“Pragmatic Utopians & Building a Movement” LLAMA Thought Leaders Webinar. Video Conference.
Abstract: Tactical tips to building an agenda and movements.
Slides: Webinar Slides
[tl;dr version: Rather than simply fight the current false dichotomy of security versus freedom, librarians should craft an alternative narrative around security through knowledge.]
We fear the unknown. It is a truism from fairy tales to military strategy. The other, the alien, the undefined sets people on edge. It is also apparent in the recent reaction to the Paris attacks and the attacks in Africa and the Middle East. It is leading to a dangerous and misguided narrative around migrants and Muslims.
For some this is a narrative built on racism. For some it is clearly fear-mongering for political gain. It ignores the facts (such as 18-24 month background checks-more review than any other entry point into our nation) and frankly ugly truths (a clear bias of one religious affiliation over another).
However while the “fear the Muslim” narrative is abhorrent and must be challenged for the good of the soul of this nation, I want to talk about a parallel narrative. It is one that librarians can have a powerful role in countering and in crafting an alternative narrative that ensures the values we hold as a profession. We must directly challenge the narrative of freedom versus security.
The security narrative flattens the complexity of preventing harm to citizens as a choice: give up some freedoms to ensure security. Give us (the government) your private information, your freedom of transport and right to assemble and we will take care of you. These freedoms, so goes the argument, are not really losses since if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. The narrative is a false dichotomy: it is either freedom or security.
The primary flaw in this narrative is the belief that security ONLY comes from restrictions of rights and freedoms. This is a misguided as the racist and reactionary belief that terrorism only comes from the Muslim faith, ignoring both the overwhelming number of Muslims that condemn violence and the terrorism perpetrated by Christians and other religions. Terrorism has nothing to do with a love of God, but of a hatred of our fellow man.
Librarians must craft a narrative of security through knowledge. Every day I work amongst Muslims and Buddhists, Christians and Jews, atheists and deists and I’m sure a bit of Wicca thrown in as well. I stand shoulder to shoulder with a diverse body of faculty staff and students every day. A large portion of our student body comes from India and China. We have students from the Middle East and the former Soviet Block. I stand without fear because we are all a part of a common community bound around knowledge.
Many will rightfully point out that this is a privileged community. In essence I stand with people able to afford and have access to higher education. It is a fair point. So I ask, instead of this invalidating my point, why not ensure equitable access to knowledge and learning to all as a way of countering hate, and insecurity.
Our libraries – school, academic, public, special, all libraries – should be platforms where communities can come together to learn, and learn side by side. Libraries should craft a narrative that says the most secure societies are ones that learn together. Stop watching who I call or what I buy, and start helping me to learn. Give me a stake in opportunity (in this nation and beyond), give me something to lose
Neighborhood watches shouldn’t be citizens looking out for strangers, but libraries working to introduce strangers and transform them into allies. Librarians can’t simply fight the surveillance state, they must model an alternative where openness of debate and ideas brings security. As librarians we shouldn’t be seen as simply obstructing the work of security, we should be seen as pillars of security through knowledge, learning, and community engagement. Library cards instead of ID cards. Databases of articles instead of databases of Muslims. In times of crisis libraries are places of refuge AND places that fight disinformation and paranoia with facts and research.
This is a constructive narrative that transcends political point of view or party. It is a narrative that says to our communities (towns, colleges, schools) we are keeping you safe by making you smarter. Dispelling the unknown, the dark woods, the other, the alien is a click and visit away. We are havens not to escape misinformation and fear, but havens from ignorance where you can embrace your fellow community members and build a strong diverse community.
Come study with me…come help me change the world. Below is the recruitment announcement for Syracuse’s Ph.D. program. I am looking for good folks to come and work with me. It is increasingly vital that we have information scientists and new faculty in the field. Let me know if you are interested. I’d love to talk.
Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies welcomes applicants for our doctoral program. Admitted students are assured of at least four year’s funding (including summers) along with tuition and other support.
The interdisciplinary nature of our program is visible through the backgrounds of the 30 current doctoral students. These students hail from ten countries and have academic training in the social sciences, communications, business, computer science, librarianship, linguistics, information science, and others areas. Our doctoral program is a welcoming and inclusive place for scholars from under-represented populations, something we see as a defining element of our program.
Doctoral students pursue individualized course plans that are tuned to their particular research interests and needs. This means advising and, more importantly, close working relationships with faculty members is a cornerstone of the Syracuse University iSchool Ph.D. program. This is why it is both residential and full-time.
We celebrate the success of our recent graduates who are taking up tenure-track positions in premier research institutions and exceptional liberal arts colleges, excelling in academic and policy think tanks, and pursuing entrepreneurial success! Current students are earning awards for their publications and dissertation work, continuing a long tradition of such recognition.
For 2016, we are particularly interested in speaking with applicants and seeing applications from those whose interests align with one or more of the following research areas
You can learn more about the Syracuse iSchool faculty and interests at https://ischool.syr.edu/research/faculty-research-areas/
You can learn more about the doctoral program and application (due 3 January, 2016) at https://ischool.syr.edu/academics/graduate/doctoral/information-science-and-technology/
Please reach out to the faculty member whose interests draw you forward, the program director, Steve Sawyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org , or our program manager, Jennifer Barclay, at email@example.com with questions!
We’re aiming to take “The Community is the Collection” from slogan to reality with a new National Leadership Grant from IMLS.
Co-PIs: Yun Huang, R. David Lankes, Jian Qin
Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) is partnering with Coulter Library at Onondaga Community College (OCC) and Fayetteville Free Library (FFL – an Onondaga county public library) to respond to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries (NLG) Program, addressing IMLS’s Learning Spaces in Libraries priority. This project can best be summarized as: the community is the collection. We propose to design a Community Profile System to expand library collections to include human expertise, particularly in the STEM fields. This system will enable librarians to collect communities’ learning needs, identify relevant community experts, and link the resources to serve the learning needs in a cost-efficient manner. This 3-year project will accomplish four activities: 1) assess community members’ learning needs and identify community experts’ interests and their availability in participating different libraries’ services through survey and interview studies; 2) build data models that capture the various needs and dynamic people resources as collection; 3) develop a workflow by identifying librarians’ roles in data collection, organization, and validation; 4) prototype and implement the system with user interactions and privacy protection features, as well as evaluate the system prototype via a system pilot study and diverse test cases.
Four Years ago I wrote Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World to start a conversation between librarians and the communities they serve. Since that time thousands have used the book to start conversations, teach students, do board development, and even shape director and dean searches. The time has come to take Expect More to the next step: The Expect More Collaboratory.
This is a call to join partners in expanding Expect More into a comprehensive and expanding set of community building resources. These resources will include online learning events for library decision makers, a physical and digital workbook, and an ongoing series of engagements to advocate for greater community focus and involvement in libraries. The Expect More Collaboratory will deliver a multimedia web-based curriculum for use by librarians with boards, principals, provosts, and communities.
So consider this a call for crowd sourcing. Please help in preparing our communities for better libraries. I’ve put together a site for more information and a brief video call for participation.
*Please note this used to point to the Expect More World Tour, and you may need to refresh your browser. The direct link is https://davidlankes.org/?page_id=7974
My favorite professional development project started a new cohort (in 10 different states) in March. Below are links to just the keynotes from that session. All are awesome and well worth your time (with the exception of that Lankes character who talks too much).
Everything You Learned in Library School is Wrong
David Lankes, Syracuse University, School of Information Studies, Syracuse, New York. Professor and Dean’s Scholar on New Librarianship
We all know that Libraries are Good and Necessary Things and Libraries Collect, Organize, and Provide Access to Information. That’s what we were taught in library school right? Except of course, they don’t. Libraries don’t do anything except exert gravity and shield you from the rain. It is librarians and the people in the library that makes the world a better place. Collections are just tools, like buildings, and books, and databases, and 3D printers. This keynote will focus on how librarians are radical positive change agents that make communities better.
Inspired Outreach Inspired
John Emerson, an activist, graphic designer, writer, and programmer based in New York City creator of http://backspace.com/notes
How do you engage the hearts and minds of your audience? Connect and empower with outreach that makes people say “Aha!” and “Let’s do it!”
FLATLAND: A Statistical Romance of Many Dimensions.
Eli Neiburger, Associate Director, IT and Production, Ann Arbor District
In which our Hero, A. Librarian, must search for scalars amidst an increasingly flat landscape, with which to earn the favor of capricious higher-dimensional beings, before her entire world collapses to a single ultradense font of information, only to find that the only dimension that truly matters is LOVE.
Perspectives and Advice on Accessibility and Universal Design
Sina Bahram, an accessibility consultant, researcher, and entrepreneur
Join Sina Bahram as he walks through the concepts of accessibility and universal design. These core principles are fundamental to understanding how to be relevant in the 21st century to all audiences regardless of physical or cognitive ability. Through exploring a narrative about technology, access to information and the physical world, and practical tips and tricks about steps any of us can take, Sina will both motivate and show us how to augment our content, interactions, and thinking to become more inclusive.
“Great People Make Great Libraries: Know Yourself. Grow Yourself. And Take Your Library With You!”
David Bendekovic, President, The B. A. David Company, Syracuse, New York
Your ability to reach your goals has as much to do with how you choose to see the world as it does with your level of education and intelligence. This keynote will give you the keys to thinking in a more powerful way about yourself, the people around you, and the work you want to get done. What You Do Makes A Difference. You Just Have To Figure Out What Kind Of Difference You Want To Make.
The announcement of the Radical’ Guide to New Librarianship has prompted a lot of interest, including folks asking how they can help. Well, here you go. We need your input, stories, and ideas.
There are several new topics we’re working on for The Radical’s Guide: notably libraries as institutions, the role of collections, and a deeper understanding of the concept of community. We are seeking input from the library community on these topics. To facilitate this input, we’ve set up a series of online and in-person conversations. Each question consists of a brief introduction to the topic and mechanisms for community input.
Here is the link to the conversations with more information on the questions:
As you will see rather than just posting a bunch of questions, we’ve structured them in topic and time. So we’ll be rolling the questions out over the next two months concluding in an in-person gathering at the ALA MidWinter Conference in Chicago. Here is the schedule:
Dates: December 8-12, 2014
Dates: December 15-19, 2014
Dates: January 5-9, 2015
Dates: January 12-16, 2015
Date: February 2, 2015
Please (please please please) join the conversation on the web and through Twitter. If you see a future conversation you’d like to join me for a Skype conversation starter, please let me know firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please let us know if you are interested in attending the MidWinter session:
[Today, and over the next two days, I will be posting ideas related to Reinventing the Academic Library focusing on public services in supporting research-oriented universities. I believe these ideas have currency in different types of libraries, but for this series I wanted to be more tightly focused. I begin this series with some thoughts on a key mission of research libraries: scholarly communication. It will be followed by a series of mini-proposals for new services. The goal is not some mass implementation of specific projects, but rather to stir up conversation around the mission of the academic library.]
A faculty colleague at another institution remarked that I was “quite prolific.” My first reaction was to disagree. I am surrounded by highly productive colleagues that regularly speak, publish books and journal articles, and push forward on grants so I may be used to some intimidating productivity. However, and I apologize in advance for the bragging, I looked at my year, and I can’t disagree. In the past year I have:
Oh, and that was through ablative chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant and on top of blogging and my normal teaching load (but not my service load – bless you fellow faculty). To be sure I am pushing out a lot of blog posts this week to clear the decks for major work on my new book (more on that Friday).
So, not bad. However, if you begin to poke at that record something very interesting emerges. All the books published (audio and written) were self-published. Of those 10 presentations, 6 were given online, and only 2 in an academic venue. Don’t get me wrong. Each of these took time and effort, but not the same effort of a journal publication. Also, the production length of each is MUCH shorter than traditional academic publication.
The Audio books were produced in three weeks. The Boring Patient was drafted in two months. The presentations were normally put together in a few hours a week before the event. Compare this to say the production of The Atlas of New Librarianship. It took over a year to write, and then 13 months to produce through MIT Press (from submission of the manuscript to printing).
Also, the nature of the work is very different. The ideas in these pieces are often formative. That is, I am putting ideas out for consideration and discussion at a much earlier stage. In essence, my presentations are what I am thinking about now, not summative presentations on previous work. Rather than finishing a work and then submitting it to peer review, I am throwing out ideas for peer discussion, and then adapting and adopting.
My point here is that while in numbers it looks like I am more productive, what is really happening is that my production is more representative of the entire scholarly process, not just finished research. Those presentations turn into blog posts, turn into book chapters, turn into grant proposals. Instead of just publishing the chapters, you are seeing all of it.
Now a good part of this is a factor of being a tenured full professor. I have the liberty to publish in alternative venues than peer reviewed journals. I have the liberty to experiment with self-publishing. But a good part of it is a new affordance of technology – scholarly conversations can happen online in fast forward.
Scholarship in Fast Forward
This became very obvious in a recent interchange between Lane Wilkinson and nina de jesus on libraries, institutionalized oppression, and the Age of Enlightenment. What struck me about this discussion was: the topic, the depth of reasoning in the pieces, and the speed of the analysis and conversation. I could easily see these pieces published sequentially in a scholarly journal – one reacting to the other. Yet this process would have taken months, if not years of submission, publication, submission, publication. Instead it was happening on blogs linked by twitter in days. Lane is frankly impressive this way. Just take a look at the depth he goes into with ACRL’s proposed information literacy
standards framework. This level of feedback and broadcast thought used to be reserved for conference cycles, not daily cycles.
It would be simplistic to say that technology is accelerating the pace of the scholarly discourse. There is still a huge role for peer review and formal publishing, and those take time, resources, and a hell of a lot of effort. I think we are seeing technology change cultural norms of scholarship, and dip deeper and deeper into the academic foment – the dynamic process where hypothesis, studies, agenda, and outright hunches are generated before formalization, execution, and review.
This push into process, and making the supposed transparency of the research process a reality, is exciting. It also brings with it fundamental questions for scholars and librarians alike (not that those are mutually exclusive groups). There is the obvious question of metrics and measuring impact as well as validity. There is also the role the library plays in capturing and preserving that foment. Do we need a right to be forgotten in scholarly chatter and blogging? Librarians have long been at the birth of ideas (feeding researchers through reference and resources) and at the entombment of research (gathering and fixing research in static documents). Now we are presented with the vast rich chaos of the interim which to me is a fundamental area of investigation for librarians.
Just as school librarians have taken a once passive role as keeper of books & supporters of curriculum, and transformed it into an active role owning (and teaching) information literacy, so too does the advancement of scholarly communication present a huge opportunity to academic librarians. In addition to teaching people how to access and assess the scholarly record, we should be shaping the very process of scholarly communication. Instead of advocating for open access and then creating silos of document morgues called institutional repositories, we should be building cross-institutional curated publishing platforms hand in hand with disciplinary scholars.
What’s Coming Next
To follow up these thoughts I’ve put together a series of mini-service proposals that talk about how we might reshape services in libraries supporting research intensive universities. These are intended to “get the creative juices flowing,” and getting folks to think differently about academic libraries. They are more sketches than finished pieces.
It has been my experience that aside from selling librarians on these ideas, it is equally challenging to convince those who oversee and use the library. A student of mine who was directing a library, saw the library as needing a major update, and a greater focus on service and the undergraduate experience. She was shocked when she did focus groups with students, asking them what they thought of the library. “It’s fine.” “It’s a great place to study.” When asked what else they needed? “Not much…more outlets.”
The problem she encountered is not that people (students, faculty) were dissatisfied with the library, they simply expected too little from it. In many cases, faculty and students simply discounted the library, because they didn’t see how it could get better. In fact they had never even thought of HOW it could be better. This is not surprising as it is not their job to see how we can get better- it is our job as librarians to dream bigger and push our communities to want more in order to accomplish more. These mini-proposals are put together to start that conversation.
I leave you with one last thought. These proposals do not go into detail what libraries are already doing nor do they cover the range of potential services (data curation, digital humanities support, creating assessment centers, hosting community/university incubators). That is not a value judgement. However, there proposals, or any new services, can no longer be added on top of what we are already doing. The academic library of the future is not simply the library of yesterday PLUS. We must take a serious and hard look at what we no longer need to do.
In a previous post I talked about a potential path of disaster for public libraries. The TL;DR version is that if public librarians and their libraries seek to be all things to all people they will ultimately be stretched too thin and become the poster children for ineffective government. This is particularly true in light of shrinking services by government agencies. Within that argument (or rather the solution provided) are the seeds of a massive disruption in public services in general. In this post I’m going to expand on those seeds. I am going to start this discussion of public services in the obvious place: collections.
The past 6 decades have seen an unprecedented change in how librarians view collections. Libraries, by and large, have been fixated on documents (or more broadly “document like objects”). The documents were physical, fixed, and owned. If a library wanted to add something to a collection they bought it, they described it, and they placed it.
Libraries then began to expand from documents to other media (to be precise there have always been libraries that collected varying media – I’m talking about the majority) like films, audio recordings, and eventually tapes, CDs and such. Still, the model was of objects owned, described, and placed.
A massive shift in how we conceptualized library collections occurred with the advent of databases. While at first CD’s were little more than digital version of paper reference resources databases quickly represented a massive change in collection content and library business models. In terms of content with the advent of journal databases libraries made available huge quantities of materials that librarians had only a cursory knowledge of. Librarians were now advanced searchers, often discovering what they library “held” right alongside our members.
Electronic databases, CDs, then online databases, also represented a massive departure in the business model of libraries. Where once the majority of resources in the collection were owned, now the vast majority of items (counting articles as items) were rented through fixed term licenses. We are only now feeling the full repercussions of this shift as these licenses have become increasingly expensive; swallowing the collection budgets and more of many institutions.
The Internet was (is) the next major expansion of the concept of collection in libraries. Now anything anyone could put on a page or attach to a URL was part of the collection. That actually wasn’t the biggest conceptual shift though (after all by this point librarians were into discovering resources without previous knowledge of them). No, the biggest shift was that the Internet was not populated with just document like objects, but with services, software, and capabilities. Our collections went from documents, to documents and media, to documents and Facebook, and Google, and Twitter, and real-time video.
While librarians have not fully adjusted to these changes, nor integrated them together (and major issues of preservation still remain a huge challenge), for the most part libraries have successfully transformed to encompass the idea of a library collection as dynamic, open, and important. With each change came stress and discord. Each step turned into a flurry of experimentation and eventual standardization. But on the whole, what once looked like a change that would end libraries is now seen as beneficial. Librarians have not only changed how they see the collection but we have brought our communities along with us. People expect to access databases, and the Internet as well as physical collections. No one really questions any more the use of Google at the reference desk. No one bats an eye when public access computing incorporates gaming alongside Lexus/Nexus.
So we all deserve a big pat on the back. It has been an astounding half-century plus of change, but we did it. We are a different profession because of it, and we are relevant. Yea! No one should underestimate the scale of this disruptive change. But I have bad news…it is time to do it again – massive disruptive change that is.
As our collections have changed, we have added services to our communities (schools, universities, towns, firm, etc.). Where once we provided faster more efficient access to physical items, we added question answering, eventually question answering both at a desk, embedded in teams, and online. We added instruction; first about the library (bibliographic instruction), but eventually around information literacy. We added readers’ advisory, story time, and more recently maker spaces, fishing pole lending, and so on. Once could say that our public services have seen massive change – but I disagree.
As our collections changed, being in a profession primarily concerned with collections, we’ve expanded and shifted our services. However, we have not fundamentally changed them. You see for all of these new services we still cling to a very simplistic service model…us and them: librarians and patron; library and community. We still see the role of the library to serve a community, and in that, to be slightly apart from it. That is problematic because it leads right back into an assured path to irrelevance or an outright impeachment of our basic principles.
Irrelevance? This was my argument in my previous post on the death of public libraries. If librarians continue to see their role as serving a community, and attempting to meet their shifting needs, librarians will be stretched too thin. Librarians will have to become expert searchers, researchers, makers, tax experts, employment advisors, social workers, tutors, and so on. This has lead to many libraries co-locating services such as in a commons model that brings access to librarians, technologists, and learning specialists. We have seen libraries hire social workers, anthropologists and so on. However, if librarianship doesn’t expand to incorporate these services at a fundamental level, we end up with stovepipes of services that sit in an organization or physical space, but gain little from the colocation. In essence, we treat tutors, and anthropologists, and such as just another expansion of the collection.
The other problem is the collocation of services without a radically different service model leads to a diffuse definition of what a library is. We can lose the support of our communities as they struggle to figure out our unique value. Worse still, by adopting new services and offerings based solely on the demands of a community, we can easily fall into a “customer perspective” where we scramble to meet the desires of a community regardless of how they align with core values such as openness, privacy, intellectual freedom, and such. Libraries go from safe, principled spaces of learning to simple gateways to subsidized services…easily disrupted, and easily replaced or discarded.
Librarians want to answer questions or solve problems put to them. In the days of virtual reference we coined the phrase “the greedy librarian problem.” It was observed in service after service, institution after institution, that librarians would receive a reference question, and do their best to answer that query – even if they could pass the question off to someone else (another librarian or an expert) who was better qualified to answer it, or could answer it faster. This came from both a STRONG service ethic, and professional preparation that taught the idea of a generalist librarian.
We are again facing the greedy librarian problem, but now it is in the form of a librarian as social worker, a librarian as maker, a librarian as business expert. If it is offered under the egis of the library, than a librarian must master the content first, then offer the program. This is bad. Bad not in that librarians can become experts in things other than librarianship, but bad in that they may feel that librarianship is expertise in all other areas.
The disruptive change we need now is in removing boundaries between library and community. I have often said, “the community is the collection.” That is more than a rhetorical slogan meant to focus people on “user services.” I mean it literally. If all libraries do is talk to their communities to add new services, or adopt social media to broadcast library events, or become more responsive at a desk, they have not engaged in the necessary and fundamental change needed.
What we need is a merger of collection and community. This is the disruptive, fundamental, and radical shift. In the community you serve, people consume, sure. However, they ALL create, even if they are only creating knowledge within themselves. The power of a new necessary model for public service is to see people in your community as creators who are willing to share their expertise, their understandings, and their resources (like tax dollars, or tuition dollars, or budget lines AND their books). People within your community are willing to teach, and develop programs, and tutor, and the like.
The key massive shift in public services need to make this change? For those familiar with my work, you may find my solution a bit out of character: collection development. Yup. The same skill that has gone through such dramatic changes from documents to media to databases to the Internet, to services. Except, it is development of the community and its conversations.
An example may be in order. A man comes into the library and through conversing with the librarian offers to teach sessions on self-publishing. Now, the first thing that must change is how the librarian responds to the idea of a self-publishing program. Gone is the idea that the librarian will go learn everything there is to know about self-publishing and then start offering programs around the topic. The community member says they already have that knowledge, so they should teach it. Ah, but you say, how do I know they are any good. Do they know about self-publishing? Have they done it? Can they teach? Will they present in a way that upholds the principles of librarianship (intellectual honesty, transparency, and so on)? This is the role of the librarian. This is collection development.
Maybe they can’t teach – great, either the librarian can get them some experience in it (like linking them up with another community member who can act as a mentor) or suggest they put together a libguide, or a curated collection of resources to share. Maybe they only have experience with one platform, can the librarian hook them up with someone with other experiences, or set up complementary programming. Collection development.
In this approach the wall of service between library and community disappears. The librarian is directly working with the community to expose expertise and offer service through the community not to the community. Librarians don’t have to know all the community knows, but they must be able to weave it together and link it. The library becomes a platform not for resource sharing, but for community building and connections.
This then is the next hurdle and challenge: making the community our collection. We have many of the pieces in place. We have an expanded view of collection and the distributed tools that come with it. We have a new definition of librarianship not linked to any particular institution, but focused on knowledge and community. We have some examples of this happening from general approaches like patron driven acquisitions to specific institutions like Chattanooga, Ferguson, and Fayetteville Free. We have the love of our communities. We have spaces to gather. We have an army of professionals and aligned staff in nearly every community in North America.
Now is the time. We can change the world not by informing a community, or serving it, but by unleashing it. We will advance our communities, our nations, and society not by waiting to serve, not by pushing from behind, nor invisibly advocating issues of social justice. We will move forward society by standing side by side with the teacher and the student, the cop and the community, the philosopher and the blacksmith. Librarians, and the institutions they build with their communities, libraries, will, with radical zeal, interweave human capability for greatness. Let’s get to it.
A press release on a new IMLS grant we’re doing with the fantastic folks at South Central Regional Library Council
Original story at http://ischool.syr.edu/newsroom/index.aspx?recid=1620
By: Diane Stirling
The School of Information Studies (iSchool), as a partner with the South Central Regional Library Council of Ithaca and The 3Rs Association, Inc., will be developing a program to strengthen the teaching and learning skills of library workers who provide outreach education using online learning environments.
A grant of $336,665 has just been awarded to support the three-year project by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) via its Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians Program. The monies will enable development of a program to guide transfer of in-person teaching skills and pedagogy to the online environment; help librarian-trainers evaluate and gain experience with various online delivery platforms; and teach library workers how people learn effectively in online education situations.
Project principal investigator is Mary-Carol Lindbloom, executive director of the South Central Regional Library Council. She conceived the skill-building program and invited the iSchool to participate. iSchool Professor R. David Lankes is Syracuse University’s liaison to the project. He will provide input into course development and delivery and oversee graduate assistant and hourly students who will be hired to help implement the program. iSchool faculty members Marilyn Plavovos Arnone and Jill Hurst-Wahl, plus WISE distance-education coordinator Alison Miller, also will help formulate program content.
The group plans to develop “train the trainer” materials for 120 librarians who are responsible for providing continuing education through their libraries. They also will develop an online learning segment, to deliver to 240 librarians from throughout New York State that illustrates best practices to support online learning.
As more teaching changes from in-person classrooms to online platforms, there is a need for clear guidelines on what works and what doesn’t in terms of the pedagogy, technologies, and devices used in the online environment, according to Professor Lankes. “What’s happening is that people are saying, ‘I’ve taught this in person for 10 years; I’ll teach it online.’ Yet, it’s not like ‘shazam’, and you can teach it online. What we’ve learned at Syracuse since we began doing online education in 1993 is that there is no ‘shazam’ to this; there is a lot to think about when you make the transition to online teaching and learning. There are a lot of good instructors who do very interactive things when everyone’s seated around the table. The question then is, how do you do something like that in the online environment?”
Professor Arnone said that librarians are experiencing situations where the outreach and education they do increasingly involves online elements. The program will help develop skills for online teaching and unique aspects of learning via an online environment. The goal is to boost presentation and technology skills which library workers can use to conduct effective online sessions. “This is about being able to teach effectively and transfer what you know into an online environment, and understanding the differences in online learning, since not everyone likes it,” Arnone noted.
Those who teach online need to understand how to gain attention, make content relevant and interesting, and build learners’ confidence, while also setting clear expectations for the experience, she added. In addition to addressing those aspects, workers will learn how to offer “multiple means of representation–opportunities to present information in ways that learners can feel good about–so it’s coming to them in the way that they prefer. Addressing disability issues and accessibility for online learners, and the adjustments that can be made for online learning, also will be incorporated, Professor Arnone said.
Materials and presentations created for the program’s 10 informational modules will be available to the worldwide library community through the project’s LibGuides website, via WebJunction, and as disseminated through library conferences and publications.