Reflections on class #3

When Kristin first described our in-class “project” to make a graphic/poster/meme/comic/etc. about a question we had during our readings on information literacy/transliteracy, a mixture of anxiety and fear began to well up inside of me. I’m typically not good with time limits that are really short (timed anything are a real joy for me, let me tell you), and I’m often in a state of inferiority when I look around at all my fantastic classmates here at SI. (I’m not sucking up, I do really think you guys are awesome.) I have times where I can be witty, but those moments take time to craft; I’m not instantaneously witty or funny. (Although I’m not sure I’m ever that witty or funny, but hey, I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt.)

But, clearly, I got through it.

And so then we got to walk around and discuss with classmates their creations and questions. I think all of the questions were extremely sound ones and I was amazed by the differences in how we created our “masterpiece;” some did comics, some graphics, a mindmap was used, and so were many memes. Many of the questions I would like to explore more, and that really just shows how complex information literacy/transliteracy is.

I think the activity with the Google Glass article was interesting because we did take it at face-value. (Although I think some of us had seen the article before, so some weren’t, but I know I should have been more cognizant of the fact that it was a shady website that it was hosted on.) All it took was a classmate to claim she had seen it on AP for the rest of us to nod in agreement. I think we were collectively…embarrassed as a class (maybe that was just me), that we’re future librarians (informationists/archivists/etc.) and it took us so long to realize this wasn’t probably the most credible source. (Somehow, I don’t think we’ll fall into that trap again!) But us (who are burgeoning information professionals) falling into that trap shows how easy it is, even for people trained to handle information, to be caught up. Imagine if you’re not really trained in information literacy…imagine how easy it would be to fall into that trap. I remember a few years ago, there was supposedly a study that was released that redheads would go extinct within a pretty short time. I had friends emailing me this article (along with a few HAHAs), and it took all of 2 minutes to discern it was false, but many many people I knew thought it was true.

Overall, I learned a great deal in this class (that I shouldn’t quit my day job to be a graphic designer is something I’ve always known but was reconfirmed), and these kind of classes that force me out of my comfort zone of lecture-based classes and into actively engaging in my learning are something I look forward to more in the future.

(Also, while doing our project, I started using a new tool someone had just told me about called Canva, which makes amazing graphics, if anyone needs that sort of thing.)

MeL screencast

I almost forgot to post my screencast! In case you want to view it, you can do so here.

This was really interesting to make, and pretty difficult as well. I’m proud of it, though, and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to make one. Libraries are really using them now, so I think that it’s going to be an invaluable skill to have.

(Also…you never really realize how annoying your voice is until you listen to it approximately 53 times in a row.)

Week 3: Information literacy

So for this week, we were tasked with finding three articles on information literacy/transliteracy/information fluency in our field of specialization. Because I want to be a young adult librarian, I focused my articles on teens and information literacy and was pleasantly surprised to find more than I thought I would.

“Teens, Virtual Environments and Information Literacy” deals with “digital natives,” or people born after 1989. While this generation is constantly “plugged in” through things like texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter, the report discusses that many in that generation lack information literacy (in short, we text 3000 times a month and use Facebook like breathing, but God help us if we have to look up information for school). The problems cited in information literacy are issues with deciding what’s a good source and what’s not (i.e., is it a reputable source and is it the correct information the student is looking for), and exactly how to search (i.e., what search terms are appropriate). This article calls many digital natives “information illiterate.” The article’s solution to this information illiteracy is to create a VRLibrary. The basis for this is VEs (or Virtual Environments, which the article defines as a “computer-generated experience obtained by and through an interface that engages one or more of the user’s senses and almost always includes visual sense” (Behesti 56)).(A common example of a VE is World of Warcraft, for some reference.) Researchers have found that VEs are motivational to students by appealing to the “interactive [and] stimulating […] environment” that things like video games and computer games provide. Researchers have actually built a VRLibrary for a study on teens; it was designed as a physical library (because studies have found students are still familiar with libraries) and the user can “walk” around from shelf to shelf and pick-up “books” (which in actuality are websites) that they can get information from. After the study was complete, the researchers found that the students had almost no problems in selecting the right kind of sources for a project on Canadian history. The researchers also found that students would like an “avatar” librarian to intercede when they need help. I think this is an interesting idea. It engages the “digital natives” (I guess I’m one of them) in an environment that appeals to them. It’s certainly one of the more unique solutions to information illiteracy that I’ve heard, but I think I’d have to see more to really make a determination on its usefulness. It seems as though it would be expensive to buy and upkeep, and it had a lot of unanswered questions (like the VRLibrary used had information on Canadian history, but who selected the sources already there? And if no one does, aren’t we running into the same problems with selection as before?). I definitely think it’s an intriguing idea, though, and the students involved in the study were enthusiastic about it. I think one of the interesting things the article did was basically say: “how is it that teens are so immersed in technology but have a really hard time using it?” I’ve always found that really interesting myself.

“Information Literacy as a Department Store” focuses on how teen librarians in public libraries can help in increasing information literacy in teens by working with the schools in the area. The author of this article emphasizes that instruction in information literacy  in public libraries should be a supplement to what’s done in schools, and that teamwork between school and public libraries is key. She cites a school and local library in Denmark in which the teen librarian spent 27 hours a week in information literacy at the high school. This is great, but problematic, especially when considering only 33% of public libraries in the U.S. have a teen librarian (thanks 647 for that statistic!). The author suggests doing information literacy instruction (on the part of public librarians) on a “limited, but consistent, basis,” by keeping in contact with teachers about upcoming assignments (for example, by putting books needed on hold and creating reference interviews that center around the assignment) and by visiting public schools so that students know all the options public libraries can provide. She also suggests students visiting the public library to get the same effect. However, the author warns that teen librarians should only do information literacy instruction “within the context of their own history, purposes, and environments” (Gilton 42). I think most people that know me know that I love the idea of school and public libraries working together to help students to get a more well-rounded library experience. We don’t want to duplicate what the school libraries are teaching, but rather supplement it. I’m a huge proponent in visits to libraries (both to the public and to the school) and anytime students know they have a variety of resources in multiple places is a positive thing. This article was interesting because it discussed what, exactly, is information literacy. The author says that many define it as “the teaching of information searching skills” (Gilton 40), but she thinks that oversimplifies it. She instead pictures information literacy as a department store: the basement and first floor are tours and library orientations; the windows and doors are the books, pathfinders, and web sites; the second and third floors are the advanced instruction in information literacy (usually done in academic libraries or schools), and the fourth and fifth floors are the administration that observes and evaluates everything else. In public libraries, many don’t get past the first/second floor, but that’s okay, because you can’t make it to the fourth or fifth floor (which students might encounter in college, for example), without going through the first or second floor. I think the department store analogy is a little strange, but I like what the author is getting at. She’s saying that information literacy isn’t simple; it’s a journey, so to speak (I guess I’ll get in on the metaphors), and that public and school libraries all play a part in that journey. Public libraries can help lay the base, which school libraries and academic libraries can build off of. I appreciate that Gilton recognizes the complexities of information literacy, because I often think people try to oversimplify it, when it is, in fact, a complicated subject.

“Children + Young Adults + Information Literacy = Cooperation between public and school libraries” discusses  the importance of the link between public and school libraries when it comes to instruction in information literacy. This article brought up some challenges in maintaining the link between public and school libraries, including lack of staff and money, and what the author calls the “insularity” of librarians (which is that librarians don’t realize what other librarians are doing, i.e., school librarians don’t really realize all that public librarians do and vice versa). I found this interesting because it’s…well, true, I think in many instances. Before I took 638 (School Library Media Management), I really didn’t have a clue of all that school librarians do. This article is written about libraries in Spain, but American libraries have the same problems: most especially, the lack of young adult (and in some cases, children’s) librarians in public libraries to maintain these sorts of relationships between public and school libraries. In Spain, a study was done that showed that students often migrate to public libraries because their school libraries are underfunded and understaffed (a familiar situation here, unfortunately). Because of this, students are having a difficult time participating in the “Information Society” and lack basic knowledge when they get to universities. The author suggests the solution to be a concentration in school libraries (because in Spain, like in the US, education is compulsory, so everyone is guaranteed some sort of information literacy education) with public libraries complementing the instruction. Both the school library and public library have unique advantages that work together to give a student a well-rounded education in information literacy. The author cites an example called “Bibloteca-Escuela” that has a problem called “Publicar en la web es…”, which is an information literacy course lasting a semester, in which the teacher brings the students to the library to complete a project in which students are taught how to select and analyze appropriate sources by building their own webpage about the topic of their choice. For example, 3 weeks are spent on basic reference materials like encyclopedias, yearbooks, dictionaries, and a few weeks are spent on online sources and the library’s catalog. After gathering the information with the help of the librarian and teacher, the student then builds the webpage with their information. So far, it seems to be a success, but it hasn’t had widespread use in many different environments. I really like this model because it engages the students in a topic that interests them and has both the librarian and teacher as support systems in their research. Not only is it teaching information literacy, but it’s showing how the public and school libraries can work together. The articles cites that “One of the most important institutional relationships for a public library is that with the local schools and the education system in the service area” (Serantes 1) and that is basically my library bread and butter in one sentence.

Overall, the articles presented some interesting points, but the overarching theme was this: promoting information literacy in young adults is hard, and so both the school and public libraries need to work together to ensure that students are getting the best education in information literacy they can so that the transition to university won’t be so difficult.

Reflections on class #2

(For whatever reason, I have a much harder time coming up with a smooth introduction for a blog post about class than one about the readings. So apologies for the abruptness.)

Something that really captured my attention in class this week was our discussion of “defining learner-centered” in libraries, most especially in regards to being culturally sensitive. I’m always really interested in discussing learner-centered environments when it comes to libraries. One of my really good friends is Russian; he was born there and moved here when he was 12. Hanging around him was one of the first times I really ever experienced cultural differences. For instance, he told me you don’t make eye contact in the metro in Russia and that no one smiles at one another out in public because smiles are meant for friends, not someone you pass on the sidewalk. It really unnerved him that people do that here. One thing that always struck me was that saying ‘thank you’ too many times in Russia is just considered kind of annoying, not polite. So if he already told you thank you once (in the time he was with you), he isn’t going to do it again. To some, it comes off as rude, when he doesn’t mean it that way at all. (Although now that he’s lived here ten or so years, he’s started to, because he realized that in American culture, we value it much more than they do in Russian culture.)  I think as librarians, we always have to be sensitive to differences in culture. Kristin brought up the story of the security guards in the library scaring some of the patrons because in their country, people in uniform were to be feared, and it just demonstrates that we have to be sensitive to cultural differences so that we can give patrons the most comfortable time we can while they’re in the library.

Looking at different screencasts was very helpful as well. Seeing examples of what to do (and consequently what not to do) is always a good thing when you’re planning to make something of the same. Some of the things we discussed we knew from the readings, but I learned some new things as well. For instance, the context component was not something I had really thought of before in terms of screencasts. Now that I’m planning my own, I think about how I can connect what I’m trying to explain to prior knowledge and state explicitly what problem this solves for the person watching the screencast. I also liked the “practice hospitality” component; I think it’ll help me sound much more natural and comfortable if I “pretend” to explain it to someone I know. At any rate, it gave us some important tips.

So onwards to making the screencast! (Actually I let this sit in my drafts for a week, so my screencast is done, but…you get the point.)

(As a sidenote, I’d also like to add that I’m glad for the clarification about fixed vs. growth mindset because I had the wrong idea about them. I assumed that it was talking about talent and intelligence and whether they were static or could grow, but rather, it was talking about what we perceive about ourselves. One of my classmates brought up an interesting point when she said that she has a growth mindset about others but a fixed mindset about herself, and I am absolutely the same way.)

An extra little post this week…meeting Laurie Halse Anderson

Ex Libris Krista

Monday night, Mollie Hall and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting YA author Laurie Halse Anderson at Nicola’s Books. She spoke for about an hour, and then we got our books signed and a picture with her. I wish I could have recorded her talk because she was a phenomenal speaker and said so many things that I couldn’t even begin to remember them all! However, there were definitely a few things that really stand out in my memory.

The first was her view towards YA literature. She explained that in high school, she hated English class because she disliked what she was required to read. This was one of the reasons that she became an author: to write books that teens would actually want to read. She believes that teens just want good books and that authors (and the public at large) should always assume that teens want…

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Week two: Screencasting 101

It occurred to me as I was doing the readings that I really don’t have a lot of experience with screencasts in libraries. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a screencast from a library (I’ve watched them on other topics, however). After completing these readings, I couldn’t help but think how useful online videos could be in a library setting.

Bowles-Terry, et. al’s article discussed the pros and cons of using online videos as well as their effectiveness in the area of instruction in libraries. The emphasis on both the usability and findability of the videos is important; if a user can use the video effectively, but not find it, then it’s no good; the same is true if a user can find the video, but it can’t effectively instruct on how to complete a task. The link to the videos on the University of Illinois’s library’s website no longer existed, but after digging around, I did find one. The summary at the end of the article brought up some of the concerns I had about the video, including the fact that I didn’t find the videos at all in one place. That could be the library has discontinued their use or they’re still having findability issues. The “inverted pyramid” technique also caught my eye; I’ve always been a supporter of the “inverted pyramid” technique when doing how-tos because I am that person that will skip over the context/introduction just to get to the instructional portion (shame on me, I know). I think the solution to that is a table of contents so that people are able to navigate to what they really want. Ultimately, I think that online videos might be useful in that they provide an efficient, fast, and convenient way for library users to find a how-to guide on how to do simple tasks. Sometimes, I found that public library users were almost embarrassed to ask for help on simple tasks like how to use the library catalog (even after being assured that they shouldn’t be embarrassed), and having an online video they can look at from home would solve that problem. I also believe that libraries need to offer their tutorials in more than one format; although a video is helpful, a step-by-step guide written out is also helpful because it allows people to go back-and-forth between steps without having to pause the video or back it up. Nothing annoys me more (well, perhaps there are a few things, but this is pretty annoying) than when I’m watching a screencast on how to do something technology-related, for example, and my computer lags and the video zooms past, which then requires me to try to back-up the video to the point I was at before. Printed-out instructions solve that problem and could be great complements to the videos.

Creating the One-stop Library Workshop discussed how best to construct one-stop workshops with a method called ADDIE. This interested me because the public library I used to work for hosted a fifty-minute technology workshop once a month; each month had a different topic (for example, Facebook, Kindle Fire, and Google+ were all topics). We didn’t, at the time I worked there, host workshops on how to do library-related business, like searching the catalog or doing ILL. The five ADDIE components  discussed consisted of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Although ADDIE was used for workshops in the reading, it works for screencasts, too; first, you have to analyze who needs it and why, second you have to design the screencast (with the ideas from the paragraph up above), then third, you have to develop it (actually make the screencast), fourth you have to implement it by putting it up on the library’s website or inviting patrons to try it out, and then lastly, you have to evaluate the screencast to see if it worked. I think the ADDIE process is interesting because it has so many advantages: a template for later workshops (a massive timesaver), a way to train both old and new instructors, and having people’s input on the actual workshop or screencast itself. I also definitely see some of the concerns that were raised as well; it’s both time-constricting and financially difficult, and most libraries are short on both staff and money. Especially for something like technology that changes so often, taking four months to design a workshop wouldn’t be that effective because by the time you designed everything, the technology changes again. I suppose that by designing the workshop the goal is to be able to factor in tweaks made, but I’m not certain that a patron wants to wait an extremely long time for a workshop to be designed to be instructed in their new Kindle Fire. However, ADDIE is helpful for library business like searching the catalog because that generally doesn’t change too much too often, and if it does, the changes are usually minor (unless you’re switching OPACs completely). Choosing when and when not to use ADDIE is something libraries have to consider.

We’ll be creating our own screencasts very shortly, so it made me think of what I wanted to pull overall from these readings: first, the screencasts need to be short, sweet, and to the point. They don’t need to be flashy; they just need to be practical. The screencast should be short, so it wouldn’t be effective to have a screencast for a really complex topic; they would be more suitable to basic searches on catalogs, how to log-in to accounts, and how to place a hold. A table of contents is a huge advantage because it allows people to skip to what information they need quickly. (Do we wish they’d watch the whole video to get the proper context and introduction? Sure. But as a person that frequently skips anything that isn’t the actual instructional portion, we should attempt to design them with that in mind.) Although we’re not putting our screencasts on a big website, they also need to be easy to find; if a person has to search through the entire website to find the video, it isn’t that effective.

So who’s excited to start some screencasting?

Reflections on class #1

What a great start to a class we had! I’m always excited when I get to be around a bunch of librarians (or an archivist or two!) because we’re usually just a really magnificent group of people (as we were saying in class, librarians just tend to be very nice people). I’m glad that there are people willing to share differing opinions from their classmates because it makes for some useful and engaging discussions!

While I found much of this class interesting, the one thing I wanted to discuss more thoroughly was the quiz we took on fixed vs. growth mindset. I was 100% growth mindset. This didn’t shock me; I’ve seen people learn and grow in intelligence and talent, and I think that part of a job of a librarian is to encourage that growth. That being said, I don’t think that being a fixed mindset is a negative way to be as a librarian, either. As one of our classmates noted, the wording on the quiz is a bit deceptive and might skew the results. I’ll admit on something like talent, I’m always a bit shaky on what I think because people do talk about a “natural talent” that someone has that wasn’t practiced or even necessarily taught. One boy in my grade could draw magnificently, but he said he was never taught to draw, and that he just simply did it. Natural talent, then, can be considered a fixed mindset. However, I’ve known someone who couldn’t dribble a basketball for anything and two years later was on the varsity basketball team because he practiced (thus a growth mindset). Intelligence, too, can be thought of in the same way; I knew people that had an innate ability in math and never studied, while I had to slave away for hours to achieve the same (okay, maybe a little worse) results. My point is that although I think growth mindsets are important in librarians, I don’t think it’s a requirement, and I certainly don’t think that if someone scored an entirely fixed mindset than they shouldn’t be a librarian. I think it depends on how a librarian applies those mindsets.

I’m extremely interested in seeing what this class has in store. I’ve never been involved in a lot of instruction in my library job besides the computer questions (“can you help me with my e-mail?”) or showing someone how to use an e-reader/computer catalog, so I’m intrigued as to finding out more about the role of teaching in librarianship. (Although as I typed this, I kept thinking of more things I did instruct patrons in, so maybe I did more instructing than I originally thought!)

(Also, the ache to go to the ALA annual conference in Las Vegas is strong…not only are ALA conferences one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, but an influx of tens of thousands of librarians in Vegas is bound to be a sight to see!)

And so it begins…Week One

The branch librarian and I at the public library that I used to work at had a long-standing joke: “There are simply some things that you can’t learn in library school.”

Mostly, this had to do with experiences with patrons (or event planning), because spending time in a classroom is probably not going to teach you how to deal with an irate patron who demands to know why they’re #203 on the waiting list and why the library isn’t ordering 203 copies of the newest best-seller. (That’s what summer internships are for.)

Anecdotes aside, I’m not trying to say that classroom teaching isn’t important because it very obviously is, but that learning takes all forms.

This brings me to the readings we did this week from How People Learn on learning in schools. For most of us, we’ve been in school for somewhere around sixteen or so years, and we were sent there specifically to learn (I know, stating the obvious). How we learned obviously depended on the class and teacher, but the ultimate goal was to know more about that subject than when you walked in at the beginning of the year. But how many times did we learn and understand?

I attended a public school system with a rather good reputation, but over half of my classes, by my estimate, were strictly on regurgitation of facts: here’s the lecture, the study guide, and an exam two weeks later. I’ve only had a handful of classes that weren’t (most in college), and those were the best classes I ever had. My freshman year of college showed me that I was expected to have opinions and be able to talk critically about texts, not just be able to regurgitate what I read about. That was interesting and (unfortunately) foreign to me. One of the first exams I took as an undergrad was shocking, because I had memorized all of the facts quite well, but I wasn’t prepared to apply what I had learned.

The one thing the readings really emphasize is that a student has to do a variety of things to be both learning and understanding: a grasp of the hard, basic facts, an understanding of the context of the framework in which those facts are found, and then the ability retrieve and correctly apply those facts. This is the difference between learning and having usable knowledge; usable knowledge means that you’ll be able to retrieve and apply what you’re learning.  I think in many ways, I’m a bad example of usable knowledge because I have an excellent memory. I can memorize facts in a textbook and tell you what page that fact was on, what heading it was under, what diagram was near it, and pretty accurately where, exactly, that fact was on the page. But I’m not going to remember that fact a week later, and I’ll certainly never be able to apply it. I can memorize with the best of them and appear to be learning even though I haven’t learned a thing.

One of the worst teachers I ever had was for 11th grade Honors Chemistry. He was an affable sort of fellow; in fact, I enjoyed a great many conversations with him at lunch time or before class, but he was fresh out of graduate school and automatically assumed that every student in his class had an interest in chemistry, while in reality, out of 24 or so students, probably only 4 or 5 had a real interest; for the rest of us, we were in there because that was the prescribed path we had been set: biology, physics, and then chemistry. He assumed we all loved it and so gave us complex formulas to memorize because that’s what he loved. His exams consisted of multiple-choice questions for the most part, and if there were word problems, he told us what formulas to use to solve them. We weren’t taught the broad concepts and weren’t being taught how to apply what we were supposed to be learning. Quite simply, throughout that year, I learned, but I didn’t understand.

Conversely, one of my best learning experiences was in 7th grade, during the “Africa unit.” All the core classes were in on it; in English we wrote a journal about our adventures, in Math we calculated the distance we needed to travel per day to make it to our destination, in Science we studied the fauna and flora, and in Geography, we studied the different climates and different cultures. We decorated the entire seventh grade wing with maps and drawings (my drawings of meerkats were legendary), so that while we were in school, we were, in essence, in Africa. We weren’t just memorizing African countries or writing a paper on it, we were engaging in our learning. I can still tell you a lot about Africa but not a thing about chemistry.

Interesting to note all of this, but how, exactly, do it connect to libraries? I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of experience in instructional librarianship (with the exception of demonstrating the Dewey Decimal a time or two to kids and sometimes adults). And I’ll also admit that I’m really not sure. Perhaps this is something that I’m going to have to think about and is something that I’ll learn over the course of the semester and my career.

But let’s move on to Josh Hanagarne’s video. I’ve never read The World’s Strongest Librarian (I know, shame on me), but I really want to now. I identified with Josh when he said that libraries inspire and that he’d be a different person if it weren’t for libraries because I feel the exact same way. I suspect many, if not all of us, feel this way, or we wouldn’t be spending the next two years of our lives learning to be the best librarians (or information professionals) that we can be. He introduces the idea that libraries make communities “free.” That idea kind of blows my mind, to be honest, because it just emphasizes what a large and important part libraries play in their communities.

Libraries are miracles. Because, seriously, where else can you go, be a part of a community, borrow a variety of materials for free, and, well, get inspired? Libraries operate because of the generosity and reciprocity of others and provide access to information to engage people to become lifelong learners. Libraries are special, special places. Josh’s stories about patrons (especially the one about him sitting with the woman who had to give up her children for adoption the very next day and brought them to the library to have some fun beforehand) struck a chord, because I worked in a public library for seven years, and I have a few stories like that, too, unfortunately. I have never been just a library worker, and most librarians aren’t, either. Librarians serve a variety of roles, and we need to be prepared to fill them. I worked in the Young Adult section, and throughout that time, I was a friend, a confidante, and a friendly ear when someone was grounded. No, I can’t be a social worker or a school psychologist, but I can be a friendly face. Right before I left to come here, this little girl, who had been only a few weeks old when I had started working there, came up with her mom and told me she never not remembered me being around at the library, and the library wouldn’t be the same without me. So yes, even though I got her to read her The Boxcar Children because those had been my favorite books, I had been there when she had gotten glasses in first grade and told her they looked nice on her (her mom told me later she had cried all day about them). I was really lucky to see a lot of kids grow up right in front of my eyes in that library (the best compliment I ever received was a girl telling me that I looked liked Ariel, which was her favorite Disney princess). What other sort of environment do you get the privilege to do that?

I don’t know about anyone else, but Josh’s video reminded me of why I love libraries. I’m working in an academic library right now that doesn’t involve me interacting with the public, and while I like it, I really miss that part of working in a library.

(Also, as a side note, if you’ve never been able to go to an ALA conference, or any conference with librarians, really do go, because we are some seriously entertaining people. Some of the best conversation I’ve ever had was at an ALA conference with fellow librarians and library students.)

So after all of this, what makes a librarian? The ALA gives quite a few core competencies that all graduates should have when graduating from an ALA-accredited program. Certainly, librarians need to have excellent skills in user/reference services and a passion for lifelong learning and continuing education. Good technical skills and management as well as knowledge of the histories of libraries and the parts they’ve played in history are also things the ALA feels that graduates should know. And, of course, all of these are things that are important. A patron should be able to walk up to a librarian and be able to get a confident and correct answer to a reference or readers’ advisory question. That’s the very core of our job. I think, though, that it oversimplifies us. Librarians also need to encourage a sense of community and the sense that libraries play a crucial role in communities. We often have to fight to justify for our very existence in the communities we work in. (The competencies throw in a sentence about effective advocacy, but I don’t know if that does us justice.)

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, gave a lecture entitled Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming.” (If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do, because I always pretty awesome after I read it.) I could quote almost the entire thing as having impact on me, but one sentence that always gets me is this: ” If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom.” Whenever I read this, I feel this great sense of responsibility. Libraries contain all of these things, and as librarians, it’s our duty to provide that place and help people navigate it as best we can. Neil Gaiman also agrees with Josh and says that libraries are, indeed, all about freedom: “freedom to read, freedom of idea, freedom of communication.”

So libraries matter. Librarians matter. I know we’ve all heard, “Why are you going to school to be a librarian when we won’t need them 5 years?” My answer is simply that librarians aren’t going away, our roles are simply changing. We’re in a class called “Professional Practice in Libraries and Information Centers” because we’re all trying to learn to be the best librarians we can. And that’s a good thing, because we obviously shoulder a great amount of responsibility.