Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Thoughts from #ALA12 – learning sessions

Posted by lpearle on 28 June 2012

With all my meetings, the time that I had to take advantage of the learning opportunities was slim.  That didn’t mean that I didn’t try my best to take advantage of what was there, though.

First, of course, was the session I did with the wonderful Ellysa Cahoy.  We explored “Online Personal Archiving”, talking about the need for us to think about what information we’re creating, what we’re consuming, what tools we’re using to save information and what information we really do need to save:

Personal digital archiving

View more presentations from Laura Pearle.

The major issues of how to retrieve what we’ve curated and created, along with the metadata that comes with it, along with the incredible fallibility of our current devices were also discussed. Of course, my goal this summer is to simplify and declutter my workflow and digital footprint. As I figure out what works best for me, of course I’ll share the tips and tools I find.

The next session I was able to attend was “I Want A Truck Book”. Presented by three librarians working within the K-5 environment (two were public librarians with children’s departments, one was a school librarian). Started by Darien PL, the idea of getting away from Dewey and creating a more intuitive shelving schema for younger readers really resonates with a lot of people. Darien has a First Five program and recognized that those patrons and their caregivers had real difficulties navigating the collection: how could they possibly improve accessibility?

Let’s face it, how you use a book is far more important than where it’s shelved. And most non-librarians don’t understand coding systems (be they BISAC, Dewey or LC), they understand location. How many times have you walked into a redesigned library and bookstore and said (or thought) “wait! the [genre] books used to be on that shelf… where did they go?” They also pointed out that there are two very different type of users: browsers and seekers. Those that are browsing will eventually find something and don’t need help, but those seeking have a more difficult time if help isn’t available. Changing to a more intuitive system can ensure that more of the community is being served.

for additional information and slides, go here

The final member of the panel was Tali Balas-Kaplan from Ethical Culture Fieldston School; her team was inspired by Darien and yet knew that it wouldn’t work well in their K-5 environment. So they came up with a new system, Metis, which is flexible, simple and intuitive for even their youngest students. As Tali points out, the concept of decimals isn’t covered until 5th grade, yet we expect our Kindergardeners to understand Dewey! I’ve mentioned Metis in my presentations before but honestly, as one of my friends said, Tali could start a cult.

for more information on Metis, go here

Of course, as someone concerned with getting students prepared for their first-year college experience, this idea is so appealing yet at the same time so difficult to wrap my mind around how to make this work for older students.

The last session I was able to attend was a conversation about building trends in new libraries:

Trend One: Community

  • create spaces that are other than “library”
  • think about discrete help centers
  • what are the different community needs?

Trend Two: Think Green

  • going green can make the library a community role model
  • there are often grants available
  • LEED certification may not be the best idea (it’s a lot of checkmarks and hoops to jump through) but you can go part of the way and still be doing quite well
  • explore all options (like “daylighting”)

Trend Three: Financial Responsibility

  • remember you need to get value for your money
  • there is a difference between cheap and thrifty – you don’t want to be replacing furnishings and materials often
  • how will you maintain the space and fixtures?

Trend Four: Marketing

  • communicate to the target audience – meet their needs

Trend Five: Flexibility

  • the rapid pace of change now suggests that even more change is coming down the pike
  • the more you customize, the more you lock yourself into something you may not want or need later
  • change will happen, so be ready for it
  • remember that what you do now is going to influence your future plans: you need to balance current with future needs
  • think about multi-use spaces (no “dead air”)

Trend Six: Technology

  • move more towards digital resources to create more flexible space use
  • access to resources,print and digital, is important: there’s a huge difference between storage and access
  • new technology will require instruction (roving reference?)
  • avoid talking to product reps, instead talk to people already using the technology and equipment

Trend Seven: Security

  • sight lines and shelf height are critical (not just for security, but to enable you to help others in the space)
  • lighting is important

Trend Eight: Teen/Children’s Areas

  • be creative, but there’s a difference between interactive and decorative – also, will it look dated soon?
  • different uses require different areas (games, reading, small group work, solo work, etc) and different technology/furnishings
  • consider listening stations
  • different ages have different needs – don’t make the older children use a space that looks too young, and younger children will be intimidated by spaces appropriate for older ones

Trend Nine: Big Retail Model

  • the trend is to think like a big bookstore but…
  • smaller retail model is better (think bakery/cafe, not WalMart)
  • scale is critical
  • community needs smaller social spaces, not caverns; those studying may not want to be part of a large group

Trend Ten: Learning/Knowledge Commons

  • individual, small and large group spaces
  • in-depth reference areas
  • a variety of instructional spaces and needs should be considered

Remember: when you plan this type of change, it will take the community a while to get used to the changes.  Don’t panic, just keep communicating.

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