Beyond the Prototype

By Teresa Koltzenburg |
    We have jumped into that laboratory experience together and are learning together. Ten project teams are formulating collaborative projects as a means of learning. As I look at those project statements and at the posts that share the ongoing thinking process, I believe that this work will have lasting value to us—individually and collectively—beyond the life of this particular prototype process.Mary Ghikas: Library 2.0 :: Concept
More and more, I find myself filing posts on the ALA TechSource Blog under "ALA News" and "Library 2.0." I expect that to continue. Controversy aside, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts (which, admittedly, is of little risk to me, as I have a Brobdingnagian—or maybe Homerian would be a more fitting fictional-element adjective—fondness for those dunkable delights), after the ALA Library 2.0 Innovation Boot Camp, you'll be seeing more ALA-related treks into L2.

But Back to Boot Camp
Er, I mean "Group Exploration." (I liked the alliterative subhead better; if you haven't noticed, alliteration is a "problem" I have.) From interviews with four of the participants—two ALA members, Michelle Boule and Brian Gray; and two ALA staffers, Christine Taylor and Don Wood—it does seem that Meredith F., in Friday's post "On ALA Bootcamp and free access to online learning," brings up a valid point about the projects' objectives. "I'm not in the course, so I may be missing something," notes Meredith, "but it seems like a number of the participants were confused about what they'd be learning and commented that the course was focused on different objectives than they'd expected."

Still, from the four students I talked with over the last couple of weeks, from some feedback a participant provided to Mary G. at a meeting they attended together ("At the end of a long evening of meeting, she commented on the ALAL2.0 project. She noted that it was changing the way she visualized working in the future—for greater impact, greater reach. That's value."), and from watching this fascinating dialogue unfold, as an employee of ALA and a wanna-be techie, I'm heartened by this experiment. I'm especially excited that ALA, Jenny, and Michael are working together on it.

Christine Taylor, ALA L2 Group Exploration ParticipantProject Ponderings
"I think everybody is pretty frustrated with their projects. But the main thing that I distilled out of all this is it's really not so different than when e-mail was introduced to the workplace; people got all uncomfortable, and they didn't know how to interact in a new environment. That takes a lot to get through," Christine Taylor told me the other day when she came to my office to talk about this first crucible that cradles ALA's L2 Group Exploration.

Christine says, before the course, she'd never been "in" a wiki before, or posted to a blog, or listened to a podcast. With a smile, she tells me about her first blog post ever—vacuum cleaner instructions. "I just wanted to get something up there," she adds, noting that it's not an easy thing to post "when you haven't found your voice."

Christine and her team-2-mates are working through their project questions ("How are associations utilizing 2.0 technology? What has been the impact?"), but trying to navigate through the various technologies has not been easy, as team member Michelle Frisque explains in her May 17th "Barriers" post. "W[e] have too many ideas that go in very different directions and we are not sure how to focus it. The idea of barriers came up as we began to try to get a handle on all of the new technologies at once."

Despite her own frustration, Christine remains positive and optimistic about this time she's spent in this ALA L2 "lab," noting, "I think, over time, that it will be a golden first step that everybody will be like, ‘Wow, we did that.'"

Brian C. Gray, ALA L2 Group Exploration ParticipantThe Blog Boondoggle?
When I spoke with ALA member Brian Gray earlier this month, he explained that he's been blogging for about a year. "I have an engineering information/education type of blog. It's more resources. Some of the items there develop some conversation, but they are more of the ‘Did you know about this?' kind of thing."

Brian says the ALA L2 course has not only introduced to him various ways libraries are utilizing Web 2.0 tools, but the individual-blog part of the course has also intrigued him. "I've enjoyed having this type of blog, because there has been a lot of discussion back and forth. Now, I'm thinking after this is done, I might have to have two blogs."

While Brian is enjoying his course-assigned blog, Karen Munro, who also has been posting to blogs long before the course commenced, shares her thoughts about the course's individual-blog component in her "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web..." post. "I'm not interested in investing much time and energy in developing this blog," she states, "because to me it seems like spending a lot of time trying to teach ALA's German Shepherd to balance a cookie on its nose, while my own dogs get no love....If the point is for me to see what other teams are doing, fifty blogs isn't the way to go—a single shared blog for each group makes more sense."

Michelle Boule, ALA L2 Group Exploration ParticipantTracking the Take-Away
ALA member Michelle Boule, who has been forthright in her frustration on her own Wandering Eyre Blog, told me during our phone conversation that, due to the course, she now has a better understanding of OPML files. "I really like learning more about OPML files. I didn't know anything about them before the boot camp started. It was just some mystery file thing to me. They have set up a tutorial for us about how to create our own OPML files by making a reading list for our group. It seems a little complicated, but, when this is over, I feel like I'll at least understand what the purpose of them are and some different uses—and what libraries can do with them. It's really about creating different kinds of content, putting it together, and then being able to push it out to people in different kinds of ways. It's really interesting; I had no idea that you could do that with it before."

Brian explained to me that he thinks the individual and group struggles are of great value because, "It has really brought it down to a real-life situation. What's been neat about our group is that people are at various levels—in the profession or within technology or within their careers—so it's showing very different levels of understanding. We were given a bunch of technologies right up front and training to use those technologies, but we were also given a lot of supplemental information and reading assignments. Some people have been really overwhelmed because they've had to learn both. At least for me, it's helped me remember, ‘Yeah, you can implement these technologies, but these are the same things our users are going to go through'—half of them pick them up immediately, some of them might be using them already, and some of them might refuse to use them. It's actually been more real life than I expected."

Don Wood, ALA L2 Group Exploration Participant Another ALA L2 Group Exploration participant I had the pleasure of conversing with about the project is Don Wood, a sixteen-year ALA staff member. Don says, like Christine, many of these tools at the start of the course were brand new to him. "I knew about the technology, but using the technology—that was different. And getting up close and personal with it was a great chance, I thought. I wanted to be part of a project that's all about learning and seeing which tools work best for different projects."

Don, as with most others participating in the course, has eked out time slots in his busy pre-Annual Conference and regular work schedule to devote energy to both his blog and his team 7 project (which addresses a not-so-easy concept, "Implementing current alert Webcasts for just-in-time training or assistance").

From posting to his blog to the script he created for this team project, Don really seems to be into the process, despite the time constraints. "I love the collaboration in this. I think more and more, the opportunities to collaborate [will be] great. Like this Brian Gray—I haven't talked to him, but he sounds like a very interesting guy. I think it's a matter of getting to know each other—it's the human element. There is a human element to Library 2.0, or any 2.0. It's a matter of getting to know each other, building trust, and seeing that we're all, pretty much, on the same wavelength."

While some might yet (okay, probably will) disagree about Don's "same wavelength" description—after all, as Georgia Tech reference librarian Brian Mathews notes in his podcast about Academic Library 2.0, one could ask several different people to define "Library 2.0" and one would get back several different definitions—after talking with Don late this last week, I found myself contemplating his thoughtful responses to my questions about the course.

"I've worked around libraries all my life," he told me. "I've found that librarians are some of the most helpful people on the planet. To me, the spirit of Library 2.0 has been around for a long, long time—you know, helping people, preferring peer relationships versus top-down, encouraging and welcoming diversity, listening as well as speaking, helping as many people as you can all at once or as often as you can. It's the tools—the tools are new, and we have to learn the tools. But once we learn how to use the tools, we're off and running. So, that's all this is; it's a big learning opportunity, but the spirit is there."

Though I wonder what next post I'll be filing under both "ALA News" and "Library 2.0" here, I don't doubt that the opportunity will come.

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