Monthly Archives: November 2011

Personalized Learning Means Personalized Library

Alvin Toffler is a world renowned thinker that people listen to – CLOSELY! He’s saying that we need to “Shut down the public education system.” In a recent interview with Edutopia, Toffler said he was echoing what Bill Gates – another big thinker that people listen to – said roughly, “We don’t need to reform the system; we need to replace the system.”

Toffler added that “The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we’re stealing the kids’ future.” So, in addition to creating a massive debt for future generations of Americans, we are stealing their future through a nearly worthless education system? WOW! Anybody else think something HAS to change?

What it means is that educational change is demanded. Many smart people are working on it, as I’ve reported over the past two years – Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Association of College and Research Libraries, American Association of School Librarians, and others.

According to Toffler;

Why does everybody have to start at age five? Maybe some kids should start at age eight and work fast. Or vice versa. Why is everything massified in the system, rather than individualized in the system? New technologies make possible customization in a way that the old system — everybody reading the same textbook at the same time — did not offer.

Any form of diversity that we can introduce into the schools is a plus. Today, we have a big controversy about all the charter schools that are springing up. The school system people hate them because they’re taking money from them. I say we should radically multiply charter schools, because they begin to provide a degree of diversity in the system that has not been present. Diversify the system.

… Businesses have to change at 100 miles per hour because if they don’t, they die. Competition just puts them out of the game. So they’re traveling very, very fast. … [G]oing 10 miles per hour. That’s the public education system. Schools are supposed to be preparing kids for the business world of tomorrow, to take jobs, to make our economy functional. The schools are changing, if anything, at 10 miles per hour. So, how do you match an economy that requires 100 miles per hour with an institution like public education? A system that changes, if at all, at 10 miles per hour?

Let’s hope and assume that significant education reform will happen on a nation-wide scale in the near future. What does that mean for librarianship?

So, let’s sit down as a culture, as a society, and say, “Teachers, parents, people outside, how do we completely rethink this? We’re going to create a new system from ground zero, and what new ideas have you got?” And collect those new ideas. That would be a very healthy thing for the country to do.

I just feel it’s inevitable that there will have to be change. The only question is whether we’re going to do it starting now, or whether we’re going to wait for catastrophe.

Think about your library in these new terms.
These are the fundamentals of Toffler’s vision for education in the 21st century:

    • Open 24 hours a day
    • Customized educational experience
    • Kids arrive at different times
    • Students begin their formalized schooling at different ages
    • Curriculum is integrated across disciplines
    • Non-teachers work with teachers
    • Teachers alternate working in schools and in business world
    • Local businesses have offices in the schools
    • Increased number of charter schools

Does a customized educational experience mean a customized library experience? OF COURSE! Isn’t that what 21st Century librarianship means – your library that meets your community’s needs? OF COURSE!

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Are You a 21st Century Librarian?

How does one measure their own librarianship to determine whether they are a 21st Century Librarian? Good question. None have been written of which I’m aware.

So, where does one find an instrument – metric – outline – guide to measure whether you are a 21st Century Librarian? Over the past two years I have reviewed hundreds of articles and reports and blog posts that discuss scores of 21st Century library and librarianship ideas, concepts and actions. What I have collected and outlined below is an initial list of the major characteristics that will certainly tell you whether you are on the right path to becoming a 21st Century Librarian, or whether maybe you need a course correction.

Only you will know whether you are, or when you’ve arrived – although my concept is that it is a journey to becoming a 21st Century Librarian, rather than a destination. Considering that the 21st Century library environment is constantly changing, it would be difficult to arrive at a destination that is always moving and requiring new librarianship skills to get there.

You may be a 21st Century Librarian if you:

1. Are Creative – If you (and preferably your staff, governing body, community, stakeholders and partners) are creative about finding solutions to address your 21st Century library environment issues, then you will. That is what being a 21st Century Librarian is largely about – creating the services your community needs to also face the challenges of the 21st Century.

2. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit – This is different than just being creative because creativity helps you find solutions, where entrepreneurial spirit enables you to accomplish those solutions. The spirit of being able to make solutions work. The spirit of being open to re-invent your library to be something more. The spirit of adventure and exploration.

3. Are Customer Oriented – The customer is the purpose! The successful 21st Century librarian will provide services to their 21st Century millennial customer, because they know who they are and what they want. The 21st Century customer is NOT the 20th Century patron. [Customer Is The Purpose]

4. Embrace Technology – Technology is here to stay. It has become a part of the fabric of the American society. A true 21st Century librarian MUST embrace technology and use it to enhance customer services and library operations, always remembering that technology is ONLY a tool. Never let the media get in the way of the message.

5. Are Business-like – In today’s environment, a librarian is much more than just a librarian. You have to know how to research, conduct formal assessments, strategically partner, problem solve outside the box, and effectively manage, politic, and lead!

6. Adopt a New Library Paradigm – The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of the local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.

There are more than these six characteristics of a 21st Century Librarian. More will follow, because 21st Century Librarians create 21st Century Libraries.


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The Art of……the Comic?

Yes, from SmarterComics. How cool!

[Click to view on YouTube]

Being a military man in my former life, Sun Tzu was always a favorite read for me. And, getting a degree in management helped me determine that Sun Tzu was not really a manager, didn’t offer management advice, and was solely a war lord. But, people like to transpose ideas, so what the heck.

The adaptation of Sun Tzu’s classic is a bit simplistic, hits the high points of his axioms on war, and uses some current day scenarios to attempt to put them into a modern context. It works on a simplistic level for that comic book audience. It was a good effort, and I think indicative of another side of future publishing.

Even more impressive is that Harper Perennial will be publishing a true graphic novel, different from the SmarterComics comic but based on the Sun Tzu classic. “Kelly Roman’s graphic novel is an epic narrative (328 pages) that takes place in the near future when China is the world’s dominant economy and Wall Street is militarized.” THE ART OF WAR hits the market next May.

These latest reincarnations of the old master are just another glimpse into the future of Generation Z, or Screen Gen, or whatever the pre-adult generation is now – and your local library. Are you ready?

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Sure-Fire, Can’t-Fail Way to Prove Your Library’s Relevance

There are few things more important in the librarian profession today than proving to the funders that the library is relevant and valuable to the community. You can better prove that by using more than “count” numbers – circulation count, door count, program count, etc. – by using qualitative data for your measurements of success.

Last April I posted Library Strategic Planning Process Overview in which I made the claim that,

… the library director should have a good working knowledge of the Strategic Planning Process in order to steer the Library Board toward accomplishing the process and assisting in developing a useful Plan that the Director and library staff can then follow through their daily activities. The basic components of a Strategic Plan include the following….

VII. Measures and Outcomes – The performance of an Activity that can be determined over time using quantitative data, and the actual impact, benefits and/or changes resulting from performance of the Activity. [Emphasis added.]

Quantitative data, and the actual impact, benefits and/or changes affected by an Activity are too broad of descriptors to work with effectively. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Quantitative date is easy. It’s the “count” numbers – at a program, for increase/decrease in ‘whatever’ count, and any other numbers associated with an Activity. Associated with some benchmark of what “success” means, they can be used as straight forward quantitative measures of “success”.

Actual impact, benefits and/or changes affected by an Activity represent the total opposite of quantitative, because now you’re getting into the qualitative measure of “success”, and that’s becomes more subjective and much harder to collect data to establish that success.

OK, so what is the point of restating the obvious? Of course, qualitative data is much harder to collect than quantitative.

Last August I posted Outcomes, Outcomes, Outcomes in which I re-cited (it’s hard to overstate the value of that article) the “exceptionally thought provoking article by Scott Corwin, Elisabeth Hartley & Harry Hawkes – “The Library Rebooted”. One of their seven propositions included;

6. Expand the metrics.
…it will be important … for the measurements to move beyond the strictly countable … into attitudinal areas like level of engagement and customer satisfaction. … [I]n the bigger context of changes, this resistance to [measure staff performance] should be easy to surmount. Institutions that proactively measure performance, embrace change, and look for ways to serve users will have an easier time getting financial support in an era of reduced public resources and private donations.” [Emphasis added.]

Using qualitative data to prove your value to the community is a sure-fire, can’t-fail way to demonstrate your library’s value and relevance to the community.

I do not mean anecdotal data. Forget that concept in connection with qualitative data. Anecdotal data will always be viewed as just that – anecdotal. “My son Johnny used to be inattentive and disruptive, but now he is a good listener thanks to the library story time.” Seriously? Would you expect that to persuade some city council members to give the library more money instead of the police and fire departments? However, if you told the city council that “80% of parents reported that their childrens’ attention and listening skills had improved as a direct result of attending the library’s story time.”, and “90% of parents reported that their childrens’ reading skills had improved as a direct result of the library’s story time.” THAT would have much more impact and prove the value of a library service.

Qualitative date regarding outcomes means the amount of impact, benefits and/or changes affected by a service/program. Qualitative data are not intended to be predictive, therefore they do not require the same scientific rigor that quantitative data often require in research. In research terms qualitative is considered ‘historical’ type data.

The only way to collect these data is to get up-close and personal with your customers, constituents, partners, stakeholders. You should be already, but in order to prove your value to the community – it is essential.

Taking techniques from research, let’s look at what is termed “naturalistic” or “humanistic” research, which is more interested in the historical perspective – what happened – than the predictive – what will happen. In Qualitative versus Quantitative Research: Key Points in a Classic Debate, author James Neill wrote about the nature of qualitative data compared to quantitative data, where qualitative data is;

• Subjective – individuals’ interpretation of events is important, therefore, uses participant observation, in-depth interviews, etc.,
• More ‘rich’, time consuming, and less able to be generalized,
• Researcher tends to become subjectively immersed in the subject matter.

While quantitative – “count” – data can tell us there was a circulation of 2.5 items/per capita for your library, it can not tell us what was the impact of that level of circulation. Only by interacting with the customers who actually checked out those items, and how that impacted their lives, can we tell the real story of our library’s value and relevance to the community.

According to Guba & Lincoln, “It is most useful in all forms of inquiry, whether research, evaluation, or policy analysis, to organize the human instrumentation into teams. … Teams have at least the following advantages:”

• Teams can accommodate multiple roles; …
• Teams can represent a variety of value perspectives; …
• Teams can represent multiple disciplines; …
• Teams can pursue multiple strategies; …
• Teams can reflect both substantive and methodological expertise; …
• Teams can be organized so as to provide for internal checks on rigor; …
• Teams can provide mutual support…

[Guba, E. & Lincoln, Y., 1981. Effective evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass]

They also explain that “The human instrument [the interviewer] operating in an indeterminate situation (not knowing what is not known) falls back on techniques such as interview, observation, unobtrusive measures, document and record analysis, and nonverbal ques.”

Interview customers that you see frequently, as well as customers you’ve never seen before. If nothing else more specific, ask them – “What value do you find in using the library?” Collect the data and analyze it for commonalities.

Observe the behavior of your customers as to what they do, who they talk to, what sections of the library they frequent, what services are most used and when. Collect the data and analyze it for commonalities.

Unobtrusively measure various segments of your customers by age, gender, ethnicity, culture, and other observable factors and their related behaviors in the library. Collect the data and analyze it for commonalities, and assess whether the data are representative of your community.

Document and record analysis includes customer survey responses, program feedback, training feedback, customer suggestions, and most of all circulation data. It is not intrusive to customer privacy to analyze what circulates and what does not. Analyze the items that circulate in your collection for commonalities and trends.

In order to ‘prove’ the value and relevance of your library to your community, conduct naturalistic inquiry using all of your staff to get close to your customers, collect data about how they value your library, and analyze the data to determine what is the library’s value. How can that approach fail to get results with your funders?

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Re-Imagining The Public Library

This was a difficult choice for a Post title. I thought of “New Vision for Libraries” – since libraries need a new vision (noun), and librarians need new vision (verb). I thought of just using the author’s (Audrey Watters at Mind/Shift) title “The Public Library, Completely Reimagined” – since that is probably the best – but didn’t want to sound like I was plagiarizing. I thought of “Best Ideas in Unlikely Places”, but didn’t want to sound snarky – since I’m totally impressed. I also thought about what Jules Verne wrote in Around the World in Eighty Days, that “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.”

So, I settled for this title with the intent to emphasize that…

I’ve been writing all along that 21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries, and Lauren Smedley at the Fayetteville Free Library is proving me right – not to say ‘I told you so!’

… Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library. The Fayetteville [NY] Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things.

So far, the Fab Lab is equipped with a MakerBot, a 3D printer that lets you “print” plastic pieces of your own design. … imagine being able to design and then manufacture — or “print” — whatever you want. Moreover, imagine the tools of manufacturing being in the hands of everyone, not just giant factories (and remember, since this is a public library, this is really putting the technology in the hands of everyone, not just those that can afford a membership at a traditional hackerspace).

Smedley says she plans on adding other equipment as well, including a CNC Router and a laser cutter. Smedley helped her library win a $10,000 innovation grant at the recent Contact Summit in New York and is also raising money via an Indiegogo campaign. She’s reaching out to local science teachers, as well as encouraging those already active in area hackerspaces and makerspaces to get involved.

WOW! Talk about 21st Century thinking! THAT is a perfect example of completely reimagining what the 21st Century public library can be!
Strategic partnerships!
Meeting the needs of the small Syracuse suburb with a primarily manufacturing based economy!

So, the title is really more of a challenge to all librarians to use vision to catch a new vision of what their library can and should be, and become 21st Century Librarians to Create their own 21st Century Library.
Thank you Lauren. Thank you Audrey.


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A New Taxonomy in Education

Many times since August, 2010 I have reiterated what Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, wrote in the IMLS 2010 publication The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide that, “… the delivery of library … services will be impacted by technology, education reform, and societal … changes …”
A statement of the challenges facing public libraries does not get much more succinct than that – technology, education reform, and societal changes.

Many tend to think 21st Century Skills is the major movement in education to transition from the industrial model to the information age model for schools. I just became aware that there is another significant theory shift for education, one that moves beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy of the 1950s, and toward a new cognition of a new generation that no longer fits that industrial mold.

Quick review – according to our friends at Wikipedia,

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education proposed in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom who also edited the first volume of the standard text,

It refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). Bloom’s Taxonomy divides educational objectives into three “domains”: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as knowing/head, feeling/heart and doing/hands respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education. [Emphasis added.]


Robert Marzano, a highly respected educational researcher, has published The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Audio overview by Marzano.

Developed to respond to the shortcomings of the widely used Bloom’s Taxonomy and the current environment of syllabus guidelines-based instruction, Marzano’s model of thinking skills incorporates a wider range of factors that affect how students think and provides a more research-based theory to help teachers improve their students’ thinking.

Marzano’s New Taxonomy is made up of three systems and the Knowledge Domain, all of which are important for thinking and learning. The three systems are the Self-System, the Metacognitive System, and the Cognitive System. When faced with the option of starting a new task, the Self-System decides whether to continue the current behavior or engage in the new activity; the Metacognitive System sets goals and keeps track of how well they are being achieved; the Cognitive System processes all the necessary information, and the Knowledge Domain provides the content.

One of the numerous tenets of Marzano’s New Taxonomy includes Knowledge Utilization. As an example of a new theory of education;

The final level of cognitive processes addresses the use of knowledge. … The processes of using knowledge are especially important components of thinking for project-based learning since they include processes used by people when they want to accomplish a specific task. Decision-making, a cognitive process involves the weighing of options to determine the most appropriate course of action. Problem-solving occurs when an obstacle is encountered on the way to achieving a goal. Sub-skills for this process include identification of and analysis of the problem. Experimental inquiry involves generating hypotheses about physical or psychological phenomena, creating experiments, and analyzing the results. Third graders designing bean plant experiments and analyzing ideal conditions for growth are conducting experimental inquiry. For more information on this project, see the Unit Plan, The Great Bean Race. [Emphasis added.]

Make no mistake about it – education reform is progressing! Education reform, in combination with technology advances and societal changes, will change the environment of the library and thus librarianship in terms of the customer who seeks – or doesn’t seek – library services. If you’re not ready to embrace the changes of the 21st Century Library………

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Library as Learning Space: The Video

If you’re looking for a good example of a library organized and equipped as a learning space, or learning commons, or third space, or whatever term you choose, this is as good as I’ve seen. Unquiet Librarian Buffy Hamilton’s Creekview High School Library in Canton, Georgia, is as good as you’ll find.

As you watch the video, look closely at the furniture, the placement of furniture, the general layout of the library area that makes it conducive to small group collaboration, but it is – most of all – inviting and comfortable. Take a look.

Hamilton made the video as an example of “a quick snapshot of what learning looks like at The Unquiet Library”. What I saw was good planning and organization without a huge $$$ investment. I saw a variety of furniture, not all “institutional” style. I saw sofas and rugs and easy chairs. I saw drinks on tables – GASP! I saw maximization of available space to accommodate as many students and groups as possible. I saw students who looked comfortable and at ease, and able to concentrate on their learning. I did not hear a noise level that would inhibit learning. I saw active learning, not kids trying to get out of class and goofing off. This is proof that it is achievable and desirable to create a learning space for today’s students.

I saw as good an example of a learning library as one could need. Every library’s space is different, but every library’s space can be, and should be as equally supportive of its mission and inviting to its customers. Please share your learning space videos with our colleagues.

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