Experience before text

Happy Friday (I don’t care that it’s the 13th–it’s still a Friday and that is a very good thing)! I hope you had a lovely week and are looking forward to an even better weekend. This week’s post is a bit of a departure from the normal (though there are some links to fun stuff, of course). I want to take some time to talk about experiences and some intersections among various aspects of my research and work interests.

So, I was re-reading the introduction to Alessandro Portelli’s The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue when I came across a sentence that completely stopped me in my reading tracks and I knew I had to write about it. Portelli wrote, “Each interview is an experience before it becomes a text” (p. xiii). I just thought that the sentence is wonderful and so applicable to so much of our work in libraries and archives. (Portelli, for those who are unfamiliar with his work, is an amazing oral historian and considered one of the leading voices in the field. And yes, I am one of those people who reads and re-reads introductions–moving on.)

We too often forget about the experiences in life. Because we can now digitally track and count and monitor statistics so easily, we sometimes lose touch with the fact that each statistic is a person or group of people. We forget that humans are social creatures and (most) like at least some social interaction. We forget that there is wonder and can be joy in our work. We run from one meeting to another, from one project to the next with barely any time to look out the window yet alone stop for a break to actually just chat with someone. And I’m not saying that I’m the best person at stopping to smell the roses, but I think it is important to remember to experience things before we get into the analyses.

Which is pretty much what Portelli is getting at in the above quote. Interviews, or any interactions, are experiences before they become text–either literally with the transcription of oral history interviews or text in the more general term for a unit to be analyzed. We put off tomorrow the interactions we could have today because somehow we have separated the experience from the interaction and it is just another thing to get through, to survive. And that is just sad.

Now before anyone jumps on my case about this being completely divergent from my usual posts about evidence-based practice and evaluating new programs, please don’t get me wrong–evaluation and analysis are extremely important in our work BUT they should not come at the expense of losing the wonder of experiences. If we lose touch with experiences and just race through our work and our analyses, we miss opportunities to wonder and to actually connect with others. So just experience something, laugh, enjoy, and connect before getting into the nitty-gritty of analysis. Trust me, the connected experiences are what will propel you through the long hours of assessment and slogging through data while not losing sight of the goals of evidence-based practice and assessments.

Okay, so that is my soapbox speech for the day. I’m stepping down now and just want to share a couple of potential helpful links that have come through my feeds recently before leaving you to enjoy the rest of your Friday and the weekend.

First, from WebWorkerDaily, some Tips for Managing Social Media Information Overload. And if you are going to take the tip on checking social media streams on your iPhone, you’ll want to check out Lifehacker’s List of the Best iPhone Apps. For Android users out there, check out Lifehacker’s A Guide to Organizing your Android Home Screen and How to Turn Your Android Phone into a Fully-Automated Superphone, and How-To Geek’s Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Android Phone’s Battery Life.

For some help with job hunting in library-land, check out a collection of the best advice on finding a librarian job from around the web.

Finally, a tip for everyone from Lifehacker, Top 10 Tools and Tactics to Trim Your Bills.

And for the final bit of fun because it is Friday and also because a couple of my friends had really bad weeks and could use a laugh: “Big Bang Theory Moves Furniture”:

Have a wonderful weekend filled with reading, laughter, fun and enough time to enjoy the experience. The Waki Librarian will be back next week.

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