Emrys H MLIS ’21

This semester for me, and honestly most of this whole degree, has been nothing but reflection on what’s important to me, who I am inherently, and what I want to do with my life going forward. This class specifically has helped me solidify what is the most important to me in libraries specifically: engaging with my community, reaching out to people who feel like the library isn’t for them because they don’t understand what the library does, and ensuring my work and my library are open, transparent, and encourage participation from staff and library users alike.

Reading all your posts as well has helped open my eyes to everything else that’s possible and all the other perspectives I know I need to be aware and mindful of, and shown me how much more there is to know and how many other ideas there are about the same concepts and principles I’ve been thinking about on my own. I am historically terrible at connecting with other people in a school environment, especially in this degree since it’s so easy to never talk to anyone besides required responses to discussion posts, but the readings and everyone’s posts have reminded me I need to make concerted and constant efforts to reach out and engage with people who can help me and who I might be able to help in return. Writing this blog has also helped with my ability to reflect and take new perspectives on ideas since I am forced to write about them and solidify my thoughts into something at least a little more solid than just amorphous emotional responses to the things I’ve been reading. I want to carry this forward, and indeed I intend to since I want to start up two blogs of my own after graduation (one with general personal essays, and one specifically as a librarian blog – Dr. Stephens and readings in my Issues in Public Libraries class have shown me how important that can be and since I want to work in so many different areas of information science I think it would be useful to have all my thoughts about that in one place; plus it’ll be the final resting place of these posts and my portfolio once it’s up). Learning to reflect can also help reframe your ways of thinking and open up new ideas for current and future projects as well as just new worldviews. I still feel like I’m not good at it yet, but I certainly see how important it is now!

It’s been a real joy and pleasure taking part in this class and learning from everything and everyone here. I’m done with my degree after this, but I wish everyone luck in finishing theirs and in your future careers and lives! Hopefully we can all put a little of the heart of the Hyperlinked Library in everywhere we go.

Hello everyone!

In case you haven’t guessed (or haven’t read some of my earlier posts), I really like games. My first loves will always be Clue and Zoombinis, but all sorts of board, card, and video games have hold of my heart. I actually was planning on going into game design before I decided on my MLIS! So when I was thinking of what I wanted to do for my Hyperlinked Symposium project, the answer seemed simple:

Write a video game about it.

So here we are! Using the software Twine, I’ve written a short text-based video game about my four main takeaways from this class. I had so much fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoy it as well! It’s been amazing learning from Dr. Stephens and from everyone else in this class, and I wish you all the best moving forward!

(P.S. This was the best project I could have created to finish out my master’s degree, so I’m extra thrilled to have made it! Best of luck to all of you!!)

This proposal describes a community storytelling festival taking place over the course of the month of July that engages community members from all demographic groups, especially those who are marginalized and may feel underserved by the library and by society as a whole, and gives them resources and space to tell their stories. Storytelling and oral history are an integral part of the development of human society, and by providing a platform for these stories to be heard by the community at large, as well as providing technology and trained staff to enable the recording of these stories, we hope to facilitate information sharing, openness, and the ability to pass down stories to many more future generations than what might otherwise be possible. All events will be completely accessible, with ASL interpreters, audio description volunteers, and translators from the community available at every event, and events for both children and adults are included in this proposal. While specific events are centered around specific groups in the community, we also intend to promote this festival as a time for everyone in the community to take advantage of our makerspace studio and audiovisual recording equipment in order to preserve their stories in the way they want them to be heard. The end of this brief contains plans and goals for the future of this project, and it is hoped that this proposal will showcase the power we hold as a community focused educational institution to promote and support stories from every corner of the community we serve.

In the Choose Your Own Adventure modules, I chose to focus on the Library as Classroom area primarily, but also read a number of the Professional Learning Experiences articles because I am so curious about what the possibilities are going to be for me to do professional development and education once I actually start my library career.

Firstly, the library as classroom. This semester I am also taking Issues in Public Libraries, and the main text we’ve been discussing for that class is Transforming our Image, Building our Brand by Valerie Gross, which is all about how reframing the way we talk about libraries to present a more education-focused image to the public increases perceived value among potential users and with those who have funding power over library budgets. I’ll admit, when I started the semester and the book I was more than a little skeptical of what she was saying, since it felt like a bunch of corporate buzzwords wrapped in the guise of offering new education opportunities and outlets. And while to an extent I still think that is part of what she was doing, between that class and this one I am now fully on board with the idea of marketing libraries as educational spaces for everyone. Presenting libraries as an accessible, non-threatening place for everyone to learn regardless of where they are in life and what they want to learn can prove our value to people with a narrow, old-school view of what libraries provide, and even more that that, I think that perception can actually make visiting the library more fun for people. Especially with the growing prevalence of makerspaces and more technical (and technological) events and classes in libraries, bringing in people who want educational spaces and experiences without being forced to read or process information in a non-hands-on way should be easier than ever. Beyond just providing expanded literacy experiences through play for children or different kinds of literacy initiatives for immigrants or seniors, I have several friends who didn’t finish high school or had trouble in high school because book-based learning wasn’t for them but would have thrived in more hands-on events or other kinds of literacy events for teenagers and young adults in libraries. There are so many things to teach and so many different ways to teach them, and honestly there are even more now since the pandemic began, that it should be easy and standard at this point for libraries to work on providing all sorts of extra educational experiences to as many people as they can.

On the side of librarians being the ones in need of continued education though, what can we do to create these sorts of opportunities for ourselves? I like the idea of regular, small regional or state-wide librarian events designed to get librarians from all sectors talking to each other and sharing ideas on what interest them and what their communities are asking for, but there always runs the risk of things getting stale or no one getting what they really need out of the event due to insufficient communication, planning, or leadership, so I think there should always be some sort of theme or goal clearly communicated beforehand for every one of these events. As you may know if you’ve read…really any of my other posts here, I am a huge fan of game design and of gameful design, as Elizabeth Lawley puts it, so I think a really interesting concept for mini-conferences or professional development events like this would be to have different groups create different themes or curated sets of activities and discussions each time so there’s a clear goal and different groups get valuable experience conceptualizing and running programs like those. Now the difficult part of course is the buy-in from library heads and boards of directors, but hopefully with the way things have been progressing leading up to 2021 and the fact that gamification and augmented reality apps and devices have been around for so long now and only getting more popular, more people with planning power will see the value in professional development events and initiatives like these and support their staff that want to participate. Especially if the techniques and knowledge gained from these events lead to greater participation in events held by the library, there’s sure to be a positive correlation there. At least, one can only hope. Fun and education are both necessary constants, and there should be no reason the two can’t be combined on a regular basis, especially at the library.

Saying that storytelling is the basis of how humans have communicated since we developed language may seem trite and overused, but it is very much the truth, and the more we keep that in mind the better our communication skills become. Storytelling is no longer just fairytales and fables with morals told by one person to a circle of listeners, but is instead the way in which we need to engage everyone we interact with. On the one hand, this opens up the pool of potential storytellers beyond one designated person in a community, but on the other hand, that means we are now overwhelmed with stories from all angles, and any of us trying to tell our stories have a much more difficult time getting heard. Luckily for us, with all this new technology and all these new stories come a plethora of new ways in which to tell stories and get them heard by those we need to hear them.

As librarians, our job can be thought of as being educators outside of a school environment, but we can also think of ourselves as storytellers both to and for our community. It’s our job to tell stories through the classes and programs we provide, yes, but it is also our job to tell the story of what we do to the community to bring people through our doors, and to tell our stories and the stories of members of the community that we’ve helped to key stakeholders like our boards of directors, local governments, and private sources of funds to show how we help and what our value is. We tell these stories at meetings and events and conferences, but also when we help library users and when we write e-newsletters or post on social media or even hold staff meetings and discuss what we need to be doing on an everyday basis. Learning how to tell these stories well can radically improve the engagement and “buy-in” we get from everyone around us, and figuring out new and engaging ways to tell these stories ensures that we will get heard and be remembered, both of which are increasingly both difficult and vital to have happen in our day and age. Whether it be podcasts, “build-your-own-adventure” type Twitter threads, or any other form of storytelling we develop or hone, our storytelling voices are the ones we need to make heard and use to amplify others’.

What is the Listening Station?: A participatory technology and service designed to promote and enable oral history recordings and storytelling throughout the community.

What are our goals with the Listening Station?: Firstly, to start a community initiative to get people in the community to talk to each other and community elders to collect stories and learn more about the history of the community and of individual people in it. Secondly, to create an aural library of stories and histories from community members to be shared and learned from for years to come.

What community do we wish to engage with the Listening Station?: The whole community! We hope that young people and older people alike will talk to themselves and each other to learn from them and what they have to say. With the roving power of the Listening Station, librarians can even visit senior and assisted living facilities to gather stories there, or schools and universities can borrow them for oral history projects themselves.

Action Brief Statement:
We hope to convince our community that by utilizing the power of the Listening Station they will begin to pay more attention to the stories available to them through their community (and their library) and learn from them, which will enhance the quality of life of everyone involved, create a more open and engaged community, and introduce them to the power of the different services and programs the library offers, because we should never stop learning whenever and wherever we can, and the elders in our community are too often an under-utilized resource of advice, history, and generally fascinating information.

Evidence and Resources in support:┬áThe StoryCenter, the group responsible for creating and distributing the Listening Stations, has a number of excellent links on their website in support of digital storytelling effects like this one. This project could also follow along the lines of the StoryCorps app, discussed in articles like this one, where it is at a glance a collection of individual stories, but with some guidance towards tagging and slightly more curated interviewing, it can become a searchable and researchable archive of history about a specific community. It is our hope also that members of our community can have experiences similar to the one described by Daniel Clarkson Fisher, who began the Chinese Jamaican Oral History Project, and end up creating a history of a specific group in their community whose stories have previously gone untold or at least uncollated. When working with university or even high school students also, we can turn them to the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ articles on oral history as a guidepost for ideas on what to do with the Listening Stations and how to do them. The Listening Station as a concept was also introduced in the course content for INFO 287 when discussing participatory technologies and services in libraries, and aligns with Dr. Stephens‘ writings and philosophies on participatory librarianship and community-focused library work.

Related Mission, Guidelines, and Policy: For guidelines and policies, we first will look to fellow public libraries who have Makerspaces and greater technological offerings than we do to see how they establish guidelines and policies for providing technology to the public. We will also encourage our librarians to reach out to their network of peers to find ideas and examples for best practices when it comes to establishing guidelines and ideas for how to work with this new technology. Our mission is and has always been community-focused, and we want to emphasize the participatory and community-building elements of this technology when advertising it and promoting it within our space and our staff. We will also learn from and reproduce the values in the mission statement of the StoryCenter, creators and distributors of the Listening Station, to increase our work for and with the community.

Briefly outline how the grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc. will be distributed: Before the initial workshop introducing the Listening Stations to the community, the Listening Stations themselves should be kept in a back room or office space where either other technological loan items (laptops, iPads, etc.) are kept when not in circulation, or with other workshop-related materials. After the initial workshop, depending on community engagement and perceived age range of interested parties, a dedicated section for them should be set up either at a lending station near the quiet study rooms, or at the youth area’s technology lending zone. In terms of funding, either funds can be drawn from pre-existing programming materials funds, or grants such as the Accelerating Promising Practices or requesting funds from the Grants to States program, both from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, could be applied for in order to purchase the initial equipment for the Listening Stations.

Action Steps & Timeline: The budget for the listening station ($3000 for two kits plus 2-5 hours for the training of two librarians) must be approved by the Head Librarian and the Board of Directors. Potentially, it can come out of any funds set aside for materials for programming, since the inaugural use of the Listening Stations will be through a community workshop. Choosing the two librarians for initial training (one youth librarian and one adult)

Staffing considerations for the Listening Station: Staffing hours for the Listening Station should be easy and flexible. The initial community workshop will be part of our regular programming and use the hours we have set aside for events, but since anyone is welcome to use the Listening Station at any time, any librarian working at the reference desk or as roving support will be able to use their regular working hours to assist in the use and supervision of our Listening Stations.

Training for the Listening Station: We hope that all our staff can be trained on how to use the Listening Station! To begin however, one designated youth librarian and one designated adult librarian will be involved in setting up the two Listening Stations we will purchase and will be able to utilize the 5 hours of distance support provided by the StoryCenter. Once they become comfortable with this technology, they should be able to train the rest of the staff with ease, and may also be designated to train any community partners who wish to use the Listening Stations on their own.

Promotion & Marketing for the Listening Station: Internally, we want to promote it through signage, workshops, and telling all staff to promote it whenever possible and share our enthusiasm for this new service. Externally, we hope to partner with middle and high schools, the local universities and community college, at senior activity centers, and at any relevant museums in the area. We will also promote it via our website, newsletter, and social media, and ask the local newspaper to run an interest story about it as well.

Evaluation: Preliminary metrics for evaluating the success of the Listening Stations will be pure numbers: attendance numbers for the introductory workshop(s) and circulation numbers for the first two months that the Listening Stations will be available for use. We will also have minimum monthly check-ins with our librarians to see how they feel and what they have been doing with the Listening Stations, as well as asking for any feedback they’ve received organically. After three months of having the Listening Stations available to the public, we will create a short questionnaire that we will ask all librarians to give to any patrons using the Listening Stations to get their feedback on the Listening Stations and the process around using them, and we will distribute similar questionnaires at the end of any community collaborations where we lend out the Listening Stations. We will consider it a success if we have members of the community use the Listening Stations at least three times a month, and have some kind of community collaboration every 2-3 months. Possibilities for future expansion are investment in more Listening Stations, a dedicated monthly Storytelling/Oral History workshop, and recurring partnerships with schools and other community organizations. Another goal dependent on future success is coordinating with either local web programming students or tech organizations in the area to create a curated internet database of the collected stories recorded at the Listening Stations in the library, and potentially even a web series or video podcast.

There comes a point in talking about the future of public libraries where it feels like we’ve all just been kind of talking in circles. We all know about DOKK1 at this point, and the IdeaBox, and ideas of gameifying library systems or integrating community makerspaces where book stacks used to be. So what more is there to talk about when it comes to new models of librarianship?
What about an anarchist and decolonial lens? There is an ever-increasing movement, especially in the US, to restore land and artifacts back to the people that were on the land before (usually) Western European colonizers came and killed or forcibly removed them. Absolutely this is something that should happen, the reservation system in North America is somewhat horrific when you read about it, but how does that impact the future of public libraries? I’m not claiming to have the answer obviously, I haven’t read nearly enough theory to even get close, but I definitely want to open a conversation about it because I think it’s something we need to talk about. What will public librarianship look like in a decolonized setting?
Ideally, of course, not that many physical buildings themselves will change, since #LandBack doesn’t mean razing every building to the ground, but we need to have a different way of thinking about what it is we do, teach, and reinforce in a public library setting. Personally, I’d like to imagine that while we would keep a lot of the technological offerings since I don’t think modern technology is going anywhere fast, but I would love to see seed libraries incorporated in more areas, and classes on how to take care of plants and local wildlife offered more frequently, and active, continuous partnerships with the tribes on whose land our libraries rest to discuss what they want to teach and what we can do to uplift and amplify their work and stewardship of the land. Design like the Anythink libraries’ trees inside their libraries as well is something that I think could work well with this model of librarianship, since having plants integrated into the space might make the public take more notice as well as provide easy examples of how to take care of specific plants. Libraries that are open during unstaffed hours would support this model as well, since we are enabling people to do and take what they need when they need it, and providing a place of support for everyone who needs one. Again, I don’t have the answers and I also have not put as much time as I would like into conceptualizing exactly what a decolonized public library in the US might look like (besides which I’m not Native so the perspectives of Native librarians and other indigenous people are far more important), but I do want to make sure this is something we begin thinking and talking about very soon and I think this is a good place to do it.

I think to an extent we’re all a little scared of new technology. Even if we think we’re ready for the bleeding edge, there’s something we’re all a little hesitant about. Obviously increasing security concerns with things like facial recognition AIs and websites that mine your personal data are things we rightfully should be afraid of (and work to fight), but even beyond that there’s always something we’re wary of. For me, it’s visual media. I am a very written word and audio oriented person, especially when it comes to content I create, and even though I also have dabbled in photography and I love Instagram, making videos or graphic content frightens me a little. I’m working to overcome it through sites like Canva and realizing that I have this fear/hesitance in the first place, but that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to become The person my friends ask for help with visual design elements. Confronting and overcoming these fears though is something we all have to do, especially concerning adopting tech into our library careers. Maybe we all understand how Twitter works and see the helpfulness of RFID scanners, but not everyone is going to be able to help run a Raspberry Pi workshop for teens, or be comfortable making fun posters to advertise children’s events. That needs to be something we work on for ourselves, but also something we work on as a team in our libraries. It’s all well and good to say that continual self-education and development is something we should all do or even have as a requirement, but sometimes it’s hard to know what that looks like and even harder to cross that initial hurdle. A way to combat this could be group workshops for everyone in the library, or maybe gamified accountability challenges (I’m thinking something like Habitica or Khan Academy but for learning new tech or skills for the library). Getting everyone on board to learn together and combat that initial fear of new things is one of the more important steps in adopting new tech in a library, in my opinion. I talk a big game about loving technology, but I am the first to admit that without a community around me either encouraging me to learn or learning with me, I might never actually learn what any of it does.

Reading all the articles about how technology is being used in museums, galleries, and archives in order to increase access and create a more participatory environment was really fascinating and enlightening for me. Digital archives and exhibitions are one of my main career focuses post-MLIS so getting to read about people and institutions who have been doing this work for years now was really cool and encouraging. Projects like the National Archives’ Citizen Archivist program are a huge inspiration for me and an incredible example of participatory archives, since not only are they actively crowdsourcing help (and incidentally promotion) for their work, they also have their website laid out in an easily navigable way, and even more actively seek out specific communities for work on collections like their unlabelled photographs of Native Americans pre-1900s. I think this is a really incredible way to ensure inclusivity and diversity in the tagging and curation of their artifacts, and something that should be emulated in more historical cultural institutions (i.e. archives and museums). Looking forward, I think building interactive exhibits into archival exhibitions is something that should be a standard we strive toward. Not only will that build accessibility into more places for disabled people and non-English speakers, but that will encourage people who otherwise might not be interested in a specific collection to engage with it and find an angle that appeals to their worldview and interests. I also am a huge proponent of virtual exhibits coexisting alongside physical ones. It doesn’t have to be a VR exhibit necessarily, though I do think that is an excellent idea especially considering everything that’s been happening during and due to the pandemic, but something along the lines of the British Library’s digitized collections that are organized along the lines of their physical rooms and collections. Again looking from an accessibility standpoint, this opens up viewing opportunities and experiences to disabled people as well as to international researchers and enthusiasts who may not be able to visit in person, and additionally it allows viewers to curate their own experiences in the museum to a greater, more personal extent than they might be able to do in the physical exhibit. Especially considering how many more items are in the digital collections than in the physical exhibit for many institutions, there is so much more opportunity for exploration of a topic that someone is truly interested in than there would be given the constraints of a physical exhibit. Archives, museums, and libraries are educational institutions at heart, and participatory exhibits and the ability to curate your experience through digital media are some of the best ways to educate more people and make sure they have an enjoyable experience while doing it.

I think an interesting example of a place and group we could take as an example for how to better involve ourselves with hyperlinked communities around us is taking a look at game stores and board game cafes. Board game cafes and some stores, in my experience, have three main ways that they function within their community: 1) as a standard shopping experience with walls of product along with descriptions and recommendations along the lines of “if you like Uno, then you may like x card game as well”, 2) as a community space with long tables and comfortable chairs that are explicitly meant for people to come in with friends and either play their own games there or play public-use copies of board games that the cafe has on hand, and 3) as an event planning and hosting body with staff-run events for popular games such as drop-in Dungeons & Dragons sessions or Magic the Gathering tournaments, and sometimes possibilities for the game community around that cafe to make suggestions of other events to hold there (personally, I would love to try to figure out a speed dating-style mass Uno game: imagine the glorious chaos). Game cafes know exactly what their existing audience is and what they want, with space for the community to create their own events, and have their own structure for getting new people to join, with beginner days for popular games and recommendation lists for people who either are just beginning to explore the wider world of board games or are trying to shop for someone who loves board games but already has all the classics. I think public libraries that are trying to open their doors more to their community and to the sub-groups of community within that could take a page or two (or a card) from this model. For the most part we already do support the people that know exactly what they use their library for and have been using it for years, but we need to expand to address their wider needs and figure out how to introduce new people in. I think something that is kind-of-but-not-enough touched upon in addressing adult library users who might want expanded resources in the library would be just more tables on which to do large projects. Specialized rooms in libraries like those for photography archiving/digitization or libraries with a/v media holdings know that they need to budget room for scanners and record players, but what about grad students who need to spread out their eight books, laptop, and iPad in order to write their thesis? Board game cafes understand that sometimes you need to spread out a lot of things on a table to understand a game, so why can’t libraries? More personalized recommendation systems like game stores have wouldn’t hurt either, but that is something being talked about on the more social media/website UX design side of things. I think something libraries really need to work on though, and in the adult spheres just as much as the teen and youth ones, is figuring out how to plug in to the different hobby groups and interest communities in their area, seeing what it is they’re already doing and what the library could do to facilitate them better, and then figuring out how to do just that and get them in. Imagine if your local librarian was the DM of a rotating, drop-in weekly D&D game with a homebrew setting based on that library and your community? I’d be there every week.

Skip to toolbar