Looking Ahead: Thinking About Change For the Blended Librarians Community

For the first time since John Shank and I launched the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community we neglected to offer at least one webcast for our community members – and all other interested parties – during an academic semester.

You heard that right. We did not offer a webcast during the fall of 2017.

This blog was silent as well.

Rather than share our laundry list of projects and issues that kept us too busy to direct some attention to this community, we wanted to share some of our observations about where we are now and offer a suggestion for a new approach to Community interaction – and we’d like your feedback and recommendations.

We’ve been offering webcasts since 2004. Add them up and that’s a good number – about 75. While that might not seem like many to you, planning and organizing these webinars requires a significant amount of our time. In addition, we are a completely volunteer operation with no funding – and our ability to offer webinars is thanks to the fabulous generosity and support of Learning Times – as well as all our webinar guests who volunteer their time and energy to make these events possible.

Even though we’ve covered a wide range of topics in our webinars, there is no doubt new topics still to cover. But we acknowledge that it is a challenge to identify the topics the Community wants to learn more about – and then find speakers who can cover that material (and will do so for free). We think the series of interviews we did with Blended Librarians in 2016 and 2017 went well and demonstrated that Blended Librarian and instructional design librarian positions were becoming more popular in our profession.

Did I say that John and I were both busier than ever between everyday work and extra-curricular projects?

We’ve also been unable to find colleagues who would like to help us out by serving as volunteers who could help to organize and conduct a webcast. Without support from colleagues, the short-term sustainability of the Community is in jeopardy.

Another realization we had is that compared to when we first started the Community there are many more Blended Librarians conducting instructional design work at their libraries. We think this is great. Blended Librarianship has gone mainstream in the library profession. We’d like to think our work to popularize the idea of the librarian who also has an instruction design skill set may have had something to do with this. But the bottom line is that Blended Librarianship is less novel than in 2004 and more librarians do have the skill set we advocated for back then. Do they need the type of webcasts we offer? Probably less so.

We recognize that you’re busy too, that you have many more webinars, podcasts and online professional development programs from which to choose – compared to when we started offering webcasts. I don’t doubt the number of these offerings can be overwhelming.

So if we’re too overwhelmed to develop and offer webcasts and our Community members are too busy to attend those we may offer – the answer has got to be something than just continuing to offer more webcasts – even though they are typically well-received.

We came up with idea that may (or not) resonate with you.

Instead of aiming to offer 4-6 webinars per year, what if we organized and offered a one-day online conference for Blended Librarians?

Now that our profession has a body of professionals who fit the Blended Librarian profile, why not bring them together to share their knowledge and skill for one day? Online, of course. Ideally we’d recruit a small team to help organize and conduct the conference. There’d be a call-for-proposals for Blended Librarians who’d want to share innovative ideas, best practices, edtech tools they use and more. There’d be opportunities for discussion, engagement and learning.

Here’s our ask. Do you like this idea? Would you be likely to take the time to attend this conference? Would you expect it to be free?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment about this post or you can feel free to contact me, Steven Bell, at bells at temple.edu

Change is never easy, but there are times when change is necessary and good. We think it’s time for a change in the Blended Librarians Online Lerning Community. What do you think?

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