Admittedly, I was looking for an excuse to open up the dialogue (as my Twitter post from the day before the session indicates), but nonetheless, I jumped at the opportunity.
Taking a step back, I believe that the post-World War II government-supplemented higher education system that has its origins in the funds of the GI Bill of Rights to be financially unsustainable. Not only that, I think that higher education is becoming less relevant to many people. I come across more and more college drop-outs or those that never attended college working in high tech and traditional white collar jobs. While I appreciate my college experience, I see it as almost a finishing school (in its best sense), and not a job training center.
As colleges become more expensive and government support continues to dwindle, it makes it harder and harder for the average person to take on that expense. (Keep in mind we are talking about graduating with debts in excess of $100,000
.) However, the need to be educated has not diminished
What better institution to fill this gap be than a place like the Free Library of Philadelphia
If one accepts that conceit that a well-informed populace is vital to the operation of a democracy and considering that Ben Franklin founded the first lending library in North America here in Philadelphia then it is very compelling for the Free Library to be a place that embodies the future of education. (At minimum it makes for a very good story.)
And, I don't mean as simply a resource (a.k.a. repository) to supplement education pursuits. The library should be a center for learning. In many ways, what I am proposing is an old fashioned idea. I would like the library to be a place of peer learning, apprenticing and mentoring. I am inspired by "unconferences" or open conferences like BarCamp
where the attendees lead the sessions. There are no predetermined speakers. It is a great example of peer learning. The library can be the physical place that houses these sessions in an on-going way. Barcamps are usually only a day or two. This type of learning and sharing needs a home if it is to be an effective as a learning hub.
So back to the original point of the charette. What should role should the website
of the Free Library play in this scenario?
I want to answer that question in a future post, but let me seed it with this quote from Mark Pesce's essay Inflection Points
When broken down to its atomic components, the classroom is an agreement between an instructor and a set of students. The instructor agrees to offer expertise and mentorship, while the students offer their attention and dedication. The question now becomes what role, if any, the educational institution plays in coordinating any of these components. Students can share their ratings online – why wouldn’t they also share their educational goals? Once they’ve pooled their goals, what keeps them from recruiting their own instructor, booking their own classroom, indeed, just doing it all themselves?
Technology can be used to coordinate the logistics of this information exchange in the library of the future.
I will expand on this idea in my next post.
To be continued!
Update: The continued post on what a modern library website
should be is now live.