Thursday, January 08, 2009

creativity in libraries, 3

All this is about 'creativity in learning in libraries', really.
But we've got some handicaps, from the start.

Library systems aren't built for wandering; libraries happen to be brilliant places to wander and bumble and bump into unexpected things -- but the systems of organization were not designed for wandering.  They were designed to minimize the need for wandering.  They were designed to move seeker to sought with zero wander betwixt seeking and finding.

Now our digital aides (and content) have inherited this interest in decrease wander.  Catalogs online, databases, these are built on the notion that the seeker knows what he's seeking.  Sure.  Helping people get to the info is the goal.  Libraries (well, good libraries) aren't antagonistic to wandering -- but if they were designed for it, there'd be no classificatory systems at all.  So.

We've got a heritage of 'get to business' here.  That's useful.  How, now, do we introduce the elements necessary to make folks feel like they can turn up and bumble without getting barked at by a crab (old, punk, or other)?  Mixed metaphor there, but.

You know -- welcome to the library, come in, ask questions if you want -- we don't care if you put the book down in the wrong place.  We don't care if you fall asleep reading.  We don't care if you write on the tables. (crabs note: these are simplified ex. of shift in attitude, not suggestions for policy.  and they're questions.  they're wonders.)  I wonder -- there's a 58 year old HVAC repairman in looking up info on 9/11 because his damn cousin was rattling off a bunch of hockey she heard on the Alex Jones show, and he wants to get some newspaper articles to prove her wrong... I wonder how to make a space that visibly and immediatley demonstrates it's okay to sit down and start TRYING THINGS OUT b/c he's not going to BREAK ANYTHING.


and then: how to bring such ambient cues to the direct and pointed activities of bibliographic instruction...

creativity in libraries, 2

It's more complicated, of course: here we got a slew of 19 year olds who want more than anything to get the girl or get the guy, to be cool, be tough, be famous.  God bless them.  Making mistakes in front of others, helpful though it might be ultimately in making them more confident learners -- that ain't high on anybody's list.

And the 'making of mistakes' is predicate -- it ain't what we or they will be trying for.  It will happen (and it's inevitable, it will happen) before things get learnt.  B4 they get learnt at all.  Because it's in the making of the mistakes (which comes after "trying things out" you know "to see if it will work or not") that we learn stuff.

I like what Robinson's on about -- it's not that some folks are 'more creative' than others, it's that some folks stifle it as a trade off.  You can look mighty foolish going around being creative about stuff.  You can fail.  That can sting.

So how we create a culture of 'softer blows' in the classroom, where the sting ain't so mean?  How to make a library classroom with padded walls? Haha.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

creativity in libraries

Ken Robinson's TED talk on creativity in education -- his main point being that creativity ought to be encouraged and valued as much as literacy in our schools -- has got me thinking how I can bring student/patron creativity to our library literacy sessions.  Again.  

I've made an important shift in my bibliographical instructionating in the last year.  Used to be (and this is mainly what I inherited when I joined the library subculture at the particular place I work -- though it's got roots in Air Force culture too) I did more of a 'presentation' style -- here is the database location, here is the search interface, here are the limiters, here is the syntax, here is a sample article, here is how you print it, here is how you e-mail it, et.c.  The shift has been towards more student participation and involvement in 'the presentation' -- I have always been open to questions during the instruction, but the 'shift' has made the whole affair more Q&A than Speech.  My instruction sessions are, like, 30% presentation, now, and 70% hands-on and questions.  I kinda knew there were multiple learning styles, but it's only in the last 3 years that I've seen this clearly enough in action to start changing my own actions in the instruction sessions.

So.  Taking it further, how to encourage the 'mistakes and gaffes' necessary for real understanding within the alotted hour?

A shift to 20% presentation, 80% hands-on?  A purely (annoyingly) Socratic approach?  More 'treasure hunt' and 'activities' and 'games' built-in?

Small teams working to find things, then presenting what they found to the whole class seems to be a really workable and useful format -- it lets the performers perform, the shy ones receed and watch, the leaders lead, and they're all on the spot and they all have something at stake because they know they've got to stand before the class and prof and librarian.  That tends to keen up the mind.

Classes will begin to roll into our library within 3 weeks.  I want to keep an open mind, and watch for what works.

Anyway, watch this: