Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Synergy to spare

I've just finished Clay Shirkey's Cognitive Surplus (see here and and here for highlights), a fascinating and insightful read about the changing "free time" landscape resulting from new media technologies.  It ended up on my reading list at an interesting time: notably, we had recently made the decision to cancel our cable subscription outright, freeing up that 1% or so of my time to be occupied with something, well, more meaningful. And active.

I am heartened by Shirkey's many examples of individuals using social media not just to entertain, but to engage with each other on matters of civic and societal importance.  Can such media help us change - or save - the world?
Well, it turns out it can at least help me learn guitar. It struck me the other day as I was practicing that I've been benefiting from the cognitive surplus of other guitar players through my use of Ultimate Guitar which has been instrumental ;-> in finding lessons and song notation. I'd just been lurking these last few months, but it has been such a wonderful experience that I've joined the community.

Well, all the new media certainly helps, but it isn't necessary.  After all, consider the history and work of library associations. The depth and breadth of collective work done by volunteers sharing their cognitive surplus in the context of library services is astonishing.
  • Early periodical indices were volunteer efforts. 
  • Creating cataloguing/RDA standards is a volunteer effort. 
  • Developing principles and position statements relevant to the work acquiring and providing access to information is done by volunteers. 
  • Working internationally on common issues in the library and information spheres requires the time and resources of volunteers
  • The structures and notions by which we understand "library" as place have been the work of individuals giving of their time and insight through the auspices of library associations. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being a panelist in an iSchool Institute course led by Kimberly Silk (Professional Preparation Strategies) - we were discussing Associations and the importance of being involved.
I pointed out to the students that the the professional bodies of the many hard/true professions include in their mission statements some measure of public interest. Doctors, lawyers, engineers - their accrediting bodies are about service of the profession towards the greater good - not about compensation and benefits for the individual.
In so far as Librarianship is a "soft" profession, there is no obligation to join anything. 

It follows, then, that what ever claim we can make towards professionalism must embody a similar emphasis, with each individual having a sense of compulsion to literally pay their dues and engage with their colleagues through our many relevant Associations. 

Maybe we can turn Pareto on his head?

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