Where are the 2.0 Classes in Public Libraries?

November 2, 2006 at 11:37 pm 13 comments

I often visit the web sites of libraries of all sizes to see what they are currently offering for computer classes and other technology training sessions. Over the last several weeks I have looked at 30+ class calendars posted on library web sites and of those only a handful were offering classes on a regular basis that touched upon Web 2.0 technologies.

I looked at the training calendars of 4 very large library systems and did not see any indication that they were teaching 2.0 and (in fact) they were still mainly teaching classes such as “Meet the Mouse” and “Intro to Email”. I know these classes are still needed by many and I am in no way advocating that they be replaced nor implying that they are obsolete. Courses for beginners are still crucial, but they do need to be supplemented to meet the needs of the more advanced computer user. Class offerings need to be kept current to keep training programs fresh.

My question of the day is: Where are the 2.0 classes?

I am optimistic that libraries are busy writing up lesson plans and planning to launch new classes soon. Many libraries that integrate blogs, wikis, RSS and flickr as part of their services and web sites have not yet made the important leap to educating their customers about these technologies in the same way that we taught them about OPACs when we ditched our card catalogs and about email and the Web when we started offering Internet access. Perhaps they plan to do this in the near future?

I sincerely hope that the replies to this post will indicate that there are many, many more libraries out there teaching courses on blogging, flickr, RSS and other new technologies than I am currently finding on my informal and somewhat happenstance survey method. Nothing would make me happier than to get a flood of replies to this post that proves me wrong — that 2.0 technologies are being taught.

It seems to me that a lot of the smaller libraries are moving forward with offering 2.0 classes before their larger counterparts. Princeton Public Library (aka MPOW) is currently teaching four 2.o courses — Become a Blogger, Fun with Flickr, What’s the Fuss about RSS, and Fantastic Freebies (which is a round-up of 2.0 sites) — as well as courses such as Digital Camera Test Drive, Downloading eAudiobooks and Sharing Photos Online. We will soon offer a course on bloglines and one on tagging/folksonomy. Here is a quick sampling of some other libraries that I found who are teaching 2.o:

Lansing Public Library in Illinois is offering classes on how to use bloglines, how to establish a blog and how to use Juice to create a custom radio station using podcasts.

Johnson County Public Library has a course called Cyber Six-Pack: Six Online Gadgets That Are Fun, Free and Easy to Use that is similar to the Fantastic Freebies we teach here at PPL.

Providence Public Library has a good assortment of classes including a 90 minute introduction to blogging.

Darien Public Library is currently offering classes on podcasting and blogging this fall and has a good selection of courses for advanced users (a good example of a library taking their training beyond the basics).

I know that in the past Reading Public Library has tried do some classes on flickr (but according to the cached copy I found using Google it had to be cancelled) and I see that Skokie Public Library has also offered at least one flickr class.

This post has been several weeks in the making (I just never got around to finishing it) and in the mean time I did notice that this was a topic at Internet Librarian 2006 in a session called Technology Training in a Library 2.0 World (a good summary can be found at Library Web Chic), so I know I am not the only thinking about this and how we can encourage others to jump on the “Teaching 2.o Bandwagon”. Let me know what you are doing or hope to do soon, I love learning about what others are up to with their technology training.


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  • 1. rochelle  |  November 4, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    One of my hunches is that in most libraries, staff is still trying to catch up. I just wrote an entry-level 2.0 article for our consortium’s newsletter and couldn’t figure out if I was talking down to the bulk of my audience or talking gibberish. Since most of the libraries are small (very small) and staffed largely by non-MLS staff, I suspect it will truly be new material to them. The other issue is that a lot of libraries still block 2.0 technologies from public computers. But hooray to those libraries who are leading the way and won’t have to play catch-up with their patrons!

  • 2. Scotty Books  |  November 7, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Why are libraries teaching computer classes? What core functions have they abandoned to be para-community college computer education centers?
    True, we are, de facto, the only broadly available, free, and open public access point for computers and the Internet (that is, for Runescape and blog wankers, addictive shoppers, relationship seekers, vanity posters, and mouse-addled ‘puter surfers–and the occasional researcher or word processor–but now we’re supposed to teach the public how to use computers, peripherals, 2.0 technologies?
    Show me the money to fund, the time to implement, and the philosophical logic behind this new, apparently “core” role we should be playing in our communities, please.

  • 3. pkchrist  |  November 7, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    We’ve been discussing this at my library — do we stick with the classes on email, basic word, using the Internet or do we offer classes on blogs, Flickr,IM and such? The answer should be “yes”. Our basic classes fill and have waiting lists. But there’s another group of customers we could attract with new 2.0 classes. We’ll probably end up with a compromise of some sort. There’s no place else to go in town for Grandma to learn to email her grandkids. But wait, wouldn’t it be even better to IM them?

    Rochelle’s comment about 2.0 technologies being blocked is valid. We face that problem in trying to IM among staff. Guess the answer is education at all levels.

  • 4. Anonymous  |  November 8, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    Let’s also stop teaching classes on using the library catalog, using online databases, the fax machine, email, Microsoft Office, because, how inconvenient to be used as an information technology learning center. We surely wouldn’t want to educate our users in how to use our services would we?

  • 5. Shane Sher  |  November 9, 2006 at 11:36 am

    First I really enjoyed the post and I think the site looks great.

    We are going to always be catching up. Everyday information is piling up. I don’t care if you are a teacher, librarian, or patron it will always be too much too quickly. Web 2.0 is one of the few tools libraries have to get attention. I teach at Providence Libraries. We have a range of classes because there are an ever increasing amount of subjects and wants. Blogging has been used at many libraries succesfully to help there patrons. Ann Arbor is a good example. Blogging, flickr, and even Myspace are or can be as useful as the first computerized card catalog.
    Shane Sher
    Providece Public Library

  • 6. Sarah H.  |  November 13, 2006 at 7:09 pm

    My library’s patrons most often request classes on Excel, Word, Access, Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Most of them want to learn how to use programs they use at work or school (or need to know how to use to get a job). Basic Internet searching and genealogy classes are also popular. I have never had a request for any classes on blogs, wikis, RSS, IM, podcasting, flickr, etc. Last year I did offer several sessions of a class called “Online Photo Albums,” which used Photobucket. While there was a lot of interest, about half of the people who signed up did not have enough computer skills to use Photobucket or even sign up for an account (what’s an e-mail address?), even though prereqs were clearly stated. The people who didn’t have the skills were frustrated, and the people who did have the skills were also frustrated. The Word classes are so much easier to manage! I am planning a class on Bloglines for next year, and I’m going to try the Photobucket class again with more stringent participant screening. I would like to teach more 2.0 classes, but the reality is that I do not get to spend 40 hours/week creating and teaching classes. Sometimes I’m learning the topics I teach for the first time myself! I can only do about 4 new classes a year, and my focus this year has been getting 3 levels of Excel classes done, plus the genealogy class, because that’s what people requested.

  • 7. Kevin  |  November 14, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    I think the question needs to be asked “At what point is a customer on the right side of the digital divide?”

    All populations are different, but in Memphis, we are still needing to focus our public computer classes on the basics. We can’t schedule enough Computer Basics and Internet Basics. At times when we offered more advanced, specialized classes, the attendance (1-3 per class) did not justify the time spent.

    Having knowledgeable staff about Web2.0 tools is another thing. If library staff are utilizing aggregators and are knowledgeable about web2.0 tools and implications, I can only view that as an extremely positive situation. They’re keeping up with current tech trends. They’re (hopefully) using these tools to keep up with library issues. And they’re able to assist customers who are using these tools in the library.

  • 8. Maeve Everest  |  November 14, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Just last week I and one of my colleagues presented our first Internet Trends Workshop to staff and students at Central TAFE in Perth, Western Australia. We showed how to build wikis and blogs, introduced RSS and pointed participants to several social networking sites.
    Incidentally, at a recent college librarians meeting none of my colleagues knew what I was talkiing about when I mentioned Web 2.0!!
    I’ll be presenting at a forum later this month and hope more libraries in the area will follow suit.

  • 9. K  |  November 15, 2006 at 10:47 am

    Indeed it seems to be true that library staff are still catching up, most espeically in the smaller systems. In my system we usually teach the basic PC classes merely because that is what our community needs most though we have tried out classes on blogging to limited success.

    However we are teaching a full blown Web 2.0 class for our staff to let them know about blogs, RSS, social networking, and the whole slew of others. It’s still new but it seems to be working very well and the staff are excited. And hopefully that attitude will transfer to the patrons.

  • 10. yplearning  |  November 15, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    Here in Melbourne, Australia we are currently running our Staff through Learning 2.0 following the excellent program by Helene Blowers at PLCMC Library in NC.
    One step at a time……..public classes on 2.0 next!!
    Congratulations on a great Blog.

  • 11. rochelle  |  November 16, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Since I posted my comment a few days ago, I realized that I missed a huge chunk of “why” that others have addressed. To echo Sarah H–I have NEVER had anyone ask me what a blog is, how to start a Flickr account, or for a session on how to use IM. Every day, though, we have teachable moments with patrons who are applying for jobs, but have never had an email address, or who have email, but don’t know how to use it; who have no idea how to use features in Word to format a resume or letters; who type email addresses in the URL bar; who, when looking at the browser set to our homepage say that they can’t get to the internet; who have no idea how to use a copy machine.

    I think we do need to look at the communities who are successfully teaching 2.0. We can’t all hold ourselves up to Ann Arbor or Charlotte Mecklenburg and see ourselves as remiss in our course offerings. I’ve recently moved from a fairly affluent, white collar community to a smaller, more blue-collar town that is surrounded by very small towns with teeny tiny libraries (some of which still do not have online catalogs). I’ve had to adjust my thinking and expectations since moving here. We have our share of 2.0 users, but our help is the last thing they want or need. For many of the others, we’re ushering them gradually (and often, unwillingly) into a 1.0 world.

  • 12. Janie L. Hermann  |  November 16, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    The replies to this post are both interesting and illuminating and turning in to a great conversation. I have had so many more thoughts on this over the last week and have been wanting to put together a cohesive response that explores several aspects of this conversation (especially the false assumptions made by Mr. “Books”.) Unfortunately, I am in the midst of a very busy time work with several major events competing for my attention and not enough energy to spare to wax philosophical. Nonetheless, I have 5 minutes right now so I will attempt to at least get some of it written down.

    The points that have been raised are well-taken and very valid. I fully recognize that not every community is ready to move on to 2.0 and that many, many patrons still need basic help. I understand that many people are just now coming online and that our primary purpose should be to make sure that our users have the basics.

    I also realize that many libraries are still educating their own staff on 2.0 and are not feeling ready to yet blaze a trail in this area.

    I guess what really made me curious and prompted me to write this post was the absence of 2.0 classes in the libraries that prominently use 2.0 technologies on their web sites — aadl being one of them. If aadl teaches blogging, I was not able to find it. NYPL gives little indication of teaching 2.0 even though they use RSS on their site. To me, if your library page contains blogs, RSS feeds, and flickr then you should be making an effort to offer classes or lectures or demos in support of these technologies. It does not have to be hands on classes to make an impact.

    When we had the booklovers wiki I had sessions explaining the wiki, why were using it and how to use it. Part of the reason for creating the booklovers wiki was as a teaching tool for the community.

    Okay, my five minutes is up and I must move on for now. I will try to respond more cohesively in the near future.

  • 13. Peter Bromberg  |  November 16, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    This has turned into a great conversation! My quick two cents (which I hope to do as a longer post later).

    The epiphany I had at Library Camp East was that RSS is an information literacy issue. Think about it. RSS is all about disseminating, selecting, filtering and managing large amounts of information in multiple formats. That’s information literacy! As such, I think it is clear that 1) librarians should understand RSS and it’s many uses and manifestations and 2) should start demonstrating and explaining it to their customers.

    Thanks for getting this conversation going Janie, and thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and perspectives.

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