIS staff to learn how to navigate and use the tools that our users use, and for LIS Administration to promote the use of these tools by using them and by offering training in their use.

    Reply
  16. Adam Franco

    My opinions have mostly been voiced by others already, but I just wanted to chime in with how much I prefer the blog format over the LISt email newsletter. This discussion thread (at 18 comments) is a great example of what is going on now that could not have happened in the email-newsletter format.

    If anything, we need to encourage more posting by more people in more areas on more topics.

    The current practice of monthly emails sent to the former LISt readership with links back to the blog hopefully suffices to get the word out those who aren’t getting updates via email-subscriptions or RSS (or are new to LIS).

    Reply
    1. Mike Roy

      It is worth emphasizing Adam’s point about how the LIS blog can be a great chance for all of our about to be hired colleagues to catch up on what’s going on within LIS. The LIS blog can serve both to promote sharing of information, and dialogue, and also as an archive of conversations that those new to the organization can read in order to catch up on how we arrived at the place we’ve arrived.

      — mike

      Reply

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