Us, Connected

A Reflection on the Hyperlinked Library Model

I think of myself primarily as a high school teacher and tend to put most of my learning into that context, so as I finished up the readings for the Hyperlinked Library Model, I had a weird playful idea. What if a history teacher had students write historical figure fanfics! My husband just stared at me as I went on about the possibilities of a contemporary high school au where Elizabeth Cady Stanton is president of the feminist club.

This line of thinking brought me back to this week’s lecture where Michael mentioned Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind which outlines six senses that will increasingly shape our world: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. This list of senses immediately reminded me of the new media literacies outlined by Jenkins et al. in the white paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century which explains the meaning of participatory culture, connects it to web 2.0, and outlines new skills needed to be active in communities both on and offline. These skills, which include play, performance, simulation, appropriation, distributed cognition, transmedia navigation, and more lead to the kind of playful learning experience I imagined students having in history class. And if those stories were shared? How cool would that be?

If I am to help my students develop these new literacies, there are also digital traits I need to embrace. Michael outlined some of these digital librarian traits in an article for NextSpace which include becoming a planner, embracer, evaluator, trendspotter, and gatherer. Each of these traits share a willingness to collaborate (especially with library users), an openness to change, and a desire to provide what users want and need.

Models like The Unquiet Library demonstrate some steps I can take to align my school library with these principles. I want my students’ library to be a highly participatory learning environment with spaces that encourage interaction with one-another and with technology. I have already taken some steps to make the library more user-focused. When I took over as librarian, I immediately reversed the no food and drinks policy and ripped off of the signs that were laminated onto each table stating how many students were allowed to sit at each. My principal and I share a vision where the library is the heart of the school, not just a place to hold the books, and so I’ve begun to host a number of community events in the library. It also serves as a student art gallery, print shop, and lunchtime hangout space. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the library’s physical space and want to dive in to building the library’s online presence and interactivity.

In a post called “Hear, O Internet,” Cluetrain authors Searls and Weinberger proclaim that the internet is us, connected. It is not devices or the act of computing. It is not programming, content or medium. It’s just us pulled together by a force not unlike gravity. As a person who came of age during the time of web forums, chat rooms, and AOL instant messenger, I feel this strongly. I have made so many meaningful connections online through chatting about shared interests, seeking information, gaming, sharing my life, or just looking for a human connection. When it comes to my social life, I stopped differentiating between things I do online and things I do “in real life” years ago. It’s time I do the same in my work.

7 responses to “Us, Connected

  1. It is so awesome to read about what you are doing to make the library the place to be in your school. When I have been in our local high school library I see that she is also cultivating a culture of students having a place there. I don’t think I EVER used either my junior or senior high library even though I was a huge public library user and worked there in my senior year. There never seemed to be a reason to go there. How sad.

    • Thanks. I agree that it’s sad how often middle and high school libraries are under-utilized (it seems like less of a problem in elementary school where teacher-librarians have regular time/lessons with students in order to cover classroom teachers’ prep periods).
      I want my library to be a place that meets the students’ needs and exists for them, not for the institution.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I agree with @lisasemenza that it is so cool to hear about the changes you immediately made, and your continuous re-imaging of the library for high school students. The art student art gallery is awesome, and my high school library had one (retrospectively impressive for a rural high school in 1998) and it was my favorite part. Even though I was a HUGE reader, the most exciting part of the library in high school was that art gallery and the ability to informally connect with other students in different grades. I think embracing the social and creative nature of the library space as you have done will have such a positive impact on students, and is an exciting way to move forward in identifying needs. The versatility of the library as a communal space is such a great point to focus on, not just for proving value, but also for being of service to students.
    I respect all you hard work and also LOLd about the AOL instant messenger reference – I am old enough (and grew up remote enough) to recall dialup and MSN messenger, so cannot concur more: connectivity is so much more seamless and integrated into our lives now.
    Also, thanks for sharing so many awesome resources!

    • Thanks, @futuregreta!
      The art is one of my favorite things too. One thing that makes it easy to reimagine the library in my school as a communal space is the fact that it’s an open 2 story space in the center of the school. Students walking from class to class can see into the library from all over the building.

  3. I love that fact that you put the students first! I have to say my high school library was not so interestingly welcoming. Sadly to say, I don’t made use of my high school library. Teachers never made use of the library for any learning experience. Wish there was more connections between teaching and the library. I love how you took charge and made sure to make the changes needed in the library! I found my interest in library at a local library but it wasn’t until undergraduate that changed my view of libraries! I like how you included the look of your husband, he probably was thinking huh?

  4. @mosminwoo I love working with teachers to plan and give literacy, research, and tech/media lessons.

  5. You wove the themes of the module together in such a way that it took me from the internal realizations of how powerful the right brain can be all the ay to action with the world, most notably the removal of the signs limiting the number of students at each table. I thought: “my work here is done.” 🙂

    So nice to see art take center stage.

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