Browsing as an art and lifeskill

One of this year’s recurring topics at Book Expo revolves around the current book industry reconsideration of DRM (the digital rights management coding that essentially keeps ebooks and eaudio locked from the user’s attempt to copy–and, too often, from accessing a rightfully owned file  due to technical incompatibilities between  file and player or other downloading snafus). As digital intellectual property becomes increasingly accessible, both technically and popularly, some of us librarians here in the digital collections conversation are identifying the need to create the opportunity for collection users to engage in physical browsing.

This, for me anyway, is an unexpected lapse in the rich world of digital collection use habits: youth readily scan web pages, sample music, and put their eyes, ears and imaginations to the end of sorting among options to find what fits the moment’s need or want, from an information standpoint. Browsing, however, has become a stranger. Browsing–be it among horses in a meadow or middle schoolers in the school media center– is a physical activity as much as an engagement of thoughts/feelings elicited by auditory or visual stimuli. Confronting three potential resources for pursuing research on Egyptian jewelry making is, of course, a lot about what visual scanning–and in the case of a video’s soundtrack, in this example–sound resonance. Engaging one’s evaluative powers, however, can be enhanced by leafing through plates that were set in just this specific order, noting that the volume offers a biographical note about its author who turns out to be a noted jeweler, and how this volume’s smell contrasts with the scent of that other one which has beautiful little pen and ink sketches and no photos of artifacts. And, oh look, this third is printed on heavy stock that seems to promise its contents are similarly substantive…but are they? Can one judge content worth by its package…oh, look, another now personalized question to explore by the beginning researcher….

The intrinsic difference between this kind of browsing and online research scanning is subtle. No superior term paper grades abound to demonstrate the academic worth of touching, turning, riffling and hefting as part of the resource selection process. And yet, these browsing activities call up resources within budding researchers’ awareness. It’s not just who said it, when it was said, and whether it works in my information gap context; it’s also about learning to learn, and learning is an engagement with the world in its concrete aspect as well as the abstracted formulations we can draw.

American news habits and information needs

A week ago, during a multi-organization meeting about how public libraries play a role in connecting federal and state policy information to the community members in need of the real scoop, the topic of broadband access was teased out in a couple salient directions. One I found particularly wanting further discussion is how disconnected a community can become from changing government directions (think the Covered California insurance marketplace as an example) when its online access is limited to public computers? It’s not that skills like using a mouse or email continue to lack penetration; instead, what hasn’t bloomed in such circumstances is the habit of staying informed around civic engagement concerns.

How do we, as information specialists–and civil servants, help community members build the skills and the habits which constant news updating require of anyone participating in our culture?

Joachim Scopfel, Director of the Atelier National de Reproduction des Thèses, Charles de Gaulle University (France), has published an infographic that gives us not only numbers related to how Americans share news, but also points up the very venues for news that may not, after all, be all that available to all Americans. And even when technical availability exists, are community members engaging the most efficient methods for accessing policy updates? The research shows a continuing reliance on email over social media, as the online channel for updates. As with all correspondence, email brings with it the requirement that the recipient evaluate the authority of the sender: is the news included reliable, timely, and appropriate to the recipient’s own situation? On the other hand, a direct Twitter feed, from, in this example, Covered California, guarantees the authority and timeliness, while each message’s design should allow the reader to be able to judge quickly whether it pertains to her situation.

As information guides, can we boost community access to what’s official, help direct community members’ attention to how they, impacted as they know they are by government policy and policy changes, can take control over keeping abreast of those policy news bits, bites and bytes that affect them? What does tech access education look like in libraries offering the news skills needed as we approach the first quarter point of the 21st century?

Springing the Numbers

At the onset of April, we posted Infopeople’s busy and rich offerings for the month. And, wow, library staff got busy, too, and signed up, signed in, and signified a grand scale of engagement! Here’s a scan of how all that busy busy busy quantified:

  • Online courses that opened in April have 137 participants engaged.
  • Free webinars broadcast in April met with a combined audience of 707 viewers of the live events, and their archives were tapped 966 additional times!
  • Online independent learning series continued to draw new registrants, and currently have a combined total of 49 independent learners working through these service focus areas.

And here are the numbers we see in our social media presence:

  • As April drew to an end, @infotweets has 714 followers on Twitter, and received three to five notices a day of retweeting or favoriting by library leaders, staff and library staff development fans of posts we tweeted.
  • Infopeople’s Facebook page collected four new friends, bringing the total there to 414. We share our own events as well as compelling library world stories there, with our posts in April earning 134 Likes and/ Shares.
  • With the news that Google+ is likely on its way out, Infopeople is refocusing energy from that venue to Tumblr. An update on that will appear here soon.

Moving the Infoblog back to WordPress has made it much more discoverable. April’s podcasts and written posts on the blog saw 700 visitors beside all of you who subscribe directly or catch blog posting alerts on Twitter or Facebook.

With all that for April, there is no laurel resting now that May has bloomed. Upcoming this month are four new online courses, for which you can still register; at least five new free webinars; and ongoing opportunities to dive into our three currently open online independent learning series (Teaser: we’ve got another couple of those, on very different topics, in the works, planning for debut before the end of summer). In addition to all that, two of three limited enrollment sessions of an onground course opportunity, Mentoring: Challenge and Support in Equal Measures, are slated for May (with the third iteration in June).

So count yourself in and spring into some accessible professional development!

Why We Rebooted–and Why You Need to Reboot, Too

Yesterday, Infopeople announced the grand reopening–okay, the notice–of the free (free!) independent online learning series, Affordable Care Act @ Your California Public Library. And no, it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke. What the heck?  Did we somehow miss the word that the initial enrollment period for the health insurance marketplace closed March 31?

Nope. And that’s exactly why we rebooted, revised, and re-announced. The health insurance marketplace is just one of the Affordable Care Act’s features. So, with that initial enrollment period now history, and with the California state public health policy makers, practitioners and health awareness foundations turning to the other major elements of the Act, it’s time for us, library folk, to turn attention to them, too. Or, more to the point, to turn our attention to how we can best assist our communities in connecting to health and wellness access, information and education that is up to date with the Act.

Among the big issues:

  • Financial and health literacy needs in many communities
  • Clarity about how to find, select and engage with clinicians to receive preventive care
  • Learning American English vocabulary for reading prescription info
  • Learning that there is linguistic and culturally competent healthcare available

The Affordable Care Act, made law in 2010, has a decade-long roll out period. The initial insurance enrollment came at the beginning of year four, so there’s a lot to discover that has been in place and which is now coming into play legally, and there’s even more to consider when it comes to planning how you can help your community connect to what is rightfully theirs under the law.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Get Your Training on in April!

Infopeople’s April Training Calendar offers libraries and library staff of all types a goldmine of possibilities. Noting that the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics for us library folk concludes “We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession,” taking responsibility to participate in one or more of these hits the spot. Bonus points for the curious who see this treasure trove as the answer to your wish list:

With California already being one of the first states to get involved in the Edge Initiative, exploring new methods and best practices you can apply for enhanced community connections gets a boost from the online course, Community and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector, which opens April 8. Instructor Jane Salisbury, of Portland’s Multnomah County Library, brings years of experience and insight on reaching adults in the library community. Jane supervises Library Outreach, with services that target, among other populations, older adults and members of the disabled community.

Another online course opening April 8, Redesigning Library Spaces on a Shoestring: High Impact at Low Cost, gives participants access to instructor Ruth Barefoot‘s space planning, marketing, and architectural expertise and her experience as manager of San Jose Public Library’s initiative, the San Jose Way. Ruth’s reconceptualization of how to improve library space for today’s library service users can be simple if dramatic. A favorite tip I heard from her some years ago, when she was speaking of how to untangle overcrowded library space without great cost, is elegantly simple: take everything out of the space and then restore only those things that are necessary and useful, putting them back into the branch shell according to their importance and where they are optimal for library users.

A third online course opening in April will be taught by the ever popular Infopeople instructor Cheryl Gould. All Work Is Team Work, which opens April 22, carries Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC), an indication that it addresses the learning needs of non-degreed staff who want to demonstrate quality skills in library service provision.

The noon time, and always archived, Infopeople webinar schedule has got to be the best free training smorgasbord in town. On April 2, Laura Solomon, whose previous Infopeople webinars have skillfully and substantively broached such concerns as “Fine-tuning Facebook for Libraries” and “Absolutely Free (and Practically Unknown) Online Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed,” takes up Writing a Social Media Policy for Your Library.  No matter your library type, you gotta be sure your library gets this info!

Toby Greenwalt, who co-hosted the wowsome Spark Talks crowd at PLA in Indianapolis earlier this month, will explain why and how we need to Embrace the Evolution: Adapting Reference Service to New Technology,  on April 23. This preso is gonna show us that reference services can be designed for today’s user.

Kelli Ham, a health librarian at UCLA who has much to share–and has shared much–with Infopeople webinar participants, returns on April 16, with From Baby to Preschooler: Early Childhood Health Resources. Infopeople hosts an ELF 2.0 webinar, on April 10, Foundations of Early Childhood Development: It’s All about Relationships, with with John Hornstein of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, and Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass.

And speaking of matters of health and wellness, Infopeople’s independent online learning series, which give participants the opportunity to dive deep in a focused area with a facilitator but no assignments and a two-month access period to explore, include a newly updated Affordable Care Act @ Your Public Library.  The reboot goes beyond healthcare insurance enrollment to address the information and community strategies identified by California’s healthcare policy makers and practitioners as most important for 2014 and 2015.

Phew! That’s a whole lot of possibilities to get your development on! Looking forward to seeing you in one of those “theres.”