You want me to learn how many things?

This post will be my last post that is related to the readings or class meeting for the SI 643 class. This post will not, however, be my last post. I will continue to blog on issues related to libraries, digital humanities, instruction and information literacy, and anything else that intrigues or interests me. I will not, however, continue to do it in this space. This blog will migrate over to a blog which will start on my other WordPress site at http://rkclement.wordpress.com. That site is a personal site, currently with information about projects I have worked on, but is currently very much a work in progress. Expect more after graduation (April 27th).

Our last set of of readings for SI 643 seemed appropriately meta for the class as a whole, as part of them were clearly describing the instructional design inspirations for this very class. With that being said, I was also happy to read more about the source for the “23 Things” projects that Kristin had recently told me to look into. Some of them:

What I like so much about this idea, of having 23 (or 13, or 47) things that participants need to learn, but then learn at their own pace, is that is #1 amazingly scalable and #2 conducive to a state of mind. What I mean by this is that these projects, as discussed in the articles we read, are more and more focused on fostering an inquisitive and risk-taking point of view. Now, obviously, these risks are happening within limits of comfort, or just outside of them, but they are risk nonetheless, and risks that show the learners/participants that taking risks, making mistakes, and learning by play are all perfectly acceptable (and, indeed, some of the best ways to learn about new technologies). This is important, because, as we know, librarians are being asked to do more and more instruction with less and less and time and money – the best way to teach others about technology is to spend your time teaching them how to learn about technology, rather than always having to teach them about each new application or innovation.

Blogs, like the one I have been keeping along with SI 643 here, were also important parts of some of these different techniques we read about. I have also come to appreciate this blog as a method for both my own reflection and for the instructor’s assessment. Several times during this year, in other classes, I lamented not having a blogging requirement to supplement readings and discussion. I know I could write about the readings on my own, but it is different, and more conducive to keeping up with the task, to me, when you know there is a readymade audience for your writings. I have written a lot, and always enjoyed writing throughout my life, but this was the first blog I have ever written, and I quite enjoyed the experience. Here’s hoping that as the summer passes and I move into a new job that I can implement some new approaches to blogging – I think this will help to maintain my interest, and my development, as I move forward.

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Webinars!

So, this past week we did not have class, as we were presenting our webinars as well as attending the webinars of our classmates. I greatly enjoyed this chance to see the different ways people approached our limited (2) choices of “topics” for the webinars (copyright OR underserved populations). There was quite a diversity of options despite the limit on the broader topics, and I loved getting to see what both the presenters and the other participants thought about these topics.

I attended webinars that discussed college students with LD (such as ADHD, dyslexia, etc), young professionals in the public library, libraries as incubators, and assistive technologies for patrons with LD (screen readers, etc). I had rarely considered the issues facing college students LD, I’m embarrassed to admit, but I know have some perspective on things I need to learn about and consider when I began my work in academic libraries – libraries are a difficult environment for any new college student, and LD just makes it that much harder. I also had never thought about “young professionals” (or myself) as an underserved population in public libraries, but it makes some sense when I think about library programming and how little I use it (but how much I would love some of the programs this group discussed in their webinar!). All in all, these different webinars all taught me something, and it was more than just about how to put on (or not put on) a webinar, so I would say all were a success!

On the subject of my own group’s webinar: I found this exercise to be quite difficult. Not the planning/scripting of the webinar (this was very much, to me, like a combination between a traditional presentation and a workshop – what I found difficult was the execution. Luckily, I had two group members there with me to help balance out the workload of running a webinar. However, after doing it, I can say that I have no idea how (or why) someone would approach facilitating a webinar on their own. During the portion of the webinar where I was presenting (speaking), I could not pay attention to anything else on the screen – I managed to catch a couple of the chat messages, but I definitely had to go back after the webinar and read through the chat log in the archived version in order to see what was going on. I know that this type of multitasking would come with practice, but, I also feel like the ‘webinar’ is not always set up to make the best use of the resources available. One of the comments on my last blog post, where I was lamenting un-innovative webinar formats, pointed to a technique for doing webinars as a sort of flipped classroom, where the students do a lot of up-front reading and then decide what activities/discussion will take place using the tools that the webinar software provides. This sounds like a great idea for distance/online learning, but what about for one-shot webinars? It seems ridiculous to ask someone to do a ton of reading to prepare for what is essentially a one-shot workshop, but I feel like it could greatly help with using the technology to greater effect.

 

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Twitter and Scholarly Communication

This week, we had no readings for class. We signed up for Twitter (if we weren’t already signed up) and created a “personal learning network” (PLN) of other Twitter users related to our professional interests. We also needed to tweet or re-tweet 5 times during the week – you can find the tweets from our class by searching for the hashtag #si643.

As I thought about Twitter this week, while using it in a more professional sense than I had been in the past (though I was already following a good number of folks from my PLN before this), I kept coming back to an article about Twitter and Noam Chomsky I had read earlier this year (http://www.salon.com/2011/10/23/why_chomsky_is_wrong_about_twitter/). The interviews that this article cites took place shortly after the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, many of which showed the central importance for technologies like Twitter for the communications of the oppressed. In one of the interviews cited, Chomsky comments on Twitter:

Well, let’s take, say, Twitter…It requires a very brief, concise form of thought and so on that tends toward superficiality and draws people away from real serious communication […] It is not a medium of a serious interchange. (Chomsky, N. as quoted by Jurgenson, N., 2011)

It is strange to me that such a scholar of language and communication would take such a stance on a mode of communication, for a number of reasons. First, it’s clear to anyone who studies language and literature that “concise” forms do not necessarily equate to shallow or non-serious communication. We only need to look to the haiku or the sonnet to see what kinds of truly serious communication can take place when concise forms rule the writer. It’s also strange because it seems to paint Chomsky as out of touch, which I have not seen from him before (as the article’s author points out, statements like this have an air of “rap isn’t music and graffiti isn’t art” to them). Finally, it is strange because, on Chomsky’s own admission, he doesn’t use Twitter.

Further on in the discussion of Twitter and Chomsky, Jurgenson points out that mobile communications technologies, such as Twitter, are becoming more and more a part of communications in the marginalized areas of the world. As he says, studies “[indicate] these so-called shallow ways of communicating are precisely the ways those in the Third World are connecting to and interacting on the Internet”(2011). More and more, these technologies are becoming tools for those who don’t have a voice to make themselves heard.

So what does any of this have to do with Twitter and PLNs? While I admit I’ve gotten a bit far afield, I do have a point. Before I make that point, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not equating the oppression in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Third World to the “oppression” (notice the quotes) of academia by the publishing industry. These are two different worlds, clearly. However, there are many times when academic innovation is stifled by publishers, even if they make no active effort to do so. The entire model of exclusivity in major academic journals leads to a stifling – as Dan Cohen points out in his blog (http://www.dancohen.org/2012/03/30/catching-the-good/) (which I got from his Twitter feed, incidentally), the way the academic publishing machine is set up today is full of negative reinforcement, which forces scholars to try and conform to the academic community they want to be a part of, which makes many of them scared to innovate or reach beyond disciplinary boundaries. Technologies like Twitter (and blogging, and self-publishing, etc.) provide an opportunity for academics to break free this machine. After all – I will probably have no idea how many people read anything I publish (though I can see how many people cite it, that’s a different topic) – but, I can see right away, using tools such as Google Analytics, how many people read my blog post, and where they are from, and, if they comment, I can get instant feedback on my thoughts!

While these open/social-web technologies can never provide a full replacement for our current model of scholarly communication, I think they can provide a wonderful way for scholars and information specialists to communicate about how we can work to replace or improve the current machine.

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The Future of Online Learning Environments

Last week in class we had a demonstration/practice session with Blackboard Elluminate, the software we will be using to run our own webinars over the next couple of weeks. We also discussed strategies and approaches for webinars. One issue I keep having with the idea of webinars is that of software. Blackboard Elluminate, while far from great (from what I’ve experienced so far), is one of the better pieces of software for webinars I’ve seen or read about it – but it still seems to fall flat.

I think this has to do, in part, with the attempt to wholesale transfer the classroom model to an online learning space. In Elluminate, users are given “rooms” where they have a “whiteboard” and can show Powerpoint slides. Participants in the webinar can “raise their hand” to ask a question. In fact, in many of the reviews of Elluminate that I found online, the “whiteboard” feature was one of the biggest selling points for the software. It seems crazy to me to take a model that we all agree sometimes works in one setting and move it into a completely different world and expect it to work just the same.

While I’ve only just done a cursory search so far, I’ve been unable to find any truly different models for online learning environments. Try as I might this week, I’ve also been at a loss for coming up with any alternative ideas myself. However, I do find promise in the fact that there a growing number of open-source options for e-learning, such as OpenMeetings and BigBlueButton. The more students are exposed to these new learning environments, the more chances we will have for feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully the next generation of e-learning software will be able to take these users’ thoughts and suggestions into account as they design the next, (hopefully) truly innovative learning environments.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas on how learning environments can be changed to adapt to the online world? Have you used software other than Blackboard Elluminate in the past? What did you like or not like about it?

[EDIT]: An earlier version of this post referenced DimDim as an open source web-conferencing software alternative, but it has been brought to my attention that DimDim is no longer an active open source project. Apologies for the error.

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Online v. Face-to-Face: Whither the Future?

Wow – this past week’s readings were jam-packed! We read a chapter from How People Learn with examples of particularly effective instructional techniques from a number of diverse disciplines, an article on embedded librarianship (both virtual and face-to-face) (Matos et. al., 2010), an article on online webinars and embedded librarianship (Montgomery, 2010), and (we watched/evaluated) our own choice of online webinar (I watched a webinar with Douglas Rushkoff on his book Program or be Programmed from NYU).

 

The common theme in several of these “readings” seems to be webinars, but I want to focus on a different aspect of this discussion: the need to maintain (and improve) the face-to-face interaction. This focus surprised me, a bit, as I want to work with digital library resources as I move forward in my career – however, I also realized, as I was doing these readings (and thinking about last week’s workshops – see my last blog post), that one of the main reasons I gravitated towards librarianship was for the face-to-face interactions with users. I have worked in a customer service position, both part-time and full-time, for the past eight years. The company I work for, Trader Joe’s, has been painfully slow to embrace new technologies and communication methods. However, I think this has also contributed to the company’s strength – shoppers actually engage with, and trust, most any employee in the store. They know that we are approachable, helpful, and knowledgeable. They not only trust as a resource for getting stuff, but also as a resource for learning stuff.

 

As libraries move forward into the digital world, it has been pointed out in many places that we no longer have a monopoly on being the place to get stuff. We need to embrace as many resources as possible for getting people to realize that we are also a place to learn stuff (that’s what a lot of SI 643 is about!). While we do explore and practice many online methods for teaching our users, from screencasting and webinars to Twitter, I think it is important to recognize that several of our explorations still center on face-to-face interactions like book clubs and one-shot workshops. It is clear that online learning is becoming a “big thing” – but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing or the only thing. Online learning technologies are still in development: they are imperfect, they are not accessible by all of our users, and they are still, in many instances, controlled by corporations who have their own interests in mind.

In his webinar talk, and in Program or be Programmed, Rushkoff states, as one of his “10 commands for a Digital Age,” that we “live in person.” Technology, he points out, is biased towards long-distance communication – it’s great at that. Too often, however, we seem to be jumping on the technology bandwagon and using it when we could just be talking to people. I’m sure many of us have had the experience of getting a text message or an IM chat from someone who is in the same room – what kinds of wonderful communication modalities are we missing out on in such an instance? If it’s text-based, we’re missing out on body language, facial expression, and tone-of-voice, just to mention a few. Even with a webcam, communication can be impaired by choppy video, low-resolution video (so that we cannot, for instance, truly see the other person’s eyes), or lack of body language (if the camera’s focus is only on the person’s face). These communication methods make up the majority of human communication. I forget where this figure actually comes from, but Rushkoff cites a claim that “93% of human communication is non-verbal.” What kinds of assessment opportunities are we missing by limiting our communications to the digital world?

In short, I think it is important that we don’t just jump on the techno-bandwagon just because we’re afraid it’s going to drive away without us. We need to make sure the technologies we are using for communicating with and instructing our students are the very best for the situation we are in. True, there are times when only a webinar will work to reach all of the students we are trying to teach. “In-person” style Twitter communication would be ridiculous. These technologies serve their purpose. Clearly, though, they do not serve every purpose. This, I think, is one of the most important takeaways I will get from this class, and from learning about all of these techniques – when each technique is taken on its own merits, and when we have a toolbox full of these different techniques, we can be selective about choosing the techniques we embrace for each situation, rather than just using something because it’s the hot new thing.

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One-Shot Workshops: Some Thoughts

Last week in class, we presented (and participated in) our one-shot workshops. Despite the tiny room we were scheduled in, it was a very enjoyable (and informative) time! I was impressed with the diversity of both topics and formats that my classmates came up with, as well as the enthusiasm with which we all participated, despite the grueling schedule.

Two of the workshops in particular stood out to me:

First, there was a presentation and discussion workshop on Google’s new privacy policy from Kelly and Meggan. What impressed me most about this workshop was the unbiased presentation of information about the new policy. When looking around other blogs, and the Internet in general, for information on this policy, a reader can feel attacked on all sides by the extremity of viewpoints out there. One on hand, there are the Google fans, who seem to defend everything Google does with the twin claims of “Google’s motto is ‘don’t be evil’” and “Well, you’re getting the services for free, so….!.” On the other hand, there are the online privacy zealots who seem to attack any site’s changes in policy without considering (a) what the policy was before or (b) how the policy compares to other websites. I thought it was very helpful, and refreshing, to see such a balanced representation of both the costs and the benefits of Google’s new policy. It is something we all need to give careful consideration to as Google users ourselves, but it is also, of course, something that we need to be able to articulate in such an unbiased fashion for our library users who may have concerns.

The other workshop that really has had me thinking over the past week was the final workshop, on “how to have the ‘eBook conversation’ with patrons.” This workshop was focused on ways that libraries have attempted to communicate concerns/issues in the library/publisher eBook ‘war’ to their users; the workshop also included an activity which saw participants making their own example signs for communicating these issues with patrons. This is also a very important issue in library-user communications, and one which is riddled with extreme viewpoints. It is also, in my opinion, extra difficult because of the nature of the question itself. The issues at hand is eBook access – but should we necessarily attempt to communicate this information virtually? My opinion, which I didn’t get to speak about because of time constraints, is that this issue is a perfect opportunity for libraries and librarians to do the work of community building with their users. Signs to inform users are wonderful, and for some users, signs can address all of their concerns. However, I think this is an opportunity for librarians to flex their face-to-face communication skills as well.

Currently, one of my part-time jobs is at Trader Joe’s. Whenever an issue comes up that could be of concern to our shoppers, we may post a small sign near the product in question, but more than that, we make sure that all of our employees understand the issue at hand, and are comfortable communicating with our shoppers about this issue (or at least that they know who to go get who is comfortable with this). This type of communication not only builds shoppers’ confidence that we care enough to talk to them individually (and that we know what we are working with), but also lets shoppers know that we are more than just a store. In the same way, I think that by following similar face-to-face, community-building communication practices in our libraries, we can help to build users’ confidence that libraries are more than just a place to get books and DVDs. As Matos, Matsuoka-Motely, and Mayer (2010) said in their article “The Embedded Librarian Online or Face-to-Face: American University’s Experiences,” virtual librarianship can be helpful to a point, but it is imperative for the future of health of libraries that users learn that librarians are friendly, approachable and helpful people who know more than just how to find books.

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Ethics! (part 2)

Last week in class we discussed our readings on ethics, as well as going over the form and planning of a one-shot workshop in preparation for our workshops tomorrow. For the moment, I want to stay with this discussion of ethics.

In my last blog post, I brought up reasons for and “against” professional codes of ethics, such as the ALA Code of Ethics. I want to give another important reason for each.

First, the positive: in my discussions of this topic, I keep using the phrase “professional codes of ethics” without even realizing how this is pointing to one of the most important reasons to have a code such as this: it brings us together as, and legitimizes our discussions as, a profession. What is the difference between a profession and a job? There are, of course, a number of ways we could approach this issue, but I think an important difference is that a profession is something that you feel engaged and invested in enough to feel the need to make ethical decisions on a daily basis. Having a “professional code of ethics” is one way to acknowledge this engagement, and to get other professions (and our patrons) to see us a “legitimate profession.”

I also want to discuss a reason we shouldn’t have statements like the ALA Code of Ethics. Again, let’s go back to Simone de Beauvoir and The Ethics of Ambiguity (1948). In the conclusion to the work, de Beauvoir is discussing whether or not an “existential” ethics could be considered “individualistic.” She says, “Yes, if one means by that that it accords to the individual alone an absolute value and recognizes in him alone the power of laying the foundations of his own existence.”(p. 156). In other words, an individualistic ethics need not simply be an ethics that accords the most importance to the individual, or lets the individual’s whims run free. An individualistic ethics can be any that have the individual as their basis.

While it may be important to have professional codes of ethics for all the reasons I’ve given in this post and last, isn’t it more important to make sure that we are getting new professionals ready through their professional education for the kinds of ethical decisions they will need to make in their future jobs? I know I argued last blog post for some more education in ethics for LIS students and others, but I want to seriously reiterate the point here. After a week of many discussion of ethics in classes, with colleagues, and on si.all.open (what serendipity!), I have come to the conclusion that the lip service we pay to ethical thought in some of our classes and in our lives is coming up short. I’ve seen future professionals with little to no ethical reasoning abilities, or the ability to only make ethical judgments using one sort of ethical framework (utilitarianism is popular). Yet, at the same time, there was apparently a great turnout for the MIX Forum on the topic “Is this app racist?” and there are significant email threads every time an ethical issues comes up on si.all.open. Clearly there is a hunger for the kind of ethical discussions that we are missing in some of our classes and jobs – it seems to me to be an ethical issue, how we are going to handle this. In jobs, it seems clear that is important to bring up questions of ethics in meetings, discussions, or on listservs (depending on the appropriateness of the question for the venue). In classes, it seems appropriate to ask a professor to include more ethical discussions in class, and, if this fails, attempt to bring up ethical issues whenever you can work them properly into the class discussion. Ethical issues pervade every sort of issue that can come in class or on the job, so it should not be too hard to make these moments as teachable as possible.

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Ethics!

This week our class readings were on the ethics of librarianship. We took a look at the ALA Code of Ethics as well as “Dangerous Questions,” by Mark Lenker (2008). Coming from a background in philosophy, with a focus on ethics and aesthetics, this is one of my favorite topics. I tend, however, to be more interested in what people say and how they say it, on these topics, than in actually trying to make ethical arguments myself. “Life in itself is neither good nor evil. It is the place of good and evil, according to what you make it,” said Montaigne (the man who brought us the essay and Skepticism). In this vein, I’m fascinated to see what others have to say on the subject of their personal or theoretical ethics, as well as observing what they actually do in the day-to-day practice of their ethics. In the everyday world, where thinking and biology and self and others come into conflict time and time again, it is telling to see what peoples’ actions are when compared to their stated ethics.

In her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir makes the observation that the more people master the world, “the more they find themselves crushed by uncontrollable forces” (p. 9, 1948). She gives the example of the atomic bomb – though it represents a more thorough mastery and control over the physical world, it opens man up a whole host of new, unheard of issues related to the actual forces such knowledge entails. I think this an important point to keep in mind as we enter deeper and deeper into the “Information Age” – the more we teach people to find and master the information available in the world, the more we will have to address problems of “dangerous questions” and “dangerous information.” Harkening back to the Montaigne quote above, it is clear that information itself is neither good nor bad, it is simply what we make of it that determines our ethics.

With the above in mind, I’m led to quandary. Clearly, if ethics is a place of extremely personal (yet very global) decisions, it is a place of “character” – it’s not something that can be strictly prescribed. The decisions that must be made when weighing ethical considerations are decisions we make multiple times everyday. While we would like to have an easy formula or set of rules for making these decisions, this is not actually helpful in seeking to create ethical individuals, as Lenker points out quite well in his choice to use virtue ethics over other more formulaic ethical models (2008). At the same time, I value statements like the ALA Code of Ethics, if only for the fact that, in our fragmented (as well as legalistic) world, these professional codes of ethics provide a framework (as stated in the ALA Code itself) for those without the proper ethical training to make such decisions without a framework. They also (this gets back to the “legalistic” issue) provide a framework of defense for those who would challenge a professional in the pursuit of her ethical duties. A statement of ethics, even it is only as brief as “we value integrity” can provide the security individuals need to feel in order to make ethical decisions on their own. So the ALA Code provides both the framework for those who may not be able to make their own decisions, as well as the defense/security net for those who do want to make ethical decisions, but may feel insecure in our current legal/social system.

Finally, though, I think an ethical education is the most important thing we can do to create ethical professionals. So many professions (I’m thinking particularly of the sciences and computer sciences here) involve ethical decisions on a daily basis, and yet provide very little ethical training (and sometimes even no statement of ethics) for their members! Even library science, with the long history of its code of ethics, and medicine with its even longer history, provide very little any more in the way of training in ethics for its future members. While it may seem like a daunting task to teach ethics, it is actually sometimes only a matter of presenting case studies and letting groups of diverse viewpoints ferret out the ethical dilemmas, as Lenker (2008) points out. Sometimes just the awareness (and the awareness of different viewpoints) is all it takes to get people thinking about their personal ethics.

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Book Club Reflections

Last week, most of our class was spent on our book clubs (and Socratic seminars – I wonder if anyone ended up doing an Socratic Seminar?). We did spend some time on housekeeping issues in the beginning of class, including a small group + class discussion of what seemed to me to be a very flawed psychological study suggesting that “children who play video games may be become more impulsive, and those children who are impulsive are likely to play more video games.” This study was flawed, it seems, for a number of reasons, but I don’t want to get into that here. I could write an entire post just about this issue, so I’m going to save it for later (although when I find the link to the study I will add it here).

During our book club meetings, I saw some interesting things happen across the different groups. The most common piece of constructive criticism that I put on other groups’ evaluation sheets, and the most common piece that was put on my group’s evaluation sheet, was to “make sure the facilitators weren’t overly involved in the group discussion.” I’ve got a few thoughts on this.

First, I think we were primed, as a class, to make this criticism. Even though the majority of the groups chose to use a more traditional “book club” as their format, we had our major class discussion on this topic re: Socratic Seminars. In the Socratic Seminars, of course, the facilitator is to be so uninvolved as to basically disappear into the best Seminars. After such discussion, we were primed to look for over-involvement by facilitators. After all, unlike a Socratic Seminar, a book club seems like it is much less “restrictive” in its set up and implementation. A book club, after all, is an affair much more catered to its participants’ interests and desires, whereas a Socratic Seminar is a specifically designed tool for teaching critical reading and discussion skills.

At the same time, this willingness of myself and my book club participants to look at this level of facilitator involvement is telling as well. A book club, as I said earlier, is designed to meet the desires and needs and skills of its users. Clearly, many of our users want facilitators who step back and let the group discuss.

After discussing this with some others in the class, I think it is interesting to see that many folks also find this to be one of the hardest things to accomplish, when they are called on as facilitators. It attacks our sense of control, as well as opening us up to unexpected moves from our participants. I know some people are quite skilled at this “letting go” and letting others take control of a situation that you’ve set up – does anyone have any thoughts/advice/techniques on this front?

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Book Club Readings – Death and Rebirth

This week’s readings for class were assigned to us by the various other Book Club facilitators, then divided up by Kristin. My group had a variety of readings, though all of them seemed to deal with growth and/or death in a very fundamental way. Our readings were: “The Federalist Papers No. 1” by Alexander Hamilton; “All the Books in the World… Except One” by Darko Macan and Tihomir Celanovic; “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel; “The Blind Spot” by Hector Hugh Munro; “Murder and Suicide, Respectively” by Ryan North (my group’s choice); and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger. I don’t want to talk about any of these readings on their own right now, since I want to save that kind of talk for tomorrow’s Book Club discussions. Instead, I want to try and draw a few generalities across these readings.

As I said, most of the readings seem to me to deal with the subjects of growth and death. To me, these two concepts are inseparable. It may seem, for instance, the selection from the Federalist Papers doesn’t have much to do with death. However, the Federalist Papers were speaking to our (then non-existent) nation about how we should grow from the “death” of the British Colonies. As usual when death/growth happens, there were many people who revolted and rallied against the dying of the light (Dylan Thomas style). The Federalist Papers were written to make a case for a certain kind of rebirth and growth – but, from the number of articles written by “Publius,” it seems clear that this was far from a foregone conclusion. What is clear, from these Papers, is that nobody wanted to just accept this “death” and give up. Seymour Glass did this – he gave up and accepted death over change. Seymour was a student of Buddhist thought, and seemed to understand death and rebirth. However, he clearly couldn’t take the “growing up” that society wanted him to do. He wanted to remain in a childlike state, and, when he realized he couldn’t, he took a way out (the easy way?) (A lot of this isn’t necessarily in the story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” but may come from the rest of Salinger’s writings on the Glass family).

I could go on with this exploration, finding the connections between death, growth, moving on, moving up, and reinvention in these stories. But what does any of this have to do with libraries? Well, as I talked about in my last post, there are some commentators that think we are “at war” with forces that seek to infringe on our users’ rights and abilities. I think this is one way that we, as librarians, can seek to reinvent ourselves. We hear Eli Neuberger (and others) talk about the “death of reference” and other commentators talk about the “death of books.” It is important how we approach these changes. Do we roll over and accept our death as inevitable? Do we want The Machine of Death to tell us how libraries are going to die? Or do we want to find the Publius of libraries who is going to help us find our new way? Death can be frightening, because it means a loss, but it can also be liberating, as it opens up many new paths, as the Founding Fathers knew. How will we, as librarians, react to the “death” of our old ways?

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