Category Archives: training

Teaching What I Know

I’m “stretching,” as they say in motivational presentations. I’m going “outside the box.” I’m teaching a weekly Reference Services class in the LIT department of my local community college without benefit of any experience in a formal academic setting.

Although I’ve taken many face-2-face and online courses, I’ve never thought much about the prep that has to go into presenting 54 class hours. I have an assigned textbook, and the learning outcomes are already established. My job is to divide the work into weekly segments, create and grade relevant assignments, upload additional supplemental readings, draft quizzes, arrange for guest lecturers and field trips, and do this while holding down my regular 40-hour/week job at the public library.

I’ve never thought about dividing up the work I do into discrete segments for students who will graduate with a Library Technician degree. It’s like trying to draft written instructions for getting dressed, or brushing your teeth. My work is something I do without thinking; creating sequential lessons for teaching the work I do is challenging.

I am looking forward to this new part of my life. Demand for library technicians is growing, as librarians pursue other aspects of service – particularly in public libraries. Here’s my chance to make sure my students have a realistic understanding of the profession, a marketable skill set and an awareness of all the different kinds of libraries they may choose to work in after graduation. Depending on funding, of course.


There’s An App For That …

I just completed another Infopeople online class, “There’s an App for That“.  (Who would have thought I’d ever be REQUIRED to play in the app store!) This was a challenging class on two fronts:  time and critical analysis.  We students downloaded and examined apps on our personal mobile phones and tablets, and shared our opinions and reviews on a private Posterous blog set up by the instructor.

We looked at apps in four categories: e-book readers & news, productivity, library web sites & mobile apps, and creative & reference apps.  We discussed how our reading and news-gathering habits have changed over the last ten years, and speculated on the future of library services in the next few years.  We compared ways to capture web sites and save them for offline reading on a mobile device.  Sometimes it was a leap to apply what we were evaluating to actual library service. The apps seemed to be more suited to helping librarians use their time and their devices more effectively.

I can, however, see the value of knowing about apps in a reference sense, and being able to refer patrons to an appropriate app when needed.  Keeping up with app reviews is no problem for me – the app store is now my favorite department store – and knowing that our database vendors are now producing apps will help us sell their content to reluctant users. We already have Mango and EBSCO,  and we also use Boopsie so patrons can use our catalog and account services on their phones. I don’t think I would have spent the time analyzing apps for content and usability, were it not for this class, nor would I have considered creative uses for apps in delivering modern library service.  Time well spent!

Peddling Influence

I found an intriguing idea in “The Influencer“: Dr. Mimi Silbert, founder of the Delancey Street Foundation,  has been successful in rehabilitating over 14,000 homeless, mentally ill, and addicted people by changing two vital behaviors. The only two rules for her residents are:

  1. Each person must take responsibility for someone else’s success. After a person enters Delancey, he is coached by a resident in a skill, such as setting tables in the restaurant.  After a week or so, the new resident then becomes the coach for a newer resident.  The focus is thus changed from how you are doing to how your crew is doing.  It cannot be all about me at Delancey.
  2. Each resident must speak up to people who are breaking rules, drifting off, becoming verbally aggressive and otherwise behaving badly, every single time. For many people, breaking the street code that says take care of yourself first and don’t rat on anyone is very hard; learning to confront problems and abide by norms is essential to working well together and becoming a functioning member of society.

Imagine if we applied just the first rule to library staff: each person must take responsibility for someone else’s success.  What would that look like in terms of teamwork and staff cohesion? No one would be working in a vacuum, and every one would be personally responsible for the success of the organization. What a concept!

Screencasting: Easy Online Tutorials

Paul R. Pival, Public Services Systems Librarian at the University of Calgary gave a relaxed rundown of web-based and client tools for creating online screencasts, which can be used for tutorials on-the-fly (think chat refrerence) or embedded in a web site or blog. The audience was mixed in their  of experience, and that led to some lively questions and answers..

The bottom line: practice the library law that states, “Save the time of your user.” Screencasts are ideal for those situations you need to explain over and over, they are available 24/7 if embedded, and can be put up quickly on YouTube (recommended) or other sharing sites like They can also be tagged, commented and shared (or borrowed, if you find a good one that works for your library.)

Free tools that impressed me: Jing (can be annotated), Screenr (tweet or delete); Screencast-o-Matic and Screen Jelly (no downloads.) Hulu allows you to save flash videos and do stuff with them.

SnapZ Pro was suggested from the audience, but offers no post-production editing.

Paul recommend we use YouTube as our video host; HD or HQ files are bigger but have better resolution.

Camtasia Studio is the cadillac and comes w/ 30 day free trial.  It can import other videos for editing. Shows when the mic is recording and can recognize your webcam so you can introduce yourself before recording the demo. Can record audio afterwards, and the latest version can separate audio and video and edit one or the other separately.

It is important to have a good microphone; USB recommended over analog, and Logitech makes a decent one for about $30.

Scripts: do several dry runs, identify  the main points, then record. Don’t worry about perfection, because most students are willing to get the points quickly – you can edit later, if needed. If you read from a script, be careful about extra sounds like page turns.

But Will it Fly?

I’m conducting my first public computer class soon on the subject of “Air Travel”. I created the lesson plan in 2006 as an assignment for an InfoPeople course called “Computer Classes to Go” taught by a librarian from the Hibbing Public Library. I’ve been link-checking and correcting the parts that refer to features of our catalog that don’t exist any more. Basically, I think it’s still a sound lesson.

Hibbing Public Library posts its computer class lesson plans on its web site under a Creative Commons license. This makes it easy to adapt a proven lesson in far less time than it would take to create one from scratch.  (I see tonight that they have suspended their classes due to staff vacanies – too bad!)

If this works, I’ve got some great ideas for future class topics!

2009 and 23 Things

This year will probably become the Year of Presentations. Or the Year of Social Everything. I’m a member a team just gearing up to begin a “23 Things” style campaign in the system.  We’ve set up a Ning space and have dabbled at posting, updating profiles, and scheduling meetings.  However, the asynchronicity – and the holidays that so inconveniently intervened between F2F meetings – have us all a little frustrated. We haven’t got the timing nor the momentum to make it work very well yet.  Howeve, we’re meeting in person this week to put together the plan for the “SPL2point0” campaign.

This year, I’m also getting more active with adult programming and outreach.  I’m going to actually use a lession I prepared for an InfoPeople class a couple years ago. In fact, the class is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I need to get on it and do some link-checking and customizing, get the handouts and evaluations printed, check the wi-fi in the computer lab (it wasn’t working a couple of weeks ago), and prepare a plan B in case it’s sstill not working.

I’ve been invited to speak about our e-resources to the school librarians in the Twin Rivers school distict next month, so I’m collaborating with one of our youth services librarians to adapt my “Use your library @ home” presentation for the teacher/student environment.  This is a great opportunity to promote some of the resources we have that are specifically designed for students, more especially so since some of the schools in the district are in lower-income areas of the county.

Schools in California have been hit very hard by the current economic doldrum, and have been forced to cancel their online subscriptions and have lost their book budgets as well.  Even though we say our public library does not support the educational curriculum, we really do – in several ways. I’m glad I’m in the public library house!


Today I attended an InfoPeople workshop called “Moving Into Management“, led by Nancy Bolt, former Colorado State Librarian. She and the other participants validated my feeling that management is inherently stressful, especially for new managers, for at least the first full year. A particularly valuable part of the workshop was the handout of the collected observations of real managers, remembering their own first management positions and offering advice for new managers. The bottom line was that becoming a manager is a career change, regardless of whether you stay in the same industry or not. Unless you treat it as such, you will encounter difficulties with staff and your own achievement.

Another important point our instructor mentioned as recurring in every management book is that it is vital for the new manager to engage in self-reflection, self-analysis, and self-understanding. This theme recurs, because if you don’t understand your own needs and tendencies, it’s impossible to deal with the needs of those you supervise and those who supervise you. It’s also OK to come to the conclusion that management may not be for you.

A third component of the workshop stressed the need for networking, expressing in action the vision of administration for the library, and of making yourself visible by volunteering to lead projects.

Lots to think about, especially in these times of staff and budget shortages. It’s easy to fall into the self-pity trap, but for those with motivation and ambition, for those with a vision of what they want to achieve, there is still room at the top.