My Reflections on Five Weeks and Librarianship

Meredith wrote a long post yesterday about her feelings regarding Five Weeks and I thought it was time I posted mine as well. Her description of how this came about is honest and her comments are all things I can say “exactly” to. It was a success because our participants felt like they learned and had a good time. That means all was well in my mind. Not perfect. There were glitches, but we dealt with them and moved on. It was great and I can not imagine building it with anyone else.

This particular post has been long in the making.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you read this post I wrote a little under a year ago about some thoughts I had while in ALA 2.0 Bootcamp. What started out as a good experience soured quickly and we were indeed told that it could not be done better. That is a challenge I am loathe to back down from, especially when I had started the conversation for the purpose of making things better. The challenge from Kathleen was reason one why we “sat down,” over IM, and hatched a plan. She was the impetus and for that, I am grateful to her.

Reason two involved the library profession more personally, for me. (Please brace yourself for broad generalizations.) We pay too much for things that do not work. We refuse to change, grow, and learn. We fail to see the future even when it is no longer nipping at our heels, but crushing us under its weight. These attitudes make me tired and I have only been struggling in this profession for less then 3 years. No wonder I know so many older librarians who have become malcontents. (and plenty who are not, they are what keep me smiling)

I helped build the dream that became Five Weeks because I believe that we, librarians of the world, hold the capacity to learn, change, and adapt. I believe that there are enough of us that dream big and then do, but I think we are too few. Too far apart.

It was inspiring to watch the participants learn new things and build amazing ideas and plans of their own, but it also broke my heart to hear about all the roadblocks they each face. I moderated two groups and we spent time every week in each group going over ways to deal with reluctant staff, stubborn administrations, and refusals to adapt. It was especially disheartening to hear over and over again stories of supportive management that nevertheless refused to change because of one or two vocal staff. To hear them voice the concerns that plague my own life made me want to weep for our profession. Weep for the ability of other people’s stubbornness and a culture of indecision to steal the fire that is in so many of us. Weep for all of us who struggle uphill to make things better, but mostly weep for those who hold our profession back.

I hope that all the participants bring their wonderful ideas back to their libraries and meet with resounding success. I hope this everyday for them. They worked so hard and are so full of excitement about what they could be doing for their communities.

I did not intend for this post to be so gloomy, but my feelings about Five Weeks ranged from elation and hope to despair and I think this post was reflective of that. My largest hope is that others will build their own Five Weeks projects. As Meredith stated in her post, an online learning project can be about anything. My desire is that libraries and organizations, even ALA, will see the value on building these kinds of learning portals and offering them for free. Free. of. Charge. For. Everyone.

There are some libraries doing absolutely awesome things, sometimes with little resources and a small staff. We all know who they are. These are the places that give me hope, restore my smile on days when I want to rend my clothes and pull my hair. We are watching you, oh beacons, and we hope that more people notice too.

I still love my profession, but like any love relationship, some days, I do not like you very much. Recently, I have felt all I want to give you is tough love. From the heart, but very tough.

–Jane, power to the people

11 thoughts on “My Reflections on Five Weeks and Librarianship

  • March 22, 2007 at 10:56 am
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    Like turning an ocean liner at sea, change takes time. And it doesn’t happen at all without people putting their efforts into making that change. I think you and the other organizers of 5 weeks have given one hell of a boost to the impetus for change and nudged that ocean liner a few more degrees toward it’s new course. So I say “Yay!” and keep my eyes on the ever so slightly changing horizon. Hip hip hooray to everyone with the guts and the can-do to make this sort of thing happen.

  • March 22, 2007 at 10:56 am
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    p.s. got this via Bloglines, so something must be working better again. :)

  • March 22, 2007 at 11:26 am
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    I hear ya, Michelle. Just like us, our participants face a lot of roadblocks in implementing this stuff. But for every story I heard about roadblocks, I heard stories of change. We have people in the class who are already implementing stuff at their library as a direct result of what they learned in this course and with the support of their colleagues. That is something to sing about! There will always be people who don’t want to learn new things, but there are just as many people out there who are afraid of new things because they don’t have any way to learn it (other than on their own, and not everyone learns well that way). Courses like Five Weeks to a Social Library can make a huge difference in making education more accessible so people feel more comfortable moving forward.

    What I’m saying is, be happy that you are part of the solution, not part of the problem. All we can do is keep pushing forward and drag others along with us. You did good and it couldn’t have gotten done without your support, wisdom and spirit!

  • March 22, 2007 at 11:37 am
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    Congrats to you & the entire team for proving Kathleen wrong. I too was a bootcamper that found value from the program. It was my catalyst for creating Learning 2.0 :)

  • March 22, 2007 at 12:09 pm
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    Meredith,
    We did a good thing and I know good things are happening. I just get frustrated sometimes and needed to vent.

  • Pingback: Information Wants To Be Free » Blog Archive » Want to implement social software at your library?

  • March 23, 2007 at 8:09 am
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    Huh, I must have had a weird group. I had one person who pwns her libraries’ (plural intentional) entire web presence, so she can do whatever she wants. I had two with fairly supportive management and interested colleagues. And my last one was very quietly “this will take a while, but it WILL happen.”

    Stupidity is rampant; I don’t see how any self-respecting librarian can work in a K-12 library sometimes, because staff are treated exactly like the children they serve. But it’s not universal.

  • March 23, 2007 at 8:51 am
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    I am in my second semester of library school (working on my MLS) and all I can say is- I hope change is coming. In another couple of years I’ll be in there fighting with you. Five Weeks is an inspiring project- it’s amazing how many people are talking about it, outside the web too. I’ve heard it mentioned several times in various conversations. Know that the whole project has enacted change, got people talking, and that’s the best thing you can do. The excitement WILL spread, I’m sure of it. :)

  • March 23, 2007 at 9:00 am
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    Michelle,

    Keep that tough love coming but don’t let the malcontents steal your joy. 5 Weeks was Fantastic and just like the proverbial pebble in the pond, the ripples are growing. (You were a great part of that too!) 40 librarians started the class, and over 30 will be making some changes. Now how’s that for a difference? See you at CIL in VA…save room for a pint of the black stuff and plenty of laughs. No capes, but definitely lightsabres! Peace YO!

  • April 4, 2007 at 1:51 pm
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    Late poster = me

    I responded to a recent ALA (or ACRL?) survey about dues and spelled out in plain language that the “services” traditionally offered by the organization (networking, collaboration, teaching/learning) could more easily be done free with new Info Tech. Thank you for proving that correct in a real way.

  • December 1, 2012 at 7:02 am
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    I am actually more exicted about the mentions in Dorothea Salo and Peter Suber’s (!) blogs. I’m glad, though, that the mention in AL reached people who (sadly) don’t read those. I can only hope they will now!

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