Toby Greenwalt at Library 2.015 — Technology and Partnership in the Library Community

iStudent Blog

Published: November 12, 2015

This is the last in a series of posts summarizing highlights of the Library 2.015 Worldwide Virtual Conference in October 2015. To access the full set of recorded sessions, go to the iSchool’s Library 2.015 page and look for the links to the keynote speakers. All three of the presentations covered in this blog will be there, and you can get all the juicy details for yourself!

On October 20, 2015, Toby Greenwalt, the director of digital strategy and technology implementation at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wrapped up the fifth annual Library 2.0 conference with his presentation, “Flywheel Libraries: Making Library Service Visible in the Information Ecosystem.” It was a thoughtful talk about how public libraries can connect with patrons and the community at large to build lasting relationships.

This was a great topic, seeing as how I’m currently taking Info 282, a seminar in grant writing. Writing proposals for grants is all about people and partnerships and building a thriving and more integrated community. So you can understand why I’m so excited about all the great ideas that were shared in this presentation.

Making Technology Useful in the Community
Greenwalt started out by asking, “How do we take innovations and make them real to our neighbors and partner organizations?” He talked about the necessity of having the library be part of the community, and how he went out for coffee or drinks with leaders in the Pittsburgh neighborhood to find out how the library could meet their needs and how they could work to promote library services.
“You’ve got to talk to people,” said Greenwalt, “and ask those people who else you should talk to.”

He encouraged everyone to think about who to connect with and how the library can work through these groups—including local corporate offices, church groups, and small businesses. Ask questions. Be aware of the community’s needs. “Keep listening,” Greenwalt stressed.

He also addressed ways to use social media and how to make it really effective for building a community. Social media is a great tool to give your library a stronger presence and better visibility, but make sure you’re really using it to connect with people and not just relaying information, he emphasized. Be sure to introduce yourself as a person.

It’s All Happening at the Library
One specific program the Carnegie Library introduced to address specific needs is “Appy Hour,” where attendees share what they loved about their devices and the challenges they face when using different applications. After only a few months, it became a cooperative class where people assisted one another and really gained confidence in their abilities. Greenwalt became much more a facilitator rather than a teacher and could eventually step back and let the class run itself.

I love this kind of learning environment, where people are able to learn cooperatively—from the Montessori preschool classroom to the youth soccer team and all the way up to the senior citizens’ community learning to use their smartphones.

Greenwalt went about creating library programs with patrons’ specific needs in mind and then partnering with community organizations to make it all happen. The Carnegie Library partnered with Code for America in Pittsburgh to connect with local government. This enabled the library to better connect with political officials and connect its patrons with what was going on in their city.

Together, they created and sponsored an event at the library entitled “Work Nights” where, once a month, a single branch would be open late and patrons could come to work and collaborate on helping each other with specific tech needs and work challenges, making it a real community event rather than just a night with later hours.

Another event the library hosted involved a variety of corporate sponsors, civic groups and nonprofits, the Steel City Codefest. Attendees worked together to develop apps that would help community nonprofits increase their visibility and further their missions. There was also a related event for kids of all ages called Codefest Jr., with a variety of technology activities.

Take it Out Into the Real World
These examples of a community coming together, with the library as a facilitator and innovative go-between, are so inspiring for me as I cruise toward the end of my graduate school education and embark on a career as an information professional. I love listening to these presentations, collecting copious notes, links and resources and then creating ideas in my head of all the things I can do with my library community.

I encourage you to find a recording or two (or three or more depending on your time and interests) and really think about the ways you can make an impact in your community, connecting people with information and with each other.

For more about your future career, technology trends and what’s new at the iSchool, check out:

Roles for Tomorrow’s Information Professionals: Unlimited Possibilities

Being in the Know—Advice About Technology and Program Funding from the Library 2.015 Spring Summit

Norm Jacknis at Library 2.015—Making the Future Happen Now for Libraries

Dr. Sandra Hirsh at Library 2.015—Starting the Day and Supercharging with Motivation