Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Putting In Your Oar

It's been quite a month! I've been blogging here a bit less than I'd planned, and I've been thinking a lot lately about why that might be.

There's a style of writing and conversation that suggests a slow entry, grasping the crux of the topic at hand before "putting in your oar" and offering your own thoughts. It's an image I love, handed to me by Kenneth Burke through Graff & Birkenstein's They Say/I Say. (The bane of my undergraduate freshman writing course, admittedly, but it held ideas that have affected my writing ever since.)

I feel very much in that position--I'm coming to librarianship with an odd mix of background knowledge and utter inexperience, and I've not *quite* caught the threads of conversation yet. There's certainly a surfeit of places to track the conversation, not to mention the many possible conversations to have! Librarians are nothing if not engaged, and you can find them talking about gaming, haptics, copy[right/left], education, reference, and anything else that catches their considerable fancy.

There are some things that help, though:

Read whatever you can find
...-- Librarians are a vocal bunch, and we like to blog, report our research, vent on twitter, and network publicly. Get an RSS feed--Google Reader is perhaps the most helpful tool I have in my arsenal--and start reading! It doesn't matter if you only skim the surface, you'll still get a sense of who's talking about what. Ask your network what they're reading, and how they keep up with the trends in the field.

Ask for advice! --More than just asking what people are reading, ask them where you should be going. Librarians are in the business of helping people, and that includes other librarians! I've never seen a field with more enthusiasm, especially for students coming into library school. Also, librarians are good at networking. Scary-good. Can-get-you-in-contact-with-anyone good. It comes in handy--don't be shy.

Limit your options. A world with no limits can be wonderful, but ultimate freedom can also be paralyzing. Focus your inquiry, and find out if you actually like that aspect of librarianship, early and often. There's plenty of time to explore--lifelong learning is a wonderfully convenient side of what we do.

Put in your oar. Take the plunge. Start your engines. Begin. The rest will take care of itself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Final Frontier

This week I was lucky enough to have a tour of the F. Franklin Moon library, on the campus of SUNY-ESF. The librarian was quick to point out that the stacks also function as a living room for the community, hosting student groups, providing places to study, to hang out, to play games and do jigsaw puzzles, even to take a quick nap. I was pleased to hear our guide (library director Stephen Weiter) talk about the use of space, and how one of his biggest goals for the library is that students will feel comfortable there.

Part of the reason the tour resonated with me so much is because it dovetailed beautifully with this week's discussion in 511. We spent most of our class considering the implications of space, and how libraries function as places. We looked at the library-as-community-space, and what roles librarians should play as the caretakers of that space. We also talked about the notion of a Third Space, and how libraries can serve as that center of community life.

For me, the question is especially interesting--I'm becoming ever-more confident that I want to use my skills to practice librarianship in non-traditional settings. As an embedded librarian, I likely wouldn't have a space to worry about, at least not in the same way as my public & academic colleagues would.

So then the question becomes, "What sort of spaces WOULD you have to worry about?" I can certainly imagine that I might end up curating a social space on the web--project teams of all types are increasingly virtual, and even teams with regular face-to-face meetings might still collaborate in a digital manner as well. Depending on the situation, the best forms of collaboration might change, so I'd better learn to use all of them. Twitter hashtags are great for public communication, wikis are wonderful for aggregating opinions and information, Microsoft SharePoint might be the best platform for in-house collaboration...you get the idea.

The values are still similar--In a digital space, I still want to create an environment where others feel comfortable, and can create knowledge together. The facilitation skills become slightly different, but the guiding principles stay the same. Knowing the best ways to provide information with/to my chosen community will stand me in good stead.

What are your experiences with space in non-traditional settings? Let me know in the comments!

Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee