Tis the Season

As the year draws to a close, holiday parties are happening all the time. I don’t know about you, but I am sure that the majority of the conversations I will be having in the next two weeks will revolve around my decision to enter library school and the future of libraries. Looking back through the semester, I realize that my reasons for entering library school are different than my current reasons for wanting to be a librarian.

Before IST511 and Prof. Lankes’ Daveheart speeches (congrats on the full professorship!), I wanted to be a librarian because I liked helping people, I liked learning and teaching, and I loved books and computers. A full semester into library school and I now understand that being a librarian is very different than I had originally thought and infinitely more interesting. There are so many aspects to librarianship that I kinda knew but didn’t really think about like gaming, censorship, and freedom. When Scott Nicholson guest lectured in IST511 about gaming in libraries, I was interested. And then he said that anything can be subject to gamification, even school can be a game if you think about it as earning points (grades), gaining experience (going to class), beating bosses (pass those exams!), and levelling up (graduating). I realized how much I like playing games and how much games can be used to instruct, improve literacy, and create a community bond and that’s what libraries are all about!

In IST600, Jill Hurst-Wahl taught us about reference. I will admit that I was completely uninterested in reference at the beginning of the semester but now I look forward to doing research and helping people answer questions. I hope that I will have an opportunity to answer reference questions in my future library. In IST600 International Librarianship class, I learned about how librarians work to help communities around the world. I learned about the importance of considering the origin of information and the proper handling of it in regards to the culture it emerged from. I am completely enraged about the exploitation of indigenous knowledge and the idea that some huge US corporation can make millions and billions of dollars off of knowledge gleaned from small communities in (for example) South American rainforests without any accountability.

So now, after a semester of “Aha!” and “I see the connection!” moments, I’m really starting to understand what librarianship means. It means being a hero, an innovator, a thinker, a muse, and a valiant defender of freedom and civil rights. I am ready to face the bah-humbugs at the holiday parties because I am really and truly excited about my future and I want everyone to know: LIBRARIANS ARE SUPERHEROES.

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Scandinavia has the best libraries.

I had another moment. You know, that moment when you hear a librarian talk about what she does and then you want to BE that kind of librarian. In my International Librarianship class today, we had a children’s librarian from Finland (via skype) tell us about libraries in Scandinavia. She showed us pictures from two or three different libraries but the one that really stuck out was Rum för Barn in Stockholm, Sweden. It is a library designed especially for children under the age of eleven. The shelves are made to be climbed on and in, there are special peek holes where crawling children can find butterflies and things, and there are very cool shadow boxes that show children what kinds of books can be found on each shelf. I was so jealous, looking at her pictures and thinking about how I’d never been to a library like that and now I wouldn’t fit. Also, at the same library the librarians, who are all coincidentally women, wear special skirts with many pockets. In some of those pockets, they carry slips of paper with words on them. Some of the words are real words and some are nonsense, but children can “borrow” the words to use as inspiration and “return” them in a special basket when they are done. How awesome is that?

The guest speaker also spoke about something called “book talking” which I had never heard of before. The way she explained it, it is exactly what it sounds like. Basically outlining the characters in a book and giving one exciting event that happens, then telling the children to read the book. Awesome! Tell the kids just enough to get them hooked on the story and then leave them with a “and you should read the rest of it yourself.” I think that’s a great strategy to get children interested in reading. I know I’d have to read the book to find out what happened.

But anyways, all three of the libraries she showed us pictures of are REALLY awesome. I now want to study Finnish or Swedish so that I can move to Scandinavia and be a children’s librarian in a totally amazing children’s library like Rum för Barn.

Fun!

I have to say, the second rapid response assignment for 511 was probably the most fun I have had doing classwork since 6th grade when we did medieval day and got to wear costumes to school. My group made a video with “interviews” with two fake and two real librarians to kinda show the differences between the stereotype and the real thing. Coming up with the script was fun and then filming was HILARIOUS. There’s even an outtake at the end because we were cracking up so much. Once filming was done, I got to learn how to edit a video. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we realized we could add music to the introduction and the closing credits. Anyone recognize the song? That’s right, it’s Lady Gaga’s Disco Heaven. We just had to put Lady Gaga in somewhere because of this video.

And I am very excited right now because I just got accepted for an internship!!

Here’s our video again:

School Media

We had two guest speakers in our IST511 class last night. Both are school media librarians. The first speaker, Sue Kowalski, is a middle school librarian. Hearing her speak about her experience in the school library makes me wish I had spent more time in my school libraries in grade school. My memories of school libraries are all from elementary school when we would go and sit on the floor and listen to Brer Rabbit records. The second speaker, Buffy Hamilton, is a high school librarian. She had a very well constructed powerpoint presentation, but because she was presenting via Skype and I couldn’t see her as she was speaking, I didn’t feel as connected to her. Professor Lankes warned us that as we have presenters speaking about the different kinds of librarians, we will want to be that kind of librarian. It’s true. I want to be Sue Kowalski.

I look forward to next week and wanting to become another kind of librarian.

Ninja Assassin… Librarian?

Prof. Lankes wants to be a veloceraptor and I want to become a ninja assassin librarian. I hadn’t even realized that was an option until Prof. Lankes mentioned it tonight in his impassioned speech about being or not being worker bees. Some classmates feel that they aren’t creative enough to be innovative but they are good at following directions, hence the worker bees. But I think, just because you lack creativity does not mean you can’t be innovative. Innovation doesn’t mean you always have to be the one with the AMAZING idea. It just means making changes. Big changes or small changes, it’s all innovation.

When I leave class on Wednesday nights after the legendary Dave “Braveheart” Lankes motivational speeches, I feel a combination of awe, inspiration, and fear. Awe because Professor Lankes has a way with words that I can only wish I could imitate and because he can show you how a librarian can be more than just a keeper of books. Inspiration to be a librarian, to NOT be boring, and to change the world. And fear that I will fail.

This evening, when he drew the two diagrams on the board of the “worker bee” librarian and the “part of a web” librarian, I decided I want to be part of the web. I don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur, I’m pretty certain I won’t be one of those librarians that everyone lauds for having done something grand. But I am no longer afraid that I will fail, because I can start by changing the things that I have control over and maybe, by doing that, change the world the tiniest bit and feel proud that I have made a difference. As a ninja assassin librarian I may not be the one in front of the pack leading the library innovation movement, but I will calmly and quietly leave my mark on the world to come.

Definitions

In all of my classes so far there has been some talk about the definition of a library and a librarian and everyone has a different answer. In IST511 class last night, Professor Dave Lankes made a comment that really struck me. He said that it is more important for the community you serve to define you as a librarian than for you to define yourself. I think that is true for both libraries and librarians. To be a specific type of librarian you must be able to embody the values of that type and be recognized by others. I can tell myself that I am the queen of the world but without others recognizing me as such, am I really the queen? Libraries are the same. If people define a library as a building full of books, then that is what a library is. But if we define a library as more than books and buildings; as a community, a conversation, a safe environment, freedom to access information, and a way to develop knowledge, then that is what a library is. As a future librarian I hope to change the definition of a library for the people in whatever community I serve.