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The view from the Summit

Posted by lpearle on 24 November 2008

I’ve had some time to digest and rest after the SLJ Summit last weekend. The theme is Remixing Library Collections for Digital Youth (aka “the School Library in 2013”). So, in short bites, here’s what I heard/learned/pondered.


  • I’m reading Britannica Blog’s posts about Classrooms 2.0. One post suggests that all this collaborative learning that we’re supposed to be working on won’t fly – problematic to teach, and that pen-and-paper are still valid. He’s not saying that there’s only one way to teach, just that pushing towards only one way is not the right way to go. (Mel Levine agrees with this [although I’m not sure we’ll be citing him often in the future]). He also cites the need for additional training, and thoughtful implementation, rather than rushing into “computer fads”. This particularly rings true to me in this day of budget cutting: how can I get the biggest and best bang from my diminishing buck?
  • Another post on BB is about banning laptops from the classroom. I once helped evaluate a school that felt that laptops in the classroom “placed an artificial barrier between teacher and student, and student and student.” I’ve seen this in my own classes, where the lure of Facebook, games or just browsing are far greater than the lure of the lecture (if they’re even paying attention). Someone at the Summit mentioned that at one laptop school, students logged out of their own volition when they realized how distracting it was for them during class time. My sense is that a mixture of on- and off-line instruction is what we’ll end up with, and not necessarily in any format that we currently recognize.
  • Will Richardson posts about getting away from paper notes. I can sort-of understand his wishes, but for me, there are several reasons why paper is better. First, there are graphomotor skills that need practicing (ok, perhaps not at my level of education, but it’s something to think about when talking about the future of schools/libraries). Second, sometimes, it’s not merely about the notes – it’s about the process of how we remember what we’ve learned. Third, while wikis and nings may be great ways to share information, sometimes that’s not what works best for the learner. My fear is that we’re pushing technological solutions to problems that don’t exist, and which may cause greater problems later on.

Climbing the Mountain:

  • The keynote, by Anastasia Goodman, really sets a tone. What students are doing on-line is a huge issue at MPOW and I’m not convinced we’re talking about it in the right way. One of the messages I got loud-and-clear is that youth culture freaks people out: always has, always will. So our response should be more like Travis’ moment of revelation in Clueless:recognize that what we did terrified/annoyed our parents and move on.
  • Breakout session: Opening the Book. A disappointment in some ways, because it seemed to focus on books for younger students. On the plus side, there were some interesting ideas, like having non-fiction authors blog about their process and put notes/addenda on-line (EP’s already done that). The biggest thing keeping print books going? “It’s an individual, passionate voice”.
  • Breakout session: Reference Remix. This was more discussion than lecture, which was fine. The idea of interfiling our reference with our circulating collections was discussed, and I’m proud that we’re already doing that at MPOW. Adding links to our catalog is also a great idea, but we have to be sure that there’s a way to check the links (have they moved? gone dead?). The big takeaway? “Reference today is more and more granular”. In other words, people don’t want the entire book, they want just the information they need. Now. So our reference interviews become more important as we try to ensure that people get to the resource they need.
  • Panel: Just in time… Once again, Joan Frye Williams (not at the conference but quoted) says it best: “libraries are in the ideas business and relationships, not about containers.” We need to rethink our containers and our models so that it works for the patron/user/member, not us. What keeps me up at night? How I can do this within my budget, within my school’s culture, within my staff/faculty’s comfort area.

Ground level once again

  • Britannica Blog’s post about we are what we read disturbs me. With all the digital goodies out there, people still want to Google it all, yet we (librarians, teachers) know that there’s a deeper web of information hidden from Google’s view. After a conversation with our Assistant Business Manager, I start thinking about next year and how to balance print/non-print resources. Google settling the Google Book lawsuit doesn’t help me sleep any better.

I’ll keep looking at, and learning from, the posts on the ning. If you want to see/follow our backchannel musings, there’s always Twitter.


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