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.

Finding the Future

hwy 48 east early morning
Yesterday I came across this great article from the Columbia Journalism Review titled "How the Past Saw the Future", thanks to http://www.stumbleupon.com/home/.  (if you've never checked this great free site click on the link now! it will open in a new window, you can finish reading here and then start stumbling your way to great sites you'd never find otherwise!!)

The author, Megan Garber, engages the reader in an insightful reflection on the practice of Journalism and the role that Journalists play in our communities.  Her thoughtful articulation reminds me again why Journalism has always exerted such force on me. 
It also reminds me of just how much Journalism and Librarianship share in terms of values, perceived and actual roles in society, asking questions, providing context for answers and supporting informed decision making.  The work of neither is unbiased, but that doesn't inhibit balance and objectivity in the result.

To demonstrate, let me quote Garber:
Writing about journalism has always meant, to some extent, writing about the future of journalism. Reporters are, constitutionally, restless. We want to know what’s coming next, particularly when it affects us and our ability to do good work. And that has been true, of course, even prior to our present moment. 
We can insert Librarianship, and the rest of her statement rings equally true.  This is not the case with every profession, soft or hard, especially the sense of restlessness, of constant (not merely continuing) education and engagement in the whys and wherefores of the work.  Mike Ridley's tweet on November 18 on the future of academic librarianship drives home this essential characteristic of Librarianship
If the real gap in academic librarianship is "curiosity" then we do have some very serious work to do (@mridley 12:26 pm Friday Nov 18 2011)
(as an aside, I've been wondering why there is not more happening at Libraries in terms of gathering and disseminating local news.  Media concentration aside, the fact is that geographically disparate areas will have different needs and abilities to satisfice.  I can see some keen synergies and value creation . . . Then again, even local Libraries are really so "local" any more, and their larger structures may hinder such explorations.  The efficiencies gained by consolidating some aspects of a system are built on the backs of less autonomy and flexibility elsewhere)

Thanks to Garber, I have been re-introduced to Neil Postman (I went through a semantics and language reading phase in the mid 90s).  She quotes him from an 1996 CJR article asking the question
What is the problem to which the profession of journalism is the solution?
Again, the parallel with Librarianship is clear: How do we collectively answer this question? And perhaps more importantly, how do we embody that answer in our individual behaviours?  

(another aside, I  wanted to know the origin of the Postman quote. The best I can tell is that it was from an interview with a K. Fulton and published in CJR back in 1996.  This is the reference given in Mark Pearson's 1999 Doctoral Dissertation at Bond University in Australia, called  "The New 'Multi-Journalism: Journalists and educators perceptions of the influences of the Internet upon journalism and its implications for journalism education"  And you'll never believe it, but he talks about this New Multi-Journalism the same way Lankes talks about New Librarianship, which I'm currently "reading")

It is vital that we ask questions about what we do, and why.  We need desperately to move beyond the curse of knowledge about ourselves. We need to start with an acceptance that
Libraries don't exist to employ Librarians.
Library education and the formalization of "the degree" are recent constructs and probably have less impact on improved access to content than economic growth and new technologies.
To our Members, any one who works in a Library is a Librarian
The questions we need to ask are not about us, or about the boxes in which we work.  When we start asking the questions that put our Members first then we'll start finding the answers we need.

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