Blog 2A – Connection, Community, Trust

Architettura, vol. 22, no. 250-251, 1976.

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.

Dear Data, I love you now.

US Version (L) UK Version (R)

In one of my explorations into the wonderful world of the Internet I wrote the words “Giorgia Lupi” down on a slip of paper, the origins of which I have since forgotten, and put it in a stack with a bunch of other slips of paper.  A couple of weeks later I came across the slip of paper again and remembered that it had something to do with art, but I couldn’t remember exactly what.  I googled her name and found it connected with the book Dear Data.  Knowing my dangerous habit of buying books and not reading them, I figured it would show up in my life sometime later and I recycled the paper.  Low and behold, the book was on the reading list for this class, so there was not only an excuse for me to buy the book, but the impetus to read it.  

Premise:  Two young women, one, an Italian living in Brooklyn, the other, an American living in London, who were not friends when their project started, sent an illustrated, data-based postcard to each other every week for a year.  Each week they selected, recorded, and then visually represented some aspect of their lives as creatively drawn data. Their project is documented both in this book and online.

Layout:  The large-format book is laid out with Giorgia’s postcards on the left and Stefanie’s on the right.  You can see the visual representation of the data on the front of the card and the back is a key that explains how to read the data.  Underneath the photos of the postcards is a short, one-sentence, third-person commentary about the data or the experience.

The opening of the book, all of three pages, provides a summary of its insights.  Among them are:

  • Noticing behavior influences behavior.
  • Data is a snapshot that captures a moment in time.
  • Data describes patterns.
  • Everything in life can be mapped, measured, and counted.
  • We create data just by living – we leave a data trail (formally and informally).
  • Documentation is different than “Quantified-self.”

Observations:  Data is friendly, especially when couched in colorful drawings.  There are an infinite number of ways to represent data, but how one does it is important.  While in some cases the data might be beautiful to look at, if presented too complexly it’s difficult to gain any meaning from it, or it can be difficult to identify which parts of the data are important.  Conversely, having a lot of information allows the data to serve a variety of purposes.  We can use the same data to examine a number of different aspects of a situation, but too much information can complicate the message and make it labor intensive to decipher. Too much data is overwhelming.  

Data can tell you something, but mostly it confirms.  It creates questions in both the person collecting, and the person viewing.   As one might imagine, the women collected data on different aspects of each of the shared subjects throughout the year.  Very rarely did they collect the same thing, and it was never presented in exactly the same way.  I wanted to know what they had learned, why they had selected the aspects they did, and after discovering this information and, knowing their own selves intimately, I wanted to know how they used or analyzed or applied or understood this new information about themselves.  They did not share this with the readers.

There are a few ways to look at how this book can relate to our class content, in both a literal and symbolic sense.  Libraries, in the past, have been primarily transactional places with each person playing a specific role in the transaction – Librarian as helper and patron as receiver of the help.  Data has always been otherized, and also has a role:  Data as the provider of information, person as receiver of information. Dear Data shows us that we can participate actively in the creation of our own data instead of being a passive creator of it for someone else’s benefit.  We can learn more about ourselves when we organize our own data in a way that is understandable and meaningful to us, and in a way that reflects the parts of the data that we see as important or relevant.  Likewise, if patrons have the option to use and construct their knowledge in libraries in the way that makes sense to them, they can become more aware of themselves as learners, and consumers of information.  We all see things differently and it can be useful to look at an old situation with new eyes.

By focusing our attention on what is important, we can better understand it and the role that it plays in our lives.   This project has certainly made data seem less scary, and more accessible.  If we look at it as just one way that someone has decided to represent a snapshot in time, we can then begin to open up to see the data in a useful way.  In the way that ownership makes data accessible, is the same way that allowing “ownership” of the libraries by the patrons makes them more accessible.

As Librarians, we can appreciate the detail – order, organizing, cataloging, collecting involved with the creation of this project.  As humans, we can appreciate how these two women went about creating their own data, owned it, and came away with not only an experience but a greater understanding of themselves.

Lupi, G., & Posavec, S. (2016). Dear data. UK: Particular Books.

Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?

I think about old people – folks in their 70s like my own parents, and people in their 80s and 90s, who have relied on the library to serve a specific role for them their entire, lengthy, lives – the borrowing of books.  When Kindles came out, my parents, both voracious readers, made the shift from paper books to digital, and now exclusively read newspapers, magazines, and books (fiction and non) on their iPads.  Me, at the end of my 40s, still can’t bring myself to do it.  I bring this up because while my parents have easily made this shift, I don’t know that many of their peers have, nor people in their age group who don’t have the same access to technology as they do. People older than my parents who want to remain connected to their communities rely on the library, its librarians, and its other patrons to provide that connection.  We must remember to bring them along with us into the future.

There are elderly people who are interested in growing, learning, and actively participating in the library.  They may not know how to use a digital catalog, check out their own books, know how to access a computer, or to use or manage an email account so they can receive notification of hold arrivals.  To encourage the use of the library and maintain the patronage of the elderly, we must employ our personal qualities of empathy, understanding, and patience.  We must understand how difficult it might be for someone to conceptualize the internet, and to understand how the digitization and/or sharing of collections can benefit them personally.  We must be patient, deliberate, and respectful when explaining how a mouse works, and how one can access the information needed on the computer.   A vibrant collection of analog of books must be maintained so that they can be checked out and taken home to be read, or read leisurely there in the library.  We don’t know what efforts it may have taken for the patron to arrive, or if/when they will next be back.  We don’t know the courage it might have taken someone to ask to be shown how to do something, so that they can access new features or services that are available.

Offering small group classes, orienting the elderly to the library and/or its changes, and providing small group guided tours, can help maintain the patronage of these important clients.  

287 Starter post


I too have been looking forward to taking a class with Dr. Stephens.  From viewing his lectures in other classes, and hearing about him from other students, he obviously knows and loves his subject and approaches it with enthusiasm and realness.   As I’ve mentioned in other intros, I am considering a switch to MARA, a decision which I will make after this semester comes to a close.  I don’t have enough information, really, about either side of the Information Science coin yet to really know, but I will know which is more aligned with my career goals once I have a few more classes under my belt.

My BA from 20 years ago was in English Literature because I knew going in that I wanted to be an English teacher, which I did do for three years.  After that, I moved to alternative education, where I played many roles supporting juvenile court and community school students throughout California.  For a variety of reasons, I decided to take a leave for a year, to travel and consider what my next career path would be.  The field of court schools can be all-encompassing and intense, so I knew I couldn’t see the next path clearly while I was entrenched in my work.

Fast-forward to now, this is my second semester in the program. Going into the MLIS, I knew that I wanted to work with the arts, artists, and/or a cultural organization in some way.  My dream job would be to work for UNESCO.  I’m interested in working internationally and would like to try for either Paris (where UNESCO is), Berlin (where Tactical Tech is), or in Amsterdam (which is museum-central).  I don’t think I even considered a public library, but I am open to anything.  Where I live now they have “Mediatheques” which are very cool multi-use spaces.  My favorite one nearby has regular library sections, and they also offer workshops, a large art gallery, and just across the path, a mid-sized performing arts center, which has a cafe/restaurant attached to it.  There is also outside green space and a park for the littles.

Looking forward to meeting and learning from each of you!