Monday, November 7, 2016

Partnering With the Technology Department

For several years, one of my workplace struggles has been how to integrate the library with the technology department. For starters, I couldn’t figure out what integration would look like for us. Also, I didn’t see, given our traditional modes of operating and the various personalities involved, how it would be possible, even if I did have the vision. The definition of integration means to put together parts or elements and combine them into a whole. Deep down I sensed that an integrated whole would be greater than the sum of its parts and that, if we could pull it off, it would be highly beneficial for our school community. With this in mind I began to wrestle with the dilemma.

My first step was to reach out to the HVLA listserv to find out which schools had already merged their library and technology departments. I phoned some of the librarians who responded to my question to see what I could learn. In the meantime, our two departments began to meet every other week. In all honesty, it was pretty awkward in the beginning, like a first date that never got any better. I blame this partly on the fact that we had no clear overall objective other than to ‘get closer’. Some weeks, people even forgot we had a meeting! Clearly, this was not a promising start. The following year the administration put the meeting on everyone’s schedule and this helped to solidify the expectation of attendance.

I realize now that what we needed were projects, a chance for us all to pull together! Opportunity knocked when the school decided to introduce a one to one laptop program and a learning management system in the same year. Suddenly our meetings had a purpose, as we began to plan together how to roll out these new initiatives to the faculty and the boys. Meanwhile we ran an event together on our professional day where we showcased tech tools, including library databases and ebooks.

The capacity of the team increased greatly when the technology department gained two extra people, both with Apple Genius experience. At around the same time, the library and technology departments  became neighbors. Previously, members of the technology department had been scattered around the school but with the advent of construction work in preparation for an expansion of the facility, they were relocated to our library classroom. What we lost in teaching space, we gained in collegiality and serendipitous conversations. The impact proximity had on our relationships really cannot be overstated.

Another benefit of the current construction and subsequent expansion of the school is that we will be turning the library into a Library Tech Commons. This will allow us to gain a tech office, a maker resource area,  and some new teaching spaces. As part of the planning process we had a series of meetings after school in which we developed a shared vision of this new Commons and deepened our connection further.

Our most recent venture is the launch of Tech Tuesdays, a monthly series of presentations/discussions with parents. As of yet we have only done one but it was a strong start. Our topic was Apps for Education: What Educational Tools Can Do For Your Boys. We started the meeting by doing a Kahoot so that parents could experience the excitement our boys always feel when they play. Next we showcased some tools we find really useful such as Ed Puzzle, Explain Everything and Kahn Academy. Parents shared some of their favorites too. We laid out chairs for about twenty parents but had more than fifty attend! Afterwards we built a webpage to share the minutes from the meeting for those who couldn’t attend and to bookmark all the tools. You can check it out here. Next week we have another Tech Tuesday which will be on the topic of screen time and that will be followed in December with a session on coding.

It’s fair to say that things are now going very well. We have plenty of items on the agenda at our meetings now and I always break the ice by bringing cookies from different part of the world. Some of us have started to attend conferences together and on Wednesday we are going on a night out to an escape room (after a few drinks!) We didn’t end up merging; we are still two departments but we are one library-tech team and it feels like this is just the beginning.

Have you experienced success in partnering with your technology department? It would be great if you could share any ideas or thoughts you have on the topic below. 

Sarah Kresberg, Library Director - The Allen-Stevenson School

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