Take the Tech out of Technology

By Michelle Boule |

I am very happy, after a long break, to be back in this writing space. Techsource has grown and expanded in the last two years and it is exciting to be able to participate in a place with so very much going on and with so many wonderful people.

Using technology does not always have to be about gadgets and tools. Sometimes the concept of a tool can be just as useful as the tool itself. Utilizing some common office supplies and some wall space in your staff or public area, your library can create some fun, participatory displays that will build community between your staff and with your users. These ideas are also great additions to staff days or themed events for the community you serve.

With all of these ideas, you have to give your staff, your users, or both a large portion of freedom, trust, and transparency. Like any good application of a technology, knowing the audience, being honest with them, and letting them do what they need to with the tool is imperative to the success of the venture.

Here are four ways to take the tech out of technology:

Create a Photo Wall
Ask everyone involved to bring 1 or 2 of their favorite pictures and post them on the wall. They should provide as much information as they would like for the photos, including titles, tags, captions, and locations. You might consider making a form for the pictures that would include these items, but a form is not a necessity. This information could be added with simple things, like Post-It notes. Then invite other people to use Post-Its to comment on each other’s photos.

This would be a great addition to the wall of a staff area and would provide a unique way for staff to interact and learn more about each other. Be creative. Provide gold star stickers and allow people to indicate their favorite pictures from the wall.

If a library did this in a public area, staff could lead the way, to provide examples, and then the users could share their own photos on the wall. You could have a theme, depending on the season or the audience. A public service area could have a fall foliage picture wall and you could allow people to vote on their favorites.

Create a Wall O’ Wiki
Cover a large portion of a wall or bulletin board with blank paper. Provide different size Post-Its, pens, markers, index cards, thumbtacks, etc. Put a heading or question over the top of the area with a theme for the wall. For example, perhaps you have a problem that needs solving or maybe you would like to gather opinions and ideas about a service, an event, or your building space. Allow staff, users, or both to comment, rearrange, draw, or otherwise use the space as they see fit to answer the question or problem posed.

When things are removed, if they are on paper, make a space off to the side where they can be displayed. If the things that have been removed are kept in one area, it will be easier to add them back in the mix later on if individuals choose to do so. This will give a record of sorts as to what has been removed or changed. You could also do this by taking a picture periodically and posting them next to the display.

This can be done a couple different ways, so just think outside the box and have fun.

Make Your Own Map App
Post a large world map on a bulletin board. Provide thumbtacks and ask people to put tacks in places they have visited. Alternatively, you could ask people to put a tack in the place they were born. During a summer reading program, kids could put tacks in places their families went on vacation. This is a simple way to start conversations and create a visual display.

Along with the map, provide index cards or Post-Its so that people can add stories to the map, make comments, or ask questions about the locations that have been marked.

Create a Facebook Wall
Cover a large portion of a wall or bulletin board with blank paper. Allow staff to put up a profile of themselves, including a picture, likes, dislikes, job description or title (encourage creativity with the job description), and any other information. Over the course of a few days or a week, allow everyone to post notes in other people’s profiles.. They could offer encouragement, congratulations on a job well done, tell jokes, or make comments.

This activity will make a visual display for staff to learn more about each other. If you work in a large library, then this is a fun way for people to get to know coworkers they see seldom in the course of a work day. This will also give staff an opportunity to praise each other in a public forum which is always a good thing.

The Map App and Facebook Wall are ideas that I took directly from Camp PPL, the Princeton Public Library’s staff training day.

One thing to remember when doing a project like this: The goal is to create community and have fun, so remember to provide multiple methods for people to add content. A method can be as simple as different sizes and colors of Post-Its, various shades of markers, or stickers. There are many other tools that can be de-teched for a little something different for your staff and users. Remember to think outside of your browser.