If you don’t know how much I love books, you likely are visiting this site for the first time. I suffer from an affliction called abibliophobia, which is the fear of being without a book or something to read.
That’s why I was excited to recently share a list of the top novels of all time.
You say, “Wait, I didn’t know there was such a list.”
OCLC’s Research team generated The Library 100 list, the list of the top novels held by the world’s libraries. Using WorldCat, our research scientists analyzed the collections of over 18,000 libraries and almost 2.7 billion items held in libraries. Libraries reflect popular, cultural, and scholarly interest over time. They are the stewards of the world’s literature. And so, they arguably represent the best place to create such a list.
Fact: Almost half of the authors have more than one book on the #Library100Novels list.
Earlier today, OCLC said “goodbye” to a service that it had been performing since the early 1970’s: the printing of library catalog cards. Most of you are familiar, I’m sure, with those 3×5 cards and the drawers that housed them. There is a lot of nostalgia for those drawers among librarians—they’re beautiful pieces of furniture that can be put to many uses: as wine racks, jewelry and collectible cases, storage for tools, crafts and sewing supplies, etc.
Fact: At peak, @OCLC shipped 8 tons of cards weekly.
However, there is not as much nostalgia for the cards themselves.
You have to remember that, before the Internet, a catalog card was the closest thing to a hyperlink that most of us ever experienced. Like hyperlinks, catalog cards took us from a quick description of information to the full resource. They were, for more than a hundred years, the absolute height of information seeking technology. Those cards may seem quaint now. But the ability for patrons, on their own, to quickly identify and find one book in a building containing tens or hundreds of thousands is a remarkable testament to the genius and hard work of librarians.
But that work was tedious. Each book required, in many cases, multiple cards: one for subject, one for author, one for title. They had to be hand typed. Any small error required a complete redo.
OCLC’s first catalog card; Used by Permission
“Your focus should be on the future not the features.”
Computerization helped, of course. That was OCLC’s original business: a centralized collection of records from which cards could be reproduced more efficiently. Rather than create the same card over-and-over at each library, members of the cooperative contributed to the shared database, which was then used to print cards for everyone. By some estimates, this process saved librarians about 90% of the time required to manually create new cards, a task that I’ve heard took around an hour. OCLC has printed around 1.9 billion cards during the past 45 years, meaning cooperative cataloging has saved our industry about 195,000 years of administrative effort. Which is great! That’s time librarians were able to spend helping people reach their learning goals and get the information they need…
Instead of typing up billions of little cards by hand.
Which is why those cards hold so little nostalgia for many librarians. They were a necessary technology at the time. And a profoundly useful one. But the tool itself was never the point. In retrospect, that’s so much easier to see than when we’re looking at today’s newest technology.
Don’t get me wrong! I love the new stuff! It’s fun and it’s fast and it’s cool. And it’s important. But nowhere near as important as understanding the needs of the people our technology serves.
Skip Prichard with the last OCLC printed catalog card
Irv Rothman is the president and chief executive officer of HP Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company. Prior to joining HP, Rothman was president and chief executive officer of Compaq Financial Services Corporation where he led it from its founding to growth of over $3.7 billion in total assets.
Irv is the author of Out-Executing the Competition. What I really admire is that Irv is donating all of the royalties he earns on the sale of the book to Room to Read, an organization dedicated to children’s literacy.
The best way to out-execute the other guy is to know your customer’s business as well as you know your own. -Irv Rothman
Much of success in business is about finding and cultivating the right talent. How did you attract and retain the talent needed to accomplish your goals?
Attracting and retaining the right people starts with a leadership commitment to first develop high performers in-house. And this has to be more than an annual “talent management” exercise. It’s an activity that leadership must consistently demonstrate is important by developing people and promoting from within. This sends key messages to an organization:
2) Career opportunities exist…. No need to look elsewhere.
3) Leadership recognizes and acknowledges that outside hires are a 50/50 proposition.
In short, provide an atmosphere where people can learn and achieve advancement based on merit. Not only will the good people stick around, their hearts will be in it.
Developing a Culture of Execution
Your book title is all about execution. How do you develop a culture of execution?
A culture of execution starts with devotion to the customer. Since it is theoretically easier to keep a customer than to find a new one, all messaging and reward systems need to be packaged around a “customer for life” philosophy. And a pay-for-performance compensation system is a must. Moreover, it can’t be black box; people need to be clear as to what rewards can be expected from results and behaviors. Once you’ve got all that organized, creating an environment where people have freedom to act on behalf of the customer is crucial. You can’t have a circumstance where people are bound by the linear strictures of a traditional command and control organization. It not only frustrates your employees, it also makes for dissatisfaction on the part of the people on the other end of the phone.
Nolan Bushnell founded groundbreaking companies such as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. In his first book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Retain and Nurture Creative Talent, he outlines a plan for helping companies bring more creativity into their organization and make it their competitive advantage. (Nolan hired Steve Jobs in 1972, two years after founding Atari.) The book is a must read for all creatives and especially anyone who aspires to manage creatives.
My good friend, best-selling author and speaker Tim Sanders of Net Minds, is his publisher. Tim graciously agreed to interview Nolan and talk about creativity, leadership, libraries and even publishing. Here is the conversation between Tim and Nolan:
I know it’s your strong belief that leaders at companies need to foster a creative culture. If you were going to give leaders one piece of advice on how to think differently about a creative culture, what would that piece of advice be?
I would encourage them to say yes to at least one crazy idea a year.
Give me an example of some of the crazy ideas you heard when you were in Atari.
Among the many that were pitched to me, one that stands out was this notion of making pretty pictures when music happened. It seemed ridiculous at the time. The product ultimately turned into Midi.
Midi, of course, is the standard that still exists to this day for connecting music devices to each other and synchronizing them.
I think we built 20,000 of them, and I think we sold six at full-price. (Laughs). But it did become a force within the industry, for sure.
Let me ask you about leadership because you’ve led several companies. Do you think of leadership in a military way, a coaching way, or an improv comedy way?