Director’s Brief – Community Memory: Insights into memory labs and digitization efforts across the globe

Memory labs have been exploding in popularity across the globe. With the digitization efforts of cultural and family histories comes the integration of technology to bring access of these cultural artifacts to the patrons of libraries everywhere. This report looks at the global trend of digitizing cultural and community memory. It also reviews insights from DC Public Library’s Memory Lab efforts and proposes a way in which the Erie County Public Library can harness the global trend and create a Memory Lab paired with technology to preserve and share Erie County’s community memory.

Learning Somewhere or Everywhere: Sparking Curiosity and Community!

Wow, it has been a whirlwind of a week, y’all. We got our first sticky snow, which was pretty awesome because this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere it snows! I also started a new job at the public library here. I am beyond excited to get to know my coworkers and community!

A photo of a pumpkin on a front porch dusted with snow.
A photo of my front porch. Is this Fall or Winter?

For my adventure, I chose to walk the paths of Learning Everywhere and Library as Classroom. The two modules show the different ways libraries can help the community, one through reaching outside to give access to the community and one from the inside by bringing the community in to learn. Both are equally important moving into the future.

Learning Everywhere

I am part of the demographic that expects to learn anywhere. If I forget my phone, I am sorely disappointed when I want to look something up. It is natural to me to have the entirety of the Internet at my fingertips, to answer questions or curiosities within minutes of searching. It is the same for many of us. I can muse aloud “I wonder what the etymology of that word is…” and a friend will immediately take out their phone to look it up. Our phones have become an extension of us, of our learning, and we can create our own on-the-fly curricula at any time, anywhere, and learn anything we want. These are usually small pockets of learning, although I have used YouTube, blogs, and MOOCs to learn a variety of skills from my home computer. Oftentimes, I have learned while chatting online with friends because learning anywhere can be isolating and lonely, as many of us may feel in an online program. This is one of the reasons I started an MLIS Discord server for group projects, but still chat with some of my classmates long after the class has ended. Which brings me to the second half of the adventure I chose:

Library as Classroom

Because learning anywhere can be isolating (even if some of us don’t have a choice), the library can bring a group together to learn. The library I work at has 3D printer classes, programming classes, yoga classes, among many other programs that bring people together and complement learning on your own. Not only might these classes spark a curiosity that can drive a person to learn that subject from anywhere, but it can build relationships and community ties and keep people coming back for more learning.

Learning Anywhere and Together!

Learning Anywhere and Library as Classroom go hand in hand, and I believe one can feed into the other. Personally, I have learned yoga on my own, and now want to try learning it in a library classroom (once another session is posted!). Conversely, I have seen 3D printing in action in my library and have found myself learning more about it online! Because information is so pervasive with cell phones, tablets, computers, social media, and games, the library can harness that curiosity and access to information by providing ways for learners of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds to come together, both online (through databases, online catalogs, and apps) and in the library classroom to spark a greater sense of wonder and love for learning.

My dog, Buddy, learning what snow is! (No audio)

Mobile technology: A boon for the future of libraries, but creating a tech gap

As I was reading Deloitte (2016), I found myself nodding along with the findings. Yes, I do wake up and check my notifications on my phone. Yes, I do check my phone even if I don’t have any notifications. Yes, I do use my phone to help manage my life (Google Calendar and Google accounts in general, you are a lifesaver!). I use mobile tech and social media to get my news (mostly via Reddit and sometimes Twitter) because I can subscribe based on interests and read the articles that are posted, no matter what news source they come from. With this major mobile information age, people are able to subscribe to the types of news they want to see (more science? animals? hobby news?) without having to join a club, listserv, or subscribe to magazines. This service offered through social media could be offered through the library, as well, as Enis (2014) wrote about with regards to the BluuBeam, which allows users to learn about library programming through their phone. Imagine a library app that allowed users to subscribe to certain interests, sort of like Reddit, but library related. Think subjects like: tech classes, children’s events, new [insert genre] books, game nights, that a patron could subscribe to and receive notifications for on their phone. Perhaps library’s post about this on their social media, but the app would encourage user-specific interests and content. What if this app also included local museums? Local community centers? The possibilities are incredible for mobile technology and harnessing that for libraries will be key in getting some of the more tech savvy patrons into the library.

But what about the non-tech savvy people?

As Pew Research Center (2019) found there is a great disparity in smartphone ownership between younger age groups (18-34) and older adults (50+) meaning we will need to find a way to reach those who do not use smartphones. If there is something everyone loves, though, it’s convenience. Perhaps a way to bridge the gap in mobile tech users and non-users is to offer easy-to-use services for everyone. The Moose Jaw Public Library offers a “text a librarian” service (Shaw TV South Saskatchewan, 2013) where you can text a question anonymously to a librarian and get a response. This service does not necessarily need someone to use a smart phone, but could introduce less tech-savvy people to the idea of using mobile technology for library services.

In addition to bridging the gap via inclusive, super-convenient services, helping less-tech savvy people learn could be another way to reach all patrons. The Memphis Public Libraries offer a “Mobile Technology Learning Van” that brings mobile technology to different areas of the county. Not only does this help bridge the digital divide, but it reaches people who may not have transportation to the library, and gets people interested in learning about mobile technology, which in turn, helps prepare people for the future of mobile devices.

There are so many possibilities for mobile tech in the future (and right now!). If anything, it will only become more and more popular as the generations move forward, but, as librarians, we will need to find ways to bridge the gap and still reach those who do not have access to mobile tech or who have not yet embraced it. Librarians will need to plan on both fronts: helping the library shift into the mobile direction of the future and work to get all patrons on board and help everyone within a community.

References

Deloitte. (2016). How do today’s students use mobiles? Deloitte. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/how-do-todays-students-use-mobiles.html#

Enis, M. (2014, November 18). “Beacon” technology deployed by two library app makers. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=beacon-technology-deployed-by-two-library-app-makers

Local 24 Memphis. (2018, December 13). Mobile technology learning van helps to bride the connections for the non-tech savvy in Memphis. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHGlxCT9iIQ

Shaw TV South Saskatchewan. (2013, May 10). Text a Librarian. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGlB34HMIOU

Silver, L. (2019). Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly around the world, but not always equally. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/