Speed Dating: A Fast Way to Meet New Technologies

You may have heard of speed dating parties. They are popular matchmaking events during which single people have an opportunity to have quick conversations with lots of other single people. If someone meets a person they would like to get to know better during the event, they can arrange another date. Some innovative minds in the New Jersey library world have borrowed from this approach to create Technology Speed Dating, a training format that helped NJ librarians quickly get introduced to lots of new technologies.

New Jersey's Tech Speed Dating

For this collaborative project, LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey State Library, and NJLA’s Emerging Technologies Section worked together to create a series of technology training programs for staff from all types of libraries in New Jersey. They decided to model the training programs after a combination of conference table talks, technology open house events, and the techniques used in speed dating.      

The program was three hours long and featured:

  • Table talks staffed by expert colleagues
  • Hot topics: smartphones, iPads, ebook readers, gaming, mobile apps or websites, productivity tools (Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote,etc.), social media (Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.)
  • Gadgets and devices galore

The event was created to provide librarians with maximum exposure to as many technologies as possible in a half-day timeframe. The organizers worked hard to make sure content was up-to date, responsive to current needs, and applicable to library work situations. They also aimed to give participants a taste of what’s coming in the future. 

Technology Speed Dating was a low-stress, fun way to encourage library staff in every department to familiarize themselves with current technologies.  Tables were staffed and presentations were delivered by members of LibraryLinkNJ’s staff and Technology Advisory Group; NJLA’s Emerging Technologies Section; NJLA’s College and University Section/ New Jersey Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries Technology Committee, and other interested and tech-savvy colleagues. 

The program was offered in three locations around the state of NJ with a limit of 60 participants at each location. With a total of about 40 presenters and almost 175 library staff in attendance at the three programs, the organizers considered Technology Speed Dating a great success.  Joanne Roukens, Assistant Director of LibraryLinkNJ, says, 

“The format and the content were a tremendous hit, resulting in engaged, excited, satisfied, and happy library staff!  With, every objective we had was achieved and the measured results from our evaluations proved the success.  In addition, the positive comments poured in and here is just a sample:

  • Excellent format – I learned more in 3 hours than in 1 day at a major conference!
  • Well worth my time.
  • This was valuable to me. Thank you!
  • I loved how you interspersed short talks/presentations with plenty of table talks and hands-on time.
  • Q&A was wonderful!
  • I really appreciated the handouts, as well as LibraryLinkNJ posting the handouts on their site after the day is over.
  • Thanks! And great networking too!
  • Excellent format.
  • This was great! So well organized! There was a great combination of group presentations. Thanks!
  • Great program and very useful! I learned just by chatting to presenters!
  • This was an excellent idea to break with short talks!” 

In fact, Joanne says the format was such a success, they are considering it for other non-technology topics, too, “We used this format for teaching technology, but we believe it could be adapted to collaborations, learning and networking opportunities on many other subjects.  Sharing and talking around a table will always be an essential way that people learn.”

Advice for Others

When asked for suggestions for others considering organizing a speed dating event for learning, Joanne recommends the following:

  • Develop a learning program to fit your particular needs.
  • Scale the program to meet them and also your budget.
  • Create a detailed, well-organized plan of action and make sure your planning team has the skills and expertise to carry it out.
  • Collaborative partnerships among organizations help leverage tremendous expertise and people power.

Handouts and additional information about the project are available online