Show our case, librarians!

After the recordings for the OCLC Contact Day, Jeanine Deckers and Wilma van Wezenbeek agreed to write a blog together … so here it is!

It was fun to do, and we were also eager to know what the outcome of our conversation (in Dutch) with Sander Schimmelpenninck would be. When we first met, he wanted us to avoid “shooting off too much powder” because then we would pehaps have not enough to talk about during our conversation/interview. So it was a fairly spontaneous conversation, in which, afterwards, you realize that certain things were not discussed, or not properly highlighted. That’s part of the game, of course. 

Wilma (left) and Jeanine (right) with Sander Schimmelpenninck (middle) after the recordings.

For me, Wilma, getting to know Jeanine was a nice bonus from the interview. A librarian who, like me (although I always called myself a director), likes to show a bit of guts, and do things or make them happen (and not talk about it too much). What great examples Jeanine gave about her library, and the importance of the sector. Especially now that we have recovered a bit from the periods of lockdown, we notice how important it is to meet each other, and the library is an inspiring place to do so. 

When I was preparing our talk, I was thinking mainly about what I learned from the COVID-19 period during my directorship of Student and Educational Affairs at the VU Amsterdam, and what might be relevant to (university) libraries. In education, we have accelerated the discussion about where online education can add value, how we can design our education flexibly (modular, for different target groups), and how open we want to be or can be. Terms such as life-long development, activating blended education and, certainly at the VU, community service learning and the mixed classroom concept are firmly on the agenda. One of the thoughts I have about this is that if you take lifelong development as your starting point, you actually regard everyone as a student, and not just the period that you spend (on average) between the ages of 18 and 24 as a bachelor’s and/or master’s student at a higher education institution. There will be (more, they already are existing) shorter modules that you can register for in a working life, you can choose to take courses at different institutions, and in doing so, national borders are also crossed. The public and university libraries can collectively support the communities of all these learners, teaching them general (digital) skills and providing a place to inspire each other, because the campus will be less linked to the study. 

For me (Jeanine), meeting Wilma was very surprising because you suddenly come into direct contact with someone from a completely different part of the broad spectrum that is called library work. And sitting down and sharing stories with someone is very different from seeing tweets from people who work in academic libraries. The mere fact that Wilma sent me the impetus for this blog via Sharepoint is an example of this. Because I do not know many public libraries that work with this, at least for me it is the first time.  

Wilma had brought along a number of objects for this conversation / interview, which she used to tell her story around the themes OCLC had established for the contact day. I was a bit jealous of her good preparation, because I was afraid I would have to work with images of fines, strict headmasters and other personal associations from the past. Fortunately, it was a very open discussion in which Sander was curious and listened carefully and in which, among other things, we looked back on the past period of modified services. Although at first glance these periods were very different in the academic world from those in public libraries, on closer inspection there appeared to be many similarities. We both had to close our premises, but the services of university libraries are already largely digital, so that ‘only’ requires a different way of organising things. The public library exists by the grace of direct contact (with books and staff) so for us it was much more of a quest. This resulted not only in things like the takeaway library, but also in new forms of digital services to, for example, schools and day-care centres.

One of the pillars of the theme of the contact day is Strengthen. We think that the other pillars are inextricably linked to this. By sharing our knowledge and that of others, we can create connections. And if we do that in an innovative way, we strengthen our position. Sander asked whether we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves more, whether we don’t put ourselves too much in the background. Of course, this is not an appeal to us Jeanine and Wilma, but to all of us. Show our case!  

Jeanine Deckers / Wilma van Wezenbeek
5 October 2021


Saskia Leferink

What a nice ‘look behind the scenes’ of your interesting and vivid discussion with Sander Schimmelpenninck on the OCLC Contactdag, about the role libraries take in sharing, connecting and strengthening communities. Thank you for sharing!

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