WebJunction, an Evolution in Library Staff Learning
Originally written and published on 06 June 2023 to OCLC's Next blog.
WebJunction is, first and foremost, the learning place for libraries. But what makes it special is our approach: We’re committed to listening, collaborating, and doing our own learning, too. It shows in how we’ve evolved over the past 20 years with projects—big and small—that truly reflect the library landscape and provide new ways of learning for all levels of staff.
What started in 2003 as a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that focused on helping library staff be more effective in offering public access computing has developed to include content reflecting all aspects of library learning needs. The WebJunction team is a vibrant group within OCLC Research, and our 20-year journey has produced significant contributions with and for the library community. We make learning practical and flexible, allowing individuals to modify and customize their experience to meet local needs. This has resulted in successful learning models that are both inclusive and actionable.
More than 215,000 library learners from libraries big and small have been part of our evolution. We’ve run in-person and online training, facilitated small-group learning, and hosted large-scale conferences. No matter what format is used, it has been important for us to experiment with new tools and techniques right alongside our learners. We know that learning is continuous, that it takes time, and that it can be strengthened through social connections. The opportunity for our team to learn and grow through changes in technology, training methods, and in response to new topics has been fuel for our professional fire.
Partnerships, projects, and peers
A key component to our success? We don’t do it alone. Our partnerships have been essential to how we’ve been able to develop and provide high-quality learning. We actively seek out opportunities to amplify the work of subject matter experts and other organizations that will not only benefit library staff, but also create new programs that leverage our strengths. If people want to help library staff, we want to listen and determine if and how we can support that work. Our partners have included universities, library associations, federal government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. We also work directly with over 30 state library agencies that provide cooperative support to WebJunction and help inform our programming and projects.
These partnerships often lead to the implementation of projects. In our first 20 years, we’ve led more than 15 major projects on topics that have represented both long-standing and emerging needs. Projects can span years and a range of freely available content: from research to toolkits to courses. While our earliest projects were primarily centered around face-to-face training, now we develop and deliver much more online training. No two projects have been the same, and we expand our skills and knowledge throughout the process.
Some project highlights include:
- Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces
- Supercharged Storytimes for All
- Digital Stewardship Training
- Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis
These projects, along with our webinar program, showcase the value of peer leaders who share their expertise. Our presenters are often frontline library staff, managers, and directors who bring real world knowledge to the discussion. Their voices, experiences, and expertise resonate with our learners and provide motivation to consider how ideas might work in other libraries and communities. During webinars, we encourage engagement between attendees—to share their own ideas and examples and build a peer-to-peer learning community.
Popular recent sessions with presenters from libraries around the United States include:
- Book Challenges and Intellectual Freedom: Proactive Planning for Public Libraries
- Creating a Restorative Library Culture
- Weed ‘Em and Reap: Getting Your Collection from Awful to Awesome
WebJunction is truly a result of the library field coming together. And as the needs of our communities have changed, so has WebJunction.
20 years of library collaboration
For those of us—both in the library community and at OCLC—who have been part of WebJunction over the past 20 years, this evolution has been exciting. At every stage, we’ve seen library superstars step up and share their knowledge, passion, and time. As new challenges have confronted the field, we’ve worked with funders, libraries, associations, and individual colleagues to rally around solutions that can be widely shared and applied. We exist to strengthen the skills and abilities of people at all stages of their careers and from libraries of all sizes.
Our name still fits our mission. A “junction” isn’t where you go to live or work—it’s where you go to meet others and to find your way together to a destination. Our thanks to everyone who has participated, contributed, and partnered with us on our journey.
I can’t wait to see how we all continue to learn and grow.