Apocalypse Proud

December 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 3 Comments

Although I’m a full-time knowledge professional, I’m also a part-time minister in the Episcopal Church.  I bring this to the forefront as this blog post will have a spiritual nuance.  In the Sundays leading up to Christmas, I’ve been preaching on the apocalyptic writings that make up the readings for Advent.  Many will find it odd to prepare for Christmas with images of the anxiety and mourning that come with an “unknown” thrust upon us.  Yet, if we see the holidays as a call to radical change, it’s necessary to share stories of not only surviving but flourishing in that change.  At this year’s NAHSL Conference, we shared similar stories of hopeful preparation under an apocalyptic shadow.

An apocalypse is a sudden, disruptive change to the foundation of our lives.  Natural disasters are common and obvious examples of apocalypse, but so are personal disasters (such as an illness, death of a loved-one, or the loss of a job).  Many of us emerge from these apocalyptic experiences fundamentally changed.  We never see or experience our lives in the same way again.  The holidays are intended to be apocalyptic experiences in our spiritual lives.  Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we’re challenged to relate to the divine and each other in a fundamentally different way.  A similar challenge faces us in the apocalypse of our profession.

Throughout the conference, we heard stories of fundamental changes that are certainly disruptive.  David Weinberger discussed the fundamental change to knowledge itself.  In a networked, post-modern world, knowledge is no longer constrained by discreet, published works.  Instead, knowledge is in a constant state of becoming, while learning is more collaborative and iterative.  Elaine Martin expounded upon this by sharing her insights occurring in higher education.  With licensing restrictions, budget cuts and the changing nature of how students use knowledge, Elaine and her staff had to rethink what an academic library needs to become in this new world order.  And during the Knowledge Management Forum, we discussed how our roles and skills are expanding to include the management of shared, institutional knowledge. 

These stories are not intended to threaten us, but to strengthen us in preparation for a fundamental shift that we all know is coming.  Instead of fixating on the anxiety and mourning that come with an unknown thrust upon us, it’s important to demonstrate how we face those changes head-on.  Apocalypse doesn’t have to be something that we endure or cope with.  Apocalypse is also something where we can flourish and grow.  It’s here that we find our hope for the future, rather than a despair on the loss of our past.

Submitted by Gary Strubel, Library and Knowledge Services, Southwestern Vermont Health Care

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3 Comments »

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  1. A really thoughtful post, Gary. Thank you and Merry Christmas! ~ Sally

  2. What? You’re an Episcopal priest and not one etymological factoid? http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=apocalypse
    Apocalypse means to uncover, reveal. I think we are revealing the core skills and and values of our profession – content organized for people to use.
    -d

    • You guys are a tough crowd! I was going for the modern usage of ” a cataclysmic event” as per your link above. Good thing both uses work 😉


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