I serve on the board of directors for a resource center that serves area churches. At our meeting this week, we sat surrounded by shelves of books and DVDs as we studied several years of usage reports. Actually, it didn’t take much studying. Usage of our humble little center has been dwindling. There were two distinct reactions in the room.
There were those who were discouraged and (reading between the lines) wondering if it was time to hold a big rummage sale, unload all these musty, unused books and lock the doors for good. I can’t honestly blame them. Everywhere you go, there are people proclaiming the end of everything this room seems to be about: The End of Books! The End of the Mainline Church! The End of How It Used To Be! It gets discouraging. As forward thinking as I try to be, I get discouraged. I remember ye goode olde days when we went to the library and saved pennies for the weekly Scholastic book order. I remember when church attendance was a given and no sports, concerts — or even in my hometown, shopping — took place on Wednesday night because that was Church Night. We had only three TV channels, and we were grateful for that, dammnit!
Despite my sass and sarcasm, I do get being discouraged by the cultural changes happening around us. But I know my discouragement is not truth. I get discouraged because you can’t get 7-UP candy bars anymore but I don’t take that as a sign of the End of Times. Well . . . not often anyway.
But there were a few of us who were oddly energized by the tends we saw. We were wondering if it was time to redefine “resource.” Maybe in these days of next day delivery from Amazon and instant downloads of ebooks and streaming videos, the big resources aren’t books and DVDs and the like. Maybe what people need is someone to help them, when faced with hundreds of choices, pick and choose. If, as Bill Gates once said, Content is King, then Curation is . . . the Grand Visier . . . only less evil?
Over-extended metaphor aside, I do believe curation is an often overlooked resource. Sitting around the table at that meeting we had denominational leaders, professional educators and other well educated passionate people. What if we were able to harness that knowledge and expertise. If we focused not on books checked out but books recommended. If we were able to share what websites, movies and speakers had moved us. I think by the time we adjourned, the optimists had won the day. We will see if we won the year.
But that got me thinking about my own, if not expertise, at least strong opinions. About the books I read and the sites I visit for work, for my own writing and my own development. As I add links and recommendations to the blog, I hope you will consider me one of your, um, grand visiers of the internet. And, you know, those book things.