IL2009 – 23 Things in the Community

Last month, Sacramento Public completed what we felt was a successful “27 Things” program for our staff, and will soon be planning something similar for our public. So I was surprised to learn that only a handful of libraries have tried it, and with only limited success.

The four presenters, Jennifer Koerper (Boston Public Library), Bobbi Newman (Chattahoochee Valley Libraries), Rebecca Ranallo (Cuyahoga County Public Library) and Sean Robinson (Allen County Public Library) all had similar comments.

The major issues they mentioned included:

  • Consider scalability (if you have huge participation, will you have the means to provide a prize for every finisher?) Experience shows, no prize, no participation. Will you have the available staff to spend the time needed to comment on blogs and keep track of progress? Time required is significant.
  • Screen for previous skills. The public will have a  w-i-d-e  range of abilities, and the program seems to work better in one-on-one or very small group settings. Group people of similar abilities together.
  • Target the “things” to specific audiences, for example, grandparents and Flickr; businesses and Twitter; moms and Facebook.  People are more apt to succeed if the “thing” meets their specific needs.
  • Some libraries are exploring other venues, such as wikis, in-person class sessions and screencasts to ease the load for library staff.
  • Unlike staff who are around during the day, it’s harder to nudge and motivate the public if individual momentum begins to flag.

Recommendations for libraries who still want to try it:

  • Seriously limit the number of “things” you offer to the most essential: e-mail, blog, facebook/linked-in, etc.
  • Consider a series of weekly in-person classes, one for each “thing”, and targeting a specific audience.
  • Consider using a wiki instead of a blog, where each participant has a page instead of a personal blog – only one place for staff to check.
  • Find out who else in the community is helping people, and partner with them. Move outside your library and into the community.

Based on these recommendations, we will need to re-think our public program, and we could also use some of these considerations to shape the requested continuation of the staff program – several wanted to continue learning about new things, but at a slower pace –  maybe one new one per month.


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