August 25, 2011

Are people books?

Hi, NeuroCooking readers. I've been in South American, Central New York, and Northern California a lot lately, and have missed talking with ya'll. But I am back, and offer a question, actually: Are people books? Several European, and now Canadian libraries are going to "allow users to 'check out' human experts with knowledge of particular topics".

I'm a huge advocate of knowledge sharing - especially when done so through story - and welcome an expansive yet practical reinvention of libraries. But...even the best autobiographies have editors. ...Do you think your expertise is fully indexed enough to be useful to those that check you out and wish to peruse your knowledge? ...What if your "reader" is more interested in your captions, or chapter titles, than curling up for an afternoon and digging deeply into your pages?

What do you think, experts and expert readers?


  1. Speaking as one who lives in a Canadian city with a library that lends human 'experts', I'm very excited about this addition to the menu. I don't think people are books. But then, libraries are not books, either.

    One of the challenges we face in our communities is an uphill battle against notions that libraries are staid old institutions full of musty outdated analogue information and bun-headed prissy shushers. (I know, it's hard to believe, no?). Few realize how CORE these public treasure-troves are to us all, whether we use them directly or not.

    This kind of complacent stereotyping endangers public funding, and prevents people from going in to discover and use the amazing PUBLIC wealth inside: information, support, research tools, easily accessible databases, young hip and friendly and KNOWLEDGEABLE librarians, all there to serve your needs. Oh, and human 'experts' on loan for a conversation (Living Wikipedia?). Better and more reliable than Google, but in danger of being lost if you don't believe that.

    Having human beings willing to share their knowledge in actual in-person dialogue with others - especially about their lived experience - is one of the most healthy things libraries can do to engage and re-engage people with the stored and managed knowledge they curate.

    But perhaps more importantly, this is one of those brilliant 'high-tech, high-touch' initiatives that the futurists of the 1980's told us we would need.

    I enjoy your blog postings because you make them personal and share your knowledge and opinions in a personable manner. If you were a human willing to be checked out of my library for an hour, I'd sure do it. But I'd also question you, argue with you, and likely take up the challenge of further exploration, depending on the subject matter. Frankly, the last book I took out was on how to crochet. With that, and all the tutorial videos on YouTube, I'd rather have had a human expert to check out.

    Apart from the opportunity for gaining or deepening knowledge,having another perspective or learning a technique with wool, this is an important human to human opportunity for very tough times. I love this as a way for some of us to share our knowledge as we age into retirement, often losing many of our high-profile networks along the way. As a 'witness' of some pretty interesting decades myself, I am glad to be an early adopter of technology so I'm able to stay intellectually and professionally connected and share what I can despite increasing physical and financial limitations. But many cannot, and for me, it's not the only way I want to connect. Being part of the library's (human) accessions is a win/win/win in my 'book'!

    Here's a thought: in this form, the 'books' can actually talk to each other, too!

  2. Hi, Judi! First, thank you for the poetry of "bun-headed prissy shushers". And, thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    I'm actually commenting from inside a public library - because of the hurricane, I am without power and internet and I am using the wifi at a library one town over. It's been a joy to sit here among the stacks listening to the staff recommend books, children laugh at their discoveries, and people delighted with the resources available to them.

    I'm in a rural community, and I would love to know the expertise and story of each person I am seeing. Of course, I would be arrested if I approached them and asked if I could "check them out" - so I am indeed happy that such opportunities will be institutionalized!



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