What is Beginner's Mind

Having 'Beginners mind' is to approach a subject enthusiastically, with openness and without preconceptions, even if you are an expert. It represents a willingness to ask questions and challenge assumptions; both essential to the scientific process.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Citizen Science in Public Libraries--What are we doing?

It has been two months now since we have been doing Science at our branch of the public library.  And, I keep asking myself the question, “what are we doing here”?  There is a lot of excitement and positive feedback from the community--adults, teens and children alike.  Some people come in just to see the horseshoe crabs.  The littlest kids always visit the tank before going to the play area.

But, we are not teachers, nor do we pretend to be.  We are librarians, eager volunteers, members of the public.  We are all experiencing the horseshoe crabs as a community, as we go along.  We all contribute what we know.   Debbie, who has worked in a research lab but not as a PhD, contributes her approach to lab work.  Paul contributes his knowledge of how machines work (why does the back up pump for the tank go on when the power goes off?)  Joan brings in photos of the time she saw horseshoe crabs on the beach so the kids can see them.  The kids make observations (What IS that red ball in the tank that is the size of a crab egg)?  But, we are all doing science.  We are all modeling the best aspects of lifelong learning.

What are the librarians doing?  We are acting as a focal point for discussion.  We are listening and participating in the dialog.  We are suggesting ways to find out.  We are asking questions as well and showing that it is OK to not know.  Asking the question is the most important thing.  Then we can focus on where answers may be found.