TMC7: the Tour de Force that is Heather Daly

I have long followed Heather Daly‘s work and you need to know that most of the time I’m simply gobsmacked by what she is able to accomplish. So it was an absolute thrill to listen to her in our small table talk – a 20 minute, small group protocol — that is a legacy piece at Treasure Mountain Canada. You know how sometimes you’re noticing a colleague rise to spiritual enlightenment with their wisdom, inner peace and compassion? Heather is one of those people who makes me feel like I’m down here wallowing in the mud trying to make a tiny difference in my daily whack-a-mole doings — but she never makes me feel like my tedious attempts to collate, metatag and wrangle ideas are fruitless. Heather’s work makes me feel like I have something to live for — like if I just get up each morning, slug back the caffeine and get back at it, that my corner of the universe will start to sparkle and shine too.

Heather’s TMC7 paper recognizes the esteemed history of library work by starting off with this relic:

Image from the Fraser Valley Regional Library, reproduced in “The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia”, page 95

and Heather quickly places herself inside the historical school library timeline. She describes the fundamentals of the raison d’etre of libraries and wonders aloud if the fundamentals are enough in 2022 — as I know I do, looking for metrics of any kind, quantitative or qualitative, to justify that we’re making an impact. And this was a recurring theme at TMC7 — are we digging our heels in, as keynote David R. Robertson suggested, when we know we can make a difference to defend a book, or are we simply cogs in the neo-fascist myopia that colonized Turtle Island in the first place. Heather addresses the trade-offs in going digital – having 1 simple source of ‘truth’ while also making sure that all voices are welcome at the table. Heather says that reexamining the resource’s form – whether it be paper or oral storytelling or a blog – needs to be rigorously critiqued each and every time we recommend it.

Sometimes that’s a lot of pressure — there’s a sanctity to the library space that I don’t think we’re achieving in most digital spaces. There are so few places where I know I can visit that are politically neutral and yet provide multiple perspectives on the same topic so that readers/viewers/users might discover their own truth or how their personal context fits in. So now let’s bring in the idea of Makerspace — because I have witnessed this being done so poorly again and again by unqualified facilitators without a care in the world for how this might fit into some sort of learning schema — and because the majority are not hitting the mark, it makes me often wonder if we need to throw the whole thing out and start over with a new vocabulary. As an artist and arts teacher, the goal of the creative process is to allow a true idea to form, to give the artist time for scratching, and then for them to decide which medium will best allow them to express the idea, test the idea with an authentic audience, have time for reflection on the message’s impact and then to iterate. Now we throw in so-called technology — and if the snake-oil salesman of the day has their way — they’re tell you this is a robot with big eyes and a microprocessor that you can buy 8 of for the low-low price of $1100 per student and you then covet it and apply for a gazillion corporate-led grants who have all convinced us that we NEED it to be whole, but the truth is, and Heather Daly gets this, that we don’t. What we need in our school libraries is to remember that the sanctity of the library comes with its two most precious resources: time and safe space — maybe some marshmallows and a rubber band and some sticks — but definitely definitely definitely a great and provocative question like: How high and how far can we get that marshmallow to fly? Then we’ll wonder together why it worked better in some places than others. We’ll admire each other’s cool machines and then we’ll document those variables together, adding a new variable next time. Like maybe we’ll take it outside on a windy or rainy day. Maybe we’ll connect in with another class that’s trying the same project in a different ecosystem.

But the important lessons to learn from Heather in our table talk which was an extension of her great paper are these:

  • professional development needs to also be a makerspace for adults where we show off our cool stuff and talk about how we are working on answering a wicked question and this is what we’ve learned so far
  • professional development is best when it empowers the people in the room to be the experts because each collective group of learners is going to be the ultimate variable that affects your learning experiment and you alone know your strengths and their needs
  • that where YOU begin in your school library/makerspace journey must depend on you having enough safe space and time to develop your own professional passions and skills because learners are not going to buy into the microprocessor or coding worksheet or even the marshmallow catapult if you yourself aren’t into it
  • that you need to document all the reasons why you’re starting or making changes and then reflect individually and collectively

…and that’s what Treasure Mountain Canada does for me each time — four times now actually. If you can go, do. If you can’t, then please glean what you can from the Treasure Mountain Canada papers and our competing hashtags🙄 #TMC7 and #TMCanada2022. And Heather Daly. I’ll have a double shot of Heather Daly to go please.

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