Friday, April 22, 2011

pulling the library out to the edge

One of the concepts in the Power of Pull that intrigues me is this notion of the core vs. the edge. The core has the resources and the authority; the edge is weaker but more innovative and experimental. We want our students to be able to work at the edge when they graduate.

Academic libraries by there very nature might be viewed as organizations that fit into the core of their institutions and for that matter, the core the broader higher education system. Much of what we do is organize, preserve and provide access to authoritative, validated information. Our information literacy initiatives often focus on teaching students to find and identify "appropriate," vetted sources of information, that is information backed by established authorities.

Could it be that this notion of information literacy is misguided or perhaps just half baked? That its basic premise is based on trying to teach students the old, "correct" way of finding information, when in fact this will not serve them well in an age of constant change. It's not that students don't need to know how to find reliable information from within stocks of knowledge. But knowing how to do this is only going to get them so far. If they are going to be at the edge of innovation in a particular field, they are going to need to know how to tap into knowledge flows.

How do we do this? How do we develop an information environment that challenges students for a world of constant change? We need to present them with problems that they can only solve by tapping into tacit knowledge of experts and engaging in current knowledge flows.

Think of a project where a student is tasked with producing original historical research from archival materials. She would likely enter an archive with the guidance of an archivist and perhaps work alongside other students and researchers, picking up tacit knowledge about historical research (a field that is in flux) the way. To make sense of what she finds, she might very well need to connect with other students/scholars that also are knowledgeable about the topic and this connection could be evolving and dynamic with multiple feedback loops.

Or think of a project where a class is charged with developing a digital archive of something. I'll use grafitti art in NYC to take an example from one of our recent digital initiatives. Given the ephemeral nature of this art form, students would need to tap into knowledge flows about where it is happening through both personal and online networks. As they capture images of the art, they might need those networks to understand how to classify the art and capture its context.

We need to be giving students the opportunity to make new discoveries and create new knowledge. We can do this by providing raw materials, expertise, virtual and physical creation spaces, and personal networks.

No comments:

Post a Comment