Photo by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region on Flickr
The Vermont Library Association is launching the Librarian Relief Fund to assist librarians who suffered personal property damages as a result of Hurricane Irene. You’ve likely seen the devastation on the news. What you don’t always see though is the extremely long, labor intensive process of cleaning up after something like this. It’ll take people in these communities a long time to get “back to normal.”
A lot of folks did not have flood insurance, and people are going to need support above what federal and state agencies can offer. If you feel inclined to help a librarian in need, please consider making a donation or sharing this post. You can donate online here, or you can mail a contribution to:
Vermont Library Association | Attn: Librarian Relief Fund | P.O. Box 803 | Burlington, VT 05402
Yesterday, I attended the Burlington Book Festival. The best session was one entitled Writing in the 22nd Century: A Panel Discussion. It was a terrible title that did not really fit what they were talking about. Nevertheless, it was a great session. They were actually talking about the 21st century — more specifically the near future. It was also not limited to writing. It was a discussion about writing, reading, and consumption of information.
The panel was composed of Steve Benen a political pundit blogger from the Washington Monthly, Cathy Resmer online editor of Seven Days Newspaper, and Ann DeMarle, head of the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College. It was moderated by Jeff Rutenbeck Dean for the Division of Communication and Creative Media at Champlain College.
One thing that got people going in the audience was when Jeff said that books were an inefficient means of communication. Publishing online is much quicker and people can interact and have a conversation with the information, whereas books take years to publish and you cannot interact with a book. The audience got defensive and sentimental about books, expressing that they did not want them to go away. Someone actually stated how books were one of the most perfectly evolved forms of media. Jeff also passed around a Kindle for people to gawk at. The guy next to me was ogling it for about five minutes.
Photo by davidking
What was especially interesting was the discussion that ensued after Jeff brought up the idea that textbooks are “so superficial.” He said that for his classes, “you could get 90 percent of the information in the textbooks from Wikipedia.” At this a student commented that he did not go to textbooks first. He went to Google or YouTube or blogs or other online sources. Barbara Shatara, a librarian at the Fletcher Free Library asked him the same question I was thinking: how do you evaluate this information for credibility? His answer was that he evaluated by cross referencing. If he found info on one blog he would look and see if it was confirmed in other places. If there were more people agreeing with something than disagreeing then he would believe it.
This gives a good insight into how information is being evaluated in this era. Instead of looking for some authority people look to the masses. “Do a lot of people believe this? Ok, good then I will too.” A lot of people believe that evolution is a falsehood and that global warming is a fabrication. A great danger with this is when looking to corroborate or disprove a piece of information on the web, it very much depends on how you are searching. If you search with keywords only related to creationism, or find a creationist website and start following their links, the information your find is going to be colored in a very specific way. With a mindset such as this, the tyranny of the majority can then determine what is true and not true, and that is very dangerous.
There were a number of debates back and forth and everyone really got into the session. I was surprised at how many people were engaged and actually caring about these issues. I guess information literacy is a real issue that people outside of libraries or academia care about.
I went camping this weekend at Camel’s Hump, a mountainous state park about 25 minutes from Burlington. I didn’t actually hike to the zenith of the mountain. I am going to save that for another adventure, but it is definitely on my list. Instead I decided to try out Primitive Camping. It was a great experience going off the beaten track where there weren’t a grip of other annoying campers with their RV’s or kids or high tech doo dads. Those things have their places and can be pretty fun, but I wanted a chance to get away from it all.
I was able to do just that. In fact my Blackberry (iPhone’s are useless in VT due to no AT&T coverage) decided to quit working right as I started my trip, so I truly was out there all alone with my thoughts, a good book and nature. I actually enjoyed being disconnected for a weekend, even though I was slightly pissed I missed Barack’s text about his VP choice. Having times when you can completely unplug, even if it is just for a few hours is really important. It helps you reflect on all the information that you consume and connect more with your inner life instead of the superficial (less important) go-go-go world that we often get caught up in.
I suppose I wasn’t completely alone out there though. I did discover some bear tracks and heard some critter meander by my tent the second night. It was a little scary. Probably because it was the first time I have been camping by myself. I have camped a lot in the past because of my involvement with the Boy Scouts (I was an Eagle Scout), but have not been able to do much at all after that. I am glad that I had this opportunity to reconnect with nature and unplug. I look forward to experiencing other Vermont outdoor adventures in the near future. If any Vermonters have any suggestions I am all ears.