People used to need the help of library and IT staff to do things like find articles, edit videos, create databases, install a VOIP phone system, etc. This is changing. People are increasingly sophisticated users of digital media and computers. Third-party software applications and web-based services (read: not made or vetted by your local library and IT staff) are increasingly accessible. Obvious, I know, but it bears repeating.
People don’t need us as they used to; yet we librarians and IT staff sense we can still be helpful (good for us!). Our challenge is therefore this: we have to A) figure out new ways to be helpful and B) let our users see us being helpful in those ways (they won’t buy into the idea until they see it).
This is easy enough to say, but how do we do it? I’m not sure. Here’s a proposed rule of thumb: If you want to understand what someone needs, you can’t go to far astray if you start by doing what they do. Look Like your People.
To put it another way: in a world of change our compass is the things that aren’t changing: people will still need to learn, teach, do research, and produce scholarship. How they will do these things is evolving. How we will help them do these things should be evolving, too. We need to be involved to evolve. Not involved as external supports doing mystical things inside an organizational black box but as integral partners shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers and learners in the trenches. We need to “embed [our] resources and expertise into the systems and tools students and faculty use in their daily lives,” to quote library visionary David Lewis.
If we engage in things that look and feel like teaching, learning, research, and scholarship, we’ll be ok. If participating in these activities doesn’t immediately solve the problem of how we’ll be helpful to the academic mission, it will at least help us be much more familiar with and engaged in the core of that mission, and being present is the first step. Opportunities will follow.
Some examples from our own work place. Trying to figure out how to teach the academic use of multimedia, we partnered to develop a semester-long, hands-on course carefully integrated with an established Journalism course. Eventually our media course was recognized as a legitimate product on its own, added to the course bulletin, and our “teacher,” to that point a regular old Library and IT staff member, was honored with a faculty appointment, and is now an actual teacher. This would be an example of us looking like a teacher.
Another: trying to learn how to engage students meaningfully at the point of need — their class project — we’re testing out what we call a “project studio:” our staff join opt-in work teams with students, and the team decides what its learning goals will be and how it will go about meeting them. We’re a partner and we learn with and from the students, adding library and IT know-how where necessary, learning new know-how constantly. Result–we’re looking like a student.
Do these two projects solve the question of how IT and library organizations can be relevant to their communities in an era of change? Not fully, of course. But they are helpful now and they might grow into something bigger. And the staff involved at the very least will be in a wonderfully preferable position as we slouch further into the digital era–that of seeing teaching, learning, and scholarship from “within” those activities.
From Michael: Christoph Deeg of the Zukunftwerkstatt in Germany agreed to do a guest post for me outlining the origins and philosophies of this group. I spent an incredible day with the group in Berlin – and learned so much from them. I was honored to be asked to participate as a founding member last March and am pleased Christoph agreed to write for TTW – in English!
The Zukunftwerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V. is a non-profit-organisation that brings people together who are active in public institutions or private enterprises dealing with future possibilities of mediating of cultural and scientific topics. It is the aim of our organisation to develop and realize concepts that will make knowledge society come true. We are open to people and their ideas and consider ourselves mediators between institutions, enterprises, people and products, while not pursuing any financial interests. We are guided by the desire to find and support people of vision who believe – as we do – that cooperation at all levels will unfold new and exciting possibilities for all participants and hence for all customers or users.
Dividing lines between learning and playing, between education and entertainment are breaking down. New virtual worlds and leisure time options are evolving. Interaction, multi-optional, individual and global communication systems are gaining ground. Negotiation and utilization of knowledge in the fields of science and culture will become essential. If we acknowledge the overall scheme of things, a new means in communication will emerge with new networks and unique possibilities of cooperation: Users will gain global access to cultural and scientific subject matter. Enterprises and institutions, if cooperating closely, will gain access to millions of interested, creative and openminded users and customers. Never before have so many opportunities been better for such complex cooperation at all levels between public institutions such as libraries, museums or private enterprise as for example the games industry. And never before were we closer to realizing a knowledge and culture society, without the partners in cooperation having to give up any of their own goals.
We believe that libraries will play an important role in conveying knowledge and culture in the future. But they won`t be able to define themselves as simply providing access to knowledge, because nowadays they compete with a whole range of alternative suppliers. Libraries depend for their legitimization on the advantages, which the society that finances them draws from their services: preserving cultural heritage, promoting literacy and serving as mediators and managers of media and information.
We also believe that computer games and Web 2.0 will have a huge influence on the way cultural and scientific content will be imparted in the future. Therefore it is important to understand the culture behind these new media which is based on cooperation, transparency, interaction, trust, sharing, and having fun.
The best way to describe the modern internet is to show a picture of an soccer-stadium like the one here. The stadium itself is useless. What makes it alive are the people, the teams, the fans. All the different platforms that you can find in the internet like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Youtube are useless without the people that upload and share content. It is all about people not about software and it is not possible to understand anything of these new platforms only by a theoretical discussion. To understand the people the way they work and communicate, they way they care and having fun we have to become users and gamers.
While at the moment most of the libraries are trying to follow and understand trends and technologies they have to become their designers not in a technical but in a content and service orientated way.
We do not think that there is any kind of “rat race” between the traditional and the future library or between the books and the computers. There is neither a competition between gaming and seriousness. But we found out that if you start this exciting journey you will have to work hard, learn a lot and you will have fun.
Our story began in 2008 in Mannheim where we (Julia Bergmann, Jin Tan and Christoph Deeg) met at the celebration dinner in the occasion of the Bibliothekartag which is the biggest library conference in Germany and probably in Europe. We all have different backgrounds. Julia is a librarian and works as a trainer for information literacy. Jin is also a librarian. After working in a huge library in Berlin he is now on his way back to china where he amongst other things will develop new intercultural projects for the Zukunftswerkstatt. Christoph is not a librarian. After studying Jazz drums he worked in the range of marketing and sales for the music – and the games industry. All together we come from different worlds and cultures and we still believe that this interdisciplinary background is very helpful for our work. But lets go back to that evening 2008 in Mannheim. After we had dinner we we started talking about libraries, gaming, the web 2.0, the future a.s.o. And while we where exchanging our experiences the idea was born to do something at the Bibliothekartag 2009 in Erfurt. And so the story went on.
The first idea was to create a little space for the visitors of the Bibliothekartag 2009 conference in Erfurt to try out the Web 2.0 and the world of computer games. We wanted the librarians to try out these new technologies and to discuss their experiences and ideas. From our point of view most of the librarians in germany did and still do not have much experience with gaming and the web 2.0. This is by the way not only a problem in libraries. You can find the same situation in institutions like museums, operas, universities and even private enterprises. And this is probably comparable to most of the countries worldwide. We started to present our idea to librarians, companies and institutions and we were happy to see that we got a lot of support. Companies like Electronic Arts, libraries like the ETH-library in Zürich, universities like the University of Applied Science in Potsdam and last but not least a huge number of librarians helped us. The result was a bit different to the first idea but in positive way.
We had our own exhibition stand where we introduced our visitors to the world of opportunities and possibilities arising from the use of computer games and Web 2.0 applications. Everybody was invited to try out the aspects and possibilities of new media, computer games and diverse web tools and to gain a better idea of the vast potential of these devices for the development of their libraries. Our visitors had also an opportunity to learn from best-practice models so far in use in libraries worldwide, where Web 2.0 applications were enhancing their services to their customers. The librarians could also experience the chances of including computer games, internet communities and social media into their services and of course we shared our enthusiasm with all the visitors at our exhibition stand. We had speeches and a very successful panel discussion with librarians, game-developers and futurologists about the future of libraries. To get an little insight about Erfurt 2009 we created a little trailer. Enjoy yourself
After one year successful voluntary working together we found ourselves again at the celebration-dinner of a Bibliothekartag. And while we where celebrating our success we where asked to go on with our work. Today we have an legal form that goes with our activities. We started a research programme and we are teaching librarians how to use the Web 2.0 and computer games as part of their daily work. At www.zukunftswerkstatt.mixxt.org you can find our interdisciplinary online-community which is open for everyone who wants to think about the question how we will impart cultural and scientific content in the future. We are also talking to companies and politicians to make them understand how important it is to support the libraries on their way in the future. Beside this we started to found an own research-institute. Furthermore we are realizing a roadshow which is a mobile-future-library. But the most important thing is we are activating people to try out these new technologies.
In 2010 the library-conference was located in Leipzig. Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm from the University of Applied Science in Potsdam who had been with us from the first activities in Erfurt 2009 told us that there was the possibillity for the Zukunftswerkstatt to present Michael as speaker at the library-conference in Leipzig. It was the Embassy of the United States that made this possible. Prof. Dr. Hobohm also had an great idea. As mentioned before we found a legal form for the Zukunftswerkstatt that goes with our activities and structure. Our legal form is an registered non-profit association. We wanted to found it officially during the libraryconference in Leipzig. In Germany you need 7 people to found such an association. Generally who can ask everyone to become a founder. But we wanted to have founders that identify to our project and our activities and that will support us. Prof. Dr. Hobohm asked Michael to become the 7th founder. Michael accept our invitation and so he became and he still is a founder of the Zukunftswerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V.
From left to right: Jin Tan (Zukunftswerkstatt), Christoph Deeg (Zukunftswerkstatt), Dr. Rudolf Mumenthaler (ETH Zürich) , Julia Bergmann (Zukunftswerkstatt), Michael Stephens, Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm (University of applied science Potsdam) und Hans-Jürgen Schmid (librarian emeritus)
We are very happy that we were able to gain Michael Stephens as a founder of our association. During the day that we spent with him in Berlin we were able to learn a lot. Sharing and discussing ideas and visions is important. It was fascinating to find out the similarities and the differences between our two cultures. But we also found out that we had much more similarities than expected. We believe that the future of libraries is not based on countries or areas. Everyone can learn from each other. Our little association has founders in the USA, China, Germany and Switzerland.
We would like to invite you to become part of our interdisciplinary and international community. Talk to us! Talk about us! Lets have fun…
A very striking example of what online education can be for some. I’m currently teaching a class this summer and am trying to do as much as I can to increase my visibility/presence. The good folks at SJSU University SLIS shared this video with me – I’m on their Technology Advisory Board.
One thing I noticed last semester is that my classes really responded to video, so I’m aiming to do more and more with video. Here’s a silly class check in from last week while Cooper and I were hiking:
One thing I heard from the SJSU folks that agreed with my own realizations: if you are going to do video, don’t fret too much that it is absolutely perfect – just do it. The video above was the second take of only two I did on the trail.
I’m interested to hear from other folks who teach online – what has worked well? What have you found that sparks interest and engagement online?
A brief post based on my notes for a short speech this week at Dominican GSLIS New Student Orientation and some reflection on the 55 students who graduated from our program last Saturday:
Ranganathan said “the Library is a growing organism.” That evolution continues and you all are starting your graduate library school journey at a perfect time.
I was recently in South Carolina, where I found myself in the hotel bar after a speech for the library school. The bartender was fired up about his brand new iPod Touch. He was running the bar’s music of of it via a cable attached to the sound system, and surfing the Web via the hotel’s wifi. He praised the access to the Web and his apps and held up the shiny new device and said:
” I have the whole world of information in my hand.”
This is the landscape our new students and graduating students are experiencing. For many – not all, of course – but for many, this ultra-connected world is the norm and new devices and services enhance it almost daily.
One of my goals as an LIS educator is to prepare my students for a decidedly digital future in libraries. Technology will touch every aspect of library service and operation is some way – big or small – from storytime to book clubs, from research collections to media production studios within the library.
Technology allows us to extend the presence of library service and librarians in ways that Ranganathan and Shera might have only dreamed about. But the most important thing is these technologies allow us to extend our missions of service, stewardship and access in surprisingly human channel. When technology falls away, it’s not a blog, or a Meebo-embedded staffer, or a Drupal reader’s community, it’s simply a group of people having a conversation.
For our new students – I wish you great success and urge you to be curious and creative with your coursework. Creativity will be a valuable commodity in your future library work. In my LIS701 class, we read Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” in which he suggests one way to free the creative right brain to have new ideas is to occupy the left brain with a task, such as walking a labyrinth. For the last night of class, we met at Oak Park’s First United Church and did just that. Each turn, each pause for reflection, each moment spent in the middle of the maze offered a chance for my students – and me – to consider our semester’s work and the next step. It was a pleasant exercise.
For our most recent grads – I wish you great success with everything you do in libraries. I have high hopes for the innovations and changes our graduates and all new LIS professionals will make. This is an incredible time to be working in libraries. Economic issues force us to be creative and to be vocal advocates for our services. Go forth! Create the future of libraries! I am counting on all of you.
My biggest take away from the report is this quote
“if the library shapes its roles and activities based on what is currently most highly appreciated by faculty, it may lose a valuable opportunity to innovate and position itself as relevant in the future”
In order for this to actually take place we have to have librarians with skills and characteristics that lend themselves to marketing/promotion, creativity/innovation, vision and risk. How are these characteristics playing out in our libraries given that we tend to be a profession that values tradition over risk and innovation? Yes, there are many innovators out there but there are many, many more who are not. Too many of us would rather hide behind “evidence based librarianship” as an excuse for not doing something different than actually attempt something new (and risky).
Take a look at the report and Jeff’s post. To me, this is another call to arms for library schools to ramp up curriculum around marketing, creativity and innovation.These ideas should also be a part of the process of realigning positions and focus of our current employees.
This post was written by Kasia Grabowska for last semester’s LIS 768: Library 2.0 & Networking Technologies class. Kasia has allowed me to repost it here.
After doing brand monitoring research for the past few weeks, looking closely at Skokie Public Library (and not so closely at several other libraries), I decided to put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for librarians on successfully utilizing social media.
This is what I learned from doing brand monitoring and what I personally would recommend to libraries that are getting started with social media.
Tip #1: Learn how to monitor your brand
Join the RIGHT conversations at the RIGHT time. In other words, stay on top of what people are saying about you and make sure to respond, to let people know that you are listening and willing to join the conversation.
Tools to utilize for brand monitoring include RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Technorati, and staying on top of your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts. This is definitely the number 1 lesson I learned from this assignment.
Tip #2: Learn from your brand community
You’re already engaging in conversations, why not ask people for some feedback? There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get good information that will help you keep learning from what you’re doing and improving the process as you go along. Just make sure not to overdo it; remember to always engage in conversations as a person.
Tip #3: Have a game plan
Set goals, measure and iterate your social media efforts in order to continue to grow and improve your efforts. Make sure everyone who is involved in your social media strategy clearly understands the role and goals of this initiative. There’s nothing worse than joining a social network with no purpose, plan or a way to measure what you’re doing.
By using trackable links (like bit.ly or su.pr) to help track what your users are responding to, you will be able to measure your efforts and make improvements.
Tip #4: Promote, promote, promote
I noticed a lot of libraries who do wonderful things on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr yet they don’t include links to their social networks on their websites. Or libraries that use Twitter often but don’t follow anyone; that’s not a good way to start a conversation.
A library website should be an entry point to social media; you need to create awareness. People should not have to search for you on Facebook, or Twitter, you should reach out to every member of your community first.
Tip #5: Allow open, yet governed access for your employees
This is where a social media policy comes in. By making sure everyone who is involved in your efforts understands what to do (what they’re allowed to say, how they should respond in different situations, etc) you won’t have to monitor what each person does. Instead, you will be able to focus on making improvements.
One tip about your social media policy — make sure it’s succinct and to the point, otherwise no one will want to read it.
Tip #6: Stay relevant and be helpful
Use social media to build trust, credibility and awareness in your community. Instead of broadcasting information, try creating conversations. Remember, speaking doesn’t always result in being heard.
Be helpful, stay relevant and focus on your community’s needs. It’s also important to humanize your efforts; don’t hide behind your library’s logo, allow your users to get to know you as a person.
Tip #7: Give your community room to grow
Focus on small, consistent and ongoing change. Let your members decide how they want to use “their” online community. Listen to what they have to say and change your goals and objectives based on how your community wants to utilize social media.
Tip #8: Remember, you’re not alone
By building relationships with key people within your community who also utilize social media you can leverage your efforts and obtain better reach. People who are influencers, those who are natural communicators or leaders in your community can help your social media efforts immensely. Identify these people and ask for help. Word of mouth can be very powerful.
Tip #9: Go where your users are
Remember, you don’t have to be an early adopter. It is much better to wait for your community to start utilizing the technology before adding it to your social media arsenal. In short, go where your users are. It’s much easier for someone to join you on Facebook or Twitter if the person actually uses the technology.
Tip #10: Lead change
This is important, especially for libraries that can be very resistant to change at times: if you want to lead change, find one thing you said no to in the past and give it a try.
This is actually something I heard at a digital marketing conference I got a chance to attend last month, but I think it applies great to libraries and social media.
Kasia Grabowska is currently working on her MLIS at Dominican University. She is a website manager for Train Signal, Inc and the editor in cheif of www.trainsignaltraining.com a blog focusing on IT training and certification.
The best preparation I received for blogging was teaching online. One of the most important elements for running a successful online course involves presence. The instructor must be “present” in the course discussion boards and blogs. Teaching online gave me tons of practice in writing rapid, hopefully thought provoking, discussion and blog posts around the curriculum and the student’s work. Much has been written about how teaching online can improve on-ground teaching. I’d add comfort with blogging to the benefits online learning.
Is the ability to quickly produce prose that (at least sometimes) may interest a reader the sort of skill that we want to cultivate in our students? The importance of rapid, persuasive writing is growing as blogs and other social media displace other forms of communication. We all need to learn to make our case, to persuade, to make arguments based on evidence – and to do so in a limited attention economy. For all of us, both writes and readers, time is our scarcest commodity.
Perhaps participating in online courses provides students the same practice with rapid and persuasive writing as teaching an online course. The same behaviors that make for a good online instructor, namely the willingness to be active and engaged with the asynchronous communication tools, are also those behaviors of a successful online student. An online course is all about collaboration and interaction. The best students post persuasively, briefly, and often.
I would venture to say the best preparation I received for online teaching is blogging! Quick posts sharing links and commentary – something bibliobloggers have long been doing – translate perfectly to the way I interact with my online and hybrid classes. I also think the blogging activities have helped my students with their writing – just afeeling, no evidence yet, but it might be a good thing to study.
People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens