After the course: Using technology for community engagement

In February 2016 Barbara Alvarez taught a great new c3_fingers_in_circleourse for Infopeople called “Using Technology for Community Engagement.” Participants learned to use readily accessible equipment (such as a smart phone and free or low-cost software) to facilitate the sharing of community stories. Alvarez taught learners to record and upload videos, create podcasts, and virtually broadcast community conversations and events.

As the course wrapped up, learners created action plans in which they outlined their intentions for using technology to engage their communities.  They were enthusiastic about what they had learned and about what they were going to be able to do, “I learned so many things that I could now apply to my job. This course was full of practical ideas and tips on how to get started” and “This has to be one of the most inspiring courses that I’ve taken in a long time. I love technology and social media, so everything in this course: the podcasting, the video production and the broadcasting has set my creativity in motion. There are endless possibilities for Community Engagement.”

A few months after the course ended, we checked in with learners to see what they had done. Here are a few of the sharing_community_storiesresponses we received:

  •  Videos – Jane Dobija, Senior Librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library’s Woodland Hills Branch Library feels “so much more confident” about her awareness of technology’s potential for libraries and community engagement. She’s created a great little video on her tablet about the library’s balcony garden project.
  • Podcasts – Wanangwa Dever, Technical Services Librarian with the Polk County Public Library in Columbus, NC, said that the biggest way the course was helpful for her was with podcasting. She shared information from the class with her co-workers, including programming assistant Amelia Derr, who was just getting ready to start podcasting with teens at their programs. Wanangwa connected Amelia with a classmate who had already done some podcasting with the teens at her library. Here’s a Google Hangouts on Air that Wanangwa and Amelia created to introduce the library’s Teen Scene and here’s a podcast featuring teen book reviews, too.
  • Videos – Katrina E. Laws, Web Librarian at Solano County Library (CA) has created several things since the course.  In March, the library celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring women in the community and Katrina created videos featuring local women, shared on Facebook and on Twitter.  She created a video to promote feminist books in the library’s collection, too!
  •  Podcasts – Pamela Hoppock, Youth Services Consultant at the South Carolina State Library and her coworker are getting ready to start producing two short podcasts every month. They will kick off the series with a podcast talking about summer reading and StoryfestSC (the statewide kick off to summer reading). Hoppock says, “…our purpose is really three-fold:  promote our own services and resources and those of other libraries, educate our listeners—library staff and the non-library staff, and hopefully entertain along the way. We are planning on using social media as the primary way to market our new podcast series.”
  • Social Media – Since taking the online class, Tamara Evans, Digital Services Librarian at the Kings County Library – Hanford Branch (CA), has used social media in order to engage with the community and publicize library events. They recently debuted a Veteran Resource Center and had a successful turnout via people sharing the event from the library’s Facebook page.
  • Podcasts & Live Events & Videos – Crystal Miller, Circulation Manager at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library ID)) says they have added podcasts the library’s long range plan and are also looking into possibly recording more library events and airing them on the local government channel. They are also trying to reinvigorate a Story Catcher program, which collects videos of local oral stories.

Thank you to Barbara for teaching this course and thank you to these learners for sharing the stories of how the course impacted their ability to engage their communities using technology.

(Missed the February course? Good news – it will be offered again in November!)










Learners have come a long way with tech developments

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.

National Archives and Wikipedia

The continuing development of the US Open Government Plan, first promoted in 2010, and leading, in 2011, to the naming of a Wikipedian in Residence at the National Archives (NARA), is set to go the next step. All of NARA’s digitized content will be loaded into Wikipedia. Already 100,000 images from NARA are available freely and readily via Wikimedia Commons.

This is another alert to us in the library world that we need to take Wikipedia as a serious reference source, help develop our community members’ understanding of how to evaluate its content, and use it ourselves for some serious research.

This new open data reality can save us time and collection money. It furthers our capacity to bring vetted, primary sources to local users. It doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is close to perfect. But it is a strong indication that we need to move our professional discussion of best practices beyond the yes/no evaluation of resources to discover, learn and teach the how and why of discovering the best resource available to respond to the user need.


Librarians going beyond Google

In a continuing series of engaging panel discussions hosted by American Libraries, AL Live, the episode presented last Thursday offered a rich mix of observations, insights, and big questions about how library staff–most particularly reference staff–out-Google Google’s popular reputation as the resource par excellance. Going Beyond Google  worked through such concerns as utilizing Google web crawling to reveal library contents for user discovery; recognizing reference staff’s shift from fact-finders to evaluation guides; teaching students the difference between the wisdom of crowds and authentic data; and, most especially, the seemingly irreplaceable role human interaction–conversational communication–plays in getting the person with the question to infomation that best responds to addressing it.

The live webcast itself epitomized the very values being named and addressed throughout it. Panelists engaged each other, through Dan Freeman’s fast paced hosting, rather than announcing positions held individually outside the influence of the ongoing conversation. Virtual participants added meaty remarks, with Dan turning to these text chatters frequently enough to keep the preset discussion questions fluid and evolved under the comments added extemporaneously.

Among the takeaways from this model reference engagement process was the citing of an ACRL document authored by Megan Oakleaf,  The Value of Academic Libraries, which provides–and importantly for public and other libraries beyond academic ones–replicable charting methods for displaying how libraries, and librarian-provided services, provide institutional value.

Other takeaways included the restatement of reference (and other library provisions) in a “Google world” as being one of fruitful addition, wayfinding, mentorship, and authoritative balance rather than an unfruitful competition between librarian and search engine. The incomparable worth of communication–between librarian and information seeker–was highlighted as the epitome of library added value to any knowledge search beyond the identification of simple fact. And to that end, the webcast itself was a model of communication among librarians about where and how to get beyond Google.

Listening to literature

June, we have been celebrating across nearly two decades now, is Audiobook Month. In many parts of California, the audiobook experience is tied to car-based commuting, and, in agricultural areas, tractor driver companionship. California is also the birthplace of Earphone English secondary school programming targetting English Language Learners in a long-running public/school library collaboration.

And audiobook appreciation is a whole lot more. Audiobooks give inveterate book worms the opportunity to get their reading jones on while working out, walking about, cleaning house, and drifting into sleep. Professional performance turns the written word into, as Booklist audiobook maven Mary Burkey calls it, “Voices in My Head”–voices that pronounce unusual vocabulary correctly, give body to cultural and regional accents, and give those for whom reading with the eyeballs is less than cimfortable ready literary access via reading with the ears.

June now stretches into all summer, with industry promotions bringing all sorts of audiobook freebies, including SYNC, Spoken Freely, and for those who love lists, the shiney new Audies list–with clips, of course. The big news this Audiobook Month is the serious reconsideration DRM is getting from production companies. Oh, and EBSCO’s new audiobook “sound alike” algorithm incorporated into NoveList Plus.

Audiobooks turn literature into performance art, more than just a pretty good aesthetic deal available with a library card. The medium also puts the legs on the idea that we can all become better listeners. We spend a lot of time learning to communicate out. Audiobook Month can remind us thst communication isn’t a one-way street, and the traffic of literary appreciation has intersections, varying speed zones, and unexplored neighborhoods.

Let’s get listening.