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David Lee KingDavid Lee King
Author, Presenter and Digital Branch & Services Manager, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, KS

David and Michael Porter partnered together to bring you the Library 101 Project you are now looking at!

Read more from David at

Library 101: New Skills for a New Century
Weíre almost 10 years into the new century already. So far, itís been a bit of a wild ride, at least for technology! YouTube, Facebook, Twitter … online community and conversation … the explosion of cell phone use … wifi everywhere …† some of these things didnít even exist a mere seven years ago, but are now a daily part of our lives.

Our world is changing! Does anyone still go to Blockbuster to rent videos? Some of us use Netflix, the Redbox at the drugstore, or maybe even Hulu (thatís where my family watches reruns of ďI Dream of JeannieĒ).

The way we connect with people is changing, too. You know how my parents are reconnecting with high school friends? Yep – you guessed it. Through Facebook. My parents!!!

Netflix, Facbook, YouTube. What does the library have to do with all this stuff? Everything. Everything, for two reasons:

  1. Job Security. Letís start at our personal bottom lines, shall we? I, for one, would still like to be employed in 10 years. You too? I thought so. And I canít name one person who could honestly say they want their epitaph to read ďI caused the demise of libraries because I chose to not transfer my librarian skills to the online world.Ē
  2. Our communities need us. Even more important than #1. We have historically been guiding lights for our communityís information needs – guiding them to the right answers, improving their questions, leading them to the stuff they needed when they needed it. Our communities still need us!

There are a couple of slightly off-the-wall skills we can learn that will help us and our communities navigate through this still-emerging landscape. Skills they donít really teach in library school. What are those skills?

Storytelling: Yes, we already have storytellers in our YS departments. Those traditional storytellers can adapt their stories for an online world pretty easily.

But letís not stop there. Reference tells a story, too, donít they? The story of ďhow to find.Ē How to find the annual revenue of a local company. How to find something in our collection. How to find that blog post you saw last week, but donít remember the URL. Learn to tell these stories. Online. Through tipsheets on the website. Through short videos. Through a weekly podcast that patrons listen to on their daily workout.

Your communityís stories are important too. No oneís gathering and sharing the happy news of your library, your services, and how you improve and enrich your community. No one except you, that is. Go for it!

Community gathering: Traditionally, we tend to wait for people to come visit us, and only then do we don our librarian hats. Sometimes, we donít even do that well. For example, I recently visited a small library in Kansas and poked around a bit. Guess what? No one talked to me. Both library employees tried really hard to avoid looking at me, and didnít even acknowledge my or my daughterís presence in the building (even though there were only two other patrons in the building).

This needs to change. Instead of waiting for the patron to come to you (at the desk), we need to venture outside the library and meet our community ďwhere they are.Ē

And you know what? Many of them are online these days. Hanging out in Facebook. In Google. At the local newspaperís website. You can be there too … interacting with your patrons.

And letís work on making people feel welcome, inviting them in to the library (be that the physical library or the Facebook arm of the library). Ask questions – ask your customers† what they like and donít like about the library. Friend them, follow them, RT their tweets. Online community gathering starts by listening, but should be followed up with social interaction. Gotta do it or you donít exist on the web.

Content enablement: If you have RSS feeds, Kindles, ebooks, and Photoshop in your library for your patrons … you need to be comfortable enough with these tools to teach patrons how to use them.

But donít stop there – invite them to learn things they wouldnít necessarily think of. For example, donít create a Facebook Basics class. Thatís boring. Teach your customers† how to connect with their grandkids online (by teaching them Facebook). Donít teach them about YouTube. Teach them how to watch their favorite TV shows online, and how to watch some silly short videos, too (by introducing them to YouTube, Hulu, etc).

And some how-to-make-it-work skills: If youíre going to successfully do the above, what do you need to learn?

  • How to make library content interesting
  • How to shoot and edit a simple video
  • How to record and edit a podcast
  • How to download an ebook on the 5 most used mp3 players in your community
  • How to quickly scan through RSS feeds and blogs to find relevant info for your community
  • How to write for todayís fast-paced, community-driven web

As our song says, ďitís a basic 101 for us, we have to adjust.Ē Learn these new skills; have fun in the process; and help migrate your local community into a new era of always on, always available … librarians.

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