Posts Tagged 'library outreach'

Curiouser and curiouser: Librarianship in Wonderland

I was invited to give a talk to the Education and Outreach librarians at Dartmouth College in honor of the 10 year anniversary of their Education and Outreach Program.  Text and some of the slides from the talk are below:

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Laura asked me to talk today about how librarians need to position themselves in the evolving landscape of higher education. What a great topic — broad enough that I get to be a bit creative, but specific enough that to ensure that I focus.  Best of all, it is an important topic and is an issue I spend considerable time thinking about.  I appreciate the opportunity to try out some ideas about the enduring role of librarians in a rabidly changing world, and see what resonates.

The landscape of higher education is certainly evolving – at what can sometimes feel like a dizzying pace. It seems as if we just got used to the impact of the internet, when along came mobile & cloud computing, the open access movement, big data, and MOOCs.

There have been too many major changes in higher education that have affected libraries and librarians to list them all — but there are certain signals of change that stick with me as watershed moments.
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For example, when Google Books released its mobile app in 2010, we at the Stanford Libraries were pretty happy to see that our 1920 edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was 1 of the 3 sample books that readers received automatically when they downloaded the app. This book was scanned by Google as part of the audacious mass scanning project we embarked on with Google and 4 other libraries back in 2005.  And now this classic piece of literature was available to everyone, for free, to read on their cell phones. In many ways, this milestone represented a real triumph for the classic mission of libraries – providing access to information to as many people as possible. But it also marked another chapter in librarianships’ own adventure into a future that can seem  curiouser and curiouser by the day.

Lately, I find myself sympathetic to Alice’s bewilderment at the wholly unfamiliar antics and abilities of otherwise familiar things — Cheshire cats, talking playing cards tasked with painting rose bushes, and of course, that talking rabbit who’s constantly checking the time.

I also find it rather too easy to relate to Alice’s consternation at her own constantly shifting size in relation to her surroundings.

If we go back just 15 years to the birth of Google itself, it sometimes feels like we’ve been falling quickly down a rabbit hole, where suddenly libraries are bookless, classes don’t require classrooms, and students are running around – White Rabbit-like – reading books on their phones.

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And the role of the librarian in this wonderland of higher education can sometimes seem outsized and radically more important than ever before, while at other times we seem in danger of shrinking from view so dramatically that we may fade from the scene altogether.

Now, I don’t want to imply that librarians are scared little girls overwhelmed by an unfamiliar landscape they don’t understand and can’t control. That is far too gendered for my political tastes, and a far more passive view of librarianship than the one I embrace. But I do think there are some lessons for us (and for our patrons) in how Alice navigates the strange world she finds herself in.

Alice’s experiences are curiouser and curiouser to her, but she herself also becomes curiouser and curiouser throughout the story – trying new things, asking plenty of questions, and maintaining a healthy skepticism when things get especially absurd or unjust.

For most of the story, Alice is actually directing much of her own adventure and controlling her own size by choosing when and what to eat and drink and by learning through trial and error what works – a drink of potion to shrink, a bite of cake to grow, and a bit of both sides of the mushroom to get to just the right size.

Alice asks for help from others she encounters on her adventure, willing to learn from a talking mouse and a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

She gamely joins the Queen’s croquet match—even though it features flamingos for mallets, live hedgehogs for balls, and doubled-over soldiers as wickets.

Alice more than holds her own throughout the adventure.  Even in this strange world she shows the courage to call things as she sees them—declaring the mad-hatters tea party “the stupidest tea-party ever”, and standing up to a Queen intent of chopping off heads for any reason at all.

Like Alice, I believe that librarians are more than capable of navigating this new and changing and sometimes unfamiliar landscape; and that we can and do figure out how to be the right size depending on the context and the task at hand. We do this by embracing the adventure and by remaining curious.

And by curious I mean to invoke both senses of the word – curious as in eager to learn, and curious as in unusual or unexpected.

Before I go too far down the rabbit hole with this analogy, let me just make my point as plainly as I can:

In the evolving landscape of higher education, I believe the enduring mission and role of librarians is to remain curious and to inspire and facilitate curiosity in others.

I will freely admit that this is hardly an original thought. Those of you who read library blogs might be familiar with a blogger who goes by the pseudonym, the Library Loon. The Loon teaches in an MLS program, and in a recent blog post titled “The one skill”, she declares curiosity and the ability to satisfy that curiosity as the essential skill that all information professionals ought to possess.

More specifically, she talks of actionable curiosity in the face of novelty – that combination of desire and ability to respond to new things and to changes in the landscape with an open and teachable attitude.

Not unlike Alice’s attitude as she wandered through Wonderland, talking to animals, having tea with rabbits, gamely trying to solve unsolvable riddles, and playing croquet with playing cards.

I love this direct privileging of curiosity as the essential trait for librarianship.  The context of our work both within libraries and within higher education has changed dramatically over just the last 15-20 years, and the pace of change shows no signs of slowing down. It is hard to argue that the one enduring skill that will serve librarians well in the face of constant change is an eagerness to learn.

And, I want to take it a bit further, and suggest that for librarians who work directly with patrons, especially with students, it is not enough to possess this trait ourselves – I think it is our calling and perhaps our unique duty to model intellectual curiosity and to actively seek to pass it on to the students we encounter.

This emphasis on curiosity matches well the philosophy that guides much of what we do at Stanford – when asked in an interview for the Discovery Channel’s Curiosity project to define a Great Library, my boss, University Librarian Michael Keller noted that a great library is not necessarily one with a great big collection, but is one that stimulates curiosity and inspires the imagination.  Each library, he says is an opening point to a vast literature which is (hopefully) available somewhere. It is the librarian’s duty to open the doors to that vast world of information for those who seek it.  It is also our privilege to inspire in others the desire to seek and explore the world of resources provided by the vast network of libraries across the globe.

Let me pause here and acknowledgement that this whole talk may be an exercise in preaching to the choir.

Obviously, the importance of intellectual curiosity is already part of your culture here at Dartmouth – I love the fact that your website declares that the library is where intellectual curiosity is rewarded. And I love that part of your library vision statement is to inspire personal transformation.

Although Dartmouth and the library here are undoubtedly special, you are not unique in a focus on the importance of intellectual curiosity.  Many selective schools, like Dartmouth and Stanford, look for signs of intellectual curiosity during the admissions process. Many more include promoting intellectual curiosity as one of their goals – usually alongside other grand overarching and  transformative goals such as encouraging open-mindedness & an appreciate for diversity, fostering critical thinking skills, and developing the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively.

The bad news part of this story is that there is plenty of research suggesting that colleges are actually not doing a very good job at accomplishing any of these goals.  In the 2011 book Academically Adrift, the authors present fairly compelling evidence that most students show little to no gain in critical thinking, complex reasoning or written communication skills during college. Former Harvard President Derek Bok made similar claims in his 2007 book Our Underachieving Colleges, and again in his newest book Higher Education in America.  Although he doesn’t specifically address curiosity, Bok notes that undergraduates are not learning as much as most people think they are, and that students are making only modest progress in acquiring the key intellectual skills of critical thinking, writing, and analysis of problems.

Moreover, most students approach college as a primarily social rather than academic experience; while many of their parents and much of the American public see college as primarily serving a more narrow credentialing or job training function, rather than an expansive intellectual one. Increasingly, what students want from their undergraduate experience is marketable skills and the credentials they need to secure a decent job in today’s economy. And who can blame them?

So, in some ways, attempting to inspire intellectual curiosity in our students might seem like a fool’s errand. They aren’t really looking to be inspired; perhaps especially by librarians of all people; and even when we try, the likelihood that we would truly spark the intellectual imagination of any given student is pretty low.

Maybe I’m an idealist (actually, there’s no maybe about it, I am on record as a hopeless idealist), but I‘m arguing that we should do it anyway. We all know that it does actually work sometimes.  Many of us can perhaps point to a particularly compelling past experience with a library or librarian as part of what inspired us to careers in librarianship.  And I’m pretty confident that we all have at least one story from a student who was truly inspired by their encounter with a librarian.

I suspect I’m not the only one who prints out and keeps emails from students like this one:

I especially want to thank you for introducing me to the wonders of the library. Seriously, I never realized ever in my life how satisfying and fun it could be to do research. I would look for one book and end up coming out with five every time I went to the library. Thanks for helping me develop the skills I need for research in the future.

I don’t really believe it is a fool’s errand to seek to inspire intellectual curiosity and excitement about learning in our students. I do believe it is hard, and I suspect we succeed less often than we want to, but more often than we know.

So how do we do that? How do we inspire and facilitate curiosity in our education and outreach efforts with students?

First, I think we need to nurture and cultivate and indulge our own curiosity. And of course, that is one of the things that I love about librarians – they are some of the most curious people I know. But/and, like the Library Loon says, we have to be willing to enact that curiosity in the face of new and novel ideas and technologies. Like Alice, we need to react to a world that will continue to become curiouser and curiouser with the spirit of an adventurer.

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It might be a good time to point out that Alice willingly followed the rabbit down the hole because she was getting restless sitting on the bank with her sister. She tried reading over her sister’s shoulder but found a plain old print book to be a bit boring. She imagined that a book that was more than just words on pages might be more engaging.  Then she sees a talking rabbit with a pocket-watch, and she follows after him with “a burning curiosity”.

I think some of the best things librarians can do for the profession and for our patrons is to stay a bit restless, to imagine new modes of conveying information, and to pursue new ideas, new technologies, new ways of teaching, and new forms of scholarship with a “burning curiosity”.  I’m not suggesting we follow every new trend in higher education blindly – for me, curiosity is most effective when tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism. An eagerness to learn about something new doesn’t have to imply an eagerness to adopt it.

So the first step in inspiring curiosity is to stay curious ourselves.

The second step is to be explicit about communicating to students how much fun research and learning can be.  I’d like to encourage us to be unabashedly enthusiastic about what we do and about the joy and delight that often accompanies the pursuit of an intellectual question.  Many of today’s students may not want to hear it; some of them may think we’re crazy or giant nerds or both; but some of them will be inspired.  Teach to them. Focus on those students – the ones open to inspiration. And realize that we can’t know ahead of time which students will be the ones.  Show all of them through your own honest enthusiasm how exhilarating it can be to start with an idea or a question and to develop strategies to discover and evaluate information pertinent to that question.  Demonstrate curiosity.  When a student asks a tough reference question; or even one of those impossible ones where they believe in the existence of some data or resource that we know doesn’t exist, respond with “Well that’s an interesting question – tell me more about why you’re curious about that?”

A few months ago, my colleague Kelly Miller at UCLA shared with me a handwritten thank you note she received this June from a graduating senior who wrote “you were the first person to show a real interest in my research question and you made me believe it was important.”  Again, I know it doesn’t happen often (especially the handwritten note part!), but we can and do inspire students to indulge their curiosity. And I believe that the more explicitly we make that our intent, the more often it will happen.

So, to wrap it up – how should librarians position themselves in the evolving landscape of higher education? My own curious dream is that we position ourselves as champions of curiosity.
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Library jobs for 1st Generation college kids

I’ve been able to do lots of cool things in my career with the Stanford Libraries, but we started something today that may well end up being the thing I will always be most proud of. We created a program to give paid summer internships to local aspiring first generation college kids. We partnered with Eastside College Preparatory School to identify graduating seniors (and one rising junior) who were interesting in working for the Stanford Libraries this summer.

Our goal for the program is to provide paid job opportunities for local students from groups and communities who are historically underrepresented in higher education, especially low-income and/or aspiring first generation college students. Our vision is that by doing so we will contribute to their future success as students, and we will inspire in them a love of libraries. I think the key elements of our program are that the jobs pay a decent wage, and that we are not specifically focused on aspiring librarians. We think that spending the summer working in a university library will give them an advantage when they start college in the fall, and we hope it will inspire in them a lifelong love of libraries; but we don’t expect to create future librarians (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For me, it was also important that we target the summer between high school graduation and college. That transition summer is a difficult one for many kids, but it is an especially important and potentially vulnerable time for first generation college kids.

Stanford Libraries 1st Gen Interns

Our first cohort of interns. The one with mad hops? Going to Duke, of course.


Our first cohort of interns includes 6 recent Eastside graduates, all of whom will be the first in their families to attend college in the fall, and 1 rising junior. The recent graduates will be heading off to great schools in the fall: Stanford, Duke University (Go Blue Devils!), Emory University, St. Mary’s University (Indiana), and UC Riverside. In addition to providing these students with paid summer jobs in the libraries, our program will include enrichment activities designed to increase the interns’ awareness about key sources of support available at their future college. Activities will include tours of campus, multi-media workshops, guest speakers, and an introduction to using a college library.

All the credit for pulling this off and doing all the real work goes to the incredible Felicia Smith. Inspiration for the program comes from my amazing wife, whose work with at-risk youth in San Jose got me thinking about how I might be able to leverage the resources of Stanford Libraries to make a difference for a few local kids.

I’m funding this with salary saving this year, but will hope to get real funding for it moving forward. Wish us luck!

Awesome Library Website, Part 5: Continued improvement

Launching our awesome new library website 3 months ago was a huge milestone, which I have bragged about extensively.  But that certainly was not the end of the redesign project. I think it is safe to say that a decent website is never really “done”; and an awesome site like ours remains awesome through constant attention, improvement, and evolution.

In September, we* responded to early feedback about the need to increase the visibility of key content by highlighting ejournals and by using Top Hits and keywords to boost selected key content in the search results. We also improved the content creation process for library staff, and responded to over 200 feedback emails from patrons and staff. Consistent with our committment to transparency in every aspect of this project, we published a detailed list of our September accomplishments on our blog.

Screen shot of Integrated chat icons for reference and subject librarians

Integrated chat icons for reference and subject librarians

In October, we integrated the LibraryH3lp chat tool throughout the site, added an Events stream, created a staff directory page based on an automated feed from the Stanford directory, continued to improve the content creation experience, and formed a Web Steering Committee. Whew — busy month! Again, all of this is detailed on our blog.

Our branch libraries continue to work on moving their individual branch site content into the new environment (kudos to our Music Library for being the first branch to complete the transition) and subject specialists continue to create Topic and Course guides. In the coming months, our plans include enhancing our collections, research services, department, and news pages; continuing to migrate legacy content; and exploring mobile options.

* Note that by “we”, I mean the Rock Star team that has made all of this awesomeness happen; with special props to Stu Snydman, Jennifer Vine, Sarah Lester, Ray Heigemeir, Jon Lavigne, and the team at Chapter 3.

Stanford beats Oregon, Library gets twitter attention

The Stanford football team beat then #2 ranked Oregon this weekend, and once again the library got plenty of attention on twitter:

Tweet from @JasonKleinman

Tweet from @JasonKleinman

Tweet from @WatchThisTrick

Tweet from @WatchThisTrick

Tweet from @fidoz

Tweet from @fidoz

The library tweets during Stanford football games are becoming so ubiquitious that I may need to make this into a weekly blog post during football season. Wonder if it will continue during hoops season, or if there is something special about the seeming juxtaposition of football and libraries/academic excellence?

How to throw an awesome work retreat

We took our leadership team to Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center for a 2 night retreat recently. Our overarching goal was to develop a shared understand of how we define ourselves as an organization; especially in the context of the changing landscape of higher education. The retreat was quite simply awesome. We have already gotten tons of feedback (solicited and unsolicited) indicating that the retreat was inspiring, fun, and “the best retreat ever!”. My own impression is that it was all of that … and productive to boot!

So how did we pull it off? What are the key ingredients? I suspect that the 2 most important ingredients are a good location and awesome staff. I’m convinced that a location that incorporates natural beauty in a casual setting is most effective. I just think we are more creative, more open-minded, and more collegial when we’re wearing jeans and walking on the beach together (or watching the Giants win 2 games on their way to a World Series championship in the small coffee shop that is home to the only TV). And I simply can’t say enough good things about our staff — we have really smart people who care deeply about the future of libraries and of higher education. To a person, they were fully engaged in this retreat — taking the exercises seriously, and making a point of connecting with colleagues they don’t usually interact with.

Looking at our agenda and how we organized things, a few things stand out:

  1. For the formal parts of the retreat, we had people sitting at tables of 7-8. We were very careful in setting up the table groups to make sure that the groups represented a good mix of units, but also that no one was at a table with their boss.
  2. We limited the amount of time spent passively listening to presentations and maximized active participation and discussion.
  3. The group activities that we used were fun, were open-ended, and were meaningful and realistic (at least for us).
  4. Even the first night ice-breaker question (“What is your best Halloween memory?”) worked well, as we all learned about a colleague’s clown pajama costume and another colleague’s “underwear on the outside” party.

My favorite group activities were:

  1. “The library just received a $5 million increase in our budget. What would you do with the new funding? Put together a proposal.”
  2. “Come up with a marketing and outreach campaign for the library, complete with slogans,logos, etc.”

Both these exercises capitalized on the amazing creativity of our staff, and helped us clarify our vision as an organization.

Notes from brainstorming

Brainstorming at Table X

Our challenge now is to keep the excitement, the relationships, and the ideas that were generated at the retreat alive and to spread them to the rest of the organization.

More Library as Icon: Sports edition

Keith Price is getting hit harder than the library during finals week in Palo Alto. #Stanford — From @DylanScottLTD on Twitter

I wrote earlier about how I love it when it becomes clear that the library is an icon on campus and is a central part of the Stanford experience. What I neglected to address is how often “the library” gets invoked (often sarcastically) during sporting events. As the Stanford football team has risen to prominence in the last few years (GO CARDINAL!), there seems to have been a corresponding increase in the number of times the library gets mentioned in social media and on sports radio and TV. Apparently one of the announcers made a crack about Stanford students “storming the library” after we beat USC earlier this season.

Stanford students at football game

Stanford students at football game, from flickr user aefitzhugh. Captioned: “It is only a matter of minutes before they learn that studying in the library might be more exciting.”


I love that “the library” gets invoked as a kind of short-hand way to stereotype Stanford kids as geeks. The combination of an excellent academic reputation and a top-notch Division I football team is rare enough in higher education (I should know) that the fact that Stanford kids “are smart” or “have high SAT scores” gets mentioned pretty regularly when Stanford teams compete on the national stage. And often enough, “the library” is part of that conversation. I do know that my twitter search for mentions of “Stanford and library” turns up all kinds of gems during football season:

Stanford if you dont at least cover the spread Ill burn your library down Jack Black style #YouBetterNotYouBetterNot From @FeldyMaizeNBlue on Twitter

My all-time favorite Stanford sports & Library connection, though, comes from Stanford basketball stand-out and current assistant coach, Kate Paye:

“I’d probably work in the Stanford Library if they’d let me.”

Dear Kate: If you are reading this, please contact me — I’m sure we could find something for you!

Awesome Library Website, Part 4: Reviews are in!

If you are tired of hearing me brag about our Awesome Library Website, here is a sampling of what others are saying:

Lorcan Dempsey of OCLC does a fantastic job of describing 2 main goals of our site:

  1. Highlighting Library space as a service
  2. Providing “full library discovery

Thanks for the excellent and insightful review, Lorcan!

We have also been getting plenty of feedback via our Feedback link/email:

  • Kudos to the team. This is an enormous project and your dedication and diligence has produced a vastly superior site that all of us can be proud of and on which our patrons can find what they need.
  • New site looks great!
  • Subject: The new website… Tell us: …is great!
  • I think my first favorite feature of the new site is the single search box, and its common-sense display of results from a variety of sources.  Because I’m vain, I just searched some words from the title of my one-and-only academic publication, and loved seeing SearchWorks results alongside site-search results (from my Person page).  I can imagine an actual patron doing this with an actual search, and stumbling upon an actual subject specialist with common research interests.  Very cool!
  • I like it, although I haven’t put it to too much use yet. I look forward to becoming more familiar with its features.
  • i love your site
  • I actually love a lot about your site – kudos!

From Twitter:

  • @calfano27: Congrats to all who put together the awesome new Stanford libraries website :) Super shiny
  • @pantheon_drupal: That’s one fine lookin’ library site! Congratz to @chapter_three and SULAIR on an amazing launch – http://t.co/z0cwHMze
  • @miriamkp: Nice. Nothing extraneous. RT @StanfordLibs: Our new website is live today — check it out and send your feedback: http://t.co/3pGP2Uv8
  • @erikoomen: checking the new Stanford Universitiy Library website http://t.co/7EtqSk92 #nicework #goodpractice
  • @ccthompson: I love the Stanford University website. happily taking notes on the user interface! ‪http://library.stanford.edu
  • Plus loads of tweets and Re-Tweets linking to the new homepage and/or to specific pages within the new site, including tweets in Japanese, French, and Spanish.

From Facebook:

Here’s one of my favorite new links from the new website: Places to study – http://library.stanford.edu/using/study Brilliant idea to include this!

Awesome new library website, Part 2: The multiple stakeholders challenge

One of the biggest challenges of a library website project (maybe any website project) seems to be figuring out what gets top billing. Top billing in this sense usually means front page.
Our library website has many different types of users and a seemingly endless number of stakeholders. One of the best and most common ways to account for multiple users/stakeholders is to develop personas, which we did early on in the project.

Developing the right personas is only half the battle, though. The real challenge is figuring out how to balance their sometimes conflicting needs. There is simply not enough room on a website (at least not on a well-designed one) to put all your users’ main needs on the front page.

Stanford University Libraries website

Screen shot of ribbon, with Collections panel highlighted

One really clever and elegant way our awesome design team came up with to meet this challenge is the central ribbon on our new site. Clicking on any of the central ribbon items does not take you away from the homepage – it simply changes the content on the bottom half of the homepage. It basically allows us to have multiple views of our homepage — 5 different views without scrolling, but we can add as many panels as we want after the scroll. I love it.

Of course, the real test will come once we go live and start to get actual user behavior and feedback, but I’m feeling very confident that our folks came up with a really smart solution to an often vexing web design challenge.

Our awesome new library website, Part 1

Screen shot of new site: August 21, 2012

There is so much awesome in our new library website, that I know it will take more than one blog post to talk about them all; so consider this installment 1.

We will be officially launching our new site next week, although it has been live as a “preview” for many months now. The official launch basically consists of redirecting almost all traffic from our old/current site to our new site (see the difference in awesomeness?).

First, all credit goes to the rock stars who made this all happen:

Libraries redesign websites all the time, so what’s so special about ours? Here is a quick run-down of awesome — off the top of my head and in no particular order:

  • Integrated search results from SearchWorks (our catalog), selected databases, and the website.  Some of my current favorite examples are: Herbert Matter, Feminist Studies, and Lost Books.
  • It has been based on massive amounts of user testing and feedback from the very beginning, and throughout the redesign process
  • We started out with some pretty straight-forward goals, and referred back to them throughout the project.
  • Although it is a top-down redesign, focused first on the homepage and lots of top-level content, we will eventually have over 100 staff members creating content and pages on the site. The end result is a delicate balance between standardized design and distributed authorship.
  • We tried from the start to place as much (or more) emphasis on content as we did on the technology. To that end, we are developing an extensive Content Creation Guide, covering topics such as writing for the web, providing image attribution information, capitalization of library names, and how to fill out your People Page.
  • Much of our progress and guidelines for web authors has been posted publicly on our Library Website Redesign Blog. We also have developed an internal Training for the Library Website site within CourseWork (Stanford’s course management system).

Bottom line, when asked to describe what is newsworthy about our site redesign, my off-the-cuff response was “Teaching, learning and research at Stanford will be easier now because our website rocks.”

Stay tuned for future posts about specific features of the site, including our Places to Study database, People Pages, Guides, Collections, and more.

Library Concierge Project: Session 1

Our Library Concierge Project is now in full swing, and we have completed our first training session(s).

Despite some concerns about the appropriateness of the term Concierge, we stuck with that name for a couple of reasons– first, staff were already using the term; and second, no alternate term emerged as a clear front-runner (insert Republican primary joke here). So, the project is officially known as the Library Concierge Project (LCP).

We decided to set up a Library Concierge Project site in CourseWork, Stanford’s primary course management system (based on Sakai). I really wish I could give public viewing rights to the project site, but all of CourseWork requires Stanford authentication.

Key elements of the project and the project site are:

  • Sign ups: Over 250 staff members (about 65% of our total staff — everyone from Subject Specialists to catalogers to mailroom clerks to system administrators to …. you get the picture) have joined the site and are participating in the project. That figure alone is pretty exciting to me. Yes, we have made a big push among staff and managers about how important this is, and how valuable it will be; but I’m still extremely pleased that such a large number of our staff are participating in something that is not explicitly required. We are running at least 3 sessions for every training topic, with max enrollment at each session capped at 50 (so that we can use our own instruction room, and to maintain the possibility of interactive sessions). The Sign up tool allows us to require folks to sign up for one of the sessions and ensure we don’t exceed the Fire Marshall’s posted room capacity limits.
  • Course Materials: For each session, we can add supplemental materials and presentation slides. For example, the next topic is Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues, so we have already linked to the 2011 Charleston Conference “long Arm of the Law” presentations. We are posting all presentation materials on the site after the sessions as well; so we will are building up a nice repository of materials. Future new staff will be able to go back and review old session materials when they arrive.
  • Session Videos: We are committed to filming every topic and streaming the video on our project site. I want to share as much as I can about this project with a very wide audience, so despite the fact that I hate how I look and sound on video, here is an 8-minute clip I uploaded to YouTube of me introducing the Concierge Project and our goals. Unfortunately, I am the only 1 mic’ed up, so there are moments where I nod along knowingly to answers and comments you can’t hear. At the end of the clip, the camera guy’s cell phone rang — which was ironic given how important he told me it was that I take my iPhone out of my pocket during the presentation.
  • Chat Room: We used the Chat Room to provide a backchannel for online discussion and questions during the sessions. Any questions or comments in the Chat Room that don’t get addressed during the session are answered later in the Forums.  For Session 1, the Chat Room was pretty active with a great mix of comments, questions, and answers — it was a great way to have people talking to each other (which is one of the implicit goals of the project).
  • Forums: We are hoping that the Forums will turn into a rich source of conversation and peer learning in between the monthly sessions. We already have over 70 messages in the Forums, so we seem to be off to a decent start.

Because we are using CourseWork so extensively for the project, and because CourseWork support is part of Academic Computing Services, with is part of SULAIR (the acronym for our full organization: Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources); we included an overview of CourseWork in our introductory session. Future topics are likely to include:

  • Copyright, Intellectual Property and Licensing Issues for Libraries
  • Numeric and Spatial Data support
  • Digital Humanities Support
  • Special and regular collection development
  • Multi-media and other technology support
  • All about e-books
  • Digitization programs (Google, HathiTrust, plus our in-house programs/projects)
  • Instruction and reference
  • All about Technical Services

We are actively soliciting topic suggestions from our staff, and expect the list of topics to keep us busy with this for some time to come.

Responses to the project from our staff have been primarily positive, with suggestions for additional topics and requests for examples of good Concierge moments. One staff member asked me if we could keep a public tally of Concierge moments — my response so far is to post them in the Forums for all to see and celebrate. We may also start a Concierge of the Month award of some sort. It really is quite satisfying to be working on a project that is generating such interest and feedback from staff; and which I firmly believe will ultimately benefit our patrons.
So, please wish us continued luck, and stay tuned for more news as the project rolls along.


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