Monthly Archives: February 2014

Context Book Report: The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon

“We are not about stuff and projects but about relationships and stories that rise up from the community. The story is more important than the stuff.”

~Ron Chew, former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle, WA (quoted by Simon, 2010, p. 264)

Nina Simon is an exhibit designer and museum consultant. Her book, The Participatory Museum is valuable for any cultural institution desiring to design and implement participatory activities. Part 1, Design for Participation, outlines her philosophy of making an institution participatory. Central to the participatory organization is her concept of “me-to-we design,” building upon individual experiences to create collective engagement (Simon, 2010, p. 25-26). Part 2, Participation in Practice, goes through all the steps of planning and implementing various types of participatory activities, as well as evaluating, managing, and sustaining them.

A wide range of participatory activities is presented, and throughout the book Simon includes detailed case studies. The case studies include both successes and failures, with in-depth analysis about why some activities succeeded and some didn’t. The wealth of detail and specific examples make it not just an inspiration for creative imagining of the participatory library, but a practical and detailed resource for designing projects that have a greater chance of success.

Digging a little deeper into this rich resource, several concepts stood out to me: encouraging diverse levels of participation, scaffolding activities, and the institutional values behind participatory institutions.

Diverse Participation

Simon cites Forrester research’s “ladder” of social network participant types (it’s worth looking at the brief presentation on their website).  According to this research, people participate in social networks in diverse ways (Simon, 2010, p.8). The categories are creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives:

Creators

Users who produce content, upload videos and write blogs. At the time of the initial publication (2008), the research indicated that 24% of general online audiences create.

Critics

Users who submit reviews and/or ratings and comment. (37%)

Collectors

Users who organize links and aggregate content (21%).

Joiners

Users who maintain accounts on social networking sites (51%).

Spectators

Users who read blogs, watch videos, or visit social sites without joining (73%).

Inactives

Those who don’t visit social sites (18%)

The percentages in these categories change depending on demographics, and have changed over time, but “one thing stays constant: creators are a small part of the landscape” (Simon, 2010, p. 8). Although we tend to think of creators when we think of Web 2.0, every level except inactives are participating in some way. Simon emphasizes that it is not necessary to make everyone a creator. Her participatory principles are focused on encouraging diverse forms of participation and lowering the bar to participation for as many people as possible.

Case Study: YouTube

Simon points to YouTube as a successful site where value comes from many levels of participation. On its face, YouTube appears to be about the creators of videos and the spectators of videos. In fact, YouTube encourages spectators to become critics and collectors—people who rate and comment, who make playlists of videos, and by their participation act as curators (or, in library terms, catalogers and reference librarians!) and improve the site for everyone. Even spectators participate since the number of views of a video affects its visibility and popularity—you participate just by watching.

Scaffolding

The Forrest Research user profiles suggest that only a small percentage of people will respond to completely wide open opportunities to participate. To “convert” spectators and joiners to collectors, critics, and creators, institutions need to use “scaffolding”—structure around the opportunity that invites the user in and provides implicit and explicit information about how.to participate. “The best participatory experiences are not wide open. They are scaffolded to help people feel comfortable engaging in the activity” (Simon, 2010, p.12).

The vast majority of people who are willing to participate need an invitation to do so, and they will feel more comfortable if the activity is well-scaffolded. The DOK library multitouch table  is a great example of an activity that invites creative participation from a wide audience. The activity is structured clearly enough that participants can figure out what they are supposed to do to participate, and the content on the table gives people a spark for their creative response. Users can add their own photos, tag photos or contribute stories (Boekesteijn, 2011). This leaves participation open to a very wide audience. A project such as inviting library constituents to submit their own videos might reach the most active “creator” patrons, but would probably put off many others who would like to participate but don’t feel comfortable creating their own content from scratch. The multitouch table levels the playing field for participation and invites spectators to become collectors, critics and creators.

Fancy interactive tables aren’t the only way to encourage participation. Simon describes successful designed interactions using sticky notes and pencils, typewriters, or markers and drawing paper (Simon, 2010, p. 108). One of the great values in this book is the wide variety of participatory experiences Simon describes. Anyone hoping for ideas for making their library more participatory will find creative and well-thought out ideas here to spark their own ideas as well as practical considerations to consider when trying to develop “me-to-we” design.

Values of Participatory Institutions

Simon outlines what she feels are the three key values that a participatory institution needs: the desire for input, trust in participants, and responsiveness to participants (Simon, 2010, p. 183).

The institution needs to have the desire for the input and involvement of outside participants. The institution needs to trust that prospective participants have value to add to the institution (we’re not just “letting” them participate because we have to, because everyone else is doing it, or to placate them with superficial participation while we do the “real” work. Finally, the institution needs to be committed to being actually responsive to participants’ actions and contributions or ultimately participants will not feel valued and interest in participating will fizzle. The DOK multitouch table is responsive by design without requiring staff input, but a lower tech investment such as a sticky note comment board is responsive only when staff are respectful and responsive to participants’ contributions.

According to Stephens, the hyperlinked library is one where “users will connect, collaborate, create and care” and where the library will “encourage the heart” (Stephens, 2011). Simon’s three values reflect a similar mindset. The heart-oriented values of desire for input (connection) and trust and responsiveness are part of the scaffolding that make patrons feel safe and valued enough to participate in the organization.

Reflections

I had a few connections to prior class discussions while reading the Participatory Museum.

Staff Need Scaffolding Too

Introducing participatory activities can be unsettling or even scary to library staff who are used to a different way of doing things. We shouldn’t ‘tsk-tsk’ at staff any more than we should do so to library patrons who are wary of a new system!

In Rachael’s Valdez’s blog, she wrote about her initial feeling of resistance to introducing games into the engineering library. Ultimately the games are a valuable addition, but Simon’s work demonstrates why Rachael’s initial uncertainty about them wasn’t unreasonable either. Staff need the scaffolding to feel comfortable in the participatory library just as the patrons do. There is a world of difference between adding extra work to someone’s pile and a true organizational commitment to participation. According to Simon, to be a participatory cultural institution, commitment must come from the institutional level. Staff, just like patrons, need to feel that their participatory efforts are supported and welcomed. She cites the case study of the successful New York Public Library Hand-made blog channel. Hand-made started with the efforts of one craft-oriented librarian, but was supported and developed by the organization into a popular library offering (Simon, 2010, pp. 343-345). Although participatory efforts can spring from individual passion and initiative, organizational support and commitment is what makes them sustainable.

Making Literacy Participatory

In a prior blog posting, I wrote about the Battle of The Books school activity and my son’s response to it. I regretted that his creative idea—a play battle dressed up as your favorite book character!—was much more interesting than an adult-supervised trivia game about books, which is what the program really is. I wondered if there was a way to engage kids with literacy more creatively, in a Library 2.0 way.

“What do children do with the books they really love? They don’t just want to read a book and memorize facts or receive learned opinions about them. When they love books they immerse themselves in them, they play them, they live them.” (McKinney, 2014)

It turns out that one of Simon’s participatory case studies is an example of doing exactly that: allowing kids to engage with a book by *playing* it. The 39 Clues series by Scholastic connects to an online game so that children can extend their involvement with the story—clues provided in the books extend into the game.

There is another, newer series, Spirit Animals, that does the same thing. Readers use a code in the book to unlock the online game, build a character and choose a spirit animal—my son has gone for this series in a big way. You can play the game and interact with friends in the game, and share stories on game forums.

Of course, Scholastic’s goal is to build loyalty to a series and get customers to buy more books. Imagine a library or a school doing a similar thing simply to encourage children to read more books, to engage deeply with the stories they read, and to interact with others around the stories.

Simon writes: “Imagine a museum game that required visitors to visit six times in a year to connect with six different exhibits that punctuate a more open-ended online narrative. Forget “build the exhibit and they will come.” This is “build the narrative and they will return” (Simon, 2010, p.73). While the high production values of 39 Clues or Spirit Animals might not be within the reach of a school or library budget, constructing and connecting a narrative through a simpler online game could be.

Spirit Animals screen shot

Me (Lyria Duskwanderer) with my spirit animal, Renet

Think Big, but Think Small

This class encourages us to think big about the future library. Reading The Participatory Library, reminded me that you also need to think small. Simon’s book is a treasure trove of the small details that make the big projects work. It would be a useful resource for anyone wanting to learn more about how to implement participation in the library.

References

Boekesteijn, E. (2011, February 15). DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level  [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/02/15/dok-delft-takes-user-generated-content-to-the-next-level-a-ttw-guest-post-by-erik-boekesteijn/

McKinney, M. (2014, February 15). Battle of the books [Web log post]. Retrieved from : http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/mollymckinney/2014/02/15/battle-of-the-books/

Simon, N. (2010). The participatory museum. San Francisco: Museum 2.0. [Kindle edition] This book is also available online at http://www.participatorymuseum.org/

Stephens, M. (2011, February). The hyperlinked library [White paper]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/02/21/hyperlinkedlibrary2011/

Valdez, R. (2014, February 16). What’s in a game [Web log post] Retrieved from: http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/rachaelvaldez/2014/02/16/whats-in-a-game/

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The imitation of librarians

One of the other readings I loved this week was “The user is (still) not broken,” along with the related original post “The user is not broken.”

Possibly my favorite quote from the latter is “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.” It reminded me so much of one of my favorite quotes:

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, when you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

~Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, 15th century

I am not religious, by the way, but I adore this anyway. It seems so insightful about human nature. It is so easy for us to be angry or annoyed that other people aren’t doing things the way they should be done, and lose sight of the fact that we fail to meet our own best aspirations all the time.

In the participatory library, the spirit is to respect and value the user’s way of doing things. When librarians get too attached to our format (which those darn users just Will Not Learn properly!) and not to our service, we lose sight of our primary mission–which is not to control or change people, but to help them get closer to their own best aspirations, as we are all always trying to do.

References

Kenney, B. (2014, January 27). The user is (still) not broken. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schneider, K.G. (2006, June 3). The user is not broken: a meme masquerading as a manifesto [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/


Battle of the books

I was really interested by Loertscher’s article, Flip This Library (Loertscher, 2008). According to Loertscher, “we don’t need a revision. We need a reinvention.” The participatory library is about new models of doing things, which means letting go of a lot of “shoulds” and “can’ts.”

One of the extracurricular activities that they do at my kids’ elementary school is called Battle of the Books , for the 3rd through 5th graders. The kids read from a selection of books over the course of the school  year, attend book discussions, and then participate in a “battle”—i.e., a trivia contest in teams.

At one flag assembly, my younger son (in 2nd grade then) heard them announcing and promoting this program and his eyes lit up. With great excitement he said to me, “Mom, what is Battle of the Books? Do we dress as our favorite book characters and have a play battle?

I thought to myself, “Sadly no, because that would be MUCH TOO AWESOME for the district lawyers to let us do it.” My son was disappointed when I explained to him that the “battle” was a little bit less exciting that he had envisioned.

After I heard my 8 year old’s idea for a “Battle of the Books,” the one in reality sounded pretty dull by comparison. OK, so maybe you might run into a few snags by having a bunch of little Harrys and Hermiones with wands, and hobbits with swords running around (not to mention violating the “no toy weapons at school” rule), but gosh, it sounds fun.

Aragorn, Galadriel and Frodo

Not that I have a warg in this fight or anything.

Battle of the Books is a good program. Many of the kids love it, but there are also many of them—some who love reading very much, like my son—who fail to see the point. You read some Great Books For Children. You attend teacher-led discussions where the teachers talk to you about the books and a little bit of discussion occurs. And in the end you win points if you can memorize facts about the book and answer questions correctly.

Loertscher writes, “Here’s another 180-degree flip: a typical classroom assignment and library Web site are examples of one-way communication. Adults tell learners what to do, how to do it, and where to find information. But in the new learning commons, homework assignments and library Web sites offer two-way communication” (Loertscher, 2008).

Battle of the Books is not two-way communication, it is not participatory at the level we’ve been learning about in this class. It’s primarily one-way communication, from book to student and teacher to student, with some space at the end for students to dutifully demonstrate that they have absorbed what the books and the teachers have communicated. Yes, Battle of the Books is cast in game form to appeal to children, but it’s not nearly as engaging a game as my son thought of just in the first few seconds he heard the term.

It’s well known that children learn best through play. What do children do with the books they really love? They don’t just want to read a book and memorize facts or receive learned opinions about them. When they love books they immerse themselves in them, they play them, they live them.

Superhero "Mutant Fall"

Superhero mashup, you’re doing it right

This brings me to another one of the readings, about Finding the Future (Danforth, 2011). Like a real life Da Vinci Code, the Find the Future game designed by Jane McGonigal broke boundaries in order to try and engage people deeply, through a game. Jane McGonigal might say that everyone, and not just children, learns best through play. In an interview, McGonigal says, “games do a better job of provoking our most powerful positive emotions — like curiosity, optimism, pride, and a desire to join forces with others. Games are fulfilling genuine human needs the real world is unable to satisfy” (Hohmann, 2011).

Several months ago I read a very eye-opening article (Gray, 2013) about the deficit of creative play for children. (I’d thought many of these things but hadn’t seen them expressed so well before). An emphasis on testing, homework, and structured extracurriculars are making children’s upbringing today less “participatory.” Gray writes, “Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure.” They are cossetted—it is too dangerous to let them have a play battle or play with toy weapons, we must shield them from violence and chaos and boo-boos. On the other hand they are pressured—we must get them to read, we must get them to read Important Books, we must get them to the learn the Important Things from the Important Books, and we have to have adult-led discussions and an adult-led structured game on the Important Books so that they are learning the Correct Important Things.

Children, left to themselves, naturally come up with vast amounts of creative elaboration; they have so much to contribute to the participatory library because of their natural joy in developing their most beloved ideas. The more I read about the participatory library, the more I see that listening to the users (children or adult) can lead us to where the energy and passion and real learning is.

Here is a passage from Gray that I found very powerful:

In school, and in other settings where adults are in charge, they make decisions for children and solve children’s problems. In play, children make their own decisions and solve their own problems. In adult-directed settings, children are weak and vulnerable. In play, they are strong and powerful. The play world is the child’s practice world for being an adult. We think of play as childish, but to the child, play is the experience of being like an adult: being self-controlled and responsible. To the degree that we take away play, we deprive children of the ability to practise adulthood, and we create people who will go through life with a sense of dependence and victimisation, a sense that there is some authority out there who is supposed to tell them what to do and solve their problems. That is not a healthy way to live (Gray, 2013).

Let’s conjure some information from the chaos of the universe (Harris, 2006).

Infomancer

An infomancer

References:

Danforth, L. (2011, April 2). Finding the future [Web log post]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2011/04/blogs/games-gamers-gaming/finding-the-future/#

Gray, Peter. (2013, September 18). The play deficit. Aeon. Retrieved from: http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/children-today-are-suffering-a-severe-deficit-of-play/

Harris, C. (2006, January 10). SL2.0: Synthesis 2.0  [Web log post]. Infomancy. Retrieved from http://schoolof.info/infomancy/?p=129

Hohmann, Rebecca (2011, April 1). Jane McGonigal and NYPL present Find the future: The game. [Web log post]. New York Public Library. Retrieved from: http://www.nypl.org/blog/2011/04/01/jane-mcgonigal-and-nypl-present-find-future-game

Loertscher, D. (2008, November 1). Flip this library: School libraries need a revolution [Web log post]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2008/11/industry-news/flip-this-library-school-libraries-need-a-revolution/


A story about a girl who does stuff

Last week I had the following exchange, and it is typical of a kind that happens to me all the time in the elementary school library:

3rd grader: Um…there’s this book…it’s about a girl….and the title is the girl’s name. I think it might start with K. Or maybe L.

Me: You think her name starts with K or L and is the title. Do you know who wrote the book? (Although I ask this, the children almost never know who wrote the book.)

3rd grader: No.

Me: OK, is there anything else you can tell me about the book? What sort of story is it?

3rd grade: Well, the girl does a bunch of different stuff in it. She made cupcakes. And went to school. And played at home…(pause) So…do you have it?

Often, in exchanges like this, Google is my best friend…or Amazon. The library catalog usually doesn’t help much. Conventional catalogs want title, author, subject. Really distinctive keywords can work (“Hogwarts”), but “ a story about a girl who does stuff” doesn’t narrow it down *quite* enough.

I can find out names of characters, or a major plot point, which can allow me to recognize the book. For example, there was the time a kid said “there’s this book..it has some animals in this city…” and I said “Cricket in Times Square?”

“There’s this book about a girl and a horse”…National Velvet? Misty of Chincoteague?

This only works for classics though, books I already know about. If this “girl who does  stuff” isn’t Pippi Longstocking or Anne of Green Gables, the odds of me finding it without any title, author, or more distinctive hints about the subject matter aren’t great.

Conventional library catalogs are built around the traditional access points—author, title, subject. But children often have completely different “access points” that interest them in a book, and they don’t always know how to articulate them. Even adult library users don’t necessarily think like librarians in terms of access points—young children even less so. I can’t ask most of the younger kids if the book they want is “fiction or non-fiction”—those are terms that more often than not produce blank stares. (I have learned to say, “Do you want a story book, or a book with real facts and information?”)

When kids want a book that they don’t seem to know anything about (from a librarian perspective), it is usually because a friend of theirs checked out the book or has the book at home, and something about it appealed to them—the cover (I’ve been asked for “the purple book” or “the book with the glittery fairy on it”). Sometimes it’s just the fact that a friend has it (“the book my friend has at home.”)

I don’t like it when, despite my best efforts, I can’t find the book the child has in mind, and it happens too often. Is there a way the hyperlinked library could handle these requests better? Stephens writes, “What can we do to ensure we are best meeting the needs of our students and their learning in times of change and challenge?”

A lot of the undecipherable requests seem to be socially oriented—they want to read the book their friend read, or they want to read about something they heard someone talking about. It seems to me that tagging in a socially oriented catalog could help unearth the way that children think about the books they read. If friends or classmates could share information about the books they read, it might lead to more of them connecting to books that reward them.

Of course patron privacy is an important concern, and it is especially important with children. (Teens may understand privacy, but my experience with young elementary school children suggests to me that a lot of them do not.) Would parents and school administrators go for a student run blog, or social reading site, even within a school firewall? I have a feeling it would be a tough sell. In the case of elementary school libraries, I think techno-phobia might be the prevailing issue (and techno-banality).

But I also feel like the failure to think creatively and outside the box about the elementary school library is leading us to fail the students whose literacy (and ability to connect with materials they want) we should be nurturing most. Because of time constraints, the children don’t spend that much time in the library—a school library site that could be accessed from home could increase their “library” time via the hyperlinked library—especially if the school library is more fun because of user tagging or social sharing. (Also, because of budget cuts, the school library computers are awful. Just awful.)

Elementary library users want to read stories about “the girl who does stuff”—because they probably want to BE “the girl who does stuff.” It would be great if we could figure out ways to let them do both.

 

References:

Stephens, M. (2010, March 2). The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/

Stephens, M. (2011, February). The hyperlinked library [White paper]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://mooc.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/StephensHyperlinkedLibrary2011.pdf

 


Sustainable Library

I was intrigued by what the Library of the Future in Plain English had to say about new libraries being sustainable. My town, Castro Valley, opened a new library in 2009, and it was designed to be green. (Pictures are from September 2012 when I did a report on the library for my LIBR 200 class).

September 2012 037September 2012 036

The new library has a solar installation that provides the library electricity, and a screen lets patrons see current energy production.

September 2012 026

You can also view the library’s energy info on the web, from a link on the library’s website. (As I write this post, there’s nothing happening solar-wise since it is pouring).

The library’s large windows make good use of natural light, and make it a really pleasant place to be.

September 2012 008

The library design extended into the outside areas, really thinking “outside” the box of the library. A creek that was just a sealed concrete culvert was opened up, and there is a more natural environment, with native plants, and a bridge over the creek.

September 2012 030

The bridge leads to a small playground which helps entice families to the library. (I’ve taken my kids since they were toddlers and it’s a perfect complete outing–run off some energy and enjoy the great offerings inside the library as well.)

September 2012 033

There is even a small creekside amphitheater where some library programs take place (for example, programs with visiting animals from the nearby Sulphur Creek Nature Center).

September 2012 034

Here is more information about some of the library’s sustainability features. This library is definitely a gem for Castro Valley.

 


You digital natives, get offa my lawn

From one of my favorite web comics, Basic Instructions.


Learning on the edge of the cliff

My thinking for this reflection was kick-started by my classmate Paul Barrow’s excellent reflection, here.

Since I have worked for many startups, I was very intrigued by the article “Think Like a Startup” by Brian Mathews. As I was reading (even before I got to the part about “Fail Faster, Fail Smarter,” p. 5), I was thinking, you know, what you really need to learn from startups is how to fail—just do it sooner! Not after you have committed so much to the goal that you can’t—or won’t—draw back.

I worked for a couple of startups that didn’t fail faster and smarter at all—they just failed, after spending a LOT of VC money. Mathews’ vision of startups seemed a little romanticized to me. (He rather seems to gloss over that nine in ten failure rate.)

Paul Barrows writes: “Okay so I’ll be honest here, this is where I start to get a little anxiety reaction. I have worked in this kind of environment, albeit not in a library, and he is right, it is messy and disruptive. A lot of the disruption can lead to dead ends, blocked by piles of rubble. There is an extremely fine line to walk between change for change’s sake, and change that leads somewhere useful.”

I’ve worked in the startup environment too, and it’s an anxiety-making environment. I was typically the only writer in the joint: You’re the technical writer? Good, you can do All The Writing. Write the manuals, write the web pages, write the marketing stuff. (Anyone can do THAT, right? I mean, it’s not like you need to know anything, you just throw in a lot of cool terms like “best of breed” and “innovative solutions” and run spellcheck, and you’re done). Startups—especially back in the good old dot com Jazz Age—were open to new ideas without expertise to back them, and often stubbornly pursued ideas even when it became obvious they weren’t leading anywhere useful.

The idea of “failing faster and failing smarter” led me to think about the concept of “goalodicy”—becoming fixated on a specific goal and unwilling to change it, which can often lead to failing slowly and painfully.

Last year I read The Antidote:  Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman. (Had me at the title.) Burkeman cites Kayes, a former stockbroker and business professor, but also a man who was camping in the foothills of the Himalayas when the 1996 Mount Everest disaster unfolded.

Eight climbers were caught in a blizzard and died, after failing to turn around at the turnaround time needed to make it back to camp safely. “Goalodicy” is the term coined by Kayes to describe the stubborn and reckless commitment to a goal that looks increasingly mistaken, and even—in the case of the Everest climbers—deadly. Investing in a goal to the point of identifying it with themselves, people can’t let go of the specifics of their goal even as the evidence piles up that they are making a mistake, even a suicidal mistake.

The goal, it seemed, had become a part of their identity, and so their uncertainty about the goal no longer merely threatened the plan; it threatened them as individuals. They were so eager to eliminate these feelings of uncertainty that they clung ever harder to a clear, firm and specific plan that provided them with a sense of certainty about the future—even though that plan was looking increasingly reckless. They were firmly in the grip of goalodicy. (Burkeman, pp.80-81)

Mathews writes, “Startups are organizations dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty” (p. 12). Uncertainty produces anxiety. One possible outcome of the discomfort this causes us is paralysis, but another is a reckless commitment. If we just get ACME LATEST COOL TECHNOLOGY, everything will be great!

Yeah, that always works out.

Burkeman again:

What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn’t any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it’s something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future—not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present. ( p.84)

The speed of technological change guarantees that future library development contains great uncertainties. Is our goal to summit Everest—have the coolest technology? Or is it something else?

If the library is a conversation as Lankes, Silverstein and Nicholson (2012) write, then our goal is a rich and useful conversation. Conversations are inherently unpredictable., uncertain. Staying focused on feeding the conversation, rather than becoming fixated on the technology,seems to me the heart of the Library 2.0. By staying focused on the real goal, not the elusive summit, we can “experience life as a connected conversation” (Lankes, Silverstein and Nicholson p. 26).

The psychologist Erich Fromm wrote, “the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” But unfolding our powers means managing our anxiety, and maintaining our ability to learn and change even on the edge of the cliff.

References

Barrows, P. (2014, January 30). Prayer for the middle-aged library entrepreneur [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/pbarrows/2014/01/30/prayer-for-the-middle-aged-library-entrepreneur/

Burkeman, O. (2012). The antidote: happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc.

Lankes, R. D., Silverstein, J., & Nicholson, S. (2012, May 21). Participatory networks: The library as conversation. David Lankes at Smashwords, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/164561

Mathews, B. (2012, April). Think like a startup [White paper]. Retrieved from http://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1