Current Cites

June 2011

Edited by Roy Tennant

Contributors: Peter Hirtle, Roy Tennant

Abram, Stephen. "Recognizing Innovation  31(5)(June 2011): 12-12. ( - This brief but insightful sidebar on innovation provides some tips on how to help your library remain innovative, assuming you already are, or to become so if you're not. One of the better ones: "Is the thing, idea, product, service, or process that you're looking at disruptive? If you say yes, then it's likely that it is innovative. (Sadly, this isn't enough to mean that it's good.)" Abram points out an essential trait for being aware of useful innovations as: "noticing when change is nascent and determining when it's just a fun fad or a major trend, useful or not ready for prime time, or an incremental improvement or game changer. All innovations can be important, but there's a big difference between those that merely improve a current process and those that are transformational." Words to live by. - RT

Chudnov, Dan. "The Web: Still Connecting Us in Surprising Ways"  Computers in Libraries  31(5)(June 2011): 28-30. - This brief but thoughtful column illustrates through a few personal stories how the web can both enhance communication as well as harm it. Chudnov uses the example of those experiencing the recent Japanese earthquake using Twitter to get the word out as it was happening to Dan and others around the globe. Subsequently, Twitter was used to gather contributions for a book he now has on his Kindle. On the other hand, assumptions that web sites increasingly make about us based on data gathered from other sites can be both intrusive and wrong. If web site developers do this, he cautions, they should also provide a way for the individual to fix these assumptions. Chudnov's piece reminds us that we can continue to be surprised for this relatively old technology we call the Internet. - RT

Hand, Eric. "Culturomics: Word playNature  474(7352)(17 June 2011): 436-440. ( - This brief article is really two things. First, it is a fascinating profile of Erez Lieberman Aiden, one of the developers of the ngram word frequency analysis of Google Books. Second, it is an approachable introduction to developments in and the implications of deep data mining in the humanities. A few years ago, Greg Crane presciently asked "What do you do with a million books?" Lieberman Aiden and his colleagues are starting to provide answers. Be sure to read the PDF version, which includes some illustrations not found in the online HTML. - PH

Hunt, Jamer. "Among Six Types of Failure, Only a Few Help You InnovateFast Company Design  (28 June 2011)( - "Fail early and often" has become such a meme that it is likely now either a cliché or an anachronism, take your pick. But rather than leaving it in the dust of now passé fashion, Hunt tries to pick out the nuggets that really matter. Not all failure is created equal, and it's important to distinguish between the types rather than to slavishly adore it as if it is an antidote for our inadequacies. What are the types of failure that Hunt identifies? Abject failure, Structural failure, Glorious failure, Common failure, Version failure, and Predicted failure. As someone who has been involved -- deeply involved -- in failure (the "glorious" option comes to mind), I think he's on to something. Not all failures are created equal, by any means, and we would do well to understand the nuances. From some failures all we can do is take our lumps, move on and try to learn what we can and cut the rest loose. While other types of failure are an important part of making something really great. We should understand all the types, and what we can take away -- or not -- as we move on to success. - RT

Laster, Stephen J.. "Leading the Higher Education IT Organization: Six Building Blocks of SuccessEDUCAUSE Review  46(3)(May/June 2011)( - This piece presents six core issues that if properly addressed will lead to information technology value. The six, which are depicted as a pyramid with the first item forming the base, are: 1) Hiring Nice, Smart, Adaptable, Skilled People, 2) Vision, Mission, Strategy, 3) Listening, Committing, Negotiating, Disagreeing, 4) Lightweight Enabling Processes, 5) Transparency, Shared Governance, Communicating, and 6) Elegant, Flexible, Technology Ecosystem. What a breath of fresh air to see "hiring nice, smart, adaptable, skilled people" as the foundation for success. I've long been a fan of hiring based on personal qualities rather than specific experiences, and the author appears to agree. If you have smart, adaptable people they will be able to become the people you need 5, 10, 15 years down the road. Recommended for anyone in library or information technology management. - RT