For the past decade, Infopeople has offered a course for all library types and staff classifications on Weeding for Your Library’s Health. More accurately, we’ve offered an ever evolving course addressing this topic and, for me as its decade-long instructor, the evolution is apparent in the participants as well as the format and coverage.
Weeding in libraries calls up all manner of political and emotional red flags, as Boston Public Library most recently demonstrates in national news. Second guessing Any Library’s weeding makes Monday (or Tuesday) morning quarterbacking look useful. Instead of going into all that, what I want to do is share what the decade shows in terms of Infopeople learner participation.
The first dozen iterations of this workshop were day-long on-ground offerings. Workshop attendees did represent a variety of library types (including private as well as public, school, and academic) and each group shared a general geographic location–which is to say that the collective wisdom in the room tended to be, well, local. And since these were on-ground workshops in which we were all together for one day only and parked in a meeting room, the “hands on” exercises necessarily involved whatever I had toted into that room, or the host library had on offer from recently already-weeded stores. (TSA used to leave very interesting notes in my weeding workshop luggage). Then, at the end of the day, everyone went home, and the next day went back to his or her library and either weeded…or didn’t.
The course moved online even before Infopeople online course moved to Moodle. Online courses were a new experience for lots of library staff. They struggled with posting assignments on top of struggling with weeding. But it was immediately apparent that an online course, unfolding over weeks, was a lot more effective in terms of learning and doing weeding! Participants were in their own locations. The assignments had them working with their own weeding issues on location.
As the years passed, the location diversity among online course participants ramped way up. Now a course complement included diverse library types, diverse classifications, and geographic diversity. Participants began to find support and weeding allies a thousand miles away, while still being able to practice what they were learning right where they needed it to be happening–in their home libraries.
And participants have become increasingly comfortable with online learning, a capacity development which makes everyone’s course experience richer. Forum posts are increasingly substantive, a higher and higher percentage of those who register are active on a frequent basis throughout the course, and questions and suggestions fly between 50+ points of contact instead of within a table group of two or three.
Weeding is never going to be the library world’s favorite task. But every time I spend a month with a new group of participants willing to learn more about weeding well, I come away impressed by how far online learning capacity grows among library staff, well, everywhere.