Tag Archives: participation

Links of interest 13/1/10

Web collaboration

  • Tinychat lets you instantly set up a temporary chatroom with its own short url you can share with anyone you want to join you. Once everyone has left the chat it disappears.
  • Flockdraw does the same for the virtual whiteboard.

Virtual reference



Facilitating the unplannable

(aka, my view of how my “Getting People Onside” workshop at LIANZA09 went. I’ve written before about planning and about rehearsing this workshop.)


  • A set of slides to structure my intro/warm-up
  • a bunch of topics on A3 paper for people to cluster around and discuss
  • an egg-timer to keep track of time with
  • a bell to ring to prompt people to move between topics every ten minutes
  • a box to collect email addresses in for those who wanted to join a mailing list to continue the conversation after conference

The conference organisers arranged for the room to be rearranged beforehand from “theatre-style” to “cabaret-style”, which terminology provided a certain amount of mirth to my colleagues in the days leading up to conference. We ended up with nine tables, each furnished with chairs, mints, and writing pads. I estimate about 60 people turned up, which was a great number.

I started off by introducing where I was coming from with this topic – basically that conference tends to give you all kinds of great ideas, except that you can have all the good ideas in the world, but if you’re not prepared and able to deal with the various obstacles/resistance to change then they may well sink without a trace; so this was a time to think positively and brainstorm about how to be prepared.

We did some warm-ups next. First, the “Mexican Wave” – because we didn’t have time to introduce 60+ people, I got people to just call out their first name as my arm swept around the room, and then we repeated that with a couple of other simple questions. It didn’t go as fast as I’d intended: partly because the shape of the room made it unclear where my finger was pointing, partly because we all fell into turn-taking mode instead of the babbling whoosh I’d envisioned, and I wasn’t confident enough to really get more energy in there. But it still worked and I think achieved its purpose; certainly when we moved on to brainstorming how to respond to the “50 Reasons Not to Change”, everyone was quite happy to participate.

And then we split into 10-minute groups. Well, actually 9 minutes for each one, because I had a close eye on my timer. 🙂 I kept the ‘ground rules’ up on the slides during these, following a suggestion from the rehearsal. I sort of hovered and spent a few minutes at each table, occasionally sticking my oar in but mostly just listening, and it was all very cool. Some of the keywords I’d come up with as conversation starters were interpreted differently by the participants than how I’d intended them, but that didn’t matter in the slightest of course. During the last 10 9 minutes I passed around my box for email addresses.

Finally we spent five minutes getting someone at each table to report back a highlight or two; and then some kind soul helped me gather all the notes people made while brainstorming, which I’ve now duly transcribed.

I was really happy with how it went, which of course is all down to everyone’s participation – it was exactly what I’d hoped for when I proposed the session.

Rehearsing the unplannable

After my post about planning the LIANZA 2009 un-workshop I’ll be facilitating, I met with Erin Kimber, who’s going to be chairing the session, and we talked and brainstormed some more. She gave me some really great ideas including one that will probably be obvious to people who’ve actually been to unconferences: that, instead of dividing the time up among the topics, I should divide up the space so there can be three simultaneous conversations going on.

So this afternoon I ran a practice session at my workplace and that’s how we did it. We got just enough people (about a dozen) to make this viable. I started off by going over the ‘groundrules’ and explaining where I was coming from and what we were going to do, except I babbled a bit so that wasn’t entirely clear. Lesson learned: I need to write a script. Word-for-word scripts aren’t for everyone – they can make you sound like a robot sometimes – but I know how to write in speaking-language, and can memorise sufficiently well, and the alternative for me is to babble for twice the time with half the sense.

We did introductions, but even with only 12 people it took too long. So far apparently 86 people have registered interest in the session itself (I deliberately didn’t put an upper limit on numbers. 86, or 100, or whoever turns up, sounds like , but if 86 people are interested then it’d suck to turn away 56 of them. Besides, I think the format really is that flexible) so I’ll go with a kind of “Mexican Wave” of first names, as a warm-up, instead — which gives me the opportunity to add on a few more Mexican Waves of increasingly challenging questions.

The “50 Reasons” exercise worked okay but probably won’t scale up without me providing more guidance – I’m thinking of a variation on Mitch Ditkoff’s suggestion, of answering each excuse with a question: in this case eg “I don’t have the authority” -> “Who does have the authority?”

We divided into three topics, with a spare table in case of break-out topics. With only 12 people, one of the groups dissolved about halfway through; with 86, we’ll probably need 10+ topics to start with.

It wasn’t always easy to follow the “keep it positive” rule, so I’ll focus on that more in the warm-ups. Also in the real thing I’ll be wandering around instead of being a part of any group, so I can intercede and help encourage turning problems into questions.

Other than the one group dissolving and splitting among the other two, there wasn’t any movement between topics. This isn’t deadly because there’s only a short time anyway and people might well want to stick with a single topic — also it might partly have been because the groups were so small — but someone suggested it’d be good to remind people of the opportunity by blowing a whistle (or, less martially, ringing a bell) every ten minutes.

I ended by passing around a sign-up sheet for the mailing list (again, with 86 people, this will be too time-consuming — I’ll go instead with a box for people to put in their email addresses if interested) and then a very brief wrap-up. People suggested it’d be good to have a takeaway, eg come back to the larger group at the end with a bullet-point list of tips – they also pointed out that having “Come up with some bullet-point tips” as a goal would help keep conversation on track. So I’ll do this in the conference session too.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Having that kind of dress rehearsal was 1000% value for money, and has got me even more excited about the conference session itself in two weeks.

Planning the unplannable

I'm attending LIANZA Conference 2009
At LIANZA 2009 I’m going to be facilitating an un-workshop kind of thing on “Getting people onside: making allies to support your innovation“. It’s an un-workshop thing because I’ve just been fumbling this stuff out on my own and, while I’ve got ideas, I bet other people have ideas too; and we’ve got 45 minutes because that’s how the programming worked out. Some of the things I’ve been thinking about are:

  1. the boring-but-necessary ground rule stuff: keep it positive (“This situation is a nuisance but let’s brainstorm ways to work with it” is all good); confidentiality (so we can talk about real life work situations despite New Zealand being a small country); and the twins: participate and respect (aka encourage others’ participation).
  2. maybe a brief warm-up kind of things: brief introductions in small groups (“Hi, I’m Aroha and one innovation I’ve helped launch is … OR one innovation I want to launch is ….”) and/or brief discussion on how to combat the 50 reasons not to change.

    [I am so going to have to take along a timer….]

  3. actual meat – topic ideas I’ve had are:
    • working with organisational hierarchies; networking with other ‘change agents’; getting support from people who don’t at first seem interested/keen; figuring out what other people need and giving support to other people’s innovations
    • communication – communication styles, miscommunications
    • miscellaneous tricks and ideas

    [I’ve been toying with the idea of starting with a quick poll on how long we should spend on each topic. It’d go like this: say there’s 20 people in the room, I’ll name a topic and the time we’ll spend on that topic = the number of people who raise their hand multiplied by slightly less than 2. Very scientific and all.]

  4. perhaps most importantly: a piece of paper for people to write their email addresses on if interested in a mailing list or similar I plan to set up so we can keep talking about this stuff and supporting each other after conference.

I’m trying to balance the “Gotta make every one of those 45 minutes count” impulse and the “Come on, mate, it’s an un-workshop” impulse and probably losing the spirit of both, I dunno. But/so hey: if you were attending a session like this (and particularly if you are attending this session!) what topics would you want to be included? how (if at all) would you want it organised? is group-work too traditional for an un-workshop, or the Fishbowl too intimidating given that the first LIANZA-hosted mini-unconference won’t be held until after this un-workshop?

Oh, and what should I make sure I read (whether about ‘getting people onside’ or about unconference-stuff) before conference starts?

Getting cheered

So my colleague and I got cheered at the end of a library skills lecture to 280 new engineering students last week. Ruling out, for vanity’s sake, the possibility that it was because

  • we finished early;
  • that corner of the room was watching sports on their iPods;
  • the students that way inclined thought I was hot;
  • the students the other way inclined thought my colleague was hot…

…It might have been because of a couple of things we tried a bit differently this year.

A bit of background: this lecture was for the first year (“intermediate year”) of Engineering students, in their first week ever at university. Latest figure I’ve heard is that 780 are enrolled; we gave the lecture in three sessions with ~250 students attending each day. The lecture is to support their first assignment, an essay requiring library research which they have a week and a half to write. Anguished quote from the first year this course was offered: “I choose engineering so I wouldn’t have to write!” Citing is a completely new concept to 95% of them.

The last two years, we did a powerpoint going through the research process, different kinds of sources, how to evaluate sources including websites, the evils of Wikipedia, etc, and citing.

This year we did three things differently:

  1. we restructured the powerpoint to start with *their* research process – ie, Google and Wikipedia. We showed how some bad search results come up, eg tipsforsuccess.org, written by a follower of L Ron Hubbard, and I told the story of how Hubbard made a bet at an sf convention that he could create a religion and make a million dollars. (People laughed, it was great.) I showed the Wikipedia page from that Google search – it had some gorgeous orange warnings on it so we talked about those, then looked at the introductory paragraph which had footnotes. (Subliminal introduction to the concept of citing.) Scrolled to the reference list at the bottom of the page which had dictionary entries, books, journal articles, newspaper articles – and segued from *there* into the scholarly research process and the things we hold in the library. And so forth.
  2. Inspired by Beyond active learning: a constructivist approach to learning(1) we got interactive. We were really dubious about this because a) the class size was 250ish and b) these are engineers, and most engineering classes have mutely resisted interaction. So we made sure the powerpoint would work even if they didn’t answer questions. The interaction itself was things like: “So you’ve got an assignment: where do you start?” We expected to elicit “Google” – actually people had various responses and were all talking at once so we couldn’t hear them all. Some said the library so we cheerfully called them “greasers” 🙂 and then when we heard “Google” from others we moved on to the next slide. Google results – “What do you notice about these results?” – they noticed some things, and the rest of what we talked about we just added to what they were saying. Same thing with Wikipedia: “What do you notice? What do these numbers in brackets mean?” And so forth.
  3. We rejigged the slides themselves. The old slides were endless bulletpoints. So, inspired by the movement in conference presentations to use images rather than bulletpoints, we did the same thing. This worked particularly well for a photo-tour of the different parts of the library they’d need, eg a photo of where the reference collection was, then a photo zoomed in on some dictionaries. We had a series of photos physically walking upstairs to the main stacks of books for the assignment subject area. It was a bit hokey and people laughed, but… hey, people laughed, so it was cool.
    3a.   We paused in the middle for a couple of minutes to let the students write down links to the library website, the subject guide, and Internet Detective.

So we gave this lecture three times. People seemed engaged for them all, and the first two times we got regular applause and then people coming up for questions afterwards. The third time someone asked a question in the middle of it (during the citation section), and at the end we got applause and cheers from one corner, and people coming up for yet more questions. So, I dunno, maybe the cheering was a fluke; but either way, I think that format worked really well, and I’m going to be trying it with more classes in future. (Even if more advanced engineering students might have learned how to resist interactivity – it seems worth a try.)

(1) Cooperstein, Susan E. and Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger (2004). Beyond active learning: a constructivist approach to learning. Reference Services Review 32(2), pp 141-148

PS Of course we’re still having to tell half this stuff again and again to people coming to the combo lending/reference desk, and I’m considering how to find physical space for some mini-workshops, but that’s par for the course.

Non-English blog roundup #10

Bibliobsession has posted a set of slides on Towards Library Ecosystems (French). It begins with an introduction to web 2.0 then points out, “A collection doesn’t exist without its users and its uses.” (slide 61) It goes on to discuss the library as an ecosystem: “creating links with other ecosystems in order to benefit from network effects which guarantee it a social utility”.

Bobobiblioblog (French)

  • asks medical students if they’ve used Wikipedia – pretty much all have. Have they edited it? None – “Ah, no, once, a timid young woman whispered that she’d corrected a spelling mistake in one article.”) Bobobiblioblog wonders whether “the general rule is perhaps to have a consumerist attitude towards Wikipedia – using it without participating in it”. [I don’t think it’s necessarily as bad as that – remember the general 90-9-1 theory: 90% use it, 9% contribute occasionally, 1% contribute regularly.]
  • writes about adding an institutional filter to PubMed so that users of MyNCBI can filter their results to those that their institution holds. [Alas, when I try to register for MyNCBI I get 404 file not found, so I can’t play with this myself.]

Vagabondages (French) points to “liquid bookmarks” (Japanese).

Kotkot writes about sustainable libraries (French), asking what sustainable development might mean in a library. The post includes a list of ideas like turning off screens overnight, using rechargeable batteries, reduce tape consumption on books, double-sided printing, create a comfortable bike shelter, etc.

Bib-log (Danish) announces the Roskilde public library mobile site.

Benobis lists French genealogy resources (French).

Via Klog come the steps of digital preservation in 1 slide (French).

De tout sur rien (French) suggests getting our users to scan book covers to go into a cross-library pool particularly if vendors put restrictions on us using theirs.