Trent Brager, University of St. Thomas, Amy Mars, St. Catherine University, and Kim Pittman, University of Minnesota-Duluth, for their work on 23 Framework Things, a free online professional development opportunity that helps librarians engage at their own pace through readings, activities, reflection, and discussion. The 2017/2018 Awards Committee conducted the following interview with the 23 Framework Things team.
What was the impetus of creating 23 Framework Things?
As part of our roles as current and former chairs of the Minnesota Library Association’s Instruction Roundtable, we were responding to calls for support and professional development around the Framework from Minnesota librarians and the broader library community. We planned a half-day Framework workshop for Minnesota librarians, but felt that it was important to offer an additional online component to allow for continued engagement with the Framework over time. We also wanted to create a resource that was accessible to librarians anywhere in Minnesota, regardless of their location, financial means, and time-constraints. The “23 Things” model was already established and seemed perfect for this scenario since we had heard from many librarians in our networks who were poised for engaging with the Framework but didn’t know where to start. What we ended up creating exceeded our original expectations: a robust community of practice with 23 entry points for engaging with the Framework. 23 Framework Things was designed to be accessible, fun, and scalable to a librarian’s level of need and interest. This is why it is open access and self-paced, with prizes, tracks, badges, and other ways for participants to track their progress. We also wanted it to appeal to librarians with a variety of professional development styles, so the site offers participants options to engage with the material through a variety of means, including readings, activities, reflection, and discussion.
Why did you decide to make 23 Framework Things a national professional development tool instead of just for the Minnesota Library Association?
Though it was initially intended for Minnesota librarians, as part of the promotion process we shared 23 Framework Things on multiple national listservs and were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic interest expressed by librarians outside the state and even internationally. The online, open access format lent itself well to making the tool available to librarians hailing from far and wide. It’s been great to be able to provide a forum for librarians seeking help or engaging with the Framework in interesting ways but who maybe don’t make it out to national conferences to share their work. We were most taken aback by the international appeal and it’s been really interesting to see how librarians in other countries (UK, South Africa, etc) approach information literacy.
What has the response been to 23 Framework Things (besides this award)?
None of us ever expected such a large-scale response to 23 Framework Things! At the time of writing, the 23 Framework Things website has received 37,495 views and 8,271 visitors. There are currently almost 400 registered participants from 41 of 50 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Librarians from nine countries outside the U.S (Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, and Australia) are also participating.
Beyond registration numbers and activity on the site, we knew that something big was happening when we saw 23 Framework Things mentioned in an excellent ACRL webinar by Meredith Farkas entitled Framework Freak-out: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Live With the Framework and in an American Libraries article. It’s been great to see the site shared widely, especially by folks in the profession that we admire.
As 23 Framework Things has gained more exposure, we’ve seen it used in contexts we didn’t anticipate. Recently, the Virtual Participation Committee of ACRL’s Literatures in English Section (LES) reached out to us about creating professional development for humanities librarians using 23 Framework Things. We led a webinar sponsored by LES, and it’s been great to see perspectives from folks in humanities and adjacent disciplines shared on the site as a result. LES has also led Twitter discussions of the Framework through a humanities lens using the hashtag #LESchat.
How will you continue to promote and advance 23 Framework Things?
We will continue to promote 23 Framework Things via multiple means. Participants have let us know that occasional emails encourage them to continue to complete Things, so we send regular emails to participants in order to highlight specific content on the site. We also send emails to listservs in order to increase awareness of 23 Framework
Though the deadline to receive prizes for completing milestones is August 31, 2018, management of the site is now included in the Minnesota Library Association’s Instruction Roundtable workflows. This means that the site can remain a community of practice and a resource for librarians looking for ways to engage with the Framework even after prizes are no longer available.
What advice would you give to someone beginning a project of this size and scale?
I think it’s important to be ambitious but flexible, and to be prepared to change your game plan as things take shape. This especially came up for us in terms of our timeline: we started creating the site in early 2017 and (somehow) expected to have all 23 Things ready to go by April 2017. We quickly realized that this was overly ambitious, and ended up writing and publishing Things in small batches throughout the year, eventually posting the final Thing in November 2017. Similarly, we originally planned to only provide incentives for completing the program through October 2017, but realized that participants also needed more time to complete the Things. Adjusting our timeline allowed us to create better content and make the site available to more participants.
Because projects like this are so time and labor-intensive, I also think collaboration is critical! Amy and Trent have been exemplary collaborators: they have great ideas; they’re fun and funny; and they get things done. The three of us have also been fortunate to work with a number of folks from the library community who generously shared their expertise in Things 19, 22, and 23. More than anything else, my advice would be to find project partners who you enjoy working with and can rely on to follow through.
Finding partnerships where you can have fun and get things accomplished is essential to projects of this scale. Most of the meetings between Amy, Kim, and I are spent laughing but we can count on each other to get things done. We came up with a plan for each step in the process of creating 23 Framework Things and never worried that we wouldn’t finish them.
I also think our focus on the user experience throughout the process led to our success. We picked an engagement platform that is easy for participants to use, gave participants flexibility with how to accomplish each Thing, and used feedback to improve the experience. Your users determine if you’re successful so they should always be your focus!
I agree with Kim and Trent that finding collaborators that bring different types of expertise (and a sense of humor) definitely helps a project like this run smoothly. Maintaining a balance between taking great care to produce a project while not taking yourself too seriously is definitely important. Working with Kim and Trent on this project has not only been rewarding, but really fun which is not something I can say about every project I’ve worked on.
We also tried to keep the user in mind every step of the way. We know that people utilize different types of information to keep abreast of trends and best practices in the field so we made sure offer a variety of types of resources (scholarly articles, blog posts, videos, practical examples) to get people started in each Thing. We also know that not everyone has the same access to library journals and databases so we strove to use open access articles whenever possible. We’ve also done multiple user surveys to gauge how things are going and make adjustments right away instead of waiting until the end of the project.
To learn more about the Innovation Award and to make a nomination for 2019, please visit the Instruction Section’s Innovation Award page.