New Column: Libraries in Balance

Hello all – I have a new column up at Library Journal. It’s called Libraries in Balance.

Using and offering access to technology —new and old—are part of what we do. This is literacy just like reading is. I can understand the disconnect and mixed signals, but those same people need to learn about digital literacy just as much as they need other services. Library staff on the front lines see all types of people, and those who are vulnerable need literacy help just as badly as other patrons.

I cite the Exploring Kindness blog – please take a look at the column and blog if you are interested.

11 thoughts on “New Column: Libraries in Balance

  1. Profile photo of Erin

    I enjoyed reading your column, @michael. You have raised some great points about digital literacy and respect towards community members. Thank you for sharing the Exploring Kindness blog, it’s important to realize that kindness goes a long way and helps build strong relationships between the people involved. I always remind myself to be kind to others because I don’t know what their day has been like, or what situation they are in. With kindness, we can be more understanding and supportive of other people.

  2. Profile photo of Olivia Rodriguez

    I also enjoyed reading your column @michael. In today’s political climate, kindness and empathy is so important. You are so right Erin- working in a library introduces you to so many different kinds of people and we truly have no idea what they have been through or their life experiences. Great column!

  3. Profile photo of Trish Campbell

    @michael I quite enjoyed your column and the Exploring Kindness blog resonates with me in a number of ways. I may have mentioned that I am trained in museology, but work in a academic library. What I have noticed over the last 10 years is a decline in kindness and empathy at our library. The terms that are now being heard in conversation among a very small group are mobbing and bullying. It is an enormous concern and makes for an uncomfortable and unpleasant place not just to work, but space to inhabit.

    I must agree that kindness and empathy are so very important, and they can make such a difference in the experience of library users and personnel, too.

    Thanks so very much for sharing.

      1. Profile photo of Trish Campbell

        @michael I don’t know that there is any one cause to be pinpointed. However, my campus is notoriously elitist in nature…maybe other universities are, too. I cannot say.

        I will share a bit of my personal experience. There has, as long as I have been here, a clear divide between types of faculty (which includes librarians) and those that are tenured or tenure-track and those that are contractual. This divide is even worse between faculty and staff. It wasn’t long after I arrived I learned that I have a place and if I knew what was good for me, I would stay in that place, which I did for quite a while. When I was appointed as the Chair of the Exhibit Committee in our library, many librarians were turned on their ears because I am staff. I was appointed six years ago.

        Now, the wisecracks and backstabbing, petty behavior seems to really come out when the exhibit program or I receive good press in the news or announcements. Our Marketing Librarian and I work very closely together and she is receiving the same, but worse. And, now we can add our Science Librarian to the list because the three of us are working on a project to co-curate a DNA exhibit. He is receiving hate email, too.

        The point of escalation as been in recent years when librarians have decided (in my humble opinion) that it is a them vs. us attitude. They have expressed many times how their work in instruction is the most important “thing” about the library. They do not seem to have any room in their minds to accept that times have changed and will continue to do so. A library, by the very nature of libraries as information centers, and centers of learning have much more to offer students and seekers of information. My belief is that learning doesn’t just happen in their BI sessions, and people need alternative ways to reach and consume what is important to them.

        Sorry to write so much…it is like an open wound. Here’s a link to an article that a friend shared with me…it is spot on with what is happening here:

        Thanks for listening (reading).

        1. Profile photo of Michael StephensMichael Stephens Post author

          @trishcampbell Thanks for sharing the background and the link. I have seen this happen myself in some academic settings. I have to admit I have never encountered the term mobbing but I know what it is. I do hope things will turn around. My thought is that you will carry this experience forward with you, through the degree and into professional positions. I hope you remember it and it helps to guide your practice.

          I totally get your thought that learning just doesn’t happen in a BI session. Frankly, to me, it can happen everywhere.

          1. Profile photo of Trish Campbell

            Thanks for your kind and understanding words…I think about it nearly every day and it does help to inform my behavior all the time…I suppose I could thank these people for showing how not to behave. :0)

            I love the term “connected learning,” it encompasses so much! Thanks for sharing Learning Everywhere!!

  4. Profile photo of Sharon Vigil

    @michael Awesome column! I agree that digital literacy is of the highest importance. Libraries are presented with a diverse community with diverse needs. In order to accommodate these needs I think that basic technology skills should be prioritized along with cutting edge technology. I loved the Exploring Kindness blog. Listening to patrons and responding with kindness and compassion are key components in building trust.

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