The library is everywhere

Recently, David Warlick had been exploring metaphors for the library, and has posited that librarians are like viruses,  “infecting their schools with the desire to evolve.”   While I think that is an interesting metaphor, I’m not sure I want to be a virus 😉

I had been thinking that the library is like a heart, permeating the body (school)with life giving substance, or that libraries are like the air, because with the internet, the library is everywhere, all the time, wherever you are.

In his inspiring article, “Playing with Legos in the Sandbox and other uses for  a library,” in the November issue of Library Media Connection(unfortunately the article is not online)  librarian Bob Hassett eloquently describes  the who, what when, where, why and how of the 21st century library.

He envisions the library as a sandbox, writing:

“The Library is a space where friends and strangers come together in community, to try things out and play with things and smash things together….”  

He reminds readers of Paul Miller’s talk at Computers in Libraries last year, where he talked about a library system being like a lego–you don’t have to build the model pictured on the box, but can experiment and design your own.

Hassett writes, “This is a…description of how real people really use information. My experience tells me that it’s truer of young people than grown-ups.  In a real sense, they build and create with it.  They play with it.”

So where is the library?  I love that Hassett pulls my favorite metaphor–that the library is everywhere, and that we as librarians have to be where our information users are.

And who is the library, according to Hassett?  He tells the teachers, “You are.”   And when is the library, Hassert asks?   His answer, “All the time.”

As Hassert writes, we cannot limit what the library does to the four walls of the library–literacy, reading, information gathering–should be and are things all of us do all the time.  So our role as librarians is to reach out to our patrons, students and teachers alike–offer them resources, assistance, inspiration, collaboration, and provide in our physical spaces a place to play, explore, talk, collaborate, experiment, and create.   

So is our job to provide a learning sandbox for the school?  What do you think?

(disappointing to say that this article isn’t full text online yet–check your professional databases in a few weeks!)

5 thoughts on “The library is everywhere

  1. I like your metaphor of the library as air and I think that if accessibility to information and learning were truly as easy as breathing in air, that the world would be a much saner and better place.

  2. Carol,

    I agree that virus is not a exactly an appealing metaphor for the librarian. It’s just that it’s what those librarians I saw at the Illinois library media conferences seemed to be. They were infecting their teachers with the desire and the means to evolving into real information artisans, not merely information consumers.

    I think that you are right on about the library being the air. It’s what your patrons see when they are accessing content and experience. But what are the librarians in that air. There needs to be an active agent in the air that helps people learn to breath it in a healthy and useful way.

    I would go back to the transition I suggested initially, from the hub of a wheel to the navigation of wings. Working a predictable future requires wheels for the path of that known future. But preparing people for an unpredictable future, requires wings — and wings require navigation.

    We could do this forever, but metaphors are how we tell stories, and stories are how we think and understand.

    Thanks so much for continuing this conversation. I’ll be speaking tomorrow at the Ohio Library Media Conference.

    — dave —

  3. Dave,

    Like your comments and would like to add on additional thought regarding the metaphors used. The air we breath is composed of various gases, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen to name a few, and libraries and educators at large, are like the oxygen in the air we breath…they are the active agent.

  4. David,

    I don’t really mind the virus comparison, as I see what you are getting at 😉 I just was pondering other analogies to see how they would fit. I like the concept of the librarian as the active agent.

    Gregg–like your idea of the librarian as the oxygen in the air.
    Maybe the “enriched” oxygen like you find in the oxygen bars 😉
    in Las Vegas!

    I do also like the analogy of the circulatory system, and the library being at the heart of that–because so much of the curriculum flows through the library, the students flow through, teachers flow through.

    Another description I’m very fond of are the roles defined in the Tipping Point. When things are working well in a school, the librarian really can be a maven and connector for the campus.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion.

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