Monthly Archives: October 2013

What’s in a Name?

By Leslie Everitt

Navigation Central, Pilot House, Collaboration Hub? Do any of those sound like names for a library? How about Idea Store?

Thoughts–stirred up by a chain of libraries and adult learning centers called “Idea Stores” in the East End of London–have been haunting me all month. Appropriate imagery for October: the ghost of libraries future keeping me up at night.

When I heard the name “Idea Store” and saw some of the very modern buildings housing them, I was inspired to imagine a high school library with an exciting new name and a beautiful interior design to help the school community to view it in a new light. And no, “Media Center” is not the kind of name that will do the job. But what name would? And what do the names “library” or “media center” lack, exactly, that leaves me feeling so discontented?

When I think of a library, I think of the library of my youth: an organized storehouse of books, a model which is not sufficient to encompass all the roles of a modern library. But when I hear the words “media center,” they bring to my mind the image of technological equipment–computers and projectors mainly–made accessible in a central location. Media also means the medium of the message, but the strongest connotation of that word for me is a concrete one: disks, films, books, tapes, etc. At least the term “library” hearkens back to the concept of a librarian–a service provider and resource in human form, which “media center” does not.

The moniker “Idea Store” is an improvement due to its focus on what libraries and media centers can give us: ideas. Its other strength is it begs to be compared to a store in the mall with all the entertainment, excitement, and socializing that might imply, to go along with the fun of browsing for something new to take home. However, the word “store” still feels a bit archaic when one considers what the libraries of the future must and will become.

From my studies in the iSchool at UMD, it is becoming apparent to me that school libraries need to become collaboration laboratories (there’s an idea for a name), where patrons don’t passively take in ideas, but, working with others, they actually help construct and organize ideas, whether in real time and real space, or virtually and asynchronously, or some other combination. The Idea Store is a perfect name for the facilities in London in their dual roles as public library and, perhaps more importantly, community center. However, school and academic libraries are, first and foremost, about scholarship, hence the need for learning to construct knowledge.

The American Association of School Librarians puts it this way: “Learning is enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others. Students need to develop skills in sharing knowledge and learning with others, both in face-to-face situations and through technology.” School libraries need to prepare the citizens of the country to develop “crucial skills” in multiple literacies, including “digital, visual, textual, and technological” literacy. It is the job of academic libraries to adhere to AASL standards such as teaching students how to apply “critical- thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge” (AASL, 2007). Without those skills, students won’t be able to pilot themselves through an ever more complex sea of information without getting lost, wandering aimlessly, or drowning.

As a grad school student, I have experienced this first hand. My classmates and I used various technologies to co-create a presentation for class. We each researched the internet for software applications to help with teaching writing, dividing the topic and collaborating to combine our findings in a Google Docs document and slideshow. It was fun and encouraging to build the documents with simultaneous editing. I was typing in my section of the document while watching my partners words appear magically on the screen in their sections. I was able to use instant chat to make plans to meet or to ask my partner for clarity on the assignment. We were able to post comments on each other’s sections with suggestions for edits. We could also revise each other’s work, if desired.

I am learning these skills in grad school. Public school students (as early as Pre-K) are learning them in all their classes, but especially in library class or projects co-taught by librarians and classroom teachers.

Navigation Central, Pilot House, Collaboration Hub … how about Knowledge Building Center? What words can offer the literal or metaphorical captioning for a place that delivers services, objects, equipment, education, connectivity, space, community, entertainment, and so much more? I like the word “hub,” for its ability to conjure images of a place where connections are made. For that matter, I like the word “connections,” since so much of library services are connecting people with resources. Oooh, how about “Resource Hub”? “Connection Center”? “Idea Hub”?

I don’t have the perfect name yet, but I know that when I get my first school library job, I will campaign heavily to update and improve the library’s image. Why? Not because I don’t love libraries; I do. My earliest memories of the school library are of awe and delight from when I was finally deemed old enough (in third grade) to choose books for myself. I know: third grade! That’s crazy, right? I doubt libraries in the U.S. have age restrictions today, but the point is, my earliest memories of libraries are all good. Back then, I felt an almost physical sense of blossoming due to having so much choice and the freedom to indulge my interests, whatever I might discover them to be. (Maybe a good library name is “Freedom Center”?) But today, libraries are doing a job that is also being done by tons of telecommunication devices: giving people access to stories, images, and information. Libraries have competition.

The public needs to be taught the value of libraries in the face of this competition. As vast as is the store of resources on the internet or cable TV, there are a lot more resources still blocked by a payment wall. And even the very vastness of our information society is now becoming a problem for seekers of knowledge. According to the AASL,

“The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
The amount of information available to our learners necessitates that each individual acquire the skills to select, evaluate, and use information appropriately and effectively” (2007).

But do information seekers even know they need help? Research has shown that researchers often overestimate their abilities to locate reliable resources. Out of necessity—due to lack of time, or underestimating the time needed, people are satisfied by the first hits they get when using search engines. This is called, in information science parlance, “satisficing.” Satisficing is

“… an information competency whereby individuals assess how much information is good enough to satisfy their information need. Scholars from different fields have drawn on the satisficing concept to reflect on the ‘contrast between choosing what is satisfactory and choosing what is best.'” (Byron, 2004, as cited in Prabha, Connaway, Olszewski, and Jenkins, 2007, p. 2)

Libraries should be the one place people can rely on for help locating reliable information or at least learn of alternatives to satisficing.

Search engine providers are fast becoming not only the arbiters of knowledge, but the gatekeepers as well. How many people still don’t have access to the internet? How many people know how Google (or any other browser) have written their algorithms to rank the sites that will rise to the top of the results page? Who died and made Google king? Oh yeah, I forgot. Libraries died.

Of course, I exaggerate. Libraries aren’t dead … yet. Libraries are more necessary than ever to provide equal access to digital assets, to pay for content that one person could not afford on her own, and to employ librarians to teach users how to find information that is buried online, and to help users judge whether that information is reliable.

That’s why I like a library name with something having the sense of providing guidance, like “navigation” or “piloting.” A library is a place where a professional helps the patron navigate the information highway, helps them ask the right questions, teaches them how to “steer” themselves, and “launches” them on the path to independence.

Exploratorium? Infolab? What is the name that would communicate to potential patrons that the library is the place to begin to master the modern universe? Aaah, I know: Superhero Hub. And wouldn’t you know it? There is such a concept:

If you have the perfect name for the library of tomorrow, please share it in a comment below.


American Association of School Librarians (2007). “AASL Learning Standards.” American Library Association. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2013, from

Cengage. “Librarian superheroes.” [Cartoon image]. Retrieved October 23, 2013 from

Confessions of a design geek (2011, July 24). “out and about :: london’s libraries.” [Photograph of an Idea Store]. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from Read more about Idea Stores at [Image on Website]. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2013, from

Prabha, C., Connaway, L. S., Olszewski, L., and Jenkins, L. R. 2007. “What is enough? Satisficing information needs.” Journal of Documentation, 63(1), 74-89. Pre-print retrieved October 27, 2013, from archive/2007/prabha-satisficing.pdf.


Trapped in Complexity

By Leslie Everitt

WWGD (What Would George Do?)

If George Washington somehow hitched a ride in the Tardis and got out in my backyard in the year 2013, he would have be amazed at many things, not least of all coming inside to hear the classical music issuing from the little, glowing tablet with metallic buttons in a tray that I hold on my lap. In his lifetime, the only way to hear classical music would be to listen to a live performance of it. I’m sure he would love to learn how to use such a device and might even be willing to put more time into learning how to get his favorite pieces to play using the Slacker Radio™ app than I am willing to do. However, I expect he would soon feel overwhelmed by all the technological advances surrounding him in my home: dishwasher, telephone, flashlight, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, car, blender, coffeemaker, electricity, batteries … let’s not even talk about the TV programs coming to me via FIOS and the resources on the World Wide Web.

Heck, I feel overwhelmed quite often, such as when I am browsing the web and start to feel how impossible it is for me to appreciate all there is to enjoy and use in the time I have available. How about our students? When we give them research assignments to do and they look for resources on the web, it can seem as if that information is getting buried under more and more new sites as the web grows larger every minute. Of course, many students aren’t discriminating enough to feel the elusiveness of the hunt and are easily satisfied by the first hit they make in their attempt to search. Perhaps those students are simply trying to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

The Whirlwind of the Web

As a former 10th grade English teacher with a demanding agenda and state-wide tests at year’s end, I didn’t often make time to deal with my students’ feelings. Sometimes I treated my 10th grade Honors students as if they were college students, and, while there were some students who rose to that level of expectation and did quite well, others need more scaffolding. After I become a school librarian that is one area where I want to improve. As I discover what a vast store of free electronic–and often interactive–learning resources are available online (much of it free of charge), I am struck with the idea that each time I suggest or assign the use of one resource, I ought to seek out alternative sites that are easier and/or more fun to use. Students can self-select the level that is right for them and teachers can help by labeling each link as best for beginner, proficient, or advanced students.

Helping students get better at negotiating current technology is imbedded in many of the NETS for Teachers standards, as in #3: “Modeling Digital Age Work and Learning”; particularly #3b: “Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.” Helping students get better at locating reliable sources by providing fun and instructive software tools is also part of NETS standard #2c: “Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008). It will take work to meet such high standards.

Or, is the Web a Whirlpool?

George Washington might look at some of the ways we spend our time and suggest we use more productive, simpler methods of accomplishing our aims, since he would see that we seem to be wasting our time. If George was watching me, I would feel even guiltier about the time I spend online than I do now. When I start to read blogs and tweets and I follow the links to learn more about new (and admittedly exciting) content, I feel like I am being sucked into a time-eating vortex. However, as we play with technology and learn its ins and outs, we can uncover tools to help us do miraculous things that would make old George quite envious. He might wish he could bring some of our technological advances back with him, when he returns to the 1700’s in the Tardis.

However, it would be impossible for him to do so because we live in an age of far more intense specialization than was true three hundred years ago. As stated in an article written by Dr. Bush, the head of R&D in the US during WWII, “Had a Pharaoh been given detailed and explicit designs of an automobile, and had he understood them completely, it would have taxed the resources of his kingdom to have fashioned the thousands of parts for a single car, and that car would have broken down on the first trip to Giza” (Bush, 1945, p. 3). So it would be with George Washington. Even to create the electric toothbrush, which I imagine he would covet, he would need the work of so many specialists to create all the components that it might take his whole lifetime to build this one item (made of plastic, using a battery). And who needs the headache? Due to the slowness of communicating new knowledge in George’s era, I doubt he ever felt as overwhelmed by the advances of science, technology, and information access as we do. People may be tempted to sit back and let others discover what new technologies are worth employing, but to avoid exploring new innovations will keep us from being vibrant professionals who excite and motivate student learning or help recharge the batteries of our colleagues. So, the take-away message is surfing the web is good (up to a point—the point when moss starts growing on your shoes).

Librarians to the Rescue

The Bush article, even though it was written sixty years ago, speaks of the complexity of the modern age and suggests that modern man is forced to specialize, since no one can hope to know everything in her field these days, much less in the entire world. The problem is that, in spite (or because) of this level of specialization, we are still ignorant of much of the work of other specialists and they cannot all be aware of ours. Who can hope to use even half of the vast stores of knowledge that are growing larger each day? What good is knowledge if it is inaccessible? How can we hope to tell our fellow humans about the conclusions we have made and spare them the struggles we endured? How can we be sure our conclusions are sound and that we took into account all the relevant information already in publication?

This is why librarians will always be valuable–as long as they come up with some answers to these questions. However, if librarians, being information specialists, are as lost as everyone else, what is it they can do that can’t be done by a lesser paid, less educated individual or by a computer system?

Rallying the Troops

When I was reading Gwyneth Jones’ blog, The Daring Librarian (, I was awash with ideas for how I might follow Jones’ example and collaborate with teachers to create new programs such as a school TV program. The next thing I knew hours had passed due to my following links on her blog to create an avatar, googling clever new names in order to come up with a “brand” for my blog space, and fantasizing about winning even a fraction of the awards on her page (!) (sounds a bit egotistical, but I imagine students will benefit from having a teacher who competes and innovates). This time might be called wasted or, and I prefer this view, it could be called learning. The authors of Meaningful Learning with Technology argue that “flexible thinking is as necessary for teachers as it is for their students in today’s shifting times. Emerging and rapidly changing technologies demand individuals who are prepared to experiment, adopt, or discard technology tools as they appear, evolve, become successfully entrenched, or fall by the wayside” (Howland, 2012, p. 21). Sometimes sitting “by the wayside” looks far more comfortable than being stuck in traffic on the information highway, but when that traffic jam breaks up and we start speeding away, the wind in our faces wakes us up and tells us we are living a life of adventure. This educational adventure may lead to places we’ve only dreamed of going before, if we convey that excitement to our students and take them with us on our journey.

Come to think of it, George might be so excited by the revolutionary (heh, get it?) advances in the 21st century, that he might choke down his horror over the pollution, consumerism, and other flaws of the information age and actually ask to stay here to be part of the amazing changes that we are experiencing every day. However, the only way he would he enjoy the miracles without feeling distraught by the literal and metaphorical enormity of the world today would be through the help of a trusty guide: a librarian perhaps? Chaaaaarge!



Bush, V. (1945, July 01). As we may think. The Atlantic. Web. Retrieved Oct. 03, 2013, from

Heyimcarlk (Taylor) on DeviantArt (2012). George Washington lightsaber. George Washington Lightsaber. Deviant Art. Web. Retrieved Oct. 06, 2013 from

Howland, J. L.; Jonassen, D. H.; Marra, R. M. (2011-03-14). Meaningful learning with technology (4th Edition). Pearson. Kindle Edition.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). Nets-t standards. Retrieved from

Zir (2009, Jan. 20). Current TARDIS seen at BBC TV Centre and taken by me Zir. Digital image. TARDIS1.jpg. Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2013 from

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