Monday, September 26, 2011

Cohort D

Cohort D: Michelle Fromme, Elisabeth Abarbanel, Buffy Hamilton, Diane Cordell, Heather Braum

For the past few days, I’ve been privileged to participate in the first Reimagine:ED conference, an exploration of the intersection of design process and library planning.

As many good learning experiences do, this exercise threw us a few curves, challenged participants in unexpected ways, and led to some exciting new perspectives.

The organizers of the event set up three “cohorts,” or large clusters, A, B, and C, divided further into small collaborative groups. Each cohort was assigned an overriding question, with the ultimate goal of creating and presenting a final product related to a new vision for school libraries. Guided by mentors, inspired by design professionals, visionaries, even jazz musicians, we worked to master some of the fundamentals of innovative design, always relating it back to the library experience.

On Saturday evening, I met with some friends for camaraderie and conversation. Excited by what we had discussed in our formal activities, we started to brainstorm “the library as...” generating quite a long and eclectic list. Although we had been assigned to different cohorts, one idea really caught our imaginations. In this situation, we were students, not teachers, and 21st century ones at that. We decided to follow our passion and form our own group - not because we didn’t value our experience with fellow attendees, but because we had something we really wanted to flesh out and share with others. Thus was born Cohort D.

The powers that be (thanks, Laura!) allowed us to add our presentation to the culminating program, encouraging rather than criticizing Cohort D’s deviation from the “rules.” And so we were able to share our vision, the library as...A Field of Dreams. Rather than dwell on tangibles, we tried to capture the universal qualities in that particular movie that would foster an emotional, sustainable connection between a library and its users, no matter the physical form into which that library might evolve.

We hoped to:
  • suggest possibilities
  • show the value of questioning and inquiry
  • emphasis permeability: the field could be entered from multiple access points, seamlessly
  • describe a non-judgmental, nurturing environment, a place of safety and growth: a community
  • celebrate choices: individual/team member; participant/spectator; mentor/student; with users being able to choose the role that is appropriate at any given time
  • encourage passion in learning
  • demonstrate how library could be a multi-sensory experience
  • highlight the importance of storytelling and the diversity of the many stories that wait to be shared and acknowledged
  • propose that the “sweet spot” of connection to the library is emotional attachment

Our goal was not to create a template, but to suggest key components that would be transferable to any library, easily customizable for a broad spectrum of communities of learners.

We were taught a process, then allowed to express our vision. I hope that you allow your students the same freedom.

Long live Cohort D!

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