We could have used another day.  I am so 1.0 when it comes to writing projects.  I wanted to create a manifesto, a call to arms, a rallying cry.  I wanted it to be pretty and grammatically elegant.

But here’s what happens when you put 46 leaders–who each may own a different vision–into one room.  You share ideas (and sometimes agendas).  You negotiate personalities as well as content.  At tables, you make friends and develop allegiances. 

And then, somewhere, way towards the end, you get a pretty good–not yet elegant–kind of document.  That’s the way our aptly named ”Information Rich” panel worked and I am most grateful for the experience and for the guidance of my fellow panelists–Barbara, Alice, Terri, Lisa, and Sara.  I am eager to have the work we started continue through the wiki.  It will be a way to ensure that those ideas that did not make our final flip chart–many of them of the outside-the-box variety–will continue to live.  Please help continue to grow these ideas on our notes page.

Brian and Rocco did a fabulous job organizing this huge event.  Gail Dickinson was brilliant pulling things together and assuring everyone got heard and was able to share their most critical messages at the closing session. 

For me the big regret was not being able to contribute to my biggest passion these days–learning activities in School Library 2.0. 

For me the highlight of the conference was Joan Frye Williams’ breakfast talk.  Her words regarding change, and the notion that pigs can really fly, validated my own relentless optimism for our profession and the thrilling challenges of exploring new landscapes and establishing street cred with learners. 

Some of Joan’s thoughts that will continue to resonate for me:

Technology is pass-fail.  We either get it or we don’t and our students are assessing this one.  Reading the manual is not the most effective way to learn.  As Joan’s niece advises, the only way to go is to “practice dude.”  In this world, you just about get good at something and the new version comes in and you’re stupid again. It is hard to be a novice over and over and over again.

Library as idea factory.  Can our libraries be: book art studios, media production facilities, technology showcases, place to crunch scientific data?

We need to consider furnishing for different learning styles.  None of the teens I serve love our two lonely carrels.  They want to see each other, even when they are working by themselves.  Joan notes, “the way to feel good in a space is to take my buds with me, not to line up separately against the walls.” We need to build spaces that emphasize the pleasure of learning.

We must abandon our attachment to library language. Don’t call bibliographies, bibliographies—call them Easter eggs and cheat codes.  (I chatted with Barb Stripling about that one and I can see some ethical issues using that phrase.)  Nevertheless, here’s one of my favorite Joanisms: “You are the level keeper in game world SchoolQuest.”

Our students want to get started on their own—can there be a successful experience without the adult present? Confessing she doesn’t know what she is doing, asking a dumb question, is not what the middle school student wants to do today. It works the other way.  When they have 2 or 3 successes under their belts, students will turn around and ask.

And so we must simplify our “way finders” so that students can do the basic stuff without asking for directions.

Strategies for simplifying wayfinding:

  • Reduce clutter–Offer situational directions—hints that are not about us, but about them!  Naming things using our names, is not the first line of defense for a user to find success
  • Use natural language
  • Use prepacked tips, shortcuts, FAQs

Here’s one that hit me particularly, as one who loves information in excess. Information is how librarians express love.  But our sense of enoughness is different from what enoughness means to the general population.  Students need fewer, clearer choices to start. 

While some (mostly public) librarians measure some of their effectiveness by the number of directional questions answered, the real goals is to reduce the number of directional questions we answer.

Joan quotes Roy Tennant, who noted: “Librarians enjoy searching, everyone else enjoys finding.”

We need to better merchandize our collections.  For instance, the spine is not best side of book to market.  We need to facilitate serendipity, to help people trip over things not assigned to them. 

Carnegie Library Pittsburgh worked on understanding users by storyboarding the library experience.  This led to them arranging their collection in information neighborhood or areas or gathering materials in broad areas of frequent interest.

Perhaps we should practice a type of “bookend service”—get me started, check my work when I’d done

Instead of “ask me,” perhaps our signage should more properly reflect the results we can produce.  What about “homework insurance” instead?

When traveling with her niece on a college tour, Joan was impressed by one student who went beyond the scripted library trip and advised, “Get in with these people early and they will make sure you ace your class.”  That’s what this place is about.  We should consider what students are thinking and they are thinking, “How does this integrate with the rest of my life.”

We are now part of an open infosystem, though we may have been trained in an era of information scarcity.  Information used to be not easy to find, expensive, hard to get to. The current situation is one of information ubiquity.  We make a huge mistake when we make a firewall line between approved library information and the other data students find.  We lost that battle—information gathering has left the building.  We can no longer say, “Don’t go there—come here instead.” Learning happens nights and weekends when we’re not looking.  It is not accurate to expect that it will all take place in an area we will control.

Perhaps we should label our services: “extreme googling.”  Perhaps we should offer the option of a library toolbar.  Perhaps we should extend our outreach to external forums, and the social networks students visit.   We need to put the hay down where the goats can get it.  How many of us have an entry for our libraries in Wikipedia?

We should frame our instruction in the form of podcast tips and shortcuts—little nuggets that are indexed, pushed, shared, repurposed. Content students and teachers are developing.  Joan believes a 5-minute podcast on popular topic would be very popular.  And we should NOT call these things “lessons.”  Call them podcasts.   Make them available on iTunes.  Use the channels young people care about.

We should consider communicating through IMs. IM is how people communicate.  It would offer us instant street cred.  If school policies exist against messages, consider it for night and weekends.

We should not expect that students will do one thing at a time.  They have continuous partial attention.

Joan left us with the acronym:  FUSE

  • Find
  • Use

  • Share

  • Expand

We already find and use.  We must continue to seek opportunities to share and expand knowledge!

We can harness students’ interest in social networking.  It’s all about me—blogs, vlogs, wikis Students love recommender systems//collaborative filtering.  As users, they trust personal information.  It’s the student equivalent to peer-review.   (Check out http://movielens.umn.edu.)They appreciate folksonomies, their own suggested subject headings.


As we move forward:

  • Listen to students

  • Look for new ways to add value

  • Build on existing assets

  • Think big

  • Plan for success

  • Speak up

  • Laugh a lot

  • Dare to be bad at it till you master it

  • Don’t forget why you are doing this

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