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.


Training, the Intersection, and Perspective (2nd of 4)

June 1, 2009

Frans Johansson, at the beginning of The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, & Cultures, describes a lovely café in the Azores and talks about it as a creative nexus, a place where people from all over the world meet, talk, learn from each other by exchanging ideas, and then spread what they learn through their continuing travels.

This really is not much different than what happens in the best of all teaching and training settings, whether they are in a formal classroom, meeting room, lunch room, or through an online offering such as a webcast, Elluminate session, Skype session, or in Second Life. It is all about the community that we as teachers-trainers-learners help establish through the perspective we develop and bring to our work and to our play.

Sometimes, developing new perspectives can be as easy as stepping into a familiar place and looking at it in a way we previously have ignored. If, for example, we always teach from the front of a room with which we are familiar and are chained to our computer work station, we can shake things up by walking around the room during our presentation, enjoying exchanges with the students to whom we have figuratively and literally become closer. At other times, we might really turn things around by asking for a different room set-up: chairs facing in a direction the students usually have not looked. In that process, we change everyone’s perspective—even our own—as we redefine the front and back and sides of the room. The simple act of modifying the learning space at least subliminally suggests and promises that something is amiss in a potentially exciting way. If it is approached in a natural rather than pointless and gimmicky fashion, it can be a way of waking up those who are prepared to just glide through yet another training workshop. It also creates the possibility that the teacher-trainer will see something unexpected from this new perspective and, through the wonders of improv, incorporate it into that day’s workshop.

There is, of course, the danger of alienating the participants if the change does not make sense.

I recently was part of a group which met daily for a few weeks in a particular room, with an established (u-shaped) set-up of tables and chairs. When one group of presenters decided to switch rooms without explanation, those of us who were in the audience found ourselves in a much less comfortable room with much less possibility for the interchanges we all craved. We sat in rows of seats similar to what we sat in when we were in elementary school. Everyone faced the presenters, who stood in the front of the room. There was little chance for spontaneous interactions since the room itself placed the seminar leaders completely in control of every moment of the seminar, including the all-too-brief question-and-answer period. This was a stark and dispirited contrast to the normal set-up where everyone saw everyone else and exchanges were very lively. Although the presenters had the illusion of absolute control over everything that happened during the seminar, they could not control the participants’ resistance to this unexpected and unwanted change. A few of my colleagues were so disenchanted that they overtly refused to join in the very limited discussion which the presenters half-heartedly tried to conduct during the final few moments of the session.

So, where does all of this leave us in terms of our perspective? In a world wide open with possibilities, where, by encouraging exchanges and creative interactions, we all learn, grow, and spread the word. And, perhaps, we become actively engaged in the Intersection where our sense of community and possibility leads to even greater things.

Next: Training, the Intersection, and Breaking Down the Barriers

This item was originally posted on October 18, 2007 on Infoblog at http://infoblog.infopeople.org.


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