Wednesday, 16 November 2011

In response to today's discussion on youth empowerment through librarianship...

November 16th, 2011

We had a great discussion today about issues and goals for empowering youth.

One thing we did not address was the need for empowerment of librarians. How can we empower others if we cannot empower ourselves and our profession?

I think this is a really important consideration. Until we address the culture of fear in our field, any work we do can only communicate and spread that same fear.

Oscar Schindler, paraphrasing the Talmud, said, "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

Mother Teresa said, "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you."

In Luke 6:42, Jesus is claimed to have said, "How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye."

Why the quotes? Wisdom.

Librarians, to wish to save the world is honorable, but the way to do it is to start with yourself.

A working metaphor for librarians...

A discussion Tuesday November 15th, 2011, about what it means to be an "Emerging Technologies Librarian" has inspired me. Rochelle Mazar offered up an interesting metaphor for librarians that I want to take and run with.

She said librarians are liquid. We are flexible and fill in gaps where there are spaces. I like this. I understood it as being alert to needs, and moving to meet those needs.

But a roundtable discussion hosted by the Progressive Librarians Guild - London Ontario Chapter on Wednesday November 16th, 2011, about empowering youth through librarianship, helped me visual this metaphor further. Another attendee at the roundtable challenged the metaphor as seeming too passive -- librarianship needs to break the boundaries, not be held back by them.

This got me thinking more about liquid, in particular water. Water doesn't just fill in spaces. It permeates. It erodes. It soaks in. Water moves limestone to create stalagmites and stalactites. It is an environment bursting with life. To me, liquid is not merely a passive agent.

Think of a dam bursting. It can't be held back forever.

Think of the ocean. It can be still, it can be turbulent, it can be incredibly destructive.

Liquid is powerful. It has incredible abilities to affect its environment in a myriad of ways.

It can also be bottled up.

I think this is a great metaphor for librarianship.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Questioning LIS Education re: Programming at Libraries

I recently attended an Interesting presentation and discussion titled "Commodity Audience, Commodity Everything: The Social & Economic Production of Consumers". The room was filled with Media Studies scholars, and so the discussion portion of the presentation was dominated by MS theory. I was unfamiliar with the theorists they were discussing, but interested in both the tone and direction of the discussion (as and outsider), and inspired by what I think MS theory has a to offer LIS. Particularly in terms of examining the theoretical basis for some of the activities we (as librarians or information professionals) engage in. 

For example, if corporations rely on consumer (and potential consumers') ability to utilize particular technological mediums to facilitate their (the corporations') ability to engage in direct marketing and increase the ability of consumers to impulse buy (ie. t-commerce), and thus feed the corporations' bottom line -- then, is the teaching of basic technological literacy (ie. a program to teach library patrons how to set up a Facebook account at a public library) making us complicit with a corporate agenda? How much of LIS professional activity becomes about educating/training docile consumers rather than critical thinkers? 
Is it ethical to ignorantly offer programs without considering broader social implications of our actions? Are we performing a dis-service to our patrons in the guise of serving the public? Who really benefits?

Playing Devil's Advocate re: Children's Libraries

It seems to me that along with the constructed notion of ‘the child’ comes a legitimization of a form of censorship in the guise of protecting the innocent. One of the ways this censorship plays out is in the often celebrated development of children’s libraries and collections. Books deemed suitable for particular age ranges are separated and isolated from other like items in opposition to library subject classification which intends to group like subjects together. 

The effect of this separation can be perceived as two-fold when it comes to censorship. Children are physically directed away from other materials in the library and their selection is limited by what is placed in the children’s collection. Adults are similarly affected when browsing because certain materials have been segregated to the children’s department, not allowing adult patrons to access them as easily. 

The intent of this action (segregation of materials) has been perhaps, or at least in part, to elevate the vulnerable position of ‘the child’ in remedy to past exploitation by giving them their own space. However, the negative consequence of this separation is the reinforcing of attitudes about children and adults: that children are somehow a different species requiring special treatment. There is a visible discomfort amongst adults not in regular contact with children who are suddenly faced with children. It is difficult to believe that this reaction is not influenced by the segregation of children in society.

The patterns of everyday living in our society further exacerbate the problem: adults and children spend regular portions of their days in separate buildings (children in schools with some adults to supervise them, while the bulk of adults are working in buildings with other adults); libraries have separate spaces for adults and children, as do certain restaurants, hospitals, public parks, etc.; and, as already mentioned, libraries create special collections for each group. 

Devil's Advocate P.O.V.: The supposed 'elevation' of 'the child' in our culture is not the evolved sentiment we have mistaken it for. It is a false over-compensation perhaps based on residual guilt for past wrongs to children. And the effect is censorship. When spaces are provided for children, this means that adults are not welcome in them, and vice-versa. 

Segregation of blacks and whites has come to be understood as unethical though at one time it was thought to be ethical by some. Is what is ethical changeable? Or is it an example of improved understanding that we no longer legislate segregation? Is it then only a matter of time before we recognize that the segregation of children is also unethical?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Autism: An Ailment or Evolution?

In discussions on autism, a major characteristic often cited is that children with autism do not interact in the same way as "normal" children. Specifically, they do not seek physical comforts, like hugs, or make eye-contact, etc.

Inspired by the books "Childhood's End", and "The Way to Love", I have to wonder if the apparent increase in children with autism today is a sign of a new step in evolution?

The convention of physical contact with each other, that we take to be a sign of humanity, or normalcy, can also be interpreted as a behaviour resulting from fear. The deep-seated psychological fear of isolation, of being alone, disconnected -- despite our genuine inter-dependance -- can be somewhat relieved by physical connection, by touch, by looking in someone's eyes and smiling. These actions are a comfort. It makes many of us uncomfortable when other people do not behave in the same way.

But if the root cause of the behaviour -- fear -- were removed, would the behaviour still exist? In other words, is the lack of eye-contact or hugging among people with autism painful to them, or only to those of us who need such things and cannot understand? Are we projecting onto people with autism our own perception about what is normal, and assuming that they need to be saved, to be cured?

Is it possible that people with autism have an innate sense of connection so that a need to reassure themselves of this fact through physical contact with others is unnecessary? If so, this could be described as a spiritual advancement. For people to have a genuine sense of connection innately is fascinating. Many of us struggle through spiritual practice to attain this kind of confidence and spiritual freedom. One's capacity to love is greater because of the lack of fear.

This may be a gross misinterpretation of the experience of a person with autism, but the possibility is intriguing. What it could mean... I don't really know.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Kevin Smith and Stephen King... an amazing combo?

I would love to see Kevin Smith direct a movie based on Stephen King's story "The Long Walk".
There's a description of the story from Wikipedia if you're not familiar.

It's a dialogue-heavy book, and considering Smith's first big film "Clerks" was also dialogue-heavy... I thought he'd be a great person to do it. Also, I feel like Smith would 'get' the characters.

It's a great story, and I think it could translate well to a movie, if handled well. It gets into some deep philosophical territory, but also deals with the mundane... also something I think Smith would be great at.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Hilarious T-Shirt idea...

I love the movie Hamlet 2, and I'd love to take a couple of lines from the movie and make a t-shirt. The front would say: [a place name] : where dreams go to die.
And the back would say: Hope is a demon bitch.

The place name could be whatever a person wanted.

I find this hilarious.

(I guess this one is not so much world-changing... haha...)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Electric Bus Plus

We have a problem with the environment, we are running out of petroleum, and we have a problem with obesity in some parts of the world.

Public transit is good for the environment, if we use public transit it cuts down on the amount of cars on the road, and the amount of gas we use. What if we had electric or hybrid buses in our transit system? What if we harnessed solar energy?

Here's the energy I think we are forgetting: all those people riding the bus are just sitting there (including me). When you give people a chance to contribute, they will. I would. Being a leader in government could mean enabling the public to contribute (think "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do...."). What if the people riding the bus could do something to create energy (electricity) for the bus?

You know those flashlights you can take camping that charge up by turning a crank? What if we had things like that on the bus? Or even better, what if there were pedals, or something else? We could get a bit of exercise while we go to school or work or the mall or whatever. The electricity could be stored in batteries to run the bus (or to run some parts).

Since public transit is often subsidized (sp?) by the government, and the government is supposed to be taking initiative to promote a healthier (less obese) public, they could do something on the bus like this: if you generate a certain amount of watts, you get a ticket for a free bus ride. Or, you can donate your watts back to the bus, lowering the price of that bus (ie: standard fare is 2.75, enough people generate watts and donate them, and the price is 2.00 until the watts run out).

This gives people a chance to contribute to a healthier environment, plus get some exercise (if they choose to, they could still just ride), possibly get a free bus ride, or make the bus even more affordable for others.

First things first...

Having a blog seems to be the thing to do. But I don't think I have anything new or clever to say. I'm no critic, and my life is not so fascinating that anyone would want to read about my exploits. But I thought maybe I could use this space to get people thinking. I have ideas sometimes. I don't know that they are so unique. I think innovative ideas get credited to one person, but in reality, they come from a thousand sources. I am persuaded by the concept of the "collective unconscious", and I think that's where ideas come from. So, they are not unique to one person... which is why 2 or more people can come up with the same idea at the same time when they had no contact with each other. What's my point? I thought I would use this blog to post some ideas when I have them, and maybe get people talking about them, make them better, and maybe if they are good, someday they will become reality.