We have come to the end of the 23 Things, although hopefully not the end of Learn & Play @ CML. There’s no question in my mind that this is one of the best things the library has done to train staff. Not only did it take much less time in the long run than it would have to bring every employee into a classroom to be spoon fed this information, it also brought so many staff across the system closer together. I constantly hear about how people felt like they got to know their co-workers better and felt closer to staff at other locations than they ever did before. Since CML has been battling some provincialism among the branches for years, this alone could have made the entire project worthwhile.
I can’t help feeling that there are a couple of things missing, though. Unfortunately, to get this project to work we couldn’t make it mandatory. What sort of “play” experience is required? But staff who didn’t participate have lost out in so many ways. Not only did they lose a chance to find out more about their co-workers, they lost a chance to discover how their work has changed and gain skills that will be absolutely necessary working in libraries as we move forward. No matter how much you try to ignore all the “Web 2.0” stuff that’s out there, it’s not going away and it’s only going to increase and spread. People and organizations who don’t get on board are going to be left behind. This goes far beyond simply being jaded about how the library has changed and mourning the “loss” of books. The way information is organized and delivered has fundamentally changed, and people who don’t understand this risk finding themselves without prospects very quickly.
The other element I think wasn’t quite right was the scope and size of the assignments. The reality of our work now is that we must spend a great deal of time in the public space. This only makes sense, since our primary job is public service. But this makes it much more difficult to find time to explore a lot of these things in the depth required. I’m not sure if there’s any easy way to pare down the assignments into more manageable chunks, or maybe make the tracking requirements simpler than a blog post for each item (a daunting proposition if you feel compelled to write more than a few sentences). But I think a lot of staff won’t finish or didn’t even start because they felt that devoting as much time as would be necessary to do these assignments well would take them away from the floor for too long, and that’s a shame since this project can only help them in their work.
But regardless, this project has been great. I’ve gotten to know so many people so much better. I’ve found new tools to help me do my work more efficiently. Tools that I was already using have now been adopted by more of my co-workers, making connecting with them easier. And everyone who participated has a better understanding of how the world has changed and how their jobs are changing as a result. This can’t be the end, because we’ve only just begun.