Detention 2.0: Reimagining the Shermer High School Learning Resources Center for the Hyperlinked World

Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois 60062.

Although we only saw it for that one day, one of the greatest collaborations took place in a library. A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal each assigned to write an essay of no less than a thousand words describing who they thought they were. One of the things that always struck me when watching the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club, even long before I started the MLIS program, was how advanced the Shermer High School library was. Hopefully adding to what Jenkins (2006) calls the “Collective Intelligence” of media fans, I hope to explore what detention in this library would look like in 2013.

shermer

The school comes equipped with fire exits at either end of the library.

In order to do so, we must first look at what this library looked like in 1984. As is traditional for public schools, the library is essentially rectangular (however, it has been given various structures and moldings to suggest a more rounded shape). The majority of the library’s physical holdings are along the perimeter of the two story space. In the center we see a group of six tables. For detention, these are all arranged to face forward (for orientation purposes, we will call the corridor out of the library and towards Dick’s office as the front of the library). However, if we look closer, we can see that some of these desks have rounded edges, suggesting they were meant to be arranged together to form a larger, round table suitable for collaboration. Behind this area, the library has a artwork, a lounge area, and a small bank of computers. Towards the front there is a media center housing audio equipment. The second level also hosts several little rooms that can be used for small meetings.

All of that was way ahead of the times…even more advanced than my high school library in 1990. So we can imagine that, in creating a space for 2013, this library would still remain cutting-edge. I would actually imagine it very similar to the way it was nearly 30 years ago: sans card catalogs, with updated art and architecture, and a much larger complement of computers. We would still see a large area to gather for collaborative efforts (though likely the tables would be the bar-height modular ones), and the media center would boast production equipment for creating video and audio presentations.

I would also like to imagine the administration being creative about how detention is managed. No longer would there be no talking, no moving, and everyone ordered to write their own Saturday morning essays about who they think they are. No, these students in detention would collaborate to blog about it. The computers would not suffer from the techno-banality we heard about in our lecture. They would be fully linked, and these blog posts, from everyone who served in detention, would be accessible to all who wished to see. The blog posts of all who came before, and all who would come after would serve as learning experiences, a means of acknowledging whatever it was that was done wrong, and a reflection of how to not repeat those actions.

In the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions.

So it is here that is probably important for us to stop and think about who we think we are. As librarians, are we the ones who will post threatening “no beverages” signs? Are we the ones who will deny access to social media? The ones that waste time sitting around planning? Or are we the ones who will be forward thinking, allowing for as much chaos as we can stand, and letting our communities help us provide the services they want? Let’s hope for the latter.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers: exploring participatory culture. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Tanen, N. (Producer), & Hughes, J. (Producer & Director). (1985). The breakfast club [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Studios.

bender

Context Book: Reality is Broken

We, as human beings, like to play games. Maybe some of us (a lot) more than others, but it seems built into our genetic makeup. If this is the case, Jane McGonigal (2011) argues in Reality is Broken, then how can we tap into the idea of gameplay to make the world a better place? Now gaming, especially video games, get a pretty bad reputation, and having a game developer right a book about how games could improve the world seems a little self-serving, right? Wrong. The fact is, we are already playing games, no one needs to force us out to buy them (the fact that Grand Theft Auto V hit the $1 billion sales mark in just three days proves this point). McGonigal gives us insight into the gaming culture, and provides some rather fascinating tools for solving many of the world’s problems.After giving us a condensed history of gaming culture, McGonigal divides the book into three parts: Why games make us happy; Reinventing reality; and How very big games can change the world. In each part, she gives us examples of games that have helped improved lives, and even helped improve the world.

realityisbrokenWhy Games Make Us Happy

The first part of the book looks inward at our collective psyche to find out what about game play draws us in, and how it connects us to others.  Her first reality fix is probably the most important, the one that underlies everything about gaming:

“Compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles to help us put our personal strengths to better use.”

Now for most of us, the thought of reality being too easy might be hard to swallow. In fact several arguments against gaming (and, unfortunately, some of the arguments for gaming) have claimed that gaming is an escape from reality. While we may get a bit of a breather from day-to-day life by turning on the Xbox, or playing a round of Words With Friends on our iPhones, the truth is, life doesn’t challenge us in meaningful ways. “Games make us happy,” McGonigal writes, “because they are hard work that we choose for ourselves, and it turns out that almost nothing makes us happier than good, hard work.” If that is the case, then our global depression epidemic must be caused by a lack of good, hard work. The solution, as many have found, can be found in gaming. Gaming provides us with fiero: the “most primal emotional rush we can experience.” A pride that we have accomplished something meaningful. And, as it turns out, on the larger the scale of the victories, the more positive experience we are likely to have.

This epic scale of gaming is likely what set the idea for this book in motion. As McGonigal states,”We’ve spent as much time playing World of Warcraft as we’ve spent evolving as a species.” Yes, as of the time of the book’s publication, that would be more than 5.93 million years, collectively playing WoW. We have also set milestones playing games like Halo 3 (and, more recently, Halo 4) amassing group victories (10 billion+ kills in the game’s universe) and leading towards massive-scale wikis, blogs, and forums created by players in the community. We have also become more connected via our mobile devices. Many of the more popular mobile gaming apps include chat features that allow us to communicate with our friends, family, and even strangers. Sometimes it’s just a friendly hello, or a slightly less friendly taunt, or it may be full conversation. The fact is, all of these things contribute to a population willing to connect, and population that is really good at collaborating.

Reinventing Reality

In the second part of the book, McGonigal presents us with the idea of alternate realities. These really are nothing more than the gamefication of the everyday to accomplish more and greater things. School has been gamefied at Quest to Learn, a charter school in New York where “students are engaged in gameful activities from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they finish up their final homework assignment at night.” Hidden quest assignments, competing for “boss level” challenges, even “leveling up” versus standard grading are all part of the experience. We also see examples for post-traumatic recovery (see Youtube video at the bottom of the post), tackling chores, and connecting to others across generation gaps, all of which use some form of game play to overcome obstacles.

Karrnyge

My alter-ego: Karrnyge. Sometimes you just need to be a Sith Warrior.

How Very Big Games Can Change the World

Building on the alternate reality games, McGonigal closes out with a look at larger scale gaming: the type of thing that can really change the world. I’ve discovered there are three basic roles you can have when playing MMOs: the healer, the tank, and the DPS (“damage per second” aka “damage dealers”). Now within each of these there are usually some areas of specialization. Some people (and some character builds) are simply better at some roles than others. However, in order to be effective in raids and other group play, the group will have more success if there is a proper mix of roles within the group. Is this sounding familiar? It should. It’s a lot like how reality works. Unfortunately, we are not always grouped with the proper mix of roles when asked to tackle problems. Enter big gaming.

 

This is really where things come together. How do we bring together the right mix of people to help solve our world’s problems? Games, of course. Given all the time we have spent gaming (and most of the “born digital” generation will have spent that time playing games online), we should be really, really good at collaborating with each other. If, McGonigal suggests, we can address our problems as a meaningful challenge, a game rather than a chore, then we are likely to attract more people to it. The more people are involved, as her games World Without Oil and Superstruct show, the more creative solutions become available.

Summary

Being a gamer, it was easy to lean towards this book and embrace all it had to offer. I was surprised, actually, at the massive scale at which we, as a species, participate in games. With such a huge arsenal of tech-savvy, collaborative people available, we have an army at our disposal to tackle many of the world’s problems. Unfortunately, gamers and gaming still have that bad reputation, something that may hinder the acceptance of gamefying our challenges. Hopefully, McGonigal and others like her, can continue to champion the cause.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

A glittery Jane McGonigal talks about SuperBetter:

 

Always off: a visit to my hometown which seems to be stuck in 2006

Being 41, I came into this digital age piece by piece, slowly adapting this tool or that gadget or app into my everyday life. Eventually I came to the point where it felt like I was, indeed, always on. This “continuous connectedness”, as Dempsey (2009) calls it can be overwhelming at times. I believe it may be easier for the born digital generation to manage the constant communication. For me, I might be at a slight advantage in that I’ve tasted life without Facebook, an iPhone, Instagram, email, etc. so I can pull away from it (sort of). True a typical day will find me at my computer, iPhone by my side to check texts/emails/calls, and Netflix streaming season 3 of Archer on the tv. Sometimes, like this past Sunday, I switched off the tv and my iPhone, and worked on my homework. Midway through last week’s post for this class, I took a break, checked some football scores, and checked my phone, saw that my mom called and left a voicemail.

My parents are getting up there in the years, so I always dread that call. This… this was that call. My dad had a stroke and was being transported to the hospital. I scrambled to get everything ready to make the 160 mile drive to check on him: laptop, books, iPhone, clothes for a few days, etc. I didn’t get up til late at night, so I wasn’t able to visit him until the next morning. However, I was able to rest that night knowing he was in stable condition. [Note: he is rehabbing in extended care, and expected to make a fairly complete recovery and be released back home in a couple weeks.]

Now for any of you who has been into a hospital, you might have come to the same conclusion that I reached: hospitals are the antithesis of information centers. Asking nurses to find out what his actual diagnosis was met with a response like, “The doctor will be around later today.” A simple question of what medications he was placed on turned into a two-day ordeal. The social services worker who came to discuss his aftercare couldn’t provide me with a business card, only a robotic response:  “Call the hospital.” Frustrating, to say the least.

Me & pops, 1976

Me & pops, 1976

So what does all this have to do with our vision of Hyperlinked Communities? Well, while I was up there I experienced more frustration at how disconnected this city was. Cell phone reception was always spotty at best there, and it hasn’t changed much since I moved away. I spent a lot of time searching for WiFi hotspots just to send text messages. One of the hotspots I ended up at was the Public Library.

Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

The Santa Maria Public Library recently had a major expansion/remodel and looks amazing. However, in regards to the lecture by @kyle , wandering through the library, looking at community bulletins, and scanning the web site, I got the impression that this community still bases the library’s value on the collections rather than the services. As I sat for hours near the reference desk, the clerks fielded only a handful of questions: what books do they have by a certain author, do they have a copy of the current Cal/OSHA guidelines (an aggravating exchange I wish I had stepped in on), where could someone find old newspaper articles. I decided to see what sort of social media presence they have. Though the library’s web page has buttons for Facebook and Twitter feeds, I’m not sure how effective they are considering that they only have 52 Facebook likes, and 23 Twitter followers for a community of about 150,000. So is this the library’s fault, or is it an accurate representation of the physical community? From my knowledge of the city, I would say it’s a little of both. Santa Maria has always been slow to change. It has a large elderly population that seems to be happy hanging on to the status quo. However, the library as the hub of the Hyperlinked Community, needs to have more of an aggressive presence to provide services for the newer generations and those, like me, who are slowly adapting to being connected.

It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it

I find myself in an interesting position to do something about this. I made the decision to move back to Santa Maria. It wasn’t a very difficult one to make, considering my father’s health. Rather than just being frustrated with the services, I thought to myself, “why not volunteer there?” Better yet, two days ago a job posting for Technical Assistant popped up. I am going through revision after revision on my application, making sure I address the library’s need to address the Hyperlinked Community. What will this look like? I am really not sure. Some of my ideas are based around examples from last week’s lecture: having a mobile presence. Maybe an updated version of the Bookmobile we used to have, only armed with laptops and mobile devices, tweets and blog posts. Rather than getting people to come into the physical library, reaching out to the people in the physical community to get them to understand they can connect at anytime from anywhere. Hmmm… now another revision to my application is in order.

Dempsey, L. (2009). Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. First Monday, 14(1). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2291/2070.

Enough with the “SHHHH!” already.

On my final day at SLA 2013, a group of us (@Zem, I believe you were at this table) were eating our free lunch at the Info-expo waiting for all the giveaways. An observation was made that we librarians are a rather crazy bunch (while some of us are the introverts that the public may perceive us as, we are quite a vocal bunch). At that moment I came up with the idea that we should brand a new logo for our libraries: buttons, bags, t-shirts with the word “SHHHH!” with the traditional red circle/slash through it, indicating it is no longer accepted. I think this is direction we, for the most part, are going in (as the lecture exposed, there are still some holding on to outdated beliefs).

cla2013This is the banner for the 2013 CLA conference in Long Beach. We can see this theme of being heard as the foundational message of this year’s conference. The fact that singer/actor/spoken word artist/columnist Henry Rollins is the keynote speaker at this event is clear evidence that we are moving away from the idea of libraries as the quiet, austere environments. Matthews (2010) post gives us an example of the unquieting of our libraries. It is now a place where we actively engage our communities, not only through the providing of information, but in listening to their needs, and providing interesting content and programming that will draw users to our libraries.

One of the keywords that sticks out when discussing Library 2.0, and how we interact with our communities is transparency. We see it in Stephens (2011) as a means for honest communication and feedback. However, I want to explore what that means a little further in regards to our social media presence. From personal experience, social media (Facebook, blogs, Instagram, etc.) allow us a perceived layer of protection from the outside world. While embracing this may appear to be contradictory to the idea of being social, in fact it seems like many of us are allowed to be more ourselves when communicating through social media. I think our library users are actually getting a clearer, more transparent, and more honest idea of who we are as people when interacting with us via these means. The more we are allowed to be ourselves, the more trust we can gain, and the more open our communications will be with our communities. Anything leading to more participation has to be a good thing.

Mathews, B. (2010, June 21). The unquiet library has high-schoolers geeked [Web log post]. American Libraries Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/unquiet-library-has-high-schoolers-geeked.

Stephens, M. (2011, February). The hyperlinked library [White paper]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://mooc.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/StephensHyperlinkedLibrary2011.pdf.

Foundational Readings: a management perspective on change

In which this heat wave gets to my brain, the gamer takes a back seat,  and then I ramblog on about management ideas.

One of the things that stood out in our foundational readings was not just how far we’ve come in the past couple decades, rather how far we need to go just to catch up to where we should be. Perhaps that is why we are all here in this class: looking for ways to catch our libraries (and ourselves) up with all the current technologies, while anticipating necessary changes for the future. While written over two decades ago, the piece by Buckland (1992) seemed to predict the transition to the Electronic Library and the types of service that we could provide. Casey and Savastinuk (2007) take it a step further, exploring not only what Library 2.0 is, but mapping out a plan for the future as well. So how do we get there?

The majority of the time since Buckland’s piece was published, I have spent in some sort of management role in the retail/restaurant sector. I have come up with the following observations about change. First, change is necessary. Even if not everyone agrees with those that make decisions, even if the change does not produce the desired results (think of epic fails like Apple Maps), it’s good to shake things up from time to time. Second, change has to be managed correctly. What exactly does that entail? For starters, our libraries (and other organizations) need to have a vision and a clear mission. This needs to be the foundation to all decisions that will be made. In the realm of libraries, we are lucky in that we already have a built-in mission statement. As Buckland states in his introduction:

Library services have two bases:

the role of library service is to facilitate access to documents; and
the mission of a library is to support the mission of the institution or the interests of the population served.

Interpreting these two general statements for any given situation provides the foundations for effective library service.

Casey and Savastinuk explore this much further in Chapter 3, but I feel in the absence of a library-specific mission statement, we can always fall back on this. When managing people, and addressing changes, I have always come across resistance. Anything your organization does should draw from the mission statement. Why are we getting a Twitter account? Because we need to support the interests of the population served. And our population served wants frequent updates via social media. Why are we collaborating with outside vendors to use their products? Won’t that run our library into the ground? No, our role is to facilitate access to documents, and sometimes these are the best means to access obscure documents for our users. They will keep coming back. We are, as Casey and Savastinuk put it, “keeping our current customers satisfied and reaching out to serve the broader market.”

Third point I want to bring up about change involves how much change is occurring at once. If we wait to test the waters before implementing change, we run the risk of having to play catch up once we implement these changes. We also run the risk of larger amounts of resistance from both our staff and our customers if the change is either too drastic or affects a wide range of services being offered. Casey and Savastinuk bring up Constant Change. From my experience, this is something that only works well if they changes are meaningful and have clear direction towards improving your organization. Seven years ago, I worked for an up-and-coming company. Over the course of two years, they went from having one store to nearly two-dozen locations. Change happened, and it happened a lot. The problem was that most of these changes were simply reactionary, a quick fix to some one-off that occurred at one of the locations. They weren’t well thought out, and usually did not have a positive impact on most locations. Changes like these have immediate and long-term effects. First there is a disruption to the way we operate. While usually small, they can affect the service we provide our clients. Second, if changes are not meaningful, any future change is bound to be met with resistance, and a “here we go again” attitude.

If we already lay the ground work for Library 2.0 through our mission statement and already have made some meaningful changes (getting our libraries to their current level of technology usage), then we shouldn’t have much trouble taking the next steps to providing a broader spectrum of services to our clients. For libraries who have not begun this journey, I plan on exploring the idea of Leveling Up our Libraries in a follow up post.