“THE MISSION OF LIBRARIANS IS TO IMPROVE SOCIETY THROUGH FACILITATING KNOWLEDGE CREATION IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.” (Lankes, 2011, many pages)
"Me, poor man, my library
Was dukedom large enough." - William Shakespeare, The Tempest
I find it remarkable how comfortable I have become with wrestling with this mantra. Nor did it take long: I just caught myself grinning at marginalia I scribbled as I explored the first few pages of The Atlas of New Librarianship about three weeks ago: “What’s with Knowledge Creation?” (p. 2) “What services should the Library of the Future provide?”(p. 2) “It’s NOT about the services we offer?!?!”(p.22) How far we have all come in just a few days and in the weeks preceding this class.
In fact, it astounds me that we still have a day left in the program--it feels like this experience has had a lasting impact on my perspective and we still have another thirteen or fourteen hours to go. I just finished having a conversation with another student in IST511 and we agreed that going back to our jobs after this session will be like Dorothy returning from Oz and Technicolor(TM) to the dull but comfortable world of black and white and Aunt Em. I guess I will just have to pull out crayons and start adding little touches of color here and there. We also realized that our situation is a textbook (har har) example of perceiving the difference between the predicted future (Black and White and Aunt Em) and an ideal future (Technicolor[TM] and the Lollipop Guild); we also came to the realization that we can therefore plan steps (1....n....profit!) for reifying our ideal future via vision, conversation, and a good dollop of “Hot Sauce” using the framework developed by Professor Lankes on pg. 140 of The Atlas of New Librarianship! (2011) My personal and professional life has been altered for the better since taking this class: I have been given new ideas, a new vision, a cranium full of new information, a new direction, and a strong breeze to fill my spiritual sails. There is a world full of all kinds of people to have conversations with--I, my classmates, my colleagues, and many others have an obligation to listen, converse, and invirtuate wheresoever we can.
OK! I choose to accept Lankes’ Mission! But I’m an Instructional Technologist! Do I have to earn my MSLIS degree before improving society through facilitating knowledge creation in my community? Well, no! I realize that the information created in this week’s incredible class is completely relevant--with a modification here and there!--to what I do as an Instructional Technologist.
But perhaps there is a third solution...
I am determined to cling to the narrative arc I established in my first retrograde post: Instructional Technologists, Librarians, and faculty have coincident missions (and roles as teachers!) so closely related that we make natural partners in almost every aspect of our work. I have defended this position in each reflection and have attempted to demonstrate its validity in conversation with this marvelous tome. For this reflection on the very first thread in The Atlas, I believe I have developed a (slightly) modified mission statement that applies to a school environment and neatly sums up my perspective on the matter:
“THE MISSION OF LIBRARIANS, INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS, AND PEDAGOGUES IS TO IMPROVE SOCIETY THROUGH FACILITATING KNOWLEDGE CREATION IN THEIR COMMUNITIES”
How can I make this suggestion more palatable to Professor Lankes? Perhaps by disagreeing with him on a seemingly-minor point: “[T]he role of the librarian is as facilitator, and the knowledge created of concern is resident within the learner at the end of the facilitation process. It is also the reason that librarians are not referred to as teachers. Teaching is a profession with its own norms and boundaries, and a teacher is someone who can make learning happen.” (Lankes, 2011, p. 27) But I believe that librarians ARE teachers! As are Instructional Technologists! And, by definition, pedagogues. (By “pedagogues” I mean those whom we have traditionally identified as “teachers,” e.g. Professor Lankes, Ms. Frizzle, etc.) Far from an egotistical statement, I believe I can claim that members of our professions are all teachers because I believe the praxis and philosophy of pedagogy itself is moving to embrace a pure, inclusive instantiation of Constructivism: Collaborative Learning.
As defined in Wikipedia, Collaborative Learning is “a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.” Sounds like a conversation to me! As you may already know, the single-expert status of teachers has been challenged as students become ever more facile with integrating the World Wide Web (purposefully used that archaic phrase!) into their academic efforts. Teachers in this multidirectional, decentralized, asymmetrical learning environment become information shepherds, understanding that “they are only one source among many for a community, and” that they “must be at least aware of the views of many sources on topics.” Does that sound familiar? Turn to page twenty-four of The Atlas of New Librarianship. A quick search for treatments on the subject reveal three initial articles--1, 2, 3--but I will be happy to provide more when it isn’t 1:25am on the day of an important presentation. I’m not qualified to speak to the degree of acceptance of this idea among the academic community but I and my colleagues at Hamilton encourage and actively use this technique (and Informed Learning frameworks, another technique that demands close collaboration with faculty and librarians) in classroom environments.
I am not suggesting that either pedagogical technique ought to or will achieve primacy over any other. Nor do I believe we have created an idyllic collaborative dreamscape at Hamilton. I am only suggesting that pedagogy is evolving into a more inclusive, conversation-driven entity that seems to closely parallel the mission that David Lankes suggests librarians should embrace.
I’m not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up. I love to teach. I love information. I love technology. I love the academy. I love creativity. I love knowledge. I love conversation. I love that little spark that flares in someone’s eyes when their mental horizons broaden and they consider possibilities they haven’t heretofore considered. I want to help people from a position at the confluence of these passions.
Even though uncertainty still pervades, I can confidently state that I am significantly closer to an answer after taking IST 511.
Lankes, R.D. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, London: The MIT Press.