by Daniel D. Stuhlman
This is the season for graduations. I went to two very different graduations. One was for students completing graduate school and becoming librarians and the other for students completing 8th grade. Neither graduation had my children among the graduates. The 8th graders were like family; they were in class together seven hours a day and frequently after school and on Shabbat. The librarians were mostly distance learners; they barely recognized each other. I learned a lot from the emotion and feelings that the 8th graders inserted in their speeches. Since I was not asked to be a commencement speaker, I want to give my charge to future librarians. This is the spiel that I could never give in class.
Congratulations and mazel tov graduates. This is a traditional greeting given to those who have accomplished as much as you have. You are about to enter a new phase of your life. [Now that I’m done with the formality here’s the emes.]
Often librarians are underpaid and under appreciated.
Librarians are experts in the gathering, storing, cataloging, and distribution of information, but they are poorly respected. I have to commend the Chicago Jewish News for choosing a reference librarian, Dan Sharon, among there top 10 Chicagoans of the year. [For the full article go to http://www.chijewishnews.com/archives_articles.jsp?id=184185]
A reference librarian is a guide to the resources of the library. The reference librarian not only leads the readers to information but opens the doors for further learning. Authors sometimes thank reference librarians, but most often they are silent participants. Most students benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of librarians and their reference services, but they have no idea of the training required to do a good job. Reference librarians get their knowledge from reading and experience. I can teach you the sources and tools, but I can’t teach you everything. I can not teach you about the smile you need or the cheery disposition. I can teach you about libraries; I can not teach you about your library. Dan Sharon is widely consulted because of his subject expertise and knowledge of the collection of his library. He is widely thanked by authors for his contributions to their research.
No one can do a great job without great tools. A reference librarian will not know where a book is without the help of catalogers and the people who prepare the books for the shelf. Catalogers would have nothing to do without the constant stream of publications. Authors of non-fiction would have no sources without libraries. Everyone in the field of information, consumers and producers, depend on libraries.
Never ending learning is a lot harder than getting an assignment from a professor. Self-directed learning means you have to learn without the help of a text book, course materials, mentors, organized curriculum, teachers, or fellow classmates. Never ending learning has not set time, place, or space. Librarians need to learn from every source including: print and non-print media, fellow professionals, readers, children, friends, relatives, colleagues, students and any other person you may contact. There is a saying that even if you learn only sentence from a person, you may call him/her your teacher. A classroom exercise is never the same as on the job experience. Learn from both your mistakes and your successes. Learn to share and borrow ideas and experiences. Contribute to the success of others and they will help you.
In the classrooms we attempt to teach critical thinking. We hope the students learn enough of the tools to continue life-long learning. Simulations and exercises allow student to sample, try situations, and learn the kinds of right answers that work. Continue to experiment and explore. There are multiple right answers to many problems. Our goals as teachers include not the transfer of information, but rather to the set the example for kindling curiosity, exploding enthusiasm, fostering the desire for continuous learning, and to be examples and mentors for the people you meet. Never lose the ability to be curious and develop the curiosity of those around you. Know when to hurry and know when to slow down. Know when to be concise and when to embellish. What you have accomplished in school is to master a subject or body of knowledge. Show the world and yourself, wisdom, for wisdom is the result of knowledge put to good use. Information is organized data; knowledge is the integration or application of information. Wisdom is the strategic application of knowledge to make a better self, organization and community.
©2004 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
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