Libraries, storytelling, advocacy: Not what or how, but why

I know that I’ve been gone for a while.  So much stuff happening that the writer within has taken a short hiatus.  Bear with me while I try to make sense of my changing world.

Sometimes you see something, and it just pings!  Bells ring, resonance happens and you just have to share.  Even though your response is only half-formed, and you know that when you read it back tomorrow, you will think of a hundred better ways to say it.  This is one of those times, and I hope it makes some kind of sense.

First it was advocacy.  Then, cart before horse as usual, came evidence-based-practice.  All of which leads me to a place where I feel the need to shout from the rooftops something that you probably realised long before me.  We MUST stop talking about what we do and how we do it.  No-one cares.

We must say why we do it.  Why libraries?  What is our passion?  What is our purpose?  That is the stuff that will resonate and convert communities into believers.  Watch this, you’ll see what I mean.

And Simon?  What an articulate presenter.  Eighteen minutes very well spent.

With thanks to a fellow tweep, Shannon Walters, for leading me to this 18 minute gem.

Posted in Advocacy, Library futures | Tagged | 1 Comment

Flipped library: Is it, then, about attitude?

You might have read my earlier post about flipped libraries and maybe you thought, “Wow! She’s totally nuts!”  Not an unlikely reaction, especially if you know me personally.

I was interested to read this, however.  A recent piece from Library Journal called The Original Flipped Classroom | Peer to peer review seems to imply that libraries have been centres of experiential learning for a very long time, rather than sites of eye-drooping boredom as students listen to librarians drone on, and on, and on…

I have to say that I agree that we could very easily transform ourselves into flipping wonderful centres for immersive, experiential, hands-on learning.  Regretfully, I would also say that I’m not sure that most of us are there yet.

What do you think?  How well have you adapted your orientations, programmes and interventions – is your library “that giant, teeming, learner-centered classroom in the middle of the campus”?  Or do you watch the drooping eyelids in despair every time?

Just wondrin’.

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Advocacy will not work unless you make an emotional connection

I dare you to not be moved by this clip.

And I also dare you to follow the example they set.  When you report, tweet, promote, blog to your community, connect at an emotional level.  Tell the stories, share the humour, make it personal.  If people are moved emotionally, they will make a stronger connection and be more easily moved to act, to support you, to engage.

New Zealand libraries – get off your butts and work together to create the Kiwi chapter, using our statistics to show our people, and our politicians, what we do.  This would be a cross-sector collaboration worth doing.

Posted in Advocacy, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Exploring the flipped classroom model : What if Professor Plum is no longer in the library?

Recently I blogged about using the concept of the flipped classroom as a way of re-imagining what our libraries might be.  The slideshare below is a veritable treasure trove of explanation and practical examples of the concept in action in the higher education sector.

As I read it, I pondered how library usage might change in this model, what a library might look like if it was truly aiming to facilitate learning and exploration undertaken using an experiential model?  What skills and technology might a library professional need in order to support teachers and students working in this manner?  Would it need to be vastly different?  Is it about skills sets, environment, or mind-set?

In the public library sector, we need to consider these concepts, too.  We are continually talking about needing to offer experiences to our communities (rather than just being book warehouses), and we also talk about the need to foster stronger links with our local education communities.  So what would an experiential activity designed with and for the education sector look like in our libraries?  What skills do we need to foster in our staff, what technologies will we need to become comfortable using, and what will our spaces need to provide?

But here is where I may make myself unpopular.  If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it is that guided tours of databases and lessons on navigating Dewey do not an experiential activity make.  Do we need to climb off the soapbox, and acknowledge that for students these resources and lessons are a total yawn until they really need them?  Yes, it’s an important part of our skill set, but is it necessarily the best experience to offer a newbie to the library?

If the flipped classroom concept entails students wallowing in information and experiences, lots of sensory input and physical interactions, how can the library as an environment support those experiences?  Where does the library professional’s skill set intersect with the needs of students and teachers?  Is it an existing skill set, or one that needs development?  Is this where your virtual branch ( i.e. library website) comes into its own as the launch pad for the video, podcast, media-rich website links put together (collaboratively?) by teachers and librarians…

The more I ponder this topic, the more I think it is about the skill set and the tools we employ.  It’s got increasingly little to do with the space.  Do we need to pack our skill set and willingness to learn and get out of the library?

Can the answer ever again be Professor Plum, with a candlestick, in the library?  Is the flipped library a physical entity, or a service model embodied by connectivity, mobility and collaboration?  Love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to the Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian for pointing me to this brilliant resource.
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Digital literacy : The eight elements of digital literacies

Is digital literacy on your radar?  Are you digitally literate?  Can you unpack it for the people you work with, or contribute confidently to discussions about it?

This is a very practical slideshare presentation from Doug Belshaw.  He gives a clear description of what digital literacy is, places it in the context of today’s world, and defines the dimensions of digital literacy in a way that makes it very easy for us to find connections to why it matters.  He also anchors it with three practical activities that we can use to begin extending our own digital literacy.

This presentation would make an excellent conversation starter for staff – for their own professional development, to see how it fits within their day-to-day work, and how we can roll it out as part of our professional practice.

Great stuff.  Thanks Doug.

Posted in Critical literacy, Information literacy, Transliteracy | Tagged | Leave a comment

How much is a free library card worth? Advocacy in action

In libraries we are always talking about the value that we add to our communities.  But how do you enumerate that value?  Is it about the savings you make by accessing a range of resources for free, or at low cost?  Or are there other value streams hidden beneath the surface?

This week a colleague told us that some libraries have taken to printing out the value of the customer’s borrowing on their checkout receipt.  I’ve just had a tally-up of the items currently out in my name, seven in total and not counting four already returned this week, and my tally comes to $443.20.  Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m on a home decorating and artistic bent at the moment, so there are some weighty tomes in that lot.  But, in all fairness, you only have to visit the local bookstores to know that reading doesn’t come cheap!  We can count the financial savings of reading for free quite easily, and they are substantial.

But then you have the hidden financial savings that can be made through having free access to a mountain of information.  Did you hear the one about the local man who built his own garage from the bottom up, doing all the wiring and other technical work required, having no trade or prior experience.  He got the work signed off by the professionals, meeting all the building requirements, and he used the information he found in books at this library to guide him through the process.  That borrowing transaction has a whole other set of financial savings, not to mention the growth of skills in our community, and the confidence and personal growth experienced by this gentleman, who shared his story with us during a visit to the library this week.  (Incidentally, that visit was contributing to his on-going education which has nothing to do with his current employment.  More value?)

In her recent post on the Libraries and learning blog, Glenda talks about the very human needs that libraries meet – the need to create, to belong, to connect (with information and people), a need to know and understand, and equally importantly, a need to have time out to replenish our energy and access our creative spirits.  How do we calculate the social value of a library to its community?  As information and recreational reading become increasingly available online, the risk is that libraries will seem increasingly irrelevant, especially if borrowing of books is the only measure of the role they play.

Television New Zealand this week focused briefly on the issue of public libraries, asking the question “Are libraries still relevant?”  The feedback to their Facebook page certainly indicates strong support for libraries.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below – we’d love to know what value you place on your library card.


The above post was written by the author for the Invercargill City Libraries blog, and was written with the intention of stimulating some discussion, raising awareness and promoting the value of the library to the community itself.  Successful advocacy begins long before it is needed, and I believe that the best place to start is by telling the stories of folk who have found value in the work that we do.

If you share your advocacy stories, how do you do it?  Is it successful?  Have there been concrete results?  Please share your stories – I would love to hear them.

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Truly question everything, especially the status quo

When I wrote my last post about flipped classrooms, and attempted to apply the model of thinking to libraries, the hardest part for me was to find the appropriate questions to ask of school library practice.  We tend to be bound by our experience and habits to the belief that what we do now is simply the way it should be.  It is very difficult to re-imagine our own spaces and way of doing when it interlocks so completely with the status quo.

So I was thrilled this morning to find this excellent post in my inbox – Truly question everything.  David Truss reflects on just such a process, and provides some excellent starter questions that we might use to begin rethinking libraries.

A couple of years ago, I was in negotiations with my Principal to reconfigure the area of the library in which the computers were situated.  The idea was to grab more of the library space, and we were heading towards a very traditional model of computers around the outside of a U shaped area, situated with inward facing screens.  Fortunately, I realised at this point that it wasn’t necessarily the most innovative thinking ever seen, and stepped back to give it some more thought.

In the face of current thinking, I think that was a good choice.  The school now has an opportunity to do it differently and better, and truly question where, how, and why things should be.

Have you looked at your library and asked similar questions?  Why are things arranged the way they are?  Why do you perform your current morning routines?  Do they fit an old model of thinking?  As an example, at my (public) library we are looking at moving towards a model where shelving is no longer done in the morning before patrons arrive.  We will be implementing roving (or embedded) librarians who are out and about in the stacks – and where their primary focus is to signal to patrons that they are available.  If they manage to get a little shelving done during this time, great!  Other staff doing regular shelving stints might be expected to do that during busy times on the floor, with the same motives in mind.  This model is much more customer oriented, and we all know that when we are out there, looking like librarians, we will be asked for assistance.

What questions are you asking?  And who are you including in the discussion – your customers?  Colleagues?  Flockmates?  And what are the answers you are coming up with?  Please share your thoughts.

Posted in Library futures | Tagged , , | 5 Comments