I’m in my second term of library school. My experience so far is still mostly about foundations and required courses, learning the common language of the library, and coming to grips with core concepts and basic skills. I’ve had some theory, I’ve had some history, and I’m getting my first sense of current practices and conventions. These are all necessary and valuable things. These are crucial elements of my understanding of librarianship and my future role as a professional. This is what library school is for.
But sometimes, I just want more.
I mean, we’re library scientists, right? So where are our research facilities? Where are the experiments? Shouldn’t at least a few of us be library mad scientists? (I know some librarians who totally have the crazy eyebrows for it.) So who do I have to see to get my lab coat and my tesla coil?
The reality is that library school, as valuable as it is, is always going to be mostly about the past and the present, with at most wary/hopeful glances in the general direction of the future. That’s not criticism, it’s just the nature of the thing. If we library students want to know more about what’s going on closer to the cutting edge, we’re just going to have to go look for it ourselves. And isn’t that what Hack Library School is all about?
Here are a few places to start:
Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory:
This is the stuff, right here. This group of developers and librarians work under the auspices of the Harvard Law School as a sort of think tank for the avant garde of librarianship. And they’re doing incredibly cool stuff, from the very promising open-source ShelfLife collection navigator to their consistently great podcasts. This is where I go when I need a solid dose of experimental librarianship.
Harvard Library Lab:
Not to be confused with the above, this Library Lab is run by the Department of Scholarly Communication and is more concerned with supporting research projects in the library and information sciences. A few minutes spent poking around the current projects page always leaves me with new things to think about.
Library Test Kitchen:
Yep, these folks are at Harvard, too, this time a seminar being run out of the Graduate School of Design. The Test Kitchen looks at the future of the library from a perspective of space, use, and the experience of being in a library. Ethereal-sounding stuff, but it also has a lot to do with why many of us came to love the library in the first place.
I’m using InfoCamp as a representative for a whole array of similarly-structured (un)conferences around the country, because I just recently got to attend my first (which was, by the way, co-organized by Hack Library School’s own Turner Masland; Zack is pretty familiar with the concept as well.) InfoCamps are springing up all over the place, and that’s awesome, because they generate the sort of cross-pollination between information nerds that can ultimately lead to great things for all of us. At the one we just had here in Portland, I heard some talks that were exciting, some that were outside the normal library territory but really useful, and one I didn’t even begin to understand. But even getting a look into other ways of thinking about information was more enlightening and inspiring than I’d imagined it could be.
Library Boing Boing:
Hopefully most of us have heard about this one: the ALA is partnering with tech/culture uberblog BoingBoing to support, celebrate, and collaborate on all sorts of cool new library-type things. This one is still in the development phase, but isn’t that the best time to get involved?
The natural extension of hacking library school is to hack the library itself. Where do you go when you want something a little more futuristic than what your MLS program provides?