As society faces what many now call the Anthropocene age, the impacts of climate change and humankind’s role in it will influence, literally, everything.
Recently, I was teaching a privacy class for librarians, and the topic turned to the privacy versus convenience trade-off—the occasional annoyances of using privacy-enhancing technologies online. An audience member laid out what she felt I was asking of the group. “You’re telling us to start selling granola when everyone else is running a candy store.”
The struggle to improve the affinity between library schools and applied librarianship has just gained a powerful ally. In June, the University of Washington’s Information School (iSchool) announced the appointment of its first Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Susan Hildreth. She is one of the most experienced and visionary librarians in our ranks, having served stints as a library director, state librarian, head of consortia, and, most notably, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Has this ever happened to you? A meeting is going along swimmingly. Decisions are being made. Paths forward seem clearly defined. Action items are doled out to key players around the table. And then, a voice pipes up: “I’ll play devil’s advocate and….”
Cue the sound of wheels screeching to a halt, or perhaps the collective, weary exhale of the group.
Higher ed is changing fast right now, and so is librarianship. Traditional in-person library and information science (LIS) education provided students with a robust network of peers for support. Over the last couple of decades, however, trends in higher education have reduced that automatic peer group—not only asynchronous online courses but also “unbundling,” in which students take classes at their own pace and from a variety of institutions. Postgraduate professional development opportunities, ranging from one-day conferences to workshops to certificate programs, were already more isolated, and these, too, have felt the further distancing impact of the digital shift. In addition, the proliferation of new competencies in librarianship can mean that a given librarian’s coworkers may have few if any points of overlap with what they do every day or need to learn—especially if they’re the sole representative on staff of a new library function.
Rarely can one find a professor with such a wide and profound knowledge of the fields and disciplines that relate to applying digital technology to development of cultural archives. Professor Patricia K. Galloway, of the iSchool at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, takes these achievements several levels higher with her record of original and broad scholarship; her many contributions to research and new knowledge in her practice and belief system of cultural archives and historiography; and the roster of current and former students she has led, instructed, and greatly inspired. Together, these achievements moved the judges to name her the winner of the 2015 Library Journal/ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award, sponsored by Rowman & Littlefield.
I was surprised when the news came that the School of Information and Library Science at New York’s Pratt Institute had changed its name to the School of Information. I’ve been an adjunct professor there for more than three decades, and I was saddened at first that this old, venerable school, the second such school in the nation, was dropping “library science” from its name. After reading letters from Dean Tula Giannini and Pratt’s provost Kirk E. Pillow, I was somewhat reassured. I realize that this is now the direction of things and marks real progress in staying abreast of this digital age and the growing discipline once called information science. That field now carries a version of that name or informatics or just plain information studies. It is professed in every college and university these days, a kind of darling in higher ed. So it is understandable for Pratt to take that step.
UX designer Judy Siegel likes a good challenge. For the past six years, she has been helping a wide range of tech companies, startups, and nonprofits find design thinking solutions to their user experience problems. Currently director of user experience at MSNBC, Siegel has brought her design skills to CNN.com, the Information Architecture Institute, and recently the Data Privacy Project, a Knight Foundation–funded prototype project for an online technical support network that will help librarians set up secure digital services and educate their communities about privacy issues.
We spend a lot of time talking about various forms of literacy. Various approaches have risen up and faded quickly—transliteracy, metaliteracy, etc.—but the idea remains: How can everyday folks navigate a continually plugged in, all-access world? I think of these skills as life literacies or simply how we make sense of the world.