Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Savvy Tech Strategy: A Recap from the SLJ Think Tank

At the second annual School Library Journal Public Library Leadership Think Tank, which took place at the end of April in Nashville, the day-long professional development included a collaborative think tank session. All attendees broke into groups on a variety of topics of interest to public library youth services, and those groups brainstormed and discussed.

I was facilitator and note-taker for the Savvy Tech Strategy group, and my excellent groupmates had plenty of thought-provoking ideas and perspectives to share. A recap of highlights follows.

Savvy Tech Strategy

How do you build your technology toolkit?
  • Collaborate with other institutions that have technology to share information and supplies. There's no need for everyone to buy the same databases, for instance, if they are already available through your state library. That's just one example of not unnecessarily duplicating tools.
  • Ask a series of questions to inform what you add to your toolkit: 1) What do your users want? 2) What do your users need? 3) What do your users already have? Asking these questions can help ensure that you get resources that will be valued and useful to your service base. It helps, for example, to know if all your users have access to laptops already, because then you don't need to buy laptops.
  • Make all resources seamlessly accessible. That means using tools that work together and complement one another instead of requiring multiple versions of a similar product for multiple platforms.
  • Consider what you want to accomplish, and do that thing really well one way. Don't get bogged down in having three versions of a service--downloadable books, for instance--when having a single version will be simpler for users and staff.

Strategies for Effectively Using Tech with Kids
  • Give kids room to play. Don't hover over children using your tech supplies. Instead, let them explore how they work and use them in a way that feels natural to them. Dictating how to use a tech tool, or repeatedly saying things like "Be careful!" are going to serve as deterrents for kids who might otherwise use them.
  • Provide options and variety. Not every kid wants to use laptops, and not every kid wants to do arduinos. Have different tech tools available to suit the needs and interests of kids.
  • Take the tech where kids are. That could mean bringing a cart of laptops to a public space, like a school football game, so that folks are aware you have them. It could mean traditional outreach opportunities. It also means having tech available in the parts of the library that kids already use.
  • Offer what is immediately relevant to your users. A great example is in sharing electronic resources with kids: talking about SAT and ACT prep resources to seventh graders is going to be a dead end because kids that age don't care about college test prep. Make sure you're sharing appropriate tech.
  • Use all the bells and whistles to draw attention. Everyone has seen a laptop, but MaKey MaKeys? That's attention-grabbing. Generate interest by showing how your tech is interesting.
  • Know your community and their access issues, and provide accordingly. This is an extension of making it relevant, and it can go two ways: 1) provide tech tools that build on what kids already have access to; or 2) fill in the blanks with tech that kids aren't getting anywhere else.

Those were our major takeaways of our Savvy Tech Strategy think thank session. The discussion certainly left me with many things to think about. For details on what the Makerspace think tank group discussed, you can see notes taken by Justin Hoenke here.

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