Indigenous Knowledge Systems
San Francisco Zen Center Archives
"Working Hard, Accomplishing Nothing"
The western world is obsessed with productivity, the zen approach to completing tasks, is that there is nothing that truly needs to get done-- whatever happens is good. Instead of being discouraged by all that needs to be done, instead of being obsessed with "to-do's" we focused on being mindful in every moment, we worked on putting our fullest intention forth in every task big or small.
During the summer of 2011 I spent a month living at the San Francisco Zen Center with four of my classmates from the UW MLIS Program. Waking at 5am every weekday to sit zazen, we practiced the zen monastic schedule and performed archival work.
Under the direction of Professor Joseph Tennis, we handled rare books, manuscripts, artwork, audiotapes, photos, and correspondence tied to the organization. Some material passed through the hands of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi himself, who is the man known for bringing Zen Buddhism to America in the 1960s.
In the Dokusan Room, which was Suzuki Roshi's study, we archived his library and documented over 550 items. Whether it was marginalia, or a hidden photo tucked between the pages we followed archival practices in preserving these artifacts that give identity and history to the San Francisco Zen Center.
I worked especially with art pieces that were part of Dairyu Michael Wenger's private collection. Along with my classmates, we cataloged and stored these pieces while investigating relative information that we could connect to the item. We opened boxes full of the institution's records and organized them in a manner to ensure the artifacts did not lose their original order or meaning.
Mindfulness in teaching and learning
We cataloged Zen-related books from their Library, consisting of about 6,000 items, into LibraryThing. Zen practitioners and residents can now find and locate a book digitally instead of using a card catalog. Our work will lead projects of the next Zen Center archive internship, which includes digitization, determining a sound storage space for archived material, and continuance of our work.
The most fundamental aspect I took away from my internship at the San Francisco Zen Center is the importance of mindfulness. To take one task at a time and focus solely on simply doing and nothing else. Only then can our work be completed to it's full potential and intention. Working with an incredible team allowed me to demonstrate my effectiveness as a team member and openness to avenues of getting our work done. More so, living with the Zen community allowed me to realize the importance of an information system's end user and having their best interest and perspective in mind with respect to the institution itself. Together we were able to present our work to the San Francisco Zen Center community, the Prezi I created was used as our visual aide and LibraryThing tutorial.