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Knowledge is created through conversation

2007 July 18

I’ve been known to be critical of academia for often being largely uninformed about what is actually happening in libraries beyond their sphere of influence and in the wider world in general. There have been a few proud, shining exceptions to this in my own field, but from my front row seat (okay, perhaps third row), I’ve concluded it’s certainly the trend. That’s why I’m thrilled at the news of the Participatory Librarianship Testbedintroduced here by David Lankes.

Imagine this: A handsome young man approaches the desk at the DMV to renew his driver’s license. A woman, even younger than him, perhaps not even out of high school greets him with a smile. The transaction proceeds pleasantly until the woman asks if the man would like to be an organ donor. When he declines she becomes officious and lists all the reasons the donating our organs is a civic responsibility. She even shames him, “What? Are you one of those people who are afraid that if you donate, someone will cut you up and run off with the pieces? That’s NOT going to happen.” The gentleman, taken aback and anxious to diffuse the situation, feels he has to explain and announces voice, “No, actually, I’m HIV positive.”

Now, say this girl is 18 or so – she’s certainly aware of HIV on many levels – the causes, the symptoms, the treatments, the preventions, she’s probably even been introduced to the ways in which a positive HIV diagnoses would change a person’s life. BUT, I’m willing to wager ALA schwag that she never really understood any of it until that moment. We learn more from the people around us, everyday, than we ever did or will do in school.

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