Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just the Librarian

Class 511 - Introduction to Library and Information Professions

David Lankes is my favorite librarian at the moment, and I'm not just saying that because he's going to be reading and grading this.  Seriously.  Every time he talks, every time I read something he's written, I feel like I am about to sprout wings from the knowledge and rhetoric he shares.  If anyone could stand in an empty room and have people call it a library, he would pull it off with flying colors.

I admit the concept eludes me a bit though.  In the "Atlas of New Librarianship" by Lankes (2011), it is discussed that the illusion of "things" is really not what makes a library.  It is the librarian that makes a library.  I can see it in my mind, we are providers of information and innovation, so really we could just stand there in an empty room answering questions and helping people.  If we knew everything (imagine what having an actual computer for a brain would be like) then we'd be the best libraries in existence.  Not only would we be mobile but people would be able to use the first form of communication they learn to gather what they need.  Speech.

So would we even need the building?  Nah, I don't think so.  It helps, I am sure, but so do the thousands of books and computers and web sources.  Really the one thing I'm not quite understanding is this: what is the difference between us and teachers at that point?  The Atlas says they enable learning.  It looks to me that the line between is very thin.  By providing information are we not enabling learning?  But teachers do encourage others to absorb the information.  I guess the difference between Teachers and Librarians is the difference between a sponge and a bucket.  Teachers get the knowledge absorbed while the librarian fills.  Subtle, in a way.  Maybe not the perfect analogy but I like it.

I'm going to cite this book a lot since I am going to be writing about it for the next week.  just a warning for those not in the know.

Lankes, David.  2011.  "The Atlas of New Librarianship."  MIT Press.


Matthew Gunby
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I think we place too much emphasis on titles in our society: honestly I am fine with the idea of being an instructor to a vast array of children and adults who does not have to follow a specific pedagogy, or even the framework of a specific schedule. I think this flexibility is key to how we are different from teachers. I am not saying there is not value in the more framed environment of instruction, but it is not how I view my position.

I do like the bucket and sponge analogy, though I might add the following caveat: teachers absorb what their students need to pass a test, get to the next grade, etc. Librarians are not so limited and this can be as much of a problem as a boon, because we need to cater to the needs of our member. If they are working on a paper or studying for a test, we need to be able to place the teacher hat on so we can facilitate their need. If they are doing research for their own enjoyment or outside of a classroom environment, we must in turn be willing to present them as broad a view as possible, instead of only giving them a narrow need-based focus. This is a difficult dynamic, and honestly I feel that some of the best instructors are able to occupy both worlds as well as librarians. Remember Professor Lankes is not a librarian, but an instructor, and yet he manages to occupy this dynamic position in my opinion. Titles bring with them baggage, both good and bad, and we must occasionally evaluate that baggage. Are there reasons to simply call everyone in the knowledge facilitation business instructors? What about librarians? Maybe, or maybe just realizing that the borders between the two is fairly porous and applying the title that seems to fit best is more appropriate. Assuredly a worthwhile discussion.

A.A.Van Fleet
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You're right, people do put on too much emphasis on titles. I did pause after I wrote Dave in as my favorite "librarian" but decided to keep it like that. Through what he has been defining librarianship to use over last week I came to the conclusion that he was a librarian to me, and I will always look at him as a type of librarian to become in a sense.

To quote Shakespeare: "Words, words, words." and "A flower by any other name would smell as sweet." But I guess we have to call it something. 'Tis the limitations of language. Now defining what something is, that brings us into the complex realm of philosophy. I realm I feel Dave brought us into with defining what is information and what is librarianship?

Taking this 612 class I've been questioning whether we are being taught to become "librarians" or "teachers" as school media specialists. A lot of our texts are written by teachers about teaching. Those in class who have had teaching experience seem to be ahead of everyone else. Our projects are revolved around keeping the library in mind, and what we can do in a library. So this whole, am I a teacher, am I librarian? What is the difference? That's been nagging at me a bit. I am a facilitator of information, I guess the real difference might be HOW I do it.

(BTW thank you for continuing this discussion!)

Matthew Gunby
Thursday, July 28, 2011

While I absolutely understand the desire to place information into the public through a blog, I really think one of the things that makes them unique from print media is this back and forth. Connecting this to your post, I think that you are going to be entering into this conversation a lot, both internally, with the people you work with, and with your students. There is not an easy answer. Sometimes you will likely fill the role of teacher and other times librarian, but if you are truly effective, I do not think people are going to really care. Take whatever path you can to facilitate knowledge and I think both your fellow instructors and students will respect you for that not the degrees or titles.

A.A.Van Fleet
Friday, August 05, 2011

Thanks Matt, you really do make me think, and that is wonderful!

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