[Library Media] The Second Age of Reason

Michelle Melville Michelle.Melville at slcschools.org
Wed Oct 1 08:43:25 MDT 2014

Thank you for bringing this discussion to the list serve.  I agree that serendipity searching can be a victim of online searching.  That being said as librarians we should not feel defeated by this obstacle, but challenged to create spaces (physical and online) that induce curiosity and surprise to a new way of thinking.

One way is to avoid the "book warehouse" syndrome and be thoughtfully selective about collection development and how books are displayed on a shelf.  Personally I am looking at having every other shelf be angled for display to draw information seekers to areas they wouldn't normally seek out.  I am also looking at having my shelves be no more than 75% full for easier browsing.  My goal has always been to display as many books possible and I am exploring ways to increase that goal.  Also, we can look at putting inserts in the inside front cover of books to refer them to other books, as well as QR codes to refer them to online resources.

In addition to improving access to books in the hope of keeping serendipity alive is to be cautious of self-censorship.  If the purpose of serendipity is that information seekers are going to stumble into ideas that challenge and expose them to dew ideas and ways of thinking, then a balanced collection free from bias has to be a conscious effort by the librarian.  My first introduction to consciously avoiding self-censorship came from an 2009 article in SLJ "A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship" by Debra Lau Whelan (http://www.slj.com/2009/02/censorship/a-dirty-little-secret-self-censorship/#_).

Michelle Melville
Library Technology Teacher
West High School Librarian
241 North 300 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84103
801-578-8500 x271

-----Original Message-----
From: library-media [mailto:library-media-bounces at lists.uen.org] On Behalf Of georgeweight at integrity.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 10:03 PM
To: Fawn Morgan
Cc: library-media at lists.uen.org
Subject: Re: [Library Media] The Second Age of Reason

My response may not have much to do with the ease of information access referred to in the quote, but fits one aspect of the "loss of serendipity"
that technology has brought about.
Since I retired, I've done a lot of substitute teaching. That gives me a lot of exposure to many students in different schools. Once in awhile, I'll ask the question: "Do you think there is any danger in us losing face to face communication because of cell phones, social media, texting, and the like?" Responses are surprising: students will often respond "Yes, there is real danger. But I for one still prefer face-to-face talking with my friends."
Anyone see any parallel to the popularity of the published paper book as it holds its own to e-books? When I'm filling in for a librarian, hard copy is the preference with many students. This in spite of the fact that e-books can now be read page-by-page, turning as you go rather than scrolling like the earlier ones.
Students still show up early in the morning to check out a book, and I can't leave as soon as I can in some other classes because there's a line after school wanting a book.
I'll read books the e-way if they're public domain, free, and easily accessible--but I still pull one off the shelves when a prep period comes around and I can relax in a soft chair.

> The September 8-15 issue of Time Magazine has in it an article, "The
> Answers Issue," a section of which is titled* The Second Age of Reason:
> Information Overload Will Improve Our Lives*. It describes our current
> age as not the Information Age, but the Age of Answers or the Second
> Age of Reason.
> Do you agree with the following quote? I have long been a proponent of
> finding the best information by whatever method or source necessary.
> Serendipity is a search no one takes the time to do anymore, though.
> Browsing? Fat chance! Take the first item on the results hit list and
> move on is more likely.
> *"If there's a cost to the age of answers, it's probably our loss of
> serendipity. We've honed our daily news feeds to send us stuff that
> already interests us, so we're less likely to stumble upon a quirky
> story on page B-13. We gravitate toward online cocoons of like-minded
> people who don't challenge our assumptions. Optimizing isn't always
> optimal. *
> *"But for the most part, answers are good to know. You just have to
> ask the right questions." *
> An argument for our Utah Library Media Core Standards if I've ever
> heard one...
> Fawn
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