Friday, March 21, 2008

Calling All Librarian Learning Communities

Librarians are often tasked with developing a new services and coming up with procedures for supporting them. We not only find ourselves creating innovative services for which there are no standards, but services which are likely to be replaced in 18-months. Historically, librarians have relied upon the literature and conferences as their primary learning tools. An idea for a services is gauged and weighed against what others are doing. The short service lifespan provides little time for best practices to emerge, let alone to be documented using traditional communications methods.

So, where can a librarian go for answers and support when creating innovative services when standards and best practices don't exist? Today! At this point, you are probably thinking that this is going to be another post touting the important role blogging can play in the evolution of librarianship. Nope. Instead it is about the growing need for librarian learning communities.

Within a learning community, a member seeks assistance from a virtual workgroup instead of consulting traditional learning tools and professional networks. In effect, the informal community itself plays an active role in the problem solving process and he archiving of solutions. There are many challenges to this approach. This first is that there must be a legitimate self-interest to sustain individual participation. Community members must each feel a personal return on their investment in their involvement in the group.

Getting librarians to think in terms of mutual, collaborative support is a challenge. Given the pace of change and the demands for expertise, we are at a point where we really have little choice. We must learn to share our expertise to survive in an environment with commercial competition.

Perhaps the most notable librarian learning community is WebJunction, established in 2002 with a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant awarded to OCLC. WebJunction is now supported in part by OCLC, grants from IMLS and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, our partners in state library agencies and other library service organizations. Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki is also a very helpful site. The number of topics has grown a great deal. It is a great jumping off spot, especially for those that I am a novice.

What other librarian learning communities do you know of out there? Sphere: Related Content


waltc said...

I'll nominate the PALINET Leadership Network, PLN, a wiki-based network for current and future library leaders of all sorts to learn and to share ideas. The sharing part's just getting started, but the site has a lot of content now. It's not restricted to PALINET members; it's free and open to anyone who feels they qualify, and already has an international membership of more than 400. (Disclosure: I'm the director and managing editor.)

Eric Schnell said...

Thanks Walt!

One feature I like about PLN is the authored articles. There is something to be said about about knowing who is responsible for the content - without having to look at wiki histories and figuring out usernames.

seattleduck said...

Hi Eric,
Thanks for the mention of WebJunction. I really like the term 'librarian learning community' as applied to WJ, as I think it nicely captures what we're trying to achieve. Same with the concept of trying to provide a platform for that 'informal community' to emerge and do some hopefully interesting and unexpected things. Please stay tuned as we're launching a whole new version of the site in late summer, which will dramatically expand these ideas.