ALA Annual 2015

#alaac15 Knowledge starts with imagining

Knowledge begins with imagination….

Walking out of the San Francisco Airport launched the first day… what a kaleidoscope of memories… beautiful blue skies, warm sun and a breeze that whipped the rainbow flags mounted on the poles all along Market Street.  The check-in staff at the hotel all sported an ALA pin on the right side of their shirts and a rainbow ribbon on the left.

On the shuttle ride to the conference I sat next to a woman from Maine named Cindy.  Asked her what she does there and discovered she works for Cornerstones of Science.  Learned it’s a non-profit that works with libraries to bring science into their communities.  She connects libraries with scientists and holds community reads of science books… a kind of one science book/one community event.

She described how they design their science events in the libraries to be places of dialogue.  Her scientists come and begin the event with conversation about the scientific topic ranging from space to genetics, etc. Then the scientists invite conversation and questions and curiosity from the attendees…all of whom have read a certain title.  She shared the example of having one community read THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.  The community was then invited to come to the library for a follow-on event with a geneticist about the ethical use of your DNA.

Cindy asked me if our library has a telescope for customers to borrow.  She said that it’s so important to find out what our customers need from us.  Sometimes it’s the words in the books and sometimes it’s the chance to do something …. all of it leads to opening up the imagination, beginning the process of curiosity and asking questions.  That’s where the wonder is.  Her statistics showed that circulation statistics and new library card accounts rose by 20% after a telescope was introduced to the library collection.  It was an invitation to join the library for a group of folks in the community who enjoyed hands-on experiences.  It’s so important to see the needs of those around us.

True confessions… after I got my badge and the inch-thick guide to the conference I went sightseeing.  Took a cab over to the Golden Gate Bridge and joined the throng headed up to walk and bike across the bridge itself.  It was suitably windy and the fog was shrouding the tops of the bridge supports but you could see all across the Bay and watch the windsurfers having the time of their lives literally flying up into the wind and coming back down to skim the green waters.  It was breathtaking.  I watched one fellow who really loved to send his surf board flying up over the water. At one point he fell off and was just out there in the Bay holding onto the ropes that attached to the airborne piece.  He had to find his surf board and get going again. I imagined how I would feel floating in the San Francisco Bay holding on to a couple of ropes and looking for my board… it wasn’t a pretty sight.  🙂  But he did it.

I thought about him.  Does he go into his library?  Clearly he loves the thrill of the action of skimming across the Bay.  Clearly it was exhilarating for him to risk and challenge himself.  What do we offer him?  What did we offer him as a child?

Knowledge begins with imagination.  I’ll bet he imagined flying and now he does.  I do too.  I just do my flying when I see the face of a child who has found a book she wants to read.  It’s flying on the inside for both of us and it’s just as thrilling as that leap into the air in the Bay.



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