Category Archives: LIS Education in the 21st Century

The New Literacy

Great food for thought from Clive Thompson at Wired, where he examines a recent study on student writing:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

And this is good supporting evidence for my beliefe our students should be doing as much of their writing as possible for the world, not just for me and not just inside a fire-walled LMS:

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

This study, the recent study about online education and others are firing me up for this school year. The possibilities of engagement, learning and growth in online environments, to me, are endless

ALA Connect Update & LIS EDU Community

From the ALA Marginalia Blog, Jenny Levine writes:

Just a quick note to say how happy we are about the response to ALA Connect. We’ve received many positive emails, tweets, and more about the site, but even better – folks are checking it out and using it. This can be difficult to see, as many working groups are not posting their content publicly, but we’re only a couple of weeks into this new endeavor, so we expect content in the working groups and communities will continue to grow, especially going into Annual Conference.

Here are some early numbers from the site’s first two weeks:

  • 1588 people have logged in (1395 ALA members + 193 non-ALA members)
  • # of new communities created by ALA members and staff: 22
  • # of posts: 124 total
  • # of online documents: 124 total
  • # of calendar events: 125 total
  • # of polls/votes: 14 total
  • # of discussions: 32 total
  • # of images: 24 total

So stuff is happening on the site – what’s happening in your groups?

Yesterday I took some time and explored the site, joined a group or two and created a community for LIS Educators and people interested in library schools:  This will also be my way of learning how things work within this blossoming online community. I posted a couple of discussion type things to see how it goes. Take a look. :-)

Here’s my profile:

Hyperlinked Libraries, Org Charts & the Human Voice: Ten Years of the Cluetrain Manifesto

bookcover50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

Today, bloggers from all over the world are responding to the 95 points of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which is ten years old: “Cluetrainplus10 is a project to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the manifesto. On Tuesday April 28, 95 bloggers around the world will each write a blog post on one of the 95 theses.”

I chose #50, above, as one I might comment on because it speaks to the model I’ve been working on in my talks “The Hyperlinked Library” and because it makes me question how we staff and manage our libraries. In fact, it also speaks to LIS education.

Way back in 2006 (years ago in Internet time), I wrote about the Cluetrain often. I was usually commenting on using The Cluetrain Manifesto in my teaching at Dominican and in presentations. I’m still using my “Cluetrain slides” in long versions of “The Hyperlinked Library.”  Looking at the worn volume next to me, it strikes me as funny and brilliant that ten years ago Levine, Locke, Searles and Weinberger locked on to a perfect vision of the future – of where we were headed because of the Internet. The impact on business rings so true these days. And words like transparency, conversation, community, communication and the like were here long before a line up of bloggers at CIL. Flipping through the pages, with multi-colored highlights and scribbled notes to self (oh Lord, can my students even read what I write on their papers?), it strikes me how much this book has influenced my path and lead me to folks like Rheingold, Godin and further works by Weinberger.

The emphasis in the Cluetrain on being human sticks with me as well. “The human voice sounds human.” Stories and storytelling are extensions of this. Sharing is part as well. These things create connections and brings people closer.  Godin says in Tribes that people WANT to belong. People want to connect. I want to hear the story of the lady sitting next to me having tea at Hermit’s Rest at Grand Canyon who strikes up conversation. Turns out her son, who joins us, is director of the Sedona Public Library. The world is tiny, sometimes flat and is full of human stories and human connections.


Thesis #50 has been with me for sometime too. A post I revisited for this anniversary is one of mine at ALA TechSource called “The Hyperlinked Organization: Radical Transparency, Crummy Meetings & Micromanagement” where I urged librarians to do this:

Flatten that Chart Folks

One of my favorite quotes from this chapter is “The company org chart… is a map of whom to avoid.” I worked in the public library a long time and soon realized who you went to in order to get things done and who could take care of something that needed to be fixed. Sometimes, we adapt and seek out those people, and then when they transfer or leave the organization, everyone realizes all the knowledge went out the door with them. 

The best libraries will flatten their organizational charts, break down the layers of “permission” and “channels” to get things done, and look for ways to streamline processes, procedures, and the dreaded policies. These libraries will also have a plan for succession management and knowledge transfer—and not just use these terms as buzzwords to hide behind.

I’m anxious to see more libraries flatten the chart and move toward a more team-based structure. In the model, people might work out of a certain area – reference, technology – but might move to teams or groups, or even locations, as projects demand. The pyramid shape of the org chart would be different – probably still pointy because someone has to ultimately be in charge – but do we really need layers and layers of managers, coordinators, and director positions between our front liners and the decision makers. In this model – very much related to what Michael Casey and I have done in “The Transparent Library” – admin types are hands-on involved not just issuing edicts from an office somewhere in the library. 

networkedconversationsCommunication flows up and down, via all the methods you’ve seen discussed here and in our literature, including good old face to face. Conversations flows in and out of the library space, involving all staff, users, non-users and everyone else. Meetings WORK, they don’t just exist to give the higher ups something to do. Admit it to yourself only: have you ever let the meeting drone on because it’s almost 5pm?

And – experts and specialists thrive and work hand in hand with librarians. They learn from each other via knowledge exchange and planning. Alan Gray of the Darien library wrote a TTW guest post, including this insight into the library’s structure: “We need great people to make our library a success — we just don’t have any preconditions about who they are, or what degree they do or do not have, just what they stand for, and what they can do.”

What scares me is my JOB is to teach people to be librarians – to get the degree so they can go off and work in libraries. Job security is good right? Libraries without librarians is a scary proposition for many of us!  The model – and I think Darien is a good example of it in the field – has space for all not just librarians. We’ll need coders, marketing gurus, customer service stars and business managers, not just a bunch of folks who went to library school. 

Does this de-value the degree? I think not. Librarians will carry the core values and ethics of the profession. They will convey the mission of what we’ve done in libraries forever to all: staff, user, supporters, governing bodies. But they will also understand that nothing stays the same and innovation should be part of this library’s mission. What’s been called “my mantra” I guess is truly that: Learn to Learn, Adapt to Change, Scan the Horizon, Be Curious, & Bring your Heart with You.

So I guess part of the charge is also back on me – to teach the best I can, to point out the changes in our world since the Cluetrain was published, and to work with my colleagues in LIS edu to change curriculum to create more nimble, flexible learning environments for the librarians who will guide projects and manage collections in this model library.

But the charge is also on you, dear readers. What can you do today to start flattening and changing the chart? What can you do via your long range plan to realign services and people to better serve the interests and needs of your communities?

If you haven’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto – take a look. Or re-read it in 2009 with a new lens. Use it for staff book discussion or your strategic plan. LIS Students, please read it before you graduate. I’m counting on you.


Further Reading:

The Cluetrain is Leaving the Station: A TTW Guest Post by Kay Jacobson

Into a New World of Librarianship

TTW posts tagged Cluetrain 

TechSource Post

Screenshots from “The Hyperlinked Library”  Creative Commons License

The Hyperlinked Library by Michael Stephens is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Visiting the Second Life Reference Desk


 Each semester in LIS768 we take an hour and talk about Second Life and log in to see what it’s like. This is the first semester that we have actually chatted with a Reference Librarian and I was very happy the class got to participate. The librarian spoke with the class and told us she does a voluntary 2 hour shift weekly in world and gets a good number of reference questions from outside of LIS folk.

Some synchronicity: add to this an email I received from a librarian that follows me on Twitter who is teaching at Catholic University this semester.
LSC 742 Library Technologies and Project  Management Class: . 
You’ll note one focus of the class is working in SL.  My LIS701 students were also very interested in the section in our new book about SL. I know SJSU has a presence, but what are other LIS schools doing with SL?

How WE Learn

HeyJude writes:

So from the history of the internet to this refocussing on learning – a great interview from Michael Wesch about harnessing collective intelligence rather than teaching content. He is an advocate of ‘anti-teaching’, seeking too inspire with god questions. Google becomes a tool for testing possibilities. Social media is also about learning possibilities. But don’t get it wrong – it is also about more work! more commitment! more active involvement in collaborative learning. He also raises the use of RFID on a campus, for creating learning opportunities. This I like!!

“We learn more when we are sharing information…”

“How can I get all of their intelligence together to make something really interesting…”

Anti-teaching: Inspiring good questions, not just lecturing and giving them the answers. I heart this!

I’m sharing this with some colleagues and with my students.

Heading for Extinction?

I’m adding this article by Stephen Abram to my LIS701 syllabus.

Abram offers various scenarios for the future of reference services, including this one:

Status Quo: A Recipe for Fossilization

This is the disaster scenario — at least for our profession. Suppose we don’t evolve fast enough. Most of us know the story of the frog in the boiling water. Will we be blind to the overall changes and allow ad-driven search results to dominate the important question space? Worse still, will we fall into the trap of demanding a Google-like experience? Will there be no event, no transformational experience that shocks us out of complacency? Will we ignore the Web 2.0 opportunity to revitalize distance user relationships? Isn’t every user not in a face-to-face moment with us a distance user? Consider a scenario where we continue to service a shrinking but needy market. I know that they continued to deliver coal, milk, and ice in my neighborhood well into the 1960s. There was a demand and visible proof that it was still needed. Nevertheless, despite visible evidence to the contrary, these services were still heading for extinction.

As David Penniman said, “In order for librarianship to remain what it is, it must change; if it doesn’t change, it cannot remain what it is.”

This and his other scenarios will provide excellent points for discussion. I hope reference classes use this article as well.

The Networked Student

Via Lone Wolf Librarian:

The Networked Student was inspired by CCK08, a Connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes during fall 2008. It depicts an actual project completed by Wendy Drexler’s high school students. The Networked Student concept map was inspired by Alec Couros’ Networked Teacher. I hope that teachers will use it to help their colleagues, parents, and students understand networked learning in the 21st century.

Anyone is free to use this video for educational purposes. You may download, translate, or use as part of another presentation. Please share.

I’ll be sharing this with my classes and the Dominican faculty. This so speaks to how educators should be moving forward as well as the fact that librarians should offer access to these “emerging synchronous tools” to help guide the way.

I like this model. Maybe this is what LIS768 should become. I’ve already seen these things play out in the classroom: responses from authors, blog comments from big names in Social Media and a sense of empowerment in the students themselves.

LIS768 CSC Group Projects

I’m taught my last weekend of LIS768 in St. Paul at the College of St. Catherine last week. The final Saturday of class is always group project day. Take a look:

One group developed a Ning for librarians: The Library Lounge. They also gave a presentation of background info and their findings from theexperience.

Another group developed a library liaison portal for a fictional economics department using Pageflakes. Their presentation details the background of the prototype.

The next group learned Drupal to develop a Website for a small library in Minnesota in a project called “Extreme Library Makeover: Web Site Edition.” They started with this very small site hosted at the library system and proposed a complete redo with Drupal. The results of their learning is here (hosted at TTW).

Finally, two soon to be library media specialists proposed a revamped curriculum for 4th to 8th grade that tied using social tools to current learning goals. The presentation, with links to examples and prototypes, is here.

I am grading their final papers today – papers on academic law libraries and social technologies, the Cluetrain and reputation online, to name a few. Good stuff! If you want to check in on their class blogging, all of the LIS768 CSC bloggers are listed here.

TTW Mailbox: LIS Edu Advisory Boards

Kirsten from the School of Library Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. writes a followup after a discussion at ILI in London:

Our discussion about the future of  library education made me think about what we are doing up in Alberta. Under the chair Toni Samek (LJ teaching award winner 2007), I sit on an advisory committee that SLIS has gathered members of the academic, public,and special library community together to meet with students and faculty from the SLIS to discuss what kinds of librarians we’d love to see come out of the U of A. We talk about project management skills, technology skills and the challenges of international student qualifications for the MLIS program. 

I like the idea that potential employers meets with faculty and students to help guide the program. Great stuff. Are other LIS schools doing this – with student involvement?

Promotional badges

Brenda Chawner writes:

This year we (the VUW Library and Information Management staff) have a limited number of promotional badges available for current students and graduates at the LIANZA conference – you can see what they’re like at:

They’re intended to help graduates and students recognise each other, and perhaps start some interesting conversations. Because we teach by distance, many students (and graduates) don’t recognise each other even though they may have had several classes together. This is the idea I came up with to help. It came in part from seeing people wearing long streamers of ribbons showing their various affiliations at ALA in Anaheim, and I turned it into something I could have made here.