Category Archives: Library 2.0/Web 2.0

Have You Found Us Yet?

Ellen Forsyth writes:

The Melbourne Museum wants to make it really easy for you to connect with them online. They have signs around the museum prompting you to connect with the via facebook, twitter, Flickr, YouTube or Foursquare. They also had signed advertising their free wifi. They also have a free ipad app Please touch the exhibit.

I like the way they prompt and do not assume that you know where to find them online.

Your “Library” Doesn’t Participate in Social Media, But Your People Do – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson

Much discussion has been made about librarians reaching out through social media to our communities and our patrons and rightly so. But, we often overlook the role that social media offers for us internally as a means to strengthen our organizations.

One thing to remember is that libraries really do not participate in social networks. People do.

In fact, your “library” doesn’t exist. You may have a building. You may have items on your shelves. You may have people who show up to do work. But, there is no “library.” Often, we speak of our libraries as if they are these living entities outside of the people who make them up.

“The library prohibits the use of cell phones in all public areas.”

Actually, the library doesn’t prohibit anything. Only people can prohibit.

Our libraries are groups of people who come together to do a job. Together, we make rules, systems, policies, and procedures in order to coordinate our work. We need to understand how the individuals fit together to get a job done. We need some predictability. If we had to remake the rules everyday, we’d never accomplish anything.

There are two important challenges that come from this. First, it is easy to fall into a rut and make things so predictable that nothing ever changes. There are many people who talk about breaking out of ruts, so I am will not focus on this in this post.

The second challenge, which is my focus, is much more interesting. This is that it is impossible to create rules for most situations. Most of the time, when faced with a decision, organizational members take their understanding (based on past experience) and apply it as best as possible to the task at hand. Sometimes this is a very rote task, and other times, this is a once-in-a-career opportunity.  It can take months or years of working in an organization to really understand the unwritten participation rules. Empowering people to act can be even trickier.

In an ideal, magical world, all of our organizational members would know about all of the actions ever taken by our colleagues. We would build up our knowledge and have that in our heads. Then, when faced with a decision, we would have the ultimate point of reference to use in acting.

But, as we know, that’s not how the real world works. In the real world, we are always making and remaking meaning within our organizations. Each person has limited knowledge and imperfect information. We react to our environment, observe results, and decide if our actions worked. Importantly, we decide together. Sometimes this takes the form of formal policies, evaluations, or procedures. Sometimes, this happens more informally through friendships, gossip, and frowning faces. In all cases, organizational members are bumping around, making sense of the world. Together, we make meaning through doing work. Talking to someone about working is never the same as actually working with that person.

My library is open seven days a week, day and night. Our staff members are never all together at one time. There are many staff members who will never meet each other. Yet, we hope that our staff members will make similar decisions when presented with similar situations. But, there is no way we can capture every rule, every practice, or every approach. There is no handbook that will ever be complete. There is no workshop that will ever be long enough.

But, with social media, we can connect. We can share our days via Twitter or Facebook. We can document via shared wikis. We can demonstrate via YouTube. Of course, social media will not solve all problems, but they offer an affordable way to overcome space and time limitations. They are one more tool in our tool box. Most importantly, it offers an avenue to work together, which is the most powerful way to build meaning.

The question becomes how? First, those with knowledge must contribute. Some of the most vital organizational information will come from managers, so they must commit to using these tools. Simply put, organizational members will follow their organizational managers. If they put needed information and direction in these tools, then staff members will need to access these tools to do their jobs. Second, organizational members must understand how the tools are used and what they can do. Most importantly, they must understand how they should contribute and how their contribution will forward the goals of the organization. Finally, participation must become part of everyday work. It cannot be seen as an optional fun activity, but as actual work.

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Policies Don’t Do Work – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy swanson

Many technology policies are created out of fear. They are created to protect the organization from its own members. They present a laundry list of illegal activities from copyright infringement, to libel, to harassment, to intellectual property theft, etc. They “protect” the library from lawbreakers and heart breakers.

Of course, policies have never done an hour’s worth of work…ever. Policies don’t do anything. People do things, and the best policies should offer guidance to the actions of organizational members. The goal of all policies should be to prevent problems before they occur, not act like “red light cameras” taking photos of you running a red ligth after the fact.

Policies that offer guidance should emphasize use. All policies will have gray areas, but when policies focus on use, they start to build a context for the organization. They should connect technology to the values and goals of the organization by defining ways the technology could be used.

So, how do we use policies to actually impact what we do? First and foremost, policies must arise from a collaborative process. Groups of people should work together to craft policies. This process should connect organizational values to the developing process. It should capture ideas, challenge organizational members to interact, and create meaning. Striving for true participation can be inefficient and even painful, but this is an important mechanism for making change through policy.

Once policies are in place, it takes leadership to not only keep them front and center, but to connect them to practice. There is a range of ways to do this. Leaders can bring staff together to workshop policies and run scenarios with staff to create shared meanings. Leaders can also highlight real-world successes by staff members who enact the policies. Social networking tools can be utilized to call attention to enacted policies highlighting success.

In any case, leaders must grant a degree of trust to organizational members. All situations are unique, and individuals must use their judgment to apply past practice and stated policy to a situation. Technology policies that focus on use, that have been developed collaboratively, and that are actively reviewed are policies that will offer guidance and actually impact decisions.

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.



Just got the proof from our article in NRAL! Very excited about this piece.

The Conundrums of Control and Adaptability – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson

Administrators face two conundrums with Web 2.0 tools. David Weinberger called the first a “conundrum of control” in his book Everything is Miscellaneous. This conundrum states that organizational leaders have an important interest in ensuring that 2.0 tools are used to further the organization’s mission. However, the more controls that they put in place (such as approval processes for blog posts) the less useful the 2.0 tools become.

The second conundrum is what I call a conundrum of adaptibility. This conundrum states that organizations with looser controls allow for more experimentation by individuals as they work to solve problems. However, organizations with tighter controls more easily communicate innovations across the organization. So, less control brings about innovation but may also mean that few people in the organization will actually learn about the innovation.

You can think of controls on a continuum of looseness and tightness.

Too Tight: Organizations with controls that are too tight lock down 2.0 tools to the point where they are too cumbersome to use. Tight controls do foster a shared vision of technologies and standardize use. However, tight controls prevent adaptability because users can not experiment and play with tools. Policies, approvals, resource limitations, and restrictive organizations can kill adaptations.

Too Loose: I used to assume that absolute freedom is an advantage because then staff members would widely adapt tools to solve problems. But, absolute freedom presents several problems that revolve around a lack of definition and context for 2.0 tools. Absolute freedom puts the individual and organization at risk for misuse of technology on a legal and political level. More importantly, this lack of definition prevents the adaptation of technology by not clarifying how tools can be used to solve problems and by not having structures in place to facilitate the diffusion of ideas across the organization. People are either not clear about how a tool can be useful, or they do not know about existing adaptations of technologies to problems.

Balance: When a system is in balance, there is enough freedom to experiment and adapt, but there is enough definition and connections that organizational members than utilize innovations. Sometimes this may mean that administrators and leaders step forward to promote and give a push to new innovations. Other times, it may mean that administrators stay out of the way as organizational members wrestle with the local problems facing their department or subunit.

Control and adaptability are clearly intertwined. Most technologies go through a “loose” period followed by a more defined “tight” period. In healthy situations, the pendulum will adjust itself as needed. In unhealthy situations, tools can be locked up or underutilized.

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.