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Okay, I get it. I’m jumping in the pool…now!

The perfect quote

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you run across a quote that succinctly states a concept you’ve been mulling over. Here’s mine for today:

Life is happening faster, big shifts are inevitable and change is guaranteed. We believe the Future is demanding more of us than ever: more quality, innovation, well-being, transparency. For less: time, energy, money. As stressful as that combo sounds, it also means the only way to make it across this growing gulf is to look for completely new opportunities. Folks, it’s time for us to take a leap. Create with passion. And simply play bigger than we ever have before!  by Nancy Giordano, Purple Telescope

The Consumer Electronics Show – Insights for SLA

For my first official business trip as the new president of SLA, even before the mid-January board meetings and SLA Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., I flew to Las Vegas and walked the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show. For two days I explored the Show with Bay Area senior member Cindy Hill. We were immersed in new handheld technology, new reading tablets, and new cell phones. A tremendous amount of energy is going into the simple task of getting more, and better, information into the hands of consumers at warp speed.

There were nearly 2700 exhibitors and I was blown away by the shear volume of new tech toys and applications on display from the hundreds of companies vying to be The Next Big Thing. But frankly, the energy and enthusiasm of the show was even more fascinating to me; there was no shortage of optimism about the future on that floor. Here are few distilled thoughts, stats, and trends from CES:


  • 80 new tablet devices were announced, including the new Motorola Xoom
  • 20,00 new consumer electronic products were released
  • 140,000 people attended the show

3D: 3D graphics are being showcased in gaming, sports, and art. The entertainment industry is leading in this space again, but expect to see high-end graphics soon in medical, educational, and other technical applications.

Convergence: Data, because it exists in the cloud, is more and more platform agnostic. Form factors—that is, your data device, whether it is a cell phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, car console, or smart TV—are converging in their functionality.

Social: Consumers are saying ‘I want to share my life as it happens’ and products, telecommunication capacity and  apps are making that possible. Social networking was integrated into games, such as X-Box Kinect, smart TV’s and apps. Copia.com is an interesting app for book club.

Capacity: Capacity is increasing as cell networks transition from 3G to 4G, and there is an increase in computer processing speed as well. Expanding capacity enables complex problem solving, immersive entertainment, and new experiences.

Design: Data devices, or form factors, were very elegant and restrained. It seemed that there was an effort not to overwhelm the consumer with technical options, but to simplify and curate.


The CES is the leading tradeshow for an $186B industry that is driving economic growth and is an enabler for the new knowledge economy. Consumer electronics are an underpinning of the information industry, regardless of which corner of it you occupy. An interesting factoid is that now 80% of electronics are purchased by consumers, not businesses. It was not long ago that businesses were driving the purchases of electronic goods.

With all these new products and optimistic marketing, our clients—that is people using and consuming information resources—will  even more demanding of content delivered on the form factor that is just right for them. They’ll want information that is curated, edited, and analyzed to fit their needs. And information  that is customized to their locale and time zone.

The consumer electronics industry is moving very, very fast—and will eat our lunch if we are not moving at least at its pace of change. To keep up, we need to adopt a strategy of being flexible, adaptable, and resilient. In short, we need to be Future Ready!


As enchanting as it was to handle all those gadgets, one of the highlight of my visit to CES was listening to, and later engaging in discussion with Guy Kawasaki. Author of The Macintosh Way and Selling the Dream, Kawasaki is the former Apple “wunderkind” who encourages his readers rise above the usual marketing clutter to find emotional levels of attachment to products. He encourages marketers to morph into “evangelists” who create movements, not just spreadsheets. He epitomizes one of the ideas behind my push to make members more Future Ready – he wants us all to Think Big.  

In his book, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Kawasaki tossed SLA members a great compliment when he told his readers to “suck up to a research librarian.” I liked the way he put us on a pedestal, because it reminded me that ours is an honorable profession, and we add value. Someone obviously impressed Guy Kawasaki at one time.

After his talk, he and I chatted for a few minutes about his new book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Minds, Hears and Actions. I asked him to consider posting for the Future Ready 365 blog. He seemed delighted to be asked and his thoughts will be posted here, tomorrow, February 22!

Are you feeling future ready yet!?

Future Ready Begins Today

As the Prez of SLA my initiative for 2011 is to work with the Association to become Future Ready. On January 1, we initiated a new blog titled Future Ready365.

The blog offers up a daily dose of intelligent solutions answering the question: How are you Future Ready? Now, where do these solutions come from? And who benefits from them? The answer to both questions is YOU. Because with your participation, the blog will have contributions from all corners of the SLA community—members, vendors, and partners—who are interested in our community’s success.

Why participate?

There’s no way to sugar-coat it. The upheavals in the library and information industry in the recent past, due to economic turmoil, technological developments, and shifting user expectations, have caused many corporate libraries to close and even made some fundamental library services irrelevant. However, I’m convinced that amongst ourselves, we have the ideas, insight and knowledge to create our desired future. As baseball player Satchel Paige said “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Join in!

Your contribution—250 words, a handful of images, even audio and video—will build a mosaic that offers the SLA community actionable insights into the future of the profession and association. Submit your post to futureready365@sla.org. Done. The team will take care of the rest.

Here are some ideas to jump start your medulla oblongata:

  • How have your client’s expectations of your products and services changed over the past year and how have you addressed those changes?
  • If you are not feeling future ready, what is it that is getting in the way?
  • With tighter budgets, what criteria do you use to make your clients future ready?

If you’d like to post on a specific day, include that in the email and the team will do their best to accommodate you.

And remember: Future Ready Begins Today!

Library Drove Massive Revenue Increase in ’90s – Lesson Applies Today

Author: Mike Reid
Storyteller: Jim O’Conner, Head Librarian, Kennametal in ’90s

True Story – Several years ago, the CEO of Kennametal, a company with advanced metal cutting technology, had dinner with the CEO of General Motors. This was during the time that the Saturn automobile manufacturing plant was being established. In the course of the meal, Kennametal’s CEO said that he could guarantee in writing that none of his competitors would ever have metal-cutting technology more advanced than Kennametal’s.

The GM CEO was stunned, as this was such a strong and unequivocal claim and he asked the Kennametal CEO how he could be so sure.

The response was as strong as the claim. The CEO explained that his corporate library had:

  • Huge databases with scientific and technical peer-reviewed literature, grey literature, technical reports, patent information, and more, all updated monthly or faster.
  • Automatic “Current Awareness” services that let information professionals monitor the latest technical advances with full access to the right information.
  • The latest thinking from world-class experts collected from technical conferences around the world.

Kennametal’s CEO continued to explain he had created a culture where materials scientists, physicists, and engineers were all closely aligned with his information professionals.  The information professionals were expert in efficiently finding and delivering relevant content to help avoid known problems. The information professionals help select optimal development paths, and allow the company to be “smarter and faster” from design through development, to product delivery, maintenance, and operations.

The Kennametal CEO was pitching the impact and value of the library to the CEO of General Motors.

From this interaction, Kennametal successfully won the only “sole-source” contract for GM’s Saturn plant. As the only cutting tools vendor for the Saturn, Kennametal’s revenue growth was in the tens of millions of dollars.

To truly be Future Ready, you need an information professional. It’s that simple.

Direct Your Career Progression

Take an active, hands-on role

To effectively direct your career, you don’t want to always trust “the universe” to provide an invisible hand that guides you. Yes, your boss may love your work and give you a boost when you need it, but what happens if that boss moves, transfers, or retires? Then you have to prove yourself all over again.

To maximize your professional development, you need to plan for the next phase of your career. I like to think of career development as a double funnel, because it provides a useful model. The idea behind the double-funnel is that there are a lot of different paths into a profession and, once you have a few years of experience, there are opportunities to continually re-invent your career.

This model holds true whether you are a graphic designer, web developer, technical writer, engineer, etc.

Consider the graphic below

On the left, the funnel points in, showing there are lots of different paths into a career. I’ll use a library career as the example. Put three librarians in a room and you might have three different paths into the profession: a volunteer, a teacher, or literary agent, for example, could each become a professional librarian.

Funnel #1

When you launch your career at the junior level, you’re in the pipeline and can reasonably expect to keep moving through the pipeline by taking on additional responsibility. There is a clear, discernible progression from Librarian I to Librarian II and III. Life is good. Early on, you are developing your substantive expertise, learning the ropes, and building your organizational muscle. You don’t have time for a lot of career angst as you are getting a grasp of  how the levers and pulleys of your profession work.

The good news is that after you’ve been employed in this progression for some time, you’ll have a deep understanding of the technical components of your job. You’ll understand how to be effective in your organization, and you’ll invariably have some wins under your belt. Eventually though, you’ll get a little restless, and anxious to move into new challenges. Remember how alive you felt when you were learning things every day and really pushed yourself?

Funnel #2

When you reach the middle of the pipeline, you’ll begin to see additional challenges that you could take on, with some additional effort. At the middle of the pipeline illustration, you’ll see three key words: training, school, or volunteer. These are the three classic ways to get the credentials you’ll need to emerge on the right side of the funnel into your new position. If you start early, you can make the change happen.

For example, do you need an MBA to become a manager in your organization? Go back to school and earn that degree. Need leadership experience? You could become active in in your professional organization and gain valuable networking and leadership expertise that way. Or, you could vacuum up every management training opportunity at your workplace. Personally, I took the route of volunteering in SLA and have benefited with a much wider perspective of my profession.

Maybe you want to be an entrepreneur? While you are in the pipeline, reach out for the networking, training, or education that would steer you there. Perhaps a mentor could help you pick the courses you need, or steer you to different experts that can help. You’ll definitely want to talk to the Small Business Administration.

Now, because of your vision and focus, you’ve graduated to the right side of the pipeline as a manager, director, business analyst, project manager, specialist, etc.

A new funnel

The power of the double-funnel model (patent pending!) is that you will find that you’ve graduated to the left side of another pipeline–that is that you are at the inception of another progression. And now you know what to do – dig in, learn the ropes, and expand your network!