Amy Stoll’s article, “The Healing Power of Libraries” talks about how one particular library, Ferguson Municipal Public Library in Ferguson, Missouri served as a haven for the community after chaos and riots broke out after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed black teen, Michael Brown. Though many other public facilities and city services closed, the library stayed open to help the community through difficult times.
The Ferguson Municipal Public Library wasn’t the first to become such a haven for their community, however, and it certainly isn’t the last. Libraries in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were filled with people without anywhere else to go. They not only provided people with a clean, dry place to go that still had working water and electricity, but they also helped by showing people how to register online for FEMA like at the New Dorp branch of the New York Public Library, or hand out coats like at one of the Queens libraries, pictured above.
Of course, there doesn’t have to be an emergency for a library to be helpful to its community. The Humboldt County Library system has a new type of library card coming out for those people who don’t have a permanent local address, making it easy for not only visitors to the county to check out items, but also the large population of homeless people that the library serves. They allow those using an “Express Library Card” to check out up to two items as well as download library eBooks and audiobooks.
I think one of my favorite examples of ways a library goes above and beyond to help their communities is creating “healing kits” for children who experience loss or trauma. Each kit has a group of books on a specific topic such as loss of a loved one or coping with natural disasters, as well as some literature helping the parent guide the child through the kit, packed up neatly into a little suitcase. The entire thing can be checked out. The Napa Library is the library mentioned in the article, but they heard about the concept from The Healing Library. which “is a series of kits designed to make a family’s journey of healing following a trauma easier to navigate and personalize. “
I love that there are so many diverse ways libraries can help, and that simply being open is one of them.
Though the study in this book was conducted over a decade ago at this point, and the technologies that the children and teens are using have evolved (and, in some cases, disappeared or were replaced), the core message and findings still stand. Also, you could easily imagine the youth speaking about Facebook instead of Myspace (though there is a Facebook example from the early days of when it was only for college students).
The study looks at the children and youth they worked with seriously and spoke to them as equals instead of as children in an effort to argue against trivializing children’s media culture. Instead, they look at it this culture as “a site of child- and youth-driven creativity and social action.” (Ito, et al. 2009). The study’s hypothesis is “that those immersed in new digital tools and networks are engaged in an unprecedented exploration of languages, games, social interaction, problem-solving, and self-directed activity that leads to diverse forms of learning. ” (Ito, et al. 2009).
How does it relate to libraries, information environments, technology, and focus of our course?
I feel that any librarian looking to work with kids or teens would
benefit from reading this book and reviewing the findings of the study. Not only does it show how the students all
used technology in different ways to interact with friends, make social plans, learn,
and be creative, but you also see from the student’s points of view how and why
they use the technology. It’s unique in
the way that you are pulled to the same level of the particular student they’re
talking to, and can kind of understand how their minds work and what it is
about the technology they’re using that makes it important.
One particular sentence in this book jumped out at me and made me immediately think of the article and video this week which spoke about The Mix, where teens designed a room just for them at the main public library in San Francisco: “Like friendship-driven networks, interest-driven networks are also sites of peer-based learning, but they represent a different genre of participation, in which specialized interests are what bring a social group together. ” (Ito, et al. 2009).
The Mix space turned into an interest-driven network made by participation of a group (which probably became a social group) of teens withs specialized interests. The Mix utilizes technology to help bring teens together in a space full of different specialized interests and helps to build different social groups. It also became a site of peer-based learning, as many of the events hosted at The Mix in various libraries are hosted by teens. The Mix Writer’s Club and Book Club both only have teens in the groups, and there are so many different ways that teens can collaborate and work together with making videos, music, dancing, art, sewing, and a number of other things.
While libraries were only mentioned a few times in Hanging Out, the times they were mentioned mostly talked about how the youth wanted to utilize the computers at their school and public libraries but the adults (librarians, teachers, parents) didn’t seem to trust them enough and were always looking over their shoulder to make sure they weren’t doing anything wrong — even though each person’s idea of “wrong” is very different. For most parents, Myspace seemed to be the thing they were worried about.
This made me think of radical trust and how different things are now than they were then in terms of meeting people on the Internet. Parents and adults were (rightfully) concerned about their children talking to people pretending to be other children and being preyed upon. However, completely banning talking to other people online absolutely did not keep kids from talking to other people online, it just made them hide it. Parents and other adults in a kid’s life would do better by teaching them the dangers of meeting people online and show them how to safely do it. Hopefully, the kid will then trust the parent and let them know of any person they’re going to meet or wanting to meet, and let the parent at least go with them for the first meeting. Especially today, where so many people meet new friends and significant others online — and with so many apps that make it even easier to do so — teaching the right type of trust is imperative.
Ito, Mizuko, et al. Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. MIT press, 2009.
Costanza, Kathleen. “In San Francisco, Teens Design a Living Room for High-Tech Learning at the Public Library | YOUmedia Learning Labs Network.” Youmedia.Org, 28 Aug. 2015, youmedia.org/news/in-san-francisco-teens-design-a-living-room-for-high-tech-learning-at-the-public-library/.
Ariel’s got the right idea, except librarians need to find out where the people are before they can go there. Finding them online is the most important part, since the only way to get people even thinking about their local library is to remind them that it exists, and is worth a visit.
Facebook is what generally first comes to mind, but it’s quite easy to start a Facebook page but another thing altogether to maintain it, find your audience, and keep them engaged. It’s important to keep up to date with what the latest and most popular social media sites are, without jumping on board to every single new one that’s created.
In “The Hyperlinked School Library: Engage, Explore, Celebrate” (Stephens, 2010), a sign was shown in a library that stated that the computers were for educational purposes only and games had been removed from them. The view of “what if people use things in a way we didn’t intend” is one that tends to be closed-minded and does more harm than good. Instead of putting that sign up, they could have had some of the computers with games and some without if distraction were the issue — instead of the library’s view of how they “should” be used.
Firstly, the wording is very strict and, personally, makes me not even want to use the computers because, when you tell a young student something is for educational purposes, it makes it much less fun. And shouldn’t the library be fun?
After all, the goal of the library is to encourage students to use it. If the students are on their own time (after school activities, free period, etc) then what they do in their own time doesn’t have to be educational. The school librarians could have seen if they could set up a club or after school program for games on the computers, or find some way to keep the computer use fun without alienating students with wording.
This mindset reminds me of Young Justice, a DC animated show that was taken off of the air in 2013 despite being critically acclaimed and loved by the audience because their core demographic was actually females when they were aiming for mostly males. From an interview with Paul Dini, who worked on the show:
Dini goes on to mention how the Young Justice stories were much more teenager-oriented but the trend is to hit younger audiences with the newer shows. He said, “They’re all for the boys, we do not want the girls! I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not where I am but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching these shows.” When Smith pointed out that was a strange move because, well, women are 51% of the population, Dini said, “They don’t buy toys. The girls buy different toys.”
Pantozzi, Jill. “Warner Bros. Animation Takes Issue With Girls Watching Their Programs.” The Mary Sue, 20 Dec. 2013, https://www.themarysue.com/warner-bros-animation-girl-market/.
Thankfully, six years later (in 2019), Young Justice was brought back because:
The affection that fans have had for Young Justice, and their rallying cry for more episodes, has always resonated with us. We are excited to bring the show back for this loyal fanbase and to provide an opportunity for new viewers to discover this excellent series.
Cecchini, Mike. “Young Justice Season 3 Release Date, Trailers, Episodes, and News.” Den of Geek, 10 May 2019, https://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/young-justice/259858/young-justice-season-3-trailer-release-date-news.
What does any of this even have to do with libraries? Well, I tend to learn and teach with real-world examples and stories, so that’s part of it. However, the underlying message is the same: instead of excluding people when they do something with a program that you didn’t intend for them to do (unless, of course, it’s destructive), then it’s best to stop and consider how the way that the people are using the program.
Is it expanding its original use? Is it helping reach more people? In what ways can we study our users and see if their needs expand far beyond what we have offered, and are they just using what tools they have to fit their needs? In the end, it’s important to assess why the patrons are using a tool in a different way, and how we can meet their ever-evolving needs in the best, most engaging way possible.
Stephens, Michael. “The Hyperlinked School Library: Engage, Explore, Celebrate.” Tame The Web, 2 March 2010, tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/. Accessed 5 Sept. 2019.