Libraries, Librarians, Literacy- the L Words

“It may be that the great age of libraries is waning, but I am here to tell you that the great age of librarians is just beginning. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be a part of it.” ~T. Scott Plutchak

I have used this quote perhaps more than any other over the past five years when writing or speaking about the future of education and information. As the digital revolution changes education and society, physical libraries and physical books are no longer at the top of the information hierarchy. My role, however, is as relevant as it was in the days of “books” and I am beginning to think it may be even more critical. Information literacy includes so much more than reading and writing.

Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.

Flying Through Media Formats with ACRL Librarians

When I organized the gridhop between two virtual worlds, I had this thought in the back of my mind that perhaps only a couple of participants would actually attend because of the difficult level of technology skills involved.  I was wrong!  An amazing group of librarians and educators from around the globe met the challenge and interacted in Jokaydia, an Australian based educational virtual world using the open-source code of Second Life.

As fifteen avatars began to gather in this new frontier, Barbara Janson (a doctoral student in library and information science) gave a tour of a 3D virtual world library she created.  Watch as these amazing technological pioneers “fly” through this library and demonstrate that information and media formats have been revolutionized and librarians are in the forefront of transliteracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Past the Transitional Moment

There’s a question for you at the bottom of this post.

The Transitional Moment

This phrase (by Cathy N. Davidson) captures my life over the past five years. Both my library and my profession (librarian, information architect, media specialist, whatever) are in the transitional moment.  Many of us are diligently searching for ways to embrace 21st century information literacy skills to help others cope with what I call the “toppled hierarchy of information”.  Numerous recent professional books mirror the dystopian fiction (so popular with YA readers) through dark and foreboding predictions about the future of education, learning, and our changing humanity (see my recommendation list).

I just finished Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson and was pleasantly surprised by the more hopeful outlook on the exponential evolution of technology or the “singularity”.  I could write a 20 page-blog post as I flip through the tons of post-it notes I used to highlight fascinating tidbits in this text. Realizing nobody reads 20 page blog-posts, I will share a sample quote and a question for colleagues.

 

Davidson says, “We are both adopting new information technologies all the time and being alarmed by them, even wondering if they are causing us harm, exceeding our human capacities” (p. 16).  I sense anxiety when I discuss the digital revolution with educators because participatory culture no longer values expertise and uniformity.  Crowdsourcing places difference, collective wisdom, and diversity at the top of the value list (p. 65).  How does it make educators feel to hear that the knowledge and expertise acquired over years in the profession is no longer highly valued?  So, I ask myself – how do I cope? Answer: I cope with the closing of “the Gutenberg parentheses” by striving to adapt, evolve, and become information flexible.  I seek the ability to let go of formats and collide with others to learn adaptive skills.  In the new hierarchy, the law may be “survival of the information literacy fittest”.

 

The Science of Attention

 

Davidson brings together the topics of the changing hierarchy of information, participatory culture, and current brain research on the science of attention.  Her idea that we are always selectively paying attention to something (and NOT paying attention to something else) is a simple yet enlightening truth. She includes a checklist for teaching 21st century literacies, including: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness and many more (p. 297).

 

A Question/Concern

 

A critical concept for the future of learning (included on Davidson’s checklist) is Critical Consumption of Information.   Without gatekeepers to verify accuracy, authority, credibility, and standards for ethical and aesthetically pleasing content, it can be difficult to find the cream of the crop (which used to be housed physically in a library) and to teach students to evaluate content.  Many people, in my opinion, simply do not care. I see them intrigued by the novelty and ease of sharing user-generated content through social media tools.  Sharing through social media is fun (nothing wrong with fun and I totally agree that all learning should be fun), however; social media often promotes a trivial , narcissistic, entertainment focused culture.  I totally agree with Davidson’s positive perspective on the future of teaching and learning. That being said, does anyone agree that the flood of images, videos, and witticisms we face daily can bury the best content under a mound of mediocre mud?  How do we promote tools for spraying off the mud and uncovering high quality resources when there are so many adorable cupcakes to be photographed and pinned? Awwwww…

 

Virtual Book Discussion: Beyond the Blogosphere

After reading Beyond the Blogosphere: information and its Children by Aaron Barlow and Robert Leston, which I filled with post-it notes commenting on the digital revolution and how it has changed libraries, educations, and our lives, I thought it would be cool to ask the authors to discuss the book —virtually. Both authors quickly replied to my email agreeing to attend a virtual world discussion in Second Life, which would be sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group (which I am leading for 2012-2013).

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Beyond the Blogosphere: a Virtual World Book Discussion

Name of Event: Book Discussion with Aaron Barlow & Robert Leston- “Beyond the Blogsphere: Information and Its Children


Where:
Community Virtual Library Auditorium on Info Island in Second Life


When:
Sunday, July 22@ 11am SLT (Pacific Time)

For anyone interested in the impact of the Internet on education, society, journalism, and our lives, this book sheds light on today’s digital culture. For information professionals, the concepts presented are important and timely. The authors compare the Internet to a “book of sand”.

Page 51 “…[the book of sand] is the Internet, but without the possibility of organization, is information but with no system (or no discernible system), the centuries old-nightmare of the librarian and, today, of every serious researcher working through the web.”

Feel free to pass this invitation along to anyone interested. The book is a fascinating read, but it isn’t necessary to have read it to participate in the book discussion.

We Are Not Gadgets

I first heard of the book, You Are Not a Gadget, from a fellow librarian colleague in  my professional learning network (thanks Lane).  I don’t know where to begin to consolidate the ideas I encountered in this book into a quick blog post.  You can see the plethora of post-its sticking out the pages which are also bookmarked, underlined and highlighted.

by Jarom Lanier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaron Lanier eloquently- or should I say bluntly- points out that the digital revolution has glorified the “wisdom of the crowd” to the extent of making us believe the digital fragments we post about ourselves are top priority in the hierarchy of information.  As individuals, we are becoming fragments of information bits. See page 21 for tips on “things you can do to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others”.

 

The “wiki” trend of glorifying the crowd’s knowledge is propelling us toward becoming a “society with a single book” (p. 46). On the web, we jump from link to link, many of which are copied and pasted without any credit to the original source, as we cruise the net with a gluttonous appetite to intake what appeals to us and then spew it out to others, as though these stolen fragments can somehow define our individuality.

 

Participatory culture is a term that has become almost synonymous with democracy and who doesn’t love democracy? Personally, I work very well in groups and believe, as Vygotsky did, that we learn best in collaboration not in isolation.  I admire my co-workers and colleagues. In fact, I am often humbled by their talents, abilities and the genuine human kindness I witness from those around me.  What I admire, however, is the uniqueness of the individual and what each brings to the group.  Once again, I come face to face with opposites- which is more important- the group or the individual?  I believe it is both.

 

Lanier has challenged me to contemplate the balance between the “hive mind” of interconnectivity and the quest to actually think for myself. We are NOT our devices, although many people now feel vulnerable without them. (Come on, admit it- we all do!) The digital revolution has changed us more than we yet can understand.  (Isn’t the Apple store the busiest place you will see at the mall, even in hard economic times?) Perhaps people are afraid they will be left behind and will not be able to survive in the technological future without the latest gadget.  Lanier makes a great point by saying that the gadgets are “only useful because people have the magical ability to communicate meaning through them”.  Unfortunately, that personal meaning is often lost in the clutter of a million clamoring voices, all repeating each other or repeating what has been repeated and retweeted and reposted and repinned and mashed up into the one giant book we call the web.

Summer in Berlin- Travel Back in Time

For the past two years, I have been working with fellow librarians on virtual library projects that allow participants to “enter” a virtual exhibit or simulation.  The first exhibit we developed was Virtual Texas, which featured the Alamo.  Next, we worked with a virtual world builder who designed a rescue simulation called Virtual Tornado.  The third virtual library project was created in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual World, which built Maya Island.

Now, in the summer of 2012, we present Summer in Berlin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer in Berlin will be on display at the Community Virtual Library Exhibition Area in the virtual world of Second Life. This virtual experience will give participants the opportunity to enter an historical simulation of Berlin, Germany in the 1920’s- complete with music, art, literature, and historical attire (which will be provided).  The Berlin project was created by a woman in the Netherlands who is an historical consultant specializing in the era.

What’s the purpose of these virtual exhibits?  The Horizon Report, and current research on best practices in education, show potential and predicted growth in serious gaming for education. Librarians realize the importance of not only embracing emerging technology trends, but helping users prioritize them through teaching critical evaluation of content.  Several librarian colleagues have worked together to acquire virtual world resources in the same way librarians acquire the best physical resources available for community libraries.  In the future, it may be possible not only to “read” the book, but to “enter” the book through an immersive virtual experience in 3D.

 

The Value of Your Full Attention – read this between tweets

On the other side of the digital revolution, as we clean up the rubble left from the toppled hierarchy of information, we stand and gaze in awe at where we now live- survivors of some kind of information disaster that we haven’t quite yet realized.  Are we in denial?  Is it similar to awakening after a natural disaster?

The old rules no longer apply.  Interconnectivity was once a quest that we never could achieve.  Now, Joe Grobelny suggests it may be quite the opposite.

 

Reading his post made me think about how rare it is to give someone my undivided attention.  We message, tweet, post, and cruise our devices simultaneously while communicating with each other.  As physical things become less important than virtuality, I have an idea that giving someone our true focus- completely- may soon be as valuable as gold.

 

Obituary for Revision

Revision passed away this morning, after a long battle with social media tools and instant gratification of verbiage. Survived by Writing Process siblings, Editing and Grammar, both now housed in assisted living facilities, Revision is remembered by readers and writers across the globe as having contributed to the accumulation of literature of all genres, the  history of the world, and the knowledge of mankind for over 500 years.

Born in the Gutenberg family and cradled in the printing press, Revision led a life of unmatchable variety and creativity.  Revision worked tirelessly and his work has been acclaimed by experts as one of the greatest, yet most unrecognized achievements on record.

Sadly, Revision’s offspring are tweeting and posting with such reckless abandon–some fear the huge amass of wealth accumulated over centuries, within the Writing Process Family, could be squandered in only a few years.  A world hungry for wisdom could possibly be left in ignorant poverty because disposable words and ideas are now tossed aside along with fast food packaging.

 

A decision will be forthcoming as to whether Revision will be cremated or placed in a digital landfill.

 

 

The Emperor’s New Clothes (you and me)

I am the child who is calling out, “Look!  The Emperor is wearing nothing at all!”

Hush!  You cannot say such a thing.

The emperor, in my analogy, is us.  Those of you scanning blogs, nings, social personal network sites, twitter, and a host of Web 2.0 user-generated content spaces (which I should name but I know people only stay tuned to a post for an average of 12 seconds) may identify with this blog post.  With our smart phones in our pockets and our many computer portals close at hand, we have built up a momentum of constant sharing.  Each of us, if we are honest, has personal interests and goals- one of which is simply to “keep up” with the current information (r)evolution.  We can’t.

Just as mankind always has, we look to each other (friend/follow) for guidance.  And in that quest to stay onboard the fast moving train, we gracefully glide from station to station (phone, computer station, portal, email check, tweet, Facebook post, network check, IM, text message).

Secretly, in our hearts, we think about getting off the train.  We remember days when an hour was spent in contemplation.  We remember things like:
the joy of making something with our own hands
reading a book
baking bread
no ringtones to distract us to some other place

The emperor is wearing nothing.
Nothing at all.
I am taking a break for a moment….just to reflect.