Monthly Archives: July 2011

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.