Why should I learn about that when I’m busy with other stuff?


Any librarian who is running a Learning 2.0 (23 things) program or an Emerging Technologies group should listen with respect to staff that tell you:

  • their service points are too busy for them to play
  • they don’t understand how they can use new technologies in their jobs now
  • they would rather just read about them
  • they just want to be told which ones are relevant and just learn about those ones.

These people are not dumb grumps, they are usually people with busy jobs honestly expressing legitimate concerns. They are telling you where the bridge needs to be built.

Backroom disaster (3) uploaded to Flickr on September 1, 2006 by Travelin’ Librarian

Our Emerging Technologies Group involves weekly “hands on sessions” alternated with project work the next week.The group is voluntary and the hands on workshops have covered things like:

  • how to get a gmail account and google docs and aps
  • RSS and using the google reader
  • creating a wiki with PBwiki
  • libraries and YouTube
  • creating an avatar in Second Life and doing more with it
  • podcasting using Audacity
  • doing more with Firefox

I sat down to write up the program for this month and realised that most of the topics I had up my sleeve were topics most staff had not heard of, could not be immediately applied to their jobs, and hence staff would be unlikely to turn up. I was thinking of topics like:

  • social bookmarking using del.icio.us/connotea/citeulike,
  • high use social networks like twitter, facebook, pownce, myspace
  • bundling RSS feeds into an OPML file
  • creating a google widget
  • BIGWIG sharecase
  • LITA’s top technology trends.

What to do? The whole point of an Emerging Technology group is to look at what is being used by early adopters and how this may impact later on our services. If everyone has heard of it, it’s too late to be trying to assess the impact.

CW suggested that maybe we could try using the time for a reading group. Maybe we could formalise it and run a 23 things program aimed at staff who haven’t participated yet? Perhaps we could make the sessions less frequent and give them a set of self paced tasks and readings as well as the hands on workshop?

If Emerging Technologies are so important, however, I should be able to address staff concerns. My next step is to try to articulate exactly why library staff should take up their time to learn about Emerging Technologies, even those with no application right now.

Next post – wish me luck…

In praise of small things


A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a bit despondent about whether our Emerging Technologies Group is going in the right direction. We’ve chosen our first project – it is joyous, creative and collaborative and can involve lots of our staff and our community, but is a bit… well,… “fluffy”. I can see the value in it, but I wondered whether more traditional librarians would find it lightweight, and whether it looked like we were putting energy into trivia.


Avalanche uploaded to Flickr on October 19, 2006 by ben-der

So, I was extremely heartened when I read the May 2007 issue of Walt Crawford’s Cites and Insights. He’s begun a new column celebrating “small successes”. Here’s the passage that cheered me up and made me feel like our small project was worthwhile.

A note about “small successes”

When I use that term, it is not intended to demean the success. It’s an attempt to honor it, noting that something doesn’t have to be world changing to matter. The growing set of microloan programs for third-world mini-entrepreneurs is a classic “small success” approach: $25 here and $100 there may mean more in some cases than a multimillion-dollar project. An effective reference blog in a library may do more than a universal blogging program, even if it begins and grows slowly. Two local libraries making a handshake agreement and using (gasp!) the telephone as a basis for communication: it won’t revolutionize either library, but it does provide significant additional resources at the point of need.

Small successes add up over time.

This week I was reminded that not every librarian who can see the benefits of Library2.0 technology is lucky enough to have management willing to embrace it.

Helene Blowers, who designed the Learning2.0 social software course, posted about being at the Computers in Libraries 2007 conference and meeting many, many frustrated librarians who want to start projects using new technologies but are:

stippled [sic] and oppressed by stale management and old world politics.

She wonders

if what the profession really needs is just to give some administrators a good swift kick in the head.”.

In conclusion, however, she joins the chorus in praise of small things:

It’s hard to fight battles through small change, but with enough small battles, it creates some erosion. And the thing about erosion is … that if it continues long enough, it eventually leads to an avalanche of new opportunity!

So next time I feel like a project that brings new attittudes to our library is small and insignificant, I’ll be chanting my mantra “Small successes are potential avalanches, Small successes are potential avalanches”.

Library Emerging Technologies Group


Three weeks ago, our Library Emerging Technologies group began our weekly meetings. We divide the hour long session into halves:

  1. Hands on look at a new tool – all library staff welcome
  2. Project work by the “getting things done” group

Because we are focussing on new attitudes as well as tools, I’m telling my inner control freak to sit back and let the participants take ownership and decide the direction. My inner control freak tells me I’m being vague and wishy washy. My supervisor and I worked out the bottom line aims (Use this stuff to produce a useful project, create greater understanding of the tools for all library staff), then are leaving the rest up to the participants.

The first eight weeks involves learning about the tools (gmail, PBwiki etc) that we’ll use to run the project. I hope that after this, participants will start presenting about technology that has caught their eye.

I’ve booked all our meetings in PC labs, so everyone is sitting in front of a keyboard all meeting.

Here’s our terms of reference:


  • To discover, incubate and communicate new technological tools so we can provide better service to our clients.
  • To discover, understand and communicate new attitudes and expectations which come with the use of new technological tools.

This is done by:

  1. experimenting with using new web tools to run the business of the group.
  2. welcoming input and attendance by any member of library staff to any meeting/event
  3. maintaining current awareness of useful new technologies.
  4. assessing the potential of very new web tools, which may be unfinished or in beta, by hands on experimentation where feasible.
  5. accepting that some technologies assessed will be rejected after experimentation.
  6. experimenting with library service delivery in pilot projects using appropriate new technologies. (eg. podcasting)
  7. experimenting with library service delivery in pilot projects which accomodate new expectations brought about by new web tools (eg. allowing comments on an external blog)
  8. sharing information about useful new technologies with other library staff informally and by seminars and hands on workshops.
  9. identifying projects which could be better developed to full production by another area of the library, rather than remain the experimental responsibility of the group.