Category Archives: Libraries

Subversive thoughts on National Library Week 2017

Librarians are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.” Michael Moore 

As usual, Michael Moore sees beyond, behind, through and inside the exterior of things, events, buildings – and people.  Which is why this quote got me thinking about this National Library Week post.

National Library Week matters because if only because the theme gives us pause to think about how or whether “libraries transform lives,” as this year’s NLW theme asserts. (http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/factsheets/nationallibraryweek)

For most of us the word “library” prompts visual images of stately buildings of days gone by, rows of neatly shelved tomes, acres of accessible technology, children’s reading corners and quiet carrels.  For some nostalgic bibliophiles, there’s even an old book smell….

And yet, libraries are not just places.  What the library user sees is the physical manifestation of an intricate collaboration of library workers who breathe life into what is a truly human process.   It is human beings who select the library’s holdings, organize the collection, know how to locate resources through a maze of interlibrary connections, maneuver their way through print and digital reference tools, read to children, deliver resources to the homebound, partner with researchers, and otherwise link a unique bit of recorded information – a book, database, video, story or archive — with a seeker who has a need and right to know.

My thought is that NLW should be re-branded, maybe as National “Libraryness Week.”  Though obviously that’s not going to happen, rebranding would shine the light on the essence of the whole, the countless roles that committed library workers play – when they’re plotting not a revolution but a path from seeker to source, unlikely source to ready seeker.

The sometimes rugged path is laid by a team of library workers who shape the reality that comes full circle in the physical library setting – whether that’s an iconic Carnegie public library, a laboratory, law firm, elementary school, university campus, hospital or church basement.  Physical settings are essential but inert – human beings plot, then create, the settings, the flow of information and ideas, and the path that leads to learning.

Michael Moore nails it – those library workers aren’t just sitting there, or shelving or cataloging or reading to a group of six-year-olds or delving into a rare tome or deciphering a reference question.  Toiling in back rooms and endless meetings, they are, in fact, plotting a revolution, a revolution built on an informed democracy in which people seek truth, embrace wisdom, learn from the past, and share the intellectual legacy of a free people.

One of my favorite high school memories is of a beloved teacher with a mission who would dash down the hall declaring with gusto that she was “on her way to combat ignorance!”  That’s how I think of library workers who 1) design and share an integrated system that assures that every voter, student, inventor, parent, historian, new American, researcher, educator, caregiver or avid mystery reader has the opportunity to exercise the inalienable right to know, and 2) go to the max to see that truth-seekers have the skills, attitudes and awareness to make the information and ideas their own.

Though I wish I had a more poetic word for it I’m stuck for now with the idea of “libraryness” to express my commitment to this democratic – and increasingly essential — role of librarians and libraries – the port in the storm engulfing this nation’s truth-seekers.  The whole of libraryness is far greater than the sum of its parts; the strength of libraryness rests not only on ready access to recorded resources but on the creative vision and commitment of library workers.

Yes, we celebrate library buildings, library books, digital resources, archives, photos, magazines, devices, games, information collected, produced and consumed in ever-changing formats.  For me, this library quote “puts a face” on the wholeness and outcome of libraryness – an outcome impossible to measure, essential to preserve:

Librarians are just like search engines, except they smile and they talk to me and they don’t give me paid-for advertising when they are trying to help.  And they have actual hearts.

* * *

P.S. When/if you’re at Minneapolis Central Library visit the NLW exhibits that  include some lesser known treasures  that tell the story of libraries and librarian.  While you’re at the Central Library visit special collections to check out the excellent exhibit of digital resources that give reveal the treasures of the Library’s special collections: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/opening-library-archives-from-the-outside-in

Honor library workers of yore who paved an early path on which today’s information highways are constructed by clicking on this NPR broadcast: http://www.npr.org/2017/04/13/522606808/file-this-under-nostalgia-new-book-pays-tribute-to-the-library-card-catalog?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170413

 

April – A season and reason to explore, learn, think, and share ideas!

So many options, so little time!  But do take time, because you will want to participate in these and the scores of other creative and thought-provoking learning/thinking opportunities that invariably bloom when the ice melts and the sun shines (if only for short spurts)  in these parts.  Just a smattering of the possibilities:

  • Thursday, April 13, 6:00-7:30 pm. Join the Friends of Minneapolis Central Library Global Conversations program.  Discussion this month will focus on the subject of Conflict in the South China Sea, the locus of competing territorial claims.  Professor Duncan McCampbell, attorney and professor of international business and law at Metro State University will lead the discussion.  His background includes extensive travel in Asia and publications on commercial, legal, political and security issues.  He recently returned from a month-long visit to China and the Philippines to research the evolving situation in the South China Sea.  Free and open. Register at the Global Minnesota website (https://www.globalminnesota.org)  or at the library prior to the program.  The program will be available as a podcast on the Global Minnesota website.
  • Always a huge crowd pleaser, the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival is set for April 13-29. This year’s Festival features 350 new films representing over seventy countries. The epicenter of the festival is Anthony Main Theater, with numerous additional screenings throughout the Twin Cities and in Rochester. Learn much more about the Festival in this and other mainstream articles.  http://www.startribune.com/6-hidden-treasures-at-this-year-s-mpls-st-paul-film-festival/418558733/ – For complete information including the calendar, special events and programs, bios, tickets and more, click here: http://mspfilm.org

UPDATE:   4/18https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15b83104a4132e1c

  On Saturday, April 15, 2:00 pm at Minneapolis Central Library author Iric Nathanson will share the story of the development of downtown Minneapolis from early days as a milling metropolis to its evolution as a residential community. The Minneapolis Riverfront and World War I Minnesota are both part of the Images of America series. “Images of America: Downtown Minneapolis.  His book, “Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century: The Growth of an American City,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. His most recent book is “World War I Minnesota.”  To get a feel for the breadth of Nathanson’s studies of Minneapolis history, follow his regular contributions to Minnpost here https://www.minnpost.com/author/iric-nathanson. Free and open.  (612 543 8203)

  • You’ve heard of Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts, the nonprofit dedicated to providing studio and performance opportunities arts for people with disabilities. (https://interactcenter.org,)  But have you ever visited Interact?   As part of the Saint Paul Spring Art Crawl (April 28-29)  you are invited to visit and learn more about the Interact Center Visual Arts Department.  The family-friendly event includes the chance to meet an artist and to actually create a unique object d’art . You will also have the opportunity to purchase original art work by Interact artists at 20% off the original price.   Interact is at 1860 Minnehaha Avenue West in St Paul.

UPDATE – NOT TO BE MISSED OPPORTUNITY:  http://www.continuum.umn.edu/event/the-sixth-extinction/

UPDATE — MORE FROM INTERACT https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15bb43c5277fe6ca

National Library Week – Information, transformation, appreciation

It’s Spring!  You’ve stashed the boots and parkas, gathered the tax information, and got out the seed catalogs.   Do you feel the need to transform yourself, your life, your surroundings, political system, your outlook?  Have you thought of a visit to the library?

Turns out that National Library Week 2017 is Sunday, April 9 through Saturday, April 15 – and the theme is “Libraries transform.”  Though I guess you can interpret that any way you wish, as I see it this era of alternative facts suggests transforming our ways of seeking and appreciating truth might be an appropriate transformation….

And libraries, particularly those that value an informed public over stats and optics, are actually an essential resource.  And yet I would  suggest that it’s not libraries but the multitude of people who support, work in and value libraries that do the transforming.  That includes staff at every level, library boards, Friends, volunteers of every stripe.

As with every institution, libraries themselves are being transformed, largely because of information and communications technology – basically by the ways in which people seek, acquire and assess information.   In an earlier era some thought technology would replace libraries.  As time has demonstrated, the role that libraries play is more essential than ever.  The challenge is well-nigh overwhelming for all involved.

Which means that a pause to recognize and celebrate is more than ever timely.  One starting point may be the American Library Association’s annual “State of America’s Libraries Report” scheduled to be announced on Monday.  On Tuesday, April 11, focus is on the people who connect the resources of the library with seekers of information, ideas, inspiration, real facts.

Wednesday, April 12, is National Bookmobile Day.  Though it may sound anachronistic it’s important to bear in mind that broadband access is far from universal and that there are far too many people with disabilities, lack of transportation or other challenge for whom bookmobile service is their only option.

The American Library Association, sponsor of National Library Week 2017, provides written and graphic promotional materials in abundance.  To download free NLW tools and resources visit http://ala.org/nlw.  Or check other sources, including Pinterest, for library-related graphics.

Finally, bear in mind that transformation takes time, so focus on the long view on the “Libraries transform” theme.  Libraries have been transforming  users and their communities of interest since about 2600 BC.  No rush – just a pause to appreciate and celebrate.

 

UPDATE:  What’s happening at the U of M Libraries – from Consortium

National Library Week 2017

April 9 through 15: Come join us!

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The University Libraries invites you to join us for National Library Week, an annual event occurring this year from April 9 through 15, which celebrates libraries and the people they serve.

“Libraries Transform” is this year’s theme, and the U Libraries will be hosting events that help transform lives on our campus.

Activities include:

  • Providing resources at pop-up libraries and sponsoring a food drive
  • Helping our staff and students meet basic needs through a food drive that assures everyone can focus on lifelong learning, rather than where their next meal is coming from.

In addition, the Libraries transforms by providing our campus with resources and services that address the needs of today and tomorrow — from publishing services, systematic reviews, data management and immigration history to a new researcher collaboration studio opening in Wilson Library fall 2017.

Pop-up Libraries & READ Posters

The University Libraries will be outside across campus during National Library Week! Stop by our booth to check out some great reads, and see what else is going on at the Libraries!

You can also get your own limited edition National Library Week bookmark and stickers. You’ll find us from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the following locations:

  • NLW17stickerTuesday, April 11: Coffman Union
  • Wednesday, April 12: West end of the Washington Ave Bridge (rain site: Willey Hall)
  • Thursday, April 13: St. Paul Student Center

Food Drive

On behalf of the Food Group, the University Libraries will host a donation site for non-perishable food items. Donation sites include: Wilson, Walter, Bio-Med, and Magrath Libraries from April 9 through April 15.

Share How Libraries Transform Your Life

You can also join the fun from home! Share your library story using #nlw17 and don’t forget to tag the University Libraries (@umnlib). Share how libraries have transformed your papers, research, projects, and perspectives. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see our events and resources that help transform the lives of our faculty, staff, and students.

Please contact Jamie Hoehn (jlhoehn@umn.edu) or Kristen Mastel (meye0539@umn.edu) with questions.

Honoring the heritage of Native Americans at Thanksgiving

As too few Americans are aware, the day after Thanksgiving is not only about excessive mindless shopping, it is the day on which thoughtful Americans pause to celebrate National Native American Heritage Day. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Heritage_Day)

The origin of Native American Heritage Day goes back to President George W. Bush who signed the legislation that designated the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. With time the Day has morphed into the establishment of the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Though the distinction between the month and the day is nuanced, November 25, 2016 offers a timely opportunity to pause, learn and reflect on the narrative and heritage of Native Americans.

President Obama’s proclamation declaring the month of November 2016 is an excellent starting point for understanding the import of the day and/or the month. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/31/presidential-proclamation-national-native-american-heritage-month-2016

Numerous federal agencies have contributed to a mother lode of resources ranging from descriptions of parks to art to poetry to personal memories of Native Americans’ life experiences. Though the content is presented in calendar format, the films, audiotapes, photos and stories are not date specific. Let your fingers to the walking this amazing wealth of authentic resources! http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov

Related info:

A guide with specific relevance to individuals interested to explore their personal American Indian heritage: A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc-002619.pdf

A hot-off-the-press report with great relevance, less than mass reader appeal, is a report rom a recent conference related to Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums organized by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums https://www.imls.gov/news-events/upnext-blog/2016/11/synergy-southwest-reflections-international-conference-indigenous

 

“Information Literacy”- Universal challenge of the digital era

Information’s everywhere so now we have to think

 As we reel in the barrage of misinformation, punctuated with provocative spurts of ignorance, it seems ironic – if timely — to note that October 2016 is National Information Literacy Awareness Month.  On the positive side, we should be keenly aware by now that this democracy, based as it is on an informed citizenry, faces an unprecedented challenge.

In truth the term “information literacy” makes me cringe, though I can offer no alternative. More to the point, my serious concern is to focus on the concept – that we keep the goal in mind as we struggle to sort through the maze of messages with which we are bombarded. So I use the term “infolit” and think about how we cope – individually and as a society — with the maelstrom.

Since the dawn of the digital era teachers and librarians have led the push to prepare youth to meet the challenge of the information age. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy offers a serviceable definition of infolit — to wit: “the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” The story of infolit is well-chronicled in a pair of lengthy Wikipedia pieces that provides references, definition, and basic background.

Still, today’s information-saturated environment presents a challenge for every lifelong learner – i.e. everyone. We are all in the same boat, struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of information overload, misinformation, and truncated innuendoes. It is incumbent upon each of us, regardless of age, economic, social or education status, to hone the skills of discernment, to stifle the spontaneous reaction, to share information responsibly and thoughtfully – in a word, to think.

Though the month of October offers far too little time to overcome our digital gaps, we can begin by focusing on the reality that we are at a critical moment in the history of this nation and the world. As never before we engage as producers, intermediaries, receivers, and processors of information; it is incumbent upon us to consider the dimensions of our responsibility, to realize that all information is not created equal and that funding source, authority, intent, verification, and a host of other factors shape the content of the messages that bombard us. As citizens of the information age we must also recognize and respect our role as sources and sharers of information and ideas.

The challenge of the Information Age is to internalize the fact that information matters – and to act accordingly. Exchanges of ignorance are inane at best, potentially dangerous. To honor the intrinsic value of good information is not instinctive; it must be taught, learned and applied – until it becomes habitual.

At one point I thought to create an ad hoc list of materials to help young people sharpen their infolit skills. During that initiative it came to me that these exercises would be appropriate for any one of us. Masters though we may be of digital manipulation we might well take time to think critically about what’s known in some circles as “critical thinking”.

So this launch into Info Lit Awareness Month begins with titles for adults who may hope to hone their own thinking skills before sharing them with 21st Century learners. There nothing conclusive about this, the point being to encourage readers to think about thinking.

One starting point might be a dip into the website of The Critical Thinking Community for their thoughts on the subject: http://www.criticalthinking.org//

Though this library-centric reference may compound the info overload it offers a comprehensive overview of information seekers and their interface with resources and it sets the stage for thinking about the broad scope of the challenge:

http://www.wip.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-library-in-life-of-user.pdf#page=190

Following is a pot pourri of approaches to logical thinking, coping with fallacies, intelligent embrace of the Net and the scourge of intentional misinformation – needless to say this is the proverbial tip of the infolit iceberg:

  • Almossawi, Ali and Alejandro Giraldo. An illustrated book of bad arguments.
  • Bennett, B. Logically Fallacious: The ultimate collection of over 300 logical fallacies.
  • Cryan, Cran and Sharron Shatil, authors, with Bill Mayblin, illustrator.Introducing Logic: A graphic guide.
  • Mintz, Ann P, editor. Web of Deceit: Misinformation and manipulation in the age of social media. Numerous contributors.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;  It is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke

Art Lending Library + American Craft Council = Great evening!

Shakespeare – speaking through Polonius – advised readers through the centuries that we should “neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Though that advice may fit financial institutions and garden tools, it has no relevance for borrowers and lenders at the Minneapolis Art Lending Library (artlending.org). Shared art actually expands the community of art lovers who have the chance to live or work with original art – if only for a time.

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library has announced that their July lending event will be Friday, July 29, 5:00-8:00 p.m. The big news is that, thanks to a new partnership, the event will be held at the American Craft Council, 1224 Marshall Street NE, #200, in beautiful – and artsy — Northeast Minneapolis. (If you have not visited the ACC in their unique home at the former Grainbelt Brewery, the lending event is a double treat! (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/hpc/landmarks/hpc_landmarks_marshall_st_ne_1215_grain_belt_brewery)

Art lovers will have the opportunity to meet and talk with summer artist fellow Carolina Borja whose work will be on display. Carolina is known to many Minnesotans through her exhibits and coverage in a host of area journals. (http://www.carolinaborjastudio.com/press/)   Her original installation, “Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush” is a papier mache piñata that incorporates sound and audience participation.

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing exposure for artists, building support for the arts, and sharing the joy of art with members of our community through the free lending of artwork.” The goal is “to create an attitude change in the Twin Cities in terms of art ownership.” The MALL (that’s the art MALL) includes nearly 100 contemporary paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and sculptures by local and national artists. There is no charge to borrow the art for a period of time. Lending events such as the July 29 gathering at the ACC provide an opportunity for members of the public to browse a selection and to support this unique project.

If you’re planning to participate in the lending event, look forward to a full evening. The American Craft Council library is a jewel – everything you ever wanted to know about crafts, not to mention crafts you never heard of, and a staff that knows the collection and is willing – truly eager – to share their knowledge of the field and the robust resources of the American Craft Council. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/american-craft-council-library/

Contact info@artlending.org for more information about the lending event.

 

We lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the ‘lower classes’ when we mean humanity minus ourselves. — G.K. Chesterton

This is just one of the pithy observations shared with the generations by Gilbert Keith Chesterton. (http://www.chesterton.org/quotations-of-g-k-chesterton/)

This compilation of quotes gathered by the G.K. Chesterton Society (http://www.chesterton.org) will inspire, irritate, amuse or otherwise offer an insight into the mind of G. K. Chesterton.

Scholars, critics and devotees have categorized Chesterton as a philosopher, a literary critic, a brilliant conundrum and a highly quotable curmudgeon. He is best known, perhaps, for the breadth of his work that ranges from scholarly tomes, often on the fine points of Christian orthodoxy, to his still-popular Father Brown mysteries and pithy quotes.

What has prompted my renewed awareness of Chesterton is an open invitation from the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum to attend a forthcoming Chesterton-rich public presentation. The speaker is renowned Chesterton authority Dale Ahlquist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Ahlquist) whose association with the life and work of Chesterton reflects both scholarship and commitment to share the works and views of this prolific writer.

It may come as a surprise to local scholars and bibliophiles that there is a deep and ongoing Minnesota connection with Chesterton. To wit: Minnesota is the home of The American Chesterton Society (http://www.chesterton.org) a national society founded by Ahlquist. Today there are some seventy local chapters of the Society. Members will be gathering for their annual meeting August 4-6 in Slippery Rock, PA.

Ahlqvist is also publisher of Gilbert Magazine (https://www.facebook.com/GilbertMagazine/) as well as author and editor of a dozen works and host of an EWTN series on Chesterton. Further indication of Ahlquist’s commitment is his role in the founding of the Chesterton Academy, a private high school situated in Edina.

Another Minnesota connection is the fact that the many works of Chesterton are archived in the Chesterton-Belloc Collection at St. Thomas University Library (https://www.stthomas.edu/libraries/special/rare/chesterton-belloc/) [Sad to note: Librarian and archivist James Kellen, who established and curated the Chesterton-Belloc Collection, died just last week in Minneapolis. Kellen’s life story is an inspiration in itself. http://www.startribune.com/obituary-james-kellen-university-of-st-thomas-librarian-84/382553851/]

The Chesterton lecture is 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, 2016.  All are welcome – free and open. Membership not required.