Reflections on Atlas Threads: Improve Society

I expected this thread to be inspiring, and it was. I confess to choking back a tear while reading out loud to myself the Henry V quote in the thread conclusion. Mission accomplished, Lankes. My heart is trim. What I did not expect was for the thread to clear up so many misconceptions on my part. I found that in at least three cases, my mental definition of a word or concept was tripping me up, and the clarifying explanations of these concepts in the thread helped me to understand them in a new way.

The first of these was efficiency. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have insisted that Dewey-style efficiency, or at least a similar replacement, would be an essential core of modern libraries. My way of thinking was that particularly with the wealth of information available, it would be a librarian’s job to provide efficient access to everything. So the concept of satisficing was immensely helpful to me. I’ve used satisficing already (in a hurry to write my first paper for 612, I used the first relevant articles I found in google scholar, though I knew better articles were probably out there somewhere.) At the time, I felt guilty about it, so it’s good to know that even though it may not be the best practice, it’s a common and understandable response to an overwhelming amount of choice. This shift in focus on efficiency for future libraries helped me to see the job in a new way.

The next definitional shift that struck me was the use of the word unbiased. It really has become such a buzz word in library and information circles, I hadn’t considered the complexities before, just took it for granted that of course this was something I would have to be. But the discussion about the necessity of bias, in selecting reliable information, for example, makes perfect sense. The replacement of unbiased with intellectually honest seems much more, well, honest to me. Following the model of the scientific method, and allowing new information to adjust prior assumptions (rather than denying that prior assumptions exist) seems just right to me.

The last word I had all wrong in my mind was innovation. After doing the readings for 601, I already had myself all intimidated about the pressure to innovate. I was indeed picturing the Einsteins and Steve Jobs of the world, and feeling myself not to be in the innovator’s league at all. However, with the shift to thinking about innovation as making small changes to existing systems, I suddenly see the infinite ways this could happen as I enter a library job. “Innovation is not a time slot, it’s an attitude.” This one line helped me immensely to see how innovation is and will be entirely within my reach.


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