This Time It's Personal

By Michael Stephens |

Last month I shared some of the best practices for social software from my recently published ALA TechSource Library Technology Report, Web 2.0 and Libraries Part 2: Trends & Technologies. Commentor Linda Fox from the Capital Region BOCES School Library System had this to say:

Mike; Thanks for this article - great suggestions. I'd also like to suggest another step back in the process. For reluctant adopters of technologies - teachers or librarians - we try to show them how to use the technologies in their personal lives. THEN we ask them how that skill might transfer to their professional lives. At our Library 2.0 Tech Camp this weekend in upstate NY we demonstrated Skype by having one of the librarians call her daughter. Free phone call and, with an inexpensive webcam I can see my kid at college or in Iraq. I'm there. NOW - how might one use that in the school library. Just like with students - we have to show our staffs relevance and real world applications. Until they see that and use it - they don't grasp the power of the tool. Thanks again.

Linda and everyone, I couldn't agree more! Beyond reluctant adopters, this method of applying the personal first then expanding to library application works well. I think that's part of what has made Helene Blowers' Learning 2.0 programs an overwhelming success. It's been replicated all over the states as well as all over the world! Personalization is a bit like play -- a key factor in the success of Learning 2.0.

LibraryStream screen shotA personal memory comes to mind here: back in 1996 (that's 77 years in Internet time), my supervisor in the reference department at SJCPL wanted me to learn all I could about the World Wide Web. On a slow night when three of us were at the desk, she sent me up to the training room for an hour of exploration. "Look around," Linda said. "See what the Web is like and figure out how we might train our librarians." I surfed -- and that hour flew by. Remember those days? Anyway, I surfed and looked at various sites, many focused on pop culture, fandom and burgeoning virtual communities -- stuff that interested me at the time. X-Files, anyone? I learned about web pages and how people were starting to use the web. I really believe this event set me on the path toward becoming a library trainer and ultimately a university professor.

So how can we add the personal to our explorations and training related to emerging social tools? Here are some quick and dirty ideas to make sure it's personal:

Blogs: Have each participant set up a blog and let them configure to their hearts content. Choosing templates, backgrounds, images, and avatars are all part of personalization. All of my students in LIS753 Internet Fundamentals and LIS768 Library 2.0 & Social Networks have personalized blogs and have delighted in decking them out with widgets, personal photos, color, and more.

Wikis: In various Social Technologies Roadshows, I've heard Jenny Levine tell the crowd to make a staff wiki first to share recipes or other personal favorites to get folks used to the wiki's ins and outs. Then building a staff Intranet wiki, policy manual rewrite site, or public wiki can come next. I'd add the following to ways we might personalize our wiki training: share favorite book, movie or dining reviews, vacation memories, or anything else that will also help library staff learn more about their coworkers.

Think about these personalization tips might translate to the tool of the week. Flickr, Ning, Twitter, and Facebook all have a component for personalization and personal use. Use these features to draw staff into the tools, get them comfortable, and then discuss how the tools might fit into the mission, services, and everyday tasks at the library. As Linda Fox reminded me, it's a perfect early step and a building block to learning.

For more on teaching and learning emerging technologies, don't miss library trainer Steve Campion's Learn More series at his blog Library Stream. It does my heart good to see trainers developing these open models of learning and sharing! Folks, we didn't have this stuff way back in the day -- in 1996!