Libraries, IT, Reference, the Future…and Learning?

A CNET senior editor questions the need for a library in today’s world and librarians are outraged. (I was outraged too, and then read his response on LISNews in the comments. He makes some very valid points on library problems that aren’t new problems.)

Then, Library Journal has a provocative story out today, Geeks Are the Future: A Program in Ann Arbor, MI, Argues for a Resource Shift Toward IT and librarians are outraged in response, if the comments mean anything.

A quick snapshot of one of the many Twitter conversations around this article:

and my response

Meanwhile, a new book is out, beginning a conversation to continue to pave a new path for the Library. The overarching theme of the book is that “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” author R. David Lankes writes in The Atlas of New Librarianship.

Another way this can be said is through this quote:

“The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literacy incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas.” –Norman Cousins, quoted in The Atlas of New Librarianship.

I’m still slowly working my way through the book and it’s going to take some time to take it all in and “process it” (a phrase I’ve been repeating too frequently lately). One of the many questions I’m asking going through the book comes back to how can the library be the delivery room for ideas? If people still have questions that need answers and the traditional reference desk/virtual reference desk concept is working in most places, how can we meet their needs? How can the library, or the librarians, uniquely serve the needs of each individual community? Time will tell if the Atlas answers my questions.

(I think it already has started to; but I’m saving my final verdict and thoughts for when I’m done with it. Why is it taking so long? It’s 400 pages 🙂 Enough said. It’s intensive reading, but it’s easy compared to the political philosophy readings I worked through in college! I’ll take Lankes over Rousseau, Locke, or Hobbes any day!)

All three of these examples, and my comment on Twitter about the word reference, lead me back to the book “In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas have something missing” (notes are available from Erica Reynolds’ book talks at Computers in Libraries and at KLA), which I’m still working through. Two quote that Erica mentioned right at the beginning that capture the book,

“Because without a new way of viewing the world we will most assuredly succumb to employing the same kinds of thinking that created so many of our problems in the first place….” — Matthew May (emphasis mine)

“Because by nature we tend to add when we should subtract, and act when we should stop and think.” –Matthew May (emphasis mine)

Throwing out provocative ideas, pointing out problems, reframing the questions and problems, stepping back and thinking before reacting. I think all of these are valid approaches to the situations facing the library profession. And it’s an approach I’m going to continue to take.

What will the library look like? I can’t wait to find out.

If this post didn’t make much sense, I understand. There’s much in my head that isn’t out yet. I’m processing, always processing ideas and readings and presentations. Thanks for continuing this journey by reading, even when it doesn’t make very much sense yet.

Post-Note: After posting this tonight, I finally read Will Richardson’s “The “New” Normal“, which neatly fits in with some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain, including one soon-to-be-out notes from a TEDxOKC speaker on Education Reform.

He says a lot about education that’s worth your time, but it was his final paragraph that I wanted to add here:

In other words, this is going to take a while, and it’s not going to be without pain. What does eventually rise from the ashes will be dependent on each of us seeing the world differently for ourselves, our willingness to lead and participate in the change, and at the end, fighting hard for what we believe is best for our kids. —Will Richardson

I’ll append to his phrase, “What is best for our kids”, what is best for our communities, our nation and our world. And this quoted could be easily directed at libraries, journalism, business, higher ed, law, government (heaven forbid), the church, and communities.

KLA 2011 Wrapup post

At the KLA 2011 conference this year, “Share the Vision”, I stayed sane, and only presented once. And I plan to act accordingly at KLA conference in years to come. Last year’s insane presentation schedule was fun to do (I ended up doing 4 separate sessions with panels of people, plus taught a pre-conference), but I didn’t get to enjoy the conference at all — I’d crash between presentations in my hotel room.

I won’t do that again. And I don’t recommend this at all (friends don’t let friends do crazy presentation slates — remember that!). Conferences are meant to be enjoyed and a time to visit with your colleagues and peers, and also attend sessions (yes, I advocate the priority of talking to people above attending conference sessions; conferences are a great way to meet new people and learn from one another)

This year I only gave a presentation with the fabulous Liz Rea, on online security tips, “Naked in the Library: Keeping Your Private Information Private, Online“.

Side note: Previously the funniest (and most useful) presentation had been the Cloud Computing presentation Sharon, Liz, and I presented together as a team at different times in 2009 (which reminds me, after TEDxOKC and hearing from a member of the Chrome OS team, I think we should resurrect the cloud computing presentation again; it’s even more relevant today). End Side Note

I didn’t think we could have more fun than using silly cat pictures to describe the wonder and perils of cloud computing and what it can mean for libraries. But Liz and I managed to do just that with “Naked in the Library“. People get bored or overwhelmed or confused or lose interest in security presentations or conversations; we’d both experienced this. So how to get people’s attention when security is more important than ever, especially as cloud computing is an exploding trend? With a combination of live simulated hacking, videos, and the Keep Calm and Channel Han mantra, we had our audience participating, laughing, engaged, and appearing to remember what we’d discussed over about 40 minutes. I have a feeling we’ll be doing this one again. [Presentation info: Slides, Handout, Resources]

I spent time at the conference helping produce and moderate two virtual track sessions — great fun to hear from Susan, Leah, and Gail in their sessions, and I just realized I have another set of notes to type now from their sessions to share (another day). I thought the sessions went well and we have fantastic archives of information that I hope people listen to post-conference. (For fun, here’s the Xtranormal video promoting the track and the Xtranormal video thanks).

Note: If you registered for the conference or the virtual track only, you have access to these sessions; see Cindi Hickey’s message reminder on KANLIB for more info. If you haven’t seen the message or are interested in getting the archives to the sessions, contact Cindi directly; her contact information is on the virtual track page.

I attended a few other sessions, including Heidi’s Silent LIbrary: Using MTV as library outreach programming, library advocacy in Kansas update (notes coming), one of Maribeth’s sessions on computer security (notes coming), In Pursuit of Library Elegance, and Placing a Hold on the Love of Reading.

All in all it was a great couple of days in Topeka. Royce, Mickey, and the other conference organizers did a great job bringing the conference together. I had a wonderful time connecting with good friends (had a bit of fun in downtown Lawrence and laughed way too much; thanks Kate, Heidi, and Rachel — SLIM will forever connect us 🙂 ), talked to many other library colleagues, and continued to find intersecting threads of thought that were still in the process of being pulled together. Some had been present for months, some came at CiL, some came at PLAVSS, and some came at KLA.

Then I left Topeka and drove to OKC for TEDxOKC on Friday. The drive down to OKC went by quickly thanks to phone conversations. Between a conversation with a college roommate and a marathon phone conversation with Buffy Hamilton (I think we talked 3 hours!), the 4.5 hour drive went by quickly. I stayed with Kirsten, talked library shop as always, and headed to bed. I knew Friday would be exciting thanks to knowing a lot about the TED and TEDx concepts, but I had no clue how exciting and life-changing it would be. The threads I’ve been seeing merged, exploded, and came to life. Stay tuned for those notes and reflections over the next few days.

Tribute to Forgotten Soldiers (original poem)

This is an original poem I wrote back in 2003 (I think?) for a college class. I’d seen the Korean War Memorial during a DC trip in June 2001, and two pictures I’d taken had always stuck with me from that trip. This poem was my attempt to capture the thoughts I had from the memorial; it purposefully doesn’t rhyme. Make sure you see the Korean War Memorial the next time you are in DC. I’m posted this at the request of @ranginui and @shlew after mentioning it on Twitter while I was in DC for the Computers in Libraries conference.

Tribute to Forgotten Soldiers

Near the steps of Abe’s old chair
A group of men stand guard,
Frozen in time as they wait
For orders to fight in a far off land.


Stare long enough at one,
And a fog appears—
The poncho he wears
Now fits the scene.


He waits for his orders
To come through the radio on his back:
Advance, retreat, hold to the 38th parallel, fire—
Who will not return this day?


“Will I be one who dies today?” he wonders.
“What will come out this fog?
My radio is crackling with field reports
As units come under fire.


I should be out in the field
Cutting the fall’s crops,
Spending time with my kids—
Not in a land of war.


Smells of manure should saturate the air,
As my wife’s breathing lulls me to sleep,
And weaned calves cry out at the barn—
Not the smells and sounds of death from war.


Why do we have to police the earth,
Protecting all the nations,
When farmers, clerks, and teenagers
Perish here, in the Land of the Morning Call?”


This man may not have agreed with the conflict
And may not have wanted to be there,
But when Uncle Sam said his name,
He answered duty’s call.


This soldier and others struggled in fighting
And are remembered in a way,
For their wall and statues can be seen in D.C.,
But who recalls their war?

-Heather Braum, written Fall 2003

A New Year and a New Outlook

Be prepared for a stream of consciousness. You’ve been warned.

I haven’t blogged since September. Yikes. I’ve had things to say, but have said them in person directly to people or in chat or online. But not here. I’ve kind of let this blog go. But no longer.

It’s a new year. And for a multitude of reasons, my brain is suddenly awake. And all these writing ideas are spewing out of it. Up until now, I’ve focused this blog on librarianship and technology. After all, it’s titled “Librarian in the Cloud.” But my interests have grown to include education, lifelong learning, library advocacy, education technology, teaching. I want to write on them, read about them, think about them, and let others know. It’s a scary thought. I used to blog and write many years ago in college. No you’re not going to find my writings linked anywhere — on purpose. They were purely partisanly political in nature, and I’ve changed and moderated a great deal since that time. The world was black and white and I had it all figured out in college. And then I left college. The real world collided. I started working. And meeting lots of different people, who challenged me with their lives and their beliefs and I was refined.

Continue reading “A New Year and a New Outlook”