Zombies and the future of libraries

What do zombies have to do with the future of libraries you may well ask? In ‘reality’ if there was a zombie apocalypse, libraries would perish along with all of humanity. And being zombies, one would hardly expect them to have an active interest in the future of libraries or indeed any intellectual pursuit.

Like many librarians I have been thinking about the future of libraries a lot lately. It is a hot topic in the library world, mainly due to evolving technology, the proliferation of internet-connected personal devices, and the cheap and easy access to eBooks. The spread of the World Wide Web did not result in the end of libraries, but it has reduced our physical non-fiction collections substantially. Now with the second wave of internet-enabled technologies, does anyone need to go to a library at all to get hold of the reading material they want and need? Perhaps that end is in sight and this has resulted in a lot of talk amongst library professionals. So what are we here for?

The Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework was published in 2013 after 18 months of intensive collaborative discussions by public library staff in Victoria, of which I was privileged to be a part. Future scenarios were discussed in detail, how these scenarios might unfold, and what might be the key drivers to certain future scenarios. The drivers were identified as: technology, environmental issues, commuting, economic problems, health, increasing ageing population, cooperative endeavours, education and lifelong learning. The final stages of these discussions allowed us to add public libraries into the scene, thereby discussing how best to address and take full advantage of some new unfolding situations. Two future scenarios emerged: the creative scenario; and the community scenario. Both of these scenarios described the future public library as a community space.

Library as ‘community space’ has already had a whole lot of verbiage. Isn’t that what public libraries have always been? Perhaps I am not old enough to remember the places of shush, where reading books was done alone and in silence. There is value in the concepts of place-making, maker-spaces, and community collaboration. This has been, and continues to be, my experience of the library. The only quiet library space I can recall is the reading room of the State Library of Victoria; otherwise libraries are full of conversation, activity, people traffic, meetings, entertainment, coffee, and laughter. Oh, and books!

Personally, I am typically bookish, introverted, nerdy, and self-motivated. I like to explore notions on my own. This is the main reason why I love libraries. I enjoy following a pathway through literature that is entirely determined by me and as a result of my reading. I have described this as ‘delving into the book’; it is an entirely unique journey that begins and ends with the book, with regular forays online when new information is needed. I concur with the words that Nancy Pearl wants as her epitaph, “I’d rather be reading.”

The IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994 does not mention the book at all, despite being written pre-internet. The manifesto defines public libraries as “the local gateway to knowledge”, and is essential for “fostering peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women.” Key mission number two, “supporting both individual and self conducted education”, validates my own habits. Public libraries are seen as fundamental to democracy, prosperity and knowledge, so how can anyone consider a future without libraries?

At the recent ALIA Future of the Profession Summit Mark Pesce urged those librarians present to share their knowledge in order to plan a future for libraries. He reminded them that “the culture of sharing has its origins in the library.” And while “the light of knowledge shines more brightly than ever before, from two billion smartphone screens”, this is an opportunity because it is librarians who are the experts “in an environment of informational hyperadundance.” While the librarians in Victoria did just that last year, the resulting framework is one interpretation of possible future scenarios. The trick is in being able to recognise the triggers and apply the strategies at the right time.

Neil Gaiman is an enthusiastic supporter of libraries and he explained recently that “everything changes when we read”, that “libraries are the gates to the future”, and by closing libraries “you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.” A dire warning indeed!

So back to the zombies… Dr. Matthew Finch is responsible for The Zombies of Tullamore:

In an interview with Corin Haines he talks about his approach to attracting people into the library. By choosing a theme that excites the imagination of a particular audience, he uses the activity to enhance the literacy experience within the library. I’m sure lots of librarians and teachers do this already, but this is a good example of how to do it well and to instill the learning opportunity into the activity. It is more than just a trendy promotional hook; it is immersive learning through role play and self discovery.

He identifies “why Zombies are good for libraries:

  1. Zombies attract kids and teens of all backgrounds.
  2. Zombies remind us that libraries are about more than shelves.
  3. Zombies promote choice and independent learning.
  4. Zombies may decay, but immersive literacy lives on.”

A lot more about the future of library profession can be found here.

This is what I know:

  • People will keep creating new content: fiction and non-fiction.
  • People will want to read that content for a multitude of reasons.
  • People will always expect and deserve to get unrestricted access to reading materials.
  • Technology will continue to evolve and change the way we live.
  • Library funding will continue to be threatened.
  • Librarians will continue to want to organise content.
  • Libraries will continue to be adapted and adjusted to accommodate the new.
  • Fun makes learning easier.
  • Zombies are fiction.

P.S. R. David Lankes talks about the future of libraries in this presentation From Loaning to Learning

Advertisements

Sitting in my mother’s garden

My mother’s garden is sustaining me at the moment while staying over to keep my father company and help him as he fights his own battle with cancer. For four years he cared for my mother while she was in and out of chemotherapy, hospitals and various other treatments. He was at her side the whole time. Now he is burdened with the same demands: chemotherapy, doctor’s visits, and other treatments.

While I take my turn in the family care roster, I spend a lot of time in the garden. And it is a beautiful little garden. There is a pond with a fountain in the centre, and two gold fish live on despite neglect. A shady fernery. Another small bird bath lower in the garden. Roses, a lemon tree, various Australian native shrubs, and other small flowering shrubs. The veranda is sheltered from the weather and is a lovely spot to sit and watch the birds as they flit about. In the afternoons they plunge into the fountain, then alight on the rose arbour to shake themselves vigorously, before another plunge, shake and happy chirp.

I pick flowers and put them in a vase on the kitchen table as Mum would have done. She collected small ornamental elephants and also blue and white patterned crockery, so I place the little blue and white elephant beside the vase of flowers as a memento to her. And I sit in her house surrounded by her treasured things, while Dad sits in fortitude against the ensuing internal war.

20131012-140212.jpg

The Oprah Effect

Brene Brown has risen to the surface of noticeability in recent times. She is known for her entertaining talks on TED. One is about ‘shame‘ and the other is on ‘vulnerability‘. She is a researcher by trade and provides context around these topics with charming self-depreciation. Her catch-cry is “dare greatly“. She has several books on these topics.

Her theory that all of us suffer from a deeply rooted sense of shame, stirs the soul and makes one consider the source. I have taken my torch on the dark journey of introspection only to find the cobwebs of life’s complexities.

So having experienced the Brene Brown effect, enjoyed some new perspectives, liked her viewpoints, and her apparent lack of need for fame, the next thing I notice she is standing alongside Oprah. And I experience ‘the Oprah Effect’. Not the way that it is commonly known with 1000% increase in sales, but the same feeling that I would get if I saw Brene Brown standing beside Ronald MacDonald. That impression! It immediately robs Brene of all credibility, in my mind. Oprah grabs on like a needy parasite, jumping on to the latest cause and sucking the life and goodness out of a really good idea.

When trying to examine why I get that immediate impression, I realise it is the commercialisation of the process of which Oprah is Queen. I acknowledge the good work Oprah achieves. But it is her cheap pop-culture, and dumbing-down for the masses, that diminishes the message and makes the messenger look like a money-grabbing opportunist, starting to believe their own self-importance. Brene willingly grabs Oprah’s hands as she hoists her up to onto the wobbly pedestal.

In my opinion people like Brene Brown only do themselves a disservice when they willingly jump on to the Oprah bandwagon. I know the dollars speak volumes. But is it worth it? How much is your professional integrity and credibility worth? Brene? I can’t watch or listen any further. I might read another of her books but that allows me space for proper consideration minus the bright shiny distractions that come with show business, and without the simplification and cheese you get dished up with the fake Oprah teenage tears.

Sorry Brene Brown but you are now officially ‘unliked’ on all my social media channels, and all it took was one image of you with Oprah. I wonder if other people experience The Oprah Effect similarly to me? Or is it just me?

After thinking about this today, I found this blog post by Brandon PearceLiving Beyond Labels. It seemed to synchronistically answer my train of thought. “It’s just putting on a show of intellectualism and causes separation between us and others.” He tells us to look beyond the labels we assign to feelings. He says to feel and appreciate the emotion (such as shame), notice how the emotion makes our body feel, then “when we move beyond words we experience the world in a whole new way.” Our life experience becomes more authentic. Thanks @brandags