A look at digital communications

I recently attended a brilliant workshop put on by UKeiG (UK eInformation Group, a special interest group of CILIP). The course was on digital communications and was run by Ned Potter. I knew Ned’s work from his excellent blog and Twitter, and thought the material would be applicable to my current work, so I asked to go.

The day course covered the principles of digital communications and a plethora of tools and apps. There was also space for feedback and to hear from course participants about their experiences. I wanted to highlight a few points I found most interesting and useful.

  • One my favourite tools was Padlet. It is described as ‘paper for the web’ and is essentially a virtual pin/notice board where anyone with the URL can post. Ned recommended it for interaction and getting online feedback, with the obvious library application being using it in library inductions. We used it in the session to give feedback (less scary than putting your hand up!) and then Ned could respond in real time. It was also neat to see what everyone had written and I could see it being useful in this respect for collaboration and team projects.
  • I got intrigued by a use of QR codes to promote e-books. A QR code is a “quick response” bar code that takes you directly to a website when you scan it with your smartphone (rather than having to type in the URL or Google it). The idea suggested was to use QR codes to link the physical and the virtual by putting a ‘faux’ book or place marker on the shelf where the e-book would be and have a QR code on it which then directed the user to the e-book. The only drawback is that you need a QR code reader app on your mobile for it to work. I’ll be looking into this one for our library so stay tuned.
  • Video is increasingly how people learn nowadays, according to Ned. Long handouts and wordy power points just aren’t as interesting. Enter video and the good thing is that now you don’t have to have specialist equipment or hire someone to create a great video for you because there are a number of free/cheap apps available. A few that were recommended were Videoscribe (creates whiteboard videos by animating your raw material), Adobe Voice (like a cross between slideshow and video) and PowToon (cross between Videoscribe and Adobe Voice). Ned also was singing the praises of YouTube as a way to amplify the reach of your videos. An example of videos in libraries was shared by a participant from a university library. They created a Vine (very short looping video platform) to quickly show how to use their photocopiers and put a QR code linking to the video on the photocopier.
Photo credit- Tom (Flickr CC-A license).

Augmented reality… (Photo credit- Tom, Flickr CC license).

  • Probably the segment with the biggest cool factor was augmented reality (AR). AR is when you view a real object using a smartphone or tablet which then adds ‘layers’ of information or interactivity onto the experience. AR is still in the pioneering stages, but there a lot of potential applications for teaching and learning. For example, an augmented reality app was recently launched at the College for users of our recording studios.
  • One final point about social media, Ned proposed that interactivity is the key way to grow your following. ‘Engagement’ is one of those buzzwords floating around university/library/project land now. I don’t know whether this is part of seeing how big an impact (another buzzword for you) you’re having or maybe it’s just valuable because it’s starting a dialogue with your community. Either way it’s something to think about and I’ve been experimenting with asking more questions in my work and personal social media outputs.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 4 wrap up

Well I’ve finished up the coursework for New Librarianship Masterclass. Interestingly (and rather bravely I think) in the final module Lankes gives links to criticisms and reviews of New Librarianship and the Atlas by various authors and bloggers. I found this reading and the module discussion boards highly thought-provoking stuff. As I reflect on the the course as a whole and what I’ve learned, some aspects of the MOOC stand out.

I approached the masterclass in a practical fashion. As a newbie in the field I am, pardon the expression, a bit of a ‘blank slate’ since I have yet to complete any formal librarianship training and had only my own learning as a starting point. The philosophical discussion at the beginning of the masterclass on worldview, Conversation Theory and constructivism was important. I agree that a solid worldview and values, whether stated or unstated, underpin our thinking and the way we approach the world and librarianship. However the constructivist idea that knowledge and truth are created and agreed on by individuals and the community is one I’m not entirely comfortable with. Lane Wilkinson discusses this much more intelligently in his blog.

Philosophical nitpicking aside, I found the course very eye-opening, interesting and sensible, and again with many practical take aways for my professional practice. For example the focus on the community and a participatory framework. Librarians regard themselves as serving the community. Therefore it makes total sense that you would need to have conversations with that community to figure out what their needs, dreams and aspirations are. Lankes is right to point out in the Deficit Model module, though, that viewing a member/community as a set of problems that need solving is unhelpful. Instead of trying to ‘fix’ everything from the outside, librarians should get into the community and figure out together what their aspirations are, using those as a starting point for community action rather than constantly reminding people of their failings. Lankes illustrates with an example of low literacy or poor performance in schools; rather than looking at reading as a problem that needs solving through something like tutoring services, Lankes says look at reading as a means of exploration, a questioning of authority and writing as a way to express our ideas. Taking this positive approach opens the door to more innovative, radical marketing and event planning (e.g. banned book weeks). What I take away is that by keeping the community and knowledge creation at the heart of new librarianship, we are focusing not on our services but on what the community needs and aspires to and shaping our services around them.

The library as platform was another concept that stood out to me as sensible, exciting to be part  of and very apt for these times where we definitely need to be demonstrating our value. And, it has lots of practical applications. I love printed books, but the library can (should?) be much more than an artefact-centred collection. In the school I’m about to start work in, the library is already used as a platform for literacy and learning. I’m excited about how I can help and innovate in that, particularly in improving reading scores which are lower than desired at the moment. New Librarianship has given me lots of ideas to do this, which all make perfect sense when viewing the library as a platform.

Whilst the Atlas and New Librarianship might have some shortcomings, I’ve found it a great learning experience and would recommend the MOOC and the Atlas as a thought-provoking entrance into one view of a new librarianship.

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <http://www.coursesites.com&gt>.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 3 wrap up

I’ve been putting in some serious effort to finish the  New Librarianship Masterclass before the deadline. This post wraps up the Week 3 material. We have stepped back a bit from last week’s practical nuts and bolts such as competencies of librarians, how to lead, and asset management, and moved to a wider angle view of libraries generally: their mission, why we need them and the challenges and opportunities they face. Some thoughts:

  • Expect more than books. Lankes shows that the current book-centric attitude of many libraries and the drive for comprehensive collections is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the early 1900s, there was information scarcity (information was hard/expensive to get) therefore libraries sought to collect lots of material for members. This drive coincided with books becoming cheaper to publish, hence we got bigger collections and libraries were fast becoming ‘book warehouses’. However now, in a digital age with Wikipedia et. al in our pockets, we no longer have information scarcity but time and attention scarcity. So more information in the form of libraries amassing larger, more comprehensive collections is exactly the opposite of what we need! Not to mention problems of space and resources. This of courses leads to issues such as information literacy/research skills, credibility/reliability and the librarian as information curator.
  • Importance of a mission statement. Most organisations these days have mission statements. They’re great. They help you orient yourself around a central purpose that reflects your values. Lankes critiques some examples and winners include characteristics such as:  succinctness, clarity and delineates boundaries of the community. Mission statements should be thought of as an invitation to the community to join in and not to just say what you do (‘we provide access to a wide range of digital and print materials’).
  • The Why Libraries? module spells out several justifications for libraries. These were all great and included, for example, the library as a collective buying agent, centre of learning and safety net. Another that people on the discussion boards mentioned which wasn’t explicitly included in the coursework (though implicit throughout) was the library as a social space. People mentioned the importance of the library as a neutral, public space where individuals (perhaps without other social networks such as stay-at-home moms and retirees) could come and be social. Several school librarians said how important the library was for their students since many didn’t have a ‘third space’, i.e. somewhere safe and fun to hang out with their friends other than home and school. As I embark on school librarianship myself, I’m keen to see if/how the school library is being used this way.
  • Think of the library as a platform, not as a service or collection. This concept is integral to New Librarianship and reflects all the values espoused in Weeks 1-2. The main points were that the library is a place to share expertise, share facilities and share interests. Rather than librarians controlling everything and delivering all the training, the community is free to bring its own resources and expertise and use the library as a platform to better the community (with the facilitation of the librarians).
  • The Grand Challenge to librarians, according to Lankes, is ‘how to coordinate a knowledge infrastructure (technology, people, sources, permissions) to unlock the potential and passions of Society’. But I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourself…

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <http://www.coursesites.com&gt>.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 2 wrap up

A flurry of job applications and week away in August have set me slightly behind in the New Librarianship Masterclass MOOC. But I soldier on and am very grateful for the extension to complete it! This week’s material was great and narrowed down from the big picture ideas of Week 1.

The Communities Module

What Lankes calls ‘the pressure for participation’ is based in, to use marketing lingo, customer demand.  The Internet and social media have proven that users go to platforms where they can participate, have a voice and influence.  Librarians need to respond to this.

Lankes discusses various environments (public, academic, school libraries) but emphasises that their mission is the same whilst their communities can be radically different, with different conversations, and therefore library services will vary.  Still the facilitating model applies, that is, how the community can create knowledge (access, knowledge, environment and motivation). Lankes proposes a useful evaluation/assessment framework for determining the conversations happening in your community and how librarians can prioritise them.  I especially liked his notion of ’embedded librarians’.  Librarians who are out and about, learning about the conversations, about the community and, in the process, making themselves indispensable!

Improve Society Module

Some interesting conclusions from this module:

  • One of the values of new librarians is intellectual honesty, not being unbiased. Coming from academia this was a new but sensible point for me:  that I can never be totally unbiased but I do need to be honest about my conclusions and how I got to them.
  • You -yes you!- can be an innovator, leader and ‘radical change agent’! At least Lankes proposes that all librarians should be (and not just the young whippersnappers or those who present at conferences). This makes complete sense when you remember that librarians are out to improve society; that requires some leadership and innovative thinking.

Librarians Module

This module emphasised the skills and competencies of new librarians, where they are now, how they’re changing and how theory should be integrated with practice. It involved a large chunk of reading in the Atlas in which Lankes proposes -sometimes radically – transitions/changes/adaptations of current library practice and the training which librarians receive (both at library school and CPD throughout their careers).  A lot of the new approach is born of necessity as librarianship really is in a time of great transition (i.e. how do you train librarians to cope with the massive scale of information and data produced in the digital age?). Some ideas which were new to me:

  • The community as an integral part of your collection. The better we understand the community the better we can utilise resources like buildings, books and computers. This is again moving away from the artefact-centric approach of traditional librarianship.
  • Librarians need administration and management training. Again makes complete sense to have a grounding in these skills when you are running a library (no matter how small) or just part of it.
  • Circulating experts. Some libraries let you ‘check out’ an expert for an hour or so, say a businessman or lawyer or librarian. What a great idea!
  • Technological skills. This is a no-brainer nowadays, but Lankes says we keep up with IT to principally benefit the community, perhaps even learn it together…
  • Interestingly in his critique of the MLS (Master of Library Science) in the US, he proposes a new system whereby students would do a one-year Masters (as they do in the UK) but with a four-year Bachelors, after which you would be certified as a librarian. This sounds brilliant, but it’s not clear if your Bachelors is in librarianship or something completely unrelated…

The final module was on the Salzburg Curriculum, which basically summed up and reiterated a lot of New Librarianship in a concise, eloquent way. It is a high level curriculum that’s meant to apply to a librarian in any organisation (and also museum professionals). Check it out here.

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <http://www.coursesites.com&gt>.

I’ve started a MOOC

I recently enrolled on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Syracuse University iSchool entitled New Librarianship and taught/run by R. David Lankes and others.  I signed up because it sounded interesting and relevant, and the fact that it was free (well, mostly, I had to buy the textbook) and self-directed was a plus.  I did a few online courses in my undergrad, so it will be interesting to compare the experiences.  Here is a good overview by Helen Blanchett of the pros and cons of MOOCs and general debunking of the surrounding hype (“HE is dead!”).

This particular MOOC is offered in guided mode from July, which I thought was ideal because then you can engage with the tutors.  After July it is still available but without guaranteed tutor involvement.  I’ll be blogging and tweeting about how it goes!