Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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LibGuides as outreach – Penn State

I was just looking over the Penn State Library’s LibGuide on the “Sandusky scandal”. It’s a fantastic example of how libraries can curate current event sources for researchers, and I’m so glad to see the trend is catching on (I initiated libguides of this kind when I was the Learning Commons librarian at UIUC. I always love to learn about other current event libguides). It’s a way libraries can be supremely helpful to early researchers, and help students learn about events in their life.

I can only imagine the challenges around putting together a guide like this on a campus undergoing the trauma Penn State is currently dealing with. It maintains a complete neutrality and evenhandedness, just collecting the sources.Emily Rimland did a fantastic job.

I keep struggling with my impulse to add a tab for library resources, for context for the topics of pedophilia, football politics, ethical conundrums*, and abuse of power. I can’t decide if their inclusion would be of even greater assistance to young researchers grappling with the story? Or would including the context, and thus explicitly naming the issues, politicize the guide? I like that current events guides can put the library in the path of a student’s curiosity, bridging news to subscribed content. But I’ve never taken on the creation of a guide like this in fraught times (I’ll admit I ducked creating one when the UIUC high level administration was felled one by one by the admissions scandal.)

I’ll add Emily to my list of brave librarians. And keep this guide bookmarked as a great example of a library resource as outreach.

* for lack of a better phrase. I’m thinking here about the psychological phenomena around making difficult decisions, and knowing what ‘the right thing’ is in any given situation.


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Technology, socialization, learning, and culture change

I’ll be presenting this week at the Library 2.011 conference. I’m pretty excited, I’ve got a great topic and the conference itself looks to be great. I also really like the idea of an international virtual conference. Two days of fantastic learning opportunities, without the costs and hassles of travel.

 

Also, I’m so excited that Christine Bruce will be keynoting! Even more excited that the conference will be recorded, since she’s speaking at 5am my time!

Here’s my program entry (Thursday, noon central time):

Creating a Learning Organization: Technology, socialization, learning, and culture change

Developing a learning environment is as much about culture change as it is about teaching and training. An effective learning organization can’t depend on the time of one trainer, but must be a community that learns from each other. Creating that sort of organizational change takes patience and a multi-pronged approach. Creating high and low tech opportunities for socialization and interaction must be interwoven with exposure to new tools, opportunities to implement new ideas and nuts and bolts training.

In this talk, I will discuss the various platforms I developed and implemented for creating a culture of learning, including redesigning the popular 23 Things program for ongoing learning, launching brownbags, retreats, and a community blog and learning objects archive.


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Innovation, Dispositions, and my love for JSB

I have a confession.

I have a huge girly intellectual crush on someone. I just can’t stop thinking about John Seely Brown. I was introduced to him last month at Internet Librarian, where he gave the first keynote (embedded at end of post) and set the tone and theme for the whole conference. He brought together notions of play, innovation, 21st century learning and skills, and introduced me to a word I’ve been looking for for years (dispositions).   I can’t tell you how many times I’m thinking about something else, and suddenly, I’m thinking about JSB.

Just now, I was thinking about a conversation I’ve been taking part in about innovation, and realized that JSB’s dispositions are the answer!

So, in this conversation, someone said they didn’t always think innovation was the answer, since it was somewhat unaccountable; constant change without reference or viability or cost-effectiveness or even whether or not the new things were appropriate for users and audience. Maybe somethings shouldn’t change? The proposed alternative was to support creativity. And while I certainly think creativity should be supported, I’m still pretty hung up on innovation as an organizational good.

The conversation spun off into another thread, where Dean Dad’s recent post about the cutting edge and retaining desktop computers was recommended as a thought piece about why innovation isn’t always a good.  Sometimes the old clunky tried-and-true needs to stick around for a reason.

Dean Dad is absolutely right. And, while I might be inclined to say that there is an innovation impulse behind his assertions, I realize that I may be defining innovation idiosyncratically.  I think I mean a willingness to explore every opportunity, to be willing to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable, to be willing to buck trends and step out in front, to think out of the box, to try new ideas (even if the new idea is an old idea), to not accept “because we’ve always done so” or “let’s form a task force to investigate” as acceptable answers. To lead when  you have a new thing to try, to follow only when following suits your users needs. To do whichever for good reason, not because or for knee jerk or unexplored reasons.

I think I mean a disposition.

JSB lists 3 dispositions essential for success.

  • Curiosity.                Amplify it.
  • Questing.                 Probe, seek, uncover
  • Connectivity.          Learning with & from each other

JSB points out the half life of skills has radically shortened, and that learning new skills is not something that we will be able to manage by returning to school. We need to develop certain dispositions, and foster them (not teach, they can’t be taught) in our users/patrons/learners. We have to foster these dispositions in ourselves, our colleagues, our students. And doing so comes from supporting play, tinkering, and learning.

I think that’s a big part of what I mean when I think about innovation. Not always just new for new’s sake. But the disposition, and the environment, that affords the possibilities.

Here’s the keynote. (If you  like it, he’s got 130 video talks on Youtube)

Video streaming by Ustream


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Brief pondering on the leadership/management divide

I just came across this quote, and it’s got me wondering –does it treat the Manager fairly? Is it a description of a good or a weak manager? And if it’s description of both Manager and Leader are accurate, how can those chasms be bridged for the goal of developing managers who lead? Are they completely contradictory?

The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust; The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective. The managers asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. Managers have their eyes on the bottom line; leaders have their eyes on the horizon; The manager imitates; the leader originates. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

- Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, quoted in Leadership, June 9, 1992


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It’s just 1 Thing….

For the past few months I’ve been getting situated in my position. I’m enjoying doing the technology training, and have modified my title (in my own mind) to Technology Training & Outreach librarian. It’s a good fit, and I’m always full of new ideas.

Some days it feels like I’ve not done much, but it’s good to remind myself  how much I’ve gotten done.

  • taken on training for the library CMS
  • a blog (for collecting training info into one place and for outreach, among other purposes)
  • relaunched for new purposes our in-house experts list (hopefully to use as a guide for a training plan)
  • I’ve dived into the literature on learning organizations
  • taken on and re-conceived my advisory committee
  • recruited librarians from across campus to contribute their knowledge to the Staff Development Blog
  • worked with IT to determine how I can best help support the Unified Communications roll out in the library
  • studied the approach to learning and knowledge sharing in my library
  • breaking down a project for 3 graduate students to assist me in developing
  • plotted a multi-directional approach to Technology Training
This last is really why I’m writing this post. I’ve got a whole bunch of things up my sleeves, and the first one was announced in-house today. In the next 10 days or so I’ll be announcing two more, and maybe a third as well. I have such a hard time working on things I am passionate about and also keeping quiet about them, so I can’t wait to tell you all about the rest of them. But I’ll be good, and for now, will just introduce One Thing at a Time!

Description: http://libstaffdev.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/1-thing-at-a-time.png?w=300


One Thing at a Time is a new iteration of the very popular 23 Things technology training program. I’ve been struggling with how to build ongoing training into everybody’s workload (both the learners and the trainer) and came up with this. Instead of fitting a finite number of tools into a small window, I’m developing patience (if it kills me I’ll learn patience!) and will try to get my entire staff engaged in exploring one tool each month. The program will be primarily blog-based, but I’m also including a hands-on in-person session each month to work with folks who work better by doing-together. I’m definitely worried that we’ll never get to everything, but I’m trying to keep in mind that less is more, and  that life is busy. And there is so much to stay on top of, it gets overwhelming. The best way to get through it is to focus on one thing at a time. And build learning in a semi-structured way into a monthly schedule.

I just have to keep reminding myself this is only one thing. There’s that other thing I’ll be launching on Friday, and the thing I think I’ll have time to write up by next Monday. And that other thing we hopefully have formal go-ahead on and will be able to discuss soon!

Now, what was I saying about patience??


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Introducing ACRL’s new Leadership Discussion Group!

We did it!

I’ve just received formal notification that the ACRL Executive Board approved our petition to create a Leadership Discussion Group!

We will meet at Annual (I’ll announce time and place) and I am waiting to hear about creating a listserv or other online discussion forum.

I am really excited, and grateful to everyone who signed the petition and helped make this happen.

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