Two of the three Infinite Learning course modules spoke to me equally: Learning Everywhere and Personal Learning Experiences. The overall ideas that appealed to me personally and professionally were: 1) serving local needs and purposes, 2) creatively using technology, 3) self-learning, 4) play as the best learning vehicle.
The hyperlinked library works best when patrons are already able to use new technologies or have a librarian to teach them how. If hyperlinks are people, too, then it’s exciting times for librarians to involve themselves in access to and use of information, training in information evaluation, strategic planning, non-continuous rolling out of new tech In the library, and trend-spotting.
Some of the hallmarks of the hyperlinked library are transparency and participation. And transparency can be any opening up of the library to its users’ needs and wishes, such as a post-it wall with notes about books patrons have read. Small projects that invite participation can “surprise and delight” patrons when they walk in the library (Greenwalt, 2013): “We can play this long game just as well as any other innovator out there.”
CHANGE CAN BE INCREMENTAL OR MASSIVE
Remaking a High School Library
At the beginning of the course, Brian Mathews encouraged us to innovate by not following predictable strategic plans and by not being a “copy and paste profession.” Instead he recommended “delighting patrons, anticipating user needs, transforming how scholarship happens, and denting the universe” (Mathews, 2012, p. 9)
This is what chief librarian Joan Ackroyd did at The Learning Commons with a massive remake of the Monticello (VA) High School library. She turned storage spaces and library offices into music and tech studios and study rooms, moved books against walls and created open spaces, used glass walls to create some sound barriers while maintaining an open participatory environment where everyone can see what others are doing; allowed food and drink and phones; put librarians in the center of the library where they are be more accessible and helpful and inviting; and created comfortable reading areas and used moveable furniture (Vangelova, 2014). The space wasn’t refreshed, it was revitalized with new purposes, not just new stuff.
It was an attitude change that made it all happen: Ackroyd and her staff turned a traditionally designed library space into one that was visually and functionally student-oriented. The goal was to boost engagement, and the library’s usage increased 1,000 per cent. The “new” library created a need for an attitude change on the part of students, too. It took more than a year for the new “freer” environment to settle down, with students eventually “socially learning” responsibility from each other (see video; ASBJ, 2012).
Micropublishing in the Library
I have been waiting for decades for someone to say this out loud:
“ . . . imagine a future where libraries gather, produce, and curate content in ways only beginning to be explored that bypass the traditional author-to-publisher-to library-to reader model we’ve worked with for decades” (Stephens, 2016, p. 56)
Desktop publishing has been around for 20 years and high-speed printers even longer, so micropublishing in the library was inevitable.
Librarians from Sacramento (CA) Public Library saw a book machine at an ALA conference. Then they purchased a machine through a grant and set up FlashBooks! Their original purpose was to save money on interlibrary loan and to speed up delivery (Koerber, 2012). While those goals were not realized, FlashBooks! offers a way for patron authors to self-publish their own books, and that has turned out to be the biggest benefit (unintended) of the program.
The Espresso Book Machine at the Brooklyn Public Library also is very popular. A 400-page paperback can be printed in five minutes. “The technology isn’t Maker in nature, but the personalization and democratization of the process are” (Koerber, 2012). Koerber quotes Chris Anderson from Wired (2010): “Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks.” The Economist also wrote a special report (2012) about a Third Industrial Revolution, toward hands-on creation, customization, and the ability to easily manufacture just one of something.
The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming
I love the robot mascots some libraries have. Some of them are programmable by staff and patrons. Robot Norma in the video below led a meditation at a Next Library conference in her tinny, robot voice (Stephens, 2017) – it works for me. If she can connect people to themselves and to others, then she can be part of the Infinite Learning team.
DEVELOPING THE LIBRARIAN
Back to Basics and Connected Learning
We learned in INFO 200 about basic life needs driving patrons’ information and library behavior: competency/mastery, autonomy/independence, connection/belonging. Those are needs libraries help to satisfy, with and without technology, for patrons and also for professionals.
When we address those needs for librarians in their learning, they can then be addressed for patrons.
As an old-fashioned example of basic connected and participatory learning: The Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco has had a separate room for the Chess Club since 1854, and it is still very busy seven days a week.
“What would it mean to think of education as a responsibility of a distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities?” (Jenkins, 2012).” He says “learning is most resilient when it is linked and reinforced across settings of home, school, peer culture and community.”
All the 23 Things programs (7 of them from our Infinite Learning readings) derive from the first one created by Helen Blowers in 2006, and have expanded to more than 500 individual programs in 17 countries. Blowers created 23 Things for her library staff of more than 500 people, when she realized she needed a learning program, not a training program (OCLC, 2017). 23 Things and other self-learning programs are successful because they are self-paced, there is evidence of a cumulative effect over time after participating, and there are outcomes of positive gains in knowledge, confidence, use of the tools in the library, and ongoing exploration after the program ends (Stephens & Cheetham, 2012, p. 61).
The Summer Sandbox program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism presents new media literacie (USC, 2013). One science teacher who took the program decided to start teaching science through art (since art was no longer available at her school), through the use of animated cartoons and other art formats. Her first thought was to use art media as a fun teaching aide here and there, but then decided to revamp her whole science program using art as the starting point.
This USC development program asked the students (some teachers, some students) what skills they thought they needed, and as they went through the program they realized what was needed by working with each other. A long list was developed, including judgment, negotiation (the ability to navigate in varied groups and understand the norms), play (experimenting with your surroundings as a form of problem-solving), transmedia navigation, co-creation with others, etc. In doing this, they developed the curriculum together.
In addition to tech skills and competencies, the so-called soft skills (I like “human skills” better, or the old-fashioned term “people skills”) and competencies include: active listening, lifelong learning in the ability to see how change can address user needs, creativity and risk-taking, motivation toward equity and diversity, leading a team with transparency and trust, mentoring, and managers making opportunities and time for staff to explore. That is a lot of personal skills to develop, and we see them now more and more frequently in job descriptions for librarians. To retain their new skills, librarians must be able to use and practice them. A culture of experimentation is necessary to hone skills and to make the library relevant. All parties must be willing to redefine both the library and the librarian. Learning needs to be everywhere and all the time.
Play is learning, and learning can be play, so long as it is voluntary and involves some choice (Lawley, 2013). Lawley describes dandelion-pulling during her summers off from teaching. She said everyone in her life thought she was nuts, but for her it was sanity-making. After my first full-time semester in iSchool, I completed three picture puzzles over the holidays. I worked on them every day for weeks (I was still working as well). After feeling so challenged every day in school for four and a half months, I wanted a sense of total mastery – these pieces will fit together and make something whole and beautiful. It relaxed me and I could feel my brain going back to normal (maybe not completely).
What do my puzzle completions have to do with Infinite Learning? It’s about what works for you, how you learn best, what you need to balance out working, learning new things, and making sure somewhere in there are things that satisfy basic needs and also creativity needs – I chose a New Yorker magazine cover of a bustling winter scene in Central park with skaters; autumn trees; and a Frank Lloyd Wright abstract design with some gold foils. By the time spring semester started, I was excited about being challenged again and learning new things.
The 23 Things programs become play with the rewards, badges, milestones, and timelines that are built in to the process (game). This can be a very individual program with lots of autonomy and independence, but it can also become connected learning when a group at a library or group of libraries goes through it together roughly in the same timeframe (or a librarian facilitates it for patrons).
In playing and gaming, the pleasure “does not come from some extrinsic reward value” but from the “experience of competence” (Deterding, 2011). If it is not voluntary, it is not fun (Lawley, 2013). Personal learning experiences can be play and can be fun and they should be designed that way. One way is for participants to be involved in the design as much as possible.
Learning through play is also about being a witness to the process, developing creative confidence, and reflecting and documenting the process, according to Lego conference facilitator Amos Blanton (2016). In the Lego Idea Studio, workshop participants are encouraged to reflect on the experience of learning through play and how it worked for them.
“Taming the culture of perfect can be done with a different mindset, one that involves play and experience” (Casey & Stephens, 2007). Experimentation is part of the mindset of a successful library. Learning is the identity of a librarian, and if the library can be everywhere, then learning can be everywhere.
ASBJ. (2015, May 1). Making it real at Monticello High School. American School Board Journal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilQwPzy6mos
Anderson, C. (2010, January). In the next Industrial Revolution, atoms are the new bits. Wired.
Blanton, A. (2016). What do we mean by learning through play? . Lego idea conference workshop.
Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2007, May 1). Turning “no” into “yes.” Tame the Web [blog]. Library Journal.
Deterding, S. (2011). Gamification by design: Response to O’Reilly. http://gamification-research.org/2011/09/gamification-by-design-response-to-oreilly/
Economist. (2012, April 21). A third industrial revolution [special report]. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/special-report/2012/04/21/a-third-industrial-revolution
Greenwalt, R. T. (2013, February 21). Embracing the long game. Public Libraries Online.
Jenkins, H. (2012). Connected learning: Reimagining the experience of education in the information age. Confessions of an ACA-fan [blog]. http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2012/03/connected_learning_a_new_parad.html
Koerber, J. (2012, October 1). The makings of makerspaces, Part 2: Espress yourself. The Digital Shift [blog]. Library Journal. https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/infinite-learning-learning-everywhere/
Lawley, E. (2013, September 30). Gameful design for libraries [Powerpoint]. https://www.slideshare.net/mamamusings/gameful-design-for-libraries
Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. http://www.brainmatthews.com
Next. (2017). The library as retreat space. Workshop at the Next Library Conference 2017, Aarhus, Denmark.
OCLC. (2017, March 13). 23 Things – 10 years later. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=23-things-10-years-later
Stephens, M., & Cheetham, W. (2012). The impact and benefits of learning 2.0 programs in Australian public libraries. Evidence-Based Library & Information Practice, 7(1), 53-64.
Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship. ALA Editions.
Stephens, M. (2017, August 24). What’s next [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.
USC. (2013). Create circulate connect collaborate. University of California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/ Vangelova, L. (2014, June 18). What does the next-generation