Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Continuous Learning: Making it a Priority...Period

In Continuous Learning: Making it a Priority Without Breaking the Bank , Meredith Farkas at TechEssence writes how librarians need to continue to learn, to grow, to expand our views of libraries and technologies. Her post is on dead on point.

Meredith's post focused on what administrators should do to support learning. I would like to build upon her post but focus on what librarians should be doing themselves, regardless of administrator support.

Professional Literature: Meredith points to freely available online journals that would benefit librarians such as Ariadne, D-Lib, College and Research Libraries, Cites and Insights, Library Journal, School Library Journal and Educause Review. In addition, she points to DLIST and E-LIS as repositories for scholarly communications. Knowing these tools are out there is one thing, carving of time on a regular basis to actually read them is another.

Blogs: There are a growing number of blogs out there that focus on librarianship and applied library technologies. As Meredith points out the great thing about blogs is that there is no editorial delay. While some may feel that the lack or peer or editorial review weakens professional communication, bloggers report on events or information as it is happening.

Webcasts: A growing number of organizations that are offering free access to webcasts which allow librarians to interact in real-time with other professionals. While some services may only offer free archive access they are still valuable learning tools. Free webcasts are available through OPAL, the SirsiDynix Institute, the Blended Librarian community, and InfoPeople. WebEX is one of the larger pay-per-use commercial hosting sites where use is paid for by the presenter, not the attendees.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a convenient tool for learning. At this time few librarians are using podcasts, as they do blogs, to inform and educate their colleagues. Podcasts relevant to librarians include The Library Channel from Arizona State University, LiS Radio from the University of Missouri, SLIS Media Feed from Indiana University, Check This Out from Jim Milles (University at Buffalo Law School), Open Stacks, and Talking with Talis. OPAL and the SirsiDynix Institute also make their webcasts available in podcast format.

Here are some ways librarians can integrate technology/research into their daily workflow:

  • Create tasks in your planner as a reminder to review online (or print) resources on a weekly basis. Sometimes workflow makes them a low priority, but the reminders will prompt you to at least browse them on a regular basis.
  • Librarians should set up a Bloglines (or any aggregrator) account and begin learning how to use RSS feeds. Not only will the content be useful, but learning how RSS feed aggregators work is becoming an essential skill. If needed, one can take advantage of RSS online tutorials.
  • Contribute to Wikipedia. Some write off this as a authoritative source since anyone can contribute. Not only can you help make it more authoritative, you will learn how to use a wiki along the way.
  • Attend webcasts. Invite colleagues to join you and make it a journal club gathering.
  • Download podcasts. I often grab my iPod and lunch and go outside on nice days, particularly from The Library Channel. I have also been known to listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn.
  • Set aside some time at various meetings to discuss interesting developments in librarianship and/or technology. Have people share what they have read or played around with that is particularly interesting to them.
Learning new technologies is an essential part of the continuous learning process and should be a higher priority. Librarians also need to carve time out of their schedule to experiment and eat their own dog food.

The challenge is that library professionals that would benefit most from this advice are not likely to read this (or any other) blog. Hopefully those people will pick up Michael Stephens' Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practice for Social Software. Sphere: Related Content


walt crawford said...

Hi Eric,

You were just copying text from Meredith in this case, but I thought I'd mention that Cites & Insights is now at (or for lazy typists). And thanks to both of you for mentioning it as a worthwhile resources. I'll try to keep it that way!

Eric Schnell said...

Hi Walt!

Thanks for the heads up! I updated the link to include the new (non-lazy) address. I knew you moved but failed to check the URL. I appreciate all he energy and time you put into it.


walt crawford said...

Thanks for the change. I threw away a few thousand bits of link love (and one SEO engine's estimate of "7.5 of 10" prominence) with that site change...but it was a change that had to happen, I think. [Actually, the short URL came first; then my wife, the smart librarian in the household, convinced me to register "" as well, since it's memorable even if long. Both URLs resolve to exactly the same IP address, to be sure.]