Futures - day #1

jan.wall's picture

It's been a full day. There have been so many thoughts and ideas that I hardly know where to begin. I hope that some of you have been able to see the video of the main speakers.

Nancy Kranich - practicing democracy. Over the last 30 years, citizen participation in all form of public life has dimished: clubs, voting, volunteering, etc. How can libraries help restore opportunities to participate? Can we spark our our citizens and engage our communities?

Her POV is that libraries must provide leadership to create a civic dialog in order for democracy to flourish. We can/must offer programs that position us as facilitators that bridge the gap between people and groups to solve problems. And we must also provide opportunities for people to bond within a community.

What does it mean to practice democracy? Her definitions are to provide information to all, to encourage independent thought with in-depth info, and to be an active place where people exchange ideas. Public spaces are important for democracy - libraries can provide that. Libraries should go beyond educating, inspiring and informing to playing an active role to encourage exchange.

How can we do it? By partnerships, facilitating local interaction, providing an exchange of local info, promoting civic literacy, undertaking community-relating activities and providing community/public space. To do this we need to include the entire community, reduce barriers to access, and think about not just great libraries, but great public spaces.

Libraries can occupy a unique niche by focusing on local information. This niche cannot be filled by a "one size fits all", cookie cutter chain store. When we think about libraries in this light, we can become an enabler of civic literacy. But we need to think of what it will take for citizens to participate in public life. What skills will they need? And what skills do we need to help them get there? Her closing remark was "Citizenship is not a spectator sport." (From Putnam)

From this opening charge, we broke into small groups that were facilitated (small f) by "experts." I chose the group that was asked the question: "What do we need to be credible?" The conversation was quite lively, and I hope that the notes from this session will be posted. I find that the small group discussion is where ideas are formed and possibilities explored. If it weren't late and it hadn't been a long day, I’d go on...

It wasn't possible to blog as the day went on. It went too fast - there was no time. And there wasn’t wi-fi in the auditorium. And the ideas flew so quickly (and thickly) that it really takes some time to reflect.

Here I've written volumes and this was just the first third of the day... Maybe I can catch up later?