Computer tools that support learners

Luv it! Check out this awesome page, developed by Rod Corbett, that maps out the uses for various online tools.

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Search vs. Discovery

Fortune magazine has an interesting article this month The Race to Create a smart "Google" which speaks to the notion of creating discovery options via recommendation systems rather then simply focusing on generating good search results. The article's a good read, but this particular passage caught my fancy ...

"The Web, they say, is leaving the era of search and entering one of discovery. What's the difference? Search is what you do when you're looking for something. Discovery is when something wonderful that you didn't know existed, or didn't know how to ask for, finds you."

... and it made me ponder this related thought -- that "discovery" is really one of those notions that helps set librarians apart. Those that excel at their skills know how to turn a simple homework help inquiry or a readers' advisory question into an "ah-ha" moment with sparks of brilliance. :)

On another thought (which is back to the original point of the article)... how do library catalogs currently address "discovery"? Or perhaps the better question is, how should we?


RCPL announces Tech Challenge

10 weeks... 10 missions... 10 new fun & exciting things to learn ... and a chance to win fabulous prizes too!

Richland County Public Library, Columbia SC announces their Tech Challenge. What a great initiative for any library's Emerging Technology Committee to spearhead!

RCPL's Tech Challenge - Can't wait to see what you challenges you've cooked up & hope you'll share. [hint, hint] :)

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Eye4You: Teen Second Life Library

Wanna keep up with all the latest developments and conversations going on with the development of the Teen Library on Second Life's under-18 grid? Then grab a feed to YouthTech's Eye4You Alliance blog.

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More thoughts on that "T" word ...

To some degree I feel as if I’m channeling Michael or Jenny as I’m nodding my head in agreement and saying “Yes... YES!” to a colleague’s recent comment on my blog.

“Yes! to "transparency!" This is a concept that I've been thinking much about lately. I think it is--as you note--one of the cornerstones of L2. It really has to be. By keeping our growth, functions, learning curves, you-name-it, transparent there is much less room for miscommunication, for misunderstanding--and most importantly, dishonesty. All of these things may seem so heady and abstract to be spinning out of a discussion of technology, but again I go back to the idea that technology is not the "thing itself" is what it represents, what it brings up for us as individuals or as an organization--in this case growth. A commitment to transparency says that we are growing together, creating a stronger community together.”

Thanks Tony for letting me post this gem. I couldn’t agree more! Growth is the one of best outcomes of transparency… and who couldn’t use more of that?

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Feeling sticky? It could be the peanut butter

Posts about the Peanut Butter Manifesto (an internal memo from Yahoo senior VP Brad Garlinghouse ) have been all over the internet today. But in reading it, I couldn't help but think that some of the ideas brought out in this letter sound surprising similar to some of the issues I've seen posted in biblioblogosphere that libraries also struggle with...

"We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone. We've known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it. We are scared to be left out. We are reactive instead of charting an unwavering course. We are separated into silos that far too frequently don't talk to each other. And when we do talk, it isn't to collaborate on a clearly focused strategy, but rather to argue and fight about ownership, strategies and tactics.

We lack decisiveness. Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis."

Wait, there's more the full text: Wall Street Journal: The ‘Peanut Butter Manifesto’

Does it feel sticky where you are?


Acquisition Battles

As the acquisition war continues --Note Yahoo just purchased (a pretty cool karaoke contest site that can offer hours of entertainment) and MyBloglog – this little timeline tool is great for keeping up with battle between the big three - Google, Yahoo & Microsoft.


Today's thoughts and inspiration ...

I took out an ink pen and circled this passage while reading the October issue of Fast Company on a recent flight home. Today I found it again online ...

"Ultimately, though, the critical skill for Scher is knowing how to stay fresh, to keep challenging herself by tapping into what she calls the "charm of ignorance." When you're feeling stale, she says, the best thing you can do to shake things up is to "look at what you've been doing for the past five years--and stop. The thing that's most to be feared is doing the same thing over and over again."

From Fast Company - Masters of Design: The Word Smith

PS: Have a I mentioned lately that I *heart* this publication. :)


Hot trends & video screens made of concrete - seriously!

Via Alane at It’s All Good last week I discovered a new list of hot trends outlined by the folks over in Denmark at Innovation Labs. This spring I had the pleasure of meeting several librarians from the Aarhus Main Library, Aarhus Denmark (who partners with IL to test out some really cool things in the library’s 3000 square foot “Transformation Lab.”) - doesn't that sound like a fun place to work play?

Anyway here’s a recap of the Ten Hottest Trends:
  1. Customermade
  2. Geo-Awareness
  3. Thing Connection
  4. Virtual Worlds
  5. Web Applications - The Next Generation
  6. Digital Product Placement
  7. Web Video
  8. Mixed Reality
  9. Expanded Search
  10. Humanitarian Technology

Also, I know I’ve said this before, but those Danes really do, do some cool stuff. Need proof? Then check out this Youtube video ( scroll down in page) of a prototype for a video screen made from concrete -- Wow! Now that’s innovation!

Customizing Learning 2.0

(or tips on De-PLCMC-izing the exercises)

Thinking of duplicating Learning 2.0 for your staff and are wondering which exercises might need a little bit of reworking to make them work for your organization better? Here's my suggestions ...

  • #5 - Flickr exercise - This exercise suggests that participates use PLCMCL2 to tag any images they upload to Flickr. To make this more relevant to your library, I'd suggest coming up with a unique tag of your own.
  • # 14 - Tagging in Technorati - ditto. Go the unique tag route so participants can see blog posts tagged by your own staff members.
  • #17 - Wiki Sand box - Since this wiki is already so heavily populated with "favorites" from PLCMC staff, I might suggest that you create your own wiki sandbox using PBwiki. It's really very easy, just give it a try.
  • #22 - Netlibrary - If your library/organization does not subscribe to this service, then I would suggest substituting this exercise for one of your own. Can't think of any? Why not have staff explore MySpace & FaceBook and see how other libraries are using these social networking sites to reach out to users.

That's it -- I think? Everything else is pretty much fully usable in its current format. So if you're thinking about doing the program for your location, let me know and once you have it developed I can add you to the list. So far I know of nearly 2 dozen libraries that are looking at or in the process of doing a Learning 2.0 program of their own, but only 2 so far have completed their development and/or launched the program:

Yarra Plenty Library System Melbourne, Australia - already launched and flying with success! :)
Missouri River Regional Library Jefferson City, MO - They're doing 29 things. Yeah for MRRL! :)

Let me know & I'll add yours :)

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Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto – The YouTube video

Check out this very cool video on YouTube created by Soren Johannessen that put Laura Cohen's recent Librarian 2.0 Manifesto to film. The manifesto itself is brilliant, the video just makes it more outstanding...

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Fab Friday Salute

Yup, it’s Friday again and this time I have two salutes. My first salute reiterates my earlier congrats to PLCMC’s Web Services team for all their hard work on the redesign of the PLCMC site. The beta site looks great! Can't wait for it to officially go live. :)

As for my second salute, this one goes out to Julie Brophy, Teen Specialist at ImaginOn.

Recently our library relaxed the internet usage policy for children under 12 so that kids can use the Internet with parental permission without a guardian being present. Like with most policy changes, this new policy was released to staff with a Q&A covering all the various questions and situations that staff members might be asked. Julie took these staff scripts and with the help of teens made a short video for staff to help cover the training...

Thanks Julie! What a creative way to repackage and deliver this information to staff regarding the change!

Hmmm... Now if only we can just repackage that Internet Agreement form in a more fun and engaging format too ... [thinking]

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One more L2 Thought ...

Opps, I just thought of one that I missed (and it's a biggie!!)

Practice transparency & enable radical trust

I think of these as being two of the cornerstones to the whole Library 2.0 movement, and in a learning environment designed to introduce staff members to these new technologies that empower library users it also means that your library needs to trust your staff and practice transparency when it comes to communcating with them. This was a huge part of the whole Learning 2.0 program and from my experience it's was a win-win for library employees and administration all around. :)

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Nine Seven Best Practices on Learning 2.0 & Two Additions

Program Note: In reviewing my earlier posting, I can't believe I left out two important best practices. Yup, I guess my withdrawal symptoms were worse then I thought. :) See list below, it's updated now.

It's been a week since the finale of Learning 2.0 and I think I've finally gotten over RSS feed withdrawal. For the last 13 weeks the participants in L2 have overloaded my Bloglines account so much so that when the program came to abrupt end last Wednesday it actually felt odd to not have 80-200 new posts to skim through each night. :)

Anyway, the good news is that my family is now relieved to have clean laundry back on regular weekly schedule and my withdrawal symptoms have ceased enough over the last few days for me to jot down some thoughts about this whole experience -- that is before I forget everything. :)

In the past few weeks I've had several libraries contact me asking for guidance in creating their own Learning 2.0 programs and while I can't say that I have all the answers, what I can offer is a list of my Best Practices or Lessons Learned from my experience. So here they are in no particular order. Note: I'll apologize in advance for this lengthy post but I don't want to cut out any thoughts that might be useful to someone else duplicating the program, so if you're interested read away ...

Learning 2.0 Thoughts & Best Practices:

  • Don't confuse learning with training - In the ideal world training and learning are linked together, but as anyone who has stood in front of a classroom and looked at sea of blank stares can tell you, this is not always true. In order for participants to learn, they must be a) engaged and b) have motivation. These were two elements that Learning 2.0 took advantage of the most. Encouraging the participants to engage in their own learning discoveries and providing motivation (via the incentives) as way to jump on board.

    The breakthrough of the program itself is that it did not involve one bit of classroom or workshop instruction nor were any handouts or cheat sheets designed to support the exercises. Instead, it was purely built upon the notion of lifelong learning and encouraging self-discovery and fun. And the biggest plus to it all was that the program itself was built using the very same free tools that it encouraged staff members to explore. :)

  • Design the program for late bloomers - One of the things that I built into the program was an extra month of discovery time at the end. This was initially done to assist staff who might run into time commitments along the way, but in retrospect it offer the greatest benefit in allowing staff to jump on board late in the program and still have ample time to complete it. Let's face it, the majority of your staff that need the exposure to the tools and technology introduced through Learning 2.0 program probably aren't your library's early adapters. Instead they're late bloomers - and valuable staff members at that. From my experience, the vast majority of the participants didn't jump into the L2 pool until the 4th, 5th and 6th weeks. In fact at week 9 & 10, I still had new staff steadily joining in at a rate of 6-8/week. Also of equal importance to adding extra time at the end, was my decision to use the first two weeks of the program to build excitement and gently reintroduce the concepts of self-discovery and lifelong learning to staff before they were encouraged to jump into the deep end.

  • Allow participants to blog anonymously – Keeping in mind that many staff members might not feel comfortable posting their thoughts openly on worldwide web (especially if they had to have their name associated with it) it's good to allow participants to jump into the 2.0 pool with a cloak of anonymity. Well over 80% of the participants chose this option and it in fact added to the fun of the program as staff tried to figure out who was who. For tracking purposes participants did have to post their progress in a log file contained on our staff intranet, but this information was not shared with other staff and was only used to track eligibility for earning incentives.

  • Use 1.0 methods to continually communicate. - Most participants kept up with the exercises either through the links provided in a weekly emails or through the staff Intranet. Don’t expect participants to use 2.0 technologies (RSS) to keep up with the program. You need to use technologies that they are already comfortable with in order to continually reach and encourage them.

  • Focus on “discovery” & offer challenges – Since many staff might not have the technical skills or equipment to “upload a picture to Flickr” or “insert a LibraryThing widget” in their blog, the basic exercises within Learning 2.0 tried to focused merely on easy discovery and offered optional challenges for those who wanted to do more. This allowed participants to explore but not feel so pressured to do the hard stuff. But even so, I gotta tell ya that most participants tried to do the challenges -- yup, this confirms it -- libraries are full of high achievers. :)

  • Encourage staff to work together – This was the singular reason, I think, for the high staff completion rate at many of our locations. At branch locations, like Steele Creek, University City and Myers Park (just to name a few) staff pulled together and paired up to make their learning and discovery process more fun. Through the learning and knowledge exchanging process, self-proclaimed tech novices became experienced discovers and Learning 2.0 tutors and in turned gained confidence in their own skills. This was a great outcome and one that would have most likely never happened in the traditional teacher/student environment -- and to think it was all from just a little bit of encouragement to have fun and play!

  • It’s not about “doing IT right” - One of the most important things that I had to keep in mind throughout the 13 weeks of the program while reviewing all the blog posts by participants was that it wasn’t about doing the exercises correctly. But rather Learning 2.0 was really more about providing staff with “exposure” to these new tools and just encouraging them to get out their comfort zone. I don't think this core idea discounts the notion that staff should also have knowledge about how to use these tools, but the first step in gaining knowledge is really exposure. Once you have a little bit of information behind you it's gives you the confidence to seek and learn more.

  • Practice transparency & enable radical trust - I think of these as being two of the cornerstones to the whole Library 2.0 movement, and in a learning environment designed to introduce staff members to these new technologies that empower library users it also means that your library needs to trust your staff and practice transparency when it comes to communicating with them. Allowing them to blog openly is a huge part of radical trust and from my experience with Learning 2.0 it's been a win-win for library employees and administration all around. :)

  • And last not but least … Continually encourage staff to “Play” - For some reason this is very hard for most librarians and staff to do and it seemed to be the learning habit cited as being “most difficult” by the majority of participants. You might chock it up to library staff having strong work ethics, but the truth is that librarians really do need to adopt a “continuous play strategy” in order to keep their skills and knowledge fresh. So encouraging “play” was very important to the program because after all, everyone learns better when they’re having fun!

As for the “two additions” noted in the title of this post, they are a “how-would-I-do-things-differently-the-next-time.” item and an observation:

  • If there was one thing I would have done a bit differently in this self-discovery program it would have been to define the blogging requirements a bit more. Over all, most of the participants (85-90 %) did use their blogs to provide meaningful posts about their discoveries, but like any initiative there were some staff that did the bare bones minimum (like just include a link to a photo or a website). In retrospect I would have defined the blogging requirement a bit more these participants... “Your discovery posts for each exercise must contain substance and provide insights into what you’ve learned. And if you don’t know how to measure “substance”, then make sure your posts are no less than 100- 125 words."

  • It seems that you can never allocate enough “time” for library staff to complete the program, for it didn't seem to matter if the participant completed the program 6 weeks ahead of time or 6 hours before the deadline, almost everyone said they would have liked more time to complete the program (even though there was extra 4 weeks of discovery time added on at the end).

    Throughout it all, I think most of the requests for additional time were in regards to having more "work time" on a daily basis to participate in the program rather then extending the length of the program, for even among the 112 that completed by the L2`early bird date of Oct 7th (3.5 weeks early) there was a trend in staff members 23rd things posts (this was the last post that asked them to reflect upon their learning and the program) that they wanted more time.

    Reflecting on this trend, I think Procrastination is one of those adult habits that are hardest to break and I have come to the conclusion that even if participants had been given a year to complete the program, it still would have not been enough. The truth is that with these web 2.0 tools “Life comes as you fast!” And if the announcement of the Invention of the Year by Time magazine this week is any indication (it’s YouTube btw) then we need to realize that continuous discovery and learning needs to be an integral part of every staff member’s day-to-day activities and not something we can just put off because it's not convenient. Being knowledgeable of trends, tools and new information channels IS a part of our business no matter what form they come in, and as general rule I think librarians need to be more proactive in forging their own learning habits and continually challenging themselves to keep up with the curve. And if there's one Web 2.0 tool that librarians should be knowledgeable of it's RSS & new aggregators, for they are a godsend at meeting this challenge. :)

Anyway, those are my thoughts – all nine of them at best. If you’ve made it to the bottom of this long and lengthy post, thanks for sticking with me. And if you’re thinking about doing a Learning 2.0 program of your own, I’ll leave you with the invitation to feel free to use the site and contact me for suggestions ( there are a few exercises that might work better if you de-PLCMC-ize them) And last but not least, think seriously about offering incentives because ... Yes, “they do work!!”

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On calling the "kettle black" ... opps I mean "literacy illiterate"

Stephen Abram says it best as only Stephen can ...
"Why do we market one of our key products and competencies under the term 'information literacy'. Is it great marketing to make your customers admit to to being illiterate in order to buy into your service? Are Beauty Salons called Ugly Repair Rooms? Is perfume called stink remover and marketed to smelly folks who must admit that in the first step of a 12 step program? Are we founding Library Illiterates Anonymous without the anonymous? So let's remember that amongst us chickens, the professionals who know the deep stuff, we can call it information literacy but for others let's find other words that meet our goals better. Let's find better marketing hooks to lure in the great unwashed information user."

I agree, keep it fun!! And I'm especially intrigued by Pimp Your Research Skills. Hmmm... I wonder, do I need to wear 4 inch heels to deliver this training? If so, I'll definitely need some good "research bling." :)

Read the full text, Information Fluency

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On telling “our story”

If I’ve heard this stated once, I’ve heard it paraphased at least a hundred times in my tenure here at PLCMC …

“People don’t know what we do because we don’t do a very good job in telling the library’s story”

And as I heard this echoed again just last week, it dawned on me ... perhaps the problem isn’t that people don’t know what libraries do; it’s that we’re too focused on trying to tell “our story" to listen to our users trying to tell “theirs”.

The “story” we should really be telling is NOT the “library’s story” but rather the “community’s (ie our users) stories” and it’s really our users (and their needs) that make libraries valuable, not us!

Yup, can you tell I’m in a reflective mood? Just don’t get me started on … :)

A library image party ...

I love discovering great ideas that intrigue me … JPG magazine.

"JPG is a magazine. It's published 6 times a year by 8020 Publishing. Check out the back issues. The photos in the magazine come from you!"

Personally I’d love to see JPG publish an issue showcasing libraries, wouldn’t you? So why not join me in suggesting the theme:)

Here’s the list of current themes. Yup I can just see it now, can't you?

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PLCMC in Beta ...

After much anticipation, I’m pleased to share in the excitement that the new PLCMC website is officially open for preview. During the month of November, we running our new site in beta and soliciting feedback from users to help us continually improve the site.

Some of you may recall that we held focus groups with library users way back in the early spring which helped us revaluate our initial designs for the new site. After several development diversions this year, including the much needed and well received online payment of fines & fees application, the new PLCMC site is finally ready for launch.

My favorite part of the home page are the photos of patrons and staff interacting and I love the fact that you can set your home page to your favorite branch and always see a smiling face of a user that loves your home location as much as you whenever you visit.

What’s next? Well in addition to adding more RSS feeds, I hope we’ll see lots of other little improvements over the coming months … Stay tuned. :)

Congrats Chuck, Ian, Paul & Curtis! You guys deserve an early Fab Friday Salute for pulling this one together so well.

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Libraries & open infosystems …

I would have loved to have been a fly on wall at the SJL’s recent Leadership Summit, but reading through Joyce Valenza’s recap of the conversation on her blog Never Ending Search is nearly just as good ...

“We are now part of an open infosystem, though we may have been trained in an era of information scarcity. Information used to be not easy to find, expensive, hard to get to. The current situation is one of information ubiquity. We make a huge mistake when we make a firewall line between approved library information and the other data students find. We lost that battle—information gathering has left the building. We can no longer say, “Don’t go there—come here instead.” Learning happens nights and weekends when we’re not looking. It is not accurate to expect that it will all take place in an area we will control.”

Read the full post of thoughts and while you’re at it, add Joyce to your newsreader too!"

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Success Stories needed ...

Are you a small or rural public library that has found some success in maintaining your library's public access PCs and/or technology services? Well, your stories are needed...

The MaintainIT Project ( is gathering stories on how libraries maintain computers and Internet services for their communities. From the information collected, the Project will create best practice guides tailored to different types of public libraries and will distribute the free guides beginning in Spring 2007.

Librarians, IT staff, and technology consultants are invited to share both challenges in keeping public computers running as well as successes and lessons learned. Stories can be submitted online at or by contacting the project at maintainit[at], or 415-633-9390 and 800-659-3579 x 390.

Until December 15, the emphasis is on gathering stories from small, rural libraries, as the first guide will be oriented towards your needs.

The MaintainIT Project is a three-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. MaintainIT is a project of TechSoup, a nonprofit serving fellow nonprofits and public libraries with technology information, resources, and product donations.

PS: I've recently joined the MaintainIT Steering Committee, so please feel free to also contact me with your stories too. The project would love to hear from you.

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L2 Finale & Video

Wow what a journey the last 3 months have been since Learning 2.0 was first kicked off for staff back in August. For me the journey has been incredible in that I've been totally amazed by the energy, enthusiasm, learning and sharing that has come from the staff participating in this program. They all have truly inspired me and I can't help but think that in many ways it's this type of "learning" experience (fun, engaging and social) that our patrons crave too! I'm not specifically talking about doing a Learning 2.0 program for patrons -- although it has been tossed around -- but rather it's the "experience" part that is important to the learning process and this transcends to the services and offerings in our physical spaces too!

Anyway... I know that some of you are curious to know how the final numbers played out. In all 362 staff members joined in this experience and created a blog (that's 67% of our 540 member staff) and 226 completed the program (which is 101 more than my original goal for this optional voluntary program) and earned the MP3 player. And among all the final thought posts (see them tagged here) only 3 staff members indicated that they didn't feel their participation was worth it - and even so, they still recieved an MP3 player. :)

I plan to sum up the lessons learned from this program over the next few days and post my thoughts so that other libraries that have either started a Learning 2.0 program or are looking at developing one can benefit from PLCMC's experience.

In closing, I just have to say that this has been perhaps the most rewarding experience of my ten years here at PLCMC so far and the icing-on-the-cake to it all has been in reading and hearing from staff how very much they appreciated the encouragement and time to just "play" and "learn."

More later ... but for now pop on over to Learning 2.0 to see my YouTube video of closing remarks. :)

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