In the last few days I’ve been following the simmering discussions that spun off of work by Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson, eminent librarians and leaders in our field, about the issue of 21st century librarians and what responsibility we all have to embrace new technologies.
But still what resonates most with me is Doug Johnson’s question–“How can we give a voice to those who choose not to network?” (I would perhaps take issue with the word “choose” because I do think it’s possible for someone to be somewhat unaware of all these online networks of librarians–remember that in our profession we encompass a variety of librarians–from those in tiny rural schools to those not certified and struggling to run a library program, etc.)
It’s not that I disagree that as librarians we need to be leaders, innovators, and models for our teachers–I believe we do. Buffy makes an excellent case for that in her incredibly articulate blog post. But like Beth, whose comment to Doug’s post led to some of this lively discussion, I wonder what we are doing to mentor other librarians, and like Beth, I worry that we are driving people out of the conversation–it is very easy to become insular, self-referential, and overly steeped in 2.0 language to the exclusion of those we would like to join us in conversation.
If you look at surveys of internet use by Pew Internet and American Life Project and other work on internet use, early adopters total only 5-10% of the population. Given this, clearly not all of us can be early adopters although we can be leaders.
So my question, following up on Doug’s and Beth’s is this: What can each of us do individually to bring more librarians into these conversations who might not be there currently?
I would posit that we need to watch our language–in our enthusiasm, we can overwhelm others with all the bells and whistles and options. And I question if that is not counterproductive to our aim. Yes it is amazing to show what is possible, but if we don’t also show a step-by-step roadmap for getting there, then it is just so much ‘pie in the sky.’
I think a sign of leadership is also being able to break down the details in a way that they are accessible. I liked Joyce’s attempt to do this in her article, How to Retool Yourself, (though I found a little too many options there for a beginner, to be honest)–but I really and truly applaud her leadership as always in realizing that this sort of specific post is what is needed.
I know we all do things everyday to help our colleagues along and many of us have done that for a long time. But I think it’s important to renew our efforts to reach out to those who are interested but don’t know where to start, or who haven’t even broached the idea because they are too overwhelmed, or are not currently we think the conversations are happening. But then again, maybe we aren’t where their conversations are happening either.
Rather than debate whether or not people “should” be somewhere, let’s help them get there by our individual and joint efforts. That may mean we have to get out of our own sandboxes once in awhile but I think our profession will be all the better for it–we all have something to learn and we all have something to teach. I thank Beth for her courage in raising these challenging issues.
So, my question is, what can we do? How can we connect with humility, open arms, and understanding with our colleagues at all levels of technology adoption?