Public Speaking, Social Media and Libraries, Communities and Transformational Literacy

The proverbial “they” say that people would rather die than give a speech. That’s a concept I don’t really understand. Considering I’m a teacher, maybe that’s a good thing. Oh sure, I get nervous before class, but on the whole I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with a group of eager folks.

Ok, I lie.

I get really nervous before talking in front of anyone. Really, really nervous.  Then, I take a deep breath, and do a forward bend. I’m serious. I do a uttanasana no matter where I’m at, and sometimes, it is quite uncomfortable doing a forward bend in a university toilet considering their size! I’m not sure if it’s the bend or that I have to laugh at myself that makes me feel better. Whatever the process, it’s the result of serenity that I long for and usually get.

I’m usually ok during a presentation once I get going because I usually know what I’m talking about. If it’s a lecture or presentation for a class, I’m often providing a synopsis of information that I’ve studied for years and years, and updating during the previous months. If it’s a public presentation, I’m usually presenting findings or thoughts about research I’ve had my head in for maybe five years. In the last two years, I’ve shared my ideas on social media, which as you know, hasn’t been around a whole long time. It’s these presentations that make me feel most nervous because I know there will always be someone in the room who knows more about social media than I do. There might even be a lot of someones who know a whole hell of a lot more than I.

That idea of not being the expert, or not knowing all there is to know, about social media is a fine admission I think. How can we possibly keep up with everything there is to learn when changes in technology seem to happen by the hour? Some days, I don’t even want to open my email from Mashable–by far the best aggregator of social media news–because I know I won’t have enough time to explore all the stories. So, as I tell my students, I just have to admit defeat and leave it to the experts. That’s where librarians come in.

Librarians are literacy experts. At its most basic level, literacy is knowing how to read, discuss and navigate information, and librarians are experts in helping us search, sift, synthesise and share information. I’ll be talking about this at an upcoming Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) Canadian conference. I’m going to share some of our Beyond the Book findings about community and its role in helping people to navigate through the copious amounts of information during different stages of life. I will highlight how people view libraries and the role of librarians as they make big and not-so-big life changes. I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or memories of libraries or specific librarians? How important are they to you, and especially to you today in this world of easy access to information? I’ve got a lot to say but I sure could use the help of all of you in my community. It’ll help me to know that you’re behind me as I stand to deliver my keynote. After I’ve done my forward bend.

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2 thoughts on “Public Speaking, Social Media and Libraries, Communities and Transformational Literacy”

  1. I would so love to hear your presentation and to bring my mom along, too. She’s mentioned to me several times that in her reference librarian role at her small-town library, she needs to be able to span the generations more readily these days, helping students focus and find information online and helping older patrons learn the basics of computers, which is a very slow process with some, starting with “this is called a mouse.”

    Given the economy these days, she sees so many people hunting for jobs and it’s become a huge reason for library use. She also finds that many younger job-seekers use the library to search and apply for positions but often don’t know how to compose a resume or cover letter — a common complaint is that they don’t know how to spell or organize their thoughts. And older job-seekers need help in researching companies online and applying electronically.

    But her favorite patrons are those who simply say they’re interested in a certain topic or author and can she recommend books or sources? Working with people who want to discover something new is much more satisfying. And really, allowing discovery is the entire purpose of libraries. I walk through the door every time and breathe in the atomosphere of possibility and exploration. Love that.

    1. I received your sweet card yesterday, and will buy myself a glass of wine after the day is done. I wish you could be here, too. I did a practice run with our kick-butt librarians at MSVU and I feel quite excited to share today. I found out something interesting in that test run. Did you know that librarians don’t like to hear about all of our fond memories of childhood library experiences? Did your mom ever mention that?

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