24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: libraries

Thoughts On: Makerspaces

Over the last several years, makerspaces, maker lending, and maker programs have exploded in libraries. As we, libraries as a whole and agents of the library, develop the trend or determine if it is even a trend at all or something that will become integrated into the concept of a library long-term, we must do better to define and describe what it is we’re talking about when we talk about makerspaces, maker lending, and maker programs. When we focus on makerspaces (which I’ll use to refer to the whole package of making in libraries), we are primarily focusing on the space and the tools within that space. Those tools, in these discussions, are often limited to tools that deal with science, technology, and building in the traditional sense (think screwdrivers and hammers or Raspberry Pis and 3D printers). But I think we can do better.

So let’s start with, what is the purpose of a makerspace in a library? Answering this question brings a more robust understanding of not only what it is we accomplish with makerspaces (both intentionally and unintentionally), but also but what we could accomplish.

Space and Tools Create Opportunity

Customers of libraries in urban environments can appreciate the physical space found in a makerspace. Many of those customers live in small apartments without ample room to pursue projects due to space limitations or rules set by the building management. Surface area, such as large tables, may be lacking in these environments as well. But at a public library, we can create a space dedicated to making and building. Space is limited and this may require some shifting or even constructing an addition to the building, but as long as the budget is there and the town is on your side, there’s no reason a makerspace can’t be just that: space.

Similarly, many customers may find that the purchase of a soldering iron for one project isn’t practical. Perhaps the cost is prohibitive or simply not worth it for the one project. Maybe, again, space is an issue as the accumulation of tools can be a challenge of storage. Certainly the purchase of a workbench with the capability to withstand sawing would be impractical for most apartment-dwellers. But perhaps an apartment-dweller would like to build their own bookcase from scrap wood rather than make yet another trip to Ikea. None of their friends have such a setup to lend and so they are left with few to no options. Furthermore, if the individual has the funds and space for a workbench, they may still find the time spent reviewing, selecting, purchasing, and transporting the item is unreasonably high for the gain they expect.

The library can help.

While it may not be suitable for your particular library to purchase a workbench, I’ll continue with that as an example for the time being. So, say the library does have a workbench and, what’s more, an electric saw available for use. Perhaps the customer needs to reserve the bench in advance or maybe they can simply walk in. An individual who might not have had the space, or another who might not have had the money, can now accomplish a wide variety of projects.

This means one of the purposes of the makerspace is not just providing tangible things, but a sense of equity among community members.

Space, Tools, and Resources to Learn to Make

Small spaces don’t suddenly become large when an individual decides to learn how to solder. Makerspaces as spaces inherently provide a space to learn. With room to look at projects from different angles, move them around, and even pace while considering next steps, makerspaces facilitate learning in simple, passive ways. As makers interact with each other, project- and experience-sharing may happen organically, leading makers to teach and learn from each other, space is once again the crucial element.

But what we put in the space can influence learning, too. The presence and availability of tools, for one, empowers visitors to play and gain experience with these tools. Meanwhile, book displays that focus on particular types of projects or even famous makers can provide instruction or inspiration to visiting makers. Passive programming in which tools and supplies are set out either with or without instructions give makers the opportunity to create independently and learn through the process. Librarians or library staff may hold instructional sessions in which they teach a project, either through participatory demonstration or simple lecture.

Space to Share Making and What Has Been Made

With space to make individually, there is space to make collaboratively. Whether participants come in with the intent to collaborate or they come to work on projects independently and end up collaborating with or learning from each other, the open nature of the makerspaces allows for visitors to see what other visitors are working on. Surrounded by plenty of conversation material in the form of projects, it’s easy for visitors to comment on each other’s projects or ask how one accomplished some piece of a project or other.

And if makerspace visitors are interested in others’ projects, hosting a regular show-and-tell can serve several purposes. Visitors may have the opportunity to ask questions of makers. Makers can seek feedback from their audience. The community discovers what other community members are working on and may find other applications of the project for the good of the whole community. Show-and-tell need not be limited to the product itself; makers may bring examples of the fruits of their product (if, for example, the product is a machine that weaves friendship bracelets, the maker may wish to share some of the bracelets). Even moreso, the maker may wish to discuss or even demonstrate the process of making their project.

Space to Build Community

All of this serves to build community. As we provide the space and opportunity for building and sharing what has been built, we contribute to the structure of the community. Making not only contributes to the community as it potentially brings new technology to a neighborhood or the whole world, but it brings people together. Individuals may gather to collaborate on projects, creating relationships which continue to exist and grow outside the library and therefore building a stronger community as a whole.

Maker programming encourages community partnerships with the library as well. If your city is lucky enough to have a Tech Shop, for example, the library may wish to collaborate with Tech Shop to bring in expert speakers or encourage library makerspace users to visit Tech Shop or another makerspace for tools the library is unable to provide. The external makerspace gets publicity from the partnership, which may increase visitors to the external makerspace, especially if users are able to show their library card for a membership discount. Thus, not only do individuals create a network through the makerspace, but the library creates partnerships with other community organizations and individuals, both of which contribute to the strength of community.

Conclusion

At their hearts, makerspaces have two primary goals or functions: to democratize or create equity and to build community. Making space and tools available to create the opportunity to make and making space and tools available to create the opportunity to learn ultimately serve to democratize making. It’s not perfect — not everyone can get to the library. Constraints on time and transportation put up barriers still. As of now, there is little libraries can do to mitigate those obstacles. But by having a makerspace at all, we provide real, tangible access to space and materials that enable folks to learn to make and to make.

Meanwhile, these spaces which create the opportunity and occasion to come together either by design or organically serves to build community. When we host makerspaces or maker programs, we give people a reason to come and exist in the same place. As they occupy the same space, they share projects, ideas, and expertise. This creates a network that ultimately strengthens the community. Whether we’re offering the space to share the act of making or to share what has been made, we create opportunities for connecting. Then, when we invite individuals or organizations into our makerspaces, we create a link between ourselves (the library) and those organizations, who may in turn reach out to others to connect them with us. This web continues to grow, helping to build a community stronger than what already exists.

And isn’t making all about building, after all?

Ask Me What I’m Reading

Making friends is tough. Networking is tough. Many people (and librarians especially, if the stereotype is to be believed) struggle with social anxiety.askme button

When I moved to Arlington last year, I hoped making friends would be as easy as it had been when I was in undergrad where I was surrounded with like-minded people. It has been more challenging than that, in part due to a busy schedule but more so due to my shyness. In public, I am most often with a book. I read in public to keep myself entertained but also to avoid talking to other people. I realize this is counter-intuitive.  So how do I make friends without the ridiculous amount of pressure I feel when approaching people I don’t know?

The solution came to me a few days ago. To both engage like-minded people in conversation and take the pressure off myself, I’ve designed a button to attach to my bag. It says, “Ask Me What I’m Reading.” Whether or not I’m actively reading while wearing this button in public, I hope a few brave souls will take the cue and start a conversation with me. I hope, in turn, I will ask what they are reading. I hope we exchange a few good titles. And I hope we agree to meet up to browse a bookstore in the future.

Bibliophiles of D.C., say hello! I don’t bite; I’m just shy.

To tie this back to libraries — perhaps this is something we should consider offering as a prize or “party favor” at library events. I made my button with Zazzle, though there are plenty of similar sites that allow users to create buttons, mouse pads, t-shirts, calendars, and other items. Alternatively, host a button-making program and, as an example, create this button. Your patrons will thank you.

LIBR 200: A Brief History and Future of Me

For those of you just joining me, here’s a bit on me and my goals to get you up to speed.

I grew up in the great but small state of New Hampshire, a fact of which I typically remind people around me daily. While I now live in Virginia, I’m a bit of an elitist when it comes to my home state. Live free or die, right? After eighteen years and some months in glorious New England, I headed south to Roanoke, VA to earn my BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology at the ever-supportive Hollins University. Hollins is basically unknown, so here are some quick facts:

  1. Hollins is a women’s school with a co-ed graduate program. There are a few trans* students on campus (F to M), though I do not know of any M to F individuals there.
  2. Hollins is tiny, both in campus size (you can get to one side to the other in six minutes, walking slowly) and population (we’ve got fewer than 650 undergrads).
  3. We do not have a mascot and, because this fact got us on Jeopardy once, we never will.

Hollins was a great place that encouraged me to do lots of things I wouldn’t have done on my own including, I think, trying an online program for my MLIS. I’ve known I wanted to be a YA librarian since I was sixteen. I feel very lucky knowing that I’ve had such a sure career path for a long time as I know this is not the norm. Despite the many comments I’ve received from people around me (“Libraries aren’t going to be around much longer, you know.”), I’ve stayed true to my path and am confident that libraries aren’t going anywhere.

All this to say, I’m very excited to start my adventure with SJSU. Already I am learning about things I had no idea about — information-as-* for example, is a totally new concept to me. For once, I am excited to learn about theory and other topics that are typically encountered with groans from students in all disciplines — foundation-driven topics and the like.  I’m interested in cementing a strong online presence and have considered opening an additional Tumblr account as I am already aware of the large LIS community on that platform. Pinterest, too, seems like a great opportunity that is currently being underutilized by LIS professionals, and so I will be making an attempt to pioneer my way through that path as well. As I continue to read for pleasure in what little free time I’m anticipating, I’ll also be documenting these books with brief reviews on this blog. Check in to see what I’ve read recently and what I recommend. While these goals develop, I’ll be taking on smaller goals of learning as much as I can and trying to stay up-to-date in the larger field and the more specific field of YA readers in public libraries.

This brings me to my next bit: For this semester’s community-driven assignment in LIBR 200, I’m interested in studying YA readers in public libraries. I phrase it this way because, although I am mainly interested in the “intended audience” of YA novels/programs/etc., I also recognize that people who are not strictly “young adults” (that is, middle to high school students) also read and enjoy YA materials. It’s important to create a space in which all categories of readers feel comfortable seeking material. Due to the nature of age-emphasized environments in many of the public libraries I’ve visited, I can see where “adult” readers may be uncomfortable browsing the YA section of a library. Of course, the section should focus on it’s young adult readers, but it should not alienate any group, either.

I’m looking forward to a great semester and, if you’re wondering what the person who wrote this looks like, look no further than below.

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9 Simple Ways to Hack Your Job Search

Since March, I’ve been seriously applying to jobs.  It’s absolutely a full time job that, unfortunately, doesn’t pay. Many recent grads are in the same boat and, with a sea of job sites to navigate, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to start. Here are some things that I’ve learned while job searching.

1. Network

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s important. Networking can open opportunities for you. They say you’re “six degrees” from anyone you can think of, chances are you’re far fewer than six degrees from a job. Talk to people about what you’re interested in. Return the favor. Even if someone can’t offer you a job or a connection to someone who can offer you a job, networking is a good way to learn how to look for a job and how to talk to people.

An even bigger secret? People have been telling me to network forever. I understood that networking meant talking to people, but I had no idea what to talk about or how to even start those conversations until recently. You’re going to think I’m joking when I tell you this, but I promise, it’s the truth: I learned to network by playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. While you can’t enter personalized responses to things people say, watching those conversations (and their consequences) play out on your tiny phone screen can make a world of difference in how you approach networking in real life. At least, it did for me. Not sure where to meet people? Try joining a Meet Up relevant to your interests. Because Meet Ups are built around hobbies and career interests, there’s already a topic to break the ice.

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2. Keep a List of Keywords

If you’re not looking for a super specific position (like, Professional M&M Taster), keep a list of the keywords you use to search for jobs. This allows you to check back in on those job listings with less hassle and more consistency. It also empowers you to search more creatively. Occasionally, job search engines are smart enough that they will find synonymous listings, but this isn’t always the case. Keep a thesaurus or www.thesaurus.com nearby and handy to help you have a comprehensive search going at all times. Some job search sites also keep a history of your search terms with a number of new jobs posted under those terms since your last visit to their site. This can be helpful, but the history only goes back so far and if you have an extensive list of terms, you’re probably better off keeping track yourself.

3. Track with a Spreadsheet

My “Job Search” spreadsheet is a lifesaver. Every time I apply for a job, I enter it into my database. This not only helps me keep track of the number of jobs I’ve applied to (and thus enables me to be appropriately bitter as I mutter that I’ve applied to ninety-one jobs to no avail and I can prove it), but it also helps me to remember important contact information, passwords for jobs that require a log-in, and a link to the job description should an interview present itself. The categories I use in my spreadsheet are: Job Title, Organization, Link to Post, Date Applied, Location (City), Result of Application, Follow Up (Date), and Notes. When I receive a result, I highlight the row of boxes so I know it’s no longer an active application. You may find other categories more useful to you, but I highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet to help keep your search organized.

4. Add to Hacks to Your Search Terms

It occurred to me recently that many of the hacks you can use to search Google more effectively also apply to other search engines. Use them to your advantage. While some search engines automatically search both “library” and “librarian” when you type just “librarian” in, it’s not necessarily guaranteed. Try typing “librar*” without the quotation marks to search all job posts with the words “librarian” or “library” in it. My favorite alternative search technique is to add a minus sign before the word “intern” to weed out any internships listed in the results. Many of the advanced search techniques in this chart can be transferred to job search sites.

5. Limit Your Searches with Filters

Some job sites, like Simply Hired, allow users to limit search results. Looking for something that requires little experience? Select “0-2 years” under the experience panel. Only interested in working for a non-profit? Click on “non-profit” to find jobs in the non-profit sector. This will save your hours of scrolling through irrelevant search results, thus enabling you to apply to more jobs that better suit your interests and intent.

6. Don’t Just Rely on One Job Site

Although you’ll often be presented with over a thousand search results at just one site, you’ll be better off if you check with multiple sites. My favorites at the moment are Indeed, Idealist, Simply Hired, CareerBuilder, Snagajob, and Monster. Admittedly, I don’t check them all with the same frequency, but even by checking more than one, I increase my chances of finding the right job by quite a bit. It’s unusual to see the same job posted on multiple platforms, so your results are very likely to look totally different. Like your keyword list, take a minute to make a list of sites you want to check on a regular basis and then do it.

7. Check Career-Specific Sites

While I can’t speak for other career paths (though I suspect there are resources for most of them), the library science field has many career-specific resources for job seekers. I Need a Library Job compiles an almost-daily list of job posts with links. The American Library Association has a JobLIST as well. A quick Google search will reveal a number of other resources for job seeking in library and information science and it can help make your search more specific and effective.

8. Follow Librarian Blogs

As an active Tumblr user, it’s easy for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the library job market and trends therein. Of course, Twitter is another useful social media platform to keep up with librarians. With a lot of high profile librarians keeping blogs and other social media accounts, you can watch for advice from the pros. Often, these are the kind of people who can hire you, and I’ve read more than one post on what to and not to do for resumes, cover letters, and interviews in a library setting.

9. Be Optimistic

It’s okay to have glass-half-empty days. Overall, it’s important to keep a positive attitude. If you don’t, it’s likely to show up in your cover letters. Fake confidence until you feel confidence and don’t take rejections personally. When the time and the job is right, it will happen.

 


References

Glu Mobile, Inc. (2014). Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. (Version 1.3.1) Glu Mobile, Inc. video game. San Francisco: Glu Mobile, Inc.

Why I Want to Be a YA Librarian

When I was growing up, my mother brought my brother and me to libraries frequently. I spent a lot of time at the Derry Public Library and the Taylor Library, both located in Derry, New Hampshire. Not only were the libraries a fantastic escape from the heat and humidity of New England summers, but there were books everywhere and I could take them home for free.

As I aged, I began to appreciate the services my local libraries offered to young adults. Writing clubs, craft nights, summer reading programs, and a sense of peace that I struggled to find with my peers at school. At the risk of sounding dramatic and angsty, the library was a place of refuge for middle and high school kids who couldn’t find a place to fit in. What was more, I knew the librarians and people manning the circulation desk wouldn’t judge me. I check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream one week and Twilight the next and no one would so much as sniff at it.

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Libraries open new worlds, both physically and mentally.

I parted from the library for some time while I was in college. Despite studying for a BA in English, I rarely stepped into the campus library or the public library in Roanoke, Virginia. Like many other college students, I couldn’t find time in my schedule to do many of the things I enjoyed so much in high school, including reading for pleasure. Since graduating, I’ve redeveloped an appetite for fiction and a new interest in non-fiction.

My main interest remains, however, in YA fiction. The more I become engaged with “Tumblr activism” and issues of diversity, the more I realize how important representation — seeing one’s self represented accurately, in this instance — is. If I had not read so many dozens of books with characters with whom I identified in high school, I doubt I would have such a strong sense of and comfort in who I am now. While many people assume I want to become a YA librarian solely for the sake of interesting non-readers in reading, this isn’t true. I certainly hope to help find the right book to hook new readers, but I am more interested in providing a safe and non-judgmental space for the population we call “young adults” to read, learn, create, and grow. It was this space that was so important to my development, and so it must be for others. Many young adults do not get the support they need from school, parents, or peers. Librarians can play a huge role in providing mentoring, encouragement, and assistance in the lives of young adults. If I can pick up a few new readers along the way, fantastic. But first and foremost, I want to find the lost boys and girls. Then, I want to open new worlds for them, and help them open their own new worlds.

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