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NERDing out

This past semester I took on a new role as Assistant Director of the Library. My focus in this role is digital strategy and user experience, but since my excellent colleague Sarah Cohen left last spring I have also been filling in as the organizer of the Teaching Librarians. This week though, I am very excited to hand the position off to Alan Carbery our new Assistant Director for Information Literacy. It’s a great team of teachers, and I know Alan will be an asset in providing us leadership.

With Alan’s arrival I’m eager to be directing more energy towards the digital strategy and user experience side of my position. One of the things I’m really excited about is a new team that I helped to form at the start of last semester that’s focusing on these areas. At the initial meeting our group recognized that as a library we often have great ideas, but many of them don’t come to fruition because every semester we get busy and some are inevitably forgotten. We wanted to form a team that could not only come up with ideas, but also create a space where these ideas could be incubated and given legs. As part of our first meeting we came up with a team name and some shared principles. I love the name we came up with even though it’s a bit geeky. We called ourselves NERD (New Entrepreneurial Research & Development). As for the shared principles, among other things we wanted a team that:

  • has focus, is directed towards goals, and sets timelines and deadlines for ourselves so we can actually get things done.
  • is not exclusive or exclusionary. Other people can join on and off, and we’ll sometimes intentionally want people there.
  • makes decisions not just on gut feelings, conjecture, or what other people are doing but on data and evidence.
  • purposefully tests out ideas using user research, interviews and data.
  • meets students where they are not where we assume they are or want them to be.
  • works in an environment of perpetual beta where we brainstorm, choose ideas, pilot/prototype them, and then ship them knowing that they are not finished and with an eye to improving them.

In the past semester we’ve been tackling things like improving the reference experience for students and improving how study rooms are utilized. We’re already off to a great start this semester and I know we’re going to do some amazing things.

Andy Burkhardt

2 Comments

  1. I’d really like to hear more about NERD’s exploits throughout the coming year. It’s so hard to push projects through, when, as you mentioned, everyone is busy, and it’s even more difficult to incorporate that culture of assessment that drives changes and ideas.

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