Rob's blog

Posted by Rob

On Stewardship

Our Truths

Recently I began mentoring a talented librarian in the early-middle stage of her career.  During our first meeting, I began to pick up on her professional values, beliefs and perspectives.  Some of these rang with deep conviction; others were shared with less certainty; and still others sounded downright tentative, ending with the rising lilt of a question.  It occurred to me that the mix of values, beliefs and perspectives she was sharing had been accumulated from a variety of sources.  Some - those shared with conviction - were clearly personal values that were, if not unshakeable, deeply ingrained in my mentee.  Others were professional beliefs my mentee had learned, but was open to debate.  And finally there were those values, beliefs and perspectives that sounded more like questions.  These were “truths” my mentee carried around with her, but about which she remained palpably suspicious.

Déjà vu

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Advice for Working with Vendors

Although librarians and vendors have shared a symbiotic relationship for as long as libraries have existed, there seems to be an unhealthy and unnecessary level of time and energy spent tussling with and complaining about vendors.  Having worked on both sides of the library/vendor ecosystem, I wanted to try and share some perspectives learnt through experience.  What follows are some best practices for working with vendors. These aren’t earth-shatteringly innovative, but I bring them to your attention because I have found them to be effective in maintaining positive, mutually beneficial relationships with vendors.

Posted by Rob

Consensus, Conflict and the Leader’s Responsibility

Organizations that overemphasize consensus drive out talent, underperform, and lose money, all the while maintaining a harmonious facade.  Walking the halls of an organization that overemphasizes consensus, things appear to be fine:  No one is arguing.  Employees are smiling and nodding in unison.  The organizational Kool-Aid has been spiked with consensus and everyone is drinking.  At a surface-level, who can argue that a group of people on the same page will be more effective than a group of people in conflict?  But unless the conflict has already taken place and resulted in this consensus, your organization could well be harmoniously running off a cliff. 

Consensus at all costs

The best organizations I’ve been a part of consisted of individuals who possessed the following attributes:

Posted by Rob
Author’s Note:  

Last week Serials Review published an article I wrote this spring about library consumer expectations, popular services in other industries, and the art of trendspotting.  The final version of that article can be found here:  If your library doesn’t subscribe to Serials Review, below is an earlier, draft version that I’m allowed to share.

Discovery from the Outside In


I believe we can make libraries more effective, more impactful, more popular, more valued, and better supported.  I believe we can accomplish this without a single new idea. 

We are all Outsiders

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Editor’s Note:  I am pleased to share the NC LIVE blog spotlight with guest blogger Andrew Pace.  Andrew and I worked together at OCLC and, during that time, I was continually impressed by Andrew’s passion, focus, and tenacity in overcoming the inevitable obstacles associated with building a complex service for a complex market.  Andrew arrived at OCLC from NCSU and, in the post below, shares some of the formative lessons learned during his stint in North Carolina.  – Rob Ross

In my mind, I’m still in Carolina

Recently, I blogged about my 20th year as a professional librarian. I gave short shrift to North Carolina as a very formative part of what I hope is only half a career. I thought maybe the NC LIVE blog might be a better platform for a little Carolina love.

Posted by Rob

Performance Reviews:  The bad and the good

This is the third in a series of posts on how to build a great team.

For many, this is performance review season, the annual ceremony that direct reports fear and managers loathe.  Those up for review dread being assessed - judged, if we use the word that more accurately reflects how the ceremony makes us feel.  Those delivering the reviews are equally wary.  They face a minefield of potential unintended consequences.  It’s no wonder so many of us try to put the things off.  I had a peer who was habitually a year late in giving reviews to her team!  What follows are observations, lessons learned and tips on being reviewed and reviewing others.

Why we don’t like them

We are open to certain feedback

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The New Manager’s Survival Guide

This is the second in a series of posts on how to build a great team.

Little can prepare you for being a new manager.  You can read books on it, talk to seasoned managers, contemplate the qualities of the best (and worst) managers you’ve had, but because so much of being a manager is experiential, these resources can provide only a cursory understanding of what awaits you.  If you are a new manager, or aspire to be one, prepare for one of the most intense learn-on-the-job experiences of your life.  That said, below I’ve highlighted 9 key management lessons I’ve learned through my own experience, in the hope that they will aid those of you about to embark on your first management role.

Posted by Rob

Finding the Best Talent

This is the first in a series of posts on how to build a great team.

In my previous role, I was given the opportunity to build my first team.  I inherited a team of three and, as our team’s services became more popular, I grew the team to 22.  This meant that, in a relatively short period of time, I wrote about 20 job descriptions, reviewed about 1,000 résumés, conducted about 200 interviews, hired about 30 people, and then observed the results.  I’ll tell you upfront that not all of my hires worked out, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  I learned some valuable lessons, which I’ve attempted to summarize below in the form of hiring Do’s and Don’ts.

How to Hire

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose someone else’s New Year’s resolutions?  You could get your boss to try being nicer and more supportive, your kids to earn better grades, your dogs to stop chewing up shoes, or your internet service provider to care.  You’d have the power and they’d have to do the hard work.  Brilliant!  What if I told you that you can decide the New Year’s resolutions of one special something in your life?

In October I shared a survey aimed at understanding how NC LIVE could better serve its member libraries.  This initial survey asked respondents to indicate the services they would most like help with.  The results are in.  Based on 98 respondents submitting 281 requests, the top three services member libraries would like help with are:

  1. Help me implement and/or better utilize technologies I already pay for (50.0%)

  2. Help me purchase products/services from vendors at a reduced price (42.9%)

Posted by Rob

In the course of my career I’ve encountered many professionals who struggle with self-doubt.  Peers, direct reports, mentees, friends in other fields.  Over time I noticed that the brighter and more talented the individual, the more that individual doubted him or herself.  Initially I simply added this to my running list of life’s ironies, but then I began to think about what made these individuals talented in the first place.  In most cases it wasn’t a manifestation of genius or “natural ability” that set them apart.  Rather, what made them talented was the same thing that caused them to chew their fingernails and struggle through sleepless nights:  Self-doubt. 

If you struggle with self-doubt, congratulations:  You possess a quality that, if wielded properly, will help you be incredibly confident.  Sound crazy?  Read on.

Let’s start with some working definitions:

Bravado - asserting a position with conviction without having conducted a thorough analysis.