I got to show off all the stuff I’ve been working on the last few months to the local Chamber of Commerce members. I wrote NY State Senator James Seward and Assemblyman Clifford Crouch a letter of invitation a few weeks ago and they came! It was a successful event.
Below is a picture of Senator Seward, the Library Director, and I talking about the library. It was especially nice to have him attend as he is an advocate of libraries and serves on the Senate Select Committee on Libraries. From the local paper last year:
“In our rural areas, libraries are truly community centers, serving as the hub for countless activities,” Seward said in a media release. “Along with traditional book lending and research opportunities, our libraries help job seekers who come to use the Internet to search for employment or refresh their resumes.” LINK
Now we just need to get him to support equal marriage rights….
More pictures HERE.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that M. John Harrison’s Ambiente Hotel is the best blog around right now. It is full of succinct, poignant, lyrical writings of both fiction and reflection, the weird and the mundane. He eschews the current curated fashion of Tumblr/Twitter (not a bad fashion, but sometimes tiring) for something with a much different feel and writing style than exists on most blogs. You can’t skim the Ambiente Hotel; it takes time to read and digest. Though not necessarily strung together there is a distinct cumulative effect when given daily careful reading over weeks/months.
And the tools you develop operate only at the scale for which you develop them–though they have just enough sensitivity to alert you, as you push towards each outside edge, to the possiblility of the need for another, yet more subtle, toolset. -m. john harrison
I’ve already decided: when Google Reader shuts down, I won’t be finding an alternative for my 500 or so feeds. I’ll create some bookmarks of my favorite places on the Internet but so much of the stuff I filled Reader with over the last 5 or 6 years will not come back around. Google has given me an involuntary reboot of my Internet media consumption, a reboot that I needed but have been reluctant to implement.
This year is looking to be the most wide-open, blue-skied year of my life. Everything is new. I need that in my information consumption too.
I spend a lot of my time teaching basic technology workshops at my library. Many of the participants in these workshops have never had the opportunity to learn about computers or technology. For some, sitting down at one of our laptops may be the first time they have even touched a computer.
In my first workshop I always warn them away from frustration. Think of it, I say, like you’re learning a new language, which in many ways they are. This usually puts them at ease. When learning a new language there is never an expectation that the student start out at a certain level or with a basic understanding. If someone takes a beginning French class, no one is going to judge them for not knowing the meaning of merci. This starts to erase the stigma around technological illiteracy and relaxes the classroom. Things can progress (slowly!) from here.
However, there inevitably reaches a point where we get to the more abstract terms. Everyone has heard of the “cloud” but how can I explain it to someone with a very basic understanding of technology or the Internet? More importantly, how can I explain it without making them feel stupid? How can I explain it well?
My answer to those questions are as simple as they are obvious: First, with patience. Then, with repetition.
But sometimes it’s more complex than that. Here is where language comes back. Many of our terms – our metaphors – are so abstract that they are difficult to understand. Like the “cloud”. It’s a catchy term but it misses a lot and confuses our understanding. Emails are not floating around our atmosphere.
But confusing our understanding isn’t the most insidious thing that some of our metaphors do. Frank Chimero reminded me of this the other day. He says:
I think there’s a strong likelihood that metaphors like “The Cloud” and sayings like “It Just Works™” reduce a user’s appreciation of the software/hardware they are using. “Magic” is a great word for selling product, but it also can cheapen all the sweat it takes to get there. If the seams have been covered, you can’t admire how things connect.
Justin wrote a great blog post today musing on the future of Teen Services in libraries. He sees a model of good Teen Librarianship being teams of awesome people collaborating together. It can’t be a one-man show. How can libraries do this? He writes:
Investing: To me, that’s key. Surround yourself with the people you want to work with
Yes! This reminds me of something that Austin Kleon writes in the introduction to his book Steal Like An Artist (h/t Brainpickings). It is a concept that I have been thinking about over the course of last year – especially as I move around in my profession and have the chance to meet new and cool people. The concept is this:
There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Remember, this is true both online and off.
I miss Yann Martel’s fantastic What is Stephen Harper Reading project. His battle to encourage reading in our leaders, or to start young people as readers in order to make them great leaders, is inspiring and, I think, one of his greatest contributions to literature. Even though I don’t care much for his writing, I have tremendous respect for Martel as a thinker and appreciate his efforts to promote literacy.
I can not see how you can be a thinking person who is head of a government without having accessed what fiction can give you. It makes you be someone else, somewhere else, during the duration of the book. And that’s very very useful. It helps you get beyond the confines of your narrow life. Overall, the cumulative effect over time tends to bring down blinkers, tends to increase tolerance.