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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Can you be remote in a digital world?

By Heather Todd

Explanatory Practice for Learning 2:0 Based on a Cumulative Cumulative Analysis of the Value and Effort of ’23 Things’ Programs in Libraries (2013) by Michael Stephens.  Reference and User Serves Quarterly, Vol 53, No 2, p 129-39

Whether you are a librarian or a student distance is no longer a barrier to information as it used to be as evidenced by two recent articles.  

Kansas State University Libraries have undertaken a survey to assess the awareness and use of library services by distance education students and faculty staff members. They used the results as an indicator to make some changes but the solutions also impacted on the entire scope of their services and resources.  The concept of Universal Design (that design of products and environments be useable by all people) was used in all the initiatives – which included implementation of a web scale discovery tool to improve access to print and digital collections, redesign of a database directory, electronic delivery of book chapters and journal articles, the digitisation of local collections, enhanced chat services, collaboration with instructional designers who undertook usability studies on webpages and also created online tutorials, and last but not least improvements in the marketing and promotion of library services. 

As befitting universal design all the changes have provided benefits to all clients so ‘rather than compartmentalizing distance patrons, it is important to focus on helping them to have an experience that is as much like an on-campus patron as possible.

Regardless of location the importance of ongoing professional development is recognised and programs such as ’23 Things’ are now available to all.  The original ’23 Things’ was launched in 2006 at the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County, USA and since then there have been hundreds of adaptions to cater for new areas of focus and technologies.  Michael Stephens has undertaken an analysis on the impact of this multi-week, fully online self-directed program that has become a popular professional development activity for librarians around the globe.  The study is based on the exploration of the impact and effect of the program on library staff in Australia and USA from 2009 to 2012. 

As well as exploring the impact on library staff the study also looked at how the model has been used for library patrons.  Several libraries have adapted the program for its clients to grow their digital literacy skills.  One library developed their own program aimed at helping parents explore and experience technology with their children.  The State Library of Queensland offers a version of the program called ‘Looking at 2.0” for their customers.  This program offers 13 topics, arranged into beginner, intermediate and advanced modules which are aimed to get customers online and using web technologies.   

The study concluded that the programs can have ‘a positive effect on participants and their confidence and ability to use technology in their profession and personal lives’

There is a wealth of self-development opportunities available to us all many of which are listed on the ALIA website or delivered to your email account via the ALIA PDPostings service.  You are no longer remote in a digital world. 

This post was first published in InCite, August 2014.

Heather Todd is the Director of Scholarly Publishing and Digitisation Service at the University of Queensland Library and a member of the ALIA Research Advisory Committee.

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