15 College Town Library Trends

What philosophies, goals, and practices give heft to other public libraries’ programs and special events?  And how can my library tap into that, too?  I recently set out to tackle these questions by chatting with administrators at several nearby Kansas libraries, as well as public libraries in other Midwest university towns.  Besides getting to talk to some awesome librarians, I learned volumes about how my peer libraries are fulfilling their mandate to become a public forum, classroom for lifelong learning, and community living room.

You didn’t seem to mind the nerdiness of last week’s post, so I thought you might be ripe to handle a little bit more.  Here’s what I found out!  Synthesized from verbal and written answers, strategic plans, and programming policies from Midwest college town libraries, I bring you:

15 Programming Trends in College Town Libraries

(The fine print: this data  was collected by visiting 3 libraries and emailing 62 to interview them about their programming practices and policies.  I received feedback from 20 libraries total, for a 32% response rate.  16 provided substantial feedback.  Scroll to the end to see the full list of contributing libraries.)

1. Programming is a Core Function of the 21st Century Library

  • Programming is one of the Library’s three core services, along with collections and services.
  • Programs foster community, meet the educational and entertainment needs of the community, promote the collection, cultivate lifelong learners, and give citizens the opportunity to interact with their fellow residents.
  • The purpose of programming is to recognize and respond to current issues facing the community, and to encourage cooperation and collaboration within the community.

2. Programming Supports Exploration and Lifelong Learning, Stimulates the Imagination, and Facilitates Community Engagement

  • Library programs can satisfy community members’ needs for successful lifelong learning, everyday information, and exploration of topics of personal interest. Support and nourish the community’s spirit by offering programs that stimulate imaginations and enrich lives.
  • Create a safe, comfortable, and welcoming hub of community living and culture, providing a forum for social connections, civic engagement, and the exchange of ideas.
  • Promote the Library’s meeting facilities to government and community organizations as a neutral place to hold hearings and meetings.
  • Cultivate a philosophy of open access to information and ideas by offering non-discriminatory programming; refrain from excluding topics, books, and speakers that might be controversial.

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Everyone Let’s Get Social

Having just attended a workshop where we talked about social bookmarking and tagging, I thought this would be an opportune time to tell you all about a fun project I worked on early last winter!  Two fellow students and I had been tasked with proposing a “digital information resource” — yep, pretty broad!!!  But our group had a strong interest in teen librarianship, and I was riding high on Andrea Lunsford’s Stanford Study of Writing, New Literacy, Content Creation, blah blah blah, and so we easily decided to propose an interactive, social catalog for teens.

Reading Rants Home

If you don’t know much about social cataloging, don’t worry — it’s a phenomenon that’s been gaining momentum over the past few years, and you can read all about the theory and the nuts & bolts behind it in our paper if you’re interested.  Continue reading

Pythons & Snow Bunnies

Around this time last winter, I was learning how to write code in the computer language, Python.  I thought that knowing how to code would make me a better librarian, and so I signed up for a grad class at the U of I.  For the record, I hadn’t cried because of a class since the fifth grade, when Mrs. Recinos gave me a “late” because I forgot to ask my parents to sign my assignment notebook.  But Readers, Python made me cry.

Eventually, though, I ended up with this cute little piece of code that can make collages out of pictures that you like:

Snow Bunny Collage

My professor was really amazing, and in the end I actually did OK in the class.  Having a supportive, code-savvy fiance with a knack for soothing hysterical people also helped.  But librarians — even though I know I couldn’t crank out a Python program on the spot today if my life depended on it, I do know that I could sit down with a text book for a few hours and figure it out, and that I am also now equipped to have intelligent conversations with library IT staff who write code for the library.  It’s nice to know that I can participate in building our library’s tools.

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Content Creators: Rethinking the Information Paradigm

I can’t believe it was just a few months ago that I was busy putting the finishing touches on my capstone project to graduate from library school.  Back in its nascience, I posted the abstract for this project right here on Librarian in a Banana Suit.  But I wanted to share the final product with you, too, and so now I present: Content Creators: Rethinking the Information Paradigm.

Layout and design work are by Colin Smalter.  (Tip: to zoom in, just click on the image to open it in a new window, and then click again to enlarge.)  Hope you enjoy!

Content Creators

Hip-Hop, Foucault, and Learning Between Borders

Foucault's Hand

I really like hip-hop.  A few months ago, as I was finishing my two years of Library School, I was taking a seminar called “Analysis of Scholarly Domains.”  We were contemplating the structure of knowledge in University settings, and I was spending a lot of time thinking about which voices get included in the Academy, which become excluded, and why that happens.  We’re talking nights spent awake until 2 and 3 a.m., reading Michel Foucault and banging my head against the desk until finally having the “a-ha” moment — so it’s that sort of “a lot of time thinking”!  The result of all that thinking was a twenty page term paper called “Learning Between Borders,” a personal narrative of my own journey through the Academy, including my love of both MLA and hip-hop, and why I think they go smashingly together.

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Content Providers, Content Creators


Update: 11/15/2010 — I thought this post could use a little extra explanation.  So here you go!  This piece served as the abstract for my capstone project before earning my Master’s degree from the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science.  I wanted to focus on a common thread I saw through most of my work in Library School, which is that Librarians and Patrons are always creating things, instead of just getting access.  (The final project is also now available here):

Librarians often conceive of themselves as information providers:  they select and provide the resources that they consider most authoritative in given contexts.  But this approach can exclude multiple valid perspectives.  In my research, I’ve sought to understand how librarians might implement a more inclusive yet critical approach to information.  How can librarians encourage patrons to consider where information comes from, and to seek the “missing voices”?  Continue reading

Fabulous Ways for Librarians to Use Twitter


Clive Thompson from Wired Magazine — one of my favorite techno-journalists — writes that tools like Twitter can help us develop a “sixth sense” about the people in our networks.  All those seemingly mundane facts like “having homemade bagel & lox for breakfast!” and “reading Vonnegut during flight delay…” can add up to give us a picture of what’s happening in the lives of those around us.  As librarians, we can use Twitter to help our communities develop a sixth sense about who we are and what we offer, and we can also use it to develop our own sixth sense that will help us tune into the wants and needs of our communities, too.  For instance, if you see a lot of chatter in your network about the recent PBS documentary Copyright Criminals, you can schedule a showing at your library and then send a tweet about the event to all your Twitter followers!

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Launching B Sides: an Open Access Journal

B Sides

December and January have been all about launching B Sides, our lovely new open access electronic journal for the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science! We hope the site will be ready to go live at the beginning of spring semester on January 19th, when we will begin soliciting submissions from current SLIS students and alumni.

As the founding editors, my colleague and I have been busy rounding up faculty sponsors, setting up the peer review process, customizing the content management software, working with a graphic designer, and meeting with both the University’s ITS department and Digital Library Services. Whew! In the meantime, here’s a little snippet from our homepage to give you an idea what B Sides will be all about:

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Pedagogical Zones

Lev Vygotsky located the Zone of Proximal Development between a child’s “current development level and the level of development the child could achieve ‘through adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’” (Vygotsky, as quoted in Woolfolk, 44).  He wrote that children are always on the verge of being able to solve certain problems, and that they just need some structure, clues and reminders to help them.  This Zone of Proximal Development is the area “where instruction can succeed, because real learning is possible” (ibid).  Carol Kuhlthau built on Vygotsky’s claims when she described her theory of “zones of intervention.”  She studied the information gathering process of high school students, and noticed that doubt, confusion and anxiety often prevent students from knowing how to move forward in their work.  When uncertainty prevails, mediators can intervene in the search process.   “Mediators” can be friends, family, librarians, teachers—in other words, any capable peer or adult who can provide the student with some clues or structure to help her find her way.

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Reification & The Swamp

The Swamp

“The necrophilous person loves all that does not grow, all that is mechanical.  The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things.” (Fromm, as quoted in Freire, 72)

The inherent danger in reification is that when we attempt to explain or describe a concept, we could transform what is fluid or living into a static thing.  When we theorize about education, for example, which is a very fluid and complex concept, it is tempting to try to make the reality of education—i.e. education-in-practice—fit into our static theories and definitions about education, rather than the other way around.  This is what Freire called “oppression—overwhelming control. . . nourished by love of death, not life.”  And Fromm: “he loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life” (ibid).

Anne Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola problematize book-love.  Quoting several writers, they argue that books objectify cultures and worlds by encouraging people to imagine linear, concrete selves.  Continue reading