Monthly Archives: January 2009

Let me bare my librarian soul…

Part of the Emerging Leaders project meetings involved the following exercise:

Pair up with someone in the room you don’t know. You each have one minute to tell your life story. First, I’d like you tell your life story from the perspective of a victim.
I’ll let you know when one minute for each of you has passed.
Now that you’ve shared, tell your life story from the perspective of being a hero.
Now tell your life story but relay it only from the perspective of the life lessons you’ve learned.

I thought it was going to be a really stupid exercise. I was really, really, really resentful that I was being forced to share my life story with someone I didn’t know at all. I did my best to share but edit gently.

Luckily, I had a really cool partner.

And you know what? I’m thinking of that experience today, and I’m not resentful. I really enjoyed it, and I really learned a lot about myself and my perspective of myself from that exercise.

It was really hard to be the victim. I kept trying to leap to the most positive things that happened, but that wasn’t really allowed. “Yeah, that sucked big time but later on something great happened!” I guess I’m a more positive person than I really thought.

Secondly, I was a bit embarassed to try and be the hero. But I couldn’t tell the story without making it funny. I think that’s true of librarians – we have a hard time making ourselves and our institutions into heroes.

And the life lessons…I hmmmed, and hawed and muttered something about learning to be patient. And now that I’ve had three or four days to think, I’ve realized how many life lessons I’ve really gained. And how I don’t appreciate or refer to those life lessons nearly enough. Wow…crazy…it’s like having an amazing personal resource center and never bothering to use it…

So, I went from resentfully baring my soul to really learning a lot. That six minute exercise is still making me think, days after the fact.

Something to ponder…

(p.s. I tried to find clipart a naked dude wearing a barrel.  No dice.  It got kinda kinky!  Yikes!)

Agnotology problem? I think I know a remedy…

I’m a little behind in reading this month’s edition of Wired Magazine.  But now I’m wide awake at 2 AM EST (Midnight in Denver) and restless and reading.  And I find an article entitled Manufacturing Confusion (subtitle: How more information leads to less knowledge).

As the article says, the historian Robert Proctor has come up with a new word for our language:

“He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

The idea is that in this world in which we are awash with information, special interest groups (for example) are easily able to stir up the proverbial sand and make the factual water very murky.  We are becoming an increasingly ignorant society according to Proctor because we don’t seek out truths – we wait for them to fed to us via that information pipeline called the web.  What’s that quote…We’re drowning in information but starving for knowledge.  Oh yes, we are.

The author of the article wraps up by saying this:

“Can we fight off these attempts to foster ignorance? Despite his fears about the Internet’s combative culture, Proctor is optimistic. During last year’s election, campaign-trail lies were quickly exposed via YouTube and transcripts. The Web makes secrets harder to keep.

We need to fashion information tools that are designed to combat agnotological rot. Like Wikipedia: It encourages users to build real knowledge through consensus, and the result manages to (mostly) satisfy even people who hate each other’s guts. Because the most important thing these days might just be knowing what we know.”

Huh, we need to fashion information tools huh?  Gee, where, oh where, would we get these tools?  Who will guide us through this information?  Hmmm.  I dunno, maybe a potential remedy to this situation is…a world wide network of damn good librarians.  Let’s step up to the plate, before Wikipedia becomes the answer for everything.  And if it must be the answer for many things, if it is the place that people go to for answers, then let’s make sure that we’re the ones editing it.  Because information is our business and we can’t be bit players.

Just something to think about.

I’m going to try to go to bed.  Again.

Hello from Midwinter!

Hi, sorry for the delay my darlings.

This Midwinter thing has been fun thus far.  I have photos but am having some technical difficulties, so those will have to come later.

First things first – yes, you can tell who the librarians are.  It’s incredible. 
Secondly, ALA only contributed to this phenomenon by providing all attendees with – neon orange bags.  Oh yes.  Best thing I heard all conference “So, what?  You want us to go pick up trash off the side of the road or something?”

Denver – great town.  Really walkable and people are pretty friendly.  My only experience with the city other than conference was when I was 10 and my family and I had a layover at the Denver airport on the way to California.  I remember seeing a cowboy leaning up against a pillar – cowboy boots, hat and all.  And it was forever the only thing I associated with Denver.  Now I associate Denver with cowboys and librarians with neon orange bags.

Mostly I’ve been in Emerging Leaders events.  I am going to have to explain the full program in greater detail another time, but let’s just say it’s newer librarians who have been identified for their proven leadership or desire to lead.  We all tackle a project to help change/improve ALA or some aspect of it.  It’s been interesting.  The energy and buzz in the room is incredible.  I’ve come away with some good lessons (that I’ll also share later – I’m working on a sleep deficit, folks – two hour time change…)

Hmm, just read my post.  If you were looking for constructive info on the conference, you came to the wrong place, I guess.  But I do promise I will be more clear in later posts.  Probably. 

For my friend the Blogbrarian who wanted a fashion report – yes, yes, it’s bad outfits galore.  I have seen more than one misguided attempt by attendees to fit in with the local culture and – gulp – wear very hideous cowboy boots.  However in good news, I must say a lovely trend towards great hair styles and excellent use of jewelry to accessorize.  How else would we all detract from our sensible, ugly shoes?  Let’s hope that at Annual Chicago, YALSA saves us all.

You want a map of Denver? I gotta map of Denver…

And here is it:  It’s like five years old, but whatever, it works!  And if you are even half as directionally dysfunctional as I am, you will need every map you can get your hands on! (Love Educause – providers of the above map)

Many other great ones are available at

As for Midwinter…

denver_attending     See you there, yo.

Return On Investment – Prove It

Have you seen the ALA Economic Toolkit?  It’s got lots of handy info from how to develop talking points to managing the media.

Related to talking points…do you know what makes a great talking point?  Hard numbers.  And money.  People remember hard numbers given in a brief format – especially when the numbers carry a dollar sign.  And there is a lucky library that can say this:

“During the last fiscal year, our library was work $59,551,714 to the community.  To find out more about this tremendous return on investment, visit us online…”

That library is the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois, and you can see the webpage they’ve created by visiting

ALA provides a great calculator that’s available in the toolkit and that you can use here.

This is an example of providing great information on what libraries do for communities.  Take a hard look at the numbers your library tracks (and you are tracking, aren’t you???).  From door counts, to circ stats, to reference questions, to program attendance – there are countless ways to creatively combine statistics and financial information to demonstrate what the library is worth to a community.  Think outside the box and don’t just provide the normal info – give it context to community members to whom “circ stats” mean nothing.

Google Art

El Cardenal

El Cardenal

 I’ve been reading the International Herald Tribune for a few minutes each morning.  I like it because it covers more global issues with a slightly different perspective – whereas on CNN or MSN you just find the same news rehashed.

Anyways, this morning there was a neat article about a colloborative effort between the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain and Google Earth to bring the details of great masterpieces to life.  All the ability to zoom in to see detail, but instead of seeing, say, some dude picking his nose on main street, you can see the brush-strokes and cracked laquer of art masterpieces.  Kinda neat.  There’s potential for an interactive art program online for teens there.