Monday, May 16, 2011

Cat Among the Pigeons

put/set the cat among the pigeons (British & Australian) to do or say something that causes trouble and makes a lot of people angry or worried -TheFreeDictionary

It's been a lively Monday morning on Twitter, due in large part to the discussion of Seth Godin's posting, The future of the library.

Although Godin specifically mentions public libraries, this conversation is much larger, encompassing the entire profession of librarianship.

Without rehashing the entire piece - which should be read and savored in the original - I might summarize the message as "evolution or extinction." Perhaps Mr. Godin wouldn't state it quite as starkly, but this is the choice which I strongly believe librarians must make: change to fit the needs of the populations we serve, or find ourselves made irrelevant or redundant.

There has always been a slight but discernible rift between "book" people and "information/research" people. Most librarians fill both roles, but those who see themselves as more literature-oriented can become quite heated when they feel their role as guide, consultant, expert is threatened. And yet...a good English teacher can perform the same service for students, and online sources which recommend titles by genre, author, etc. are available for readers of all ages.

Some argue that community members come to the library to use topic-specific databases. In my experience, even students only resort to databases in a school setting. Most of the public find their needs served as well by a Google search. For those who do require more scholarly resources, in most areas, anyone with a library card can access their public library's databases online. Need to ask a reference question? Many libraries already offer online options for that, as well.

In September, there will be an exciting conference, Reimagine Ed, which seeks to address the design of K-12 libraries. The larger issue will be, of course, the function of these libraries. I've been thinking a lot about this, trying to envision a school that IS a library, a library that visually and philosophically encompasses an entire school. In this facility, all teachers and administrators would be librarians, and librarians would expand their roles as teachers and leaders. Such a future would necessarily require real changes in both teacher and librarian training programs.

Godin ends by saying,
"We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."

Change is not only an option, change is an imperative. Don't just get your feathers ruffled: inquire, assess, learn, adapt. Evolve.

"DSCN1971" by ruurdz

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Junkyard Archaeology

Unidentified "flipped" car

My husband, Tim, and I took a hike recently in a wooded area near our home. The logging trails we followed abut an area known locally as Indian Ridge, because of the Native American artifacts sometimes found there.

We happened upon relics of a different sort: three abandoned cars.

Nature has softened, and, to some extent, integrated this impromptu junkyard into the landscape. Trees cradle the car frames, soil and plants enfold scattered bits of rusted metal.

I took a number of photos, and Tim did some research when we got home.

When exploring a topic, both prior and specialized knowledge come into play. Because of his familiarity with vintage automobiles, Tim was able to focus and narrow his efforts. A chance remark I made, that the logo we found on a seat belt reminded me of a Japanese trademark, also helped track down relevant information.

1955 Chevrolet Station Wagon

Once a tentative identification of the years of manufacture was made, we began speculating about how long the vehicles had been in their present location. Most of the trees in that immediate area were of a similar age and size. Some had grown from beneath the autos and bent to accommodate their metal frames, suggesting that the cars had been abandoned in a cleared space, where logging had already taken place.

Early 1970s Subaru Station Wagon

After further discussing things with a neighbor, Tim concluded that the three cars date from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s and had probably been towed to their present resting place around 1980.

Although I prefer unspoiled nature, it was fun to examine this little cache of automotive artifacts. It might not be possible (or safe!) to take a group of students to a similar site, but perhaps photos could be substituted to form the backbone for a project in Junkyard Archaeology.

Opportunities for learning are everywhere, for those who have eyes to see and minds open to inquiry.

Parts from the '55 Chevy

Feel free to use any or all of the photos from my Junkyard Archaeology Flickr set And if you can identify the "flipped" car, please let us know!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Reader

In honor of Children's Book Week, the recently-ended National Poetry Month, and my birthday, I'm sharing this poem, written by Richard Wilbur.

Although my methods of accessing literature have expanded, I will always be a reader.

The Reader

She is going back, these days, to the great stories
That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light
Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,
And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.
Onward they come again, the orphans reaching
For a first handhold in a stony world,
The young provincials who at last look down
On the city's maze, and will descend into it,
The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,

The sly one who aspires to marry so,
The young man bent on glory, and that other
Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does
What will become of them in bloody field
Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times
She sees their first and final selves at once,
As a god might to whom all time is now.
Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps

She meets them this time with a wiser eye,
Noting that Julien's calculating head
Is from the first too severed from his heart.
But the true wonder of it is that she,
For all that she may know of consequences,
Still turns enchanted to the next bright page
Like some Natasha in the ballroom door—
Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,
The blind delight of being, ready still
To enter life on life and see them through.

—Richard Wilbur

"October 1948" by dmcordell

"Me and my Kindle" by dmcordell

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Building Bridges

Ralph Ellison said that "Education is all a matter of building bridges." So is life.

I thought I knew what my retirement would be like, I had it all planned out. But the world changed, and so did my expectations. Things are not better or worse than I anticipated, just different.

This week I will celebrate a birthday and achieve an age that the Beatles turned into a landmark of sorts. While I sometimes

"...knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds..."

I can, and do, "ask for more."

So I have become a bridge, of sorts: connecting with colleagues via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk; collaborating on projects in Google Docs; interacting with classrooms via Skype. I use what I've learned over the years and learn what they can teach me, in return.

Together, we bridge the past and the present, and work to create the future. We are fellow travelers on a grand adventure.

And we don't burn ANY bridges, we build them and cross them.

"Humber Bridge" by EOS_3