Conferences and Comfort Zones

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) just had its biennial conference in Charlotte, North Carolina last weekend and the NJ version (NJASL) had their annual one this weekend.  Both events were great experiences, but there was something odd.

I heard a few people dismiss Danah Boyd’s excellent presentation about the online world of young people and how important it is for librarians to be a part of it.  (Unfortunately, the actual presentation is hidden behind AASL-lines, but you can check out Joyce Valenza’s discussion of it on her NeverEndingSearch blog).

I was curious about the negative reactions; folks seemed to think it was irrelevant, and one woman said it made her concerned about what the remainder of the conference would be.  Now, I did not speak to a broad spectrum of people, but the comments started me wondering if we librarians do not embrace techies unless they are one of us.  After all, Joyce Valenza’s terrific presentation at NJASL (the first keynote sing-along I’ve ever seen) was full of technology, and I heard high praise (and a lot of concern about being behind) after her presentation.  However, she is one of us so it might have been the messenger.

Maybe it was more the message.  Valenza showed a plethora of practical ideas that included more than social media and would equip our students with the right “apps” for success while Boyd focused more on theories about young people and social media.  I’m not sure if it was the message or the messenger; however, librarians need both.

I truly believe that our sustainability lies in joining with instructional technology people, embracing theorists and ethnographers like Danah Boyd, and moving out of the typical comfort zones of librarianship.  AASL and NJASL reinforced this more than ever!

2 thoughts on “Conferences and Comfort Zones

  1. As both a geek and a psychologist (ooh, it sounds so FANCY!), I’ve been very interested in boyd’s research. I’m curious – what specific objections did you hear to her speech? Or was it more just general dismissiveness of these kids today and their FaceTube pages and rock & roll music?

    • Hey, Damian! I think it was partly general dismissiveness, but more a “what does this have to do with me?” I don’t think that some folks see how pervasive social media is…no longer just what kids are doing. Some folks also think that young people “know” this, but Boyd really stressed how students need models and an adult presence online just as in person.

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