Month: May 2011

The Unquiet Library Annual Report 2011, Part 1

I’m happy to share with you the first part of my annual library report that I created in Microsoft Word.  Each media center in our district is mandated to submit an annual report; in the past, we shared program highlights related to each of the four roles under Information Power, but I’m excited that we have transitioned to the five roles from Empowering Learners for this year’s report.

I always struggle with finding a balance in the information and data I include as I don’t want to have so much that it overwhelms a reader—it is easy to go overboard on charts/graphs/quotes—but of the four annual reports I’ve written, I think I’m happiest with this year’s edition. I think I’ve improved the narratives and organization this year as well as the use of graphics and media; I also love the Word template I selected to create the report because it looks clean and streamlined yet professional. Each year I try to incorporate a new element into my reports, and this year, I thought it would be fun to incorporate QR codes linking to specific web resources or videos related to a section of the annual report.  In addition, I love the addition of the teacher quote sidebars into this year’s annual report—these “impact” statements were very humbling to read, and I am so grateful to work with colleagues who let me share the joy the joy of teaching and learning with them and their students.  A heartfelt thank you to my faculty who were able to share such powerful statements for inclusion in this year’s annual report.

While writing the annual report is truly a labor of love and quite time intensive for me, I also find it a valuable reflective exercise as it helps me to really connect dots of patterns I’ve observed over the last year, consider what didn’t work as planned and how to approach those challenges in the future, and to see the successes of the program that are so easy to overlook when you’re in the throes of daily library life.  The process also helps me start to crystallize ideas that have been simmering and take initial steps toward writing next year’s program goals/themes for the upcoming year.

I’ll be creating the annual report and video (in the same vein as last year’s) later this week, so look for a followup post here in which I’ll share the multimedia elements of the library annual report!

Nurturing Transliteracy with Vook

Inspiration has arrived this afternoon via friend and colleague Mark Moran who Tweeted about his newly minted Vook on marathon running.  What is Vook?

“A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.

Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and an application for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad for reading on the go. With the web-based application you don’t have to download programs or install software. Just open your favorite browser and start reading and watching in an exciting new way. You can also download and install the mobile applications through the Apple iTunes store and sync them with your Apple mobile device.”

Consider the possibilities for the social construction of reading and writing if we helped students create their own vooks!  Whether they created an application for a computer or the iPhone/iPod/iPad, think how this type of mashed up reading/writing/thinking/sharing oriented learning experience might transform student thinking!  My initial reaction to Vook is that it could be an interesting rendition of a digital research paper or a fantastic stand alone multigenre element. I’ll be brainstorming with teachers this summer ways we might incorporate this kind of content creation into a unit of inquiry for the upcoming school year.  Take a look at this video from Vook and let the idea bubbling begin!

New Published Articles on Participatory Libraries and Learning

I am honored and pleased to share the publication of two new articles this month!

  • “What Kind of Teacher Are You?”, May/June 2011 issue of Knowledge Quest 
  • A sidebar companion mini-article on the social media streams and Learning Commons for AASL 2011 in Alice Yucht’s “Conference-Going Strategies, Redux” in Knowledge Quest. I’ll be writing more in June here on this blog about these virtual and face to face learning spaces!
  • “Creating Conversations for Learning: School Libraries as Sites of Participatory Culture”, May/June 2011 issue of School Library Monthly 
A heartfelt thank you to my KQ issue editors Sara Kelly Johns and Laura Pearle and SLM editor Deborah Levitov for their unwavering encouragement and for allowing me to be part of two great issues with my esteemed colleagues in the field.

Are Librarians, Not Seth Godin, The Ones Missing the Point on Libraries?

Seth’s Blog: The future of the library via kwout

Twitter is lit up today with divergent responses to Seth Godin’s post, “The Future of the Public Library.”  I think Godin is spot-on with his thoughts and observations, particularly the idea that libraries “…ought to be the local nerve center for information.”  Note he doesn’t see information only in BOOKS, but information in multiple spaces or “containers”, period.  Although he isn’t the first to do it, Godin’s call to reconceptualize libraries and his emphasis on the real meaning of “library” as being embedded in the work librarians do is powerful; Godin’s call disrupts the traditional precept of the library as being book-driven.  I completely agree and if you read my blog regularly, then you know I feel libraries should be idea and learning-driven—that focus and our rethinking what the spaces of library and where librarians can be embedded in our communities is what can make us more central to the communities we serve and increase participation and equitable access to information in many formats by being willing to think outside the traditional “boundaries”.

“The scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data…The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear…There are one thousands things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.  We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.”

More than ever, we need to find ways to invite, not discourage, conversations for learning–not just with people inside the learning communities but from others who can help us continually inform the bigger vision from alternate viewpoints even when it may disrupt you out of your comfort zone.  To me, Godin’s post is not about limiting access to information but about enabling new avenues to information (see his reference to The Mesh) and focusing on creating connections and relationships.  Godin’s call to action aligns with that of Dr. David Lankes in The Atlas of New Librarianship:

“The fundamental shift is from things to human knowledge.  It changes the focus of the work of librarians from artifacts and the products of learning (like books, web pages, and DVDs) to the learning process.  Rather than being concerned with some externalized concept such as information (or, worse, “recorded knowledge”), it (Conversation Theory) places the focus of librarianship squarely on behavior and the effects of services on the individual.  In essence, the value of a book, or librarian for that matter, is evaluated again the need of the library members’ ability to learn (Lankes, p. 23).

I think Godin’s post particularly speaks to me as I definitely see the work I’m doing, more than ever, as embodying the roles of “librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario” and why I continue to be surprised and quite honestly, a little disappointed, that people are more interested in emailing me about our small Kindle program than the Media 21 learning initiative, which I think is incredibly more meaningful for our students and innovative than the circulation of the Kindle devices.  In many ways, I see myself as more of a teacher now than I did when I taught high school English as I find myself continually exploring emerging and expanding concepts of teaching, learning,and multiple forms of literacy.  While it is in some ways a different experience from being a classroom teacher, I am the most reflective I’ve ever been as a practitioner in my near twenty years in education; hence, I try to heed the wisdom of Anne Ruggles Gere who once said, “I propose that we listen to the signals that come through the walls of our classrooms from the outside”, as I attempt to be open to how people in many kinds of learning spaces, not just K12 education, envision the library.

Original photo by Buffy J. Hamilton

Perhaps I identify with Godin’s points because for the last year or so, I have felt a sense of urgency about how school librarians fit into our learning ecosystems of K12 schools.  While the severity of the draconian treatment of Los Angeles Unified School District school librarians is disturbing, I honestly can’t say it is all that surprising to me given the confidential stories I have heard from colleagues in recent years in which talented, passionate, and transparent school librarians were ousted or marginalized to the point in which they felt they had no choice but to leave.  These kinds of stories shared publicly and privately have pushed my thinking and caused me to question in the last year what exactly it means to be a school librarian and what I will need to be to contribute to my learning community.

Consequently, while our qualitative and quantitative data says our library program is doing a lot of things well, I know we have much room for growth and cannot rest on our laurels if we are to be truly responsive to those we serve and to innovate.  What have I seen myself as “owning” and how do I rethink sharing that expertise so that I can continue to build a greater sense of community and value of my talents and the library as a learning space at Creekview High School?  How do I imbue and infuse a bit of “librarian” into the work and learning processes of our teachers and students to scale out the possibilities for “library” and learning?  As I learned from our initial design process experience at our Reimagine Ed meeting in April 2011, it is not always easy to hear the “sacred cows” of our profession challenged by non-librarians, but rather than being defensive, this experience reminded me of Dr. Bob Fecho’s (one of the wisest teachers I had at the University of Georgia) advice to embrace the cognitive chaos and discomfort.  These kinds of experiences help me reflect and consider how to better distribute the “library” by improving our efforts to foster the participatory climate we’ve tried to establish in our library program over the last five years.

My takeaway from Godin’s post is that we may not all agree on the details, but the value of these kinds of posts is that they can initiate and sustain conversations about how we can better improve the work we do and the roles we play in better helping our communities. If we outright dismiss the opinions of others, particularly those who are not librarians, I think we lose the opportunity to see the bigger picture and possibilities.  Are we as a profession willing to listen to other voices and discourses “outside” of our own circles and respond to their vision of how libraries should function in today’s world?  Are we willing to regularly challenge and interrogate our own beliefs and values?  While it is not always easy to negotiate the tension between differing ideas,  I think listening to multiple viewpoints with a sense of humility creates a necessary kind of cognitive dissonance and friction of ideas needed for us to be organic, thoughtful, critical, and purposeful in our practice and thinking.

I am sure many blog posts will be posted this week (and I’d love to read posts from non-librarians on this Seth Godin piece!), but here are a few to contemplate now:

Ushering in the Era of “Validation”: Gaining Authority in the Age of Digital Overload

Curation” is a hot buzzword right now in circles of people interested in information and how it is created, organized, distributed, digested, and self-filtered.  As someone who has been and continues to be interested in the changing nature of authority, social scholarship, and helping people learn how to develop their own “information filters”, I was fascinated by this slidedeck from Steve Rubel and the accompanying article via Mashable (thank you to Steve Rosenbaum for pointing me to these resources).

While the slides and article focus on how companies and their brands can gain authority through transmedia storytelling, I think the principles highlighted in the slides and the Mashable article are more than applicable for libraries and librarians:

1.  Elevate the experts (this SO speaks to the concepts of participatory librarianship and culture!):  “Find your company’s subject-matter experts and empower them to “cultivate new ideas and engage in meaningful conversation around them,” advises Rubel.

2.  Curate to connect:  “Rubel pointed out an unprecedented opportunity for companies and individuals to gain authority and become thought leaders by being the ones who “separate art from junk for people to understand it.” Curation is just as important as creation.”

3.  Dazzle with data:  “The solution is to make data and information more visual and entertaining.”  I’ve talked extensively in the last year about libraries using more than flat statistics and your sole perspective to tell the story of library.  Think multimedia and shared voices of your patrons in giving meaning to the data you are sharing transparently with your community.

4.  Put hubs on hubs:  “Publish your company’s content, such as slideshows and white papers, on hubs like SlideShare and Scribd, so that interested parties can access it and “go deeper” when they want to.” We’re doing this already with SlideShare (but not Scribd–our district’s filter classifies Scribd as “porn”) at The Unquiet Library; I’m now thinking about other mediums for adding hubs that the staff can create in 2011-12 as well as our students, our experts in training (this principle speaks to Henry Jenkins’ identifying the scaffolding of novices in becoming experts as an essential element of participatory culture).

5.  Ask and Answer:  everyone in an organization should be able to field questions via social media, not just a few staff members.  I’m contemplating some interesting possibilities for ways libraries and schools could take this advice to heart to elevate our “brand” and authority in our community.

How do you see your library incorporating these principles of authority building ?  How might these principles help you and your library community create conversations for learning?