Category Archives: 2.013

Creating the professional development opportunities you want – part two

In this post, I will focus on the why of Heroes Mingle, firstly by sharing four aspects of why our collaborative partnership works, secondly by discussing four things we have learned during our learning journey, and thirdly by sharing five concepts we’d like you to keep in mind as you begin your own professional development adventure.

Collaboration in action

Although we’d never met one another prior to Sally’s 2011 workshop, together we made something happen. We collaborated virtually to plan, develop and deliver our first online event, the 2012 Reality Librarianship speaker series. In spite of our geographical dislocation, in spite of not knowing one another, and in spite of not knowing if any of this could work or would work, in spite of not knowing if anyone would turn up, we still chose to make something happen.

Honesty and trust. Yes I can.

From the get-go, we were upfront about our individual skill sets. We talked about tangible practical things, like which technologies we had experience of and felt comfortable using, as well as whether or not we felt comfortable exploring other technologies that might best fit out needs. We talked about intangible things, like what scared us about doing this.

We made a commitment to be honest. If one of us said we were going to do something, we’d do it or we’d speak up about not being able to do it. This led to a commitment to trust one another. If I said “I will do [x] by [date]”, then Sally could trust that I would do it by the agreed timeframe.

Willingness to try and not afraid to fail. Yes I will try.

Being willing to try and being open to failure, or “non-success”, comes from being honest.

Honesty can be scary, but it can also be liberating. Owning up to your fears, giving them a voice takes away some of the power fear has over us.

Early on, Sally asked me what my measure of success was for the number of participants to attend our first speaker event in the Reality Librarianship 2012 series. I said that I would honestly be happy if three people (over and above the two of us and our speaker) turned up. I was sure that I could convince at least one or two friends to turn up.

While it might sound lacking in confidence to be satisfied with such a small potential turnout of participants, voicing my fears that still allowed me to acknowledge that I didn’t think that was a reason not to try.

We were both willing to try something that we had never done before. It wouldn’t really have been a failure had it not “worked”, because we still would have made something happen.

Playfulness and enthusiasm. Yes let’s do it.

Sally and I both had the willingness to make something happen. We were willing to try something that hadn’t been done before. We were enthusiastic, nervous and excited about trying something new, something different. We wanted to “make something happen”.

The freedom of possibility, the dream of potential, the inspiration of making something happen.

We truly believe that there are alternatives to the current status quo of staff development opportunities. We are willing to play with the dreams of what might be possible. Playfulness and enthusiasm go a long way to driving our dreams of making something happen.

Technology. Yes let’s use it.

Technology has been integral in our partnership from the very beginning. From the original telephone conferences to Skype and webinar software; from wikis and our blog to Twitter. However, we didn’t just use technology for technology’s sake.

We needed technology to make this work, because we weren’t making any of this happen face-to-face – either in terms of our planning or the delivery. Technology had to be an integral part of what we were doing from the outset.

We had specific needs for our various technologies – did we both feel comfortable using it?, did it have the functionality that we needed?, did it suit our purpose(s)? Having a list of must-haves, and what we could compromise on, was critical to choosing our online spaces, both our public spaces and our private spaces. Technology isn’t perfect. It crashes. It updates. It fails. It doesn’t always have all the functionality you want. Accept what you are willing to compromise on, and just go with what works best for your needs.

Heroes Mingle journey of learning

We’ve learned many things throughout this experience. Here’s four highlights.

Do things for yourself.

Make things happen because you want to. Doing things for ourselves has been one of the most rewarding parts of this journey.

Other people may join in, but ultimately, let your own drivers be the key motivation. It is up to everyone to create their own learning journey – so make sure you are doing this for you, and not anyone else. Give yourself permission to make things happen because you want them to. Not because your workplace says you should. Not because the professional association says you should.

We don’t all have supportive workplaces. We don’t all have workplaces that are able to support all the professional development opportunities that we want. We don’t all have workplaces that can afford to support professional development that isn’t directly related to our current jobs. Don’t let this stop you from creating the professional development opportunities you want.

Sally and I created Heroes Mingle for us. We developed the Reality Librarianship speaker events because we wanted to see hear about the interesting things that people were doing. We developed an online book group because we wanted to talk about The Atlas of New Librarianship. We invited others to participate and take control of their own professional development, to turn up because they wanted to, not because we told them to. At the end of the day, it was purely an invitation to join us. The fact that people turned up was pretty amazing, but we weren’t ultimately doing it for them. We were doing it for us.

Try. Fail. Try.

Find a way to make something happen. Dream of what might be possible. Having a willingness to try is a crucial part of making something happen.

So you try something. It might work. It might not. But you won’t know until you try. The reality is that “failure isn’t failure, it’s feedback” (via @feddabonn). Until you try something, you won’t know what is possible.

Say Yes. A lot.

Saying yes allows you to focus on the possibility of making things happen, even if you aren’t entirely sure what is possible.

Saying yes means owning what you can do, what you are willing to try to do, and what you are comfortable with failing to do.

Saying yes is a commitment.

Saying yes is exciting, and scary, but exciting nonetheless.

Face-to-face is not the only way to make something happen.

Professional development and learning opportunities no longer only have to happen face-to-face. Technology really has shrunk our world. However, the same philosophies of learning and engaging still apply.

We wanted to incorporate some of the philosophies that underpin face-to-face events – of participation, learning, engagement, being in the moment when the magic happens. Creating an online space where people are invited to turn up, and to use that space in the ways that they want and need to use that space. Creating connections, collaborating with others, learning new things. Heroes Mingle encouraged people to join in, in whatever way they felt comfortable, to engage with each another, to learn, to network, to make connections with the speaker and the other participants. People participated how and when they wanted to in the online space.

In the same way that we often hear, “oh you had to be there” about face-to-face events, we wanted to create a virtual place for this kind of connected “in-the-moment” magic to happen. None of our online events have been recorded. If you wanted to be part of it, you had to turn up. While this was originally a conscious choice on our behalf, primarily because we were focused on participation rather than creating a recording that could be listened to at some later stage in isolation (and also because of the extra work involved in editing a recording, syncing it with the chat transcripts), the functionality of recording an event was eventually removed from the free version of webinar software.

The philosophy of “in-the-moment” underpinned our Reality Librarianship events. We didn’t have a script to follow. While we did have some pre-prepared questions or themes to discuss with our speakers, we didn’t know where the conversation would take us or what questions the audience might have. It was about being present in the moment, to see where the conversation would take us, and what magic might happen.

Start your own learning adventures.

Here’s five concepts that we’d like to pass on as you create your own opportunities.

Find your flockmates.

The term “flockmates” comes from one of our first speakers, Senga White, a secondary school librarian from Invercargill in New Zealand’s South Island. She explains on her blog that flockmates are “colleagues in your inner circle, professionally (though not exclusively) who really “get” you, where you’re at and what “floats your boat”.” Having a collective network of supportive colleagues is incredibly powerful, both personally and professionally.

A tribe of flockmates doesn’t have to be enormous. It only takes one other person so that together you make a tribe of two flockmates. A duo of flockmates might be all you need to make something happen.

So how do you find your flockmates?

In a world where the line between online and offline professional networks is often blurred, your flockmates might exist outside of your immediate physical environment. Sally and I didn’t properly meet until after we’d planned, developed and delivered the first Reality Librarianship speaker series.

Your flockmates might in the same town, state, region or country as you. Or they might not.

Your flockmates do exist, so if you haven’t found them, go out and find them. You could ask your own networks. Someone in your immediate network may know someone in their wider network who they can introduce you to.

If you are thinking about something, or questioning something, or pondering something, then it’s likely that others are too. Find those others who are asking the same questions as you.

Throw it open like Sally did. Ask a question – there might be someone who you never knew existed that self-selects and gets in touch.

Heroes Mingle may never have existed had Sally not been brave enough to ask the question “Do you dare to day yes?”

Heroes Mingle may never have existed had I not responded with “I dare to say yes”.

Flip your thinking.

As Sally has previously explained, we flipped our thinking to find a solution to an identified problem. We encourage you to reconfigure the way you are looking at the problem and redefine the way you are looking for a solution. Look for the alternatives. Challenge the preconceptions. Ask why? Ask why not? Flip your thinking.

There is no box.

We’re often told to “think outside the box”. Yet, in defining a box to think outside of, we’ve already created boundaries to our solutions by imposing parameters to the problem. We’ve predetermined limits of the possible solutions by imposing specific restrictions on what we can achieve. We’ve got to stop looking for the edges, the boundaries and the limits of what is possible.

During a discussion about Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box, one of my colleagues shared a simple but radical idea with me: There is no box.

Without a predefined box, there are no limits to what is possible.

Someone has to be first.

Great, so you’ve found your flockmates, you’ve flipped your thinking, and the box has disappeared. You are still going to need to do something else to make something happen.

Someone has to be first. Someone has to take that first step out into the unknown. It’s scary being first. It’s scary being at the edge of your comfort zone.

Our advice to you is this: Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now open your eyes and step out into the “unknown”.

The air is clear. The view is stunning. It’s a very exciting place to be. The opportunities ahead are endless. The path forward is unmapped. Adventure awaits, but to experience it, you are going to have to take the first step.

Give yourself permission.

Now that you have taken your first step forward. We’d like to offer one final piece of advice for your professional development adventure.

Give yourself permission.

Give yourself permission to create the opportunities you want. It’s your adventure. It’s your journey. Free yourself from being limited by what other people want or need or expect for you. It’s your career. Take ownership of what you need. Take ownership of your learning. Take ownership of your professional development opportunities.

Give yourself permission.

Find your flockmates. Find the opportunities. If the opportunities you want don’t yet exist, then create them. Make something happen. Choose your own adventure. Remember that there is no box putting limits on what is possible. You won’t know where the adventure will take you until you take the first step. This is your journey. Give yourself permission to do this.

Breathe. Step out into the unknown. Spread your wings. Learn to fly.

We wish you well on your professional development journey. We’d love to hear about your successes, your failures, your dreams, your learnings, your inspirations and your adventures.


Creating the professional development opportunities you want – part one

On October 19 Megan and I presented ‘Creating the professional development opportunities you want’ at the Worldwide Virtual Library Conference 2.103. The session was recorded and we will publish our presentation here over two blog posts.

In this two part series we’ll share our Heroes Mingle philosophy, the technological tools we use and the lessons we’ve learned in taking control of our own professional development pathway.

The predominant model of library professional development in New Zealand favours staff in large metropolitan areas with the financial means to pay for attendance and the capacity to cover staff absences. It also favours staff who need to learn stuff because it is directly related to their job rather than staff who are interested in learning stuff.

Heroes Mingle has turned that model on its head by creating professional development opportunities that are free, online, after hours and of interest to staff working across all library sectors.

It all began in 2011 with a simple question.

A little research can go a long way
I’m the kind of librarian who asks a lot of questions.  I want to know what people think, how they view the world and what we may have in common. After nearly 20 years in the profession I know I have over-stepped the mark when people roll their eyes at me, sigh deeply, or change the subject of a conversation because I have asked too many questions. But I also know that making assumptions can be costly when investments in time and resources don’t produce value. As the saying goes ‘time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’.

In 2011 I wanted to know what challenges New Zealand librarians were facing. Why? Because I wanted to know rather than assume that global challenges were also local challenges. The best way for me to find out was to ask.

Give 32 librarians 30 minutes to discuss the challenges they will face in the next year and what happens? The room ignites and 141 challenges are identified without much thought at all. Ask them to spend the next 30 minutes discussing ideas to overcome just five of these challenges and what happens? The room erupts and 165 ideas are proposed. That was the power of unleashing the expertise of the audience in the Ideas Factory workshop I facilitated at the LIANZA Conference two years ago.

Following a three month period of online voting and comments two challenges emerged above all others: relationship building with stakeholders, and staff development.

Through my blog and the Library Association’s regular newsletter I asked for volunteers to make something happen; volunteers who wanted to address these challenges.

I wrote:

  • I don’t know how it is going to work.
  • I don’t know if it will work.
  • I don’t know how difficult it will be.
  • I don’t know how much time it will take.
  • I don’t know if it will work in your library.
  • I don’t know how much it will cost.
  • I don’t know who else will be involved.
  • I don’t know what LIANZA, APLM or National Library think.
  • I don’t know if it will result in a groovy national initiative that EVERYONE will want to be a part of.
  • I don’t know the answers.

I do know that I want to try.

I do know that I want to at least start.

It’s not going to be perfect. But it will be rapid because these challenges need to be addressed NOW.

Will you help me?

  • You might have experience.
  • You might have community insight.
  • You might know something that will stop us reinventing the wheel.
  • You might have already done some background reading.
  • You might have a solution you’d like to try in your library.
  • You might be interested in testing our potential solutions.
  • You might desperately want to address one or both of these challenges.

Do you have the guts to say ‘Yes’?

This wasn’t a working party, committee or sub-group of the Association; this was just me wanting to work with others on possible solutions. Four people initially volunteered to look at making something happen in the area of staff development, but after the first meeting only one, Megan Ingle, had the guts to say ‘Yes’.

Keep it real
The excitement of a new project with lots of potential can easily get bogged down or side-tracked by detailed discussions of solutions that will fulfil all our dreams but are actually beyond our capability to deliver. Megan and I realised this during our second weekly meeting.

In our first meeting we had discussed several challenges and barriers relating to the complexities of staff development such as the difference between professional development, personal development and staff development, and who was responsible for each. In the second meeting we decided to focus on how we as two individuals could influence others working in New Zealand libraries to undertake their own professional development. We felt this was realistic and achievable.

We thought about the kinds of staff development opportunities that would excite us – free, online, after hours and New Zealand focussed. We wanted to show that something could be done, that it could happen across library sectors, and that cost didn’t have to be prohibiting factor. Making it free, after hours and online meant that we were removing some barriers to existing professional development. People should be able to find time to come along without asking for permission from the boss, without the need for funding or the need to travel.

We also thought about how we could use our current skillsets such as: experience in the profession, strong networks, project management, willingness to experiment, social media presence and communication skills. And we thought about how we could actually bring these things together and offer it to others.

By our third meeting we had a potential solution and by the fourth meeting we were working out the nuts and bolts of what it could look like.

Some people might look at our first four weeks and think ‘no way can I achieve that much in such a short space of time’ but think about this: Megan and I had only met face-to-face at the initial workshop and had not connected online prior to this venture. All our meetings were conducted via teleconference or Skype. We didn’t know each other but we wanted to achieve similar things. Everything flowed when we kept it grounded and realistic.

Dream for possibilities
Heroes Mingle is our collaborative name. It tells a story about two librarians who do more than dream big. Two librarians who want more from the profession than just turning up to work to do a good job. Two librarians who, just like many other heroic characters aren’t going to wait for someone else to solve our problems; who have the guts to say yes, take a leap of faith; and make something happen.

Our first Heroes Mingle venture was called Reality Librarianship: Up Close and Personal and was held in May and June of 2012. This was a series of three free virtual professional development opportunities for library staff across all sectors. Each event was a conversation between a guest, facilitator and participants talking about experiences that they had made happen. We wanted learning to occur through conversations because conversations are where ideas happen and connections are made. Megan and I acknowledged that we weren’t experts and we didn’t have all the answers but we wanted to learn from others and see where the conversations led.

The events were held using the free virtual meeting software We could have undertaken a pre-recorded interview with our guest, and we could have recorded the conversation as it happened. But we didn’t. We didn’t want a passive audience sitting alone at their computers listening to ‘an expert’ at a time that suited them.  We wanted people who were keen to be part of the conversation with our guests and other members of the audience. We wanted people to take responsibility for their professional development and not expect others to do it for them.

When we were in the planning stages of Reality Librarianship we talked about our measures of success. As Megan and I were stepping into new territory we weren’t sure what would happen. So for Up Close and Personal we decided we would be happy if three participants attended each session. We figured that between us we could at least rustle up three people we knew who would come along. Little did we know we should have dreamed a little bigger. Over 50 people turned up for a single event and 185 across all three. We were blown away by the response and slightly panicky. We weren’t expecting to have to worry about virtual crowd control!

There is more than one solution
Buoyed by the success of our first venture Megan and I began planning more professional development opportunities for New Zealand library staff.

We wanted to flip professional development on its head.

In the traditional professional development model material is usually presented via a workshop or presentation with a sage on the stage. In Reality Librarianship we flipped this into a conversation between our guest and audience. When you have a conversation you are levelling the playing field, organisational hierarchies are diminished enabling all voices to be heard. We are all experts in a conversation.

As I’ve already mentioned Reality Librarianship was online so you could be located anywhere in New Zealand and after hours so you could be comfy in front of the fire. We weren’t limited to a physical space and accepted up to 200 participants from across all library sectors. It was also free and to ensure maximum relevance for participants each Reality Librarianship event lasted just 30 minutes.

And, I suppose another flip was that instead of professional development being organised by a library sector, professional association or an organisation like your library, Megan and I organised it ourselves.

In September 2012 we launched an online book discussion group on The Atlas of New Librarianship and were honoured to have R. David Lankes present a free webinar to kick-start the discussion. Run over a period of four weeks we facilitated two groups (with volunteer assistance) each discussing a different conversation thread of the Atlas via Skype. We had 6-8 active participants from all library sectors and I’m sure we boosted the number of Atlas’ purchased in this part of the world.

The Atlas discussion group was probably a bit ahead of its time to be honest. Most of us hadn’t even read it before we met and as it is a very intense book a lot of the discussions were spent trying to get our head around putting the richness of the Atlas into practical terms. We had some great discussions but I don’t think we progressed those discussions as far as Megan and I had hoped. Perhaps these will come into fruition in the future when we’ve had time to digest its content and share our thoughts more widely.

So that was 2012 – exhilarating, nerve-wracking and full of awesome. Roll on 2013.

In June this year we launched the second Reality Librarianship series using the same format as in 2012 but with the theme of Community Partnerships. Megan and I wanted to hear, share and learn from librarians involved in successful partnerships with their communities. We aimed for 30 people attending each session and attracted an average of 29 per event. We were rapt!

Since then we’ve become immersed in online learning in various ways through 23mobilethings, The Atlas of New Librarianship MOOC and The Hyperlinked Library MOOC. We’re exploring new ideas, new thinking and new projects with the same goal we started out with “how we as individuals can influence others working in New Zealand libraries to undertake their own professional development”. We’re not done yet and we’re looking forward to offering new Heroes Mingle ventures in the coming years.

Tomorrow Megan will continue this post by sharing some of the less tangible aspects of Heroes Mingle such as what worked for us and the lessons we’ve learned in taking control of our own professional development pathway.

Heroes Mingle gets ’em talking #lib2013

Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference. Here’s what they’re saying.

Heroes Mingle achieves the impossible

In librarianship, professional learning used to be dominated by national or regional conferences where only those of a certain tier in the librarianship hierarchy would be privileged enough to attend. And whatever happened at conference stayed at conference. As a result the hundreds of librarians left behind, were left behind.

That world still exists but it no longer dominates our professional learning.

The perfect professional development opportunity is free, online, after hours and highly relevant to you. This is one of those opportunities.

On Saturday 19 October at 7pm NZT Heroes Mingle is going global. Megan and I will be the only New Zealand librarians presenting at Library 2.0: the future of libraries in the digital age where we will discuss our philosophy, the technological tools we use and the lessons we’ve learned in taking control of our own professional development pathway.

Library 2.0 is a free, fully online, totally virtual conference and we’d love it if you could come to our presentation. Our session will be held immediately before Gene Tan’s keynote. So depending on your time zone this could be:

New Zealand Saturday 19 October, 7pm
US Pacific Daylight Time Friday 18 October, 11pm
US Eastern Daylight Time Saturday 19 October, 2am
Brisbane Saturday 19 October, 4pm
London Saturday 19 October, 7am

You don’t need to register for the conference, all you have to do is find our session (Creating the professional development opportunities you want) in your time zone, click on it to expand the information and you’ll find a link to the session the day before the conference begins.

Join us and learn key strategies to beginning your own professional development journey.

Heroes Mingle tells all

On Saturday 19 October at 7pm NZT, we’re taking Heroes Mingle to the world – Heroes Mingle goes global! Megan and I will be the only NZ librarians presenting at Library 2.0: the future of libraries in the digital age – our session focuses on our philosophy, the technological tools we’ve used and the lessons we’ve learned by taking control of our own professional development pathway.

Library 2.0 is a free, fully online, totally virtual conference. We’d we’d love it if you could come to our presentation which precedes Gene Tan’s keynote. Depending on your time zone this could be:

New Zealand Saturday 19 October, 7pm
US Pacific Daylight Time Friday 18 October, 11pm
US Eastern Daylight Time Saturday 19 October, 2am
Brisbane Saturday 19 October, 4pm
London Saturday 19 October, 7am

You don’t need to register for the conference, all you have to do is find our session (Creating the professional development opportunities you want) in your time zone, click on it to expand the information and you’ll find a link to the session the day before the conference begins.

Join us and learn key strategies to beginning your own professional development journey.