Online Workshops & E-Courses for Librarians: A Brain Dump

For a while now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a series of web-based courses for library staff. I’ve taught traditional courses before in classrooms, and I’ve taught courses over web conference as well, but they’ve always been on the behalf of professional library organizations. What I have in mind is similar, but a bit different.

I’ve taken a few web-based courses from photographers and lifestyle bloggers in the past, and while I’ve had mixed success with some of the courses, but that was more about me and the my struggles with depression and anxiety than the courses themselves. Yet no matter how I did in the course, I often leave them wondering whether a similar course delivery method would work for delivering continuing education/professional development for librarians.

If you’re not familiar with how these courses operate, have a look at Karen Walrond’s Gratitude 2012 project and Vivienne McMaster’s photography e-courses. What these courses seem to have in common is that they’re delivered electronically, there’s generally a low registration cost, there’s a fair amount of introspection, self-improvement, and self-directed learning involved, and, especially in Vivienne’s courses, there’s often a social component as well, as participants gather in a central online space to share their work and build community.

The reason these courses are so attractive to me is that there’s a low barrier for entry. Participants wouldn’t need to be a part of a professional organization, and they wouldn’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to participate. I’d intentionally keep the prices on the low-ish side — under $100 for some courses — to make them more attractive.

Ideally, the courses would be offered asynchronously so that participants could complete the lessons at their own pace. If desired, they can share what they’ve learned with me, but the idea here is to get participants to go through the tasks as designed on their own. If participants wanted to share their work with others in the course, I could make sure that a central online repository/discussion space was available where they could do exactly that. The great part about this (for me) is that the participants wouldn’t only be learning from me, we’d all be learning from each other.

I’m not certain whether there’s a lot of demand for these kinds of courses for professionals, but I know there’s a cottage industry of independent bloggers/photographers/communities of practice where this kind of instruction is going on. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking at this as potential revenue stream as well. Yes, I could absolutely use the money, but more than that, I’m interested in delivering courses independent of professional organizations, so that more people can benefit from the information being made available.

Is there any merit to this? If you’ve delivered a similar course — whether it’s related to libraries or not — what things should I consider before taking this on?

Cunning Kitty

(Obligatory crazy cat lady post follows)

Riding Our Way Fit – Not Thin*

After discussing Carnie Wilson’s second weight loss surgery on Twitter earlier today, an idea took root in my head.

See, I love riding bikes. I ride because I love it, not to lose weight, something that is obvious to anyone who has seen my daily ride. I bought a road bike last year, thinking that riding it would help me get fitter, faster, but mostly it’s just been collecting dust out on my balcony. You see, the problem isn’t with the bike, it’s with me.

All of the road cyclists I know are thin and super-fit. And it’s not as if they aren’t supportive and helpful — they are — but when I ride with them, I’m very conscious of not being anywhere near as fit as they are, and I worry constantly that I’m slowing them down.

I started thinking that surely there were other fat-bottomed folks in the Vancouver area who might be interested in a fun, supportive group fitness ride for heavier riders. We could start slow and gradually work our way up to 50km/50mi or 100km/100mi rides over the course of a few weeks. I’ve been checking out Selene Yeager’s Ride Your Way Lean training book, and while it’s a bit aggressive, there are other options available – David Yeager’s Ride Fit is less aggressive than Yeager’s, and may be more suitable for people who are looking to set a base level of fitness.

So what say you? Does this sound like something you might be interested in? And if you’re a fitter rider, would you be interested in perhaps serving as an informal coach to help us become more comfortable on our bikes? Leave a note in the comments below!

  • I felt this title deserved a bit of an explanation. I’m not interested in pursuing weight loss for the sake of being thin, or fitting into a more socially-acceptable dress size. My focus is being as fit as you can possibly be, at whatever weight you are. It’s not my intention to disparage or discourage anyone who wants to ride to get thin. Not at all. However, my goal with this group is to focus on health and fitness at any size.

The Time for Libraries is Now

I know that a fair amount of the folks who stop by here on a regular basis aren’t librarians or information professionals, and as a result, I’ve mostly kept the library-related posts here to a minimum.

Today I saw a slide deck that I wanted to share with those of you who don’t use libraries, or whose idea of what libraries (and library staff) are capable of may be a bit out of date. Yes, there are 87 slides, but you’ll go through them pretty quickly, I promise.

In May 2012, it’ll be seven, no, eight years since I graduated from library school. The things I was interested in – content creation, blogging, using emerging technologies, and usability – weren’t a huge part of the curriculum when I started back in 2002. A huge shift has happened in a relatively short amount of time, and more than ever, librarians are talking about user experience and customer experience. Librarians have always hacked information, but it seems to me that a lot more of us are interested in getting our hands dirty with code and making stuff more awesome. People from outside the profession with an interest in open data are looking at us and pointing fingers, asking us why we still keep our information locked away in proprietary silos.

I’m encouraged. I’m excited.

But I still want more.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was looking to make a career change, and I suggested that he think about going to library school. The profession needed more people like him – gregarious, outgoing go-getters who bring a new perspective and a different face to the profession (this profession needs to racially diversify like whoa, but that’s the subject of another post). He’ll be graduating this spring, and he’s already working as an academic librarian in Louisiana, and if I can be completely self serving for a moment, I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Libraries need more people like this — more people like you — to work for us. I’m not going to beat the drum for an LIS education, because I have my own issues with the diploma mill mentality, churning out graduates into a market where the jobs are few and far between. What I would like to see, however, is more community partnerships where tech professionals volunteer to build applications for cash- and resource-strapped libraries: something like Google’s Summer of Code, or Code for America, but just for public libraries.

Libraries can make this happen by becoming more open than we’ve ever been before. Not only in terms of space (although that is really important), but we need to identify ways that we can remove whatever roadblocks exist between us and community partners who are ready and willing to help us take on our technological challenges. If there is a community organization that teaches computer courses that target a particular demographic, bring them in on a volunteer basis and let them teach your basics courses for a while. It’ll free up library staff to focus on other things (like community engagement, for example) and to get back to much needed professional development. If we could be guaranteed 10 hours a week to work on a fun project of our own, I believe we would see some truly innovative service models, programs, and technological solutions.

But what’s the best way to reach out? That’s something I’ll be trying to suss out over the next little while.

Libraries, Here's Your Opportunity