Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media

We are seeing faster and faster changes in the technological
landscape. In fact, in the past few years cloud computing has gone from an abstract idea to state-of-the art storage that we cannot do without.

Within this shifting environment we find libraries in a wide range of organisations (academic, public, corporate, special, schools)  re-visiting, re-imagining and re-branding their spaces, functions and service design.

In the full panalopy of library services, one aspect that occupied a busy group of people last Monday was social media in all its many dimensions. Don’t just think of Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Engaging in a conversation around social media opportunities is much more than than just choosing tools and  developing a social media strategy.

At the heart of the conversation was the issue of purpose, and the factors to consider in developing a social media strategy. As Bradley and McDonald write in the Harvard Business Review blog:-

What is a good purpose for social media? Would you recognize one if you saw it? And if you could identify a good purpose, would you be able to mobilize a community around it and derive business value from it?

Success in social media needs a compelling purpose. Such a purpose addresses a widely recognized need or opportunity and is specific and meaningful enough to motivate people to participate. Every notable social media success has a clearly defined purpose.

However, as librarians, we should have an interest that transcends that business approach. We are curators of knowledge and culture and embed products, tools, objects and strategies  to add value to the trans-literate environments of our communities.

At the day-long seminar Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media,  co-ordinated by ARK Group Australia,  I explored  these issues with the attendees, ranging from the obvious, to the ambiguities of workplace structures, digital preservation issues, content curation options, community, collaboration, personal social networking vs corporate social strategy, e-services, and more. My colleague Lisa Nash from the Learning Exchange, Catholic Education, Parramatta Diocese also explored eBooks and eServices.

Always at the heart is our  need to ensure that  social media empowers connections within and beyond the library. We are ‘letting go’ – in order to allow our customers, patrons, or corporate clients to shape these services with Apps,  eResources, recommendation services, or strategic information delivery systems. Not every library will benefit from the same social media tools. But every library can develop new options for marketing their services and change the way their clients or community interact with the library.

In fact, there was so much to consider in one day, that the day was really just the start of more planning when the librarians got ‘back to base’.  To facilitate this I put together a LibGuide as a digital handout. The advantage of this was that we could  add requested items immediately as the day progressed , and can continue to curate this resource for future workshops as well as for those who so willingly engaged with us on Monday.

You can visit this guide at Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media


Image 1  cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery
Image 2 cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Teacher librarians are important


Web 2.0 revolutionized the means at our disposal to filter and share information. Whether by managing information by social bookmarking or RSS reads and feeds, or communicating with our school community via blogs, wikis, podcasts, YouTube, or Facebook, students, teachers and school librarians have entered into digital conversations. Widgets, portals, Apps, Feeds and Aggregators and more now provide us with our ‘tools of trade’ for information curation.

The importance of the teacher librarian is intrinsically linked to effective and responsive information curation and dissemination in distributed environments within and beyond the school. Use of Web 2.0 tools has become embedded in good practice, and information curation has extended beyond the library catalogue to library and school information management systems for bibliographic and media resources, and various organizational tools that reside beyond the school in web environments, such as Libguides, Diigo, Live Binders, wiki, Delicious, Google tools, RSS, media tools, netvibes, iGoogle, and many more.

But when a technology focus subverts students’ conversation and development of critical thinking skills (and their ability to evaluate and analyze the information at hand), the mental processes that change knowledge from information to concept are not learned (Bomar, 2010). With the maturation of Web 2.0 tools the importance of nurturing information literacy skills and strategies has shifted to become a meta-literate approach to engagement with information.

This is exactly why teacher librarians are re-thinking what ‘collection’ of information means, thereby supporting personalized and collaborative information seeking and knowledge conversations. The new core information research tools available for students, teachers and school librarians adopting information literacy in a networked environment includes:

  • Microblogging tools for information sharing by teachers, students, classes and the school community in primary and secondary schools.e.g. Edmodo, yammer, Google+, or Twitter
  • Social Bookmarking and tagged collections e.g. Diigo, Delicious, PearlTrees, Flickr, Vodpod
  • Collaborative writing, editing, mindmapping and presentation tools e.g. Google docs, Exploratree, Voicethread, Mindmeister, Wikispaces
  • Research tools for online information management, writing and collaboration e.g. Zotero, Endnote, EasyBib, Bibme, Mendeley, Refworks,
  • Information capture in multiple platforms and on multiple devices .e.g. Evernote, Scrible
  • Library catalogues, databases, and open-access repositories – all used for information collection, RSS topic and journal alerts, and compatible with research organization tools
  • Aggregators, news readers, and start pages e.g. iGoogle, Netvibes, Symbaloo, Feedly
  • Online storage, file sharing and content management, across multiple platforms and computers e.g. Dropbox, Box.net, Skydrive

These tools have allowed us to re-frame information collection as highly flexible and collaborative information and knowledge conversations, while also facilitating information organization.

Technology and online integration can facilitate critical thinking and knowledgeable actions, rather than merely permitting the access and transformation of information as part of the information literacy skills set. The point is to engage our students in multiple conversations and research pathways that reflect the changing nature of scholarship in multimodal environments. As Lankes (2011) explains, at last we have a departure from information, access and artifacts as the focus.

In the lens of conversation, artifacts and digital access are only useful in that they are used to build knowledge through active learning.

Content exploration and learning demands a mix-and-match approach:

  • Search strategies
  • Evaluation strategies
  • Critical thinking & problem solving
  • Networked conversation & collaboration
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Ethical use and production of information
  • Information curation of personal and distributed knowledge.

Be sure you are understand online learning environments and the extra-ordinary potential of the social-media mind. Be sure you are involved with and present new ways and new information strategies to your teachers when  working within the curriculum and the full knowledge dimension of learning. Be sure you bring with you a full understanding of information literacy and information fluency as the underpinning of all that you do.

Bomar, S. (2010). A School-Wide Instructional Framework for Evaluating Sources.Knowledge Quest, 38(3), 72-75.
Lankes, D.R. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photoshared by mikefisher821

Doing social media ~ experience the space



Since some time in July  I have been wrangling with the multiple dimensions of social media as they impact on the spaces of information professionals. I chose that word deliberately, because doing social media so it matters is at the heart of the what it means to be a socially networked information professional. It’s only by becoming active in social media spaces that you can really hope to be able to determine the best  social networking strategies for your library services.

You cannot read and write about social networking in order to learn social media strategy without engaging in the full dimensions of it. It is only through engagement that practice turns theory into understanding.

I always felt that had to be the case, but my recent teaching in INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals has brought that message home to me loud and clear.

I have had the outstanding opportunity to engage with a group of information professionals scattered across Australia who are working in as diverse a range of libraries as you could ask. The services their institutions provide are, in some cases, second to none, and I was delighted to see that during the course of our study program some of the students were able to step up to join committees  formulating and/or delivering social networked services.

Tweeting for Trove, Australia’s national online resource of books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives ?

How good is that!

What is unquestionably the case for anyone wishing to delve into the spaces of social media is that engagement is participation! How else can you determine what, how, when, or why you might adopt a particular tool or strategy for your organisation?

There is no single “right” social media service that will fit every library. Comparing social media sites is part of the research, as is determining what kind of social media your library is interested in. Given that social media sites come and go, side-by-side comparison charts will not give you all the answers. Interaction and conversation with others active in social media will be an essential part of your litmus test while you keep your library’s objectives in mind.

My main message is that a participatory culture is unavoidably participatory!  I have discoved that students in a program about social networking,  who do not actively embrace experimenting and exploring, inevitably have gaps and weaknesses in applying social networking to the provision of library services. But by jumping in and giving it a go, fluency begins to emerge, and the transformation is quite exilerating!  Library 2.0 is vibrant, viral, communicates, promotes, and engages with it’s ‘people’.

It’s like learning a new language and going on a trip to a new country – you can get by with a tourist translation or develop fluency that allows you to become immersed and enjoy every aspect of the new cultural experience.

I know which option I prefer!

Top Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Έλενα Λαγαρία
Bottom Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

United we stand – or do we?

When it comes to school libraries in the 21st century, there are many challenges that need to be addressed by teacher librarians and school administration teams. There is abundant research evidence that good school librarians and good libraries make a difference – a radical difference in the learning  lives of our students.

But the evidence is of little value unless school librarians and/or teacher librarians  also work together to empower their own learning and forge new pathways for integrating into the learning needs of students.

Sadly, in Australia, I would suggest that teacher librarians are their own worst enemies. We do not present a united voice – rather the tensions that abound between various teacher librarian groups who choose  NOT to work together with a national voice is to me particularly alarming. No matter how good your local group or state group is – it is the national voice that influences government and other national organizations. What has your local or state group done to promote the national needs of teacher librarians? Are they supporting the work of ASLA national –  actively, courageously, generously, and relentlessly?  Our own national organization has done so much to ensure the past, present and future of school libraries across the nation.

So how could you not be excited by the upcoming opportunity in October in sunny Sydney? If you have not as yet registered to attend the XXII national bi-biennial conference of the Australian  School Library Association  please do not miss this chance to collaborate with your peers from Australia. Registrations close this week!

It is more important than ever to put regional and sectional interests behind us. Just this week our own national listserv is replete with stories yet again of school principals who are removing teacher librarians from their school library. Others, secure in their own jobs, forget to take a national view on preserving and promoting the profession. It’s not enough to attend local events. It’s not enough to take out membership of a regional or state group – if in doing so you are cut off from national action and do not lend your voice to national collaboration.

I want to personally thank  ASLA national for providing us with national publications, national standards, national events, and for taking national responsibility for our profession.  Let’s never forget – there is no other school library organization that  can do this for us!

Think local and act national – this is the only way to ensure the future of good school libraries across our nation.

Come to the conference!

Do you have the keys to tomorrow?

Today I have had the most amazing day – really I have!  I am with school librarians in New Zealand, at the 2011  SLANZA Conference. This Monday morning saw me bright eyed,  ready,  and presenting their first Keynote – to set the foundations for three busy days. Though what I presented was a little different to the slideshare embedded below, the message is much the same…”at last we can make a difference”. You’ll see I broke my rule of having slides with minimal text – simply because with a diverse group of people, the presentation has to include take-away notes complete with reminders and references.

My thanks  to Oxford University Press for sponsoring my visit to the SLANZA conference in New Zealand.

After the morning Keynote  we had some really yummy information-rich workshops throughout the day. What has amazed me most has been the complete passion, camaraderie and willingness to do the seemingly impossible in the most remarkably diverse situations.   My New Zealand colleagues are an inspiration.

What outstanding work by the Committee in making this conference such a success already – and it is only the first day! Follow #slanza11 to pick put the vibe.

Uplifting school libraries


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by visualpanic

This week I picked up an interesting post from Doug Johnson ~ Not your mother’s school library. If your mother’s school library captured your passion, then it served a great purpose for the times  – but that’s a whole different story. My interest was piqued because of the (expensive) Workshops for School Library Teachers  being offered by Simmon’s graduate school. That title stumped me a little as it seems particularly out-of-date (school library teacher?), but the professional development courses seem to be quite current.  Interestingly, they are exactly the sort of courses that we offer free or at low cost via our professional associations here in Australia.We also learn a lot from our personal learning networks, with twitter and local lists always busy sharing the sort of information we need to keep our libraries current and vibrant places of 21st century literacy and learning.

Perhaps we are lucky! The Australian library scene is a vibrant one, as evidenced by the report tabled in the Federal Parliament that highlights the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries in education. The purpose of the Inquiry that led to the release of the report  was to look into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools.  So we are being noticed.

I like to think that we are also working hard to promote quality education for those who aspire to be a teacher librarian, as well as those who want to undertake further postgraduate study. It’s great to know that our CSU Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) aims to remain current.  We introduce teachers to the world of teacher librarianship, and we use the most current technologies as part of the course. Think blogs, wikis and social bookmarking, and you’re at the starting line. I’m pleased with the extension opportunities that we offer as well, and next session I am keen to get stuck into some new subjects.

For those ‘in the know’ I’ll be teaching ETL501 Information Environment which is supported by the work of international leader James Herring who keenly promotes improved web use as an element of 21st century information literacy.

I’m also looking forward to INF443 Creating and Preserving Digital Content, and INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals.

Throughout our courses at School Library courses at CSU  we explore foundational and ground-breaking issues and technologies for school libraries and teacher librarians. I will be using Facebook, blogs, wikis, Diigo, Flickr, Slideshare, Zipcasts etc – in fact, a swag of online tools that helps makes learning relevant and vibrant for those in the courses – allowing them to learn about them and then integrate them into their own school and personal learning needs.

Our students have to be involved in their own architecture of participation if they are to help their schools and school libraries embrace the challenges  to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices.

So I think that we are certainly addressing the passion that our our mother’s school library inspired, and the focus and vibrant 21st century literacy and learning that our grand-children’s school library will need!

Don’t believe me? Here’s what a few students said at the end of my first session of teaching at CSU.

Thank you for a most stimulating, informative and challenging course. I have already adopted some new ways of thinking and learning into my classroom practice and I know that there is a long list that I look forward to reflecting upon and enacting as time allows.

What a pleasure it was to do this subject with you at the helm. What it has taught me is invaluable.

Thank you so much for all the wonderful resources and support throughout the course. You’ve taken me from someone who really had no idea what she was doing to someone who has some idea with a thirst for more. It’s very transformational, challenging and definitely lifelong learning.

Paint your own horizons


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Werner Kunz

What will you do in your school library this year?

While we are always looking for opportunities to encourage growth and development in our school library services, and new ways to promote what we do, there are some ‘tried and trustworthy’ options for advocacy and promotion that should not be missed. The Horizon Report 2011 K-12 edition  points out how important it is for school library professionals  to keep technology in the forefront of our thinking.  The National Australian Library Associations ALIA and ASLA have provided a site to help us tell our community What a Difference a School Library Makes.

I really want to share with you Buffy Hamilton’s Annual Report.  She shows us three key things:

  • what you can and should be aiming for in your school library each year (even if you start small)
  • strategies for promotion beyond the school through media promotion
  • how to ‘package’ a professional annual report (even if you start small)

Congratulation to the Creekview High School library  team for another great year. Thanks for the inspiration :-)