Upgrading, Upselling, Upending

I’ve been patiently waiting for two years – well, maybe not so patiently the last 5 months – for the right moment to upgrade my 9 year old laptop running Windows XP. That moment came precipitously last month, when Microsoft set its ending date for XP support. I now have a new, much faster and very capacious laptop with a numeric keypad – something I’ve needed for a long time. I have to say, it’s been a learning experience to re-learn the locations of some of the keys I use often, like DEL, HOME, and END, and to tweak Windows 7 for my use, but I’m loving the speed and space I now have at my disposal. I’m looking forward to another long partnership.

I waffled about downloading Second Life, but ultimately did download a viewer from the Second Life web site. BIG disappointment! Although I’ve not been in Second Life for a couple of years, I never cancelled my membership, and I do own a small dwelling there. I thought, with a newer, faster, computer, some of the frustrations I experienced would evaporate – but no such luck. The viewer was crazy, stuttering and blanking out continuously, so I uninstalled it. Next step: do a little more work looking for compatible viewers. Not promising I’ll visit SL any more often, but sometimes there are interesting programs there, and libraries appear to still be actively involved.

I’ve now reached that stage in a Boomer’s life when retirement actually seems like a possibility. I’m among the top 5 most senior members of my library’s cohort, though I still feel like the New Person. I love my job – it’s the most perfect profession I could have chosen – but contemplation of retirement is beginning to proffer the charms and allure of discretionary time. To do what? To go where? It’s actually difficult to comprehend not-working; but for my demographic the employment wave has passed, and the next generation will pick up the next set. I feel a new research assignment landing in my in-box: can this be done before I’m 90?

 

Quotables from the Strongest Librarian in the World

It’s now over four months since the Internet Librarian 2013 conference ended. I can’t let these lines go to waste, because they’re too good to hide. They are from the closing keynote of the conference, given by Josh Linkner, of Salt Lake City Library.

It’s not our job to create a better library. it’s our job to create a better community. (Dir of SLC library)
For those who think libraries are going away because people are finding the information and the recreational reading they need at Google and Amazon, this statement may seem to prove their point. Abandoning the traditional roles of providing information and reader’s advisory services, of preschool storytimes and summer reading, isn’t the point here. Closing the technology gap and creating opportunities for members of the community to learn skills and become qualified for school and employment is what’s important now. Offering computer classes, GED prep, homework help and job-search resources. Making ourselves an active and engaged member of the community by participating in community events, visiting schools and organizations, partnering in literacy and oter programs, and maintaining an approachable and friendly presence in social media puts a “human” face on our organization that makes it easy for community members to think of us for their information and skills-building needs.

The purpose of a library is to make people free; freer than they would be without a library.
The library, if it’s doing what it should, provides information that supports the major sides of important issues so people can form their own opinions. The library supports continuing education for every member of the community and provides the opportunity to ask and answer questions about anything, without censure.

The library is a place where, when you step through the door, you acquire dignity.
No comment needed.

Creating Challenges

When I worked in the Hawaii State Public Library System as manager of the Molokai Branch, the community “newspaper” was a wall of 3×5 cards on the outside of the Post Office. There was no home mail delivery (nor business delivery, either,) so everyone had to make the trip into Kaunakakai at some point in order to buy groceries and pick up their mail. The Post Office was the perfect place to post news of births, birthday parties, softball league schedules, yard sales, babysitting requests and offers, reminders to vote, library programs … and deaths.

Reading the Post Office wall was how I learned that Maui Community College sent instructors over during the spring and fall semesters to teach continuing-ed courses. Over several years, I took IBM BASIC, Human Relations in Business, Personal Income Tax Preparation, Beginning Accounting, and Introduction to Economics. Nowhere else I have worked has there been such affordable classes for working people.

California also has rich continuing-ed opportunities for library employees via Info People, and I have taken my share of their courses. They have helped me keep up to date with new library technology, new ideas in e-reader support, new ways of looking at a reference collection and measuring its use. I’ve taken many of their how-to classes as well: how to design public computer classes, how to create screencasts, how to negotiate vendor contracts, how to catalog software.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a course that I know will challenge me because it’s in an area I DON’T deal with every day. That’s why I jumped at the chance to take a series of courses made available by Sacramento City College that will lead to certification in online instruction. I can’t wait till the March 31st starting date!

Engaging Boomers: Digital Literacy 2013

“Boomers” still comprise a big demographic of our population. We are characterised by a desire to be active, to take on a second career, to challenge our minds, to contribute to the community by volunteering, and are savvy consumers. (Huffington Post, 4/24/2012) Amanda Grombly, Librarian at Tulare County Library, presented some lessons learned from programming for this age group.
 
Since many services are now online-only (applications for work, aid, communication with family), she offered some basic computer classes to help this group get the access and skills they need to be self-sufficient. Some topics: basic computers, smart searching, community health resources, going back to work, tech test drive, minding dollars and sense. Her target audience was those who do not use computers because it’s too complicated or too hard to figure out.
 
She discovered that
  • The health, technology and money classes were virtually ignored, but the basic computer skills, smart searching and jobs classes were really popular.
  • This group likes to take the basic/beginning classes multiple times, so offering a basic class on a regular basis is more successful than offering it just once.
  • The library needs to be aware of competition in the community for similar classes.
  • The information about the classes needs to be easy to find. The newspaper is a more effective PR venue than flyers or event calendars.
  • The library needs to define what services it is willing to teach. Pick a few and add more as you can. Some services requested: using e-readers; buying e-books from amazon; streaming netflix. They decided to provide referrals for everything except library ebooks.
  • Mornings and mid-afternoon seem to be the best times for programs.
  • The one-on-one model works really well for this audience, providing point of need service, specific information for the individual’s situation.
  • Staff needs patience to work through the questions without triggering information overload.
 
This matches the experience I’ve had here at Central Library. People seem to want to repeat classes to reinforce what they learn, especially because they don’t have the same programs installed on their home computers – if if they even have one. Our most successful programs are basic computing skills, MS Word and MS Excel. Programs offered on other topics (Twitter, Facebook, Travel, Finance, iPads) bombed.
 
Follow Amanda on Twitter: @agrombly

Internet @ Schools

A nice feature of the Internet Librarian conferences is the ability to cross over to the parallel conference, Internet @ Schools. I attended a few sessions in this track and met several librarians who also instruct at community colleges.

Summaries of the sessions I attended:

Flipped Professional Development (Dawn Nelson, Instructional Media & Technology Coordinator, Osseo Area Schools, Maple Grove, MN) – slides are at http://d279.us/flippedPD. Because everyone is busy and large chunks of time and interest for professional development are simply not available, Dawn recommends breaking up tech training into 10-15 minute “slams” that anyone can fit into a busy schedule. To generate interest in the session, she shares resources, tools, and interesting links ahead of time. For example, to advertise a Skype tutorial, she will record a “commercial” in Skype and send a link to it as a teaser.

Other successful PD topics: twitter, blogging, Diigo, pinterest, scoop.it, pearltrees, LiveBinders. Of these, LiveBinders caught my attention. This site offers a way for instructors – or anyone – to collect and organize web content from multiple sources and present them in a tabbed format. Sample LiveBinders show that they could be useful in business and libraries, in addition to classrooms.

Also in the Schools track, Gary Price showcased open web sites suitable for adaptation to classroom activities in math, science, geography, etc. Check out Planefinder.net and Google Street View Player.

Libraries Are Loved, But there’s still work to be done.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker was Lee Rainie, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. According to data the Pew researchers have compiled, it is abundantly clear that Americans love their libraries. But there are some surprising twists:

Although 91% of those 16 and older believe that libraries are important to their communities, only 76% say libraries are important to them! They believe strongly in the following:

  • the central mission of the library: promoting literacy and the love of reading
  • that libraries provide services many would have a hard time finding elsewhere, and
  • that libraries improve the quality of life in the community.

On the other hand, 50% of those surveyed think people don’t need libraries as much as they used to, because they can find information on their own.

Core functions of libraries continue to be lending books, providing reference help, free access to computers and the internet, & quiet study spaces. People instinctively thnk of the library as a platform for getting government, health, or job information – which means libraries need to maintain important ties to communities and services.

The data show that only 23% of patrons say they know all or most of the services libraries offer; 47% know some of them, and 30% know nothing or not much about what libraries offer. Since even non-users are fans, we need to address the gap between those who like libraries and those who actually use them. The biggest driver in patron engagement in the library is the addition of a child. But library use is also affected by economic http://www.pewinternet.org job status, getting an e-reader. The biggest driver in decreased use is acquisition of personal technology.

Of library users, almost half say no one else in their household uses the library; 39% of Americans don’t have library cards, 19% have never visited a library, and 9% don’t even know where the library is! Almost equal numbers of people want the library to remove some books and shelves to make room for tech centers, reading and meeting rooms, and cultural events. Agreement with this varies by age, ethnic group, income and level of education.

Most users think libraries should coordinate closely with local schools in providing resources to kids, offer free early literacy programs – in other words, to fix the schools. New literacies are being required now, including technology literacy, search, and facility with apps.

So, the most successful libraries should be offering:
1. tech skills training
2. preschool programs
3. after school activities
4. esl courses
5. lifelong learning/ credentialing competency
6. fill community/civic information curation gaps – things that the local newspaper used to be good at: city hall, school boards, library boards,
7. help for small business/entrepreneurs/nonprofits
8. serendipity agents of discovery “if you want fun, interesting, sentimental… stuff you didn’t know you were interested in, come to the library.”

Internet Librarian 2013

Opening keynote
Peter Morville – Information architecture: the future of libraries

Title changed to Inspiration architecture”
Slideshare/ check twitter for URL

Information architecture: structural design of shared information environments.
What are you actually going to do online?
Need to deal with website governance and organizational culture.
Information architcts are architects of understanding – building bridges between information and people.

Sir Ken robinson – you tube video on education as factories.
technologists dont understand teaching; teachers dont understand tech; need a way to synthesize the pieces and “make learning whole.” (David Perkins)

Christensen – Disrupting class -
Reliance on google – folks are entering the workplace without really knowing how to search; perception of library as gateway of knowledge is decreasing, but as a purchasing agent is increasing;

People understand one-search integrated interfaces with facets – people “get” this ,because it’s the way they shop; the facets provide a custom map to their interests – creates a complex boolean search withouth knowing how to create a boolean search query. Students will actually dig deeper and use library resources.

Schein – corporate culture survival guide – artivacts – espoused values – underlying assumptions.

Moocs have an opportunity to provide academic information to those that take the courses.

Information gulch is related to income; info literacy is making things worse.

Ambient findability -> sarno – healing back pain – when the prescribed and conventional treatments don’t work
unwillingness to learn new things is because of cultural blinders (filter bubble?) Many people ay not want information, and they will avoid using a system that will provide information. (Mooers).
One of the nmost effective ways to change behavior is to change the environment (cf international travel)
Use info architecture to change the environment and therefore behavior.

Power of Habit – some habits have the power to start a chain reaction (keystone habit). willpower, exercise.

Libaries and national parks are similar in that they teach us that our most valuable treasures are held in common.

The libary s a keystone of culture – far more important tnan anyone realizes. But this idea is at risk – too many people think we don’t need libaries brcause we have the Internet. The future of libraries involves creating something entirely new – for this we need info architects, inspiration architects – the library is an act of inspiration architecture.