The Atlas
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the atlas The Atlas is a topical map represented by a series of agreements in relation to one another organized into a series of threads. While many terms are discussed in detail throughout the Atlas, it is useful to at least provide a basic definition before we proceed: • Agreement An understanding about the field of librarianship that may include a skill area, a relevant theory, a practice, or an example. One might be tempted to think of these as facts that lack context— for example, the fact that Mt. Everest is 29,029 feet high. That fact is useful but not nearly as important as when teamed with the fact that your plane can only climb to 29,000 feet. Agreements are more like persuasive arguments that are related to each other. This teaming of agreements is context, and within the Atlas this is achieved through relationships. • Relationships True knowledge lies not in facts but in the relationships among them. Relationships provide context to agreements and sit between them. These are aggregated together for explanatory purposes into threads. • Threads Threads are intended to tell the story of key concepts in the Atlas. For example, one thread focuses on the conceptual foundations of the Atlas, whereas another focuses on the skills and values that librarians need. Taken together, the threads, relationships, and agreements are visually represented in the Map. • Map The Map is the visual representation that acts as an index to the entire Atlas. It is a snapshot that allows the reader to explore and navigate through an emerging, grounded understanding of the field of librarianship. It is the centerpiece of the Atlas. • Atlas The Atlas is the sum total of this work. It is the visual Map, as well as the detailed discussions of agreements and threads. There is one other term used throughout the Atlas that must be clarified : “member.” While this is fully explored within the agreement 5 6 T h e AT l A s “Members Not Patrons or Users,” it is worth explaining its use here. What do you call the people whom librarians serve? In the aggregate, I’ll call them community, realizing that the community might be the faculty, staff, and students of a university; taxpayers in a city; or employees in a commercial firm. Individually I refer to them as members —as opposed to patrons, customers, or users. I picked up this term from Joan Frye Williams, the librarian and information technology consultant who solved the naming problem by doing something amazing—she asked folks in the library what they wanted to be called. I like the term because it implies belonging, shared ownership, and shared responsibility. It is, frankly, a bit awkward to talk about membership in a work dedicated to an individual, the librarian (after all, can someone be a member of a librarian?), but I am willing to deal with the awkwardness to reinforce the idea of member as stakeholder. After all, a user connotes a consumer who takes without giving, and a customer implies a lopsided relationship where service is bought and paid for. Patron is fine but derives from the concept of patronage, which has always struck me as a bit paternalistic. So I use member. They are members of a community, a library, or a conversation (and often all three at the same time). A NoTe oN VisuAlizATioN The shape of the Map—that is, how it is actually displayed—is arbitrary . The current “picture” in the Atlas was chosen as a compact design that is easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. The true map of agreements and relationships can be displayed in a nearly infinite number of ways. Indeed, the beginning of each thread and agreement changes the position of agreements to maximize clarity and space. For example, in the overall Map, the “Mission” thread has the shape seen in figure 1. While in the discussion of this thread, it is represented more compactly as figure 2. The relationships and agreements are the same; simply the position is different. The Atlas as a whole can also be displayed in various ways. For example, it can be seen as a hyperbolic tree in figure 3. This format is actually better for exploration and direct interaction but more difficult for static viewing and understanding the whole. The Map could also be displayed simply as a sort of textual outline , say for a Wiki interface in figure 4. Although this format is efficient for navigating the agreements, it...