Awesome Library Day In The Life

I decided last minute to do Library Day in the Life this time around. It all started this morning when I was at the gym. As I was working out I was listening to Steve Thomas’s most recent Circulating Ideas podcast featuring Bobbi Newman. I’ve really been enjoying these podcasts and liked listening to Bobbi talk about this grassroots project. It inspired me to share my day, especially since it was particularly awesome.

After working out and showering I got into the office, answered some emails, and did some much needed organizing of my desk and reading area (as you can see from the papers strewn about on my floor).

mess on the floor

I then spent the morning at the reference desk. I chatted with our director about spring/summer planning and staff retreats that are always really productive. I also got a video uploaded to our YouTube channel about annotated bibliographies (related to an assignment that our students will be working on soon).

I also was able to help a couple people on some really interesting questions. One was a student who wanted help brainstorming ideas for a capstone project on ethics in marketing. I was thinking about issues like privacy and filter bubbles, but we hit on to the idea of stereotyping and gender in marketing. I was thinking of a misogynistic commercial for Dr Pepper 10 that especially annoyed me and all the questions that marketing of that nature raised. I also was able to help someone who was looking for historical and primary material related to Samuel de Champlain and records of his journeys. I referred him to the bibliography of the newish book Champlain’s Dream and ultimately found digitized copies of Champlain’s work and works related to him from the Champlain Society (pretty awesome).

The best part of the day though was when I left the desk and headed over to our Emergent Media Center on campus and joined a group of faculty, staff, grad students, and undergrads who came together for a Design for America brainstorming meeting. “Design for America teaches human centered design to young adults and collaborating community partners through extra-curricular, university based, student led design studios.” These studios bring together folks from all disciplines to create real solutions to real problems in their communities. Champlain students want to bring a DFA studio to our college and this was a big step in that process.

Design for America brainstorming

The brainstorming session involved thinking about a specific scenario, taking time on our own to come up with solutions and then brainstorm as a four person team to solve a problem. We got to write, draw, use blocks, and mold clay to creatively come up with solutions to our problem. It was an awesome start to the process and I’m going to continue working on the team. We have a month to agree on a problem, design a solution, briefly test our design, and create a video about it. As the librarian in the group I’ve agreed to start working on the research aspect of the problem.

Projects like this are undoubtedly one of the most valuable things I can do in my job. They allow me to connect and build relationships with other faculty members, staff, and grad & undergrad students and bring my expertise to things that we are all working on.

The day ended by running back to the office late, picking up my CSA, and catching the bus home. Luckily it’s almost the weekend…


Love Your Thoughts

My new favorite spot in Burlington is Maglianero. It’s an industrial, bike centered coffeeshop (and it has a small skatepark inside). I have been thinking about student feedback and user-centered design a lot recently and the feedback cards that this place had struck me as being well designed.

Love your thoughts

On the cards they ask 5 simple questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What’s missing?
  • What kind of events would you like to see in the cafe?
  • If you could change one thing in this world…

Feedback card

The design of the card is simple but it works really well, and I love the idea of a question that is not necessarily about the business, but is a question about personal meaning, values, and the “why” that Simon Sinek discusses in his TED talk.

I enjoying seeing creative ways of getting feedback and these cards do a good job of that.


What Can I Help You Create?

Create Poster

Original image from tinkerbells on Flickr

The reason I became a librarian is not because I love books, but because I love learning. I’m a curious individual, and I want to inspire that same curiosity in other people. I could do that any number of ways, but I believe that libraries can be really effective in inspiring curiosity and sparking people’s imaginations. So books and information are OK, but they’re a means to an end. What I am really interested in is the learning, imagination, creativity, and curiosity piece.

That is why I am excited about the trend in libraries to empower their users in non-traditional ways. Traditionally libraries have provided resources for consumption: books, articles, multimedia. Increasingly though, libraries are creating partnerships and offering resources that allow users to not only consume, but to create.

One example of this is the Library as Incubator Project from a group of entrepreneurial students from the SLIS program at UW-Madison (go Badgers!). The project focuses on how libraries can partner with poets, writers, visual artists and other creators in mutually beneficial way. The folks who started this project are re-imagining the library as “a gallery, a performance space, even a studio.” Libraries can be a place to create art and connect artists with the community.

Another trend is the rise makerspaces, hackerspaces, and fab-labs as parts of libraries. These are places for the do it yourself crowd where they have things like computer driven saws, lathes, 3D printers, and electronics benches. These spaces use a very community oriented model with things like shared projects and peer-to-peer learning. These spaces are a global phenomenon, but libraries are beginning to partner and tap into their creative potential.

There are other simpler examples too. There are libraries that lend guitars and offer lessons. My public library in Burlington lends gardening tools like rakes and hoes. Our members are not just reading; they’re painting, growing gardens, writing songs, ginning up prototypes, editing videos, or performing poetry.

Looking at our members not just as passive information consumers but as active creators is a paradigm shift that needs to be happening in more libraries. Instead of READ posters I want to see ALA also putting out CREATE posters who feature artists, musicians, or YouTube stars. Instead of librarians saying “can I help you find something?” I’d also like to hear “what can I help you create?”

For more reading on this check out David Lee King’s post about Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces and Mick Jacobsen’s post at Tame the Web, Is a digital media lab right for you?