Zen and The Art of Archiving

Practice is a word that means many things. For six Information School students and assistant professor Joseph Tennis, this summer offered the opportunity for practicing the theory of archiving and practicing meditation. Students from both the residential and online MLIS programs converged at the San Francisco Zen Center, an urban Zen Buddhist monastery in the heart of the Golden Gate City. For four weeks they lived according to the monastic schedule, practiced meditation, and worked to organize materials that tell a major part of the history of Western Zen. They got up at 5 a.m., sat in silence with their own thoughts, and catalogued thousands of audiotapes, historic photographs, and rare correspondence.

This first summer was a pilot project that resulted in positive evaluations for all involved. Dr. Tennis, students and residents at the Zen Center feel it was a great start to what should be an ongoing program. There are plans to do it again next year. Practice in Zen Buddhism means to keep meditating while you work, eat, and live your life. Practice in Library and Information Science means applying what you learn in the classroom to the real world. The iSchool group's summer experience was the perfect alignment of both types.

Janelle Hagen spoke for her fellow MLIS students when she called the experience a unique and valuable part of her education. "We had the rare opportunity to immerse ourselves in the culture of the San Francisco Zen Center," she said. "The balance between inward reflection and outward activity laid the groundwork for an archival model that will hopefully become part of the work practice at the Zen Center." Other students who participated were Matthew Boris, Freeda Brook, Dana Brownfeld, Lisa McGreenery and Kate Ratcliffe.

Tennis expects next year's trip to San Francisco to be just as rewarding. "We need to include the other definition of practice. We need to do this over again. Practice, after all, makes perfect."