Innovation from Thought to Action: Crafting Research Questions and Creating Change

On Friday, April 27, 2012 in North Carolina Central University’s Criminal Justice Building Auditorium, the School of Library and Information Sciences had it’s research colloquium.  As an Institute of Museum and Library Services scholarship recipient, I helped organize the colloquium and it was a great success!


Our keynote speaker was Rebecca Renard, who is a hero of mine.  I first saw her at the 2011 North Carolina Library Association conference and I have been in awe of her ever since.  She was gracious enough to come down from Washington DC to touch on the subject of how to take research questions and turn them into action to create change in our communities.  She is the Teen Program Coordinator for the DC Public Libraries and has also started her own consulting firm, Inquiring Minds Consulting. I got to introduce her, which was already an honor, but then she told me that she reads my blog!  That made my day…..along with the pictures, DC Public Libraries keychain she gave me and all of the amazing advice she gave!


There was also a panel who served to respond to Rebecca’s speech and give us some more nuggets of wisdom.  On the panel we had:

Tammy Baggett: Director of the Durham County Public Libraries

Tamika Barnes: Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency Library

Jamal Cromity: who worked for Dialog and has developed his own company, J-venue

Duncan Smith: creator and founder of NoveList, EBSCO Publishing’s electronic readers’ advisory service

Mike Wasilick: Director of the Wake County Public Libraries


Our panel and keynote speaker were rounded out with presentations from

Dr. Chad Morgan, Distance Education Coordinator and Visiting Assistant Professor from our department: “The Revolution was not Tweeted: Reflections on the Information Ecology of the American Civil Rights Movement”

Reflections on research from Dr. Joseph Meloche, an Assistant Professor from our department


The colloquium went from 9:00am to 3:00pm and allowed for students to speak one on one with our guests.



These are just some notes I jotted down….

One piece of advice from every speaker was to follow your passion.


A poignant remark that Rebecca made was that it’s important to pay attention to the information that isn’t in the library; the stories that aren’t being told.  I related this to Latinos and how they may not use the public library because their stories aren’t there.

Later in response to my question about the realistic aspect of putting your innovation into action, Rebecca talked about how she was told that what she wanted to do wasn’t in her job description and when she did do all of the wonderful things she has done, she wasn’t paid extra for it.

(I didn’t write anything else from Rebecca.  I was too enthralled. 🙂


Tammy Baggett:

Mentor someone.  You don’t have to be a graduate.  Don’t be afraid to step out of the box; follow your passion.

When interviewing, check the mission as a way to know if it’s a place you would like to work for.

Don’t just work within the confines of the job description.

Durham County has “Lunch with the Director”, which is where she has lunch with 5 members of the community and asks 3 questions: what are they doing well?, what are they not doing well?, and who should they be reaching out to?


Tamika Barnes:

There’s no way to bring the community in with an 8-5 job, so find other ways to do it.

Mentoring is a way to always give back

Just because you weren’t hired, doesn’t mean you’re not qualified.  I may have 5 people who are all qualified for the position, but I can only pick one.


Jamal Cromity:

Be passionate

Be willing to take risks

Whenever possible, reach back

I asked the panelists to give a practical view of how we can take our new ideas and apply them within our new positions: First priority is the duties outlined in your job description.  Once you have those done, then you can get creative.

When being creative and innovative, do so in response or in line with the organizations objectives

Be coachable

Be realistic

May not be compensated monetarily for extra efforts

When you first come in, learn and listen


Mike Wasilick:

He responded to Rebecca by saying: We wouldn’t know what to do with her (referring to her innovative efforts)

As an administrator, his job to create the environment where they can recruit someone like Rebecca; need to create the infrastructure, but there are difficult systems where people are stuck in their ways

Planning is difficult because you have to plan for 2019 in 2012

From an administrators point of view: it’s easy to build a box and they sometimes do it by accident to protect jobs, etc; no one sets out to put the library in a box

To be a leader, you need to be able to take the pressure and the heat


Duncan Smith:

Have passion, but it’s important to find someone within your organization who will share that passion and sustain it and nurture it

You are interviewing every employer just as much as they are interviewing you

Talking about his products: they did market research to find the disconnect between what they are putting out and what the community needs and found that librarians are sporadic in marketing.

The world is so dynamic, so there needs to be ongoing research of the community

Don’t be one to point out problems, give solutions

Find a mentor within the organization

Another tip from the panel and Rebecca: Be innovative and creative, but you won’t always be compensated for it


Those are all the notes that I happened to write down, but the entire event was riddled with wonderful tips and advice from Rebecca and the panelists.  I really appreciated the realistic point of view that the panel added.  I am always ready to take my ideas and run with them when I get my first professional position, but that’s not realistic and it was great to have that point of view now, rather than later. 🙂


I spoke with some fellow students afterward and everyone was as inspired and fired up as I was.  One tip was to include more Information Science related aspects, which I’m sure the department will take into account next semester.



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