where the ideas are

Another work post.  And on a Friday, no less!  Internet forgive me.

I’m writing today after a slight dip in internet productivity because one sentence from my last post has been just digging deeper and deeper into the center of my mind:

I wish I could figure out how to get to where the ideas are.

An interesting result of a google image search for “where the ideas are”:

Sort of an animal lover's version of Escher.

Obviously, Google is at the center of the labyrinth of ideas.  Basic level: intuitive berry picking as the foundation of information access.  Larger picture: everything in the cloud, copyright (and sometimes privacy) bedamned.

As Ned Potter explains in this gloriously short presentation (also, sweet app dude), librarians are no longer “gatekeepers of knowledge” (which inherently implies a hierarchy of users who, depending on the librarians’ whims, may or may not deserve access to the information they’re seeking – I seen it) and have to be more like Gandalf, sort of freezing the water as it comes out of the firehose so that people don’t explode when they try to drink it.  Made that one up myself, guys!

Enough jargon.  Basically, I am on an intellectual quest to find

where the ideas are.

Oh, is it here? PSYCH! Just a baby and David Bowie.

I feel significantly closer after a library meeting yesterday where we discussed Amy Edmonson’s Strategies for Learning from Failure.  The central concept is, as it was at NETSL, will be at MLA next week, and most likely will be in a talk to any group of two or more people in or about a library for the foreseeable future, try ANYTHING but nothing.  And reward for trying, even if it doesn’t work.  While I wasn’t sure what the response would be from the director and assistant director, the round table was overwhelmingly positive, and we were told explicitly that it’s better to own your failure and ask forgiveness than to be hesitant to try.

Basically I took this to mean that I have permission to try new things, and to create my own little space where some ideas are.  I started by putting together my own standing desk (awesome, by the way, especially when I can listen to music out loud and sort of dance a little bit).  It’s a good start, but I will certainly still keeping an eye on John Palfrey, Ned Potter and a few other David Bowies of the biblioblogosphere.

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Don’t forget that it’s National Library Week!  Check in at your local public library or your institution’s library to see how they’re celebrating.  Pictures from Slate’s slideshow tribute.

Last Friday, I attended my first library and information science conference.  It was pretty neat; I talked to some new people with whom I have a profession in common, made some observations, had several embarrassing moments (mentioned later), and got to hear John Palfrey talk about the idea of both information and generations being “born digital” as well as the Digital Public Library of America project, which is just incredible.  Gave me a new perspective on my job, the field, and the way I participate in both, which ultimately is the entire point.

Libraries: intellectually hybrid spaces by nature.

I did feel, though, that I was being talked about rather than talked to.  The first speaker of the day showed a video that was basically infographic after infographic on how people are accessing information now compared to several years ago, and the ages of people accessing it.  I got really excited, thinking, “that’s me!  That’s the way I do things!  Everyone here is excited to be part of this, too!”  The first thing he said after he showed this video was: “Frightening.”  Library directors applauded the technical services staff (old school term: “catalogers”) there for generally being the “most forward-thinking, adaptive” people in the library, and yet everyone was still repeatedly scolded for not anticipating the needs of a “born digital” generation.  Librarians, who tend to deem themselves “nerds,” were encouraged to work closely with – and hire more of – the “geeks.”  Which is great, and they can’t go wrong following that kind of advice.  But what about me, basically born with an Apple in my mouth, a freakish kind of nerd/geek hybrid?  I feel too young and inexperienced to be spoken to or taken seriously (which is partially my insecurity, partially the field, which seems to have very little faith in the abilities of LIS students/recent grads to participate in any real change), but also that I have valuable insight I can’t seem to give away.  So mostly I just tweet about it and wish I could figure out how to get to where the ideas are.

Old-school card catalog. Now we use the internet and these go in peoples' living rooms (like ours!)

And now for the embarrassing moments:

  1. My coworker told me that the conference would be full of “300-pound women and 94-pound men,” and that “no one would notice if I came in my pajamas.”  So I wore jeans and a plaid shirt.  I would say the majority of people were women of average size in professional dress – one or two people in jeans, one other girl in a plaid shirt.  Geeky guys, but no kilts, which, having worked for Apple, was really weird for me.  Then again, my nametag labelled me an LIS student, so no one took me seriously anyway!
  2. I went out to get my coworker – who doesn’t walk too well – a cup of tea before the after-lunch speakers.  I came back in while they were presenting an award, and as I was making my way back to my seat with the tea, everyone clapped and looked at me, all “Whoa, that girl in the plaid is getting an award!  Was I wrong about her!”  Then I sat down, with my tea, and the real lady – a 300-pound woman in pajamas – went up on stage to accept it.