Thursday, June 10, 2010

Library UnConference

Today I went to an "UnConference" sponsored by LMxAC, our library consortium comprised of several NJ counties.  I loved the idea of an "UnConference" and it proved to be as awesome as I thought it would be!  Basically, the coordinators came up with various topics and also had blank sheets of paper available in case attendees had topics they wanted to discuss.  The day was divided into 4 sessions and each session was divided into 4 groups.  Attendees were invited to peruse the topics or create their own, hang them on the board and break up into groups and attend the discussions that they wanted to attend.  It was completely freeform and we just discussed each topic openly and freely and did a lot of brainstorming.

The topic I picked "The Future of Libraries" was by far, my favorite discussion.  Possibly because it was what I was most interested in.  It goes without saying that I think libraries are one of the most valuable resources.  I am not sure what is going on everywhere, but here in NJ (and from what I understand from friends, in many other states as well) after overspending for years, our state is in a fiscal crisis and many, many programs are being cut.  I have spent a lot of time over the last three months in School Board meetings and discussing the School budget, which is heartbreaking, but the library budget has been completely eliminated by the State of NJ.  Which means that we will only be funded by our municipalities and certain state legislators are trying to even cut that.  The survival of libraries is dependent on convincing the general public that technology and databases and searches for information is much, much broader than Google.  A lot of the information on Google is inaccurate or inappropriate and there is a lot of better data out there.  Our town and many of the towns in our area have completely eliminated school librarians and media specialists as part of their budget cuts, as a reference librarian and a parent, I am extremely concerned about what that means for our children.  Who will teach them to do research and to use all of the wonderful technological resources available to them?  How will they be prepared for college and the real world if they are not kept current on the use of technology in digital research media?  I just can not even fathom how our government gets away with making THESE cuts when our government keeps talking about not leaving children behind and educating them to meet the demands of the 21st century and how behind we are in science and math.  It boggles my mind.  And makes me sick.

The other sessions I attended were on "Outreach to Younger Adults", "Digital Media for Teens" and "Less Quiet Space, more Information Community".  Here is a link to the wiki created for the event: