In recent months I have been contemplating ways of facilitating professional development for our wider public library team – currently a very diverse group of 50 plus people. Some are highly qualified professionals, some are quite content to rock up on a daily basis to perform mundane tasks, and have little interest in developing their skills or in climbing the library ladder. The very diversity of their needs makes the challenge even greater.
In addition to this, my ‘other’ work takes me back into the world of school libraries, where there is an urgent imperative for school librarians to become ‘connected learners’, who can support digital teaching and learning in their schools, and lead the charge as Ultra Fast Broadband is rolled out around the country. The needs of both communities are remarkably similar, in my view. There is a desperate need for information professionals to embrace connectivity as the way forward in their professional practice, and in service delivery.
In order to do this successfully, we need to first provide opportunities for staff to immerse themselves in the technologies, wallow in their application, and explore ways that we can leverage them for the benefit of all. By ‘owning’ the technology and becoming, if not experts, at least confident co-learners, we can begin to move the beliefs, dispositions and values of our team members towards a real commitment to connectivity as the primary way we do business.
There has been much talk, and I have been one of the talkers, pushing the notion that our people need to get online, use Twitter, learn to blog, develop a personal learning network, and begin to make connections, find useful tools, and pull all of this learning and connectivity into their daily practice. But where is the help for the many among us who do not have a natural aptitude towards technology? How are we providing the opportunities, the support, the encouragement, and the vital feedback that they need? As an early adopter, I need to remind myself that in order to change the disposition of these, often reluctant, learners, I need to understand their uncertainties, and, even more importantly, I need to acknowledge that they do not necessarily have any intrinsic motivation driving them forward on the connected learner’s path. They are not in love with the tools themselves, and so struggle to understand how and why they should be using them.
I had half an ear on a webinar with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach last week, and went on to download a copy of The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. The thing that makes this approach different to others is that the writers provide an online platform and environment within which the readers (and learners) can connect. I am only part-way into the book, but already see how these ideas can translate directly to the world of libraries. There is tremendous power in being digitally connected, but many of our colleagues just don’t know how to get there… and the consequences for libraries and librarians who do not take the leap into the digital world are, in my view, grim.
So my question is, how do we strategically support our library teams in becoming connected learners? First, let me acknowledge that there is significant work being done by individuals and organisations – National Library are providing excellent online initiatives with communities where learning and sharing are beginning to happen. SLANZA provides an excellent wiki which acts as both repository for resources and as a forum for discussion. We have a diverse range of listservs to which we can subscribe, and LIANZA provide excellent access to a diverse range of professional learning opportunities. There doesn’t, however, appear to be any component in formal library education for frontline librarians that relates to digital connectivity. Is it time that we all asked that question of the providers?
There are a plethora of online activities that individuals can complete, as part of their learning journeys – if they have the intrinsic motivation to do so. You can go off and do the 23 Things, and learn much of what you need to know by so doing. By completing the activities, you will ultimately form your own personal learning network, and by way of that, become a member of a connected learning community. But wouldn’t it be more effective if we had our own connected library community, in the broadest sense, here in New Zealand? Where all librarians could begin their journey, find all of the resourses, links and ongoing support from mentors that they needed? Where an already established community would be there to encourage, respond, connect, advise and collaborate with them on their journey. This recent post on Powerful Learning Communities reinforces the value of encouragement as a facilitator of connection in an online community.
We are each, in our own silos, beavering away at reinventing not just wheels, but dancing on a treadmill of our own making. There is so much advantage in collaborative learning, and the act of collaborative learning is, in and of itself, something to be encouraged and celebrated. Can we work together as a national community of librarians to facilitate a community of connected learners? Might we then position ourselves to lead in the digital age?
Please share your thoughts – am I imagining the reinvention of yet another wheel? Or is there merit in a collaborative approach, and a shared platform for connected library professionals, learning together?