Wisconsin Idea Seminar 2019 River Tour

July 12, 2019

Summer is flying!  Before I lose sight of spring altogether, I want to share some thoughts I gathered on the Wisconsin Idea Seminar 2019 River Tour in May.

The Provost sponsored my participation in the Seminar, which introduces new faculty and staff to locations and cultures around Wisconsin, as well as how the Wisconsin Idea is put into action. I encourage you to read the eloquent summary from program director Catherine Reiland, which details our experiences. I’ve posted tour photos on my Instagram account, @flickerfuzion and you can see others via #wisconsinideaseminar.

The tour was a rigorous week of 12+ hour days, averaging 3 stops each day, as far apart as Stevens Point Cranmoor, La Farge, and La Crosse (within a day). The people we met had deep connections to the land, waterways, and communities. Some traveled with us to offer astute “bus” lectures in between stops. The rest of the time I networked with 40 colleagues from a variety of disciplines across the university.

The relationship to and appreciation Wisconsinites have for the outdoors came into stark relief for me during the tour. As speakers talked about revitalizing rivers and the balance of tourism, farming and protecting the environment, I gained insight into the value people here place on their relationship with nature.

Throughout the tour, I ruminated on the importance of community building. Whether it was strategies built into the tour to create a learning cohort or the love, care, and human connection required to reinforce, sustain, and cultivate community, I was reminded of the time and attention needed to do this work. And I was reminded of the critical role played by community connectors. Since connection is at the core of library work, I was grateful for this opportunity to refresh my thinking and observe new models.

Finally, I gained a deep appreciation for the complicated history of our presence on this land. Bill Quackenbush, Tribal Preservation Officer of the Ho-Chunk Nation, graciously framed our experience with reflections on the history of this place, the relationship the Ho-Chunk have to it, and the depth that oral tradition plays in carrying their culture throughout time. I was glad to be challenged to examine my own assumptions about cultural heritage work.

Being new to Wisconsin, I now have a greater understanding of the culture, character, and geography of the state. I also developed a network that will benefit my work with you in advancing the Libraries’ mission and goals.