It’s now two weeks since I flew back to England for the launch party of the book “Only Connect… Discovery pathways, library explorations and the information adventure” (find the book online here), in which I have a co-written chapter. It was the first time that I met the editors, Andrew Walsh and Emma Coonan in person, and they were very warm and welcoming hosts, just as they were friendly and helpful editors! I was also pleased to meet some of the other authors, as well as staff at the University of Huddersfield Library, and the pub we went to afterwards was a real taste of England!
I’ve been meaning to write here again about the book, once I’d read all the chapters… It is a really eclectic collection, which makes it very rich and charming. It is perfect as a book to just dip in and read a chapter here or there, without necessarily knowing in advance what kind of an experience you will get. It actually held my attention far better and far longer than a traditional monograph, precisely because of its broad range of themes and styles.
If you’re going to read the book or part of it, do bear in mind that it has several versions: print, as an e-pub, html, etc. Some of the chapters work better online, being based around video material or functioning better through linked content rather than being read as flat text.
I wanted to write here about some of my favourite chapters. I did not read them all in order, but the first chapter is one of my favourites. It is called “The fishscale of academicness” and it is by Alke Gröppel-Wegener and Geoff Walton, with illustrations by Josh Filhol. I love the concept of information sources being like fish, and the most academic ones being in the deeper waters, rarer and with more scary teeth! I was pleased to meet Alke at the launch as I was able to discuss with her how I would love to extend the metaphor, such that those who wish to have the richest encounters with such amazing fish will need to have high tech equipment and diving skills. i.e. the latest search discovery platforms and the skills to make the most of them.
I also enjoyed a chapter called “The Library” by Bryony Ramsden: in my mind it is called “The Bear’s den” because in this chapter the author creates a highly familiar and yet alternative version of the library, which ought to help experienced librarians to think more about how we appear to our first time visitors and first year undergraduates. It’s so easy to forget how we can really be helpful to those who we intend to help! I met Bryony at the launch too and told her how much I loved the gate in her story, which tells the protagonist that she should have asked to come in and it says: “I’m not sure that it is necessary to know to ask, given that a gate implies entry, and more so a gated entry implies a requirement to request to enter…” Oh, how familiar that sounds!
Zoe Johnson and Andrew Walsh’s chapter “uses the voices of twelve drama lecturers and researchers to tell stories about their experiences of information literacy” and was a very useful window into how different kinds of research is carried out, and Nick Norton’s chapter enquiring whether there can be a person-centred Library was very thought provoking.
Lynda Tolly’s chapter about mapping an information search to “the Hero’s Journey” felt a little bit too deep into literary theory for my liking, but then I realised that she’s a solo librarian in a departmental reading room in the English department, so no doubt it’s just right for her students.
What the book as a whole makes clear is our need to try a variety of approaches when working with researchers, so that we can meet their particular needs. There are disciplinary differences, learning style differences and research and experience level differences to take into account. Librarians and library and information scientists have a large field to explore and to serve in.
The concept of this book as an “unbook” also helps us to explore what a book could be and should be. How can a monograph best allow individuals to approach it’s content from a variety of different directions, according to preference and need. If I take away one message from reading this book then it would be “remember the individual”. But there’s much, much more to it than that… go on, read it yourself!