The Journey Begins
What if we dared to do something really creative…and succeeded? The United States is comprised of risk-takers, pioneers, and explorers. These are people who dared to board ships, trains, or wagons, and travel to unknown destinations. The willingness to venture into the unknown is in our blood. It is imperative that we stay true to our roots and board the Cluetrain.
How and why did I select The Cluetrain Manifesto as the text on which to base by book study? I am bit ashamed to admit that I started my book selection process by printing the recommended book list and searching library catalogs for a print copy of the book. Then I stopped and realized that I was ignoring the Cluetrain by limiting myself to print books. Part of my job as a high school librarian is to gain knowledge about transitioning from print to electronic school books. I have been attending conferences, reading articles, and participating in webinars to gain knowledge. In December 2012, I purchased a Kindle Fire for the purpose of gaining experience using eBooks; the next logical step was to purchase The Cluetrain Manifesto as a Kindle Book. All aboard!
Laptops and eBooks: A Romance
It is next to impossible for me to divorce the content of The Cluetrain Manifesto from the context with which I am most familiar – the private high school library where I work. The Cluetrain stops here often, but only some people get on board. The school community can be seen as a microcosm of the larger society in which we live.
People who have boarded the Cluetrain market by example, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I attend meetings where there are a variety of note-taking styles: listening, pencil and paper, electronic devices. In some of these same meetings, the agenda is about the desire to eliminate all print textbooks and to dramatically reduce copy costs by reducing print handouts. I bite my tongue to avoiding interjecting, “Why don’t we stop handing out print agendas at meetings? Instead, iPads will be used to deliver the agenda and all notes must be transcribed electronically. We will be able to experience exactly what we are expecting the students to do.” The current marketing trend in K-12 schools is to promote the adoption of electronic textbooks and transition to an electronic device ratio of 1:1 for students. School administrators covet the ability to use the terms “1:1” and “eBooks” in marketing campaigns, while simultaneously behaving like luddites. The school market consists of students and parents. The conversation needs to be – let students do what aids their individual learning styles. We have standards for learning, but have trouble remembering that true academic standards do not limit the formats used for exchanging information.
“At some point, you start paying more attention to the messages and conversations, and less to the differences in software and tools employed by the various electronic delivery channels (p126, Levine, et al.).”
Lines of Communication
The view that “markets are conversations” is central to The Cluetrain Manifesto. The key to success is accepting the reality of the way businesses are currently run. We must keep conversations active so that progress will happen and businesses will survive, maybe even flourish. The utopian part of me wants to believe that it is possible to completely change school administrators’ view before the change we are seeking becomes outmoded. Presently, schools encourage students and teachers to communicate via email. Students view email as something only used for communicating with adults (Hannan, 2011). In my experience as an educator, K-12 schools are about a decade late in adopting communication tools. At this rate, teachers will have school-issued Facebook and Twitter accounts after students have moved on to a new form of communication.
If I were a dystopian I would think that it does not really matter what we do because the economy and hackers will soon destroy any attempts at progress. I am neither a utopian, nor a dystopian – I am more of a realist with idealistic tendencies. Change will happen and it will be propelled by the financial health of businesses. In academics, the decision-makers have to be conscious of turning a profit while simultaneously adhering to educational standards. Without conservations breaching the walls of Fort Business (p190, Levine), we become isolated from the world in which our customers reside.
Here be dragons
Library staff who interact with library users have the ability to see real conversations in action. This knowledge makes them privy to the way people use and exchange information. Libraries could block all Internet sites that compete with their library resources, but “free customers are more valuable that captive ones (p15, Levine).” Given the freedom to use online library resources or search the World Wide Web, what do the library users choose? The library staff on the front lines know the answer without having to perform market research. They are qualified to be conductors of the Cluetrain.
We need to be concerned that the corporate walls are keeping the dragons in, and locking out true exchanges of information. In the quest to retain hierarchical control, businesses put fear of the unknown into the minds of their workers and some of their customers (p90-95, Levine). Of course, I see the need to keep dragons out of my high school library for the safety of the children. But, I am also in a key position to observe how the high school students with which I work communicate. Several years ago I was able to change the school policy that forbade the use of phones in any school building. Now students can use phones for academic purposes, with teacher permission. I observe students using social media on their smart phones for academic purposes. I also see that many prefer the option to use print books over the eBooks available in the library. I have let some dragons into the library, and it is a good thing.
Hannan, A. (2011). Communication 101: we have made contact with teens. Aplis, 24(1), 32-39. Retrieved from EBSCO: Academic Search Premier, February 24, 2013.
Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (2009). Cluetrain Manifesto [Kindle Edition]. The. New York: Basic Books.
Open Clipart Gallery. (2013). Train silhouette [Image]. Retrieved from http://openclipart.org/detail/25364
Stephens, M. (2004). Technoplans vs. technolust. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA474999.html