It’s not as if trainer-teacher-learners—a group which includes nearly anyone currently affiliated with or using libraries—have any extra time on our hands. There are mornings when the act of opening our eyes and glancing at our to-do lists is enough to make us want to dive back under our blankets, close our eyes, and hope that visions of things to be done will somehow miraculously vanish before we move out of the comfort of our beds.

 

That, however, didn’t stop several of us from immediately rising to the challenge posed by our fellow CE Buzz blogger Peter Bromberg this morning when he noted–in much kinder and gentler words than I’m using here–that we’ve become somewhat slothful about keeping up our commitment to contribute to CE Buzz and the community of learners it represents. In asking us whether we wanted to continue as contributors and, more importantly, whether we were willing to commit to a fairly easy schedule of posting articles so that fresh content appears regularly, Peter inadvertently reminded us why we were so attracted to the site initially.

 

My immediate reaction was to call Peter; discuss what we’re doing and what we might be doing better; and promise that I would return sooner than later. Excited and encouraged by what we know will come of this, we both noted that there seems to be a rising wave of energy and excitement around the work CLENE is currently doing and the level of commitment CLENE members bring to the organization and to our parent organization, the American Library Association.

 

The blog, for many of us, is both an extension and an integral part of what CLENE provides and inspires—a 21st-century physical and online variation of the Third Place which Ray Oldenburg, in The Great Good Place, suggested we need in addition to home and workplace. It should and deserves to be nurtured. And it’s only going to grow if those of us who are committed to contributing to it meet our commitments, and those of you who are drawn into this community of trainer-teacher-learners become active participants through your responses and engagement with all that CLENE and CE Buzz can offer.

 

“It feels as if we’re right at a tipping point,” Peter commented, and I began to laugh, for even though I recognized the term “tipping point” as coming from Malcolm Gladwell’s book which uses the term as its title, my mind—in equal states of exhaustion and hyper-caffeination—began to latch onto the word “tipping,” picture things being tipped, and—for no reason I can offer other than my penchant for always enjoying word and visual playfulness—started thinking about things being tipped over. Like a glass of wine. Or a glass of milk. Or, in the oft-cited image which must hearken back to our rural roots and people with too much time on their hands, cows—as in “cow-tipping.”

 

Now please understand that neither Peter nor I are suggesting that we’re going to pursue cow-tipping as a learning technique or a fundraising effort on behalf of CLENE or any of its activities under the auspices of the American Library Association. (I frankly doubt that ALA and its incoming president, Camila Alire, would be very supportive of this kind of endeavor.) On the other hand, the trainer-teacher-learner in me did spend a little time this afternoon with Wikipedia and other sources to learn more about the alleged practice of cow-tipping and read the wikipedians’ report that “According to popular belief, cows can easily be pushed over without much force because they are slow-moving, slow-witted and weak-legged, have a high center of gravity and sleep standing up. Numerous publications have debunked cow-tipping as a myth. Cows do not sleep standing up, nor do their knees lock, making the act of cow-tipping impossible.” (See, you actually learned something by staying with me this far into the blog.)

 

Please, furthermore, don’t expect us to suggest that current efforts to find a new look and logo for CLENE’s materials might somehow involve the image of a cow being tipped over while engaged in learning—at least not unless other CLENE members and ALA’s wonderful membership director, John Chrastka, want to make a connection I’m not willing to make right now. (No, John, I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to take the lead on this one.)

 

But do understand that if we could take the time it took to have that conversation this morning and giggle over improbable images and apparently non-existent pastimes, we and our fellow CE Buzzers certainly can carve out the time to continue thinking out loud here on the blog in the hope that some of the more serious ideas and practices which we document and propose will somehow contribute, overall, to the improvement of the training-teaching-learning arena which we all so clearly cherish. And we hope you’ll join us here on the blog, as well as in CLENE, as we continue promoting creativity and innovation in workplace learning and performance to the benefit of libraries and all we serve.

 

For more information about CLENE and how to join the group, please follow this link.

 

 

Trainer-teacher-learners are, in many ways, the hunter-gatherers of our times. We love to find nourishing new pieces of information, transform them into knowledge, and share them with the other members of our global learning tribe. Which, if we are to believe David Weinberger in Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, makes us among the richest people in the world.

“It’s not what you know, and it’s not even who you know. It’s how much knowledge you give away. Hoarding knowledge diminishes your power because it diminishes your presence,” he writes near the end of the book (p. 230). And who among us would argue with that sentiment?

Weinberger’s charm lies in his ability to make us think, initially, about how information is organized or dis-organized, and then to nudge us along a path which makes it more likely that we’ll find more of what we’re seeking and then be willing to share it. He proposes, in the first chapter of his book, that there are three orders of order: physical objects which themselves can be organized (books, for example); physical catalogs and other forms of inventory which help to organize our access to the first-level objects being ordered; and the third order comprised of those things which appear to be in more than one place at a time (digital items which can be accessed online through messy yet effective ordering systems such as user-created tagging).

By the time we reach the final sections of Everything Is Miscellaneous, we’re happily flying high in messiness and miscellany with Weinberger. He reports that network analysts “have found that innovation happens at the intersections” —as we interact with colleagues from other fields of study or with backgrounds much different than our own, we are most likely to have the breakthrough moments in learning and creativity. It is, he suggests, similar to standing at a busy intersection in a city: “at those messy crossroads you’re more likely to get splashed” (pp. 181-182), and this leads to the enviable and disorderly position in which we now find ourselves: “We can make connections and relationships at a pace never before imagined” (p. 221).

We can almost feel the trainer-teacher-learner community growing as we read Weinberger’s words and think of other similar treatises. In Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures, for example, we find a similar world of crossroads and intersections—the Intersection which develops through meetings of dissimilar yet inquisitive minds. And there is even more encouragement to be found in Kevin Kelly’s WIRED magazine article “We Are the Web” (published in August 2005), which suggests that our collective efforts at creating and sharing networks makes us more than a “part” of the Web; it actually makes us the Web as we all contribute to what could be the first real example of artificial intelligence through the digital community we help build every time we create and/or post something on the Internet and make it accessible through tagging/folksonomy.

The truism that knowledge is power, and the selfish corollary that we must hoard rather than share that knowledge, seems to be quickly evolving into the Everything is Miscellaneous and “We Are the Web” world where giving knowledge away is the greatest indicator of wealth. And we couldn’t be more lucky than to be part of it through the CLENE/CE Buzz community.

If this were the early twentieth century, we might be sitting in a Parisian Left-Bank café. If this were the late twentieth century, we might be sitting in Caffè Puccini in San Francisco’s North Beach District—as many still are. But the early twenty-first century has swept us up, and we’re finding new places to meet and talk and share ideas. And dream.

Which is exactly what happened in the OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) Auditorium yesterday when Tom Peters interviewed Michelle Boule, a librarian, blogger (writing under the name “Jane” in “A Wandering Eyre”),  Infopeople instructor, and mother-to-be. The session, part of OPAL’s “Casual Conversations” series, was not so much the sort of session to be taped and played back later (although the session soon will join the archived interviews on OPAL’s site) as it was a chance for 22 of us from all over the country to gather in a virtual setting.

We listened to Peters and Boule discuss a variety of topics ranging from temporarily replacing work with motherhood to why trainers (and others) leave large library systems and other organizations to seek more rewarding challenges. And we joined the conversation by typing electronic notes back and forth with colleagues like fellow “CE Buzz” author Peter Bromberg—sort of like passing slips of paper in an elementary school classroom, but this time the teachers were included. That meant that if we weren’t listening to what was being said and reading what was being written, neither part would have made sense since the aural and written conversations were completely intertwined.

Boule was explicit in talking about what has prompted her decision to leave her University of Houston position; she wants to spend time with the child who is about to be born, and she plans to seek more rewarding work doing what she loves to do: “teaching people about technology and teaching people about stuff.” The day-to-day responsibilities of trying to do multiple disparate jobs, she noted, wore her down and kept her from accomplishing what she knew she was capable of doing—not a foreign concept to many of us who have tried to effectively run library training programs while also being expected to handle numerous other unrelated tasks. So Boule is joining those of us who have recently decided we can be more effective in providing first-rate training experiences for library employees by working in a larger venue rather than staying with one library system.

Wouldn’t it be better for everyone, Boule asked, if libraries became better at sharing resources, including trainers? Perhaps establishing groups of traveling trainers who served everyone much more effectively?

The Northeast Kansas Library System has people who do things like that,” one participant in the conversation offered.

Infopeople does the same thing throughout California, I noted, and I’ve heard from colleagues in other states that similar programs would be highly in demand if someone were to offer them.

“Might we not be looking at informal connections (like this discussion group) to help spread and advocate for what so many people obviously want to see?” I asked.

“That sounds like a job for the Library Society of the World,” Joshua Neff responded, and it was only after the session ended that I had a chance to do a quick online search and discover that he wasn’t joking, that he actually has, from Kansas, started that group to further the role of librarians, archivists, information professionals, and information educators through communication and collaboration.

So here’s to thinking outside the physical and virtual walls of large organizations, classrooms, and cafes while remaining actively involved with them. We have role models in the form of the Northeast Kansas Library System and Infopeople, and we have resources such as the ALA Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange (CLENE) Round Table itself. Perhaps one of the best roles we can play as trainers is to train ourselves in how to better use the resources at our fingertips to help our colleagues gain what they need to thrive in twenty-first-century libraries.

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