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t h r e a d s 31 1. Holmes, R. (2008). The age of wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science. New York: Pantheon Books. KnowLedge creation The time was when a library was very much like a museum, and a librarian was a mouser in musty books.... The time is when a library is a school, and the librarian is the highest sense a teacher. —Melvil Dewey the Mission oF Librarians is to iMprove society through FaciLitating KnowLedge creation in their coMMunities With our mission in hand, we can now begin to ground it in theory and deep concepts that will allow it to span any set of technologies or peculiarities of a single setting. So let us start with the most fundamental of questions for a knowledge-based organization: What is knowledge? How can it be created? These are the central questions we must answer to form a new librarianship. But before diving into the details of defining and denoting the underpinnings of knowledge, I must address something that knowledge is not—cold and impersonal. There is a perception among many that knowledge is somehow a dispassionate accumulation of facts. We see the lofty professor or tireless scientist who slaves away in a laboratory, unaffected by the outside world, seeking knowledge. We have images of quiet and reverent spaces associated with knowledge—a perception that has guided many a library design over the past century. But knowledge is not cold. Knowledge is heat, passion, and light. To know is to seek truth—a noble quest. In his book The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science,1 Richard Holmes talks of an era in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when science became a rich combination of personal quest and romantic ideal. It was an era when the Enlightenment collided with personal achievement to create the myth of the lone genius seeking truth at almost any cost. In some sense, we have lost some of that romanticism. Today we try to see science as objective and clinical. Knowledge becomes something abstract. Yet science is a passionate quest pursued with dispassionate tools. Any good scientist conducts his or her experiments with a concern for validity, reliability, and the ability to reproduce results. But what led that scientist to the experiment in the first place? It is often obsession or an insatiable curiosity—a need to know. So it is with science, so it is with religion, or governance, and so it should be for librarianship. We talk of great thinkers, and we use words such as “eureka” or “epiphanies,” denoting an almost spiritual revelation of understanding . This is knowledge. Ultimately, it is the belief that forces us to act—it is what we do and why we do it. It is the understanding that forces us to not only see the world, but to see it differently, and to change it for the better. This Thread delves into the theory of knowledge and the specifics of that theory. As such, it presents knowledge as a seemingly clinical object. There is value in that because, by doing so, librarians can understand not only how to shape their service to meet member needs but also shape the future of our own profession. In this respect, you may think this is the boring and dry Thread. But never forget—just like the formula for gunpowder can look static on the page, its effects are explosive. By grounding libraries in knowledge, we gain an inheritance not of quiet bookishness but of explosive power to shape how people see the world. KnowLedge is created through conversation Gordon Pask wanted to teach machines to think. As a cyberneticist, he was centrally interested in making interactive machines and, ultimately , creating artificial intelligence. Mind you, this was in the 1960s, and the quest for interactive machines was much more about hardware than programming at the time. So Pask was looking for something to model his machines on. He decided to start with how people learn. After all, why not use natural intelligence until artificial intelligence catches up? This began a long, thorough examination of learning behavior. The conclusion he came to can be summed up in a seemingly simple concept: Knowledge is created through conversation. These conversations might be with a teacher, friend, or, most often , with ourselves. These “back and forths” allow the conversants to try out ideas, come to agreements, and eventually change...


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