21st Century Skills in Action in Illinois Public Libraries


Just in case I gave the impression that there are NO public libraries doing anything significant regarding 21st century skills, you should know that Illinois is setting the bar very high for what public libraries can do, and have been doing for the past few years. In 2007 the Illinois State Library funded a Technology Toolkit project that resulted in a “Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders” guide, as well as the State’s website/wiki filled with resources for libraries that will help them adopt and implement new technologies. The several highlighted technology programs in the guide are impressive. (The full report on their study Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders: Developing a Statewide Toolkit, Phase I Report can be accessed through this link.)

In the Introduction to “Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders”, it states;

Where is your library on the continuum toward becoming a 21st Century Technology Leader? You now have access to a variety of online resources that will help you measure your library’s progress and assist with identifying and implementing new technology applications. Check out the tools available at www.networkedlibraries.info: a library assessment instrument [restricted to Illinois libraries BTW], sample projects from all types of libraries that exemplify model technology applications to enhance services, collections, and library operations, and a wiki for sharing and collaborating on innovative technology solutions. From these tools, you can also link to a growing collection of complementary resources on WebJunction Illinois that will stimulate your thinking and support your efforts in developing a library that is a 21st Century Technology Leader.

EVERY STATE SHOULD BE DOING THIS! Every State Library should be helping its libraries to achieve their 21st Century Library goals. It is a hard journey to pursue, and libraries need all the help they can get. Partners. Collaboration.

Illinois has one example of a library as a technology leader that is SO IMPRESSIVE, that it has to be highlighted. I STRONGLY encourage every librarian to review what Elgin accomplished by visiting the websites at the links provided.

The Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL reached for the stars in its summer programming. Through its efforts in bringing Space: Dare to Dream to the library and from the overwhelming response of the community, patrons, and the media, Gail Borden Public Library was awarded an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contract.

On September 5, 2007, students from the Gail Borden Public Library District communicated with the International Space Station via ham radio. While the program has been in existence since 1983, this was the first time a library served as the host site for a radio connection with the International Space Station. Children submitted questions for astronaut Clay Anderson and Capsule Communicator Hal Getzelman (a graduate of Elgin High School). From the library, students participated in a live video feed to Houston with Hal and then communicated through ARISS to Clay, who was circling above in the International Space Station.

The success was easy to measure in record attendance and all-time circulation highs, especially in materials about space. The library pulled the resources together in a web-based cockpit presentation, featuring a blog, Flickr photo archive, YouTube video segments, and a live webcast of the once-in-a-lifetime event. This achievement joins the digital archive of the library’s creative award-winning programs.

[Emphasis added.]

If this is not the perfect example of the synergy of 21st Century technology and library services to blow your mind, I’d like someone to show me a better example. WHY is it the perfect example?

Technology Leadership Characteristics Showcased
Strategic Leadership and Planning: Innovative technology applications are central to the success of this project. The library understands the potential role of technology to foster partnerships, develop new services, and promote the library’s role in the community.

Integration of Technology into Services: The project incorporates a variety of technologies to create and deliver new types of services. Student participation in the project also provides opportunities for instruction about web-based technologies.

Technology Applications for Collections: Through this project, the library used technology to create content. The blog postings, a Flickr photo archive, YouTube videos, and webcast of the event become unique electronic resources for the library’s collection.

I am a staunch advocate for integrating Library2.0 technology skills into library services in a strategic [plan] manner, not just randomly as staff acquire skills from “playing” online. I believe this Gail Borden Public Library example is clear evidence that the 21st Century Library is more than simply Library2.0 tools. It is a whole Toolkit of technology implemented in a purposeful manner to achieve the library’s 21st Century goals.

Please share your examples of other 21st Century Library technology programs that demonstrate integrating technology with library services.

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