Reflection on the third thread of the Atlas: Facilitating

The subsection on Members Not Patrons or Users and Lankes’ quote “If you see yourself as a tool for the people, you have a job.  If you see yourself as a member of the community, you have a vocation – a calling – a mission”  (Lankes, 2011, p.66) really got me thinking about how I want to view myself as a future librarian.  I want being a librarian to be so much more than a job or even a career for me – I hope it shapes who I am and how I define myself.  My current work as a preschool teacher/administrator for a small community center in the area where I live is so much more than a job to me.  I value the work there that I do, the colleagues I have, and most importantly, the children and families our organization serves (our “members” you might say).  Being a preschooler teacher has become a defining characteristic of my life – it’s not what I do, it is part of who I am.  I want it to be the same way when I become a librarian.  Furthermore, as someone who works for a nonprofit community center, I also like Lankes’ idea of true facilitation through shared ownership and a librarian being of,  and not just for, the people (Lankes, 2011, p.65-66).  I like the inclusion and participation that is implied by such a theory.

I also really enjoyed the subsection on the Need for an Expanded Definition of Literacy (Lankes, 2011, p. 73-75).  I have to agree with Lankes’ criticism of the “Read” posters – they are not the best marketing for a library or literacy, though you see them all the time in school libraries and in some elementary classrooms.  I much prefer the posters in the children’s section of my local public library that promote a particular author or character from a series of books – at least then they are being more specific, and children can relate to the characters or note how it is one of their favorite authors.  I really like Lankes’ idea for “Ask” posters (Lankes, 2011, p. 73-74).  You don’t a librarian to help you read, but you do need them if you have to ask a question about a topic you are exploring and want more information on.  Plus there is a conversational and active element to the idea of “asking” which reflects many of the themes of the Atlas, while “reading” seems more individualized and passive.

I really enjoyed Lankes mentioning radical texts and how fiction can be empowering (2011, p. 74).  Although I hadn’t read all the ones he cited, it made me stop and think for several moments about texts that I viewed as radical, and shaped my view of the world as an adolescent or young adult.  I never read 1984, but I did read and love Orwell’s Animal Farm in high school – it is a great example of political allegory.  I love the offbeat, radical characters of John Irving, particularly the title character in A Prayer for Owen Meany – I view Owen as the world’s smallest, and one of its greatest, radicals, even if he is a fictional character.  Several of the female characters of The Color Purple  by Alice Walker could be seen as radical – Shug Avery and Sofia, and ultimately the narrator, Celie, evolves into her own brand of radicalism.  These characters inspired me as a young woman in high school, when I read the novel on a yearly basis – they defied the norms of their race and time period in a way that still amazes me.

Lankes explains how some people who work in the field of  library science are not respected by those with an MLS degree (2011, p. 77).  This got me thinking about the whole idea of idea of experience vs. college degree (be it bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate) and how it effects respect and position in the workplace.  At my past position as a preschool co-teacher in a large, more corporate childcare center, you didn’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree or even a teaching license to be qualified as a head teacher – credentials were somewhat important, but so was past experience working with young children.  In my current job, there is a director of one of the programs who does not have a college degree, but I would say after 40+ years of working for the same organization, she knows the community better than any of the staff, and any of us working there would be foolish and ashamed to disrespect her.  I feel that although I have never worked in a library setting before, I have had five years of experience working directly with young children (and two more working with elementary-aged children), so I’ve found I can apply my specific knowledge and experiences to certain topics we discuss in IST 612, my youth services class, and I feel like my input and ideas are valued by the professor, Marilyn Arnone, and my fellow classmates.

Finally, I found the description of what the Free Library of Philadelphia did to empower the homeless of their community truly inspiring (Lankes, 2011, pp. 80-81).  Homeless people in our local public library are viewed as a “problem” by many people in our city.  It was also an issue that Robert Resnik, one of the co-directors, alluded to in my interview with him (R. Resnik, personal communication, June 29, 2011).  I think that we could draw inspiration from the Free Library in Philadelphia and come up with some innovative ideas for the homeless people that visit our library on a regular basis.  The idea of training them to work for the library and its cafe that the library in Philadelphia used reminded me of the organization Vermont Works for Women, which has a program called FRESH Food that trains women with various barriers to employment (former incarceration, poverty, lack of formal training) to work in the food service industry and also give back to their community by providing meals to local child care centers.  They work with several centers in the area that have Head Start collaboratives, including the one at my place of work (http://www.vtworksforwomen.org/women/programs/fresh-food/).  So I can personally attest to the variety and nutritional value of the food they served, as they provided lunches to my preschool students this year.  I love the collaborative aspect of the FRESH Food program and how it serves and empowers a variety of community members – children, women, professionals in the food service and early educational field.  Innovative ideas like these make me want to further explore the idea of empowering our local immigrant and refugee population, both as members of our community center and our public library.

References

Irving, J. (1990). A prayer for Owen Meany.  New York, NY: Ballantine Books

Lankes, R.D. (2011).  The Atlas of new librarianship.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Orwell, G. (1946).  Animal farm.  New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Company.

Vermont Works for Women. (n.d.). FRESH food. Retrieved

      from http://www.vtworksforwomen.org/women/programs/fresh-food/.

Walker, A. (1982). The color purple.

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