March 2008

I posted on BlogJunction about the Dangerous Ideas session at PLA, where a panel of “dangerous” thinkers* posed a series of “what if” questions about the future of libraries, and the audience responded with their own “what ifs.” I saved the staff training thoughts for CEBuzz.

  • What if ALL library staff were required to have expertise with technology?
  • What if we learned to embrace mistakes?
  • What if the tech-savvy library staff owned the responsibility for bringing everyone else up to speed?
  • What if all training was based on the premise of our shared passion for library service?
  • What if continuing education was required at a national level?

Are you feeling uncomfortable? Good. Do you have any dangerous ideas lurking in your head? Good. The panel suggested that every library should stage “Unthinkable Thought Days.” Gather, brainstorm, and ask your group these three questions:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

Get into the dangerous mix at

*Panelists: Deirdre Routt/Omaha PL, Stacey Aldrich/California State Library, Brian Auger/Howard County Library, Amy de Groff/Howard County Library, Rivkah Sass/Omaha PL


Trainer-teacher-learners are, in many ways, the hunter-gatherers of our times. We love to find nourishing new pieces of information, transform them into knowledge, and share them with the other members of our global learning tribe. Which, if we are to believe David Weinberger in Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, makes us among the richest people in the world.

“It’s not what you know, and it’s not even who you know. It’s how much knowledge you give away. Hoarding knowledge diminishes your power because it diminishes your presence,” he writes near the end of the book (p. 230). And who among us would argue with that sentiment?

Weinberger’s charm lies in his ability to make us think, initially, about how information is organized or dis-organized, and then to nudge us along a path which makes it more likely that we’ll find more of what we’re seeking and then be willing to share it. He proposes, in the first chapter of his book, that there are three orders of order: physical objects which themselves can be organized (books, for example); physical catalogs and other forms of inventory which help to organize our access to the first-level objects being ordered; and the third order comprised of those things which appear to be in more than one place at a time (digital items which can be accessed online through messy yet effective ordering systems such as user-created tagging).

By the time we reach the final sections of Everything Is Miscellaneous, we’re happily flying high in messiness and miscellany with Weinberger. He reports that network analysts “have found that innovation happens at the intersections” —as we interact with colleagues from other fields of study or with backgrounds much different than our own, we are most likely to have the breakthrough moments in learning and creativity. It is, he suggests, similar to standing at a busy intersection in a city: “at those messy crossroads you’re more likely to get splashed” (pp. 181-182), and this leads to the enviable and disorderly position in which we now find ourselves: “We can make connections and relationships at a pace never before imagined” (p. 221).

We can almost feel the trainer-teacher-learner community growing as we read Weinberger’s words and think of other similar treatises. In Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures, for example, we find a similar world of crossroads and intersections—the Intersection which develops through meetings of dissimilar yet inquisitive minds. And there is even more encouragement to be found in Kevin Kelly’s WIRED magazine article “We Are the Web” (published in August 2005), which suggests that our collective efforts at creating and sharing networks makes us more than a “part” of the Web; it actually makes us the Web as we all contribute to what could be the first real example of artificial intelligence through the digital community we help build every time we create and/or post something on the Internet and make it accessible through tagging/folksonomy.

The truism that knowledge is power, and the selfish corollary that we must hoard rather than share that knowledge, seems to be quickly evolving into the Everything is Miscellaneous and “We Are the Web” world where giving knowledge away is the greatest indicator of wealth. And we couldn’t be more lucky than to be part of it through the CLENE/CE Buzz community.


My learning style is about as visual as they come. Which means I like to load up my PowerPoint presentations and online instruction modules with images. Just yesterday, I spent a lot of time in Google Images and Flickr searching for the just right photo or graphic to illustrate an upcoming presentation. I’m sure you know how tedious it is to scroll down each page of results, click to the next page, scroll down, click, …until eye and mouse fatigue set in.

Now there’s PicLens! It wasn’t until this morning that I found Jenny Levine’s recommendation for this very cool tool. Tedium transforms to levitation. There is a sense of flying past the 3D image wall, hovering over sections, zooming in and out for near and far perspectives—a dragonfly view of the online image world. Using the same Google Image search that I had performed yesterday sans PicLens, pictures that I hadn’t noticed before jumped out at me. I could scroll the length of the few hundred results with fluid ease instead of giving up after 3 or 4 pages. You’ve just got to try it to appreciate the experience.

Downloads are available for Firefox, IE, and Safari. It only works on certain sites like Google Images, Flickr, Facebook. I found it pretty intuitive to use, but tutorials are available just in case.

At SOLINET, we are trying new and funky ways to make sure not only our fellow staff members know what we do, (hitting my co-workers on the head with a club hasn’t helped so far) – but also people we meet out in the field.  We created trading cards to give out – including some fun facts about ourselves but also some relevant information that would be useful to explain what we do and who we are, to people.  What we found was that some fellow staff members weren’t always sure who taught what – and who was responsible for what subject matters.   Hopefully this will be a fun way to get that information across.

If all goes well – meaning the cards have a warm reception by our staff members, we may give some out to attendees at our upcoming SAMM – (SOLINET Annual Membership Meeting).   The cost was quite good, and we even had them printed on post-consumer waste paper to fall in with our green initiatives this year. Just to give you an idea of the cost of the trading cards – we made 40 cards of 6 people each and it cost $70. The size of the cards when printed will be 3.5″ X  2.5″. We are doing a Training Showcase here next Monday (24 March) to promote our newest classes to staff members and each will get one of our cards.

Here is an example of the front of my card:

Trading Card of Max - Front

And the back of my card:

Trading Card of Max - Back
What sorts of interesting promotional things do you do?

If you haven’t ever tried mind mapping tools, you may be surprised at how valuable they are in helping people learn.

My first introduction to the technique was over 20 years ago at a presentation by David Thornburg, author of Unlocking Personal Creativity: A Course in Idea Mapping. In those days we used paper and color pencils to be creative.

One of the exercises I currently use in teaching Effective Time Management for Library Staff online for Infopeople involves mind mapping. The goal of the exercise is to create a life map, i.e. a visual recap of the roles one plays in life. Below is my most recent life map. I designed it using Inspiration software. There is a free 30 day trial download available for both Macintosh and Window users.


Here’s another mind map I also did using Inspiration for one of my courses; I loved having such a wide variety of shapes, colors and graphics. This map recaps a concept from Many Moons by James Thurber—that each of us has a unique perception of what exists. If you missed the book when you were young, be sure to look for it at your local library.


If this quick look didn’t give you enough of a flavor of the technique, I suggest you look at the Mindmapping in 8 Easy Steps tutorial by Joyce Wycoff, author of Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving.

And for those of you willing to try a free web 2.o mind mapping tool, there is Bubbl. Below is a simple example I did as a very simple introduction to Bubbl for my time management course participants.