North by Northwest

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Mental Break

Lake at Arboretum

Hi faithful followers. It might appear that I have lost interest in blogging lately. Au contraire. I have been morphing into a new career instantiation: that of librarian. I am now a full-time high school librarian, working on a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I find it fascinating to be studying the science of information per se. Of course I have been on a somewhat steep learning curve with regard not only to the job, but also the technology. And it’s all about the technology. A large part of my job is to help adolescents become informed information users. While I love the job, and I see the need to educate students in critical thinking and analysis, I find the concept of teaching these kids technology a bit ironic. Let me explain why. I just finished writing a 21-page research paper on how to make libraries essential communities for teens in the 21st century. All of the research was about how teens use technology and how they find information.

The truth is that this is the first generation to be “born digital”–the storied Millennials. They do everything digitally. In fact, I rely on them to teach me how to use technology. Just today I learned how to use SnapChat. Tomorrow, InstaGram. And then … the world! The irony lies also in the fact that now that now that Google and YouTube and Wikipedia can find and teach you anything you want to know, libraries are looking for ways to remain relevant to users. The Internet is disruptive technology. We are in a state of redefining what constitutes information, where it resides, who makes it, how we communicate it. This shakes the very foundations of our cultural institutions, libraries being a major one.

Lots of libraries are now creating “maker” spaces for the public in general, and adolescents in particular, where people get together and, well, make things. 3D Printers are becoming a popular item in libraries, partly because they fascinate with their novelty, and partly because they are fun. Partly, also, because they can replicate or create anything you can program them to “print”: machine parts, models, sculptures, dinnerware … I recently saw a TV program where a 3D printer was used to create a part to restore a headlamp in an antique car (which was then driven in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run).One of the justifications for owning a 3D printer is that patrons can use them to create things they need and might not otherwise be able to obtain (specialized parts for a garden hose, a toy, a machine). One young man who had suffered an injury that took away some of his fingers even found plans for a prosthetic hand and was able to print one out and use it. (Amazing!) So access to manufacturing things on a small scale democratizes the whole idea of consumerism.

The semester just ended in my master’s program, so I’m taking a mental break for a few weeks.

Look for my posts again when I’m more caught up on my sleep! 🙂

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