Google University

07/07/2011 § 11 Comments

I had actually planned on writing a post about informal networking this week.  But then I was distracted.  That distraction came in the form of an invite to Google’s new, Google+ platform.  A great deal has already been written about the platform so I won’t get into the details of the actual program.  What I want to discuss is down a different path.

Because I tend to think in library terms a great deal these days.  I started wondering how libraries and librarians and information professionals may start to use this service, if it actually does catch on (which is an issue for discussion as well!)

It seems that over the last few years there has been a lot of discussion regarding how libraries can use Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to engage and communicate with their users.  But what happens when another social media platform comes along?  How do libraries adapt?  Should they adapt?  How do you decide when you should implement new technologies and/or social media platforms?

These questions then had me thinking about curriculum, especially in LIS programs, and how these types of changes and development affect what is being taught in the classroom.  I’ve never worked in an academic environment but now after attending two different institutions of higher education, I have witnessed the obstacles that come in the way of change; especially in terms of changing curriculum.  I do not necessarily say this as a criticism.  I think it is just that things can take a long time to change in an academic environment.

Since it is not really plausible to necessarily have classes change on the drop of a Google announcement, how should curriculum in LIS adopt to changing technologies?  Does this mean that classes should be more theoretical?   Should courses teach us to know how to deal with the idea of changing technologies but maybe not necessarily the technologies themselves?  Are some programs in LIS better at adapting to changing times than others?  How should these new technologies be integrated in LIS curriculum.  What are you doing to make sure your professors know about these types of issues?  I would imagine you could apply these types of questions to changes going on in cataloging (RDA, etc) and other developments in the LIS field, also as they relate to conference presentations.

How do we, as students, ensure that our courses are relevant?  And how do you know when it is time to adapt and change?

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§ 11 Responses to Google University

  • I think librarians should explore new technologies as individuals, but it is not necessarily smart to jump into every new social media technology that comes out. Second Life is the most obvious example of something that, while interesting and perhaps some libraries have been successful with it, is not as mainstream and far-reaching as it was originally supposed to be.

    We should have an awareness of new technologies, and build personal knowledge and skill on our own, but not every technology can or should be adapted to libraries and archives – much less LIS curriculum.

    I can only speak for Simmons, but I think that our teachers are good about providing us with basic technology skills and learning skills. I am not so good with technology, but thanks to my technology class, I know that W3C and youtube tutorials can fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

    • Nicole Fonsh says:

      I love the idea of using places like W3C and YouTube to fill in the gaps. It’s great when professors are able to point these types of resources out as well!

  • Mackenzie says:

    This definitely depends on the program, but I went to a school that definitely thought it was less traditional than it was. It was a mixed experience, but there were times when I was frustrated by the lack of serious tech skills being taught. My archives professor would say over and over how important it was for us to know EAD, but never bothered to teach us even the basics (probably because she didn’t know it herself). Theory’s important obviously, but it’s also nice to have skills that you can put on your resume. As a positive example, when I took a digital libraries class, we actually got to build our own CONTENTdm collection which is something I can show in the future.

    This came up on #libchat the other night and some people thought you shouldn’t just embrace whatever came along without evaluation, while others felt libraries should dig in immediately before getting left behind. In the end, I would rather have wasted time in something that failed than not have been on board with something that succeeded.

    One solution is reserve time in classes to try out what’s new, regardless of what it is. Another solution that I’m actually working on this summer is to develop a “library labs” space where new tools can be tested by librarians and users before being widely released. This is a good way to get into something without making a huge commitment. Here’s some examples: http://www.rss4lib.com/library-labs.html

    • Nicole Fonsh says:

      Mackenzie- I love the idea of reserving time in classes to try out what’s new. Great way to brainstorm, share, evaluate. And hank you for sharing that link…that is awesome! I think sometimes the danger that libraries face with new technologies is that if they do go ahead and try something out and it fails, are the users going to trust again? But maybe it’s worth testing out these new platforms with staff first. Or a set of users.

      Keep us posted on how your “library labs” space goes- it sounds like a really interesting and relevant project.

    • I too love the labs idea! I wonder if schools’ student chapters – ASIST is the obvious choice, but technology is essential for all of us – could adopt lab times for their own needs as well…

  • Ahava Cohen says:

    You’ve brought up a point that is my main complaint about my program: we learn the application and not the theory (aside from our cataloging class, but since we learned AACR2 and not RDA, well, you do the math). We’ve learned website building twice — but never HTML. We’ve learned Facebook and WordPress, ,but so specifically that I’m sure my fellow students would be lost at sea on Google+ or Blogger. We almost lost an entire semester when a database we’d learned switched interfaces a week before the final.

    The class I’d most like to see taught is one which teaches the students how to teach themselves new applications. Don’t teach us one recipe for fish — teach us how to identify which wildlife is in the area and the general principle of trapping/catching and let us loose. We’ll feed ourselves from there.

    • Nicole Fonsh says:

      Thanks for the comment Ahava – I wonder what the best way for professors to go about that would be. Interesting to think about teaching the skills for using an application LIKE Facebook but focusing more on the bigger picture rather than the specific application.

      • Ahava Cohen says:

        I’m not sure what the best way would be (especially not in my program; the lecturers aren’t particularly comfortable with technology). But there’s a certain level of digital literacy that makes getting the basics of any new program or application relatively painless, and most of my fellow students don’t have that. I think that sort of digital literacy is more important to them than another course in Twitter or in Microsoft Office, just as a course in the principles behind cataloging is taught rather than Agron or Idea or Sapir, the three main local catalog programs.

    • Courtney Loder says:

      I completely agree. Knowing how to learn/teach yourself a new technology (or anything, really) is incredibly valuable. The analogy I like to use is that it’s better to teach someone to read a map than to follow turn by turn directions. If a tree falls and blocks the road, the map reader will still be able to get where they’re going. In my experience, naturally curious people are much more open to this type of learning. Has anyone else had success teaching a more theoretical approach to someone who’s resistant to it?

  • Mackenzie, I love the idea of a “library lab.” I agree that as librarians we should be up-to-speed with emerging technologies and potential sources of free marketing strategies but it isn’t exactly feasible to dive-in right away.

    As degreed professionals we should bring an insightful eye to these new platforms and in our LIS education we should learn how to assess social media. How will our patrons use it? How will the staff and faculty use it? What are privacy concerns?

    Thanks for the great idea!

  • [...] Google University – Nicole Fonsh [...]

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