Come! Use the library. Find your people here.
The entwined themes of this module, connection, community, and trust, are what it’s all about, and when I say “it” I mean everything. From posting a photo on Instagram, to reading a book, to creating anonymous poetry on the wall of a glass box, these and every other self-motivated action in our lives is done to connect in some way with other human beings. Libraries, recognizing this, have innovated to foster these connections.
The Darian Library’s Minecraft experiment has “turned into a sanctuary and a core service for a group of young users,” providing connections between like-minded kids. Young people may not have found this community anywhere else but online, but here is another option, provided by a forward-thinking library, seeking to create an inclusive and welcoming environment. It’s simultaneous use of technology and analog space, coupled with their flexibility to adapt when they saw how the space was being augmented, helped to “further the common objectives of their members” (Havens, 4). The Darian connected and grew this Minecraft-user community in “new and constructive ways” (Havens, 4). Similar to Blyberg’s library, I have a long (and beautiful) story short: A friend has a son with Asperger Syndrome. He spent hours of his youth playing Minecraft, and his mom (who should win mother of the year for eternity) encouraged his online connections, took him to Minecraft conferences, and allowed him unlimited Minecraft community time. He’s an older young man now – well-adjusted, happy, smart, with a job in a field he loves, and because she encouraged his interests, and it was available to him, he found camaraderie, connection, and friendship in this online space.
People have their own reasons for wanting to come into the library. To encourage users to join us on this communal journey, to participate in new and different ways, they must trust us. The library’s long, and stable history aids in this trust, because libraries have provided non-judgemental, spaces of quiet, refuge, and growth. Libraries are inherently trustworthy and dependable. Bhaskar sums this need for trust up nicely when he says, “We want to be surprised. We want expertise, distinctive aesthetic judgments, clear expenditure of time and effort. We relish the messy reality of another’s taste and a trusted personal connection. We don’t just want correlations – we want a why, a narrative…the cultural sphere will always value human choice, the unique perspective.” His article would have meant something different to me in September 2016 than it does now. I’m a more cynical person. I question more. I don’t trust what I read online. I listen critically to my favorites (NPR, NYTimes) for any hint of malodorous content. I’m not sure what is real. I wasn’t aware that online reviews were created by algorithms last year, but now I do, and I also know that I don’t trust that these recommenders have my best interests in mind when suggesting products that “might be of interest to me,” because their entire purpose is to get me to buy additional items, to spend more money and time on their site. Even now, I can’t trust that a person being paid to write a review about something really feels the way s/he does, or if s/he’s be incentivized to lean one way or another by a publisher or distributor. Conversely, I can appreciate the analog personal recommendations librarians and bookstores make. I trust the people I know and the people and places I respect. I use Amazon, but I don’t trust or respect it. I see we are coming back full circle, where people, time, and personal interaction reign supreme, and time-saving isn’t of the utmost importance. I take solace in knowing that the “principal currency today is no longer information, products or services; it is human attention” (Pewrainangi, 7).
I used to think that schools were the great equalizer. The place where social justice could flourish and kids could discover who they were, be nourished and become self-actualized. I see libraries as those spaces because there’s no underlying agenda other than their use. Libraries want only to provide space to nurture, educate, inform, connect, and they want to bring everyone along.
When I have the time to examine my motivations, beyond immediate satisfaction or a basic needs situation, I find that, really, I’m always trying to relate to others, to understand other people, to been seen and heard and to see and hear others. I’ve not got a whole lot of time left on this planet, but I hope that I get to spend some of it working in a place like one of those found in this module’s readings and videos, where thoughtful connections can be made, and trust is inherent in the community’s policies, publications, and programs.
NB: The Danah Boyd article blew my mind – 2B.