From Sustainability to Resilience

The verdict is in, and the verdict on this particular occasion takes the form of student evaluations. Let me tell you, you never stop feeling a bit wary of them. When the envelope comes, or—as in the past two semesters—the PDFs, my heart skips a beat before I begin to read them. But that is a little beside the point. I was just reminded of the downside of the one-size-fits-all evaluation form we get from the Brooklyn campus, namely the question asking students to indicate to what degree the course increased my understanding of environmental sustainability. Sustainability? Why am I asked to teach sustainability? When did that become an overarching societal value? Why should my courses not increase compassion, or reflection, or social responsibility, or understanding of First Amendment rights, given that we are an information school?

And to this list of values I would like to add resilience. Resilience asks “how to support people and create systems that know how to recover, persist, and even to thrive in the face of change.” Andrew Zolli is a “thought leader and curator of a new idea, ‘resilience thinking,’” and was recently interviewed on On Being [all quotes are from the transcript] about his ideas and his book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.
Screen shot 2013-06-16 at 12.42.04 am
Zolli tells us that

the ecological system, the economic system, the geopolitical system, the climate system, the food security system are all connected to each other in ways that cause very complex highly unpredictable nonlinear outcomes. So all of those systems being connected leads us to a place where increasingly instead of trying to find an equilibrium in a planet that’s out of balance, we also have to try and manage with the unbalances, the imbalances.
We have to manage in a world that’s intrinsically out of order.

He goes on to describe the decade that began with the events of 9/11 and continued through expensive and deadly wars, economic crisis, international terrorism, and unprecedented natural disasters. Zolli asks how can we weather such system failures, and answers that in a world where systems are so interdependent, we need to have redundancy in our systems. He says:

… a big part of that story is about emboldening the local. Because we’ve so tightly connected all of these systems, it’s important that we have redundancy. It’s important that we have spare capacity. It’s important that we have the right kinds of social networks, so that we can share with each other. It’s important that we have a shared wisdom, a body of knowledge that helps us be more locally self-reliant.

While this is my first introduction to Zolli (copies of his book are on order at PMC), creating redundancy in systems so that they are more resilient against vulnerabilities is a familiar notion in collection preservation. In fact, it is the principle at the heart of LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), a dispersed digital preservation system from Stanford University. Instead of preserving materials in a centralized way, exposing content to system failure, LOCKSS allows each participating library to preserve its own digital collection through a distributed network, cooperating with one another to assure that the content remain accessible and intact.

This is just one of several examples that ran through my mind as I was applying resilience thinking to libraries and models of scholarly communication. I hope to further explore these themes in my fall course, Academic Libraries and Scholarly Communication. I am excited about introducing students to the concept, and discussing with them its relevancy to academic libraries. Resilience thinking could provide libraries with a roadmap to growth, while sustainability—for all its emphasis on the future—has had very limited positive affect on libraries. Time to write the syllabus.


Suggestion Box: The Full Catastrophe: NYPL – Please review your circulation policy

The off-site storage policy of New York Public Library has stirred much public debate, and rightly so. I feel honored to live in a city that cares about its public library. I wont repeat the debate and will only say briefly that I personally have no problem with off-site storage. From what I tested, the turn-around time is pretty good and I feel the books are accessible. What I do take issue with is that all the books stored off-site do not circulate. To invoke the cliché, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? In other words, why can’t off-site books circulate, and why are so many book in-library use only? Once a book is delivered, why can’t I check it out? For example, Zygmunt Bauman is a contemporary socialist that has published widely on themes on post-modernism, modernity, liquid societies. He published 57 books and countless articles. Many of his popular books are available on Amazon but at NYPL, only two of the books circulate, and the others are all either off-site or in-library use only. Why don’t these books circulate? These are not books one can read at the library, these are not reference books; these are books you have to have by your side as you read them.
Screen shot 2013-05-26 at 5.40.53 pmAnother example: The Full Catastrophe, a book by David Carkeet, is a academic funny mystery novel with a linguistic twist. It’s fiction, it’s a novel, it’s mystery, it’s summer on-a-rainy-day upstate kind a book. What is it stored off-site and does listen? NYPL are you listening?


Grey Literature 15 conference coming soon

I’ll be giving the keynote address at the GL15 conference this winter in Bratislava (Slovakia) this Dec.
Hope to see you there.

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 9.05.04 pm


Questioning the standard Call For Papers model: ALISE 2014

ALISE, the Association for Library and Information Science Educators, recently posted a call for juried papers (CFP) for its 2014 annual conference. As far as CFPs go, this is a pretty standard one.

First we are told that the conference theme is “Educational Entrepreneurship,” well within the scope of the ALISE audience. Then comes a more detailed description of topics of interest, which include

“original contributions including reports of research, theory, pedagogy, best practices,
think pieces, and critical essays […] Potential topics […] include but are not limited to:
Program revision; Curricular innovation; Program delivery; Innovative service learning
initiatives; High impact practices; Novel pedagogical approaches; Approaches to research.

So far this makes perfect sense to me, and as a library educator these topics are of interest. Then, again quite typically, comes the following:

Submissions should be original papers that have not been previously published. There are no
restrictions on research methodology. Alternative perspectives on educational entrepreneurship
in library and information science are welcomed and encouraged.

It is that first sentence of the section above that gives me reason to pause: submissions not previously published. ALISE does not publish conference proceedings—not on the conference website, as a monographic series, or as part of a journal. The conference program includes only extended abstracts, and papers “are eligible for consideration for the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS) ‘best papers’ conference issue.”

It seems to me that in the spirit of Library and Information Science, papers should be made available as open-access publications on the conference website. Given that they are not, why does it matter whether they have been previously published? As a conference attendee I don’t mind if a paper has been published elsewhere. But as someone who is considering submitting a paper to the ALISE conference, I have little motivation to submit a previously unpublished paper that will not be disseminated beyond the score of people in the session.

As an information professional I support practices that allow for as much open access and as little gatekeeping of submissions as possible, and educate my students in that spirit. I would like my professional association to also share and act on such values.


GovDocs geek in heaven: GoDig gets a behind the scenes tour of the New York City Visitors Center

On Thursday April 11, 2013, the government documents special interest group (GoDig) of METRO (The Metropolitan New York Library Council) held our spring meeting at the newly opened (May 2012) New York City visitors center.

GoDig@NYC Visitors Center

GoDig@NYC Visitors Center


But first, who we are: GoDig is a group of librarians who work in various libraries throughout the New York metropolitan area, and who in some way or another deal with government documents.
We include librarians from Brooklyn College, from New York Law School, from NYU, from SIBL, from Brooklyn Public Library, from Columbia, from SUNY Maritime, from City College, from Lehman College, from St. John’s University and from many others.
We are law librarians and data librarians and business librarians and public librarians and academic librarians. Two of us are currently members of the Depository Library Council (with my term ending in June).

We hold meetings twice a year. Usually we have an educational program followed by a business meeting in which we exchange news from our institutions and have a Q&A.
Last week we held our spring meeting at the New York City visitors center. The visitors center on Chamber street opened in May 2012 and is most known for its online photo gallery of 870,000 digitized photos is housed in a beautiful Beaux Arts marble building.
IMG_4484

The meeting began with a lively 1:30h. discussion lead by a panel of 6, with active audience participation, about the challenges and best practices of working with government documents. We addressed issues such as demonstrating worth, tracking usage statistics, digitizing on demand, working with faculty, cataloging and weeding, and many more.
An outreach librarian from GPO participated via Skype.

After the program, we went on a behind the scenes tour of the NYC Visitors Center. We saw some fascinating artifacts in the exhibit, including the 9/11 flag, and the city “body book” (recording the bodies that passed through the city, listing in the volume we saw, Abraham Lincoln. Cause of death: Pistol shot) and then visited the photo conservation lab where microfilms are still made and which has its own darkroom, the paper conservation lab and the digitization lab where 870,000 photos were digitized.
Some pictures of the tour are available at our LibGuide
(see under File Repository tab).

We are now seeking suggestion for the fall program.
Please let us know what you want for the next session. If there are any topics you’d like to discuss, an educational session you are interested in, or if you have a library you would like to visit, or if you would like to host or help with the program, please get in touch with us.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 950 other followers