Monica3800’s Weblog

This blog is tracking my Library 2.0 journey.

Anti-gaming or something else?

Obviously quite a bit has been stirred up after reading the Annoyed Librarian’s post about our class’s gaming night. I was reviewing some of her other posts to get some idea of where she’s coming from and I have to admit that she’s got some valid points. I’m not crazy about the style. I love sarcasm and satire, but I get turned off by the overabundance of that which she criticizes in others: a seeming intolerance for other viewpoints. Contrary to what she might write, I’m not a Pollyanna and I don’t want more fuzzy bunnies in libraries (ninja bunnies are a different story). I just don’t like the guerrilla communication style.

To my point, I do not work in a library, but I do work for a professional association. AL has a lot of criticisms of ALA and those associated closely with it (which I think is part of the reasons why library schools draw her ire). Professional associations are struggling for relevance. The community building, professional development, and networking that were the hallmarks of professional associations are no longer exclusive to the association largely (and perhaps ironically in this case) because of the Internet and its many applications.

So what do library schools have to do with any of this? Many professional associations are still very involved in institutional accreditation, hence their relevance to the profession they serve. ALA created and administers the most widely used accreditation standards for MLIS programs in the US. According to the ALA website, graduation from one of those programs “provides greater flexibility in the types of libraries and jobs you can apply for and enhances your career mobility. Most employers require an ALA-accredited master’s for most professional level positions, and some states require an ALA-accredited degree to work as a professional librarian in public or school libraries.” If you think library school is a joke then this accreditation process can seem like a money making scheme and even seem like arbitrary and elitist barriers to participation in a profession. It’s important to remember how fraught with conflict the accreditation/professional association relationship can appear. If a masters is required from an ALA accredited program to call oneself a librarian, somebody better be making sure that all of those programs are rigorous.

Believe it or not, I am not calling into questions the ALA accreditation process. I generally agree with ALA and I certainly don’t have the expertise to dissect their actual accreditation process. I bring this up to share some of the insights my current profession has given me. Graduate programs bring in big money, accreditation programs bring in big money, professional associations bring in big money. All rely on the goodwill and trust of the public that the mission of each is being served. I think the point is well taken that with all this money flying around, are the interests of the students and the profession best being served? Hold your professional association accountable, hold your school accountable, it will help both  grow, it will engage you in your profession, and overall, it’ll help libraries.

The value of gaming

Disco Fever in L2 ClassLast week in class we played games as has well documented in the biblioblogosphere. I observed DDR, Guitar Hero, Second Life and Brain Age. I even participated in Brain Age and Second Life. The night demonstrated some of the concepts from Squire and Steinkuehler’s Meet the Gamers article that I found most compelling, exciting and heartening both as a future librarian and as a new parent.

Squire and Steinkuehler credit gaming culture with developing skills in players such as focusing on “expertise rather than status”, “negotiat[ing] multiple, competing information spaces that span different media”, and providing “access to social networks” leading to “access to both collective information and collective intelligence”. I could see these concepts mostly in Second Life. Second Life was the most complex of the games we explored in class and it opens up worlds of opportunity to players. DDR and Guitar Hero were fun and required some risk taking (the risk of looking silly can sometimes be the biggest one!) that Levine outlined (in Library Technology Reports in Sept/Oct 2006) as key to the gaming culture.

I love giving kids a chance to gain confidence through games that entail risk taking and trial and error. I never truly understood the importance of learning from and not fearing my mistakes until I was well out of college. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve totally learned that yet. I think it’s a huge accomplishment if we can teach our kids not to get bogged down by the culture of perfect that dominates our world.

Right now I’m watching my young son try to figure out how to crawl through trial and error and lots of risk taking (cringe…) Every day is a game for him and he exudes adventure and possibility. I saw some of that during our gaming night. Keeping us all connected with that part of ourselves is so important. So, now I go back to worrying about the dog tearing up the house, paying the mortgage and how much gray I have in my hair. My son has given me a much better sense of the importance of fun, games and living in the moment. Our class gave me a chance to test that out in a different environment!

Human tetris

An idea for our next class game night.

Cabinets of Curiosity

I missed class last week due to a business trip to San Francisco. I had a little fun time and visited the SF Museum of Modern Art (great place!) I saw a Joseph Cornell exhibit entitled Navigating the Imagination. Cornell’s art consists largely of boxes and collages in which he displays found objects (he also did experimental film making among other things). Some of his works are cabinets of curiosity which were popular in the Renaissance for organizing objects whose connections are not always obvious. The items are generally interesting to the cabinet maker and the cabinet maker is responsible for defining the meaning of the connections. It occurred to me that social networking via MySpace, Ning, Library Thing, etc is a modern day application of cabinets of curiosity. I guess it’s up to us how we use social networking to define the connections between ideas, people, etc that we find interesting.

Library My Space pages

I reviewed the following four library MySpace pages: Ball State University, New Orleans Public Library, Univ. of Alabama at Tuscaloosa MLIS progam, and Thomas Ford Library in Western Springs, IL. I found them through a combo of searching and linking between one another.

I thought the University of Alabama page was the most useful because it was to a targeted audience that is probably pretty receptive (MLIS students!) NOPL also had some really good information, but the page was a little hard to read. Ball State used their’s primarily to highlight resources available to students and did it in an engaging way with good titles and fun posts to show the usefulness of resources like the LitFinder database. The Thomas Ford library page was directed at teens and hadn’t been updated in awhile. Maybe I’m just old, but that one just had way too much going on.

Much like other web resources, MySpace pages seem to be as worthwhile as the time spent keeping them current and interesting. So much is dependent on the community/audience you’re serving as well. Using MySpace is another way to connect, so I think it’s a good use of time. My one caveat would be: if the page isn’t being updated anymore, take it down or it makes your library look less relevant, not more so.

Ning

I created a profile on Ning and joined the L2 group. Joining the group made me thing about the social networking in plain English demo we viewed for last week’s class and I really was struck by the value of this forum on Ning. The video emphasized how social networks in the real world are hidden, whereas those on social networking sites are easy to see. They likened the connections to a map. It didn’t take me long to find resources for L2 forum members looking for jobs, resume builders, etc.

I’m still slightly overwhelmed by the networking aspect of the site. I spent quite a bit of time orienting myself to the site, reading about the group and reading the archives. It takes work to maintain a presence on one of these sites. More and more, though , the value of the human connections not bound by geography are clear. I can get input from a variety of people in a variety of settings and areas about any L2 topic. What a great way to open up my world view and think about things differently.

IM Reference at SJCPL

I’m here in San Francisco for work and thought I might hook up with the Marin County Free Library. Sadly, I found out that there IM reference service has been suspended. It’s too bad to see such a service discontinued. I decided to contact St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend. Even though this was Michael’s former stomping grounds, I thought it wasn’t exactly cheating. I contacted the librarian on a Saturday afternoon and received a response within a minute and we chatted for about 15 minutes.

 SJCPL has been offering the service for nearly 3 years. The librarians like the service a great deal as it’s another way to reach out to the community. The patrons like the service, however the librarian I chatted with has some concern that the service might not be marketed as well as it could be. The patrons who do use it, use it a lot, but probably not enough of them know about it. I asked about teen usage and the librarian confirmed that mostly teens use it. I also asked if maybe it brought more teens into the library. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as most questions are addressed within the chat session. Monthly stats and transcripts are kept for evaluation purposes. There is no specific evaluation of the quality of the interaction with the patron. My thought was that it may be difficult to get IMers to stick around for an evaluation because of the nature of the interaction they’re looking for.  Additionally, the librarian pointed out that because they use a free cross platform IM application, even if the service was not used much, they’d keep it.

I did check out the library’s website and really liked their instructions for using the service. I also thought the hompage was clear that they offered the service, but if people aren’t going to the website, they could be missing out.  

I think IM reference is a great tool for libraries to use. I do see how it can be difficult to maintain especially if librarians aren’t excited about it. It was really nice to learn about this from someone who clearly enjoyed it and recognized it’s value to reaching out to the community. Kudos, SJCPL!  And finally, “hi” to Michael from SJCPL…