HackLibSchool on Occupy Wall Street: How Do Libraries Fit In?

16/11/2011 § 68 Comments

“I learned that the most important thing about teaching is not what you do in the classroom but what you do outside the classroom. You go outside the classroom yourself, bring your students outside, or have them bring you outside the classroom, because very often they do it first and you say, ‘I can’t hang back. I’m their teacher. I have to be there with them.’ And you learn that the best kind of teaching makes this connection between social action and book learning.”  Howard Zinn

The goal of this post is to start a conversation about LIS students and Occupy Wall Street. Several OWS libraries have popped up in different cities, and LIS students and librarians have heeded the call for reference workers, book donations, and more. In a lot of ways, libraries as a part of activism are related to our discussions of advocacy as professionals. A few HLS folk and others, are going to share our thoughts here, but what we really want is to open up a discussion with readers about how we fit into OWS as students and future info pros. There are info pros who agree and disagree with OWS itself, but all of us have important perspectives to add to the conversation. One caveat: no disrespectful/unkind/abusive/etc. comments. Our readers are generally pretty agreeable folks so this is pretty unlikely to become a problem, but we want to make sure the conversation is productive. With that, here are some thoughts from HLSers–please add your own!

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Banned Books Week: A Discussion on Intellectual Freedom for Kids

28/09/2011 § 9 Comments

Can of Worms. 'No Matter' Project Photo Stream on Flickr.

In honor of Banned and Challenged Books Week, Britt and Rebecca want to discuss the assumptions, implications, and consequences of challenging and banning books in public and school libraries, particularly for youth.  We think that library school is the best time to explore these topics so you can develop intellectual and ethical positions before you start your career; even as they shift and change in practice, having a theoretical foundation and a chance to exchange ideas with peers is a way to build your own position.  Please add your voice to the discussion!
Rebecca: Off the bat, I am totally pro-intellectual freedom, even for youth.  I think it’s necessary to expose children to all sorts of ideas and to encourage them to critically reflect on their reading to help them become better learners and citizens.  Similarly, it is the job of the parent to determine what is or isn’t appropriate for an individual child, and not the job of a library or school.  When a school removes a book, they aren’t just saying the book is inappropriate for some, or even most, children; they’re saying the book is inappropriate for all children.  That doesn’t seem right.

Britt: Of course, public and school librarians operate in different spheres of responsibility for a child’s access.  Many teacher librarians may act in loco parentis (in place of a parent) depending on their state or district; public librarians have no such mandate.  It is the common practice of public librarians (and the suggestion of ALA), particularly when processing a challenge, to place the responsibility for access on the parent, which relieves the librarian of that role.  This leaves us free to collect for a broader audience, but also, I feel, limits our ability to be advocates for intellectual freedom for youth.  Should youth librarians take a more active role when promoting access for children?  Should we advocate for the right of the child over that of the parent?

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The Elevator Speech

22/09/2011 § 11 Comments

Church Station Street Elevator

From Flickr user brunoboris - used under Creative Commons license.

As soon as you start library school (or maybe before) people will ask you— “Why?” Besides asking why you specifically are going to grad school to get your MLS they will ask questions like: “Why does a librarian need a master’s degree to check out books to people?” or “Why do we even need libraries?”

If you are a first year student or a veteran librarian you better have a good answer at the ready—you are representing libraries and the profession to the “outside” world with your answer. We can echo reasons to employ librarians on this blog all day long— but the people who need to understand the worth of libraries and librarianship don’t read this blog or any library blog and they may not even go to the library.

Step one in changing their mind is to have impactful, well thought out talking points for these situations. Because an “Um….I like books and um….it’s not just the Dewey Decimal System” kind of answer isn’t going to cut it. A great way to be prepared for impromptu conversations about libraries is to develop an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a quick pitch (about as long as an elevator ride) that sums up why a product, service, idea, or institution is worth the listeners time, money or patronage. On The ‘M’ Word – Marketing Libraries blog Kathy Dempsey shared a success story in which a library t-shirt and an elevator speech made a guy rethink his stance on libraries. Dempsey’s experience is a perfect example of why we all need to be prepared to talk up libraries whether it’s at the reference desk, on Twitter, or at the grocery store. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ethics in LIS

22/08/2011 § 21 Comments

I work as an intern for a youth program in a public library. Most of my time is spent planning or implementing programs or leading book clubs, but every once in a while I encounter a parent with questions about books or technology issues for his or her teen.

A few weeks ago I had such an encounter with a parent: she approached my desk and asked me if the library had any kind of surveillance software installed in the teen computer lab. I explained that all of the library computers have an internet filter, but I don’t personally monitor what the teens are doing on the internet. I will only intervene if the youth is watching something that is actually illegal for them to watch, for example, pornography. The parent then asked if I knew of any email surveillance software she could install on her home computer to better monitor what her child was doing online. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Uni Project

07/08/2011 § 1 Comment

Today’s guest post is brought to us by Chelsea Gunn, who is about to start her final year of the Simmons College GSLIS program, with a concentration is archives. She got involved with the Uni Project (which you can follow on twitter: @findtheuni) through her work with Street Lab.

Image Credit: Sam Davol

The Uni is a portable, open-air reading room set to launch in New York City this fall.

This “institution in a box,” created by the nonprofit Street Lab, will bring books and learning to a shared community setting at street level.  Husband and wife Sam Davol and Leslie Davol are the team behind the project, which is based on their 2009-2010 Storefront Library in Boston’s Chinatown.

As a library student, I was immediately drawn to the concept of the Uni. Physically speaking, it is a system of 168 open-faced cubes, which can be stacked together in different configurations or heights to provide shelving for books, benches for sitting and surfaces for film screenings. But beyond that, it is an innovating response to issues that are always on my mind when thinking about the role of the library in a community.  In particular, I am interested in exploring new methods of information organization and curation. I am also interested in the ways that context affects our perception of materials.

The Uni addresses these issues by taking books and other resources and placing them in new contexts to encourage creativity, learning and community engagement. Its lightweight, portable structure allows it to be positioned in strategic urban spaces, from a vacant lot to a school campus to a farmer’s market.

The structure’s cubed design allows for individually curated cubes that reflect issues or subjects relevant to the community the Uni is located within at a given time.  Being comprised of a “collection of collections” allows the Uni to change, adapt and grow in response to its audience’s needs and interests.

As book donations begin to arrive, the input of the library community is particularly vital. My conversations often return to the following questions:

  • What are the best methods of organizing and displaying our resources in order to foster enthusiasm, learning and discussion?
  • What are the books we most want to share with others?
  • How can the Uni best complement the local library system(s)?
  • Are there needs for programming that could be met outdoors at street level?
  • In what locations could the Uni have the greatest impact?

The expertise of librarians on these issues can maximize the impact of the Uni, and we would love to hear from you with ideas.

We’re approaching a deadline of August 15 to reach our all-or-nothing funding goal on Kickstarter. By then, we need gather online pledges from the public of $5000 to unlock our funding. Small donations welcomed. Now is the moment to donate and spread the word.

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