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Practicing visionaries

I was, to say the least, surprised by the reaction caused by Joyce Valenza and my School Library Journal article, Things that keep us up at night, published earlier this month. The article itself was more or less a distillation of observations, predictions and warnings that Joyce and I have been making for some time - not really covering a lot of new, radical ground. So why the reaction?

Joyce, on her TeacherLibrarian Ning, calls out these substatial reactions to the article:

* Beth's "guest post" on the Blue Skunk Where are the Others?
* Buffy Hamilton Refuting Inertness
* Cathy Jo Nelson Something for the "yeah buts" and Filters, a problem of complacency
* Karen Kliegman Cheering from the sidelines
* Jim Schneider Change, leadership, teaching and learning
* Tyler Reed (Scholastic) Why we need to embrace change
* Carolyn Foote's So, what can we do?


* TeacherNinja Become Change
* Walter Carmichael Contemplating the Future

I received, as I am sure did Joyce, some direct e-mail comments as well.

So why this article, why the reaction, and what did I learn/observe?

  1. The conversation began, for me anyway, with a strong, thoughtful disputation of the article. Had it not been for Beth's taking us to task a little, this may have simply died a quiet death. The richness of this experiences came as much or more from the great critical comments to Joyce's post, my post and Beth's post as it did from the article itself. (Go back and read the comments if you haven't!)
  2. I find it interesting that the original article appears in the electronic version of an (old) traditional publication. Wide readership of SLJ plus convenient access = lots o' reactions??? Is this an example of an "and" rather than "or" kind of future envisioned by Walt Crawford and others?
  3. The vision of future libraries and services is coming from practitioners, rather than traditional "experts," resulting in a new generation of leadership emerging from the field rather than academia. Carolyn, Buffy and Cathy Jo linked to above who responded in their own well-known blogs all lead by example - with Joyce being the model for this type of in-field leadership. Best practices are less research-based and more driven by what actually works.

Five years ago the "conversation" this article may have produced would have only been a couple (heavily edited) letters to the editor of SLJ and perhaps a few e-mails on LM_Net.

Today I am blown away, still reading, still digesting and still thinking that next time I write for SLJ I'll ask for a damn raise ;-)

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Reader Comments (7)

It fired me up to post about it as well (aside from my long-winded posting on your blog earlier).

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

@teacherninja--I read yours too!! Thanks for chiming in and demanding to be heard.

@BlueSkunk (aka Doug) It has been quite a conversation with many views expressed. I have scoured the blogosphere finding any and all links back to any of the posts related to the now convoluted conversation (rss and google alerts are absolutely amazing--a must teach skill for our students doing research on current events!!) I am stunned at the divisiveness of the responses--there is definitely a dividing line that is frightening to me. Many issues are causing this dividing line, from filtering to even misinformation (just read last night someone feels live blogging and/or backchanneling is rude and akin to students passing notes in class!).

I even had a colleague face to face tell me today after reading the SLJ article she too feels out of the loop and hopelessly behind. It was with quite a bit of reassurance that I told her she is on the edge of it all, just one step from joining in the networks and conversations out there. I really had to show her that just by having a familiarity with it (a true novice or an almost novice) she was way ahead of many teacher librarians out there, and to not let this article make her feel any less than a professional, but rather on the verge of becoming an even better professional.

It was quite a shock to hear this from someone I work with daily. We agreed many others that are like her probably need to hear the same reassurances. We also agreed we as a team need to have some staff developments to slowly but surely introduce the concepts of PLN and self directed learning, as well as the many 2.0 tools to our staff. I feel better that we left with at least an idea for moving her forward (through staff developments) but wonder if that is part of the problem too--that those already drinkng the koolaid are making the ones not quite there draw this line in the sand and refuse to budge to cross over.

Throwing your hands up and refusing or quitting is only doing yourself a huge disservice, not to mention your patrons (and school community.)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson--aka Cathyjo

Hi Doug.

I can only say that it surprised me as well. It's given me so much to think about. Thanks for allowing me to be the accidental "guest poster."

What I am left with now is that, even after all the interest and debate, there will be many librarians who are not at all aware that this conversation happened. These may be some of the same ("others") librarians who we've been worrying about from the very beginning. They might see the print article but not think to read it online, nevermind all the conversations that have spun off from it. So, I am going to continue to point out this debate to all my colleagues who may have missed it, as many others have done in all sorts of ways.

I agree that our profession is led by spectacular practitioners. I fear that in my original blog comment (which wasn't really polished for prime time) I might be viewed as not having respect and admiration for our leaders. I've been told I "attacked" you both, and since you don't know me, I can see how it could have been misread. I didn't intend this, and am still inspired by all that so many do to reach out. Instead, my hope was to suggest that the responsibility for changing and sharing belongs to all of us. Because even with the heroic efforts many are making, there is still more work to do. I smiled when I read Cathy Nelson's story about her colleague that just needed a little encouragement in the face of all this change. Sometimes that may be all it takes is a little reassurance, which reminds me of that first post I made. A one-on-one conversation and a patient ear can be the spark that gets someone going.

I've also been inspired by the great passion that many of us have for our profession. And although we may have different perspectives on how the problems might be attacked, I think we all agree that there is enough work for all of us to do. I have recommitted myself to doing something every day to help us thrive as a profession. Maybe; after a while, we will all start to sleep a little better.


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Friese

Very interesting post, very moving actually! Glad I found this, a small joy in my day:)

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Rencontre


Applause for the conversation and for the inclusion and for listening and learning. Applause for those who are speaking up and sharing their views.

Perhaps the only sad part is that there are so many who need to be part of the conversation who aren't because they CANNOT ACCESS blogs nor Nings or the other places these items are being discussed. The digital divide hits even here.

But even more so - conversation is GREAT but conversation that leads to positive action is even better. There are people walking the walk oblivious to the talk and people talking the talk - -we need people who talk AND walk the talk and make positive changes happen.

The best part of the article that will impact my teaching is that I have to begin educating my students to select their own license - I am falling short here and realized that I've got to prep kids for the uploading and creating that they are doing!

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Davis

Nice informative post. I have read this article first time and found interesting. I really enjoy reading your post.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwebcam

Hi Ninja,

Thanks for reminding me. I added a link to your blog comments to the post! You are definitely another "practicing visionary!"


Hi Cathy Jo,

I think we all feel "out of the loop" sometimes. I know I sure do - it's impossible to keep up.

But it's not impossible to keep trying!

Thanks for the comments and all you add to the conversation.


Hi Beth,

I hope you know that normally I ask commenters if I can use their comments as a main post and give them a chance to edit, but you left no email in your first comment. Sorry!

I would add to your comments that none of us can do everything. We can all do a little something new and innovative and share - and hope others can benefit.

Thanks again for the insightful comment,


Bon jour,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Made MY day!


Hi Vicki,

Thanks so much for the comment. My question is when conversations like this will the norm rather than exception to issues in librarianship and education. I know you certainly have done a lot to get the ball rolling, serving as a "practicing visionary" for the classroom teacher.

Thanks again and keep up the good work!


October 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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