Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Response to SUNY's Strategic Plan draft

SUNY has just put out a draft Strategic Plan, and as long-time library advocate Bill Drew rightly points out, there is not a single mention of libraries or librarians in it. As such, here is the hastily written response I sent to the Strategic Planning team's call for feedback:

Dear SUNY Strategic Plan team,

As a librarian for the last seven years in the SUNY system, it is disheartening to read through the SUNY Strategic Plan document, with it's emphasis on the "knowledge economy," "core values" and on creating "involved citizens", and not see a single reference to the contributions and value of SUNY libraries and librarians. In my view, the ongoing fight to improve "information literacy" (the ability to effectively interact with information, in any form, to solve needs or problems) lies at the core of all these SUNY values. The basic ability to find, evaluate and synthesize information is one of the key structures that allows a knowledge economy to flourish, and these abilities are what librarians fight to instill in our students every day. Indeed, librarians could be viewed as essential in the struggle to have a more informed and effective citizenry in any democracy. I believe SUNY libraries have a role to play in this plan, and request their voices be added to this document. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Power of Failure and Argument

Most of us are, by nature, upbringing and education, reticent to examine our failures or engage in vigorous exchange of differing points of view or ideas.

On the argument side, this can be termed brainstorming, discussion, argument; depends on your point of view and communication preferences.  If nothing else, our political leaders and media pundits, and their constant squabbles, reinforce this reticence to embrace failure or regard arguments as a beneficial mechanism to getting things done.

But research shows these mechanisms can actually be very powerful tools for developing critical thinking skills, learning in general, and getting things done. Two recent blog articles discuss these issues in terms far more eloquent (and researched) than I could even attempt:
I think both these excellent articles reinforce a theme that has been building in a few corners of the library world (see the 3/12 T is for Training podcast, and posts in the LSW FriendFeed): a call to engage in more examination and analysis of our failures as library professionals and institutions, especially at conferences and other professional development venues. I also think they hold great untapped potential as mechanisms for information literacy instruction and general training. Students who are not afraid to fail and learn from those failures probably make better critical choices in the long run, and become better researchers. If nothing else, they are probably more willing to ask us for help when they need it!