Imagining with Members: DC Chapter

US Department of Education
US Department of Education

My July visit to Washington, D.C., combined a great DC/SLA Chapter program, several library visits, and a quiet dinner with a friend and mentor.

I began my tours at the U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, where I met with Karen White and Pamela Tripp-Melby. The Library has a total staff of thirteen. Director Tripp-Melby works with White on outreach efforts, including presentations on services and resources for the evidence-based research that is conducted across the agency. The Library serves Department employees and the public. A major project is the cataloging of a textbook collection that dates from the 1830’s to the 1940’s and includes 28,000 volumes. This project highlights the extension of traditional library competencies into areas of special collections and digitization. Pamela leads Open Access for the Department of Education, and worked with other Department employees to draft their policy. A challenge in the Ed policy is the definition of research. Much Department funding goes to programming that may or may not produce a scholarly paper. Data  and data storage also present unique policy challenges. With no central education data repository, researchers will need  to store data in local repositories. Education data includes a significant amount of human subjects data, which must be handled with care.

Turning to SLA, we bridged the open access and data discussion with career opportunities for data librarians. Researchers need people who can manage this information. This is a career development opportunity for SLA and its units. Other emerging careers for information professionals include user experience  and information architecture professionals. Indexers and catalogers are re-imagining themselves as metadata specialists. Special librarians have skills and knowledge of organizations that can be leveraged for new career opportunities. Understanding emerging fields and practices is critical, and our conference programming must reflect this content. A shift in our conference planning cycle to a competitive programming model could assist in delivering fresh, broad content.

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Gates Foundation 2015 Letter: Major Goals, Optimism for Future

Health, farming, education, and mobile banking are addressed in the Gates Foundation 2015 Letter. Full of pop-out sections and imbedded videos, the letter is a media-rich report on upcoming advances and a call to action.

The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.

There is a fifteen-year timeframe, and in that time child deaths (< 5-years) will be cut by half. Polio, Guinea worm and potentially two other diseases will be eradicated. Only one other disease, smallpox, has been eradicated in human history.

Food yields in Africa and other parts of the world can increase by half through knowledge of crop rotation, fertilization, and knowing when and how to plant specific crops. Mobile phones in the hands of farmers will drive education. More varied and nutritious food will drive food security.

Mobile phones will also transform banking for the poor, allowing more control over assets through mobile banking and micro-lending. Finally, global education will be transformed through smart phones, tablets and online learning. This is where we, as library and information professionals, may have the biggest impact. Whether we help develop courses, make resources available through repositories and digital libraries, or participate in the one laptop per child program, we can impact the lives of thousands through global education.

In the Call for Global Citizens section, Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks about putting boot prints on the moon, and how that accomplishment made everything else seem possible. He asks:

Will there be an end to war? Possibly. Will there be an end to hunger? Possibly. But you have to envision it first. You have to bet on it. Then you’re invested in the outcome. That’s where change comes from.

The Gates Foundation 2015 Letter is inspiring, and calls for each of us to imagine a better future and to help create that future. Interested in becoming a Global Citizen? Sign up here: http://www.globalcitizen.org/

Belfer Center Meeting on Solving Societal Challenges

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center sponsored “Inventing the future to address societal challenges.” The meeting discussed 2 AAAS reports: “Advancing Research in Science and Engineering II” and “Restoring the Foundation Report.” Attendees spoke of the need to move from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary thinking to solve today’s problems. There was a call for greater public dialog and improved K12 education. Major topics included Challenges to a More Effective U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise, Bell Labs 2.0, the University of the Future and Addressing Global Grand Challenges with Science and Technology.

Moving beyond silos, disciplines and borders to solve problems together will be essential for tomorrow’s success. What steps can we take as individuals and professionals to move beyond our own borders?IMG_3666