The Brady Bunch: Time to Change
When it’s time to change then it’s time to change
Don’t fight the tide come along for the ride, don’t you see
When it’s time to change you’ve got to rearrange
Move your heart into what you’re gonna be.
Sha na na na na na na na na, sha na na na na
Those unforgettable lyrics were immortalized by fictional pop-sensations, The Brady Bunch Kids. I will admit that I cannot utter the phrase “time to change” without hearing Peter Brady’s voice crack. I am unabashedly a child of the 1970s.
Fortunately for me, my most recent change at OCLC was what many have described as a “good fit,” not just for me, but also for OCLC and its growing membership. After eight years of managing a range of products and services in the Library Management, Cataloging & Metadata and Discovery & Syndication lines of businesses—accentuated by the launch five years ago of WorldShare Management Services—I was offered an opportunity to start a new gig under Lorcan Dempsey in the newly formed Membership & Research Division. I am now Executive Director, WorldShare Community Development.
But what does that mean exactly? Well, it’s not a radical departure from what drew me to OCLC in the first place. Think back about a decade to the launch of all sorts of new library automation services—“next-gen OPACs,” ERMs, curriculum-based subject guides. The next thing on everyone’s agenda was a re-envisioning of the integrated library system (ILS). I’d been complaining for some time about the inadequacy of such systems and OCLC was kind enough to invite me to finally do something about it.
I knew how to take an ILS apart—our profession had been doing that with OPACs, ERMs, federated search and link resolvers for a while. What I didn’t know was how to put one back together in a way that would affect real change. Coming to OCLC, it struck me—the way to put a library system back together was “in the cloud” with the largest community of libraries and librarians on the planet.
It takes many villages
Fast forward a few years and I’m confident that what became the first-to-market library services platform was the right direction for library automation. I could talk all day (and I have on many occasions) about the network effects of large datasets, shared infrastructure and the benefits of cloud computing. But the secret ingredient of WorldShare is not data or infrastructure or the cloud or even all the really smart people at OCLC. The thing that made WMS great was the community for whom and by whom it was built. Before a single line of code was written or a name had been chosen, advisors, pilots and thought-leaders were gathered to guide the transformation to a next-generation of library systems and services.
As our community of early adopters grew, one of those advisors, Helene Blowers, joined my team as Community Program Manager, working daily with OCLC members, WMS early adopters and OCLC product and service users of every stripe. As WMS took hold, the input of its early adopters became invaluable. In an almost unprecedented strategy, more than half of the product and development resources were devoted to reacting quickly to the recommendations of WMS early adopters, peaking in 2013–2014 when 70% of the product roadmap was created in conjunction with and prioritized by the WMS community.
Connect, collaborate, contribute
Last July, the OCLC Community Center was launched, providing a platform to connect, collaborate and contribute to OCLC’s mission. Dozens of virtual and in-person meetings were held around the world. And Helene’s staff grew—Geri Ingram, Kyle Willis and Susan Musser joined the team—as the Community Center went beyond the 100+ WMS users to include discovery, resource sharing, metadata management, license management, CONTENTdm and EZproxy. Now thousands of librarians and staff are engaged in this new platform meant to help “scale and accelerate library learning, research and innovation,” as Lorcan describes the effort.
Moreover, I always welcome the advice of my library peers. Twenty years in product management thickens one’s skin and opens one’s mind. Whether it’s feedback on community interactions or advice on managing my team’s transition to the new division, I can always be reached via email and Twitter, or on the OCLC Community Center.
But Community Development is more than just fielding product advisory and enhancement requests. Our new team will be working closely with the rest of Lorcan’s division—OCLC Research (including the Research Library Partnership and WebJunction programs) and Member Relations—and with all OCLC staff to engage with members in their own settings around the globe. Community Development means reacting to and partnering with the affinity groups that librarians and library staff form themselves, not just the ones that OCLC creates around a product or service.
Community Development, in its classic sense, means bringing people together for collective and cooperative action to generate solutions to shared problems. This mission not only gives my new team purpose, it describes the raison d’être of the OCLC cooperative.
My product teams and I have always taken great pride in the products and services we’ve been a part of over the years, but we find even greater pride in the communities we’ve built and been a part of. Scaling and accelerating learning, research and innovation has a lasting effect much greater than any single product or application that comes as a result. After a “Time to Change” finishes playing, flip that single to the B side for “We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter.”