Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New President Interview -- Part 3

Part three of an imaginary interview with the newly appointed president of the College. Note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.

Q> Is the economic impact of academic programs a factor in your decisions?

A> Absolutely, the economic impact is a part of every decision. Everything we do has economic implications. Money is the medium to cause actions. We have to be engaged with the community and listen to their input. But we still need the ivory tower that respects learning for the sake of learning. We have to give value for the taxes and the tuition we receive. We have to be responsible in our spending and also realize programs and buildings cost money to run properly. We have to be enablers, not bean counters.

Students and communities don’t always realize the need for some kinds of learning. Faculty members know more about learning their discipline than what occurs in the everyday class activities. We need places where people can think, dream, plan, and share because this results in ideas; sometimes great ideas and sometimes mundane. These ideas are what make our community and country great. We have to recognize the importance of excellence, knowledge and research and how they can be translated into economic drivers for our city and communities.

Q> Which employees are most at risk of losing jobs?

A>  I can not say with any certainly anything before examining the total situation. Certain non-academic staff members may have to change their duties and job descriptions. However, we must keep in mind that we are here to help students succeed. We can’t serve more students without more employees to help. To create excellence in the work place we must have stability and an atmosphere of support for excellence.

Q> You’re trying to improve retention and graduation rates, yet many entering students require remediation. How can you address that?

A> That’s a challenge. Many students enter to the City Colleges without adequate preparation. We have to start working with the high schools on some long range solutions. I find it hard to understand how the public school system could be failing so many students. My high school aged daughter says the literacy deficiency starts in elementary school. If students don’t succeed in high school, we have to offer the opportunity to work toward the goal of a college education. It is situation of correcting a deficiency on the supply end and at the same time fixing what is wrong after they enter our system. Perhaps we can reduce the amount of time spent in remediation courses if we do a good job of working with high schools to produce students who are ready for college work?

We should deal with student success rates rather than focus on the numbers who graduate. Students who move from our courses to four year universities or other rigorous programs should be counted as success stories even when we don’t grant them a degree or certificate. As an open enrollment system perhaps we need a matriculating and non-matriculating path. The matriculating path would be more selective than the non-matriculating. Students will need to be “college-ready” to be accepted for matriculation. Students in both paths may be in the same course, but the goals of their academic career may differ.

We need to work with students to create multiple pathways for success.

We are dealing with demographic shifts in this country. Many students in our city do not have English as a first language. The lack of English skills needs to be addressed. We need to serve students who increasingly are first-generation college-goers and have a lack of a learning tradition. These students and parents come from a totally different from the place where I came from. I was expected to go to college. These students don’t necessarily have the benefit of that kind of background. There are going to be some transition issues that we’ve got to pay attention to. We must recognize and respect cultural differences and how they effect the learning environment.

Q> Where do you stand on the question of closing a campus?

A>  Our College has more students than any previous year. We should be talking about how we can add space and /or buildings to better serve our students. Perhaps we can offer some classes off campus to reach students without the need to build new spaces? We probably need to examine the ways we use our space. At times we are at the limit of parking lot and classroom space. We have a lack of meeting rooms and relaxing rooms.

We are growing because more students are outside of the traditional college-age. We need to offer continuing education for professional growth and for personal growth. We are going to need more resources to serve a changing mission and population.

We are seeing that the world changing in a hurry. Information and entertainment are moving in more ways than imagined even ten years ago. The Internet has changed the way we communicate. Higher education is not investing at the same pace as the rate of change in the rest of the world. In part, our challenge is to always be part of the solution and not the problem.
We have to retain the edge. Higher education in the United States today is still better than anywhere else in the world. We have to make sure that in 10 years we have improved at a rate worthy of our community.

Q> Do you have a plan to improve student success rates?

A> We have to work on out definition of “success.” As an open enrollment institution we give students a chance to take courses and prove they are ready for college work. At a selective institution students who couldn’t succeed in the program are denied entrance. We have programs such as remedial classes, tutoring, writing center, advising, and mentoring to help students. Even I had to take preparatory classes in the summer before I entered college. However, the subject material I covered was not taught in a public school. The language of instruction of one college was not English and I needed help to get the level of the school. We spent eight  weeks at a summer camp learning language and texts so that we could be successful in the college program.

We have a mission to support three kinds of learning -- preparation for transfer to a bachelor degree program, training for a specific career, and continuing education. Continuing education includes adult education, basic skills, and career enhancement classes and programs.

Institutional core values include: Learning and education have the power to change our lives and improve our community; we value and are enriched by the diversity of people, places and ideas; we prize excellence and the pursuit of excellence; courses should be relevant, current, and designed to help the student master critical thinking skills; educational programs should be affordable; the physical plant should support and enhance the atmosphere of learning.

I plan to implement new certificates to recognize students who have accomplished personal goals without graduating. The deans are investigating requirements for a certificate of achievement that students could be awarded if they transfer before earning an associate’s degree. We plan to create a certificate for those who attend a certain number of continuing education classes. Students who receive these certificates will be counted as part of our success story.

Q> Before coming to the College you were recognized for your work in knowledge management. How will knowledge management ideas affect administrative procedures?

A> When I worked for a state agency I wrote a computer program that enabled anyone in the agency to know the phone number and office of every employee. The data base was updated every morning. At the College we have no such list. When students try to find part-time faculty, there is no list to check. This kind of directory should be conveniently available to everyone in the College. As a president I want to know where I can find everyone who works here.

The first step in a knowledge management system is to find out who knows what and make a list of who is responsible for systems, actions, people and places. I plan to tell all mangers to start paying attention to this knowledge. I will assign someone to investigate what we need to record and then create a system to store and access this information. This will give us a strategic advantage to get projects done with the right people. Hopefully this will lead the way to creating knowledge that can help us make wise decisions.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New President Interview -- Part 2

Part two of an imaginary interview with the newly appointed president of the College.   Note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental. 

Q> What are you hearing on campus?  
A> There’s anxiety about budget cuts, uncertain future, lack of clear learning goals, and about what it means for them. The morale among the faculty and staff is not at its highest level. People do not trust the administration. Employees want to be dedicated to the work, the College, our students, and our mission, yet they feel under-recognized and under-appreciated.  Appreciation is more about psychic rewards than monetary raises. They have seen jobs eliminated and the uncertainty about their own future diminishes their ability to serve students.   They see district administration hiring upper level administrators with little return to the College. They have taken on more responsibility and more work without the tools to do the new jobs optimally. They see the number of students growing and the lack of resources to serve them properly.  It is a stressful time and we have to work on improving morale.

However, there is a spirit and commitment to our mission that is really phenomenal. Many employees have a sense of commitment and demonstration of energy that contributes to student and institutional success. They want to believe in what we’re doing. Administrators have to nurture the commitments and reward those who contribute to the organization. The picture is not all negative; we have some great people with great ideas.  These ideas must be nurtured and encouraged if the faculty and staff are going to lead in creating excellence and serving the students better.

Q> The City Colleges have some duplicate programs; how closely will you look to working with the other Colleges.
A> As a commuter college district many students attend the college that is geographically most convenient when the program is offered in multiple places.  While each college has its own identity and unique place within the system, we have to look at areas of cooperation and sharing of our best practices.  We have to look closely at every part of the academic program to make sure the goals and expectations of a class (such as English 101) are uniform throughout the system while preserving the ability of faculty to weave in their skills and expertise.  For administrative areas we have to make sure there is commitment to communications and sharing of information.   Department heads need to have lines of communications that are consistent and regular.  We need to make sure everyone has the information they need to do their jobs and serve our community.  To do a better job, we have to know what we know and know how to find out what we don’t know.  Perhaps a district administrator could supervise similar programs at several colleges freeing the local college to concentrate on classes and students?  Perhaps some administrative tasks are redundant and can be combined?  Perhaps some areas have too much time wasting paper work?  
For the long haul, we need to think about further improvements. We are going to have to look at academic programs and devise ways to encourage continuous improvement.
We have to use the word “duplication” carefully.  Sometimes the duplication is needed and the best way to deliver our services.

I graduated from a dual liberal arts undergraduate experience that was very, very good.  One college was very small and focused on a relatively small set of disciplines while the other was a very large comprehensive university that offered the widest range of academic resources imaginable. The course offerings did not overlap. I was able to include a year of study abroad and finish two bachelor degrees in less than five years.  Both institutions co-operated and accepted each other’s credits.  Liberal education helps people to learn to think critically, speak effectively, analyze data correctly, and understand how to do research what they don’t know.  
This was before the days of online research.  First class institutions had first class libraries.  Today Google helps, but it is not the answer to serious research. While I won’t be able to duplicate my undergraduate experience at the College, I do want a college that focuses on teaching students to achieve their goals and in the process to direct them toward life-long learning.   We need to work with student to define success and then lead them on the correct paths.

If there are programs that are not helping the students or the community in general perhaps they should be eliminated?
Q>  In 1922 Detroit Junior College was the third largest institution of higher learning in Michigan.  They were granted four-year degree status in 1923 and became the College of the City of Detroit. In 1959 they became Wayne State University.  Do you see the City Colleges becoming bachelor degree granting colleges or becoming full universities?

A>  There are some programs that could benefit from offering courses beyond the associate or career certificate programs.  I would love to be able to offer continuing education programs for professionals such as teachers, lawyers, accountants, and librarians.  For these programs to work we would need faculty with the proper training and experience. 

The two year programs have an important role in our community.  We should concentrate on a job we can do well and then send our students to a job or another institution of higher learning.  It is not in our plan to become a university.  However, the nursing program is investigating what is required to grant a bachelor’s degree in nursing. An RN degree is not enough for most of the nurses in a hospital.  I don’t have any details as this matter is still under investigation internally and with the accreditation bodies. 

We have many great universities in this city and will continue to work with them on transfer programs.  Many of them recruit our students.  We are always proud to send student to prestigious universities to earn their bachelor degrees.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New President Interview -- part 1

The City College system is looking for a new College president.  In order to help the search committee choose the best candidate, I would like to imagine an interview with the newly appointed president of the College.   Note, this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college or librarian  is strictly coincidental. 

Q> You come in at a very challenging time for the City College system and you had what could be considered a dream job as a reference librarian. Any second thoughts about what you’re walking into?

While I love being a librarian, I need a chance to spread my wings and help more people achieve their goals. I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways, and so far the College is a terrific experience. I love being on campus and interacting with faculty and students in both formal and informal situations.

Librarians have a unique position at the college.  They interact, teach and lead anyone from the youngest freshman to the most senior faculty member.  Librarians  teach students and faculty new ways to use information and library resources for any class offered at the College.  They have organization skills and aware of current thought in many fields. Cataloging and other library tasks teach an understanding of following and interpreting rules. We understand the consequence of our actions much better than most faculty members.  It was a natural step to go from librarian to college president.  I had day-to-day contact with students and faculty and I have management skills to run a large organization.

While I grew up and attended universities in other cities, I choose to move and live in this city. The success of a city is dependent on an educated population. No one has a magic wand that can make everything and everyone succeed.  I hope that I can make the presidency my new dream job and encourage everyone in the College to want their job to be a dream job while always preparing for the next step in their careers and lives.  I want them to think about how to get to “yes,” to know when to follow the rules to the letter, and to know when to bend them to help our people and College succeed.  I want to revise approval procedures to save time and help our faculty and staff better serve the students.

I’ve always believed in the role public service plays in the organization. Librarians, teachers and staff are all in the business of providing public service.  Even those working in back rooms have to deal with the public. Public service is something that was inculcated in me from my earliest teaching experiences to my college student days and continues to this day. We are put on this earth to make it a better place. Today is one of those times in life when fulfilling a public responsibility to build a new future is more important than letting other people dictate the future. I have no regrets about taking this new position. 

Q> Is “Getting to yes” going to be a new catch phrase for your administration?

A> No, but the thought will be part of the way I want us to do business.  I don’t want to have any catch phrases.  Every employee should have the information and tools to do their jobs with excellence and commitment to the goal of educating our students. We have to build trust into our administration.  If we have a common goal and the skills to achieve this goal, we can work as partners in the education process.

Q> Peter Drucker talked about "excellence" in his essay, "Managing Oneself."  How have Drucker's ideas shaped your view of organizations?

A> In this essay Drucker says,
  "One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.  It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.  And yet most people--especially most teachers and most organizations--concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones.  Energy, resources, and time should go instead into making a competent person into a star performer."
As an organization the College needs to find the good performers and turn them into stars so that they can set positive examples.  No one can be a star all the time, but from the star performers hopefully there will be a trickle down effect. Even the mediocre performers today will learn some of the behaviors that lead them on the way to star performances.  I interpret Drucker to mean we shouldn't waste time on incompetence.  We should work with our people to help all of them achieve excellence.

In Sayings of the Fathers 2:6 from the Talmud,  Rabbi Hillel says," In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man."  For the College this means two things -- take a leadership role and do the right things.  Don't wait to be told to act to solve the problem.  Second, substitute "excellence" for "man" and we learn to be constantly aware of opportunities for excellence.

In the search for excellence we need to encourage staff, faculty and students to understand their strengths,  challenges, values and goals.  Students need to explore a wide range of ideas and thoughts; faculty and staff need to grow and understand how they fit into the organization and community.

 --- to be continued

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Filing Catalog Cards

Filing cards in the catalog is another “lost” library art. The card sorter for those who have a computerized catalog seems like a relic of the past, but since it is still being sold I should have explained how to use it before explaining the rod in a card drawer. This column is co-written with the help of Tim O’Shaughnessy.

Since filing cards is potentially more tense than removing a drawer rod, I’m offering a plate of bagels. Bagels are round – without beginning or end. This indicates what was once an endless task, filing cards. Today we still think cataloging never ends, but the physical filing of cards is a dying art.

This is card sorter. Some people called it a “sorting stick” but the suppliers call it a “card sorter.” Today it costs about $44.00 new. This well used item had to be dug out of storage. The sorter helps divide the task into smaller pieces and makes the process more organized than sorting with bare hands. It measures about 23” x 3.5” (58 x 9 cm)

There are 24 plastic coated “leaves” or “flaps” ; one for each letter of the alphabet except the letters “XYZ” which are combined. Each "leaf" is about 4" tall, and is also has the numbers 0 – 9 for numeric sorting and 000-900 for Dewey numbers. It also has the words “fiction,” “travel,” and ”biography” as you can see for those sorting options. The top, or leading edge, of each leaf is rounded and very smooth to prevent cards "catching."

To operate you take standard catalog cards one at a time and slide the cards up the stick until you are just past the correct slot (let's say slot "L") and then move back down, catching the card under the lip, and releasing the card as it hits the bottom of the slot.

The pictures below show this action.

When you sort quickly, the card sliding over each leaf end sounds like a card pinned to your bike spokes...brrrrp, brrrrrp, brrrrrp. This process is so easy that I was able to teach my son to alphabetize card when he was in first grade. For the rough sort all he needed to know was the first letter of the card needed to match the letter on the sorter. He was able to quickly do the *initial* alpha sort. When all the slots are filled, empty them. Use rubber bands or put the cards into piles to keep them together for further sorting.

Now is the time you need to refresh your knowledge of files rules. Take out your copy of ALA Rules.  

Take each deck of cards and refine the sort using the second letter or the whole first word on the card. Repeat until the cards are in exact order to make your time at the drawers more efficient. Yes, it is actually more efficient to spend the time sorting than wasting time at the drawers.

If sorting shelf list cards in Dewey sort using the numbers. Do the 0-9 sort, then sort all the 100s, 110s, 120, etc. If using Library of Congress Classification, use the letters as before. Repeat ad nauseum.

It's 10x faster to do it, versus telling you *how* to do it.

Some people hated filing; others loved it; most thought it was just a tedious, necessary task to help the patrons and librarians and find items.

After you finish the task you deserve some sweets. Enjoy some chocolate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Catalog Card Drawers

There are some skills that are not taught in library school that were discussed recently on LM_net. Library school does not teach some of these skills because they not academic. Some require institution knowledge; some require knowledge of how things work.

One person said that food can ease a tense work situation, “when in doubt… eat” Since Purim (Feast of Lots) is coming soon this morning I baked hamentaschen. I made the cookie dough variety and filled them with two options -- pumpkin and chocolate/peanut butter. Here’s a picture to let you enjoy while I talk about a lost skill – removing the rod from a card catalog drawer.

A school librarian from a secondary school in British Columbia asked how to remove cards from a catalog drawer. Since this is a lost skill, I will attempt to explain. The short answer is, “It depends on the model.” Below are three kinds of drawers.

This is a metal drawer. They are not generally used for library public catalogs. The rod is screwed in with threads. To remove the rod, twist counter-clockwise and wiggle the rod out.

This is wooden drawer. The front and tray are made from wood. On the bottom there is a release. Gently use your finger to move the release and the rod will easily come out.

This is wooden front plastic drawer. The bottom is closed not like the open wooden drawer. There is no release button. To release the rod push up; wiggle out. The final drawer is empty to show how easy card removal can be.

The final drawer picture is empty to show how easy card removal can be. This drawer is ready for re-purposing. 

I don't have any pictures of drawers with release buttons on the front or inside the front of the drawer.  If you find one, just push in or push the release to the side and remove the rod.
If none of these methods work, then use a big hammer. 

As a last resort, the heavy equipment is waiting only a block away.