As well as a museum, children’s playground and sofas, Schiphol airport boasts a library. In the days of Kindles and eBooks, it may sound slightly anachronistic, but this library has actual shelves and actual books that you can sit in an armchair with and actually read. Photography, art, travel, these are no dog eared remnants of the seventies, these are new, beautifully presented coffee table and art museum books that you can digest in comfort with a latte.
I’ve encountered libraries in other odd places too: there’s a window ledge library near my apartment in Amsterdam, just a single space with around forty books and a note, politely asking you to either drop the book back when you’re done or leave a new one in it’s place.
Then there’s the tree library: shelves built around a tree in the open so you can sit around in the glade and read at a festival. And another tree based one where they just provide plastic bags that you put a book in and hang it from a branch, taking one to read yourself. Handing them on.
This is a very sociable learning model and great examples of social learning: surrounding the formal spaces, but not constrained by formal locations or structures, based on generosity, trust, sharing.
There are some moves towards letting you ‘share‘ eBooks, with Kindle for example you can ‘lend‘ a book for up to fourteen days, but it’s just not quite the same.
Just contrast these social learning approaches with organisations views of knowledge, often locking training and learning up in rooms, hiding them away on systems. If an airport can have a library in the main concourse, why not have one in your reception or canteen? Sure, people might steal the odd book or two, but so what? Maybe they’ll read the odd book or two as well. And how about starting a book club to go with it? Hans runs an online reading group in his organisation as a way of sharing ideas around specific texts: it’s not against a syllabus and learning objectives, but it’s certainly driving learning with the business, using challenge and reflection to embed new ideas.
Come to think of it, how about open courses, instead of succession planning, how about self selection succession? Whoever puts the work in gets a shot at it?
I’ve captured some thoughts here behind this post (i’m experimenting with this format), including some practical activities you can try (in orange) and questions in yellow at the end.