ACRL 2011: Day 3 Ivory Towers, Knives, and Clinton Kelly

(Shelf Reader app presented By Dr. Bo Brickman)

Morning Keynote:

Jaron Lenier:

I’ve been thinking about the stuff that Jaron brought up during his talk basically since it happened and am finding it difficult to come up with a way to summarize his talk with some sort of mission and message. Here’s an attempt from my train ride back from Philly yesterday morning.

First things first, they picked the right type of guy to speak at this conference. He was engaging and immediately, as my friend Josh pointed out, has us eating out of the palm of his hand. He spoke about a lot of things, basically just a rant about The State of the Internet, and then played us some music on his Khaen, which is a reed instrument from Laos.

I’m going to just focus on a few things he brought up.  Firstly, he made a point of mentioning that we (Librarians, information professionals) are both responsible for far more than we think in terms of the larger cultural well-being. I could nitpick this point and say “we’ve always known, it’s just no one else believes us”, but you likely know that or think so already.  The important part was when he started talking about refocusing on Humanity, individuals and people.  That our job is actually about humans, information retrieval, search interface redesign, and whatever else you can think of is all to serve human beings and perhaps that should be reflected more in the library environment.

He also brought up the need to develop the feeling of “specialness” and reverence for the library, books and learning as a means of survival. His proposal sounded a lot like a call to reverse course and return to more of the Gatekeeper model of librarianship. A return to the Ivory Towers where you would feel lucky to even be participating in the experience of research.

The thing about this is, we have spent, as a profession, the last however many years undoing this sort of “information for the worthy” thing.  To be quite honest, public libraries were billed very early on as a “university for the people” type thing. It has been our mission to support society by helping them KNOW things. He completely ignores Library Anxiety i.e. Student and citizen reluctance to ask a librarian for help or assistance unless it’s a known item which they can’t physically find out of embarrassment that this “revered” person will think they’re stupid.  Our reverence is biting us in the ass. Not to mention the idea of reinstating elitism flies  in the face of the majority of my principles, both professional and personal, is this guy kidding?

Then I calmed down a bit and had a conversation with a friend of mine. We were talking about how enthusiastic about what he was saying everyone was , and we talked about my general resistance to the idea of this Ivory Tower business. I now feel a little sunnier about the whole thing. Maybe what he’s proposing can be interpreted as our opportunity to rebuild the reverence and importance without all of the weirder unpleasant elements of the past. We need to make ourselves revered for our usefulness, not our scarcity.

Even that seems a bit impossible though. Consider the situations of teachers and how taken for granted they are generally.  If the people charged with teaching our children practical and social skills to develop them into healthy, active participants in society aren’t held in reverence, how can those of us who support them, and everyone else possibly hope to be revered.

I guess I’d like to take his talk and think he would prefer for us to start collaborating with each other in Library Grown initiatives as opposed to collaborating with these big boys who are preaching from one pulpit and reaping from another.

I put that whole thing in quotes because I’ve read his interview in LJ which changes a bit of how I feel.  He may have just intended to motivate us towards some sort of active change and involvement rather than being as prescriptive as I thought he was being initially.  I was inspired by what he said to attempt to initiate something, which is important, and may try to start by intiating some sort of discussion of a next step to help make steer back towards the Human centered approach to everything. Repersonalization efforts.

Librarian Swiss Army Knife

Miami U has developed a mobile app for their library, see it here

Dr. Bo Brinkman & Matt hodges

A Mobile, Augmented Reality, Shelf-Reading Tool Article here

Dr. Brinkman brought up a good point about the use of technology, use humans for what we’re good at (reasoning, complex thinking), use AR for what we aren’t (searching, sorting, remembering). For this reason they’ve developed a shelf reading app.  At the moment it’s in the “Proof of Concept stage” and so can’t be bought or used yet but there were some implications about some trials which we might get involved with.  It works by having Superficial QR codes (LC call number) on the spines of books, you just need the app, doesn’t need to connect to any database info or anything more complex. The app will both ID where it should go, and the shortest set of moves to reorder multiple volumes. Side effect: inventory Requires: Smartphone or tablet.  An issue is that they need the QR code to be readable for a distance, so they can only use the app on large spines at the moment.  They are looking into other things.  Another issue is that QR readers are built for 1 code at a time and so are still kind of glitchy.  Seems like it could be something really promising to take some of the repetitive burden off shelvers, but improvements are needed in both the QR codes and reader sides.

Closing Keynote:

Clinton Kelly

Alright, I’ll admit when I first saw he was doing the closing keynote I said “what is going on here?”, but after hearing him speak I genuinely enjoyed it.  His talk focused on clothes and the stuff from his show, dress yourself well, in clothes you look good in that fit well, and this will have a positive outcome on your life. He spoke for only about 20 minutes was funny, and “on message” about doing what you feel good about, and to the point. He didn’t make an overly painful effort to tie in libraries which I was kind of worried about. If I were going to thematically associate his talk with the rest of my experiences at ACRL it was vaguely that “the effort is worth it”. Confidence is sort of a cyclical thing so have the confidence to make the extra effort about your appearance (which is just the example here), and it will create confidence because you will feel good about how you are looking, and people will respond to your presentation of yourself. I think this mindset could work for you outside of the clothing and style context. If I weren’t trying to keep this post a manageable length I would likely make that connection here but for now I’ll just say it was a really lovely way to end the conference.  He was funny, light and gave some pretty solid advice.

OH! and two more things.

1) he’s very Pro personal style which I appreciate. He repeated more than once that you should express yourself through what you wear and the important part is that the garments fit well, are in good condition and you are aware about what they are projecting over the “fitting in” philosophy.

2) a woman who had had a single mastectomy stood up and requested a show about dressing irregular or uneven bodies (she was also hilarious) and he was totally into it.  I enjoy the fact that, while the show, and he are literally paid to judge what you look like, it’s never judging you really. He’s goal is as simple as trying to help everyone look their best.