Not bound by rules. Changing daily. Filled with life, sound, art, and inspiration. A vision of the public library woven with experience, involvement, empowerment, and a healthy dose of true innovation brought gasps of joy, a few tears, and much more to a standing room only crowd at the Public Library Association conference in Denver. The planning process and insights from the creation of Dokk1, the public library in Aarhus, Denmark, shared by Marie Østergård, project leader, Dokk1; Aarhus Public Libraries; and Pam Sandlian Smith, director, Anythink Libraries, Thornton, CO, can inform library planning of all types, shapes, and sizes and should be considered seriously by those of us teaching and developing LIS curricula.
Column from Michael Stephens (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, CA
A common punch line in the librarian oeuvre pertains to the number of cats a particular librarian may own. We all know that librarians are dog people, too, as evidenced by the multiple Facebook photos I see of various canine biblio-companions. I am sure librarians also keep various other mammals, reptiles, and birds, but there is a natural fit between our love of four-legged friends and our calling to the profession.
Scandinavian countries have introduced libraries to some wonderful things in the past few years. Nordic Noir fiction, some beautiful new buildings to gather inspiration from, and perhaps the most interesting of all: the concept of hygge. Pronounced “hoo-ga,” it loosely translates from the Danish as “coziness,” but bloggers, news reporters, and folks sharing #hygge-tagged images are quick to say it is so much more. Some might argue that it’s a feeling, a vibe, a state of mind. Others say it’s about connections, conversations, and comfort.
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.
An early morning drive south from Loveland to the Denver airport gave me time to reflect on the evolving nature of library conferences. I delivered one of the keynotes for the Colorado Association of Libraries annual conference (CALCON) this year and was thrilled to be invited to attend the entire event. What I discovered in the meeting rooms and hallways and at the receptions and dinners with Colorado librarians was a spirit of innovation and inspiration, a renaissance of the state-level meeting. The sessions were interesting, useful, and engaging. The atmosphere was welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant.
I must admit my eyebrows raised when one of my students in the Hyperlinked Library class shared a job description in our discussion devoted to emerging ideas and trends. Trenton Public Library (TPL), NJ, was looking for an “Innovation Catalyst Librarian.” The interest grew as my students dissected the duties and requirements, comparing their own experiences and suitability for such a position. I have seen a lot of cutting-edge job descriptions before, but this one was different.
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.
Summer wanes, and it’s back to school for LIS students, their professors, and the folks who support them in so many ways. At graduation ceremonies, we always acknowledge the family members and significant others who help LIS students along the path toward their degrees. Let’s shine a light on the importance of current librarians, administrators, and those who work alongside soon-to-be librarians. Their impact might be just as strong as the support of family and friends.
“It starts with us.” I use that phrase on a slide in my talks and course lectures and whenever I get the chance to talk about librarians, libraries, and our continual adaptation to societal and technological change. It’s also closely related to my thoughts on professional development and learning in the workplace. This isn’t sweeping organizational change; this time it’s personal.
Have you read about the “Full-Stack Employee?” In a think piece published in Medium, author Chris Messina—the creator of the hashtag, no less—offers this definition: “the full-stack employee has a powerful combination of skills that make them incredibly valuable. They are adept at navigating the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape. They make intuitive decisions amidst information-abundance, where sparse facts mingle loosely with data-drenched opinions.” It’s a tech-heavy take, but bear with me, as Messina broadens the definition: “Full-stack employees have an insatiable appetite for new ideas, best practices, and ways to be more productive and happy. They’re curious about the world, what makes it work, and how to make their mark on it.”