On Friday, I gave an “Introduction to Web 2.0” presentation to about 100 children’s librarians at the ALSC conference in Pittsburgh, PA. It was a blast! Attendees really seemed to appreciate the presentation (judging by the many questions and thank-you’s I received throughout the rest of the day).
I even met (and ate lunch with) Mary Ghikas, Senior Associate Executive Director at ALA (and blogger, too) … and I found out she reads my blog! Hi, Mary – it was nice to meet you!
People attending my presentation asked some great questions, including this one: “how do I have time for this new stuff” (i.e., blogs, wikis, IM, and other social networking things)? I answered the question, then realized an expanded answer would make a good blog post. So…
Question: How can I possibly have time for all this stuff?
Answer: I’ll answer in two ways – one for library administrators, and one that’s more for front-line staff (but you admins should read it, too).
For the Admins:
Library administrators and managers need to lead this change in their organizations. One way they can do this is to provide time, equipment, and training in order to successfully implement these new tools into the library’s digital space.
What does that mean, practically? Here are some examples:
- Time to play and experiment
- time to read about new tools and technologies
- time to read blogs, wikis, to IM with colleagues, etc.
- time to do the actual work – time to post to blogs, record and edit podcasts and videoblogs, time to take photographs and manipulate them in graphics editing programs, etc.
- Software and tools – blog and wiki applications, audio editing software, etc.
- the ability to download software from the web (some library IT staff don’t allow non-IT staff to download things)
- digital cameras, microphones, digital camcorders, etc.
- Do you want your customers to have mobile access to your services? Then yo need to provide cell phones with wifi/web aaccess to at least some of your staff, so they can successfully build and test mobile services
- Sending staff to formal training in basic video production, audio editing, or how to write for the web
- Practical training for front-line staff. Instead of teaching a class on RSS, for example, teach a class on what YOUR library’s RSS feed is, what information it has, and how to drop that feed into popular services like BLoglines and My Yahoo. This way, when patrons ask about the library’s RSS services, your staff will be ready.
- Same thing with iPods – if you want to start an iPod program, train staff to download ebooks to iPods and to use iTunes, so they’ll be ready to help patrons.
- And buy books. Lots and lots of “how to” books.
For Front-Line Staff:
When I hear librarians say “how do you find the time to do these things,” they tend to be saying one of about three things:
1. “I don’t want to learn new stuff” or “it’s going to take a LOT of time to learn new stuff – how will I get the REST of my job done?” To that, I always go back to the library’s patrons, what they’re doing, and what they’re expecting.
For example, in my session at ALSC, I asked attendees (mostly children’s librarians) if their patrons (i.e., kids) were IM’ing. They started laughing, because so many of their young patrons were obviously using IM. Then I asked them “so, how many of YOU are using IM?” The laughter died down pretty fast (because the majority had never used IM). Then I was able to drive home the point that we need to continue learning new media (thankfully mentioned in the presentation before mine). You have to make it part of your job – talk to your managers and figure out the specifics of how to do this!
2. “We don’t have enough staff to do these new things.” When I hear this excuse (because that’s really what it is), I think back to the NEKLS Technology Day I attended. I was on a discussion panel with a librarian at a small library. She is the ONLY staff member at her library, and yet she has time for a library blog and console gaming nights.
If a one-librarian library can do these things, then you can, too. Sometimes it’s not really a staffing change that’s needed; instead, a mental change, or a change in focus, is what’s needed.
3. “We don’t have admin support to do these things.” Sometimes, administrators and library boards, for one reason or another, haven’t yet embraced newer trends. Usually, it’s because they don’t fully understand those newer trends.
So… it’s YOUR job as a staff member to educate them! But when you attempt that, think results-oriented education, meaning what will the result be if we do this?
Also educate in terms of real needs, even if it means staffing changes. For example, if your library suddenly had 200 teens mobbing the reference with in-depth questions every day, what would you do? Most likely,you’d realize a trend was afoot, and respond my moving staff around to meet the new need.
It should be the same in your library’s digital space.