Patrick Timony: Technology, Communication, and Collaboration

July 14, 2010

It’s easy to see why Patrick Timony, Adaptive Technology Librarian for the DC Public Library, was among the five recipients of the 2010 Cafritz Foundation Awards for Distinguished D.C. Government Employees earlier this year.

Timony, according to an awards announcement issued by George Washington University in honor of the recipients, was at the time “the only Adaptive Technology librarian at a public library in the United States”; the award recipient, in a follow-up conversation, noted that Will Reed at Cleveland Public Library preceded him and that there currently are several other librarians across the country who focus on Adaptive Technologies. The announcement praises Timony for being “the technological master-mind behind the D.C. Public Library (DCPL) delivery system that continues to serve as a national model. He successfully built a unique and cutting-edge Adaptive Technology Program (ATP) for blind and print-disabled patrons of the library system…”

He has worked as a street musician; was a team leader and model maker for Z Corp 3D Printing, a business which has corporate offices in Massachusetts and Denmark and which continues to specialize in 3D technologies that “enable product designers, engineers and architects to create the right design the first time,” according to information posted on the company’s website; worked at the Library of Congress while earning his Master of Library Science degree from The Catholic University of America; then worked as Adaptive Technology Coordinator at DC Public’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library before accepting the post he now holds with the library system.

Visiting with Timony and San Francisco Public Library Access Services Manager Marti Goddard while attending the 2010 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington, D.C. last month, I was struck by his enthusiasm and creativity in combining his interest in state-of-the-art technology with his obvious dedication to serving people with disabilities.

His own frustration at not being able to communicate face to face with others as well as he would like to has led him to explore and incorporate the use of technology as an avenue for those with disabilities, he said during our conversation. Using a combination of tools including a SMART Board interactive whiteboard—“it’s great for people with low vision,” he says; two laptops; a simple webcam strategically placed to provide a view of the library’s Adaptive Services Learning Lab; and two speakers, he has created the sort of space which connects onsite participants to those online who might otherwise not have access to the library’s Adaptive Services offerings, which include the Saturday Technology Training Sessions and other meetings sponsored by the library.

He is integrally involved in arranging for the next Accessibility Camp DC at DC Public; incorporates Skype and OPAL—Online Programs for All—into his work; expresses interest in Open Space Technology; and continues to dream of finding ways to effectively use virtual worlds such as Second Life to better serve his Adaptive Services clients—all with a goal of finding ways to bring more people to the table.

And as is often the case with those most adept at using technology, he seems to be creating the sort of meeting place where the tech tools quickly drop into the background so that business can be conducted and relationships can be nourished.

“Patrick has made a place in the community where people can come together and communicate. It’s another example of getting people from a community together and letting them speak for themselves,” Goddard observed.


Marti Goddard: Reviewing the State of Services for the Disabled

July 14, 2010

Revisiting the topic of services for the disabled with San Francisco Public Library Access Services Manager Marti Goddard and reviewing articles and reports on the issue more than a year ago as part of online coursework I was completing through the University of North Texas provided encouraging as well as discouraging news which remains true today. Encouraging because we see progress which can be documented. Somewhat depressing because we can see how much more remains to be accomplished.

Goddard, at that time, had been two years past teaching a daylong “Beyond Ramps: Library Accessibility in the Real World” Infopeople workshop, and more than a decade had passed since the publication of Achieving Independence: The Challenge for the 21st Century: A Decade of Progress in Disability Policy Setting an Agenda for the Future (1996), yet both remain as timely as ever, as I was reminded while spending time with her at the 2010 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington, D.C. last month.

The first conclusion summarized in the executive summary to Achieving Independence, that progress in empowering people with disabilities was “threatened, compromised, and often undermined by lack of understanding and support in the Congress and among particular segments of society” from 1986 to 1996, still holds true, Goddard maintained during our earlier conversation more than a year ago: Congress had revisited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “because they felt ADA has been eroded.” Amendments were signed into law in September 2008 to become effective January 1, 2009.

Another conclusion, that public policy “continues to send mixed messages to people with disabilities,” also remains true more than a decade after the report was published, Goddard said: “The ADA was really not prescriptive. It was written to be sure that people’s unique needs could be met. There was pushback because of the perceived cost—not the actual cost of implementation,” she explained.

The third conclusion, that “people with disabilities “remain outside the economic and social mainstream of American life” and “continue to be less employed, less educated and poorer than other Americans,” also remains accurate. There is, she reported, a “significantly lower rate of employment for people with disabilities,” and writers including John Hockenberry in Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence have documented ways in which those with disabilities are excluded from public buildings and public transportation systems because of inadequate accessibility.

Among the great resources and reasons for hope is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and its website, full of resources and up-to-date information. There is, for example, a report that an updated working draft of authoring tool accessibility guidelines for those involved in web design was published this month; comments on the guide are being accepted through August 9, 2010 on that same site. There is also a list of ten quick tips summarizing key concepts of accessible Web design on the site. A link to a page providing guidance on how to evaluate web sites for accessibility promises additional useful resources.

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.

Next: Patrick Timony, Marti Goddard, and Using Technology to Assist Those with Disabilities


Viral Learning (Just in Time)

January 15, 2010

Forget about viral marketing, the contemporary version of word-of-mouth promotion combined with Web 2.0 social networking tools.

Let’s popularize a relatively new, rarely encountered phrase—“viral learning”—and acknowledge San Francisco Public Library Access Services Manager Marti Goddard for unintentionally providing an example of how easily we can use this to the benefit of those working in libraries.

The story begins with a lunch Marti and I had. We were talking about articles on the topic of “Training, Story, and PowerPoint”; Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points; and how to make training and learning sticky. I had read both editions of Atkinson’s book, was using the ideas with Infopeople webcast and webinar presenters, and was about to do my first bullet-less PowerPoint presentation. Marti had not read a word of Atkinson’s book, but was intrigued by what she was hearing.

When we met again a week later for lunch, she proudly told me she had tried a bullet-less PowerPoint presentation and was delighted to receive enthusiastic, unsolicited comments about her slides from those who were present—which leads us to the idea of viral learning and how easy it is for anyone working in a library to put it to use. As Marti demonstrated, it is not difficult to informally exchange word-of-mouth descriptions of lessons we have learned so that they are immediately adapted, applied, and shared at the moment of need with others who might repeat the process in a quickly expanding group of learner-trainer-teachers.

This really is no different than the experience I had as a result of taking Michele Mizejewski’s “Web 2.0: A Hands-On Introduction for Library Staff” Infopeople workshop. I knew very little, at that point, about wikis, blogs, or RSS feeds. It wasn’t long before I was using Netvibes and iGoogle to read RSS feeds; writing articles on training and Web. 2.0 for two different blogs; experimenting with a rudimentary form of wikis with colleagues in Canada by using Google Docs; and, most importantly, engaging in viral learning by describing my successes (and failures) to others who might pass this learning-training on to others in our libraries and beyond.

Let the viral learning spread!

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.


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