Extending the Learning: A Report from PLA

By Michael Stephens |

I worked at SJCPL for almost 15 years and will always have a special place in my heart for public libraries. The first time I attended PLA was in 1996 - newly graduated from IU with my MLS and fired up about this weird new thing we had--the World Wide Web. Attending the 2010 Public library Association meeting - once again in Portland, Oregon -  made me realize how far we've come in just 14 years. That's a lifetime in Internet years!

I was at PLA to report out on my ongoing research project on Learning 2.0 programs in libraries. For this talk, I focused on the date sets from public libraries. 

The presentation included a video message from my co-investigator Warren Cheetham from Townsville City Libraries outlining the beginnings of Learning 2.0 in Australia. It's embedded above. I was so happy Warren could participate, just as I did at VALA in February.

The most interesting aspect of the presentation was the discussion that followed my talk I asked for comments, for questions and for attendees to share what they had discovered about their own learning programs. The suggestions and commentary were so useful I wanted to share them here as part of the Techsource reporting from PLA. Tom Peters and Kate Sheehan have already posted their conference thoughts. 

  • Keep expanding the learning. One librarian shared that as an extension of the "23 Things" she offered ongoing technology encounter sessions for staff and patrons. Another noted how they incorporated newer tools and hardware into the program. Foursquare was just one example of a newer tool that would be a good fit as the 24th, 25th or 26th "Thing."
  • Update the learning with new tools and tech. The discussion turned to the iPad - one librarian reported that her library had ordered one for exploration and experiment. The staff would get to play with the device as would patrons in future classes. 
  • Get creative. Another asked how a smaller library with less funding might offer the same thing. I urged them to beg or borrow from the local electronics place. The room bustled with more great suggestions:
  • Involve technically-inclined library users as experts. Ask library users to bring their favorite gadgets to the library for a "zoo" type program. Not only does that get some interesting tech in the library but it allows the experts to show off a bit and answer questions.
  • Ground the play and experimentation in your mission. The suggestion I offered in my talk and one I offered again in closing was no matter what we do with new technologies and new tools, basing everything we do on the mission of the library and speaking to that goal as a way to frame staff development is an important way to get buy-in, support and interest. Our focus group data from Townsville and the national survey results support this conclusion: many respondents wanted practical library examples and a firm grounding in why it was important to experience the 23 Things.

I hope these suggestions are helpful for your own ongoing learning programs. Thanks to all who participated in my PLA 2010 session!

Note: This post was written and edited via the iPad in Pages at Panera Bread, Mishawaka, IN and on a plane to South Carolina. Google Docs didn't take kindly to the iPad browser so the last step was completed on my MacBookPro.