Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

Connected Learning

My most recent post on Half Pint of Library Wisdom wasn’t my best work.

The message was certainly heartfelt, and I don’t take back a word of it, but I could wish that I’d sat on it a day or two longer, done some re-drafting, and clarified my thinking a little more.  So, if you don’t mind, I’ll try to find that clarity here by thinking aloud to a different audience.  

In my work with SLANZA at national executive level, one of the pressing questions is “How do we support the professional development needs of our members?”  The topic is no less important in my role in public library management.  Increasingly, the answers to that question involve an array of digital tools.  The reasons for that are two-fold.  The first is that a rapidly growing percentage of our customers expect to connect with us digitally.

We must meet them where they are, in the obvious places like Twitter, on blogs and Facebook, but we also need to be sufficiently connected to the digital world to understand the trends and be able to adapt and morph quickly to meet the needs of our customers, patrons and communities.  All of this implies that we are, ourselves, connected life-long learners who are confident users of digital tools.  

The second reason is the nature of the digital tools themselves.  The breadth of reach that these tools provide, and the professional connections that they enable make them a very cost-effective way to facilitate professional development.  The act of developing an online personal learning network facilitates connection with other professionals and allows us to access thought leaders in areas of interest to us.  Curation tools allow us to filter the information flow; publishing tools allow us to pass the information on to others in our network, thus facilitating the learning of those around us.  ePlatforms allow us to store, share and collaborate.  Webinars, tweet-ups, un-conferences – increasingly available, often at no cost other than the time taken to participate and reflect.  

Once we have developed a sense of ownership of the tools, we can then support our customers in using them.  For a practical application that shows exactly how these tools can facilitate the work we do, you might like to read this blog post, Aggregate, curate and create your own textbook.  This specific example is particularly relevant to schools, however, the tools might equally well be used by public librarians in their work with community groups such as genealogists, or any club or organisation working to curate information for an event or celebration.

But there is a problem.

Those of us who are early adopters, who love the tools, and who thrive in a connected learning environment need no convincing.  The majority of our colleagues, however, are not comfortable, struggle to find relevance to the way they do their daily work, and see no advantage in going there.  Even more importantly, they are ‘too busy’, doing things the way they have always been done, to find the time to become connected and digitally savvy.  

As a profession, we need to find meaningful and effective ways to enable everyone working in libraries to become digitally connected.  Those of us who are connected learners must put up our hands and offer to mentor the less confident.  Management teams must empower learners by mandating the learning in work time.  As we move to develop connections with our customers through social media, and find ways to curate information in the digital world, we need to ensure that all staff develop the skills to work confidently in this environment.   

The real question, though, is why can we not take this journey collaboratively, as a profession?  Can we not work together, in a digital space, to offer learning opportunities, mentoring, encouragement and feedback to one another?  Why, in this world of absolute connectivity, would we continue to re-enact the same battles, in our respective library silos, when we could take this on collaboratively?  The tools are there, and need not cost a lot.  The expertise is everywhere, and able to be accessed by digital means.  We know there is a need.

Is there a will?  

Or are we all too busy doing what we've always done?


Feature article by Donna Watt
SLANZA Communications Leader

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