Today is the day of information. Information that moves, that travels, that changes hands from one person to another. Information has energy but unlike true energy, information grows and increases each time it is absorbed by another person. Everyone's experiences add to each others making us connected to people that we may have never met. No one is alone and no one needs to feel alone. In this hyperlinked world of connectivity, the library is more important that ever before. We are changing with this wonderful world to bring connections and knowledge to everyone. The library is one of the critical centers of the connected world.
The internet has made it possible to acquire information and to develop relationships with people all over the Earth. We can reach out and we can be heard. Bill and Melinda Gates have created the Global Libraries Program to bring the internet to libraries everywhere. Their mission is to "ensure that all people, especially those in disadvantaged communities around the world, have access to information through technology in public libraries". Think about what this means. A village in Africa may be able to learn how to purify their water by using library computers. A person from an island country may be able to get a college degree by taking classes online. A teacher in a rural area may be able to blog with other education professionals to get ideas for her classroom and maybe even begin to Skype museums and scientists for virtual field trips. All this through the library.
The internet opened the door and social networking stepped through to create virtual, vital and exciting connections. Libraries can now develop relationships with patrons outside of their neighborhood, outside of their city, even outside their state and country. Librarians know that people are using all different ways to connect and learn. They are becoming social networking and new technology experts so they can share their hearts with every generation in all ways. There are a multitude of sites that create connections from Facebook and Fllickr to Pinterest and LinkedIn. But in the disaster relief world, Twitter has become the hero. Digital Humanitarian activists collect the information sent by crowdsourcing and we become hyperlinks by organizing the data and sending it to relief agencies. People are being heard and are receiving help because humanitarian aid activists are learning how to use social networking to research, classify, aggregate and discriminate data, and produce usable data maps. Being in the middle of a hurricane does not mean that you are alone.
When a typhoon hit the Philippines last December, 2012, people tweeted messages and photographs describing the damage. The data was collected, analyzed and mapped for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Victims on the ground used Instagram and Facebook to post photographs and videos to describe their situation. By including multimedia, they helped our team create accurate maps.
But during a disaster is not the time to learn how to use social media tools. Libraries can teach residents how to sign up for accounts and how to text the right way so their message reaches relief aid. Studies are showing that even people in rural areas of developing countries are purchasing cell phones. Libraries could lead the way in preparing residents for a disaster by teaching them how to contact help.
Libraries are changing lives. We provide computer skills, resume and job searching classes. Immigrants are learning English and students are getting help with schoolwork. People are getting jobs and feeding their families because public libraries are creating a link between those looking for jobs and the skills they need to be qualified. The American Library Association reports that 58% of adults have public library cards. Some of them are learning about their heritage through local history and genealogy programs. Some are just following their own hearts favorite interest. My local library featured the "Geek the Library" program where staff and patrons displayed their favorite interests. Of course mine said "I geek geography".
Libraries have always been the place to go for community information. We are still the town square. We are the place to find out what is going on, what events are happening in our city and even find out how to register to vote.
Libraries are also safe havens for storms and heat waves. They are strategically placed in the heart of cities to be reachable by everyone. When it's too hot or too cold outside, people rely on libraries for a comfortable place to go. For some, like the very young and elderly, libraries can provide life.
Many libraries have been constructed to be safe rooms for severe storms like tornadoes. The West Public Library in West Texas was used by the Red Cross to aid victims and their families after the fertilizer plant explosion. Information was later posted at the library to help the town understand where to go and who to contact for more aid.
Libraries are even a sanctuary for those who are new to a town. Where is everything located? What schools are in my area? It's a perfect place to go to learn about your new home.
But as library students, we are all different with an assortment of personalities and gifts. This makes for a wonderful variety of future librarians to be able to reach out to everyone.
Some have a sweet and lovely heart for children. They love Skippy Jon Jones, Bill Peet books, Jack Prelutzky poems and the sound of endless giggling.
Others have a generous and patient heart for teenagers. They love the "A-ha" moment when teens discuss the themes of Hunger Games or learn compassion when reading about a girl trying to have a normal life with a parent with mental health struggles from the book "Waiting for Normal".
Still others have a heart for information, both printed and digital. Their heart extends to every age and every subject. But our users don't stop there and neither do we.
Some of use will be librarians in medical and law schools, museums, historical centers and even national parks.
We may be high school, college and sports librarians.
While we're getting our Master's in Library and Information Science from such great programs as the one at San Jose State, we continue to follow our hearts and narrow down our focus.
We are finding where we fit and we are figuring out what part of a library feels right and feels comfortable. And then we will thrive!
We won't just reach users, we will develop relationships while we will make our jobs bigger than they are searching out more information to add to our ever growing bounty of knowledge. In our spare time, we will find ourselves looking up what is the latest and greatest in our field so we will be current and dynamic. We will not hold back, we will not be stagnant. We will be vibrant and effective.
I know where I fit.
I plan to use my library skills in the field of geospatial data. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Maryland offer dual masters degrees in Library Information Science and Geographical Information Systems. Some universities including San Jose State are offering GIS courses within their LIS program. With the popularity of geolocation, patrons are needing mapping assistance so Geographical Information Librarianship is on the rise.