Libraries Can Inspire a Love for Learning

From a young age, I was always drawn to reading and writing. In school, my best subject was English and I often found a quiet place to read rather than socialize at break and lunch. I never thought of myself as a good student. In fact, senior year when my English teacher asked me what career I might want to pursue, he laughed at my hesitant response of “Uh, I don’t know, a teacher?” For how much disdain I showed for homework and writing essays, he thought that it was a ridiculous notion that I would want to continue in academia. Despite this negative response, I went to college in pursuit of an English degree with the plan of becoming a teacher.

My partner of eight years, who had also been in my senior English class, encouraged me; He went on to get his own degrees and a teaching credential. He completed schooling quicker than I did, and so I was able to see his experience as he developed into the teacher he is today. When it finally neared the time of my undergraduate graduation, I started considering what my next step would be. I interned in a high school English class, extremely excited at observing the day in a life of a high school English teacher.

Unfortunately, it brought me back to the negative, oppressive feelings that I felt as a student in high school. It wasn’t the teacher’s fault. The teacher I observed was quirky and the students obviously loved her dearly. I kept waiting for the new and exciting parts of the teacher’s day to be revealed. Instead, day-by-day the teacher’s enthusiasm dampened; week-by-week the teacher’s exasperation, with the school standards and with the students, grew. I started realizing that perhaps teaching in a predetermined, state-mandated box was just as oppressive as learning in one.

I shifted focus. What I loved about teaching was helping people discover new things that would connect them with something that they never considered before. The moments that this happened for me were (1) when I would introduce people to new authors, books, or genres, and (2) when I would demonstrate the efficiency and gratification of a new technology. Where did I find myself in these teaching moments? The library.

This module, exploring the library as classroom, is my favorite module of the Hyperlinked Library. The aspect of the Bookey (2015) article that fascinated me the most was that the library provides opportunities for families to learn together. Adults, teens, and children can attend the same program and connect with it completely differently. The fairy hunt put on by the Sacramento Public Library allowed children to use their critical thinking skills to figure out the clues for the hunt, while the parents got to interact and learn about the small businesses in between the two branches of the library. The LIT room at the Richland County Library affords students and young adults to coordinate programming with a story time that peaks children’s imaginations. Children will get a kick out of their parents having just as much fun during a program that they believe is “just for kids.” The opportunities to learn together will establish a memory that the whole family can reminisce on.

I connected with the next two articles I read because I considered similar questions for my INFO 285 research proposal. Lippincott (2015) and Pewhairangi (2016) talk about the opportunities for library staff to learn in the library, and then take that learning to assist teaching faculty in incorporating opportunities to increase digital literacy in their lesson plans. Lippincott discusses concepts that are actually very close to the research questions I asked in my research proposal. I ask about the professional development opportunities on classroom technology and software that is provided by the institution’s library. My literature review would have definitely benefited from the inclusion of this article. With professional development opportunities provided by librarians, teaching faculty in higher education can establish relationships on campus that will help them and their students. Involving librarians in building a curriculum can result in collaborative efforts in the classroom and library setting. Pewhairangi’s discussion of the Creative Classrooms Research Model essentially asks organizations to apply the same learning model they hope to provide for patrons in the library to the development and learning of the library staff. Considering new learning models should also apply to the way that we as information professionals progress.

I am lucky to have found way to be a teacher that does not inhibit creative learning. In libraries there are so many options for teaching outside the box, on the computer, out on the town, individually, collaboratively, and the list goes on. The library has the ability to take learning and transform it so that people forget that they are even learning. They’re experiencing, experimenting, celebrating, and discovering in ways that they never would have imagined. When I think back on my senior English teacher guffawing at my interest in teaching, instead of seeing it as an insult, I’ll look at is as a foreshadowing. It wasn’t my destiny to teach in a traditional classroom; I was meant to be in the new wave of teachers whose dynamic classroom is in the library.

P.S. My senior English teacher from high school graduated from the SJSU MLIS program back in 2013. He must have got tired of teaching/learning inside the box, too.

Mobile Phones and Mobile Zones

When I started reading the material for the Mobile Information Environments, I reflected on my own phone usage. In fact, I listened to the lecture podcast while making an hour and a half car trip over the weekend, read most of the readings on my phone while I was waiting for a food order at a restaurant, and watched some ‘explore’ videos before I went to bed. As I thought more about it, I realized that I rarely use my cell phone for traditional communicative purposes. I definitely fit into the Deloitte (2016) demographic study on cell phone usage. However, that was for cell phone users in the United Kingdom. This prompted me to go to good ol’ Pew Research Center. I found an article from 2015 titled 6 facts about Americans and their smartphones. The data from this article show similar findings of my age group using their smartphones the most. I thought that it was interesting that the majority of smartphone users has used their phones for other important information needs; information on health, online banking, real estate, job searching and job applications, government services, and educational content.

Reading Stephens’ Serving the User When and Where They Are: Hyperlinked Libraries (2015) was a good way to introduce some of the mobile device, hyperlinked ideas. As an avid smartphone user, I am aware of the several amenities that are available on cell phones today. However, it is easy to overlook the possibilities of using those amenities to the advantage of the library. I guess even I still have some bad “judging a book by its cover” habits, but I also have yet to see positively reinforced cell phone usage in libraries just as Stephens suggests in Mobile at the Library (2013). Anyway, there were several cool ideas that I had not considered for libraries before such as geolocation, second screen sharing, and mobile gaming environments.

Another idea that captivated my interest was the “Beacon” technology that Ennis (2014) describes. I also have quite a few Bluetooth devices that I use frequently (smartphone, speakers, headphones), but I hardly use the Bluetooth capabilities for interactions with other people or locations. While I think this idea is fun, my immediate worry was being spammed by these beacons. Ennis iterates that the beacons would only work for the people who initially agree to be a part of it, which I think is very important. I have been irritated lately with how many advertisement texts I receive. There is really no way for me to tell what company has my phone number to send me these ads. Overall, I think that the beacon technology would be very helpful for in-the-library, patron-specific purposes like letting a person know when an event is starting or informing people when they still have a book checked out.

Finally, I think the aspect of mobile information environments that I love the most is the ease of navigating through several hyperlinks. I am definitely the type of person who reads an article (often pop culture related or celebrity gossip) and ends up following a train of links to some obscure story or informative article. Wikipedia is an app my boyfriend and I use often and make a game of who can find information the quickest (me). I end up finding out a lot of information that I did not even know that I wanted to know. Something sparks my interest and sets me down a path of webpages that I never would have found otherwise. I know that this is possible on a computer, but something about scrolling through a slim, vertical screen makes me feel like I’m reading and navigating much faster than I would looking at a laptop.

Libraries Hyperlinking Together

This week when I was confronted with choosing my own adventure, I was at a loss. I live in a very small community in Mendocino County that has limited options for library work. There is a small branch of the county public library here. There are a few elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, but I do not have a cleared California teaching credential. And finally, there is an extension center here for the county community college. Ideally, I would work in a high school library. However, at this point in time, I do not have the time, money, or means to achieve a teaching credential.

Recently, I landed an interview for an assistant position at the public library. It isn’t until November so I have a few weeks to fret about it. I decided that following public librarianship for this module would be the most beneficial to me. However, as I began reading through the articles and watching the videos, so much of what I read and watched was about connectedness with the other institutions.

In the article 10 Facts About Americans and Public Libraries, the sixth fact reads “The public’s highest priorities for libraries center on kids and literacy.” Many Americans believe that partnering with local schools should be a priority for public libraries. Then in the YouTube video about the Hive @ Central, they discuss giving the young business entrepreneurs a place to gather, brainstorm, conduct meetings, and promote their businesses. While this does not directly mention academic libraries or college students, I believe that many students especially students working towards a business degree could benefit from library collaboration.

Then in the article titled Flip This Library: School Libraries Need a Revolution, Loertscher talks about creating physical and virtual spaces that make up a learning commons. A place where discussion, creativity, and networking are integral parts of the learning process. In every topic for this week, I read about how libraries don’t just need to change; they need to completely transform. Each library should serve the needs of its patrons, but libraries also need to rebrand! There needs to be a new continuity to our organizations. Public, school, and academic libraries need to work together to ensure we are achieving continuous progress. I like the way that Richardson puts it, “Everything we produce remains a work in progress, in ‘perpetual beta.’” If I end up getting the assistant job at the public library, I will make it my mission to work with my local school and academic libraries.

How Participatory Services Can Affect Global Change

As I read through the articles for this week, I was reminded of the book that I just finished for the context book review assignment, Consent of the Networked: The Struggle for Internet Freedom by Rebecca Mackinnon. This title couldn’t be more relevant to the topics of participatory services and transparency.

I wanted to include Mackinnon’s last paragraph from the book. It reads:

Whether we are simply users of technology, investors in technology companies, employees or executives of Internet-related companies, elected officials, or mid-ranking government bureaucrats, we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent abuse of digital power, and avoid abusing it ourselves. We have a responsibility to hold the abusers of digital power to account, along with their facilitators and collaborators. If we do not, when we wake up one morning to discover that our freedoms have eroded beyond recognition, we will have only ourselves to blame. (Mackinnon, 2012)

As information professionals, I think that the responsibility of preventing “abuse of digital power” lies heavily on our shoulders. The library has long been a protector of the first amendment. Censorship is nothing new, however, it is easy for citizens of the United States to forget that other parts of the world do not have the same access or free expression as we do. Injustices in other countries could go unchecked.

Participatory services in libraries is a way to start building stronger communities, online and offline. In my research methods class, I am writing a research proposal to determine how public libraries are building relationships with information organizations in other countries. Creating substantial and interactive environments online allows patrons to stay informed of issues on the global scale. Internet freedom is not that big of a problem in the United States…yet. However, major internet companies often ignore social justice in order to gain access to every market and maximize their profits.

An overview titled Libraries & First Amendment by Paul McMasters, describes censorship in public libraries in the United States. McMasters writes, “Government restrictions on library materials are prompted by public complaints…directly, or indirectly, ordinary citizens are the driving force behind the challenges to unrestricted access to Internet content in public libraries.” Perhaps government censorship would not be that big of a concern for patrons if they felt they had more of a say in the programs, content, and services provided by their library.

Michael Casey urges toward a participatory model of library services. He writes, “The participatory library is open and transparent, and it communicates with its community through many mechanisms. The participatory library engages and queries its entire community and seeks to integrate them into the structure of change.” The part of this quote that sticks out to me is “integrate them into the structure of change.” This idea almost seems obvious to me, as libraries have endeavored to serve their specific communities since their inception. Ensuring the patrons’ voices will be heard will go farther in creating a participatory community.

In order for participatory models to work there needs to be transparency. In an article titled In Praise of Radical Transparency, the author discusses the “shift from secrecy to transparency” in major businesses. The rise of social media and blogging has incited a wave of radical transparency in businesses to the point where product development, management, and major business decisions are open to customer comment. This could be the same in our libraries with participatory services.

What does this have to do with Consent of the Networked? Well, if we are able to create participatory communities at the local level then those communities can continue to grow. Global communities who interact consistently online can help spread awareness about the goings-on of other countries. Injustices won’t be so easily brushed under the rug. Forced government transparency might lead to change.

 

The Power of Surprise

Before and after beginning my MLIS journey in the SJSU program, there were two questions that I was continually asked when I told people I was pursuing librarianship:

  • But what do librarians even do?
  • Isn’t that job going extinct?

–As I am starting this post, I feel like I am writing an intro that has been written by so many MLIS students before me. (I know I probably have already written a post for another class like this). I think most of us have experienced confusion and concern from family and friends (sometimes passing acquaintances) about our career path.

But bear with me because I had a somewhat exhausted epiphany today.

When people would ask me these questions, my answer was sometimes vague and rambling. Other times, I would have a direct answer that was short and concise. Recently, I had gotten into the habit of using the phrase “information mediator,” but this would require further explanation. I came to the realization that perhaps the reason that I had never had the same answer is because there wasn’t a clear direction. Current information professionals and aspiring librarians must start choosing one. The readings in this class have given me an idea of where I would like to see libraries expand.

As I was reading the material for the hyperlinked library model, I continually harkened back to the Mathews (2012) article, Think Like a Startup. First off, I just want to say that I loved the style of this article. The analogies were fantastic and helped me grasp an integral part of the library movement happening right now in the information profession. I particularly enjoyed the part about building a strategic culture in the profession by making adaptation inherent in the profession. Innovate and iterate is the mantra that I am taking away from Mathews.

The readings for the hyperlinked library model furthered these concepts, and ultimately led me to my epiphany, which is:

Libraries need surprise.

Much like the students at the beginning of the other Mathews (2010) article, Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked, people need to be surprised and coaxed into recognizing the library. Using cell phone technology during learning activities allows students to interact with their classmates and the information they are learning. These surprising changes in the library can influence changes in the classroom.

Another way that libraries could use surprise is by surprising patrons with new, innovative library design. In the article titled DOK Delft, inspirational library concepts, five concepts about innovative libraries are enumerated. The author, Jasper Visser, describes previous experiences at a museum or a library as very quiet and hushed, but at DOK Delft the colorful design and the spacious, uncluttered environment encouraged the patrons to interact with each other. Before designing the space it is imperative to conduct user research in order to create spaces that will surprise patrons by fulfilling a need they would not associate with a library.

Finally, the article, Exploring Context: The User Experience, also encourages innovation in library design and programming. Just because an idea is unexpected or uncommon does not mean that the idea is illogical and should be completely disregarded. The example that the author, Schmidt, puts forward is the concept of a library providing showers to the public. As Schmidt explains, cultural and geographical context may provide a reason to include showers in the design of a library. While this is is unusual idea in our neck of the woods, this idea could be life-changing for patrons in a different part of the world. The heart of the article is insisting that all ideas are good ideas. Innovation occurs when creativity and practicality meet. By remaining open to all ideas, the library can continue to evolve.

Bottom line, surprise will get patrons in the door. What will keep them coming back? More surprises. More change. New and creative ways to learn and access information.

Skip to toolbar