Today’s guest post comes from Céline Carty (@cjclib on Twitter, blogger and true Librarian with a Life) with a fantastic account of her experience of 23 Things at Cambridge.
23 Things is a self-directed learning programme designed to introduce library staff to Web 2.0 technologies. It has its origins in a course designed by Helene Blowers for staff of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenberg County, North Carolina in 2006. Versions were organised at various institutions in the US and, more recently, at the Universities of Huddersfield and Oxford. This year, a group of librarians from Cambridge decided to organise a version for staff of the many libraries which form part of the University here.
Essentially, they set up a Cambridge 23 Things blog and advertised it widely within the University. For a 12-week period over the summer, participants would read a blog post or two per week introducing new social media/Web 2.0 tools such as Flickr, Twitter, RSS feeds, Delicious. Each post had instructions to follow in order to explore that particular tool, but the main focus of each Thing was to write a reflective blog post on the participant’s own blog (set up as Thing 3 of 23!) looking at that Thing from a personal perspective but with a specific focus on its application/usefulness in library work.
In the end, over a hundred people signed up for the programme and over 60 completed the course and won the much-coveted certificate and book voucher (oh how easily librarians can be won over!). What I wanted to write about was specifically what I got out of taking part, as a librarian with toddlers, er, a life.
Since having children, I’ve changed to working part-time and that requires a shift – there is less time available in the working week, it seems harder to fit everything in, and so professional development was the thing that suffered. There just didn’t seem to be space to think about the wider profession beyond my everyday work, however much I enjoyed that work. What 23 Things did was give me the excuse I needed to spend a bit of my time on CPD, wider issues and just exploring stuff I would never have time to do normally. It forced me to create a little bit of thinking space in my working day which soon became a habit that spread into non-working days, and that has been very positive thing.
I never used to write comments on people’s blogs. I didn’t use my real name online anywhere at all. I sneered at Twitter (without really knowing what it was) and I always meant to get round to setting up RSS feeds but never quite managed to do it. 23 Things fixed all that. At the simplest level, it introduced me to tools that I use all the time now, in my work, for CPD and in other areas of my life (Doodle, RSS feeds, Google docs). I have continued blogging since the end of the 23 Things programme.
Perhaps surprisingly, though, the biggest impact of learning about all these social media tools was actually truly social. I had worked in Cambridge libraries for most of the last dozen years and yet I have made so many new connections and friendships through 23 Things (both in the virtual world and in the real world). Through discussions in the comments of someone’s blog, I met 4 other librarians and together we organised the Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet in September and we’re planning another in 2011. It has been a brilliant experience and would never have happened without 23 Things. I now have a serious Twitter addiction, which is a brilliant tool for professional development and a great way to meet other librarians. Twitter is the reason I met up with other tweeting cataloguers at a recent conference, as a result of which I’m working on a “cataloguing advocacy” campaign.
The motto of 23 Things, and the thing that drove the Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet and all of this professional activity, is the spirit of “just do it”. Instead of waiting for someone else to organise it, instead of wondering “why doesn’t someone…”, just do it. Turns out lots of people already knew that but I didn’t and it’s been a revelation. And so, if you hear about a 23 Things programme happening anywhere near you, join in. Seriously, it could be fun (and a £10 voucher should never be sniffed at). And if you’re thinking that 23 Things sounds great and wishing someone would organise one near you, then…. just do it yourself!*
*Disclaimer: I have no idea how much work and stress was actually involved for the organising team.
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