Stephen Abram wrote a column for Information Outlook on Learning 2.0 called 15 Minutes a Day: A Personal Learning Management Strategy. So it got me thinking. If I had 15 minutes each day to keep up with technology and libraries’ use of technology, what would I do?
Here’s what I would suggest…
Keep up with just a few blogs that are less about ideas and issues and more about new tools and great applications of technology in libraries. So what I’m saying is, if you have 15 minutes to keep up, don’t read my blog. There are a lot of interesting discussions going on and questions being asked in the blogosphere, but if you have 15 minutes, you just don’t have time for all that. Focus on tools and concrete examples. Here are the ones I’d probably pick:
Obviously the blogs you choose to follow will depend on your interests. For example, if you’re in academia or K-12, OLDaily would be a great resource. And even within these blogs, you don’t have to read everything in-depth. Skim what’s less important and focus on what is really important to you. Only follow links that look like they might be useful. Especially follow links to libraries using cool technologies. Chances are, if something major is going on in the library world, you’ll hear about it from one of these blogs (especially the first two). From these blogs you should hear about interesting new tools and should find lots of concrete examples of libraries using cool technologies.
Once in a while, you may want to chunk four of your 15 minute sessions together and watch a SirsiDynix Institute, OPAL, Blended Librarian or (if you have funding) Education Institute or ACRL Webcast. Some of these Webcasts offer a 1-hour look at a specific technology and how it can be used in libraries. That one session will probably be worth days and days-worth of exploring.
The rest of your time should be spent actually using technologies. Try out some of these things. Create a hosted blog and post to it. Comment on someone else’s blog. Edit a public wiki. Post a photo to Flickr and tag it. Try out Twitter. These are all such easy things to do; each one wouldn’t take more than one or two 15 minute sessions. But the value of actually using these tools is enormous. By using them, you will better understand their possibilities and limitations, their pros and cons. You’ll be better able to decide if this is something you might want to explore further for use in your library. I thought Twitter was a total waste of time. And then I used it and got sucked in. Actually, it’s still a waste of time, but I like it anyways.
After using these tools and seeing examples of libraries using them, you should have a pretty good idea about which ones you think you might be useful in your setting. Those are the ones you should spend more than 15 minutes with, trying to figure out which specific software to use and how to successfully use it at your library. If you find a library that is using technology in an innovative way, why not e-mail them and ask about it? They could probably give you a lot of useful advice on how they implemented it, marketed it, trained people to use it and managed it. Most librarians are happy to share with others in the profession.
One thing to remember: there are a lot of cool tools out there, but you should focus on what you think would actually be useful to you in your professional or personal life. I often hear about tools that I don’t even bother to look at because I know from a one sentence description that I don’t need it. The tools I choose to use at my library are designed either to improve services to patrons or to make my or my colleagues’ lives easier. That’s why we don’t have a Facebook page, a library podcast or a flickr account. I just don’t think it’s a priority here or would benefit our patrons as much as other things we’re doing. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be the best thing at your library.
Keeping up in 15 minutes per day? It all comes down to being focused, being ruthless, and aware of the needs of your patrons and your colleagues. I’m glad I don’t have to give up all the great blogs I read regularly, but if I had to, I know that 15 minutes per day is certainly possible.