February 17, 2018

Helene Blowers | Movers & Shakers 2007

Steal This Idea


When Helene Blowers ‘stumbled across a want ad for a library technology trainer position’ ten years ago, PLCMC had just received its first PCs, and staff had to be trained on functions as basic as using a mouse and saving a Word document. Now, they’re creating blogs, using wikis, and exploring the use of Web 2.0 technologies to serve their community. ‘It’s due to Helene’s dogged, decade-long determination that our entire library system has come into the 21st technocentury,’ exclaims Charles Brown, the director.

At PLCMC, Blowers co-led the development of several oft-cited and award-winning children’s web sites, including BookHive.org, Brarydog.net, and StoryPlace.org. The main buzz now, though, hovers around Learning 2.0 (plcmclearning.blogspot.com), Blowers’s staff development initiative that, she says, focuses ‘on encouraging self-discovery and having staff take responsibility for their own progress.’ Rather than an instructor-led training program, Learning 2.0 is a ‘learning’ program ‘that uses the cornerstones of engagement and motivation, via incentives, to assist staff in using their lifelong learning skills, which is what libraries are all about.’

To encourage learning and exploration, Blowers set up ’23 things’ – small web-based exercises to expand staff’s knowledge of Web 2.0 (plcmcl2-things.blogspot.com). Each staffer who completed all 23 within a given period received an MP3 player and qualified for a drawing for a laptop and other prizes. The program deliberately used the ‘very same free web-based social networking tools that participants would be learning about as a way of showing staff one way these new tools could be used,’ she adds.

Beyond encouraging staff to take responsibility for their own learning, Blowers urges others to take advantage of Learning 2.0. She realizes that other libraries, even small, cash-strapped ones, could duplicate it with just a little ingenuity and effort and is ‘thrilled to see other libraries taking up the challenge and encouraging their staff to ‘play’ around with these new tools as well.’ Nearly two dozen libraries and library systems, from Virginia to Australia, are doing just that.

Her open access attitude is transformational. ‘She and the library have left all the modules and ‘how we did it’ up for any size or type of library to adapt and use for free,’ says Michael Stephens, instructor at Dominican University and Tame the Web blogger. ‘That says a lot about the open, participatory world Helene sees for libraries in the future.’




CURRENT POSITION Public Services Technology Director, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (PLCMC), NC

DEGREES BS, Organizational Communications, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, 1986

BLOG LibraryBytes (www.librarybytes.com)

PUBLICATION Weaving a Library Web: A Guide to Developing Children’s Websites (with Robin Bryan, ALA, 2004)