What are you inspiring?



On the way to DevLearn2008, I pulled out my book and to read. I noticed the person flying next to me had a book too. As we taxied down the flightline, I asked her what she was reading.

Turns out she was a recently retired high school science teacher. We chatted at length about reading, learning, and teaching. There came a point in our conversation where I actually cracked open the Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts. I started reading to this teacher a passage about how intertwined are movement, space and learning.  She remarked, “Yes, if our educational programs were actually geared to finding ways to unite movement, learning, space, and reading, we’d have a smarter group of kids out there.”


Deb Hanson gets this. Deb sees the space, the reading, the learning and movement to action are all tied together. She sees that teaching and reaching into her students lives may inspire them, to read. She realizes that she must play a role being overlooked in most school libraries.


I’ve read recently about what libraries should/should not be doing. What roles should we play? Do we foster lifelong learning? I feel these questions are for any type of library. Should the teaching opportunity arise, and you feel that books and libraries are so important, you must seize that opportunity no matter what type of library/ librarian you are. Any type of librarian must first be a teacher who fosters a love of reading.  Consider that our first role.


Do we teach information literacy? Do we control the information? I do know that our one primary role should be inspiring a love of reading among young readers. Should the opportunity present itself you must be ready to inspire someone about reading. I’ve found that most students either had a bad experience or no experience of their school library or media center. Especially boys. The space was unwelcoming. The love of reading literally nonexistent.


There could be many reasons for this. We can minimize those reasons. Try a little harder. Deciding that our fundamental role is to inspire is a great way to unite emerging technologies with the traditions that libraries and librarians do so well. Who has better access to resources and free, open creative spaces? Libraries and librarians provide free and open spaces for inquiry. There’s no better place for creating the emotional connection for a love of reading than in the playground of the library. You need space for that. B&N isn’t a free space. Consider that our second role: a third place or space for creativity to grow.


Space: we need it to work. I make no secret of my absolute disdain for cubicles. Industrial cube farms are a system of control.  Nothing more. The cubicles do nothing to foster creative “group work”.  You know that thing we’re all supposed to be good at yet everyone hates doing. Cubicles replicate the neat and tidy rows you were forced to sit in during school. (You should stop and think about how you work as part of a team.  Seriously.  I’ll wait).  Cubicles create a false sense of a just-right spatial isolation for work environments. The idea is that they give the work we do, as if we’re Goldilock’s, just the right amount of space. Management is given the impression in an open office plan, since the workers are all sitting together with low walls and able to see each other, this fosters unity. Really, they’re interrupting each others’ creative process often unknowingly.  With seemingly removed obstacles like walls and doors this somehow facilitates a cohesive working environment.


That’s the idea.  Some managers really believe this. They also believe that if you are given a door with an office you will retreat inside never to be seen. Think it doesn’t matter? Space matters deeply. Years of research stand as a quiet testament to the overstressed worker who averages an interruption every ten minutes.  Imagine if someone created a space for you to develop, truly develop who you are at work -or a space for you to develop as a reader?  Why should work extract everything from you and provide nothing but money in return?


Imagine being young again :) and what it would be like to learn how to read in a truly inspiring space. Then read how Deb Hanson designed her space to foster a love of reading.

From: Deb Hanson
To: LeBlanc, Lee; Michael Stephens
Subject: Library transformations…Hey Guys…My library transformations have begun
:-)…I’m moving my 4th graders to the current K-3 library across campus and my current 4-8 library will become much more of a “middle school” space for the older kids (gr.5-8). With their input and ideas, we are re-arranging spaces, moving EVERY book in the library (that’s over 10,000 books), bringing in cool RED video rocker chairs and bean bags, putting up posters and painting (though that may have to wait till summer) and designing ways for students to interact with the SMART Board that I’m installing… When they come back from winter beak in January they will have much more kid-friendly spaces and more opportunities to interact with books, video-production stations, internet stations, and interactive learning spaces…I’m SO excited. Thanks for always being in my head you’re your ideas and inspiration…pushing me to listen to my patrons and make the libraries work for them! -Deb

Just to be clear: that is how you foster a love of reading, while using space creatively, and uniting emerging technologies with the solid traditional skill sets librarians do so well.  That is strategic thinking in work clothes. This is using space in human ways.


update: that “Private:” prefix was tripping me out.  Turns, Michael Stephens, being the Master Admin of TTW (and rightly so) can published posts at will.  I had marked it private as I was in converstation with Deb to make sure I could use her private email in a public post.  When I confirmed this with her, I had forgotten all about the ability to mark posts private in WordPress. So noted.