Insomnia 2.0: Module 3 Blog Reflection

I’ll admit it. I am a recent Library 2.0 convert. I woke up last night at the magical insomniac hour of 3am, spinning my wheels about the Clue Train Manifesto and all the change inevitable in my future LIS profession. I think I experienced my first bout of what Stephen’s (2016) calls “librarian insomnia” (p. 17). Teacher insomnia has long kept me awake at night, so it is familiar to similarly ponder the existential desire to instill Stephen’s (2016) sense of “relevance” in what I choose to do in my life’s work in the service of others (p. 17).  

Any indoctrination about professionalism, from my mom reinforcing the importance of wearing nylons to an interview, to the proper etiquette of an email which I over-formalize, to the trained respect that I have shown to a Board of Director’s and their lofty decisions made in a vacuum, have taken a blow. It’s about time.

I am sometimes a quiet radical, walking the line of authenticity to respect authority. I have often made allegiance to my administrators because part of me feels I need to respect the system, trusting that wisdom and experience will lead to ultimate success. Sometimes it has been a good call; I have been lucky to have worked with some amazing mentors. In contrast, when I read chapter 5 of the Manifesto, paired with the other foundational readings these past two weeks, I feel validated in my past radical inclinations that I just haven’t had time to reflect upon or admit to until now. Time to break the silence. For this blog, I decided to explore these discoveries in a list:

Org Charts: As a teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I have sat to analyze an org chart in faculty/staff meetings. Weinberger’s (2001) cynical outlook on org charts is certainly a radical shift for me. Weinberger (2001) asserts what I wouldn’t dare to admit: An “org chart is an expression of a power structure. It is red tape. It is a map of whom to avoid” (p. 2). I have long lived under the auspices of org charts and horizontal team playing as Casey and Savastinuk (2007) criticize. I had a job since I was 15 years old, and it is quite groundbreaking to me to think about toppling all of my employee-centered understandings of organizational authority. The org charts represent the institutionalized hierarchy and authority, that in my experience, have long caused snags in the fabric of the organizations with which I have worked.

Vertical Team Playing: Casey et al.’s (2007) suggestions for vertical teams feel like a natural approach: “Vertical teams, like vertical communications, serve to flatten the organization, reinforce the sense of worth of staff from all levels of the library, and instill a sense of responsibility that everyone feels toward everyone else” (45). I admit that though I strongly believe in this type of collaboration, I haven’t truly experienced the ideal. When I have been a part of a vertical team, some times the façade of a vertical team was all a show, and the top org chart leaders made odd decisions despite the vertical teams’ recommendations.

I have been, however, able to create some vertical teamwork experiences in the classroom. The hyperlinked reality is also a great manifesto for being a good teacher. My best teaching moments were when I told stories and asked students to do the same. Roundtables, open discussions, creative classroom teaching helped “reinforce the sense of worth” students deserved. This vertical approach especially became important when I taught difficult subjects about human behaviors including racism, violence, and prejudice. Although Weinberg’s (2001) note of Fernando Flores’s sense of hyperlinked conversations applies to the web, it also applies to face-to-face instruction: “’To have a conversation you have to be comfortable being human—acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, being eager to learn from someone else and to build ideas together’” (p. 5). I challenged student expectations of teacher authority when I admitted that I didn’t have the answers. This sentiment is the reason that I love oral history education so much and being an educator overall. One of my most central manifestos as an educator was to follow what a Holocaust survivor wrote to educators (I suggest reading the letter in full and checking out Facing History and Ourselves):

“Dear Teacher: I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:…So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your students become human.”

Dare I say vertical teamwork and the hyperlinked library can help us to become more human?

Hyperlinked Library: I have a new understanding of “The hyperlinked library”. It is a concept I knew had more meaning that I would continue to understand. As such, I love Weinberg’s (2001) explanation: “Hyperlinks are the connections made by real individuals based on what they care about and what they know, the paths that emerge because that’s where the feet are walking, as opposed to the highways bulldozed into existence according to a centralized plan” (p. 4). The goal then is to create a user-centered, human focused library that exists based on the people and their needs and trajectories. After reading Library 2.0, I can see that such a radical shift in thinking about libraries deserves a revolution as Casey et. al (2007) captures: “Also fundamental to the Web 2.0 idea is the importance of the conversation” (p. 75). In this conversation, likewise, I really loved Mattern’s (2014) reflections on “Library as Infrastructure” to help us to ask the right questions in the “conversation” and to stay vertical: “What ideas, values and social responsibilities can we scaffold within the library’s material systems — its walls and wires, shelves and servers?” The examples and reflections that Mattern (2014) provides with the images suggest infinite answers that are personal to each community. I really appreciate Mattern’s article.

Third Places: Decades ago, I used to work at Starbucks and their motto was that their stores were the “third place,” which I find fascinating in relation to Leferink’s (2018) suggestion that: “Third Places provide opportunities for a community to develop and retain a sense of cohesion and identity. They are about sociability, not isolation.” At Starbucks, they build their business model on the third place, wherein the décor, experience, and staff training all contribute to the sense that no matter where a customer is in the world, they can find the comfort of the third place in Starbucks. By contrast, a library as third place can be localized, not monetized, and each community can create their own authentic identity and place-based connections.  

Imperfect Humanity: The Manifesto is a reminder that we can find the imperfections of our humanity somehow in the Web. Weinberger (2001) claims that the Web “…throws everyone into immediate connection with everyone else without the safety net of defined roles and authorities, but it also sets the expectation that you’ll make human-size mistakes rather frequently” (p. 5). How comforting to hear! Truth be told, entering this program, after hunkering down for 5 years as a new mother has been nerve racking. I fell out of date, out of the loop into the outskirts of tech and education. Even though I taught for 15 years, everything has changed so rapidly that I feel left in the dust, but I am ready to learn from mistakes.

Conclusively, reading Library 2.0 (especially) and these recent readings has already helped me to dust off the old boots and start marching forward in community.

References

Casey, M., & Savastinuk, L. (2007). Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, N.J.: Information Today.

Leferink, S. 2018. To keep people happy…keep some books. Next. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/blog/main/to-keep-people-happy-keep-some-books/.

Mattern, S. 2017. Library as infrastructure. Places Journal, June 2012. Retrieved on 4 February, from https://doi.org/10.22269/140609.

Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful
Change
. Chicago: ALA Editions.

Weinberger, D. 2001. The hyperlinked organization. The Cluetrain Manifesto. Retrieved from https://cluetrain.com/book/hyperorg.html. pp 1-26.

2 Thoughts.

  1. So glad you unpacked these concepts in such a personal way! Glad also to see Weinberger highlighted so well. I share some of your approaches to dealing with admin…especially for me toxic administrators. “Whom to avoid” indeed. Can you imagine saying this in one of those types meetings: “David Weinberger writes that the organizational chart is a map of whom to avoid.” 🙂

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