Wednesday, 9 January 2008

CILIP event - web 2.0, knowledge management and the corporate librarian

I had a bit of an epiphany last night, a bit late for the biblical sense (the end of the 12 days of Christmas) but definately a sudden moment of understanding that caused me to think differently...

I was speaking at an event run by CILIP (Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) in London. It was in a rather nice "proper" pub, part of the
Cilip in London Sekford Arms programme of meetings. I had originally envisaged doing a powerpoint presentation, image based of course, with videos and examples of blogs, wikis etc. However the group has a "no technology" rule, requiring only that the speaker, well, speak.

I was, to be honest, dreading this, as I've always used powerpoint and similar as a prompt to help me remember where I am, what I was going to say, to give me some place, as I'm a bit of a waffler. To be without said prop filled me with dread. But I was amazed (cue epiphany moment).

I felt incredibly comfortable with just sitting there, talking to people, without thinking about what my slides said, without worrying about whether I'd missed bits, whether the videos would work...all that distracting stuff you get with technology. I could listen to what I was saying, listen properly to questions, watch the group for non-verbal cues (like nodding off, head shaking, frowning) which I'd probably have missed had I been concentrating on the technology I was using to present with. I felt like, almost anyway, a storyteller. I'm going to try to avoid powerpoint in future...

For those who couldn't make it - I did promise I'd put my key points here, so here they are:
  • Educationalists and librarians have the same basic objective - to help people gain knowledge. Educationalists focus on the how of learning, information professionals on the what, the information, but the end result is the same - we're all helping people to learn. The more we work together to do this, the more helpful we will be to our customers.
  • Technology can help, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. Face to face interventions have served us well, and I think we should use technologies to supplement what we already know about people and the effective ways we've developed of working for and with them and not forget about this knowledge by focusing solely on technology. I know some would disagree, but for me it's not about the technology per se, it's about how we can use and leverage it to best effect.
The evening was a great experience, the audience were fantastic. What a great group of clever, thoughtful, open minded and responsive people.

There were some very interesting questions about the philosophical nature of knowledge. I'm fascinated by this topic, but I do feel that when considering the practical uses of knowledge, it's about what we can do to help one another learn, as much as it is about understanding what it is we know, and what is knowing. It was also great to see and hear from health based individuals who struggled with issues of access, skills, understanding and also excellent examples of the uses of technologies such as wikis and blogs in a medical library.

After (another) rubbish day at work I was really pleased to read Anne Welsh's post on the event, and to hear that those who were more negatively inclined were more engaged by the end. I feel like I did something really useful, and sparked some debate, whilst thoroughly enjoying myself and learning more about the role of the librarian in the corporate world. I also discovered (thanks to Ruth Rikowski), that there are some fabulous books published by Chandos which are right up my street in terms of knowledge management, so I encourage you to have a look at their catalogues.

The sausage and chips were great too :-)

Thanks to Ralph for the invite and looking after me while I waited for my taxi, and thanks to Anne for contributing definitions in such a concise and accessible way...huge respect to you missus.


Orangeaurochs said...

This is interesting. I've known countless presentations ruined by Powerpoint, either because of technical difficulties/lack of skill or over-reliance on it; I've seen very few presentations positively enhanced by it. This is one reason why I have never used it, although I am lucky to have presented, or rather trained, on subjects that warrant and need direct illustration by other means: e.g. how to use a library system, and aspects of the web. I wonder what I would do if I had to present on something abstract: I suppose that Powerpoint, or something similar such Google documents, would be necessary just for a little visual interest.

annewelsh said...

Hi Helen

Thanks for linking to Ruth's book, which looks fantastic.

Chandos is a great publisher - their books are always well-written and usually reasonably priced. Don't know how I missed this one!!!


Ian Gardner said...

As one of the audience* I would just like to say a big thank you to Helen for the talk which was indeed very interesting.

For those who may be interested, CILIP in London event information is available in RSS format from the below site:

* sorry for being late!