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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ILEAD U: Using Technology to Tackle Community Problems-- A Bridging the Physical Virtual Divide Example

A few years ago, the Illinois State Library started a program that has now taken off in a few others states.  It is called ILEAD U.  Here is some general information on the program:
Problem Statement: Librarians must expand their leadership abilities by using participatory technology tools to address the needs of their patrons and foster greater community involvement and civic engagement. Examples of participatory technology tools might include digital audio/podcasting, digital photography and video, blogging tools, instant messaging, photosharing (e.g., Flikr), RSS, social networking (e.g., Facebook), videoconferencing, virtual reference, virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life), web conferencing and Wikis. The entire library community may benefit if the successful application of these tools results in the development of an easy-to-replicate program. 
Innovation: The Illinois State Library applied for and received a three-year Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop ILEAD U as a national model for participatory technology training. Eight five-member teams representing multitype libraries across Illinois take part in three, three-day in-person seminars over a period of nine months. Teams are assigned mentors who keep participants motivated; offer expertise; and provide guidance and advice. Teams identify a single group project of the team’s design that will address at least one identified need within their communities of users. Teams use the skills and training acquired throughout the sessions to develop, implement, manage and evaluate the projects. 
Progress: The first group of 8 teams who participated in 2010 are using Web 2.0 technology to address issues such as unemployment and job searching in central and southern Illinois; addressing the informational needs of law students in Chicago; providing outreach to people whose second language is English in the Chicago collar counties; and addressing economic development along the I-80 corridor from Rockford to Joliet. The second group of 8 teams is currently engaged in ILEAD U. Like the first group, the teams represent all geographic areas of Illinois and all types of libraries, and they are learning to use participatory technology to address issues such as developing job searching skills; providing quality library programming; fostering digital literacy; establishing an online platform to promote local history; and providing government information. In addition, 12 individuals from state libraries around the nation are participating as observers with the intent of importing ILEAD U to their states. States participating in 2011 are Iowa, South Carolina, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Georgia, Arkansas, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.
The program continues today. At the BPL we have had a few employees go through and work on a team to complete a project, and this year I have been part of the mentor team for someone at my home library.  

This year's group of participants will be wrapping up their year of work  next week in Springfield, IL, but I thought I would share what the team I have been in touch with is working on.

They have called their project "Traveling Tablet Tour For Illinois Libraries." Here is their mission: 
To provide Illinois librarians the opportunity to borrow a set of iPads for use in children's, family and teen programming and to establish a forum for resource sharing.  

Here is the website they have created to facilitate this program. And go to the end of this post to see the adorable video they have created.

One of their biggest challenges was figuring out how to send the iPads between libraries.  In the beginning of their project I suggested that they look into using the already established Library System ILL trucking.  This is a free service for libraries to share resources and since their mission was "to establish a forum for resource sharing," I thought they could convince the systems to help.

I was correct, as Rachel, a team member told me:
One of our biggest successes so far is that RAILS has agreed to work with us to ship the set of 5 iPads that we will be purchasing. If RAILS wasn't willing to deliver the iPads, we would have had to set aside quite a bit of money from our grant to cover shipping costs. The majority of our grant money is going towards the iPads and accessories, such as cases, toggles so libraries can hook the iPads up to a projector, and a container to ship the iPads in. We also used some of the money for a .com and the rest will go towards an Apple gift card to purchase apps and replace any accessories along the way.  
Any library who receives RAILS deliveries can request to borrow our set of iPads for up to one month. We’ve already received one request! If you’d like to pass along the word to any library friends that you know that may like to take advantage of this project, please do. We also have an app database on our website, where library staff can search for program ideas and age appropriate apps, even if they don’t borrow our iPads; it’s a opportunity for resource sharing.
But what does all of this have to do with RA?  Well, I am showcasing this project because I think it is an excellent example of the on-going conversation I am trying to have with the library community about being better at bridging the physical virtual divideClick here for more posts on that issue by me, including entire programs on the topic.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that the Library System did agree to help because in the past, they have stood firm on only sending materials specifically requested between libraries,  This idea was outside the old rigid box, but I am glad that others are focusing on the service, in this case resource sharing, and not the rules from pre-digital days. 

For more information on ILEAD U please contact the Illinois State Library.

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