Readings Week 12: Professional Development

And so begins my last blog post on the last readings for our class. This week, we read about professional development in the K-12 school setting. It was nice to get a picture of what my K-12 teachers did in the early mornings on “PD” days, where we got to sleep in and start school later! In Semadeni’s “When Teachers Drive Their Learning” (2010), the author describes a teacher-led model of professional development. Teachers in the rural school district of Lincoln County choose which areas of teaching they would like to develop some mastery in, and an “expert” teacher in that area leads group discussion on the strategy. Then, the teachers practice those skills in their classrooms and are evaluated by the master teacher. The school district sounded very supportive of this program: they allowed teachers to use normal school time for the programs, and teachers received a stipend for their time and efforts based on the difficulty of the new skill or strategy. One thing I really liked about that Fusion program is that even if a teacher is inexperienced overall, they might have a specific skill that they can teach to their peers–so anyone could be an expert. This is great because 1) it helps even new teachers feel empowered and 2) it broadens and deepens the pool for professional development: it can bring all kinds of new skills to the forefront.

The Blowers & Reed (2007) article outlined four core competencies for librarians at a public library system in North Carolina. The CCs covered technological skills; the library system’s tech director and specialists realized that technology is a major part of just about all of the library’s service offerings and set out to increase tech competency in the library’s overall staff. They implemented it through “Learning 2.0”: letting staff and librarians learn the new skills on their own time. Discovery, play, and fun were emphasized more than getting something right. The full program took nine weeks; each week introduced a new topic. Participants used blogs to share their thoughts on each week’s new skill (similar to what I’m doing right now!). The librarians/staff in Blowers & Reed also received rewards, but it was more of a fun summer reading program (as described by someone in the article) with prizes: an MP3 player and drawings for a laptop, etc. Fontichiaro (2008) implemented a program based off of Blowers and Reed’s in her school, using the same blogging method. She found that blogging helped create camaraderie for staff members–adding to the overall positive feelings that this kind of PD generates.

I think MLibrary does a great job in encouraging professional development equally for staff and for librarians. They offer many different workshops ranging from tech skills to management strategies to instruction skills. There are also more informal and ongoing group meetings, like reading groups, which range from popular fiction to scholarly publications. Combining some of the aspects of Fusion, where “experts” are identified within peer groups, with the more structured academic workshop system could make for an interesting PD method.

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Class Week 11: Twitter, PLNs, Webinars

It was good to be back in class after being out sick one week, then have a “bye day” the other. I enjoyed discussing Twitter: we had a thoughtful discussion on using the social media site not for socializing in our personal lives, but for professional development. At first, I was a bit surprised at what seemed like overall negativity toward using Twitter professionally. My experience with the service so far has been positive and I usually find that I learn something new after reading through librarians’ and other scholarly folks’ conversations on Twitter. However, after breaking out into small groups to talk about the pros and cons of Twitter for professional development, I can see my classmates’ point about some of the obvious downsides of Twitter for professional uses. It can be overwhelming to sift through the vast, rapid stream of tweets, and also difficult to sift through a tweet itself if it is full of hashtags, user handles, quotes, and links (all in 140 characters!).

Discussing the professional benefits of Twitter led to a broader discussion on building professional networks: our next topic was PLNs (personal/professional learning networks). In this small group, we talked about building a PLN for yourself as an academic librarian. The obvious members would be other academic librarians, at your own institution and at others far away. Other categories included scholars and researchers related to your field of interest, especially if you’re interested in subject specialization (as several of us were); scholarly publishers; and digital humanists. This was all relevant to advice I received in an advising appointment: seek out the scholars/researchers in the field with which you are interested in liaising, so that you may better understand the tools they are using and the tools or knowledge they need to do their work.

Class ended early this week, which gave my webinar group a chance to practice our webinar in the software (always a good idea! We worked out a few bugs.)

Readings Week 11: Twitter and Tweeting

This week’s assigned “reading” was to create a Twitter network for ourselves made up of librarians and other people from our career interests. I enjoyed finding new, interesting Twitter users from the fields of library science, iSchool faculty and students, academic and public librarians, and digital humanists (the latter being just as active as librarians, I’ve found). This assignment also helped me to organized my existing group of librarian-ish users whom I already follow–I created a Libraries and iSchool list and started by adding all the relevant users that I already follow. Then I checked their following and followers to find new users. Having a list makes Twitter much more manageable; I can

Some of my first impressions were that librarians are very, very funny. Reading through different conversations can be a bit like going down the rabbit hole; I went from reading up on the Day of DH 2013, to reading librarians’ takes on current events (like thoughts on the bestselling book Lean In), to Andy Woodworth’s (@wawoodworth) #reasonslibrarianscry, to a Flickr account of rad library-inspired tattoos. While this was entertaining, it certainly illustrated that Twitter is meant to be used, not just read. It’s an excellent tool for Interacting and maintaining a conversation with some of the more well-known folks in libraries, an opportunity that students may not get elsewhere.

I am an on-and-off Twitter user; my heaviest tweet traffic comes during conferences–and this is definitely something I noticed in others in the publishing and library fields while I was at those conferences (even my boyfriend commented on this as he sat beside me during the keynote of HASTAC last year–every time Siva Vaidhyanathan uttered some quotable soundbite, the sound of tapping in the room intensified). At conferences, I sometimes feel a bit superficial when I tweet, since I don’t regularly use Twitter at home, and also because “everyone’s doing it.” There’s also a feeling of sounding amateur when using the conference hashtag–all of the big names in the industry could see it! It can be scary to voice your opinion in such a public forum. It can be rewarding, though, too. A Twitter interaction with @ararebit at DLF Forum in Denver last fall led to a chance meeting on my ASB trip to the Folger. I had tweeted about wishing there were more library school students at the conference; a fellow grad student replied and we planned but ultimately failed to meet in person. It turned out she is the girlfriend of one of the Folger’s employees and happened to be there for tea one afternoon and recognized me. It was good to finally connect in person!

Class Week 10: Missing Out, Webinars, Catching Up

I was unfortunately absent from this week’s class due to illness. Fortunately I have wonderful classmates who were happy to fill me in on what I missed! It sounds like there was good discussion and good tips on webinars (thought I did hear there were some technical difficulties setting up webinar accounts–thanks for the tips, Jessica!) I was sorry to miss the discussion on what makes a good webinar, how to balance audience participation with your presentation, etc.

I was also sorry to miss the other part of the discussion on embedded librarianship. Based on the readings and my own conception of what an embedded librarian does, the job seemed pretty straightforward. However, it sounds like in class my fellow students broke down the job description a bit. What is the difference between a good library system with good, caring librarians and an embedded librarian? It sounds like, in class, everyone discussed why we don’t use our SI librarian more. I can’t speak to that because I’ve sought her out specifically, though not in office hours (once over email, and once because I saw her on the reference desk). She was very helpful and I do think she was able to better answer my questions and find good resources for my Dead Media research paper because she is a communication studies/media/LIS librarian.

This also makes me wonder about the differences between embedded librarians and subject specialists. Are embedded librarians different because they are out in the “field” more than subject librarians? Are they handling more day-to-day subject questions, while subject specialists have more expertise in the area and are teaching more formal classes for their departments? These types of questions are intriguing because I can see how they shape the new types of LIS jobs that continue to be created.

Readings Week 10: Webinars

I like reading from How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking) every few weeks; because it is written for teachers and focuses very much on learning, I didn’t expect to get as much out of it as some of the other readings. But peppering it in throughout the term has been very helpful and has helped me really reflect on the learning process as well as why I, as a future librarian, should also be familiar with it. This week’s chapter was on the amount of knowledge in a discipline that is required to teach it effectively, as well as the depth of knowledge about learning activities. The biggest thing that struck me in the history section was the way the teachers made history come to life, like having students role play and reenact the debates between rebels and loyalists in the British American colonies. This gave students a personal understanding that the fact-based textbook could not. Other stories in the math and science sections had similar anecdotes, where teachers went (where I would consider) outside the box to get students to think differently about subject matter.

The two other readings this week were about webinars and embedded librarianship. I’ve watched a couple of webinars for work and have been simultaneously impressed and unimpressed: the technology is great, and it was great to see the presenter’s screen and also see the comment box on the side to feel in touch with the other viewers. However, I was unimpressed because it felt a bit dry–and this was probably because the subject mater wasn’t particularly interesting (I’ll keep it anonymous!). At first blush, webinars sound intimidating. Recording a screencast was a challenge itself for me, mostly because it was totally new; webinars are essentially a screencast except they are live, with interaction via polls or audible questions from the virtual audience.

I find embedded librarianship exciting. As I’ve written before, I am interested in academic and special collections libraries and hope to work with specific subject matter, either as a subject specialist or some other new, not-yet-determined position that will arise from users’ needs (like instruction and field librarians). The embedded librarian position is the latter. An embedded librarian can be part of online classes or in person classes, and can be available to a small group of students to utilize at any time during the course of the semester. Montgomery (2010) and Matos, Motley, and Mayer (2010) suggest embedded librarians use webinars to more effectively serve students. Webinars solve the issues of the lack of a physical space in the department in which you are embedded, being able to answer questions from home if there is a great need for a webinar at odd hours, and also for online distance-learning classes.

I can see webinars being especially helpful for online classes, for obvious reasons. At a large research university like Michigan, however, which doesn’t have online-only courses, webinars could also be used to help students feel more comfortable with using library resources. As Matos noted, a lot of students just feel more comfortable asking questions over email than coming into the library. I think that’s a great reason for making webinars, when there are also other factors for which a webinar makes sense.