From The Editor
I was an information junkie growing up in Collierville. The library at the corner of Walnut and North Rowlett was my church; I worshipped knowledge and understanding about the world and my place in it. There was always a process to my discoveries: Sometimes I didn’t know what I wanted to know about, I would just walk the stacks and look at the topics assembled in Dewey’s order until something caught my eye. It might have been a book about deciduous trees, or maybe mythology, or maybe snakes, or maybe Renaissance art.
About two hours ago, my wife, Jeanine, received a terrific professional recognition. She is a librarian at a local private school, and she received the school-wide Creative Teacher Award, presented by the alumni association. On the surface, it might be thought of as unorthodox for a librarian to win a teaching award, because librarians aren’t traditionally thought of as teachers. It’s possible that once upon a time, in the days of yore, school librarians mostly spent their time in the four walls of the library. It’s possible that they looked like just what you imagine when you hear the word “librarian.” It’s even possible that there were even some shush-ers in the library profession. But I’m willing to bet that most stereotypes about librarians were never true even for a minute.
Every librarian I’ve ever known, of any generation, has always been active in meeting the patrons where their needs are. For my wife, in a school, that’s often in the classroom as students conduct research. Technology has changed the profession dramatically, but mostly in the way that information is accessed and made available to users. The card catalog never went away, it just got turned into electrons. The librarian who was forever branded for shushing somebody probably was trying to help some kid find a book about monster trucks, jet engines, or nitroglycerin explosions. It’s not about the noise; it’s about preserving the patron’s attention.
The only thing that’s really changed is that the avenues for information and creativity have grown. Being a creative thinker means wrapping your head around what’s possible with the tools at hand, and maximizing their potential, even past what is advisable.
There’s a growing emphasis in education on teaching students how to be creative. “Design thinking” trains people how to imagine a desired goal and think a way through the problems preventing it from happening, consider the options to get there, experiment with the best ones — and then perfect the solution. The theory emphasizes that it’s okay to make mistakes, giving people the freedom to try new things, knowing that most won’t work, but when one does, it can be revolutionary.
I don't know if my childhood library process was a creative act, but the physically spatial efforts needed for me to learn something certainly instilled in me a love of the hunt.
And I don’t know if design thinking is a response to a need we’ve always had to teach creativity, or if this answers a recently evolved need in our society. Is the internet a stumbling block for creativity? Is all of human knowledge too readily at hand in our smart phone? Do we let Google and its autofill feature do too much of our thinking for us? Or can there still be happy accidents as we pass down the virtual library aisles, with information all around us.? After all, in researching this letter, I Googled “electrons internet” and found out that if you added up the entirety of the information on the internet, it weighs (in electrons) as much as a strawberry.
I didn’t know that.