The future of knowledge (without the futurists).

  • Parent Category: Commentary
  • Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014 14:43
  • Written by Phil
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It looks to me like there is an incipient backlash against library futurists. I have to admit, I dabbled in this myself recently. It’s kind of an easy target and as a friend pointed out: the internet is for backlashes (or something like that), but now I've been thinking that this backlash against library futurists is problem: we don't know the future but we know the present is changing before our eyes.  So, how do we figure out what to do if we don't look to the future. Maybe tarring all futurists with the same brush is throwing out baby with bathwater.


Our current public library approach...

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  • Parent Category: Commentary
  • Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October 2014 21:06
  • Written by Administrator
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On finding an elementary school on my ride in Burnaby

  • Parent Category: Commentary
  • Last Updated: Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:15
  • Written by Phil
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Old school in Burnaby


Street View: old school in Burnaby

On my bike ride today I came upon a small elementary school at the junction of two roads in a little rural pocket South Burnaby with farms and acreages. I felt such a pang a disappointment when I rode up and discovered that it was boarded up and the parking lot is grown over. Who knows how long since this school had kids in it, and I thought, isn't that funny, I've been doing so much reading and talking to friends about how school doesn't work anymore and how standard schooling is really a response to the industrial revolution and yet this little school, with maybe three or four classrooms, that would have served this funny little farming neighborhood, seemed so attractive to me and I was so disappointed by the reality that it's just not needed anymore . The rain came while I was standing here so I got off my my bike and sat underneath the covered area. All schools here have covered play areas to keep the kids out of the rain. They're handy when you have a habit of riding a bike in the rain.

I don't know how old this school is but it probably lost population when the other side of the freeway became all big box stores and business parks and the little farms disappeared. So now there's not enough kids around here for the school. Actually, I don't really know if that's it. Maybe that's not it. Maybe the school lost population because parents just didn't send their kids here: they sent their kids up the hill to a school that's more central. I don't know . From where I was standing I could see the high rises which are part of what's called South Point Burnaby. I shouldn't forget that Burnaby is a population of 200,000 people and it's not even at the edge of Metro Vancouver which has a population of 2.5 million people. I admit, I don't really know much about this neighbourhood.

So now let's think about that in terms of libraries and relevancy and about comfort zones and what we perceive. Many of us in libraries (and many of our supporters throughout our communities) have a fuzzy, warm picture in our heads that represents our comfort zone: the thing or place or people that made us love libraries and go work in them and that we often think of when we think about what a library should be.

I know when I rode up to this school, I pictured kids walking down the road with their friends on their way to school on the sunny springtime morning but the reality is the school's closed and for at least a few years before it closed, it was a private school for learning-disabled kids (I looked that up) so it wasn't serving the local community, anyway. I don't really know why it's closed and that reason, whatever it is, may have the same relationship to my fuzzy-warm picture in my head of kids walking down the country road, as our fuzzy-warm view of libraries has to the realities of library service in 2012. We like to think of the members of a small community doing things together. In the case of a library, they're sitting around a nice reading room or looking in the stacks to discover new things. The reality, however, is that more and more people don't do that. They don't even think of libraries at all when they want to find something out or even if they want to find something read. What are we gonna do about that and about how we have this fuzzy warm feeling that many people in our community share, but that doesn't actually relate to how people use our libraries?

Let's have a Community Conversation for Librarians

  • Parent Category: Commentary
  • Last Updated: Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:15
  • Written by Phil
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I want to host one of these SFU Community Conversations ( I'm sending Facebook and Twitter messages to a handful of colleagues. I think we could have a conversation among a small number of us (perhaps a dozen or so) as individual professionals. I know some of our institutions will probably hold Community Conversations and some of you my be part of those conversations instead. I also know that some of you are already impossibly busy. But I think our professional perspective is also valuable. I've emailed the SFU Public Square office about this idea and they like it. We have to hold the conversation in September. I don't have a venue but I think we could get a meeting room or even someone's house.
The "conversation" I think we could have that supports Community Summit is this:
How do we build a culture that avoids the echo chamber?  How do we use our expertise, training, and disposition for neutral, problem-solving points of view to educate and inculcate our communities to tolerate opposing viewpoints? Knowledge and information are changing and they have left the confines of the library collection, but what we have to offer now is the ability to take information from where ever it can be found and build knowledge that is informed by all perspectives, not just the one that echoes  what you already believe.
Of course, I know that if I get twelve or fifteen of you in a room you might just choose an entirely different topic; one that is better and that I could never have expected! Let me know if you're interested, I'd love to hear from you.  If you're here, you probably already got a message from me. You could reply to that or just send a "comment" to this site.

Save the date! Librarians' Community Conversation

  • Parent Category: Commentary
  • Last Updated: Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:15
  • Written by Phil
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Thanks for everyone who responded about choosing a date for the Librarians' Community Conversation. Here is the Date and Time: Monday Sept. 9th, 7-10pm

  • Location:  TBA. I'm still keen to solicit offers from anyone with a livingroom in, say, Vancouver or Burnaby who has room for about a dozen people and would love to host the evening. You won't have to do much work! Let me know by this Thursday (August 1st) if you think you could do this. Otherwise, I can ask the SFU PublicSquare to book us a room on one of their campuses. I think Harbour Centre would be our first choice.

  • Next Steps (aka "Here's the fun part!"): Let's build a discussion list.  Everyone suggest two things that they find really enlightening, useful, or elucidating and that helps us understand knowledge, learning, and taking-action in society: a book, site, video, audio, or what-have-you. Nominate one thing that's specific to our particular topic. The more specific the better. The other thing you choose can be as big-picture as you want. The bigger-picture the better.
  • No one has time to read, watch, or listen to all of these. Some of us probably won't even have time to read anything extra, I suspect. But this ersatz reading list will help us frame the conversation we're going to have. Please just add a comment to this article with your suggestions.

  • One more thing: why am I posting things for you all on this website? Since I am communicating with some of you on Facebook and some on Twitter there's no easy place to get us all communicating together and since I have this website, I figure this works. If you want to suggest a better online venue for us to communicate before the event, let me know. Thanks!