1. get into the groove

Read this blog & find out about the program.

I've been to this club before. Many of the gadgets and tools covered by this program are already familiar to me. But here we go anyway, for a little encore performance on the dance floor!

2. kickin' habits

Discover a few pointers from lifelong learners and learn how to nurture your own learning process.

Of the 7.5 habits described in this section, the easiest for me is taking responsibility for my own learning. If there's something I need to know, I'm usually all over it—and the instructors tasked with helping me. I've never had a hard time asking tough questions of teachers, and will even critique elements of a class I think aren't working well for me or other learners. While some teachers doubtless regard me as a pain in the rear, I like to think of my healthy skepticism as ultimately constructive.

The hardest habit for me is setting realistic goals at the outset of learning something. Especially when dealing with technology, my learning goals seem to change by the minute. It's not just that the Web is changing quickly these days. It's that the tools for accessing and manipulating it are also changing. That sometimes means learning new tools to do old tasks.

Consequently, my learning plans are often derailed by technical glitches that don't have immediate solutions. For example, while viewing the tutorial for this section, my computer suddenly lost its connection to the Internet. Restoring it took several hours (thanks, Vista!), which caused me to postpone finishing this unit by a couple of days.

It's worth noting, however, that a habit I do a fairly good job with is seeing obstacles as challenges. Rather than wait for answers at the first sign of trouble, I'm more likely to search for the solution on my own.

In an interesting aside, my first assignment in Maryland's Library Associate Training Institute (LATI) last year asked that we select a quote that reflects our beliefs about learning. It was a good jumping off point because it forced us to stop and take stock of how we best get things done. I selected a quote by Teddy Roosevelt, reflecting a belief that my most effective learning is experiential.

Since then I've realized that organization is also a crucial part of my leaning style. It's important to me to have the various tools and information I need at my fingertips, and that sometimes requires that I spend time getting organized.

For reference, I've reproduced the habits below.

Seven and 1/2 Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners
  1. Begin with a specific goal in mind. Then develop a plan to acheive that goal.

  2. Accept responsibility for your own learning. Take charge of your own experience.

  3. View problems as challenges. Obstacles offer opportunities and motivation to learn.

  4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner.

  5. Create your own learning toolbox.

  6. Use technology to your advantage. It's supposed to make life easier.

  7. Teach and mentor others.
7.5. Play!

3. I'll bet you think this blog is about you

Set up your own blog & add your first post.

Here it is—you're lookin' at it.

I was already familiar with Blogger and have set up and maintained other blogs. For this one I adapted a free template to fit the "thang" theme.

4. makin' tracks

Register your blog and Track your progress to journey into Learning 2.0 together.

I'm officially registered and on the map at the MCPL Participants site. It's great to see how many others are doing the 23 Things this year—I know I'm in good company!

As for my tracking document, I'm keeping it in a Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) file, and will update it as I go along. The shaded rows in the chart are things I've completed.

5. flick it good

Explore Flickr and learn about this popular image hosting site.

As a former editor, I sometimes wonder what all the "sharing" on the web is doing to copyright law. It is so effortless to collect text, images, and even video on the web now that even if copyright or privacy laws are being broken it would still take a battalion of lawyers a long time to figure it out and follow through.

Like many other online tools, Flikr has privacy settings, but given that the whole point of Web 2.0 is collaboration, there's not much point in using the service if you don't plan to share your photos with someone. It's a concern that lingers on the perimeter of this tool, as we take advantage of its benefits.

And there are some legitimate uses of Flikr for librarians. The collaborative imperative is a strong one. When my library wanted to explore some new options for using our display spaces, Flikr offered a wealth of ideas posted by other libraries around the country. A quick search on "library and book and displays" generated several dozen hits, including these clever exhibits on beach reading and chocolate.
A search on "teen tech week" revealed hundreds of images, many of which showcased innovations and programs carried out by libraries in observance of this annual event.

6. do the monster mashup

Have some Flickr fun and discover some Flickr mashups & 3rd party sites.

Many Flickr mashups are organizational or management tools for people who upload and view a lot images. But some of the third-party apps linked on the Flickr site are fun to play around with and can be useful for librarians.

For example, someone facing a creativity block could use Flikr Hive Mind to make some connections that might help with displays or storytelling (some searches I did were for boredom, dancing, and baseball).

Some educational mashup tools I really like are found here. Through this site one can find images and information about birds, trees and mountains worldwide. There are also preschool printables for things like wild animals, which could be useful in storytime or crafts programs.

7. rock down to techno avenue

Create a blog post about anything technology related that interests you this week.

Some Web 2.0 technologies that have taken off since these "23 Things" were first put forth are the social networking sites Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

A few years ago, Facebook was the purview of college students—you used to need a ".edu" e-mail address just to sign up. Now it's open to everyone, and even your grandma may have a Facebook page. I think one of the big attractions of Facebook is that it's an instant way to have a web page of your own without knowing anything about HTML or web publishing. Establishing your page is as simple as signing up for an e-mail account, and it is easy to share recent news with your friends and loved ones via status updates and straightforward photo or video uploads. You can also "talk" to others by posting comments on their pages. While it is possible to open your Facebook page for public viewing, most folks prefer to keep their information semi-private, by only permitting their "friends" (individuals they know and trust) access to it. It is each user's choice whether to confirm or ignore "Friend requests" from others, and you can remove specific friends at any time, for any reason.

MySpace, which I confess I haven't spent as much time looking into, is another social networking site that tends to attract a younger crowd. And Twitter, a site for sharing brief nuggets, or "tweets" of information (posts must be 140 characters or less in length), has rapidly attracted millions of users and followers.

Nowadays more people are accessing these social networking sites via mobile phones—instantly posting status updates and photos without being anywhere near a computer. The instantaneous nature of that communication among many individuals has reinforced our feeling of connectedness, by giving us a window into our acquaintances' real-time experiences. It has also enabled countless middle-aged fogeys like me to find out what the people they went to school with have been up to in the last few decades—without the bother of attending a class reunion.

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have so revolutionized online communications that libraries have been compelled to get in on the act. MCPL has Facebook and Twitter accounts and used to have one on MySpace, though I believe they are less effective than in-person communication with patrons in the branches or on the telephone. But although the library's announcement of book awards and branch programs may be less compelling than video of your baby nephew taking his first steps or the career path of your high school girlfriend, it's still important for us to be in the mix, because social media is now one of the first places people check when they are looking for activities and information.

8. feed your head

Learn about RSS feeds and setup your own Bloglines newsreader account.

Rather than Bloglines I used Google Reader, because it's the one that automatically loaded when I signed in to Gmail or Blogger (both are Google products). As Google is planning to retire their RSS reader, I've begun searching for alternatives.

Unfortunately, setting up feeds in my Web-based work e-mail account wasn't feasible due to space limitations, so it has been tricky keeping up with favorite blogs like this one.

9. heard it through the grapevine

Explore MERLIN and a few useful library related-blogs and/or news feeds.

While MERLIN remains relevant for locating training opportunities throughout the state, parts of the site now appear underused and suffering from inattention. Several of the discussion topics have had no posts since 2009, and there seem to be few active users on the site. It's probable that the initial plans for MERLIN envisioned a larger library workforce participating in making the site more of a clearinghouse for information. That seems not to have occurred, most likely because of shrinking budgets, smaller staffing complements and thus, less available time for librarians to network.

It's still a good first stop if you are looking for training or self-directed instruction in areas of technology, however, and a good place to stop in from time to time, just to see what is available out there.

10. fool around and fall in love

Play around with an online image generator.

Online image generators are fun.

11. shake your library thang

Take a look at LibraryThing and catalog some of your favorite books.

If you're starting to keep a reading log or journal, LibraryThing is a good place to begin.

One cool feature is the ability to edit your book covers. For some reason, seeing what the book looked like helps me remember its content. This feature also lets you give your library that personal touch—you can make your online bookshelf look just like the real one in your living room.

Other applications that track books are Shelfari and GoodReads, both of which are now owned by Amazon. Although Amazon recently purchased a significant share of LibraryThing, subscribers can keep their accounts private. A drawback is that you can only log 200 books for free.

12. rollyo own

Roll your own search tool with Rollyo.

A few years ago, before Rollyo went away, I'd created a couple of search tools, and had plans to make a few more. In my current branch we get a lot of questions about old movie stars and film history, so I assembled a Cinema Search comprised of sites like IMDB and the Academy Awards. I found that putting it together was somewhat cumbersome, and didn't offer any particular benefits over just using Google. I can see where a specialized researcher might want to build her own search tool, but for general librarianship it was too time-consuming. Perhaps that's why Rollyo isn't around any more; there are already adequate search engines out there to meet most people's needs.

13. papa's got a brand new tag

Learn about tagging and discover del.icio.us.

I've been using del.icio.us for a while, but recently moved many of my tags into one central account.

I've identified a few drawbacks to working with del.icio.us. One is that many of my subject labels overlap, so a number of my tags appear in multiple subject lists, which makes some of the lists very long. Finding specific links is becoming more difficult with each link I add. Using the "bundling" function makes it even harder to locate stuff.

Another drawback is that you can't alphabetize links within a subject list, as you can alphabetize the subject list itself. Again, this impacts how quickly I can find individual links.

To find what I need I generally use the search field, though I sometimes have to try different spellings of what I need, and the search doesn't use partial entries to find longer ones. For example, searching on "novel" fails to bring up my link for Time magazine's top 100 Novels, whereas searching on "novels" does. I also wish the search field default was set to "my bookmarks" rather than all of del.icio.us, because I have to change that every time.

It's interesting to see how many other people have bookmarked the things I have. I couldn't help by notice that no one has any of my blogs bookmarked. Should I be unhappy about that?

14. technorati all the time

Explore Technorati and learn how tags work with blog posts.

Although I haven't used tags in this blog, I have used them in my other blogs, and it is true that they drive traffic to your site. After posting about losing one of my dogs, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, to cancer, I noticed a number of page viewers had been directed there via searches on "corgi" and "lymphoma." Knowing that others were reading about my experiences with a sick pet, I felt like I wasn't alone in having endured that ordeal. In a way, it made me feel that I was part of an unofficial community of corgi owners whose pets had gone through what my Holly experienced.

More to the point of library research, I mostly use Google's blog search when I want to browse what others are posting on controversial topics. Several years ago, when an overly zealous customer was trying to convince MCPL to remove Walter Mosley's erotic novel, Killing Johnny Fry, from our collections, I did some searches on its title and "censorship," to see if the book had been challenged in other library systems. While there were a few concerns expressed about its content, most librarian and bookseller blogs harped on the fact that the book had been panned by critics.

Moral indignation and critical condemnation can also be found in abundance from searching for 50 Shades of Grey. I found some of the blogger diatribes against this book infinitely more entertaining than the novel itself, which I couldn't bring myself to finish.

15. time keeps on slipping into the future

Read a few perspectives on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the future of libraries and blog your thoughts.

If there's one thing this training exercise has made abundantly clear to me, it's that change is the name of the game for online librarians. Popular tools are always evolving, and new ones sometimes emerge before you have fully grasped how to use the old ones!

One big aspect of 2.0 librarianship is redefining the library as a "place." Before the Web, one had to physically enter the building to use library resources. Today, customers can check out, download and return e-books, listen to an author talk via podcast, sign their children up for summer reading, and look up items and place them on hold—all without ever setting foot in a library building. On the other hand, many customers now visit the library solely to use computers or the Internet—to apply for jobs, communicate with family overseas, or even just to play games. While some of our patrons have the technical tools to use the library remotely, others need us more than ever, to teach them computer basics, like how to set up an e-mail address.

In most cases, we are carrying out these efforts on the fly, without a clear template for how to teach technology skills to newcomers. It is an ongoing undertaking to keep abreast of new developments, and perhaps one reason it has taken me almost five years to make my way through 23 Web "things."

16. get down, get wiki

Learn about wikis and discover some innovative ways that libraries are using them.

Wikis seem to be losing favor lately as a mode of online collaboration. While I never had much to do with any of them, they did seem ungainly in that one has to sign on and find a conversation topic related to what you want to discuss. Because the information is randomly generated, it can be difficult to pinpoint the part of the discussion to which to add your two cents.

I would be remiss not to point out the usefulness of the mother of all wikis—Wikipedia—because, alongside Google, it may be this librarian's best friend. While I would never recommend using Wikipedia as a source in serious research, it is a wonderful jumping off point for defining a topic and gathering general background information. I also use it constantly to look up the order of book series, and I've never come up empty-handed.

17. turn up the box

Add an entry to the Learning 2.0 SandBox wiki.

The sandbox appears to be inactive as of 2012.

18. do it online

Take a look at some online productivity (word processing, spreadsheet) tools.

Online collaboration has been made easier thanks to tools like Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), which permits documents to be kept online and edited by one or more authors. I used in 2009 to maintain and post a master list of Teen Summer Reading programs in all the branches.

19. get webbie

Explore any site from the Web 2.0 awards list, play with it and write a blog post about your findings.

The Web 2.0 awards list is now offline, but there are still ways to monitor and gauge innovations in online collaboration. Almost every professional organization worldwide has a mechanism for recognizing and rewarding new Web tools that build community and accomplishments.

For libraries, a good place to look for exceptional tools is on the ALA's TechSource site.

20. groove on the tube

Discover YouTube and a few sites that allow users to upload and share videos.

YouTube is both a blessing and a curse. Some see it as the greatest single factor ensuring the survival of democracy, as videos that capture controversial or revealing footage can go viral, shining light on injustice and inequalities that raise collective consciousness and move people to action.

Also, it is a really great place to listen to armpit farts.

21. join the pod people

Discover some useful search tools for locating podcasts.

Customers at my library frequently listen to NPR and other radio broadcasts on their computers and portable devices, most often via iTunes. Podcasts are a great way to be a lifelong learner, because there are now more free online lectures and courses than ever.

Baltimore's Pratt Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia are two examples of libraries using podcasts to deliver live and recorded content to customers. Unlike the traditional library model of having customers come to the library building, this content is available to anyone via the Internet, enabling libraries to serve people who may be thousands of miles away.

22. get down with downloads

Take a look at the titles available on Overdrive or NetLibrary or Project Gutenburg and learn about downloadable audiobooks.

E-readers—and librarians' comfort level with handling customer inquiries about how to use them—has been the biggest challenge in my profession in the last year. Not only are there a multitude of different devices capable of downloading e-books and e-audiobooks—Amazon's Kindle and Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch to name just a few—there are also vast differences in the technical expertise of library customers learning to use them.

Fortunately, tech savvy staff at MCPL have been tireless in developing training for staff who are less familiar with how to operate e-readers, and our Friends of the Library have supported us in this endeavor by purchasing e-readers for librarians to use for demonstrations in the branches. Although we are no longer subscribing to NetLibrary, MCPL customers can download OneClickDigital audiobooks, which are always available. And the number of titles available on OverDrive is growing.

An astonishing statistic from FY14 budget hearings for the library system noted that ebook downloads increased five-fold in the last three years, from just under 5,000 checkouts in January 2010 to over 25,000 in December 2013. Fortunately, the trend has been mirrored by an increase in the number of available e-book titles.

Even Gutenberg is no longer the only place to get public-domain e-books. Google Books and Bookyards—among others—have gotten into the act, and there are numerous free e-book apps for iPhones, Androids and the like.

23. dance the last dance

Summarize your thoughts about this program and learn about where to go from here.

It has been a long and winding road to the end of this training exercise. Since I first began this training in 2008, a number of the "things" have already become stale or obsolete. Web 2.0 is still a powerful model for collaboration, but most Web sites require regular attention and maintenance to remain relevant. At a time when library budgets are stretched, it is often a challenge for librarians to find the time to do so.

There is also a fundamental conflict, I believe, between the organic, haphazard flow of unregulated information on on the Internet on one hand, and the librarian's goal/affinity/quest for organizing and making information accessible on the other. As fluid as the Web is, with new, unvetted information surfacing by the minute and "dead links" peppering many sites that have been up for a while, it is misleading to think that finding things out there is easy. If anything, tracking down the most relevant information has become more challenging due to the Internet's growth in volume, and the proliferation of ways to reach, repackage and redistribute that data.

So where does this leave librarians, even those of us with both feet firmly planted in the 21st century?

Clearly, we have to stay on top of our game. It isn't enough to cover 23 technology topics and be done with it. Technology is ever changing, and the pace of change accelerates over time. I was accutely aware of that change when proofing and testing the links on this blog. Several were already dead. Google Docs is now called Google Drive, and Rollyo, the roll-it-into-one-search-engine tool, is completely gone, taking with it two of my customized searches.

Five years into my adventure in librarianship, many of the tools I used as an online editor have become rusty. But I continue to hone my research skills thanks to the opportunities—in fact, the professional imperative—to continue exploring and learning new technologies.