Focused Professional Development

For my CYOA I opted for Professional Development.  Since I joined the library world and started my MLIS I have been overwhelmed by the amount of PD available.  Every day my email fills with new information on classes, webinars, articles, etc.  I cannot be the only one that on most days just clears it all out like junk mail.  It is not junk mail though, there is a gem in there somewhere for me, the time-consuming part is finding it.  With this in mind, I really appreciated the 23 Things Challenge.  Who doesn’t love a good numbered challenge, honestly?  But practically this approach made sense.  It laid out a clear plan for developing your technological skills.  To me it felt like “license to play”, an opportunity or challenge to go and explore a technology you haven’t had the chance to work with yet but that could open up new ideas once you explore it.

This challenge was clearly successful in the early 2000s (Stephens & Cheetham 2012).  Stephens and Cheetham (2012) find that this PD experience for the Australian public libraries translated to a transformative learning experience because it had the effect of changing habitual expectations in the students.  This was clearly seen in how the library staff felt more comfortable with emerging technologies, both the ones they were presented within the Challenge but also in other ones that arose through work or patron experiences.

Here we are in 2020, and PD has been completely upended this year (I am really getting tired of the trite statement, but it’s true).  No conferences, an abundance of webinars from all over the place popping up, and more time than ever to fill them.  My library just closed to the public again and many of us will need to fill 10-15 hours a week with some form of PD.  This can be daunting.  When time used to be such a crunch to fit in an hour webinar during a shift, now we are faced we ongoing hours of webinars that too often feel unrelated to the situations we are in.

I was not in the library world in 2009 when this trend of the 23 Things Challenge was popular, but I think now would be a great time to revise and relaunch it.  A guided practice would help make the weeks go by and relieve us from hours upon hours of webinars.  At the end of this experience of quarantining and social distancing, I think many of us want something to be proud of for how we spent that extra time.  A challenge would do just that for us.  I intend to submit this to our idea bank in hopes that we can organize something as a district, but if nothing more, I am happy to have had the opportunity to review this work as I plan for how to spend my 7-week winter break at home.

References

Stephens, M., & Cheetham, W. (2012). The impact and effect of Learning 2.0 programs in Australian public libraries. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice7(1), 53-64. https://doi.org/10.18438/B8QS4Q

Considering Hyperlinked Communities: Covid-19 and Digital Divide

In the 21st Century Digital Divide Jessamyn West (2014) touches on some very current dilemmas we are facing here in 2020.  She examined the role of libraries as the safety net for the digital divide in most areas, as well as considered the role we are all playing in the shaping of our culture though our behavior online. 

The public library’s role as the safety net for the digital divide abruptly ended in mid-March for many organizations.  There was no time for planning and infrastructure building.  On March 11th, my library was filled with patrons taking care of their daily needs on the computer provided and by later that evening we were all being informed the library wouldn’t reopen the following morning. By “we”, I mean those of us who had access to online information. 

Closed, shield, note, after work, mirroring - free image from needpix.com

I am sure many showed up the next morning completely unaware of what had shifted overnight.  While there might not be any need for finger-pointing or blame, this was still an utter fail.  We abruptly ceased our social contract of providing the community with needed resources, offering very little backup support to the most in need.  In hindsight, we let fear lead when we could have thought more strategically about how to stay linked with the community.  Only time will tell the long-lasting damage done to our reputation. (disclaimer- a reflection on my own personal work experience- not libraries at large).

I want to pause here and think about the term “Hyperlinked” and how we are extending that term in this class.  Webster defines hyperlink as an electronic link providing direct access from one distinctively marked place in a hypertext or hypermedia document to another in the same or a different document.  My understanding that I am gathering from the course content (correct me if I am wrong) is that we are extending this term to represent the invisible but powerful connection we want to make between the information and services we provide as a library to our community. This connection is to be a two-way model, information and services that reflect the needs and wants of the community even if the community cannot articulate those needs and wants.  By using this modern term “hyperlink” we are putting into the imagination the understanding that we are linking together in real spaces and in virtual spaces due to the new technology that is all around us.

Here is where I pushback, this new technology is all around us, but is only available to some through the physical space that we provide.  After over five months of the physical space being closed and the connection severed, I think we have some real work to do when imagining the Hyperlinked community in a post quarantine time.  If we are going to sure up the connection in the future, we are going to have to be activist about closing the digital divide.  Offering hotspots for check out and expanded WIFI in our parking lots is one way I have seen this work done.  Another way would mean being local voices in our community about the need for infrastructure and funding for school-age children to have free WIFI in their home.

photo of all the new hotspots purchased this summer for circulation

All this is part of the work of a truly hyperlinked community, that even in a crisis situation we think about that connection we have forged and get creative about how we support those who rely on us.

A great example of a hyperlinked community that held connection through the quarantine: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/aug/13/when-covid-closed-the-library-staff-call-every-member-of-victorian-library-to-say-hello

References:

West, J. (2014). 21st century digital divide.

Reflections On Foundational Readings in Our Current Times

Continuous improvement and reflection on the library service model were a core understanding I pulled from the foundational reading this week.  As mentioned, living in Denver, this library model is in full swing among public libraries due to the innovative Anythink Libraries in Adams county.  The history of public libraries in the Denver metro area is one for the textbooks.  We have seen the loss of significant funding causing multiple branches and whole library districts to collapse and from those ashes, we have watched a robust public library culture emerge.  I landed my first paid library position six months before entering this program. My learning curve for an innovative library model has been steep and I think it’s sufficient to say that sometimes my memory fails me on whether I learned something through a work training or via an SJSU class.  What really struck me about the foundational readings was that they added incredible context to my workplace ethos and expectations I work inside of.  I appreciated learning the impetus for creating the technology guild, inclusivity guild, and feedback ticket option.  These guilds seem to be directly inspired by Casey & Savastinuk’s (2007) three branches of the change model laid out in the Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service.  In my district, it is just as easy to put in a ticket for maintenance issues as it is to submit an idea for a service or improvement.  I have watched in amazement at how fast an idea from either a patron or coworker can go from a sentence or two on a screen to an actuality. This is the embodiment of the Creative marketplace model: “values are enablement, self-organization and continuous improvement to add value to the user or customer (Denning, 2015)

So here we are in this time of Covid.  I feel that this semester as we discuss the hyperlinked library and a model for ongoing change and improvement we should not and could not operate in a vacuum.  This is a time when innovation is kicked into high gear.  As pointed out in the Heart of Librarianship “Our students need grounding in concepts like decision-making, advocacy, human resources, administration, and management of nonprofits.” (Stephens, p.4, 2016).  This statement is even more powerful now.  Being a good leader is vital right now and the decision skills required are put to the test as we weigh out the safety of the public and staff along with our need to be advocates for our relevance during a time of economic strife and extensive change to the public school model.  A noticeable theme in the readings that I saw emerge was the importance of seeing tech as an opportunity to answer new questions.

 “The initial question may be: How could library services be advantageously automated? This is a matter of doing the same things better. The longer term, more interesting question is: How could library service be re-designed with a change in technology? This is a matter of how to do better, different things.” (Buckland, 1992, p.64).  

This concept is reiterated in stating technology “is not a primary element” in the Library 2.0 model, but instead an “excellent tool” (Casey & Savastinuk, p.6, 2007).  I think this is a hard-learned lesson that we are in the thick of right now.  We are now in the process of answering new questions we had not predicted, and technology is being used in new ways.  With each week that passes during the reopening phases and I am watching as we try out new things to see what works.  A big issue we are having is providing computer assistance to our patrons on the other side of the digital divide.  Patrons who are already tech hesitant are not interested in a tech chatbox as a replacement to the one on one in-person assistance they leaned on in the past.  The working solution we have found is an iPad on a stand that immediately can dial into a remote tech specialist using Facetime.  It feels so much like the below clip for the Big Bang Theory. 

This innovation still has issues as the patron navigates flipping the camera and talking to a perceived stranger, but I know this will not be the last iteration as we search to meet needs and keep individuals safe.

The point is, we are already set up for ongoing change thanks to the Library 2.0 Model that focuses on innovation and serving the needs of the user and not just on lending books. As we navigate a crisis we are not confronting a completely new terrain, but instead an accelerated one.

References

Buckland, M. K. (1992). Redesigning library services: a manifesto. Chicago: American Library Association.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Information Today.

Denning, S. (n.d.). Do We Need Libraries? Forbes. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: attentive, positive, and purposeful change. American Library Association.