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Thinking about Synapses
Posted by Lori Ayre on March 13, 2007
I'm doing a presentation in Ohio this summer and my topic is The Synaptic Library. I think of synapses as little explosions of energy. Like the explosion of energy that happens when someone learns how to read, or finds out about the availability of subscription databases (and how to actually find an article)! The Synaptic Library facilitates those explosions of energy.
But synapses are also about pathways. In the brain, we start with zillions of potential neural connections, or ways to get energy from nerve to muscle or gland, and back again. As we start doing and experiencing things, we set up patterns in our bodies. The patterns cause us to do things the same way and to think the same way. Because the same neural pathways keep getting used, many of the others eventually die from disuse. By forcing ourselves to do things differently, we force our bodies to create new neural pathways. We keep our brains vibrant and expansive. If we stick too much to our patterns, we lose options.
Some people are finding the whole Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 thing very difficult to comprehend because they can't figure out how to fit it into existing constructs. It's immediately overwhelming. I'm teaching an online class on Web 2.0 to librarians right now and I find myself always trying to connect it back to delivering traditional library services in new ways. We did reference in person, then on the phone, then via email and now via IM. See, that's easy to get! MySpace is for young people what hanging out at the local roller rink was for you when you were a teen. There's a pathway to use!
So, getting back to the Synaptic Library. I'm thinking the Synaptic Library is one that is open to new ways of doing things even as they struggle with the limitations of circuitry designed to do things the old way. The Synaptic Library is using old pathways but it is also creating new pathways. It knows that as soon as we stop building those neural connections, it's all over. The Synaptic Library is a survivor - it's extending and expanding those pathways rather than getting stuck in old patterns.