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?


5 Best Videos for Library Instruction

The teaching librarians here are gearing up for another semester of classes which begin next week. In some of the classes we do, we like to use different sorts of media and technology for teaching. We’ve been looking at videos for several of our classes and I’m always surprised with the interesting videos that other the librarians find. Here are five of my favorite videos for information literacy instruction that I’ve seen over the years.

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

We’re using this for the first time this year as an introduction to using Google, the information landscape and getting students to question the gaps in their information. I’m really excited for this session and discussion.

Bing Commercial 2011 – Supermarket Food Fight (Animal House)

This one is quick, funny and would be perfect for a discussion either about search engines or more specifically on keywords and how a word can be interpreted a lot of different ways.

Obama Clinton Texas Debate Plagiarism “Silly Season”& Xerox

We’ve used this video for several years in a class about plagiarism and the ethical use of information. It works really great because it is a debate and it is not completely clear if it is plagiarism or not. It effectively demonstrates that there is a lot of grey areas in plagiarism. It’s a little dated, but still gets the message across well.

Jordan Paris – Australia’s Got Talent 2011 Comedian Scandal – Today Tonight Interview: Plagiarism

This is another great example of plagiarism. Though not as grey as the other, this one better depicts the consequences of stealing others ideas and passing them off as your own original material. Depending on your lesson, this one could work well for your class.

Et Plagieringseventyr

This is one of the most well produced videos on plagiarism I have ever seen. It’s from the University of Bergen in Norway so you’ll need to turn the closed captions on, and it could be a slightly risque for some American audiences. It could be a good, fun opening to a session on plagiarism though…and there’s a musical number.

I’m always looking for new ideas and I’d love to hear what other folks like to use in their classes. What are some of your favorite videos to use in the classroom for information literacy instruction?


Outsourcing Our Memories To Google

image from Ars Electronica on Flickr

A study was recently published in Science Magazine called Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. It concluded that because of the ever present access to information via the web people are remembering less. The Ars Technica summary says “experiments suggest that people expect computerized information to be continuously available, and actually remember less when they know they’ll have access to it later. We also seem to remember where we can find information instead of the information itself.”

I have heard students say things like “I don’t have to know that, Google knows it for me.” It seems that we are increasingly outsourcing parts of memory to Google and the web. This is definitely a shift in how our minds work and how we think about information. What then, are the implications for information literacy and how we talk about accessing and recalling information?

For one thing our thinking about information is becoming increasingly meta. Instead of remembering actual information we remember where it was located. We no longer need to know as many facts since connectivity is seemingly ubiquitous now and we can access collective knowledge via the web with devices that are in our pocket. We now just remember bits and pieces of an article that we read, but we can remember who tweeted it or which email account it was sent to, and then access it again when we need it.

Is depending on the web for our memories a bad thing then? People have made arguments in the past against technologies ruining our memories. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates depicts the new technology of writing as a device that will ruin the memories of it’s users:

“ this discovery of yours [writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

It seems that this did not happen, in fact writing was a great technology for spreading ideas across time and great distances. But what are some of the possible implications of outsourcing our memories to the web, and how can we talk with students about them?