News & Views

Reflecting on Seven Years of Professional Reading

posted Sep 25, 2016, 8:20 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Oct 17, 2016, 10:22 AM ]

Throughout my career I've pursued the vision of being a reflective professional: one who benefits from others' experiences and research findings, and who occasionally shares his own insights publicly for others' professional benefit. My efforts to assimilate new knowledge are perhaps best embodied in the bibliography of selected professional readings that I've maintained at for the past seven years. The sources listed there give evidence of continuous intellectual and professional growth, whether related to academic course work, publication and presentation, or the practical demands of managing in the higher education enterprise.

The bibliography that I've amassed now consists of just over 600 items--not a massive library by any stretch, but not a trivial collection either. The list is nowhere near comprehensive of everything I've read since mid-2009. Its scope is limited to those sources that I've found beneficial enough to justify establishing a record for future reference: the sort of thing that I might want to cite in a paper or presentation, or consult when facing particular professional challenges. Additionally, the scope is limited to those items most germane to my identity as a higher education leader; other interests of mine, such as biblical studies and Christian worldview, are poorly represented.

As I look back at the records of 600+ intellectual engagements--roughly 1.6 items per week--I can draw a handful of conclusions:
  • My intellectual interests are broad. I assigned 514 distinct subject tags to the sources that I indexed (see a continuously updated tag cloud here). The list of topics clearly illustrates that my thinking ranges far beyond the spectrum of librarianship.
  • Not all of the sources that I found beneficial are scholarly. Many, in fact, appeared in news publications.
  • The MBA degree that I pursued from 2012 to 2015 had a definite impact on my reading habits. Among the 25 tags that I assigned most frequently (see table below), eight were clearly influenced by my academic pursuits (e.g., BUSI642, operations_management, isomorphism).
  • Areas of persistent interest have included library management, higher education administration and reform, and organizational behavior (including communication and change).
Reflecting on the sources that have influenced my thinking in recent years recalls to mind a quote from Francis Bacon that I encountered early in my career: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." While Bacon could scarcely have imagined the information milieu of the early 21st century--notably, one dominated by media other than books--the spirit of his quote remains true. For better or for worse, as leaders we bear the imprint of what (and how much) we choose to read.

RankTagCount of Items
1academic libraries73
2teaching and learning60
3library assessment51
4higher education reform50
5higher education administration46
7library management40
8human resource management39
9organizational behavior34
13higher education finance28
14operations management27
19organizational communication24
20higher education22
23information technology management20
26organizational change19

A Library R&D Project

posted Aug 23, 2016, 8:41 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Aug 24, 2016, 5:38 AM ]

Libraries aren’t the sort of environment that one most naturally associates with research and development. Nevertheless, over the past month I’ve had the chance to carry out a simple R&D project. The product was a research guide—a set of Web pages—designed to mediate access to business research resources.

LibGuides, a content management system, provided the technical infrastructure, so R&D wasn’t needed for that aspect of the project. Rather, research insights guided the selection and arrangement of the content of the guide. A snapshot appears directly below (click on it to see an enlarged view).

Business Research Guide

The development of the business research guide was actually a redesign project. The predecessor guide had been used for a few years. Unfortunately, analysis of use data revealed that the old guide had failed to elicit desired research behaviors. Users rarely ventured beyond the old guide’s entry page, and even though the guide provided links to dozens of targets, a single business database attracted 75% of outbound clicks!

Use data provided motivation for redesigning the guide, but insights supporting design choices had to come from another source: records of research help provided by librarians and staff. The Jerry Falwell Library captures qualitative data describing research services provided through various means (email, chat, etc.). After examining records for 400+ business-oriented transactions, I had a much clearer understanding of the tasks that researchers were attempting to perform.

In the interest of keeping this post as short as possible, I’ll spare the details of how I went about developing and launching the new guide. However, I do want to point out some key design elements:

  • Creation of pages focused on research tasks (e.g., Companies & Industries, Countries); this strategy replaced the older guide's focus on resource formats (e.g., Databases, Books & E-books)
  • Relegation of resource descriptions to pop-up boxes that appear when one hovers over links; this allowed for a general de-cluttering of guide pages
  • Creation of sub-pages for various business specializations (economics, finance, marketing, etc.)

Will the new design be a success? It’s difficult to imagine that the new guide, being based on research insights, will fail to outperform the old guide. Nevertheless, a definitive answer to this question can only emerge as additional use data are accumulated. I’ll have to wait to see if my efforts bear fruit.

Conference Presentation in Development

posted Jul 24, 2016, 2:12 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Aug 3, 2016, 8:16 PM ]

It's a Sunday afternoon, and I've spent the last few hours alternating my attention between not-so-interesting ESPN programming and developing components of an upcoming conference presentation. My proposal to present at this fall's Virginia Library Association Annual Conference was accepted in May, so I'm now working to translate the proposal into reality.

The title of my concurrent session is "Managing with Purpose: Integrating Assessment, Planning, and Budgeting." Time permitting, I intend to introduce attendees to a range of management tools and concepts that are relevant to libraries of all types:

  • The logic model
  • Six dimensions of assessment
  • The balanced scorecard
  • The Business Model Canvas
  • Opportunity cost
  • The principal-agent problem

My session is scheduled for Thursday, October 27, 4:15 PM. Additionally, I'll most likely share slides and/or handouts via a link from the Presentations page. A related resource that I posted some months ago is linked here: "Planning and the Future of the Academic Library: An Annotated Bibliography."

Business Model Canvas: Academic Library Edition

posted Nov 21, 2015, 5:39 PM by Greg Smith

I’ve been inattentive to posting news and views here over the past few years because I’ve devoted much of my time to pursuing the MBA degree. I posted my portfolio some months ago here on this site, and I’ve added to it as I’ve progressed toward degree completion. Now, with weeks left in my final course, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The course I’m taking now focuses on business strategies and models. One of the tools we’ve been exposed to is the Business Model Canvas (BMC), as elaborated by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010). A few weeks ago I took the time to interpret the operations of the Jerry Falwell Library, where I work, via the structure of the BMC. The results are pictured below. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Jerry Falwell Library Business Model Canvas

I know that I’m not the first to apply the BMC to a library setting; nevertheless, thinking through this has been valuable to me. Getting acquainted with the BMC was enlightening, but it was particularly rewarding to apply it fruitfully to my own work context. The concepts and tools that I learned about in my MBA program were usually explained in function of a for-profit environment. It is refreshing whenever I find that a concept or tool has been applied, or can be applied, to the nonprofit world as well.

Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business model generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changes, and challengers. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Encyclopedia Article Published

posted Aug 22, 2014, 12:25 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Nov 21, 2015, 5:39 PM ]

I'm pleased to report that the Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology (3rd ed.) is now available from IGI Global. I had the privilege of contributing an entry entitled "Academic Library Assessment." Like most of the entries in this 10-volume reference work, my contribution not only provides appropriate analysis of the topic, but highlights areas for future research. In addition, it contains an extensive bibliography of important articles, books, and other sources in the field. I believe that students, scholars, and practitioners of library assessment will benefit.

Opening a New Library, Assessing Its Spaces

posted Jan 15, 2014, 7:23 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Jan 15, 2014, 7:24 PM ]

Today was a big day. After more than three years of planning and construction, the Jerry Falwell Library was formally dedicated and opened for student use. Along with quite a few others, I had a significant role in the planning and design process. As a remote worker, I was only able to watch the ceremony via streaming, but I’ve had the blessing of touring it a few times during the construction process, and I’ve even given a conference presentation about the data underlying the design.

This week I’ve been working on the library’s budget proposal for 2014-15, and also investigating how to assess the library’s performance in time to come. The new building now having been occupied at a significant cost, it’s clear that we want to impact students and faculty. With that goal in mind, I’ve made an effort to update my understanding of space assessment in libraries and learning commons. Below are some fresh sources that I’ve found helpful:

In recent years I had mostly focused on sources that dealt with ascertaining user needs as a part of the facility design/renovation process. Sources that I found useful for that purpose included the following:

Leveraging Big Data to Manage People

posted Jan 13, 2014, 3:02 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Jan 13, 2014, 3:03 PM ]

I’ve heard bits of information about the use of analytics in human resource management for some time. The article cited below, published in The Atlantic in December, is the first really substantive discussion that I’ve read. It’s a mind-full, describing emerging practices that alternate between being intriguing and potentially disturbing.

Communicating across Divisional Boundaries

posted Dec 29, 2013, 6:20 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Dec 29, 2013, 6:22 PM ]

I’ve been off of work for the last week, and I’ve found it very needful to rest my body and mind during that time. I can’t say that I’ve read anything business-related during the break--until today, that is. I used some free time this afternoon to do get back in the reading mode. Christine Helwick’s “Communication Is Key for CFOs,” published by Inside Higher Ed on December 20, struck a chord with me. The article encourages CFOs to practice proactive communication across divisional silos. While the article addresses financial leaders, its central thesis is equally applicable to any unit that manages resources on behalf of an entire organization: IT, the library, physical plant, etc.

Reading Helwick’s piece triggered my memory about a related source (Trubitt & Overholtzer, 2009), and when I went to look up the details on that, I was reminded of additional useful sources that I had read in recent years (Frazee, 2012; Stewart-Gambino & Plympton, 2006). Below are the citations and links to all of these sources.

Reading Report: Applying TQM to a Ministry Context, Part 2

posted Dec 9, 2013, 7:58 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Dec 9, 2013, 8:06 PM ]

In my last post, I listed some journal literature that I had found useful when writing a paper on the application of total quality management to local church ministry. Over the past week I've consulted some additional sources--mostly books and dissertations. I found the following items to be helpful:
  • Ahn, T. T. (2001). The evaluation of Total Quality Management (TQM) in a Korean-American Christian ministry (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3014506)

  • Babbes, G. S., & Zigarelli, M. (2006). The minister’s MBA: Essential business tools for maximum ministry success. Nashville: B&H.

  • Jones, E. E. (1993). Quest for quality in the church: A new paradigm. Nashville: Discipleship Resources.

  • Kallestad, W. P., & Schey, S. L. (1994). Total quality ministry. Minneapolis: Augsburg.

  • Pinwell, D. (1997). Towards quality of service. In D. Clark (Ed.), Changing world, unchanging church? An agenda for Christians in public life (pp. 150–151). London: Mowbray.

  • Praschan, D. C. (2000). Leadership and a learning organization: A CIMPLE model (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3000416)

Reading Report: Applying TQM to a Ministry Context

posted Nov 29, 2013, 3:20 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Dec 9, 2013, 7:52 PM ]

Over the past week I've been working on a class project where I have to apply a contemporary management technique to a particular organization. Since I've spent my career in the nonprofit world, I chose to focus on a ministry organization, and the technique that I chose, with advice from a fellow student and the professor, is total quality management.

I had become familiar with TQM in the 1990s, but I hadn't looked at it closely, nor had I considered its possible utility in the management of ministry. So far I've found the following journal articles to be enlightening:
  • Bedwell, R. T., Jr. (1993, June). Total quality management: Making the decision. Nonprofit World, 11(3), 29–31.

  • Chater, M. (1999). Theology and management. Modern Believing, 40(4), 64–69.

  • Gasser, W. W. (2002). What is a healthy church? Journal of Ministry and Theology, 6(1), 105–121.

  • Katz, R. (1995, October). What nonprofits should know about TQM. Nonprofit World, 13(5), 4–5.

  • Kearns, K. P., Krasman, R. J., & Meyer, W. J. (1994). Why nonprofit organizations are ripe for Total Quality Management. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 4(4), 447–460. doi:10.1002/nml.4130040407

  • Kinast, R. L., & Schloegel, J. (1998, July). Combining faith and business. St. Anthony Messenger, 106(2), 18–21.

  • Vokurka, R. J. (2000). The applicability of Total Quality Management principles to church management: A case study. Journal of Ministry Marketing & Management, 5(2), 21–33. doi:10.1300/J093v05n02_02

For the most part, though these sources somewhat dated, they're readily available in a good library's databases. I have some additional literature on my reading list--notably, some books and dissertations. I may recommend some of those sources in a later post.

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