November 23, 2017

Natural Phenomenon: Making Moments Momentous | Editorial

Libraries are about learning but also about inspiring and enabling awe. Every once in a while, this gets multiplied by an event that shows just how cool libraries are when they enable everyone to access a rare experience. The enthusiastic response to the solar eclipse on August 21 evidenced this on a grand scale, and libraries were right in the center, building excitement and engagement for many, speaking directly to the role they play in shaping a more egalitarian society.

Libraries have long leveraged whatever tools they could to expand access to information—taking the library out of the building through any number of outreach innovations and creating enticements to draw people into library spaces (think of the Explore Outdoors Classrooms at the Anythink Libraries in Colorado, for instance). This work is about building a more equitable world, and the solutions emerging from the field continue to enhance the reach and impact of libraries.

How libraries expand access ranges widely, using new technologies or new strategies to deliver older ones where they’re needed. The virtual event TechKnowledge, coming up on October 18, focuses on just this. As the editors of LJ and School Library Journal dug into the planning of this free online conference (previously known as The Digital Shift), we homed in on the many tech-enabled initiatives that foster fairness. The theme “Creating Equity Through Technology” guided the program development. The packed day covers the horizon, from digital inclusion initiatives, accessible technology education, and tech that “levels the playing field” to new outreach efforts on Making, the Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality—and much more (see lj.libraryjournal.com/techknowledge-2017). A panel moderated by American Library Association president Jim Neal will kick off the day, addressing the challenges ahead as net neutrality remains under fire. Marnie Webb, of Caravan Studios, will round things out with her closing keynote on curation aimed at the public good.

The kind of proactive programming showcased in TechKnowledge is pervasive in our libraries. It takes a caring heart, ingenuity, and likely a playful spirit, as well, to pull it off. Time and time again, libraries deliver.

August saw librarians and educators across our country respond quite effectively to the opportunity brought by the eclipse, an event that is universally fascinating. The scale of this phenomenon, thanks to the viewable path of totality across the United States, offered a unique chance for communities to learn together—even for those who were only able to see a bit of it. As someone who loves such collective moments, getting to dwell for a time on how very small we humans are in the face of the forces of nature was inspiring, and it called out the essence of what drives me: a desire to make a contribution—despite the odds, or because of them.

In connecting themselves to this big day, libraries enabled thousands to be safe as they viewed the event through the many eclipse glasses given away by libraries, as well as pinhole cameras made under the direction of library programs and more. For many, librarians and libraries provided access to a widespread scientific and cultural experience, bringing deeper meaning along the way.

It was big but only because libraries are already there, making a better world daily—with whatever technology is available. That constant presence enabled libraries to have the outreach, the trust, and the communication in place to make a one-time big event happen. But while unusual opportunities garner great press, it is the underlying day-to-day impact libraries have that makes the difference in the long run: filling the gaps in patrons’ access to information and resources, exposing them to new perspectives and ideas, and providing awesome solo and communal experiences to remember.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. P veerababu says:

    Madam, it is very important to all libraries

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