3

Library Awesome!

library awesome!

David Lankes wrote an truly excellent post a few months back discussing the issue of some working librarians worrying that libraries are doomed, complaining, finding excuses, and saying “yeah, but…” when faced with change. He went on to talk about how librarians should somehow find ways to stop “worrying about their future, but instead go about creating it.” It was a really great post and touched on a lot of things I had been thinking about recently.

There can be a fair amount of negativity in librarianship. People worry about the future of libraries. I hear complaining about resistance to change.

These concerns are real and should be critically examined and addressed. There certainly are problems that we need to be solving and challenges that we are facing, but it is easy for all the positive, awesome stuff to get drowned out. It’s easy to get discouraged when all the messages that you are hearing are negative. But that’s not what I see, and I don’t want that to be what others always see.

I see and meet so many passionate, fun, engaged new librarians coming into the field. I hear about colleagues building libraries in Uganda. I read about library educators who are constantly coming up with creative ways to reach their students and teach them to think critically about information. I hear about libraries popping up as part of the communities at Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere. Awesomeness abounds in libraries and among librarians.

Consequently, I wanted there to be a fun way for people to regularly share and be aware of all the awesome that goes on in libraries. The things libraries and librarians do, and the things they allow their members to do are awesome. They promote literacy, inspire creativity, strengthen communities, educate citizens, and do meaningful good around the world. In that spirit, I set up a Tumblr called…

Library Awesome!

On it you can share videos, links, images, quotes, or stories of awesomeness related to libraries. They can be your own stories or ones that you come across and you feel need sharing. In a world where there can be a lot of negativity and un-awesomeness, hopefully this will be a place where you can share inspirations and be inspired by others.

Share your awesome today!

 

6

Make Your Own Learning

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about courses that I wished that they had offered in library school. There were a lot of great comments from folks about knowledge that they wish they had. These were things like event planning, research methodologies, programming, and others. The reason I wrote it was not so much to complain about the lack of opportunities in library school, but for it to be a signpost for current MLIS students about what they may want to investigate. It was also a recognition of skills that I would like to learn and skills that are useful for librarians today.

After the post, Fiona Bradley wrote a related one saying rather wisely that there is no way that we can learn everything in library school, and that it doesn’t matter because “librarianship is the ultimate extensible profession.” We have the skills for lifelong learning. She says in her post to go out and “make your own learning.” I love this sentiment, and it is getting easier all the time.

Education is noticeably changing. It is becoming less centralized. People with initiative can gain new skills or get a very good (though perhaps not credentialed) education for free or cheap. People who want to improve their skills can brush up or take a class any number of ways online or in person. There are a wide variety of tools available to get those skills in things like event planning or graphic design.

You can learn about entrepreneurship and innovation by watching lectures (like the one above about change and fear) from Stanford’s eCorner. You can learn how to code the fun and easy way with CodeAcademy or learn Python at the Kahn Academy. You can learn how to host a conference or basic graphic design from SkillShare.

With the vast amount of content available, instead of finding a teacher you could create a learning community on a service like Google+ and design lessons that center around shared readings and videos and host discussions via text or video chat.

Anne Murphy Paul at a Time Magazine blog says that projects like these are “ushering in a new golden age of the autodidact: the self-taught man or woman.” I tend to agree with her. Learning is not merely going to be students passively receiving knowledge from teachers. It will be a proactive pursuit for people who are curious and want knowledge that will benefit them either for personal growth or additional job skills. As librarians we are the “ultimate extensible profession.” We can learn graphic design if we want to. But are there also ways for us to help our students and users learn outside of the classroom? Can we somehow connect them with resources like those mentioned above? Can we facilitate peer to peer learning among students and community members who want to share their expertise? How can we create more opportunities for our community members to make their own learning?

0

What Can I Help You Create?

Create Poster

Original image from tinkerbells on Flickr

The reason I became a librarian is not because I love books, but because I love learning. I’m a curious individual, and I want to inspire that same curiosity in other people. I could do that any number of ways, but I believe that libraries can be really effective in inspiring curiosity and sparking people’s imaginations. So books and information are OK, but they’re a means to an end. What I am really interested in is the learning, imagination, creativity, and curiosity piece.

That is why I am excited about the trend in libraries to empower their users in non-traditional ways. Traditionally libraries have provided resources for consumption: books, articles, multimedia. Increasingly though, libraries are creating partnerships and offering resources that allow users to not only consume, but to create.

One example of this is the Library as Incubator Project from a group of entrepreneurial students from the SLIS program at UW-Madison (go Badgers!). The project focuses on how libraries can partner with poets, writers, visual artists and other creators in mutually beneficial way. The folks who started this project are re-imagining the library as “a gallery, a performance space, even a studio.” Libraries can be a place to create art and connect artists with the community.

Another trend is the rise makerspaces, hackerspaces, and fab-labs as parts of libraries. These are places for the do it yourself crowd where they have things like computer driven saws, lathes, 3D printers, and electronics benches. These spaces use a very community oriented model with things like shared projects and peer-to-peer learning. These spaces are a global phenomenon, but libraries are beginning to partner and tap into their creative potential.

There are other simpler examples too. There are libraries that lend guitars and offer lessons. My public library in Burlington lends gardening tools like rakes and hoes. Our members are not just reading; they’re painting, growing gardens, writing songs, ginning up prototypes, editing videos, or performing poetry.

Looking at our members not just as passive information consumers but as active creators is a paradigm shift that needs to be happening in more libraries. Instead of READ posters I want to see ALA also putting out CREATE posters who feature artists, musicians, or YouTube stars. Instead of librarians saying “can I help you find something?” I’d also like to hear “what can I help you create?”

For more reading on this check out David Lee King’s post about Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces and Mick Jacobsen’s post at Tame the Web, Is a digital media lab right for you?