New DMLcentral Post: Writing as “The Mass Literate Experience” of Our Age and What It Might Mean for Libraries

 “For perhaps the first time in the history of mass literacy, writing seems to be eclipsing reading as the literate experience of consequence. What happens when writing (and not just reading) becomes the grounds of mass literate experience, when more and more people ‘think about audiences’ as part of their daily routine engagement with literacy? How does a social shift in that and energy toward writing affect the ways that people develop their literacy and understand its worth?  And finally, how does the ascendant of a writing-based literacy create tension in a society where institutions organized a reading literacy, around a presumption that readers would be many and writers would be few?
Dr. Deborah Brandt, “How Writing Is Remaking Reading.” Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading, and Society.

I encourage you to read my latest post in a series exploring the ways libraries function as sponsors of literacies and learning for DMLcentral.  In this new post, I outline Dr. Deborah Brandt’s arguments for writing, not reading, as the primary literacy of time, and what that might mean for libraries and how we function in a larger ecosystem of learning.  If we accept Brandt’s assertions, what kinds of profound shifts might take place in libraries and how would that accelerate the movement for library as a space for multiple literacies, creating, and making through multiple mediums? How do we help all members of our communities engage in lifelong learning through writing, and how might that impact the ways literacy impacts communities at an individual and collective point of need?   Where and how might this paradigm shift fit with the model of connected learning? I invite you to think aloud and inquire with us at DMLcentral.

New DML Post: Narratives and Metanarratives of Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies

I have authored a new post that is part of a larger ongoing series I’m composing and researching for DMLCentral.  In this second post, I do some additional foregrounding of inquiry and reflection that will inform research and exploration of how this concept plays out in different kinds of libraries and communities.  These concepts and the fieldwork I hope to do resonate deeply for me, and I hope they will for you, too.

Thinking, Wondering, and Blogging at DMLcentral

I’m delighted to share that I have joined the blog team at DMLcentral-–I’m humbled and honored to write and think in this learning space as so many people who are part of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub have inspired my work and pushed the boundaries of my thinking.  My first post, “Literacies and Fallacies“,  is now up if you would like to read the first of what will be a series.  If DMLcentral is not already one of the resources in your learning network, I hope you’ll consider adding this collaborative blog and curated collection of free and open resources that will offer you multiple perspectives, research, and and provocative ideas to contextualize your thinking about learning environments, ecosystems, and the dynamics that inform them.

Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There Is a Season)

Knowledge Office

As I approach my birthday in August, I can’t help but think of all the changes and major life events that have happened along the way in the last twelve months:  my ex-husband nearly died of a massive heart attack last October; I left The Unquiet Library and my home in Georgia to take a new job at Cleveland Public Library in January; I survived my first real winter on Lake Erie and first foray into city living as a resident of downtown Cleveland; and I embraced a significant amount of valuable but at times, challenging, cognitive dissonance as I began to learn about the world of public libraries.  At some point, I would like to write more about the value of this cognitive dissonance from these experiences, but I will muse more on that at a later time in which I’ll reflect a little more deeply on the learning experiences of making the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

GO MOM!This summer has continued the trend of unexpected and significant changes:  on a positive note, I will be returning home this weekend to Georgia for good to take a position as a media specialist with the staff of the award winning media center at the innovative and fantastic Norcross High School   in Gwinnett County, a wonderful opportunity that makes my heart happy with excitement.  At the same time, though, my heart is also heavy as my mother has been diagnosed  this month with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer; the diagnosis was completely unexpected, and we’re all just now beginning to move beyond processing the initial shock and adjusting to the new reality of living with a diagnosis of cancer.  I am incredibly close to my mom, who is my best friend—I am thankful that I not only have the chance to continue co-learning with students and teachers in the world of K12 public schools, but I also can be in Georgia to support her and my family as we help mom in her battle against cancer.

My heart also hurts today because it is my last day working at Cleveland Public Library with two of the most phenomenal colleagues I could ever hope to know:  Tim Diamond and Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz of the Knowledge Office.   Our collaboration has been one of the richest learning experiences of my life, and I have no doubt we will continue to think, learn, and grow together even though we may be 700 miles apart.   I cannot find the words to capture the nuances of our professional and collective experiences, but it has been akin to harmonizing with people whose voices who complement yours while creating a larger sound that transcends you as an individual while making your voice even better.  They have become cherished friends who have been my sage guides in a whole new world and have given me new perspectives that have deepened my understanding about our profession.  I am indebted to both of them for their generosity, honesty, wisdom, grace, and support–they are both such ambassadors for this profession, and I am a better person for knowing them.  I would also be remiss if I did not express my respect and admiration of our archivist Anne Marie Wieland who has imbued my life with her rather awesome knowledge and brightened many a dreary winter day with beautiful fresh flowers.  Her research and work on the past work of children’s librarians at CPL has given me inspiration and insight about the work we do as contemporary librarians.

last dance

I am also thankful to each individual in Cleveland Public Library who has in some way made me feel welcome, asked thoughtful questions, and provided encouragement along the way these last seven months.  In addition, I am lucky that there have been additional gracious and gentle souls throughout the city of Cleveland and in northern Ohio who have extended a hospitality that I will not forget.  Of course, family and friends—both near and far—have been an anchor whenever I have felt homesick, struggled with adapting to a different climate, or struggled to be patient as I tried to connect dots and think deeply in my new learning environment.   While it was not always easy, I can honestly say that the time here has been a rich and important period of learning in my life both personally and professionally;  I feel incredibly lucky to have had these opportunities and to have walked this path (even when it required a heavy coat and snow boots!).

I hope the seeds I have planted about participatory learning, inquiry, critical literacy, and strategies for cultivating and supporting communities of learning within CPL and the larger communities throughout Cleveland will spur my colleagues to keep the conversation going.  I believe that a culture of questioning and thoughtful dialogue about ideas are crucial to the future of the library and the city of Cleveland.  I encourage each colleague to ask the questions that are sometimes difficult to contemplate but essential to help us identify our challenges and then innovate with meaningful possibilities and action.  I firmly believe that CPL is brimming with people who have the creativity, capacity, and the will to do this kind of work that is so essential for providing additional and diverse points of participation for the people of Cleveland and to ground our work in the needs of our communities.

I now look homeward to my native Georgia with a heartfelt commitment to supporting my family and to contributing as a co-learner in meaningful ways to my new learning community at Norcross High School.  Like Emily Dickinson, I will continue to strive to dwell in the possibilities and will do so with hope, faith, love, and humility knowing that indeed there is a time and purpose in all things.

Smile Because It Happened: An Ethnographic Project Looking at Institutional Culture Change and Transforming Communities (And Why Librarians Should Pay Attention)

As many of you have followed my work for some time know, I have been and continue to be a fan of the work of Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist, and his students.  This year’s cohort of Digital Ethnography students created a moving and powerful documentary, “Smile Because It Happened”,  of their exploration of community at the Meadowlark Hills retirement community.  You can read more of the backstory of the project in this blog post, but after watching the video this morning, I could not help but think about what libraries (academic, public, school) might glean from this work:

  • Ethnography as a powerful research methodology for libraries (an ongoing interest for me rooted in my Language and Literacy studies from my days at The University of Georgia)
  • The value and power of intergenerational learning
  • Narrative and real world stories from our community members and what we can learn we when really listen.
  • Deep and meaningful engagement with community—this work clearly goes beyond surface levels surveys and town hall meetings
  • Real conversations for learning and understanding
  • Thinking about what we as libraries and librarians have to learn from our communities, not just what we have to teach them
  • What are catalysts for institutional change that can be transformative and help communities thrive?  How do communities transform libraries?  What if libraries embedded themselves in the heart of a community in the way these students did, and what powerful insights might we learn from that as an ongoing experience?

These initial reactions resonate with the tremendous and intense amount of observing, thinking, reflecting, and questioning I’ve engaged in the last seven months.   While I’ve been fairly reticent on the blog this year, I’ll be saying more about that process and experience in the next few weeks and how that is informing my current conceptualizations of libraries, learning, and life, but for now, I’d encourage you to take time to watch the documentary and consider your own responses.  Given the tremendous amount of interest and initiatives in libraries and communities in librarianship right now, I think work like this of Wesch and his students provide us an alternate lens for thinking about the possibilities of this work.