Lori Reed | A Passion for Learning | twitter

Building a Personal Learning Solution: 10 Steps to Control Information Overload and Take Back Your Life

When you look at the statistics of how much training actually gets retained by learners and how much training actually transfers back to the workplace, you have to ask yourself two questions. Why are we doing training? What can we do better? The problem with most training is that it doesn’t fill an immediate need. What’s the point in taking a class on Microsoft Access if I’m not going to use it for six months or worse don’t even have the software installed. Sounds crazy but believe me it happens. One of the other problems with training is that of ownership. We’ve grown up in this 20th century idea of training with the “sage on the stage”–of one person disseminating information and the learners hoping to learn it all through osmosis. It just doesn’t work that way.

Real learning is a participatory act or a dance between the learners and the facilitator and the learners among themselves. But what to do with information pouring in daily by the gigabyte? Too much to do and too much to keep up with. Enter the personal learning solution = personal learning environment + personal learning network. The 23 Things Program was the first widely distributed example of a personal learning solution. Participants used a blog to keep track of their learning, participants connected with other bloggers, and participants learned a lot about Web 2.0 and technology that was new to them.

In many ways PLSs are ideal for library staff who must manage lots of information with a limited amount of time. The following slides were used this week for a presentation for LibraryLinkNJ. Take a look at them to learn more about PLSs.

View more presentations from Lori Reed
My PLS has and will continue to change over time. Initially it consisted of thousands of RSS feeds in Google Reader. But then I got tired of seeing the count of 1000+ unread items. My true unread count–Google can’t even count as high. Next I navigated to Facebook and Twitter where I made more personal connections with other trainers and library staff. I like that the information is instant, timely, and doesn’t give me a read versus unread count. If I miss something, I can be sure that someone else out there will share the information. This past summer I migrated towards having all my information come into my Gmail account where I set up filters to organize and file the information. Your PLS will be unique to you and it will and should change over time.
If you are creating or thinking about updating your PLS, I’d encourage you to start with the end in mind and think about your goal. No one can keep up with everything. Is your goal to be a better trainer? To stay informed on local, community events? To learn more about one topic? To keep up with the latest tech news? Or to keep up with library news in general? Start with a specific goal and add more content only when you feel comfortable with the amount you already have.
In the following weeks as I embark on a new job and new phase in my career, my learning and information needs will definitely change. As I transition from a focus on “training” to a broader scope of customer relationships and end-user experiences, my information needs will look very different. With my thousands of feeds, I’ve decided to delete them all and start over fresh with a limit of 100 feeds. By effectively filtering information as it comes in using Google Alerts and Twitter Searches I should be able to keep my list of feeds to a manageable size. I’m reminding myself daily that quality should be chosen over quantity.
As we enter to into an early Spring, at least here in North Carolina, I invite you to do some early Spring cleaning and take stock of your information consumption by doing the following:
  1. Mark all your RSS feeds as read. I hear stories of people who get stressed just thinking about the number of unread RSS feeds they have. Remember that technology is here to serve us not the other way around. If you miss something important your sure to see it again from another source.
  2. Prune your RSS subscriptions to an amount that is manageable for you, or delete your feeds and start over.
  3. Know when to subscribe to RSS versus when to bookmark a site. Do you really want to read every post? Or do you want to make sure you can find the site again? Delicious and Pinboard are great bookmarking tools.
  4. Use lists in TweetDeck to manage the people and information you follow. Set up groups based on how much you want to see from the people in the group. The smaller the group, the more you will see. Add keyword columns to search on topics that are relevant to you. Twitter can easily get unmanageable without tools to manage lists.
  5. Unsubscribe from people who complain or are just generally negative all the time. Why surround yourself with negativity.
  6. Unsubscribe from people who post little of value to you. The information may be great, but as your needs change so should the people you follow. Get over the Twitequette that says you need to follow back anyone who follows you.
  7. Learn to use Facebook’s lists feature. You can create lists of coworkers, personal friends, family, librarians, or just about any list imaginable. The benefit is two-fold. First, you can click a button and see only the updates from those most important to you–close friends and family. Second, you can post updates that only specific lists of friends can see. If I’m posting about my cat or children, I may not want all 500 of my friends to see the post. Likewise if you are at a conference, you don’t want to overload your non-library friends and family with ALA totebag posts.
  8. Schedule time each day for online information consumption. 30 minutes should be adequate for most people. If you are in a PR, marketing, or role that requires you to keep track of more information, then adjust the time accordingly. If you are a manager who expects your staff to stay current on library news and information, make that expectation clear and schedule time for staff to do it. If it’s not scheduled it won’t happen.
  9. Schedule time each day to play and set a timer! Facebook is a time suck! Acknowledge that and do something about it. If you are ok with spending hours each night playing Words With Friends or preparing a new crop for Farmville, and it doesn’t affect your personal life, great! But if it interferes with your family relationships or causes you to neglect other parts of your life, do something about it and set a timer. Did you know that inpatient centers are popping up to treat Internet addiction? Internet addiction is real and is more prevalent than you might realize. If you are using the Internet to escape some part of your life, get help. Life is too short to live in a virtual world like the folks in the movie Wall-E.
  10. Don’t forget to take time to participate in your networks. Comment on blogs. Post links to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Add to the discussions taking place. If you don’t have anything to add, offer encouragement to someone having a bad day. This is your social network karma.

I hope this information and tips are helpful. I’d love to hear from you in the comments? What does your personal learning solution look like? And how are you controlling the overload of information?

UPDATE: If you are looking for a tool to manage multiple social media accounts. Check out this great review of three products from the Social Media Examiner.

Announcing SaveLibraries.org

It started with an idea…like all projects do.

One of my classes this semester is Media, Culture, and Society. It’s been a great class! For our final project we were each assigned to create a work of pop culture. I knew the project would involve libraries but was not sure how. At one point Tony Tallent and I planned to collaborate on a “Gaga for Libraries” project (imagine a mashup of Flat Stanley with Lady Gaga in libraries).

However in the beginning stages of planning, my own library went into crisis mode as we prepared for an immediate $2 million reduction in our current budget and a looming 50% reduction for the next fiscal year beginning in July.

Last Friday after 148 of my friends and colleagues got “the call” that they were going to be laid off next week, I went to bed hoping to wake up Saturday and realize this had all been a bad dream.

I woke up Saturday and realized it was no dream. I saw how Facebook had become a support system for our staff. I realized that I could either cry or do something.

I immediately turned to my own social networks on Twitter and Facebook for ideas. The domain savelibraries.org was available. Within an hour Blake Carver of LISHost had WordPress up and running thanks to Robin Blum who answered my call for help via Facebook Saturday afternoon.

Heather Braum quickly volunteered to help with the site along with several others.

So let me announce a new resource for libraries, SaveLibraries.org. Our mission is to help raise awareness of the funding crisis libraries are facing. We will serve as an aggregator of news about library budget cuts, closings, and reductions, and compile links to “Save Library” campaigns.

Our slogan is, “When one library is in trouble, ALL libraries are in trouble.” There is a trend happening in this country and it’s one as a society that we should be appalled at. Our libraries represent the freedom and democracy that our country was founded on. Can you think of another place where all are welcome? No matter what your color, religion, or economic status the library is there with open doors.

However when libraries close and communities accept library closings as “the new normal,” then all libraries are in trouble. Other states, other communities, and other politicians are going to get the message that it’s ok. If it was ok for _____________ to close it’s libraries, then it’s ok here.

Well here’s a message. It’s not ok! Especially now. Communities need their libraries more than ever. I realize that we are in a recession. I get that state and local governments are out of money. But as library professionals, it is up to us to come up with a solution. Be a part of the solution!

Together we can make a difference. Together we can come up with a solution. Together we can save libraries!

10 Tips for Training in Tough Times



Libraries across the country are being impacted by the economy. Staff are being laid off. Doors are being locked as libraries close or reduce hours. As we face this new reality, how does this impact our roles as trainers/teachers/learners? What can we do to not only support our organizations but secure training’s place within our organizations? Here are ten ideas for you to consider.

  1. Alignment. Align training with strategic priorities. If ever there was a time to tighten the training belt it is now. Do you know what your library’s strategic priorities are? If not, ask. Make sure that all of your training supports those outcomes and priorities for your library.
  2. Attitude. Set a good example. Employees often look at trainers as role models for the organization. Doom and gloom do not do anyone a bit of good. Lead by example. Look for the silver lining that exists and embrace this time as an opportunity for growth and change. Be flexible and willing to do things that may fall outside of your normal realm.
  3. Network and Collaboration. Look for ways to collaborate with other trainers. There are trainers across the country who are ready and willing to share and trade training materials. If you need a handout on the fly try posting to an email list. Or you might decide to create a more formal training exchange with a sister library.
  4. Webinars. ALA Learning will soon be announcing a new resource for sharing training and learning opportunities. Many of these events are free. Better yet many are online and require no travel. Publicize these events to your staff.
  5. Outcomes. Think in terms of outcomes rather than trainings. What outcome or result are you looking for? What problem are you trying to address? Once you’ve determined your outcome then you can determine if training is the best way to reach that outcome (in many cases it’s not). Don’t invest time and resources in training that’s not needed.
  6. Free. Look for free authoring tools. Do a search for “free elearning tools” and you will find lots of great articles. Like this one and this one from our own Jay Turner. With her budget cut to nearly 70% Sue-Minton Colvin, training and development coordinator for Lexington Public Library turned to e-learning. Not already having an established platform, Colvin created an entire training intranet using Shutterfly. Yes, you read that right, Shutterfly. I never even realized you could create a Web site using Shutterfly! Talk about using your resources!
  7. Social Learning. On her Web site Ageless Learner, Marcia Conner says that, “Informal learning accounts for more than 75% of learning that takes place in organizations today.” Embrace the power of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter to facilitate informal learning. Host a discussion. Host a chat. The sky is the limit and we are only on the verge of utilizing these tools fully in learning and staff development.
  8. Visibility. Be visible in your organization. When you work primarily behind the scenes, it’s easy to stay holed up in your office. Get out and talk to staff. Find out what’s going on. Let them know what’s going on with training. Listen with empathy and remember tip #2.
  9. Better With Less. Instead of focusing on how we are doing more with less, focus on the opportunity to do better with less. As I said in tip #1, this blip in the radar gives us a chance to focus on the basics, rethink our training strategies, and truly show an impact on the organizations we serve. Staff training in the library is very different from public training. We are here primarily to improve the performance of staff within libraries so that they can better serve our customers.
  10. Don’t stop. No matter how tight the budget is, it’s a huge mistake for any organization to stop training completely. As the economy ebbs and flows it is crucial that libraries and our staff learn to go with that flow. Only through continuous learning can we keep our workforce’s skills up to date and prepare our employees for the changes that will no doubt take place in organizations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about training in tough times. Please comment on this post to continue the discussion!

Lori Reed, managing editor of ALA Learning, is the learning & development coordinator (and mayor :) ) for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She also blogs at http://lorireed.com.

A Day in the Life With Lori Reed – Monday

I am so glad that Bobbi Newman started this Library Day in the Life meme. I was part of the first round in 2008 and was amazed at the response I got to combining my work/home lives into my posts. I’m continuing that for this round.

6:00am

Why oh why does 6:00am seem so early. Until this month I had been getting up at 7:00am for years and years. At 6:00am it’s still dark and I don’t want to be awake. But my two kids have to be at two different schools and it takes a much longer time to get a 2-year-old dressed and ready to go in the mornings than it did when she was a baby. I fix my hair and makeup while the kids watch TV in bed. My 5-year-old son asks why I do this and I respond to look pretty. He melts my heart with his response of, “But mom you’ve been pretty for years.”

7:30am

My son and I are out the door and I take him to school. He’s in Kindergarten and it’s a teacher work day so I have to walk him inside to sign him in for the enrichment program that our school system provides for after school and teacher workdays.

8:00am

I arrive at work. Make a pot of hot tea. Open my email and immediately begin processing. During the last round of Library Day in the Life I posted about my frustration with email and Kevin Crenshaw commented about a solution. I followed up with Kevin and he offered me a free trial of his product with training and we have been in contact ever since. When I have more time I’m planning another series of posts about the training and process I went through to get my email problems under control. Kevin is a great person to follow on Twitter. His profile says that he is the father of 10 children! If anyone knows about time management, it’s someone with 10 children!

9:00am

I begin the arduous task of scheduling training for our staff for the 2010 calendar year. This takes up more hours of the day then I want to remember. There is so much that goes into planning and scheduling over 50 training sessions. For example:

  • I am lucky enough to work with a team of about 20 staff who facilitate staff training in addition to their normal jobs. Each of their individual schedules has to be taken into consideration. Who works what night? Who has days off during the week because of working a weekend? Who is taking vacation when?
  • We don’t want to schedule training when other large meetings or events are taking place. Anytime staff are out of the building it affects the ability of other staff to go to training.
  • We don’t want to schedule training on election days because many locations double as a polling place or early voting location. Parking can be an issue, and we are much busier on these days.
  • We don’t want to schedule training during summer reading because our libraries and staff are busy, busy, busy! The same goes for school holidays, teacher workdays, etc. I have a big master calendar with all of these dates written in.
  • Some training requires very large rooms. For instance, Non-Violent Crisis Intervention requires a room large enough for classroom space and physical maneuvers as well.
  • Other training requires computer labs or other specialized resources found only at certain libraries.
  • We have 23 libraries spread across a large geographic area so each class needs to have sessions offered at different libraries across the county. We wouldn’t want to have all sessions for one class in one geographic area.
  • Lastly we don’t want to have any two training sessions happen at the same time. This makes it very difficult to fill both classes and thus does not properly utilize our most valuable resource–our staff’s time.

2:00pm

Take a break from planning to call the ALA Learning Round Table President Pat Carterette. We talk about the name change for the round table and where we are in the process of getting a new logo. I share the designs I received from our graphic artist and we pick two to move forward with.

I follow up with the artist to give her feedback on the 8 logos she sent us. Tell her the final two we selected and give a few suggestions for refining them.

2:30pm

Phone call with one of our librarians who facilitates Readers Advisory training for staff. Have a discussion about how to move forward with converting this training to self-paced training. Refer her to some additional resources that may help.

3:00pm

Meet with our director of research, innovation, and strategy about implementing Web Ex as a tool for synchronous learning. Discuss the pros and cons of online training and meetings and how to balance the need for bandwidth for staff training with the need for bandwidth for our customers using the Internet in our libraries.

4:00pm

Back to scheduling training.

4:45pm

The alarm goes off on my phone. It’s my 15-minute warning to wrap things up so I can leave in time to pick my son up from school.

5:30pm

I rush out the door because I got tied up on the phone trying to reserve rooms for training. I realize that I even forgot to have lunch today. In the car I call Sandra Smith from the Denver Public Library. She is one of the people I am interviewing for the book I am coauthoring about leadership for trainers. We catch up and make plans for our next interview.

5:59pm

Rush into the school since at 6:00pm I start getting billed $1 a minute for being late. My son greets me by shouting “MOMMMEEEEEEEE” from across the room and runs to give me a hug so tight I can hardly breathe. It takes my breath away (literally) and puts a much needed smile on my face. He immediately tells me all about his field trip to ImaginOn which happens to be a library a block from where I work, and I feel a pang of guilt that I could not get away for even a few moments to say hi to him and his class while they were visiting.

6:15pm

We arrive home, and I have a massive headache. My son turns the TV on and I immediately begin unpacking my laptop so I can keep working. Now that I have most of the training scheduled I need to create a calendar we can publish for staff. Today is the deadline to have this project done and it’s my job to get this done no matter how long it takes.

7:00pm

My husband gets home with our daughter and she also screams “MOMMMEEEEEEEE” as soon as she sees me at the computer. There is no point in trying to work until I give her some attention. So I step away from the computer to spend some quality time holding her.

7:30pm

My husband tells me to go take a bath and some medicine for my headache. I do this and am thankful that he is home and feeding the kids.

8:00pm

My husband bathes the kids, reads stories to them, and puts them to bed. Again I remind myself of how lucky I am. I finish the training calendar then begin looking at what I missed today on Twitter and my other social networks. I also work on the final touches for my new site. I realize that it is Library Day in the Life Week from the trends on Twitter. I’m excited because this ties into everything I am doing this week with my own site as well as ALA Learning. But at the same time I realize that this week will also sh0w how unbalanced my life is right now. I spent less than an hour with my kids today and between my real job, social networking, and my web site I will have spent 16 hours on the computer today.

12:00am

I am still on the computer and chatting with Marianne Lenox. I realize what time it is and have to abruptly end the chat with Marianne who I hope understands. Then it’s off to bed with my mind racing about what’s left to do tomorrow.

So that’s my Monday. :) How was yours?

IL2009: Sneaking the Social Web Into Your Library & Going Beyond 23 Things

I presented this session Monday afternoon with Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey-Howerton. My portion of the session, 23 Things & Beyond, reviewed Learning 2.0 and 23 Things. There were people in the audience who still had not heard of this great program. I introduced the key principles of 23 Things programs connection, collaboration, play, and prizes. Then I presented some ideas for what to do after a 23 Things program.

The challenge here is how to continue the momentum when the prizes are given out and the official program is over. When does learning become its own reward for staff? I shared the Learning 2.1 site which is where PLCMC continued its Web 2.0 learning.  I also shared Learn Chat a twitter based discussion group for trainers that takes place on Twitter on Thursday nights.

One of the keys to engaging learners online is to reach out to them in their native environments. Many of our staff are already on Facebook so that has become a natural place for me to reach them. I’ve begun posting status updates during the day to let staff know where I am and how they can reach me. A few staff contact me regularly through Facebook chat to ask questions about training and registration. I foresee some research in my future about demonstrating the value of allowing staff to use social networking sites while at work.

I ended the presentation with the steps to creating a marketing/learning/really any plan.

  1. Identify a need.
  2. Research.
  3. Identify the audience.
  4. Identify objectives. Output or outcome?
  5. Craft your message.
  6. Find the right platform/tools.
  7. Develop a plan.
  8. Evaluate. How will you know what worked?

Notice that you don’t even consider whether to use Facebook, Twitter, or blogs until step 6. It’s crucial to first identify a need, your audience, and objectives before thinking about how to get your message out. That’s not to say that you can’t play. Play is essential for learning! But when you are creating a strategic, long-term plan it’s important to lay the groundwork for success.