Supporting Transliteracy (Part 2)

Below is the second half of my presentation at ALA 2011 called “Working Toward Transliteracy“. It was a great panel filled with wonderful presenters and I am honored to have had the opportunity to share the stage with such a great group.

Providing venues to create community and share success

How do we cultivate this concept of continued growth and learning within our community and organization?

Providing venues to create community and share success are important tools in moving beyond the idea of just taking a class. We want to foster the idea of the library as a partner in continued lifelong learning.

We are still early in the process of our project, but here are a few ideas that I have been tossing around for the future of our Public Computer Centers.

30 Days of Creativity is a really interesting project that I think libraries should emulate in their own communities. The 30 Days of Creativity site says this about the project: “30 Days of Creativity is a social initiative encouraging people to create stuff (anything) every day for 30 days in June.”

This project asked people to take a pledge to create everyday for a month, but it also created an online community by making sharing and seeing the creations of others easy. They did this through their website, a hashtag, etc. There was also calendar of idea starters to get the creative juices flowing.

I would love to see libraries fostering this idea within their communities. What if libraries hosted 30 Days of Learning?

You could have users share the things they have learned (created): the flyer for their business they made in a computer class, a scarf they made in a knitting class, or a blog post about what they learned in a recent lecture series.

You can also include users that are learning through library resources other than traditional classes.What about people that are checking out books that give them new skills or taking online trainings through a library subscription?

Make this sharing easy for the user by allowing people to share through posting to twitter with a hashtag, posting to a facebook group, and even allowing people to email submissions. This allows people to show off what they have done while also creating an online culture and community around learning and creating.

Ideally, this will allow people to create an online portfolio of learning while also highlighting libraries as learning and creation partners: fostering advocacy and attracting new users.

Also think about finding a way to bring this display and community into the physical space of the library as well. Maybe it is something as simple as a bulletin board or even a monitor that just runs a slideshow of the items shared.

826 National is another organization doing great work and creating a wonderful community of learning.

It is a tutoring, writing, and publishing organization that pairs professional writers with students in fun tutoring centers all over the US. Dave Eggers had a TED wish talk about this a few years back, so you may know it from that.

One of the things that is so great about these centers is the value of having real working professionals providing the assistance and support.

Additionally, they are incredibly skilled at making learning fun. Their tutoring centers all have storefronts that are just great, such as a pirate supply, superhero supply, or time travel gear store, for example.

I suggest you spend some time on their site learning about some of the ways they approach learning and see how you can bring those ideas into your libraries.

Take their idea and pair skilled professionals from outside the library to facilitate open studio and lab times, both for tech and other skills. This could be a great partnership with other organizations. Maybe you can get the local newspaper to bring in writers, photographers, etc. Also, you could bring in interested individuals from the community such as local graphic designers or even the skaters in your town can teach a video class. Then work with these individuals to set up open lab times for people to come into the lab to work on projects that need more assistance with or want to practice newly learned skills.

Or you can set up Tech Office Hours, like Victoria Petersen at the Mancos Library in Colorado. These are one-one-one computer, software, and Internet training sessions and Victoria has done everything from help people create a website for their business to help someone set up their online dating profile.

Foster all types of learning to help people see the library as the place to gain new skills. Have study labs for those trainings that your library provides that are not specifically computer and digital literacy related.

At the library I used to manage, I ran an artist’s book series where we gave presentations about certain artists books and taught different techniques once a month. We also had open studio time where you could bring in your artists book project and work on it with other artists and students from the area. What if you partnered with the local arts organization to have a members come to some of these to lend their knowledge and expertise?

So, those were a few thoughts and ideas, but I am sure you have great ideas for ways to foster learning in your community and organization. I would love to hear all your great ideas, so feel free to share in the comments.

Supporting Transliteracy (Part 1)


Below is the first half of my presentation at ALA 2011 called “Working Toward Transliteracy“. It was a great panel filled with wonderful presenters and I am honored to have had the opportunity to share the stage with such a great group.

Supporting people through the difficulty of the change cycle

Transliteracy is great, right? So many ways to learn, so much information at our fingertips and it is available in so many formats. For information junkies this is wonderful.

But it is not so great for everyone. For many, it is overwhelming and more than a little frightening.

My Uncle recently passed away, so my dad fly down to Louisiana recently to be with family and got a rental car.
This car had all the newest features, but my dad had a lot going on and all he needed was to get where he was going and have a little peace getting there.

My dad is by no means digitally illiterate, in fact he is pretty high functioning as far as tech things go, but this car had so many bells and whistles it was just overwhelming. This little voice kept talking about all sorts of things and trying to tell him how to get around Cajun county, something he knows all too well.

Needless to say, the experience with that car was not a good one. It overwhelmed him and confused him in a time when he needed to feel secure. My dad was dealing with change, grief, and a tool in an environment that made him uneasy.

Unfortunately, this is the story for many people that libraries help with their transliteracy needs, such as learning to use specific software, trying to find information online, or even just learning to use a computer. We often get those individuals that are going through transformational periods in their lives like the loss of a job, medical issues, etc. Add to that the natural change cycle and fear that occurs in people related to our ever changing world and you can see that learning to be transliterate is pretty daunting for many.

This is hard for people.

Our role is not only to offer the classes, the tutoring, and the technical expertise. Our role is also about supporting people during the ongoing process of change and learning that is imperative to success today. This goes not only for our users, but also for our staff and community partners.

How do you help support people through the difficulty of the change cycle?

Here are a few thoughts from the train the tech trainer series we are working on in Colorado for the Public Computer Centers Project. Keep in mind that these are valid both in a classroom setting and also for one-on-one interactions.

  • Be friendly, smile, etc: This is the first step in building rapport and connection.
  • Have a sense of humor: It is hard to be stressed when you are smiling and laughing.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: This reassures people that perfection is not required and we are all just human.
  • Be patient: Give people the time and space they need. Build buy-in until moving to the next step and take time where needed.
  • Be on another’s agenda: Be aware and observant of your user. Practice active listening. Understanding where they are coming from emotionally and what they may be feeling.
  • Recognize the skills of others: Just because someone isn’t adept with technology doesn’t mean they’re incompetent in other areas of life; treat people with respect and acknowledge them and their strengths. for example, when working on a resume with someone that lacks computer skills comment on other valuable skills they have.
  • Be open to the knowledge of others: Don’t be threatened by people who know more than you do. We are all learning from one another and no one knows everything.
  • Understand Fears: People are afraid to look foolish or dumb. Reassure that the process of change is unsteady ground for everyone and they are not alone. This is a good place to share your own stories about learning experiences, especially when you had your own reservations or fears.
  • Acknowledge Values: Adults already have somewhat firm values in place, or understanding of the world, learning new stuff is threatening – esp. with technology. Be conscious of this.
  • Draw parallels: Drawing analogies between what they are learning and what they already know will help to make things easier to grasp.
  • Focus on Motivation: Find what motivates them and focus on that element. Put things in context of the payoff. If a person is there to keep in touch with family, focus on that benefit.
  • Prepare: respect that other people are taking the time to learn, and make it worth their time.
  • Your ideas: I know these are not all of them, so if you have others to share, please comment below.

So how do you help co-workers, staff, colleagues, etc feel comfortable with change and learning new things?


  • Be friendly, smile, etc: This is the first step in building rapport and connection.
  • Have a sense of humor: It is hard to be stressed when you are smiling and laughing.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: This reassures people that perfection is not required and we are all just human.

You get the idea. The same methods we employ when working with users should apply when working with one another.

Because of the ongoing nature of literacy today, transliteracy is not a one and done process. It is very common to talk about “bridging the digital divide.” In fact, that is the wording associated with the grant I am working on.

However, I am starting to become disenchanted with that analogy because it gives the impression that being digitally literate (or even transliterate) is about getting from point A to B.
Instead, the process of being transliterate does not have an end point. Instead, I like to think of the transliteracy process as being like a nautilus that is constantly growing and adding chambers to its shell.

Literacy today is a cycle and a way of life and at any time anyone can be in a different stage of the cycle of learning and change. That is why supporting all people during this process is important.

However, don’t try to be information masters, or expect others to know it all, in a time when it is, quite frankly, impossible to know everything or even to keep up. Be curious and foster curiosity, knowing how to find information, is be the best way to succeed.

7 Tips for Better Presentations

presentationIt seems like my life is full of webinars, presentations, and trainings these days. I have been on both sides of quite a few of these in the last few months and I am currently working on the final touches for a presentation tomorrow while also starting to rough out my talks for ALA. I guess you can say I have presentations on the mind.

The thing about all these presentations that has been prevalent in my mind is how many of them are just bad and how much I don’t want my presentations to be one of those sucky ones. Let’s face it, we have all had to sit through presentations that made you think “Oh man, I chose the WRONG session…” These sessions may even have good ideas and tips in them but those ideas are so buried under bad delivery that there is no real value there at all.

Here are a few tips I am always reminding myself of when preparing a presentation.

  1. Practice what you preach: If you are giving a workshop on classroom instruction and covering things like active learning, integrate active learning into your workshop as well.
  2. Use your slides (prezi, etc.) as visual cues for your points: There is very little benefit to attending a webinar where people are reading you their slides. You can do that from anywhere. Additionally, people connect with what they are learning in different ways, so provide them visual stimulation that supports your points.
  3. Speak slowly and enunciate every syllable: This is a big one for me. I tend to be a fast-talking mumbler. Remembering that it is actually helpful to the audience to take little pauses here and there, to take my time with each point, and to speak loudly also help me get my point across. You want this to feel like a conversation, not a lecture.
  4. Look at the audience and not your notes: Again, this goes to the conversation point. No one wants to go to lunch with someone that stares at their food or the table the whole time. The same goes for a presentation. Looking through a room full of people to the top of someone’s head is a sure fire way to lose interest. Look up and make eye contact!
  5. Include your audience whenever you can: You know that Chinese proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”? Think about it when planning your presentation. Have a few questions or activities for the audience. Use storytelling to relate your points to real life. This sometimes takes creativity to figure out how to do, but it can be invaluable in making a lasting impression.
  6. Smile, laugh, be human: Don’t try too hard to be perfect. Instead focus on letting your personality out a little. This will help you to make a genuine connection with your audience and the more relaxed you are the more comfortable they will be.
  7. Start with a Story: People love to hear stories and connect to the topic on an emotional level, so start there. Bring in your stats and points to back up your story.

These are just a few of the tips that I like to remind myself of when planning or giving presentation. However, after all of this, I also want to add that you should not follow a formula. Presentations are best when you put a little There are many more great tips and thoughts on presenting here:

Have your own tips and tricks? Share them in the comments below!

Libraries Need Community Attachés

In addition to being a librarian, I am also a partner in an online marketing company that manages the online presence of its clients. This includes SEO.

As a part of the SEO industry, all of us at Commerce Kitchen love SEOmoz; they are always sharing new research and innovation, they are ethical (in an industry that is often marred by a lack of ethics), and they create and foster community within the industry. See, sounds like a librarian’s dream company, right?

So, when SEOmoz posted new openings last week I had to give them a long hard look even though I am in no way looking for a new job. I just had to see what a company I respect was looking for in their people and their positions.

What I found was a posting that I wish I saw with a library name attached to it. The post was for a Community Attache:

Awesome Job #6: Community Attaché

Our community is one of the most vibrant on the net. The Community Attaché, along with Jen Lopez, our Chief Community Wrangler, will connect, develop and nurture that community. Seriously, you want to have our community over for a sleep over. One of your primary responsibilities will be managing the day-to-day operations of our PRO Q&A Forum—you should be excited about increasing participation, quality and functionality. You’ll ensure questions are answered quickly, and that great answers are rewarded and recognized. You don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and reviewing dozens of questions daily. You’ll connect weekly with lots of community members and develop and manage a team of associates and moderators who will help you keep things running smoothly.

You’re passionate about user-generated content and will encourage participation in YOUmoz (our user-generated blog), walk new authors through the process, help edit submitted posts, and publish and promote finished content. You love SEO and social media and should have experience with both. Most importantly, you aren’t afraid working with a wonderfully diverse set of people (including some very occasionally grumpy ones) who are passionate about online marketing and SEO. You must also enjoy giving and receiving hugs. ;-)

So why do I love this post and want to see this sort of thing in libraries?

First, they want people that truly love giving good customer service and care about the people they serve and the community they are fostering. They want someone that is focused on great usability and getting people the answers they seek. Additionally, they want people that like to do research to get to that answer.

However, the thing that really struck me was this “passionate about user-generated content and will encourage participation”. In my eyes, the future of libraries is about user-generated content and user participation. No longer will you find the best answer in a book or database. The future of content is not about connecting people with an item. Instead it is about connecting people with other people.

One of the most important roles I see for librarians in the near future is that of guide through content creation. We should be helping our communities and users share their knowledge and expertise. We should be working on publishing e-books by the amazing people just down the street. We should be helping the talented kids that come in learn to edit video. Just as the posting said, we should “walk new authors through the process, help edit submitted posts, and publish and promote finished content.”

While I may not have been looking for a job while reading the SEOmoz posts, this one opening has given me a new dedication to the one I am in. The future of libraries is ours and we need to start looking at great companies that are doing interesting things with content and community building and figure out how libraries are a part it. I can only hope that positions like this exist in libraries when it is time for me to move on to my next great adventure.

The B(ig)TOP

This is a post I wrote a few weeks ago for the Colorado Public Computer Centers (BTOP) website. A few of the posts from over there I will also share here on occasion.

BTOP is a big project. There are a lot of components, a lot of things to be done. It can feel a little daunting when looking at it from the big picture.

This is part of what I was thinking about on Monday when I was trying to do some work from home while also taking care of my 3 year old stepson that was on spring break from his Montessori school. Let me tell you, this project seems even bigger with a loop track of the ABC’s being sung in the background.

I felt torn, overextended. I need to be working; no, I need to be spending time with my family and enjoying these years that I know will go so quickly. I am used to having a lot going on, but there are a lot of balls in the air with BTOP. And, in my usual, ill-advised, attempt to do it all without breaking a sweat, I also just moved, started taking classes, am trying to find time for family, etc… You know how it is. Most of us, it seems, are playing this crazy balancing act that is life/work.

And then something else hit me. This is what it feels like for so many of the libraries actually implementing this BTOP thing. Many of the libraries in the state are over capacity and under- funded. Use is up and resources are down.

Being a librarian today, especially in a small library, is a balancing act like no other. Librarians are already spending their days trying to balance storytimes, cataloging, helping people on the computers, meeting with the board, creating flyers, filing reports, ordering books, etc… The list goes on and on and often the list unfortunately includes things like plunging the toilet as well.

On top of it all, us BTOP people are throwing a few more things onto your to-do list. I know it feels like this card may bring the whole thing tumbling down. It was not too long ago that I was in your shoes, and I want you to know that I get it. I hear you are struggling.

I also want to tell you what I was telling myself on Monday. It may seem like there is just too much. That you can’t keep all of these balls in the air. But I have something to tell you: You can.

This may seem like just one more thing but what we are doing is important. I believe that the BTOP project will benefit the people of our state more than anything I have worked on before. This work will changes lives, improve our communities, and strengthen our state. When you spend your precious time, that you don’t really have, working on this project, this is not just another to-do. This is transformation.

When I look at the big picture of all the components of this project it sometimes seems daunting. But when I take a step further back still and look at what this project means, what we are creating, it seems a lot more awe-inspiring than daunting, after all.

Change is Coming

The new year is often a time of change, and that is especially true for me this time around.

With the new year I will be starting a new job as the Colorado Public Computer Centers Project Coordinator. This will be a major project and a major change for me in many ways,  but one I can’t wait to begin.

As many of you know, bridging the digital divide is something I am passionate about and this project, funded by a BTOP grant with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is all about bridging that gap for the people of Colorado.

There are tons of reports and articles coming out about the digital divide. People from the Knight Commission to the New York Times are talking about internet access and use by Americans and what those numbers tell us.

We can read reports and look at stats to get a glimpse of what is happening in our country and what is creating the new second class citizen. The reality, though, is not well told through numbers.

What we are really facing is best illustrated through the fear and confusion of someone trying to file for unemployment online, apply for a job, or even help their child do their school work. The haves and the have-nots of our future will be determined by access to and understanding of technology.

Libraries are, at the core, about access to resources and community enrichment. What modern institution is better suited to step up and bridge the digital divide for our communities?

This project is an amazing step in creating real change and opportunity for the communities in Colorado that are the most in need.

I am honored to be a part of such an important project alongside all of the amazing individuals in the Colorado library community that have dedicated their lives to the service of others.

This is the beginning of real change not just for me but for many Coloradans and I can’t wait to get started.

4 Tips for Bridging the Enthusiasm Gap

A friend of mine recently told me a story about his grandmother.

She was confused about what all the huff was about with the emerging technology of her time.

She was known to complain that if she wanted to talk to so-and-so she would walk down the street and talk to her.

Why did she need some big box in her house that would obnoxiously ring loudly?

Technophobes are nothing new.

Just as my friends grandmother was upset about the telephone, many before here were afraid of the printing press, and many after us will be afraid of things we can not even imagine today.

One of the major obstacles in bridging the digital divide is the lack of interest by members of our communities. Many people are afraid of technology (due to privacy concerns, fear of change, etc.) and many more don’t understand the value of emerging technologies.

Disinterest in learning emerging technologies is a hindrance for our communities and their members. We need to find a way to engage reluctant users in a way that builds enthusiasm.

Below are a few ideas I had on this but I would love to hear yours as well, so please chime in under comments and share your thoughts.

  1. Focus on outcomes
    The same friend that told me about his grandmother’s phone phobia also told me a story about a man in a tiny little rural town that came into the library in the early 2000’s with a problem.

    He was a rancher and kept having to drive long distances to look at animals that were for auction. He had heard a crazy rumor that there was an auction house that was putting photos of animals on the computer and you could even bid on there.

    Sure enough my friend found the right website and saved the rancher time and money.

    This rancher would likely not have signed up for computer classes or even have considered going onto website until he became aware that there was a problem that could be solved with this technology.

    When discussing and marketing tech training stop talking about the tools and start talking about the benefits. Don’t say “Learn to use Facebook” try “Tips and tools for keeping in touch with distant loved ones” and show them facebook, skype, IM, etc. Teach to the needs of our community members by letting tech play the role in was intended for: a tool”

  2. Use people within your community
    People can be intimidated by taking a “class” or even by going into a place like the library to ask for help.

    People learn in all sorts of ways and many people learn best when they are in environments they know and with people that they feel comfortable with.

    Address this learning style by utilizing your community. Maybe the community could sponsor a “learn from a friend” month and ask members of the community to teach a friend, neighbor, family member a new tech tool sometime during the month?

    It will not only spread knowledge but it will also strengthen community.

  3. Work with local business
    Partner with local businesses to learn what problems they are facing and offer trainings that provide knowledge and familiarity with the tech tools that can directly benefit local businesses.

    Make sure the businesses that you partner with provide some sort of incentives to their employees for attaining new skills so there is more buy-in from all levels of the organization.

    My guess is that you will find some people just need to get their staff up to speed on email and others will want to get their feet wet with e-commerce or SEO.

    Providing a range of tools to assist local businesses at being more successful has huge repercussions for your community as a whole and can build a large base of tech advocates from business owners and their staff.

  4. Talk about successes
    Make a point of learning about how tech has solved real world problems for members of your community and talk it up, tweet about it, post it to facebook.

    Share in your successes and others will want some of that for themselves.

    This could be anything from telling the story of how basic computer classes allowed someone to create a better resume and find the right job all the way to stories about how a local bed and breakfast is still making ends meet in a tough economy because of additional books they are getting from their website.

Again, these are just a few thoughts and ideas I have had rattling around in my mind for a while but I know that there are tons of other great ideas out there.

Be creative and lets make our communities excited about solving real world problems with emerging technologies.

Oh yeah, and I heard that grandma adapted just fine to her telephone after all.

Transliteracy and the Enthusiasm Gap

Last week I had the opportunity to be a part of a panel about the future of public media for our local public radio station’s annual meeting.

It was a good discussion with many wonderful contributors and ideas, but there was one element of the conversation that really bothered me.

Some members of the audience, and even the panel, felt that the radio needed to move a little slower than the rest of the country with embracing and utilizing new technologies because the people in our community move at “a glacial pace” when it comes to adopting new technology.

In a time when I strongly believe the haves and the have-nots will increasingly be defined by the access to, and adeptness with, technology tools and resources, just saying ‘we are a slower adopting community’ and leaving it at that is not acceptable.

Transliteracy, or the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks, is a big topic on the minds of many people that work in fields related to education today and community development.

This is for one main reason. In the climate of our current culture, saying you are not comfortable with tech can be equated with saying “I don’t know how to read.” What’s worse is that many members seem to take pride in the fact they they are anti-tech, as though this is some silly little fad that will blow over in time, or “for the kids.”

Every day in my library I see how the digital divide determines which members of our community have which opportunities and the impact those opportunities create for individuals and, in turn, our entire community.

Just last week, I had someone come into the library looking for tools for learning excel, word, etc. I pointed this person to classes, websites, and books only to discover that she was not computer literate and had only 45 minutes to become so and learn Microsoft office before taking a test that would determine her employment future.

Obviously, I did the best I could to assist but my guess is that the test did not go well. The problem, in part, was that this person did not see the need to learn these skills until the day her employer decided she had to have them to continue on.  

It is my belief that strong communities foster personal growth and the personal betterment of all their members, including physical health, community involvement, and continuing education. The leaders of our communities, including non-profits, political and business leaders, local businesses, and libraries have a responsibility to lead the charge to bridge the gap of the digital divide.

It is not serving our community to say, “yeah, we know these tools are out there, but our community is slow to learn them and use them so let’s just deal with that later on.” We should be the leaders by not only offering tech classes to those that seek them out but by reaching into our communities and educating people why they need them.

We have a responsibility to lift up our communities and bring them closer to their life goals, to ask them what they want from their lives and show them the tools to get them a little closer to realizing their desires.  

Next up: so how do we build enthusiasm?