5 Library Resolutions to Make in 2014

One of my favorite things to do in January is to read predictions about the ed tech trends for the year. What’s hot and what’s not. It’s fun to do because predictions almost always reflect professional perspective. IT experts vs. educational technologists vs. teachers. You get the picture.

So, I decided to come up with my own set for libraries for the coming year. But, instead of calling them trends, I’m calling them resolutions. By resolutions, I mean resolving to learn about, explore and really think about how these technologies and practices can (or should) be utilized in libraries. I believe that taking a thoughtful approach will lead to more successful adoption.

Here are 5 resolutions I think libraries need to consider making for 2014:

Learning analytics.

Big data is being hailed as a hot trend by many this year. This is definitely a long term trend. I say that because education is not the only industry interested in big data. Business, health and government are also diving into it. So it is worthy to note that in other industries, a big data gap is becoming increasingly recognized. The big data gap highlights the need to strongly examine issues such as how data will be accessed, stored, and manipulated; and even more importantly, who will be doing it. Analytics (including learning analytics) absolutely requires a level of expertise that only training and experience can provide.

Here’s where I see a very unique opportunity for the library and information science field. Considering that informatics is related to analytics, and is a central part of information studies (e.g. health informatics), programs that focus on learning analytics would be a great asset to the information studies discipline, resulting in new avenues of career opportunity for information professionals and librarians. Right now, Columbia University offers a Masters degree in Cognitive Studies that focuses on learning analytics. I’d love to see schools of information studies also begin to offer this type of degree.

I believe that learning more about learning analytics is a resolution that school and academic libraries should be taking on in 2014. How will big data impact library instruction, library services, purchasing, and hiring decisions? And I think institutions that house schools of information studies should be taking an even greater interest in learning analytics this year in terms of what they can do to support the training of it.

Mobile computing.

PC sales have been declining for some time. Mobile devices are taking over. In fact, mobile Internet browsing has taken over desktop browsing. Tablets are driving that trend. Thanks to Steve Jobs, we are seeing a very real shift in technology habits. It’s a shift that is very much impacting libraries. And I think 2014 should be the year that more libraries start examining their technology needs and purchasing decisions. How will BYOD (bring your own device) and 1-to-1 programs impact libraries? How will shifts in library users’ technology habits impact technology purchasing decisions? How will it impact the library’s web site? Are database vendors adequately keeping up with this trend? How will shifting to mobile technology impact the physical library space? These are all questions to ponder in 2014.

Cloud-based applications.

With mobile technology comes the need to adopt more cloud based applications. How does moving to the cloud impact the library and library users? How does it impact the budget (e.g. fewer site licenses?)? What concerns need to be addressed in order to move into the cloud? What is already in the cloud? What training would be needed for both library staff and library users in order to go cloud-based? The cloud is where we’re headed, so it’s time to plan the move.

Gaming in libraries.

I’m not talking about badges and gamification here. I’m talking about exploring how and why libraries should support gaming, gaming collections and gaming events. Why should libraries make this resolution? Because games support the new literacies in the same way that books support traditional literacy. 2014 should be the year that more libraries resolve to learn more about the gaming-literacy connection. A good place to start is James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. After that, start playing some video games and see if you can identify the learning principles that Gee lays out in his book. This is a fun resolution, and will lead to a better understanding of game-based learning and gamification.

Embedded librarianship.

Embedded librarianship is still evolving, and as an instructional designer I can tell you that there is so much more that can be done with it beyond having a presence in an online course and leading discussion forums. However, there are also practical issues surrounding it. How effective is embedded librarianship? How can learning analytics be used to improve it? Can it be done on a larger scale? Is it a ‘right fit’ for students’ learning needs? How are students responding to it? Can it be streamlined in any way? These are issues I plan on exploring in future posts on embedded librarianship. In the meantime, Embedded Librarianship: What Every Academic Librarian Should Know is an excellent source that really delves into the topic. Is embedded librarianship worth it? The answer will surely depend on the library, but I think it’s an issue that deserves close examination in 2014.

5 Technology Skills Every Blended Librarian Needs to Know

Being a blended librarian means having a combination of traditional library skills, instructional design skills, and pedagogical knowledge of educational technology. It also means developing some strong technology skills to support that ‘blendedness.’ In thinking about all the technology skills that are useful for blended librarianship, I came up with 5 particular skills that I consider essential to the profession. There are many more technology skills that I could have listed, but I chose these specifically because I think they represent the breadth of skills needed for blended librarianship. Here they are:

  1. PowerPoint. PowerPoint is not just for presentations. You can build great interactive tutorials using PowerPoint alone, without additional expensive plug-ins (e.g. Adobe Presenter). But, you need to know PowerPoint inside out and upside down to do it. PowerPoint is not as linear as you think. You can link between slides, add Action buttons for learner navigation, macros for user input, video, audio, screenshots and more. And you can convert the tutorial to fully functional flash for free with a plug-in like iSpring Free. Recommended reading: Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint by Jane Bozarth (Kindle edition available).
  2. HTML. The good news is you don’t need to become an HTML super-coder. You do need to be able to write some basic code though, and you definitely need to be able to read code to find errors. Think about it, virtually every web-based application requires HTML code. Web sites, wikis, blogs, Libguides, and even YouTube require coding of some sort. And if you can read and write basic code, HTML editor software becomes a whole lot easier (especially Dreamweaver).
  3. Screencasting. Screencasting is a staple of e-learning. The basics are pretty easy to learn, but you should be thoroughly familiar with whatever screencasting software you use – to the point where you are able to both troubleshoot problems, as well as train others on the tool. Check out my post on screencasting tips.
  4. Learning Analytics. Big data drives big decisions, and one of the biggest trends in higher education right now is learning analytics. The idea behind learning analytics is to improve student success, with implications for library instruction. This is a challenging area to tackle. To get your feet wet, try the tutorials from Google Analytics. This one is on my to-do list!
  5. Cloud Computing. Cloud-based learning is the next generation of e-learning, and there’s a steady movement in higher education toward the adoption of cloud computing. Add to that mobile cloud computing, and you have a major trend on your hands. From an e-learning perspective, blended librarians need to stay current with the latest cloud applications for education, such as Evernote, Zotero, DropBox, Skydrive, StudyBlue, Google Docs, Google Apps for Education, Adobe Creative Cloud, and more (the list is endless). Recommended resources on cloud computing: Educause and EdTech Magazine.