Education and Time as a Means to Foster Staff Interest

Meredith sent out a call and this is my response. Less philosophy and more nuts and bolts.

At MPOW, we are in the infant stages of using blogging software as a means to inform users of library news, present timely “displays,”” and create subject guides. We are still testing the software, letting it stretch its legs before we make it public, but it took us a very long time to get to this point. The first thing we had to do, and sometimes the hardest, was get some staff buy-in. A really great idea can go no where if your staff does not understand or know what is going on in your library.

Sometimes, you have to start small.

Last summer, I held a workshop entitled, ““It’Â’s All Geek to Me! Wikis, Blogs, RSS, and Aggregators.”” I worked with HR and scheduled it through administration. Going through the proper channels can be helpful and is a way to get support from some staff up front. This workshop was open to all staff, not just librarians, and covered the basics: definitions, popularity, examples, problems, and future directions.

The class had decent attendance, but, most importantly, it got people talking about the possibilities. People who had previously never heard of RSS came up to me days and weeks after the class to tell me that they were using an aggregator to read a few blogs. Not everyone was keen on the new ideas, but I heard more and more people using the words ““blog”” and “wiki” in conversations.

We then had the luck of hiring a new web development librarian who is a technology evangelist and very shortly, we were testing Movable Type. A couple of us were given test blogs to work out some kinks.

A major committee in the library, one who will greatly impact our future, decided to use a blog as its main method of communication and it was requested that I do a couple more classes on blogs to give the library staff more exposure to the technology. It is important to this committee that all library staff be involved in their process and thus it is important that all library staff be at least comfortable reading and commenting in a blog format.

I have the second of those two classes tomorrow. We have had more than double the interest in the two most recent classes as we had in the one last summer. Even more exciting is that more and more departments and librarians are thinking of ways that they can use the library’s new blog software to reach a new and diverse audience or present information in a more dynamic format then ever before. We are still at the start of this project, but I have high hopes that it will grow and become something wonderful and useful.

I think the gradual introduction of blogs helped produce the mostly positive attitude that I see in the library staff today. We also had some honest discussion towards the beginning about the failings of these technologies. We discussed not only what they could do, but also what they can not and some legal issues surrounding the formats.

The second thing that eased blogs into my library was the education factor. We took time to educate staff, answer their questions, and frankly address issues. Never underestimate the power of education and knowledge. As librarians, we know how this applies to students, but we should not forget to apply it to ourselves, our colleagues and our profession.

–Jane, librarian by day, technology evangelist by night