Specialist Options

Introduction to core area 5

My story in core area 5 is about my work with public librarians and how I developed an approach to the development of digital capacity that placed the librarian, their attitudes, interests and skills at the centre of a professional development programme. In this section you can expect me to

  • Describe ICT4D initiative entitled mLiteracy
  • Reflect on the approach I took to introduce and support mobile devices use in a public library setting and
  • List and link to evidence associated with Core Area 5.   


At present, free Wi-Fi in many Gauteng libraries has opened the possibility of affordable access to data and information via mobile devices. And libraries, particularly in marginalized communities, have been inundated with new users, since data is expensive. But many public librarians are unsure how to use their own mobile devices, let alone help their patrons, to access the web, apps and reading materials.

Mliteracy is a project for the public librarian: people who can see the impact of Wi-Fi on their library; people who recognise a need to cater for mobile related information access among their patrons, people who do not yet feel fluent enough within this untethered and world.

With the Goethe-Institut’s support, Bridgette, Stephanie, Lot and I launched a project with the intent to promote, support and enable librarians to use mobile devices for public good. Librarians, as information professionals, were encouraged to apply their professional abilities within a mobile context. The focus was to practice and develop their digital fluency using a readily available modality. As they developed these fluencies, they become confident in their abilities to access to text, information and knowledge on their devices and willing to share this learning with their patrons.

Many “technology upskilling interventions” are presented as a training package, The method that we used to develop fluency required participation and active involvement. Librarians were invited to pool their experience, learn from each other and discover how mobile technology may augment their information management skills.

A milking stool model


This project offered me the opportunity to explore an  alternate model for communicating and disseminating effective practice.”  I call it this model a three legged “milking stool” approach. The legs of the milking stool at

  1. A toolkit
  2. A workshop
  3. a comunity of practice

1) The toolkit

The complete package consists of an activity book, a faciltators guide and multiple mobile friendly resources, uploaded onto a variety of distributed sites. The toolkit is arranged under 10 themes and has 4 activities per theme (a total of 40 options). The themes used in the toolkit are loosely based on threshold competencies associated with Wi-Fi, mobile devices, digital reading, information literacy, curation, digital citizenship etc.  Most of the activities that have been collected are participatory and involve working in pairs or groups on a task. Since the toolkit is in an electronic format and licenced under Creative Commons, all the activities can be freely reused and remixed and be customised to specific needs.

Two issues of concern

  1. The ethnographic research approach used to identify and assess the variety of constraints and needs in public library setting offered us a rich set of insighights, but this data was contextually bound. For example, in an under resourced township setting, we found that the main mobile habitat for phone users was WhatsApp. Many of the toolkit elements were designed to be launched from within this space. Our activities were cogniscent of the affordances of messaging and a narrow focus allowed for design within contraints. But we also saw how librarians in resource rich contexts, or librarians who were more fluent with digital, sometimes felt restricted by the design choices and did not necessarily benefit from our narrow gaze.
  2. We are aware of the deitic nature of literacy and how it changes as new ICT develops appears and disappears. The multiple mobile resources that were posted to flesh out of toolkit, have shown how easy they can become messy and out of date. For example, Googles termination of the link shortening service goo.gl has affected all hyperlinks. Active and ongoing curation is necessary for the activities to still be useful.

2) The workshops

A workshop (one or two days) is run with the toolkit themes and activities acting as the catalyst for learning and structure to hang a group directed curriculum on. The activities are used to trigger dialogue and/or reflections between colleagues. When conversations are combined with tasks that require the use of mobile apps, site or a technology, participants empathy for the learning experience is developed and understanding is prompted or provoked as they share their experiences and expertise. 

When the activities are arranged in a grid-like structure, a bird’s eye view of the themes emerge. This grid allows the enabler, facilitator or librarians to strategically prioritise and choose a direction for the workshop. Using the “dot vote” technique, commonly used in an unconference event, participants jointly decide on a curriculum.

3) The community of practice

Those who respond positivly to what they learned and take back and implement their own mliteracy interventions in their own work settings are then invited to participate in a community of practice (COP) event. The purpose of the COP is to build momentum, add exemplars to existing toolkit resources, recognize progress and facilitate further sharing of experiences and expertise. Those who can demonstrate their learnings to the COP are given the opportunity to earn a set of “open badges“. 

With a toolkit, workshop and community of practice combined, the librarians are afforded many opportunities to play and exchange their experiences, become ore confident with devices and to begin thinking about how they might use thess technologies to address the wider public good challenges that libraians have always been converned about.

Evidence associated with core area 5

An interview between Stephanie and Derek

A presentation introducing mliteracy  – an overview of the project for librarians to understand  

Mliteracy Toolkit Activities – a collection of some of the mllliteracy activities that I designed and we use  in workshops

Mlibrarian Badges – a set of 3 badges that offer a digital form of acknowledgement to those who can put into practice what they learned.