My son Ben and I just finished Gmail chatting with his former nanny (now a librarian), and Ben wondered why she would be online at the library — he concluded that it was because she must be waiting for people to email her with questions.
Diligent as our former nanny is, I’m betting that she was not logging on to Gmail to await questions from far-away library patrons. She was almost certainly logging on to check her email because it was a slow moment at the library.
But Ben is right — librarians should have more of a virtual presence. If we were doing things right, people everywhere would be in ridiculously long virtual lines, waiting to ask librarians all sorts of questions — because librarians can help you find information and learn.
What an archaic notion that the only place people can speak to librarians is in the library. Increasingly, libraries themselves are virtual. When I was teaching, I could access the databases in my school’s library from anywhere in the world.
If we extend this logic, it’s a similarly archaic notion that the only place people can learn from teachers is in school. Indeed, Will Richardson has argued that he wants his children to be found by strangers online… so that his children can learn from strangers.
If Will is right (and he is), we need to re-think “school” (which I’m doing — you can read about the details of my new middle school, called Triangle Learning Community) and we also need to rethink “library.”
Our former nanny is an amazing resource — wouldn’t we want our children (and our adult who have questions about any topic) to consult her first, rather than run blindly to Google for results that might or might not be productive? Or go to Wikipedia first, get some background information, form some questions, and then email your librarian who can point you in the right direction.
Thanks, Ben, for helping me realize that librarians really are everywhere, and they should be logging on to Gmail so that people from all over the world can email them questions and learn.