Ecosystems & Change

The biggest takeaways for me from our Foundational Readings as well as Hyperlinked Library content would center around the acceptance of CHANGE as a norm for libraries, and that success may result from leading libraries as an ECOSYSTEM.

A couple of readings seem to contradict each other, but I think that represents the truth that library services are always evolving and adapting to change, and that this includes the perception information professionals have of themselves and libraries. Buckland highlighted what we have learned in this program since the beginning: that the purpose of libraries is to provide access to information, and to support whatever population/institution we are serving (1997).  I would argue that this has not changed as a basic truth and definition, but that it should be changing as a sense of identity. Mathews asserts that we should be MORE than access to information; we need to to examine the outcomes we can influence for the communities we serve (2012). In 15 years, as a result of advancing technology and how that technological access has shaped ourselves and our users, what we knew to be true about libraries was no longer “enough”. In 1997 Buckland acknowledged an important point, that libraries needed to look at how to “do the same things better” as well as “do better, different things,” which are ideas library thinkers have been exploring ever since.

I think it’s very easy in the library realm, as well as the education realm – where I started my career- to embrace “the next big thing” and chase trends, rather than to think bigger and have a purposeful approach, as Buckland challenges in “Facing the Future.” There are so many approaches that become expected as a way to prove being innovative, that become commercialized and sold as a one-size-fits-all approach, where the impact may not always be as great as expected (for school libraries I’m thinking: “makerspace”, “learning commons,” “modular furniture,” etc – which were all things I researched when I first took over my school library and thought were necessary to be seen as forward-thinking). Things are selected, purchased, and implemented from a top-down approach, but just because they’re shiny and full of educational buzz words, does not mean they are going to make a measurable difference for our students.

In “Cultivating Complexity,” Mathews describes the benefits of viewing libraries as evolutionary ecosystems, where the input of various connected people, departments, etc. instituted real change because they were not isolated, and change was okay, and different thinking was encouraged, and decision making was shared. I notice this missing in my school district, each department or working group draws lines in the sand (especially our technology departments who cannot agree on the flowchart of responsibility) despite having the same mission: we want students to succeed. If we could see our district as a living ecosystem, I think everyone would thrive, especially libraries which have the potential to have far-reaching impact in helping our students be prepared for their future. The “Library of the Future in Plain English” video also points to this idea, we need to work together, be interconnected, be accessible, and change the service model, breaking through the stereotypes of librarianship.

To bring this to a close for now — as it seems I could go on, and on with all of these great big ideas in our first modules– libraries (and schools) need to be flexible, and take a holistic approach that considers our resources, technological changes, institutional purpose, and most importantly our USERS. The characteristics Dr. Stephens shared in the Hyperlinked Library article (2010) of the 21st Century Learning Experience are essential to consider and put into action. It is important to be willing to change our thinking, shift our perception, and give up control (or the illusion of it) enough to hear new ideas, try new ideas, and hopefully, make changes to services that make a difference, then start all over again.

9 thoughts on “Ecosystems & Change

  1. I love your “doodle” illustrations and your commentary on education. Just because things sound “important” doesn’t always mean they are in the scheme of things. I have worked for over 20 years in the special education realm. There are so many acronyms! It would be so much better if we could just make things understandable to everyone involved.

  2. Hi Jamie,
    So smart to dial into libraries as ecosystems. This is so true, it is an environment constantly in flux and requiring attention to the most minute changes.
    Everyone will have different opinions, as you point out, and articles/readings on various topics will be contradictory as each ecosystem will have different needs. I think the goal lies having a conversation, being open and receptive to potential implementation; so, hearing disparate view points stimulates discourse and can help produce unique tailored solutions for each library.

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