Weeknote 31

It was a short week as Monday was Emancipation Day. That’s my excuse why I’m writing up this weeknote on Saturday instead of Friday.

§1 The Week Ahead, The Week Behind

Anne-Marie Deitering of Oregon State University Libraries contributed her own version of weeknotes this week with two posts: The week ahead – August 1, 2022 and The week behind — August 5, 2022.

Her weeknotes are closer to the what I consider as closer to the norm than my own. But, that being said, weeknotes don’t follow a strict format:

Weeknotes are notes, not blogs

Weeknotes are notes about what you’ve been doing this week. They are a simple and pretty easy way to work more openly.

Weeknotes are personal. They follow no set format. You write them in whatever style you like. There are no set rules. There is no set length.

You can write them for yourself. You can write them for your team. Your team can take turns.

You can write what you choose. You don’t have to write every week.

They don’t have to be everything that happened. They can be snippets or stories. They can be a handful of bullet points, a few paragraphs or even longer if you wish.

Weeknotes benefit you

If you’re running a project or a piece of digital work, weeknotes are a good habit. Because:

– They help you reflect on your work, learn from it and make more confident decisions

– They create new connections — people who read them understand what you are doing and can help you

– They show that you are willing to working openly and share — this attracts others to you, and makes them more likely to share with you

– They help you find your writing voice — most of us lack confidence to write, but weeknotes make it easy, as you’re writing for you first of all

– People doing work like you will want to read them (we’re curious about people doing work like us)

How to write weeknotes: A guide to what they are, ways to write them and platforms to use. Joe Roberson, Jan 27 2022

§2 List Making

For the last ten years I’ve been testing out the chops of new bibliographic systems by adding lists of the Massey Lectures to them. I finally wrote this exercise up as a blog post earlier this week. It did not go viral.

§3 An Introduction to Systems Thinking for Librarians

Last month, I wrote up a short blog post called Thinking in Systems about systems thinking in librarianship.

Earlier this week, Timothy Peters of Central Michigan University had his article, An Introduction to Systems Thinking for Librarians published by Library Leadership & Management. From it’s introduction:

Based on Meadows’ general description it is not difficult to envision the academic library and its various components as a system. Thinking more expansively, we can understand the library as a component of the larger system that is the college or university. In this essay I will introduce systems thinking generally and then discuss the ideas of systems thinker Barry Oshry. Oshry focuses specifically on the roles and responsibilities of individuals within the system. His thoughts are straightforward and pragmatic, and the points he makes about life in a system and his suggestions for improving it should be relatable to all.

I’m not versed in the work of Barry Oshry and so I appreciated this introduction to his ideas in the context of librarianship. That being said, I am left with an impression that there is a lot of complex human and organizational behaviour that being is described in the context of systems thinking but they aren’t being explained or illuminated by systems thinking. Here’s an example of what I mean:

When we misunderstand someone at a different level in the system or don’t agree with what they are proposing or receive incomplete (or no) information from them, it is common for us to create reasons for this individual’s behavior. We dislike mysteries so we fill in the blanks according to our own feelings and experiences, and we then allow our stories to become truths. We react personally by getting angry or withdrawing. The explanation may be as simple as someone is very busy and overlooked an email or simply misunderstood the intent of the question. But the result of the misunderstanding can be sabotaged teamwork (which can become entrenched divisions between individuals and units over time) stalled progress on initiatives, and missed opportunities, both for the individual and for the organization.

And there’s the matter that almost all libraries that I can think of are run as hierarchical organizations that are shaped like pyramids.

Oshry treats the individuals who comprise the system at length in both his Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life and The Possibilities of Organization. He refers to them as Tops, Bottoms, and Middles. He also lists Customers as a player in the system, though this group will not be addressed here. Interestingly, in his 1977 work Power and Position, Oshry refers to the three groups as Directors, Members, and Middles…

I acknowledge that perhaps these particular faults arise from a perhaps misguided expectation that systems thinking requires illustration or proof in the form of diagrams or a network or map.

§4 Wardley Maps

After I wrote the above, I idly wondered, I wonder if anyone has ever applied Wardley Mapping in librarianship?

And lo, reader, I googled and found that yes, indeed it has been done!

Wardley value chain mapping is a simple and effective technology planning tool developed by the British entrepreneur Simon Wardley. On his blog Bits or Pieces (blog.gardeviance.org), Wardley has an extensive archive of case studies and analyses of value chain mapping focused on innovation for large corporate clients. Value chain mapping is effective across a variety of organizations and hits a sweet spot in IT strategy planning. It is not overly complicated and does not require extensive training to understand. 

I discovered Wardley value chain mapping while reflecting on the progress of some IT decisions that I made as the systems librarian for College of the North Atlantic–Qatar. I was trying to compare a number of options that we had for replacing our ILS, and I found it difficult to communicate to library management and the IT department the fundamental differences in workload that each system required.

How to Manage Libtech Innovation With Wardley Value Chain Mapping by Brett Williams, Computers in Libraries, Vol 37. No. 8 – October 2017

§5 Librarian Jayne continues to wield her SPARQL spanner

In my attempt to find examples of Wardley mapping in libraryland, I found not only another example, but another librarian who engages in Weeknotes.

These Procedure Modeling Weeknotes I believe are contributed by Anya Somerville (@bitten_) of the House of Commons Library. I love reading them especially when I cannot make heads or tails of what is going on.

Here’s an excerpt from 2022 – Week 30

Jayne and Michael were delighted to be joined by House of Lords Philipp who very kindly signed off their map of committee consideration in the Lords. Another ticket moving to the done pile.

Map making met something of an impasse when Librarian Jayne and her computational helpmate Michael found themselves mightily confused about when motions might be tabled in the legislative reform order procedure. And, more importantly, when they might not. Neither legislation nor standing orders offered much in the way of help. As this procedure is not called upon often, precedence wasn’t much help either. Our regular reader may well recall us dispatching an email in the general direction of House of Commons Mike and House of Lords Matt. We had hoped – our primitive monkey brains craving symmetry – that the red carpet contingent and the green carpet contingent might agree. Sadly, that was not to be the case.

Commons Mike got back to say he’d be minded to hold off on the tabling of any motions until the procedure determination phase was complete.

Later that week Anya and Michael happened to catch the eye of Mr Evans over a pint in the Strangers’ Bar and, not that we would ever second guess Mike, decided second opinions are never wasted. Luckily Paul concurred with Mike, leaving Anya, Michael – and we assume Mike – rather pleased. It would be tricky to come to a different procedural conclusion to Paul and then attempt to defend it.

First hurdle cleared, we were delighted to hear back from Lords Matt. At least until we opened the email. Unfortunately, in terms of our eyesight and wellbeing, the red carpet folks came to a quite different position, suggesting they would accept the tabling of motions particular to the procedure recommended by the Minister from the point of laying. And well before the point of procedure determination. This position also being backed by JO Jane. Reader, we cannot deny we sighed a little.

We’ve returned to our maps – the Lords’ motion to take note has been stripped from the negative side of the procedure and added to the Lords’ half of the main map. The tabling of five more types of motion – fatal and non-fatals in the negative procedure and the approval motion and its fatal and non-fatal amendments – are all to be added to the main map. Meaning our main map – which had been fair of face in its symmetry – starts to look somewhat deformed. Like the Lords’ half has developed a boil perhaps.