Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Playing Librarian

In the past 8 weeks, I have spent many hours reading through the blogs of my colleagues involved in Learning 2.0. The other week, one of our Things was LibraryThing. One of the participants blog entries about LibraryThing struck a childhood memory of playing library. I would organize my Baby-sitter's Club and Sweet Valley High books in numbered order and the rest in some order that made sense. Alphabetical by title, organized into height groups, colors. I would make little catalog records and due date cards for the title verso. It was quite the operation with a notebook detailing who borrowed what book and when it was due.

LibraryThing allowed me to organize my personal library, with the bonus of adding tags, emotional keywords. I found 15 other people who also have this book in their library. Play is the locus of Learning 2.0, encouraging staff to experiment, explore, discover the new web tools. It has been a challenge to shift the focus to play and explore, away from protocol and procedure. Play is fun, creative and one of the great benefits of play is the development of ideas, solutions; it fosters an informal setting and changes our way of thinking.

So, in thinking about play and libraries, I wonder what 'playing librarian' would look like today. Our catalogs are digital. Instead of stamping the inside of the cover, we print a receipt with the due dates. In retrospect, librarianship was probably always in my cards and as I developed intellectually my interests were aligned with the missions and goals of libraries. When asked what I might be doing if I wasn't in libraries, I am hard pressed to answer. Perhaps something in museums or art, developing training modules and staff development, teaching or tucked away in the ivory tower for the love of anthropology, of perhaps something IT related; work that complimentary to the work of libraries.

Kate mused about the word library in Bloglines, iTunes, and for every bibliophile on your holiday list, the personal library kit. Understanding what a ten year old playing library means in 2007 requires a different historical context. A child born in 1997 entered into a world when the internet was reaching toddler years. At the end of 1999, parents would be concerned about Y2K and backing up data. The child is probably playing educational video games and has mastered the mouse before kindergarten. At age ten in 2007, we would have a fifth grader on our hands, perhaps with a computer at home, maybe even one in their room. Maybe our ten year old would have a portable gaming system or mp3 player, familiar with accessing digital content online. There might not be a concern for authenticity or authorship, but rather an immediate need. Instead of the home encyclopedia collection, Google would serve as a research tool directing most search queries to Wikipedia. (Perhaps the parents are savvy and aware of iConn!) So, playing library... would the child who loves books and/or technology seek this out? Perhaps the playing would be orientated around the customer experience, like playing store , and focusing on the customer service exchange rather than the objects. Sample scenarios could be looking for the latest magna title or assistance in looking for Grand Theft Auto cheat codes.

And to take an incredibly sappy and nostalgic turn, I hope that play isn't something of the 20th centruy. And by play I mean using ones imagination and assorted objects to create a reality, outside of technology. I adore The Dangerous Book for Boys and now The Daring Book for Girls. It is a way of acting out experiences, practicing behaviors and responses, taking on a new personality and building interpersonal skills. Playing is learning.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Census data. Yum. Excel spreadsheets, the most one can have before noon.

Information request was for the Caribbean or Haitian population of Fairfield, CT. One of my favorite information sources that is census.gov, and I was particularly excited to use it this morning to look for data. This post is more of a post-it reminder to myself on accessing the resources. (Or if my patron calls back.) I stumbled a bit on where to go and ran a few different searches until I found an accurate match.

Using American Fact Finder, I can create a custom search that yielded me the specific data, with the ability to narrow down to specific ethnic groups and areas within a city. I used the QuickTables to access information about ancestry, and click-click-show! Population data downloadable to a spreadsheet!

A glorious way to start the week!