Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Need to Know (Now!) Basis

This post isn't anything new. If you are a learning professional, what I am writing is something that you've been experiencing for quite some time. I decided to write this post because some organizations haven't yet moved in the "learning on demand" direction. For some, training is still very traditional, and social learning is synonymous with playing around on Facebook all day. Whatever assumptions there are, it is very apparent that employees are using a user centric model to access information at the time they need it. Knowing this and embracing it are two different concepts. 
Ask yourself: 
  • Does your organization allow employees to use Youtube to surf for helpful videos? 
  • Are training Webinars uploaded and easily findable? 
  • To create a portal for social learning, are you using Ning or another social networking platform to connect employees?
  • Has management decided to use Salesforce or Sugar CRM to provide an accessible communication platform to monitor customers, sales needs, or budgets?
Face-to-face learning will never completely go out of style, but a lot of time and money can be saved if employees have access to the information they need at the time they need it. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Favorite Free Training Tools

A lot of organizations would like to have a training program or at least a collection of training resources. Sometimes that means being open to new technology, even if it means that the information lives in "The Cloud." Here is a list of great free resources that can be used to create free or low cost training:
  • If you ever wanted to demonstrate how to use specific software, or a website, Screencast-O-Matic is a great tool. Film a video of your computer screen--even add narration; download it, then upload it to Youtube, or another service.
  • You want to use Web-ex for the Cisco name, but it's too expensive. You can use Anymeeting for conferencing.
  • You would love to use a Learning Management System to create designated coursework, but once again, it's too expensive. Check out Moodle instead.
  • Animation and gaming is hot, but it can also be really expensive. Go Animate is great for simple animations, or Xtranormal is more in depth, but can be used to make animated movies. Although it's not my thing, you can also use Sploder to create free basic games.
  • Last but not least, online quizes are a great way to learn as well. One of my favorite resources is ProProfs. You can even insert video content as one of the questions. 

Why Does My Blog Look Different?

I know, I know. You woke up this morning and decided to check out my blog, only to be surprised by its new look. You wondered,"What happened to her fun flippy-card links? They were so, mod..."
Let me be frank with you. I miss them too. I really liked the look of the blog.
But then I got real.
Here's the thing; most of the time, people who are reading my information won't even come to my blog directly. They might link to bits via Google, or follow me on Twitter.  Yes, it's nice if a website looks appealing, but in this world of parsed information, it doesn't really matter. As long as my interface is clean and can offer people the ability to find my information, the coolness factor isn't that necessary. 
That being said, the problem with my other look was that it used "Dynamic Views." Dynamic Views are flexible image-based blog posts, but they haven't been as customizable as a traditional style. It also has not been possible to add Gadgets (think "Follow me on Twitter" link) to the layout. As of this week, an update has created new docked gadgets, but since this is relatively new, I have decided to go with the basic blog style. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Training With Humor

Just admit it. This guy is FUNNY!
Have you ever looked at which blogs and Youtube posts get the most action? Sex and violence probably rate the highest, with funny coming in at a close third. Since using sex or violence in organizational training doesn't seem to be the smartest idea, using humor is probably the best alternative.
Let's be honest.Training isn't always very funny. Just say the words, "multiple choice exam," and a deep snore resonates throughout the training room (second only to the words "power" and "point"). 
Funny works. Funny is memorable, and funny takes away the insecurities that people feel when learning new things. This doesn't mean that a person has to be a stand-up comic. Humor needs to come across as genuine and appropriate--not forced. 
There are some easy ways to use humor.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Don't Forget What Assuming Does...

Sometimes it's good to be honest about current challenges. As much as it hurts to admit, we often learn the most from situations that are the most difficult at the time.
This week, my dog and I are having a communication breakdown. She has had minor surgery and is wearing an elizabethan collar to prevent her from scratching the injury. Although she practiced wearing the e-collar before the surgery (yes, we did!), I failed to consider that her "tunnel vision" would greatly affect how we interacted during her walks.
Her regular breaks have now become exercises in fixation. Her limited vision is now the cause of a telescope-like focus on all sorts of delicious trash. Because of this unrelenting interest, my "leave it" commands have little impact on her obsession, and instead, I have been pulled around like a carriage behind the Headless Horseman.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rethinking Titles (Even More!)

After I published the Rethinking Traditional Titles post, one of my colleagues, Layne, posted a comment that got me thinking. She wrote, "...I am still one of those people who really likes telling people that I am a librarian, and I lament the fact that we have not successfully rebranded the title itself. I wish we could continue to just be librarians..."
During the last week, I have pondered this response. Since I am also a librarian, to think that my hard-earned title lacks meaning is a bit disconcerting. After a bit more thought, I realized that perhaps it is up to the library schools to rebrand (public) librarianship. I could see this being done in two very different ways:

Friday, February 17, 2012

I said, "Come!"

I am not always the bluntest communicator. I don't like to hurt people's feelings, and that sometimes creates a battle between diplomacy and direction.
As I have gotten older, I have realized where the problem lies: clear, concise communication is sometimes seen as potentially masculine or overbearing. As a result, many times females downplay their requests. Unfortunately, meek or wishy-washy attempts to explain oneself do not result in effective directives. 
Even though I have seen this phenomenon, I have also worked with some powerful, direct, innovative females. Through them, I have begun learning how to channel some of my inner badarse (i.e., my ability to be a direct communicator). But lately, these lessons are sometimes best taught by my dog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If I Could Speak Honestly...

As a person who has been outside the library world for a bit, I have had some time to reflect on my experience in public libraries. During my seven years in the industry, I realize that there are some common mistakes that libraries are making. Well, let's not call them mistakes. Let's refer to them as missteps:  
Too Much Energy is going into the "Moving of Books"
Think about it. Instead of facilitating programs or supporting literacy, many libraries spend most of the time packing, unpacking, checking in, and driving books around. This Oprah-like "Ah-ha!" epiphany dawned on me the other day. Is this what the public really wants from libraries?
Lots of Introverts in Customer-Facing Roles
Let's think about this--in the past, many people went into library science not because they wanted to facilitate interactive programming, but because they liked quiet places to get work done. The library today is no longer a great place for shy, regimented personalities. Instead, they are better suited to loud mouthed, gregarious, friendly, community activists who can multitask and think nonlinearly.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Heart Cries Out

To my hard working former colleagues. Every day, they fill the void a bit more. They are flexible, yet under-funded, And many times, they are misunderstood. Every day, they fill the role of social worker, genealogistjob counselor, technology instructor, literacy expert, archivist, story teller, community advocate, and connector of information. 
The next time you hear someone say that libraries aren't needed in the digital age, expand your view of what a library does. I wrote once before about replacing traditional titles to promote a library's worth in the community. Whether that has to happen officially, or perhaps just in the minds of elected officials and the public, all of a sudden, it becomes apparent that they are needed more than ever. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The View from the Outside

Why use a consultant? 
For those of you who know me understand that I can be a silly, off beat, and semi-hilarious human being. I also tend to become really passionate about the people, places, and things that I care about the most. Unfortunately for me, I am also a "fixer" by nature, which doesn't always work best for me if I am in a situation that I care about that perhaps isn't living up to its potential. 
I do best when I can back up and take a breath to reevaluate the context. After I do this, I don't always have the right answer--sometimes my ideas are so "out there", that they need to be reined in by a practical soul, or refined by a group of people who can provide a different perspective. But many times, I can at least see the problem more clearly than someone who is in the middle of the situation. And being honest about what needs to be fixed is sometimes the hardest step to take.

Managing Priorities

Let's say that you've done the strategic planning, the buy-in meetings, and most everyone is on board. Everything is great--except, all of a sudden, your list of "Must Haves" is a lot longer than it was when just upper management was on board. Is that better or worse? Well, perhaps at first, this seems a lot more daunting than before--after all, upper management probably spent a lot of time aligning change with the in-place strategic plan. As other opinions were brought in, so were ideas that didn't fit under the original umbrella. So, the challenge comes from the discomfort that follows. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Big Changes: Employee Buy-In

I always wonder if big organizations can change. In the business world, "Change Management" is a growing field complete with special buzzwords that accompany the M.B.A.'s and H.R. folks who are trained to facilitate this process. Non-profits and government organizations are quick to follow with numerous articles, conferences, and websites dedicated to this practice. In other words, change is not easy. It is something that requires thought, planning, and buy-in. I've read a fair amount about this process, but in my opinion, especially in a diverse government organization, change has to begin with the employees. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rethinking Traditional Titles

Our world has changed so quickly. With the use of technology, many job titles that used to make sense, just don't hold the same value. When this is happening, it can be frustrating for staff as everyone attempts to hold onto what once was. Trust me--I am a librarian--we are the epitome of having to deal with change. I graduated with my Masters in Library and Information Science in 2007. That meant that I took classes in web design, management, social media, marketing, instructional design, literacy and presentation skills. Does that sound like a "shushing" librarian? Not so much. Many of us graduate with this kind of degree, only to have the public tell us our skills are not needed. It is because of this is that I argue for a change in job title to better inform the user base of what public libraries stand for today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Out of the Box. Just like You.

My career decisions today come from the experience of creating change as a teammate. It hasn't always been easy, but I've learned a lot in the process. Many times, the process grew organically through excitement about new inexpensive technologies, or by working for supportive managers who wanted my help and saw that I had something to offer (or just didn't know how to get me to turn my ideas off!). In other words, I trained from the middle. I trained my boss, I trained other departments, and I trained the public. I didn't do it alone. If fact, if anything, I did it mostly with other people. Sometimes it came from just putting an idea out there, and letting others help to evolve it. People followed me, not because they had to, but because they realized what I was demonstrating was helpful, more efficient, and just plain made sense. I was able to implement change and new technologies as a team member—not for power or to look good, but because I saw that it could make our lives easier, more productive, and happier.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

About Me

Since I graduated from college, I explored a variety of careers. I spent almost six years as a flight attendant (and instructor), only to transition to my hardest job--an urban elementary school teacher. Looking back on that experience, I am grateful for it. It was the time when I learned the most about myself, although it wasn't the prettiest time in my life. I did begin to understand one of the most valuable facets of my personality. I did not do well if I had a huge possibility of failing. Teaching thirty-five students who all hungered for individual attention was breaking my heart and working against my natural strengths.