5 Questions With… Jason Kucsma of The Metropolitan New York Library Council

Jason Kucsma is the Executive Director of the Metropolitan New York Library Council. His organization provides services that support greater New York City’s vibrant community of libraries, archives, and museums. METRO’s membership rolls are rife with some of the city’s most venerable cultural heritage institutions, including New York Public Library, MoMA, and Columbia University Libraries, as well as City University of New York libraries, and hundreds of other diverse member libraries. Jason has spearheaded an aggressive digital transformation effort at METRO since joining in 2008. 

Question 1: In fewer than 50 words, how do you define ‘digital strategy’?

“At the risk of sounding wonky, digital strategy includes the management of personnel, processes, workflows, and technology (in that order) needed to implement innovative initiatives that meet the changing expectations of your constituents (or clients/customers in a corporate setting) in a digital age. In practice, it’s learning to implement fast and grow certain programs or let them fail just as quickly and move on.”

Question 2: You aren’t a CDO, CMO, or CIO, and METRO is a non-profit — so why do you think you were asked to be interviewed by Chief Digital Officer?

“Well, that’s probably a better question for your editor…but my guess is that it’s because my organization has been an aggressive adopter of all things digital for the past five years, and especially the past three. That approach is not typically associated with non-profits, but we’ve been successful in expanding our footprint and increasing engagement using social media, email newsletters, and digital-only publishing. We’re deeply invested in our web presence as the first or second point of contact with our existing and potential members.

Also, my unusual background has served me well in the unofficial duties managing digital change for the organization. In the late 90s,  I launched a magazine and served as its publisher through 2006. Those were the days when we were all learning from scratch how to exist in a new, digital-intense environment, and we had no ‘best practice’ organizations to emulate, as none existed at the time. As a start-up magazine, we really had no choice but to adopt every new tactic that had even the remotest potential to help us stand out. Though the magazine eventually shuttered, the experience proved to be invaluable, and I think helped to distinguish me among many formidable candidates when the METRO Board was deciding who to hire as the new Executive Director after my predecessor retired in 2010.”

Question 3: What kind of mobile device do you have, and what are your three favorite apps?

“I’ve gone back and forth between iOS and Android devices, but right now I’m using my iPhone and iPad exclusively. I can’t be pinned down to only three apps, though, so I’ll give you three categories:

1) TuneIn Radio, Twitter, and the NYTimes app cover my primary media diet

2) Evernote, Wunderlist and Mailbox cover my GTD [getting things done] needs

3) MLB’s At-Bat covers my seasonal sports needs. MLB really got the mobile content subscription environment right — lots of lessons to be learned there.”

Question 4: Why should people care about METRO? 

METRO plays a connective role as a hub for library, archives, and museums communities in the metropolitan New York region, which also has notable intersections with knowledge management and digital asset management communities — which, by definition, overlaps with what’s been dubbed as ‘big data’ in recent years, and which is a top three area of focus for many for-profit industry sectors. We have over 250 institutional member organizations that include all three public library systems (NY, Brooklyn, Queens), NYU, Columbia, and the long tail of academic, special, hospital, and school libraries in the region. We bridge library science and technological innovation to help information professionals succeed in an evolving digital world.”

Question 5: You’ve obviously had some success in your current role, but if you had to do it all over again, what would you do?

“I love my current administrative work — helping smart people do great things. But if I were starting over right out of college, I’d be a web developer. Those are the real heroes of the online environment, building tools that create communities and connect them with invaluable information resources that make our lives better.”


For more information about Jason and his company, visit LinkedIn or follow METRO on Twitter @tweetMETRO. 

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