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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > March 2010

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Vol. 30 No. 2 — March 2010
FEATURE
LIBRARY 101: Why, How, and Lessons Learned
by Michael Porter and David Lee King

Library 101 Project
CIL is a proud sponsor of the Library 101 project.

Our main goal was to start and hold discussions on the future of libraries via the Library 101 Project, using several social media tools mentioned in the ‘101 Resources and Things to Know’ list.

Have library basics changed? With the advent of technology, Michael Porter (communications manager at WebJunction.org) and David Lee King (digital branch and services manager at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library) sing out, yes! In fact, in the summer of 2009, Michael and David started working on a multifaceted project—the Library 101 Project (found at www.libraryman.com/library101).

What is Library 101? It is a project that challenges librarians to revise the paradigm of “basic” library services in order to remain relevant in our technology-driven world. The Library 101 Project has four parts, listed here:

1. A light-hearted music video (right) that points to the project website and focuses on the evolution and future of libraries (more than 200 library staff members from around the world make appearances in the video)

2. Twenty-three essays solicited from library “thought” leaders, focused on librarian skill sets

3. The “101 Resources and Things to Know” (RTK for short) essay (included is a list of 101 hyperlinked resources that are must-reads for library professionals)

4. A Library 101 Facebook page, complete with Facebook’s array of wall comments and discussions

The Goals of Library 101

The goal of the Library 101 Project was to start discussions with librarians and library staff about the future of libraries. At its core, the Library 101 Project asks, “What do we do now that’s great, and what do we need to change in order to remain relevant, vibrant, and indispensable?”

On a personal level, we were able to try a variety of new technologies, tools, and marketing techniques for the project. We also loved working in and with libraries and strongly felt (and still feel) that libraries need to think about the future—the local library’s organizational future and the rapidly changing future of the profession. There are certainly individuals thinking along these lines, but our goal was to see if we could successfully start a larger discussion on this topic.

Making It Happen

We employed social networking tools from the start. This even included the song we wrote for the video. For example, we used Google Docs to send lyric ideas back and forth. We also sent ideas for the melody line of the song to each other by creating audio and video clips; we then uploaded those and emailed links to the clips (if you’re curious, you can check out an early incarnation of the song here at http://davidleeking.blip.tv/file/2150485).

After a lot of back-end prep work (i.e., making custom reusable backdrops, buying costumes and set pieces, scouting locations, and purchasing and learning new hardware and software for video production), Michael flew to Topeka, Kan., and we spent 2 days recording the song and shooting video.

Next, Michael edited the video, and David edited and mixed the song. At the same time, we asked colleagues to write essays about the future of libraries. We asked, “Can you write a short essay about the new basic skills that you think librarians need to have now and in the near future, in order to succeed?”

We knew that using a variety of online tools to get the word out about the project would be crucial to its success. We posted information about the project on our personal blogs and solicited participants there. We used Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed to send out messages to our “followers” about the project. We experimented with ads on Facebook—we were curious about how Facebook treats privacy when customizing ads and when returning reporting data. We also worked with an outside web designer to build the website.

The official launch of Library 101 took place during the Internet Librarian 2009 conference in a session on creating video for libraries. Before the session, we blogged and tweeted about it. We also passed out Library 101 buttons, with the goal of building awareness and participation for the project. During the actual session, attendees blogged and tweeted about it and took photos and uploaded them to Flickr. In addition, the program was live streamed via Ustream.tv.

What Worked (and What Didn’t)

Our marketing efforts really paid off. To date, the Library 101 website has been viewed more than 50,000 times; more than 18,000 people have watched the video; and almost 4,000 people are fans of our Facebook page. Most importantly, many people have read and commented on the 23 essays, either in the essay comment boxes or on their own blogs. To date, the Library 101 Project has been discussed on more than 130 blog posts (including BoingBoing.net, which is No. 8 in Technorati’s Top 100 blogs list).

So we did achieve our main goal: to start and hold discussions on the future of libraries via the Library 101 Project, using several social media tools mentioned in the 101 things RTK list.

What didn’t work? The video was a little too long. Frankly, 7 minutes of video showing two middle-aged dudes randomly goofing off was just a bit much for some. Also, the style of the song (a bit on the garage-rock side), while pleasing to many ears, was simply not to everyone’s taste. It’s apparently a love-it or hate-it video, which surprised us (though many of these reactions came through social media tools, providing feedback we simply wouldn’t have had in the past).

Also, while the comments on the essay posts are important, it’s possible that comment boxes aren’t the best place to hold extended discussions on the future of libraries. We are rethinking that for our next project.

Some readers objected to the 101 Resources and Things to Know links. They felt like we focused primarily on technology and not on more traditional librarian skills. And they are absolutely correct! We both admit, even in the essay, that our focus is very technology-oriented. We’d love to see lists of nontechnological things librarians need to know in order to survive and thrive in the future!

Lessons Learned From Library 101

We learned quite a bit from this experience. Here are some things we can pass along:

  • Start with a clear vision. Any good, doable project starts with a clearly defined vision.

  • Follow up with a plan—an outline of the work to be done, and who’s going to do it.

  • Set a budget!

  • Make your video short. Most YouTube videos are 1–3 minutes long. Ours was 7 minutes long—oops!

  • Storyboard the video. This can speed up the video shoot since you will have an outline.

  • Get a backbone. There will be people who don’t “get” your project or who do get it but simply don’t like it. Realize that’s OK, and focus on the people who do get it.

  • Work on your 1-minute elevator pitch. If you make a splash, you will be asked to write about your project. The BoingBoing.net blurb and this article are both examples of this.

  • Ask for volunteers! It’s OK to ask other librarians for input and help. Sometimes, as with our project, more people (more than 500 in our case) can really add to a project.

 It’s difficult to express in a short article exactly how much thought, time, and effort go into this type of project. In most ways, it’s similar to the work we do every day in libraries. It’s not making anyone rich. And while it is a job, in many ways, it is also a labor of love. We didn’t get everything perfect, but we achieved most of our goals without a doubt.

Did we have fun making and sharing the Library 101 Project? Most definitely. Was it a massive amount of hard work? Yep. Did we learn something through this experience? Absolutely. Will we make another video project? You bet! In fact, we already have some video and will be working on it later this year.

Will it have social media at its heart, even more than the Library 101 Project? Well, it simply won’t succeed without it. So stay tuned!


Michael Porter is a librarian, tech geek, author, and presenter who is currently working as the communications manager at WebJunction.org (www.webjunction.org) in Seattle. You can read more (and learn about his PEZ collection) on the Libraryman blog at www.libraryman.com.

David Lee King
is the digital branch and services manager at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends. He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media. He has been published in many library-related journals. David maintains a blog at www.davidleeking.com.
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