Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ultimate Theory of Everything

Not our name.... Yet, this was the operating concept behind a body of theory of potential relevance to librarianship. It comes far afield from the realm of military strategy. Librarians have little to do with guns, bombs, and airplanes; probably the closest approach to this realm would be encounters with government agents attempting to enforce the Patriot Act against which the principles of our profession tend to align us in opposition. However, librarianship now, as seen in our discussion of the future, has everything to do with issues of survival. For this reason and out of a posture of free inquiry, it behooves us to look at whatever may be useful to the profession.

To understand the theory, it is important to understand the creator. This person was John R. Boyd, an Air Force officer who is virtually unknown. He began his career as a self-proclaimed "Top Gun" style fighter pilot after the Korean War who had a standing bet that any opponent starting out on the tail (dominant) position on his aircraft would have his role reversed within 40 seconds. He never lost. After completing the definitive tactical manual for air combat, he moved on to make major contributions to the design of the F-15 and F-16 fighter planes which have played a dominant role in national defense for the last decades. His ideas continued to evolve beyond aerial warfare to grapple with the very foundations of military theory. Along the way, his naturally abrasive personality grew positively eccentric. Already disliked by the Air Force for interfering with their airplane designs (though they embraced his results), Boyd took to roaming the Pentagon in a tattered bathrobe and slippers. For almost no reason at all, he was capable of collaring four star generals and shouting criticisms in their face in a shower of spittle. His profane fighter pilot's language would make secretaries weep, and his own supporters speculated that he "did not have both oars in the water." Yet out of his ruminations grew a body of theory of conflict in any form, and some hints suggest that his ideas were fundamental to the fabulous success of the U.S. military in its two Gulf Wars (in military terms anyway). At Boyd's funeral in 1997, the Air Force from whom he was almost completely estranged contributed 11 minutes to his eulogy. Nevertheless, the work of this shadowy figure on survival deserves the attention of librarians facing an uncertain future in a competitive environment.

There is no definitive written record of Boyd's ideas. They were delivered in idiosyncratic and near incomprehensible slide presentations lasting up to 13 hours. Only smaller, suggestive documents and secondary sources remain. The basis of his theory was three scientific concepts: 1) Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem 2) Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and 3) Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. From these he reasoned that any organization exists in an infinitely complex and dynamic universe. Thus, no organization can encompass within itself all the tools necessary to deal with the challenges it will encounter. To survive, the organization must continually adapt to its environment through a procedure which became formalized as the Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action Loop (OODA). In terms of the airplanes which were Boyd's original subject, the observation step involved perceiving a threat. The orientation step called for formulating a list of options for response--attack or flee, in which direction, and how. The decision step required choosing an option, and the final step was to execute it. With this formalism, the criteria for success was found to correlate almost exclusively with the SPEED with which the organization cycled through this process. In the airplane example, success did not depend on the speed, turning radius, range or any physical quality of the airplane nor the level of training, eyesight or particular attribute of the pilot, as one might suppose, but on the speed at which the system of pilot and airplane could run the decision cycle. The power of this theory lay in its broad application to any sufficiently defined organization whether it was the entire Marine Corps which formulated a new doctrine of maneuver based on this system, the entire military forces of the United States, or companies in the business world or sports teams all of which have found notable success with these ideas. The rhetoric surrounding the theory is more pervasive than one might realize. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell called for "getting inside the decision cycle" of terrorists following 9/11, he was virtually quoting Boyd's ideas.

So, the message for libraries to consider as they organize for the future is clear: Survival depends on the speed of decision cycling.

Boyd, J.R., 1976. Destruction and Creation.

Coram, R., 2002. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. Little, Brown, New York.

LAUC-SD Discussion on “Future of the UC Librarian” – July 13, 2010

LAUC members at UC San Diego met on July 13, 2010 to discuss The Future of the UC Librarian. The meeting was organized and facilitated by the LAUC-SD R&PD Committee. Prior to the meeting, we distributed the five topics discussed at the LAUC Southern Regional Meeting at UC Irvine. Along with the topics, we sent the trends identified at that meeting for each topic. During our meeting, we broke up into topic groups and the objective for each group was to 1) review the UCI trends and decide whether we agreed with them or not, 2) add any trends we thought were missing from the list, and 3) develop a list of actions. The results of the five discussions are attached.

LAUC-SD R&PD Committee
Karen Heskett
Patrick McCarthy
Annelise Sklar
Susan Shepherd (Chair)
Dominique Turnbow (Co-Chair)
Mary Wickline

TOPIC 1 –Preparing the current and future generations to work in 21st century settings

From the regional meeting at UC Irvine:
• Librarians are being given fewer opportunities to provide input on administrative issues that affect them and their work
• Librarians believe they must be generalists who can do all the new and old tasks done by librarians, but they are unable to do so
• Librarians need more and more training on technical (and management) issues to develop new skill sets

UC San Diego:
We agree with all above, and would include management training in the 3rd bullet as well.

UC San Diego Trends:

• Reference requests are dropping. We are having less contact with our users (chat reference excluded), but their reference needs are still there.
• Data curation will be huge. We need expertise.
• Scholarly publishing will increase.


• Training – the need for training will continue to increase.
o Management skills
o Technical skills (9)
o Cross-training within the library (7)
• Communication – we need to know more about:
o Campus trends (1)
o UC-wide initiatives (6)
o Our users needs and trends (1)
o And we need to information it while discussions are happening, not after decisions have been made (2)
• Collaboration
o Within the library (3)
o Across campus (3)
o UC-wide (3)

TOPIC 2 –Preparing the current and future generations to work in 21st century settings

From the regional meeting at UC Irvine:
• There is more and more online instruction and digital content available
• Libraries provide space for human contact

UC San Diego:
We agree with the above.

UC San Diego Trends:

• There is a push for tenured faculty to do instruction (lecturers have been laid off)
• Joint programs with other universities are increasing
• Increase in new undergraduate and graduate programs and degrees (2)
• Record numbers of students are coming into the library (7)
• The role of the university is changing. The undergraduate degree is becoming a commodity, i.e. a ticket to a good job. Libraries can help prepare students for the skills they will need at work, vs. academic skills and training received in their coursework. (15)


None identified – ran out of time.

TOPIC 3 – Acquiring unique materials assuming a UC one-copy universe

From the regional meeting at UC Irvine:
• Economics make it tough to be part of shared projects
• One copy doesn’t work for all materials
UC San Diego:
First, re the economics trend (above), it appears backwards to us. Economics (i.e. the budget) require shared project / one-copy universe.
Second, agree one copy is more difficult for some materials than others and consensus will be difficult.

UC San Diego Trends:

• Culture – changing the culture(s) will be the biggest hurdle. UCLA & UC Berkeley see themselves as the flagship campuses and are not willing to give up immediacy of local copy and are reluctant to carry lesser budgets of smaller campuses.
• Infrastructure – we do not currently have the infrastructure to support a one-copy universe. Processes are duplicative across campuses. We must change how we are organized.
• Technology – related to infrastructure, there must be a universal technology used at all campuses for collections & technical services
• Budget Disparities – in order to have a one-copy universe, there must be a “UC Libraries” budget that funds the universal system-wide (“Tier 1” level) one-copy. Funding must come from the top down in order for it to work.
• Interface – current interface is lacking
• Digital – as more resources become digital, one-copy will be easier to facilitate. Time is a factor in receiving materials from another campus (ex. Berkeley ILL is slow).


• Use UCLA & Berkeley’s desire to be perceived as the flagship campuses – make them central repository for shared physical collection, which would alleviate some campuses space issues.
• Coordinated weeding with validated quality (decision process) will be needed. Especially need a shared decision-making process on how retrospective weeding will occur. Cost & time to do weeding must be shared. SLRF closing makes coordinated weeding an imminent concern.
• Coordinated selection process across campuses is necessary – including across languages and formats.
• UC-wide shared approval plan for core collections that all campuses share (like history, literature). If no e-version of monograph, core print would be at all campuses with additional distributed copies available.
• Binding must also be coordinated system-wide with an eye to which copy is the unique copy that “deserves” top-quality binding
• Identify areas of expertise. Create more discipline-specific Tier 2 working groups (Latin American Studies has a working model).
• Decision rubric or process for determining when duplicate copies are necessary
• Shared print will require validating the quality of a copy and when & how it gets replaced, where cost comes from, how time is shared/used—must be a systemic process with the same criteria across campuses.
• Fund UC-wide resources from the top down. The one-copy available to all campuses must be funded first system-wide and not be part of individual campus’s budgets.
• Need a true system-wide federated search: across formats including the catalog, digital resources, special collections—include everything!
• Authentication & digital rights management across campuses must be managed.
• Knowing our community better is essential; promote awareness of system-wide collection strengths. Identify areas of expertise.
• Technical Services has expertise that should be utilized in facilitating this change.
• Special Collections has cultural barriers to digital repository (rights management, search interface lacking), but can selectively target what can be exposed. Even if it doesn’t circulate, serve up the metadata in federated search because there is value in knowing where it exists.

Topic 4 : Evaluating ourselves for promotion: what should count in the future

From the regional meeting at UC Irvine:

• We getting so much busier that we have too little time for professional development
• We have a problem quantifying soft skills like collaboration
• Tedious bureaucratic procedures (added this one to our list and got 2 dots)
• Low salaries
• Must be both a generalist and a subject specialist to work effectively
• Teaching is undervalued
• There should be a balance between criterion 1-4
UC San Diego Trends:

We mostly agreed with the trends above and would add the following trends:
• “hitting the ceiling” – need to consider decoupling Step 6 and “distinguished librarian” (11 dots)
• Things that should be given more weight in reviews
o Embedded librarians (7 dots)
o Liaison librarians (2 dots)
o Instruction (1 dot)
o Informal teaching experiences (e.g. consultations) (8 dots)
o Collaborating with faculty (5 dots)
We had a lengthy discussion about Criteria A-D (aka 1-4):
• Librarians are very busy and it is difficult to progress in B-D (aka 2-4)
• Appreciate that UC librarians can move up in salary without taking on more administrative responsibilities (12 dots)
• Appreciate that librarians can select activities within B-D (i.e. you don’t have to do everything)
• There is a perception that unspoken cultural and university librarian expectations impact reviews – (e.g. it is not clear what the UL really wants to see highlighted in files; there is an expectation to be involved in national organizations as one progresses through the steps, however it is not explicitly stated anywhere)

Going forward, we would like to see:
• Generally, we would like to see more formal goal setting. We discussed the possibility of tying goals to reviews, but realized there would be a lot of issues related to how that would be implemented before we would feel comfortable with it. (7 dots)
• Reward creativity and innovation (11 dots)
• Reward “soft skills,” such as collaboration, communication and project management (we think that a successful project manager has to excel at “soft skills” (13 dots; one comment that “soft skills” does not mean “easy”)
• Reward initiative, process and effort, not only accomplishments (10 dots)

TOPIC 5 – Getting stuff where it needs to go: Discovery and delivery

From the regional meeting at UC Irvine:
• UC wide, our instruction efforts focus on discovery (5)
• WorldCat local is complicated by how difficult it is to access electronic content and how difficult it is to determine local availability. (8)
• Patrons expect that electronic materials have replaced print. (3)
• Mobile technology in all areas. They are a part of the job environment. We will provide mobile devices for students to use. (21)
• Challenge for us to help patrons in unfamiliar electronic environments via tools such as QP. (4)
• Use of archives for undergraduate teaching and research (4)
• Using resource collection funding to support document delivery (4)
• fee based delivery even though users expect free services (3)
• Digital delivery of any digital content (e.g. UC pays for any request, like Questia articles) (6)
• Federated searching that is less helpful than a user wants or needs (4)
• problems reconciling local v. more union-like catalogs. (6)

UC San Diego:
Mostly agree with all above.

UC San Diego Trends:

• Funding: (1)
• Bypassing library to get resources (e.g. Kindle books and other materials available for micropayments) (2)
• What to subsidize? (1)
o Pay to a determined threshold
• Does the user pay?
• Enhanced tools:
o Union vs local catalog – which to enhance? (5)
 Rare books/focus is on unique material—how do we include unique local info in WorldCat Local? (1)
 Connect multiple versions (5)
• otherwise too difficult for users (right now, records for print and e from different vendors are all separate
• Simply unified
• Marketing/purchasing journal articles rather than the entire journal
• User expectation for delivery is high
• Users want to use their own mobile devices (rather than ones the library provides) (15)
o We focus on developing apps to organize materials (4)
o Promote better (2)


• Develop tools and interfaces for user autonomy (13)
• Library get out of the way (e.g., stop putting up barriers that delay access) (5)
• More awareness of faculty and student expectations (5)
• Learn more about use of textbooks: faculty, students, bookstores (5)
• Make the process for making a decision transparent (i.e., is NextGen Melvyl Pilot here to stay? Who decides and how do we know?) (1)
• Call things “beta” not “pilot” (11)
• Develop texting reference (6)
• Provide things to people regardless of their technology level (4)
• Set realistic goals (4)
• More empirical data about our uses (e.g., what technology they own) (15)