Continued Conversation about Librarians and Libraries

Yesterday’s blog about the first shift I see for librarians and libraries sparked a storm of discussion. Well six comments is a lot for the middle of an enormously deserved summer vacation.

But to continue the conversation, I would like to respond to a few of the comments that have poured in.

Scott Walters said,
July 26, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

…Reading the post, I don’t find it all that radical. The only thing I might be concerned about is the widening technology gap — libraries have been built as a way to allow everyone to become more knowledgable, but computers and internet connections continue to be a high-dollar item for a large portion of the population. So the disappearance of bricks-and-mortar libraries has political implications…

I agree that this is an issue, but merely a symptom of a larger problem. We needed libraries because information was made of atoms and had to be stored in containers, and it was impossible for any home to hold the information and discourse that is required for an economically thriving democratic society. Today, when information is made of bits, and it flows globally, libraries are only required in societies that have not recognized the need for convenient access to digital networked information and invested in that access.

By contrast, community access to the Internet seems to be the model in much (if not most) of the world where people do their research and surfing at cyber cafes. This interests me because the Internet becomes an entirely different experience when it is social. I could see myself dropping broad band when I finally retire (2026) and simply hefting my laptop to the local coffee shop for my daily info-fix. Course by then, the Internet will probably be implanted behind my good ear.

Kathy Schrock said,
July 26, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

I respectfully disagree with your proposal dealing with a “shift away from source as the determining factor for using information and a shift toward value.”

I still very strongly believe the determination of source is the most important, although this should be closely followed by “does this help me answer my question, meet my goal, etc”– what you refer to as the “value” of the information.

I’m glad you came in on this, Kathy. It’s an issue, about which I feel comfortable on both sides. Still, I believe that we teach children literacy so that they can use information to answer questions, solve problems, and accomplish goals. Therefore, achieving the task at hand should be the first basis for evaluating information.

Erroneous (seemingly valuable) information may help you meets your needs and accomplish your goal, but also lead you down the wrong path.

Bingo! This is the crux of the problem, but as I see it, if the information is false, unreliable, invalid, or what ever, then it doesn’t help you accomplish your goal. It’s why children must be learning to use information, not just consume it. They need to understand information as a raw material that we build with, not merely a commodity.

I’ll say one more thing here. My argument completely falls apart if we are not including in our every thought about literacy a well throughout and define code of information ethics. You’ve seen my speech. Ethics is the thread that stitches the other literacy components together.

…When I gave a talk in front of my local public library’s building committee, they thought I was a radical when I told them that their plan to double the stack size was probably not the best thing to do!

You know, I thought I felt the earth shake at that moment. I would also double-click on the Frey posting, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation.

So how do you like your Q. I love the phone, but HATE the OS.

Joyce Valenza said,
July 26, 2006 @ 7:02 pm

I have to believe that source and value both matter and are connected and are NOT mutually exclusive.

Exactly, one is the subset of the other. If the information’s source is contrary to the goal at hand, then its value is nil.

…Information decisions are no longer black and white, actually, they never were. I teach students strategies to grapple with gray and I try to organize the chaos.

Again, bingo! Teachers love black and white, step 1, 2, & 3, bubble in the correct answer. It’s not our fault. We live and work in a time of dramatically rapid transition from a mechanized industrial world of smoke stacks to an information-based creative age of almost infinite possibilities. In a time of security, black and white is easy. In a time of opportunity, gray is a better place to be.

I would also double click on Joyce’s post, You Know you are a 21st Century Teacher Librarian if…

Andrew Pass said,
July 26, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

David, I think that you are right on the mark regarding the changing nature of the role of librarians. However, I certainly don\’t think that this change is unique to librarians.

Enthusiastically agreed, Andrew. I pick on librarians because they symbolize the old. But even more importantly, they are in the position to lead us into the new.

Mark Ahlness said,
July 27, 2006 @ 1:12 am · Edit

The librarian’s profession is inextricably tied to a crumbling structure, and the vast majority are clinging to the rubble, not out there leading the charge to a new structure, web 2.0. Librarians should be leading. Instead, they are scrambling to catch up and adapt to new technologies.

I LOVE the imagery. Presenting at lots of library/media conferences, I can say that, perhaps even more than technologists, librarians get it. Like the rest of us, they are tied to crumbling structures and clinging to rubble trying to stay afloat (imagery). Many do fear a sinking into the new flow of information. But as I present Web 2.0 to librarians, many of them do see the new information landscape for what it is — an exciting new way to access, share, use, store, and add value to ideas. I can see them out there, librarians vibrating in the spasms of discovery and excitement. I sincerely fear that some day, one of them may explode in spontaneous combustion.

Thanks for the conversation!

Next, the shift in libraries…

PS: I see that Chris Harris has chimed in. His point will be better addressed in my second shift blog. Later!

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.