Not So Distant Future

technology, libraries, and schools

Not So Distant Future

Giving thanks with Edublogs Awards

November 24, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

edublogsReflecting back on the last few years of my professional life, I am so very grateful for all of the colleagues I have met through blogging, tweeting, Skyping and finally, in person, who have deepened and enriched my own work.  I’m thankful for the friendships, the camaraderie, and the knowledge and wisdom of those I am proud to call friends.    So along with my nominations for the annual Edublogs Awards, I want to send a shout out to all those of you who have influenced my life and given so generously of your time and knowledge. You know who you are :)   This list below is just a sampling of some of what’s on my own radar currently.

And now here’s to my nominations.

  • Best individual blog
    The Principal of Change — George Couros — reflections on what it means to be networked as a teacher or a principal; very accessible for beginners to networking also
  • Best new blog
    Cedar Creek Elementary Library — a new project for librarians in my district this year is to start their own library blogs, and this is one example of how each library can begin to tell its own story.  Love seeing the learning going on.
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog
    TechChef4U — Lisa Johnson (who I happen to work with) has a vast array of resources for all things iPad, wrapped up in a well-designed site.
  • Best library / librarian blog
    Jennifer LaGarde’s Adventures of Library Girl
    Jennifer has shared her professional journey as she has worked as a statewide consultant in NC for the last two years–sharing her insights, inspiration, and radically challenging views w/librarians everywhere.  She is an inspiration!
  • Best administrator blog
    Practical Theory – Chris Lehmann  #nuff said
  • Most influential blog post of the year
    Audrey Watters – Men Explain Technology to Me – In an amazingly honest post (as always), Audrey Watters challenges us with her complex, nuanced and straight talk about women in technology.  Important and a must read.
  • Best individual tweeter
    Kathy Ishizuka — If she tweets it, I know I should read it.   Library or tech related, she is a reliable source for great connections.
  • Best twitter hashtag or chat
    #edtechchat — great chats; a go to hashtag for all things edtech
    Also #tlchat for librarians (my runner up) has so much to offer to librarians and school leaders alike.
  • Best free web tool
    Tackk  — Great tool for designing scrollable flyers that are easy to embed and professional looking.
  • Best educational use of media
    Andy Plemmons’ purposeful ability to combine many tools in the pursuit of global education for his students is inspiring, like this project.
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series –
    EdcampDOE  was the first Edcamp to be hosted at the Department of Education.  Great opportunity!
    Runner up:  Teacher Librarian Virtual Café –an ongoing webinar opportunity, self-hosted and self-run by amazing librarians around the country.
  • Best educational use of a social network–
    Andy Plemmons #America Recycles Project – Andy reached out from his elementary library to educators around the world via Twitter and found many ways for his students to connect globally.  He matched teachers at his campus with other classrooms for Google Hangouts and Skype sessions to share their own recycling stories, then worked with his students on Padlet to generate their own ideas.   This is actually only one of many ways that Andy reaches out through social media–his Picture Book smackdown being another excellent example!
    I would also like to honorably mention Shannon Miller’s Banding Together Project  — take student interest in Rainbow Looms, let them pursue their interests, connect with another school and then around the world, and watch students from a small town in Iowa reach out to students in India.
  • Best mobile app
    Explain Everything — Use it to create narrated slides, stories, and I’ve even used it for stick figure animated cartoons.
    Runners up:
    AudioNote — Use it all the time at conferences to record audio, and take notes too–when I can’t type fast enough to capture a rapid fire presentation that I want to revisit later.
    Canva — New app, just out.  Canva a great tool for creating flyers, handouts, signage, presentations, etc.
  • Lifetime achievement
  • Thanks to David Warlick — one of the first bloggers I became aware of, an early speaker in edtech who also always understood libraries and our singular mission, and a real influence on so many to follow.
    Also extra special thanks to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach for her leadership, energy and dedication!

Thanks to all of you.  And thank you, Edublogs–this process is a great time for us to reflect, too.  We are thankful for you!


Digging into the data: ebooks and students

November 6, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

Are high school students eager to use library ebooks or ebooks in general? Working at a 1:1 campus, I’m curious about their ebook habits and have decided to spend this year investigating our students’ habits more deeply.

As we enter our fourth year of 1:1 devices, it’s clear some students are using them for classwork, some for leisure reading, but how many?

The buzz around ebooks has been hot, but are our school library statistics showing high usage?  And if not, is it because of the platforms themselves, the lack of knowledge about library ebooks, or just a general hesitance about ebooks on the part of students?   After examining our library ebook statistics last spring, it fed my curiosity and I wanted to get more granular knowledge of how our own students are engaging with ebooks.

I’m in the midst of gathering data via informal assessments, in person interviews, video interviews and an online survey of our seniors.    I’ve also been looking at trends in the national research to inform my purchasing decisions(Thanks to SLJ/LJ and Pew for that).

All of this resulted in a recent presentation at Internet Librarian which is embedded below.  I want to be clear that this all is a result of my ponderings, and I’ve reached no rock solid conclusion.   As you will see from the data in the presentation, our students are using ebooks, although they are rather split on ebook usage in general, but they are not engaging with library-provided ebooks in significant numbers.  The publicity we have done has also not garnered a lot of their attention, which pains me, but leads to further questions too.

So far these investigations have raised as many questions as answers:

How can our library promotions about ebooks better resonate with students?
What role can teachers play in book promotion in general?
What role can students play in helping publicize any new service?
What is the library role in informing vendors about poor products?

Sharing this data is in no way meant to imply that I think libraries shouldn’t be acquiring and building ebook libraries, because I feel sure with changing demographics, ebooks will become more prevalent and more natural for students.  But the costs of acquiring ebooks, and poor publishing arrangements(forcing libraries to repurchase some titles every 12 months), coupled with misconceptions on the part of administrators and architects about our “actual student” versus our imaginary digital native, leave us with a lot of unanswered questions and dilemmas.

As the year goes on, I’ll be continuing to drill down into the data and conduct more student interviews in an attempt to gain a much better understanding of how students are interacting with ebooks, so more to come….

Ebooks: What we can learn fro…

More PowerPoint presentations from C Foote


It’s about the human connection..databases part two

October 17, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

I’ve been reflecting further on the frustrations with databases that I vented in my previous post.   I realized that what is crystallizing for me is the point that…

Research tools are not about the tools.  They are about the people who use them.    Each student brings a human story and experience to their research process but most of all, they come to it as a person.  

When you look at sites like Flickr or Instagram or Twitter or Tumblr, all of them center in some way around the person–the user.  They are not just built for the information within them (although they have ways to access that).   They are built to somehow represent, engage with, and be friendly to the user.   And secondly…

Research tools are not about a 1.0 world.  

flickr: Moore Memorial Public Lib

flickr: Moore Memorial Public Lib

Our students live in an interconnected, hyperlinked, search-engine suggestion, peer to peer assisted world.   They share knowledge with one another and expect their tools to do that for them as well.  They like websites that engage their curiosity, let them wander, promote what is most pertinent, use beautiful graphics that engage them, and allow them to share as well.

If research companies/tools want to be more relevant in the lives of our students, how can they be more personal, respond, engage students better?  And how can they relate to the hyper connected world that the rest of the internet utilizes?

Research tools should be easy to use and access. 

Google has proven how possible it is to have a beautiful, playful and clean interface when what’s behind it is a very complex operation.  Their app?  A quick installation and it works with lightning speed.   Do beginning users really need to “know” what database they are choosing or use archaic (non natural) language to do their search?   How can databases separate simple Googlish sorts of searches from more complicated ones so that the results mirror the language of the searcher?

Research tools can be geared to younger users without being insulting.

Databases designed for younger researchers don’t have to have cliched icons or overly childish and out of date images.   Younger searches also enjoy beautiful design, clean layout, beautiful and sophisticated uses of color just like older researchers do.

Research tools for younger users need to not be an afterthought.

The biggest database companies are guilty of having interfaces for elementary-aged researchers that aren’t geared internally towards their customers.   The results they return are often irrelevant or too complicated to wade through or not topical, the layouts are not sophisticated in design and appeal, and again, often the design of the database does not invite student curiosity and wonder.

Student researchers are not dedicated to the tool.  They are dedicated to the answers.

We cannot assume as designers that every student researcher is a “researcher by trade,” but we need to understand them as occasional users, often ones with little expertise with a research tool.   No matter how much librarians work with most students, the database format will not feel “native” to them and will only be a sidenote to their general research experience, most of which takes place on Google or Yahoo.    Think of the names of many databases which are based on the company brand–a name that is meaningless to students.   Why not employ the strategies of companies and find names that are catchy, appealing and use the nomenclature of the day.  Unless your company name has enormous user identification (maybe Britannica), it comes across as schooly and loses it’s relevance and appeal for students.

It’s far past time to start redesigning for the curious, connected students in our libraries and classrooms.

What’s the view from their side of the table?


postscript:  Thanks to  George Couros –his very human centered tech keynote at the TCEA TecSig Fall Meeting yesterday reminded me what “it’s all about.”


Consumer intelligence…or…do databases realize they have student customers?

October 15, 2014 · 2 Comments · Web 2.0

After my annual frustrating experience working with database companies and iPad apps in our 1:1 school, I feel that it is high time that database companies start stepping up to the plate to make products easier for their k-12 consumers (and beyond).

Have you ever tried to

1)interest high school or middle school students in using a database instead of Google?  While it is a skill they need to develop particularly if they are college bound, at best, it is a hard sell.  What high school student ever jumped up and down and said, Oh goodie, a database?

2) Tried to explain the 10 or 15 minute process to install a database app to your students (Gale, Ebsco, etc.)?   Now imagine doing that with your middle school or elementary students who have iPads.

3)  Tried to explain why an ebook app has changed names 3 times in the last year to a group of students who are reluctant ebook users to begin with or why Overdrive’s privacypolicies keep changing?

As technology has become a ubiquitous part of libraries of all kinds, the lack of good user interface for students becomes more and more problematic for librarians, who intently want to help students improve their information literacy skills.    The last two weeks in our library has been a case in point.

An anecdote might illustrate the week’s frustrations.

On Tuesday, I set out to help our students install the Ebsco and Gale apps on their iPads, since we are a 1:1 campus, and this particular class is working with databases throughout the semester on a frequent basis.   The teacher had set aside about fifteen minutes for us to run through this process.   First, we started with Ebsco’s app.

Ebsco has their app link buried within their databases, in tiny print at the bottom of the EbscoHost screen, a three or four click process to take students there from your website.  The app link is necessary because it emails students an activation key. (So make sure students have their email set up first.  And by the way, if your elementary students don’t have email….I’m not sure what you should do at this point.  #problem1)   So far, so good.  We walked students into Ebsco, found the link, had them download the app, waited on the activation key to arrive in their email.   Next step, click on the link and it will allow you into the app.   Except that it doesn’t.  Instead every student received an error message.    My install on my phone went smoothly despite the tedious number of steps, so I contacted technical support for help.  Thirty hours later, I got a response.  (Consequently I jettisoned installing this app  Tuesday, obviously–no matter that is when the teacher had time for me in the schedule).    The emailed response I finally received?  Just don’t have students use the app.   Problem solved.

So, Ebsco has an app, but it is not supposed to be used for the iPad.   Makes sense–why would anyone want to use that anyway?

So, onward and upward, I skip over Ebsco the rest of the day and attempt an installation of the GALE app.   Despite the fact that it loads extreeeemely slowly during the setup process, students were able to navigate it much more efficiently than Ebsco’s “non app”.    I noticed students were all logging into the same set of databases and could perform a search.  All good.   The last period of the day, a student updated the app (he had it from a previous year), and his screen loaded twice as many databases as everyone else’s.  A mystery, I thought!   I called tech support to determine what the cause might be (after ruling out IOS 8 which caused some students problems).

Turns out that when Gale switched Texas to the new statewide database, the app for our school had not been linked to the “new” collection.   How to fix this, I ask?  Answer–just have all the students uninstall the app, or update the app and reinstall it and log back in.   (Just what we had spent the whole day doing.).  And by the way, says the rep, you might want to know that GALE is issuing a new app later this week anyway for IOS 8, that he and colleagues in tech support recently learned about.   When asked how a customer should know that, the tech rep was uncertain.    Now imagine me, going back to this teacher the next day to let him know everything we just did was a waste of time.   Not a thrilling prospect nor one that invokes credibility in the databases for our students.

And then we could move on to the matter of ebooks, of course; as any librarian using Follett ebooks knows, Follett has changed the name of their app 2-3 times in the last year.  No problem, we’ll just have all 2600 students at our school reinstall it.  Easy.

It is experiences like these that I’m sure many of you have had that make us feel like there is a total disconnect between developers, database vendors, and their customers.  I think of my experience with various tech startups the last two years–who have been accommodating and communicative and personal in their communications with us.   Their social media accounts have personalities; they take time on social media to engage with customers on a personal level, they tweet, email, and communicate frequently about updates to their products.

It puzzles and dismays me why companies who have served schools and libraries for many years do not engage us with the same level of personal connection, the same level of friendly communication, the same attention to updates and to listening to customers.

And who are the customers?

I’m not the customer, truly.  The customer is the student (or students) I am trying to help.   And students are customers that are used to the Google-ish world, where things work instantaneously and well;  the world where it is not a massive effort just to get to a search box.

So I ask in all honesty, if databases didn’t have librarians, would they even survive in the free market?   Design a product that is awkward to install, not that user friendly, and that doesn’t work the way it should and see how long users flock to that site.

I believe there is real value in the sources students can find, the archives they can discover, the academic journals that are still locked within database walls.  I believe there is value for our students in learning about intellectual property, and in being able to use ebooks for free from our library.    But you are making my job (and the job of many librarians) so difficult.   The problems with your products are making your content seem irrelevant by design.

We aren’t in a 1.0 world anymore.  My plea to you?   Remember your customers.

Look across the table at your own 5th grader or 9th grader and imagine them installing your product.  What do you want their experience to be?    Imagine your frustration when you know as a parent there is great content and the process to access it is just too complicated and frustrating.

Imagine that your customers are children in a one-touch world.   Then reimagine what you are doing.

This librarian will thank you.







Edcamp DOE summed up

August 30, 2014 · 1 Comment · Web 2.0

(Better late than never–sharing my experience at EdCamp DOE!)

Getting started

What happens when an EdCamp happens at the U.S. Department of Education?   That was the unknown question when fifty educators came together in Washington, D.C. in June for the first ever EdCamp DOE.  Thanks to the efforts of the Edcamp crew, Emily Davis, and Director of the Office of Ed Technology Richard Culatta, among others, the challenge became a reality.

IMG_5623We didn’t know if the DOE would actually be sending staff to participate in the Edcamp itself, and didn’t quite know what the day would look like or what it would accomplish.  But since I felt so fortunate for the opportunity when my name was drawn, and because I think of myself as both an educator and a librarian, I was eager to go and find out.

First off, for those of you wondering how we got there, the names of the attendees were randomly drawn from a call for participation on Twitter and elsewhere. And while there was a preponderance of attendees from the Northeast, there were educators from as far as California and Texas there as well; attendees included doctoral students, librarians, administrators, teachers, and even teachers’ aides and first year teachers.   So while the geographical diversity wasn’t entirely the best, (given the nature and timing of the event), the diversity of attendees was pleasing, especially with that small of a group.

Emily Davis, who helped coordinate details and is a Teacher Ambassador to the department, did a good job of reminding us to extract some “what next” items from our conversations throughout the day.  And Secretary Arne Duncan popped in briefly to look over the EdCamp scheduling board and learn a little about the process.  And Richard Culatta who was sadly unable to be there, sent a great video greeting.


Secretary Arne Duncan studying the Edcamp board

 What I was most hopeful about (having staffers participating en force throughout the day) didn’t entirely happen;  the fact that this group of teacher leaders from all over were gathered within their building to talk “education” seemed like such an amazing opportunity for staff and policy makers at the Department to just listen in or even participate in our conversations.    However, Emily did a good job of pulling policy people into appropriate conversations at times.


I was part of four very different but interesting conversations–the last one on testing being the most dynamic and impactful.   (The four I participated in regarded teacher quality, learning spaces, libraries, and measuring education).

As always, the respect that educators have for one another’s ideas, and their passion to come from all over the country on weekends to meet with one another and learn together is inspiring.  (And I think, according to staffers at DOE, it surprised some of them the idea that people come to learn on their own time, for free).

edcamp doe convo testing

In typical EdCamp fashion, all of the notes from the entire day are stored in Google Docs for your perusal.   Here are notes from the learning spaces session which I facilitated and the “how schools should be measured” session, which doctoral student Kristine Larson led.  It was fascinating to hear perspectives from so many different types of participants, too — representation from everything from Department of Defense schools to project based schools to traditional school settings.


My biggest takeaway — if in the course of so many of our education conversations throughout our personal learning networks, we identify some “actionable” items, then we will help move things forward more effectively.   How can we reframe some of our conversations so that they become more like “problem solver” sessions?

EdCamp DOE also gave the attendees and edu-staffers a glimpse of how difficult it is to disseminate information so that it sticks.   There are many channels, but even so, sometimes it is still very difficult to cut through the general noise and communicate, and that applies to both policy makers and to building level PLN teachers.   I also hope that the policy makers who did attend got a real sense of the passion, knowledge, and ideas of educators on the “ground” level.

Thanks to the Department of Education for opening its doors to the Edcamp process–that meant a great deal.   And here’s to hopes that at the next EdCamp DOE, more policy makers will be participants, too.

photo by Joe Mazza

group photo by Joe Mazza

Lastly, this event was the culmination of a pretty amazing set of experiences for me personally, for which I am so grateful.  From the White House Champion of Change recognition in November, to the ALA Future of Libraries Summit in May, to Edcamp DOE in June, I felt so gratified to have experienced the serendipitous cross connections between all of these events and dedicated educators and librarians.   It has been an amazing growth experience and I am so appreciative of all those who made it happen.

Here’s to moving conversations forward!



Librarians Sharing New Ideas across Globe

July 25, 2014 · 1 Comment · Web 2.0

(Note:  This is cross posted on the White website in honor of Champions of Change.)

Providing our students opportunities to be prepared for the future is crucial.  Across the nation, thousands of dedicated educators and librarians are leading the charge to help students investigate, create, collaborate and communicate effectively, and to reach beyond the walls of their own schools.

I am honored to represent a large community of connected librarians across the nation who play a uniquely significant role in assisting teachers as they become comfortable with new technologies, and who link teachers and students with the tools and resources that help them become “connected” learners.  While librarians have always been resource mavens and curriculum specialists, our roles have broadened to include the technology tools and strategies that prepare our students for an always connected future.   That can mean connecting our ASL students via Skype so they can teach a Canadian student sign language, hosting a robotics makerspace in the library, building a list of web resources for our Vietnam memorial project, or discovering new devices that will aid student research.

When tablets entered the commercial marketplace, for example, I was eager to pilot them in the library in order to determine their efficacy for our teachers and students.  As an early adopter, I began with just six tablets to gather information on their usefulness for student learning both within the library and the classroom.  Three years later, with the dedication of a tribe of people, we are now a one-to-one tablet district k-12 and are entering our third year hosting an annual conference for tablet users across the country.

As a librarian (in concert with technology staff),  I supported the initiative in many ways:  redesigning the library to include a tech “help desk”, building lists of appropriate apps, developing projects with students and teachers, and documenting our initiative on a campus blog.  I have networked with librarians around the country as they grapple with similar issues from e-books to library redesign; even when we redesigned our own library six years ago, many of the future-friendly features that make our library a vibrant hub were inspired by other colleagues online.

As a librarian, I play a vital leadership role with my unique expertise about research and literacy.  But I and other librarians cannot develop our skills in a vacuum. Wired librarians across the globe have banded together to build resources for one another, like the Teacher Librarian Virtual café.  This program, led by volunteers, hosts monthly online programming and supports weekly Twitter chats.  I also engage with Texas librarians during the weekly Texas Library Twitter chat and network during national events like the Connected Educator month with Secretary Arne Duncan, and the free K12online Conference, which gave me the first thrilling taste of connecting with educators globally.

These ongoing connections have imbued my own practice with the most empowering professional learning I have ever been a part of; I can wake up chatting with educators in Australia, connect with colleagues on campus during the day, and go to bed having chatted with colleagues on the West Coast.  Rather than work alone, librarians have grown wide networks of colleagues that both support and challenge us, and we, and our schools, are better for it.  For me, this incredible honor to be named as a Champion of Change is a recognition not only of my own work as a “technolibrarian”, but more importantly of all of my connected colleagues and their incredible dedication to better our profession.   We care fiercely about educating our students and about moving our schools forward.  And these connections make our work much richer.   Thank you for recognizing that “connecting works” and thank you for this honor.


Libraries from Now On– Summing up the Summit

May 7, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

Continuing with the liveblogged notes–

Consultant and future-thinker Joan Frye Williams closed out the conference by summing up the themes she heard emerging throughout the Summit.   Throughout the two days, she circulated through the tables, looked at the brainstorming boards, and gathered some threads together for the closing statements of the Summit, and discover “what is the library ‘from now on?”

Below are my liveblogged notes from her discerning comments:  (many of these are direct quotes…or my summary of her words)

Summit is an opportunity to frame and reframe questions/conversations — it is an evolutionary process which involves rebalancing and rethinking and some movement

So what is the point?

Questions about what value libraries will add, what business we’ll be in, etc.   Williams believes that from now on, we’ll be engaged in a Human Enterprise; involves knowledge; knowledge based.

  • “It’ is likely to be aspirational and transformational — a desirable change happening
  • likely to be shared/community centric
  • F2F is a strong pathway for libraries.  In this library, the role of “us” is active, not reactive, collaborative and developmental
  • Developmental — an arc of learning, an arc of relationships, a long term arc of moving things forward
  • Transformational experiences which pay off is later.   Are we with people for the transformational experience of their lives or just for the transaction at the moment?.
  • Developmental relationship natural in a teaching environment, not so natural in an adult-relationship environment.  Sometimes when happens betw adults has been very condescending.  (i.e. “help the heathens”).  We don’t always know what is best for them.
  • Threads is that libraries will be a relationship-based enterprise, not anonymous.  Would you let someone who wouldn’t tell you their name cut their hair ?  We’re asking people to trust us with their development but we need to be in relation with them.(public)  (me :  that is much less an issue for school libraries than public…)

Relationship must be trust-based.  Have we leveraged that trust?
With trust comes responsibility–trust increases that level of responsibility.   Our success will be measured by other people’s outcomes.  If they are successful we are successful.

Innovating is a non-linear process

  • process will be messy;  too quick to dismiss messy projects or how promised; give things time to sort themselves out in the library–one of our adjustments is to adjust to messy processes–how well do we as a profession accommodate a shift to messy?

We ask the least useful questions–like “did you like us?”   It’s nice they like us but we need audacious questions and to  generate and triage new ideas.

We need to build capacity in designing, evaluating the results of meaningful experiments and research.     Sometimes we don’t go looking for fear of what we’ll find out.

Need to create capacity in creating rich environments, abundant environments for people to learn and achieve.  The through line of childhood story is abundant.  Libraries = abundance
To do better–providing incentives and inducements and excitement for reading/learning;  passive about getting readers (me:  schools, again, are most active in doing this…)

When we do outreach, we go out and talk about ourselves instead of finding out how it works for the customer.

Facility in creating new spaces and curating human connections that can ride alongside the data.   Broaden our notion of what we curate. (Curate ideas, people?)

Developing skill in analyzing user behavior.  We don’t look at patron behavior due to privacy but….balance between privacy and using data to make decisions.

The more scenarios the better.

Develop capacity in supporting a DEVELOPING enterprise which is different than supporting an established institution.  We need a different set of skills than if we are just managing to retain what we’ve always done… need both capacities.

Need capacity to think about decoupling things….How knowledge is managed, curated and distributed….are those all going to emanate from same place?

Where can we stand out?  What part of the power grid are we?  Which kinds of libraries are which part of the power grid, too?

Decoupling of services and delivery….sometimes actively resisted because we aren’t good at working through other people.   librarians not trusting others to “do it right”

We’re serving people in our community in phases, not all at once  – there are relationships we need with our communities but we are ignoring them because we are focusing too much on the transactions (check outs).   We need to build relationships so we’ll be there when needed — that is more than just the immediate transaction.   We belong to our whole community and I am strengthened when they are strengthened — need to trust others…

Issue of skills is going to be important going forward..

Is one size fits all for our communities fair?  What entry points do we need to provide?

Issue around value.    We have acted as we are the sole arbitor is what is important about libraries and then act hurt if others don’t agree.  Have to get beyond that and negotiate that.

What does success looks like…How do OTHER people know we are successful   — Word she heard which troubled her — the word “allow”

We need to be thoughtful about unpacking principles, opportunities, outcomes and techniques when what we are doing is risky.

Change is not a process we are going to do once and be over with.  It is a messy process and we have to develop the ability to be okay with that.


So, that concludes the summit…where to now?   For me, it will be one more blog post, pulling my thoughts together specifically about schools/school libraries.   For ALA, it’s establishing a Center for the Future of Libraries to be a think tank or innovation central, and the experience at the Summit will help guide that.   Next blog post to come….


Library Summmit Day Two — closing in on a vision?

May 5, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

Gathering this morning to hear DaVinci Institute’s Thomas Frey and  excited to be sitting at a table with some icons in the field and Maureen Sullivan, former President of ALA this morning.

Questions in the innovation area this morning:

–Give  a new library story that would capture the library of the future?

–How will library of future assess itself?

–In the future, what will our constituents NEED that they don’t even know they need now?

–As a result of the summit, what are you inspired to do differently?    What would you like the Center for the Future of Libraries to Do?

photo(3)Thomas Frey — from the Internet of Things to the Library of things

“All information we come into contact with is always history.  We are walking backwards into the future.
Future will happen with or without us participating;  the future is in control.

If your next project is not aligned with the problems, needs, and desires of the future, the future will kill it. ”

What systems do we use today that are the equivalent of Roman Numerals (which wasn’t a good system, due to lack of decimal capabilities?)

People base their understanding today based on what they think the future holds.  But really, “the future creates the present.”   So we have to change how people think about the future to change the present. (yes!)

What are the big things that still need to be accomplished in the world?

What is future of library?

Catalytic Innovation creates entirely new industries…. like electricity, cars, airplanes…

Bell curve –
for example peak industry demand–like steel–now we are developing new products
Peak employment decline will predict peak industry decline; comes before the industry decline

Have we reached peak employment for libraries?  and When will we reach peak demand for libraries?

Wake up call quotes:

Clayton Christiansen — by 2019 half of all k12 classes will be taught online
Chris Anderson — 3D printing will be bigger than the internet
Over 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030–Thomas Frey

We don’t have systems in place for rebooting jobs as fast as we need to.

All stemming from the “level problem” — now that you have the level app, you don’t need to buy a level, which means you don’t need the manufacturer, etc.    Every time we download an app, we are eliminating thousands of jobs.  But we are freeing up lots of human capitol.   Just because we’ve run out of jobs, doesn’t mean we’ve run out of work to do as a human race.

“A library is just a library until it isn’t.” (not sure that is the best wording–does he mean libraries are evolving into diff services/roles?)

What forces are driving change for libraries?

Andreson — Software is eating the world.  Projection by 202 we will have 50 billion things connected to the internet.  So what are the things?    Estimate we will reach 1 trillion sensors by 2037.

Innovation is being parsed in smaller ways.  Convergence of digital and physical.  (smart homes, smart cars, smart clothing, smart shoes)

Smart homes, smart door locks, smart chairs, DoorBot, Smart Pet doors (recognize your pet), Biometric coffee maker knows how much caffeine you should have (LOL); smart plant wall that tells you when they need water; future restaurant electronic menu  tailored to what you like to eat; Google testing out contacts that monitor diabetics

17 forms of information competing with books



Maybe it’s not about books, maybe it is about IDEAS.  Ideas can be stored in many formats?
Are we archiving ideas?  How do we help the most significant ones rise to the top?
Does it make sense to have robots archiving our communities?  

We are all in search of the ultimate interface.

We struggle to find information since it can be stored in so many formats.   Frey proposes every library create an Iron Man Room (pulls stuff out of air)

Trend #2  – What is role for libraries is the sharing economy — the just in time economy?

Libraries were the original sharing economy     We are transitioning from “just in case” economy to “just in time.”  YES  (borrowing Smart cars, homes, etc.)

Trend #3:  Transition from Consumers to producers

Chris Anderson — when tools of production are available, everyone becomes a producer

3d printing — we can print in all sorts of materials, liquids, plastics, cement, etc.   NIO Robotics – Zeus is a 3d printer, scanner, fax machine–they can print it out at other end.   3D printed cars, bicycles already, clothing, casts, concrete, ceramics…(concrete pumper pushing the concrete into the machine

Can already print houses in China for $4800,  in future print exoskeletons, print pharma, (Belgium already does that); printing organs, printing heartvalves (in Colo)., food printers; 3D sugar printers

Trend # 4:  Education is about to be redefined

Micro colleges — more people having to reboot their careers (DaVinci Institute  – has a micro college)
Immersive forms of secondary education done in short periods of time

Colleges in present form are ill fit for retraining quickly.

Our need for teacherless education –have huge global shortage of teachers–places teachers don’t want to go.  How are we going to deliver education without teachers/professors to places that need it?

Trend #5: Quantified self

Can we monitor our thoughts …creating a hyper individualized marketplace

Walk into a library; a device does an assessment of our needs–and then gives personalized recommendations…

internet drone race– solar powered drones Ascenta bought by Google and Titan bought by Amazon; way to offer broad internet coverage

in the next 20 years, infrared signals will be developed enough to track particular individuals.  This idea of staying anonymous…do we need a place for people to go for anonymous information?

Trend #6

Business colonies–groups of talents, hire from freelance pool
premium services
Libraries have a “search command center” — photo of someone at command desk

Seed library
haunted history tour
Tailgate party
Borrowing an expert, a pet, a stage, a musician, a park
Mini theaters or planetariums in libraries
check out a gym or walkstations
Recommendation–an Expert Series– people feel uncertain what about the future they should be paying attention to.

Have we reached peak employment?  Future libraries are waiting for us to reinvent them?

(One of my takeaways–if we change the future, what can libraries do?  Can we harness the power of our communities to solve big problems?  Could a library take the lead in that?  Exciting thought.)

photo(2)Table discussion of Thomas Frey presentation:

Pushback at our table about the Future “talk”

What things fit needs, and what are pie in the sky future things that we won’t develop.  Change is incremental …. and some changes we discard because they don’t work (librarian sharing example early microwave promises — baking cakes in microwave, tasted awful…but they serve our needs in other ways)…

What do we do to help the 99%  instead of the privileged?

Future of the autodidact in library…same as before?

Important need for paradigm shift in libraries as creation spaces versus warehouses


How will libraries integrate the use of future technologies?

How do we know what will “stick”?  –tools that will make it into every kitchen versus tools that only make it into 1%  kitchens

the technologies that solve the problems of THEIR patrons;   but patrons may not know what they need next…

Eli N.  experimentation…Experimentation is hard for libraries.

Maureen–we need to have more capacity in our field in our libraries to monitor trends and engaging with the community;  we can transcend the building ;  what role does library have in capturing experimentation… We need more libraries that have created a culture of innovation.

School libraries may be able to be more experimental–less bureacracy and management, can be more agile

me:  Could the “library” in the largest sense of the word become the nation’s researcher–gatherer of trends…informing the country.  The ALA list of TRENDS for example….  not directed towards librarians, but for the nation.

Will the avid readers take care of themselves?  Who do we need to take care of?  Eli

Should libraries seek settings that are more integrated rather than separate buildings? (my example–public library I first worked in was located in a shopping center, rather than a separate destination–more integrated in a community?)   Or build spaces that have a sense of place…like Library of Congress–can we build libraries that have a sense of place that people want to be in?

We have so many summits on future of library…how can Center for Future of Libraries coordinate that better and capture that?

To end the summit, we are going to hear from Consultant Joan Frye Williams, who has monitored all the table talk throughout the conference and pulled all of the themes she’s heard together.  My next blog post will summarize her remarks and my own impressions of the Libraries from Now On Summit…..  stay tuned…


Library Summit “Future from Now On”

May 2, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

library of congress ceiling In honor of transparency, I’m liveblogging my notes from ALA’s Libraries From Now On Summit.  At a later date, I’ll interpret and process some of these notes.

We’re gathered in the member’s room of the Library of Congress to listen to a variety of provocational speakers today at the Libraries From Now On Summit, and are playing round robin tables in order to foster discussion of future trends we are identifying.

Barbara Stripling welcomed attendees with a  fitting Dr. Seuss quote – “My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.”  Love that as a start to future thinking!  And following her inspiration, Dr. James Billington, THE Librarian of Congress, exhorts  us to be “sherpas” as we chart the future of libraries;  this event is like “base camp.”

Purpose of the Summit:

To gather ideas from thought leaders to inform the development of a Center for the Future of Libraries

–How do we think differently about libraries

–What are the societal, educational, and technology trends that impact libraries?

–What do these trends mean for libraries?

stephen dubnerSpeaker OneHow to Think Like a Freak — Stephen Dubner

We’ll be doing some thought experiments today — Dubner likes thought experiments — cheap!  Learn stuff!

First one:  How is a public library like a keg party?

Do a thought experiment– you just discovered the idea of a library tomorrow.  How would you get it started?  How would you convince publishers to go along with the idea?  It’s not pre-ordained that people care now or in the future.   We need to think about libraries a little more rationally and thoughtfully.

Solving one problem, gathering data is really hard.  His new book with Stephen Leavitt (Think Like a Freak) deputizes the reader to take on problems.

Dubner posits that the  hardest words to say — “I don’t know” or ‘I don’t know but I’ll find out.’

To think like a freak:

1)  Be able to say, I don’t know but I’ll find out.   Be willing hard to figure out what you know and what you don’t know.  Work hard to get the data and feedback you can to ask questions.  Run a lot of experiments.  Put away your moral compass temporarily, because you obliterate some solutions before you begin.  If you think honey bees dying from global warming, you might not look to see if it is a virus, or bacteria or anything else.  Prevents problem solving.    If you think you already for the solution, you don’t go looking for answers.

2)  Be able to think more like a child.  Conventional wisdom is that children are latent visions of ourselves.  If you look at data about children with an unbiased view — they are better at things like creativity, ideas, asking questions (they are less afraid of reputations, etc); sheer cognitive perception, plasticity,

Being more educated — better you are at finding information to consume that verifies what you already believe.

How to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded–

1.  Don’t pretend your argument is foolproof.
2.  Don’t pretend that their objections don’t have merit.
3. Power of story — Stories are resonant.  We place ourselves in the story.

Data can be cherry-picked so the power of story is important.

Dubner demonstrated the power of story by telling us about Kobi the champion hot dog eater from Japan who won the Nathan Hot Dog eating contest.  What we learn from the story?

1)  He redefined the problem he was trying to solve.  He tried to figure out how to eat one hot dog faster, not all the dogs.
2)  Limits — do we choose to accept the limits placed before us?   (time limits, social acceptability, artificial limits set by institutions?)  Being willing to discard artificial limits is useful.
3) We should soak our buns in warm water ;)

Speaker two:  Joel Garreau

What are Libraries Good For?   Garreau

-The future of libraries isn’t about the books, or the computers
it is in the building of cities

Best way to predict future is to invent it yourself.

Garreau is showing us a series of photos of buildings, like a grocery store.  What will be the use for this building in the future when things can be ordered/delivered?

Is there any reason you’d want to to go to a grocery store?   Audience and Garreau think it’s about community; about face to face contact.  Why do we go to farmer’s markets?  They aren’t always cheap–but it is a face-to-face with people in your community.   Look at grocery stores like Whole Foods–they are embracing that concept with restaurants where people can eat with others.

Asking about universities–if people have the money and the choice, learning face to face is preferred for many.

Cubicle or an office — why do you need to go to an office?  The time hanging out at a printer–the informal, unplanned activity where we make connections.  That doesn’t mean you need an office every day.   (Libraries/spaces in school libraries serve that function).

Why would we go to Chicago or any city?  To see things together; to attend sporting events (face to face)–it’s face to face interactions (or in my case, face to food interactions).

Increasingly we’re not limited by the daily commute anymore?  How does this apply to/impact schools?

Migration and growth patterns show that midsized cities are growing; people can telecommute, they can live somewhere sunny and more midsized with a town square and a community.

Future of human nature:

Curve of evolution of industrialization and change is accelerating (in same way Moore’s law does) — Garreau terms it “radical evolution”.

Telekinetic monkey–mind probe that controls activity around the monkey.  We are asking what happens to libraries with Google.  What happens to libraries when we have telekinetic functionality?

Google Glass–what if Google is wired into our brains?

Garreau — so, what do we need libraries (or any places for?)

What makes people tick is community.

To prevail  is the humanistic solution Garreau is rooting for.  Suppose there is not one curve of change but there are two.  Suppose there is a second curve of change in which our human responses are coming up with imaginative ways to change along with the external changes, and how can we grow that?

Real question isn’t what computer will become, but what PEOPLE will become?  As librarians we start to take control of our own evolution. 

Instead of doing predictions, Garreau does scenarios — Build a disparate collection of stories looking forward, and look at where that takes your institution.

Education in the Future–Anywhere, Anytime  Dr. Renu Khator;  University of HoustonKhator

If you view Univ through business analogy-

Four divisions–we create knowledge, we store knowledge, we teach knowledge, we x knowledge

From Business point of view–
—There’s a market, supply and production.
–Our production model twenty years from now will be different;  things are changing at a faster speed–we can be in front and define the change or the change will define us.

BRICKS countries — Brazil, India, China, etc. — desire for knowledge is strong;  building world class universities

–29% of graduates –plenty of supply but supply and demand are mismatched.
–Demographics mismatch — 8th graders from 6 years ago–80% are enrolled in a community college, only 41% of Hispanics are enrolled in college.  What kind of society are we building?  You can import talent, but how much can you import?
–Expectation mismatch — we are preparing students who can be successful, but way we are evaluated is a mismatch

4600 institutions of higher education in U.S.
Why is production is broken?

Imagine a restaurant — beautiful, etc.  you don’t serve meat
Movie — beautiful theater, but no movie.  Okay, it does have a movie but only shows half a movie.
Plane –upgrade to business class, four bags, but plane doesn’t fly anywhere.  Or plays half a movie.  Is that okay?

With university production, the core mission is not being met.  Students come with a dream that they will leave with a degree.  So only half are graduating from there.  She actually visits all the classes;  and asks students to email her personally if they are planning to drop out and she promises she will try to solve the problem in three days.

Mission creep: Why are we all defining our excellence by being something different than what we are?  We are taking our eyes off of core mission.   In next 10 years, 1/3 of schools may no longer make it if financial bubble bursts.

Technology changes–
Delivery (for example MOOCs)  – they probably won’t be the tech that comes but they have challenged our assumptions.
Job market — w/in one quarter Kodak went bankrupt w/ 145,000 employees, and Instagram with 13 employees was bought w/millions of $
Market is expanding globally

People are looking to the U.S. for solutions for their countries
Global demand is growing so fast, but short supply of professors — a tremendous worry;  how long will it take if we don’t value our own education and educators.  Univ talent may go away even though univ buildings stay.

Trends for future:

  • Content and delivery may become separated in future — the McDonald’s effect may force it
  • Decoupling of learning from credentialling — who says what college degree will be?  The minute that piece breaks, higher educ will fall apart.
  • Tailor made learning – Delinking of professors with a “following” from their universities–they can set up their own shops

Universities will remain because 18 year olds will need a safe place to experiment with life, but the role of universities needs to be agile

What will keep you afloat?  You have to provide something of value not provided by somebody else?
Can you provide convenience?
Can you provide discipline?

Education may become free.  Corporations may partner in order to get employees, for example.

What about role of university in sports ?  That affinity is important.
Virtual football teams?   Some new virtual sport?

The biggest change she sees is the 120 credit model.  Many of new instructors coming in are adjuncts in order to fill the professor gap.

Dr. Khator–my job is to prepare my organization to be flexible,open,to have a culture of continuous innovation.

photo (4)Summing Up

After each session today, we’ve been engaging in table talk about how these trends and concerns apply to libraries of the future, or writing our thoughts in the innovation area.  The conversations have been pretty engaging — though I would like a little more freedom with exploring the questions.  But it’s so helpful to have the mixture of librarians at the table as everyone brings different perspectives (I do wish more of my school colleagues were here as we are a major piece in the library and educational ecosystem).

Lots of food for thought…and more notes to come once I process all of them.  More tomorrow!


Asking the questions — Libraries “From Now On”

May 1, 2014 · No Comments · Web 2.0

flickr:  A. Currell

flickr: A. Currell

I’m very excited to say that I’m headed to the Library of Congress tomorrow for a Summit convened by ALA, entitled “Libraries From Now On.”  The Summit is  a think tank event  where we will be doing some deep pondering about how libraries are developing into the future.

Attendees range from representatives from Google and the MacArthur Foundation to various agencies in DC, like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the National Archives, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to public and academic librarians from all sorts of institutions,  and a couple of school librarians.  (I’m thrilled to see a representative from nearby in Texas (San Antonio Public Library) and that Julie Todaro, Pat Smith, And Shaula O’Connor, all Texas librarians, were involved on the planning team.)

We  have been asked to arrive with two words or phrases that we relate to libraries, and to leave with two words or phrases (that perhaps will change over the course of the event.)  I’m one of only a couple of school librarians at the Summit, so I am hoping to get ideas from you as well.  What would be your two words?

We  will be inspired/provoked by four speakers about future trends:

“How to Think Like a Freak” -Stephen Dubner — co-author of Freakanomics
What are Libraries Good For? ”   Joel Garreau — author of Radical Evolution and Nine Nations
“Education in the Future:  Anywhere, Anytime” – Dr. Renu Khator — chancellor of University of Houston
“From an Internet of Things to a Library of things” – Thomas Frey — Executive director of the DaVinci Institute

The Summit organizers also prepared a hefty reading list for participants, which I’m sharing below for those interested in following along.   Recommended-reading-list-for-Summit-with-annotations–FINAL-4-16-14

Some of the readings I’ve already done have been pretty thought-provoking.    In  The Cities We Want (Slate), Witold Rybczynski shares some thought provoking ideas about what Joel Garreau calls the Santa Fe effect (check his articles in the readings list), the desire of Americans to move to more medium sized communities which serve them throughout their aging process.   This movement has been allowed by the ubiquitous nature of technology, since people can live anywhere more easily.  But, the author points out, “ Laptops, personal digital assistants, and cell phones are held to be the tips of a great dispersal iceberg, but the migration of work to the motel room and the home office has been accompanied by a countervailing trend: the need for face-to-face contact. ”   That desire for shared spaces, Danah Boyd reflects in It’s Complicated, is partly what compels teens to use social media more — she posits that their overscheduled lives mean that connecting from home is one of their more feasible options.

All of this speaks directly to libraries and makerspaces as places where human beings can go to connect, and work separately but together and that the human need to gather is still vital to our communities.

Another interesting story that I stumbled upon about how many hotels are incorporating small libraries into their environs made me ponder whether stand-alone library branches are the way to go in terms of library services–and what pop-up libraries might look like out in the community in conveniently used locations.

The Arts Council of England’s Future of Libraries manifesto also provides some interesting trends–again, embedding the library into the community more, and maybe even blending it with other services to the community–their ideas are well worth a good read.  And what do all these ideas mean for school library “future thinking?”  That will be my most immediate focus during the Summit.

I’m looking forward to taking a deep dive into these ideas and more from the speakers and readings — I invite you to take a look at the readings, and I’ll share more of the Summit via Twitter at #libfuturesummit and here once I return home.

Onward to the future….