Above the Fray: Tangents on a Philosophy of Librarianship!

Sorry, guys — today I’m taking a break from my usual fare of silly library stories to reflect on something just a little bit bigger.

A few days ago I gave a presentation in front of our library board.  Preparing it was a great opportunity to step back from day-to-day ops and reflect on the big picture of what I do.  I got to share my philosophy of public librarianship, which, in a nutshell!, is that public libraries are spaces for community-centered learning & dialogue.  And when I say learning, I mean it in the lovely Freirean sense of praxis: true peers coming together to act and reflect upon their world in order to transform it.  For me, public libraries can and should be all about the discovery, exploration, and creation of ideas that happens when people have access to information.

And from environmental action to LOLcats (or John Brown Paper Dolls…), this takes the shape of whatever’s meaningful to the community.  My celebrity crush Lawrence Lessig loves to talk about the DIY political critiques that crop up all over the place in Youtube mashups.  And I also highly value learning of a more personal, practical nature, like providing a space for people to learn how to weather strip and caulk their windows, or to learn about how coffee is roasted, or to have exposure to local music and art. This is what can happen when information is free.  And information wants to be free!

But I’m wandering all over the place here.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, the library board!  The heart of my presentation was that we should model our library as an (exciting) space for community learning, which is what I strive to make happen every day in my role as an Adult Programs Librarian. The first half dozen slides go over neat projects that we’ve been working on at my library, and the second half explore strategic ways to crank up our community learning a notch or two.

As I was putting these thoughts together, I was hugely inspired by Buffy Hamilton’s blog posts about “enchantment” — if we can make information discovery enchanting for our patrons, the better our potential for strong civic discourse.  She’s got a fabulous blog full of great, inspiring ideas about school librarianship and pedagogy in general.  Love!

So here you go — a quickie presentation about libraries & community learning:

As a neat side-note, while many of these photos are CC-licensed images that I snagged on Flickr, many of them are actually images from recent LPL events! Check out the credits on each image to learn more.


4 thoughts on “Above the Fray: Tangents on a Philosophy of Librarianship!

  1. This is really awesome, Rachel! As I said in a very brief tweet yesterday, my teaching colleagues and I had a presentation from some librarians about helping our students learn how to use the library and I was so pleased and, frankly, astounded at all the information, especially technological info they offered us. It’s not every day I learn something new about how to use technologies I use daily (I like to think I’m pretty good at that stuff), so I was thrilled at all the things they taught ME that will really change my life—or at least my dissertation-writing process! In all honesty, their presentation, and their passion for information technologies was infectious and made me appreciate just how special librarians are.

    Also, swoon for Freire!

  2. I love the presentation Rachel! Since you asked for questions on your last slide…

    On the second to last slide you mention “rethinking” what it means to be a librarian. From reading your blog it is clear that your recent library programming has been quite a success, does rethinking the librarian (and probably in the process, the library) mean that you focus more on developing library programming?

    • Oh, yes! I think yes, absolutely. In my library this is a bit of a culture shift, so it can be a challenge, but I definitely see the 21st century librarian as an educator and a community dialogue facilitator. Libraries are also moving toward self-service models, too, where our patrons want to be more independent and won’t even seek information unless they can do it on their own without our help. And there’s also a need to focus on online services and the “digital branch,” too. So there are multiple sides.

      But I do think that, as information does become more “self-serve,” there’s an opportunity and a need for we who work with information to provide avenues for our constituents to put that information into context — to allow for our communities to explore, question and create information in a public space. So although I wouldn’t say that library programs are the only priority, I do see it as a huge function of where libraries can focus to be more valuable to our communities!

      Ha, long answer — great question. Love my brilliant peers and your generous comments 🙂

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