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The Original 23 Things . . . Irrelevant training?

Update: See Emily’s clarification in the comments. Two things happend today – a lot of people noted how 23 things helped them, I helped remind popele that 23 things can still work as a model and I found out I need my vacation to return my sense of humour. Mea culpa.

So, here’s a recent comic from PoesyGalore (Emily) of Shelf Check asserting that only 2 or 3 of the original 23 Things are still relevant . . .

Shelf Check 420

This strip appeared, then disappeared, and reappeared. It’s now back.

I usually love Emily’s strip a lot so I got concerned that maybe I was not remembering 23 Things well. So, I went to check on the original 23. Here they are:

1. Read a blog posting & find out about the program.
2. Discover a few pointers from lifelong learners and learn how to nurture your own learning process.
3. Set up your own blog and add your first post to track your progress.
4. Register your blog on the site to begin your Learn & Play journey.
5. Explore Flickr and learn about this popular image hosting site.
6. Have some Flickr fun and discover some Flickr mashups and third-party sites
7. Create a blog post about anything technology-related that interests you this week.
8. Learn about RSS feeds and setup your own Bloglines or Google Reader RSS account
9. Locate a few useful library related blogs and/or news feeds using a blog search engine.
10. Play around with an online image generator and create some library marketing fun.
11. Take a look at LibraryThing and catalog some of your favorite books.
12. Explore Twitter and post some tweets.
13. Learn about tagging and discover (a social bookmaking site).
14. Read a few perspectives on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the future of libraries, and blog your thoughts.
15. Learn about wikis and discover some innovative ways that libraries are using them.
16. Add an entry to the wiki sandbox.
17. Take a look at some online productivity (word processing, spreadsheet) tools.
18. Explore any site from the Web 2.0 awards list, play with it, and write a blog post about your findings.
19. Explore CML’s own Tool Box of great Web 2.0 tools.
20. Discover YouTube and a few other sites that allow users to upload and share videos.
21. Discover some useful search tools for locating podcasts.
22. Take a look at the titles available on MOLDI and learn how to download audiobooks.
23. Summarize your thoughts about this

So, in the process potentially all library staff would have all gotten to the same place with new basic skills (remember that this was almost 5 years ago – a long time in internet years) in about 9 weeks and be able to share using these tools:

1. Blogging
2. Blog Search Engines
3. Graphics and Picture tools (Flickr)
4. Image search
5. RSS Feeds
6. LibraryThing
7. Twitter
8. Tagging
9. Web 2.0 opportunities
10. Wikis
11. Cloud Apps (Zoho, Google Apps)
12. Streaming Media (YouTube)
13. Podcast search tools
14. Downloading audiobooks
15. New Learning methods
16. Group collaboration tools

Many updated versions of 23 Things (some are 21 or 29 or whatever) include others like Facebook or MySpace but these above are the originals.

As the strip asks, “Which are the 2 or 3 that are still relevant to libraries? Are there actually any on the list that are irrelevant to libraries?” I think none and I think that Helene Blowers (formerly with Charlotte & Mecklenberg Library and now with Columbus Metropolitan Library) was prescient in her choices from the plethora of so-called Web 2.0 tools available at that time to build training programs around.

Since the program was launched it has spread virally (and for free) around the world to include many languages, many countries, all types of libraries and tens of thousands of participants. Research on the effectiveness of the program from both the employers’ and learners’ points of view show that it was and remains a succcessful method to bring library teams up-to-speed quickly and cost-effectively.

Did people waste their time learning Web 2.0 stuff? I think not. I worry about libraries, library folk and information pros that don’t keep up enough. 23 Things is one way to address the problem of large scale training for professionals who choose to invest their time in their own development.

I’m on vacation for the next two weeks but I thought I had to blog this defence of the libraries, library associations, librraians and library staff who engaged, voluntarily, in learning new things. I guess I am thin skinned and I will take the next two weeks to get a little tougher.



Posted on: July 19, 2010, 9:49 am Category: Uncategorized

13 Responses

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  1. Jane Dysart said

    Totally agree, Stephen. And it’s not just the content of the 23 things which can change, be updated for further study and learning, but also the process. A fabulous way to bring a community together for learning whether it is a library staff, a municipality (public library community), an association.

  2. right here about some of the great new things happening this year. Web Application

  3. Very glad to read this thoughtful defence of the 23 Things idea. It’s running at Cambridge at the moment, with a list of Things not too dissimilar from yours of 5 years ago! ( The project team has tried to stress throughout that the ‘Things’ themselves are not as important as making the jump from consuming Web 2.0 information to creating it, in whatever form and on whatever platform. Once you’ve made that jump, you can assimilate any number of future ‘Things’, even up to a googol.

  4. Gary Green said

    For me, the key point about 23 things is that it shows how information can be presented/organised in a variety of ways on the internet/web in an formalised way. Life may have moved on since the original 23 things programme was developed, but there are still library staff/information professionals who might not understand the full potential of what the web has to offer them, their library service & their customers. 23 things training programmes are a useful starting point for developing their understanding of these resources.

  5. Stephen
    You’re right on. In the world of libraries and K-12 public education, we are just on the cusp of many of these tools. I don’t believe many of these tools have gone away or will go away any time soon. Enjoy your vacation and thanks for your great posts.

  6. I think it’s different to have a character in a strip say that only 2 or 3 of the 23 Things are still relevant than for Emily herself to “assert” that.

    The character is saying that the actual sites, blogs, and podcasts he explored two years ago are now moribund, and that he isn’t about to go out and find new ones because he expects to be spoon-fed them through training.

    I think this is less about “23 Things” and more about too many librarians’ attitudes toward professional development and technology. In fact, it seems right up your alley, Stephen, as you are always saying we need to take it upon ourselves to keep ourselves informed and up-to-date.

  7. admin said

    I think you’re right about the characters personas. I hope most people see it as a cautionary tale too
    At ALA I met a recent LIS grad who was looking for work who proudly told me that she wasn’t on Facebook or using any of this Web 2.0 stuff. She was having trouble getting interviews and didn’t see the connection. Libraries hire learners not the learned.
    I hope it’s a rare case but as Roy Tennant pointed out recently, that may not be the case.

  8. I agree with Steve Lawson’s assessment of the strip – that it intended to provide commentary on some librarians’ reticence in self-directing their own learning . More pointedly, the author may be providing some commentary on the trends or fads that often inform our learning – when a trend has passed or moved into the mainstream (as certainly many of the original 23 things have) what else is new that we should be paying attention to in terms of continued learning?

    from where i sit, as a profession, we need to learn how to provide and advocate for continued support for the library’s long-term relevance and ongoing financial sustainability/viability. with unemployment at its peak, and library funding under scrutiny due to shrinking govt support at all levels, these are the issues that are at today’s front lines.

    i agree with you about the success of the program as a model. what would a 23 things (about advocacy) learning program look like? could we use something like this to inspire library staff as well as city/county decision-makers as well as the public to support and advocate for their local library?

  9. Steve Lawson’s comment is exactly how I meant it to be taken–I’m very pro-23 Things and ongoing learning. The idea was that Dave & his fellow librarians thought that 23 Things was enough, that they wouldn’t need to keep evolving. That’s why Jan makes the suggestion she does (why don’t you try out some of the new things,etc). And, yes, the strip characters are absolutely not me personally, and I didn’t mean to assert anything about the value of the program.

    There’s an earlier strip tagged with “23Things” that might make this more clear:

  10. admin said

    Thanks for the clarification, Emily. I’m glad that’s the way it’s meant to be taken and maybe by the end of my vacation my sense of humour will return!
    I apologize if if I’ve caused you any grief. Keep up the good work.

  11. Stephen – I had the same take on it as Steve L. You can see my response (rant) here
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention & giving me an excuse to finally put that rant out there.

  12. Helene said

    Hi Stephen & Emily,

    Thanks for making this discussion happen. Stephen you are so totally correct that the larger focus of 23 Things “to address the problem of large scale training for professionals who choose to invest their time in their own development.”

    The “things” they can easily change over time. But what’s important is that library professionals are continually investing thier time in learning on their own. After all if libraries are institutions of ‘life-long learning” then we need to actively live this credo as well.

  13. Norene James said

    I am proud to say that my students in the Information Management & Library Technology program at MacEwan University in Edmonton are assigned to explore various Web 2.0 tools and teach it to their classmates. This assignment was created out of the inspiration of 23 Things. The tools may change, but the concept of lifelong learning and Web 2.0 familiarity still applies.