Since arriving at UMSI, I’ve become a fervent reader of blogs, especially those on libraries, education, educational technology, and makerspaces. I like to know what’s going on outside of my own experience, and having my Google Reader filled with new posts every day always gives me something interesting to think about. Below are the bloggers I’ve been following in the context of SI 643, as well as a few overall trends on which I’ve picked up.
Gwyneth Jones (AKA “The Daring Librarian”) is a middle school teacher-librarian in the DC Metro area who blogs at The Daring Librarian. Her blogging style is informal, snarky, and very image-based. Every post features screenshots, pictures, links, doodles, and other eye-grabbing goodies. She has a special voice in LibraryLand because she frequently speaks up about the needs and tendencies of middle school students, especially when it comes to technology use. She also posts about new tech tools or new skills with old tech tools, and has lots of practical, helpful tips for librarians.
Although I occasionally find The Daring Librarian to be visually overwhelming, I’ve found of lot of treasures on this blog. The posts here are well-labeled and easy to search for, so it serves as a great reference point for focused learning. Additionally, I like that she writes honestly about putting ideas and tools into practice in a school library (for example in this post about QR codes, this one about turning versions of Facebook into school-appropriate teaching tools, and this one, where she describes a Twitter-inspired book review lesson). I get excited while reading about schools libraries and school librarians. But more importantly, I gain knowledge and experience through reading about the successes and failures of other librarians.
Doug Johnson, who blogs at The Blue Skunk Blog, is the Director of Libraries and Technology for the Mankato, MN Public School District. He has served as a media specialist in grades K-12 and as an adjunct faculty member; he also writes both books and columns. As a blogger, he is quite opinionated, but makes no secret of his biases concerning education, technology, libraries, and life. Being from Minnesota myself, I enjoyed the anecdote about his blog’s title, which is the literal translation of Mankato (man-kay-toe), the Lakota word for “blue skunk.” Instead of calling that portion of Minnesota “blue earth” (mah-kah-toe), something got lost in translation.
On The Blue Skunk Blog, Johnson writes about whatever he’s thinking, working on, or reading. He frequently comments on or expands upon other library bloggers’ posts. It’s obvious that he’s well-versed in what professional organizations, schools, and other bloggers are talking about, so his blog is a good smorgasbord of topics. Topics range from using devices in the classroom to managing that classroom technology use to promoting use of Google Apps with this horror film (an homage to openly-shared content). Some of his posts are BFTP (Blasts from the Past), where he revises and reworks old posts. In general, I’ve enjoyed skimming The Blue Skunk Blog for ideas about integrating technology in classroom settings, getting in touch with public school politics, and thinking systematically about our educational policies and approaches.
Cathy Davidson blogs at hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson about digital humanities, digital learning, new media, higher education, and attention in the digital age (among other things). She is the co-founder of Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) and serves as blogger, writer, speaker, professor, and advisor for various organizations. I’ve also been following her other blog at cathydavidson.com, where she writes specifically about “the brain in a digital age.” Her work is fascinating and grounded simultaneously in developmental/cognitive science and learning principles.
She writes deep, timely pieces like this one on the essential nature of web literacy, this one on MOOCs and higher education, and this one on our current practices for student assessment. Although she does not write specifically about libraries, she does write about learning and education. As a future educator, I’ve found her writing to be very formative of my own understandings of learning and education for today’s youth. She emphasizes repeatedly that how we learn is actually more important that what we learn, and I think this is a good thing to be reminded of.
David Lee King works as a public librarian (his official title is Digital Service Director) at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, Kansas. On his self-titled blog, davidleeking.com, he writes about social media, library marketing, library websites, Web 2.0/Library 2.0, and other emerging trends in libraries. Occasionally, he’ll throw in a post about interesting information he ran across or a cool new tool he’s testing. He has published two books on digital experience and he co-writes the Outside/In column for American Libraries. His blogging style is pretty authoritative, yet still conversational. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to digital services in libraries, and he wants you to know too. I’ve found the blog posts he writes on leveraging social media and marketing skills to promote and enhance library service to be the most useful. These are generally fast-paced, bulleted posts (like this one and this one) with very concrete ideas for using technology to engage patrons.
I think the essence of what David Lee King does really well on his blog is push readers to think deeply and intentionally about designing a worthwhile experience for library patrons, both at the library and through the library’s digital presence. Although he’s a public librarian and very digital-service-oriented, I’ve found some great takeaway messages from his blog. School librarians tend to need to do their own marketing, whatever that may mean for them. Furthermore, I want to work with middle school or high school students–both populations who are very in touch with digital trends and emerging technology. Therefore, a blogger like David Lee King is a great resource for helping me both keep in touch with emerging trends and reflect thoughtfully on what these trends mean for library service.
Extras: I have also been following the blogs Information Wants to Be Free and Ink and Vellum, but neither has been updated much thus far in 2013, so I decided to focus on the aforementioned four. Looking back in the archives of both of these blogs, I did find a few really useful posts, especially this one from Meredith Farkas at Information Wants to Be Free on information literacy instruction with college freshmen. I also enjoyed this post by John Jackson at Ink and Vellum about giving up your office to promote collaboration, creativity, and openness in the library. As both of these bloggers are academic librarians, I think that they have some really valuable insights for me as a future school librarian. In essence, I can get some sense of vision from academic librarians as to where my students need to be headed. I plan to continue following both blogs in the future.
A few general themes from LibraryLand:
- The obvious one, I think, is how essential it is for libraries (and librarians) to use social media and digital tools effectively. Social media isn’t merely a way to “appear hip,” it’s a genuine way to connect would-be library users with library services.
- Librarianship is difficult. There’s lots to do and the landscape changes constantly–this is either incredibly overwhelming or incredibly exhilarating… or both, simultaneously.
- Learners and library patrons today have many different needs than they had decades ago. However, there is still a core of consistency. We’re all looking to find information to solve our problems, both big and small. We all want to create and uncover meaning in our reading materials, our learning, and our lives.
- Our profession has a powerful online presence which serves as an incredible Professional Learning Network (PLN). By reading about other librarians’ successes and failures, big ideas, book and product reviews, and thoughtful reflections, we can all learn something and build upon that knowledge. In general, it seems that librarians want to learn and to share what they know.
and yes, I think I went a little overboard on this post.