Friday Forums - Systems Thinking: Improving and Promoting Library Value

November 4, 2011 - 9:30am - 3:30pm


"For every problem there is a solution that is simple, neat -- and wrong." --
This maxim has been attributed at various times to Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and
Peter Drucker as a wake-up call to managers who mistakenly think that making a
change in just one part of a complex problem will cure the ails of an entire system.
Everyday management thinking too often looks for straightforward cause-and-effect
relationships in problem solving that ignore the effect on, and feedback from,
the entire system" (Zemke, Ron. "Systems Thinking." Training 38:2 (2001): 40-46.

Librarians are missing a unique opportunity to improve their libraries and the organizations in which they work. A systems thinking perspective and some systems thinking tools can enable librarians to lend the value of their information expertise to problem-solving, process-improvement and strategic planning efforts in their larger organizations as well as in their libraries and information centers. This interactive workshop will provide an overview of the application of systems thinking approaches to demonstrate the value of librarians and libraries. As a result of this workshop, participants will have several new tools and perspectives that they can take back and apply in their workplaces.


Sara Tompson is Head of Library Instruction & Orientation Services at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Board (2011-2013). Her past SLA Service includes: Chair of the Engineering Division, Secretary of the Physics/Astronomy/Mathematics Division and President of SLA-Illinois.

Lorri Zipperer is Principal of Zipperer Project Management (ZPM) in Albuquerque. ZPM provides knowledge management and content development consultation, with a focus on the multidisciplinary field of patient safety. She is currently developing two publications for Gower Publishing (UK) on information and knowledge sharing issues in health care, both of which incorporate systems thinking concepts. The authors have worked in corporate, research and consulting settings. They have written, presented, and taught together on systems thinking and other topics related to the value of libraries and librarians, and won the Special Libraries Association H.W. Wilson Award for best article of 2002 for "Communicating Competencies and Collaboration."

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