Author Archives: Dani Brecher Cook

“Libraries Are About Freedom”

From the man who inspired the name of this blog:

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

And

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need…Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

A heart-felt lecture from a great author, making excellent points about how librarians can encourage learners through supporting their interest and that the new role of librarianship is about navigating the information landscape, or what we call “information literacy.”

Click here to read the whole amazing essay.

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Filed under ...Etc., Education, On Being Human, Posts by Dani Brecher

What’s the Library Policy on Twerking?

Happy birthday, co-author Kevin Michael Klipfel!

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Happy World Octopus Day

Just doing that good octopus-related library work over here.

octopus

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On Coaching

Perhaps surprising no one, I wasn’t a kid who played sports. I never sat on the sideline with a Capri Sun, waiting for Coach to put me in. In fact, my only experience with “coaches” were in nerdly pursuits, like math team and quiz bowl (you know you’re cool when…), where “coach” pretty much meant “chaperone.” Outside of life coaches, which seemed like a totally different animal, I thought coaching was something reserved only for athletes.

Now I realize I was wrong: A more expansive understanding of coaching can benefit anyone who engages in any kind of practice, and directly ties to expertise development. It’s an especially great idea for those of us who work in library instruction.

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On Deep Learning

Facebook and Google are working on implementing the concept of “deep learning.” Basically, it’s teaching machines to recognize the underlying patterns and structures of every type of information, to create true artificial intelligence. This maps nicely onto one of the major goals of library instruction: To illuminate the deep structure of information in order to facilitate transfer. The fact that Google and Facebook are using this to build robust AI is interesting–it’s the process of being able to take something and apply it to a new context that signifies that our brains are, well, human and up to this extremely complex task.

Deep-learning software attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the neocortex, the wrinkly 80 percent of the brain where thinking occurs. The software learns, in a very real sense, to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data.

There’s a great article in MIT Technology Review, if you’d like to read more.

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On Professional Anxiety

Not to be overly dramatic but: Six months ago, I got one of those phone calls that changes your life. I was offered my dream job, and I was moving to Southern California. Party on, dudes!

Now I’m three months into the gig, and it’s lived up to expectations, and more. I’m working on substantive instruction- and technology-related projects, have two amazing mentors in my department, and there’s an office cookie stash. There’s no short supply of positive, encouraging feedback. Basically, it’s excellent and the excitement of being here hasn’t worn off.

So why do I feel so anxious all of the time? And what can I do about it?

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Do Less, 17th-Century Style

Let the main object of this, our Didactic, be as follows: To seek and to find a method of instruction, by which teachers may teach less, but learners may learn more; by which schools may be the scene of less noise, aversion, and useless labor, but of more leisure, enjoyment, and solid progress…

– John Amos Comenius, Didactica Magna (1642)

Dude was onto something.

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The Librarian as Q: Defining Our Role in the Classroom

Last year, I had the most unlikely of revelations. After I stopped thinking about the creepiness of Javier Bardem in Skyfall (the part where he pulls his teeth out—yikes), I realized that, oh yes, there is a terrific analogy to library instruction in every. single. James. Bond. movie. We’re Q, and it’s time to embrace it.

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Inspired by Experts: A Framework for IL Instruction

What are we trying to accomplish in information literacy sessions? One thought, in addition to the deep structure we already touched on in this blog, we are attempting to build the foundations for developing expertise in academic research.

“But wait!” you say. “I read Malcolm Gladwell–it takes 10,000 hours to achieve expertise! I only have 50 minutes in a one-shot session.”

Which is absolutely true. We are not going to create experts in under an hour. What we can do, however, is set students up for later success, and take our inspiration from the expertise literature.

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On Good Advice

When you are first starting out in librarianship (and any career, really), it seems like everybody has the perfect piece of advice for you, that’s going to unlock the interview process, ensure your future career success, and possibly even solve your existential crisis. The trouble is, there is so much good advice floating around, it can be challenging to determine when you need to take something to heart, and where you need to just nod, say thank you, and leave that gem of wisdom behind. See, there’s a difference between good advice and good advice for you. The trick is determining which is which.

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