Category Archives: Continuing Education

Really Simple Syndication – Better Late Than Never!

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never used an RSS feeder before.  Here I am, working my way through professional development activities that started in 2009, and I’ve just realized that I’ve been missing out on a great tool that could make my life so much easier.  Now, to be fair to myself, I didn’t really have a need to subscribe to a lot of different content.  In 2009, I was still in grad school trying to figure out the best way to meet my career goals.  But, now that I’m starting to take the next steps in my career and really looking at the opportunities and technologies available, I have to say that RSS feeds are a great invention!

 

What I love about this is having all the content available at once, without having to open several different blogs and windows to see what’s new.  Previously, I had subscribed to different blogs via email, but I often found myself deleting emails because I didn’t want to spend the time sorting through whether the particular entry was relevant or interesting that day.  Now, I can see different content at a glance and see if it’s something I want to pursue, or even look back to see what I might have missed that is now helpful.  I’m currently using a feed reader that allows me to have different tabs with different content, and I love that I can sort and group the content into categories and go right to what I’m looking for.

 

I can see this being a great professional development resource for me in the future.  It helps keep me connected to the library community and information, and the ease of access lets me quickly see what’s going on and what I want to spend more time on.  While I don’t have an immediate use for this in my current position, I would definitely recommend it to my students as a way to keep up with what is going on in their professions.

 

I really think that having a feed reader will allow me to keep up to date on content and information and more easily organize the information that I am interested in.  Whether it is personal interests or professional ones, I will definitely be using this to continue exploring content and following topics.  I may be late, but better to have discovered this now than to keep missing out, right?

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Libraries and Instant Messaging

Instant messaging.  I remember when, at work, we first started really using the instant messaging system.  Suddenly, it seemed like our lives were so much easier.  We didn’t have to wonder if someone was available for a quick meeting – we could send an IM and find out.  Instead of wandering around campus to get information that we needed, we could ask a quick question – and get an instant response – instead of having a lengthy email chain.  Since then, it’s hard to imagine not having that capability.  How many times a day to I opt for an IM for an instant answer to a question that doesn’t really warrant an email or a trip to another office?  How much more connected to we feel as an organization being able to instantly converse with each other, even when we don’t have time for a break or a longer visit?

 

Instant messaging is not something that we currently use at my library, but I love the concept of it.  I definitely see where it could become a real benefit for libraries.  One of the biggest advantages to me is that it is in real-time.  Yes, you can send an email and get a response, but sometimes it is easier to have that conversation take place on the spot.  I’ve found that in my professional life, an IM can be an easy way to bounce ideas off someone else when I get stuck on a project.  Instead of waiting for a response from email, I can get instant feedback.  For librarians, I see this as particularly beneficial for the reference interview.  If you are working via IM, you can check with the patron immediately to see if he or she is getting the information needed, or ask any number of questions to clarify what the real need is.  With the instant messaging software that we use at work, I am able to share documents with my coworkers, send web links, or even share my screen.  If libraries can offer these services as well, it opens up an entirely different dimension of remote reference and truly meeting patrons where they are at.  And, after all, isn’t that what we do as librarians?

 

Of course, IM does have its disadvantages.  It’s often more informal, I’ve found, and, like email, it’s harder to gauge the emotions and intent behind what is communicated.  You don’t have the nonverbal cues to interpret what the other person is saying, so you have to be careful to convey your message appropriately and seek that feedback in other means.  And, the expectation with IM is often an instant answer, but this is not always possible.  Some questions require more time and research, and it can be frustrating to find that what you thought would give you immediate help doesn’t provide what you want.  Or, if someone is not available to answer your question at the exact moment that you send it, there is the possibility of frustration.  After all, you want an instant answer – why isn’t someone there to give it to you?

 

Overall, I think that IM is a great way to reach patrons at a different level.  I think that, when implemented correctly, it provides another means of connecting with patrons, and introduces a different method of reference interaction that may be more comfortable for some users.  As a librarian, I constantly look for ways to meet my patrons where they are at and in a manner that they find comfortable.  Offering IM services is, I think, one way of doing this.  Of course, there are considerations for staffing and availability – I envision a program that has dedicated hours for this service where questions will be answered and staff are clearly assigned responsibility for when they will handle virtual reference.  But, I see this as a great way to embed the library into the lives of users and make library services more available.  While it’s not a service that I am likely able to offer in the near future, it is definitely something that I will file away for potential development in the future.

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Lifelong Learning

During a webinar I recently attended, I learned about the Nebraska Learns 2.0 program.  Essentially, this program was put in place back in 2009 to encourage librarians in Nebraska (and other states) to actively explore the different tools available online for libraries and their patrons.  I have to admit, this is a great idea, and I wish I knew of a similar program here in Texas to be able to do the same thing.  But, since the Nebraska Learns 2.0 content is available online and you are welcome to join in (although without continuing education credit) from any state, I thought, “Why not?”

 

That being said, I decided to start at the beginning.  So, I’ve gone back to the archives of 2009 to find the original 23 Things, plus all the other Things (the list is now at 80, I think) that have been mentioned.  While I know that not all of these resources will still be relevant, or even still around, I thought it would be an interesting journey to see what has held up over the past 5 years and what has changed.  Plus, as I get further along, I’ll be able to see the more “current” things and add them to my repertoire as well.  Which brings us to:  Thing #3:  Grab yourself a blog in three easy steps.

 

Well, I’m already ahead of the game with this one.  I established an account with WordPress years ago, but now I’m ready to really start taking advantage of it and more fully explore the blogging world.  My blog doesn’t really have a name, since it’s associated with my professional portfolio, but it does have a template and a dedicated page, so I think we’re good to go.  So, moving ahead to the discovery exercise, in which I actually create my first blog post.  Following the recommendation of the program, I’m going to take a little time to talk about lifelong learning.

 

The Nebraska Learns 2.0 program started out with the 7 1/2 Principles of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners, as presented by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.  I have to admit, I found the list fascinating.  I’ve always considered myself a lifelong learner. I love learning new things. I love taking classes online, attending discussions, learning from those around me, and constantly building my skills.  But, I hadn’t really taken the time to really define what lifelong learning meant.  Instead of talking about which habit is easiest for me, and which is hardest, I’d like to look at each of the habits individually and just take a minute to reflect on the whole lifelong learning process.

 

Habit 1:  Begin with the end in mind.  I have to admit, this one is a little challenging for me.  A lot of the time, I look at learning as an in-the-moment opportunity – what can I learn right now?  What is interesting to me right now?  What will help me do my job better right now?  You get the idea.  But, I think this habit really made me think.  Instead of looking at the immediate gratification, it’s time to think about the bigger picture.  What is the greater plan?  How is what I’m learning now going to help me in the long run?  How does it contribute to my greater professional plan, or even just the specific project that I’m working on?  I think what I need to focus on here is not learning for the sake of learning, but learning with a specific purpose.

 

Habit 2:  Accept responsibility for your own learning.  To me, this one is obvious. I have to be willing to put in the time and effort to learn.  I have to be willing to seek out the opportunities.  I have to be willing to recognize what I need to learn and accept when I need to ask for help.  If I’m not responsible for my own learning, no one will be.

 

Habit 3:  View problems as challenges.  I think this is something that I’ve heard often in my professional career.  Instead of looking at problems, we should be looking at the solutions and what we can learn from the situation.  While I know this is not always easy to do (and I admit that I’m human and sometimes have days when problems just seem insurmountable), I love the idea of looking at problems as a challenge and digging into the toolbox to see what I have that can address the specific concern.  It makes it into a process, instead of a roadblock.

 

Habit 4:  Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner.  I think you have to believe that you can do it in order to do it.  I’ve been hesitant before to try new things because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be any good at them.  Instead of being afraid of doing new things, I’ve learned to be confident that I can learn and adapt and take on new challenges, because that is where I grow the most.

 

Habit 5:  Create your own learning toolbox.  This is something that I think I’m fairly good at.  I’m a stickler for keeping notes and information about trainings I attend, and I often find myself making notes of where I can apply something in the future.  The more I learn, the more I store away to put to good use later.  I think this also comes into knowing where I can find learning opportunities. I’ve learned to make use of conferences, webinars, online courses, and even personal experiences to make the most of every learning opportunity that I get.

 

Habit 6:  Use technology to your advantage.  I think we can all agree that we are in a technologically advanced age.  I’ve found that technology can be a real benefit in allowing me to learn more than I might be able to otherwise.  I can attend virtual classes, view webinars from people in other states, or even consult blogs and websites to find out more from others.  The information and technology are out there, so I hope to make the most of them to continue to grow and learn.  I consider this adventure a case in point.

 

Habit 7:  Teach/mentor others.  I was once told that the best way to learn something was to teach it to someone else, and that’s something that I have tried to continue doing.  If I have a great technology that I think would benefit someone else, then I want to share that.  I love the joy of being able to share even a part of what I’ve learned with someone else at the point of need, to be able to solve someone else’s problem with something from my toolkit.  Even more, I find that I learn more from those that I’m teaching because they force me to look at things in different ways and from different angles.

 

“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands.  Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”  ~ John Updike

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