Book Review: New Routes to Library Success by Elisabeth Doucett

Elisabeth Doucett with her new bookI recently had the opportunity to read the new book by Elisabeth Doucett entitled New Routes to LIbrary Success: 100+ Ideas from outside the stacks published by ALA Editions.  Elisabeth is the Director of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine, and the author of the blog The irreverent librarian.  Even though the book is by a public librarian, I think it is well worth reviewing by librarians of all disciplines.

Elisabeth states in her preface, “As library professionals I think we miss out on opportunities because we do not often enough tap the ideas, innovations, and way of working of different professions,” (preface, p. x)  Bravo!  This belief really resonated with me and reflects a good deal of what we at have been trying to do since our inception. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Doucett arranges the chapters of her books around major themes: entrepreneurship, creativity, customer service, trend tracking, content curation, etc.  In each chapter, she found a business leader whose achievements personified the theme at hand and interviewed them to discover how they accomplished their success in their respective businesses.  Resonating with the feel of “A Day in the Life Of” type interview transcripts, Doucett presented their stories, and pointed us in the direction of how we might apply their wisdom to our own professional arenas.  The book’s organization made it ideal as an idea book that could be picked up, a chapter chosen and easily read in a short amount of time.  Sometimes I chose my chapter based on the chapter theme, other times, by the business professional interviewed (hey! let’s read what Chris Wilson from L.L. Bean has to say… they have great customer service!).

The first chapter I read was on content curation.  This was the real reason that I had first picked up the book: I am preparing for a presentation on content curation as an outreach tool for academic librarians and was eager to hear what another librarian had to say. What I found was another librarian who shared my view: “Content curation is useful to libraries because it can help them build relationships with new audiences in their communities.” (p 187).  I was so excited that I wrote Doucett what amounted to a fan letter. :-)

After I finished the rest of my preparation of my presentation, I returned to read more of Doucett’s book.  Each chapter had nuggets that I could glean for later thought and inspiration. Chapter 2 on Entrepreneurship with Josh Davis of Gelato Fiasco, offered many ideas about how to create a “culture of controlled experimentation.” Chapter 3: Creavitity with Walter Briggs of Briggs Advertising, urged us to “foster resilience.”  I found out that Google gives employee’s 20% of their time to focus on creative development… can you imagine what we might create if librarians had the same opportunity?? I really loved the list of creative thinking/prompting tools that were included with this chapter.

I could go on and on… The Chapters are all set up with nice browsable sections, including action points, implications,big ideas, take-aways, summary of what Doucett learned, resources for further exploration and a list of questions that Doucett used when interviewing her experts.  Her hope is that librarians will use these questions to find their own inspiring experts in other realms to interview as well and add to the insights she has gleaned so far.

Links Roundup #30

saddle and ropeTwitter for Teaching, Anyone? My friend at Teaching in Higher Ed, Bonni Stachowiak, did a recent podcast on the topic Teaching with Twitter, interviewing Jesse Stommel.  Some great insights there worth checking out.

And while we are on the topic of Twitter, Kris Shaffer offers a great introduction to both Twitter and TweetDeck on his blog post, Twitter Basics.  I had never tried TweetDeck before, and I find I really love it.  I just wish there was an android version!

As we go into the busy, hectic schedules of fall, I found this helpful post from the folks at Audio Resources for Mindfulness Meditation.  Have to love free resources! Especially when they refresh, relax and re-center us!

A few recent posts on the familiar battle between Microsoft OneNote and Evernote for most popular notetaking software yields us these two posts:  6 things Evernote does that Microsoft OneNote can’t  and 7 things Microsoft OneNote does that Evernote can’t.  This ongoing battle is the best thing possible for users as both products continue to get better and better!

Finally, it’s that time again.  Voting is in full swing for the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2015.  You have until September 18th to submit your top 10 picks to Jane Hart.  This is a great resource and service that Jane provides to all of us who love our online tools.  Participate today!

School Days, School Days…. or so the children’s song goes.  Our University opened for the Fall Semester this week, students are everywhere, and the energy, sounds of voices and hurrying bodies from place to place begins again.  Wishing all our readers a great start to the new year!

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Book Review: Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko

copy of Thinktoys book coverOur Library has a professional development book club, and Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko was our latest  reading.  While not a new book  (the 2nd edition came out in 2006), it was new to me, and worth sharing with my academicpkm audience.

Michael Michalko developed many of his innovative thinking methods while leading a NATO team to solve international problems during his service in the US Army.  He also organized CIA thinktanks and is an established expert in creative thinking techniques who is in high demand consultant and keynote speaker for many Fortune 500 companies.  His best-selling book, Thinkertoys, is regarded as one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time by CEO-READ.   I’m surprised I have never run across the book until recently, but I’m glad I did!

This book explores a number of different methods for looking at problems in new and unconventional ways, opening our minds to see options and alternatives we might not have otherwise considered. It is organized to be a working handbook that can be turned to when a new approach is desired for breaking through problem blocks or to stimulate new ideas or thoughts.  The exercises are categorized into Linear Thinkertoys (more of an analytical, left-brain approaches), Intuitive Thinkertoys (focusing more on right-brain approaches) and even some group-based exercises. Michael explains that “The worth of the ideas you create will depend in large part upon the way you define your problems… Nothing is more harmful to a positive creative attitude than fears, uncertainties and doubts.”

How do his exercises work?  By providing a plethora of different ways to approach thinking.  Stymied on solving a particular problem?  Maybe his False Facts techniques would help.  This exercise has you search for new ideas by challenging and reversing what you believe to be the conventional assumptions about the problem.  Or maybe dividing the problem into its components and then reassembling it in a different way would help.  That is the technique that Michael describes as Cherry Split.  Another technique that might be more familiar to readers of this blog is mind mapping. We’ve discussed this technique and several tools for mind mapping here in the past.  Michael lists mindmapping (his chapter called Think Bubbles) as one of his Linear Thinkertoys.

The Intuitive section of Thinkertoys contains many exercises that are based on the belief that your subconscious already knows the answer which you are seeking. Once you make that assumption, the question becomes where and how do you look for the answer?  How do you release it from your subconscious mind? The techniques in this section of the book are designed to help the reader obtain that “flash of brilliance” that will provide solutions they need.  Michael’s exercise “Blue Roses” focuses on ways to develop one’s sense of intuition and “Dreamscape” describes how to capture ideas that are released in your dreams.

With thirty-nine chapters of ideas, I’ve only scratched the surface of this handbook’s offerings. Check it out!


I found this interesting videocast by Miriam Knight from a few years ago where she interviewed Michael for another of his books (Creative Thinkering).  It is almost 30 minutes long, but he is fascinating to listen to.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

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Summertime is made for Decluttering Projects

photo of a messy officeNow that many academics have their summer schedules with lighter instruction loads, it seems like a popular time to think about organizational projects.

Organization and decluttering has been on my mind in particular the past several months for a couple of reasons. I began doing a major rehaul of my work office last December in preparation for a move sometime in 2016 to off-site offices while the library went through renovation. With 10 years in the same office, the clutter and backlog of files, papers and journals was daunting to say the least.

More recently, my focus on organization reached a new high as I accepted a new job as the Graduate Engineering Librarian at Kennesaw State University and had to totally empty and move all my stored knowledge and academic output off my university servers and out of my work office. Suffice it to say that work organization has now led to a heightened focus on organization/decluttering challenges within my home as well. I’ll begin with a few of my discoveries and foibles and end with some helpful resources and tips that might inspire some of you to tackle decluttering projects of your own.

Discovery Number One:   While a convenient way to have all my project work and ongoing research conversations organized, detailed foldering within a work email account is a disaster when your library decides to change email providers OR when you leave jobs and want to be sure your research knowledge is not lost.

Yes, I know. We have spent a lot of time here talking about GTD, Inbox Zero, etc… regardless, old habits die hard and I had quite the history of knowledge in my work email/online calendar.

My solution:   I used two different methods to rehome my email knowledge. First, where I already had similar topic notebooks in Evernote, I emailed items directly to the proper Evernote notebook via my Evernote email account. (The Evernote Knowledge base has all the details for this!)

For items that I didn’t want to lose access to, but were not ready to dedicate a whole Evernote notebook to, I created a new Outlook email account, and then, using Thunderbird as a transferring interface, I loaded both my Outlook accounts into Thunderbird and then it was a process of drag and drop emails from similar folders in one account to the other.

What I learned: While I found work around methods to preserve my knowledge base, what I already knew and was re-iterated to me throughout this process is the importance of NOT using email as your knowledge base, no matter how tempting it is!

Discovery Number Two:   Big Organizing Projects can be a great way to take a mind break from thought-intensive or stress-inducing work days. During those times (especially early afternoon, post lunch slumps), taking just a 20 minute block to time to tackle one small part of my office was a great way to get my blood flowing, and my mind clearing. And those organizing tasks that involved throwing items away (which many did!) could be really great for stress reduction… gleefully ripping paper or tossing stacks of outdated materials was really energizing.  It was also very satisfying to look at that single shelf, desk corner, drawer that has been organized or even emptied and see the task accomplished.

Discovery Number Three:  All those carefully saved files which you think has so much helpful information for your successor?  Chances are they aren’t interested in sorting through your piles of information or files.  You can try meeting with them, if that is an option, but chances are, they are just going to throw everything away that you leave… so you might want to save them the trouble and leave your next office occupant a clean slate to work from.

Discovery Number Four:  Starting with your own clean slate, whether it be a new job/office/email account or just a newly cleaned one, can be a wonderful opportunity to put better organizational procedures into place for yourself.  For me, I’m doing much better so far at keeping my inbox to a mimimum level.  Decluttering Projects are a great way to make a fresh start!



Here are some practical suggestions for Summer-time reorganization/decluttering projects you might wish to tackle:

  1. Invest some time into learning a nice notebook software like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. Get key knowledge bases set up in these tools and use scanning, emailing, online clipping or manual input of your existing knowledge into these new online tools.
  2. Password Review: Go through all your various devices and online tools and make a list of all (yes ALL) your passwords. Explore some of the online password managers. PCMag did a nice review of the best ones.  Review the strength of your passwords, strengthen those which need it, then either use one of the password manager tools, or retool your passwords to be both strong and memorable for you.
  3. Combine a positive activity with a chore. Listen to music or an audio book when doing your mindless online sorting of emails or organizing your databases. Relieve stressful days with paper-ripping, trash tossing organization task breaks.
  4. As you go through your re-org, start two master lists: What is working? What Isn’t Working?   These insights can be very helpful as you develop and adopt new procedures and tools to improve your organizational habits for the long haul.


Some Additional Organizing Sites to Further Inspire You:

The 5 Best Organizing Websites To Help The Perpetually Messy

Organizing Home Life’s 31 Days of Home Management (with printable forms)

Home Storage Solutions 101: Do’s and Don’ts Guide to Donating and Decluttering

Lifehacker: Top 10 Office Decluttering Tricks

Be More With Less: Declutter Your World in 10 Days Challenge

Links Roundup #29

saddle and rope

Free Technology for Teachers recently spotlighted the app Stay Focused for Chrome.  This tool allows the user to determine a maximum amount of time during the course of a day that can be spent on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. After the maximum time is exceeded, those sites can not be accessed on Chrome for 24 hours.

Julio Peironcely at shares 7 Smart Ways to Use Evernote For Research as a PhD.  Julio has written about Evernote several times in the past and this latest post does a nice job of organizing all those previous posts together in order to show how Evernote can be a student’s one central go-to tool.  Nice job!

Since we are talking about Evernote, LifeHacker also had an interesting little post back in January describing a tagging system to use when organizing notes.  I always find it interesting to read about how others organize their tools.

While MIT Technology Review published this article last October, I just ran across the following:  Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?” Noteworthy reading in and of itself, this never before published essay by the great Asimov discusses the roots of creativity and is a great source for creativity “sound bytes” for future blog posts or other academic writing.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the GTD series of posts by Robert Talbert in his Chronicle column Casting Out Nines, here is the first of the series.  So far he has published on March 9th and March 18th.  Hopefully more entries will be coming soon.  His second post on The Importance of Review delves more into how he is implementing GTD as a tool for organizing his responsibilities as a professor.  In particular, he focuses on the daily, weekly and quarterly review process.

I am, admittedly, somewhat behind on my own reading. Here’s another great post by my friend Bonnie Stachowiak at her Teaching in Higher Ed site.  She brings us a great list of 44 Social Media sharing tools for spreading our own PKM insights to our community.  It is only by sharing our insights with others that we can all continue to grow, and Bonnie always has some great guests and ideas to share.

Also in March, our friends at Office Blogs announced a new, more powerful Clipper Tool for OneNote. Check it out!  The new add-on helps weed out extraneous webpage clutter from the main article being clipped and expanded options for saving the clips to various notebooks and pages makes organization faster.  While I’m talking about Microsoft OneNote, if you haven’t checked out their new tools for educators, be sure to take a second look.  Microsoft is trying hard to capture this market.  OneNote for Teachers is a site with many tips for educators that continues to grow.


Book Review: Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business from the Inside Out by David Gelles

Mindful_Work_bookI was recently approached to read a galley of David Gelles’ new book on mindful work.  As this seemed a timely follow-up to the Happiness MOOC that I had completed late last year (and posted about here), I was happy to agree.  If Gelles’ name sounds familiar, it might be because he was a journalist for the Financial Times and continues his journalistic career today as a business writer for the New York Times.  A long-time practitioner of meditation himself, when Gelles’ began hearing stories of businesses incorporating mindfulness, meditation and/or yoga as a part of employee wellness and leadership effectiveness initiatives, he was intrigued enough to begin a quest which would stretch over a year to interview individuals participating in workplace meditation from as many corporations  as possible.  What results is an interesting narrative about the current state of mindfulness and meditation in the American workplace today.

More than just a treatise on the benefits of mindfulness both on an individual level (which he also discusses at some length), and for workplace effectiveness as a whole, Gelles explores the programs and innovative individuals at a number of different American corporations, providing an inside view of corporate mindfulness today. Corporations discussed include Apple, General Mills, Newman’s Own Organics, LinkedIn, Google, and Green Mountain Coffee to name a few.  Gelles also discusses the teachings of a number of the key influencers in the development of the mindfulness movement as well as exploring some of the newer research concerning the apparent influence of mindfulness practice on the neuroscience of the brain and its effects on supporting the body’s immune system and counteracting the symptoms of burnout.

At General Mills, we are given a peek into an executive mindfulness session led by Janice Marturano.  It is interesting to note that Maturano just published her first book last year entitled Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership;  while I have not yet had an opportunity to read her book, early reviews are extremely positive, including having her title named as a 2014 Nautilus Award Winner. Marturano is also the founder of a non-profit organization, the Institute for Mindful Leadership, offering retreats and workshops on the topic.

Gelles provides a very short set of instructions for individuals new to meditation on pages 258-259 (right after the Acknowledgements section of the book).  He also provides a number of resources for further exploration on the topic.  In addition to the Greater Good site from Berkeley and the Mindful Magazine, both of which I listed in my resources for the Happiness MOOC article, he lists a new (to me) site for academics wishing to follow the latest research in mindfulness: Mindfulness Research Monthly, a publication of the American Mindfulness Research Association. While much of the site is restricted to members, the Mindfulness Research Monthly journal is open access with issues back to 2010.  This is a valuable index for scholars in mindfulness topics.

I have been much more aware of mindfulness, meditation and positive psychology since completing the Happiness MOOC in December.  Like this author, I have been surprised by the frequency of topics of this ilk showing up in academic and business settings as well as in mainstream magazines and talk shows.  While I lack the formal training and intensive saturation retreats that Gelles has experienced, I have long been aware of the positive stress-busting benefits of contemplative music and yoga relaxation exercises. Participating in such exercises, I have felt the calming of inner chaos and the slowing of my heart beats as I focused on the yoga movement or music being played.  When I lived in the Eastern United States, I had a beachfront retreat center that I would visit for a day or weekend whenever I could.  Spending a day of quiet contemplation, I would become once again more fully aware of the immense power of the God of the universe, and how my troubles were just a small, incidental cog that would resolve themselves naturally when it was time.  The sound of the surf, the distant chimes from the meditation walk area, and the absence of the chaotic noise in my daily world all worked together in a unique healing way that I have missed since moving to a different part of the U.S.  This book was a good reminder of how I can bring moments from this experience into my workday even now, helping me to re-center and focus more clearly on the tasks before me.


Gelles, David. Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business from the Inside Out. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2015.