Reflection on Chris Kleiss’ Visit

Chris Kleiss’ visit was invaluable for several reasons. Perhaps the most important, at least in my mind, was getting some firsthand news from the front. As a (soon-to-be MLS) librarian, I know what the field looks like from the public library standpoint. It was very enlightening to see how information professionals are involved in so many other aspects of life. It gives me hope that this degree that has cost thousands of dollars may someday actually pay for itself. He talked about different uses for the skills that we’re learning, such as portal development, information architecture, metadata development, taxonomies (the new word usage more than the old), and even consulting.

He also talked about agnotology. Wikipedia says that agnotology is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt particularly based on the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. Chris talked about how it is our responsibility to combat this ignorance through good research on our own parts and the teaching of good source finding to our constituents, no matter the setting in which we find them (library, school, business, etc.).

I thought I’d use Wikipedia as my source here because it’s so taboo, and yet, as we also covered during this class period, full of good information. The discussion of Wikipedia has also overlapped into another of my classes in the past few weeks (S553 – Public Library Management) and seemed particularly timely when it came up in Chris’ lecture. He said that we tend to Wikipedia because we don’t understand the knowledge and information cycle. I couldn’t have agreed more. As someone that actually teaches kids how to find reliable sources, I’ve always shied away from Wikipedia because it’s basically information by committee. We all know that committees often just plain mess it up. At the same time, there is a lot of perfectly accurate and useful information on Wikipedia. Chris pointed out that we need to know how to use tools like Wikipedia and we need to teach others that. Don’t just ignore it…instead teach about citation analysis. He pointed out that Einstein thought our questions were more important than the answers. In other words, question whether or not the authors of Wikipedia articles got their facts straight. Check out where they got their information. Take it all with a grain of salt. Use a little bit of critical thinking.

There were several other points that Chris made, but, besides the conversation about Wikipedia and being professionals about handling knowledge and information, he also talked about the evolution of library and information sciences. He made some very good points about how to change a profession so that it more accurately reflects the needs of the world in which we live. First, he said to remember that change comes slow. Too true. I tend to be a very goal oriented person. Even if I don’t accomplish something, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a plan in place to accomplish. In the past, I’ve pretty accurately been characterized as a bulldozer. It frustrates me to see something that needs to be fixed or could be more efficient if it were changed and not have the cooperation to see those fixes or changes come about immediately. I need to remember that good and lasting change is not an instant thing. Changing an entire profession, making it into a thing worthy of public respect, is going to be slow. He also said that education and curricula must change. That’s pretty self explanatory. In my mind, it’s very exciting to have someone acknowledge that education CAN change, let alone that it must. It’s fascinating for me to find that switch that suddenly makes a topic connect with a student and wonderful to find that it has impacted their life. I see Library Science shifting from a text oriented field to something more expansive and inclusive and it will be very interesting to see how Library Science education changes to coincide with the field. Finally, he said that workforce requirements are changing and we must develop new skills to adapt. Catalogers will have to learn to catalog “items” without a tangible format and will find new ways to organize and retrieve information. Reference librarians will be relied upon for much richer research as the need for ready reference help becomes a thing of the past. We are on the cusp of a shift away from the traditional image of the librarian as a profession.

Finally, the most important thing that Chris said was also his last. After giving us tons of information about the fields of library and information science, he said this. “Do something new, something bold, something that just might fail.” It seems pretty obvious that the status quo will be the death of libraries as we know them. If we want to preserve the good and useful and also see innovation take root and grow, we have to be willing to take risks. In fact, we need to have the mind set of risk takers. We need to take those mission statements and make sure they’re still what we’re about. Then we need to turn them upside down and inside out looking for new ways to make the connections between our patrons and the information that they need or want.

Agnotology. Accessed 10/24/2010


One thought on “Reflection on Chris Kleiss’ Visit

  1. Josh says:

    I’m so glad that you got a lot out of this. You highlighted some very important points to remember as part of your graduate education. There is a great need for better understanding of the mechanisms that are going on underneath and how change and evolution happen.

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